Where do you find the world’s best street food? Wherever people love to eat that’s where. Some cities satisfy a foodies cravings better than others. Here are 14 Asian cities where food is taken very seriously as reported by folks that love to experience a city through its food.
Indore, situated on the breezy Malwa Plateau, boasts of phenomenally rich food culture mainly because it’s been a melting pot of different cultures for centuries. The apex of this cultural mix is seen at the Sarafa Bazaar, India’s biggest and only Night Food Street. By day the market is actually a centuries old jewelry market. But at 8pm it turns into a glorious night market going till 2AM.
Food vendors begin converging to Sarafa bazaar around 8 PM bringing with them the rich food heritage of central India. The menu represents every Indian food genre. You name it and certainly you’ll find it. Many menu selections have been invented by the vendors; Bhutte (Corn) Ka kiss, Garadu (Yam root) Chaat, King Size Jalebi fondly known as Jaleba, Basundi, Milk based Shikanji, Alu (Potato) Pattis and many more. Some items have achieved iconic status like Sabudana Ki Khichdi and Dahi Wada which are now must try food items.
Anyone who has ever been to Indore will definitely agree that Indore is the street food capital of India and worthy of holding the title of the world’s best street food.
Himanshu blogs at Everything Candid
Taiwan is the land of the night market and wants to be the center of the world’s best street food. What that means for travelers is cheap, delicious street food always within reach! You better go hungry to the Taiwanese Night Markets because you are going to want to try everything. Must try foods include green onion pancakes (flaky and chewy), barbecued corn (sweet and spicy), fish ball soup, fried quail eggs and, fried squid (think calamari, but loaded with onion and garlic). Taiwan is also home to some of the best fruit in the world, and they love to mix fruit juice and milk. Try the watermelon juice, papaya milk, and of course, bubble milk tea. My personal favorite is the lemon aiyu drink, which is sweetened lemon juice mixed with herb jelly.
This list doesn’t even scratch the surface of the delicious and unusual foods you will see at even the smallest Taiwanese night market (chicken feet, duck heads, and pig bladder.) If you want to be adventurous without too much gross factor, try the stinky tofu! Stinky tofu is legendary in Taiwan, and you will definitely be sure when you come across a street vendor selling it. It’s got a very distinct odor, but the taste itself actually isn’t that bad. Don’t leave Taiwan without trying it. Isn’t the whole point of going there to have an adventure? This is it.
Credit: Cody Biggers
If you love street food, you absolutely must visit Bali. The food is generally very clean and safe because the demand for it is high and vendors sell a large volume of it. You can taste it everywhere in random kitchen carts on wheels, which they set up as the sun sets or in Warungs which are small Indonesian traditional restaurants or so-called tiny shops. You will be served amazing traditional Indonesian food in a very simple setting. Most of Warungs are made of wood along the road and have a couple of plastic chairs and a table to accommodate you. Most of the dishes in these places are cooked according to a unique traditional recipe and it’s not unusual for people to travel across the island just to eat a dish that a specific warung is famous for. My personal favorites are traditional chicken sticks with sweet / nuts sauce, fried rice “Nasi Goreng” or “Bakso” soup which you can get from the guy who drives with little “kitchen” on the bike. Just wave at him, find a spot to sit (can be just on the street) and enjoy.
Viktor Vincej blogs at Traveling Lifestyle
CHIANG MAI, THAILAND
I think many who have tried it would agree that Chiang Mai, Thailand has got to be on the top of the list when it comes to world’s best street food. It’s almost impossible to have bad food whether you are at one of the massive night markets or just the regular ole stand-alone stall on the corner of your guesthouse ‘Soi’. The street food in this city is typically made with fresh ingredients bought at the market earlier in the day and usually prepared when you order it, so it’s bound to be full of flavor! The key is to stop by a stall where you see a lot of people (especially local Thais) and you can’t go wrong. While Pad Thai and Pork Satay are well known foods to order at Thai street stalls, we recommend trying fried pork with garlic and pepper (Moo Todd Kratiem Phrik) or a spicy basil and chicken (Pad Krapow Gai). These two dishes were our favorite at the North Gate Food stalls. A huge variety of meals, including seafood or vegetarian dishes can be found there! The food is not only tasty, but super economical. You can experience fantastic food with quality ingredients even on a budget!
Taiss Nowrouzi blogs at Together To Wherever
After Taj Mahal, the second world wonder India has is undeniably its street food. Ahmedabad, the capital city of Gujarat, also offers a wide variety of the world’s best street food. If you are here, you must check-in at Municipal Market, famously known as MM. This market is a buzzing food square offering culinary masterpieces coming from the perfect fusion of traditional Gujarati kitchens with modern day frills. Gujarati’s love processed cheese affordably available as Amul cheese and embellish almost all their delicacies with layers of this cheese. Go ultra-spicy with the showstopper, the Swastik Ragda Patties stall. This dish is a two part preparation, ragda and patties served together with some mint and tamarind chutney (Sauce). The peas are mashed and fried with onions, spices and tomatoes to make a curry which is the ragda and the patties are made from boiled mashed potatoes. Once your eyes start watering with the spice level of ragda, calm your senses with some thick shakes, slushes or softies from Cheers Ice cream Parlour.
