Confusing Cuisines: Which International Dishes Are We Searching For The Most?

The World’s Most Confusing Cuisines | Remitly
Tasting local delicacies is a much-loved part of experiencing a new place, but these specialities often come in a different language which can be hard to pronounce, making it difficult to understand exactly what you’re ordering.
With this being a common experience, and to help people try new international foods with confidence, we wanted to review the top dishes from countries around the world to find the cuisines people have the most difficulty identifying. We've also revealed the foods which people have most trouble pronouncing, and created a handy pronunciation guide for some of the world’s most searched cuisines.

The World’s Top 25 Most Confusing Cuisines

To find the cuisines that cause the most confusion, we compiled a list of over 2,700 dishes from over 165 countries around the world. These were combined with terms like ‘what is’ and ‘how to pronounce’ and then analysed by our team to see which dishes were searched for most regularly over the previous year — and therefore deemed the most confusing.
Kimchi came out on top as the international delicacy being searched for the most around the world. Kimchi, pronounced ‘kim · chee’, is traditional banchan (a small side dish) made by salting and fermenting vegetables, such as cabbage or Korean radish. As banchan, it’s served as an accompaniment to rice, or alongside a main dish, and is known to have a spicy, sour taste. It’s grown in popularity, and you’ll find this dish in many other destinations around the world – even added to toasties and eggs. Don’t be afraid to add this to a meal if you see it locally in Korea, adding a tangy taste to any dish.
Thought to have originated in Egypt, falafel (pronounced ‘fuh · la · fl’) ranks as the second most confusing cuisine. While the dish is found in most Middle Eastern countries, it is enjoyed in many more around the world. Falafel is a deep-fried ball made from a mixture of chickpeas, herbs and spices, and is extremely popular with vegetarians, and was originally made as a hearty replacement for meat during long seasons of fasting.
This delicious dish is often served with pita bread and hummus, and clearly piques the interest of many people all over the world, with over 750,000 annual Google searches looking for more information on what falafel is.
Gyros completes the top three most confusing dishes, and hails from Greece. Pronounced ‘yi · ros’, its pronunciation is often a source of contention, making it extra important to ensure you have it nailed before you order in a Greek restaurant.
Other nations with dishes that cause people to rack their brains is Italy, with three of its dishes in the top 25, including gnocchi, gelato and risotto, and Japan, with sushi, miso soup and natto regularly puzzling those looking to try the cuisine.
Peanut butter and jelly, the signature sandwich filling of the USA, also features in the top 25 confusing dishes — clearly a combination that causes plenty of puzzlement around the world.
RankDish NameCountryAnnual Global Search Volume
11Peanut butter and jellyUnited States385,200
16KavaThe Pacific Islands320,870
19Foie GrasFrance269,080
20SojuSouth Korea266,720
24Miso SoupJapan238,000
To shed some light on the food traditions in different continents around the world – and to inspire you to order with confidence when you’re in a new place – we've broken down our findings to reveal the most confusing cuisines in every continent around the world. Read on to discover which dishes most puzzle food lovers around the world.
Europe’s Most Confusing Cuisines
As well as taking the third spot as the most searched for dish in the world, gyros also ranks in first as Europe’s most confusing dish, resulting with over 660,000 searches for the cuisine worldwide.
Italy proves to be vexing to foodies from around the world, with its foods taking the second, third and fourth spot in Europe’s cuisine respectively.
A dish that certainly requires an acquired taste rounds off the top five for European dishes with Scotland’s national dish, haggis, receiving over 377,000 annual global searches. It’s a dish consisting of sheep or cow’s offal (the internal organs of an animal) mixed together with suet, oats and seasoning, traditionally boiled in a lining made from the animal’s stomach. While its description may not have those unaccustomed to the delicacy salivating, the recipe for haggis dates back to the 15th century and is said to have a nutty texture. Regularly served with another popular dish, neeps and tatties (turnips and potatoes), the iconic Scottish meal is one to tick off the list if you visit the country.
Another controversial dish in the European rankings is foie gras, originating from France. The well-known French dish is essentially duck or goose liver pate which has been fattened through force feeding.
RankDish NameCountryAnnual Global Search Volume
6Foie GrasFrance269,080
Asia’s Most Confusing Cuisines
With kimchi ranking as the food confusing us the most globally, it also ranks as the most confusing dish in Asia.
In second is tahini, a well-known spread that is made by grinding roasted sesame seeds and is a common additive to other popular dishes such as hummus, baba ghanoush, and halva. While it’s a popular staple in much of Greek cuisine, it’s thought to have originated in the Middle East, with its country of origin widely disputed.
If you plan to order this whilst dining out in the Middle East, be sure to practice your pronunciation — it’s ‘taa · hee · nee'.
