Eight Best Cities for Street Food
Lists: Terry Ward lifts the lid on a few of the world's tastiest places to eat the people's cuisine
Pushcarts laden with inexpensive eats are practically as prevalent as people in Istanbul, where you can find sustenance for every meal without ever entering a restaurant. For breakfast, take your Turkish coffee or tea with simit—a donut-shaped piece of bread covered with sesame seeds that’s lovely with jam or cheese. Kofte—skewers of minced meat shaped into sausage-like forms that are grilled and stuffed into bread—make a good lunch. And you can puzzle-piece together dinner by hitting vendors selling corn on the cob (grilled or boiled), lahmajun (grilled flat bread topped with a thin layer of meat, tomatoes, onions, peppers and parsley) and midye dolma (mussels stuffed with rice, pine nuts, raisins and fresh herbs).
World Hum’s Pick: Look for the thin cigar-shaped savory pastries appropriately called sigara borek—stuffed with parsley-infused feta and fried to golden perfection. They should come with a warning that they’re habit-forming.
Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam
Ho Chi Minh City’s street food offerings are staggering. Hit a street stall and pull up one of the mini plastic chairs alongside the locals to feast on Vietnam’s breakfast of champions—Pho. The noodle soup originally hails from Hanoi but is a breakfast and lunchtime staple across Vietnam. Streetside snacks include dried squid strung like flapping laundry outside shops and tiny shrimp stir fried with their shells on—both go down well with a Tiger beer, typically served over ice. For dessert, there’s che—soupy sweet bean and coconut desserts proffered in plastic to-go bags.
World Hum’s Pick: Nothing hits the spot on a hot Mekong Delta day like sweet, syrupy Vietnamese iced café. Called ca phe sua da, it’s a mix of near equal parts thick black coffee and condensed milk. You’ll see it prepared everywhere, from a street stall to atop a burner on the curb. The concoction is poured into a plastic bag and topped with a rubber band and a straw for an on-the-go jolt like no other.
Germany’s street food offerings go beyond those ubiquitous grilled bratwursts poking from both ends of their too-tiny buns. And the capital city—with the largest Turkish population outside of Turkey—is the best place to sample the wealth. Döner kabobs at take-out restaurants are found on nearly very corner in Berlin, particularly in the Kreuzberg quarter, where they’re at their cheapest. Look for street carts selling rösti—plate-sized portions of fried hashed browns, slathered with applesauce or garlic quark, similar to sour cream. And popular festival fare includes schweinhaxe (pork knuckle) served with sauerkraut, French-style crepes and whole mushrooms sautéed in garlic and butter. For an interesting twist on gluhwein, hit Berlin’s myriad Christmas markets, held throughout December, to try Feuerzangenbowle (‘fire pliers punch’). The alcoholic beverage is prepared using red wine, orange juice and spices, poured into a large metal bowl and hung over an open fire. Pliers hold a rum-soaked cone of sugar over the mixture. The sugar is then set alight and continually poured with rum until it melts into the bowl.
World Hum’s Pick: Currywurst—slices of pork sausage topped with Germany’s favorite condiment, curry sauce (a blend of tomato sauce, ketchup and curry powder)—are eaten off paper plates with tiny forks.
Cheju Island, Korea
Korea’s largest island, roughly 56 miles off the country’s southern coast and stretching for 44 miles, is known for its fabulous seafood caught and proffered by a tradition of female divers that evolved due to historical taxation on male labor. With little more than a knife and the strength of their lungs (tanks are not used), the women wait until the tide is auspicious then plunder the sea bottom for abalone, octopus, urchins, shellfish and seaweed. At beaches across the island, they emerge from the ocean in wetsuits, bearing full nets, and grill their catches on the beach for tourists and locals. Hit the boardwalk in Cheju City, too, where hwae (raw fish) is served alongside the usual Korean street food, including dumplings, caramel candies and skewered meats.
World Hum’s Pick: Wherever you are in Korea, you’ll find tteokbokki—once a staple of the royal court, the starchy dish is now the country’s most popular and ubiquitous street snack. The classic version is rice cakes stir-fried with sticky red pepper paste. Variations include fish cakes, fritters, dumplings and boiled eggs in the same spicy sauce.