Iconic street foods every world traveler must try
While many travelers make it a priority to book a table at Michelin-starred restaurants around the world, some of the best food — street food — can be had for a fraction of the cost, in the most unlikely of places.
From stainless steel push carts and dubious-looking night market stalls, to kiosks and the backs of bicycles, street food is ubiquitous around the world.
From the familiar New York City hot dog and Belgian pomme frites, to the venerated Vietnamese bánh mì and lesser-known Taiwanese stinky tofu, street food comes in a palette of palate-pleasing dishes, from savory, deep-fried munchies like Amsterdam’s kroket to sweet treats like a Breton crêpe.
The Daily Meal has canvassed the globe, eating everything from crowd-pleasing gelato to a fear-inducing but oh-so-amazing spleen sandwich, to curate its list of 27 favorite street foods sure to provide any traveler – from the novice to the pro – with a memorable, moveable feast.
Takoyaki (Osaka, Japan)
Takoyaki, battered golf-ball-sized balls stuffed with octopus, are a typical street food in Japan. Made of a wheat flour-based batter and cooked in a special pan to shape the snack into a ball, the small, round treat is filled with diced or minced octopus, tempura scraps, pickled ginger and green onion. Takoyaki are drizzled with okonomi sauce (similar to Worcestershire) or mayonnaise.
Juso, the red light district in north central Osaka, is the best place to try takoyaki, as it was invented in Osaka. Look for takoyaki stalls near the train station.
Crêpes (Brittany, France)
The popular thin French pancake, usually made from wheat (crêpes de Froment) or buckwheat flour (galette), originated in Brittany in northwest France. The batter is spread onto a billig – a big, round cast-iron griddle – and spread in a circular motion with a rozell, a wooden utensil. Sweet crêpes dusted with sugar or topped with freshly-sliced fruit and savory versions stuffed with meats and cheeses are folded into cones and sold in crêperies across France, including Fleur de Blé Noir crêperie in Saint-Quay Portrieux, where visitors can take a crêpe-making class and eat the results.
Empanadas (Buenos Aires, Argentina)
Empanadas are hand-held pies stuffed with meat, cheese or vegetables and surrounded by pastry dough that is baked or fried. El Sanjuanino in Buenos Aires serves some of the best empanadas in the capital.
Tamales (Clarksdale, Miss.)
There are several stories about the origins of tamales in the Mississippi Delta, a leaf-shaped alluvial plain in Western Mississippi defined by the Mississippi and Yazoo rivers. Some say tamales were introduced during the U.S.-Mexican War, while others contend Mexican migrant workers brought tamales with them when they came to work the cotton fields. Still others contend the tamale was always in the area, with Native Americans making the snack. No matter its origins, the tamale is a staple of snack foods here.
Enthusiasts can tour the Southern Foodways Alliances Tamale Trail. A tamale here is smaller than Latin-style ones. Traditionally made with boiled or browned pork (but beef and turkey are also used) and masa or cornmeal and wrapped inside a corn husk, the bundles are simmered and have a grittier texture than those made south of the border. Some even fry their hot tamales here.
Abes BBQ serves bundles of hot tamales along with its famous barbecued pork, beef and ribs at the fabled crossroads of highways 49 and 61 (where blues pioneer Robert Johnson supposedly sold his soul to the devil in return for prowess on the guitar.
Peel-and-Eat shrimp (Oslo, Norway)
Best enjoyed dockside, fresh peel-and-eat shrimp are a popular treat in the Norwegian capital. Shrimp by the bagful can be bought at the Fisherman’s Coop or at the new Mathallen food hall.