Worldwide icon-chevron-right The best street food on the planet, according to chefs
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The best street food on the planet, according to chefs

From seafood-topped tostadas in Mexico and jerk pork in Jamaica to shaved ice in Taipei, these are the street food eats chefs crave.

By Morgan Olsen
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When you're visiting a new-to-you city, it's always tempting to pack your itinerary with reservations at the best restaurants in town. But more rewarding still is getting to know the local cuisine and culture through street food, which almost always offers a more authentic experience. And now – as our cities spring back to life and travel ramps up once again – it's never been more important to support the talented cooks behind these mobile kitchens. Hungry yet? Good, because we asked some of the world's best chefs to share their all-time favorite street eats – the bites they can't stop thinking about, even years later. Their picks offer a food-fueled itinerary that spans the globe, from saucy tteokbokki in Seoul, and smoked jerk pork in Jamaica to deep-fried pastel in Brazil. Plan your next getaway around one of these chef-approved street food staples.

Craving more insider insight from the world's best chefs? You're in the right place. Talk to the Chef! is a weekly food series that will tap into the minds of culinary leaders around the globe. The conversation changes just as often, and we'll chat with chefs about everything from podcasts and kitchen equipment to travel and trends.

Chef-adored street food around the world

Shrimp tostada
Shrimp tostada
Photograph: Shutterstock

Seafood tostadas in Huitzuco

‘I actually have two favourites. One of them is in my hometown of Huitzuco, Mexico. La Guerrerense is run by a talented woman named Sabina Bandera, and she makes the most incredible seafood tostadas. The flavors, freshness and textures of what she creates are just amazing. You can order tostadas with fresh seafood ranging from uni and shrimp to fresh clams and octopus. The other place is El Mercado Se Llama, a market in Oaxaca, Mexico. This spot is a favourite because they sell an impressive variety of fresh meats that you can buy and then grill yourself, right there on-premise. Then, you shop the market for your favourite tortillas, salsas and anything else you want to enjoy with the meat and complete the meal.’—Carlos Gaytan, chef-owner of Tzuco in Chicago

Sausages in Germany
Sausages in Germany
Photograph: Shutterstock

Hot dogs in Austria

‘I have travelled quite a bit – to almost all corners of the world – and one of the best street foods I’ve eaten was a hot dog in Graz, Austria, where I participated in the Worldchefs Congress. I almost feel bad calling it that because this piece of art was on another level. The quality of the sausage, the sour cabbage, the bread – everything was spot-on and it was just served on the side of the road. Memorable.’—Agustin Ferrando Balbi, chef-founder of Andō in Hong Kong

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medu vada
medu vada
Photograph: Shutterstock

Vadai in Sri Lanka

‘I have an obsession with good Sri Lankan vadai, a ground lentil fritter with onions and occasionally deep-fried shrimp. It’s ubiquitous – you see people hawking them on trains or along the beach. There’s something about a freshly fried vadai that is super, super satisfying.’—Samantha Fore, chef-owner of Tuk Tuk Sri Lankan Bites in Lexington, Kentucky

Griot in Miami

‘When I lived in Miami, I ate griot made by an older Haitian woman who sold plates right out of her house in Little Haiti. It was as authentic as it gets, and I went every Sunday!’—Brian Jupiter, chef-owner of Ina Mae Tavern and Frontier in Chicago

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Hawkers in Bangkok
Hawkers in Bangkok
Photograph: Shutterstock

Spicy fried noodles in Bangkok

‘I am a noodle fanatic. The tastiest street food I’ve ever had in my life was spicy fried noodles in Bangkok, Thailand. The streets were lined with food stalls, exotic aromatics in the air, and the freshest, hottest food you could eat.’—Chanthy Yen, founder of Touk and chef of Parliament Pub & Parlour in Montreal

Pastel
Pastel
Photograph: Shutterstock

Pastel in Brazil

‘Back home in Brazil we have something called “pastel.” It’s a delicious deep-fried flaky pastry filled with all kinds of fillings such as cheese, mince and cheese, chicken and lots more. It is very traditional and you see them in every street market in São Paulo. Once or twice a week, it is customary to go to eat one or more “pasteis” along with a fresh sugarcane juice.’—Nicolas Fagundes, sous chef at Pichet in Dublin

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Linjiang Street Night Market
Linjiang Street Night Market
Photograph: Shutterstock

Shaved ice in Taipei

‘Coming from Taiwan, which has some of the best night markets around, it is hard to choose one. My latest favourite is a bowl of shaved ice with hot sesame mochi and osmanthus syrup from Tonghua Night Market in Taipei. The mochi balls are hot, soft, oozy and chewy and it’s served with freezing sweet shaved ice. Delicious!’Erchen Chang, owner of Bao in London

