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.