For the traveler in search of the heart, soul and stomach of a destination, we highly recommend taking your appetite to the streets. Street food has a way of paving a way to a sensory overload. While you’re chowing down amidst the hustle and bustle of the local landscape, the flavors seem to taste even more piquant. Pack your appetite and head for these cities all over the world that offer rich, local and tasty foods that are sure to make your stomach growl!
In Portland, street food is king. Portland boasts more than 600 food carts with most grouped into pods all around town so that you can sample several at a time. One of the biggest concentrations lurks in Pioneer Courthouse Square. Assembling more of an outdoor food court, these Portland mainstays offer diverse cuisines. You can taste anything from traditional British fish and chips to jian bing, Chinese savory crepes, to Korean tacos and poutine. If you need help sorting through the hundreds of street food options in Portland, there are even tours that help you hit the best of the best street food while in town.
Jump over the pond from Portland and you’ll want to make a stop in Bangkok. Street food in Bangkok is impossible to dodge. While there have been threats from authorities to ban street food, it seems those warnings have largely backed off. Thailand’s capital is famous worldwide for its street food. You can sample not just dishes from the city but also recipes from all over the country like the Northeast classic som tam, a spicy green papaya salad. One of the best spots in the city for street food is easily Chinatown or Yarowat. Under the neon lights of Yaowarat Road, you’ll find makeshift stands and stalls selling it all from spicy curry to rice and poached chicken.
With a population hovering around 14 million, you can bet that Istanbul has an abundance of street food. Locals here love a good bargain, so the street food here is not just delicious, it’s also incredibly affordable. Specialty stalls scatter around the city offering some classic Turkish dishes. Most travelers head to Istikral Caddesi for their street-food fix. You’ll want to try simit, a ring shaped bagel meets pretzel that is baked and soaked in molasses and coated with sesame seeds. Istanbul street food is also known for its durum, essentially kebabs in a wrap form, lahumacun, Turkish pizza; börek, a flaky pastry; kumpir, baked potatoes stuffed with a variety of ingredients from pickles to sausage; and dondurma, Turkish ice cream.
Morocco boasts centuries of mastering its food on the streets and markets have long been foodie destinations, specifically in cities like Marrakech. As the air perfumes with spices and flavorful meats, you can have your stomach lead you to Jemaa el-Fnaa Square for a deeper understanding of Marrakech’s street food scene. Each night, the square comes alive with vendors who serve up loads of Moroccan delicacies from sheep heads to skewered meats and to hariria — a lentil and chickpea soup. Other street food staples in Marrakech include snail soup and b’stilla, a pie pastry filled with various fillings and most simply orange juice made from world renowned Moroccan oranges.
You can’t go far in Cartagena without bumping into a street cart, food truck or market stall. Thanks to its unique mix of Spanish, Caribbean, African and South American influences, Cartagena is one of the best spots for to get your street food fix. The old walled city’s colorful streets are lined with stands selling tasty offerings throughout the day and night. Traveler’s shouldn’t miss sampling ceviche, meats like chorizo served from open grills, empanadas, patacones, fresh juices and perhaps most famously, and arepas, a pancake like cornbread filled with either cheese and meats.
Mexico City, Mexico
Tasty, cheap and authentic, Mexico City never leaves the street-food-seeking-traveler hungry. Street food here is downright historic. In pre-Hispanic times, Spaniards apparently couldn’t resist the local cuisine. While you can find tasty dishes on virtually every street corner in Mexico City, there are also a number of markets like Sullivan Market, Mercado de la Merced, Mercado de San Juan, Mercado Medellin and Mercado Coyoacán where you will never go hungry after a visit. Often referred to as antojitos, street snacks, Mexico City is known for its tamales, tacos al pastor and tostadas more specifically.
You don’t have to fork over your whole travel budget to eat well. If your stomach begging you for some hearty, delicious street food, these cities around the globe will never leave you hungry or out a large chunk of cash.
What is your favorite city for street food? Share your suggestions with us in the comments below.