Strong hands stirring shredded potatoes in a glass bowl with a wooden spoon.
Food & Drink

Delicious Differences: Potatoes

Mashed potatoes. Fried potatoes. Hash browns. Baked potatoes. Scalloped potatoes. Potato salad. The list goes on for all the ways you can prepare potatoes in the kitchen. Surprisingly, there are thousands of varieties of potatoes in the world, and some types are impossible to find in an average grocery store.

Potatoes are one of the top five most common food staples in the world, and they have a long history of providing sustenance to people in different countries around the globe. The humble potato tastes great on its own, but it’s also a neutral base for flavorful and exotic dishes.

Classic French Fries

The first food that comes to mind when you think of potatoes is French fries. These long potato strips that have been deep fried and lightly salted are the definition of perfection. You can get fries at any drive-thru, but as you travel around the world, you’ll see that there’s more to fries than just a side of ketchup. In Canada, poutine is king. The French-Canadian classic dish features French fries topped with cheese curds and gravy. You might be thinking, “gravy and cheese curds on French fries?” Don’t knock it until you try it. Poutine is creamy because of the toppings, but crispy because of the fries. Some even add more toppings like bacon or pulled pork to take their poutine to the next level. Chile has its chorrillana. Chileans top these fries with eggs, onions, sausage, and other meats. Think nachos, but with fries – can it get any better?

Like many people around the world, we are a fan of the simple tomato-and-potato combo of fries and ketchup. That’s why masala chips from Kenya are so intriguing. The twice-fried potatoes are nice and crispy before being tossed in a tomato sauce seasoned with masala and topped with a squeeze of fresh lemon. It’s hard to believe that French fries could get any better, but people all over the world have proved that they’re even tastier when sprinkled with sauces, seasonings, and other toppings.

Creamy And Comforting Mashed Potatoes

Mashed potatoes are the ultimate comfort food. They’re smooth and creamy, and they hit you right in the soul.

The Irish love mashed potatoes and for good reason. Potatoes literally saved Ireland from famine when the climate was too harsh to grow other crops. Among the popular potato dishes in Ireland is colcannon. It’s a dish so delicious that there are songs about it. This mashed potato dish includes kale or cabbage with salt, pepper, and onion. The traditional recipe uses the leafy greens, which increases the health factor, too.

People from India make a sandwich similar to the sloppy joe but with mashed potatoes. The beloved sandwich, known as dabeli, features mashed potatoes seasoned with dabeli masala and served on a bun. It’s available throughout India as a popular street food.

Saucy Potato Pasta

U.S. health trends tell us that carbs are bad. We’re supposed to avoid potatoes and pasta. Meanwhile, in Europe, people eat potatoes and pasta together in dishes that would make any low-carb dieter cringe. In Hungary and other parts of Eastern Europe, grenadir mars is a common dish that’s inexpensive and delicious. The pasta dish has potatoes and onions and is seasoned with smoked Spanish paprika. For authenticity, serve it up with pickles on the side.

In Italy, gnocchi is a bite-sized pasta made from potatoes, flour, and eggs. The word “gnocchi” translates to “lump,” which is an appropriate name for these miniature pillows of fluffy mashed potato pasta. Like other types of pasta, these serve as a versatile base for all types of sauces, ranging from a classic ragu to a simple butter sauce.

Meanwhile, in Europe, people eat potatoes and pasta together in dishes that would make any low-carb dieter cringe.

Potato Pancakes For Dinner Or Dessert

Mashed or shredded potatoes combined with flour and egg, flattened into a disc, and fried make the national dish of Belarus and Slovakia — potato pancakes. Korea, Sweden, Poland, England, Iran, and other countries around the world have their own variations of potato pancakes. Some like them savory while others like them sweet.

In Germany, potato pancakes are sweetened and served with applesauce, blueberries, cinnamon, and sugar. They’re a popular treat during the cold winter months. In contrast, Czech potato pancakes more closely resemble Jewish latkes. They’re seasoned with garlic and marjoram before being fried. They’re served with a bit of sauerkraut, too.

Long-Lasting Freeze-Dried Potatoes

I most commonly associate potatoes with Ireland, but Peru is actually the home of the widest variety of potatoes in the world. There are thousands of varieties in various colors, shapes, and textures, and they play an important role in Peruvian customs and traditions. Chuño is a freeze-dried potato developed by Incans more than eight centuries ago. 

They make chuño by burying the potatoes in the ground, allowing them to freeze in the cold temperatures, thawing them out, and repeating the process. People stomp on the potatoes to remove the skins and excess liquids. When done, the potatoes are preserved and remain edible for up to a decade. This is definitely a good food source for the harsh and unforgiving climate in the Peruvian mountains. They can be eaten on their own after rehydration or added to soups and stews. Because of the process for making chuño, it’s not a food we’re likely to see outside of this region. If you can’t see yourself  trying to replicate this process, use it as an inspiration to try some new potato recipes.