• Tuna francesinha (Portuguese cheese toastie) (Benito Martin)Source: Benito Martin
Pub food comes in many different forms around the world, but one aspect of it remains a constant — it's damn good.
Dominic Ryan

8 Jul 2021 - 11:23 AM  UPDATED 8 Jul 2021 - 11:25 AM

 --- The Cook Up with Adam Liaw airs weeknights on SBS Food at 7.00pm and 10.00pm or stream it free on SBS On Demand. Catch more classic dishes with Adam, Gary Green and Jo-Ann Lee this Friday 9 July. --- 


It's 5:00pm somewhere in the world, we convince ourselves (or this website does) as we rally the troops and head for a drink at the local. And while a cold bevvy — alcoholic or otherwise — might be the first order of business, the stomach fast begins to growl. Enter pub food.

Settling in for a filling feed and a drink isn't just a tradition of England and Ireland, which has been subsequently passed on to other Commonwealth nations, it's a comforting ritual practiced world over, in all of its varied forms.

South Africa: Braais and the shebeen queens

A relic of British occupation, South Africans love a pub, and some good food best be on offer.

Lucy Hough, a 27-year-old South African living in Australia, tells SBS Food, "Watering holes, as we call them, are huge in South Africa.

"Every pub will serve up some local food."

Emblematic of this is the boerewors, a traditional spiced, spiral-shaped South African sausage for barbecuing.

Braai time: boerewors and onglet steak are staples of South African barbecue. Just add a side of pap.

"'Boer' means farmer in Afrikaans and 'woers' means sausage, it's typical of the meat-heavy diet that farmers ate," Hough explains. "It's always served with mash potato and veggies, like creamed spinach, with Old Gold tomato sauce, which everyone in South Africa has."

"A boerewors on the braai — that's a classic South African pub feed," she assures. "So good!"

There are also the more speakeasy 'shebeens', which were moonshine bars often operated in a backyard by women (dubbed the 'shebeen queens'). Now legal, they have become classic watering holes offering cold drinks and cheap bites like samp (crushed maize), pap (firm polenta) and hot stews.

Portugal: Petiscos to petiscar

The Spaniards have their tapas while the Portuguese have their petiscos. Don't offend a local: they're not the same!

What is similar is the size, petiscar means 'to snack', and involves enjoying small portions of standard full-sized feeds, with the idea being that the diner gets to try a variety of flavours on offer. They're traditionally found in tascas and are now making a scene in their own right in modern petisqueira, and are made to be enjoyed with a cold local beer or a rich Portuguese wine.

Common on a petisco menu would be the octopus salad, drizzled generously with local olive oil and minced onion, and dressed with fresh parsley — a wonderful homage to the bountiful Portuguese coast.

Others include pataniscas (salt cod fishcakes) and a francesinha ('little Frenchie'), which is Portugal's take on the croque-madame and features chorizo, local sausage and cheese, topped with egg — though this doesn't even crack the surface of the huge variety of petiscos to be enjoyed across Portugal.

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Japan: The izakaya

Be it on a night out in one of Japan's electric cities or a chilled after-work drink, a local izakaya is the place to be for some refreshing sake and some tasty tucker.

Snacks served with alcohol in Japan are often referred to as sakana, which sit somewhere between tapas (sorry, petiscos!) and a main. Bar-goers will always be welcomed with an otoshi before the order of drinks, which might be a small Japanese-style potato salad or tsukemono ('pickled things'), which are mini serves of assorted pickled vegetables. 

Then something more substantial will be served, such as an okonomiyaki pancake, gyozas, or tempura

The vibe is cosy, with some seating on the floor, others at low tables or at the bar to watch the chefs work their delicate magic. Get yourself started with a cold local beer and some salty edamame and soak up the iconic atmosphere.

Vegetarian okonomiyaki

Usually, okonomiyaki includes meat like bacon or prawns, and is topped with bonito flakes, but this is a vegetarian-friendly version. It's a highly tailorable dish, with a name that means "fried, as you like it." 

Chile: Fuentes de soda (soda fountains)       

Yes, soda fountains! It's theorised that America's diners influenced Chile's popular eating and drinking spots, known as fuentes de soda. They're everywhere and serve as a fantastic spot for tourists to explore the local cuisine and sample some Chilean beers, which have a strong German influence.

On the menu are some classics that perhaps won't get a dietitian's tick in a hurry, but are nonetheless just the ticket when gearing up for a big night. Look out for the chorrillana, a chip-meat-onion stack topped with a fried egg, or the completo Italiano, a hot dog laced with mayonnaise, avocado and tomato sauce (the Italian flag colours).

Kenya: Find the mwananchi

Big Kenyan cities flourish with nightlife that is both modern and traditional. Heavy, infectious African beats reverberate and good vibes emanate from the watering holes of Nairobi.

Wander from the beaten track and seek out the local bars (baa in Swahili) where the drinks are cheap and the food is traditional and delicious. They charge mwananchi (citizen) prices and it's where one will find locals and local food. 

Five things you need to know about African cuisine
As the home to over 50 countries, Africa has an array of produce that underpins its many cuisines.

A typical spread may come featuring nyama choma, the national barbecued goat-meat dish, rubbed with salt and pepper alongside a bowl of ugali, a popular maize flour dough cooked over flame and sometimes served with vegetables.

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