We believe that the history of a city can be traced in its street food. With stalls that run like lifelines through jungles of concrete, markets that preserve family legacy, food connoisseurs taking and making trends, the eating culture of our top street food destinations as listed here is always in flux, just as accommodating as it is flavorful.
1. Bangkok, Thailand
Perhaps the most famous of all street food destinations, Bangkok’s streets are flanked with stalls, permanent ones as well as those on rotation so you can pick a favourite and stay loyal to it during your stay there or indulge in variety.
What, Where: Pad Thai, a colorful bowl of shrimp and noodles and Tom Yum, hot and sour soup, are filling comfort foods that you can get at prices as low as a dollar in Chinatown or Yaowarat with its stirring nightlife. Khao Phat is another zingy delight, fried rice that utilizes Thai jasmine rice, an assortment of meat and sauces, including nam pla fish sauce. Pla Pao, available in several kinds, is smoky fish barbecued in salt, stuffed with lemongrass and pandanus leaves.
Jok moo, pork rice and porridge topped with fried noodles and Som Tam, the popular spicy and sour papaya salad are other popular delicacies to try on the Silom Road and the Banglamphu river area. Roti Gluay, fried banana pancakes with toppings and sticky mango rice dessert constitute the perfect end to a meal.
2. Brussels, Belgium
Brussels is the ideal street food destination for those with a keen sweet palate. Mild, comforting and homely are the tastes you will be greeted with.
What, Where: Belgian waffles are a sumptuous, budget-friendly delicacy that come with a host of servings and maybe had hot or cold. When in the city, make sure to scour for places that offer tastings of foods like breads, cheese and chocolate, the last of which you’ll find a mind-boggling variety in this Chocolate City. How Belgian are French Fries? Decide for yourself here!
For lovers of bread, Brussels offers chocolate bread and an abundance of baguette dishes for a filling brunch. Pomme frites (mitraillette), sausages and a variety of fried meat and veggies are wrapped up in a baguette and served with ketchup and mayo. Another traditional delicacy to enjoy is frikandel, a deep-fried sausage that is usually made from pork or chicken. A sweet treat adored by both the Dutch and the Belgians is the deep-fried donut-like oliebollen or smoutebollen that is dusted with sugar and sold commonly at fairs and in food trucks.
3. Mexico City, Mexico
This street food destination is equally famous for its novel food experiments and old traditions of Mexican eating. Mexico City’s food stalls and carts form a colorful vista that reflects the eclectic local palate.
What, Where: Tacos al pastor is a quintessential delight. If you can, do watch the fantastic show that it being made is. Head to a tamal stand for traditional steamed tamales and other variations served with atole. You might also stumble upon peddlers selling corn on the cob (elotes) or in cups (esquites) and traditional pastries and coffee. Other mobile vendors you must keep your eyes open for are those offering crispy pork skin and comote carts that see traditionally oven-baked sweet potatoes and plantain with jam and condensed milk.
Churrería El Moro is world-famous for churros, anytime your heart desires. Looking like cigars, flautas are deep-fried tacos you must not miss. Birria stew is another delicacy to grab from central markets like the Mercado La Merced. Mexican beverages like the fruit blend that is agua fresca, fruit shakes (licuados) and fruit juices are also available at every corner.
4. Istanbul, Turkey
Istanbul’s eclectic local food scene spans across economical diners and buzzing street food destinations laid across streets.
What, Where: Lahmacun is a very thin Turkish pizza that’s generally eaten rolled up with cold, salted yogurt. For lunch, you can grab the wholesome chicken and rice meal that is tavuk pilav. Don’t forget to grab the fish sandwiches (balık-ekmek) if you find yourself near Karaköy. You might also be interested in boza (a fermented millet drink), fresh and pickled juices and ‘turnip water’ or salgam suyu. When in Ortaköy, treat yourself to kumpir, baked potatoes with a host of toppings. For breakfast, you can indulge in pide, flatbread stuffed with peynir cheese and börek.
Turkish desserts are a world of their own that grant this street food destination a truly iconic status. Simit, a baked bagel-like Turkish sweet) and baklava (a nutty filo pastry) are the sweets you must try with a cup of Turkish coffee or cay (black tea). The Turkish ice cream, called dondurma, is an elastic-like dessert that serves entertainment purposes and will surely evoke a chuckle.
5. Palermo, Italy
The Sicilian cultural capital is renowned for its marketplaces, the 3 most popular ones being Vucciria, Ballarò and Capo, where you can shop for delightfully fresh fruits and fish and even watch the magic happen right in front of your eyes.
