Editors’ picks: 10 snacks to try from around the world

When hunger strikes between meals, seek inspiration from the cuisines of the world. From Portugal’s pasteis de nata to India’s Parsi eggs, here are 10 of our editors’ favourite bites.

By National Geographic Traveller & National Geographic Traveller Food
Published 1 Feb 2021, 15:00 GMT, Updated 27 Sept 2021, 09:25 BST
Pasteis de nata

Nothing says Portugal quite like a pasteis de nata: a wobbly egg custard encased in layers of buttery pastry that manages to be both crunchy and soft at the same time.

Photograph by Getty Images


1. Fried peanut butter and banana sandwich

Too many of these and it’s a coronary waiting to happen but, once in a blue moon, it’s a finger-licking joy. This decadent slice of Americana was Elvis Presley’s preferred sandwich (although his contained bacon, too), and is famously served at Gladys’ Diner at Graceland, the King’s former home in Tennessee. While I’ve never been to the Memphis mansion myself, I discovered the recipe via Nigella Lawson, and it’s worryingly easy to make: spread a liberal amount of smooth peanut butter on one slice of white bread and mashed banana on the other, sandwich together and fry in butter until golden on both sides, then sprinkle with sugar. It’s even easier to eat.
Connor McGovern, commissioning editor, National Geographic Traveller

2. Sea buckthorn jam with yoghurt

I’d never even heard of sea buckthorn before visiting Bornholm, a tiny speck of a Danish island flung far out in the Baltic Sea. These fantastically sour berries are grown all over the island. They’re also a superfood, used in everything from condiments to cocktails, but simply drizzling sea buckthorn compote over yoghurt is a snack that has really stuck with me. It reminds me of Bornholm’s wild coastline and crashing surf, and of wandering happily through huge fields of orange berries. Spoon sea buckthorn jam or compote liberally over Skyr yoghurt any time of day.
Charlotte Wigram-Evans, content editor, National Geographic Traveller

3. Gildas

I fell in love with this pintxo (small snack) in San Sebastián, Spain, and have been completely addicted ever since. Guindilla peppers are wrapped in anchovies, then topped and tailed with green olives on a cocktail stick. They must be eaten in one bite for maximum flavour hit.
Lauren Gamp, senior designer, National Geographic Traveller and National Geographic Traveller Food

This decadent slice of Americana — a peanut butter and banana sandwich fried in butter — was Elvis Presley’s preferred snack.

Photograph by Getty Images

4. Sobrasada

While I’m a sucker for most types of cured sausage, my favourite is the super-soft sobrasada you find all over the Balearic Islands. I first encountered it in Menorca two years ago (on a trip during which I was also introduced to the delights of Menorcan cheese, gin, olive oil and fleur de sel). And while sobrasada is delicious however you consume it, I think it’s at its best when coated with a thin layer of honey, placed on a baguette and briefly toasted. Being so quick and easy to prepare, it’s a great snack to reach for when you’re between meals and the kitchen’s a mess. It’s pretty good hangover food, too.
Glen Mutel, editor, National Geographic Traveller Food

5. Halva tahini bars

Halva is a throwback to my youth in Cyprus, where we’d spread it on toast as a breakfast treat. Now I consider it an ideal sugar and a natural protein hit before a workout. If you’ve never had halva, try buying the snack bars, which are widely available at supermarkets. Shop around for a range of flavours — as well as plain, there’s vanilla, plus varieties with pistachios or chocolate. I’m hoping to have a go at making them myself: the bars, which contain about 120 calories, are made from sesame tahini mixed with sugar and flavours and are kosher, suitable for vegans, and gluten- and dairy-free.
Maria Pieri, editorial director, National Geographic Traveller and National Geographic Traveller Food

6. Gambas al ajillo

Not just a snack, but a wholly satisfying meal for one, gambas al ajillo (garlic prawns) might just be one of my favourite things to eat. I’ve memories of being in various places in Spain, the sun dipping below the rooftops, watching with discreet delight as the waiter brings me a pan of prawns sizzling away in a bath of garlicky oil. That said, I’ve made this at home far more than I’ve ever eaten it in Spain, where it’s a staple on tapas menus. Very slowly melt butter and olive oil together in a pan with plenty of finely sliced garlic and, once bubbling, throw in fresh prawns and turn the heat right up until they’re cooked. Scatter with chopped parsley, sprinkle with sea salt and squeeze over the juice of a lemon before mopping up greedily with crusty bread.
Connor McGovern, commissioning editor, National Geographic Traveller

Ubiquitous in the Mediterranean, Caucasus and Middle East, these flavourful stuffed vine leaves are known by names as varied as their fillings.

