What better way to sample a new culture than through their food? In fact as much as the sights, the people and the culture, food is perhaps our strongest connection with a country, and as eating is something we all have in common we can all find food as a common denominator. What follows are some of the best street food places on the planet – the sorts of places where you’ll find it hard to say no to just one more…
1. Penang, Malaysia
Quite how Malaysians aren’t all obese is anyones guess. Their indiginous cuisine is a fusion of familiar Asian styles – the rich flavours of Indonesia and India, a little of the spice of Thailand and the Chinese flair for the bizarre (Frog Porridge anyone?). Combine this with the fact that the Indian and Chinese populations bring excellent versions of their own food and you have a taste explosion on almost every street corner. Penang is known across Malaysia as a culinary hotspot but any town or city from Kuala Lumpur to Kuching will have many tasty morsels for you to get acquainted with. Must try: Char Kway Teow – a tangy noodle dish full of meat and cockles. Roti Canai – A spicy curry served with delicious buttery flat breads.
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2. Mexico City, Mexico
This is a cuisine known the world over for spicy burritos and tacos, but the real deal is a different thing to the Tex-Mex fare made famous north of the border. The same dishes you get down here are just that little bit fresher and tangier, the spice has a little more kick and you know that a bit more love has gone into your spicy wrap. You probably know half of the dishes but… Must try: Taco – spicy beef filling in a fried corn shell. Pozole – A rich slow cooked stew of meat and corn.
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3. New York, NY. USA
Possibly the finest street food in the West? Definitely. You want massive hot dogs covered in onions and mustard? Fresh bagels stuffed full of meats, cheeses and salads? Slow cooked pork stuffed into a bap and served with fifty different sauces? Gigantic pizzas and burgers literally dripping with cheese and sauce?? Check, check, check… New York has an abundance of great food trucks serving anything from traditional gluttonous food to Asian fusion. Must try: The New York hot dog experience is a must. Ask a local where the best one can be found.
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4. London, UK
Controversial… London for good food? Well, believe it. The UK has shaken off that bad food rep and now, much like New York, you can indulge in some of the finest street food to be found anywhere. True, there is still plenty of rubbish and you’ll need to avoid the myriad fried chicken shacks, but head to places such as Borough Market or Soho to try fresh venison burgers, award winning sausage rolls, Jamaican classics such as jerk chicken – not to mention all the usual suspects like burritos, falafels and Indian snacks. Must try: The Brits do a mean sausage, most markets have a good sausage vendor, fill your roll with English mustard and onions.
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5. Shanghai, China
You could pick pretty much any Chinese city for it’s extensive selection of street food, but Shanghai is probably the best choice for diversity – thanks to the sheer cosmopolitan nature of the city. Assorted dumplings of the fried or steamed variety, often stuffed with tasty meat mixtures – normally pork, vegetable pancakes and barbecued meat can be found in large quantities across the city. There are also plenty of options for the brave including fried scorpions and assorted other bugs. Try them! You might be surprised… Must try: Shaokao – basically barbecue, simply follow your nose for some of the most succulent meat you could ever hope to try.
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6. Barcelona, Spain
Tapas, or more precisely pinxtos (pinchos) as they’re called in this part of Spain are ubiquitous in this fabulous city. Locals will often sit into the early hours sipping on a cold beer and chatting or arguing over small plates of tapas – so why not join them? The most popular options are Tortilla Espanola (Spanish Omlette), patatas bravas (spicy potatos) and chorizo (garlic and parprika spiced sausage). Treat the tapas more like a casual sharing snack rather than a meal – an accompaniment to good conversation and good company. Must try: albondigas – perfectly flavoured meatballs.
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7. Istanbul, Turkey
The Mediterranean cuisines are often similar between countries; olives, lamb, stuffed vineleaves, falafel and feta cheese are to be found all the way from Athens to Casablanca, via Israel and Cyprus. Istanbul however takes these flavours and makes them all it’s own. The smell of cooking meat is everywhere in this huge city and any street side cafe will serve up an excellent selection of mezze while you sit and people watch. Must try: Shwarma – barbecued lamb kebabs served in a pitta wrap. Follow that up with some real Turkish delight.
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8. Mumbai, India
Many of us are familiar with Indian food but nothing compares to that served in its home location. Mumbai, much like Shanghai, is a melting pot from across this huge country and so is one of the best places to try street food dishes from across the land. Deep fried savoury doughnuts served with a spicy curry, a plate of small delicious chutneys served with flat bread, thin crispy crepes filled with spicy potato curry… Simply walking down the road means it can be hard to choose what delicious snack to have next. Must try: Pau Bhaji – Mumbai’s original street food is a mix of spiced vegetables mashed up and served with a roasted bread roll. Wash down with hot masala chai (spiced tea).
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