Food and travel, one of life’s great experience intersections. Although we enjoy our share of refined cuisine and elaborate meals at restaurants, it’s often our street food quests around the world — raw on-the-ground journeys that convey authenticity — that yield some of life’s most revealing moments and enlighten us in unexpected ways. Here is our Best Street Food Around the World guide with 50 of our favorite street food dishes from 50 different countries.
Food generally serves as a natural gateway to a more profound understanding of culture and history, people and place. Street food draws us naturally to explore, to press further afield than we otherwise might, allowing us to make greater personal discoveries not only about the flavor of local foods, but also the essence of the cultures they represent.
To those of you who agree, we preach to the culinary choir. But for others, food might be less a priority, a matter of sustenance. To you, we make the case that the active search for street food and novel street level culinary experiences not only fills the bowl, but also feeds the soul. This goes for both unusual destinations, as well as more traditional places.
Note: Street food aficionados, we use the term “street food” as shorthand for local, authentic culinary experiences. So bear with us as several of the examples in the 50 experiences below are taken from hole-in-wall restaurants, hawker food courts and fresh markets around the world.
Update: This article was originally published in March 2015 and was updated in January 2020 with additional favorite street food dishes from our recent travels.
5 Ways Street Food Quests Serve as a Tool for Exploration
1. They take your further
Use the street food dish you seek as the final destination. Many of the world’s most fascinating markets and remarkable street food stalls are found in areas well away from tourist centers and popular neighborhoods. The process of seeking out street food often creates a “mission” that takes you across town to and through neighborhoods you might otherwise not visit. If you are on an organized tour, ask your guide about local street food and work it into the itinerary or go on your own during free time.
Whether you walk or use public transport, your quest for the ultimate dumpling, bean soup, taco or curry becomes an adventure in itself, with the meal as the goal, but the journey as the unexpected payoff.
2. They take you deeper
Street food is remarkably democratic, for we all need to eat. One of the best ways to meet and engage with ordinary, local people and land the holy grail of authentic local interaction (i.e., outside of tourism and service professionals) is by sharing a plastic table, communal condiments, a bit of conversation.
If spoken language isn’t an issue we’ll often begin by asking questions about local food, which can lead to topics such as family, culture, and politics. If there is no common spoken language, we’ll practice our charade skills to inquire as to which condiments to use or how to properly tackle what we’re eating.
In any event, we find that almost everyone enjoys sharing their local cuisine with visitors. In addition, street food stands are almost always run by local people, often women entrepreneurs, so your money stays local and it's a way to travel more sustainability and support local women.
3. They help you explore your boundaries
I may not be as intrepid or adventurous a street food eater as Dan, but the search for street food definitely helps build my culinary courage. If I can't easily identify the food in front of me (e.g., it has come from a part of an animal I’m not accustomed to eating), I often shy away.
But when I find myself in a street food setting where people are excited for visitors to try their food, it’s difficult for me to say no. I often find that my fears about the food were unfounded, and I enjoy it much to my surprise.
4. They help you exercise your language skills
If you are looking to exercise your linguistic chops, there’s no better place than over a shared meal with random strangers. And if you're accompanying your meal with a cold beer, language inhibitions seem to fall away even quicker.
5. They teach you how simple it is to cook
Since you are so close to the action, street food lays it all bare. Street food chefs offer the opportunity — language skills permitting — for you to get a firsthand sense of the flow and preparation of your favorite local dishes as you admire the culinary magic up close.
After you witness a beautiful dish emerge from a tiny gas stove and a kitchen equipped with only basic tools, you begin to understand the great lessons in limitation.
50 Favorite Street Food Dishes from Around the World
The following is only the tip of the street food iceberg of possibilities, in alphabetical order so we don't get into arguments as to which country's street food is better. We include some traditional dishes as well as a few unusual suspects.
If you're concerned about eating street food for fear of getting sick, read our tips for eating local and staying healthy.
Argentina Street Food: Empanadas
Although empanadas (stuffed pastries, usually savory) are a staple of Argentine cuisine and can be found throughout the country, the best ones are from the Salta region in the northwestern part of the country. It is also the only region where hot sauce is common. Hurrah!!
Armenia Street Food: Kebabs
Although kebabs — grilled ground or chunked meat on a skewer — are not unique to Armenia, we did find that when we wanted a quick and easy Armenian snack, a kebab wrapped in lavash (flat bread) was the street food of choice.
Australia Street Food: Meat Pies
Hearty, savory, delicious and cheap. Meat pies (and don't worry, there are also vegetarian varieties) were a staple quick snack or meal during our travels throughout Australia. You can usually find them everywhere, from gas stations to small cafes, even if you are in the middle of nowhere…which does happen a lot in Australia.
Bali (Indonesia) Street Food: Nasi Campur
Nasi campur is a staple of Balinese food. It is essentially a mixed plate served with rice. Most restaurants will make the choice for you, but at warungs, the local food outlets on Bali, the nasi campur selection is up to you. You can choose from delectables such as sate lilit, spicy tempeh, chopped vegetables, spice-rubbed meat, chicken, and tofu.
Bangladesh Street Food: Singara
Singara are spiced potato and vegetable mixture pockets wrapped in a thin dough and fried. What distinguishes a good singara is how flaky the texture is. Some are so flaky, as if they're made with savory pie crust.
Singara are ubiquitous and inexpensive (as cheap as 24 for $1) and were a staple Bangladeshi food for us during our travels through Bangladesh.
Bolivia Street Food: Salteñas
Salteñas are empanada-like pockets filled with chicken or meat and finished with a distinctive slightly sweet, baked crust. The salteñas pictured below were filled with both chicken and ground beef, a boiled egg, herbs, and an olive. Spice options include fiery, hot, normal and sweet. Something for everyone traveling through Bolivia.
Bosnia and Herzegovina Street Food: Ćevapi
Walk through downtown Sarajevo and it's hard not to be gripped by the smell of ćevapi, the Bosnian national dish of grilled meat. Ćevapi is often served in installments of five or ten minced meat logs tucked into a round of flat bread. Our preference is with onions and a side of kajmak (thick cream). You won't need to eat for days after one of these meals.
