Street cooks are magicians: With little more than a cart and a griddle, mortar, or deep-fryer, they conjure up not just a delicious snack or meal but the very essence of a place. Sadly, street food has acquired a reputation as a potential trip-wrecker, no one wants to get sick, but avoiding street food means denying yourself an essential part of the travel experience. So peruse our short list of some of the world’s best street food vendors, and don’t be afraid to try something new.
The dish: Banh mi
Where to find the best: Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam
It takes almost no time for the peddler who sets up her tiny cart and knee-high charcoal brazier. As soon as you order, she swiftly assembles a sandwich that, despite its colonial French exterior (a stubby baguettelike loaf), is Vietnamese through and through. Peel back the newspaper wrapper and bite, and this might be the best sandwich you’ve ever had. Or at least the best one you’ve ever had for 30 cents.
The dish: Tacos
Where to find the best: San Miguel de Allende, Mexico
The taco is made for snackers on the move, the invention, supposedly, of itinerant Mexican cowboys who relished the convenience of an edible plate. At night, when the expats and tourists are headed home from their fancy dinners, street vendors are just warming up their griddles. Order up a few tacos al pastor, and watch as one of the cooks carves off some hunks from a block of red-tinged pork cooking on a vertical spit, presses them into a double layer of delicate corn tortillas—each no larger than a CD—and splashes it with an exhilaratingly tart and salty pineapple salsa. Just a few bites obliterate each taco, leaving behind a slick of sauce and grease on your hands and lips. Pity the sleeping gringos.
The dish: Green papaya salad
Where to find the best: Bangkok, Thailand
It’s a siren song for most Thais, the pop-pop-pop of shredded green papaya being bruised by a stone pestle. The sound signals the presence of som tam, a salad that showcases the quartet of flavors—salty, sweet, sour, and spicy—that epitomize Thai cuisine. Som tam is a tangle of crisp, unripe papaya, peanuts, and dried shrimp, tossed in a lip-tingling dressing of fish sauce, palm sugar, and lime juice, then crammed, to-go style, into a plastic bag.
The dish: Currywurst
Where to find the best: Berlin, Germany
Germany has perhaps as many sausages as France has cheeses, so naturally, Berlin’s favorite street treat involves Wurst. A dense, juicy 13″ sausage cut into chunks, it lounges in a puddle of ketchup spiked with curry powder and paprika. The lovably odd, decidedly local snack was the creation, legend has it, of a clumsy Wurst peddler who dropped the containers of ketchup and curry powder that she was carrying and licked the fortuitously tasty spillage from her fingers.
The dish: Frites
Where to find the best: Brussels, Belgium
Don’t blame us when Brussels destroys your tolerance for soggy, limp, or otherwise lacking French fries. Fried potatoes here are no sidekick to a burger—they’re the main event, sold in paper cones with a dollop of mayonnaise at little kiosks all over the city.
For more street dishes that will sure open up your palate and leave you asking for more, check out this site: http://www.concierge.com/ideas/foodwine/tours/2274?page=8