Food Guide: Top 10 Must Eat Snacks, Foods and Meals in Europe

In this food guide, we show what we consider as the top 10 must eat snacks, foods and meals which are typical national delicacies in Europe.

10. Żurek (Poland)

Soups are a staple food in big parts of Europe. In many national cuisines it is even unthinkable not to start a meal with a soup! We could have gone here for some good old Russian borscht (beetroot soup) or Romanian ciorbă de fasole (bean soup, often served in a bread bowl) but in this article we like to feature another delicious soup: Polish Żurek.

Żurek is a soup made from a broth of soured rye flour and contains plenty of meats, usually smoked. Often, potatoes and vegetables are also added to it – and there are a wide range of regional varieties. The soup can be eaten the entire day, although it is also a popular breakfast meal.

If you ever visit Poland and might at a certain moment find yourself with a hangover having downed too many shots of Żubrówka (bison grass vodka) or Soplica hazelnut liqueur, then żurek might be a life-saver the morning after!

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Żurek is a hearty soup made from a broth of soured rye flour. ©Paliparan

9. Adana kebab (Turkey)

When you think about Turkey and food then kebab is the first thing that jumps to your mind. Those unitiated might  think that all kebabs are the same but they are dead wrong as there are lots of different kebab varieties!

The beloved fast-food variant (Döner kebab) which so many of us consume as a late night snack after hitting the pub is certainly not the original version. It was invented in 19th Century Turkey and only made popular after Turkish immigrants in Berlin, Germany, turned it into the world famous snack we know today.

More traditional kebab variants are Iskender kebab (Alexander’s kebab – thinly cut grilled lamb topped with hot tomato sauce and yoghurt over small pieces of pita bread), Cağ kebab (horizontally stacked lamb meat and tail fat on a rotating spit) and Adana kebab.

Adana kebab, which takes its name from the city of Adana in southern Turkey, is a long, spicy, minced meat kebab prepared on a wide iron skewer above charcoal. Although it is sold all over Turkey and in many Turkish restaurants across Europe, the best place to try it is of course in Adana itself.

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Eating some Adana kebab in the city of Adana, Turkey. ©Paliparan

8. Weisswurst (Germany)

Although Germany is not the top destination most people have in mind when thinking about Europe’s culinary delights, there are a few stellar dishes to try in this country. Of course, dishes like the schnitzel (thin-sliced meat – often breaded – fried in fat) and schweinhaxe (roasted pork knuckle) are well-known and beloved throughout the world.

Germany is also famous for its sausages, which come in a lot of different regional varieties. Of the archetypal German bratwurst sausage, perhaps the Nürnberger Rostbratwurst (Nuremberg-style roasted sausages) is the best known regional variety, followed by Berlin’s currywurst (bratwurst seasoned with curry ketchup).

Another popular regional variety is the weisswurst (white sausage), which has its origins in Bavaria. Although the dish can also be eaten as lunch, Bavarians consider it is a breakfast food best consumed with a Weizen (wheat) beer.

The weisswurst itself is made from made from minced veal and bacon flavoured with lemon, parsley and cardamom. It is considered a breakfast food as it the sausage is never fried or grilled, but rather heated in water. It thus was rather perishable and had to be eaten sooner than later in past times when there were no fridges and freezers around.

Weisswurst is served in the bowl of hot water with some mustard and a brezel (pretzel) on the side. You leave the sausage in the water, cut it lengthwise, and take the meat out of the casing (which should not be eaten). It’s a delicious, flavourful breakfast food and does really go well together with that German weizen beer!

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When in Bavaria, eat like a local and have a weizen beer and weisswurst for breakfast. ©Paliparan

7. Pulpo a la Gallega (Spain)

Spain is one of Europe’s top culinary destinations – and for good reasons. Who doesn’t like to go on a tapas crawl in a city like Barcelona or Granada, or going for some tasty pintxos when visiting the Basque Country?! There are some great foodie destinations in the country, perhaps none less than San Sebastian which has one of the highest ratio of Michelin stars in the world (18 stars within a 25 mile radius).

