11 Delicious Street Foods From Around the World

If you were to ask my husband what his favorite part of epic world travel is, he’d tell you, without hesitation, “the food!”  and at least two of our four kids agree. With culinary connoisseurs along for the ride, we take every opportunity to sample the local fare. Our very favorite places to eat? On the street!

Street food is often cheap, tasty, and in many cases, more sanitary than food cooked in restaurants (anything you can watch cooked in front of you is a safe bet), plus there’s no better way to taste the food of the people – those cheap eats enjoyed by locals of all ages and incomes. Join us for a quick tour of eleven of our all time favorite street foods.

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Gelato

We’ve had ice cream in Wittenberg, homemade custard in New England, lemon ices in Canada, but nowhere (and I mean nowhere) have we had anything better than the gelato in Venice. Gelato was first created in the Dolomite region of Italy using milk, eggs, cream, sugar and natural flavoring. The makers of this sweet treat would store snow in cold basements to turn into gelato to sell in the summertime to rich visitors to the town. With a lower fat content than the American version of ice cream, it’s a treat for your taste buds with less impact on your waistline! At about 2.50 EU for the small cone, it’s worth the cost of airfare just to close your eyes and savor the moment.

>> Read more about gelato flavors
>> Learn how to order gelato in Italy

Chicken on a stick

In New Orleans, or on the sidewalks of Seoul and a hundred other places in between. What makes this street food rock? It’s versatility. It can be had deep fried, southern style, grilled to perfect tenderness and painted with BBQ sauce, with a side of Nuoc Cham or skewered with onions caramelized to perfection on the fire. Chicken on a stick is a cross cultural phenomenon that begs to be tried wherever it’s found, just for the sake of the cultural experience of trying them all.

>> Book hostels in New Orleans

Fried dough

Beaver Tails in Canada, Elephant Ears in the midwestern USA, Churros in Mexico – by any other name it tastes as sweet. This is street food at its finest. The Ancient Egyptians ate it, and so has just about every culture since. Whether sweet, or savory, flat or in balls, with holes or without, frying dough is a cross-cultural commonality throughout history. Many cultures have special fried doughs associated with certain holidays or events, like Zeppole for Christmas in Italy, or Loukoumades for Christmas in Greece.

In the USA, you’re likely to find fried dough most often at county or state fairs throughout the summer and fall. Dough, deep fried, topped with sugar, apples, cherries, cinnamon, coconut, whipped cream, or chocolate sauce… the topping choices are endless, and what makes this sticky delight a perennial favorite on all continents.

>> Discover seven classic American food festivals

Falafel

“Falafel is not awful!” to quote my daughter, who was quite surprised to find that she really liked this fried vegetarian delight. If you’re not a meat eater, this street food definitely rocks. It’s nutritious, delicious and no animals were harmed in its making. A middle-eastern specialty made of ground chickpeas and/or fava beans that are seasoned and fried, falafel has been adopted as the national snack of Israel. The story is that the Coptic Christians first created this as a meat replacement during Lent.

Enjoyed widely across the Mediterranean-Arab world, falafal can also be found on the streets of cities in Europe, New York, LA and Chicago, to name a few. If you buy it on the street, it’s likely to come packaged in a pita bread with some salad or olives on top and a creamy white sauce that lends the perfect tang to the dish.

Shrimp cocktail

The shrimp cocktail sauce in Veracruz, Mexico is not your mother’s shrimp cocktail, so don’t expect it to come with bottled sauce. Since it’s a local delicacy, every street side cafe will have their signature version with lime, cilantro, onion, and a dash of hot sauce, but why sit down? Strolling vendors with carts and wheel barrows will be selling plastic cups of the stuff, kept cool on ice, with a plastic spoon on the side. Not classy, perhaps, but very Veracruz. For extra culture points, eat it one evening on the zocalo while watching (or dancing?) the danzon; truly, it’s not to be missed. Just makes sure the shrimp is fresh and cold.

>> Book a culinary tour of Mexico

Doners

An absolutely heavenly “sandwich” of Turkish influence that can be found cheap all over Europe, doner is traditionally made with roasted lamb meat, but sometimes beef or chicken, and salad on a round of flat bread with a tangy white yogurt sauce.  With it’s origins in Ottoman turkey and variants found as far and wide as the Philippines, Australia and the Netherlands, you’re likely to find a doner somewhere on your travels. The Germans are known for their particular spin on the “doner kebab”, with at least one doner stand in the central square of nearly every town. Order it “scharf” to get a hotter sauce and have it sprinkled with hot pepper flakes.

Poutine

Poutine is perhaps Canada’s (unofficial) national dish, and if it’s not, it should be. Affectionately nicknamed a “heart attack on a plate,” your arteries may not thank you, but your taste buds will. What is it? French fries topped with a “secret” brown gravy, topped with a special white Canadian cheese curds that squeaks against your teeth when you chew it. Its origins are disputed, but credit is generally given to Fernand Lachance who, when asked by a patron to put cheese on his take-out fry order exclaimed, “ça va faire une maudite poutine.” (“Translation – it will make a damn mess.) And so the dish was born and named all at once.

