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    In the May/June issue of AFAR, we traveled the world via canned goods and came back with a new appreciation for the must-have staple items of many countries. We won’t claim to be experts on the difference between Moroccan and Portuguese sardines (yes, there is a difference) or on the complex flavors of Scottish haggis, but we can safely say that we’ve seen some pretty amazing meals come from small cans. 

    All Photos by Jeffery Cross

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    1. ITALY

    Any good Italian knows that not all canned tomatoes are created equal. Italbrand cans everything from regular pomodori pelati (“peeled tomatoes”) to the beloved San Marzano tomatoes. Note: If you're looking for real San Marzanos, make sure those in your can came from the base of Mount Vesuvius, in Naples, where the volcanic soil gives these tomatoes their balanced sweet-yet-acidic flavor.

    Photo by Jeffery Cross
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    2. TUNISIA

    If heat is what you want, look no further than the spicy harissa pastes from Tunisia. Filled with a mix of chile peppers, garlic, caraway, cumin, and coriander seeds, this little can packs a punch.

    Photo by Jeffery Cross
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    3. WEST BANK
    West Bank

    Cucumbers (both fresh and pickled) are a staple in any Middle Eastern household. A little bit of cheese, fresh bread, a handful of herbs, and a pickled cucumber? That’s a classic, folks.

    Photo by Jeffery Cross
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    There’s more than one way to enjoy lychee fruit. One of our favorites also happens to be one of the simplest recipes we’ve ever seen—it only has two steps.

    1. Grab a blender, and blend a can of whole lychees until smooth (look for the ones canned in heavy syrup).

    2. Add a tablespoon (or more if you have a sweet tooth) of the blended lychee to a glass of champagne or sparkling wine. Enjoy!

    Photo by Jeffery Cross


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    5. JAMAICA

    If binging on spinach hasn’t resulted in the Popeye-esque bod you were hoping for, take a note from Caribbean cuisine and try callaloo. One of the most nutritious leafy greens, callaloo makes its way into most meals in the Caribbean, served as a side dish, a sauce, or part of a stew.

    Photo by Jeffery Cross
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    Haggis is a food that divides people as often as it brings them together. An all-in-one dish of sheep heart, liver, and lungs plus oatmeal encased in the sheep’s stomach, haggis is a traditional Scottish delicacy—and considered a must-try for brave tourists. The national dish has been banned in the United States since 1971 due to concerns over its safety, but we recently heard that might be changing.

    Photo by Jeffery Cross
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    United Arab Emirates

    Get a healthy start to your day with tasty ful medammas, a breakfast dish made with fresh fava beans. But if you’ve ever shelled the beans yourself, you know it’s not a task for the impatient. Which is where this canned version comes in. 

    Photo by Jeffery Cross
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    8. TAIWAN

    Whether you’re cooking up a pile of noodles or a bowl of Taiwanese clams, you’ll always want to have a good bean sauce on hand. It is a Taiwanese staple, after all. 

    Photo by Jeffery Cross
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    United States of America

    This year, the American popcorn company Jolly Time is celebrating 100 years of popping goodness. Whether you prefer to pop from a can or a bag, we recommend going for the extra round of butter.

    Photo by Jeffery Cross
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    10. ITALY
    Palermo, Italy

    When it comes to Italian canned goods, this is the little-can-that-could from Cuoco. This appetizer of eggplant, caponata di melenzane, made in Sicily, is also a perfect addition to all the Italian classics: bread, pasta, and anything with tomatoes.

    Photo by Jeffery Cross
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    New Zealand

    Corned beef can be an acquired taste, much like its cousin, Spam. But if you haven’t tried it, don’t knock it just yet—corned beef is the star of many meals in New Zealand. (And it’s popular in New York diners and standard fare for St. Patrick’s Day.)

    Photo by Jeffery Cross

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    12. MEXICO

    Tacos, enchiladas, tostadas, quesadillas, and sopes—no matter what the dish, in Mexico you will likely find it served with El Pato Salsa de Jalapeño, the perfect way to spice up your cooking.

    Photo by Jeffery Cross
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    13. CANADA

    Liver has a pretty bad rep with kids in the United States—second only, perhaps, to brussels sprouts. But head farther north—say, to Canada—and it’s an entirely different story. Spreads like this Fortune Brand Beef Liver are a popular kitchen staple enjoyed by people of all ages. 

    Photo by Jeffery Cross
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    14. FRANCE

    No French pantry would be complete without patê. Keep a can on hand with some crusty bread (and maybe a jar of cornichons), and you’ve got an appetizer that will wow any impromptu dinner guests. 

    Photo by Jeffery Cross
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    15. PORTUGAL

    In sardine-loving Portugal, more than 60 percent of sardines are eaten fresh: They’re simply slapped on the barbecue and grilled to perfection. Although the sardine season only lasts for about five months, there are plenty of canned options, and they’re extremely tasty too.

    Photo by Jeffery Cross
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    16. MOROCCO

    Sardines are used in even more ways in Morocco. The country is the biggest sardine exporter in the world, and the fish are a household staple and a popular street snack. You'll find them grilled, baked, or stuffed with a tasty chermoula sauce of tomato, garlic, and spices.

    Photo by Jeffery Cross
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    17. KOREA

    Don't be fooled by the packaging, which might say “sesame leaves”; the greens in this can, called kkaennip in Korean, are usually known as perilla in Western markets. Similar to Japanese shiso leaves, kkaennip is a little garlicky, a little spicy, and a perfect veg to serve as a banchan (a traditional side dish). You can eat this kimchi variant dressed with sesame oil and soy sauce, or just enjoy it right out of the can. 

    Photo by Jeffery Cross

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    18. PERU

    The fishing industry in Peru produces more than 40 percent of the anchovies exported around the world, but, surprisingly, the bony little fish are just starting to play a major role in Peruvian cuisine—in dishes like anchovy chicharrones and anchovy jerky.

    Photo by Jeffery Cross
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    19. JAPAN

    Sweet and salty with the perfect amount of umami, this can of seasoned sanma—a thin, silvery fish also known as “autumn knife fish” in Japan (for its knifelike shape) or Pacific saury—is a must-have in any Japanese home.

    Photo by Jeffery Cross
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    United Kingdom 

    An English morning isn’t complete without a delicious fry-up—eggs, toast, bubble and squeak, sausages, and plenty of Heinz beans!  

    Photo by Jeffery Cross
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Around the World in 20 Cans

These fresh-looking cans say something about their homelands: Which foods are so essential to locals they're always kept on hand.