Mokshta Chauhan (Ms) blogs at Miss with Migratory Wings
Malaysia is one of the great street food destinations with its melting pot of Malay, Chinese and Indian cuisines on offer at street markets and hawker stands around the country. This is a country that is so serious about food that many people visit different cities just to eat. And top of the list has to be the island of Penang, located off the coast north of Kuala Lumpur.
As you might expect from an island, the seafood here is first rate. While Char Koay Teow, a stir-fried noodle dish with a rich and garlicky sauce, may be served elsewhere with just slices of chicken, here in Penang you should expect that it’s served with prawns and topped with small and flavoursome cockles. You also can’t miss out on Penang Assam Laksa. Laksas are generally a coconut mild-based soup famous throughout Malaysia. But here in Penang, instead it’s a fish broth-based soup, turned sour with copious amounts of tamarind or “assam”, which gives the soup it’s name.
If you still have room for dessert, don’t miss out on trying Ice Kacang or Cendol, or, if you can get past the smell, try durian, either fresh, in ice cream or with coffee.
Photo copyright: Pandora Voon, used under Creative Commons license
Shandos Cleaver blogs at Travelnuity
Bangkok was the first Asian city I visited, and the first city where I tried Southeast Asian street food. It remains one of my favourite cities for street food for several reasons, not least for the sheer variety.
Almost every corner of the city has something delicious going on, and you can visit a different street food hub every single night of your trip. There’s Chinatown, Victory Monument, Ratchawat Market, Bang Khun Non, and countless other places dotted throughout the city. Each has its own vibe, and its own set of hawkers selling different delicious dishes.
Bangkok is a fantastic place to try some of Thailand’s most popular dishes including Tom Yum Goong, Tom Kha Gai, Geang Keow Wan Gai, and Massaman Gai, as well as regional dishes like Sai Ooah, Gaeng Hanglay, and Gaeng Om. If you’re feeling adventurous, you can also seek out some very unusual dishes that are only for the brave-hearted like Balut (fertalised duck egg), Goong Ten (dancing shrimp), and Malang Tod (fried insects).
Then there’s dessert: khao niew ma muang or mango sticky rice, which has to be one of the best desserts in the word.
James blogs at Worldwide Shopping Guide
COLOMBO, SRI LANKA
My first trip to Sri Lanka was a budget one, so street food was not only a way to experience the country’s cuisine, but essential for my survival. During the first half a year on the island, my breakfast, lunch, and dinner all came from small shops by the road where you can find anything from rice and curry to snacks. Snacks, or as Sri Lankans call them, short eats, are particularly popular. You’ll find every pastry imaginable in a roadside shop: from buns and patties to rolls and cutlets with fillings like chicken, fish, vegetables and egg. One pastry will set you back 50-100 rupees (30 – 60 cents), which makes it easy to go overboard. Most of the snacks are deep fried, so pace yourself if you care about your waistline.
My favorite street food, though, is not a snack, but a heavy dish full of carbs and fats called kottu. When you walk the streets of Colombo it’s easy to find where kottu is being made by the sound of cooking. Kottu is made of godhamba roti (similar to large thin crepes). Roti is cut into small pieces and then mixed with meats, vegetables and spices on a grill. The cook uses two blades to chop all the ingredients and mix them together right on the grill. The sound of blades hitting the grill is what makes kottu so recognizable. If you are looking for a particularly sinful experience, ask the cook to add cheese!
Yulia Dyukova blogs at The Foodie Miles
One doesn’t usually think of Tokyo as a place to indulge in street food, but it should be. Tokyo is made up of unique neighborhoods, or districts, and each of these small areas have their own special events, museums, and yes, street food. Walking around the busy and somewhat touristy district of Akasuka, there is an entire area devoted to food. We were there one crisp January day, and the cold did not stop anyone from indulging in tasty treats that are most often found in festivals. We ate tempura, takoyaki (octopus balls), yakisoba, and then topped it off with colorful sweet bananas for dessert. Our entire meal cost each of us less than $10. What a cheap way to enjoy some delicious Japanese foods, so next time you visit Tokyo pull up a plastic stool and dig in.
Corinne and Jim blog at Reflections En Route
Saigon is the street food capital of Vietnam and a strong contender for the title of the world’s best street food. Every alleyway, street corner and market is lined with soup stalls and sandwich carts. Pork is grilled on sidewalk barbecue grills, and vendors on bicycle are sell dried jelly fish and other snacks.