Brazil (Bahia) Street Food: Acarajé
Acarajé is an Afro-Brazilian dish that comes from the Bahia region, but you can also find it at markets and street stalls in other parts of Brazil. It is made from a spiced, mashed bean mixture, usually with ground shrimp, that is made into balls or patties and fried in fried in dendê oil (palm oil).
It is then usually covered (or filled, like a sandwich) with salty shrimp (camarão do sal), herbs, vegetables and some sort of sauce. You can find acarajé stands on the main squares of Salvador, but our favorite was at a nearby beach.
Cambodia Street Food: Breakfast Banana Blossom Soup
We found our tuk-tuk driver having breakfast with other drivers when we exited the temples at Banteay Srei near Siem Reap. He invited us to join him and he introduced us to a fantastic morning soup. It consisted of a subtle yellow curry fish broth with fresh rice noodles, paper-thin chopped banana blossom, cucumber, and cabbage — all topped off with a spoonful of dark sweet sauce. A bowl of bitter herbs and long beans circulated our table for the final touch.
One of our favorite meals in all of Cambodia, with possible competition from the Cambodian dishes we learned to cook ourselves at a cooking class in Battambang.
Chile Street Food: Completo Italiano
When we arrived in Chile, we were on a mission to eat a proper completo (hot dog). Although we usually practice hot dog avoidance, these beauties were hard to resist. The one pictured here merges avocado, tomato and mayonnaise in the flag-like completo italiano.
China Street Food: Jiaozi (Dumplings)
Selecting just one street food dish from China borders on the impossible, but we'll go with the crowd favorite Chinese dumplings. Of the hundreds of dumplings we sampled in China these pork, shrimp and leek dumplings at Da Yu dumpling joint near the No. 6 bathing area in Qingdao stick out. Fresh, delicious and perfectly steamed.
Colombia Street Food: Arepa
Colombian gluten-free comfort food at its best. An arepa is a fried round of cornmeal dough. They can either be served plain, as a side starch to a meal, or stuffed with cheese (arepa de queso), egg or other fillings. The stuffed varieties are more interesting and tasty. Each region has its own arepa specialties so it’s worth trying a few different varieties as you travel around Colombia.
Ecuador Street Food: Ceviche
It seems like each country in Latin America serves its own unique style of ceviche, so we found it necessary to try it in each country we visited. While we have to admit that Peruvian ceviche is our favorite (see below), this bowl of shrimp ceviche in Ecuador with from the Central Market in Quito ran a close second with its fresh shrimp, plentiful herbs, and bits of tomato. Oh, and we were big fans of the popcorn as a side.
Egypt Street Food: Sugar Cane Juice
The first time we visited Cairo was in December 2011 when demonstrations were still taking place on Tahrir Square and news channels around the world were lit up with scenes of violence and protest. But our experience in the almost 8-million person city was filled with encounters like this one, with a friendly sugar cane juice master of Old Cairo. And in case you're wondering, we did not get sick.
El Salvador Street Food: Pupusa
Pupusas (stuffed corn tortillas) are the go-to street food of choice throughout El Salvador. Filled with refried red beans, cheese and a dash of chicharron (salty pork rinds), the pupusas below from a simple street stand east of central park in Juayua were the best we had eaten anywhere. Top with pickled vegetables and chili peppers. Delicious!
Ethiopia Street Food: Street Side Coffee Ceremony
A traditional Ethiopian coffee ceremony will likely take at least twenty minutes from start to finish for the first cup of coffee, but it is absolutely well worth the wait. You need to sample a few, and perhaps only then will you begin to fully comprehend how important coffee is to Ethiopian cuisine.
Georgia (Republic of) Street Food: Khachapuri
Khachapuri, the ubiquitous signature Georgian cheese-stuffed bread oozes gooey goodness. A common sight in Georgian cuisine — at breakfast, lunch or dinner. Because the cheese inside is mildly brined, it's salty goodness is like a diet-demolishing siren call.
There are different styles of khachapuri throughout the country, so we suggest trying them all as you travel in Georgia to find your favorite.
Germany (Berlin) Street Food: Döner Kebab
Everyone knows about döner kebabs as the ultimate in satisfying cheap eats in Berlin. But Mustafa's on Mehringdamm Street in Kreuzberg is not your typical döner. Rather than flakes of beef or veal, shavings of chicken pressed with roasted vegetables fall from Mustafa's spindle and are served with a fabulous mélange of potatoes, sweet potatoes, salad, feta-like cheese, freshly squeezed lemon and mystery sauce.
If you are vegetarian, you can also opt for pure veg. You'll know you've arrived at Mustafa's when you see the long line snaking down the street.
Greece (Crete) Street Food: Bugatsa
On the Greek island of Crete, it sometimes seemed as though all we did was eat…which is not difficult given the richness of flavors in Cretan food. In the island's main city of Heraklion, just prior to our departure, we were recommended to try bugatsa, a pastry filled with cream and/or cheese, and sprinkled with powdered sugar.
The most famous bugatsa is served at Kipkop, a bakery founded in 1922 by Armenian immigrants whose descendants dish the same original recipe to this day.
Guatemala Street Food: Chuchito
Guatemala served as our first stop in Central America. We took to street food in Antigua almost straight away, during normal time as well as in the midst of Semana Santa (Easter Week) celebrations when street food stalls were everywhere. This, a chuchito (similar to a Mexican tamale – shredded meat and vegetables stuffed in a mass of boiled, ground corn), was smothered in fresh guacamole, salsa and cabbage.
Haiti Street Food: Mayi Moulen Kole ak Legim
Lots of street food in Haiti is fried — plantains, pork, other meat bits, potatoes, etc. But if you're looking for a hearty meal for just a couple dollars, this dish of cornmeal, beans and vegetable stew (mayi moulen kole ak legim) is where it's at. The cornmeal consistency is somewhere between polenta and cream-of-wheat (or cream-of-cornmeal, as it were).
Honduras Street Food: Baleada
While the rest of Central America is all about the corn, Honduras' staple street food dish — the baleada — is made with wheat flour. And honestly, this was a relief after three months of maize. Stuffed with combinations of cheese, beans, eggs, and various meats, baleadas quickly became our Honduran comfort food.
