Tasting and exploring the local cuisine of a country is important to understand that country’s identity, past and present. In so many destinations you will find restaurants that offer some typical dishes and foods, though if they’re aimed at travelers you can expect to find higher-than-normal prices and watered-down flavors. Short of accepting an invitation to dine at a local’s house, the best option for you to taste the local cuisine will often be on the street.
The street is where a country’s history collides with the modern-day, where old traditions exist alongside such newfangled developments as designer stores and fast-food palaces. It’s where the poor mingle with the well-off over a light lunch, where travelers can interact with locals of all stripes and often score the best dishes at low prices.
Here is our favorite list of the best street foods all over the world that you must try when you reach your destination.
Indian Chaat contains of a family of dishes that are essentially assembled together in varying proportions, rather than cooked to a detail.
Chaat is made from a medley of ingredients like puffed rice, potato patties, and round, flattened crisps made from wheat flour, deep fried, spicy noodles made from gram flour, thin, crisp balls that are filled with salads and dipped in a tangy liquid.
The two most important ingredients in these dishes are the green chutney called Theehka chutney and the brown chutney called Meetha chutney. Theekha chutney is made from fresh cilantro, cumin seeds, green chilies, and lemon juice, while the Meetha Chutney is made from jaggery, dates, and tamarind extract, and finally, that amazing ingredient that elevates a usual dish to a creation, namely, rock salt.
Lesser mortals can also choose to cool down the spice factor with a liberal drizzle of yoghurt. While Chaat is more of a generic nomenclature and a plenty of dishes come under its umbrella.
How to make chaat
The next time you visit Jamaica don’t spend your whole holiday at your all-inclusive resort. Granted that does sound incredible but you’ll be missing out on an amazing cultural and culinary experience. On the streets of Jamaica, you’ll find a wide variety of jerk Huts, that is places where you can buy their world-famous jerk chicken.
This jerk chicken gets its name from the process through which it is prepared. Jerking the chicken basically poking it with a sharp object makes it extremely flavorful.
This amazing flavor is further enhanced by a sweet and spicy marinade. This process of cooking is what gives this dish the smoky taste that has people from all over the world crowded to get their hands on some.
How to make jerk chicken
Churros are a popular street food staple but the ones you can get on the streets of the USA don’t hold a candle to the ones you can buy in Spain.
If for some reason you’re still not convinced they’re served with chocolate (melted), that can be drizzled over the churros or come on the side for dipping.
Churros originated as a snack food making it suitable to eat them at any time of day and the history of the churro is a bit of a mystery, many people say that they originated in China and were brought to Portugal after which they arrived in Spain where they gained their iconic star shape.
Other people claim that it was created by Spanish shepherds who didn’t have access to fresh pastries made at bakeries but could easily make churros themselves.
No matter what we’re happy that the amazing churros came to be because there’s no question that they’re one of the most delicious street foods in Spain and the world as well.
How to make churros
Calzone is originated in Naples, which also happens to be the birthplace of everyone’s favorite meal the thin crust pizza.
This fact is no coincidence since calzones are in Serie basically just folded over pizzas however the experiences of eating these two meals are different enough that they are not as similar as they may seem.
The crust of a calzone is made with salted bread dough and the fillings vary from region to region inside you’ll typically find cheese such as mozzarella, ricotta, parmesan, or a combination of all three.
The calzones you buy from street vendors are significantly smaller than the ones you would get in a restaurant, making them much easier to eat as you go about your day.
This is a pretty significant criterion for street food to meet, especially if you are a traveler that has a busy schedule, this way you can enjoy incredible food native to the country you’re traveling to without sacrificing any of your sightseeing time.
How to make Calzone
If you find yourself in Turkey don’t miss out on baklava. Find yourself a street vendor and give yourself the sugar rush of a lifetime.
If you’ve never had baklava before you’re in for a real treat here. Made of several fine layers of pastry and garnished with sweetener, usually syrup or honey it makes for one of the most incredible desserts you will ever taste.
This food item is an almost universal crowd-pleaser, very few people who taste it don’t love it.
Don’t forget to explore the Turkish food scene beyond baklava, because there are many other unsung Street foods that you’ll probably end up loving. From deserts to snacks, to full meals, there’s so much to explore, so get out there and immerse yourself in culture one food at a time.
How to make baklava
Gyros can be found in food courts everywhere but you don’t know what you’re missing until you’ve tried the real thing, and that’s saying a lot because the American Gyro tastes pretty incredible.
The word Gyro refers to the way the meat is prepared. The meat which is usually either lamb, chicken, or beef is cooked on a vertical rotisserie it’s sliced directly off the rotisserie to be served when you place your order.
It can be seasoned with pretty much every spice you can imagine from garlic powder and oregano to cinnamon, and cumin. The meat of your choice is then wrapped in a delicious doughy pita and topped with tomato, onions, and lots of tzatziki sauce.
Gyro makes for a pretty filling meal which is ideal when you’re a tourist as they’ll keep you satisfied as you go about your busy day or a lazy day of lounging by the beach whichever you prefer.
How to make Gyros
Nothing quite beats hot poutine at 3:00 the morning after a night out on Montreal Saint Laurent Boulevard. While it can be found all over Canada, it’s safe to say that the province of Quebec is the place to be if you’re craving poutine.
There have been many, many variations of this Canadian dish. However, the fact of the matter is that the plain old original poutine will forever be the favorite. It’s not often that you’re no further than a stone’s throw away from a greasy spoon where you can get your poutine fix for a reasonable price.
