Street food is something common around the world, but what is uncommon is the form it takes in each country or region. There are endless possibilities for street food, and this list of 25 unique and unusual street foods aims to introduce you to the world of street foods.
There are foods on this list that you may be familiar with. Maybe you have even tried some of the items on this list. In fact, if you have heard of or tried any of these items, then kudos to you for getting out there and exploring the gastronomical world that surrounds us.
There are foods on this list that you probably have never heard of. These items are presented with the hope that if you ever have the opportunity to try the food, you will have enough information to make the decision as to whether to try it. Hopefully, you will give it a go.
Whatever flavor profile you enjoy, whatever texture, whatever spices or sweets, there is likely to be at least one item on this list of 25 unusual street foods that appeals to you on some level. And if nothing appeals to you, then remember that there are a lot of other street foods out there, so do not be afraid to get out and try new things when it comes to foods.
25 Chimney Cake, Czech Republic
Sweet bread that looks like a chimney but tastes like heaven!
You are walking through the streets of Prague in the Czech Republic and you get a hankering for something to nibble on. You find a small market full of street foods. Being in Prague, you know that the best thing you can try will be the Chimney Cake. But without really knowing what that is, you ask a local stall owner about it and he or she gladly produces something that looks like...well...a chimney. Behind the stall owner are rows of hot spits with dough wrapped around them, cooking over a heat source. This is Chimney Cake, a crunchy exterior with a warm soft interior. It looks like a chimney, but what does it taste like, you ask? Well, it's sweet. Fill it up with some ice cream and it's even sweeter.
While it's the official dessert of Hungary, the Chimney Cake has made its way to the Czech Republic, where it has been perfected into the favorite street food of locals and tourists alike.
This spiral pastry is so delicious that you will want to shell out for a couple, just to make sure that you have something else to munch on while you continue to browse through the stalls of the local market.
24 Poutine, Canada
Canada's unofficial "official side dish and street food."
Many people have actually heard of Poutine, seemingly the office snack of Canada, but a lot of people may not know what they are. Well, it is so popular in Canada that the city of Ottawa actually has a Poutine Festival where you can try over 100 different recipes for the street snack, along with contests related to the stuff. So what is Poutine anyway? It is probably one of the simplest street foods out there, just smothered fries. Smothered with cheese curds and gravy, to be exact. Poutine means "messy," and this street food really is not meant to be eaten without a fork. But imagine when you bite into the cheesy gravy gooeyness covering the crispy hot fries. You will be glad that you stopped at the festival in Ottawa or at any of the street vendors throughout Canada that sell Poutine. Not exactly a delicacy, but definitely something associated with Canada and a warm home-cooked snack...or side dish...or light meal. Poutine puts together some of the greatest flavors into a food combination that is not to be missed if you happen to be visiting Canada. Of course, it is so simple to make that you can find it elsewhere, including if you want to make it yourself.
23 Halo-Halo, Philippines
A sweet mix-mix!
So, you are in the Philippines on a hot summer day. It is the Philippines, so it is probably hot no matter when you are there. But either way, you want something to help cool you down—something that is unique to the area. So, you're looking for not just ice cream. You want local flavor, local street food. You see signs for something called "halo-halo" and decide to stop and see what that is all about. As the street vendor puts together a bowl for you, he tells you that it means "mix-mix." He hands you your bowl and you see that it is
shaved ice, condensed milk, something that looks like beans, some fruit, and ice cream.
So much for not getting ice cream. He hands you a spoon and you dig into the concoction. The flavors meld together, and you realize that it is actually sweetened beans that you saw. The textures cascade over your tongue and the ice and ice cream melt to wet your dry mouth. Not bad, it turns out. Definitely something different, but not bad at all. You go in for another bite and continue walking down the street, noticing many people enjoying their halo-halo just as you are.
22 Supplì, Rome, Italy
A Roman portable meal!
You're in Rome and you get hungry touring through the statues and ancient buildings. Where do you turn? Of course, you could stop into a restaurant. Rome is known for some of the finest food options in Italy and the world. But you just want a quick bite, something to carry with you as you keep up the hectic tourist pace. You find a street vendor who is selling something called "suppli." It looks like a fried ball of something and smells amazing. You buy a couple and take the little packet from the vendor with a "thank you." They are hot, but you take one out and bite into it. Turns out it is just as good as it smells, maybe even better.
