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18 street food dishes from around the world that you have to try

Nosh your way around the world with these delectable street eats from Chicago, Tokyo, Mexico City and beyond

Morgan Olsen
Written by
Morgan Olsen
Time Out editors

As city streets around the world show signs of life again, we're reminded of all the things that make them so special – not least of which is the bevvy of street food vendors who keep us full when we're on the go. It's the dosa cart in New York City, the snack shop in Tokyo, the falafel stall in London, the taco truck in LA and the hole in the wall in Paris. These faithful cooks may be working with small kitchens, but the food they're slinging is brimming with soul.

The best street food in the world often doubles as a history lesson, too. There are dishes that speak volumes about immigrant communities. Others whisper of age-old traditions. Some shout of new trends brought forth by younger generations.

So, what does street food look like around the world? It comes in many shapes and sizes, so we enlisted Time Out editors from around the globe to weigh in on the street eats that set their city apart. They delivered with a delicious hit list that includes dishes like tacos al pastor, tamagoyaki, cuttlefish skewers and a seriously upgraded hot dog. Prepare for your stomach to growl – these are the street food eats you must try at least once in your life.

RECOMMENDED: The best street food on the planet, according to chefs

The best street food dishes from around the world

Where to find it: Follow the scent of fire-roasted pork down Calle Luz Saviñon until you find Manolo’s original taco cart, which is located across the street from a larger, newer sister storefront, or ‘changarro.’

Those meat-packed vertical grills you see all over Mexico City are a gift from Lebanese immigrants, who arrived in the country in the early 1900s with beloved dishes from home, like shawarma. Years later, the intertwined cultures birthed tacos al pastor, a handheld that features spit-grilled pork that borrows its cooking techniques from the lamb shawarma. (You see it now, right?) At Tacos Manolo, the fan-favorite dish is rich, spicy and fatty – but no one in their right might would complain. The crew behind the counter doubles up on tortillas, a Mexican hack that prevents the taco from breaking apart. While purists will argue that tacos al pastor must be accompanied by red hot sauce, we’re willing to break with tradition for Tacos Manolo’s spicy peanut sauce – a must-try condiment that sets this shop apart.—Andrea Vázquez, Time Out Mexico City

Where to find it: South Melbourne Market is brimming with an eclectic mix of makers, but you’ll kick yourself if you don’t make time to seek out stall No. 91 – off Cecil Street and sandwiched between Little Hof and Bambu – where the bright red glow is synonymous with dim sum.

This 60-year-old city stalwart has grown to include four locations over the years, but founder Ken Cheng originally started slinging the dumpling’s distant cousin at Caulfield Racecourse. Cheng was one of the first few people to make dim sims – or dimmies, as they're fondly referred to – in Melbourne, and his O.G. recipe is honoured by his sons to this day. A dim sim is a combination of ground meat (in this case, cabbage, pork, beef and lamb) and spices enveloped in a thick dumpling wrapper that you can eat steamed or deep-fried. South Melbourne Market Dim Sims’ point of difference is that theirs is double the size of your average dimmie. More for us.—Rushani Epa, Time Out Melbourne


Where to find it: Head to 18th Street in Pilsen or 26th Street in Little Village during the morning and look for the coolers. Vendors can also be found in neighborhoods like Albany Park, Humboldt Park and Hermosa.

No one does street food like Chicago’s Mexican-American community, especially when it comes to tamales: savory filling – oftentimes pork or chicken simmered in tangy rojo or verde sauce – is encased in masa, wrapped in corn husk and steamed to portable perfection. Despite restrictive city licensing laws (a hurdle that’s been especially burdensome to immigrant food cart operators), busy street corners in neighborhoods like Little Village and Pilsen are typically full of vendors slinging their fresh wares from carts and massive coolers during the morning rush hour. Show up early, bring cash and don’t forget a tote bag – you’ll want to buy in bulk.—Emma Krupp, Time Out Chicago

Where to find it: This humble snack shop anchors the corner of Fa Yuen and Dundas Streets, near the Yau Ma Tei MTR Station. Keep an eye out for the many yellow and green signs and then find your spot at the end of the line.

