Street food is one of the best and most cost-effective ways to explore a country’s culinary scene. In many ways, the markets and street stands of a country are a reflection of its culture, and are fantastic places for people-watching. Although you won’t get the ambience and luxury of dining in a high-end restaurant, you’ll make it up in saving some money and learning about normal peoples’ everyday routines and lives in a particular place.
We’ve been around the world and tried many different street foods in over 30 countries. In no particular order, here are our picks for the top destinations for street food in the world.
Pick any throughfare in Vietnam’s big cities and you’re bound to find street food stalls scattered around, delicious scents swirling from giant pots of broth, herbs, vegetables, and noodles. You’ll often find people sitting around street food vendors in plastic stools that are a little too short for them, hunched over steaming bowls of Vietnamese food.
Aside from main staples like pho and banh mi, street food varies greatly by region in Vietnam. In northern Vietnam, you can find delicious dishes such as bun cha and egg coffee (yes, you heard that right!). Southern Vietnam boasts savory dishes such as bun rieu and banh tam bi.
Eastern Europe has some pretty amazing street food, and Hungary takes the cake for delicious offerings. Budapest has a large market called the Central Market Hall where visitors can find a lot of these unique street food dishes. Hungarian food is delicious and totally under the radar. One of the greatest street foods (albeit one of the least healthy) in Hungary is a sour cream-covered fried flatbread called langos. Another more famous dish is a meat stew called goulash.
Walking around the streets and markets of Turkey is a delightful surprise. You never quite know what sights and scents will treat your senses. In Istanbul, you can find vendors behind barrels of multicolored spices, bottled concoctions, pickled vegetables, and more. Because the food here utilizes such an interesting mix of spices, herbs, and ingredients, learning more about it is a fantastic way to spend a few days in Turkey.
While in Turkey, be sure to try döner kebab (marinated meat), pide (Turkish flatbread), and sigara burek (a spinach and cheese dish wrapped in phyllo). And, of course, once you’re done, top it all off with a baklava or a Turkish delight and a cup of Turkish tea or coffee.
Between the lime-infused goodness of ceviche and the heartiness of lomo saltado, Peru packs a huge punch when it comes to street food. You can find the bulk of Peruvian street food in market stalls, where the dishes are much cheaper than in restaurants and often equally as authentic. Peruvian food typically boasts some kind of potato, a meat portion, and local vegetables depending on where in Peru you are.
Most street food areas in Peru offer some form of ceviche, lomo saltado, and Peruvian coffee. My personal favorite street food that I tried in Peru was called rocoto relleno, a super spicy stuffed pepper that had a unique and amazing taste.
No street food list would be complete without Thailand. You can find street food everywhere in Thailand – on the actual streets, in small kiosks on the first floor of buildings, and in the marketplaces. Thai food involves a lot of peanuts, coconut, and fish sauce, which makes for an interesting culinary experience. You’ll often see street food vendors with giant flaming woks, steam flying out into the open air, tantalizing passers by.
In Thailand, don’t miss the famous pad thai, or any of the amazing selection of curries (red, green, yellow, Massaman, Penang, etc.) that are served around the country. And, of course, be sure you try some mango sticky rice – in my opinion it’s one of the best desserts in Southeast Asia!
If you take some time to wander through the back streets and souks of Morocco, you’ll likely stumble upon some fragrant and visually striking street food stands. Not only are the savory dishes delicious in Morocco, but the orange juice and mint tea are to die for. The best part about traveling in Morocco is the incredible culture of host etiquette, where many people offer tea and biscuits to guests, customers, or passers-by.
Following your nose in Morocco may bring you to a stand where they sell tajine, a vegetable and meat stew typically served with couscous. Or, try some harira, a traditional Moroccan soup typically eaten during Ramadan. Wash it all down with a famous glass of orange juice and a chebakia, or sesame cookie.
Famous for its wide variety of hawker stands, there’s no place like Singapore for street food. Because Singapore is a mixture of different cultures and ethnicities, its culinary scene reflects that, so you can find food ranging from Chinese, to Indonesian, to Malaysian influences, to actual Singaporean food. The best part? Hawker centres are by far the cheapest eats in the city. While in Singapore, try sambal stingray, laksa, or chicken rice if you’re looking for some delicious Singaporean dishes.
