Here’s What Other Countries Eat For Lunch

February 06, 2019

Prepare to get a hankering for lunch, foodie friends. We’ve compiled a list of what people from countries around the world dig into during the afternoon, and sorry in advance — that ham and cheese sandwich in your office fridge is about to look pretty dismal. If lunch is your favorite meal of the day, you’re going to be super inspired to add a little worldly zest into your next midday meal.

For those of us here in the states, lunch usually isn’t considered the most important meal of the day. Some of us skip it altogether and opt for a few snacks to tide us over until dinner. But in other nations, lunch reigns supreme. That fact alone is something us Americans should take note of because, hey, who wouldn’t love to take an hour or so out of their day to eat a delicious several-course meal with friends?

We hope you’re hungry and ready to take a virtual trip around the world to see what is on everyone’s lunch table. Challenge yourself to think outside the lunch box and dive into new flavors inspired by the lunches below when it hits noon. Even if it’s not quite mealtime, a wise man once said “it’s lunchtime somewhere” — or something like that.

1. Japan — Bento Box

Bento boxes in Japan are usually filled with sushi, seaweed salad, tempura or raw veggies, rice, and meat. They’re often meticulously packed and are almost too pretty to eat. Bento boxes can be prepared at home, served at school, or served in restaurants.

2. Mexico — Ceviche

Ceviche is a cool dish to eat during a hot Mexican afternoon. It’s a no-cook meal that usually consists of shrimp, fish, veggies, lime juice, and cilantro. No matter which recipe one chooses to follow, ceviche is always super flavorful and is jam-packed with vitamins and nutrients.

3. Croatia — Soup and Salad

Croatians go big at lunchtime and keep things minimal at breakfast and dinner. For lunch, a typical Croatian meal is a simple salad with tomatoes, cucumbers, onions, oil, and vinegar, served alongside a bowl of soup. Most usually dive into a heartier meal after the soup and salad appetizer. It’s like Olive Garden, except way better.

4. Nigeria — Jollof Rice and Plantains

Jollof rice is spicy and often served with either fried plantains, coleslaw, or suya, a grilled meat. The plantains are often spiced and fried in palm oil, and are sometimes eaten just on their own at lunchtime.

5. Israel — Shakshuka

In Israel, shakshuka, a poached egg dish made with tomatoes, chili, peppers, and onion, can be served at any meal time, including brunch and lunch. Or, if lighter fare is desired, Israelis also dine on simple salads made with tomatoes, cucumbers, salt, pepper, olive oil, and lemon juice. Shakshuka is said to have originated in Yemen or the Lybian-Tunisian region — many countries in northern African and the Middle East consume shakshuka.

6. Morocco — Tagine

Named for the clay vessel its cooked in, tagine is a type of stew traditionally made with carrots, squash, onion, garlic, garbanzo beans, and tomatoes, all seasoned with coriander, pepper, cayenne, salt, and a dash of pepper. Tagine recipes vary from family to family and are all often served over couscous.

7. Argentina — Empanadas

These savory pastries are stuffed with meats, cheeses, veggies, and packed with spices. Chicken and beef empanadas are common in Argentina — however, empanada fillings vary from region to region. They can either be baked or fried and are sometimes stamped with letters to indicate what filling is inside.

8. Korea — Kimbap

Kimbap is a favorite light lunch served in Korea. It’s similar to Japanese sushi, but instead of raw fish, kimbap is often made with cooked or pickled vegetables and meat. Kimbap ingredients are wrapped in sticky white rice and gim, which is dried sheets of nori seaweed.

9. India — Tiffin

The term “tiffin” was first used to describe English afternoon tea during the British Raj, however it is still used in modern day India to describe a snack in between meals or a packed lunch. Tiffin lunches, served in tins and sometimes delivered by dabbawalas (a type of lunch delivery system) who recycle and reuse the tiffin tins, contain rice, lentils, curry, vegetables, and meat.

10. Bali — Fried Tempeh

Most vegetarians and vegans in the States are familiar with tempeh, a fermented soybean patty or cake. In Bali, and on other Indonesian islands, the locals fry tempeh and serve it with a sambal, a hot tomato-chili sauce. The final dish is usually a mix of tangy, sweet, and salty flavors, and is super satisfying at lunch time.

11. Vietnam — Banh Mi

If soup and noodles aren’t served at lunchtime in Vietnam, banh mi sandwiches are probably on the docket. These sandwiches are baguettes filled with pickled veggies, grilled meat, fresh herbs, and pate. Spring rolls are also commonly served at lunch, as well.

12. Denmark — Smørrebrød

Smørrebrød is basically an open-faced sandwich that begins with a sturdy buttered bread, like rugbrød, a dense Danish rye, and ends with copious toppings like savory fishes, meats, pickled veggies, and local Danish produce. Fruits like plums and apples are sometimes used to garnish the top. And smørrebrød is always eaten with a fork and knife.

13. Spain — Paella

Because lunch is usually the largest meal of the day, those in Spain dig into something hearty. Paella is a rice and seafood dish made with a mix of oysters, shrimp, mussels, clams, fish, and sometimes chicken. Vegetables are also thrown into the mix. Paella is often enjoyed alongside a salad or scooped up with bread.

14. Jamaica — Patty and Coco Bread

Coco bread is a sweet soft bread made with coconut milk. It’s often served split down the middle and stuffed with a Jamaican patty, which is a savory pastry filled with meat, cheese, and vegetables. The patty gets its golden hue from either an egg yolk mixture or turmeric.

Yum, yum, and more yum. Is it lunchtime yet?