If you love to eat, then you love to snack. Because why limit yourself to just three meals a day? Why not make this travelling life a moveable feast, a smorgasbord that just never ends?
For travellers, snacks are ideal. They're great as little nibbles to keep your energy up between meals; they're the perfect way to sample as much of the local food as possible without exploding; and if you're travelling on a budget, this is your wallet-friendly sustenance sorted out.
Whatever your reasons for eating them, you'll have to agree that snacks rule. And there are so many of them! I wrote a list of 10 favourites a few years ago but this is a subject that deserves revisiting (with all new selections).
Snacking in Spain is an obsession, something that should be obvious given the ubiquity of tapas culture, and the tradition of "pintxos" – an even smaller style of snack – in the Basque Country. Of the latter, one of my all-time favourites is the Gilda, a long toothpick that's threaded with an olive, an anchovy, and three or four spicy, sour guindilla peppers. It's the perfect bite, and it goes extremely well with an afternoon vermouth.
Egg rolls, Sri Lanka
The Sri Lankans have their snacking game worked out. Just check out the culture of "short eats", a whole raft of spicy deep-fried goodies that people eat at all hours of the day. My favourite of those is the egg roll: a savoury pancake that's filled with fish, spiced potatoes and boiled egg, and then rolled, crumbed and fried. Spectacularly good.
At any street-food market in Malaysia – as well as Indonesia and even the Indian subcontinent – you'll usually find someone making murtabak. You'll see them stretching out the gossamer-thin dough, laying it on a hotplate, filling it with meat or fish or egg and spices. Fold the dough over, fry it until golden, chop it into small bits and then dip it in curry sauce: heaven.
Almost every country has its own version of pastry stuffed with meat, and this is Argentina's: the empanada, a crumbly pocket filled with minced meat, boiled egg and olives, with a little seasoning. These delicious snacks are the perfect antidote to the whopping steaks you'll be eating most nights, even if they're still pretty heavy on the protein.
Pizza al taglio, Italy
Pizza in Italy comes in two basic forms: there's the round one that we mostly know and love, and which are served unsliced in restaurants, designed for consumption by one person only. The other version is "pizza al taglio", or pizza by the slice: often square hunks that are much bulkier than their rounded cousins, with plenty of toppings, designed to be eaten on the go.
Everyone knows samosas. They're so famous around the world that you get the feeling they won't end up being a thing once you get to India. But, they are. Fortunately. Because samosas are freaking delicious, particularly the veg versions, filled with spicy potatoes with a few other things thrown in, served with chutney or some other sauce. You can see why they're so popular.
Knafeh, Palestinian Territories
Snacks don't always have to be savoury. For proof, check out knafeh, the Levantine street-food treat that's super-sweet and extremely tasty, and at its best in the Palestinian city of Nablus. Knafeh is an odd mix of noodle-shaped pastry, light semolina flour, stretchy, mozzarella-like cheese, and sugar syrup. It's also highly addictive, and highly recommended.
Biltong, South Africa
You either love 'tong or you hate it, and I fall into the former camp. How could you not enjoy sticks or chunks of dried meat, bits of beef or various game animals that have been salted and spiced and left to dry out for a few days before being chopped up and devoured as a perfect road snack or partner with beer? I, for one, have no clue.
Arepas are the Colombian breakfast of champions, a patty made of ground maize dough that's fried on a hotplate and then either topped or filled with goodies that range from cheese to meat, avocado to fish. The arepa is a national symbol of Colombia, and you'll find them being churned out at every marketplace or street stall across the country.
You can buy packets of these sweet, tasty treats from any supermarket in the Netherlands; however, they're at their best when they're cooked fresh, when you can watch as two thin waffles are sandwiched around caramel syrup and then toasted to perfection. Look out for the vendors at the Albert Cuyp market in Amsterdam.
Some snacks are really healthy. Others are like acaraje, a cherished street-food dish from the Bahia state in Brazil that's sure to thicken your arteries. To make acaraje, black-eyed peas are cooked and mashed and shaped into balls, which are then deep-fried in palm oil, then split in half and filled with crispy fried prawns, spicy sauce, and more palm oil. Wellness be damned: these are delicious.
Shawarma, Middle East
I realise the Middle East isn't a country, and it's slightly insulting to group all of those disparate nations together, but still, you can't really say where shawarma is done best. Is it Egypt or Jordan? Israel or the UAE? The truth is it doesn't matter where you go: if you're ordering meat in bread in the Middle East, you're in for a good time.
These delicate, Japanese-style dumplings aren't always just a snack – there are restaurants dedicated purely to their deliciousness. However, you can also grab a box of gyoza from any old convenience store in Japan, throw them in the microwave, and you have yourself the snack of champions. Extremely affordable, too.
Kanom Krok, Thailand
Thailand is snacking paradise, a country that's obsessed with food and is ready to eat at pretty much any and all times of the day. It's impossible to pick just one Thai snack to rule them all, but give kanom krok – or, coconut pancakes – a whirl. These sweet cakes are actually little spheres of sugary, coconutty goodness, crisp on the outside and gooey in the middle. Enjoy.
What are your favourite snacks from around the world? Are some countries better than others for snacking? What have I missed?
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