From its humble beginnings to a burgeoning culinary revolution, street food has exploded in popularity over the last few years.
Street food is big business in major cities around the world. This trendy phenomenon began life in started in Asia and is now a popular culinary choice around the world.
Food can help us connect us to a destination. It can serve as a gateway to better understand people, history, and culture. What better way to get to know a new city, than sampling its selection of street food?
Best cities for street food
Street food is typically sold from vendors in public spaces. It can take the form of traditional cuisine from the area, or it can be a reimagining of classic dishes and fashion food.
You can find street food in festivals, food trucks, markets, food halls, pop up events and inside trendy food quarters. The best cities for street food tend to offer a wide selection of cuisine, fusion food and dynamic recipes.
Traditionally, street food was a cheap and easy way to eat in a destination. It’s a great way of saving money on a city break. Eat on the cheap by grabbing tasty snacks from street vendors and have a taste of local food. These days it’s become a trendy way of eating out and this is reflected in growing prices in Western countries.
Which cities have the best street food?
There are so many great cities for street food around the world, that it’s hard to know where to head to first? Each city will have their own culinary style as well as different types of dishes, vendors and foodie trends.
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The street food in Tokyo has a stellar reputation, especially when it comes to seafood. You can buy sushi, fried scallops with breadcrumbs, marinated octopuses, or grilled fish from a range of vendors across Tokyo.
Not a fan of seafood? Fear not, Japanese chefs can expertly cook a mix of vegetables and meat and offer multiple types of sauce to accompany your street food snacks.
Street food is actually less prevalent in Tokyo than in other Asian countries, so you might have to research a little harder to find those foodie hot spots in the city.
Some of the most popular street food dishes in Tokyo include Gyoza, Korokke, Yaki Tomorokoshi and Shioyaki.
Eating out in Tokyo can be pricey, which is why your best option is to hunt down those cheaper, street food vendors in the city. Whilst regular night markets aren’t common in Tokyo, you can still find food trucks in festivals and in certain parts of the city.
Head to areas such as Togoshi Ginza, Yanaka Ginza Shotengai and Harajuku to find some of the best street food in the city.
When it comes to street food, Paris might not be the first place that springs to mind, as we tend to think of fancy dining and long lunches. Especially as ‘snacking’ and eating on the street has traditionally been frowned upon in France.
Paris has had a bit of a culinary revolution in recent years thanks to immigrant communities bringing exciting dishes and flavours to the city. Now can find a variety of food trucks, markets and pop-up vendors selling a range of tasty international dishes.
Spend a weekend in Paris hunting down kebabs, crepes, dim sum, burgers and falafel and feast on the best street food Paris has to offer.
The most popular street food snack in Paris has to be crepes. You can easily find a crepe stand on almost any street in the city with locals lining up for the more popular vendors.
Typically, Parisian crepes have sweet fillings including bananas, strawberries, nutella and jam. Galettes are savoury, Breton-style pancakes made from buckwheat flour and usually come filled with cheese, ham and egg.
Some of the best crepe stands in Paris include Crêperie Genia – Vente à emporter, La Creperie – Place Jussieu and La Creperie – Joseph de Maistre Montmartre.
Colombo, Sri Lanka
Sri Lankan cuisine is known for its fiery flavour combinations and unique textures. most dishes consist primarily of rice, coconut, and locally grown fruits and vegetables. The street food scene in the capital Colombo is growing in popularity and reputation.
Colombo is a burgeoning culinary capital and is full of delicious dishes and hidden street food finds. There is plenty of choice for the discerning foodie including street vendors, colourful cafes, gourmet dining and cooking classes.
If you are short on time in the city, you can even book a Colombo street food tour and have a local guide take you to the best street food. If you have a month in Sri Lanka, you have plenty of time to explore all the best foodie places in the country. Make sure to come hungry!
Some of the most popular street food dishes include string hoppers, samosas, kottu roti, egg hoppers, fish curry and Pani Pol.
If you want to explore the local bar scene in the city, then I would get yourself on a dodgy bar crawl of Colombo.
On this Colombo bar tour, you can try some Sri Lankan alcoholic spirits and eat some ‘bites’ (Sri Lanka’s version of tapas). It’s also a good opportunity to learn more about Sri Lankan politics and culture from your friendly and well-dressed guide
Honolulu is located on Oahu’s south shore and is the capital of Hawaii, the city is considered to be the gateway to the U.S. island chain. This tropical city is more than just beautiful beaches, it’s actually a bit of a street food hot spot in Hawaii, with inventive dishes and local fusion flare.
Oahu’s food trucks reflect the cultural diversity of the island and have grown in line with the city’s rapid growth over the years.
There’s plenty of budget eats in town including poke bowls, Hawaiian plates, Spam Musubi and shave ice.
Manapua is a street food favourite in Honolulu. These are very tender buns with meat and vegetable filling. Hawaiian chefs have multiple recipes featuring ingredients like sweet potatoes, sausages, seafood, and vegetables.
