Street food

12 Street Foods Around the World Every Traveler Must Try

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Updated on April 29, 2024

Food is not just a daily necessity that keeps our bodies properly functioning. It became a vital part that shapes cultures and tells history. Getting your essential nutrients is one thing, but finding joy in food is a whole different story. We all love indulging in a gourmet meal every once in a while, but street food seems to be deeply embedded in our cultures.

Definitely, cultures around the world have different ways of cooking food, offering a wider array of options to try. Street food remains a staple in every country, adding an edge to their cuisines. We tend to eat street food more often than we realize, yet we barely question its origins. The best part is, this kind of food is to be found in every single culture around the world.

One common thing that you may find between the roots of every street food is that they came alive during times of crisis and distress. If you happen to be a travel bug, you should actually keep this precious list tucked somewhere near to learn about the unmissable food in each country. We’ll walk you through the popular street foods in different countries and how they were brought to life.

The History of Street Food

Needless to say, street food is that kind that doesn’t need luxury kitchens or heavy machines to be prepared. You can easily find them on any street corner and with prices affordable for the majority of people. Having a deliciously satisfying meal on the go has its own feeling despite its simplicity of it.

How the idea of street food started goes a long centuries ago. Preparing and cooking foods on the street is traced back to ancient times, with the Greeks, Egyptians, and Romans dominating the scene. It narrates the first distribution point of certain food and how it was brought to life.

Street food in many cultures as a means to feed the poor, yet it became an enjoyable delicacy among the affluent through the years. Today, street food is a globalized notion and more of a culture-based meal. It no longer put a barrier between the poor and the rich as many of them became part of many restaurants’ menus.

You can also find street food from every continent in only one place if it has the pleasure of traveling all the way to different places. However, finding tacos in every country can’t beat the experience of tasting them from their original source in Mexico.

An Appetizing List of the 12 Most Popular Street Food Around the World

Every place in the world happens to have its own options of food that are worth trying. Gourmet dishes are great for telling the culinary taste of each culture, but street food can take us back in history. It reveals the simplicity of preparing a certain type of food, yet earning wide popularity for its deliciousness. In this list, you will be introduced to the most famous street food around the world and a brief history about their bringing.

1. Crepes – France

httpss://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5xICMff1pCw

Crepes are pretty much pancakes but a little thinner and more tender. They often have ruffled edges and can be made in many different ways. Some people enjoy adding a sweet drizzle on top along with some fresh fruits. Others prefer adding sweet spreads like peanut butter or jams. If you are more into savory rather than sweet, you can roll your crepe and stuff it with vegetables and other types of protein for a satisfying meal.

Crepes are perfect options for any meal throughout the day. This delicately thin dough makes delicious sweet options as well as hearty savory breakfasts. They are everywhere to be found, but, as their delicate name suggests, France is the birthplace of this earthy food. So, while wandering about the luxurious French streets, grab a crepe from any nearby street vendor.

The origins of crepes go way back to 12-century France, where they came to life in Monte Carlo. Rumors have it that the birth of these delicious pancakes was the result of an accident, a rather happy one indeed. The tale goes as follows, a French housewife spilled some porridge on a hot stove, mistakenly resulting in a thin crispy dough that became a famous street food later on.

Best place to try Crepes: Breizh Café in Paris.

2. Fish and Chips – England

Among the most scrumptious street food is the flavorful dish of fish and chips. It is quite known to be of British origins for being the most popular street food in England. Needless to say, this tasty meal is made of a handful of french fries, the English call them chips, and a couple of fried fish pieces.

This dish can be found in almost every street corner as vendors abundantly serve them on a hot large tray slung. However, we are here to destroy a notion widely known, and it is the real origins of fish and chips. They may be famous street food in England, but they are not of British roots as many people come to believe.

Fish and chips go back to the 15th century, being a prominent dish in Portugal at that time. Yes, you read that right, it originally comes from Portugal and was brought to the UK by Portuguese and Spanish refugees. The dish’s wide publicity in England makes it quite hard to believe that there was a time when the golden fried combo was nowhere to be found in the UK.

It all started during the religious conflict when the Jews were expelled from Spain, fleeing to neighboring Portugal. A few years later, the Jews were outlawed in Portugal when it fell under Spanish rule. During those times of crisis, the Jews started cooking fried fish as a means to survive; they also started selling it on the English streets during their immigration.

