What It Looks Like to Eat Your Way Around the World
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Street Food from Around the World
How many times have you been setting out on a trip, and someone shoots you a friendly, “Don’t eat any of the street food!” reminder? Whether your destination was New York City, New Delhi, or Shanghai, chances are you’ve heard this at least once.
In our May 2014 issue of AFAR, we did just the opposite, and embarked on a trip around the world à la food cart. As we snacked on perfectly fried pakora, picked up bags of salty popcorn, and practically inhaled a dozen dumplings, we thought about these words of Mark Twain, “Part of the secret of success in life is to eat what you like and let the food fight it out inside.” When it comes to these delicious street eats, we simply couldn’t agree more.
Photo by TonyV3112
Fresh fruit, tamales, chicharrón, and churros—there’s no shortage of tasty street snacks in Mexico. Depending on where you are (and the time of day), you’ll find a variety of eats that, more often than not, feature pork, corn, and cheese.
It’s nearly impossible to walk through one of India’s bustling city streets without taking in a big whiff of sizzling onions, frying dough, or curried potatoes. A classic treat is panipuri—a deep-fried puffball filled with chickpeas, mashed potatoes, puffed rice, and tamarind juice. Looking for something sweet? Try the sticky jalebi, a deep-fried dough that’s been soaked in syrup.
At it’s most simple state, street food in the U.S.A. is hot dogs, pretzels, and ice cream. Today, take a walk down the block (especially in a busy city, such as New York), and you’ll encounter everything from bagels to burritos to lamb gyros.
When it comes to street eats in the D.R., there’s a lot to choose from. Fresh fruit, for one, is a must. Because Spanish, African, Middle Eastern, and Taíno cuisine meet on this Caribbean island, there’s always plenty of rice, beans, meat, and mangú—a West African dish of boiled and mashed plantains. Mangú is often served with salami, eggs, onion, and a little fried cheese.
England’s street food scene is happening. On any given day, a walk through London’s Model Market or Broadway Market will include a bite of pork pies, miniature kimchi burgers, crêpes, or steamed buns. But when it comes to iconic British street food, look no further than your everyday popcorn vendor.
In Egypt—and countries throughout the Middle East—bread is a staple food, and comes in a variety of shapes, flavors, and thicknesses. A majority of street eats, including ful medames (mashed fava beans with a blend of spices) and grilled kofta kebabs, are served with a warm loaf. Fruit and veg vendors like the one pictured here are a reminder of where each meal begins—with a little street shopping.
Where to begin? The tasty dishes of Bangkok’s street food scene always have us coming back for seconds. Khao mun gai (boiled chicken piled upon mounds of greasy rice), grilled chicken and pork skewers, and pla pao (salty barbequed fish) are among our favorites.
It can be hard to justify a big meal in a sit-down restaurant when the street food is just as good—and infinitely cheaper. Take the street eats in Pakistan, for example, where you’ll find heavenly pakora (a deep fried fritter of potato and vegetables), spicy grilled corn on the cob, and mouthwatering shawarma and fries.
It’s nearly impossible to leave China without eating a dumpling—which leaves us with one question: Just how many did you eat? With hundreds of different varieties of perfectly steamed dumplings (including shrimp, pork, leek, and cabbage), we imagine it was more than a couple.