A tea popular in many Asian countries, chai ranks as Asia’s sixth most confusing delicacy. Originating from India, this spice blend was discovered almost 5,000 years ago where warm spices were combined and turned into a drink for medicinal purposes. Now making its way onto the menu of many mainstream coffee shops in western countries, a chai latte is a popular drink of choice, with many even choosing to add a shot of coffee. Although, be sure to refer to it as a ‘chai’, as chai-snobs will scoff if you refer to it as ‘chai tea’. This is because the word ‘chai’ is derived from Chinese ‘chá’, meaning ‘tea’, so if you say ‘chai tea’, you will essentially be calling it ‘tea tea’, and offending lovers of the spiced drink all over the world.
Other dishes popular in Asia that get the most searches online are sushi, miso soup and soju. Japan’s dishes are revealed as the most confusing in the continent, with six of its dishes in Asia’s rankings.
RankDish NameCountryAnnual Global Search Volume
2TahiniMiddle East (disputed origin)570,830
5HummusMiddle East (disputed origin)354,520
8SojuSouth Korea266,720
9Miso SoupJapan238,000
South America’s Most Confusing Cuisines
Home to a fantastic landscape including breathtaking waterfalls like Angel Falls in Venezuela, the Amazon River, and the Andes mountains, South America is also known for its iconic cuisine.
South America’s most confusing dish is ceviche with over 238,000 annual searches for the Ecuadorian and Peruvian delicacy. Consisting of fish marinated in citrus and seasoning, the dish is normally served with a bowl of toasted corn, patacones (fried plantain chunks) or chifles (sliced plantain chips). While the dish itself may cause some confusion, its pronunciation may also cause difficulty for those sampling it – its correct pronunciation is ‘suh · vee · chee'.
In second place is chimichurri from Argentina. An uncooked sauce, it’s made from chopped parsley, garlic, olive oil, oregano, red pepper flakes and red wine vinegar, and is usually served with grilled meat or used as an ingredient in other dishes. The sauce is also found in Uruguayan cuisines and is popular across South America.
A contested delicacy in position four is dulce de leche, with its origins being unknown – except to be widely accepted as having originated in South America. One of the only sweet items in the South American rankings, dulce de leche is a confection made by heating sugar and milk slowly for several hours, giving it a caramel-like consistency. It’s widely used in other sweet foods across the continent such as Alfajores de Maizena (cookies filled and sandwiched together with dulce de leche).
RankDish NameCountryAnnual Global Search Volume
3ChicharronSouth America147,900
4Dulce de LecheSouth America144,560
8TostonesSouth America37,140
North and Central America’s Most Confusing Cuisines
Our research revealed that it’s carnitas that are perplexing food-lovers around the world, with the Mexican eat ranking as the continent's most confusing dish. Literally translating to ‘little eats’ this dish is made by slow-cooking pork in oil until tender. The tasty morsel can be added to tacos, burritos, tostados or even used to top nachos.
Heading over to the United States in second place is a quintessential American dish of peanut butter and jelly. Most commonly used as a sandwich filler, the American delicacy (which is either loved or hated in equal measure) is exactly as described: peanut butter and fruit jam spread between slices of bread. Described as the perfect sweet and salty combination, this dish is widely popular across America, so may be something you look to try if you’re considering travelling to the States.
Mexico was found to have some of the most confusing dishes, with nine out of the top 15 dishes being from the country. Mexico’s other most searched dishes include tamales in third (pronounced ‘tuh · maa ·leez’) and empanadas in seventh (pronounced ‘em · puh · naa · duhz’).
Often found across the world in many cafés and brunch spots is the poke bowl which featured sixth in the North and Central America’s rankings. Commonly thought to be from Japan, the poke bowl is actually from Hawaii. While the cuisine takes influence from Japanese food, the poke bowl is a traditional Hawaiian dish, which literally means ‘to slice’. The base ingredients of the dish include rice, with a protein of tuna, tofu or salmon, topped with sauces that include wasabi mayo, eel sauce and dragon aioli. Poke bowls are a staple of many Hawaiian café menus, so you’ll have plenty of chances to sample the delicacy if you travel there.
RankDish NameCountryAnnual Global Search Volume
2Peanut Butter and JellyUnited States385,200
5Carne AsadaMexico194,780
6Poke bowlUnited States (Hawaii)187,300
8Cheese CurdsUnited States146,700
10Hot DogsUnited States134,960
Oceania’s Most Confusing Cuisines
While taking its influence from many nearby countries, Oceania’s cuisines are largely inspired by what its continent can locally source — with seafood, native fruits and vegetables making up a big part of daily meals.
The most searched-for dish in Oceania is kava, with over 320,000 searches globally. Usually taken as a tea (or also as a supplement), kava is a plant where the root is crushed or ground and covered in boiling water. The tea is a social drink of choice and often used as part of traditional ceremonies across the Pacific Islands.
Polynesia was found to have one of the continent’s most confusing dishes with poi. A staple of the Polynesian diet, poi is made from taro – a root vegetable that gives the dish its signature purple colour – which is cooked, mashed with water and left to ferment.
