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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.
Served in Japan, traditional ramen consists of thin, wheat noodles cooked in a meat- or fish-based broth. Flavored with soy sauce or miso, the dish is usually served with toppings such as sliced pork, dried seaweed, green onions, kamaboko (cured seafood), and corn. Die-hard ramen fans can even go to Shinyokohama Raumen Museum, a ramen museum in Yokohama, Japan.
The best place to try ramen is on Tokyo’s Ramen Street, a cluster of shops in the basement of Tokyo Station. Closer to home, check out Guchi’s Midnight Ramen in Boston.
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.
Pomme Frites (Brussels)
The signature street treat is Brussels is a paper cone filled with freshly fried frites. The piping hot, crispy-on-the-outside, chewy-on-the-inside, double-fried Belgium fries are ubiquitous, but the best are at Maison Antoine, a kiosk opened by Antoine Desmet and his wife in 1948.
The frites at Maison Antoine come with a choice of more than 25 sauces, from the simple ketchup to savory Provençale to spicy curry and pili-pili.
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.
Currywurst is a popular German dish made of pork sausage that is steamed, then fried, cut into slices, and topped with warm curry ketchup. Often served with french fries or bread rolls, the popular street snack is easy to find. Try Konnopke’s Imbiss, the rumored originator of currywurst.
Bánh Mì (Hanoi, Vietnam)
The bánh mì is based on the Parisian ham and pâté baguette sandwich, which was brought to the streets of Vietnam in the early 20th century during the French colonial period. A quintessential Vietnamese street vendor staple, the bánh mì, is a crusty French-style baguette stuffed with home-cured meats like pork belly or pork liver pâté, cilantro, pickled cucumber, carrot, daikon, chiles, and mayonnaise. Street vendors from Hanoi to Ho Chi Minh City sell the ubiquitous sandwiches, which have also been a favored lunch for decades. Bánhmì are easy to find, particularly near markets like the Dong Xuan Market in Hanoi.
Mango Sticky Rice (Bangkok)
Mango sticky rice is a popular dessert served in Thailand, especially during the mango season of April through June and during Thai New Year’s celebrations, but it is also eaten year-round. The sweet dish consists of a scoop of steamed sticky rice, a ladle of warm coconut milk, and a heap of sliced mangos. Street vendors all over Bangkok, especially across the street from the glittery Siam Paragon Mall and at Chatuchak Market, sell mango sticky rice from stainless steel carts.
Tanghulu is another skewered street snack popular in China and Taiwan. Peddlers on aging bicycles and tricycles cruise the streets of Shanghai with stalks of tanghulu on the back of their two- and three-wheelers. The sweet snack is various fruits strawberry and cherry tomato, and plum or hawthorn are the most traditional varieties coated in a hard sugar similar to candy apples. Other fruits including mandarin oranges, pineapples, kiwi, bananas, or grapes are becoming more popular.
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 inSaint-Quay Portrieux, where visitors can take a crêpe-making classand eat the results.
Gelato (Palermo, Italy)
Often imitated, gelato is an Italian term that means "frozen." The history of the dessert is rooted in 16th-century Italy, where, according to many accounts, a Florentine named Bernardo Buontalenti presented his gelato creation to the royal court of Caterina dei Medici. Gelato differs from ice cream in its flavor and texture. The frozen dessert is made with milk as opposed to cream, which gives the dish a lower fat content, and has less air whipped into it than ice cream, making it denser and often more intense in flavor. One of the best places to sample the treat — from affogato al café (ice cream drowned in espresso) to zuppa inglese (trifle) — is La Cremolose in Palermo.
Hot Dog (New York City)
No doubt Americans like their hot dogs. The "Hot Dog Nation" has dozens of regional varieties but the capital of Hot Dog Nation is arguably New York City, which serves its "dirty water dog" on almost every street corner in popular tourist areas around Manhattan. Given their nickname due to the warm water bath that the all-beef hot dogs in natural casings are kept in, NYC hot dogs are boiled or griddle-cooked and served on a steamed bun with condiments such as ketchup, mustard, relish, sauerkraut, and sweet chopped onions. You don’t have to walk far to find one, but if you want to pass on the cart, Gray’s Papaya and Papaya King takeout joints are perennially popular.
Walking Taco (Minneapolis)
The walking taco, a bag of corn chips filled with canned chili and fixings, is a staple of fundraisers all across small town America, according to Andrew Zimmern, who ranks it as one of America’s Top 9 Most Bizarre Foods. Some are good, but most are inedible, says Zimmern. It's commonly found in Smallville, USA but baseball fans can order it at Target Field, home to the Minnesota Twins, in Minneapolis.
No trip to Vienna is complete without trying a Vienna sausage, a long, thin frankfurter served on a bun and topped with condiments like mustard and sauerkraut. Locals flock to Schwedenplatz square where Viennese sausage carts populate the bustling square, including one from a famous opera singer whose cart serves gourmet sausages.
A staple of street-side vendors and small shop owners, shawarma is an inexpensive fast-food meal found throughout the Middle East. Lamb, chicken, or other meats are stacked with layers of fat and placed on a vertical spit and grilled for hours. Once ready, vendors shave slices of the tender meat onto pita and pile on a variety of toppings like cucumbers, tomato, onion, pickled turnip, toum, tabbouleh, fattoush, tahini, or hummus. Some vendors also stuff french fries into the shawarma. Some of the best places to try shawarma are markets like stiklâl Caddesi and Baliki Pazari.
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