Where the Wild Pizzas Are: Seven Variations From Around the World

It's hardly a secret that few foods in the world are as universally beloved as pizza. No matter what country one ventures to visit, one is unlikely to ever be more than a few footfalls—or at best, a short local transit ride—away from a place to score a bite of hot, fragrant 'za. This isn't to say that every pizza is created in the same image, though. Somehow managing to embody all that is humble and sophisticated at once, Pizza is many things to many cultures around the world. Here are just a few of the seemingly endless ways that variations on the theme of pizza and its ability to wax rustic yet elegant are making life just a little bit more delicious than many people may realize.
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  • Coca (Spain)

  • A pastry rooted in Catalan cuisine, Coca can be made in open-faced or closed form, and can be made savory or sweet, dependent upon the whim of its preparer. Toppings/fillings run a familiar gamut of cheeses, meats like Spanish sausages, and vegetables like olives, caramelized onions and summer squash, with fish having proven to be a familiar and frequent option as well. Coca has close associations to certain holiday observances, being enjoyed around Easter, Christmas, and St. John's Eve. Not to be excluded, however, breakfast, brunch, and cocktail accompaniment are also frequent backdrops against which people tend to indulge in this versatile dish.
  • Pide (Turkey)

  • With its more modern incarnation (established within about the last seventy years or so) shaped like a gondola made of baked flatbread traditionally risen for 12 hours before firing, this Turkish-style pizza offers more of fillings than toppings. Like many a time-honored food, its origins are cloaked in delicious mystery, but pide is believed to have been born along the coast of Turkey, in an area called Samsun. Much like Italian pizza, one's imagination (or lack thereof) forms the only limitation on ingredients likely to turn up in it. Gustatory greatest hits include sheep's milk cheeses like peynir or feta, spinach, fresh mint, and ground lamb or sujuk (a style of spiced, dry sausage), but taking geography into account, one is as apt to find it loaded with the likes of eggplant, pastrami, or even fried egg. This dish, popular in Turkish, Armenian, and Middle Eastern cultures, is all about regional style.
  • Pizza with Virtually Anything (Brazil)

  • When they want to express a food dish or restaurant that has taken "the works" to the next level, people tend to throw around exaggerations like "it had everything but the kitchen sink on it." Anyone who's ever dined at Pizzaria Bate Papo, located in Guarujá, Brazil might be less cavalier about turning that particular phrase, since at this restaurant, one has a better than average of getting an actual kitchen sink on top of their pie. An entire lobster, an intact roasted chicken with baked potatoes, and a frosted layer cake are a few of the more whiskey-tango-foxtrot-eliciting garnishes to have adorned the pizzas coming out of this kitchen, but they are by no means the strangest. That honor is reserved hands-down for the live birds, automobile tires, and entire case of bottled beers that have also graced its pies.
  • Manakish (Lebanon)

  • Centuries-old tradition finds typical manakish shaped into circles to be folded or sliced, and eaten for breakfast, lunch, or served as a mezze in Levantine cuisine. Za'atar, kishk, and tzfat or akkawi cheeses comprise a handful of classic toppings, with lunch manakish tending to feature heartier ingredients like fried eggplant and minced lamb or beef. Chilies, diced tomatoes, halloumi, and shallots have also been known to turn up in some recipes, as manakish (the singular form being "manousheh") are easy to customize, and in the hands of a creative cook, they tend to go quite readily to some intriguing places.
  • Lángos (Hungary)

  • This topped fried bread composed of flour, salt, yeast, and sometimes, mashed potatoes, has mastered the concept of K.I.S.S. (Keep It Simple, Stupid). This is evidenced by its standard recipe, which calls simply for it to be rubbed with garlic butter and sprinkled with salt before being eaten warm. As with every other pizza variation we've explored thus far, however, it isn't relegated to just one preparation method, and so what we end up with when we start talking lángos are various innovations from adding caraway seeds to the uncooked dough, to topping the cooked bread with things like grated Emmenthaler or Gruyere cheese, sour cream, fresh dill, or cabbage. And while it's been dubbed "Hungarian Pizza," other locales on the map where it's enjoyed as a popular snack selection or street food include Serbia, Austria, Romania, and the Czech Republic.
  • Okonomiyaki (Japan)

  • Pizza meets pancake meets omelet in this dish that begins not with dough, but with a batter composed of flour, water, grated yams, dashi, egg, and cabbage. From that point onward, there's virtually no end to what can go into this dish said to have originated in Osaka. Tamer items like green onions and egg can share the stage with bites like thin-sliced pork belly, octopus, shrimp, squid, kimchee, and more. If there can be said to exist any standard practices when it comes to making okonomiyaki, one would be to drizzle the finished item with Japanese mayo and brown okonomiyaki sauce. And while ingredient particulars are largely guided by the personal preferences of the person eating and/or preparing this culinary chimera, there are two chief preparation methods: Kansai or-Osaka style, and Hiroshima-style. In the former, the ingredients are mixed into the batter, which is grilled on both sides, while the latter finds the ingredients layered into place once the batter begins to cook.
  • The Bomb (South Korea)

  • Ever wanted to watch your restaurant server cut your pizza out of a flaming ball of ash-smeared dough? Your wait is over. A restaurant in South Korea is on it. The name of the place is, in fact, The Place, suggesting that what the establishment lacks in naming convention flourishes, it more than makes up for in extravagant pizza presentation. Any underwhelmed feelings as one watches a server wheel forth a basketball-sized lump of uncooked dough should vanish about the time said server douses it with cooking oil and lights it on fire. After all, we're taught from birth that external appearances notwithstanding, it's what's inside that counts. In this case, what's inside is a mass of mozzarella cheese and tomato sauce. Once the flames are extinguished, the intrepid server slices open the charred dome, revealing a bubbling hot pizza ready to be enjoyed. What diners discuss during this spectacle is anyone's guess, but more than a few conversations must tend toward how rare is the opportunity to chew on a slice of an erstwhile raging inferno.

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