Museums, UNESCO World Heritage sites, magnificent landmarks and heritage buildings can all offer an incredible insight into the culture of the place you are visiting. However, to really get to know any culture, I find the best way is not seeing, but tasting.
I am of course talking about partaking in the many divine local delicacies you’ll find across the world. From pastizzi to pinxtos, these are a few of my favourite dishes that I’ve been treated to across Europe.
Malta – Pastizzi
Oh Mediterranean Malta your island is choc-full of culinary wonders, but if I had to choose one to import back home it would have to be the indulgent pastizzi. Found for around 30-cent in the entrance to Valletta via the bus station, or in Crystal Palace in Rabat, these delightful treats are ungodly delicious. The crunchy pastry hides a filling of ricotta cheese or a mildly spiced pea.
Amsterdam – Krokets & Bitterballen
Usually I’d argue that anything that can be brought in a vending machine hardly constitutes as a delicacy, but for croquettes I’ll allow it. While obviously Amsterdam’s famous FEBO brought snack may not be the finest, and certainly not healthiest, thing to eat they are unbelievably tasty. For a more authentic treat, bitterballen are a traditional snack well worth indulging in. These bite-sized typically contain a creamy beef broth and have a crunchy, deep fried breaded exterior.
Portugal – Francesinha
The locals in Porto will describe this dish as a ‘sandwich’. The reality is that the ingredients of this monster mouthful list reads like this: cured ham, sausage (chipolata), roast meat, thick layer of melted cheese and smothered in a spicy beer and tomato sauce. It will end you.
Bruges – Waffles
You’ll often hear from travellers that Belgian waffles are the best around. As much as you might question this, thinking ‘how can a savoury treat only taste amazing when brought in this particular country?’. But when you get your chops around these bad boys you won’t ever look back. For my birthday last year Kasha took me on a surprise trip to Bruges, where we stuffed our respective faces with chocolates, beer and most importantly, waffles.
Poland – Pierogi
The humble pierogi is one of the staple delicacies of Polish cuisine. Somewhat resembling stuffed ravioli, pierogi are traditionally made with: meat, mashed potato and cheese or mushroom and sauerkraut. My favourite, obviously, is the meaty version, which is unbelievably tasty and filling. You can taste this dish in Poland’s stunning Tricity wonder Gdańsk.
Portugal – Pasteis de nata
You know that moment when you look across a crowded room and suddenly spot the love of your life? That’s what happened between me and a pastel de nata. Well, not exactly. I did however, realise that the humble Portuguese egg tart would swiftly form part of my sweet-tooth daydreams for years to come. You can find the best tarts in the country at the iconic Pasteis de Belem shop in Lisbon. The queue is long, but the wait is worth it. Sprinkle a little cinnamon on top, devour, wipe crumbs and repeat.
San Sebastian – Pintxos
No, this is not tapas, this is pintxos. The best place, in my opinion, to taste this delightful variety of finger food is the Basque Country gem, San Sebastian. Now, some quick rules for finding and consuming great pintxos. Each dish is served with a little paper serviette, so the best spots in the city have their floors covered with discarded tissues. Unlike tapas, you always pay for your pintxos, and sometimes you simply take what you want and pay the barman at the end. Combine your mouth-watering pintxos with a glass of Basque Country cider for the ultimate local meal.
*Pin it for Later!*
Keen to try some straight up phenomenal food in London? Check out my review of the sky high Duck and Waffle restaurant.