It is made up of rice, mozzarella cheese, and ragu, all fried up nice and crispy. You think once more about how great it is to be in Italy, touring through Rome, doing as the Romans do, eating a quick snack that tastes this good.
The simplicity is mind-boggling, considering it tastes this good. You wonder if there are other flavors or types available. Maybe tomorrow you will look for a street vendor with a different flavor, but for now, this fried rice ball with cheese and meaty sauce is amazing.
21 Biltong, South Africa
Now that's jerky!
In South Africa, you keep hearing about something called "biltong" and you figure you should investigate what it is. In the streets of Johannesburg, you stop in a little shop with a sign advertising that they have the best Biltong available. Inside, you see another sign above racks of what looks like dried meat. Beef jerky? Not exactly, you are told. It is jerky, but it is exotic animals, like ostrich and kudu. But, is it still jerky? The shop owner shakes his head and declares that it is cured in apple cider vinegar or malt vinegar then rubbed with spices like black pepper, coriander, and brown sugar. This is getting interesting. The slices are very thick, bordering on small slabs of meat, so you buy one, maybe two for good measure. This is unlike any jerky you have ever tried. The flavor is so intense, so concentrated. It tastes different than you had expected, partly because it is such a thick piece of meat. You are told that it is not smoked. It is jerky at its essence. Stepping back out into the street, you decide that you made a good choice stopping and seeing what Biltong is all about.
20 ABC (Air Batu Campur), Kuala Lampur, Malaysia
Art meets dessert in Malaysia!
As you tour the streets of Kuala Lampur, Malaysia, you see the locals carrying around bowls of what look like ice cream. You could go for some ice cream, so you stop into a shop on the street. As you stand there pondering the food items, someone orders an "ABC" and receives the bowl you have seen people with. Asking what that is, you discover that it is
"Air Batu Campur," which is shaved ice (not ice cream, you learn) with sweetened condensed milk, palm sugar, peanuts, red beans, and a few other toppings.
Sounds intriguing, so you order one with everything. The explosion of flavors blows your mind. It is sweeter than ice cream, but not as creamy. The crunch of the peanuts and the soft beans really brings it all home for you. Well, maybe not the beans. But the peanuts and everything else is amazing. As you continue down the street, your appetite is satiated and then have an extra burst of energy from the sugar. You wonder how they come up with stuff like this. It is definitely a local thing, but it is great that they share it with travelers from all over the world...especially you.
19 Stinky Tofu, Taipei, Taiwan
It really not as smelly as you think!
As you are walking around in Taipei, Taiwan, you decide that you could use something to top your afternoon off with. Of course, being in Taiwan, there are plenty of options and you feel like you have tried them all. But, there is one thing that you have not been able to work up the courage to try, and it's stinky tofu. First of all, the name includes the word "stinky." Secondly, it is tofu, something that is pretty bland and boring. But, you are hungry and that makes you feel a little adventurous. You stop at a stall and order the stinky tofu. The smell, which is caused by the brine that the tofu is soaked in, is not as overpowering as you thought it would be. As the guy fries up your order, you get to talking and discover that the brine is a fermented mixture of vegetables and shrimp, which can be aged up to six months. So much for being bland and boring. You take your order and then dip the fried tofu into the hot pepper sauce that it comes with. And then you take a bite. The flavor is surprisingly mild, almost overpowered by the sauce. It does not taste as bad as it smells, and it does not smell as bad as you thought it would. Yeah, stinky tofu could be your new thing when you visit Taiwan.
18 Cuy, Peru
In The United States, it is called a pet.
Did you know that in Peru, they eat guinea pigs? You may have actually heard that, but do you know anything about this delicacy called Cuy? Yes, it is a guinea pig, which is a rodent, unlike a cross between a mouse and a rabbit. Just like mice and rabbits, some people consider guinea pigs to be pets. But in Peru, they breed guinea pigs not to be pets, but to be food. At the guinea pig farms, the rodents that will become gourmet Cuy are fed exclusively alfalfa hay in order to create a tender meat. From there, the guinea pig is roasted whole and served up anywhere from the streets to the silver platters.
