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One of the great things about human history is the mixing, melding, borrowing, and sometimes outright stealing, of things from other cultures. From our food to the language that we speak, it’s impossible to tease apart different cultural strands from the past. Here are five examples of common foods with surprising origins.

“French” Fries

We call them French fries, but fries actually originated in Belgium. If you’ve ever visited Belgium, you’ll know that fries or frites are at the center of the culture. There are more dipping sauces than you can imagine and even French tourists will tell you, “No, fries are Belgian, not French!”


Beyond fries, croissants are the next thing you associate with France, but they’re actually from Vienna, Austria. In fact, many of the croissant-like pastries that we associate with France, are from Vienna. This is why in French, these delicious treats are called viennoiseries, translated as “things from Vienna.”


You can’t go to an Indian restaurant without seeing Vindaloo on the menu, but this famous Indian dish is actually Portuguese. Explorers brought the dish with them to India during their trips and the Indians made it their own by adding various spices and seasonings. Head to Portugal today to taste the original carne de vinha d’alhos.

Sauerkraut (China)

The word sauerkraut looks and sounds German, but the origins of fermented cabbage actually came from China. When the Great Wall of China was being built, the workers ate fermented cabbage with rice. Historians believe that Genghis Khan was the one who introduced this fermented dish to the Europeans. 

Fajitas (Texas)

Like the word “sauerkraut,” fajitas look and sound Mexican, but this is a true Texan dish. It was invented in the 1930s on a cattle ranch. People took skirt steak, cut it up, and cooked it on a grill with vegetables. Today, you can find fajitas in almost every Mexican restaurant, served with a variety of proteins, not just steak.

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