There is no better way to break the ice and start a conversation about a new culture, historical period, or geographical area than over a shared meal. The allure of street food encourages us to venture out of our comfort zones and discover not only the unique flavours of regional specialities but also the heart and soul of the cultures that produce them. Some of life’s most illuminating experiences, and the unexpected enlightenment they provide, may be found on our street food adventures across the globe.
This collection of essays presents a variety of popular street cuisines from around the globe.
Argentina Street Food: Empanadas
While empanadas (filled pastries, usually savoury) can be found all across Argentina, the greatest ones come from the Salta area in the country’s northwest. Hot sauce is also unique to this area.
Australia Street Food: Meat Pies
Warming, savoury, tasty, and inexpensive. As we travelled across Australia, meat pies (don’t worry, vegetarian options are available) became a go-to for a quick bite or meal on the go. Even if you’re in the middle of nowhere (which happens a lot in Australia), you can find them at gas stations or in small cafes.
Bali (Indonesia) Street Food: Nasi Campur
One of the most common dishes served in Balinese restaurants is nasi campur. It’s just a rice bowl containing a variety of other foods. While restaurants typically make nasi campur selections for you, in Bali’s local food outlets known as warungs, you get to choose what goes into your meal. Delicious options include sate lilit, spicy tempeh, chopped vegetables, spice-rubbed beef, poultry, and tofu.
Bangladesh Street Food: Singara
Pockets of potato and vegetable mixture with spices, encased in thin dough and fried to a golden brown. The flakiness of the texture is what sets apart a good singara. Certain ones have the flakiness of savoury pie crust.
We ate a lot of singara when we were in Bangladesh because they are so cheap and easy to find.
Brazil (Bahia) Street Food: Acaraje
Although originally from the state of Bahia, the Afro-Brazilian delicacy acarajé may now be found in food stands and marketplaces all throughout the country. A mashed bean and shrimp mixture is seasoned and formed into balls or patties before being cooked in dendê oil (palm oil).
Then, it is typically topped (or stuffed, like a sandwich) with salty shrimp (camaro do sal), herbs, vegetables, and a sauce. All around Salvador’s major plazas, you can find vendors selling acarajé, but we found the best one at a local beach.
China Street Food: Jiaozi (Dumplings)
It’s nearly tough to pick just one Chinese street food item, so we’ll go with the crowd favourite, Chinese dumplings. Our favourite dumplings in China were the pork, shrimp, and leek dumplings from Da Yu Dumpling near Qingdao’s No. 6 Bathing Area. This is a fantastic example of freshness, flavour, and steaming.
Ecuador Street Food: Ceviche
We felt it was imperative to sample the local ceviche in each of the Latin American countries we visited because it appears that each country has its own special spin on the dish. With its fresh shrimp, abundant herbs, and bits of tomato, this bowl of ceviche in Ecuador from the Central Market in Quito was a close second to our favourite Peruvian ceviche (see below). Oh, and the popcorn was a great addition to the meal.
Egypt Street Food: Sugar Cane Juice
Back in December of 2011, when demonstrations were still happening in Tahrir Square, we made our first trip to Cairo, and the world’s news networks were ablaze with images of violence and protest. Our time in the city of nearly 8 million people was full of pleasant surprises like this Old Cairo sugar cane juice master. And no, we didn’t catch anything.
Georgia (Republic of) Street Food: Khachapuri
Khachapuri, Georgia’s distinctive cheese-stuffed bread, is positively oozing with deliciousness. A staple at any meal of the day in Georgian cuisine. The mildly brined cheese inside is like a diet-ruining siren call due to its salty deliciousness.
We recommend sampling a variety of khachapuri while travelling through Georgia to find your personal favourite.
Hungary Street Food: Langos
I challenge anyone to turn down fried bread doused in sour cream. For this reason, the Hungarian langos is a crowd-pleaser. If the distinct smell doesn’t lead you to the langos, your travels through any Hungarian market will.
If you eat garlic langos, not only will you be safe from vampires, but you will also likely be lonely for a few hours.
India Street Food: Aloo Tikki
From dosa in the south to tandoori specialities in the north, India’s street food is varied and delicious. Although there was a lot of competition, our favourite street food experience in Varanasi was at this aloo tikki (spiced potato chips) vendor. While the aloo tikki was tasty, the experience was elevated by the charming vendor who convinced me to help him in the kitchen.
Japan Street Food: Takoyaki
Are balls made from octopuses? Okay, thanks. A takoyaki is a hot, airy ball of dough stuffed with a mixture of chopped octopus and seasonings. Part of the fun is watching the pros quickly flip their takoyaki in a pan that resembles a cupcake tin with long toothpicks to ensure uniform cooking.
Sweet sauce, powdered seaweed (aonori), and heaping helpings of hanakatsuo are common toppings for takoyaki. As proof that not all Japanese food is extravagant or stuffy, we made sure to try takoyaki wherever we came across it during our trip to Japan.
Malaysia Street Food: Sambal Sotong
Visit Malaysia just for the food. Street food in Malaysia is a wonderful medley of flavours and styles from China and the rest of Southeast Asia. Plus, that doesn’t even begin to scratch the surface of India’s culinary offerings.
There are several street food vendors who focus solely on serving one dish, and in many cases, the family recipe has been passed down and perfected over several generations. In Georgetown, Penang, we enjoyed sambal sotong, which is squid and stink beans (petai) in roasted chilli.
Myanmar (Burma) Street Food: Mohinga
Myanmar is a landmass that bridges three distinct Asian regions: South Asia (India), East Asia (China), and Southeast Asia (Thai). In the kitchen, it also works. As a result, we were pleasantly surprised to find that Burmese cuisine well surpassed our expectations.
Mohinga (or mohinka), a soup made with rice vermicelli and fish stock flavoured with onions, garlic, ginger, and lemon grass, was a fan-favourite of ours when we visited Burma. Banana blossom slices, hard-boiled eggs, and fritters were common toppings (akyaw). This is normally served for breakfast, but try to seek it out any time of the day while you travel in Myanmar.
These are some of the so many street food items available in the. Try as many of them as you can and tell us which one was your favourite or which one would you like to try again. You can also mail us at mailto:email@example.com to tell us about any new street food which you might come to know about.