Experimenting with street food is a culinary rite of passage. Whether it’s devouring a tamale at an outdoor market or slurping up noodles in a narrow alleyway, eating on the street is an opportunity to step into another culture in an honest, authentic way. In these 10 cities, street food is not just about discovering mind-blowing dishes; it is an integral part of the social fabric.
Chiang Mai, Thailand
Chiang Mai may be smaller than Bangkok, but its street food scene is just as prominent. Chiang Mai’s massive tented markets are a second home to the city’s inhabitants, who eat out for almost every meal. Dining includes juicy mangoes and sticky rice for breakfast, lip-numbing papaya salads for lunch, and snacks like deep-fried bananas and tender pork skewers slathered in a honey-like glaze.
Where to go: Somphet Market, Moon Muang Road, north of Tha Phae Gate; Chiang Mai Gate Market at the Chiang Mai Gate in the southwest corner of the moat; and Intawarorot Road near the Three Kings Monument.
New York City, United States
Photo via Flickr/drpavloff
New York’s street food is seemingly without limits. On one corner, you can get a gourmet bowl of shakshuka, baked with of halumi cheese and chunks of roasted garlic. On the next, there’s authentic Salvadoran pupusas, or corn tortillas stuffed with pork, chicken, shrimp, veggies or cheese. Yet the beauty of New York lies in its age-old institutions, like the quintessential New York hot dog, which, despite more than a century of change, is always just how you remember it.
Where to go: The Shuka Truck , El Olomega , Nathan’s Famous, Korilla BBQ.
At meal time, businessmen, shopkeepers and laborers crowd around the same vendors along Mumbai’s long stretches of food stalls. The majority of food is vegetarian, as most people are practicing Hindus. Popular dishes include potatoes, carrots, cauliflower and peas in a fragrant curry sauce, scooped up with naan; and vada pav, a deep-fried potato cutlet made with fresh coriander and green chilies, served on a bun. Every meal is finished off with a shot-size cup of chai, and occasionally paan—a triangle-shaped digestive, stuffed with candied fruit, cardamom, saffron, roasted coconut and lime paste and wrapped in betel leaf.
Where to go: Vendors along Juhu Beach and Chowpatty Beach; Elco Market in the Bandra neighborhood; Crawford Market near Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus railway station; Badhshah Snacks int the Crawford Market; Ashok Vada Pav in Dadar West neighborhood.
Photo via Flickr/Mark Rowland
Souks (markets) have been the hotbed of Moroccan culture for centuries. At night, the city’s main squares transform into an army of food vendors wrapped in spiced clouds of smoke coming off of piping hot tagine and shawarma. The chaotic but thrilling Jemaa el-Fna, the city’s largest souk and a UNESCO World Heritage site, has been in action for nearly 900 years. This is the prime spot for dinner for locals and tourists alike. You’ll find dishes like tender lamb roasted in cumin and salt and escargot dripping with garlic sauce alongside snake charmers and tarot card readers.
Where to go: Jemaa el-Fna, Medina Quarterin the Old City.
In Singapore, hawker markets (massive dining centers made up of food stalls) are the equalizer between foreign wealth and local-wage earners. The vendors, which used to operate individually on streets, are required by law to be a part of these larger markets. Some comprise more than 200 food stalls The food is a mix of Singapore’s Chinese, Indian and Malay influences, including char kway teow, a stir fry of flat rice noodles cooked on high heat with dark soy sauce, egg, Chinese sausage, prawns, cockles and sliced fish cake; and roti, the soft and crisp Indian flatbread served with curry; and barbecue stingray.
Where to go: Old Airport Road Food Centre Old Airport Road; Singapore Flyer, 30 Raffles Avenue; East Coast Lagoon Food Centre, 1220 East Coast Parkway.