Hungary Street Food: Langos
How can anyone resist fried bread smothered in sour cream? That is why the Hungarian langos is an easy favorite. Make your way into just about any market in Hungary and you are sure to find langos, if the signature aroma of it doesn't find you first.
Try garlic langos and you'll be vampire-free — and probably friendless for a few hours.
India Street Food: Aloo Tikki
There is so much street food goodness throughout India, from south Indian dishes like dosa to north Indian tandoori specials. Even with all this stiff competition, we'll have to go with this aloo tikki (spiced potato snacks) stand in Varanasi as one of our best street food experiences. The aloo tikki was good, but the charismatic vendor who roped me in to cook for him is what made the experience.
Note: if you do venture to eat street food in India, stick to the cooked products and be wary of fresh herb and vegetable toppings that may have been washed in unclean water.
Iran Street Food: Spiced Fava Beans
After all the kebabs and meats in Iran, we were thankful to find this vendor selling a big pile of steamed, spiced fava beans in the mountains near Kermanshah. Delicious with a dash of vinegar and red pepper. I think he found our vegetable-deprived group a bit odd as we kept coming back for additional servings.
Italy (Naples) Street Food: Seafood Fritto Misto
Italian food is all about the freshness of ingredients. Even the simplest of dishes are delicious for this reason. And this is especially so in Naples, a foodie’s paradise in the southern part of the country. This city is known for its love of all things fried, including pizza fritta (yes, that is fried pizza), but our favorite street food snack in Naples was the simple cuoppo napoletano filled with fritto misto (mixed fried things).
This simple paper cone is filled with lightly fried fresh fish and seafood (shrimp, clams, squid, octopus, etc.) straight from the fish vendors at Pignasecca market. Vegetarians, don’t despair, as you can also find fritto misto made with fried zucchini blossoms, zucchini, aubergine and more. Delicious, as well as filling.
Japan Street Food: Takoyaki
Octopus balls? Yes, please. Takoyaki are fluffy hot rounds of chopped octopus in herbed dough. All part of the experience: watching the masters quickly turn their takoyaki with long toothpicks in something that looks like a cupcake pan, so that the balls cook evenly on all sides.
Takoyaki is often topped with a sweet sauce, aonori (powdered seaweed), and ample helpings of hanakatsuo (dried bonito fish flakes). We made sure to sample takoyaki every time we found it during our trip to Japan, and it is proof that not all Japanese food is expensive or formal.
Jordan Street Food: Knafeh
Street food doesn't always have to be savory. Knafeh is a decadent Middle Eastern dessert made from a gooey, white cheese base with semolina bits baked on top and covered in sweet syrup. Though we take every opportunity we get to eat the stuff as it is prominent throughout the Middle East and Turkey, we have yet to find a knafeh better than what is served up at Habibeh Sweets in downtown Amman, Jordan.
Every person we've spoken to who has visited Jordan mentions this knafeh with a longing sigh. It's a treat on top of all the other delicious Jordanian food.
Kyrgyzstan Street Food: Samsa
Samsa are meat, onion and spice filled dough pockets. These are a staple of street food stalls, fresh markets and hillside animal markets across Kyrgyzstan. However, for the best samsa in the country, head to Osh in the south where the “Oshski samsa” is baked inside a clay tandoor oven.
Laos Street Food: Or Lam
It's possible to visit Luang Prabang and be tricked into thinking you're eating Lao food, as many restaurants pimp Thai curries as Lao food. After asking around we finally found Or Lam, a spicy stew with mushrooms, eggplant, meat, lemongrass and chilies. Also delicious (and pictured in the back of the photo below) is khai paen (spiced, dried river weed) and jaew bawng (a Lao dipping sauce). All of this goes perfectly with a cold Beer Lao.
Madagascar Street Food: Mofo Anana
One of our favorite Madagascar foods is called mofo, the country’s signature savory spiced beignet fritters or pakoras. Our prefered style was the mofo anana (literally, leafy green bread) that are fried fritters filled with leafy green strips and spices.
You can find these in markets and street (just be sure they are recently fried) throughout your travels in Madagascar, as well as on menus in restaurants and hotels.
Malaysia Street Food: Sambal Sotong
It's worth traveling to Malaysia, if only for the cuisine. Malaysian street food is a delightful melange, drawing influence from China and from across Southeast Asia. And that doesn't even touch the country's Indian food scene.
Many street food stands specialize in just one dish, and it's not uncommon to find that multiple generations have worked together to perfect their recipe. One of our favorites was sambal sotong, squid and stink beans (petai) in roasted chili in Georgetown, Penang.
Malta Street Food: Qassatat
Qassatat are a traditional Maltese savory pastry (or pastizzi) that you can find all over the island. They are round with a whole at the top so you can see the fillings. Traditional fillings include either peas or ricotta, but our favorite was the one chock full of spinach.
They might not look like big, but they are rather hearty since they have quite a bit of savory fillings. We picked up a couple of qassatat at one of the pastazzi stands at the Valletta bus station and found to be a great and filling picnic lunch during our day hikes along the coast.
Mexico (Oaxaca) Street Food: Tlayuda
When we decided where to spend two months in Mexico, we choose Oaxaca primarily because of its famous Oaxacan cuisine and street food scene. One of our favorite street food or market snacks was the tlayuda, a large semi-dried tortilla, sometimes glazed with a thin layer of unrefined pork lard called asiento, and topped with refried beans (frijol), tomatoes, avocadoes, and some variation of meat (chorizo, tasajo or cencilla, or shredded chicken tinga).
Tlayudas can either be served open, or when it’s cooked on a charcoal grill, folded in half. One is often enough to feed two people.
Myanmar (Burma) Street Food: Mohinga
Geographically, Myanmar sits at the intersection of South Asian (Indian), East Asian (Chinese), and Southeast Asian (Thai). Culinary, it does too. This was a pleasant surprise for us and Burmese food exceeded our expectations.
One of our favorite Burmese dishes was mohinga (or mohinka), a soup that includes rice vermicelli in a fish-based broth of onions, garlic, ginger, and lemon grass. It was usually topped with sliced banana blossom, boiled eggs and fritters (akyaw). This is usually served for breakfast, but try to seek it out any time of the day during your travels in Myanmar.
