Quick, name something delicious that you can put in your mouth and eat. If you answered with anything other than, “food” I’m going to go ahead and slowly nod my head and back away. One of the beautiful things about traveling is the opportunity to try the local street food. First, it’s a perfect way to fill yourself up without blowing a hole in your budget. Second, it’s served up quickly, which means you can get it without having to take a pause from exploring the city. Third, it’s an authentic culinary experience that cannot be replicated elsewhere. If you find yourself in any of the countries below, definitely check out these famous street food offerings.
1. Falafel – Israel
Although it is thought to have originated in Egypt and is popular all over the Middle East, Israel is where this deep-fried ball made from ground chickpeas, fava beans or both. It is often served on a pita with hummus, yogurt or tahini sauce.
2. Currywurst – Germany
The invention of the currywurst is attributed to Herta Heuwer, who in 1949 opened a food stand to feed hungry construction workers who were rebuilding a devastated Berlin, this German dish consists of a pork sausage that is first steamed and then fried, cut into slices, and topped with curry ketchup. It’s usually served with French fries or a bread roll. While you’ll find it all over Germany, Berlin and Hamburg are the two cities where this is especially popular.
3. Gimbap – South Korea
Gimbap is basically South Korean sushi, with the main difference being that the rice in the Japanese version is mixed with rice vinegar, sugar and salt while Gimbar is seasoned with salt and sesame oil. The rice and ingredients such as shrimp, spicy tuna, kimchi and squid are rolled in gim, which are dried sheets of nori seaweed, and served in bite-sized slices.
4. Pyrizhky – Ukraine
The nice thing about these puff pastries – typically made by elderly ladies with a real knack for baking – is the different types of fillings that they can be made with. You can get them with beef, potato, cabbage, cheese, and even buckwheat.
5. Egg Waffle – Hong Kong
You can’t visit Hong Kong without trying one of these spherical egg-based waffles. Made of eggy leavened batter, they are generally served hot and eaten plain, although they can also be served with coconut, fruits such as strawberry, and chocolate sauce.
6. Crepes – France
These thin pancakes are beloved enough that France celebrates National Crepes Day on February 2nd. You can eat them for breakfast or as dessert. In addition, if you’re in the mood for something sweet, you can get yourself some crepes filled with strawberries and cream or Nutella. On the other hand, if you’re looking for a savory snack, you can order them with such fillings as chicken, cheese, mushrooms, ratatouille or eggs.
7. Banh Mi – Vietnam
Banh Mi is a popular Vietnamese sandwich comprised of a baguette that is served with things like pork sausage, cucumber, coriander leaf, pickled carrots and daikon. In a nod to Vietnam’s French colonial past, condiments such as pâté and mayonnaise are also added. While typically savory, ice cream can also be used as a filling.
8. Baozi – China
The baozi is a type of bun filled with meat or vegetables and is usually steamed. There are a variety of dipping options including vinegar, soy sauce, chili or garlic paste, oils, coriander and leeks or sesame oil. Having lived in Beijing for 4 months, I can attest that these can be found by street food vendors all over the city.
9. Chimney Cake – Czech Republic
Although the Chimney Cake originated in the Hungarian-speaking part of Transylvania (today’s Romania), it has gained huge popularity in Prague, where you can find numerous vendors making this spit cake (known as Trdelník in Czech) in the old city center.
10. Bubble Tea – Taiwan
So technically this isn’t street food. But when visiting Taiwan, you definitely need to get yourself a glass of bubble tea. It consists of a tea of some kind (i.e., oolong, black or green tea), milk in some form (fresh, condensed or powdered) and sugar (optional). But the real appeal is the chewy tapioca balls, popping boba, or fruit jellies that are added to the beverage.
11. Karelian Pasty – Finland
Made of rye or wheat flour, these traditional pastries in the Karelian area of Finland are also enjoyed in nearby Russia and Estonia. The most typical version has a thin rye crust with a filling of rice.