As enjoyable as dining out at a fancy restaurant in our new destination is, the soul of a country can often be discovered through its street food. Street vendors, and food carts, they might not look like the most sophisticated places to dine, but the food they serve up is just fine. Of course, we can find local dishes in restaurants too, but at a fraction of the cost, we can eat quick comfort food that tastes so good. And, when we’re wandering the streets of Taipei or Bangkok, there’s nothing more convenient than moveable feasts. We don’t need to worry about waiting for the bill, we can save time bringing our snacks along with us on our journey.
As delectable as most street food can be, we still need to watch out for the fair share of dodgy vendors around the world, serving up wacky food that looks more unappealing than appealing. It might be a country’s delicacy, but tell that to our stomachs! There are just some things our guts can’t handle and we suspect Reindeer hot dogs are one of them. Not all weird food is gross, though. That stinky tofu found on Taipei’s night markets is a lot more desirable to other senses: AKA our taste buds.
20 Unappealing: Fried water beetles, Bangkok, Thailand
Think snap, crackle and pop, only with the sweet honeycomb flavour replaced with the savour of...well, whatever fried water beetles taste like. Seeing that most locals order their beetles seasoned with garlic and chilli peppers, it’s probably not easy to define the exact taste of a fried water beetle.
The idea of munching away on fried bugs isn’t the most appealing thing in the world, but locals chomp through them like a bag of potato chips – and we can see why.
Water beetles are a great source of protein and a number of magical vitamins. Now that sounds more appealing!
19 Worth every penny: Shaved ice, Honolulu, Hawaii
Rainbow shaved ice isn’t something we see every day, but it sure is colourful and naturally catches our attention. It really does look like colourful shaved ice. It’s as if someone just dumped a spade full of frozen snow into a plastic container and doused it with food color and syrup. While it might be new to us, to Honolulu locals, it is a street classic. It’s been popular for a long time in Hawaii and, even though it looks a little bizarre at first sight, and we cringe at the idea of someone biting into it, we’re sure it’s just as tasty as it looks and we’re eager to try some for ourselves.
18 Unappealing: Reindeer hot dogs, Anchorage, Alaska
Let’s get this straight. Hot dogs made out of reindeer meat – seriously?
It’s hard to get our heads around a hot dog being made out of one of Santa’s fliers.
With that said, Anchorage locals have no qualms about scoffing down a sizzling reindeer hot dog while watching the Iditarod dogsled race which happens every March. Not that any of us can pinpoint exactly what a conventional hot dog contains. It probably contains a lot worse than reindeer meat. But there’s no need to freak out about the whole reindeer meat dog just yet. Apparently, the dogs contain a blend of reindeer meat, pork and beef.
17 Worth every penny: Fried rice balls, Rome, Italy
When we think of rice dishes, images of mushroom risotto and chilli con carne enter our minds. But rice served up in little balls? That’s not something we see often. At first sight it looks a little unusual, but when we hear more about them and what they contain, it sounds interesting.
In Italian, these fried rice balls are called ‘’surprise’’ because of the oozing chunk of mozzarella found inside.
Some people might be put off if they’re set in their ways with the way rice should be served and eaten, but those eager to try something new will love these fried rice balls.
16 Unappealing: Pie floater, Adelaide, Australia
Just as its name suggests, a pie floater is a pie floated in a bowl of pea soup and then topped with ketchup. We just can’t see how these combinations could possibly work together, but then again, everybody has their own tastes.
People like different things.
Unfortunately, this is a dish too alien to us. We like pie, we like pea soup, we like ketchup – but mixed all together...not so much. These pie floaters can be found at parks all around Adelaide and considered to be one of the best snacks to eat when we’ve had too much to drink. Now that we can believe!
15 Worth every penny: Egg waffle, Hong Kong, China
Their unique appearance may put some people off, but don’t let looks deprive you of the chance to taste this wonderful Chinese snack. It’s been on the streets of Hong Kong since the 1950s and still just as popular today.
Best eaten hot, most locals enjoy eating them plain but there are vendors that will add chocolate or fruit.
