Baker’s Dozen of BBQs: Grilling traditions of 13 Countries

Baker’s Dozen of BBQs: Grilling traditions of 13 Countries


1. South Africa: Braai

Barbecuing is so important in South Africa that there’s a public holiday to celebrate it: on September 24th, South Africans observe “National Braai Day.” Braai - which is Afrikaans for “barbecue” or “roast” - is a recognized word in every single one of South Africa’s 11 official languages. (And we think BBQ is popular in Canada, huh?) Despite originating with the Afrikaner people, braai has since been adopted by South Africans of many ethnic backgrounds. While wood was initially used for braai fuel, charcoal use has increased as of late. Jan Scannel, the BBQ-obsessed man who initiated the holiday, calls braai the “great equalizer” in South Africa: "the wealthiest people braai with proper wooden fires and the poorest people braai with proper wooden fires. It's a way of preparing food, but it's also a social gathering,” he said. (Photo:



2. Russia: Shashlik

In Russia, the secret to shish kabobs - or shashlik, as they are called there - is an acidic marinade often made from kefir, vinegar, or pomegranate juice. Drench lamb, beef, or pork in this concoction and you are ready for the second secret to the shashlik: the “mangal.” This long, narrow fire pit BBQ allows you to cook up plenty of meat for parties and picnics. (Photo:



 3. Brazil: Churrasco

If your appetite is as big as your love for meat, you’ll adore Brazilian-style barbecue. Although churrasco is Portuguese for “grilled meat,” the particular cooking style (meat, usually beef, is skewered and grilled on high over either a grill or an open flame) originated in the fireside roasts of Pampa, Brazil. At churrascarias, you’ll enjoy all-you-can-eat churrasco as waiters circulate the restaurant with the skewers, slicing meat onto your plate. While most North Americans associate churrasco with Brazil; Guatemala, Portugal, Ecuador, and Bolivia also have their own churrasco grilling traditions. (Photo:



 4. Portugal: Espetada

Before there was churrasco, there was espetada. This Portuguese BBQ dish deviates from churrasco by incorporating vegetables (gasp!) such as tomato, onions, and zucchinis; different types of meat and fish are also used. Despite the many espetadacombinations, the spices used are simple: salt, pepper, garlic, and bay leaf are all you need. However, this skewered dish still packs a flavorful punch. (Photo:



 5. Thailand: Kai yang

Kai yang (“grilled chicken” in Thai) originated fromthe Lao people of northeastern Thailand, but it’s now a staple across the country. To prepare kai yang, halve a whole chicken and pound it flat. Then marinade it with ingredients like fish sauce, garlic, turmeric, cilantro and white pepper. The last step is to grill it over a charcoal flame. (Hint = the longer it’s cooked, the better). Green papaya salad and sticky rice are the perfect accompaniments to the finished product. (Photo:


 6. Nigeria: Suya

Thoughsuya may look similar to shish kebabs, which originated in the Middle East, the peanut paste and groundnut oil-infused spice blendsgive suya a distinctively African flavour. Beef, ram, and chicken are the most common meat selections for suya. (But if you’re feeling adventurous, you could also prepare it from kidney, liver, or tripe.) Once grilled, the caramelized peanut paste gives suyaa sweet taste – but the sweetness is balanced out when you add the tantalizingly hot Yaji pepper sauce. (Photo:



 7. China: Shaokao

China’s version of the classic meat-on-a-stick is shaokao: the flavors and cooking methods vary as you move across China, but the basic elements - aka the heavy use of spices - remain the same. On the street corners of Chengdu, you’ll find shaokao on gigantic, squaregrills; in other places the barbecues are extremely narrow, with the ends of the skewers hanging off the grill. Although Beijing banned outdoor shaokaogrills in 2013because of heavy smog conditions, that hasn’t stopped the country’s love for this barbecued delicacy. (Photo:



 8. Peru: Pachamanca

Pachamanca, a traditional Peruvian way of cooking, dates back to the Inca Empire. Instead of grilling your meat, this technique involves grilling volcanic rocks over a fire pit. Once they’re blazing hot, add a layer of vegetables; if you want to be extra Peruvian, make sure to include tubers like oca, mashwa, and yucca. The last, and perhaps most exciting, step is to add the meat – as much as you want, and as many kinds of it as your heart desires. (Photo:



 9. New Zealand: Hāngi

Just like pachmanca, hāngiinvolves heated rocks buried in a pit oven and produces meat infused with an earthy fragrance. This particular method, however, originated from the Māori people of New Zealand. Hāngi is saved for special occasions nowadays (it was common in New Zealand thousands of years ago) and the tender, fall-off-the-bone meat that results from this long cooking process is special indeed. (Photo:



 10. Philippines: Lechon

Lechon is one of the many flavorful and versatile dishes that the Philippines has to offer. Cooked over charcoal, this spicy, stuffed, and roasted pig dish is a fan favorite in many countries. Although Lechon is the national dish of the Philippines, it is also popular in Cuba, Puerto Rico, Indonesia, and each region boasts a different way of preparing it. Visayan lechon, for example, is stuffed with herbsand has a distinctively lemongrass flavor. In contrast, Luzon lechon is simply seasoned with salt and pepper – but its special flavor comes from a liver-based sauce. (Photo:



11.  Israel: Al Ha'esh

Al Ha'esh, which means “on the fire” in Hebrew, is a central component of Jewish holidays. Passover and Sukkot, two weeklong Judaic holidays, are bookended by ritual meals where barbecue is essential. If you’re in Israel during either of these holidays, you’ll likely see many locals at parks eating barbecued meat grilled on a portable grill (called a “mangal” in Hebrew). As for the side dishes? Small salads and homemade pita are commonly served with al Ha'esh.




12. Indonesia: Ayam Bakar

Ayambakar (which means roasted chicken in Indonesian and Malay) is a staple in Maritime Southeast Asian cuisine. For maximum spiciness, first marinate the chicken in spices like turmeric, coriander, and candlenut; next, simmer the chicken in them, and finally baste the chicken in the now-syrupy spice mix before placing it on the charcoal grill. The result is a perfectly sweet, spicy and smoky dish. (Photo:



13. Taiwan: Mongolian barbecue

If you’ve been to an Asian restaurant, chances are you’ve seen Mongolian barbecue on the menu — and chances are that you assumed the dish originated in Mongolia. However, the thinly sliced meat dish actually originated in Taiwan. In 1951, Taiwanese comedian Wu Zhaonan decided to grill meat and veggies on a round, iron griddle — and the dish has been famous (although falsely attributed) ever since. (Photo:


Previous Post Next Post

  • Taylor Mitchell