Photograph by Getty Images


1. Pasteis de nata

I love a mid-morning pasteis de nata. I’d tried Portuguese custard tarts in the UK in various forms and thought they were a Very Good Thing, but it wasn’t until my first visit to Lisbon in 2018 that I became a true convert. I was visiting with a friend to attend the best event in the world (the Eurovision Song Contest, obviously) and we ate plenty of warm custard tarts, met amazing people from around the world and danced all night. I didn’t think I could make them at home until this recipe turned up in our magazine, so I gave it a go. It’s a bit of a tricky bake but every time I do it, I’m rewarded with not just a delicious treat, but memories of fun, friendship and the coming together of nationalities in celebration of music — and it helps me look forward to those times again.
Jo Fletcher-Cross, contributing editor, National Geographic Traveller

2. Yabra’a

Ubiquitous in the Mediterranean, Caucasus and Middle East, the naming of these flavour-packed stuffed vine leaves is as varied as their fillings. They’re widely known as dolma, but for me they’re yabra’a: a bite-sized treat lovingly — and almost ceremonially — wrapped and baked by my Syrian family. With pungent ingredients that sing of the Mediterranean region — olive oil, garlic and lemons, primarily — swiping two or three from the fridge, oozing with oily juices, staves off hunger until dinner time, when it’s likely you’ll indulge in several more heated up. Their construction is laborious and contested. Preserved vine leaves are washed, parboiled and then laid out, veined side up. The chef’s filling of choice — uncooked rice, herbs, seasoning and with or without mincemeat — is spooned on, then masterfully swaddled in the vine leaf. Finally, they’re packed like sardines in a baking dish lined with cast-off leaves, drizzled with plenty of olive oil, water and lemon juice, and baked until everything’s cooked through. They’ll keep for ages.
Nora Wallaya, assistant online editor, National Geographic Traveller and National Geographic Traveller Food

3. Shrimp and cheese fried empanadas

When I lived in the Chilean capital of Santiago, I’d often drive four hours southwest for a weekend at the beach town of Pichilemu. Surfing amid Pacific swells, taking a horse-drawn carriage through the streets and hiking along sheer cliffs weren’t the only draws; down on the coast, the seafood was fantastic. It was the place I first tried ceviche — raw fish, herbs and lime juice, from a beach vendor — but, when I think back, I find my memories are inextricably tangled up with the indulgent flavours of the local empanadas. The deep-fried pastry triangles were crispy and sweet. The filling was simple: melted cheese and plump, pink, crescent-moon shrimps. They’re surprisingly easy to make from scratch at home, too. Once stuffed, shaped and lowered into oil, the little pasties cook in moments — and are best served immediately.
Amelia Duggan, deputy editor, National Geographic Traveller

4. Parsi eggs

These are spiced, scrambled eggs of various iterations that originate from India’s Parsi community. When I first tried these in Ladakh, India, I originally misheard the dish as ‘party eggs’ and when they arrived, all spicy and colourful with peppers and turmeric, I thought: how apt. They’re a little party on a plate, nothing like the bland scrambled eggs many of us are used to, and just the thing after a night’s excess. On realising they were of Parsi origin, made traditionally by families of Persian Zoroastrian heritage — who, I learned, have a great love of egg recipes — I was hooked. There are so many takes on this dish, which is made across India. To make a simple version at home, I finely chop a handful of ginger, spring onions and tomato, and add fresh chilli to taste. Fry until soft-ish with a sprinkling of salt, cumin and turmeric, then scramble in the eggs. Serve with a sprinkling of coriander. They’re great with paratha or roti bread.
Sarah Barrell, associate editor, National Geographic Traveller

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