The Panamanian National Dish That's A Perfect Comfort Food

Everyone has a go-to meal that instantly feels like a hug. Whether your personal comfort food is macaroni and cheese, mashed potatoes and gravy, a few scoops of ice cream, a pizza all to yourself, or piping hot soup, you really can't go wrong. Several studies have shown that there's some real truth to why we gravitate toward certain fares when we're feeling down, lonely, or just want a taste of nostalgia. Shira Gabriel, a professor of psychology at the State University of New York at Buffalo, found that comfort foods have the power to take us back to pleasant times and induce positive emotions, per The Atlantic.

For some of us, there's something nostalgic about chowing down on a big bowl of soup or stew, regardless of whether or not it's "soup season" where you live. One classic soup first whipped up and served in the Spanish Canary Islands off the African coast is sancocho. This dish is a simple stew made with meat and vegetables. There are different recipes for sancocho depending where this savory delight is eaten, according to Dominican Cooking. So, what is it about sancocho that makes it an all-time favorite comfort food for people around the globe?

Sancocho is a beloved Latin American soup

Sancocho — also known as sancocho de gallina panameño — is consumed by people from all walks of life across Latin America and is widely considered the national dish of Panama, according to 196 Flavors. While family and regional recipes slightly vary, the most common ingredients for the Panamanian version include chicken, yams, yuca, corn on the cob, taro root, and culantro, a mega-flavorful green herb belonging to the Apiaceae family of plants — not to be confused with its cousin cilantro. The result is a simple, stew-like, heartwarming meal.

Familia Kitchen calls the thick stew a revered dish with a certain magic to it. Some say that sancocho can cure even the worst of hangovers. Panamanian chef Carlos Alba, who has a knack for preparing sancocho, explains to Smithsonian that, in addition to having the power to cleanse a hungover eater, sancocho can help cool off the body, even on a hot day. "Everything from Panama that consists of people gathering together to cook is going to be a representation of who we are as a country," Alba shares. "That's what sancocho is about, sharing and learning."