In the 20s, this combo became a staple street food in English cuisine, with hundreds of restaurants and trucks selling them. No one knows how the chips became part of this dish as fried fish was the main meal brought by the Spanish and Portuguese. Today, it has become a popular street food in all of Europe, where each culture pairs the dish with its own selection of sauces.

Best place to try Fish & Chips: the Golden Chippy in London.

3. Gyro – Greece

httpss://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OZZzgC8Jssk

There is so much history that you can sense in the breeze while strolling down the Greek streets. The land of mythology has always been introducing lots of fascination to the world. This civilization goes way back in time, being rich in culture and heritage. No matter how much history you take in while in Greece, you can’t miss trying its prominent street food, the gyro.

In case you don’t know what a gyro is, it is a Greek dish mainly made out of cooked meat, either chicken or pork. Some countries use beef and lamb instead. The roasted meat is paired with a mix of flavorful vegetables all wrapped in a flatbread, usually a pita. It pretty much resembles Middle Eastern shawarma. However, they look more like a cone rather than an actual wrap.

This delicacy is a quite popular type of street food in Greece, where it is believed to have been originally created. Some historians claim that it goes way back to the times of Alexander the Great. They speculate that his army used to roast meat cuts on their swords and turn them over until cooked. Others believe that the Americans were the first to ever create gyros. While there is no specific way to approve either theory, we’re grateful this street food came into being nonetheless. 

Best place to try Gyros: Yogi – Gyro in Santorini.

4. Hawawshi – Egypt

httpss://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RDrWzCd53RQ

Egypt is one of the best countries in the Middle East to savor different kinds of street food. Your trip around the Egyptian cities won’t be complete if you don’t treat yourself to some on-the-go delicacies that will take your taste buds on an unforgettable journey. While there are so many popular street foods in Egypt, Hawawshi doesn’t seem to have the same hype among tourists.

Hawawshi is a prominent fast food known all over Egypt. This traditional dish is made of minced meat married with some appetizing spices like pepper, fresh herbs, onions, and parsley all stuffed into a tender pita loaf. Some cities prefer substituting the pita with Egyptian baladi bread. No matter what kind of bread you choose, the fillings are what make all the difference. 

This creation is known to have started in Cairo and Alexandria in the 70s before making its way all over Egypt. It is said that Ahmad El Hawawsh was an Egyptian butcher who invented this flavorsome delicacy. The traditional dish, apparently, earned its name from the last name of its smart creator. Today, this street food can be found on menus of renowned restaurants as well.

Best place to try Hawawshi: Al Refaie in Cairo.

5. Banana Cue – Philippines

httpss://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QgG5PDs1XCU

Are you willing to visit the mesmerizing island of Southeast Asia, Philippines, anytime soon? You can enjoy the splendid coasts and fascinating cities all you can, but don’t forget to dig into the popular Filipino street food options. To narrow down the options for you, the banana cue should be on top of your to-do list. 

If you are looking for ways to satisfy your sweet tooth while exploring the Filipino cities, then Banana cue it is. Scattered all over the streets of the Philippines are the vendors that sell this popular street food. Its name is a combination between banana and barbecue. Although barbecue is not an included ingredient, the making of this snack pretty much resembles barbecue cooking.

The banana cue is basically Saba bananas coated with caramelized brown sugar and deeply fried. These cooked bananas then get skewered into a stick, making for an easy on-the-go snack. Saba bananas are one of the many banana varieties found on the island of Philippines. They are more often used for cooking, yet they can still be eaten raw.

There weren’t many stories regarding the beginning of the banana cue, yet there is no debate over it being a native snack to the Philippines. The Saba bananas used to make this traditional street food happen to grow on many tropical islands in Asia. It is believed that Asian people who lived in those parts of the country were the ones to start this dessert. However, there isn’t a lot more to know about its origins.

Best place to try Banana Cue: Marilyn’s Banana Cue in Manila.

6. Pommes Frites – Belgium

httpss://www.youtube.com/watch?v=a0Ts4CRsBQo

Belgium is well-known for being home to the world’s most premium chocolates. However, the lavish lifestyle of this country doesn’t eliminate the significance of its street food. We need to pay this country an attribute for being the reason that french fries came into the world. 