Supposedly, Cuy tastes like duck, which may seem a little strange since it is a rodent and not a bird.
But, Cuy is something that has been eaten for a very long time in Peru, so the next time you are there, do not be afraid of the large roasted rodent that is served up on a stick by a guy behind the counter of a food stall. To each culture their own, and do not bash it until you try it. Cuy may seem strange, but like all delicacies, it is an acquired taste.
17 Ghoulal, Morocco
Piles of boiled snails go quickly!
If you ever find yourself in Morocco, you should probably go find yourself some Ghoulal, which should not be very difficult, as it is pretty much the national street food. Although, you should be warned that it is pretty weird. But when you are in a foreign country and are hungry, you need to do whatever it takes to handle that situation. Now, Ghoulal is a very simple dish. It is snail soup. At this point, you are probably thinking that snails are a delicacy in France, so the fact that they eat them in Morocco should not be a problem. Really, it is not. To make Ghoulal, they take a big pile of live snails and boil them in broth. The broth is the key, as it adds all the flavor to the snails which, in turn, flavor the broth. Ghoulal is served in a bowl, like any good soup, with a toothpick to pick the boiled snails out of their shells. Toss the shells and drink the broth. There you have it, Ghoulal. It may not actually be a national food in an official capacity, but as far as street foods go, it definitely tops in Morocco.
16 Khanom Krok, Thailand
A coconut and rice pancake concoction.
If you have ever been to Thailand, you have probably walked the streets throughout the day and smelled this amazing aroma coming from the stalls that line those very streets. That smell, among other things, probably consists of Khanom Krok. If you have never tried this delicious food, it is probably because you did not know what it is and so were afraid to try it. But, as an international traveler, it is time for you to step up and try Khanom Krok.
This is a simple dish that is made up of a couple of different types of coconut and rice batter, one of which has a sweet and salty characteristic. The batter is poured into a half-moon-shaped pan, cooked until crispy, and then filled with the other batter that is cooked until a custard consistency is formed. Toppings of choice are added to the custard, and you get two half moons to form a full globe-shaped order of Khanom Krok.
It may look like a doughnut hole, but the custard interior really makes a difference in terms of a smooth and creamy texture that perfectly compliments the salty sweet exterior. With the addition of the individual toppings, it is a great way to keep yourself fueled on your travels through the streets of Thailand.
15 Simit, Turkey
East meets West in this Turkish pastry.
Turkey is a country that stands at the crossroads of East and West. As such, it has a rich culinary tradition (or traditions, as the case may be). One of those traditions is Simit, the national street food of Turkey. As you peruse the stalls of the outdoor markets across the country, you will likely get a hankering for something to eat, as all well-traveled people often do. Enter Simit. This may look like a simple pastry, kind of a mix between a croissant and a doughnut, but the flavor profile is so complex that it really falls into a pastry category of its own.
The dough is formed into a ring, a la doughnut, but then after it is cooked, the ring is covered in molasses and semi-toasted sesame seeds.
Simit is usually served at any time of the day, which makes any time of the day good for a Simit. Generally, it is enjoyed with a savory condiment to offset the heavy sugar of the molasses. With different sizes of pastry available, it is possible to sate any appetite for something quick and delicious to eat. Surely, it would be difficult to beat Simit as a national street food. Truly, East meets West.
14 Bunny Chow, South Africa
It has nothing to do with bunnies but everything to do with chow!
Bunny Chow probably creates a couple of conflicting images about what it may or may not be. In South Africa, it is a street dish that has a bit of a history. When you are visiting South Africa, you will probably see Bunny Chow being sold everywhere from street vendors to restaurants. You may think that it is some kind of a salad, if you have never actually seen it. After all, bunnies eat salad or something like that. When you see it, you will probably think that it is some kind of a rabbit stew, since that is precisely what it looks like. Actually, it is neither. In South Africa, Bunny Chow is a curry dish that is served in a type of bread bowl. It does not contain any rabbit and has a minimum of vegetable content. Bunny Chow is more an Indian dish than a Dutch dish, which makes its popularity in South Africa a little bit of a thinker. And actually, the term "bunny" has nothing to do with bunnies or rabbits but is a warping of a term for merchants. So, really, that history mentioned is not a positive thing. But when it comes down to it, Bunny Chow is a great street food that has its roots half a world away in a totally different culture than you would expect to find in South Africa.