Traditionally poutine includes French fries, cheese curds, and a whole lot of gravy. There’s a reason this greasy dish is the perfect way to end a night of drinking. However, it’s also a favorite meal for sporting events, movies, and casual hangouts with friends.
Like a lot of the entries on this list, poutine doesn’t really make for a nutrient-dense well-balanced meal, but eating street food is really about experiencing the culture, trying new things, and bonding with others over food.
How to make Poutine
In Columbia, it’s acceptable to enjoy Arepas no matter the time of day. Made of maize dough, Arepas are flat round bread that can be served with a variety of different toppings including meat, cheese, and avocado. It can be cut to form a sandwich, or simply eaten with the accompaniments on top.
This dish has a rich history, as it originated nearly 3,000 years ago in northern South America, an area that is today split into Colombia and Venezuela.
The recipe and method of preparation have changed very little since its conception, making it one of the oldest native dishes in the country, as such the Arepas is considered an important piece of the Colombian heritage.
In fact, there is actually a festival in its honor. From August to December, each of five major Colombian cities takes a turn organizing its own celebration for what is called the Colombian Arepas festival.
When in Colombia absolutely try to get your hands on this delectable food item, and if you’re there when the festival is running all the better. What better way to immerse yourself into a new culture.
How to make Arepas
Even though it’s what it sounds like pommes frites are not fried apples. Although that actually doesn’t sound horrible. Pommes Frites are in fact French fries, but they’re not just any French fries.
They’re fried twice it makes sense that Belgium would be home to some of the world’s best fries as it may actually be their birthplace. That title is up for debate as France would like to claim it for itself as well.
Regardless the Belgians have been making fries for a very long time, and they’ve gotten very good at it. To make the experience even more enjoyable, street vendors will offer you several options of condiments, there are traditional ketchup and mayonnaise but if you’re feeling adventurous you can dabble with some of the Belgian sauces provided.
If you try a different sauce each time, it will always be a new experience, that way you’ll never get bored of pommes frites.
Be warned these fries are served fresh, so they’re quite hot it’s an objective fact that fries taste better when they’re hot and fresh, but just don’t dig in with too much gusto or risk burning yourself.
How to make pommes frites
How could we go an entire article about street food without mentioning the American hot dog?
Every movie or television show set in New York City will show one of the characters buying a hot dog from a street vendor at some point. It’s inevitable.
Hot dogs get a lot of hate, but if they’re made right, they can make for a delicious meal. It’s really the toppings that make the Hot dogs. The options are endless, there are your classics ketchup, mustard, and relish, but there’s also cheese, chili, and cabbage.
Regardless of your taste, pretty much everyone can find a garnish they enjoy. Hot dogs are the staple foods of county fairs and sporting events, but they also make for a convenient meal for anyone on the go. Hot dog vendors are especially prominent in big cities like Detroit, Chicago, and New York.
Whether you’re in the city for pleasure or business, you might find yourself in a hurry and hot dogs are the perfect way to get a meal in while still having time to accomplish everything on your to-do list.
Additionally, maybe it’s because they bring back memories of barbecues, but there’s something about hot dogs that elicits feelings of summertime, celebrate the arrival of warm weather by rounding up a group of friends, and going to enjoy some of this amazing street food.
You can carry your food with you as you explore the city or you can find a park bench and simply sit and talk. Either way there’s nothing better.
How to make hot dog
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By heeding the following advice, you can drastically decrease your chances of falling ill from eating well on the street (or anywhere else, for that matter).
Hepatitis A, for example, can be transmitted through contaminated food or water; the full vaccine (two shots) protects you for at least 10 years.
In some countries, even your average tourist restaurant may not be filtering water to make ice, so always ask, or play it safe and avoid ice altogether. If you can, bring your own water bottle from home, as many hotels offer filtered water for fill-ups that way, you’ll save money and decrease plastic waste.
Use websites, guidebooks, and blogs to research what street vendors have been around for a long time, are consistently visited by non-locals without issue, and are generally popular.
When in doubt, follow the local crowds, as they’re only going to eat where the food is good and fresh, where there are lots of customers, there will be lots of turnover behind the scenes. For the same reason, avoid street stands at odd hours when it’s more likely the food has been sitting out for too long.
If it has thick skin, however, like bananas, mangoes, cucumbers, or if you can wash it off with your own filtered water, it’s fine to eat.
You can do without cold salads on your trip, but don’t forgo all healthy fruits and veggies, you may end up upsetting your stomach if you limit yourself to meats and carbs! And remember: Cooked vegetables are generally just fine. Strive for a somewhat balanced diet.
The importance of this cannot be understated. On the street you likely won’t find a sink and soap, so always carry antibacterial hand gel with you.
Take care to travel with a good first-aid kit that includes, among other items, oral rehydration salts, antacids, and antidiarrheals. But don’t reach for the latter at the first sign of a problem often a bad stomach bout only requires time, rest, bland foods, and lots of fluids.
It also pays to research what local food to ask for if you do fall ill, as the local remedy is often both tastier and more effective than plain toast and chicken broth!
Depending on where you’re going, you may want to ask your doctor about traveling with a dose of antibiotics, and instructions on when to take them, just in case.
The most unforgettable and delicious travel experiences often come at the hand of a street-food vendor. Don’t let fear prevent you from digging in a responsible way.