Reader Recs: World’s Best Street Food

In a nod to the Society’s yearlong focus on food, we asked our National Geographic Travel Facebook fans to share the best lip-smacking street eats they’ve sampled around the globe. Their answers left us hungry for more (and wanting to book a ticket to Southeast Asia).

So grab a snack and join us on a tour of the world’s most crave-able street foods:

Jake L. kicks us off in Nepal for drool-worthy steamed dumplings known as momos. These delicious doughy pockets are typically stuffed with minced meat, and often vegetables or traditional Himalayan cheese known as chhurpi, and served with a dipping sauce. Jake suggests grabbing a plate to share with your travel companions, as this street food is, happily, both tasty and cheap.

Speaking of dumplings, Antony O. recommends heading to Chengdu, China, for the “breakfast baozi.” These “spicy dumplings make a great change from the relatively bland dumplings of the rest of China, and are a great food to wake up to on a cold morning,” he writes.

Trinidad and Tobago make the list thanks to Safia H., who gushed about the “doubles.” This popular grab-and-go sandwich, or “culinary explosion” (as Safia calls it), is composed of two slabs of fried flatbread filled with curried chick peas (channa) and often topped with mango chutney, cucumber, coconut, and a spicy pepper sauce.

Unsurprisingly, Thailand ranked high among our fans for its delicious street food. Aaron F. recommends trekking to northern Thailand for the Chiang Rai’s night bazaar, where you can “build your meal from a variety of stalls selling everything from Thai green curry to crickets.” Julie S. agreed that the night market was a must-visit, citing the fresh fruit smoothies on offer there as a highlight.

Not surprisingly, India got consistent love from our Facebook fans. Rajesh S. suggests a trip to Chandni Chowk in Delhi if you’re looking for the best street food in the country. This popular market offers a wide array of chaats (snacks)—from dahi vada (deep fried fritters soaked in savory yogurt) to flatbreads known as parantha.

Juan H. piqued our interest with talk of picarones in Lima, Peru. A visit to the Plazuela Chabuca Granda will satisfy your craving for what he describes as “warm donuts with a honey syrup.”

It seems that every time we ask about local cuisine, one dish from the Philippines rears its head: balut. Spacey J. raves about the “hard-boiled duck egg embryo,” which derives its name from the Malay word for “wrapped,” and suggests washing down the delicacy with a bottle of beer. Though it might turn some stomachs, Jomar B. shared Spacey J.’s love for balut, calling the street food “tasty and healthy.”

Ana F. had a hard time picking her favorite street food in Porto, Portugal, so she suggested starting off by trying bacalhau (codfish) with some fresh bread and cheese. To round things out, move on to francesinha, a sandwich made with ham, sausage, roasted meat, and a beer sauce. Need we say more?

Have a hankering for pork and noodles? Head to Hanoi, Vietnam, for Erin F.’s favorite street food: bún chả.”We came across a lady in the old quarter grilling the most delicious-smelling pork patties over a charcoal grill,” she writes, which led to her discovery of the grilled delight.

We round out our list with a visit to Malaysia for a taste of nasi lemak, which Agnes O. says “hits all the right notes.” If the “fragrant rice dish” that’s cooked in coconut milk and served with all manner of accoutrements doesn’t hit the spot, Agnes says the Southeast Asian nation will still have you covered. “From sweet to savory, spicy to soothing, [the country has] all sorts of street food to suit your palate.”

What’s the best street food you’ve ever tried and where can we try it? Leave your answer in the comments section for a chance to appear on Intelligent Travel.

Comments

  1. Darshak
    Mumbai
    August 31, 2015, 12:31 am

    No doubt about the chana bhatura but the best street food would definitely be Pani Puri of Mumbai. A must try & your intestines are your own risk.

  2. Sue
    Darwin
    April 29, 2015, 3:36 am

    I nominate Iced Kachang a Malayasian sweet found in throughout Singapore And Malaysia with variations called Halo Halo in the Phillippines but best variation of all used to be found at the Saturday Morning Parap Markets in Darwin. A delectable but improbable mixture of red beans, agar jelly, palm seeds, sweet corn, lots of shaved ice, multicolored sweet syrups and evaporated milk

  3. Julia
    Essex
    April 28, 2015, 10:29 am

    I don’t know whether strictly speaking you’d class this as street food but lucuma ice cream in Peru and Chile is the best thing I’ve ever eaten walking along the street! Lucuma is a fruit, but it tastes like butterscotch and was the most delicious thing I ate on my recent trip.

