It has often been said that the way to someone’s heart is through their stomach, and for those of us who live to eat, street food is the key.
Sampling roadside treats is a travel experience you can’t miss, and many travelers would attest that it’s one of the best and most affordable ways to get acquainted with a foreign country.
To taste the best street food that the world has to offer, journey to these culinary capitals:
1. Bangkok, Thailand
The future of Bangkok’s street food was a cause for concern recently when it was reported in media outlets that the city’s authorities planned to ban street vendors.
Locals and tourists alike were worried that this spelled the end of Bangkok’s illustrious reputation as one the world’s best cities to enjoy street food.
Luckily, it was later clarified that the ban would only apply to major roadways and tourist areas, and that street vendors would be moved to designated areas. Phew.
Yaowarat Road, home to the city’s Chinatown, is known as the epicenter of Bangkok’s street food and a must-visit. If you’re looking to try old-school Thai street food, you’ll find it in Bangkok’s Old Town at Banglamphu. For more high-end (read: gourmet) options, check out the areas of Sukhumvit and Silom.
If you’re wandering around any of the popular street markets, such as Chatuchak Weekend Market and Rot Fai Market Ratchada, there will be plenty of food stalls for you to choose from.
Try these: Grilled fish (pla pao), papaya salad (som tam), marinated meat skewers, pad thai noodles, Thai crepe (khanom bueang).
2. Marrakesh, Morocco
There’s a lot more to Moroccan food than just tagines, which you will discover while exploring the streets of Marrakesh.
The city’s crowded main square, Jemaa el-Fnaa, will have lots of street food options, but if you want to know the best places to go, just follow the locals.
Try these: Pastilla (pigeon pie), bocadillo (a variety of meat, fish, potatoes, veggies, and condiments served on a plate or in a sandwich), msemen (buttery, flaky Morroccan flatbread), harira (noodle soup with tomatoes, lentils, and chickpeas), chebakia (sesame cookie covered in molasses), snail soup.
3. Hong Kong, China
You know a city means business when it comes to street food when the Michelin Guide decides to include a section dedicated to street food for the first time ever.
And that’s precisely what happened in Hong Kong – the city has far too many good eats out on the streets to overlook.
In fact, the city has an impressive 23 street food stalls featured in the guide, narrowed down from what is an undoubtedly competitive field.
Take a stroll around Causeway Bay, Mong Kok, or Temple Street Night Market to enjoy some of the city’s best roadside cuisine.
Try these: Curry fish balls, deep-fried squid tentacles, soup-filled dumplings (xiao long bao), egg tarts, egg waffles, pineapple bun (bor lor bao).
4. Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
Brazil’s second largest city is famous for many things beginning with “S”: sun, surf, sand, soccer, and samba, for instance. But for many visitors, they tend to fall in love with one “S” in particular: street food.
The country’s national cuisine is an interesting blend of indigenous, European, Asian, African, and Middle Eastern influences, and you’ll be able to find them everywhere.
Your best bet for some snacks is where everyone flocks to: the beach. Rio’s top beaches are Ipanema Beach and Copacabana Beach.
Besides that, on the first Saturday of each month, Rua do Lavradio in downtown Lapa hosts a popular fair, which has its share of street vendors selling yummy eats.
Try these: Acaraje (black-eyed peas and shrimp fritters), pastel (deep-fried pastry, often filled with meat and cheese), coxinha (savory dough shaped into a drumstick around a creamy chicken filling), tapioca (crispy, fried crepe made of cassava flour and shredded coconut).
5. London, United Kingdom
Being as multicultural as it is, it’s no surprise that London is home to a diverse range of cuisines from all around the world.
Alongside the traditional fish and chips fried to crispy perfection at your local chippie, you can also find international dishes given their own little British twist, such as burritos stuffed with tender beef brisket slow-cooked in cola and vegetarian korma with summer vegetables and cashew.
You can easily have a feast by visiting any of the city’s famed markets, such as Camden Market, Borough Market, and Portobello Road Market.
Try these: Unusual fusion dishes (e.g., a Mexican tortilla filled with Korean bulgogi braised ox cheek), gourmet toasties (toasted sandwiches), slow-cooked meat piled inside a bread roll (known locally as a “bap”).
6. Penang, Malaysia
Malaysia’s northern island state of Penang is known around the world as a food haven, as both locals and travelers can’t seem to get enough of its specialty dishes.
The state’s capital of Georgetown, which is also listed as a UNESCO World Heritage City, is where you’ll find all the goods, particularly at Gurney Drive Hawker Center and Chulia Street Night Hawker Stalls.
Try these: Assam laksa (noodles in fish and tamarind-based soup), char kuey teow (stir-fried flat rice noodles), mee goreng mamak (spicy fried yellow noodles), pasembur (snack consisting of shredded cucumber and turnip, topped with prawn fritters, potatoes, beancurd, and a spicy sauce).
7. Istanbul, Turkey
Turkey is where East meets West, and its unique cuisine manages to bring the best of both worlds together.
Hungry after wandering the bustling streets of Istanbul and visiting its star attractions such as Hagia Sophia and Topkapi Palace? Then head over to the neighborhoods of Karakoy or Eminonu, both located on either end of Galata Bridge, to sample some of the city’s best street food.
Try these: Simit (bagel-like bread encrusted with sesame seeds), balik ekmek (grilled fish sandwich), durum (flatbread wrap filled with minced meat and veggies), borek (savory pastry filled with cheese and spinach), kofte (grilled meatballs, often made from lamb).
8. Mumbai, India
Visit Mumbai’s khau gallis (eat streets) to get a taste of what the locals eat on a daily basis or take an evening stroll down Juhu Beach, where the food stalls will beckon you with their lights and smells.