What, Where: Easily the most in demand, arancini refers to a fried ball of rice stuffed with cheese and meat. Ke Palle is where you can discover stunning varieties of arancine, in daunting sizes and at an unbeatable price. Sandwiches are another specialty of Palermo, chiefly the pani ca meusa (with the spleen of veal as its main ingredient and the ricotta topping) and the pane e panelle crocchè (chickpea and potato fritters). Cannoli, the creamy, rolled pastry stuffed with ricotta is a star of the Sicilian cuisine.
6. Marrakech, Morocco
Dating back to the Berber empire, this street food destination will grant you the quintessential cultural experience of Morocco with its souks and palaces that are tourist hotspots.
What, Where: Head to the Djemaa el Fna square at night for an immersive tourist experience. But don’t forget to explore the streets and souks for freshly baked bread (khobz), fruit juices and tagine. The word tagine refers to both the earthen clay pot and the dishes prepared in this cookware, a common sight along the roads. Take your pick from a myriad meat and vegetable stews.
A staple that you will find made in a plethora of ways is couscous, crushed semolina that resembles pasta. The steamed bowl of goodness is absolutely scrumptious. Make sure to grab your fill of the appetizing bean soups, kebabs and potato fritters (makouda). Mint tea is another thing you’ll find much adored and taken with most meals.
7. Hong Kong
When in Hong Kong, you must eat local. A haven for meat lovers, Hong Kong offers a vibrant plate with heady aromas that waft to you and string you in.
What, Where: Sham Shui Po is where you’ll be transported back in time to traditional food stalls that sell seasoned delicacies like duck, cheung fun (bundles of steamed rice noodles, served stuffed or with an array of sauces) and a host of tofu specialties such as dried, fried, stuffed, tofu pudding and the popular stinky tofu. Roasted sweet potato and chestnuts, crisp and fluffy eggettes are some dishes you can enjoy on the go from mobile carts. Dai pai dong refers to open-air stalls where the legacy of Hong Kong’s cultural food scene is preserved and you must head to one when in this street food destination.
Among savory delights, the most sought after are curry fishballs and siu mai, steamed fish-stuffed dimsums covered in chilli and soy sauces. As popular as fish meat is, many local stalls skip the ingredient to keep it economical. There is also a range of dishes like cow offal, deep-fried pig intestines, octopus and shark fin (imitation varieties cooked with glass noodles are more cheaply available) for the gastronomically adventurous.
A part of UNESCO’s heritage list, Singapore’s hawker culture has adapted to globalization and serves as a melting pot of cultures where you can find great variety at alluring prices.
What, Where: This street food destination combines in its platter a plethora of noodles such as fried prawn noodles, roasted noodles with dumplings (wanton mee), minced meat noodles (bak chor mee) and the renowned laksa which comprises vermicelli noodles cooked in coconut sauce with a bunch of greens and meat and fried bean curd. Chinatown Complex is a sprawling food hall where you can enjoy satay (skewered meat), rice dumplings, claypot that combines rice with a variety of meat and from across the street, you can taste the glory that is the soy sauce chicken, called the “cheapest Michelin-Starred meal in the world.”
The influence of Indian cuisine shows best in the famous roti pratas that are served with several curry choices, both vegetarian and non-vegetarian. Fragrant Hainanese chicken rice and the mysterious and intricately flavored bah kut teh (meat bone tea) are other must-haves. Finish your meal with the spiky durian or tau hua, a tofu-based dessert topped with ginkgo seeds.
9. Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
Malaysia’s diverse platter ensures that you get the best, along with popular South Asian street food items like satay, laksa, cheung fun and chicken rice.
What, Where: This street food destination is most well-known for its nasi lemak (a rice dish cooked in coconut milk and accompanied by several sides like sambal, boiled egg, etc.) and teh tarik (pulled milk tea). Ramly burger is another fusion snack with a few varieties and fame that has transcended national boundaries. Fried rice vermicelli (bee hoon) and rice noodle (kway teow) dishes can be bought at economical prices! Rojak, made for instant consumption, can be sweet or savory, comprising fried bean curd, boiled egg, fruits and vegetables.
Tong sui (‘sweet water’ in Cantonese) has special eateries dedicated to it where you can find a range of traditional desserts like the snow fungus dessert soup. Cendol is a popular dessert bowl served heaped with shaved ice.
The night markets such as Setia Alam and Taman Connaught are towns in themselves with stalls that sell an incredible variety of products at great rates. These are also where you’ll find some of the best street food of the place. You can also opt for a local food tour so as to not miss out on the renowned delicacies.
10. Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam
Vietnam is the street food destination for the lively and the adventurous, reflected in the country’s dedicated and varied gastronomical scene.
