Warning, if you are not hungry already, you will be by the end of this post. Here, we’ll be paying homage to the humble street food. It's a great option to taste the world's specialty cuisine while supporting the local communities.
While it's of course a pleasant experience to dine out and be served at a restaurant, sometimes you just can't beat simple yet delicious street food, especially if you find yourself in the locations discussed below. So the next time you travel abroad, seek out your local street vendors for an authentic taste of world cuisine…. we guarantee you’ll be glad you did!
Examples of Street Food From Around the World
Street food is an integral component of many cultures worldwide and can be found in all sorts of delicious forms. Whether it's...
- Savory tacos with lime juice from Mexico
- Sweet crepes from France
- Aromatic soup dumpling from China
... there is a whole array of unique street foods out there to enjoy, including gluten-free street food. Some are cooked right before you on griddles or over hot coals, while others are best served cold like Japanese sushi or Filipino ice pops.
So why do people love to eat street food so much? Perhaps it's because it offers a slice-of-life eating experience you can’t get with more traditional dining options, or maybe it’s the adventure of having no idea what new taste sensations you’ll be experiencing that day. Whatever the reason, one thing is sure – street food is fun, fast, and one-of-a-kind delicious!
From the bazaars of Istanbul to the back alleys of Bangkok, this is one for the foodies as we share where you can find some of the most authentic, tasty, and unique cuisines on the planet.
Bangkok - Thailand
Bangkok could arguably be considered the global capital of street food, as well as one of the culinary capitals of the world. Street food is such a popular and ubiquitous part of local culture that many Thais don’t even have their own kitchens.
Kai jeow is a street food dish and breakfast favorite; a simple omelet served over rice. The omelet differs from the Western style as the outside is crispy and golden, with a soft fluffy inside. It is cooked with fish sauce and chili powder and is the perfect kick-starter for the day. Other favorites include:
- Sai krok Issan (sour Issan sausage)
- Pla pao (fish barbecued in salt)
- Som tam (papaya salad)
For those looking for something a little more adventurous, try Thai frog legs in a chili, basil, and garlic stir-fry.
Paris - France
You may associate Parisian cuisine with high-end restaurants and haute cuisine, but Paris also has a thriving street food scene.
If the French are known for anything, it’s their love of good food, reflected here in a wide variety of offerings including:
- French bread
- Pita bread
- Baguette sandwiches
- Falafel wraps
- Vietnamese spring rolls
- Lebanese pizza
And much more. (Yes, a lot of French street food revolves around their legendary skills for baking bread…after all, the famous French baguette was even granted UNESCO World Heritage status)!
Paris has a multitude of crepe stands and if you are in town, this is a must. These sweet pancakes are often filled with dessert fillings such as Nutella, jam, sugar, and lemon. However, you can also go for the savory breakfast known as galettes. These are filled with nutty buckwheat flour and egg, cheese and onion, or other pickled vegetables. They are the perfect start to the day.
Another Parisian street food to look out for is the croque-monsieur, a traditional French grilled sesame seed sandwich with ham, cheese, and béchamel sauce, great paired with wines of the world.
Durban - South Africa
CNN rated Durban as having the best street food culture in the world, and anyone who’s tried it understands why. The complex and unique combination of flavors stems from Durban's diverse mix of English, Dutch, Portuguese, Indian and African influences, the most notable of which is from the Indian community. Durban has built a reputation for having some of the best curries in the world outside of India (locals will say even better).
While you find street food on just about any corner of the inner city, the best place to get a taste is The Golden Mile; a popular beachfront stretch with a vast selection of options to suit every taste. It's also a beautiful spot for eating street food and looking out over the beach and the Indian Ocean.
Durban is also where the famous national dish, bunny chow (pictured), originated from the Indian community. Despite the funny name, there is no rabbit in this dish. It combines bread and curry and simply must be experienced when visiting South Africa, also one of the world's best places to see wildlife. It is also a popular street snack found all over the country, including in Johannesburg and Cape Town.
Then there is also:
- Roti john, a famous street food of mutton curry and cheese stuffed in a wrap and a known Durban “hangover dish
- Walkie-talkies (made from braised chicken heads and feet)
- Smiley (a boiled sheep’s head), mostly on offer in the townships. Despite its ghastly appearance, it's surprisingly tasty!
Mexico City - Mexico
Latin America is renowned for its street food, and Mexico City has a reputation as one of the greatest cities in the world for it. After all, Mexico's food culture invented the food truck concept, which found its way up to the United States and can now worldwide: from Paris to Perth, food trucks have become synonymous with global street food culture.
Understandably, tacos in Mexico City are next-level, very different from the versions you will find at your local fast food restaurant. You will find:
- Tacos de tripa, slow-cooked fried pork intestines sizzling on tortillas.
- Gringa is a flour tortilla with al pastor meat, cheese, and pineapple on top.
- Taco tote (shrimp, marlin, chili peppers, and cheese)
Hungry yet? How about a burrito of minced beef, grilled corn, sour cream, refried beans, and cheese?
Istanbul - Turkey
Another foodies’ paradise, Istanbul, has it all. This is hardly surprising as Istanbul has been known as the ‘East-meets-West city’ since ancient times. Istanbul's cuisine is some of the richest and most delectable in the world, and like most other destinations on this list, you can find just as good (if not better) food on the side of the street as you can inside a fancy restaurant. You will find street food served by peddlers, stands on street corners, carts and street vendors.
