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Food is an integral part of any culture, and one of the best ways to experience it is through street food. From savory snacks to sweet treats, street food offers a diverse and delicious journey for your taste buds. The best part of this list? Most of these dishes can be found in your city—there is no need to travel to foreign lands to enjoy them.

Let’s take a virtual trip around the world and explore 15 must-try street foods that will leave you wanting more.

Pastel de Nata in Portugal

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Starting our journey in Portugal, we have the iconic pastel de nata. This delicious custard tart is a staple in Portuguese cuisine and can be found on almost every street corner. The creamy egg custard filling encased in flaky pastry is the perfect combination of sweet and savory.

Each bite of pastel de nata is like a mini journey to Portugal, filling your palate with a delightful mix of textures and a delicate sweetness that isn’t overwhelming. It’s a perfect accompaniment to a strong espresso, a common pairing in Portugal, mirroring the pace of life there – laid back, enjoyable, and full of rich experiences.

Pav Bhaji in India

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Next stop: India. Pav Bhaji is a popular street food that originated in Mumbai and has now spread to every corner of the country. This spicy vegetable curry served with buttered buns is a burst of flavors that will tantalize your taste buds and leave you wanting more.

Pav bhaji is not just a food; it’s an emotion that brings comfort with every mouthful. The hearty mixture of mashed vegetables cooked with aromatic spices and served with warm, butter-laden buns is truly an experience beyond mere sustenance. It’s a bright, bustling symphony of flavors that mirrors the vibrant spirit of Indian streets, making it an unmissable part of any culinary adventure in India.

Halo Halo in the Philippines

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In the Philippines, halo-halo is the go-to street food for a refreshing treat on a hot day. This colorful dessert consists of shaved ice, evaporated milk, various fruits, and sweet beans. It’s the perfect balance of sweetness and texture, making it a must-try in the Philippines.

The name halo-halo translates to “mix-mix,” and that’s precisely what you do before indulging in this delightful concoction. Each spoonful is a surprise, offering a distinct combination of flavors and textures, just like the diverse culture of the Philippines itself. Whether you’re a seasoned foodie or a curious traveler, the vibrant, multi-layered experience of devouring a halo-halo is a unique, delightful gastronomic adventure you’d not want to miss.

Chimney Cake in the Czech Republic or Hungary

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Originating from both the Czech Republic and Hungary, chimney cake (also known as kürtőskalács) is a popular street food in Central Europe. The chimney cake is a traditional Hungarian pastry that is wrapped around a wooden spool and slowly turned over an open fire. Its origins are from Transylvania, but they’re now celebrated as the oldest pastry in Hungary, and they’re often served as street food. (National Geographic excerpt)

This hollow, cylindrical pastry is coated with sugar and cinnamon and can be filled with various toppings such as ice cream or Nutella. It’s a deliciously sweet treat that you won’t want to miss.

Pad Thai in Thailand

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No trip to Thailand is complete without trying their famous street food, pad thai. This stir-fried noodle dish is a symphony of flavors, with the perfect balance of sweet, savory, and tangy. Topped with crushed peanuts and lime juice, it’s a must-try for any food lover.

The joy of biting into a warm Pad Thai right from a bustling street cart, with all the vibrant sights and sounds of Thailand around you, is an experience that stays with you forever. Just as Thailand is a melting pot of cultures, Pad Thai is a fusion of tastes, each ingredient coming together to create a dish as unforgettable as the country. Next time you’re in Thailand, don’t just eat Pad Thai; savor it because every bite tells a story of tradition, innovation, and Thai hospitality.

Churros in Spain

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Moving on to Spain, churros are a staple street food that can be found in almost every Spanish city. These fried dough pastries coated in sugar and cinnamon are often served with hot chocolate for dipping, making them the perfect indulgent snack.

Churros are a testament to Spain’s penchant for comfort food – simple yet delightful. Whether it’s a chilly morning or a late-night craving, nothing hits the spot quite like these warm, crispy pastries generously dipped in rich, velvety hot chocolate. It’s not just a snack; it’s a treat that brings the essence of Spanish hospitality right to your tastebuds.

Bao (or Baozi) Buns in China

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Bao buns (also known as baozi) are steamed buns filled with various savory fillings such as pork, chicken, or vegetables. These fluffy and flavorful bites are a popular street food in China and can be found on almost every corner.

Bao buns are more than just a quick bite; each soft, warm bun is like a fluffy pillow of heaven, with a surprise inside that leaves you wanting more. The magic lies in the balance of the soft, slightly sweet bun and the savory filling; it’s a harmony of flavors that truly represents the heart and soul of Chinese street food culture. When you get a chance to try a bao bun, don’t just take a bite; take a moment to appreciate the tradition and craft that goes into each bun.

