No matter where you are in the world, there’s probably a snack or two that’s particular to the place you’ve found yourself in. And oftentimes, the most popular snacks are sold street-side. If you’re hoping to skip the leg work and get straight to the goods, you’ve come to the right place. Get a taste of 12 of our favorite street foods from around the world—then plan a trip, if only to a culinary corner of your city that you’ve never before explored.
Gua bao translates to “cut bread” and refers to what most Americans know as pork belly buns. These handheld snacks are basically mini sandwiches encased in steamed bread and stuffed with stewed meat (in fact, gua bao are sometimes called “Taiwanese hamburgers” because of the diversity of potential fillings). They’re traditionally filled with pork belly and dressed with pickled mustard greens, cilantro, and ground peanuts.
Unlike Middle Eastern falafel that’s made with chickpeas, ta’ameya is made with dried fava beans, making for a lighter, moister falafel ball. Dried split fava beans are mixed with garlic, parsley, and cilantro, and spices like cumin, coriander, and cayenne. They’re then deep fried until crisp and eaten for breakfast along with pita, tomato, onion, and tahini sauce.
A sweet, colorful Filipino dessert, halo-halo (or “mix-mix”) is actually borne of a Japanese snow cone-like treat called “kakigori.” Both are variations of shave ice prepared with toppings like boiled sweet beans, coconut, sago, gulaman, tubers, and fruits—but halo-halo’s toppings aren’t actually on the top. They’re served in a tall glass, then covered with shaved ice, sprinkled with sugar, and topped with leche flan, purple yam, or ice cream. The final touch? Rich, decadent evaporated milk.
Bunny Chow, South Africa
Often referred to simply as “bunny,” bunny chow is basically a curry-filled, hollowed out loaf of bread. Of Indian origin, the original dish was vegetarian, but these days its curry filling varies from mutton to lamb to chicken. It’s usually served with side of sambal—a salad of grated carrot, chili, and onion—but the most distinctive feature of bunny chow is its gravy-soaked walls of bread.
Egg Waffle, Hong Kong
Also known as an eggette, a bubble waffle, and an egg puff, the egg waffle’s original Cantonese name is “gai daan jai,” which translates to “little chicken egg.” Found in Chinatowns across America, these bulbous treats are made from eggy leavened batter that’s cooked between two plates with semi-spherical cells. These puffy pull-apart treats are delicious plain, but they can also be eaten with fruit or in flavors like chocolate and strawberry. One bite is all you need to understand why egg waffles are one of the most popular street snacks in Hong Kong.
What Americans know as “French fries” are simply “frites” in Belgium. But it’s not the just a name that separates these two fried potato delights. Frites are cut thicker than their American counterparts and are double-fried for the ultimate balance of crunchiness and fluffiness. Sold at street-side “friteries” or “fritkots,” frites are made to order and served in paper cones with mayo and ketchup.
Vada Pav, India
Considered one of the most popular street foods in Mumbai, vada pav is a savory, deep-fried potato delight that resembles a mini hamburger. The potato patty is traditionally prepared with coriander and other spices like turmeric, mustard seed, and asafoetida, which is similar to garlic in flavor. The patty is then sandwiched in a bread roll and served with not one, but two kinds of chutney. This savory spud snack can be found all over Mumbai and at street stalls and cafes across India.
Supplì are deep-fried rice balls made with ragu sauce and filled with warm, melty mozzarella. In fact, the name of this delightful Roman snack comes from the French word for “surprise,” a nod to its irresistibly cheesy insides. But supplì aren’t just filled with mozzarella—they can also be made with chicken, mincemeat, or provatura. They’re sometimes known as supplì al telefono because of the long string of mozzarella that forms when you break a ball into two pieces, resembling a telephone cord.
Jerk Chicken, Jamaica
When people think “jerk,” it’s usually a certain spiciness that comes to mind. But the term “jerk” actually comes from the Spanish word for jerked or dried meat, “charqui.” It also alludes to act of jerking or poking meat to create holes for filling with spices.
Jerk huts or shacks dot the roadsides in Jamaica, serving as a kind of local fast food industry. There, you’ll find tender chicken or pork that’s been rubbed with the signature spicy-sweet seasoning that makes jerk so distinctive. Jerk spice usually consists of allspice (called “pimento” in Jamaica) and Scotch bonnet peppers. Other ingredients include scallions, nutmeg, thyme, garlic, brown sugar, ginger, and salt.
A hearty sandwich made with baguette bread and grilled chorizo, the choripán is a popular street food eaten all over Argentina. Its name is a coupling of its ingredients: chorizo, or sausage, and “pan” or crispy bread. Though it originated in Argentina, the choripán’s popularity has traveled to Brazil, Chile, Puerto Rico, Uruguay, and even the US. They’re traditionally served as an appetizer and eaten with chimichurri sauce.
Pupusas are like corn tortillas, but thicker and stuffed with either cheese, beans, or meat. These golden, fried patties are traditionally sold at pupuserías and served with tomato sauce and curtido, a pickled cabbage relish similar to sauerkraut. Some people confuse pupusas with their corn cake cousin, the arepa, but the pupusa is actually larger and flatter, and made with an alkalized cornmeal called masa harina.
Nepal’s version of the dumpling, momos are a popular fast food that’s now spread to the US, the UK, and India. They’re made from a simple dough of white flour and water that’s stuffed with meat and veggies, then steamed or fried. Momos started out round, but these days you can find them in all kinds of shapes and sizes. They’re usually served with a tomato dipping sauce called achar—or they’re sometimes served in a meat broth as a dumpling soup.
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