When visiting other countries, trying the local cuisine is one of the best things you can do. It may push you out of your comfort zone, and it will also help you to experience a culture different from your own. Both of these can be invaluable experiences. Street food is one of the easiest, and cheapest, ways to get a taste of as many traditional food items as possible. Additionally, as a tourist, you probably have a very busy schedule and street food gives you the opportunity to save time by eating on the go. For all you foodies out there, we’ve put together a list of the ten best street foods around the world.
10. Jerk Chicken in Jamaica
The next time you’re in Jamaica, don’t spend your entire vacation drinking your troubles away at your all-inclusive resort. Granted, that does sound amazing, but you’ll be missing out on a fantastic cultural – and culinary – experience. On the streets of Jamaica, you’ll find several jerk “huts”, that is, places where you can purchase their world-famous jerk chicken. This chicken gets its name from the process through which it is prepared. Jerking (essentially poking it with a sharp object) the chicken makes it extraordinarily flavorful. This flavor is further enhanced by a sweet and spicy marinade. The fire over which the jerk chicken is cooked is made with pimento wood, which is native to the country and gives the entire experience that much more authenticity. This method of cooking is what gives jerk chicken the smoky taste that has people from all over the world swarming to get their hands on some. Like most street food, you won’t have to pay very much for a portion of jerk chicken, so don’t worry about breaking the bank in order to enjoy some. Definitely don’t pass up the opportunity to experience this wonderful part of Jamaican culture, and to potentially find a new favorite food!
9. Churros in Spain
Sure, churros are a street food staple, but the ones you can buy on the streets of America don’t hold a candle to the ones you can get in Spain. If you’ve never had the pleasure of eating a churro before, this delicious Spanish dessert is a fried choux pastry – think fried donut stick – that is sprinkled with sugar. If for some reason you’re still not convinced, they’re typically served with melted chocolate, which can be drizzled over them, or come on the side for dipping. If you have a sweet tooth, you’re definitely going to want to get your hands on some of these. As a tourist, an added plus is that churros give you the sugar boost you’ll need to get through a busy day of hiking or sightseeing. Churros originated as a snack food, making it acceptable to eat them at any time of day. The history of the churro is a bit of a mystery. Some say that they originated in China, and were brought to Portugal, after which they arrived in Spain, where they gained their now iconic star-shape. Others 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. Either way, we’re very happy that churros came to be, because there’s no question that they’re one of the best street foods in the world. There’s a reason why they’re being sold in countries worldwide. They’re just that good.
8. Currywurst in Germany
If there’s one food Germany is famous for, it’s probably sausage, so it’s no surprise that that’s what the country is making this list for. Currywurst is prepared with pork sausages, which are first steamed and then fried afterwards. Depending on where you buy it, the sausage may be served whole or sliced into smaller pieces. As you may have gathered from the name, there’s quite a bit of curry involved in Currywurst, so if that’s not your thing, maybe skip this one. However, if you’re a fan of curry, you’ll probably love this dish, because the sausage is covered with both curry ketchup and curry powder. The recipe is subject to variation throughout the country, but that’s the basic gist of it. Currywust usually comes with a serving of fries, which we can all agree make everything better. Some places will swap out the fries for bread, which is yet another fantastic carb, so we’re not complaining. This street food was first created in 1949, and since then it has become hugely popular, with approximately eight hundred million Currywursts being eaten in Germany each year. If there was ever a time to conform to the masses, it’s now. Follow the trends and next time you’re in Germany, particularly Berlin or Hamburg, treat yourself to one of these. The only thing you’ll regret (if you’re not German) is that fact that you choose to live in a country that doesn’t serve these everywhere you go.
7. Calzone in Italy
When Italian food is brought up in conversation, most people’s minds automatically go to pizza or pasta. While those two dishes are famous for a reason, we do ourselves a disservice by overlooking all the other incredible Italian foods that exist. Take calzones for example. This food item 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 theory, basically just folded over pizzas. However, the experiences of eating these two meals are different enough that they’re not as interchangeable as they may seem. The crust of a calzone is made with a salted bread dough, and the fillings vary from region to region. Inside you’ll typically find some sort of meat, like ham or salami, as well as vegetables, like onions or peppers. Of course, there will always be cheese, such as mozzarella, ricotta, Parmesan, or a combination of all three. Some regions of Italy may include ingredients like eggs or potatoes as well. Wandering the streets of Italy, calzone in hand, you’ll feel just like Ben Wyatt in Parks and Recreation. 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 important criterion for street food to meet, especially if you’re a tourist and have a busy schedule. This way, you can enjoy amazing food native to the country you’re visiting, without sacrificing any of your sightseeing time.
