When people ask me what my favorite food in the world is, my answer is very simple;
Yep. Wherever you travel in the world, the most authentic flavor of any destination is the ordinary, humble food cooked right on the street and eaten by the locals going about their daily lives. Its also generally the cheapest food around so is perfect for us Broke Backpackers.
As well as been cheap, quick, nutritious and delicious, street food is now even recognized as genuine cultural phenomena and some cities are offering street food tours! There are also even several travel blogs dedicated exclusively to the worlds great street eats!
Street food is a serious business in 2020.
So here are our favorite cities in the world for street food.
Indian food is legendary and is now widely recognized around the globe as being one of the worlds great cuisines. Indian food does tend to be on the spicy food though so you have been warned…
Whilst most of us are familiar with the standard, classic Indian favorites like Chicken Tikka Masala, the street food in Mumbai, India’s Bollywood city, is out of this world.
In Mumbai you will find packed, pavement kiosks selling pakoras (pastries stuffed with spicy meat) as well the cities own special dish, Bombay Potatoes which is boiled potatoes topped with a spicy tomato sauce. Whilst food in India is always cheap, the street food can usually be picked up for less than a dollar. For example, the little kiosks inside the cities metro stations sell little portions of Daal (lentil curry topped with cooling yogurt) for 25 rps which is around $0.40.
Do note that Indian food hygiene is not exactly the best in the world. Don’t be overtly paranoid but do pay attention to how long he food has been sat out for and whether the chef and kitchen look relatively clean.
When I visited Hong Kong last year I didn’t exactly fall in love with the city. Whilst I was impressed by its Bladerunner-esue, futuristic design aesthetic, I found it over crowded and quite stressful.
Thankfully though, I managed to console myself by dining like a ravenous kind each night at the street barbecues around the night market. After dark every night, the open fires are stoked and all assortment of foods are grilled over the flames. The concept here is simple, you take a plate, pick out your own meat or vegetable skewers and they are then bar-bar-be’d right in front of you.
The Chinese are famous meat eaters and you will find marinated pork, skewered duck and even tongue on offer. However, the vegetation selections are also amazing with stuffed spicy aubergines and grilled mushrooms topped with soy sauce. The street barbeques of Hong Kong are also pretty cheap and a few platefuls, washed down with a cold beer will not even set you back $5.
Colombian cuisine is actually very little known outside of the country. Whilst it is definitely not the healthiest food in the world (everything is fried) it is very hearty and filling.
The main square around Trinidad Church in Cartagena comes to life each night and is packed with churchgoers praying, kids playing football and backpackers drinking cold Aguila beer and eating traditional Colombian food from the plentiful vendors. The street food stalls usually turn up after dark and keep on serving till the early hours of the morning. The Cartagena hamburgers are legendary – a thick slab of meat topped with pretty much everything you can think of!!!
Then there are the Fish Empanadas (the national dish) and the stodgy, meat & cheese arepas which are guaranteed to fill you up for the day. Most nights, there is also a stall selling strong mojitos at a reasonable price.
British cuisine is universally derided as being pretty terrible which is absolutely unfair. Whilst fish and chips is a bit cod (lol), the truth is that London is a truly metropolitan city with residents drawn from all around the world. The result is that in London you can find any food you want and the city, therefore, has one of the best culinary scenes in the world.
The best street food is definitely food on Camden or Portobello Markets each Saturday. The city streets are alive with the enticing aromas of vegan, jack-fruit sandwiches, halloumi wraps, and warming meat pies.
Yes, you can literally find anything in London’s street eat scene. My personal recommendations are the Indian, spicy Paneer burger at Camden Lock and the Palestinian Zattar over at Portobello Road, Saturday antique market.
If you are lucky enough to be in London for the Notting Hill Carnival, then you will be in for a treat of fine Caribbean cuisine.
Vietnamese food is among my favorites. It is simple, mostly healthy and I love the way you can add your own chilies, spice, and sauces.
Whilst there are some unusual foods (such as Dogmeat) grilling on Hanoi’s barbeques, the Pho Noodle soups are suitable for everybody. The Xoi sticky rice is a delicious, cheap filling staple and the Banh Mi, baguette sandwiches are clearly a strange legacy of French colonial rule!
There are also some amazing Hanoi Street Food tours where a local guide will take you to sample the best of the very best.
Mexico gave the world the chili pepper for which I for one am eternally grateful. We should all be thankful for the culinary wonder that is Mexican food.
The street food of Mexico City is just unbelievable and the pavement stalls are popular with politicians and street cleaners alike. The most famous are surely the delicious corn flour Tacos made from either beef, fish or veg – they are usually well under $1 each.
Then there are baked, cheese enchiladas and of course, the endless bowls of Mexico’s signature dish, Chilli Con Carne.
Mexican Street food has also long taken California by storm and some of the best eateries in the whole of Los Angeles are actually Mexican Food trucks – yep, they are often even better than fancy restaurants!
When I visited Lebanon in 2017 the food was an absolute revelation. The Lebanese cuisine is a mixture of Mediterranean and middle-eastern influences. This guy also eats a lot of delicious greens so the food is quite healthy.
The pick of the street food has to the famous Sahyoun Falafel brothers. The tale is that the 2 brothers ran the best falafel store in town for years together until falling out over money one day. One of the brothers then quit and opened an identical looking falafel shop Ruth next door. I have no idea which one is the original but they are both delicious and either will be the best Falafel you will ever have!
Happy munching guys!
Freeborn Aiden. Senior Editor, resident travel insurance expert and 2nd longest-serving member of team Broke Backpacker. Can’t resist a colourful shirt, ideally one with no buttons. Rampant Psytrance addict and seriel cat fancier. Aiden recently realised that his entire reality is little more than a badly written 90’s sitcom.