Spam musubi is another street food dish you should definitely try. Imagine a sandwich made from rice, nori, and ham. This dish is kind of like sushi, but Hawaiian style.
Make sure to also try Saimin, a uniquely tasting meat broth with egg noodles, boiled eggs, crab pieces, and vegetables.
Dynamic Istanbul is one of the world’s largest cities and has a huge range of affordable street food to offer hungry visitors. You will be spoiled for gastronomic choice in this pulsating and exciting city.
There are a plethora of street vendors, pop-ups and market stalls selling tasty and affordable Turkish dishes with vibrant flavours and unique textures.
Some of the most popular street food dishes in Istanbul inlude Simit, Lahmacun, Balık-Ekmek and Tantuni.
With so many street vendors competing for attention, it can be hard to know where to start when eating your way around Istanbul. Spend some time researching your street food options on sites such as TripAdvisor, or ask the locals where they eat?
Make sure to head to some of Istanbul’s famous flea and street markets for cheap street food eat. Some of the most iconic markets include Kapali Carsi, Kadikoy Carsisi, Arasta Bazaar, Sahaflar Carsisi and Ferikoy Antika Pazari.
For the best Kokorec head to Cengelkoy Kokorecci, for Taka Balık go to Balık-ekmek and for Midye Dolma check out Mercan Midye.
Venice has a bit of a reputation for wildly overpriced food and tourist traps serving up shoddy food. Whilst there are many overpriced venues, there are also locally run Venetian restaurants, cafes and street food offerings.
Popular street food snacks in Venice include Scartossi, Cicchetti, Mozzarella in Carrozza and Polpette.
When spending a long weekend in Venice, try and visit a range of Bacari [local wine bars], to save money on food. You will also have an authentic, local experience as well. At a Bacari, you can order lovely Cicchetti snacks, which are the Venice take on tapas.
Try flavoursome Bacari snacks in Venice such as polpette (fried meatballs). Baccalà mantecato (creamed cod), or slices of grilled polenta. Prices for Bacari snacks prices tend to be around 1-2 euros per snack.
You can also eat Bacari snacks whilst you stand to save money. I ate a delicious selection of Chicchetti at ‘Ristorante Al Bagolo‘, located on Campo S. Giacomo dell’Orio.
Why not also try Mozzarella in carrozza at Rosticceria Gislon, located on San Marco, Calle de la Bissa, 5424. This delicious fried mozerella cheese sandwich is a local favoutite and is reasonably priced too.
Dining in Hong Kong is definitely a culinary adventure thanks to its impressive food scene and cooking flair. It has a growing reputation for being a messca for innovative street food that is rich and varied.
One of the most popular street food snacks in Hong Kong has to be curry fish balls which are super spicy and fragrant balls of deliciousness served in a rich curry sauce. Other street food offerings include stinky tofu, Soy-braised cuttlefish, Eggettes and Roasted sweet potato
Some of the best street food find in Hong Kong cam be found on Belcher’s Street where you can get tasty Egg Tarts. Also head to Tung Tat Food Shop for curry fish balls and then to Hop Yik Tai for Shumai.
Why not have an introduction to Cantonese cuisine with a Hong Kong food tour? Have a knowledgeable, local guide take you to Kowloon’s best food stalls and markets and find hidden foodie haunts far from the tourist path.
Mexico City, Mexico
The Mexico street food scene is hugely popular with locals and visitors, you can find everything from snacks to full-on platters of tasty treats.
Street food is sold everywhere from trucks to roadside stands, in established venues and out of random ‘hole in the wall’ joints. It’s fresh, vibrant and completely eclectic.
Some of thes best street food eats in Mexico include Tamales, Chilaquiles, Chicharrónes, Tacos and Barbacoa.
When checking out the food scene in Mexico City, the best tip is to ask where the locals eat? This will be a good indication of an authentic, street food experience. If you are learning Spanish, ordering Mexican dishes is a brilliant way to improve your language skills.
Learning a few basic phrases in Spanish can help you massively when ordering food in Mexico. Me puede dar? Translates as “can give me?”, Cuánto es? is “how much is?” and Me trae la cuenta por favor means “can you bring me the bill?”
Bangkok is one of the best cities for street food in the world and allegedly has over 500,000 street vendors to choose from. Street food is woven into the very fabric of Bangkok, you’ll find all your favourite Thai dishes being served up on street corners across the city.
Whilst Pad Thai is a tourist favourite, there are many street food dishes to choose from in Bangkok including Som Tam, Khao Soi, Khao Man Gai and Khao Niew Mamuang.
Some of Bangkok’s street food stalls even have Michelin star recognition, including Jay Fai, Guay Tiew Mu Rung Rueang and Wattanapanit
As well as being a vibrant foodie haunt, Bangkok is a thriving city full of locals, migrants, teachers and students. Many people also come to Thailand to teach English and also to study.
There are thankfully lots of online resources around if you need help writing a paper, information on how to teach English abroad, or if you are looking to save money for travel whilst living in Thailand.
Are you planning a street food trip? Where are you planning on visiting? Let me know in the comments below.
Recommended travel resources
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