The best place to try it is in Montreal, it’s point of origin where most greasy spoon diners and any street vendor with a deep frier will be likely to have it. If you really fall in love, you can always buy the T-shirt. That’s right, this dish has it’s own t-shirt: a picture of the gravy covered, cheesy, fried goodness with the caption, “Body by Poutine.”

>> Read more about eating poutine in Canada

The street sausage

It’s available worldwide, from pushcarts in Chicago and Ottawa to the ‘burgs of Germany and beyond; everyone seems to have their local sausage that is the best and not to be missed. I say, try them all. What makes street sausage rock? Their universal appeal and the endless variety. Every culture has their own spin on sausage and as if that weren’t enough, the toppings can take an ordinary frankfurter and turn it into fusion cuisine. Case in point: the Kimchi-Bulgogi dog at New York Hotdog & Coffee on Bleeker Street in NYC.  Get a grilled Linguica from the Portugese influence near Cape Cod, or order a narrow sausage as long as your arm, served dripping out both ends of a crusty bakery roll at an alstadt fest in Germany. Where ever you go, you’re likely to find a sausage if you look!

Corn

From midwestern state fairs to street vendors throughout Central America, to push carts in Indonesia, corn is one of the only veggies, besides the potatoe, to develop a solid following as a street food. (I know, it’s actually a grain.) It’s typically sold boiled whole, or grilled, and mounted on a stick. What makes it rock are the various coatings: order it dripping with butter, or with a squeeze of lime and chile in Mexico, or sprinkled with a crumbly white cheese in Central America. Etiquette for eating it? Roll up your sleeves and prepare to get messy! The best part of street food is the ability to make a mess outside, right? If a little drips off your chin, so much the better. You just might want to carry some floss in your pocket. Corn also appears fried into fritters and if you are really lucky, you’ll find it cut off the cob cooked with little bits of sweet red pepper, dipped into paper cups and topped off with cream.

Carne asada

Most travelers enter the third world terrified of food borne illness; my Dad taught me early that the safest food to eat is that which you watch being cooked right in front of you. Enter the carne asada – grilled meat, usually minced up and served in a hot corn tortilla. A northern Mexican tradition born out of the native people’s love affair with corn made into tortillas and fire roasted meats, this delicacy is as diverse in flavor as the places you’ll find to eat them.  The unique “homemade” quality of each vendor’s specific marinade for the meat, or particular blend of toppings are what makes this dish so special, and so diverse. Be sure to try it al pastore, with pineapple, nopales (cactus paddle) mangoes, cilantro, several types of cheese and with every kind of grandma-made salsa you can manage.

Chapulines

The snack of choice in Oaxaca, Mexico, it is said that if you taste these crunchy delights, you’ll fall in love with the place and never leave. Harvested in spring through early summer, the chapulines (grasshoppers) are carefully cleaned, washed and toasted with garlic, lemon and salt seasoned with the extract of agave worms. They are tangy and crunchy, and don’t taste half bad, but personally, I have a hard time getting past the legs. You can buy chapulines all over the state of Oaxaca, piled high in woven baskets, dusted with chile, and squeezed lightly with lime. They’re a popular snack at sporting events and on weekend evenings in the Zocalo. Who knows how long they’ve been a delicacy? They were being eaten when the conquistadors arrived, and likely for many years before that. How’s that for an authentic, old school, street food that really rocks?

>> Discover ten weird food delicacies from around the world

What’s your favorite street food? Read more about eating on the street:

Photos by roboppy, Southern Foodways Alliance, Purrrpl_Haze, roboppySifu Renka, Tony Mille, Bill on Capitol Hill, annamatic3000,  Ed Yourdon, Tony Miller, martintoy

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Leave a Comment

  • Mau Cruz said at 2013-04-11T02:14:34+0000: Try the carne asada tacos, they're amazing!
  • France Busento Apasan said at 2012-11-14T08:55:18+0000: like it!
  • Shelley Renee Seale said at 2012-09-20T21:27:41+0000: Sure glad I wasn't hungry while reading this article...
  • Nick Lloyd said at 2011-11-27T07:44:39+0000: my favourite is peas pudding from the toon. toonarmy. toonarmy.
  • Lal Varghese said at 2012-01-03T01:09:54+0000: Delicious foods from around the world.
  • Sherry Hardage said at 2011-11-24T17:38:51+0000: The Chapulines in Mexico are actually quite good. As are the Charales, whole fried fish. It's the sauces that make them tasty, but both are tasty on their own. I got past my revulsion of eating whole fish and insects by thinking about eating around a turkey leg. I'm holding the leg itself, so what's so disgusting about eating the legs of insects, or the heads of a fish. When they're deep fried and sauced up, they are crunchy and have their own interesting flavors.
  • Amanda Patterson said at 2011-11-18T03:21:31+0000: Sweet potatoes. No joke they sell them on the streets of egypt for 1LE (about 0.17 USD).
  • Henzel Baleva Tumaneng said at 2011-10-31T07:29:11+0000: My favorite also with fried eggplant and boiled egg version.
  • Mariana Garcia said at 2011-07-20T19:33:40+0000: Yummers...falafel. Mmmm Doner...
  • Suy Dinh Dưỡng said at 2011-12-07T12:15:13+0000: yummy

