Monday, February 20, 2012

More Cuisine tidbits-Swiss Fast Food

I'd mentioned in a earlier post the prevalence of pizza places, kebab shops, and of course the wildly popular adopted McDonald's and Burger King chains that are widespread across Europe, so much so to be found in and around even major train stations such as Zurich, Milan, Lyon and Rome.  (Why the heart of Italian cooking would allow such an atrocity to take place, I don't know, but it happens.)  In France, while we were enjoying the first evening of the Fete d'Lumiere, we ran across a shop called "Pasta in a Box" and it was quite literally your choice of assorted pasta and sauce served up regular or large in a rounded cardboard to-go container.  You could sit there and enjoy or, of course, take it to go! The regular was $5, the large $7 or $8.  The pasta was cooked to perfect al-dente status and the sauces were remarkably flavorful.  Far preferable to a Happy Meal!
French fast food aside, we'll get back to my main point.  You can stop at any pizza shop in town and order either one or two slices (one slice being twice the size of a Round Table piece) or you can buy a whole pie, a calzone and a commercially made tiramisu from the ice-cream bin by the register.  But if you want to try something completely worldly cultural, consider a kebab.  Kris can hardly pass one up, I find them useful for filling up when I haven't yet had breakfast and can't bring myself to cook anything and there are no leftovers in the fridge. Even a small kebab, depending on the style, is sufficient.
Origins: While almost every country in the world (thus my assertion that they're worldly cultural) has adopted their own style of kebab, the earliest similar version was the Greek style gryo (named such for the meat being cooked on a rotisserie which was later flipped from horizontal to vertical.  Rumors offer that the kebab was originally from Eastern Turkey or Istanbul, shawarma in the heart of the Middle East (popular today in Taiwan), and every country from Finland to Mexico has their own version of meat style and toppings.  
In Lugano, you can find a shop on every city block that serves the cooked, shaved or sliced meat, most typically with lettuce and tomatoes, onion if you like a little heat, in a variety of ways: wrapped in a durham (like a tortilla), between two slices of toasted foccacia, stuffed into a pita, served atop a bed of rice, even baked into a calzone or used as a pizza topping.  The more authentic shops eve serve just a pile of meat on top of a serving of french fries, topped with either mint/dill sauce or spicy red chili sauce, depending on your taste.  We've been here long enough to have tried most of the places that the locals recommend.  You can either enter an established shop, a street vendor, and they're usually offered at most bars where other styles of sandwich are served for lunch and evening meal options.  We've even tried to make our own style with our leftover Easter leg of lamb, lettuce, sauteed onions and bell peppers, and a layer of shredded mozzarella, sprinkled with hot sauce.  I think we may have to do lamb again this year so we can have more!  Commercially done, there are varieties of extra fillings aside from onions.  Some countries add pickles, pickled veggies, or corn which we've had here, added and then the whole thing pressed with a sandwich press and while I didn't so much prefer the corn, I loved the added grilling! It makes me want a sandwich press in addition to our raclette grill (I may have to explain raclette in another post!)  Gyros are served with tzatziki sauce or plain yogurt, kebabs in the UK are served with house sauce or garlic mayo, here and all along the middle east they come with either mint sauce or chili sauce.
You can get this wonderful snack/entree virtually anywhere in the world, in any large city and if you haven't had them before, or if you're traveling through other countries and haven't yet stopped for a bite to eat when you wander by a shop, I highly recommend that you try one.  They're far less costly than a sit-down meal at a restaurant (the shop right near our place is 10 francs for a regular sized kebab and a soda, 8 francs for a small one, most shops here being comparable.)  You might very well find yourselves addicted to them like we have : )

Happy Tasting!

Allie H.  

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