Every big city in the world combines a lot of distinctive cuisines and types of food. They attract people from different regions all over the world which makes megacities giant food hubs with multicultural influences.
There is so much to explore and even though food in the countryside might be really authentic and traditional, what makes street food in metropolises special is that it combines the best of various culinary influences. On the other hand, competition is so hard that only the best food stalls survive.
The following article includes my personal Street Food favorites among the cities I’ve visited so far. I know that this list will actually never end as I’ll continue to travel and therefore probably discover even more delicious food sanctuaries.
But so far, these were the 7 best Street Food Cities I’ve been to.
Check them out!
Barcelona has been my home for the last 6 months so I had quite some time to discover the city’s food scene. Even though it’s hard to find “real” Street Food in European cities and you can’t compare it to the way of eating and cooking in Asia, I was able to find some real gems in Barcelona.
First of all I have to say that I’m not the biggest fan of Spanish cuisine. To me, it just lacks in spice and flavour. But Barcelona is an exception as it has a great international food scene.
Like most cities with a harbour, the Catalan capital offers some amazing seafood and the best place to enjoy it is the former fisherman’s village Barceloneta right next to the beach. You can get some insanely fresh seafood there for awesome prices. Big point for Barcelona.
But most of the times I enjoyed the different eateries which popped up in this multicultural city. Due to people from all over the world migrating to Barcelona, this city developed a huge intercultural food scene.
Around every corner lays a small restaurant or Bar. Pakistani, Mexican, Chinese, Vietnamese, Thai, Peruvian… I could go on with that forever. I already wrote about some of my favorite cheap and authentic eateries here.
Every culture brought their own recipes and I’ve probably never been to another city where you can find such diversity in food and culture.
Definitely a huge thumbs up for the cultural and culinary melting pot of Barcelona.
Peruvian kitchen is famous for its freshness and taste. And the food capital of Peru is Lima. I’ve been living there for one month and stayed with a guest family. That means freshly home cooked food every day and I can promise you it is just mind blowing.
The Peruvian cuisine is really experimental and combines a lot of different spices. Due to a lot of migration from all over the world in Peru’s history, this country developed a lot of unique dishes and is considered the inventor of fusion kitchen.
Peru’s signature dish is Ceviche, raw fish or seafood marinated in lime and served in many variations. But that’s just the tip of the Iceberg.
Street Food like Antichucos (marinated skewers mostly made out of beef heart), Sancochado (an incredibly rich and hearty meat and vegetable broth) or Carapulcra ( a pork stew with potatoes, aji, garlic, mirasol pepper and more spices) are just an example of all the dishes there are.
There are a lot of small hole-in-the-wall restaurants that serve amazingly fresh and delicious food for a dime. I really enjoyed walking around the city and discovering new tiny eateries. Most of the times they just serve their specialties and they are typically Peruvian – colorful and with a lot of art which makes these cozy places really beautiful.
Lima is the melting pot of Peruvian cuisine which makes this city a place where culinary surprises wait around each corner.
If I had to describe Marrakech in just a few words it would be overwhelming, buzzing, steamy and full of smells.
This also applies to the Moroccan food. Once you take the first step into the city, you’ll get spoiled by all the smells and impressions. Everywhere are small Street Food Stalls with smoking meat skewers or Tagines cooking over open fire.
I have to say, it takes a moment to really understand what’s happening in this city but once you processed the first impressions you’re good to go.
The Street Food haven of Marrakech is Jamaa el Fna, a huge Marketplace where during nightime people build up their stands and serve some of the best dishes you have ever tried. Make sure to check out the places packed with locals as they serve the most authentic food.
Another way of exploring the many culinary specialties of Marrakech is to take a stroll through the Souks (huge markets connected by small alleys). Don’t worry to get lost, just let your senses lead you and you’ll end up finding some amazing, non-touristy eateries. This is a must do in Marrakech and you’ll always find your way back to the Jamaa el Fna.
I had the best lamb ever at a small street side stall so make sure to be curious and check out new stuff. Another must try is B’stilla, a fluffy pastry filled with pigeon meat and a lot of spices like ground almonds and cinnamon.
If you want to read more about Marrakech you’ll find a whole article about the food here.
Singapore might not be the typical Street Food City like you imagine it. It’s one of the cleanest cities in the world and therefore you wont find small street side kitchens all over the walkways like in most of the other Southeast Asian Megacities.
Nevertheless, Singapore has an incredible food scene. Hawker centers (Food courts) are the real deal here. Big areas packed with small restaurants all specializing in their signature dishes. As Singapore is a state with a lot of foreign influence, you’ll find everything from Chinese over Indian to Thai food here.
These food courts are pure heaven if you’re a food lover. The hardest part for me was to decide at which of the many stands I’d order my food. But if that is your only worry you’ve made the right decision 😉
Food courts are mostly found in shopping centers or close to office buildings. The best thing to do is to try yourself through the many different cuisines there are and enjoy the variety of flavours, smells and impressions.
The Hawker Centers in Singapore serve such good food, that two food stalls just recently were mentioned in the prestigious Michelin Guide. That shows exactly how amazing hawker food can be and that cheap food a lot of times overpowers expensive high class cuisine.
3. Ho Chi Minh City
As the largest city of Vietnam, former Saigon has an amazing Street Food Scene. Like all big cities, Ho Chi Minh City has a lot of foreign influence but still, most of the food you’ll find on the streets is Vietnamese.
Vietnamese kitchen is definitely one of my favorites. In southern Vietnam there is a lot of influence from Thai and Khmer cuisine, whereas in the north, Chinese influence is stronger.
