A bar snack is a beautiful thing. Just as you feel like you’re going to pass out from hunger, you remember that the place where you’re drinking with friends has the world’s greatest bar snack, a morsel so good you could order a dozen and never be tired of them. Classic bar food is designed as a companion to drinking. From potato skins to mozzarrella sticks, these beloved dishes succeed in fortifying a night hoisting pints (or sipping Pinot)—they are rarely the draw themselves. With that in mind, we devised a definitive ranking of the best or the most curious bar foods in the world. However not every dish is worthy of being termed as a hearty bar meal. A few ground rules for consideration were;
1. The snack must be a snack and not an entire meal
2. No nutritional obsessions will be tolerated (such as low fat, low carb, or plenty or omega fatty acids)
3. The snack has to go well with more than one type of alcohol
1. Haggis, Scotland
So deep was his love for this dish, that poet Robert Burns actually immortalized it with a poem named ‘Address to the Haggis’ in the 18th century. The national dish of Scotland, Haggis is a savory pudding containing sheep’s pluck (heart, liver and lungs); minced with onion, oatmeal, suet, spices, and salt, mixed with stock, and traditionally encased in the animal’s stomach and simmered for about three hours. Most modern commercial haggis is prepared in a sausage casing rather than an actual stomach. It is eaten with Tatties (mashed potatoes) and Neeps (turnip or swede) alongside other Scottish favorites Cock-a-Leekie (vegetable). This delicacy is usually best paired with Scotch whisky followed by acidic red wines and strong, dark beers. Calls for a couple of shots the traditional way..cheers!!
2. Iwashi Senbei ,Japan
While peanuts might be synonymous with drinks world over, in Japan, sardines are the go-to bar snack. Whole mini fish are baked in soy sauce and sugar — bones and all — and then doused in sesame seeds to create this sweet and salty cracker. They are sure to smell pretty fishy, so burden your fellow loungers if you dare.
3. Rocky Mountain Oysters, US
The name sounds rather exotic, until you discover that this American dish is actually deep-fried bull testicles. Oysters in this instance are a euphemism for, well, testicles,(Someone had a wicked sense of humor and some oysters!!). Rocky Mountain oysters are generally made with bison testicles. Prairie oysters could be made with bull testicles. It was reputedly a favorite of the American West’s cowboys, and still served in a lot of restaurants and bars as a delicacy. Mountain oysters are spoon-cutting tender and have a very light flavor that is truly fit for royalty.
4. Fried spiders, Cambodia
Cambodian food isn’t particularly spicy, although it can often challenge your taste buds and imagination. Many dishes are variations on fare from other Asian countries, especially China, on which Khmer cuisine draws heavily. The Cambodian delicacy of fried spider is something of an acquired taste. These little chaps are tarantulas delicately flavored with herbs such as lemon grass and coriander, served with a lime and black pepper dip. In case you are looking for some adventure make sure you try these with some rice wine or Angkor beer on your next trip.
5. Vobla, Russia
There is a Russian saying that goes like this: “If you are a Russian and don’t like Vobla and beer, then you are not a Russian”. Vobla is a type of salt-dried fish commonly known as the Caspian Roach. Delicious? Well, that’s a strong word. Let’s stick with addictive. It’s not only pungent, it’s the briny taste that keeps you coming back for more. The dish has an interesting ritual too, the cutting and peeling and searching for what ultimately turns out to be very few pieces of meat. It’s a snack, like sunflower seeds and crayfish that keeps the hands occupied and the mind pleasantly focused. Considerably more complex than ripping open a bag of potato chips, and not nearly as fattening, a single vobla can take nearly an hour to enjoy. Perhaps most amazing is that vobla has only one ideal accompanying beverage: Russian beer. Pour yourself a Zhigulyovskoye or a Kolos, crack open that fish and you’ll swear you’ve never tasted anything better in your life.
6. Sushi, Japan
Wonderfully addictive, cultural, and artistic- sushi remains a mystery to the uninitiated. But, have you ever wondered on why anyone would want to pay so much for a few tidbits of raw fish? Although the Japanese get full credit for what we call sushi today, the inspiration for sushi is thought to have started in Southeast Asia. Nare-zushi, fermented fish wrapped in sour rice, originated somewhere around the Mekong River before spreading into China and ultimately Japan. Did you know that Nori - the seaweed used to wrap sushi, was once scraped off from wooden pier legs and even boats, then pressed into sheets and dried in the sun. Today, nori is cultivated and farmed. Western brands toast nori for safety reasons while many Japanese brands do not.