Nepal Street Food: Momos
It's hard for me to resist dumplings anywhere, and Nepal's momos were no exception. Served steamed or occasionally fried, momos are a staple in and around the areas of the Tibetan plateau, including all over Nepal. A perfect treat after hiking the Annapurna Circuit or another multi-day trek in Nepal.
We also recommend taking a momos cooking class in Kathmandu with Sasane Sisterhood, a social impact tour company that supports survivors of human trafficking. Delicious and it supports a great cause. We've used the recipe and technique we learned during the course to make momos as home.
Paraguay Street Food: Tereré
When it's brutally hot and humid and you're waiting hours for the bus, a shot of tereré, the national drink (nay, the national sport) of Paraguay, definitely helps. Tereré looks like yerba mate, but it is served cold and can be enjoyed for hours.
Peru Street Food: Ceviche
Peru was the culinary highlight of our travels through Latin America. The cevicheria at the Surquillo market in Lima bustles with people, especially on the weekend. A huge plate of mixed seafood ceviche runs about $4-$5. Discussions about Peruvian family life and politics are free of charge.
Portugal Street Food: Pastel de Nata
These unique flaky-crusted, creamy custard-filled treats lining the streets of Lisbon are addictive. The original pastel de nata is believed to have been made by nuns in nearby Belem where they used left over egg yolks to make the pastry's signature custard filling.
It’s hard not to stop at every bakery in Portugal showcasing these beauties in the window and sample one (or two) with a bica (local espresso).
Singapore Street Food: Hainanese Chicken
Hainanese chicken rice is a culinary specialty unique to Singapore. The description may sound unremarkable, but its flavor delights.
The dish consists of chicken broth, slices of roasted (or steamed) chicken served with cucumbers and herbs, hot sauce, sweet soy sauce, and a light chicken stock soup with vegetables. Delicious in its subtlety.
South Africa Street Food: Bunny Chow
Bunny chow is essentially a hollowed out piece of plain, white sandwich bread stuffed with curry (or masala, if you like). Rumors have it that it was designed this way to make it easy for plantation workers to take their lunch to the fields.
Bunny chow serves as culinary evidence of South Asian influence in South Africa, and more specifically in the city of Durban.
Sri Lanka Street Food: Hoppers
A hopper is a typical Sri Lankan dish that is a thin bowl-shaped pancake made from rice flour and coconut milk, often with the option of a fried egg inside. It is usually served with a simple curry for a delicious, savory snack.
They are almost as fun to eat as they are to watch being made by the masters at work on the street with their special hopper pans and smile. We found these delicious hoppers in Colombo, but you can find them throughout Sri Lanka.
St. Maarten / St. Martin Street Food: Johnny Cakes
Local food can be hard to find when visiting St. Maarten / St. Martin, but if you look enough you will indeed find it. We recommend trying a johnny cake, a fried snack made with corn meal popular throughout the Caribbean. It can be eaten on its own or on the side of soup, but it is also often cut in half like a roll to use in sandwiches.
Our favorite in St. Maarten was the johnny cake with salt fish.
Thailand Street Food: Street Side Red Curry
Thailand is where our love affair with street food really took off. In fact, it's worth visiting Thailand if only for the street food.
So while we know that Thai street food goes well beyond curries, a beautiful plate of shrimp red curry covered with fresh Thai basil was the dish got it started all those years ago on our first visit to Bangkok.
Turkey Street Food: Borek
Unfortunately, there's a lot of bad and soggy borek (stuffed thin pastry) in the world. During our visit to Istanbul en route to Iran, we became regulars for this man's crispy cheese-stuffed borek. Convenient, too, as his shop was right across the street from our flat in Beyoğlu.
Uganda Street Food: Kikomando
If you ever find yourself hungry in Kampala, Uganda then head to the Mengo Market for some kikomando. Kikomando is a filling dish made of beans mixed with slices of chapati. It isn't as common as a rolex, another beloved Ugandan street food, made of a fried egg and vegetables rolled up with chapati, but a kikomando will fill you up for the rest of the day.
In fact, it is said that if you eat a lot of it you will be strong like Arnold Schwarzenegger in the movie Commando.
Ukraine Street Food: Varenyky
I have a weakness for dumplings of all varieties, and Ukrainian varenyky are no exception.
These smallish dumplings are usually stuffed with either ground meat, potatoes, cabbage, mushrooms or cheese. You are usually offered the option of steamed or fried, and they are then topped with fried onions and served with smetana (sour cream). You'll find varenyky served at all local festivals and are a staple of any Ukrainian cafeteria or restaurant.
Uzbekistan Street Food: Plov
Plov is the Uzbek national dish. Think rice pilaf with fried julienned carrots, red pepper, caraway seeds, and chunks of meat. Plov is so ubiquitous throughout Central Asian markets and restaurants that self-described local connoisseurs can discern differences that are imperceptible to foreigners, much like the relationship Americans have with pizza and chili.
The best plov we found during our travels through Central Asia was this street-side stand in Tashkent, Uzbekistan's capital city.
Vietnam Street Food: Cha Ca
Vietnam is another incredible destination for street food lovers. During our winter visit to Hanoi we tried cha ca which is a distinct hot pot meal of fish, turmeric, dill, coriander and other greens served with noodles, peanuts, vinegar and chilies.
As with many meals in Hanoi, as well as throughout Vietnam, you'll be served piles of greens, noodles, spices, and other tasty bits to tune your dish to the precise flavor profile you seek.
Xinjiang (China) Street Food: Laghman
We place Xinjiang street food in its own category as the Xinjiang region in western China is a distinct ethnic blend of Turkic and Mongolian. So although Xinjiang cuisine shows some hints of what one might call “traditional” Chinese influence, its dishes are often quite different from mainstream Chinese food.
One of our favorites was pulled noodles, or laghman, which we enjoyed not only for the taste, but also for the flair of its preparation. Pulled noodles are tossed, beaten and pulled to ensure the right consistency before being dunked in soups and suoman, a blend of noodles, vegetables and meat.