If you want to strike two birds with one stone, drop by Bhendi Bazaar or Crawford Market, both popular hotspots for street food, where you can also get some shopping done.
Try these: Pav bhaji (thick vegetable curry served with a soft bread roll), vada pav (deep-fried potato patty served between a bread roll), pani puri (crispy fried ball stuffed with potato, onion, chickpeas, and coriander chutney, then drenched in sour and spicy mint water), Bombay sandwich.
9. Berlin, Germany
There’s far more to Berlin’s street food scene than your typical market – it’s home to pop-up food stalls and shiny food trucks. Similar to London, Berlin’s melting pot of cultures mean you can get special, localized takes on world cuisine.
Thursdays have become synonymous with chowing down for Berliners, thanks to Street Food Thursday, the city’s biggest and most popular street food congregation. It takes place at Markthalle Neun in the popular borough of Kreuzberg.
If you’re in town on a Friday night, be sure to drop by Bite Club, which features some of the city’s favorite street food vendors. While it’s usually held on Friday evenings, the event doesn’t have a fixed location, so you should definitely check their Facebook page.
Try these: Currywurst (German sausage dusted with curry powder) at Curry 36, gemüse kebap (basically a kebab wrap) at Mustafa’s, chicken tikka naanwich at Chai Wallahs.
Singapore keeps a tight ship, so you won’t see much street food vendors on the streets like you would in the other cities on this list.
Instead, they’re located at designated areas, known as food centers. Some of the must-visit food centers are Chinatown Food Street, Maxwell Road Food Center, Old Airport Road Food Center, and Tiong Bahru Hawker Center.
Try these: Hainanese chicken rice, fried carrot cake, satay, bah kut teh (meat bone broth), sambal stingray (grilled stingray served with spicy sambal paste), wanton mee, chee cheong fun (rice noodle roll, served with prawn paste sauce).
11. Osaka, Japan
They say come to Tokyo for the sights, Kyoto for the culture, and Osaka for the food. Back in the feudal Edo period, the city was known as tenka no daidokoro, or “the nation’s kitchen”; though at the time, it was due to its position as the center of Japan’s rice trade.
Now, however, it has transformed into a foodie’s paradise. Osaka’s vibrant Dotonbori area (with the iconic Glico Man signboard) is chock full of various kinds of street food to tempt your taste buds.
Try these: Takoyaki (octopus balls), okonomiyaki (savory pancakes with cabbage and a variety of fillings), kushikatsu (deep-fried meat/veggie skewers), ikayaki (grilled squid topped with soy sauce), yakitori (grilled meat skewers), oden (fishcakes, daikon, konjac, etc. stewed in soy-flavoured dashi broth).
12. Portland, USA
Recognized as the USA’s hipster central, Portland also happens to have some of the best street food offerings inspired by dishes from around the world.
Its street food vendors operate from small clusters of food carts, known as “pods”, the largest one being the Alder Street Food Cart Pod.
Some other food cart pods you can head to are Cartlandia, Mississippi Marketplace, and Cartopia.
Try these: Artisanal sandwiches, pizza, salmon tacos, Norwegian lefse wraps, barbequed or slow-cooked meats.
13. Mexico City, Mexico
In Mexico City, you won’t find it difficult to come across street food – just follow your nose. Street food vendors can be found along most major streets, selling anything from beverages and light snacks to full meals.
Make like a chilango (local) and venture around the city’s tianguis (open-air markets), such Bazar El Oro or Tianguis Napoles, where you can sample freshly-made dishes.
Try these: Tamales (corn dough wrapped in a corn husk and steamed), tlacoyos (thick, oval-shaped corn dough tortillas stuffed with beans, cheese, and meat), tacos al pastor (corn tortillas filled with spit-grilled meat), atole (a traditional hot corn-based beverage), torta (Mexican sandwich), tostada (deep-fried corn tortillas with a mountain of toppings).
14. Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam
Ho Chi Minh City, also known as Saigon, is no doubt Vietnam’s food capital. Some of its best street food stalls are clustered at Van Kiep Street, Su Van Hanh Street, and Vinh Khanh Street, filled with stalls brimming with bubbling, sizzling dishes.
Soupy dishes are a staple in the Vietnamese diet, so if you love steaming bowls of noodles dunked in flavorsome broth, then you’ll have plenty of options to choose from.
Even former U.S. President Barack Obama has given it a thumbs up – so what are you waiting for?
Try these: Bahn mi (a crusty baguette stuffed with a variety of meat and veggies), pho (rice noodles in soup topped with beef or chicken), bun rieu (noodles served in a flavorful broth made from crab stock and tomatoes), banh trang tron (shredded rice paper tossed with chili sauce, Vietnamese coriander, basil, and pieces of squid, salty fish, and quail eggs).
15. Seoul, South Korea
Although Seoul is ranked as one of the most expensive cities to live in, there’s still cheap food aplenty to be found on its streets.
One of the more popular places for locals to satisfy their street food cravings is at the nearest pojangmacha – mobile eateries that are usually set under a tent to protect customers from the elements. So if you’re looking for an authentic experience, sit yourself down on a plastic stool.
You should also try the cornucopia of treats awaiting for you at Gwangjang Market or Myeongdong Food Street.
Try these: Hotteok (sweet griddle cakes filled with cinnamon, brown sugar, and pine nuts), tteokbokki (spicy rice cakes), bindaetteok (savory mung bean pancake), mandu (dumplings), gyeran-bbang (egg bread), kimbap (rice rolls), Korean fried chicken.
Have we piqued your appetite? Satisfy those cravings and book a trip to any of these cities with Traveloka today!