Urban Adventures. Quite simply, the Best. Day. Ever.
Fine dining has its place in life, but there’s no denying that the best meals tend to come from the streets. Night markets, street stands, pop-up stalls — these are the places where digging into dinner is delightfully messy, a bit chaotic, and positively delicious. But there’s also no denying that some cities have a better grasp on the street food scene. Toronto is known for its antiquated laws that make launching food trucks notoriously difficult (although, thankfully, those restrictions are easing up), and while Cuban sandwiches are delicious in Miami, it can be hard to find the real deal when you’re in Havana, where ingredients can be scarce. But these six cities don’t have those problems, and the street food is some of the best anywhere. If you’re headed to any of these destinations, be sure to pack your appetite.
The hawker centres of Singapore are legendary in street food circles. These massive food courts cram in every possible variation of Singaporean cuisine you can think of. They’re loud, they’re chaotic, and they’re a bit overwhelming with scents and flavours to discover, but that’s the total charm. Also, you can count on safe food preparation given that these centres are government-regulated. Don’t know what to get amid all that deliciousness? Try satay, dim sum, char kway teow (fried flat rice noodles with sweet soya sauce), or rojak (a salad of prawn paste mixed with spinach, turnip, bean sprouts, and fried tofu, sprinkled with sliced ginger flower and lots of peanuts).
Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam
Or really, any city in Vietnam. This entire country knows where it’s at when it comes to eating on the streets. But Ho Chi Minh City, or Saigon, is the one that often comes to minds for travellers. Even before dawn breaks, pho sellers are setting up shop, preparing for the swarms of people who devour a hot bowl before heading off to work. Scalding-hot broth, slippery slices of beef or duck or chicken, crunchy bean sprouts, refreshing sprigs of cilantro, a startling jolt of hot peppers — sounds like heaven in a bowl, doesn’t it? Of course, pho may be the most famous, but from north to south, there are plenty of other treats to devour, like banh mi sandwiches, banh xeo pancakes, spring rolls, bun cha, and more. And when you’re full of food, there’s that famous Vietnamese coffee, best enjoyed on a street-side café.
Mexico City, Mexico
You had us at taco, but that’s just the tip of the great street food finds in Mexico City‘s taquerías. The city’s mainly known for tacos al pastor, which use marinated grilled meat that’s similar to shawarma. But there’s also tacos al carbon (meat grilled over coals), tacos de cabeza (beef head), and tacos de guisados (spicy stew). And of course, don’t forget tlayudas (large corn tortillas), elote (roasted corn on the cob), tamales (meat, cheese, or veggie-based mixtures wrapped in a leaf and steamed), churros (deep-fried pastry), flautas (rolled corn tortillas filled with potatoes or meat) and chapulines (roasted grasshoppers).
With its mix of Malay, Chinese, and Indian cuisines, the island of Penang is a dream destination for foodies (both CNN Travel and Lonely Planet have put it on their lists of great places for street eating). There’s plenty of variety, so come with an appetite for sampling the seemingly endless dishes on offer. Some local favourites: Penang laksa (spicy and sour soup), Hainanese chicken rice (oily rice made from stock), and curry mee (noodles in a spicy curry soup with sambal, coconut milk, and tofu, prawns, fish, or chicken).
Meze platters may be where it’s at when it comes to eating in Istanbul taverns (don’t forget a glass of raki, too), but it’d be a sin to miss the street food stalls while you’re there. Of course there’s doner kebab to try, but you should also grab some deep-fried mussels drizzled with a garlic cream sauce, or lahmacun (a pizza-like treat topped with minced beef or lamb). A surprisingly refreshing snack is the cups of pickled veggies you can grab from any of the street carts on the Prince’s Islands beyond the downtown — a perfectly crisp, salty treat for a hot summer’s day.
New York City, USA
Sure, it’s cliché, but NYC knows how to do street food. The classic hot dog may be the traditional treat, but with so many other food trucks popping up across the city, you’d be amiss to just go for the traditional. Instead, take an international food tour without leaving the city limits with Belgian waffles from Wafels and Dinges, Australian pies from Dub Pies, Korean tacos from Korilla BBQ, and Canadian-inspired maple syrup grilled cheese sandwiches from Snowday. Want something a bit healthier? Dig into vegan and gluten-free pancakes from Cinnamon Snail.
On the road and want to find the best street noms, but are worried you might mess it up? Here are some things to keep in mind when eating on the street, wherever you are!