6. Baklava in Turkey
This is one street food that has major potential to become one of your all-time favorites, especially if you prefer sweet to savory. 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 a baklava before, you’re in for a real treat here. Made of several fine layers of pastry, and garnished with pistachios and a sweetener, usually syrup or honey, it makes for one of the most incredible desserts you will every taste. This food item is an almost universal crowd pleaser – very few people who taste it don’t love it. And good news for all you vegans out there, this is a dish you don’t have to miss out on! Traditionally, baklava is only cooked in olive oil, making it a vegan product. In fact, baklava that isn’t one hundred percent plant based is actually considered to be of lower quality. Sharing food with those close to you is a great experience, so it’s always nice to find a food item that can reach a lot of people. Baklava is probably one of the most popular Turkish street foods out there. While you definitely don’t want to skip this one, 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 desserts, 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.
5. Gyros in Greece
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 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 of 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 choosing is then wrapped in a delicious, doughy pita, and topped with tomato, onions, and lots of tzatziki sauce. You might not want to be doing much kissing after eating this, but it sure tastes amazing. Gyros often come with a side of fries, which is an added perk. If your stomach isn’t growling just hearing about this, you’re some kind of machine, because this street food is beloved for a reason. Gyros make 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 lazy day of lounging by the beach. Whichever you prefer. Greece is a particularly popular tourist destination these days. So, if you happen to find yourself there, be sure to load up on as many gyros as possible. That way, you’re guaranteed the vacation of a lifetime.
4. Poutine in Canada
Nothing quite beats a hot poutine at three in the morning after a night out on Montreal’s St. 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 a poutine. There have been many, many variations of this Canadian dish, with Italian restaurants using gnocchi instead of fries, and delis topping it off with smoked meat (how Montreal of them). In fact, even high-end restaurants have dabbled with poutine, incorporating rather pricey elements, such as foie gras, into the mix. However, despite the attempts to make poutine classier than it is, and despite the creativity of these amazing chefs, the fact of the matter is that the plain old original poutine will forever be the favorite. There’s no shortage of poutine in Quebec; it’s often not often that you’re farther 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 hang outs 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 culture, trying new things and bonding with others over food. And in Canada, there’s no better food for that than poutine. Well, except for the bonding part, maybe. Because you can’t trust anyone not to try and steal a fry from your plate.
3. Arepas in Colombia
In Columbia, it’s acceptable to enjoy arepas no matter the time of day. And, to be perfectly honest, they’re so good you could probably eat them for all three meals, and snacks too, with no issue. Made of ground maize dough, arepas are flat, round breads 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. While in Colombia, experiment with different ways of eating it until you find your favorite. This dish has a rich history, as it originated nearly three thousand years ago, in Northern South America, an area that is today split into Columbia and Venezuela. The recipe and method of preparation has changed very little since its conception, making it one of the oldest native dishes in the country. As such, the arepa is considered an important piece of the Colombian heritage. In fact, there is actually a festival in its honor. From the months of August to December, each of five major Colombian cities takes a turn organizing its own celebration, for what is called the Colombian Arepa 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! That way, you won’t just get to taste this important food item, but you’ll get to celebrate it. Not only is the festival filled with fun and food, it will be a wonderful learning experience. What better way to immerse yourself into a new culture?
2. Pommes Frites in Belgium
Even though it’s what it sounds like, pommes frites are not fried apples (although that actually doesn’t sound horrible). No, pommes frites are in fact French fries. But they’re not just any French fries. They’re fried twice, which gives them that perfect “crispy on the outside, chewy on the inside” consistency. They are, essentially, the perfect fries. 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’s the 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. Not that anyone has ever gotten tired of fries before, but you get the idea. 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. It’s difficult to be patient, especially when it comes to fries, since waiting for them to cool down is wasting valuable time that could be spent, well, enjoying said fries. So, it’s definitely understandable if you throw caution to the wind. You may end up with a bit of a burned tongue, but it’ll have been totally worth it.
1. Hot Dog in the United States
How could we go an entire post about street food without mentioning the American hotdog? 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 dog. The options are endless. There’s 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 barbeques, 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.