Gluten Free Street Food Eating
If you have celiac disease or a gluten intolerance there's good and bad news about eating gluten free street food. On the positive side, most street food is cooked to order so it can be customized for your needs. Plus, you often have a chance to talk directly with the cook. On the negative side, sometimes street food stands do not speak foreign languages so communication might be difficult. In addition, they may only have one pan to fry and cook foods so you have to be very careful about cross-contamination.
To help you navigate street food so that you can eat local, but also gluten free and with confidence, check out this collection of Gluten Free Restaurant Cards created by our friend, Jodi. These restaurant cards are already in fifteen foreign languages, with more languages being added all the time, so many of the countries and dishes mentioned above are already included. These Gluten Free Restaurant Cards explain in detail, using local food names and language, your needs as a strictly gluten free eater so that you get the meal you want and need.
Jodi has celiac disease herself and is a lover of street food so she understands first-hand the importance of being able to communicate gluten free needs in detail and educate waiters and restaurants on what this means in practice. She created her series of Gluten Free Restaurant Cards in different languages to help celiac and gluten free travelers eat local with confidence, and without communication problems or getting sick.
Note: These gluten free restaurant cards are not part of an affiliate plan or a way for us to make money. We are extremely fortunate that we can eat everything, but we've seen the challenges of others who are celiac or have food intolerances where every meal can potentially make them sick or cause pain. These detailed gluten free cards were created to help prevent that from happening and make eating out fun and enjoyable when traveling.
Now it's your turn. Which street food quests have led you on an adventure?
96 thoughts on “Best Street Food Around the World: 50 Favorite Street Food Dishes”
My favorite places for street food experiences have been Thailand and Turkey. The food in both places is incredible, and so easy to find that you don’t even have to know what you’re looking for – it finds you. I love the ability to let go of food preconceptions and just enjoy whatever the culture throws at you. It’s a great way to learn about and understand a place.
Laura, really like the idea that the food finds you in certain places. So true. And I think that when using food as your guide it opens up so many other opportunities for learning and to meet people.
What a comprehensive list!! This is really interesting–I somehow missed the Bunny Chow in South Africa (can you find it in Joburg or Cape Town?) and I LOVE pupusas, so would always eat more of those.
And….I shouldn’t have read this while I was so hungry.
Heather, although Bunny Chow is a typical Durban dish, it might be possible to find it in other parts of South Africa if you know what to look for. And yes, pupusas are pretty wonderful. Found myself missing them as I put this piece together 🙂
Street food is the way to go.. you forgot to mention “Choripan” in Argentina, I am vegetarian now since many years but I am starting to salivate just thinking of it!
Rick, it was difficult to just feature one dish from each country. We did enjoy some yummy choripan — not only in Argentina, but also in neighboring countries as well. It is funny how food memories can make one salivate years and year later.
to this day, my favorite meals were cevapi I had 3 or 4 years ago! What an amazing creation! I had no idea it was thick cream, I thought it was some type of cheese.
Rachel, we’re not usually big meat eaters, but cevapi is addictive…especially Bosnian cevapi. Kaymak is so rich that it does seem like some sort of whipped cheese. There’s all sorts of dairy products in Europe that have no equivalent in United States speak 🙂
Thanks for pointing out that “street food” can be food from an actual hole in the wall restaurant. The name street food can get all kinds of reactions from people who don’t realize what it is. I have a sweet tooth and loved the chuchos in Spain. Thanks for a great list!
Jackie, I can see how some people can get turned off by the phrase “street food” without realizing that it can include hole-in-the-wall or other small, local places. Often we forget that sweets can also be street food 🙂
Getting street food was one of my favorite parts of Nicaragua. Somehow gallo pinto and yucca just tastes better off the street than in a fancy restaurant. 🙂
YES!! There is definitely something to gallo pinto tasting better when it’s cooked on a simple grill or simple gas stove. Street food is such a big part of traveling through Central America.
First time I went to Malaysia I had some so-so experiences with street food, and after all I’d heard about it I was disappointed. So before I went back I read loads of Malaysian food blogs (and boy do Malaysians like to blog about food….) and pre-planned a bit more.
And I am SO glad I did, as thanks to that I found countless gems in the most unlikely places – in Malacca I walked a couple of mils out of town to get the best Mee Goreng for breakfast I’ve ever had. In KL I found the most incredible beef noodle soup in an unlikely looking shack down an unpromising side street. In Georgetown it was a hot and sour fish soup tucked away in the back of a market. All incredible.
Sometimes it pays to wander, but sometimes a bit of planning can really help you get the best out of street food.
One of my other favourites that you haven’t already covered… prawn tamales in ‘Home of the Aztecs’ Mexcaltitan in Mexico;
Yes, planning is important, especially in places like Malaysia where there is SO much choice, and therefore different levels of quality. It’s often the planning that will make the dish/street food stand/hawker center as the destination — that will take you out of the center to find a particular vendor.
Although we spent three months in Mexico we still have so much more to explore. And although we had great tamales in Oaxaca, I don’t believe we ever had prawn ones like you describe. Adding it to the food bucket list 🙂
Wow–what a wonderfully comprehensive list of street food options around the world! And even lots of vegetarian options–a concern for me when I’m traveling. I’ve found some of my favorite food this way–empanadas in Mexico and pani puri in India. Now I’m hungry!
Oh, pani puri is one of my favorites, too! I think that street food can be beneficial for vegetarians as it’s usually possible to ask for dishes without meat, opening up more options. Glad you enjoyed this long list!
Hello! You have a beautiful blog!
I totally agree that street food is one of the best ways to get to know a new place. One place I didn’t see here is Taiwan… they have some incredible night markets dedicated to street food.
Ingrid, we’ve heard wonderful things about food in Taiwan. Sadly, we haven’t been there yet. But, perhaps it will appear in the next edition of this street food series 🙂
What a post, you’ve made me so hungry, and so sad that I can’t access all these amazing street foods in one place. Some of my absolute favourites here, and many more I would love to try! 🙂
What a beautiful post! I totally agree with #5, street food has definitely taught me to simplify my cooking. Before we visited Thailand I could never figure out why my home cooked Thai food was not quite as good as the Thai restaurants and it’s because i was over-doing everything! Watching how quickly everything was cooked up from scratch on the streets in Thailand simplified and improved my own Thai cooking by leaps and bounds 🙂
Jenny, we had a similar experience in Thailand! We were overcooking everything before we visited and after watching how people prepared curries, noodles and other dishes on the street we realized our mistake, as well as the magic of fish sauce.
