Unique Street Foods Around the World
One of my absolute favorite things about traveling is experiencing local food cultures, and one of the best ways I’ve found to do this is to try street food. While restaurants may be hit or miss in terms of authenticity- they may just be catering to tourists- street food, on the other hand, is pretty much guaranteed to give you a feel for what locals really eat.
There are so many very familiar street foods like Greek gyros, Italian gelato, and Mexican tacos, that it may be tempting to stick to these familiar favorites when traveling. However, on our recent 15-month round-the-world trip we made it a point to try street food we’d never even heard of before. Here we share five of the more unique street foods we found and enjoyed.
Panuchos in Mexico
While traveling around the Yucatan in Mexico, we definitely ate our fair share of tacos. We even had a taco count and made it a priority to eat as many as possible (which involved many a late-night taco run). But there are so many amazing street food creations in Mexico that we knew had to branch out and try as many of those as we could, too.
One day at a market in Valladolid, we stumbled on a friendly food vendor who suggested we try panuchos. We took him up on the offer and these tasty bites became one of our new favorite street foods in Mexico. Panuchos start with a fresh corn tortilla that’s split open and stuffed with refried black beans. The tortilla is then fried and topped with items like shredded chicken, cabbage, pickled red onions, and avocado. The contrasting flavors and textures are unbelievable: the super crispy tortilla contrasts with the creamy refried beans, and the tangy red onions offset the smooth and rich avocado.
Lampredotto in Florence, Italy
Initially I had no intention of eating lampredotto while in Florence because, well, it seemed sort of gross. But after taking a food tour around the city and learning how beloved this delicacy is by locals, and being egged on by Jeremy to try it, I simply had to.
In case you’re not familiar with this specialty, lampredotto is the fourth stomach of the cow. It’s cooked for hours and hours in a rich vegetable broth before being strained, chopped into pieces, served on crusty bread that’s been dipped into the cooking broth, and topped with a spicy pepper sauce.
Upon taking my first bite, I quickly got over the “gross” factor because, well, lampredotto is delicious! If I wouldn’t have known what I was eating, I would have guessed it was some sort of roast beef sandwich. The stomach is very meaty tasting, and we joked that it reminded us of Arby’s roast beef (a popular fast food restaurant in the USA). Don’t be afraid to give this unique street food a try – get in line with the locals and see what all the hype is about!
Bougatsa in Greece
Although the iconic gyros and souvlaki of Greek street food fame didn’t disappoint, we also fell in love with a lesser known street food during our time in Greece: bougatsa (http://www.livingthedreamrtw.com/2013/08/greece-best-pastry-you-never-heard-of.html). This ultra rich breakfast pastry consists of layers of crispy, flaky phyllo dough enveloping a filling of creamy myzithra cheese or sweet semolina custard. The cheese bougatsa generally gets a sprinkling of course sugar creating a perfect salty-sweet combination, while the custard-filled bougatsa gets a dusting of cinnamon.
Mote con Huesillos in Santiago, Chile
While walking around central Santiago, Chile, we saw dozens of carts selling “mote con huesillos,” and tons of people walking around carrying cups containing this strange looking drink. We just had to be part of the “in” crowd and try it, even though we didn’t know exactly what it was.
Luckily we learned more about this uniquely Chilean street food on a free walking tour of the city. Our tour guide explained that this snack starts with dried peaches that are cooked and rehydrated in a sweet simple syrup flavored with cinnamon. This syrup is then chilled and served in a cup with several spoonfulls of cooked husked wheat and one of the peaches. The resulting drink is tooth-achingly sweet, but very cold and refreshing on a sticky summer day. The wheat adds an interesting chewiness to the drink, and the tart peach helps to balance the syrupy sweetness.
Momos in Nepal
While Nepalese momos may not be so famous outside of Nepal, if you travel to the country you will see them everywhere.
There are dozens of variations on these Asian style dumplings including their fillings, the way they’re cooked, and the sauces they’re served with. Although you can find momos at street food vendors, there are even regular restaurants dedicated to serving nothing but this delicious snack.
Our favorite momos were filled with spicy pork and cooked kothey style (pan-fried). We loved these dumplings so much that we even tried recreating them at home (http://www.livingthedreamrtw.com/2015/04/nepal-momos-recipe.html). Although part of the fun of momos is eating them on a dusty, bustling, cow-filled Kathmandu street, I think we did a great job at replicating the momos themselves.
By getting out of our comfort zone and trying new and unfamiliar street foods, we’ve gotten a glimpse into dozens of local food cultures around the world. Some of these foods were definitely tastier than others, but through it all, we’ve been enriched and are better for having tried new things.
Angie is the co-owner of the long-term travel blog Living the Dream. She chases down the best local food when traveling and does everything she can to recreate the dishes at home with perfect authenticity. Angie also runs the international food blog Eat Your Passport.