Older comments on 11 Delicious Street Foods From Around the World

Denise Pulis
13 October 2010

very well written :)

jim humberd
13 October 2010

Each anniversary we eat in a restaurant where neither of us has ever eaten before, in such places as Athens, Monte Carlo, Hawaii, Phoenix, Dallas, Los Angeles, Palm Springs, Las Vegas, San Francisco, San Diego, a small town in Germany, and now we are in Strasbourg for our 44th.

Obviously, for our anniversary dinner we could not eat at anyplace like a McDonald’s, so we ate at the “Strasbourg Cafeteria.”

We find similar establishments the best place to eat in Paris, Rome, Prague, London, in Venice, and all those beautiful cities that have street scenes far more engrossing than the inside of any restaurant.

An order of French Fries here, a piece of fruit there, a very special loaf of bread from a Tunisian bakery in Strasbourg, topped by an ice cream cone for desert; all eaten while we walk and walk the beautiful streets of this European city.

Mary Tripp
16 October 2010

They all so so delicious…mmmmmmm love it all….

juliadevi
20 October 2010

I’m a big fan of street food… what I think I love best is all of the fresh fruit in Thailand, deliciously sweet and kept chilled on a bed of ice, with a side of chili salt…. so good!

(though I live not far from the Italian border and I eat gelato every chance I get… )

July Jones
20 October 2010

This was a fun article (falafel and gelato, represent!), but it could use some editing. “Potato” is sans “e” and there is a difference between “its” and “it’s”, so please take heed.

One of the best places for street food is Morocco. When I was there, I more or less lived off of couscous and yogurt, m’semen (bread), orange juice, tea, and soup. So good!

KKat
20 October 2010

All interesting, but surely south India’s specialty, masala dosa is missing! Yum, wafer thin lentil/rice crispy pancake with spicy potato etc. filling & a couple of dishes of sambar & coconut chutney….fantastic & cheap.

EtienneR
22 October 2010

Really interesting article. There is just a fact I would like to bring. You see, I am a French-Canadian (from Quebec) and I can say with certitude that the Poutine comes from Quebec (French-Canadian province at the east of Canada).

Also, there are 2 big hypothesis about the origin of this meal. One says that it is from Victoriaville (a city in the province of Quebec), another says that the Poutine is a drift of another meal called La Poutine Râpée (from Acadie, Quebec).

I’m glad if I helped someone know a bit more about La Poutine, a succulent fast-food meal from Quebec, Canada.

rikhav
28 December 2010

A really mouth watering listing done for the world’s best street foods. The food items considered are really worth to be in the best street foods.
Thanks for sharing the information and would really like to have some of them….

Deborah-Eve
31 December 2010

Favorite street food? Chestnuts roasting in Covent Garden, London. Best way to survive the chill and carry on an old tradition!
http://bit.ly/Quintess

manishachopra
04 January 2011

all the dishes are so delicious, specially the chicken on stick

http://www.indetourisme.com/

Tiago Fernandes
04 January 2011

Kebabs!

johnysmith
07 January 2011

Really a yummy post.I come to know about many pros and cons about the food.I am a food lover and loves to eat different types of food during my travel time.Now my next trip to Spain and want to eat food at Spain and enjoy the spanish villa for accommodation.

jessus
10 January 2011

Mm. Delicious post. Street food is one of my favourite things around the world.

A few comments from this Canadian – to Etienne: I don’t think any Canadian will disagree that poutine is Quebecois, but you can certainly get it across the country! And to the author: where in Canada did you get the lemon ices? They sound delicious, but I can’t say I’ve had them before. . .

Karine Aggery
12 January 2011

Best ice creams ever are in Argentina!

Anne Arnott
01 April 2011

When I visted Montreal last year .. my cousins so wanted me to try the so called Poutine .. they described it to me .. and even then it did nothing for me .. and now that I have seen it ..OMG I can think of nothing worse …(my opinion) in the UK (UP north) they have Chips and GRavy .. that is not for me either …. I do love other foods though. Especially Gelato .. but that is a treat too.

Amy Knauff
04 April 2011

I lived in Italy for years and loved the roasted chestnuts in the winter. Of course gelato in the summer, but I love granitas even more. An excellent summer breakfast from Rome on south is a coffee granita with panna (fresh whipped cream).

I live in Nicaragua now where they have so much street food. My favorites are raspados (sort of like a granita but with actual fruit bits in them) and mango verde with chili sauce.