So far, my favorite street food is grilled corn-on-the-cob in Sapporo, glazed with a lightly sweetened soy sauce. But I haven’t been to Peru, yet, and that ceviche looks ah-MAY-zing!
Ooh, grilled corn on the cob with a slightly sweet soy sauce sounds amazing. Savory and sweet all together. There’s actually some Japanese influence in Peruvian food. If you do visit, be sure to try tiradito in addition to the regularly amazing ceviche.
What a brilliant mouthwatering list of dishes. One other country I like to add is Lebanon. There is a variety of street food on the streets of Beirut that includes meat sandwiches, pastry, fruit, corn etc., the list is endless.
We have heard wonderful things about Lebanon, and especially Beirut, but sadly we have not yet been. We have loved all the Lebanese food we’ve eaten outside of Lebanon, but that doesn’t count for this 🙂
Thailand is where our love affair with street food also started! We are living in Thailand now, are slightly spoiled with the street food scene here! Great recap of dishes by country.
Yes, if you are living in Thailand then you are very spoiled by the street food scene!! That’s a hard one to beat. Enjoy it all!!
That bunny chow looks very interesting never saw it in South Africa last year, I am going back this summer will have to look for it!
Bunny chow is a specialty of Durban, so if you visit the city just ask anyone around for a recommendation. The one we had was near Victoria market. Delicious stuff!
Loved the the baleada in Honduras! I got my open water dive certificate in Utila and lived on baleada’s, super tasty and CHEAP!
We have fond memories of bleadas from Utila as well. Topped with some hot sauce or pickled vegetables they are perfect when you are starving and need a quick bite to eat.
Awesome post. My all time favorite street food is the kebab. Seems like every country in Europe has a kebab stand and it’s hard to mess them up. Didn’t know a lot of these though and will definitely to try them.
Not sure that I’d agree with you that it’s hard to mess up a kebab 🙂 We’ve encountered a few bad ones in Europe that had low quality meats, but we’ve found that the kebabs in Berlin are consistently pretty good.
OMG! Should not have read this on an empty stomach.. sigh. We love exploring the street food scenes too when we travel. Glad you got to try cha ca in Vietnam. 😉
The fun with street food exploration is sometimes you never know what you’ll end up with, but it’s usually pretty darn good. Glad to see that the US is finally catching on to the joys of street foods with food trucks.
I’ve never seen such a huge list of foods in a single post! and I can’t stop scrolling up and down and staring at those deliciously looking and I do know they’re all delicious and I love dumplings! and noodles! and I love this post!
When we first started this post we though it would just be around 15 items and then we kept looking through our photos and finding examples from more and more countries and just thought, “Let’s go for it all.” It’s fun traveling the world through street food 🙂
Thank you for this comprehensive list of your favorite street foods. You definitely managed to make me hungry! What stood out for me though was the excellent photos. The people made each place come more alive and the food made my mouth water. I felt like I got a beautiful world tour without leaving my comfortable chair. Well done!
Joanne, thanks for noticing the people in the photos. When I was selecting photos for this piece I purposely tried to include quite a few images with people so as to provide cultural context to the cuisine. Glad you enjoyed this!
You missed Trinidad and Tobago – Look up Doubles, Aloo Pies, Pholourie, Bake and Shark, and Currants Rolls. You can go to South Richmond Hill, NY for any of these to sample, but none beats actually getting it in Trinidad! Thoroughly enjoyed this column, and you made me so hungry!!!
We haven’t yet been to Trinidad and Tobago, but thank you for the recommendations of what dishes to look for when we do make it there!
You are making me hungry and eager to travel again–although I just got back from a five-month trip myself! Borek in Turkey is wonderful, though my mouth waters just thinking about the ubiquitous gozleme and its savory deliciousness. Acaraje in Salvador, Brazil–mmmm. Also, ditto on Taiwan as one of the world’s street-food heavens. Beef noodle soup, stinky tofu and so many other great dishes to try.
Yes, gozleme can be quite delicious as well with its spicy mixtures and flaky dough. Now I’m getting hungry thinking about it 🙂
We haven’t yet been to Brazil or Taiwan, but we’ve heard that the latter is a heaven for street food fans. Hopefully one day soon!
Nothing from Philippines? 🙁
We haven’t yet been to the Philippines, so we’ll have to do an update to this post when we have.
wow, very comprehensive, thanks (and love the pics)
Yum! This is an awesome list. I’m now so hungry!
I work with a hungarian women and occasionally she will bring in Langos- so yummy and apparently so easy to cook on your own- especially if you have a bread cooker like her.
Street food is one of my favourite things about travelling- particularly when I was in Thailand, Vietnam and Malaysia.
Langos is addictively good, especially when you get it freshly cooked. We’ve found it often at street festivals around Central Europe as well.
And yes, it’s hard to beat street food in Southeast Asia — so many choices, such high quality, and often very inexpensive so you can try many things 🙂
I love a good cheese and onion empanada … just bliss biting into them!
I love this!! Agree that it’s nice to dine in restaurants but street food is a refreshing change. Authentic is indeed the right word. It’s the best way to get a feel of the local life.
All of the food you’ve listed looks incredibly appetizing (wipes drool). I live in Thailand, which is street food heaven and one of my favorites has always been Moo ping (grilled pork skewers) that are best enjoyed with sticky rice. Another amazing country for street food is India. I just love Masala corn!
Fantastic collection! 🙂
It’s nice to mix things up between restaurants and street food, especially as you can usually try different types of local dishes in each. After your mention of moo ping, I’m rather nostalgic and hungry for Thailand again…been too long since our last visit.
what about Marrakesh square in morocco ? the biggest restaurant of street foods in Africa.
Bordo, we haven’t yet been to Morocco so that is why it’s not on this list. We do hope to visit soon and will definitely check out Marrakesh Square for street food when we do!
