No matter where you are, one thing's for sure: You've got to eat. And the good news is that there's a way to make the most of your food budget without having to skimp on the local flavors. Now while you might associate street food with the run-of-the-mill (and overpriced) hotdog stands in New York City, relying on sidewalk vendors to get your culinary fix is a great way to cut down on costs. The cities listed below are known for their sidewalk chefs who beckon passers-by with filling and affordable snacks ranging from spicy burritos to sweet pastries. In fact, in these cities, curbside cuisine is a major part of the overall dining experience.
[See a photo recap of the World's Best Street Food]
France's capital is known as a dining mecca, with restaurants serving up mouthwatering plates of saucy meat dishes and creamy cheeses. However, as tasty as Parisian fine dining can be, affordable it most certainly isn't. That doesn't mean you can't enjoy an authentic French treat. To dine on a dime, stop by one of the city's many crepe stands, where a dollop of viscous batter will become a shell for sweet or savory ingredients of your choosing. Whether you opt for a mixture of ham and cheese or a simple smear of butter and sugar, this simple snack is sure to keep you satisfied for just a few euros. And the crepe's pocket-like shape makes it perfect for noshing on the go.
The city where we proclaimed our independence from England is now helping us secede from the confines of restaurant culture. And with favorite street-side snacks like hoagies, Italian ices and the ever-popular soft pretzel, it's hard to resist this food revolution. But if there's one reason to hit the streets to satisfy your hunger, it's to get your hands on the famous Philly cheesesteak. These juicy sandwiches -- made from chopped up steak, onions and either American, Provolone or Cheese Wiz cheese -- have become an institution in the City of Brotherly Love. The old recipe never fails to satisfy, but those with adventurous taste buds might want to sample some of the newer varieties, such as the Mexican version -- complete with spicy taco fixings -- or the health-conscious Vietnamese alternative made with tofu. And although you can find them just about anywhere these days, the truly authentic Philly cheesesteak resides at the city's 9th Street Italian Market.
Trying local cuisine when traveling abroad can sometimes seem more daunting than attempting the language. But while a conversation in Vietnamese will be a challenge for the American tongue, this country's simple fare will be easy on the American palate. Tip-toe into traditional fare with a hearty bowl of pho, a soup made from mild broth, either chicken or beef and bean sprouts. Because Hanoi is the country's "pho capital," the city's streets are lined with tiny storefronts that make this warming favorite from scratch. You can then round out your meal with some fresh fruit and a homemade baguette. When your bowl no longer runneth over, end your repast on a sweet note with a serving of coconut-filled dumplings in ginger syrup.
When it comes to eating well in Berlin, the only thing you have to worry about sacrificing is your diet. Meat is a staple ingredient in traditional German cuisine, and the best place to sink your teeth in is on the street. On nearly every corner sits a bratwurst vendor just waiting to introduce you to a juicy sausage link topped with a healthy portion of sauerkraut and served in an easy-to-carry bun. If you're looking for a snack with a tad more pizzazz (or you're just not big on sauerkraut), opt instead for currywurst. This alternative take on the traditional brat involves dicing the sausage, slathering it with sweet curry sauce and serving it on a roll. Albeit slightly messy and rather fattening, this snack is bound to hit the spot.
Here in the U.S., "fast food" refers to a greasy cheeseburger or some artery-clogging, overly salted fries. In Tel Aviv, however, eating healthy is easy even when you're munching on the go. Like most cities situated along the Mediterranean Sea, traditional Tel Aviv cuisine consists of fresh produce, local legumes and plenty of olive oil, all of which can be found in Israel's favorite street snack: Falafel and sabich. These travel-friendly pita sandwiches -- consisting of either fried chick pea patties or eggplant topped with pickled cabbage and beets and a creamy tahini (sesame sauce) -- are sure to fill your belly without emptying your wallet or breaking your calorie budget.
It's no wonder Mexican cuisine has become beloved on this side of the border: Just thinking about spicy burritos and cheesy chimichangas is enough to make any foodie's mouth water. But as any gourmand will tell you, the best Mexican fare cannot be found in the United States, but rather along the sidewalks of Mexico City. Take a walk through the Centro Histórico and you're bound to stumble across street chefs serving everything from freshly squeezed fruit juice to tacos al pastor. Made at stands on almost every corner, this local snack-of-choice features chunks of marinated pork and pineapple served on miniature corn tortillas that are easy to carry or devour on the spot. Remember to save some room for a serving of sugary churros; these tubes of cinnamon-sprinkled fried dough make the perfect ending to any meal.