  4. Donna Kirk
    St. Louis, MO
    April 20, 2015, 1:53 pm

    Street food alley, adjacent to the Hmong tribal night market in Luang Prabang, Laos. Both times I’ve visited LP, I lived almost entirely on street food. For 15,000 Lao Kip (or $1.75USD) one can fill a melamine plate with spiced noodles, vegetables of every color and flavor, fresh grilled meats and fish, rices and rolls.

    Grab a cold Beer Lao and sit amidst the cacophony of languages from all nations. Meet backpacking twenty-somethings, tidy mid-lifers, and retired ex-pats exploring their options.

    As you make your way out of the alley, pick up a banana leaf lotus flower filled with Kanom Krok, a crispy, creamy coconut custard snack. A simple and grand finale to a perfect evening.

  5. Iain
    January 10, 2015, 1:53 pm

    What no mention of the wonderful Jamaican Patty? All sorts of stuffing from mince meat, chicken, shrimp or vegetarian. Hot n spicy or mild your choice. Nothing like it when coupled with a Red Stripe beer.

  6. shanley
    los angeles, ca
    November 17, 2014, 1:46 pm

    that bun cha spot in hanoi, vietnam is amazing!! i know the exact spot where that photo was taken! one of my next favorites would be street stand papaya salad in thailand :) in addition to momo in nepal! so many good foods to be had in this beautiful world of ours.

    OH and don’t forget all vietnamese coffee!!

  7. Deden
    Bandung, Indonesia
    November 17, 2014, 1:21 pm

    So sad, my country, Indonesia, I didn’t find it in this article. You can find some delicious meals such as martabak, durian ice cream, deep fried banana, gorengan, empek empek, tempe mendoan, etc.

  8. Jamie
    Phuket
    November 17, 2014, 10:40 am

    Thailand certainly is great for street food .. Mexico was also great and I’d like to mention Bolivia – I lived on salteñas! And in Honduras, the after-bar snack of choice was baleadas.

  9. Waahid Sayed
    cuttack, India
    November 15, 2014, 6:49 am

    No street food is complete without my city’s NIHARI served with delicious DAL PURI, with an addition of Peper and lemon….

  10. PSoon
    Singapore
    November 15, 2014, 4:45 am

    Penang Island’s “char koay teow” (fried flat noodles) with bean sprouts, chives, slices of fish cake, Chinese sausage, cockles and egg with a touch of local chilli paste tastes yummy! Multi racial island with great tasting street food from rojak, a dish of salad like pineapple, cucumber, turnip, tossed in a spicy prawn based sauce topped with crushed peanuts, roti chanai, pan fried pancake dipped with fish curry. In fact the list is endless.
    Suggest that you visit the Island to find out the tasty food :)

  11. Rodrigo
    St. Petersburg, Fla.
    November 15, 2014, 3:49 am

    Salteñas in Bolivia. This sumptuous baked meat and vegetable empanada is a popular mid-morning snack or weekend meal.

  12. Ana
    Nepal
    November 14, 2014, 7:50 am

    In Kathmandu, you find this amazing street stand that sells the best falafal wrap I’ve ever had. Warm pita bread stuffed with veggies, as much spicy sauce as you can handle, and the amazing falafel. The best part though, is the fries. Instead of serving them on the side, they put them directly in the wrap for a hefty meal that is an explosion of delicious flavor

  13. Christine Blau
    Washington, DC
    November 13, 2014, 9:42 am

    Mexico City tempted me with more than just tacos. I sampled homemade tamales, elote (roasted corn on the cob) with chili and queso, open-face quesadillas, and more from the stands crowding every block. Crunchy chapulines (roasted grasshoppers) fried with salt and spice were the perfect cerveza snack!

  14. Geeky Explorer
    Barcelona, Spain
    November 13, 2014, 3:47 am

    I would hardly count Francesinha as a “street food”, but it is indeed very good.
    My favorite street food was kebab in Berlin, Germany, although I think it I will enjoy it more in a market somewhere in Asia. Just never been there…YET!

    http://www.geekyexplorer.com

  15. Kat
    Australia
    November 12, 2014, 10:11 pm

    I second the Momos, they’re brilliant. Although often replicated in Thai restaurants across the world, a good Pad Thai from a street vendor is pretty much the best thing you’ll eat in Thailand, complete with crispy dried shrimp on top. South Korea has a lot of great street food for the brave (think dried squid legs).

  16. David @ That Gay Backpacker
    November 12, 2014, 8:05 pm

    Yes please. Put it all inside me immediately. One of my favourite places for street food is Oaxaca – tamales, tlayudas, empanadas, memelas, and many other varieties of deliciousness.