Thanks to dozens of different cultures all intersecting and intermingling during its long and rich history, Europe is no stranger to delicious, mouthwatering foods that any visitor should definitely try out. While plenty of these dishes – like the Italian pizza – are now popular and regularly made all around the world, it still pays off to try them out in their places of origin, and see how their original versions compare. Often, the differences – not just in the flavor, but in the base way they are prepared – can be huge.

Here is a list of our recommendations:

 

Paella (Spain)

Originating in 19th-century Valencia, this rice-based Spanish dish can be made with a variety of ingredients: all types of meat, seafood, vegetables, or any other combination. Cooked in a large pan (to which it probably owes its name, from the Latin “patella”), it is customary for guests to eat directly out of these paelleras. A layer of crusted, burnt rice is usually left at the bottom of the pan after cooking – and is considered both a delicacy and a sign of good paella.

The biggest paella to date was made by restaurateur Juan Galbis in 1992 – it was large enough to feed 100.000 people.

 

Karađorđe’s schnitzel (Serbia)

Invented in 1956 by famous chef Mića Stojanović, this breaded cutlet dish was, like many modern foods, created almost by accident. Faced with a lack of poultry in the restaurant he was working at, Mića had to improvise and instead used rolled veal (although beef or pork can also be used as substitutes) which he stuffed with kajmak (a dairy product popular in the Balkans), and served with tartar sauce and french fries (alternatively – roasted potatoes) on the side.

When asked the name of this new dish, he realized the schnitzel resembled the shape of the medal of the Order of the Star of Karađorđe (a 19th-century revolutionary) and thus one of Serbia’s most recognizable national dishes was born.

Today, Karađorđe’s schnitzel is served in most Serbian restaurants, and it is synonymous with celebrations such as weddings.

Pierogi (Poland)

As is the case for many dishes, the exact birthplace of pierogis is a point of historical (and culinary) contention. Still, today they are mostly viewed as a symbol of Poland, which proudly claims them as a Polish national dish. A popular legend states that Saint Hyacinth of Poland brought pierogi to Poland.

These boiled crescent-shaped doughy dumplings can be filled with anything – meat, potatoes, cheese, other veggies, even fruits. They are traditionally eaten with a serving of sour cream and fried onions and are a staple of Polish diet.

 

Borscht (Ukraine)

A type of sour soup made predominantly from beets – which give the dish its distinct deep red color – other common ingredients include cabbage, onions, carrots, potatoes, celery, and sometimes meat, topped off with a spoonful of sour cream. It is eaten both hot and cold.

Originally considered a poor man’s dish, illustrated with traditional expressions such as “Cheap like borscht”, borscht today is well-known outside of Eastern and Central Europe where it originated, thanks to immigrants who introduced this dish to countries they moved to.