Street Food Around The World

Here you can find all the most amazing street food around the world. Discover and check out the different traditional dishes to try on your travels. You can even make them at home with our simple and authentic recipes!

What is street food originally?

Street Food is an expression for dishes and drinks sold by hawkers or vendors usually from a mobile food booth, food cart, or food truck. The name evolved as it is mostly found on the side of streets or other public places. Street food around the world is often finger food, served without cutlery in bite-size portions so that you can consume it immediately. Vendors usually prepare the food right in front of customers’ eyes and serve it on paper trays, wrap it in paper or in plant leaves or give it out on little skewers. Normally, independent individuals sell this type of fast food instead of establishments or even chain restaurants. Oftentimes, the entire family contributes to operating the food stalls and makes a living off of the mobile kitchens. As the dishes are rather easy-to-make and fast, the street meals are generally rather cheap in comparison to restaurant food.

Real street food is mostly unique and typical for a certain city or region. However, there are many common elements, ingredients or distinct methods of preparing dishes across different places. Typical street food around the world includes pastry, all types of flat breads, grilled and fried meats or vegetables, cakes and other sweets or soups, among many others. All of these come in unlimited varieties. Common drinks from street stands are coffees or teas, fruit juices or coconut water, for example.

When you are traveling, street food is often the best way to experience traditional food form a certain destination. Mobile food stands are the spots where locals get their typical dishes from!

Is it safe to eat street food?

While street food from hipster trucks seems harmless, many people might have doubts with food from dodgy stands. Especially in developing countries where hygienic standards are not as high and where the food rests in the heat and right next to polluted streets, it might be tricky. However, to the surprise of many, several studies suggest that contamination from street food stands is at the same level as that of restaurants. It always depends on the individual situation and circumstances. In general, when eating street food, you should simply apply common sense. This might not save you from every bad surprise but it very much reduces the risk. If the food on the cart looks old, dried out or already has flies clinging to it, you might want to leave your hands off of it. Look out for fresh ingredients and make sure that the food is prepared freshly in front of your eyes. Meat and seafood should be cooked well and be properly hot to kill all bacteria.

Where was street food invented?

Although it may be a rather new thing for people especially in Western countries, street food has existed for millennia. In ancient times, people often did not have their own ovens inside the homes. Thus, they would have to depend on street food being sold in public places. Examples of fast food from the street can be found pretty much in all old civilizations – from the Aztecs to Ancient Egypt, Rome or China. In Ancient Greece, for instance, vendors sold small fried fish on the streets. And lamb kebabs have already existed as street food in Egypt for many centuries.

Especially in Asia, Latin America and Africa, demand and thus the availability of street food has grown intensely over decades. New economic structures and perspectives have led to increased migration from rural areas to urban centers. With this came a growing daily need for many working people to eat outside the home. Not only men were now working but also women took on more and more proper jobs. Thus, with less time to prepare meals came a higher demand for ready-made, inexpensive food.

From pulled pork to poké bowls: The global street food hype

In the last couple of years, street food has experienced a huge hype in the world’s metropolises. Weekly street food markets like Smorgasburg in New York, entire street food festivals and even competitions have popped up all over the globe. These have only little to do with the original finger foods sold on the side of streets. Instead of old, smudgy carts, the new street food craze mainly happens out of cool food trucks and stands with hip designs. From these, hipster vendors sell modern spins of traditional foods as well as a wide array of fusion foods from international cuisine. Instead of the simple, cheap snacks, the type of street food from these hip joints is rather higher priced, Instagram-worthy food porn.

Fun facts on street food around the world

  • 2.5 billion people feed themselves from street food every day according to an FAO study from 2007
  • Thoughout South America, households spend up to 30 percent of their food budget on street food
  • In Bangkok, around 20,000 street vendors provide food for about 40 percent of the daily demand
  • In Mumbai, there are more than half a million street food vendors