Ros omelette in Goa

‘The tastiest [street food] I ever had was a ros omelette at a small street vendor in Mapusa, Goa. It’s a spicy coconut goan curry base with an omelette served with a “POI,” which is best explained as goan pita bread. The spicy broth with the rich egg and bread was something very nostalgic for me and I would always remember my aunt's egg curry growing up. In those days, I paid about $1 for the dish.’—Prashant Chipkar, executive chef and culinary director at Masti and chef at Time Out Market in Dubai

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Pan Grilled Caribbean Jerk Pork - Boston Jamaica.
Pan Grilled Caribbean Jerk Pork - Boston Jamaica.
Photograph: Shutterstock

Jerk pork in Jamaica

‘At 17, I was on my first trip to Jamaica with my Mum – it was her first time back in 35 years and a significant trip to take together. We drove for hours to the middle of nowhere to get “the best jerk pork I’ll ever have” from Boston Jerk Centre. It absolutely was. I also learned that jerk is a way of cooking that has to do with smoking in a pit for hours – not just the marinade you get in a jar. It’s so culturally significant, and it will always top my list.’—Anthea Stephenson, co-founder of Wild Radish in the UK

Cachapas
Cachapas
Photograph: Shutterstock

Cachapa in Venezuela

‘Street food is my go-to when I am visiting new cities. I enjoy eating what the locals are eating and I also think it’s the best way to get the most bang for your buck. In Venezuela, traveling to the beach with my family, we would stop at these hillside shops that would make fresh empanadas with the most delicious fillings, such as local cheeses, braised beef and sometimes cazon, which is a stewed salted fish. Also, you haven’t really eaten a hot dog until you’ve tried a Venezuelan hot dog, full of toppings such as guasacaca (an avocado sauce made with coriander and lime juice), crispy potato chips and all sorts of other scrumptious things. Or I would opt for my all-time favorite, cachapa, a sweet corn flat cake stuffed with fresh, stringy, melty cheese and a generous dollop of butter.’—Nelson Gonzalez, head chef of Kinship in Hong Kong

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Pintxos in San Sabastian
Pintxos in San Sabastian
Photograph: Shutterstock

Pinchos in San Sebastian

‘Pinchos or Basque tapas restaurant-hopping in San Sebastian is definitely on the top of my list. Although it is not quite street food, it is the closest thing to it in San Sebastian. To get to the pinchos bars, you go down narrow streets going to different holes-in-the-walls eating one or two dishes at each place, tasting each restaurant's specialty. Some of my favourites included tuna belly tostada, braised veal cheeks and anchovies on toast. There are usually no seats, you just stand at the bar packed in like sardines in a can with the locals. It is definitely an adventure.’Emily Yuen, executive chef of Bessou and Bessou at Time Out Market in New York City

Buñuelos in Colombia

‘When I lived in Colombia as a kid, there was this stand by the plaza that they use to sell mini buñuelos, or crunchy and soft crispy cheese balls. I remember getting out of school and walking to the plaza and this old lady just making them by hand and gently frying them until they were perfectly golden brown. Once you bite into them, they’re crispy on the outside, soft and cheesy on the inside. They're just perfect.’—Cesar Zapata, chef of Phuc Yea and Pho Mo at Time Out Market in Miami

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Tteokbokki
Tteokbokki
Photograph: Shutterstock

Tteokbokki in Seoul

‘Tteokbokki – or spicy Korean rice cakes – in Seoul, Korea, next to my grade school when I was 6 years old. I still remember the first bite: spicy, sweet and chewy. I couldn't stop eating them until I found out that you had to pay by the piece!’—Bill Kim, chef-owner of Urbanbelly and Bill Kim at Time Out Market in Chicago

Lebanese street food
Lebanese street food
Photograph: Shutterstock

Anything in Lebanon

‘Lebanese street food. From garlicky shawarma in crispy bread, to herbaceous falafel, to creamy hummus, to freshly baked manousheh, to the cheesiest kunafa ka’ak sandwich and, of course, the amazing booza ice cream with all its natural flavours. There are simply way too many options to pick a favourite. The food is vibrant and fresh, and most ingredients are grown in the region. I’ve been visiting Lebanon since I was a child and the city still amazes me with incredible food every time.’—Marwa Alkhalaf, chef-director of Nutshell in London

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Pad Thai in Bangkok
Pad Thai in Bangkok
Photograph: Shutterstock

Pad thai in Bangkok

‘That’s easy for me. I was backpacking in Bangkok and I would house some pad thai from street vendors almost every single night. Not only was it simple and delicious, but the theater that these vendors put on in cooking it is a must-see!’—Richard Zaro, owner of Cutlets Sandwich Co. in New York City

BBQ crab in Veracruz

‘The food in Veracruz is phenomenal, with rich chilli pastes used to slather over the exquisite seafood. I will never forget devouring a barbecued crab slathered in one such paste of smoked chillies, herbs, spices and garlic. It was indescribably delicious.’—Thomasina Miers, founder of Wahaca in London

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