Pommes frites are served on the streets of Belgium with different sauces and dippings. They are usually thicker than most of the French fries we know in different places around the world. Street vendors serve pommes frites in paper cones, adding generous portions of different sauces according to your preferences. However, mayonnaise happens to be the most popular sauce used.

Despite its name, fries are not of French origin. Many claim that it was born in the French-speaking city, Namur in Belgium. Historians profess that the small potatoes were cut into thin slices and started being deep-fried during the late 1600s. It is commonly known as pommes frites and is a traditional street food popular around the Belgian streets.

It is said that the origin of French fries started in Belgium in the poor villages, especially those in Meuse Valley. Those people used to live on the fish they catch from the coursing river. However, fishing became an impossible task during the cold months of winter when the river froze. They had to find alternatives, thus potatoes became their main source of food, frying them the same way they did fish. 

During World War I, the American soldiers stationed in Belgium came in contact with those deeply fried potatoes for the first time. They brought this easy-made street food back home, serving it as a side dish with many meals. That’s why people of the modern world confuse the origin of the fries, associating it with either the American or French cultures while Belgium is the one behind the crispy fingers.

Best place to try Pommes Frites: Friterie du Miroir in Brussels.

7. Bunny Chow – South Africa

httpss://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nyaWt4Vo3L4

South Africa has a wide variety of street food for you to relish. While exploring the culture-rich streets and heritage of South Africa, make sure you take a bite of the tasteful delicacies that street vendors offer. You can try as much street food there as you want, but make sure you don’t miss the bunny chow.

Bunny chow is a popular dish served on the South African streets and is usually referred to simply as bunny. It’s a sandwich-like food where a loaf of white bread is hollowed out and filled mainly with curry along with other ingredients. Those other ingredients may vary from one region to another, including chicken, lamb, muttons, and beans. 

While this traditional street food is easily eaten by hand, it can also be served on a dish, especially when a side salad accompanies it. The side of the salad consists of chili, onion, and grated carrots. You can ditch the side and just enjoy your handful sandwich. However, the components of the side dish add an extra flavor, creating a well-balanced meal consisting of carbs, proteins, and vegetables.

Like most dishes around the globe, the origins of this street food is quite disputed. It’s commonly known that this dish was brought into being in the city of Durban in South Africa. This city is known to embrace a huge population of Indian immigrants, proposing that the Indians were the ones to create it and bring it to South Africa.

Best place to try Bunny Chow: Taj Mahal Restaurant in Cape Town.

8. Hot Dog – United States

We believe this one is the easiest guess on our list. When we say America, images of the buzzing city of New York and stands selling hot dogs around every corner pop up. Hot dogs are quite easy to prepare and eat on-the-go, and this is just what it takes to become a hot street food. Also, hot dogs are quite affordable, yet they are found far beyond the streets like in many restaurants, stadiums, random food trucks, and convenience stores.

Needless to say, hot dogs are sausages that are either cooked or grilled in a reasonable time, which is another reason that makes it classic street food. Deliciously paired with a hot bun, your meal is ready for you to devour. Additions vary greatly, depending on personal preferences. Yet, ketchup remains a hot dog’s best buddy. Reaching out for cheese, mustard, or other garnishers is your call to make.

The hot dog culture is deeply woven into the American kitchen. However, digging deep into history reveals a different story that may surprise many people. And, it claims that hot dogs are not actually native to the United States. Can you believe that? 

There is a tale about the cook of Emperor Nero, Gaius, that professes he was the one to invent those sausages, and by accident. The story goes as follows, Gaius used a knife on roasted pork that lacked some thorough cleaning, resulting in its intestines falling out. Taking the intestines off the table, he stuffed them with some spices and ground meats, and voilà! 

It may sound gross and weird, but in the end, it created the sausages that we know today. Years later, this bizarre invention traveled to Europe, and Germany was the one to bring it to the New World. Speaking of German sausages, check out the following street food on the list.

Best place to try Hot Dogs: Gene & Jude’s in Chicago.

