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THE WORLD'S BEST NATIONAL DISH: WHICH COUNTRY'S MEAL IS TOP?

What a culture eats can say a lot about its character. It's called cuisine, doofus, and a lot of countries have one iconic dish that is the most widely eaten thing within its borders. But how do these meals stack up, say, from a taste and ingredient standpoint?
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What a culture eats can say a lot about its character. It's called cuisine, doofus, and a lot of countries have one iconic dish that is the most widely eaten thing within its borders. But how do these meals stack up, say, from a taste and ingredient standpoint?

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What it is: Noodle soup
Why it placed where it did: Another noodle soup?! Yeah mang, but this one's made with rice noodles instead of ramen's wheat ones, and it is generally brothier and spicier, owing to the inclusion of chili peppers. They also usually put brisket and meatballs in there, too. And tendon. Or, if you're adventurous, pizzle. But maybe don't be that adventurous.
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Vietnam - Pho

What it is: Noodle soup
Why it placed where it did: Another noodle soup?! Yeah mang, but this one's made with rice noodles instead of ramen's wheat ones, and it is generally brothier and spicier, owing to the inclusion of chili peppers. They also usually put brisket and meatballs in there, too. And tendon. Or, if you're adventurous, pizzle. But maybe don't be that adventurous.

 
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What it is: Noodle soup
Why it placed where it did: You'd think Japan's national dish would be sushi, but ramen's really the dish people there go for at all times of day -- ramen shops dot the streets, and are popular after-work haunts for lots of business-types, who inevitably have to explain why they smell like ramen when they get home afterward.
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Japan - Ramen

What it is: Noodle soup
Why it placed where it did: You'd think Japan's national dish would be sushi, but ramen's really the dish people there go for at all times of day -- ramen shops dot the streets, and are popular after-work haunts for lots of business-types, who inevitably have to explain why they smell like ramen when they get home afterward.

 
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What it is: Fried chickpea balls
Why it placed where it did: While there's no proper "national dish" of Israel, most people there agree that the fried falafel that is on every street corner, in every strip mall, and usually in everyone's stomach should be the clear choice.
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Israel - Falafel

What it is: Fried chickpea balls
Why it placed where it did: While there's no proper "national dish" of Israel, most people there agree that the fried falafel that is on every street corner, in every strip mall, and usually in everyone's stomach should be the clear choice.

 
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What it is: White beans, vegetables, and olive oil stew
Why it placed where it did: The last entrant in the "IT'S JUST BEANS" category is Greece, whose fasolada is a stew with big white beans and olive oil and some veggies, like tomatoes and peppers. It was supposedly the dish most heavily favored by the ancient Greeks, and those guys invented democracy... but, like this dish, their version wasn't perfect.
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Greece - Fasolada

What it is: White beans, vegetables, and olive oil stew
Why it placed where it did: The last entrant in the "IT'S JUST BEANS" category is Greece, whose fasolada is a stew with big white beans and olive oil and some veggies, like tomatoes and peppers. It was supposedly the dish most heavily favored by the ancient Greeks, and those guys invented democracy... but, like this dish, their version wasn't perfect.

 
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What it is: C'mon. You know.
Why it placed where it did: OK, so there are about a thousand pasta dishes out there. And sure, boxed macaroni and cheese technically qualifies (and sometimes it's great!), but there's nothing in this world quite like the experience of a pasta dish in Italy made by someone's Nonna.
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Italy - Pasta

What it is: C'mon. You know.
Why it placed where it did: OK, so there are about a thousand pasta dishes out there. And sure, boxed macaroni and cheese technically qualifies (and sometimes it's great!), but there's nothing in this world quite like the experience of a pasta dish in Italy made by someone's Nonna.

 
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Pad Thai
What it is: Stir-fried noodles with shrimp and/or meat
Why it placed where it did: That nighttime staple of many a Seamless/GrubHub order is, obviously, such a popular dish with good reason. Sweet and savory, pad Thai is a powerhouse of a dish whose only weakness is that peeps with peanut allergies usually can't touch it.
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Thailand - Pad Thai

Pad Thai
What it is: Stir-fried noodles with shrimp and/or meat
Why it placed where it did: That nighttime staple of many a Seamless/GrubHub order is, obviously, such a popular dish with good reason. Sweet and savory, pad Thai is a powerhouse of a dish whose only weakness is that peeps with peanut allergies usually can't touch it.

 
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What it is: Glazed, roasted duck
Why it placed where it did: Peking duck is an ancient dish that has been made in the Beijing area for over a thousand years. Sure, the meat is tender, but the real value of the dish is in the skin -- and there's precious little of it.
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China - Peking duck

What it is: Glazed, roasted duck
Why it placed where it did: Peking duck is an ancient dish that has been made in the Beijing area for over a thousand years. Sure, the meat is tender, but the real value of the dish is in the skin -- and there's precious little of it.

 
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What it is: Grilled, marinated beef
Why it placed where it did: If you haven't experienced the joys of Korean barbecue, do so immediately, and be sure to order as much as you can of their delicious signature meat: bulgogi. It's marinated beef that's super flavorful, owing to a marinade of soy sauce, sugar, and sesame oil. Our one problem with it is that the strips of sirloin are usually too thin and too few. Also, at restaurants, you have to grill them yourself. Talk about high maintenance! (Just kidding... it's actually pretty awesome.)
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South Korea - Bulgogi

What it is: Grilled, marinated beef
Why it placed where it did: If you haven't experienced the joys of Korean barbecue, do so immediately, and be sure to order as much as you can of their delicious signature meat: bulgogi. It's marinated beef that's super flavorful, owing to a marinade of soy sauce, sugar, and sesame oil. Our one problem with it is that the strips of sirloin are usually too thin and too few. Also, at restaurants, you have to grill them yourself. Talk about high maintenance! (Just kidding... it's actually pretty awesome.)

 
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What it is: Vinegar-stewed meat
Why it placed where it did: The word "adobo" is a loanword from Spanish, which was first used by explorers when they experienced the cooking of the Philippine islands. It means "marinade", and that's pretty much what adobo is -- any meat simmered in vinegar, soy sauce, and other stuff until it's tender. 
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Philippines - Adobo

What it is: Vinegar-stewed meat
Why it placed where it did: The word "adobo" is a loanword from Spanish, which was first used by explorers when they experienced the cooking of the Philippine islands. It means "marinade", and that's pretty much what adobo is -- any meat simmered in vinegar, soy sauce, and other stuff until it's tender. 

 
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What it is: Meat/vegetable stew with spongy bread
Why it placed where it did: Wat can be made with pretty much any meat -- chicken, beef, lamb -- and is always spiced with berbere. It's eaten by scooping some up with injera, the spongy bread that acts as utensil and place mat in Ethiopian dining settings. Despite its promised spice, it's usually still relatively mild.
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Ethiopia - Wat with injera

What it is: Meat/vegetable stew with spongy bread
Why it placed where it did: Wat can be made with pretty much any meat -- chicken, beef, lamb -- and is always spiced with berbere. It's eaten by scooping some up with injera, the spongy bread that acts as utensil and place mat in Ethiopian dining settings. Despite its promised spice, it's usually still relatively mild.

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