Vietnamese cuisine lends itself perfectly to casual eating on the go. The most famous dishes are probably Vietnam’s soups, which seem to often combine a hundred different ingredients all brought together into one perfect layered taste. Pho Bo Kho is one of the heartiest and filling soups Saigon has on offer, with large chunks of slow simmered beef in a dark broth with carrots and onions. It’s usually served with the diner’s choice of rice noodles or a crispy baguette on the side.
For those in a rush – Saigon is a bustling city where everything is constantly moving – Banh Mi sandwiches layered with things like grilled pork, paté, crispy pork skin and lots of herbs and pickled vegetables make a perfect on the go snack.
District 1 is probably the most popular area for travelers to discover street food, but it can be found all over Saigon.
Edwina Dendler blogs at the Traveling German
On aspect of Beijing’s street food can be shocking for a first-time Western visitor. On the menu? …scorpions, pig penis, big fat water bugs and centipedes to mention just a few common delicacies. Here is a country where everything is maximized in the name of food; fish scales, rodents, amphibians, insects. The speculation is that a country that suffered so many devastating famines over the years has trained its pallet to consume anything that is even remotely edible. There is truth to that. Insects are loaded with protein. The reason Westerners don’t eat them is because of cultural perceptions that designate the insects as “gross.” Humans can adapt to anything.
Beyond the unusual selections, Beijing has some of the best street snacks. The city offers up its own version of dumplings made with pork, scallions and special seasonings. But the secret ingredient is in the special sauce.
Talek Nantes blogs at Travels with Talek
Mornings in Istanbul begin with a hot tea and freshly baked Simit (sesame rings). Imagine walking down the busy streets of this Turkish metropolis, zig-zagging yourself through the vast number of cute simit wagons that, day by day, roll down the alleys of Istanbul in order to find their designated spot. Doesn’t that sound appealing? And then imagine yourself walking closer to the Bosporus, where ferries cruise along, up and down the river. You’ll hop on, get another tea and simply watch this bustling city begin the day. Istanbul is a true mecca for food lovers. Whether it’s the pastries they sell in the streets, Balik ekmek, which is freshly grilled fish in a bun, gözleme, filled dough pastries with spinach, feta cheese or lamb for example, or whether it’s a pressed orange juice – you’ll never run out of street food options when spending a holiday in Istanbul. Make sure to get strong coffee once in a while and don’t forget to snack on lahmacun (thin dough topped with a minced meat-onion-red pepper mix) or get yourself some fresh midye dolma (mussels mixed with spicy rice and served with a squeeze of lemon juice). Don’t worry, Istanbul’s street food will definitely not leave you hungry.
Clemens Sehi blogs at Travellers Archive
The Philippines is certainly a strong contender for the best street foods out there. On every corner of Manila Filipino street food will always be included the menu of the day. One favourite of most Filipinos and probably the most popular one is the Balut (or Balot, a developing embryo usually of a duck) is boiled and eaten from its shell. Another choice is Isaw (my personal favourite), a grilled intestine of chicken, dipped into a bowl of savoury vinegar sauce. Another delight is the Betamax or grilled chicken blood.
There also are fruits in this street food category such as the Banana Que, a banana on a stick fried together with brown sugar. Turon, a banana wrapped in a lumpia wrapper with caramelized sugar. Camote Que, similar to Banana Que but using sweet potatoes. And Binatog, made of steamed white cork kernels with milk and shredded coconut is sure to delight.
Jerny Destacamento blogs at The Jerny
When it comes to street food, Chengdu, the capital of Sichuan province, is in a class by itself. It is a city with an eating obsession. Chengdu is reported to have the highest density of restaurants of any city in the world. As if that’s not enough, the food spills out into the streets creating some of the most interesting and delicious street food experiences around. The variety is stunning. Street markets are everywhere overflowing with fruit and pastries. There are towers of steamed buns, noodles and the famous dumplings unique to Chengdu. Unusual samplings also abound; rabbit heads, snake skewers, pig jowls… the selections are endless.
Sichuan style cuisine developed in the early Qing Dynasty. During that time, many immigrates came to Sichuan. The different food cultures from he various groups came together and formed modern Sichuan cuisine. Combining the Hunan and Canton cooking methods, Sichuan cuisine has gradually become one of the top cuisines in China today. It is for good reason that UNESCO designated Chengdu the first City of Gastronomy in Asia in 2010. And that’s even with world-class competitors like Tokyo, Hong Kong and Singapore!
Ask a Chinese where to find the best street food in China and he will probably answer, Chengdu! Some would argue it has the world’s best street food.
Talek Nantes blogs at Travels with Talek
What city would you say has the word’s best street food?