A global guide to food on sticks

28 May, 2021

Stick it up!

Hands up who loves a snack on a stick? Yes, as well as the convenience factor, there’s something about eating food on sticks that makes you feel like a kid again. Call it the lollipop effect, if you will. There’s even a national ‘Something on a Stick Day’ devoted to the practice in the US (March 28, if you’re interested).

And, if you’ve ever wondered why food always tastes better on a stick, there’s a scientific reason for that. Retronasal olfaction means that taste is largely reliant on a person’s sense of smell and, as food on a stick is closer to your nose, the flavour is going to be enhanced. 

Fans of Chatswood’s Granny Wolf know there’s nothing quite like one of their succulent Chinese BBQ skewers but there are many other cuisines that have a signature dish on a stick. Let’s find out more.

What exactly is a corn dog?

A corn dog – a deep-fried, cornmeal batter-coated hot dog on a wooden stick – is an American tradition enjoyed at public events, sporting fixtures and fairgrounds (and yes, there’s even a National Corn Dog Day in March). 

It does have cousins around the world. The Canadians call their version a pogo and the Argentinians love their panchuques which have a waffle dough wrapped around a sausage core. 

And, while it will never rival our beloved sausage sizzle in Australia, corn dogs are a thing here, too. We just call them dagwood dogs or pluto pups, depending on where you live. Make your own here (just don’t forget the tomato sauce, for dipping).  

What’s the difference between a kebab and souvlaki?

Souvlaki is a Greek term for a skewer of meat – traditionally pork – and shouldn’t be confused with gyros, which refers to sliced meat that has been cooked on a rotating spit. But souvlaki can also be referred to as a kebab, seeing as that’s the collective term for grilled meat cooked on a stick. Confused? 

Although kebabs have their origins in Middle Eastern cuisine, there are numerous variants popular around the world. So, as well as souvlaki and the similar shashlik, you might fancy Bangkok street food favourite moo ping (grilled pork), Japanese yakitori, Spanish pinchos morunos or Indonesian satay, which is traditionally served with peanut sauce and cucumber. 

If that’s making your mouth water, try this recipe for Spanish pork skewers or this one for Thai-style moo ping. This recipe for Lebanese-style mint and garlic lamb kebabs is also pretty darn good.

Where’s the sweet spot?

Of course, it’s not just meat that can be enjoyed on a stick. So, indulge your sweet tooth with these tasty treats:

  • Strawberry Shortcake tastes even better when it’s on a stick and is perfect for a party or picnic.  
  • Martha Stewart’s French toast kebabs are a family-friendly breakfast treat.
  • And just because no mention of food on a stick can be complete without mentioning paddle pops, here’s how to make Neapolitan ice-cream pops