Kinaafeh at Eifel sweets shop. Image by Salonee Gadgil
Post dinner time, if you step into Eifel sweets shop, the place is packed with families out to indulge in some late-night dessert. Though the place makes a whole variety of sweets, most people come to eat one dish–viscous platefuls of bright orange Kinaafeh. A sweet cheese, something like paneer or riccotta, it is covered in vermicelli and baked till crisp. It is then soaked in sugar syrup and garnished with crushed pistachios. Best enjoyed hot, it is super rich, but you just won't be able to stop eating it.
If you're in Bucharest, Sibiu, Cluj or any of the big cities of Romania, make sure you try Mămăligă. Made out of yellow maize-flour and cooked in hot water, once it is ready it is served with sour cream and grated cheese. While it looks like a pudding, it can be eaten for lunch as well as dinner. Mămăligă itself doesn't have taste; it's more of a filling, but what adds taste is the yoghurt and cheese used.
A must-try soup is ciorba. This honey-coloured liquid made of wheat and cornflour, it is a classic sour and healthy soup served with veggies meat as well with only veggies. A popular dessert is Papanasi. Found in most restaurants, it is a fried or boiled pastry, like a donut, filled with a soft cheese such as urdă and topped with sour jam. While these are available in most of the big cities, the best are found in smaller towns or villages.
L'Imqaret in Valletta, Malta
L'Imqaret. Image by Salonee Gadgil
When in Malta, you must eat L'Imqaret (pronounced im-aret). These deep fried fritters made with wheat pastry and stuffed with sweet sticky dates are crispy on the outside and have a subtly sweet and chewy middle. The wheat pastry covering the dates is flavoured with anise, which smells absolutely divine, especially while it is being fried! They are perfect when the weather is cold and windy, with a nice steaming cup of coffee or tea. L'Imqaret are sold in quite a few market places and kiosks all over Malta, but the ones sold at the street-stall right outside the main gate at Valletta, near the bus terminal are extremely popular.
Hainese Chicken Rice in Malacca, Malaysia
Hainese Chicken Rice. Image by Vu Banh
At Jonker's Street night market, try their speciality Hainese chicken rice. Well-done, wholesome and delicious, it is a must-try especially if you are not fond of seafood. While most of the dishes are cooked in seafood broth, Hainese chicken rice is just boiled chicken served separately with different (2 or 3) sauces. Dip the chicken in the sauce and eat it with a fried-rice of sorts with spring onions, carrots cooked probably in olive oil and not at all greasy. At this weekend night market, you can also try sausages on a stick. While they are available at malls Kuala Lumpur in flavours like mushroom and with cheese filling, you get only two variations at Jonkers–spicy and non-spicy. They are quite filling and you can't have more than two at a time. Easy to eat, these grilled beef sausages are ideal while walking around the crowded street or when you're shopping
Octopus on a stick in Yiwu, Xinjiang
Octopus on a stick. Image by Mustufa Harianawala
Food on the stick across south east Asia is what wada pav and kanda bhaji is to Indians and is hard to find in a restaurant. When you're in Yiwu, you must try the octopus on the stick at the night market in. You can also try a variety of meats including beef, pork, scallops, rabbit and dog.
The octopus ranges from small babies eaten whole with the head to just a long tentacle on a huge stick, which could cost around RMB 100 and not easy to finish alone. It is typically only the meat poked on a wooden skewer brushed with oil, grilled on a charcoal grill and seasoned with the local equivalent of chaat masala (high on aginomoto). If u want a take-away. they will promptly put it in a transparent plastic bag with a translucent dipping sauce made of soy, vinegar and crushed red chilli.
Coordinated by Avril-Ann Braganza with inputs from Mustufa Harianawala, Yoraan Rafael, Sonali Gupta and Salonee Gadgil.