We could easily write a tribute to Jamón Ibérico or to a proper paella from Valencia, although that would not be a very original choice.

Instead, we want to pay homage to a popular tapa and festival food: Pulpo a la Gallega. The name in Spanish means ‘Galician-style octopus’, referring to the north-western Spanish province of Galicia with its mild Atlantic climate. In the Galician language the dish is named ‘polbo á feira’, which means fair-style octopus. The name is derived from the rural fairs and festivals where the dish was traditionally served.

The dish is basically the boiled and cut tentacles of an octopus. It is sprinkled with salt and both spicy and sweet paprika to give it its distinct flavour. It is then drizzled with olive oil, after which it is traditionally served on a wooden plate and served with some bread.

Interestingly, in true Galician tradition, the dish is best paired with a young, red wine – and not with one of the better-known local whites for which the region is famous. You can’t really go wrong with either of them!

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A plate of Polbo á Feira (Pulpo a la Gallega – Galician-style octopus). ©Paliparan

6. Moules-Frites (Belgium)

French fries, fries, chips, finger chips – there are many different names for the popular side dish or fast food snack made out of deep fried potatoes. The Americans have it however absolutely wrong by labeling them as ‘French’ – as the fries as we know them right now actually originated in Belgium.

Not surprisingly, for the best fries/chips you will ever taste you need to head to Belgium, where the snack is called ‘frites’ (in French) or ‘friet’ (in Flemish and Dutch). For the best frites, you need to head to a so-called ‘frietkot’ – which basically means something ‘fries stall’. They come in all kinds of forms, from a wooden shack selling takeway frites only to a takeaway or even full-service restaurant.

There are a lot of different sauces to accompany your portion of frites. If you want to stick to tradition, slightly sour-tasting Belgian mayonnaise is the way to go. However, you cannot go wrong with some of the modern sauce variants, such as the spicy andalouse sauce.

Frites are also a popular side dish in Belgium. Perhaps the best-known Belgian dish of all is moules-frites, a big pan of mussels with a portion of fries on the side. It is best enjoyed with a fine Belgian beer, such as the hoppy Duvel beer, a strong pale ale with hints of citrus.

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Moules-frites and a Duvel beer at Aux Armes des Bruxelles, the classical Brussels brasserie to enjoy them. ©Paliparan

5. Arancini (Italy)

With Italy is home to some of the worlds best dishes, eating out in the country is always a great delight. Whether you devour a tasty pasta, pizza, risotto or even a full Bistecca alla Fiorentina (Florentine-style steak), you are sure to have a good time in an Italian trattoria, osteria or ristorante.

Although not many people think of Italy when it comes to tasty snacks, the country does certainly have a few good ones. The best snack is perhaps the arancini, which originally comes from the island of Sicily. The name arancini, a diminutive of orange (literally: ‘little orange’), comes from the shape and colour of the snack. The snack basically is a ball of rice which is coated with bread crumbs and deep fried.

The snack can have different fillings, although the most popular is ‘arancini al ragù’ – an arancini ball filled with minced meat ragout and mozzarella. In the Catania-area of Eastern Sicily, they are not shaped like a ball but instead have a conical shape resembling the Etna volcano.

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A Sicilian Arancino al ragù. ©Paliparan

4. Bougatsa (Greece)

Back to breakfast foods! Greece is of course famous for its Greek salad, fish and seafood, souvlaki, moussaka and many more traditional dishes, but is also home to some particular breakfast foods.

Most Greeks will visit a local bakery for their breakfast, where they usually order a coffee and a pastry. There are many popular hearty pastries, such as the tiropita, a pastry with layers of buttered phyllo dough and filled with cheese.

If you prefer a sweet breakfast, then you should definitely try bougatsa. It is also made of buttered phyllo dough, but then filled with semolina custard and sprinkled with powdered sugar and cinnamon. Pair it with an elliniko (Greek coffee) or with an iced espresso or cappuccino (freddo espresso or freddo cappucino) for a true Greek breakfast.