You can’t claim you’ve tried the best street eats in Hong Kong without visiting Fei Jie, a Mongkok vendor known for its vast array of innards. The original owner – Fei Jie herself – grew up brining and selling skewers with her father. Now operated by her son, the family-owned shop has reached institution status and continues to pull in crowds who crave the skewered, soy-braised snacks. The menu can be overwhelming at first – think pig offal, intestines, turkey kidney and more – but it’s the cuttlefish skewer that really stands out. Bright orange with plenty of tentacle action, the seafood is flash-boiled and rendered tender before it’s dipped in a soy-based marinade for maximum flavour. Add a lick of feisty mustard and sweet sauce, and prepare to fall in love with Fei Jie, too.—Fontaine Cheng, Time Out Hong Kong


Where to find it: Nestled amongst food vendors and ware-filled boutiques, Pockets holds down a stall at the bustling Netil Market in London Fields, open Friday through Sunday for all of your leisurely weekend needs.

When Itamar Grinberg decided to launch a falafel stall at Netil House last year, he didn’t expect it to coincide with a national lockdown. Thankfully, as a takeaway food stall, Pockets could stay open – and it thrived, boasting queues of up to two hours. The menu’s sole dish is a falafel pitta, a labour of love that pays homage to Grinberg’s Israeli roots. The pitta is handmade, stonebaked and steamed on-site to order, making them pillowy-soft. They’re filled with herbaceous falafel, cabbage slaw, sumac onions, tomato, cucumber and parsley before getting doused in five (!) sauces, including a show-stopping pickled mango number. The pièce de résistance? An incredibly crispy potato slice that’s coated in batter and fried, inspired by the falafel stalls that Grinberg used to visit as a child. Oh, and a whole roasted chilli. Be prepared to queue, but know that it’s worth the wait.—Izzy Aron, Time Out London

Choripán from Nuestra Parrilla in Buenos Aires
Photograph: Shutterstock

6. Choripán from Nuestra Parrilla in Buenos Aires

Where to find it: This teeny-tiny storefront is tucked just outside of San Telmo Market, a buzzy, sensory overload of a bazaar. Once you’re done shopping, find an exit that spits you out on Bolivar and follow the smell of grilled meats to this hole in the wall.

The name Nuestra Parrilla translates to ‘our grill,’ a nod to the community-serving ethos of owner Freddy's no-frills stall that dishes out one of the best choripán sandwiches on the planet. More simply known as ‘chori,’ the handheld finds grilled pork sausage shoved inside a toothsome roll with a heavy hand of chimichurri to boot. There are a few bar stools at the counter, but you’re better off wandering the block. Fair warning: There’s no way you’re getting more than two blocks before you’re licking your fingers clean.


Where to find it: Seek out this little shop at the Tsukiji Outer Market, where a grid of narrow streets and alleys is home to myriad vendors tucked into the most improbable of spaces. Arrive before noon, as this stall tends to sell out fast.

If you want to sample a truly classic Japanese street snack, best head to a heritage store that’s been perfecting the recipe for more than 70 years. First established in 1924 as a sushi shop, Shouro switched to tamagoyaki (a rolled omelette, typically crafted with soy sauce or dashi) during World War II and has been specialising in the dish ever since. You can buy the silky egg treat on a stick, but we recommend springing for the heartier tamagoyaki sando, which finds the juicy omelette smeared with Japanese mayo and encased in fresh shokupan (white bread). Scratch that – just get one of each to chomp on as you explore the iconic Tokyo market.Time Out Tokyo editors

Where to find it: This hard-to-miss white truck is parked in the same spot on Olympic Boulevard in Boyle Heights every afternoon. Just make sure to bring cash.

Taco trucks in Los Angeles can spark their own party scenes (see: Taco Zone, Avenue 26 Tacos) and entire food movements (see: Kogi). But only one has managed to float above all of the curbside hype for two decades, and it’s largely thanks to the staying power of this particularly perfect seafood taco: a deep-fried tortilla stuffed with shrimp and topped with slabs of avocado and a slathering of salsa roja. It’s the kind of thing worth waiting in line for – and there will be a line, which has allowed Raul Ortega’s operation to spawn three other trucks and a brick-and-mortar spot.—Michael Juliano, Time Out Los Angeles


Where to find it: If you blink, you might just miss the time-worn window display of this institution, which is sandwiched between a grocery store and a restaurant. Just don’t show up on Saturdays – Chez Bob is closed for the Sabbath.