Amazing discoveries and photos. It must have been so difficult deciding which dishes to include! You’ve got some of my favorites: pupusas, takoyaki, any dumpling from anywhere, and of course those delicious soups from SEA… We have found that food plays a more and more important role in our travels. Sharing a meal forges friendships and opens doors that you may never discover otherwise. In fact, our series, Food for Thought, focuses on just this topic: the intersection of food, culture and travel. We’ve loved hearing the perspectives of other travelers on the role food plays for them. (We’d also love to have you take part if you have the time!)
Yes, for some countries (e.g., Thailand, Malaysia, Mexico) it was quite difficult to decide what to include. So many great options! Great to hear that you’re also looking into the intersection of food and culture in your Food for Thought series. Happy to take part!
Oh gosh, we were drooling. But just thinking, do you have a post on vegetarian street food? It might be interesting to see just so that we don’t feel left out. 🙂
Although we do eat lots of vegetarian food, we are not vegetarians and don’t have a street food post dedicated to that. However, if you take a look at many of the dishes above you’ll find that they can easily be ordered vegetarian — for example, Thai red curry with tofu instead of shrimp, empanadas with veg filling, momos stuffed with potatoes, etc.
Argggh this post has made me sooo hungry! Loved this list and now hungering for flaky delicious borek! I do note though that where I expected a mention of koshari you highlighted sugarcane juice instead for Egypt – in my books koshari wins, any time! Also – love that you couldn’t pick one specific street food for Malaysia or Thailand… There’s Just. So. Much. To. Eat.
Although we did hear lots about koshari, including how it may be the most carb-heavy dish in the world, we still haven’t tried it yet as we were usually grabbing foul or other small dishes like that on the streets. It’s something for our next visit to Egypt 🙂
Yes I was also expecting to see koshari listed for Egypt! In fact, it was the first thing that popped in my head when I saw the title of this post before reading amything in it! That is a must-try in Egypt! Very simple ingredients, but it does take me some time to cook when I prepare it. Macaroni, spaghetti, rice, lentils, chickpeas, spices, fried onions, the special tomato sauce, the special vinegar sauce, and I also make the yogurt cucumber sauce too (the last part is not an Egyptian tradition with this meal, but it is for others and i love it with this meal).
Khoshari has been recommended to us quite a few times. It’s always good to leave something on the table to try during our next visit 🙂
Audrey and Dan,
Kak dyela ! Greetings from our Moscow hotel room where the wi-fi and the water pressure is surprisingly strong. Just got back from a huge outdoor bazaar where, amidst all the trinkets, we stumbled upon some delicious lamb and pork kebabs cooked on charcoal grills, paired with toasted bread and pickled everything, that was the tastiest lunch yet. Now your post has my mouth watering and ready to explore our dinner options. Thanks much for this encyclopedic reference manual for street food, which makes this finicky eater quite a bit more adventurous. Maybe now I will go for the borscht.
On a personal note, gotta say every time I check in with you, I am so inspired by your very real stories and exquisite photographs, to the point of tears. The travel advice and insights into people and cultures you share is invaluable. You are amazing human beings, just wonderful ambassadors, who put the be-ing in your unique sense of humanism. My wife and I do our best to emulate you, by being curious, respectful, and joyful. I like to think that we are trying to cultivate our appreciation of this earth and its people somewhat like the kid from Wheeler Avenue and his wife do daily. Thank you, I mean spacibo.
The next two weeks we will discover Warsaw — we’re already salivating for the sausages and pierogies–then Istanbul, where your readers have also clued me in to the fantastic cuisine there, and finally, Barcelona.
Keep on creating your beautiful body of work, continue to be safe, healthy, and happy. You guys are my heroes.
With much appreciation and admiration,
(from Linden Street)
Frank, so great to hear from you. Your lunch sounds terrific. We’ll look forward to your report on borscht. We love it, especially when it’s made well.
As I try to respond to the rest of your message, I’m at a loss other than to say truly thank you. We are humbled beyond words. And grateful, too.
As for the rest of your travels, they sound really terrific. In Warsaw, check out the Uprising Museum. Although it’s not uplifting (little about WWII is), it’s well done and worth a visit. Also, there’s a little cafe just down the street (turn left out the museum exit). Good, down-home pirogies and beer if that sounds good to you.
In Istanbul, there’s always Taksim and Istiklal Caddesi for some photogenic shops. But If it’s the little local you’re after, walk through the little hill neighborhoods, in the direction of Cihangir street, down the hlll in the direction of Tophane, Either there (or somewhere else in Istanbul), try Çiğ köfte, raw meat, bulgur and spices, usually dashed with sauce, greens and rolled into a durum (like a Turkish tortilla). It’s pretty terrific.
Finally in Barcelona, the Boqueria covered market. I remember a lunch of sautéed mushrooms and some other tapas with Audrey during our honeymoon trip years ago. Oh, and Irati, the Basque tapas restaurant in Barcelona. It’s been years since we’ve been there, but the “pay by the toothpick” method was memorable.
Have a great trip! And thank you again for such kind and truly motivating words.
Really enjoyed this. Have to say a little green with envy. Will share to our FB page :)P
Thanks, Katie. Really glad you enjoyed it!
Street food is awesome everywhere. I think it is the real taste of every place you visit. Sure that are the good restaurants you wish to visit for an elegant evening, but tasting as much of a city’s street food as you can is the best thing!
Absolutely, Lidia. It has become possible to find “good” food, refined restaurant food just about anywhere in the world. The question for me is always: where in they way of food can I find the truest expression of the culture? Where can I find something unique, different and something that is accessible to the average citizen of the place that I’m visiting. For me, that’s street food.
Dan and Audrey,
And so good to hear from you. Never had the borscht, but pea soup with sausage in Warsaw sure put a smile in my belly. Past few days here were, by design, full of beer and pierogies, the Breakfast, Lunch, and Dinner of Champions while on vacation in Poland ! My wife is of Russian/Polish descent ( a virtual cement mixer for ALL food, while I’m finicky ) and I can state unequivocally, that Polish food is much preferred, simply my kind of delicious.
Just today incidentally, we toured the Uprising Museum for over 4 hours, reading, photographing, and imagining the heroism amidst the fear and unconscionable horror. The museum details a story and perspective not told in the States. As you have reminded me through the years, be it food or history, the personal experience of indulging your very own taste buds and listening to natives, tells a truth no culinary opinion or propaganda can subvert.
