Top 10 European Cuisines
When in Rome, do as the Romans do! You’d be crazy not to follow the old adage when it comes to Italian food, but Europe has plenty else to offer besides. From the well-known staples you already eat at home (trust me, it’s not as good as the real thing!) to the obscure dishes you’ll wish you could pick up at the supermarket, European cuisine is a journey of discovery, and as much a part of your trip as the destination. Here are ten of the most unforgettable:
Paella, Tapas, Spanish omelets, chorizo. We all know the basics of Spanish cuisine, but experiencing the vast array of seafood and stews in the open air around a lively town square is a different experience entirely. As a snack, Calameritos Fritos (fried baby squid) is unique and memorable; Jamon Serrano (cured ham) sliced thinly from the bone is equally fantastic. The infamous cold soup - Gazpacho - is also made in Spain. Catalan and Basque dishes like Catalan Cream desert and spider crabs - offer vast gastronomic variety.
Lithuanian cuisine is one of Europe’s hidden gems, with food full of subtle flavors and vibrant colors. Wild boar steaks in rustic cellars are very affordable, the subtle, dumpling like national dish Cepelinai will barely put a dent in your smallest notes. Don’t let the cheap prices fool you though: the quality here is exceptional. From the glaring pink of cold borscht soup to the pastries commonly served with beer, it’s all very different, and very, very good.
Full of vegetables, beans and pulses, the healthy Mediterranean cuisine on offer makes Greece a vegetarian’s paradise. Lamb, feta, spices and herbs are the tastes that accompany the impressive historic sites and beautiful islands on offer here, and they’re combined to excellent effect in signature dishes such as the casseroles, Moussaka and Ratatouille. Don’t leave without trying the local liquor, Ouzo, which is a lethal burst of Aniseed, and the variety of desserts.
French cuisine has a massive international reputation for a reason: it’s not all about the frogs legs and snails. Michelin starred restaurants are popping up all over the place here, but what the French really get right are the simple things: bread, cheese and wine are everywhere in France, but invariable perfectly produced. If you’re up for throwing some cash about, fois gras, scallops, lobster, pate, truffles and, yes, snails here are the best in the world. The wine’s not bad either!
Romanian culture has a heavy food focus, and it shows. A thrilling fusion of the best on offer in surrounding countries, the food is varied and enticing. Traditional dishes are based around rural traditions, and are rugged and energy-filled meals with staples of corn, cabbage and other vegetables. Meats and fish are increasingly winding their way in, but the cuisine maintains its traditional healthy balance and strong country flavors. Romanian wines are a growing business, too.
You haven’t eaten pizza until you’ve eaten Italian pizza, and you could probably say the same for pasta too. Italy’s most famous exports have never been reproduced to the same quality abroad, but don’t be fooled into thinking this is all Italy has to offer. Lombardy risotto, gnocchi, incredible cheeses, coffee and ice cream are all top class in Italy, and the regional variations mean you’re unlikely to get bored. On second thought, you will be hard pressed to leave the incredible pizza houses.
If chocolate could be called a cuisine, it would be Belgium and not France that the world looks up too. If you do manage to drag yourself away from the endless rows of chocolate makers, however, there’s a whole lot more to be found. Belgium prides itself on its huge portions, which are particularly welcome when they include dishes such as mussels, waffles and beef stews. Be warned: Belgium is the place for holiday weight gain, and you’ll probably never eat your fries with ketchup again.
Hungarian food is probably the spiciest native cuisine on offer in Europe. A fondness for spices, and using seasonal ingredients fresh mean great year round dishes. In winter, stews and grills are the order of the day; with fantastic national dish Goulash the highlight. In summer it is fruit, vegetables and savory pancakes that rule the menus. Regional differences are a matter of great pride here, so be careful to check out the local favorite: it’s sure to be immaculately produced.
Okay, so most of Turkey isn’t in Europe, but even if you only consider the half of Istanbul that is, that justifies its inclusion. Start your meals with delicate glasses of hot apple tea or strong, thick coffee. Follow it up with beautifully cooked soft meats, subtly spiced breads and regional cheeses (yes, and kebabs). Finish up with Turkish delight (infinitely better in Turkey!) and perhaps a puff on a cherry Hookah. In Turkey, Europe meets Asia in the culinary sense too.
To even attempt to summarize the variety of food on offer in Russia in a few lines would be ludicrous, suffice to say that there’s more than enough to keep you going. If you’re in Moscow, check out the affordable haute cuisine, porridges and ponchiki (sugary donuts served hot). Elsewhere, the regional varieties of Pelmeni (dumplings) throw up some unique tastes. Wash it all down with a few shots of pepper-flavored vodka or the more regional grass flavored varieties – perfect for icy climates.