13 Rocky Mountain Oysters, United States
Go ahead, we dare you to give it a try!
Oysters come from the ocean. The Rocky Mountains are in the middle of the United States. If you think that oysters are imported halfway across the U.S. to Colorado where they are turned into a delicacy called "Rocky Mountain Oysters," you are sorely mistaken. But if you are ever in the area and out at a street festival, you may be forgiven for not knowing what these fried pieces really are. After all, they look like fried oysters. However, that could not be further from the truth. In a "surf and turf" switch, the good people of Colorado have created the Rocky Mountain Oysters, which is actually a sliced and fried bull testicle. Think about that for a moment and then go buy yourself a plate of this "delicacy." Rocky Mountain Oysters are flavorful but chewy. Depending on how they are prepared, they can have a range of texture and flavor profile. You will find them at street food festivals, as well as sporting events all over the region, but they are really a thing found in Colorado. Again, you will need to get past the fact that you are eating a bull testicle and not an actual oyster. But once you get past that, you will really enjoy eating Rocky Mountain Oysters.
12 Beer Can Chicken, Vietnam
This is not your backyard barbecue!
In the United States, Beer Can Chicken is a chicken that is grilled over a beer can. However, in Vietnam, they have a very different idea of what this dish is. The next time you are visiting Vietnam, be sure to stroll through the streets and stop at one of the stalls. You will know the ones that are selling Beer Can Chicken, Vietnam style.
To make this dish, they take a black chicken (which is better for you because it is higher in protein), pluck it, gut it, fold it in half, nose to toes, and cram it in an empty beer can. They fill the can with chicken broth, herbs, and spices and then roast the bird.
Now, the Vietnamese claim that this has medicinal properties and that the herbs will help you sleep better and cure a cold. You will have to be the judge of whether it does anything for you or if it just tastes amazing. The black chicken has a unique flavor profile that, when combined with the chicken broth and herbs, really hits you in a positive way. This may not exactly be your grandmother's chicken soup. Vietnamese Beer Can Chicken really has the power to fill your belly and satiate your hunger.
11 Yangnyeom Tongdak, Seoul, South Korea
A unique take on fried chicken.
Yangnyeom Tongdak, found in Seoul, South Korea, really is not all that strange, but it is certainly a very unique form of street food. Yangnyeom Tongdak is a fried chicken meal, except the chicken is double-fried. So this way, you cook the chicken through at a lower temperature, then flash-fry it at a higher temperature to get a very crispy shell on it. Yangnyeom Tongdak is served with some kind of a dipping sauce, which can range from sweet to sour or even salty like soy. Yangnyeom Tongdak is a truly Korean dish, not totally unlike other Asian chicken dishes, but unique in its own right. You will know that you have the real thing when you are touring through Seoul and you can smell the aroma of the fried chicken and almost taste the sauces. You will probably end up with several types of sauce, just to say you tried them all. And depending on who is making the Yangnyeom Tongdak and how they make it, the flavors of the fried chicken will be different each time you eat this remarkable dish. Yangnyeom Tongdak is another example of the simplicity of street food where you end up with something that is so flavorful in such a small package.
10 Snake Meat, Guilin, China
Eat it before it eats you!
If you hate snakes and you wish they would just go away, then you should probably visit China, where they are killing snakes like crazy. Except, they are actually killing them to eat them. So, if you hate snakes, you may not actually want to visit China where you will see snake heads sticking out of bowls of rice with fried vegetables mixed in for good measure. It is said that these snakes taste like fish, which really does not make it any easier to stomach the fact that they are eating snakes in China. But, like all good street food, especially those in Asia, snake meat is kind of a delicacy, and the culture behind eating snakes should be respected. And as the savvy world traveler that you are, if you are in China and come across a stall on the street that is selling snake meat, you will probably go ahead and give it a try.
The preparation may be a little disconcerting, with it still looking like a snake. Maybe if they just served the meat, it would be a little easier to consume.