Nowhere will you find a street-food scene as competitive as Los Angeles'. With vendors squabbling over prime real estate, sidewalk dining in the City of Angels has transgressed into the ultimate turf war. In order to bypass the "I was here first" argument without sacrificing crucial territory, many vendors have taken their business on the road, selling everything from Peruvian stir fry to Korean barbeque from trucks rather than stands. Now equipped with mobile kitchens, L.A. food peddlers can relocate when the crowds are fed. But how do you find them? Easy: Just log onto Twitter and follow your favorite food truck as its owners tweet their movement throughout the city. Gourmet.com highly recommends adding Kogi BBQ and Border Grill -- both known for their grilled meats and juicy tacos -- to your Twitter network.
In most cities, sunset usually indicates that it's time to start foraging for food. In Marrakech, the food comes to you. Every evening the Djemma el Fna (the main square) transforms into fast-food central: The air becomes thick with the scents of chicken tagine, aromatic escargot and buttery couscous while the atmosphere is overwhelmed by bellowing verbal advertisement. If you're looking for a tranquil introduction to Moroccan cuisine, this is not the place to go. "The overall experience is far from calm," writes Terry Ward for WorldHum.com. "Vendors go as far as tugging on your shirtsleeves or flirting with your girlfriend to entice takers." But if it's the taste of authentic Marrakech that you seek, there's no better venue than here. Don’t miss out on the slow-cooked lamb at vendor number ten or a steaming bowl of escargot from the ladies at booth number six.
Although it's not technically "street food," Bangkok's mobile meals have maintained a reputation as some of the best for several centuries. Operating out of boats along the city's waterways, Bangkok's food vendors dole out hearty portions of pad thai, som tam (green papaya salad with catfish) and steamed crabs. Just add some fresh-cut mango and pineapple and a sweet jolt of iced coffee and you've got yourself a hearty meal for only a couple of bucks. If you're feeling really adventurous, fellow foodies recommend sampling some six-legged proteins such as crickets, ants or beetles. But no matter how strong your stomach may be, don't forget your street-eats smarts: When sampling fresh produce, keep in mind that it's only as clean as the water used to wash it. Stick to fruits you can peel, like bananas.
Strolling through Istanbul without encountering a food cart would be like wandering through New York City and never encountering a fellow pedestrian. Unlike other cities -- where food carts serve only midday snacks -- Istanbul's street food scene caters to every meal. Start your day with a jolt of mouth-puckering Turkish coffee and a cavity-inducing simit (a sesame-speckled, donut-shaped pastry infused with jam or cheese). When lunchtime rolls around, head to one of the dozens of köfte stands for a skewer of grilled minced meat or grab a handful of sigara börek (fried, cigar-shaped puff pastries stuffed with feta cheese). And as the day draws to a close, satisfy your evening hunger with a smorgasbord of Turkish specialties like lahmajun (grilled flat bread topped with meat and grilled veggies), midye dolma (mussels filled with rice, pine nuts and raisins) or -- if you're feeling adventurous -- kokoreç (chopped lamb intestines seasoned with oregano and hot pepper).
Just because food is bought from a stand doesn't mean you need to eat it on your feet. Singapore's numerous "hawker centres" (food courts) have bridged the gap between street food and restaurant culture, offering cheap eats with table service. Amid dozens of stalls serving up everything from char kway teow (flat rice noodles fried with assorted types of seafood) to bak kut teh (pork ribs stewed with Chinese herbs), tables and benches allow diners to linger and mingle over their meals. But most importantly, a satisfied appetite is not hard to achieve here. In fact, Frommer's insists that these clusters of food stalls are the best way to sample all the Singaporean favorites for a fraction of the cost of a sit-down restaurant.
From spicy burritos to saucy Korean barbeque, twice-fried French fries to Nutella-smeared waffles, you'll have no trouble satisfying that craving -- whatever it may be -- in Portland. According to Gourmet.com, this Pacific Northwest city is doing for street food what it did for coffee at the end of the 20th century: Made up of stands, carts, trucks and even bicycles, Portland's community of snack vendors are working hard to supply an eclectic variety of cuisines in an efficient and cost-effective way. These gastronomic gatherings -- like the one found around lunchtime at the corner of SW 10th Avenue and SW Alder Street -- now rival Singapore's hawker centres in terms of quality and affordability. But it's the diversity of the fare and the friendliness of both the vendors and the fellow diners that have earned Portland's street food scene the number one spot. Not sure where to begin? Fellow gastronomes recommend the Cora Y Huichol Taqueria for their tangy Mexican food and Nong’s Khao Man Gai for a serving of creamy Thai curry.
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