What many visitors to Brazil don’t know is that this country’s culinary scene boasts much more than rice, beans, and meat, or the expensive churrascaria. In markets around the country, the street food is incredible. Boasting usually beef or chicken-inspired dishes, this place is a dream for meat lovers. However, vegetarians can also rejoice at the abundance of tropical fruits and street stands where you can pick up a juice or açai on almost every corner. The best part about Brazilian street food, though, is that on the beaches (especially in Rio de Janeiro), vendors will approach you to sell it. It’s by far the laziest and most relaxing way to enjoy street food that I’ve ever seen.
Some of Brazil’s best street foods include coxinha, a chicken dish wrapped in soft dough and fried, acaraje, a Bhian creaole-type specialty, espetinhos de picanha or coração, which are steak or chicken hearts on a stick, and pão de queijo, or Brazilian tapioca cheese bread. Our personal favorite Brazilian street food? A giant cup of açai, found primarily in Brazil in its truest form.
Arguably one of the best street food destinations in the world, India takes the cake for variety, flavor, and low prices. On the streets of most Indian towns and cities, you can find street food curries, snacks, rice dishes, and teas for less than $2 USD. Moreover, the Indian culinary norms and spices are quite different than anywhere in the world.
While traveling in India, be sure to try some dosa, or pancakes with filling, or aloo tikki, fried mashed potatoes with a variety of chutneys. Top your meal off with a mango lassi!
Compared to the richly fragrant options on this list, Denmark’s spot might confuse some readers. What has this Scandinavian country done to deserve a spot? Two things: food halls, and hot dogs. The food halls in Copenhagen are like nothing we have ever seen, with stands that serve local specialties like smorrebrod, pickled herring, and various Danish cakes. There are also a variety of international options, and there’s definitely no shortage of beer here. However, one of the most delectable street foods that Denmark has to offer is its hot dogs. Topped with sauces, pickles, and fried onions, they are absolutely delightful. Try Døp in Copenhagen for some of the best hot dogs in the city.
11. El Salvador
This small country in Central America packs a punch for cuisine. Anyone who has visited would agree that the street stand kiosks and open air markets are quite lovely and delicious. There’s also an abundance of seafood due to El Salvador’s proximity to the ocean, especially in the surf towns that dot the coast. While in El Salvador, you must try the classic domestic staple, the pupusa, a corn tortilla filled with beans, pork, and other vegetables and topped with sauce. Empanadas, soups, and tamales are also quite common street foods here.
With its delectable injera and variety of different stews, flavors and colors, Ethiopia’s street food scene is a unique and interesting one. Vegans rejoice – a lot of the food in this country is cooked and served without animal products. While there, sample the different stews and, of course, try the amazing coffee – many street vendors will roast and grind the beans right before your eyes.
Traveling in Japan is a fantastic way to spend your precious vacation days, even if you only go to eat your way around the country. Japan’s restaurants are fantastic, but eating out can add up and get extremely expensive. Therefore, street food is the best way to go in large cities like Tokyo. In places like the Tsukiji Fish Market, you can sample fresh fish right on the street, but there are also plenty of cooked street food options that may better suit your fancy.
With its vibrant and open culture, Mexican street food is a reflection of the country’s history and ambience. With lime-infused goodness, plenty of spice and heat to go around, and a solid mix of vegetables, meat, and carbs, Mexican food is a treat for the taste buds. Food around Mexico varies by region, but there are a few staple foods that are prevalent throughout the country.
While in Mexico, try the tamales, which are corn meal husks filled with marinated meats and/or beans, tacos, or chicharrones. One of our personal favorites is tostadas, or crunchy tortillas topped with beans, cheese, meat, and avocado.
15. United States
We’d be amiss if we didn’t include our own home country in this mix. Although street food takes a different form in the US than in other countries, American farmer’s markets and food trucks offer people a taste of what American street food is like. The interesting thing about American street food? It can often be just as expensive as in a restaurant (if not more). Street food here is a luxury, made cooler by the presence of international fusion food trucks and fresh food open-air market stands.
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