Special Report

20 Foods You Didn't Know Were Named After Places

Many of the foods we eat are named after various cities or countries around the world — English muffins, French toast, crab Rangoon, pad Thai, Polish sausage, Peking duck, and so on. Scholars call these toponyms, literally “place names.”

These names don’t always accurately reflect where the foods came from, though. Yes, Peking duck is actually a specialty of Beijing (formerly Peking), and Poles first made Polish sausage. But crab Rangoon was invented at Trader Vic’s (or some other American tiki-themed establishment), and has nothing to do with the Asian city it evokes. Similarly, Russian dressing was first formulated in New Hampshire — and not by Russians.

And as for Philadelphia cream cheese, it didn’t come from Philadelphia but earned its moniker because — believe it or not — in the late 19th century, when the first cream cheese was made (in New York state), Philadelphia was considered something of a gastronomic capital, and attaching its name to the dairy product gave it instant cachet.

Sometimes, place names get given to foods through simple misunderstanding. Turkey got called that because European settlers in America initially identified it with a different kind of bird imported into Europe by Turkish merchants — though turkeys are actually native to North and Central America. (The French, meanwhile, call turkey dinde, meaning “from India.”)

Some place-based food names are obvious — and accurate. Vidalia onions are grown around Vidalia, Georgia; Brussels sprouts were first cultivated near Brussels, Belgium, in the 13th century; and Swedish meatballs are from … well, guess.

But did you know that jalapeños are named for a Mexican city? Tangerines for a Mediterranean port? And peaches for a Middle Eastern country?

Similarly, French fries aren’t French, Swiss steak isn’t Swiss, and Mongolian barbecue isn’t Mongolian — or, for that matter, barbecue. These are 20 very popularly but deceptively named foods. 

Click here to see the 20 foods you don’t know were named after places.

Sponsored: Tips for Investing

A financial advisor can help you understand the advantages and disadvantages of investment properties. Finding a qualified financial advisor doesn’t have to be hard. SmartAsset’s free tool matches you with up to three financial advisors who serve your area, and you can interview your advisor matches at no cost to decide which one is right for you. If you’re ready to find an advisor who can help you achieve your financial goals, get started now.

Investing in real estate can diversify your portfolio. But expanding your horizons may add additional costs. If you’re an investor looking to minimize expenses, consider checking out online brokerages. They often offer low investment fees, helping you maximize your profit.