Have you ever wondered what the big “go-to” dishes are in other parts of the world? I mean, in the U.S. fast food has become a huge part of the culture so a hamburger, fries, pizza, tacos, and subs are all foods visitors will see quite often in most towns. If you go to Maine, you have to try the lobster, if you go to Texas, you try the BBQ. So what about different areas in Europe? What are the European foods you would run into there? Curious? I was, and have found 10 European foods that most Americans probably have never heard of, but have to try!
#1 The Greek Souvlaki
The Greek Souvlaki is one of the most popular fast foods in Athens, Greece. You can find it almost anywhere, on any street corner. At any given time, someone is walking around eating one, or maybe even eating one while riding on the back of a moped. They are similar to a gyro, with meat, lettuce, tomato, onions, cheese, french fries, and a creamy tzatziki sauce. The meat can be grilled on a stick, or my favorite, shredded from the slow rotisserie cookers. There’s just something about them here, nowhere else does them as good.
Next up is Moussaka which is a Mediterranean dish I discovered in Cyprus. It comes warm in a ceramic dish and the top is lightly browned to perfection. As you dig in your will find a rich blend of eggplant, zucchini, tomatoes, onions, garlic, spices, and ground meat (usually lamb). The top has a white sauce made with flour and thickened with egg. It is so good, very filling, and will leave you wanting a nap afterward.
#3 Cypriot Shefalia
Okay this is not for those watching their cholesterol. The Shefalia is ground meat mixed with onion, parsley, salt and pepper. It is then wrapped in the caul fat from the intestines. As it cooks and the fat melts away, you are left with an amazing depth of flavor that smells like Thanksgiving stuffing. These are often served as a dinner main dish, on meat platters, or can be great fried and thrown in a soup!
#4 Italian Lardo
When in Italy, you will likely run into lardo either at the grocery store, or at a bar/restaraunt. Lardo is made of cured strips of fatback. I know, I know, it sounds horrible and surely shouldn’t be eaten on the daily, but it is a delicious treat. What you do is get a biscotti stick and wrap the lardo around the stick. Then you wrap another cured meat around the stick and snack away. A glass of wine doesn’t hurt either!
Speaking of cured meats, one of the best to try in Italy is the speck. Speck is a type of prosciutto which is sold in thin strips and can also be found sliced more thickly on pizzas or in sandwiches. Combine this tasty meat with some cheese, wine, or lardo and you will be good to go.
#6 Kurtoskalacs aka Chimney Cakes
Any churro lovers out there? You are going to love this one. After arriving in Budapest and walking around, there’s the aroma of cinnamon sugar on baking bread. What are these wonderful snacks? Sweet dough is wrapped around a cylindrical baking spit and then rolled in sugar. Then it is roasted while being turned regularly, so that it slowly bakes and the sugar on the outer layer crystallizes. As it is rotated it is basted with butter, giving it a nice golden brown color. When it is ready, you can add any number of toppings to yours like cinnamon (most popular), a nut medley, cocoa, or even fill it with pudding or ice cream. So yummy.
#7 Goulash Soup
This isn’t your grandmas Goulash soup. Originally made from dried meat in bags of sheep intestines, Goulash has helped Hungary grow and survive for centuries. In fact, it is the dish of the region making it even more imperative to try there. While in Budapest I tried the infamous Goulash, a traditional stew of lamb with paprika and heavy seasoning, and then had it a few more times as most every restaurant sells it at a great price!
Next up we have a pastry type of food known as the borek. These we found in Plovdiv, Bulgaria. There were tons of vendors selling them on the street corners for less than a dollar, and they were also in cafes, restaraunts and the grocery stores. They are a flaky pastry stuffed with different fillings like cheese and spinach, and minced meat. They are tasty, pretty greasy, and easy to take on the go..
Honestly, I just like to say this one (suh-vop-chi-chi). The Croation Cevapcici itself is a type of sausage usually pork or beef. They sell these in big pita like breads with a creamy sauce and the option of chopped onions and a red pepper sauce. It’s a popular street food, very filling, and rich tasting.
#10 Stuffed Grape Leaves
Last but not least are the stuffed grape leaves, often times called “dolma”. These are a mixture of ground meat, rice, and vegetables wrapped in steamed grape leaves. They are served with yogurt sauce and depending on the ingredients can be served either hot or cold. They are yummy, healthy and found in Greece and Macedonia.
So there you have 10 of the commonly found foods in several countries throughout Europe. I am sure I will add to this list as I travel West and North on the continent and can’t wait to see what I find. The main themes so far are spicy rich meats, delicious creamy sauces, and a balance of veggies. Next time you head out to grab your city or state’s specialty, keep in mind there are many more to discover around the world.