5 countries with the best street food

Photo Courtesy of mxwegele

Street food is the colloquial term given to food eaten on the streets, and not prepared in sit down restaurants. Street food dining is informal and usually paid with cash.

For both travellers and Foodie’s alike, experimenting with street food is definitely part of immersing yourself in a new country and becomes part of the journey. Experiencing the local cuisine is an enchanting way to get to know a country from its roots.

Just quickly – If your new to travelling you may want to check out my other blog Is it safe to eat street food? (Overseas) before reading this one.

The late and well loved Anthony Bordain is quoted as saying “Street food I believe, is the salvation of the human race”.

Ok so as you can see Anthony Bourdain LOVED his street food, and I am sure you will to.

Street food is a reflection of a country’s history, culture, access to ingredients and their creativity. Across the globe street food pioneers the way for dishes to make their way onto restaurant menus. Street food is also like “Mums cooking” as the street food vendors are PRO at cooking their signature dishes! Its such a genuine human interaction stopping to sit and relax amongst others, as the whirl of life goes-on around you, as you take a small break to eat and re-fuel. Its not uncommon to see locals ‘dining out’ at their favourite street food vendor night after night.

Before we dive into the blog I want to quickly point out that I have not travelled to every country in the world and therefore these 5 countries I have selected are based purely off my own travels. Everyone has different taste, style and likes. To keep this blog article succinct, I have tried to stay away from sweets and desserts and just stick to main dishes.

Hot tip: Street food vendors work very hard. There’s no need to barter or haggle on price. The food is usually very cheap and ive never been given the “tourist-tax” by any street food vendors.

Not in order of favourites, but just 5 counties which I encountered which had the best street food are as follows:

Thailand

What’s on the menu:

  • Pad Thai & Pad See Ew  – Variations of Thai Stir Fry Noodles
  • Satay – skewers of meat, mostly chicken
  • Kai Jeow – Thai Omelette
  • Laksa – Curry style dish

Where: Bangkok with it’s backpacker scene is well known for its street food, particularly along areas like Khao-San Road. The city of Phuket also has lots to choose from, as do the popular scuba diving destination of Koh Toa and Koh Samui.

Cost: $1- $3 USD

Flavour: Lots of flavour! That signature Thai mix of sweet and spicy. Peanut and satay sauces, sweet chili. Or step it up and go HOT! Thailand’s street food sellers will gladly give you a hefty pile of chilli. But be prepared.

Healthiness: 7/10. Depending on how oily the meal is and what kind of sauce you add, Thai street food is heavy on vegetables and pretty healthy overall.

Unique menu items you can find:

Scorpion – Oven dried, tastes similar to a potato chip

Ducks beaks – never tried it, comment and let me know!

Vietnam

What’s on the menu:

  • Bahn Mi  – French style baguette with fresh cilantro, lettuce, onion, tomato and pork slices. Buttered and with a splash of sweet chilli sauce
  • Pho – Vietnamese rice noodles in broth. Super healthy and comes in many flavours.
  • Bun Cha – Pork roasted over coals on BBQ’s
  • Vietnamese Coffee – Strong sweet coffee made with sweetened condensed milk

Where: Every major city or small town. From Hanoi in the North to Ho-Chi-Minh city in the South of Vietnam has street food readily available.

Cost: $1 – $2 USD

Flavour: Vietnamese street food is an amazing blend of fresh vegetable zest, with a hint of spice but not too much. The tangy flavour combinations are un-forgettable.

Healthiness: 8/10. Vietnamese street food features lots of vegetables and comparatively less oil and fats than other street foods. Overall very healthy

Unique menu items you can find

Snake Vodka  – Vodka which has had a snake ferment in it ( I did not try this)

Snake heart – You can buy to eat a beating snake heart from vendors on popular tourist strips in Vietnam. This is not really a local dish but more of a money maker for locals to gie tourists an experience. ( I did not try this)

The fabled 10cent beer in Hanoi –  Its real. In Vietnam if you are lucky you will find the mystical 10 cent beers. In Hanoi vendors walk around with home-made beer in big aluminium keg barrels and pump you out a cup full on request. Actually tastes good.