Istanbul street food includes:
- Döner kebab, falafel and shawarma (side note: if you haven't tried Turkish pulled-pork shawarma, you haven't lived),
- Simit (a freshly baked, molasses-dipped, and sesame-crusted dough whose scent will draw you in from a mile away),
- Balık-ekmek (a fish sandwich),
- Koçan mısır and közde mısır (which is just boiled and grilled corn, but next-level delicious)
Above all, we suggest you go for the köfte ekmek (pictured), a meatball sandwich with fresh-sliced tomatoes, parsley, onions, and grilled green chili peppers. Looks delish, doesn't it?
Ho Chi Minh - Vietnam
Vietnamese street food has spread worldwide, particularly with the famous banh mi, a simple bread roll filled with pork and vegetables, AKA Vietnamese pork roll. It's thought that the Vietnamese learned how to bake bread in the mid-19th century when Vietnam fell under French colonial rule… now some say they do it better than the French!
Head to Ho Chi Minh City, and you’ll see that the street food scene doesn’t stop at banh mi. While excellent and authentic Vietnamese cuisine is found all up and down the country, nowhere has a better quality and diversity of street food than old Saigon. You can book many Ho Chi Minh street food tours, some even involving cooking classes. Alternatively, you can do your research and undertake a self-guided street food tour of the city's districts.
Other signature Vietnamese street food dishes include:
- Bánh bèo, which translates to “water fern cake”, is made from rice and tapioca flour topped with toasted shrimp powder and crunchy pork rinds.
- Bang trang, or “rice paper rolls”
- Bánh xèo, sizzling rice crepes
Many street food tours involve teaching you how to make these delicacies with your bare (clean) hands. They can be filled with sweet or savory fillings and enjoyed with sweet soy sauce or other dipping sauce.
New York City - USA
When you think of New York City street food, you probably envision the classic hot dog stand. And while we certainly suggest trying one of these quintessentially New York frankfurters when in town (of course topped with onions, ketchup, mustard, relish, and sauerkraut), there's so much more on offer on the streets of this world-famous concrete jungle. While not always kind on the calorie count, New York street food offers delicious and diverse cuisine that will keep you coming back for more.
Food trucks play an essential role in New York's street food scene, where you can find influences from all over the world, including:
- Deli sandwiches
- Savory fritters
- Cronuts (a marriage of croissant and donut)
You will also find street foods from Bolivia, Jamaica, Mexico, Bangladesh, India, and many more… New York City has it all.
Montego Bay - Jamaica
When it comes to amazing street food, you’ll be hard-pressed to beat that of Jamaica, home of spicy “jerk” cuisine. The technique involves dry-rubbing or marinating meat with a hot spice mixture (thyme, allspice or chili peppers). As the meat (often chicken) cooks, it absorbs the spices before it is grilled and smoked (pictured). Mmm... chicken.
You can also get jerk pork, ground beef or jerk fish to mix things up. Spicy jerk food can be found at pretty much any of the street stalls around Montego Bay and beach huts all over Jamaica. Another essential part of Jamaican street food culture is pan chicken. Unlike jerk chicken, pan chicken is prepared with a smoky, savory flavor. The street markets anywhere in Jamaica comprise makeshift street food stalls cooking and selling jerk and pan chicken as well as deep-fried seafood, grilled minced beef, vegetable cakes, chicken broth, etc.
The Island of Singapore
Singapore is famous for its vibrant street food scene, featuring some of the best eats in the world. According to CEOWORLD Magazine, Singapore ranked as the World's Best City For Street Food in 2019. Whether you're in the mood for spicy rice noodles, fragrant curries, or indulgent dumplings, there's sure to be something on the streets of Singapore that will satisfy your taste buds.
Singapore has hawker centers (hawker = a food vendor) all over the tiny island nation, where its citizens also hold an entire festival dedicated to street food. The Singaporeans have taken the best culinary influences from China, Malaysia, and India and made them their own, resulting in some epically tasty dishes. Whether you're wandering through a bustling market or grabbing a bite at a bustling hawker stall, one thing is sure: you won't be able to resist the delicious aromas coming from all corners of this vibrant city.
No visit to Singapore is complete without trying their favorite street food snack and unofficial national dish, Hainanese chicken rice. Adapted from the early Chinese migrants of Hainan Island, these bite-sized pieces of chicken served with ginger paste, spicy chili, and fragrant rice are to die for. Other staples include:
- Chili crab
- Chaat (Indian dish of boiled vegetables and spices)
- Fried vermicelli noodles
- Sambal Bangladesh street food.
Buenos Aires - Argentina
There's no denying that Buenos Aires has some of the best street food in the world. From delicious empanadas to mouth-watering choripanes, there's something for everyone! Argentina is incredibly affordable in general, meaning you can find a complete meal on the street for just a few bucks.
Argentina is known for having some of the best beef in the world, and this is precisely what you will find in many of the street food dishes of Buenos Aires. The choripan is a popular Argentinian sandwich of a sausage made of chorizo, cooked on a grill and served between toasted bread and seasoned with the flavorful chimichurri hot sauce (pictured)...it hits the spot!
Then there's the lomito (a steak sandwich) - they flash grill the steak a la plancha and top it off with lettuce, tomatoes, onion, fried egg, ham, chimichurri, mayonnaise, and melted cheese...it's a delicious mouthful that will put you into a delightful food coma.
Eat streets around the world
While street food isn’t usually given the fame or prestige afforded to sit-down establishments, it is nevertheless an excellent way to delve into an area’s culture and (literally) get a taste of local life. Not only is the food itself often amazing, but it’s frequently made by vendors who have dedicated their lives to perfecting their methods and recipes, sometimes having them passed down through generations— you can’t get more authentic than that! So the next time you’re on your travels, check out one (or several) of the street foods featured here and make a memory that will last a lifetime.
What is the best street food you've ever had, either locally or while traveling? Comment below!
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