Rainy day foods: pakoras, grilled cheese and soups galore

What people eat around the world to combat cold, wet days

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Fried foods, gooey cheese and warming soups are some of the top choices sought out around the world when it’s raining. As the UAE buckles up for another day of chilly weather and downpours, we sniff out the comfort foods people turn to and the regions they are popular in.

Middle East

Lentil soup is a go-to nearly all year round in the Arab world, especially when it’s cold outside. Originating in the Middle East, lentils are believed to be the first legume ever cultivated and were perhaps the first convenience food. A hearty and nutritious concoction, lentil soup is best enjoyed on rainy days, with fresh-from-the-oven bread to dunk into it.

Follow this recipe by Hanan Sayed Worrell, author of Table Tales: The Global Nomad Cuisine of Abu Dhabi.

India

Deep-fried everything washed down with tea is a sought-after combination during India’s monsoon. Pakoras are usually made from gram flour encased around fillings such as onion, potato, chillies or cottage cheese.

Other rainy day dishes popular in India include: parippu vada (lentil fritters), pazham pori (fried plantain), masala-smeared bhutta (corn on the cob), jaggery chilla (sweet pancakes), malpua (deep fried pancakes), kheer (a creamy pudding) and jalebi.

US

Both popular foods in their own right, grilled cheese sandwiches and tomato soup are the combination of choice when it’s lashing down. Dip the sandwich in the soup for maximum enjoyment.

UK

To say there is a specific rainy day dish in the UK is misleading. Given the amount of rain the country gets, it’s very much everyday food. Even so, the residents we spoke to all listed hearty, home-made soups as a common denominator. Chicken, tomato and chunky vegetables aside, an ideal rainy day dish is leek and potato soup. Super-easy to make, all it takes is boiling potatoes and leeks in a big pot with some carrots, onion, celery, garlic and vegetable stock. Then, add your desired amount of cream, depending on how indulgent you’re feeling. It's best served with a warm bread roll.

Cyprus

On wet, chilly days in Cyprus, and in many parts of Greece, avgolemono is one soup that’s guaranteed to do the trick. The Mediterranean staple is also whipped up by grandmothers across the region to cure stomach aches, colds and any other forms of general malaise. Both creamy and citrusy, the recipe is a mixture of beaten eggs, lemon juice and chunks of chicken stirred into hot stock. Its genius lies in its simplicity.

Portugal

Soup is also a popular choice for many in Portugal, most notably canja de galinha. This is a traditional chicken soup elevated with pevide pasta or rice and boiled egg. It can also be spiced up with mint, saffron and cloves, and eaten with broa (corn bread).

Indonesia

Ticking four comfort food categories in one bowl, bakso combines bone broth, meatballs, noodles and chilli sauce. Traditionally, bakso vendors would roam the streets with carts full of the soup, announcing their arrival by tapping a spoon against the piping hot pots.

Philippines

Soup-based dishes are hearty and warming, making them apt for cold days. Three meals popular in the Philippines include: arroz caldo, made with glutinous sticky rice, cooked in chicken broth with ginger, and garnished with spring onions, toasted garlic bits and a dash of lime juice and fish sauce; sopas, a creamy macaroni and evaporated milk soup loaded with cut-up carrots, cabbage and chicken or sausage; and tinola, made with chicken, ginger, moringa leaves and chayote. In the UAE, Filipinos typically substitute chayote with green papaya.

China

Hotpot, a soup-based dish, is another popular choice in many Asian countries. Cosy and homely, the so-called “steamboat” comprises meat and veggies dunked in a broth that is kept simmering until the dish is finished.

South Africa

Translating as “fat cake” from Afrikaans, vetkoek is deep-fried yeast dough. It’s commonly eaten with a side of curry with mince, although some versions are sweetened with sugar.

Turkey

Pasta dough is another hearty option that people turn to for their carb fix on cold days. In Turkey, hingel or Turkish manti is a popular choice. The potato dumplings are stuffed with minced meat and served with a trio of sauces — tomato, butter and garlicky-yoghurt. They are, however, notoriously laborious to make and it’s said the smaller the manti, the more special the guest.

South Korea

Street food is a go-to on rainy days and tteokbokki is a popular option in South Korea. The steamed rice cakes are tossed in gochujang chilli paste, and are chewy, fiery and super-filling.

Updated: January 27, 2023, 9:54 AM