What, Where: The crowned king of Vietnamese cuisine is pho, rice noodles cooked in chicken broth and flavored with meat and an array of sauces, and comes in several varieties. The spicy and tangy papaya salad, Vietnamese pizza (grilled rice paper with various toppings), banh mi (stuffed baguette), Vietnamese spring rolls (goi cuon), hotpot and steamed dumplings (banh bao) are other must-try items. A popular comfort food is bun cha, vermicelli served with grilled pork, vegetables and a bowl of broth or clear soup. Oh, and don’t forget the decadent egg coffee, a perfect replacement for dessert.
Look for a com binh dan where you can choose the desired combination for a filling lunch. Roasted or grilled pork, caramelized fish and sea snails are frequently spotted in these eateries. Some of the rarest dishes like sandworm cakes and roasted quail can also be obtained on the streets of Vietnam.
11. Kolkata, India
In India, street food is major comfort food. Kolkata is well known for being adored by food entrepreneurs, catering to local as well as experimental tastes.
What, Where: The city’s known for its desi takes on Chinese cuisine. So don’t miss out on momos and noodles with soup. Head to Chinatown in Tiretti Bazaar for a more authentic experience. Chickpea-based ghugni chaat is the tourists’ favorite, a brilliant combination of crispy texture and zesty flavor. The four horsemen of the quintessential Indian street food experience are puchkas (also known as gol gappa, batashe, pani puri or phulki), samosa (that you must have with the tangy green chutney and not ketchup!), chhole bhature and pao bhaji.
Kolkata’s kathi rolls, Mughlai parathas, kachori and jhalmuri are also adored. Areas like New Market, Vardaan Market, Shobha bazaar and College Street are a foodie’s paradise where you can have a mix of cuisines on a budget. You’ll find stalls at every turn, serving foods ranging from Tibetan to Italian.
12. Cairo, Egypt
The Egyptian cuisine, as had from the street stalls, is eclectic and super affordable, without compromising on quality.
What, Where: Begin your day with fuul, a dish of fava beans that you can have with any of the several breads sold by the local vendors in Cairo. Other popular bread-based dishes are the Egyptian pizza which resembles a layered, savory pastry and hawawshi, which consists of Arabic bread stuffed with onions and minced lamb. Kofta kebabs and koshary, an intricate combination of macaroni or rice, chickpeas, lentils and tomato sauce, make for a hearty lunch.
You’re also bound to find falafel, the popular Middle Eastern delicacy which, in Egypt, generally has fava beans added to it (called taameya). Shawarma, slow-cooked and roasted, stuffed between loaves of bread, certainly shouldn’t be missed out on. Head to the Roxy Square for Abou Haidar’s renowned shawarma. Treat yourself to a piece of basbousa, a soft, crumbly cake coated with syrup. Coctel is another sweet ending to a meal, a yogurt-based drink with layers of mixed fruit.
13. Durban, South Africa
Durban’s street food scene in an up-and-coming one, as is evident from the famous Durban Street Food, a famous eatery that sells “home-style ready meals.”
What, Where: From experimental hot dogs, macarons and donuts to some stars of the Indian cuisine like chaat, gol gappe and tandoor-baked naan, Durban is a street food destination that’ll surprise you in more ways than one. Concept-based stalls are trendy and tourist favorites. There’s also the Durban Street Food Festival that promises a heady platter of innovative, fusion food.
14. Tokyo, Japan
Grab some rice crackers on the go and get ready to explore this street food destination for its treasures!
Some staples of Japanese street food are taiyaki (fish-shaped cakes), takoyaki (octopus-stuffed balls), korokke (deep-fried croquettes, usually of beef and potato). Dango, available in several varieties, is a prominent sight when the cherry blossoms bloom and finds its way in picnic baskets. A host of skewered meat, called yakitori, is generally sold to be eaten with alcoholic beverages, the best of which you can find in Omoide Yokochō.
Tokyo’s street vendors are most well-known for fried snacks like chicken fritters, oinarisan (fried tofu stuffed with rice balls) and imokin (sweet potato paste coated with flour). When craving for sweets, look for melonpan, a sweet bread that is often sold stuffed with ice cream. Kakigōri refers to shaved ice bowls flavored with varied toppings and is frequently sold at fairs.
15. Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
Home to the biggest carnival of the world, the Rio Carnival, Brazil is the land that promises colorful wonders. The culture has soaked up traditions from far off places and it reflects in the local platter.
What, Where: Pastels are basically fritters, of which you’ll find a great variety in this street food destination, including a few sweet versions. The go-to snack goes perfectly with drinks. Kibe (meat patties), picanha (barbequed beef), pão de queijo (cheese-stuffed bread), and bacalhao (salted cod fritters) are other items you’ll spot at the stalls. A hearty black bean and pork stew, feijoada is an immensely popular comfort food that provides satiating warmth.
Brazil is known for its fruits, a healthy bowl of açai having already found global fame. Chocolate desserts can also be purchased from street vendors or cafes, truffles and brigadeiro being the most adored. Churros and cassava chips are other snackable options.