Thanks for the advice on Istanbul and Barcelona, especially the specific delicacies and establishments. We hear great things about the friendliness of the Turks and the unique spices in their foods. And we won’t be buying any rugs and definitely won’t feign Canadian citizenship ! And then tapas and everything Gaudi in Barcelona, can you believe I may not want to go back to my beloved Scranton, where we can rightly boast of our many fine pizza joints–(when I mention Buona, Granteeds, Pappas, etc., I think you’re instinctively salivating now, Dan– == and the thought of a few dripping Coney Island Texas Weiners helps to ease the transition back.
You know how I feel about you , what you do and how you magnificently do it…..
All Good things for you, always,
Ah, Frank, now you have me salivating 🙂 I wrote that before I even read the last sentence of your comment.
Sounds like you had a terrific trip. Glad you didn’t make any of the same mistakes we might have made (e.g., parading as someone from another country). By the way, your focus on beer and pierogies reminds me of our latest article about a day trip to Szczecin, Poland.
All the best!
What a comprehensive and delicious guide. I am so glad you reminded me about langos – we only had one really great one in Hungary, but when it’s great it is GREAT.
My favourite street food ever is the simple falafel we had in Syria, where they make them by the hundreds and fill a little paper sack for you to take away. They cost about 10 cents each and are delicious.
So sad that we can’t go back, at least for now.
Thanks, Jane. Really glad you enjoyed the article and it brought you back to a memory of langos!
Your story of Syria is just one of the many threads of sadness of that situation. Circumstances change. That one cannot change soon enough.
Have seen most of this list before, still savoring it now.. Makes my mouth water.
Glad to hear it, Sutapa. Nice to see you again!
Awesome post. I love street food! I’m currently staying in Thailand for awhile and I primarily eat street food here. I also like the angle you put on street food and how it pushes our exploratory boundaries. An enjoyable read. Cheers and happy travels!
Thanks, Wayne. Glad you enjoyed it, especially the food as exploration angle.
As for Thai food, it’s some of the best value for money on the street food scene. Eat well!
My goodness, this is such an amazing round-up of incredible eats. Every single one is worthy of a trip! Thanks so much for putting together this guide. My new checklist!
Thanks, Lori. Glad you enjoyed it…and especially glad that it qualifies as your new checklist. A nice endorsement!
A passenger gets pleasure both physically and mentally by taking of street food rather than restaurant. Spices, elements and recipes are mixed properly with the street food. It runs traditionally by the culture of a nation. Also this carries the food chain about any country. Now time to explore the culture of the nation by tasting of the street food.
I don’t think the green stuff that takoyaki are topped with is oregano! I believe it’s nori – dried seaweed.
Thanks for catching this! Yes, it is dried seaweed strips or aonori (powdered seaweed) that is sprinkled on takoyaki. I’ve corrected the description accordingly!
Not trying to nitpick here, but the Malaysian dish you featured is ‘sambal sotong’ (squid with sambal). The beans are petai, not fava beans. I think petai is also known as stink beans.
Very beautiful post 🙂
Thank you for the correction. We’ve made the update. Not sure how that bit of culinary blindness slipped through the cracks. Glad you enjoyed the post!
I was expecting tteokbokki (spicy rice cake) will be on the list. But it’s good to know new street foods from the other countries. I was also expecting the street foods from the Philippines.
There’s so much great street food in the world, and we have only tasted a portion of it all. It’s a lifelong journey of exploration 🙂 As we haven’t yet been to the Philippines, we didn’t list street food from there. When we do visit, we’ll be sure to update the list!
That is an awesome list. Travelling and working for food, I have had the pleasure to eat about half of those. The plov, kunafeh, and manti brought a smile to my face. Good memories
One of my favourites has been labaneh (I don’t know how to spell that; the closest I’ve found is “labneh” referring to just cheese) from a Druze vendor near the Syrian border in the Golan Hights (Israel). Promptly named “Druze pizza” by my friends, it’s sort of like a cross between yiros/kebab and a cheese toasty: thin, round flatbread spread first with feta and then with hyssop sauce, folded up into a neat pocket and fried golden-brown on the outside. I discovered a few hours later that my dairy allergy extends to goat milk, but the mixture of tangy cheese and hyssop was delicious, and made a welcome change from weeks of shuwarma, falafel, and chummos!
There was also a bowl of fried pita strips to nibble as it was being cooked… I don’t know what they were seasoned in, but they were crisp, a little bit oily, and very more-ish.
Another favourite of mine has been “insta-juice” in Singapore: go up to the stand, point out whatever fruits or vegetables you want, they’re put in a blender with ice and handed to you in a cup with a straw. Lots of countries sell fresh juice on the street, but I’ve yet to find anywhere that can beat a stall in Singapore on a hot day. That might just be childhood memories, though.
Ooh, the description you gave of the “Druze pizza” sounds delicious! We had Druze food in Jordan, but not this dish you described.
I think the best street food of India is pani puri nt alu tikki
What a great article – and your pictures are great !!! I just discover your blog and I love it ! We travelled quite a lot and we also enjoyed the empanadas in Costa Rica, the Ceviche in Peru or the Pad Thai in Thailand. Food is such a great theme and a good reason to travel. I’ll be in touch !
How can I get the recipe for all these yammy dishes?
Maani from Australia
I wish we had the recipes for all of these dishes, but sadly we don’t. We just enjoyed eating them all 🙂 Maybe just look up the names on google with “Recipe” attached and then start cooking!
U can try South Indian Cusine as well
Ah, we love South Indian cuisine, Vikas. We are big fans of dosa / dosai. Some of our favorite food. Check our article on South Indian food:
We should have included it in this list!
This is an unbelievable list! Thank you so much for sharing. I am an avid lover of street food everywhere. I love seeing the food right in front of me and being able to motion at what I want, especially if I can’t speak the local language. This list has my mouth watering!
Glad you enjoyed this, Que. We are with you — right in front of you, fresh. Street food lovers of the world unite!
They all left me feeling hungry but if I had to choose I’d go with the Cambodian Morning Soup, nyam!
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