Chai is Among the World’s 25 Most Confusing Cuisines Uncovered in a Study

A new study reveals the most confusing cuisines of the world.

Chai Image Credit: Julissa Helmuth  via pexels
Chai Image Credit: Julissa Helmuth via pexels

A recent study unveils the world’s most perplexing culinary delights. Researchers at Remitly gathered and analyzed a list of over 2,700 dishes from more than 165 countries to identify the most baffling cuisines globally. By pairing these dishes with search queries such as ‘what is’ and ‘how to pronounce’, the researchers determined which dishes were most frequently searched for in the past year, indicating the level of confusion surrounding them.

The World’s Top 25 Most Confusing Cuisines

Topping the chart of perplexing cuisines is Kimchi, garnering close to a million (946,090) annual searches. This traditional Korean side dish, known as banchan, consists of salted and fermented vegetables, usually Korean radish or cabbage. This zesty dish enhances a variety of meals, including salads, meats, soups, and stews. Though kimchi has its roots in Korea, it has gained global availability in supermarkets worldwide.

Falafel claims the second spot on the list of puzzling cuisines. Believed to have originated from Egyptian culinary traditions, falafel is typically made from fava beans and is a favourite among vegetarian patrons. These deep-fried balls or fritters are a staple in Middle Eastern cuisine and can be crafted from fava beans, broad beans, ground chickpeas, or a mix of the three.

Ranking of the World’s Most Confusing Dishes

Rank Dish Name Country Annual Global Search Volume
1 Kimchi Korea 946,090
2 Falafel Egypt 752,850
3 Gyros Greece 662,700
4 Couscous Morocco 595,640
5 Tahini Syria 570,830
6 Gnocchi Italy 532,200
7 Gelato Italy 510,700
8 Pho Vietnam 491,700
9 Carnitas Mexico 437,510
10 Shawarma Turkey 387,410
11 Peanut butter and jelly United States 385,200
12 Risotto Italy 378,840
13 Haggis Scotland 377,720
14 Hummus Israel 354,520
15 Chai India 337,470
16 Kava The Pacific Islands 320,870
17 Fufu Ghana 303,600
18 Sushi Japan 283,720
19 Foie Gras France 269,080
20 Soju South Korea 266,720
21 Horchata Mexico 259,950
22 Sauerkraut Germany 251,340
23 Ceviche Peru 238,510
24 Miso Soup Japan 238,000
25 Natto Japan 223,570

The Greek speciality of gyros ranks in third place with over 660,000 annual searches for the cuisine. Gyros is a hugely popular dish that is made up of meat (often chicken) cooked on a vertical rotisserie which is sliced and wrapped in pita bread along with salad, french fries, and tzatziki. Also ranking in the top ten most confusing dishes is shawarma, a dish that originated in Turkey and shares many similarities with gyros, including ingredients and cooking preparation method, differing only in its spicier and more complex flavour. 

Most Confusing Cuisine – Falafel

Other foods that feature in the top ten most confusing dishes include gelato and gnocchi, both originating from Italy, and the hugely popular Vietnamese cuisine of pho, while Asian cuisines including chai, fufu, and sushi rank in the top twenty, each with over 280,000 annual searches. 

Most Confusing Cuisine - Peanut butter jelly
Most Confusing Cuisine – Peanut butter jelly

There’s even space in the top 25 for the signature sandwich filling of the USA, peanut butter and jelly, clearly a flavour combination that causes plenty of confusion around the world.

The World’s Top 10 Most Difficult To Pronounce Cuisines 

Most Confusing Cuisine - Pho
Most Confusing Cuisine – Pho

As well as the most confusing cuisines, the study also revealed the cuisines that are hardest to pronounce, by analyzing the number of searches for each cuisine and the term ‘how to pronounce’.

Rank Dish Name Correct Pronunciation Country Annual Global Search Volume
1 Gyros Yi · ros Greece 346,500
2 Pho Fuh Vietnam 150,600
3 Gnocchi No · kee Italy 123,200
4 Pizza Peet · suh Italy 53,800
5 Quesadilla Kay · suh · dee · uh Mexico 40,200
6 Focaccia Fuh · kach · ee · uh Italy 33,300
7 Poke Bowl Pow · kay bowl United States (Hawaii) 32,500
8 Tzatziki Sat · see · kee Greece 27,000
9 Gyoza Gee · ow · zuh China 26,800
10 Baklava Ba · kluh · vuh Turkey 24,120
Most Confusing Cuisine - Poke Bowl
Most Confusing Cuisine – Poke Bowl

The Greek dish of gyros topped the list of foods most difficult to pronounce, with almost 350,000 people searching for help on the correct pronunciation of the cuisine over the previous year. The dish is pronounced ‘yi · ros’ and is often anglicized as a ‘gyro’ — so practice is essential to avoid a restaurant faux pas. 

Pho (pronounced ‘fuh’ and not ‘foe’) ranked as the second most difficult-to-pronounce cuisine, while gnocchi (pronounced ‘no · kee’) rounded off the top three dishes people find hard to say.

Also featuring in the top ten list is Hawaii’s popular poke bowl (‘poe · kay bowl’), China’s gyoza (‘gee · oh · zuh’), and Turkey’s baklava (ba · kluh · vuh). 

Most Confusing Cuisine - Pizza
Most Confusing Cuisine – Pizza

Jago McKenzie, Business Management Director at Remitly, said “We know that sampling a country’s most popular and traditional dishes can be one of the best parts about visiting or moving to a new country and a great way to immerse yourself in the culture of a new place. However, these specialities – although much loved amongst locals – can sometimes be hard to pronounce or made of ingredients you are not familiar with.

Most Confusing Cuisine – Quesadilla

“It’s been really interesting to dive into the search data to reveal the cuisines which people are most curious about – along with those which people find most difficult to pronounce. Search engines are great for a quick search while visiting a shop or scanning a restaurant menu, but if in doubt it’s always best to chat with your waiter or restaurant staff – they’ll likely be local and can share information about the different local dishes, the history of the cuisine and what ingredients feature in the dish.”

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