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17th Nov 2023

12 meals from films and tv we consistently dream of eating

Fiona Frawley

food from movies and tv we want to eat

Melty burger cheese always manages to look that bit better on the big screen.

What is it about hearing a dish described by a fictional character that makes it invariably more appealing than any dish you’ll ever experience in real life? From Krabby Patties to Sydney’s overnight omelette sensation, these culinary creations embed themselves into our brains and refuse to leave, compelling us to rush to Google and frantically search for ways to recreate them.

With online sensations like Binging with Babish rising to prominence, recreating fictional food at home is no longer a distant daydream, but a possibility – there are also plenty of blog-style recipes for your favourite tv dishes, if you’re willing to wade through the chef’s Odyssean opening paragraphs about their grandma’s mixing bowls and semesters abroad, that is.

Some of these dishes, I’ve tried to remake myself at home with varying levels of success (I have to consistently resist the urge to add “Can make a solidly OK version of Carmela’s ziti” to my Linkedin profile), and there’s a recipe in some corner of the internet for nearly all of them should the spirit move you.

Let’s get into it, shall we?

12. Carmela Soprano’s lasagna with the sweet sausage and layer of basil leaves

Casual Sopranos fans will argue that the matriarch’s ziti is the most notable dish of the series, but real ones know it’s the lasagna she whips up for a grieving Bobby that reigns supreme.

Initially, the dish is claimed by a wily Janice as she vies for Bobby’s affection, who after losing his wife naturally finds himself with a freezer full of cheesy pasta plates from every mob wife in the greater New Jersey area. Junior sets the record straight though, protesting “sweet sausage? In little pieces? And a layer of basil leaves right underneath the cheese? That’s Carmela’s lasagna”. The dish description is simple but effective, serving as a reminder that Carmela’s cooking is detailed, a little playful and completely inimitable, and Janice is not to be trusted.

11. Krabby Patties

There’s something about the ease with which a Krabby Patty travels down the gullets of its cartoon consumers that makes them infinitely appealing. They seem consistent, soft and inoffensive – like a doubler from McDonald’s when you’re feeling fragile, they are what they are and will never disappoint you. At least, that’s what we imagine.

The seaweed seabun, the mysterious meatless patty and of course, the elusive pinch of King Neptune’s Poseidon Powder come together to create a bite many have tried to emulate, a bite I believe will be a focal point for cartoon food lovers for years to come.

10. Miranda’s Chinese order from Sex and the City

“Chicken with broccoli in a brown…” “Brown sauce with brown rice. Cold noodles. I know. Every night the same”.

It’s the taunt from the takeout lady Miranda is, unsurprisingly, affronted by, but one that consistently has our tummies rumbling. What is the brown sauce? Is the chicken battered? What are we talking seasoning-wise on the cold noodles? Our interest, and our appetites are piqued.

The fact that Miranda’s local Chinese knows her order by heart and recites it back to her is something the most cynical of the SATC girlies doesn’t take too kindly to, but as we know, in Ireland, this is the highest compliment a takeaway enthusiast can receive.

Shout out to Steve’s hot and sour soup from the same restaurant too. One we’ve always dreamed of slurping.

9. Flanders’ Hot Chocolate from the Simpsons Movie

Ned’s comforting, multi-faceted hot cocoa has been referenced and recreated almost as much as his infamous “feels like I’m wearing nothing at all” butt shake from Season 11, and with good reason. There’s just so much to be inspired by, from the wafer insert to the finesse of the gently grated chocolate this mug is an undisputed work of art. A fun one to recreate on a cosy evening in, and a great excuse to buy yourself a mini blow torch.

8. Pasta Puttanesca from A Series of Unfortunate Events

First introduced to many of us in book form, the pasta dish prepared by the Baudelaire orphans for the heinous Count Olaf is representative of many things – the siblings’ ability to create something both beautiful and effective in a terrible situation, the grimness of their new living quarters and the utter disdain the series villain holds for his wards.

Despite Snicket’s efforts to make the puttanesca sound as depressing as possible, it awakens my need for a carb-y pasta feed. Sure, the spaghetti strands were found loose in an old cutlery drawer, crawling with roaches and the anchovies had probably been sitting in the Count’s grimy cupboard since the 70’s but I’d still definitely go for a serving of the saucy dish, which sounds hearty and perfectly seasoned with garlic, capers and that salty tinned fish hit.

7. Prison Sunday Gravy from Goodfellas

Personally, I have no interest in garlic unless it’s been finely sliced with a razor blade. Get that crusher out of here before I call the Luccheses.

