One way to really get under the skin of the destination you’re visiting is to walk the streets and take in the local goings on. Hear the friendly chatter, watch the history, culture and traditions unfold, and perhaps be lured in by a delicious waft of something cooking nearby! Cast your eyes around and you might spot a street vendor. Why not wander over and try something new? For a perfect lunch on-the-go or a substantial snack, these are a few of the street bites that your taste buds will thank you for.
Now this is a sandwich with a difference! When you’re in Greece keep a look out for vertical rotisseries, with pork or chicken turning round and round, grilling as it goes. The meat is thinly sliced directly onto pitta breads or into pitta pockets. That’s when the fun really starts, with lots of additions to choose from. Cram your pitta with onions, tzatziki, lettuce and tomatoes – some even add fries! Rumour has it the best are sold in Skiathos’ self-named Skiathos Town, in a place open 24 hours a day.
On the subject of savoury, we must tell you about Panzerotti. These are the Italian equivalent of pasties, only smaller. Their name comes from the word ‘panza’. This a dialect word for the Italian ‘Pancia’, meaning ‘belly’ and refers to the shape of the Panzerotti, which could be likened to a full stomach full of scrumptious food!
From Bari originally, these pockets of soft dough are filled with cheese, tomatoes and Italian herbs. They’re sealed and deep fried until crispy on the outside and hot and melted inside. Look out for other variations too – spinach, mushroom, corn and ham or fried onions with salted anchovies and capers are just the start. Delicious!
Ginginha, Silver Coast
What if we were to tell you that on the streets of Obidos and other towns along the Silver Coast you could pick up miniature chocolate cups filled with a sour cherry liqueur? You would quite simply have to stop and try one, wouldn’t you? There’s a good reason why the tourists stroll the streets here with smiling faces, as they pop from bar to bar, picking up a ‘ginginha’ for a couple of euros.
If you’re in Spain look out for enormous paella dishes simmering away street side. Plump beads of rice soak up flavour-packed broth, bubbling away under meat, seafood or vegetables, with saffron lending its golden tones. If you’re thinking about ordering paella in a restaurant one evening, you might want to think again. Only guiris (foreign tourists) would do such a thing! For the Spanish paella is a lunchtime dish, best cooked outdoors over a wood fire – perfect if you’re out exploring. Make sure you get some of the ‘socarrat’. This slightly burnt layer at the bottom of the pan is packed with flavour and a sign of paella cooked to perfection.
Finally something for those with a sweet tooth among us! The Istrian Fritule or “Uštipci” are Croatian pastries, a bit like doughnuts. They were originally served around Christmas time, when batches of the batter would be lovingly prepared and teaspoon-sized dollops dropped into hot oil to fry for a couple of minutes. Like all good recipes, they’re no longer reserved for Christmas. These mini doughnuts can be found at any time flavoured with lemon zest and vanilla, or a Croatian liqueur called ‘Ioza’.
Be warned, they are highly addictive! Sprinkled with powdered sugar and sometimes cinnamon, one leads to another, and another… You get the idea. Imagine biting into the sweet, crispy dough and discovering a raisin, it’s like hitting treasure!
Another dish for savoury lovers is a Maltese pastizz. These crispy, diamond-shaped fi lo pastries are stuffed with ricotta cheese or mushy peas and are extremely moreish. There is a Maltese expression ‘jinbiegħu bħall-pastizzi’ (selling like pastizzi), similar to the English “selling like hot cakes”. Once you’ve tried them you’ll understand why – we challenge you to stop at one!
There’s a place in Rabat called Crystal Palace that’s been making pastizzi for fifty years. They’re cheap and delicious so don’t be shy, fill up a bag and wander the streets munching as you go, you won’t regret it.