9. Currywurst (German Sausages) – Germany

Since Germany was the one to bring the hot dog culture to America, it is essential that it has its own version of cooking sausages. Moreover, this dish happens to be the most prominent and famous street food in Germany, known as the currywurst. If you are planning on flying to Germany anytime soon, we encourage you to experience its culinary customs. 

Currywurst is the name of the sauce used to embellish this unique street food, yet Germans use it to refer to their own German Sausages. This fast-food dish is made up of pork sausages, usually fried or steamed, cut into small rounded pieces. The edge given to this little dish is the addition of the currywurst sauce to the top. This sauce is made up of curry, obviously, along with spiced ketchup and tomato paste. French fries are also served beside the sliced sausages. 

The honor of inventing this treat goes to Herta Heuwer, a food kiosk owner in Berlin in 1949. Several tales claim that she acquired curry powder and ketchup from the British soldiers. She used those two ingredients along with other spices, pouring them over pork sausage. Little did she know that her coincidental invention would be a trending street food several years later.

Best place to try Currywurst: Curry & Chili Snack Bar in Berlin.

10.

Rice is known to be a daily staple in Asian culture, especially in Southeast Asian countries. Interestingly, they use this essential carb in creating their desserts as well, resulting in the popular Thai street food that is mango sticky rice. The combination between mango and rice can seem a little odd to many cultures. It obviously has a magical impact or else this dessert wouldn’t have become the popular street food it is today.

Mango sticky rice is simply a dessert that you can find around every corner in the Thai streets. This dessert consists of steamed rice soaked in coconut milk with a pinch of salt and sugar. The bizarre mixture creates the sticky texture of the rice, hence the name. Mango slices are served as a side, with extra coconut milk poured over the whole dish.

There is no evidence of how this fascinating dessert was created, yet all tales point to Thailand as its original home to it. It’s also popular among other Southeast Asian countries, including Vietnam, Cambodia, and Laos. If you are up to tasting food ideas from a different land, go for this Asian delicacy to take a glimpse into the uniqueness of Thai cuisine.

Best place to try Mango Sticky Rice: Boonsap Thai Desserts in Bangkok.

11. Panzerotto – Italy

httpss://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9aKC30oX6S8

Without a doubt, Italy is the original home to the big P’s that we can never resist. However, there are other Italian dishes that you will be thrilled to try while exploring its mesmerizing neighborhoods. Pasta and Pizza are just the basis of Italian cuisine. Scratching the surface and getting deeper will get you in contact with the popular street food options in Italy to try on your trip, and, on this list, panzerotto dominates the food scene.

Panzerotto pretty much bears a great resemblance to calzone, but it is smaller in size and has a softer shell. It’s mainly a pastry shaped into a half hemisphere, stuffed with different types of cheeses. Tomatoes are added along with the cheeses for an extra flavor. The filled dough is then fried to become crispy and ready to eat.

This savory pie is highly devoured across Southern and Central Italy, known as its prominent street food. It originated in the Apulian cuisine in Italy in the 18th century. Recipes are usually passed down through different generations, with each fashioning its own twists. The availability of ingredients and means of cooking played a great role. So, it’s safe to say that panzerotto is basically calzone but rather fried than oven-baked.
Best place to try Panzerotto: Luini Panzerotti in Milan.

12. Empanada – Spain

httpss://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7dEyU3xEN00

 One thing you realize while exploring Spain is that its cuisine is rather impeccable and offers unique recipes. Spain is home to many traditional dishes that are quite distinct from most European cuisine, having been influenced by several cultures, especially the Moorish. If you’re planning to dig deep into Spanish history, treat yourself to its savory street food, empanada.

Stuffed doughs are always satisfyingly delicious and empanadas are no exception. Empanada is a thick dough that gets folded into a crescent-shaped pastry, with flavorsome fillings stuffed inside.  The ingredients used to fill the dough are usually potatoes, cheese, some fruits, minced meat, and other vegetables, according to preferences. Then, the whole dough gets baked in the oven until it reaches its fluffy appearance.

This traditional street food can also be found across different Latin American countries, including Mexico, Argentina, Colombia, and Venezuela. It’s also popular through other Hispanic communities in the Caribbean and Central America. Yet, Spain is where those stuffed doughs originated. According to a cookbook from the 1500s, empanadas originated in the region of Galicia.

Best place to try Empanada: La Fábrica in Barcelona.

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