The pasta sauce Vinnie prepares behind bars is one you’ll find recreated in many corners of society – by soft lads convinced they understand the film like no one else can, despite being born and reared in South County Dublin and having less connections with the Italian-American mafia than the man on the moon, by film buffs whose love language is obsessing over details, by Italian cooking aficionados and of course, by Binging with Babish. You just know he was all over this gravy.

6. The Moistmaker from Friends

The Thanksgiving sandwich that sent Ross into a fit of rage so blinding he was placed on temporary leave from work is one many would probably expect to find on this list. And it’s fair enough, that gravy-soaked slice of bread in the middle has had a hold on us since 1998 and as the grá for roast dinners has been reignited in recent years, it’s only getting tighter.

Obviously, I’ve dreamt of consuming the Moistmaker for decades and will purchase and consume any recreation I see on sale but for me, the Friends sandwich I think of most is the meatball sub Joey risks his life for in the episode with the car backfire. I’d take a bullet for it too, tbh.

5. Smithy’s Indian order from Gavin and Stacey

“Chicken bhuna, lamb bhuna, prawn bhuna, mushroom rice, bag of chips, keema naan and nine poppadoms”. 

Hear that? It’s the sound of a Billericay builder about to piece together the best 3-in-1 you’ve ever tasted.

Incase you’re not familiar, this bhuna-bounty is what Smithy orders in season 3, episode 2 of Gavin and Stacey, when the Shipmans and the Wests come together for a comforting curry.

Naturally, Smithy opts for three main courses, three sides and a healthy portion of sundries (the potential price of this group order keeps us up at night – the poppadoms, bhajis and naans alone would be enough to bankrupt you), before throwing an on-brand fit at the prospect of Pete, or anyone else for that matter dipping a chip into his curry, pledging to eat on his own in the car.

The order has become so synonymous with Brit pop culture that someone actually got it tattooed on their side. Lest we forget.

4. The chippy order from Derry Girls

Another takeaway scene for the telly history books, the Friday night chippy order at the Quinn household emulated Irishness in a way we’ve never seen before. The frazzled dad losing his reason while gripping a multipack biro for dear life (in my house, it would have been a tiny green pen lifted from the bookies but that’s neither here nor there), the washing being sorted alongside the ordering and the chips-for-the-table reserve going up and up as each family member weighs in.

If I had to choose one character’s order for myself, it’d be the last minute addition of Michelle’s curry chip butty every time. A comfort dish for the ages.

3. Sydney’s Omelette from The Bear

Of all the herb-tweezing and coulis-blobbing fine dining offerings The Bear Season 2 served us up, it’s Sydney’s omelette that stands out as the most memorable dish.

There are a number of reasons for this. Amidst the pot-clanging, wall-crumbling and militant “yes chef”-ing, the omelette scene is a moment of much needed calm, and a chance to see one of our favourite characters actually enjoy herself in the kitchen. It’s also one of the only dishes we see prepared start to finish, giving us a chance to appreciate the level of detail and care the perennially  gen Z chef puts into every aspect of her cooking. Crucially, in comparison to most of the other dishes showcased in season 2, an omelette is something most of us have the confidence to try at home, as thousands have on TikTok and beyond.

…..And as Irish people, the addition of the ridged sour cream and onion naturally had us sold.

2. Kevin’s Chilli from The Office

If you enjoy silly, slapstick-esque humour, this is a contender for the best scene across all nine seasons of the US Offfice. The oven gloves, Kevin’s desperate attempt to re-gather the famous Malone chilli with a clipboard, wire basket and any other means necessary, his subsequent slipping around in the con carnage – it’s all perfection. And the comedic superiority isn’t the only thing Office fans remember this scene for – most of us would also gladly get down on our hands and knees and dig into the pinto bean and ancho chilli masterpiece, right off the Dunder Mifflin carpet.

1. The Big Kahuna Burger from Pulp Fiction

From Vincent’s diner pancakes to Mia’s cherry-topped $5 shake, Pulp Fiction is famously heavy on the food references. It’s hard to choose just one from the Tarantino epic, but ultimately it’s the Big Kahuna that’ll always have viewers salivating, even though we know what’s coming next. Maybe it’s the unspecified Hawaiian twist, maybe it’s the close up of the melty monterey jack, maybe it’s the fact that Jules’s girlfriend is a vegetarian and he can’t usually get burgers that makes the fictional patty that bit tastier, in our imaginations at least. Sadly, Brett will never get to enjoy another Kahuna but for the rest of us there are plenty of recreation recipes online, with added pineapple rings, maple bacon and sriracha to boot.

Did we miss out your favourite fictional dish? Let us know!

Header images via Hulu / Nickelodeon 


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