Eastern Europeans love street food because it's portable and easy to eat without the benefit of table and utensils -- perfect for strolling through the large main market squares, arm-in-arm with a friend, or as a quick lunch on the way back to work, or as a special treat to take home to the kids. Each country has its favorites but popular common offerings throughout most of Eastern Europe seem to be the Turkish doner kebab, also known as Greek gyros, and ice cream, no matter how cold it is outside!
In Bosnia-Herzegovina, Croatia, Serbia and other Balkan countries, cevapcici, which are hand-formed sausages also known as cevapi or cevaps, on lepinje, a type of flat bread, are common. Cheese burek or meat burek (flaky savory pies) variations, and raznjici (grilled pork or lamb kebabs) also are typical offerings. On the Dalmatian coast in Croatia, fried seafood and seafood salads like lignje na salatu (squid salad) are very popular.
The most common and traditional Czech street food is syr smazeny, which is breaded and fried cheese, not unlike Bulgarian fried cheese, except made with Edam, Gouda or Swiss cheese, not kashkaval cheese. Syr smazeny is served with tatarska omacka (tartar sauce) on its own accompanied by fried potatoes and a little side salad, or in a soft hamburger-type bun. Another favorite is parek v rohliku (a long, skinny sausage in a roll) with ketchup and mustard, kolache (meat-, cheese- or fruit-filled yeast-raised dumplings or buns) and topinky, fried bread rubbed with raw garlic like Hungarian langos (see below).
In Hungary, street food stands offer sausages, toltott kaposzta (stuffed cabbage), hot pretzels, strudels and langos (fried bread). But Turkish doner kebabs similar to Greek gyros are hugely popular. The meat is beef, chicken or lamb and is usually served on a pita-like bread with lettuce, tomatoes, sliced onion and a garlicky paprika sauce. Fried potatoes are a frequent accompaniment.
One of the most popular Polish street food offerings is zapiekanka, an open-face toasted sandwich with, at the very least, sauteed mushrooms, melted cheese and ketchup. They became popular during the Communist regime when those three ingredients were the easiest to get. But now, myriad variations exist. Other popular street food includes szaszłyk (grilled kebabs), roasted suckling pig, obwarzanki or crusty twisted bread rings similar to New York-style bagels in appearance, but not in taste, precle (yeast-raised pretzels), lody (ice cream), and doner the Turkish version of Greek gyro meat but with Polish-influenced toppings like fresh cabbage salad with cucumbers, tomatoes and other vegetables, cheese and sauce on a slighter thicker version of pita bread.
Sausages similar to Balkan cevapcici are known as mititei in Romanian and are popular street food, as are hot pretzels, sweet and savory cheese pastries, sandwiches, and Turkish shawerma or doner kebabs, similar to Greek gyros. They're made with beef, veal, chicken, or lamb and served on a pita-like flat bread with a garlicky, hot mayonnaise sauce. Potatoes, peppers, cabbage, onion and tomatoes are frequent sides. Frigarui or grilled kebabs made of seasoned pork, beef, lamb or chicken alternated with bacon, sausages and seasoned vegetables like onions, tomatoes, bell peppers and mushrooms are also a big hit.
Traditional Russian favorites, such as blini (little buckwheat pancakes), pirozhki (similar to pierogi), pelmeni (little meat dumplings), and sausages are widely available from street vendors. Also popular are shawerma, similar to Turkish doner and Greek gyros, made with chicken or pork and served on a pita-like bread or lavash-type bread with cabbage or carrot salad, cucumbers, tomatoes and a ketchup sauce and spicy yogurt sauce. Rotisserie chicken, grilled chicken, grilled shashlik (kebabs), and puff pastry packages with jam or berries, poppyseeds, chicken-mushrooms, ham-cheese, potato-mushrooms and cabbage fillings. Belyashi (small fried meat pies resembling bagels) and pyshki (fried pastries similar to Polish paczki) are also popular. And stalwarts on the streets of Russia are the kvas wagons selling a drink made of fermented bread, often called bread beer. At one time, it was drunk as a health elixir and thirst quencher in summer, but now it's enjoyed year-round.
In Slovakia, street offerings include fried flat bread with garlic and salt or other toppings, similar to Hungarian langos, pirozhky, similar to Polish pierogi, ciganska pecienka (gypsy-style roasted pork), sausages, sandwiches and palacinky (crepes similar to Serbian palachinke, Hungarian palacsinta and Polish nalesniki).
In Slovenian cities, Turkish doner kebab (like Greek gyros) made of beef or chicken are served with cabbage, tomatoes, cucumbers, onions and a spicy yogurt sauce. Hot dogs, sausages, large hamburgers like Serbian pljeskavica on lepinje-type bread are available. Cevapcici sa kajmakom (sausages with cheese spread) eaten with raw onions and a paprika sauce, and prebranac sa klobaso, a spicy bean stew with sausage on top, are also popular. Some vendors sell chicken fillets grilled with mushrooms and served with mayonnaise and tomato sauce on lepinje with a side of fried potatoes. Burek varieties abound, skewered kebabs like raznjici and Slovenian pica (pizza) are also available.
Like the rest of Eastern Europe, Ukraine is fond of shawerma, better known as Turkish doner kebabs or Greek gyros as street food. But a staggering variety of varenyky, pelmeni, piroshky, sausages and chebureki (flaky savory pies similar to burek) are to be had from vendors on the main market squares. Plov (rice pilaf) is available in some towns.