7. Rumaki, China, Hawaii, US
The dish’s entry into the mainstream is even captured in an episode of Mad Men, as Betty Draper serves rumaki to guests at her internationally-themed dinner party. Rumaki or rumake is an hors d’oeuvre(a small portioned appetizer) of mock-Polynesian origin. It first appeared on the menus of tiki restaurants in San Francisco and Los Angeles in the 1940s. Trader Vic’s founder Victor Bergeron claimed it had Chinese origins, by way of Hawaii, but in actuality it was likely his own creation inspired by angels on horseback, an English pub snack of bacon-wrapped oyster. Its ingredients and method of preparation can vary, but usually it consists of water chestnuts and pieces of duck or chicken liver wrapped in bacon and marinated in soy sauce and either ginger or brown sugar. So in short, it’s really an American invention created for American diners during an era of fascination with anything that seemed remotely Polynesian and Asian.
8. French fries, Belgium or France
You would think by the name — and you’d possibly be correct — that French fries were invented in France. But both that country and Belgium have made claims to that most classic of sandwich collaborators, and it’s quite possible that Belgium is where they were actually invented — 100 years earlier than France. You see, potatoes were first introduced to Europe by Spain, who brought them over from the New World and, at the time, owned a portion of Northern continental Europe called the “Spanish Netherlands”, which included Belgium. Did these proto-Belgians cut up the potatoes and fry them in oil? Probably. Which is why we should maybe start calling them “Belgian batons”. No? Just trying to keep the alliteration thing going.
9. Mezédhes, Greece
Greeks love their drink so much that there are countless ouzo bars across Greece called ouzeries(Taverns). These are casual places that specialize in many different types of ouzo(a Greek apéritif) but even more importantly are popular for their tantalizing array of appetizers known as mezethes, which means a taste or a bite. It is used to describe small plates of savory snacks that are served as a compliment to drinks. Meze offerings could be simple or elaborate. In seaside villages, you will find small plates of grilled octopus or fried smelts called marithes. In other parts of Greece, small meatballs or keftedakia (keh-fte-THA-kya) are served along with some fried potatoes drizzled with lemon. Savory phyllo triangles filled with cheese or tiropites are also served as well as a skillet-fried cheese dish known as saganaki.
10. Taquitos/Taco’s, Mexico
An entire finger-food festival could revolve around a Mexican menu. A bowl of crisp nachos with cheeses and vegetables for dipping or topping is always a great accompaniment with drinks. Taquitos (a version of Taco’s) are fried corn tortillas wrapped around shredded beef, chicken or pork and pair deliciously with the same toppings as the quesadillas. Last year Americans alone ate over 4.5 billion tacos and 4th October was celebrated as National Taco day.
11. Tapas, Spain
The bite-sized appetizers are a staple in every part of Spain and come in hundreds of delicious varieties. The most commonly accepted assumption is that tapas originated in the Andalusia region where tavern owners served glasses of sherry wine typical of the area. The glass was topped with a piece of bread and cheese or meat to keep the bugs out and provide weary travelers with a snack. It also helped to balance the effects of alcohol, which could cause the patrons to buy and drink more. In any case, travelers began asking for more complex snacks, causing bartenders to get creative and diversify their toppings. In Spanish culture, dinner is usually served much later in the evening and the afternoon is offset by a siesta, or an after-lunch nap. For this reason, many Spaniards take time after work to socialize, have a drink, and eat a few tapas to hold the stomach over until dinner. There will likely be at least a dozen different options including fish, meat, cheese, and vegetarian selections all of which go down smoothly with a Spanish cerveza.
12. Bouchées and Verrines, France
It’s often said that you can’t find bad food in France even if you tried. As proud as the French are of their aperitifs, the French bouchées are no less. Any small, bite sized morsel could be considered a bouchée, which literally means mouthful. It is quite popular to take what could be served as a course at the dinner table and shrink it down. You’ll find mini quiches, tarts, and pizzas served as French appetizers in bars and restaurants. In recent years verrines have gained fame in France for appetizers too. They are small glasses that contain two or three bites of some yummy combination. One uses a small spoon to enjoy the contents, which are truly limitless in their possibilities.
13. Caviar, Russia
Probably the most iconic (and luxurious) of Russian specialties, caviar is served as part of the Zakuski. Zakuski, or Russian tapas (for lack of a better way to say it) is a central part of Russian cuisine; much like Middle Eastern meze or Spanish tapas, ranging from pickled herring to the famed Olivier salad, and much more. Black caviar is often served on buttered blini. Red caviar from salmon (salmon roe) often served in bowls or glasses for guests to eat with pieces of fresh white bread topped with butter or wrapped in crepes and topped with sour cream.