Only clued-in Parisians know about this delicious hideout that’s remained mostly unchanged since 1982. Nevertheless, the tiny counter is somewhat of a legend in Paris’s 9th arrondissement – and for good reason. For almost four decades, the eponymous chef Bob has been serving his beach-homaging Tunisian fricassé, a sandwich that's stuffed with peppers, onions, tomatoes, hard-boiled eggs, potatoes, black olives and a boatload of white tuna. It’s all covered in tangy homemade harissa and cradled inside a crusty roll. There’s a history lesson here, too: When Tunisia gained its independence from France, many Tunisian Jews emigrated to Paris. The black-and-white photos plastered on the yellowed walls of Chez Bob’s storefront document this remarkable story. It’s also why you’ll hear people here speaking French, Arabic and Hebrew.—Tina Meyer, Time Out Paris

Kota from Kota King in Soweto, South Africa
Photograph: Shutterstock

10. Kota from Kota King in Soweto, South Africa

Where to find it: Keep your eyes peeled for the teal-blue, column-adorned building with the line out the door. The exterior windows are plastered with menus, so you can make some hard decisions while you wait.

Once you find out about kota, you’ll never be able to stop thinking about it. But first, a quick anatomy lesson: this beast of a dish starts with a hunk of bread that’s been hollowed out and filled with a mess of delicious ingredients – including (but not limited to) french fries, meats, cheeses, eggs and sauces. You might also hear it referred to as spatlo or bunny chow, depending on what region of Africa you’re in and the physical size of the sandwich. (And really, it’s more of an edible vessel than anything else.) In the South African township of Soweto, there’s an entire food festival devoted to the dish that’s returning in September 2021. In the meantime, though, get your fix at Kota King, where owner Rhulani Shibambo elevates these seriously loaded loaves to street food royalty.


Where to find it: Head to Washington Square Park Monday through Saturday and look for the line of hungry locals eying a metallic, no-frills cart. Join them and prepare to wait about an hour to get your hands on the goods.

Hailing from Sri Lanka, owner Thiru Kumar has been feeding New Yorkers dosas – or thin, crispy South Indian crepes – for the past 20 years. You’re here for the special Pondicherry version, which finds a warm rice and lentil dosa crammed with a medley of vegetables, spices and tender potatoes. Find a quiet spot in the park to pop a squat and devour the handheld delicacy while you people-watch. Sides of sambar (veggie lentil soup) and cooling coconut chutney are included with all lunch orders, so you can take your time. Psst! Follow the self-proclaimed ‘Dosa Man’ on Twitter for regular updates, menu specials and the sweetest selfies you ever did see.—Amber Sutherland-Namako, Time Out New York

Where to find it: Lisbon’s oldest privately owned kiosk (since 1872!) can be found in Praça de São Paulo, a bustling, tree-lined square off Cais do Sodré. Look for the ornate, cherry-red structure surrounded by bistro tables.

There are plenty of fantastic food trucks that traverse the streets of Lisbon, but if you want to nosh like a local, kiosks are where it’s at. Nestled in parks, squares and gardens all over town, these beautiful gazebo-like structures have been rehabbed to serve snacks and drinks. Not sure where to start? Book it to Quiosque de São Paulo, where you can treat yourself to quintessential Portuguese bites, like a delicately fried squid sandwich that’s slathered in spicy homemade mayo that’s spiked with lime zest. It sounds fancy, but it’s an everyday favorite around these parts. And because it’ll only set you back €3.50 – and keep you full all afternoon – there’s room in the budget to splash out for dinner.—Inês Garcia, Time Out Lisboa


Where to find it: Like any street vendor worth their salt, these guys are always switching it up. Follow their Instagram handle for an up-to-the-minute tracker on where to find them.

Affectionately known around town as the ‘Bearded Bakers,’ Knafeh Bakery is a family-run outfit that combines the arts of baking and hyping into one booming business. Follow the beats (and line) to their roving shipping container, from which the hirsute brothers jam to hip-hop, electronica – or whatever floats their boat that night – while they dish up their version of piping-hot knafeh. The sweet, Levantine dessert is traditionally made with flaky pastry, but here, you’ll get an aluminum pot of sweet, semolina-like custard topped with a crispy shell, crumbled pistachios and sticky syrup. Stay for the show while you nosh – these guys are known for their theatrics behind the counter.—Divya Venkataraman, Time Out Sydney

Where to find it: Situated at the foot of El Corte Inglés de Castellana, this sleek black food truck and its lifesize weiner mascot are hard to miss. Avoid rush hour and take advantage of the fact that the kitchen operates from 1 to 9:30pm.

