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Origins of traditional food from across the world

Chilli peppers may be the key ingredient to spicy Indian curries, and tomatoes are a staple of Italian cuisine, but did you know that they both originated in South America?

 Have you ever wondered how Britain's national dishes came to be, or how our most- used flavours made it across the globe? Explore has uncovered the unlikely origins of some of the world's most popular foods and traced their journeys to our plates; some of which you might find surprising! Check out our Food Map of the World, or read on to find out some tasty insights.

Did you know the Scotch egg does not, in fact, hail from Scotland? This British picnic favourite has a historic journey which can be traced back to India and North Africa, while fish and chips, one of the nation's most treasured classics, actually originated in Spain and Portugal.

Perhaps some of the most surprising food journeys, are those which have been reinterpreted as they've moved from one destination to another. Vindaloo is regularly served in Britain's curry-houses, having arrived on our shores with immigrants from India and Bangladesh during the 1970s.

However, this 'typical' Indian dish was actually introduced to the Goa region by the Portuguese during the fifteenth century. The word 'Vindaloo' itself even derives from the Portuguese phrase carne de vinha d'alhos ('meat in garlic wine marinade'). Goan cooks replaced the red wine in their recipe with vinegar, and added their own spices, including chilli peppers; another import which they truly made their own!

From vanilla and doughnuts to coffee and french fries, these flavours and ingredients have migrated across continents over the centuries, having been brought by settlers and traders. The result is a lasting impact on both our eating habits and cultural identity, as specialities which you thought were created in one country have a history which extends back to the other side of the world.

The origins of our favourite ingredients and dishes

  • Chilli Peppers: originated in South America and migrated to Spain, India and East Asia during the Columbia Exchange
  • Vanilla: Originated in Guatemala and Mexico before being brought to Europe in the fifteenth century
  • Tomatoes: Migrated to Europe from South America during the Columbia Exchange
  • Fish and Chips: Traced back to Spain and Portugal before arriving on British shores around the seventeenth century
  • Vindaloo: Brought to Goa, India by the Portuguese in the fifteenth century
  • French Fries: Originated in Belgium and France but were popularised by US fast-food chains during the 1940s
  • Doughnuts: Food resembling doughnuts were served in Ancient Greece, but were brought in their current form to New York by Dutch settlers
  • Cheesecake: First served to Ancient Greeks during the Olympics. Today, cheesecake is one of the USA's most popular desserts
  • Coffee: Introduced to Europe from North Africa and Ethiopia in the sixteenth century, then later brought to South America in 1727
  • Scotch Egg: Recipes resembling the Scotch Egg originated in both India and North Africa, however the first record of the dish in the UK can be traced to Whitby

Food is such an important part of cultures across the world, and our Explore food tours and experiences allow you to dine your way around your destination. Discover our European food trips, or learn more about our authentic food experiences around the world today. Get in touch with our team to find out more and book your trip of a lifetime.

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