Dango in Japan

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Dango is a traditional Japanese dessert made of small round balls of mochi (rice flour) skewered on a stick. It comes in various flavors, such as green tea, red bean, and sesame, and is a popular snack to enjoy while strolling through the streets of Japan.

Dango isn’t merely a street snack; it’s a taste of Japanese tradition. With each bite, you experience the delicate sweetness and soft texture that is so characteristic of mochi, taking you on a sensory journey through the Land of the Rising Sun. I’m not drooling; you are.

Ceviche in Peru

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Ceviche is a dish that originated in Peru and has become popular throughout Latin America. It’s made up of raw fish marinated in lime juice, chili peppers, and other seasonings. This refreshing and zesty street food is a must-try for seafood lovers. In most Central American countries, this dish is made with fresh, finely chopped tomatoes and served with crackers.

Ceviche is more than a dish; it’s an experience, a splash of flavors that instantly transports you to the vibrant coasts of Peru. The freshness of the fish, the tang of the lime, and the kick of chili peppers come together in a symphony that dances on your palate. 

Poffertjes in the Netherlands

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Poffertjes are small, fluffy pancakes that are a beloved snack in the Netherlands. They’re often served with powdered sugar and melted butter, making them a sweet and indulgent treat. You can find poffertjes at street markets or food trucks throughout the country.

Poffertjes aren’t just a treat; they’re a warm, comforting hug on a chilly Dutch day. They evoke a sense of nostalgia, a return to simpler times when the joy of biting into a fluffy, sugary pancake could make any worry fade away. 

Baklava in Turkey

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A popular Middle Eastern dessert, baklava consists of layers of flaky pastry filled with nuts and soaked in honey or syrup. It’s a sweet and decadent treat that can be found at street vendors throughout Turkey.

Baklava is more than a dessert; it’s a testament to Turkey’s rich history and culinary expertise. Each bite of this sweet, sticky pastry tells a story of tradition and craftsmanship passed down through generations. When you savor a piece of baklava, you’re partaking in a timeless Turkish delight that embodies the spirit of the region’s hospitality and love for good food. 

Blini in Russia

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Blini are thin and savory pancakes made from buckwheat flour. They’re often topped with various foods such as caviar, smoked salmon, or sour cream. Blini is a popular street food in Russia and is often enjoyed as a quick and tasty snack.

Blini are not merely a culinary delight; they’re a symbol of Russian culture and tradition. Each savory pancake rolled meticulously with diverse fillings mirrors Russia’s vibrant heritage and its rich food history. 

Pupusas in El Salvador

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Pupusas are thick corn tortillas filled with cheese, beans, or meat. They’re a staple street food in El Salvador (and many other Central American countries) and are often served with a side of curtido, a pickled cabbage slaw. Pupusas are affordable and delicious, making them a favorite among locals and tourists alike.

These humble yet hearty treats are more than just a quick bite; they’re a testament to the exceptional flavor and simplicity synonymous with Salvadoran cuisine. 

Arancini in Italy

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Arancini are fried rice balls stuffed with cheese, meat, or vegetable fillings. They originated in Sicily but can now be found throughout Italy. They are often sold as quick and filling street food. These crispy and flavorful snacks are perfect for on-the-go eating.

The beauty of arancini lies not only in its satisfying crunch and the burst of flavors with each bite but also in how it represents Italy’s resourcefulness and creativity in food. The next time you find yourself in Italy, make sure to grab an arancini or two. 

Malva Pudding in South Africa

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Malva pudding is a sweet, moist cake that is a popular dessert in South Africa. It’s made with apricot jam and topped with a creamy custard sauce, making it a rich and indulgent treat. You can find it at street vendors and restaurants throughout the country.

Even though it’s a dessert, it’s not uncommon to see locals enjoying a serving of Malva pudding any time of the day, proof of how beloved this dish is. Each mouthful promises a taste of South African hospitality and a reminder of the simple yet profound joy of joining in a shared love for food. 

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Iva Ursano
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Iva Ursano is a solo female traveler originally from Canada and currently residing in Guatemala. After hitting rock bottom in 2013, she completely reinvented her life at 52 years old, packed up two suitcases, and bought a one-way ticket to Central America. She runs this website for women over 50 to help them make the rest of their lives the best of their lives while feeding street dogs and helping the less fortunate in the town she now calls home, Panajachel. You can follow her on Pinterest, Facebook, and Instagram (Street Dogs of Guatemala)

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