Pastizzi – a national food gem that is one of the pillars of our cultural heritage. We can all agree that whoever it was who first thought of making a cheese-filled, phyllo-pastry snack that looks like a vagina, deserves genius status.
But we are not alone in rejoicing in the flaky-pastry, deliciously fatty filling combo. There are countries (and by countries we mean – regions/countries/cities) all over the world have their own variation of pastizzi. And while we know, without a shadow of a doubt, that our version is the best – there are a few which certainly aren’t putting the family name to shame.
1. Banitsa – Bulgaria
Banitsa is a traditional Bulgarian food which is made by layering a mixture of whisked eggs and cheese between phyllo pastry and then baking it in an oven. Sound familiar? They’ve forgone the vagina format though in favour of a spirally thing which they are known to sometimes hide lucky charms in.
2. Bourekas – Middle Eastern
Not totally clear where these phyllo-mini-pies actually originated. They form part of a larger category of small savory pies common throughout the Middle East, North Africa, and parts of Asia, and especially are a favorite dish among Sephardic Jews who serve them on holidays and other celebratory occasions. They’re usually filled with either ground beef, cheese, or vegetables from spinach to eggplant or potatoes. We agree with all versions.
3. Zelnik – Macedonia
Zelnik is a traditional pastry from the Balkans made of – you guessed it – thin layers of phyllo pastry filled with combinations of sirene, eggs, sorrel, browned meat, leeks and rice. Sometimes when the weather is colder they change it up by using brined cabbage and spinach for the filling. Zelnik is served with yoghurt and its best eaten warm.
4. Pakhlava – Georgia
This is also one that’s hard to pin down – it appears in Turkey, Aberzijan, etc. But we’ve gone for the Georgian version. Pakhlava is a rich, sweet pastry made of layers of phyllo filled with chopped nuts, sweetened and held together with syrup or honey. It’s cut into triangular shapes that looks very much like our beloved cheese-cake.
5. Warbat – Jordan
We are loving these sweet versions of pastizzi, and this next one from Jordan looks absolutely delicious. It’s an Arabic pastry similar to baklava, consisting of layers thin phyllo dough (deja vu) filled with custard, sometimes also filled with pistachios, walnuts, almonds, or sweet cheese. It’s like a pastizz-kannol. Mind–blown.
6. Trigona Panoramatos – Greece
Okay, these are the cuter, sweeter sister in the pastizzi family. Crispy, golden, buttery phyllo triangles soaked in syrup and filled with the most rich and creamy custard. Excuse us while we book our flights to Athens.
7. Samsa – Uzbekistan
These beauties bring us back to savoury goodness. They’re baked buns with filling that is usually meat (beef or lamb), onions, and plenty of fat. They’re distantly related to Indian samosas – which also bear a striking resemblance to our national food gem.
8. Cheese Sambousek – Lebanon
Cheese Sambousek is a famous Lebanese dish that again has a pastry shell, this time containing a succulent spinach and cheese mixture (often it’s feta cheese that’s used). We reckon this snack can compete with ours for the greasy-goodness prize.
9. Pierogi – Poland
This final foreign mention is a happy marriage between pastizzi and ravjul. Yes, this exists. Pierogi are often semicircular, like ravjul, but triangular ones do exist. Typical fillings include potato, sauerkraut, ground meat, cheese, and fruits, and the little parcels are usually served with a topping, such as melted butter, sour cream, or fried onion, or combinations of those ingredients. Okay, we’re stopping.