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Not much is better to start your day exploring one of the wonderful Greek islands than eating some bougatsa and drinking a freddo espresso. ©Paliparan

3. Goulash (Hungary)

This dish originally hails from Hungary where it is considered as the national dish. It is however a favourite meal in much of Central Europe, so you are likely to encounter it at one point of your European itinerary.

Also written as gulash (or gulyás in proper Hungarian), the dish is a slow-cooked stew or soup consisting out of meat, potatoes and vegetables flavoured with paprika, garlic and a number of other spices to give it its distinct taste. A good homemade goulash should be cooked for many hours in a large kettle above a fire to make sure that the flavours really come out.

There are many regional varieties and recipes to goulash, with sometimes also sauerkraut or vermicelli pasta being used in the soup.

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A bowl of yummy goulash in an Hungarian restaurant in Cluj, Romania. ©Paliparan

2. Pljeskavica (Serbia)

Do you think that the best hamburgers come from the United States? Think again! Although the US might earn a silver medal, anyone who has ever visited Serbia will surely agree that the best hamburgers are made in the Balkans.

Pljeskavica, the name for the Serbian-style hamburger, is one of Europe’s best fast food dishes you can think of. It is basically a spiced meat patty mixture of pork, beef and lamb which is then grilled and served in a flatbread. To eat it the proper Serbian way, you just need to add some raw onions, sprinkle it with some peppery condiments. Adding kajmak (a kind of milk cream) is also popular.

For the best pljeskavica – or any of the other famous grilled meat dishes of Serbia – you need to travel to the Serbian city of Leskovac. You can however also easily find pljeskavica in Montenegro and Bosnia and to a lesser extent in Macedonia, Croatia and Slovenia.

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A Serbian pljeskavica burger in a flatbread. ©Paliparan

1. Khachapuri (Georgia)

Khachapuri is the generic name for a cheese-filled bread from Georgia and comes in different shapes and varieties. The two most popular and common varieties are the Imeretian (Imeruli) khachapuri and the Adjarian (Acharuli) khachapuri, named after two Georgian regions.

The Imeretian khachapuri is the most widely available and can be eaten as a snack or side dish. It is a bread filled with slightly salty, soft Imeretian cheese. Megrelian khachapuri (Megruli) is basically the same as an Imeretian khachapuri, but has also extra cheese added on top.

The Adjaran khachapuri is different in form and size, and is often a meal in its own rather than just a snack or side dish. It is made as an open-top boat-shaped bread, in which a Sulguni cheese, an egg yolk as well as a slice of butter are added.

After it is served, you first mix the cheese, egg, butter and bread together to make it into a more firm substance before indulging into what is perhaps one of Europe’s most interesting, tasty and unique meals. Needless to say, it goes well with a glass of Georgian red wine, with the country also being the cradle of winemaking!

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Eating a Megrelian khachapuri in the port of Batumi, Georgia. ©Paliparan
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An Adjaran khachapuri. ©Paliparan

More food!

Making the top 10 was a bit tricky as there were more foods jumping to our mind which could (and perhaps should) have been included as well, such as a tasty French Beef Bourguignon (with a glass of a Burgundy Pinot Noir, naturally) or a delicious Francesinha from Portugal!

What do you think is an European delicacy which we missed in the list? Feel free to leave a comment with your food advice!

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Koen works as a freelance journalist covering south-eastern Europe and is the founding father and editor-in-chief of Paliparan. As a contributor to some major Fleet Street newspapers and some lesser known publications in the Balkans, he travels thousands of miles each year for work as well as on his personal holidays. Whether it is horse riding in Kyrgyzstan’s Tian Shan mountains, exploring the backstreets of Bogotá, or sipping a glass of moschofilero in a Greek beachside taverna, Koen loves to immerse himself into the local culture, explore new places and eat and drink himself around the world.

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