 Bird foetus – A fertilised bird egg which is halfway to hatching is then boiled. Its quite confronting to see. ( I did not try this)

Mexico

What’s on the menu:

  • Tacos – Fish tacos, vegetarian tacos, egg tacos. Usually topped generously with guacamole, filled with shredded lettuce and tomato.
  • Pescado – this is the word for “fish” in Spanish. However in Mexico it was used to describe a street food which is raw fish (like sashimi) which has been cooked in the acidity of lime juice.
  • Tamales – Masa dough steamed in corn leaf. Usually made with chicken or beef inside. Very nice texture to eat.
  • Quesadillas – Folded tortilla filled with cheese, meat and spices.
  • Salsa – More of a side dish but still a crowd pleaser.

Where: Every city I visited in Mexico had street food

Cost: $2 – $4 USD

Flavour: Flavour index is high! Super fresh and always easy to eat as Mexican street food is usually hand-held. The toppings like Guacamole really accentuate the dish and the crunch and texture make the street food eating experience exciting.

Healthiness: 7/10. All in all, pretty healthy.

Unique menu items :

Grub in tequila – A grub left inside the bottom of a bottle of tequila. If you like tequila this is worth a shot.

Insects – insects and grubs that have been fried and seasoned or oven baked. Sometimes they have a texture like rice and other times a texture like crunchy chips

Guatemala

What’s on the menu:

  • Tostadas – Toasted crunchy tortilla topped with re-fried beans and salsa
  • Enchiladas – Corn rolled tortilla covered with sauce and usually filled with beans and rice
  • Empanada – A baked good like a Mimosa but in a crescent shape. Usually stuffed with rice, dices carrot, peas and sometimes meat like beef.

Where: Every city in Guatemala has street food. The best I found was around Lake Atitlan

Cost: $1 – $3 USD

Flavour: 7/10 A combination of everything. Sweet, spice, fresh, lots of vegetables, crunch and texture. You can’t go wrong. Something special about fresh corn tortillas.

Healthiness: 7/10 Guatemalan street food is very similar to Mexican in its richness, especially using creams and fatty toppings.

Unique menu items: In Guatemala you can try cows tongue. Although to be honest its not easy to find, and only ever in restaurants. (I did not try)

India

What’s on the menu

  • Chai Tea / Masala Chai Tea – Chai spice flavoured milk tea. Me and my friends Oliver and Haylea from https://www.weseektravel.com/ swear we put on an extra pound in India just form having so many Chai tea’s. Here the street culture around tea is simple: very hot, high fat milk, lots of sugar.
  • Chipatits / Roti / Parathi – A toasted flat bread, usually with your choice of toppings like spicy sauce and goat yoghurt.
  • Samosa – Deep fried triangle shaped batter stuffed with rice, vegetables and usually with a mint and goats yoghurt dipping sauce.
  • Paho – Like a burger with a vegetarian deep fry patty inside. The equivalent of street side fast food.
  • Na’an Bread – Usually buttered and covered with garlic and cheese, with a smokey flavour from charcoals ovens.

Where: Every major city in India has a plethora of street food stalls to eat at. If your close to the centre of any city in India, take a stroll and your sure to find something.

Cost: For Chai tea around $0.30.cent USD for street food anywhere from $2 – $4 USD

Flavour: Indian street food is great for its wide variety of street food

Healthiness: 5/10 this one is hard to gauge, it really depends on what you eat. I found Indian street food to be pretty fattening and heavy on the oily sauces.

Unique menu items: I have never had this item but apparently you can get baby shark curry in the city of Goa. You can also eat fried snails with garlic in Odisha, which feels like a homage to France!

Afterword:

It’s a bit of a craft watching street food being made so quickly, with minimal cooking utensils, little room, multiple orders coming in at once and usually prepared from on a tiny little bicycle cart. These vendors work hard, work long hours, have little rest and are essentially head cook, head financier, head of customer service, and front desk all in one!

Respect and love to them all.

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