Special Report

The Most Iconic Dishes America Has Given the Rest of the World

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26. Crispy-shell ground beef taco

If you go to Mexico (or one of the countless fantastic taquerias across America) and order a taco, you’ll probably get a soft corn tortilla, filled with meat ranging from carnitas to barbacoa to lengua and simply topped with onion, cilantro, and maybe a little salsa. What you won’t receive is a prefabricated hard-shell corn tortilla filled with seasoned ground beef, lettuce, tomato, and shredded bright orange cheese. Why? Because that’s a distinctly American invention, popularized by fast food chains and at countless family taco nights. When done properly it can be undeniably delicious, but it’s not a taco in its purest sense.

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27. Mission burrito

And just like a taco, if you order a burrito in Mexico you probably won’t get what you’re expecting. That’s because the Mission-style burrito, which nowadays is best recognized as what they’re serving up at your local Chipotle, is also an American invention. In Mexico, burritos are usually quite small, and are just flour tortillas rolled up around a couple ingredients, like meat, beans, and chiles (and they’re only really popular in the northern part of the country). The Mission-style burrito, on the other hand, takes a jumbo-size tortilla and fills it with a variety of fillings including meat, beans, rice, cheese, sour cream, onion, and guacamole. It was popularized in San Francisco’s Mission District (hence the name) in the ’60s and ’70s, and many of America’s best burrito joints can still be found in the neighborhood.

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28. Corned beef hash

Hash is a dish made by frying up chopped meat, potatoes, and onions, invented as a smart way to use up leftovers. Corned beef hash is an especially popular style thanks to New England, where the traditional boiled dinner of corned beef, cabbage, potatoes, and onions was once very common. Today, corned beef hash can be the centerpiece of a restaurant’s brunch menu with all homemade components, it can be easily whipped up at home, or it can go straight from the can into the frying pan. Whatever you do, be sure to top yours with a fried egg.

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29. Fried chicken

Few dishes are more associated with the South than fried chicken, which was introduced to the region by slaves. In the 20th century, especially after the advent of pressure frying by (Colonel) Harland Sanders sped up the cooking process, it became a fast food staple. Nowadays, there are countless recipes for fried chicken, and restaurants and cooks across the country consider it their signature dish. Whether pan-fried or deep-fried, breaded or battered, or served in a bucket or atop a waffle, we just can’t get enough of it.

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30. Chicken and waffles

Speaking of waffles… Chicken and waffles is an increasingly popular method of serving fried chicken these days, thanks to the tantalizing interplay between the crunchy and juicy chicken, the crisp and fluffy waffle, and the sweet maple syrup. The duo was actually popularized in Pennsylvania Dutch country, but it didn’t really take off until it made its way to NYC’s Harlem in the 1930s. It soon became a soul food staple, and it remains a popular dish at soul food restaurants (and increasingly, plenty of other types of restaurants) to this day.

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