But there is no denying that snake meat in a bowl of rice is a pretty strange, and unique, street food.
9 Tlayudas, Mexico
"Mexican pizza" for real!
Also known as "Oaxacan Pizza," Tlayudas is some of the best street food that you will find in Mexico.
It really does resemble a pizza and comes with all of your favorite Mexican toppings—a large tortilla, covered in refried beans and guacamole, then topped with cheese and meat, usually pork. Think of it as a deconstructed open-face taco or something like that.
Tlayudas was one of those "aha" moments that someone had, and it really is a great example of Mexican street food. It is something that most people are going to be okay with eating on the go and will probably fill you up pretty well. In fact, you may need someone to share it with. The flavors are all things that most people are familiar with, but with a distinctive Mexican twist on something else that most people are familiar with which is pizza. Tlayudas is a classic example of ingenuity that has met with necessity when it comes to preparing something quick and easy that is mostly portable. Although it is usually made with pork, it can be made with beef or chicken, depending on the shop owner that's making it. Tlayudas may not exactly be a pizza or a taco, but it certainly is a good attempt to marry the two into a unique street food.
8 Currywurst, Germany
"What did you do to my sausage?"
Germany is known for sausages or "wurst." So, it is to be expected that when you are in Berlin walking through the stalls at the train station, you are likely to find at least one place selling sausages. But what you may not expect to find is a place that sells Currywurst, simply because you would not expect "curry" and "German sausage" to go together. And really, it depends on your tastes as to whether it actually tastes good or is an appropriate meal.
Currywurst is a pork sausage covered in ketchup and then doused in curry spices.
Yes, those curry spices from India. It seems that everywhere you go, the Indian subcontinent has influenced dining trends. In Germany, this has resulted in Currywurst, which is considered by many to be the worst use of curry and sausage. It is kind of an acquired taste, but it is a taste that everyone should try. And like everything, it will depend on who is making the dish and how it is prepared. But regardless, it is a street food that is portable and often served with fries or bread. Currywurst is not really anything special, just a combination of spices and sausage. But you will need to decide for yourself if it is indeed a good combination.
7 Daulat Ki Chaat, India
Take a little or a lot, there is plenty of this sweet dessert.
The next time you are in India and are in the mood for something sweet to eat on the street, stop by a stand and pick up some Daulat Ki Chaat. This is a layered combination of sweetened condensed milk, saffron, and dried condensed milk. It is a pillow-like concoction that may be likened to eating a sugary cloud. It is not a meringue, but it looks like it might be. Unfortunately, the secret to making Daulat Ki Chaat is usually (yep, you guessed it) a closely-guarded secret. But that is okay because you do not want to make it. You want to eat it. And depending on who is making it, whether it is some little grandma or a kid on a corner, the exact experience will be different. Go for the little grandma, though, as it will taste better. it may not look like an unusual food, but once you take a scoop of the whipped-up condensed milk mixed with saffron, you will understand why Daulat Ki Chaat is such a treat for so many kids in India. Daulat Ki Chaat is produced in varying quantities, from large cauldrons to small single servings. However, no matter how much you get, you will likely want more of this remarkable food.
6 Takoyaki, Japan
Better than plain sushi.
When you're visiting Japan and looking for something other than sushi to snack on, consider stopping at a street side food vendor and pick up some Takoyaki. This is a simple dish but a very good one. That is,
if you think you would like fried dough balls filled with minced octopus, tempura scraps, and pickled ginger. Breaking it down, you have a fried dough ball. That is something that just about anyone will enjoy eating. Minced octopus? Well, a lot of people eat octopus, and in Japan, it is very common.
Tempura scraps and pickled ginger are two other things that people consider common to find in Japanese food, so those are not that surprising. But when you put it all together, cover it in takoyaki sauce, mayo, and sprinkled with aonori and dried bonito, you get Takoyaki. The flavors and textures are unique to the world of street food. After all, where else are you going to get a fried ball of octopus? Yet, as you eat it, you realize that it actually does work quite nicely. It is not quite sushi, not quite tempura. It is wholly something that combines the best of both to create something new and exciting. And that is exactly what you should expect from good street food.