Some travelers follow their head, others their heart, but me? I listen to my stomach, deciphering its rumbles and following where it directs me to go, based on which exotic flavors and authentic dishes I can’t wait to taste next.
So, from Mumbai to Mexico City, tagine to tacos, we’ve compiled a list of the places you should visit for the world’s best street eats, where to head to find the best hawker spots, as well as which must-try local treats you should get your teeth into. Enjoy and try not to drool everywhere.
Warning: this round-up of the best cities to visit for street food will make you hungry.
Mexico City, Mexico
Tostadas, tamales, and tacos… oh my! CDMX’s street food is both flavorsome and moreish – after all, it’s impossible to order just one taco.
Start with the classic tacos al pastor (pork, sometimes with pineapple), then work your way up to cow tongue and eyeball. For dessert, opt for tangy pomegranate seed sprinkled with salt and chili, served with a squeeze of lime.
Osaka’s Dotonbori district offers a street food safari of tasty delights as well as a feast for the eyes, with quirky shopfront designs, neon signs (including the famed Glico running man), and little izakaya (bars) tucked away down side streets.
Don’t miss the freshly made takoyaki – diced octopus in batter, served with takoyaki sauce, mayonnaise, and a sprinkling of bonito flakes.
Head to Istanbul’s Karakoy and Ortakoy neighborhoods to discover how Turkish street food is so much more than the traditional doner kebab (though that’s always an excellent choice).
Choose from bagel-like simit bread, kumpir stuffed baked potatoes, borek flaky pastries, and balik ekmek fish sandwiches, but leave room for sweet baklava to finish.
Hong Kong’s enduring street food culture can be a mixed bag of stomach Russian roulette for hungry tourists, but that’s part of the fun. Cheong fun steamed rice rolls soaked in a sweet soy sauce make for a sweet snack, whilst egg waffles are as delicious as they are Instagrammable.
However, if you’re feeling more adventurous, try curried fish balls, pig intestine, fermented bean curd, and that thing everyone is eating yet can’t seem to translate for you, but, hell, you’ll try it anyway!
You may be familiar with falafel, kofta, and shawarma already, but there are plenty of other Egyptian street food delicacies that haven’t yet found their way to the international food stage.
Start with a breakfast of fuul fava bean dip, best enjoyed with falafel. Then, for lunch try koshary, made with pasta, rice, and lentils, topped with a spicy tomato sauce. For dinner, go for pizza-like hawawshi, which consists of minced meat, onions, and chilies sandwiched between layers of Arabic-style bread.
Portland, United States
Portland’s renowned hipster vibe comes complete with a strong food truck presence, many which you can find parked up around town or in semi-permanent “pods.”
The cuisines on offer are niche and diverse, so bring a couple of friends along to share plates of Romanian chimney cakes, bacon cheeseburger dumplings, and panzerotti (a Portland original of one part fry bread and one part calzone).
Wash all of this down with an artisan coffee, craft beer, or glass of vino from an urban winery. I’ll bet my pierogis you’re served by a man with thick-rimmed glasses, a man bun, and twirly mustache.
Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam
Walk down the streets of Saigon and it’s impossible not to be tempted by the fragrant wafts of pho and freshly baked baguettes – a perfect example of the city’s East-meets-West cuisine. Squat on a plastic stool with your soup noodles or eat your banh mi on the go, choosing from a selection of fillings including pate, Vietnamese sausage, chicken, pickled veggies, meatballs, grilled pork, or beef.
Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
Brazil’s capital, Rio de Janeiro, is full of culinary delights; fusing Portuguese with Japanese and original Brazilian styles in its street food scene. Head to the beaches of Ipanema or Copacabana for street eats such as churrasquinho meat skewers, pao de queijo cheesy bread, pastel meat pockets akin to dumplings, and cachorro quente hot dogs.
If you still have room, then indulge your sweet tooth with tapioca crepes and chocolate churros, followed by a fresh acai juice.
The souks of Marrakech’s medina transform into a lively assortment of street food stalls, performances, and entertainment when the sun goes down, creating a festival-like atmosphere.
Have your fortune told, listen to live music, puff on a hookah pipe, then tuck into plates of tagine, fried eggplant, couscous, and a bowl of harira soup. Perhaps you could even nibble at a few local favorites, such as snails and sheep’s head, if you’re feeling brave.