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  • The Chopping Blog

12 Supermarket Foods You Won’t Find in America

Posted by Linda on Jun 21, 2018


We tend to think about the food we eat in terms of “country of origin” – Italian, French, Spanish, Chinese, Japanese, etc… and our perspective of food in America is closely tied to specific cities or geographic regions like Chicago Deep Dish Pizza, Philly Cheesesteak, Tex-Mex, New England Seafood and New Orleans Cajun.

But the global world of food is a mixed-up place where flavors, spices and textures get combined in unusual ways – and that’s what makes travelling to different countries so much more interesting. Especially when none of the labels are in English and you can only guess at what’s inside. After living and working in more than 40 countries, I put together a compilation of unique food products you won’t find in America… yet. 

Out of sheer desperation, I’ve learned to make many of these at home but if you ever get the chance, do try them when you travel overseas. Every one of these cost less than US $3 per package. 


“American” chocolate chip cookies in Warsaw, Poland – are we really more Chips Ahoy than Oreo? These taste pretty much the same, and I appreciated the patriotic shout-out to the United States. 


Hokkaido Baked Cheese Tarts in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia – vanilla or chocolate mini-tarts that taste like sweet, creamy cheesecake when chilled, but turn deliciously gooey and savory when warmed. They’re not quite like Macau/Portuguese egg tarts (pasteis de nata) as the crust is twice-baked short dough and the filling is a three-cream blend. The first U.S. outpost of BAKE, a Japanese competitor to Malaysia’s Hokkaido brand, opened in San Francisco in April 2018 so watch out because these will be more popular than donuts. 


Les Rillettes de Thon (Tuna) in Lyon, France – very rich because the fish is roasted in its own juice… when tuna fish salad just won’t do. Like most prepared foods in France, this is ready to eat straight from the container spread on hot, crusty bread. It’s also used as a base layer in fish tarts with thin-sliced potatoes or pasta sheets with spinach and ricotta cheese (think fish lasagna). 


Mici Oaie Si Vita in Bucharest, Romania – skinless, seasoned ground lamb and pork sausage ready for grilling! They come in various spice levels from sweet mild to extra hot, and are available everywhere. It’s the Romanian version of ground hamburger meat. 


Nougat in Bucharest, Romania – light and fluffy soft, studded with roasted nuts and wrapped in a crispy wafer. Huge slabs of nougat are available in the supermarket, but also sold on food trucks or at market stalls everywhere in Bucharest. 


Crema de Bacalao in Barcelona, Spain – cod cream mousse that makes a delicious dip for crackers, toast and veggies. Salt cod is a staple in Barcelona and every local cook has their own homemade version, but this packaged product is only found in a few stores. 


Crème de Marrons de L'Ardèche in Montpellier, France – luscious nutty and sweet chestnut purée from the Ardèche region. You can occasionally find this in the U.S. so try it plain or add it to baked goods. 


Potong ice pops in Penang, Malaysia – popular flavors include red bean, “kacang merah” (kidney bean), “kelapa” (coconut), “teh tarik” (milk tea), “pulut hitam” (black glutinous rice), yam and durian. Like most of Southeast Asia, Penang is hot and humid so Potong pops are eaten all day long and often mashed into “to-go” cups.


Bonne Maman Confiture de Lait in Lyon, France – Caramel milk jam is a French confection hailing from the region of Normandy. It’s often confused for and compared to the Latin American milk caramel dulce de leche. Both are made with sweetened milk, but confiture de lait is made with vanilla. 


Tahin Cevizli in Istanbul, Turkey – Tahini and walnut ice cream. It looks nothing like the picture on the package, but tastes creamy, rich and nutty. Tahini is everywhere in Turkey from appetizers to entrees, from sauces to desserts and in baked goods. Often called the “peanut butter” of the Middle East, it deserves a place in every kitchen. 


Bonne Maman Semoule au Lait in Lyon, France – it’s not rice pudding or tapioca, it’s semolina pudding and I’m completely addicted. I’m still perfecting my home recipe to get the consistency and flavor just right. 


Rupjmaizes Kartojums in Riga, Latvia - OK, this one is just to confirm that not everything you try tastes good. It looked so promising - moist cake topped with cream – what’s not to like? Rupjmaizes kartojums is a traditional Latvian dessert based on the country's famous traditional dark rye bread, much like a British trifle. But it’s not at all sweet or flavorful… in fact, it tasted like soggy bread crumbs and sour cream. Oh well, as every cook knows, you don’t have to eat it all, but you do have to try it. 

What new foods have you eaten lately? Are you challenging your palate with new tastes and textures? If you want to learn to cook something new and different, pick one of our ethnic cooking classes and join us at The Chopping Block. Here are just a few of our upcoming offerings:

View our calendars


Topics: international, Travel, supermarket

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