From quick snacks to moveable feasts, street food can be a surprising treat, but some cities take it to a whole new level.
Despite travellers’ concerns with cleanliness, most street food is safe to eat and perfectly priced for the budget traveller.
In some cities, the best meals are on the streets.
Here’s our selection of the cities that do street food best.
You can’t avoid street food vendors in Bangkok, and you wouldn’t want to, either. Street food is a quintessential part of the Bangkok experience. Wherever you go in the city, food stalls are plentiful, and you will find a high concentration of them in busy areas. Some street vendors operate in groups, especially in local markets, which means you can go to the same place every night and have a different choice of meal. Some are even open around the clock.
Bangkok street food comes in many guises. It might be a humble cart on the side of the road, and it could be a collection of stalls in a local market or even a traditional shophouse with tables spilling out onto the pavement. If you are worried about cleanliness, our tip is to eat at busy places, as the ingredients will be fresh.
The best part is that Bangkok street food caters for breakfast, lunch and dinner.
Hong Kong, China
Hong Kong street food and the Dai Pai Dongs are legendary. Dai Pai Dongs are the bustling street food stalls found in all of Hong Kong’s neighbourhoods. They offer seafood, roasted meats, dim sum, stir fries, noodles, snacks, all types of food “on a stick”, sweets and desserts. Street food in Hong Kong is so good that the city’s Michelin guide even added a street food category!
Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
One of the world’s best beach cities has the perfect cuisine to match. Many of Brazil’s tropical fruits have been juiced and frozen into popsicles called sacoles. Crepes are very popular on the beach. The savoury options usually involve cheese or chicken, but there are also sweet ones filled with bananas and coated with sweetened condensed milk – superb for those with a sweet tooth.
Beijing has over 200 types of snacks, combining numerous flavours and varieties, such asHui, Mongolian and Manchurian ethnic flavours, and the imperial culinary styles of the Ming (1368–1644) and Qing (1636–1911) dynasties. Food streets or snack streets are always popular destinations for locals and tourists, especially at night. Many of the street vendors in Beijing are not actually on the street any more, having moved into organised food courts, where you can load cash onto a card, and which you can swipe with each vendor.
Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam
When it comes to street food, we think there is no better street cuisine than pho, and when it comes to pho, you are not going to find many places where it’s better to eat it than Ho Chi Minh City. You don’t have to limit yourself to pho, of course. There are many other vendors offering everything from delicious banh mi sandwiches to BBQ pork and rice.
Mexico City, Mexico
Street foods in Mexico include tacos, tamales, gorditas, quesadillas, empalmes, tostadas, chalupa, elote, tlayudas, cemita, pambazo, empanada, nachos, chilaquiles, fajitas and tortas, as well as fresh fruit, vegetables, beverages and soups (menudo, pozole and pancita). Most are available in the morning and the evening, as mid-afternoon is the time for the main formal meal of the day. Mexico has one of the most extensive street food cultures in Latin America, and Forbes Magazine named Mexico City as one of the foremost cities in the world for street eating. Even the humblest taco stand in Mexico City has fresh tortillas and grilled meats, or tlacoyos (fatter than tortillas) topped with favas, cheese and a dollop of green salsa.
Do you enjoy eating street food when you travel? What cities do you recommend?