From bhel puri to halo-halo, we've rounded up some of the best street food in the world - to give you a whole new reason to book your next adventure. And remember, Rough Guides has paired with local experts in over 70 countries so you can plan and book a fully customised trip - like tasting all the delicious items on this list!
If you're into trying local specialities, you might want to read up on weird world food.
When it comes to jerk chicken, there’s no beating the real deal fresh from a smoky jerk hut. Recipes are closely guarded secrets, but all start with chicken on the bone slathered in a marinade of allspice, thyme, scotch bonnet chillies, ginger and spring onions. The meat is left overnight to absorb the flavours before being grilled over a pimento wood BBQ, often made from a recycled oil drum. From a beach-side bar or roadside stall, Jamaican jerk chicken is best enjoyed with rice and a cold Red Stripe beer.
The quintessential Singaporean dish, chilli crab is served by street hawkers throughout this small city-state. The invention of chilli crab is credited to Cher Yam Tian, who began serving the spicy crustaceans from a street cart in the 1950s. The crabs are served whole, stir-fried in a sweet and sour sauce of tomato, egg and (of course) chilli.
These round corn cakes filled with cheese or meat are a ubiquitous comida rápida (fast food) in Colombia, where there are myriad regional specialities across the country. Arepas are much thicker than tortillas and will usually be grilled or baked before being stuffed or topped with cheese. Bogotá is one of the best places to try them – here, they’re particularly popular for breakfast.
A cup of multicoloured halo-halo is the perfect way to cool down on a hot and sticky Philippine summer day. Directly translated as “mix-mix”, it’s an attractive sundae-like concoction of red beans, coconut, syrup and fruit. This is usually topped with ice cream evaporated milk and shaved ice.
Don’t worry bunny lovers, this South African snack is rabbit free. It consists of a hollowed-out loaf of bread filled with a fragrant curry (usually chicken or mutton). As you might guess, bunny chow has its origins in India, but it is now Durban’s most famous street food, and no visit to South Africa is complete without trying it.
You’ll find versions of pierogi all over Eastern Europe, but Krakow is the only city we know of that has an entire festival dedicated to this handmade dumpling. Pierogi are made from a simple dough of flour, egg, water and salt, which is then shaped into parcels and filled with meat, potatoes or cheese. They’re boiled first and then fried in butter. Delicious.
Pierogi- dumplings with filling © freeskyline/Shutterstock
BBQ is serious business in the south, where yearly cook-offs see avid cooks vying to get the best from their grills. The lone star state might be the undisputed home of slow-cooked beef, but North Carolina is the place to go for smoky-sweet pulled pork, at its best doused in a rich BBQ sauce and piled into a sandwich bun.
Pulled pork, North Carolina, USA © Fanto/Shutterstock
No list of great street food would be complete without banh mi, a legacy of French colonial rule in Vietnam. The key ingredient is a thinner and crispier version of the classic baguette (made with rice and wheat flour). This is usually filled with a fresh and colourful mix of coriander, pickled carrot, daikon and meats ranging from pork belly to chicken.
Bubble, pearl or boba tea originated in Taichung, Taiwan in the 1980s. These days flavours range from a classic milky tea, often sweetened with condensed milk, to fruity creations like mango or passion fruit. The bubbles themselves are chewy little balls of tapioca sucked up through a large straw; they’re strange at first but quickly addictive.
The ultimate late-night snack, poutine is greasy, filling street food at its best. The ingredients are simple – chunky fries smothered in cheese curds and gravy. You’ll find poutine all across Canada, but it's best at in French-speaking Quebec, where it originates. Sample it at diners and roadside eateries across the province.
It’s not all about kebabs in Turkey. Delicious simit loaves are sold from street carts across the country and are often eaten for breakfast on the go. Baked in a large ring shape and covered in sesame seeds, they’re lighter than bagels and the perfect accompaniment to a cup of Turkish tea.
Bamboo baskets holding this traditional northern Chinese dumpling soup steam away on street carts across Shanghai. It takes a certain amount of skill to eat them without being scalded: hold the dumpling tenderly and slurp out a little of the boiling hot broth before tackling the minced pork centre.
There’s nothing better than a cone of creamy gelato to accompany an evening passeggiata in Italy. Italians take their ice cream seriously, and gelato is distinguished by being less fatty and slightly softer; classic flavours include pistachio and stracciatella. Just make sure you know what the price is first if you’re ordering it in Rome…
Unlike tacos, which are soft tortillas, tostadas are traditionally shaped into a small flat disc and fried until crisp. Toppings range from classic combinations like refried beans, guacamole, salsa and cheese to lighter seafood options like shrimp ceviche. Be prepared to get messy: a crunchy tostada, while delicious, doesn’t make for easy eating.
Obama famously declared his love for this meatball soup on a visit to Indonesia, and we can see why. While the President got his bakso at a formal dinner, street carts are the best place to sample these ground beef balls, cooked in a clear broth with noodles, egg and shallots.
Imagine an oversized maki roll and you’re on your way to picturing gimbap, often referred to as Korean sushi. Common fillings include crab sticks, egg, beef and carrot, which are rolled in steamed rice and a seaweed sheet known as gim. Pick up a portion for lunch in Seoul, where gimbap is sold at shops and stalls throughout the city.
India has an immense variety of street snacks (chaat) across the country, from aloo tikki –spiced potato croquettes – in the north to vada – savoury fritters – in the south. Mumbai is the place to try bhel puri, which comprises puffed rice, fried vermicelli noodles and vegetables drizzled in tamarind sauce. Look out for versions with added peanuts and pomegranate seeds, too.
You’ll find falafel all over the Middle East. Which country has the most authentic recipe is a hotly debated topic. In Egypt, falafel is made from richer fava beans rather than chickpeas and known as ta’amiya. You can almost always expect it to be served in pita bread with pickled vegetables, salad and tahini sauce.
Eaten plain, rolled in cinnamon sugar or dipped in luxuriously thick hot chocolate (our favourite), churros are sweet and crunchy deep-fried sticks of dough. They’re particularly popular as a late-night snack in Madrid, where the famous Chocolatería San Ginés serves them 24 hours a day.
Peru’s national dish Ceviche is growing in popularity worldwide. The star ingredient is the very fresh raw fish, which is marinated in lime juice, salt and chilli. Try sea bass ceviche with sweet corn and sweet potatoes on the side, washed down with a pisco sour, of course.