During these immensely testing times, food can be a great source of comfort.
Warm, filling and restorative dishes are often nostalgic, representing favorite flavors from the reassuring safety of childhood.
Generally, they’re pretty simple to prepare, often substantial and frequently carbohydrate-rich – not exactly for calorie-counters. But in many ways, that’s the point.
Comfort foods know no geographical boundaries, either. Wherever you are in the world, there will always be a dish that your fellow citizens are more than happy to gravitate towards.
We’ve highlighted 10 such dishes from around the world, as recommended by top chefs. You can order them in or pick up, or even make your own, ingredients permitting.
To be very clear, we aren’t recommending that people go out and dine before checking official local guidelines on social distancing.
However you end up enjoying these brilliant dishes, we hope they bring you at least a small taste of comfort.
Cary Docherty is executive sous chef at Island Shangri-La, Hong Kong. Previously, he’s run restaurants in London for Gordon Ramsay and Jason Atherton.
When asked to choose the ultimate comfort food, the Canadian has to think long and hard before finally settling on one favorite.
“While butter tarts, Nanaimo bars, KD (that’s Kraft Mac n’ Cheese) and tourtière all come to mind, there can only be one dish that completely symbolizes Canada, represents our people and unites us from coast to coast: The almighty poutine,” says Docherty.
“French fries, fresh cheddar curds and gravy in its most basic of forms, or dressed up with all sorts of decadent treats like foie gras and black truffle, seasonal goodies like braised morels, wild garlic and roasted sweetbreads, or filthier options like pulled pork, roasted chorizo, and pickled jalapenos.
“You can find it in fast food chains, food trucks, bistros and high-end restaurants. I’m originally from a suburb of Vancouver and every time I visit home the one thing I’m guaranteed to eat is a late-night poutine from Fritz European Fry House. I will happily wait in line on a cold, wet winter’s night to feast on a large Fritz’ Montreal smoked meat poutine, it hits the spot every single time.”
Rachel Khoo is a Stockholm-based cook, food writer and broadcaster. Her latest show is Food Network’s “My Swedish Kitchen,” which explores the country’s rich food culture.
“Swedes love a bun and at the moment – it’s a seasonal favorite around Lent – you can still find ‘semlor,’ a fluffy light bun spiked with cardamom and filled with almond cream and the lightest cloud of whipped cream,” says Khoo.
“It’s an essential part of the Swedish tradition of ‘fika’, namely having a coffee and a Swedish bun, usually around 10:30 in the morning or 3 p.m. in the afternoon.
“The light dough is like a brioche, laden with butter and heavily spiked with spice. While baking, the butter, sugar and spices pool together at the base of the bun to form a spiced sticky caramel sauce. And as soon as the buns are out of the oven, the baker douses them liberally with more butter and a sprinkle of sugar.
“One of my favorite bakeries in Stockholm to get them at is Lillebrors, while I also have a recipe for semlor [see link] if you’d like to try making them at home.”
Nigeria: Pepper soup
James Beard award-winning chef and author Kwame Onwuachi runs acclaimed restaurants including Kith and Kin in Washington D.C.
When it comes to comfort food, the Nigerian-American is drawn to a popular Nigerian dish, pepper soup.
“My father would make it during rainy days when I lived in the Bronx. It’s a very aromatic broth seasoned with a type of spice called calabash nutmeg,” he says.
“It’s served with pounded yam called fufu, and you can put whatever meat you want in it, normally we do chicken with ours. It has all the aromatics, like black pepper, and is a little spicy for sure, but the flavor profile feels like a warm hug. I recommend the pepper soup at the restaurant Yellow Chilli in Lagos, Nigeria.
“There’s nothing like getting your comfort food when its executed properly. It plays a huge role, brings back nostalgia, takes you to a place of peace and memories that can give you c