Junk Food

By Julia Maish |

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                            Waffle with syrup and chocolate chips

Gaufre waffle

Saturday, July 21, is National Junk Food Day — a holiday created to celebrate everyone’s favorite guilty-pleasure snack foods. Because sometimes, it’s important to have something easy, mindless, and delicious to snack on during televised sporting events, at the Cineplex, and…just because. Twinkies, pork rinds, toasted ravioli, moon pies, buffalo wings, Cheetos, pizza with bizarre toppings — every state in the union has its favorite (notably, Colorado now has candy made from recently legalized marijuana, which presumably would make you crave even more junk food! A clever business model, perhaps?). Anyway, hit the midway at any State Fair, and you’ll find a junk food paradise.

You probably won’t be surprised to learn that the practice of consuming crazy amounts of calories in exchange for little to no nutritional benefit is by no means exclusive to Americans. Even the fast food chains familiar to us in the U.S. feature some additional regional offerings when you visit them elsewhere. What snack foods do our friends around the world grab for a quick junk food fix? Here are a few…

  • China — Pork & Seaweed Donuts. Just what they sound like: donuts stuffed with shredded pork and seaweed. You will find them at an international donut chain…probably NOT near you.
  • Mexico — Takis. A bit like Doritos, but bright red and almost unbearably spicy, with a hint of lime. They come in several flavors, but daredevils will want to try the “Xtra Hot” or “Nitro” variety (and keep a fire extinguisher handy).
  • France — Petit Ourson. These “little teddy bear” milk chocolate candies are, as advertised, filled with “very smooth marshmallow.” Sold in small 20-piece bags, they go down very quickly. Just imagine yourself scarfing them on the Champs-Élysées and they probably taste even better.
  • Peru — Doña Pepa. A flat, oval-shaped, crunchy chocolate-coated cookie caked with rainbow sprinkles. Addictive, and sometimes categorized as a candy bar.
  • The Netherlands — Patatje Oorlong. Like French fries? Peanut sauce? Mayonnaise? Onions? If you do, you’ll love this, as it’s a combination of all four. Somewhat like Canadian poutine, only Dutch, with some Indonesian influence thanks to former Dutch colonies there. To balance this out, you will also find apple fries in this country, which certainly help residents meet their daily fruit requirement.
  • Belgium — Gaufre. We already know that the Belgians are crazy about waffles. In other countries, you might confine your waffle consumption to breakfast or brunch, but not in Belgium — they put copious toppings on them (fruit, chocolate, caramel) and eat them all day, every day. If that isn’t a good reason to visit Belgium, we don’t know what is.
  • Taiwan — Mochi. These rice cakes, pulverized into a paste and formed into balls, are stuffed with sesame, peanut powder, bean paste, and/or ice cream. They’ve been around for centuries and somehow manage to sound fairly healthy, at least compared with some of the other items on this list.
  • Brazil — Coxinha. Mold some dough (chicken broth, wheat flour, and possibly some mashed potatoes) into a shape reminiscent of a chicken leg, infuse it with parsley, scallions, and spicy chicken meat (or chicken salad), roll it in bread crumbs, deep-fry it, and voila! You have yourself one of Brazil’s most popular street foods.
  • Hawaii — Spam Musubi. Okay, this is technically in the U.S., but we had to include it because of the Spam, a slab of which is marinated in soy sauce and sugar, grilled, placed on a raft made of rice and lashed to it with strip of seaweed. Perhaps it should be called “Castaway Spam.”

Are there any special junk foods that have a special place in your heart (or on your hips)? This is a good time to celebrate! (We won’t judge.)

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