5 International Twists on North American Food

by Vago Damitio

When you think of classic North American foods, probably the first things which comes to mind are hot dogs, hamburgers, pizza, fries and soft drinks. It’s pretty hard to make those into something different, right?


The world is full of innovative styles and flavours. You’d be silly to think that even the most ordinary meals haven’t been turned on their heads somewhere. Here are five examples of the most ordinary of North American foods that have been taken to places you never would have dreamed.

Hot Dogs Become Puka Dogs

It doesn’t get much simpler than a hot dog. A sausage placed in an open bun then topped with ketchup or mustard. If you feel adventurous, you might put some pickle relish, onions or chili on top.

But in Hawaii, you can get a Puka Dog instead of a hot dog. Instead of the sausage being in an open bun, it is cooked inside a roll with a hole it it (puka is the Hawaiian word for hole). Also called a Hula dog or Aloha dog, these delicious cousins of hot dogs combine the taste you expect with local fruit relishes, exotic Asian sauces and spicy Hawaiian mustards.

French Fries Become Poutine

The North American fry needs almost no introduction. A sliced potato in strips or wedges, deep-fried, salted and served with ketchup. Easy to understand and delicious to eat.

In Quebec, residents have a completely different take on fries (and, we might add, they are much more French). Poutine is a disturbingly ugly mess of fried potatoes covered with brown gravy and cheese curds. The word poutine means both “fat” and “an unappetizing mess of food.” Poutine would certainly turn you fat if you ate it every day, but it is delicious and found in diners, specialized restaurants and even at McDonalds.

5 Foods with International Twists

Burgers Become Sushi Burgers

North Americans love burgers. The concept is simple—mince meat, cook, put between two halves of a bun and top with ketchup, mustard, pickle and salad. There are variations with toppings, meat and sauces but essentially, a burger is always a burger.

But the Sushi Burger is made with raw fish, wasabi, lettuce, Japanese mayonnaise and sauce, and is placed between seaweed-topped rice cakes. It looks like a burger but tastes like sushi!

Pizza Becomes Berber Pizza and Turkish Pide

Pizza, while having origins in Italy, is about as North American as it gets. Melted cheese, tomato sauce and toppings, all cooked on a round dough, then cut into pie-shaped pieces.

In the Sahara desert they serve ‘Berber’ pizza, featuring roasted lamb, onions and spices cooked inside a flat loaf of bread (hobz). It’s cut into the familiar pie-shaped slices but tastes nothing like any pizza you’ve ever had. In Turkey, one of the most popular snack foods is pide. It is a pizza stretched out to as much as two metres and topped with onions, lamb and spices. It looks like pizza, but the shape is all wrong.

5 Foods with International Twists

Soft Drinks Become Salty Watermelon Pepsi and Lemon Pepper Tang

A North American lunch tends to include a soft drink. There are many variations but they tend to fall into the following categories: cola, lemon-lime, orange or root beer.

Not all people have the same desire for incredibly sugary drinks. In Asia, you can find regional variations of soft drinks that sound terrible to North Americans but are much loved by the locals. Pepsi mixes some odd flavors in their Japanese cola—salty watermelon and cucumber are just two. In Pakistan and Saudi Arabia, the locals like to sip lemon-pepper Tang!

What unusual foods have you tried while travelling?