Any time of day, people all over the world are crunching into a snack-sized fried treat. They might have picked up a borek from a street seller in Izmir; have been dunking their churros into thick, rich chocolate; or got caught squeezing the custard out of their cannoli. Either way, it’s a given that they are having a very jolly time.
So, roll out the pastry, heat the oil and get ready to indulge your happy neurons. Because if there’s one thing fried pastry guarantees across the globe, it’s putting a pastry-flaked smile on your dial.
Malaysia: Curry puffs
Oh, for the love of a good curry puff! They’re found all over Asia, but perhaps Malaysia loves them best. This recipe is for beef curry puffs, but you can find other recipes here:
Wrapping fruit (jackfruit and/or banana) in pastry then frying it turns the mundane into the magic. Filipino street sellers have been working this magic via turon for centuries.
Hotteok is like the love child of pancake and donut. This recipe makes them into balls, but feel free to flatten them into their pancake mama if you like a crispier sweet.
Indian: Gulab jamun and samosas
Cardamom-scented dumplings happily bobbing in a lemony rose water syrup could well be the perfect finish to any meal. Gulab jamun is especially good after a heavy, spicy curry-like this one.
It’s extremely difficult to contain this Indian leg of the journey to just two fried pastries. But if gulab jamun is one, then samosa has to be the other. See also, pakoras.
United Arab Emirates: Lgeimat
A saffron-infused syrup transforms balls of fried dough into a Middle Eastern wonder. Legimat is sweet, sticky and oh-so-delicious.
Turkey: Dolmas and borek
Apricots, walnuts and lemons flavor these sticky pastries from Turkey. It’s like slipping into the Anatolian surf on a sultry summer’s day.
Borek is served all over Turkey, filled with yummy things like spiced potatoes, cheese and spinach, and sucuk. A hearty crunch on eating will let you know you’ve made them just right.
Every Greek friend you’ve ever met has a story about their yiayiá making loukoumades for days. That’s because they are generally needed in massive quantities. After all, eating 10 is never enough.
Hungary: Cseresznyes gomboc
You make these cherry dumplings in a similar way to making gnocchi. That’s right, the cherries are wrapped in a potato mix and fried until soft and pillowy.
This recipe is for beignets aux pommes, aka apple fritters. They are the shortcut way to apple pie. Other beige varieties include:
Italy: Bombolini and crostoli and cannoli
Italy’s custard-filled little donuts really are a flavor bomb. Nutella makes a decadent substitute for the vanilla custard filling – if you happen to need some variety in your dessert life.
Every Italian gathering will have some kind of crostoli on offer. The best ones layer the citrus for a really punchy flavour. It’s amazing how much complexity can be packed into a strip of fried pastry.
Okay, so perhaps our stopover in Italy is a tad extended, but we can’t possibly travel on without mentioning cannoli. Is there a more satisfying way to end a meal?
Visit any Spanish-speaking country and you get to munch on empanadas. They are popular throughout Spain, Portugal, Argentina and even in the Philippines. One bite and you’ll know exactly why.
South Africa: Vetkoek
Vetkoekies are usually filled with savory mince, but as this recipe proves, they make an excellent sweet pastry, too. Dip them into a rich chocolate sauce, or drizzle them with syrup. Either way, your tastebuds will shout “heerlik”!
These sweet fried treats are served on special occasions like Purim and Yom Kippur and are often doused in a honey syrup before serving. Children are cleverly commandeered to do the laborious rolling (the sweet pastry tastes good raw, so that’s probably the incentive for small mouths).
Practically every culture on earth has some kind of donut recipe, but the US likes to pretend they invented them and who are we to burst their bubble? They certainly make a good one, so there’s that.
Argentina: Fried cakes and churros
You can make tortas fries from ingredients you’ve no doubt already got in the stores: flour, baking powder, salt, lard and milk. What you choose to put on them is entirely up to you!
Once you’ve eaten churros with your hot chocolate, you’ll be hard-pressed to ever go back. They’re simply made for dunking.