14. Devils on Horseback, England
Devils on Horseback are the paradigm of the sweet-salty-savory trifecta that all snack foods hope to achieve. The ’70s-era appetizer consists of pitted, Cognac- or Brandy-soaked prunes or dates stuffed with cheese, wrapped in greasy, salty bacon, and cooked in the oven. Dating back to Victorian England, when Norman raiders invaded England in 1066; warriors would cover themselves in rashers (slices) of bacon, sort of like armor. It was believed that the grotesque look was used to scare villagers during invasions. On the hindsight the bonus was being able to eat the bacon after the battle. The legend is gross but this appetizer will melt in your mouth, yumm!!
15. Escargot, France
When you think of French food you think of numerous gastronomical delights. But, do you think of snails too? One of the most famous dishes in French cuisine is escargot, a preparation of snails that can be served with a variety of sauces and goes really well with champagne, Pinot Noir or some Chardonnay. In French culture, the snails are typically purged, killed, removed from their shells, and cooked (usually with garlic butter and wine), and then placed back into the shells with the butter and sauce for serving. Special snail tongs (for holding the shell) and snail forks (for extracting the meat) are also normally provided. To add to their swag, the French celebrate May 24th as National Escargot Day. If you’ve never tasted escargot, National Escargot Day is a great reason to give them a try! Bon appétit!
16. Poutine, Canada
This Canadian dish is one that most people either find intriguing or slightly gross. No doubt it is laden with calories and is a dieters’ worst nightmare. Although the ingredients are relatively ordinary on their own, when combined the thick French fries, light gravy, and bite-sized cheese curds make this popular side item one loaded melange’. Commonly added toppings include smoked meat, chicken, caramelized onions, and bacon. There are a great many variations on the traditional poutine such as substituting the potato fries for sweet potato fries, using a sauce other than gravy, or using heavier gravy than is otherwise typical. Diners should note that the squeakier the cheese curds are when bitten, the fresher they are.
17. Tandoori Chicken, India
Tandoori Chicken is to Indians what Hamburger is to Americans or Fish & Chips is to the Brits. Succulent whole chicken marinated in a bright RED marinade & roasted in a tandoor oven has given many of us sleepless nights!! Like most interesting recipes Tandoori Chicken too has an interesting story. It starts in the 1920s in the Lahore of united India when a gentleman by the name Kundan Lal Gujral opened a restaurant by the name ‘Moti Mahal’. Folklore goes that one day the first Prime Minister of Independent India walked into Gujral’s Moti Mahal & was particularly impressed with the crispy, tender dish presented to him. From there on Tandoori Chicken found its way into many a state banquet. American Presidents Nixon & Kennedy, Soviet leaders Bulganin & Krushchev; the King of Nepal & the Shah of Iran were some of the foreign dignitaries who tasted the famous dish when in India on business.
18. Mozzarella Sticks, France and Italy
Pretty much the epitome of all junk food, these sticks of breaded and deep-fried cheese are best served with a chunky marinara or a little plastic container of ranch dressing. Although mozzarella is Italian, the mozzarella sticks did not originate in Italy and they do not belong to traditional Italian cuisine. It was most probably created in the kitchens of Paris in the 15th century. The first recipe of the breaded sticks dates back to 1393. It isn’t really known who originated the practice of using mozzarella in these Italian-ish fried cheese sticks, but what is known is that the first documented practice of breading cheese and frying it in oil dates back to Medieval France, when a rudimentary recipe for fried muenster appeared in a guidebook for maintaining a Parisian household entitled Le Ménagier de Paris. Going forth from this revelatory moment in history, fried cheese has taken many forms and gone by many names — fried curds, fried halloumi, smazeny syr, queso frito — but it all stems from one French groom who wanted to teach his 15-year-old bride to be a good wife… which, of course, includes frying cheese properly.
19. Corn dogs, Disputed
The corn dog is one of those things that everyone wants to take credit for, and, as such, there are about a billion claims to it (just like the Iron Throne, AMIRITE?!). Now, obviously, sausages as we know them were introduced to America by German and Polish immigrants, and cornmeal is a popular staple in Southern and Midwestern cooking, so we can extrapolate that it was probably invented somewhere in the South or Midwest. But exactly by whom and when, still remains a mystery. What we do know is that a patent was filed in 1927 for a stick-frying apparatus for “wieners” by Stanley S. Jenkins. So, wherever you are, Stanley… thank you.
And lastly something for that sweet tooth!!
20. Deep Fried Mars, Scotland
Its caramel and nougat, coated in chocolate, dredged in batter and deep-fried until it’s unrecognizable. The notoriety of the Deep-Fried Mars bar has travelled across the Atlantic and it even mentioned on the Jay Leno Show in the US. So what is it like? It is a curious mix of sweet and savory, crispy and fluffy and a sheer indulgence for your senses. The dish originated at chip shops in Scotland as a novelty item, but was never mainstream. Since the attention received from global media on the practice, the popularity of this extravagance has grown tenfold.
So belly up to the bar and try one of these great snacks on your next trip.
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