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Small pushcart vendors, hole-in-the-wall operators, and little local shacks - even in the cities full of Michelin-starred eateries, these tiny street vendors are pumping out some of the finest meals out. These are five of the best countries around the world for authentic and interesting street foods, from quick snacks to hawker-style meals.
Vietnamese is one of the more interesting Southeast Asian cuisines, largely due to its very apparent French influence. If it weren’t for the presence of the French in Vietnam up until 1954, the country would be without some of its most iconic dishes. Take bánh mì - the meat-filled baguette, topped with coriander, cucumber, pickled carrot and daikon, pâté, and chilli, synonymous with Vietnamese street food - for example.
Found just as readily as hot fries in America, bánh mì is one of the essential street food eats in Vietnam. The others are a big, steaming bowl of phở (rice noodle soup), gỏi cuốn (fresh rice paper spring rolls), and gỏi khô bò (green papaya salad). For the more culinary curious out there, the Vietnamese take on France’s escargot is another dish not to be missed.
Mexican street food is much more than just tequila and tacos, though it’s worth heading south of the US border for the iconic duo alone; just don’t make the trip and expect to fill up on giant burritos, meat-topped nachos, or a big bowl of chilli con carne. Despite what popular fast-food restaurants would have people believe, the Americanised, cheese and meat-heavy take on Mexican food isn’t readily found when on the ground in Mexico.
Instead, the local street corners are filled with vendors utilising the country’s staples - corn, rice, and chile peppers - to make a variety of Mexico’s most popular dishes. Try a tamale (steamed masa dumpling filled with fruit, vegetables, or meat) or two for breakfast, or seek out some tostadas (crispy based tacos), elote (corn covered in chilli, lime, and queso fresco), or gorditas (masa pastry stuffed with cheese, meat, or other fillings) for a midday snack.
The tiny island of Mauritius is an unlikely suspect on this list. Overshadowed by street food meccas like Mexico and Vietnam, the island’s unique, spice-laden selection of street eats flies under the radar, but absolutely punches above its weight. Mauritian chow takes influence from African, French, Chinese, and Indian foods, resulting in a totally unique Creole cuisine. On one corner, you can find a street vendor selling Chinese inspired boulettes (steamed Mauritian-Chinese dumplings), and on the next, someone selling the falafel-like gateaux piment (deep-fried ‘chilli cakes’ made from ground split peas).
Other popular street foods include dhal puri (a split pea flatbread rolled with a curry filling), mine frite (Mauritian fried noodles), confit de fruits (fruit pickles), or simply a fresh pineapple (ananas) topped with chilli and salt.
If there were one street eat to travel to Greece for, its the meat, fries, and tzatziki filled pita bread wrap, souvlaki. It’s hearty, comforting, and incredibly satisfying. In a show of just how appreciated Greek street foods are, many of the country’s vendor-sold snacks have crossed country borders and cemented themselves as firm favourites abroad.
Along with souvlaki, spanakopita (a spinach and feta pie), tiropita (a spiral filo pastry filled with feta), and even deep-fried loukoumades (doughnut balls served with honey, cinnamon, and walnuts) can be found in many countries; but no country makes them better than their home country does.
Satay, one of the world’s most cherished street foods, originated at the warungs in Indonesia. The grilled sticks of tender, marinated meat with peanut dipping sauce are one of the most approachable street foods in all of Asia, managing to find a spot in almost every traveller’s heart and stomach. Much of Indonesia’s street food has a connection to the beloved peanut sauce, with dishes like siomay (steamed dumplings) and gado-gado (a national dish comprised of steamed vegetables, hard-boiled eggs, tofu, and tempeh) also best served with a side of satay.
Aside from grilled satay and cobs of corn, most Indonesian street food comes from the fryer and not the grill. Some of the best, and most common, wok-prepared street eats around Indonesia include the moreish fried rice dish, nasi goreng, and the now popularised mie goreng (fried noodles).