One of the most important things to do while abroad is to try the local cuisine. Show and Stay has tracked down some of the craziest local specialities for the ultimate European Food Challenge. Are you brave enough to try them all?
Edible flowers, Denmark
Edible salad European Vegetarian Food Challenge
Edible pansy salad. CC Image by Sarah Braun (Flickr).
Fancy dragon flowers served on a sea buckthorn leaf? Bull kelp ‘bark’? Or grilled asparagus with pine ice cream? In Copenhagen, edible flowers and unusual plants are all the rage in fine dining with restaurants like Rene Redzepi’s Noma and Mielcke & Hurtigkarl, which are setting the standard for combining horticulture with gastronomy.
This dark-green, bitter-tasting vegetable dish literally translates as ‘grass’. Surprisingly tasty, the leafy greens are generally boiled and served with lots of olive oil and lemon juice, and eaten as an accompaniment or side dish. The wilted greens themselves vary according to the season and are often picked wild. Popular favourites include dandelion, nettles, chickweed and spiny chicory.
Mushy Peas, UK
Mushy peas European Vegetarian Food Challenge
Lunch in Barmouth. CC Image by Anne Roberts (Flickr).
This British delicacy is traditionally served with fish and chips, particularly in the North of England. It tends to be a luminous, gooey green mush due to the addition of food colouring, although without the artificial colour, it’s an even less appetising murky-grey. If you simply can’t bring yourself to sample the soupy sauce, why not try served in batter as a pea fritter?
Pez de Tierra, Spain
This Spanish dish translates as ‘land fish’, which sounds rather unappealing and un-vegetarian, but it’s actually made with aubergine. The name derives from the fact that the dish resembles small fried fish, and it’s typically served with salmorejo (a gazpacho sauce), or a drizzle of molasses.
Patatje Oorlog, Holland
Patatje oorlog European Vegetarian Food Challenge
Patatje Orlog. CC Image by Rosa Menkman (Flickr).
If you think the Belgian tendency to smother fries with mayonnaise is weird, you’ll be blown away by this Dutch dish whose name translates as ‘war chips’. Sample French fries drenched in a nuclear fusion of mayonnaise, raw onions, ketchup and hot satay sauce; a combination which sounds like a battle in itself. Enjoy (if that is the right word) with a refreshing bottle of Grolsch.
Soured Cabbage Heads, Croatia
Don’t be put off by the name — this sauerkraut is a Croatian staple made by brining, souring and preserving cabbage with spices, horseradish and red peppers for an added zing. The whole heads are used to make leaf dishes such as stuffed cabbage leaves or sauerkraut rolls, all of which act as warming comfort foods during the winter months.
Laverbread European Vegetarian Food Challenge
Making Laverbread. CC Image by Emily Barney (Flickr).
This Welsh delicacy is not a type of bread at all, but rather a black, slimy, salty paste made of seaweed. Boiled for several hours, the laver is pureed to make a jelly, which is then rolled in oatmeal and fried. Typically eaten for breakfast, this seaweed speciality is highly nutritious as it is packed full of protein, vitamins and iron.
This yellow porridge made from maize flour may seem unappealing due to its mushy texture, but it is an extremely versatile delicacy, often used as a bread substitute in Moldova and Romania. Served either in its porridge state, or solid and cut into slices, it is served with jam and soured cream for breakfast, with cheese for lunch, crushed in a bowl of milk or pan-fried in oil. It’s very healthy, since it’s fat and cholesterol free and very high in fibre.
Horchata European Vegetarian Food Challenge
Orxata amb fartons. CC Image by _nur (Flickr).
Perfect for those with nut allergies or lactose intolerance, this popular Spanish beverage is a summer favourite. Made from the tubers of the nut sedge plant (nut-free, despite the name), it’s a white and milky drink that tastes of hazelnut or almond. Homemade versions, sold in bars or at street stalls, are infinitely better than the pre-packaged ones.
Vegans and dieters should steer clear of this Greek snack — a ‘cheese pie’ made of layered filo pastry and filled with feta cheese or kasseri. Eaten as a breakfast or snack food, these tasty pastries are available in bakeries across the country, and vary in size and shape from island to island and bakery to bakery. Look out for twirl-shaped, bite-sized or long strips.
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