Perhaps the bougiest entry on this list, Michelin-starred chef Dabiz Muñoz’s hot dog will set you back £12, but you’re going to want to save yourself the heartache – and the wait – and just order two up front. (It’s still far less expensive than dinner at his fine-dining, thrice-starred restaurant, DiverXO.) It’s hard to say what makes this smoked frankfurter so addictive: is it the punchy homemade kimchi ketchup or the citrus-tinged yuzu mayonnaise? We’re certainly not complaining about the black truffle flecks and the crunchy tempura crumbs either. See what we mean about doubling down? Roll up your sleeves and prepare to make a mess.—Gorka Elorrieta, Time Out Madrid


Where to find it: Situated smackdab between the Douro River and the iconic Casa da Música, Capa Negra II is unmissable, thanks to its sleek silver exterior and three towering neon-blue signs.

Adored all over Portugal, rissóis are bitesize turnovers that are packed with shrimp or fish and fried to golden-brown perfection. People here eat them whenever they please – for breakfast with coffee, for dinner with tomato rice or on the go throughout the day. In Porto, the pillowy pockets are packed with beef, and the most famous recipe of all can be found at Capa Negra II. Beautiful inside and out, these plump, shiny and properly stuffed pastries have a unique flavor thanks to a pinch of fresh parsley that’s mixed in with the meat. Might as well toss in a few extras for breakfast tomorrow.—Ana Patrícia Silva, Time Out Porto

Where to find it: Located just a stone’s throw from Dubai’s main post office, this unassuming bakery sits on Zaa’beel Street in Karama. The 24-hour joint understands that there's never a bad time to crave carbs.

Perfectly blistered, traditional Levantine flatbreads fired in a red-hot brick oven are a quick and easy street food staple, and this old-school bakery in Dubai’s Karama has been slinging the freshest manoushe for decades. It’s one of the oldest and best-loved Lebanese bakeries in town – and with good reason, as it’s superb value, too. Take your pick from punchy zaatar (dried thyme and sesame); salty, lemony spinach; creamy labneh with fresh veg; or the best of the bunch – gloriously gooey akkawi cheese. Day and night you’ll find cars out front hollering orders through the window, as well as snaking queues indoors to the counter. Come October, spot this beloved home-grown UAE bakery pitched up at Expo 2020, too.—Amy Mathieson, Time Out Dubai


Where to find it: Stationed directly across the street from the demure Església Mare de Déu dels Àngels, this cozy corner shop beckons as a peaceful refuge. Take your handheld on a walk and scope out Casa Batlló and Casa Milà, both located within blocks of the sandwich spot.

It’s important to note up front that Catalan ‘street food’ doesn’t exist as such. We’re happy to sit around a table and gab over a leisurely meal. But if one local dish could fit the bill, it’d be the botifarra a la brasa (ember-roasted sausage) with tomato bread, a popular treat dished out at alfresco gatherings. The talented crew at Debutis remixes the recipe with gourmet sandwiches that remain rooted in tradition. Here, a state-of-the-art ember oven is enlisted to render beef sausage tender and smoky. It’s tucked inside pa de virde, or ‘crystal’ bread, and loaded up with caramelized onions, cheddar, lettuce, tomato and Indian herbs and spices. You’ll have to do some jaw stretches to ensure you get a bit of everything in each bite.—Ricard Martin, Time Out Barcelona

Where to find it: This 43-year-old slushie truck remains faithfully parked at David T. Kennedy Park in Coconut Grove. Keep an eye out for the yellow and blue umbrella and the truck that’s wrapped in lemons – you can’t miss it.

Back in 1978, Michigan native Allan Cohen set out to solve a problem in his neighborhood of Coconut Grove: Kennedy Park, where he ran regularly, didn’t have any viable hydration options. He turned lemons into literal lemonade and opened his very own frozen lemonade truck called A.C.’s Icees. It’s been around ever since, serving as a reminder of the Grove’s hippie past while also being a beacon for the laid-back, waterfront neighborhood. Folks line up daily for a cup of the iconic slushie – now available in cherry and piña colada flavors – one of the few simple pleasures of a hot Miami day.—Virginia Gil, Time Out Miami


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