Generally speaking of Vietnamese food, it’s rich in flavour but not as strong as for example Thai food with its thick and dense curries. It’s more on the light side and therefore, meals often include various dishes like soup, rice, noodles, vegetables and meat.
The principle of Yin and Yang plays an important role in Vietnamese cooking. The Vietnamese balance out their spices and make every meal a unique taste experience. It’s about balancing extremes. A seafood dish (considered cool) is complemented with a warm accent of ginger, hot spicy food is served with a sour ingredient to balance it out. This concept goes even further.
No matter where you are in Ho Chi Minh City, there is always a small place serving the Vietnamese Signature dish, Pho (rich noodle soup) and a Banh Mi (Baguette-style sandwich packed with toppings and flavours) is also never far away.
This city just seems packed with food stalls and their small chairs and tables. You realize that food plays an important role in the lives of the Vietnamese and you’ll see people eating at any hour. What I loved most about Ho Chi Minh City is that you don’t have to look for a place in particular to get some good food. With the huge amount of hawkers, it’s a pleasure to just walk around the city and stop by places which grab your attention to have some Bun Bo (rice noodle salad) or Banh Khot (small savoury pancake with a shrimp).
Saigon is a city to explore with your nose and your tastebuds. Visit the many markets and try the lovely prepared dishes this street food haven has to offer.
2. Kuala Lumpur
If you’re a food lover, the Malaysian capital will probably be heaven for you. Kuala Lumpur is a city heavily influenced by its three main demographic groups. Malayan, Chinese and Indian.
This multicultural community combines its treasures in Kuala Lumpur’s Street Food scene. Never have I ever been to city where food is so diverse, tasty and cheap. You can find typical Indian Banana leaf restaurants, small Chinese noodle joints and get some authentic Roti and Chai for breakfast.
Food in Kuala Lumpur is as diverse as its cultural influences. The city is flourishing with food markets and hawker centers and there are a lot of new things to explore and to try.
Be curious and you’ll end up eating in a small backyard Thali-eatery which serves some of the best curries you’ve probably ever tried. Or what about freshly made Ice Tea out of a plastic bag?
KL is a city which will never let you down when it comes to food and there is so much to discover that I’m quite sure there is no way to get bored.
The three main cultures of KL do not only influence the city’s food scene but also its architecture and religious sights. From beautiful mosques to colourful Hindu temples there is a lot to discover if you are interested in the city’s history.
And the first place goes to: Bangkok!
Thailand’s capital is a sizzling and steaming kitchen in its own. If I think about Street Food, the first thing that comes to my mind is Bangkok and the city’s walkway food stands, steaming and incredibly tasty smelling kitchens on wheels which serve some of the best food you’ll ever try.
The Thai people love to eat! I’m sure almost every Thai you’ll ask about their favorite thing in the world will answer you with food. They don’t, like most countries in the world, eat 3 meals a day at fixed hours. The Thai way of eating is a constant feasting throughout the whole day. Not saying that they are eating huge meals all day long but rather small portions. It’s not about filling yourself up, it’s about being able to try as many of these wonderful dishes every single day.
Walking through the city, you’ll mostly see the people eating something. Food can be found everywhere. Doesn’t matter if it’s a small bridge in a side street above one of the many Khlongs or a backyard at the end of a small alleyway. The Thai people are experts in the art of cooking incredibly good food in the most unusual situations or locations.
It’s the love and the passion towards their cuisine what makes Bangkok and Thai food so special. Small hawker centers, even though looking rather shabby and not special at all a lot of times have been serving food for decades and many generations, making these places culinary hotspots and famous local food joints. Specializing only in a few signature dishes, the families became experts in preparing these over the years so you’ll often get better food than in normal restaurants.
The Thai people live on the streets and that’s where the best food is found. In a Megacity like Bangkok, you won’t find a lot of people cooking at home so kitchens just moved out on the streets. From businessmen over mothers to monks, everyone eats on the streets and most of the times the best food stands gather close to universities, business areas or hospitals. At that very places where people gather in masses during midday to have some great food.
Bangkok is a city where good food appears at crowded and busy places. Even though I’m quite sure that you’ll never walk more than a few meters without finding a small food stand, the best food is found at markets, next to offices or universities or transport hubs.
Make sure to check out Bangkok’s food scene and dig into the abundant dishes and variations there are. For some more detailed informations check out my Bangkok Travel Guide.
You can find Street Food all over the world and in the end it depends on you if you’re interested and willing to try some new stuff. This article lists the best Street Food Cities among the countries I’ve visited so far. As I already mentioned earlier, this list doesn’t end with this post. There is so much more to explore in the world and I’m sure I could already add some more cities after my upcoming trip to Japan.
You might have realized that this list is packed with South East Asian cities. On the one hand that is because I’ve already traveled a lot in South East Asia and therefore can speak about my own experiences in these cities but on the other hand, Street Food is much more popular and common in Asian countries than in European countries.
To get the most out of one of these cities, the way to go is to be curious and hungry. It’s always good to know some places where to get some delicious food or to have someone showing you around. But in my opinion it’s really easy to find awesome and tasty food in cities like Bangkok or Kuala Lumpur as they are just packed with small hawker stands and there is not much to do wrong.
Be open for new things and get the most out of your time in these cities. Take this guide as a short introduction to the different food scenes there are and don’t hesitate to see it for yourself!
I’m always happy to hear your opinion and suggestions so leave me a comment and let me know about your favorite Street Food Cities.
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Until the next time!
With love, Niko
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