While consumed regularly as a summertime dessert in the UK, the third most confusing dish in Oceania’s cuisine is pavlova. A meringue-based dessert, it was named after Russian ballerina Anna Pavlova and consists of a baked meringue that is usually topped with whipped cream and an array of fruit. While it’s debated to have been created in either Australia or New Zealand, it’s a firm favourite for many, with over 130,700 people globally researching the dessert before they sample.
RankDish NameCountryAnnual Global Search Volume
1KavaThe Pacific Islands320,870
3PavlovaAustralia/New Zealand113,040
4SagoPapua New Guinea101,190
6MumuPapua New Guinea35,900
7Fried BreadAustralia34,300
10KinaNew Zealand21,190
Africa’s Most Confusing Cuisines
Africa is home to dishes loved by many people across the world, but despite their popularity, some dishes still cause some confusion.
Falafel, ranking as the world’s second confusing cuisine, naturally ranks as first in Africa, home to its country of origin, Egypt.
Couscous ranks in second with almost 600,000 annual searches globally. Made of steamed balls of semolina wheat, couscous is a staple part of an African diet with the dish eaten across the continent most commonly served with stew, meat or mixed into salads.
South Africa’s biltong also makes the rankings. Commonly confused with beef jerky, biltong is shredded meat cured in vinegar and air dried, giving it a salty taste and soft texture. It’s often made from beef, game or other meats such as ostrich.
RankDish NameCountryAnnual Global Search Volume
6BiltongSouth Africa74,510
9Burkina Faso63,800
10SambalsSouth Africa61,700
Which Dishes Are Causing Us To Be Tongue Tied?
If you move abroad, you’re not only leaving your comfort zone and the foods you’re familiar with, you might also have to contend with ordering in a new language too. If you haven’t heard of a particular food or delicacy, ordering from a menu or buying groceries can be difficult – especially when you don’t know what you’re getting (or how to say it!).
To help, we also wanted to look at the dishes people had the most trouble pronouncing, by ranking the dishes with the most searches of ‘how to pronounce Gyros’ for example.
RankDish NameCorrect PronunciationCountryAnnual Global Search Volume
1GyrosYi · rosGreece346,500
3GnocchiNo · keeItaly123,200
4PizzaPeet · suhItaly53,800
5QuesadillaKay · suh · dee · uhMexico40,200
6FocacciaFuh · kach · ee · uhItaly33,300
7Poke bowlPow · kay bowlUnited States (Hawaii)32,500
8TzatzikiSat · see · keeGreece27,000
9GyozaGee · ow · zuhChina26,800
10BaklavaBa · kluh · vuhTurkey24,120
11PaellaPai · eh · luhSpain21,300
12TteokbokkiTok · bo · keeKorea20,400
13RamenRaa · muhnJapan20,300
14ShawarmaSha · wuh · muhTurkey18,300
15BeignetBay · nyayFrance17,100
Taking the top spot as the hardest to pronounce food is gyros. As mentioned already, there is some debate about how to pronounce the Greek delicacy. Similar to shawarma and doner kebab, which are both from Turkey, this dish is commonly pronounced ‘yi · ros’ and is often anglicized as a ‘gyro’ - so practice is essential if you want to avoid a restaurant faux pas.
Pho came in second for food lovers struggling to pronounce the Vietnamese noodle dish. In many countries, pho is often incorrectly pronounced as ‘foe’, when it’s actually pronounced like ‘fuh’ — a key tip to take on board if you’re looking to impress when dining out on Vietnamese food.
Italy’s well known for its array of pasta dishes, and despite having some of the most recognisable dishes, two of its options ranked third and fourth for the most difficult to pronounce with gnocchi (pronounced ‘no · kee’) and pizza (pronounced ‘peet · suh’).
Also causing people to second guess their pronunciation is Hawaii’s popular poke bowl (‘pow · kay bowl’), China’s gyoza (‘gee · oh · zuh’) and France’s beignets (‘bay · nyay’).
Our team at Remitly has created a series that celebrates the cuisine and traditions of our customers worldwide. These national dishes from different countries represent many of our global customers.
How We Created Our Lists
Remitly identified a total of 2,719 dishes for 167 countries around the world (for example, gyros for Greece, sushi for Japan). Lists of the top dishes in each country were used to identify 15 – 25 dishes per country. We then used Google Keyword Planner to analyse which dishes were being searched for the most, along with global search terms ‘what is X’, ‘how to pronounce X’, and ‘how to say X’.
The total of each dish with the search terms ‘what is’ with the named dish provided an overall global annual search volume for each dish based on search volume from August 2022 - July 2023. The dishes with the highest search volume were then ranked in descending order to pronounce those with the highest value as ‘the most confusing cuisines’, because there was a greater number of people looking to find out more about them.
The total of each dish with the search terms ‘how to pronounce’ and ‘how to say’ with the named dish were totalled to provide a ranked list of the dishes we most struggle to pronounce.
Dishes with disputed origins or that are widespread across several countries were allocated to the country with the earliest usage, or where the dish is consumed the most.
Data correct as of August 2023.