So much of the joy that’s experienced when exploring a new city is derived from trying new food items and discovering local delicacies. You can enjoy sublime taste adventures at sit-down eateries, fine dining establishments and their ilk; but it’s the sampling of a city’s street food that tends to provide the most memorable gustatory encounters.
1. Bangkok, Thailand
Bangkok is synonymous with street food; so much so that it’s all but impossible to visit the Thai capital without catching a glimpse (and heavenly whiff) of local vendors artfully preparing fragrant and tasty dishes. Some of the most popular street food items would include freshly prepared papaya salad, boat noodles, traditional Thai curries and for something sweet, mango sticky rice. Though the city’s streets are awash with street food vendors, some of the best in the Thai capital are to be found in Yaowarat, Bangkok’s Chinatown, and Soi 38 adjacent to Sukhumvit Road.
Singapore’s street food has reached somewhat legendary status. Frequently rated as the world’s best city for it, Singapore’s offerings reflect the diverse cultures and backgrounds from which many of its residents hail. Chinese, Malay and Indian influences add a robust flavour to the city’s street food scene.
Some of the city-state’s most iconic and must-try street food items include chilli crabs, Hainanese chicken rice and laksa, with cold soya bean milk or sugar cane juice providing the perfect beverage accompaniment. Top spots to find Singapore’s best street food include the Chinatown Complex, Lau Pa Sat Festival Market (below) and Changi Village Food Centre.
3. Istanbul, Turkey
At the crossroads of Europe and Asia, Istanbul has long exhibited a fusion of Western and Eastern cultures and cuisines. It’s therefore hardly surprising that the Turkish city’s street food is equally rich.
Some must-try street food items include the uber-popular simit (freshly baked rings of bread dipped in molasses and coated with sesame; below), lahmacun (a type of Turkish pizza), durum (flatbread wraps filled with anything from chicken and beef, to cheese and veggies) and of course the ubiquitous Turkish ice cream; of which the pistachio variety is highly recommended.
4. Mumbai, India
The bustling city of Mumbai offers visitors some of the most flavourful and aromatic street food on the planet. Try the ever popular vada pav (below), often referred to as poor man’s burger, which is a potato fritter served in a bread bun and accompanied by a host of condiments, herbs and spices.
Pani puri (crisp hollow bread roll stuffed with ingredients such as chickpeas, potatoes and spices) is another popular, must-try Mumbai staple as is the range of dosa (thin, stuffed rice flour pancakes) found at vendors at locations all over the city.
5. Marrakesh, Morocco
Expect an overwhelming feast for all the senses whenever strolling the streets of Marrakesh, in particular at the Jemaa el-Fnaa (below), the city’s famous square filled with hawkers and vendors peddling an intoxicating array of food, spices and other goods. Popular items include harira (tomato and chickpea soup), snail soup, tagines and for the adventurous eaters, sheep’s head, a local delicacy.
6. Durban, South Africa
The unique mix of cultures and ethnicities that have come together to create the eclectic South African port city has created a street food scene that is rich and varied. Primarily reflecting the Indian, Zulu and European (British and Dutch) heritages of its residents, Durban’s street food culture is arguably the best in Sub-Saharan Africa.
For the best rotis (flatbreads) you’ll ever taste, head on over to Johnny’s Rotis, open 24 hours a day. There’s also Little Gujarat in the city centre for incredible Indian fare and of course, no trip to Durban would be complete without chowing down on the famous Durban invention, Bunny Chow (below), delicious curry served in a hollowed out half loaf of bread.
7. London, UK
Inspired by the multi-cultural global influences of the city’s residents, London’s street food is as varied. Caribbean, Asian, Continental and a host of other cuisines often sit side by side in markets all over the city, creating the delightfully aromatic melting pot that is the British capital.
8. Reykjavik, Iceland
Though Reykjavik may not feature in many people’s minds as a street food destination, the Icelandic capital has for some time already, been recognised as a hot dog lover’s paradise.
Hot dogs are more than a local favourite; they’re an institution. For the best hotdogs in town, there’s simply no beating the famed Baejarins Beztu (below) in central Reykjavik, which was once even deemed the best hotdog stand in all of Europe.
9. Paris, France
Paris is known as a foodie haven. And while the city’s award-winning restaurants and sidewalk cafes most often feature on visitors’ wish lists, there’s perhaps no Parisian pleasure greater than indulging in one of France’s most beloved exports, the crepe (below).
Crepe stands and creperies can be found in many parts of the city, but some of the best are located in the Marais neighbourhood, at Marche des Enfants Rouges and in the Latin Quarter.
10. Palermo, Italy
Even though Italian food is generally best enjoyed around a table at one of the many exceptional restaurants, cafes and eateries all over the country, the Sicilian capital takes curbside dining to mouthwatering new levels.
An impressive display of street food vendors can be found throughout Palermo, dishing up such delicacies as arancini (stuffed rice balls), panelle (chickpea fritters; above), fresh fish caught daily and of course the most famous of Italian exports, authentic Sicilian pizza.
11. Portland, USA
Portland is arguably the States’ best city for street food. Find the most flavoursome meals in any of the city’s slew of food trucks and stands. Local favourites include Nong’s Khao Man Gai (below) for mouthwatering Asian fare, the Lobos Truck for California-style comfort food, Don Pedro for Portland’s best tacos and Up ‘N Smoke BBQ Pit for a taste of a real barbecue.
12. Mexico City, Mexico
Street food has a long history in Mexico, essentially dating back to pre-colonial eras when Mesoamerican locals would sell ready-made food on the streets.
Today, popular street food items found throughout the Mexican capital range from tacos al pastor (tacos filled with roast pork; above) and tostadas (fried corn tortillas with a variety of toppings) to pozole (a hearty and spicy meat stew) and tortas (the Mexicans take on the sandwich).
The Zocalo, the city’s historic centre, is a great place to start your Mexico City street food adventures, with many of the city’s finest vendors within a couple of minutes’ walking distance from the main square.
13. Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
From the super healthy acai bowls that frequent locals’ breakfast menus to the traditional Brazilian pao de queijo (cheesy bread puffs; above), the vast selection of Rio’s street food is undeniably appetising.
The city’s beaches, including the world-famous Ipanema and Copacabana, are centres for tasty street food, offering hungry diners everything from Nutella-filled tapioca crepes to empadas (pastries filled with chicken or cheese).
– TEXT BY SAUL LIPCHIK
PHOTOS: SINGAPORE PRESS HOLDINGS, 123RF.COM, MALTBY STREET MARKET FACEBOOK, INSTAGRAM
This article was originally published by Singapore Press Holdings.