When you’re exploring a new city and wandering through its bustling streets, there’s nothing quite like the alluring smell of sizzling street food to draw you in. It’s quick, it’s tasty and it’s often cheap, making street food a practical choice for travelers, as well as a great entry point into a country’s cuisine.
North America isn’t really known for its street food (and Antarctica, of course, doesn’t have any street food at all). Sure, Americans have hot dog vendors and halal carts in major cities; Canada has poutine; and Mexico has tacos (which are delicious). But in some parts of the world, street food is an experience in its own right. We’ve selected a few of the most common — and most scrumptious — curbside dishes from every continent. Take a world tour with the map tool below, or scroll down for the street food guide in paragraph form. Happy snacking!
Argentina — Empanadas
As far as street foods go, empanadas are one of the more ubiquitous dishes. You can find them all across Latin America (and in the United States). The most common place to find them, however, is likely Argentina. Empanadas can be baked or fried, and basically consist of a puff pastry dough filled with meat, cheese or other ingredients. Traditional Argentine empanadas contain beef, onions, egg, olives and spices.
El Salvador — Plátanos Fritos
Fried plantains are popular throughout Latin America, but particularly in El Salvador. Ripe plantains are fried until golden brown and often topped with brown sugar, white cheese, sour cream or beans.
Venezuela — Arepas
Another popular Latin American street food is the arepa, which is a sort-of dough sandwich stuffed with cheese, chicken or another filling of your choice. The dough is made from masarepa, or dehydrated cooked corn meal. Arepas are generally pan-fried and then baked or broiled for a few minutes for a golden brown, crispy quality.
Bulgaria — Banitsa
This traditional Bulgarian pastry is made from whisked eggs, cheese and filo dough, which is then baked. It’s often served for breakfast but can be eaten any time, hot or cold. In addition to plain banitsa, some varieties include banitsa with spinach, pumpkin or milk.
Germany — Currywurst
On many German street corners, you can find currywurst vendors serving up the sausage-based delicacy. Currywurst consists of grilled or pan-fried pork sausages, topped with a curry ketchup sauce and curry powder sprinkled on top, and either served whole or sliced into bite-sized chunks. It’s often served with french fries or bread.
The Netherlands — Bitterballen
A classic Dutch street food, bitterballen are essentially deep-fried meatballs. Ingredients vary but often include beef, butter, flour, onion, parsley, beef broth, and spices like salt, pepper and nutmeg. The balls are covered in breadcrumbs, deep fried and served with mustard.
Portugal — Pastéis de Nata
Pastéis de nata (plural of pastel de nata), or Portuguese custard tarts, are extremely popular in Portugal and Brazil, as well as across Europe. They’re basically just egg custards in a crispy shell, baked at a very high temperature and dusted with cinnamon.
United Kingdom — Cornish Pasty
You can find a stand selling traditional pasties at just about any train station in the United Kingdom. Hailing from the coastal English county of Cornwall, these portable meals are made by placing meat or other fillings on a pastry circle, folding it, crimping the edges and baking it. Common fillings include beef, potatoes, onions and rutabaga.
Ghana — Kelewele
This popular Ghanian street food is sometimes referred to as spicy fried plantains or hot plantain crisps. It consists of fried plantains seasoned with ginger, salt, cayenne pepper and other spices. Kelewele is often served with rice and bean stew, or by itself as a dessert.
Kenya — Potato Bhajia
This crispy potato dish, also known as maru’s bhajia, is very popular across East Africa and especially in Kenya. The fritters are typically made with potatoes, rice, flour, green chilies, turmeric and coriander.
South Africa — Bunny Chow
Bunny chow is an English loanword in the Afrikaans language used to describe a popular South African fast food dish. Sometimes just called “bunny,” bunny chow is simply a hollowed-out loaf of white bread filled with curry. The curry can be vegetarian or made with chicken, and usually contains potatoes, chickpeas, tomatoes, curry powder and other spices.
China — Rou Jia Mo
Sometimes referred to as a Chinese hamburger, rou jia mo is a meat patty — usually pork, but beef or lamb in certain regions — stuffed in a flatbread bun. The meat is often stewed for hours and mixed with chilies, cumin and other seasonings. Street vendors sell rou jia mo at stands across the country.
India — Panipuri
Panipuri (or pani puri) is a quintessential Indian street food. It’s a type of chaat, which is a set of Indian snack foods that roughly contains some combination of a carb (like a samosa or cracker), sauce and vegetables. Pani and puri are two types of chaat: puri is the fried, crispy outer shell, and pani is the mint and coriander-flavored water that, along with chickpeas and potatoes, makes up the filling.
Indonesia — Chicken Satay Skewers
This dish is pretty self-explanatory. Popular across Southeast Asia,but primarily in Indonesia, chicken satay (sometimes spelled sate) is grilled chicken on skewers usually served with a mix of soy and peanut sauce. Other meats and fish can also be served this way.
Thailand — Boat Noodles
Originally sold from canal boats (hence the name), Thai boat noodles are a sought-after delicacy that are served in restaurants and from blue carts in Bangkok. They are served as a small bowl of soup with pork or beef; bean sprouts and other vegetables; and spices. The broth is often served with pork or cow blood as a seasoning, but it can also be made without it.
Australia — Dagwood Dogs
A favorite at fairs and festivals, Dagwood Dogs are essentially what Americans call corndogs: hot dogs dipped in cornmeal batter and deep-fried on a stick. Dagwood Dogs are usually served with tomato sauce. They can also be called Pluto Pups or Dippy Dogs in certain parts of the country.