The Hungry Traveler: 8 Street Foods You Absolutely Must Try

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No matter where you go, food is at the heart of every culture. If you really want to get to know the locals, go where they eat.

Forget about chain restaurants and waiting around for an invite to try someone’s friend’s grandma’s cooking. Check out the street food stands to get some authentic food and a closer look at everyday life.

Here, we recommend eight of our favorite must-eat street foods from around the world. Bon appétit!


Street Food Scene
© J Aaron Farr

#1: Best On-the-Go Sandwich: Muffaletta

There are a lot of great sandwiches but the muffaletta’s long lifespan is what makes it one of the world’s best street foods. Unlike most sandwiches, muffalettas actually taste better after they have been sitting awhile.

Mmmm-uffaleta © jeffreyw

The New Orleans native is stuffed full of salami, mozzarella, provolone, ham, mortadella, and olive salad. The key to a fantastic muffaletta is to wrap it up and let that olive salad sink into the bread.

You might not have much luck finding true muffaletta bread outside of New Orleans but it’s still worth a try on focaccia bread.

#2: Most Creative While Still Edible: Colombian Hot Dogs

Travel Street Food: Colombian Hot Dog
Colombian Hot Dog © James (powerplantop)

From Toronto to Buenos Aires, there is no better variation on the hot dog. Real Colombian hot dog stands will pile on everything from cabbage to whipped cream. As an added bonus, most places are surprisingly vegetarian-friendly so faux dogs are often a possibility.

Colombian hot dogs are traditionally boiled and the most common variety is topped with pineapple sauce, crushed potato chips, and pink sauce. The pink sauce is generally a blend of mayo and ketchup but don’t be surprised to find spicy variations. Check out Bogotá or Miami for the best of the best.

#3: Best Twist on a Classic: Poutine

Travel Street Food: Poutine
Poutine © Mark Male

If you’re bored with the same mayo and ketchup mess on your fries, try poutine. In Quebec, you’ll find it everywhere from back alleys to McDonald’s. The thick cut French fries are smothered in small cheese curds and gravy. It can’t just be any old gravy though. The construction of poutine is a science. The gravy shouldn’t be too thick and it must be piping hot. The trick is to avoid completely melting the cheese with the gravy so look for a vendor that’s serving it gooey. Check out the Italian, Greek, and doner varieties for a slightly different take.

#4: Least Healthy, Most Delicious Fruit: Platanos Fritos

Travel Street Food: Platanos Fritos
Platanos Fritos © El Gran Dee

Plantain is a staple food across the equatorial region. If you’ve never had it before, platanos fritos is a great introduction. The fruit is similar to bananas but a bit bigger and less sweet.

Any way you cook them, fried plantains are delicious as a snack or dessert. Try them potato chip style in Nicaragua or get them soft and caramelized in Costa Rica or Belize. The simple addition of cinnamon also makes Venezuelan-style platanos fritos a top pick.

#5: Biggest Street Side Surprise: Fried Pirozhki

Travel Street Food: Fried Pirozhki
Fried Pirozhki © Moonsun1981

Sure, you can shock your taste buds with some starfish on a stick but that isn’t necessarily the good kind of surprise. Language barriers can make it tricky to really get the lowdown on what you’re about to put in your mouth. If you’re alright with that mystery, go for fried pirozhki. You can find them all over Russia and Eastern Europe. They look like sweet breads but it’s anyone’s guess what each one might be stuffed with.

They’re always cheap and you can generally find them hot so sample a few until you feel like you’ve gotten a meal. You’ll find them stuffed with meat, vegetables, cheese, fish, or fruit. If you want to find a similar food in Finland, bring a photo of this pile of letters: karjalanpiirakat.

#6: Best Vegetarian Street Food: Kushari

Travel Street Food: Kushari
Kushari © Jim Furibond

You could easily argue that the ubiquitous falafel deserves the title of best vegetarian street food and you might be right. Anyone who hasn’t tried those delicious chickpeas should get out and do so immediately. However, if you are a vegetarian desperate for something new, kushari is exactly what you’ve been looking for.

Kushari is a mishmash of rice, macaroni, lentils, chickpeas, and fried onions. This Egyptian staple is hearty and cheap so it’s the perfect food if you’re looking for something meatless that will actually keep you going for a few hours.

#7: Top Meat on the Street: Kibbeh

Travel Street Food: Kibbeh

Imagine a meatloaf better than any you’ve ever eaten … then picture it deep fried.

Imagine a meatloaf better than any meatloaf you’ve ever actually eaten … then picture it deep fried. This heavenly oblong creation is fried kibbeh. It’s Lebanon’s national dish but you’ll find it all over the Middle East (look for koupes in Cyprus and içli köfte in Turkey).

You’ll also see kibbeh eaten raw as kibbeh nayeh or in soup with kubbeh matfuniya and kubbeh hamusta. If you do want to try kibbeh nayeh, go for a restaurant. On the street, it’s typically just an efficient route to food poisoning.

There are also delicious South American varieties of kibbeh that are well worth the trip. Be sure to try Brazilian quibe, which is stuffed with requeijão, a cream cheese-like sauce.

#8: Best Dessert: Gulab Jamun

Travel Street Food: Gulab Jamun
Gulab Jamun © Quadell

There is a lot of terrible gulab jamun around but don’t let that discourage you from continuing your search for the perfect one. Forget about canned versions (?!) and even nice Indian restaurants can disappoint. If you can find well-made gulab jamun though, it truly is the world’s best dessert.

India, Bangladesh, Nepal, and Pakistan are home to this amazing cheese ball. Topped with a sugar syrup, green cardamom, saffron, and rose water, it’s a taste unlike any other.

What are your favorite street foods? Share with us in the comments below!

The post The Hungry Traveler: 8 Street Foods You Absolutely Must Try appeared first on Vagabondish.

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