Some vendors even offer different flavours of batter, like ginger, green tea and chocolate. The reason egg waffles look so unique is because they’re cooked between hot plates of semi-spherical cells. They are the most interesting thing we’ve ever seen from street vendors.
14 Unappealing: Spit-roasted guinea pigs, Otavalo, Ecuador
Well, they’re not exactly guinea pigs. They’re actually known as cuy and they’re basically the rodent cousins of guinea pigs. All around Otavolo people eat this street food and there’s nothing unusual or weird about it. But for most people outside Ecuador, seeing a guinea-pig-like animal with its heads and claws still on being served up as a street food snack is hard to digest. It’s crazy really.
We are prepared to eat pig, cow, chicken etc, but something we consider a pet we wouldn’t even dream of eating.
Locals compare the taste of cuy to duck and they can’t get enough of it.
13 Worth every penny: Baked Shark, Maracas Bay, Trinidad
Stroll down the beach of Maracas Bay and we’ll find open air vendors selling a local classic: Bake n’ Shark. It’s basically chunks of shark meat on fried bread and topped with a tamarind sauce. We understand some people won’t be able to deal with eating shark – some people get freaked out by eating stuff like that. But if we give it a try, we’ll see that Bake n’ Shark (or Shark n’ Bake, which is another name for it) is a delicious snack that we won’t be able to get enough of. Richard’s Bake n’ Shark is a recommended place.
12 Unappealing: Poutine, Canada
Made up of fries, gravy and cheese curds, we’re not sure it’s as indulgent for us as it is for our neighbors to the North. But Poutine is a classic street food snack in Canada. First of all, it doesn’t look attractive.
With all that murky-colored gravy and white chunks of curds mixed in, we’re not getting hunger pangs looking at it.
It’s more the combination of cheese curds and gravy that we can’t quite get our head around. The good news is, Poutine is really cheap, so if you’re up for trying it, you won’t be taking too much of a risk with your small change.
11 Worth every penny: Laverbread, Swansea, Wales
Although it’s got the word ‘’bread’’ in its name, Laverbread is nothing like the bread we know. It’s made from Laver, a black seaweed that grows along the Gower Peninsula. It is boiled for several hours until it resembles a jelly-like paste. Then it’s combined with oatmeal, fried into cakes and layered with bacon and cockles.
Bacon and Cockles is definitely a weird combo, but one we can get behind.
This is a typical Welsh breakfast and although it doesn’t sound appetizing to all, it’s a lot tastier than we’d expect. It just goes to show that just because something doesn’t sound nice or taste nice doesn’t mean it won’t taste great. Sometimes we just have to give things a try.
10 Unappealing: Bunny Chow, Durban, South Africa
A bunny chow sounds sweeter than what it actually is. In reality, it’s a hollowed out chunk of bread filled with curry. As much as we like bread and as much as we like curry, we’re not sure we like the concept of the curry inside a loaf of bread.
The only bread we want around our curry is Naan bread.
It’s as if the bread serves as a container and there’s just something about that which sounds kind of gross. It’s ultimate Durban street food that locals love and it’s vegetarian too – so it's quite healthy. Unfortunately, we’ll have to give this one a miss. We prefer curry poured over a bed of rice.
9 Worth every penny: Smelly tofu, Taipei, Taiwan
Just the word tofu is enough to put a lot of people off. It’s actually a shame that tofu has the reputation it does in the western world. Unless one is a vegetarian or vegan, not many people even taste tofu because it tends to have a reputation for not being the tastiest thing. While smelly tofu served at food stalls in Taipei might put tourists off with the smell, it’s definitely worth trying if you can get the chance.
Fried tofu doesn’t normally smell bad.
It’s just this one that does because it is soaked in a smelly brine made of fermented vegetables and shrimp. Then it’s deep fried and topped with a spicy sauce.
8 Unappealing: Pig intestines, Hong Kong, China
Hong Kong may be famous for its weird but wonderful egg waffles, but we’re not so excited about the idea of pig intestines. Some people love intestines and if they are cooked right, which we imagine they are here in Hong Kong, they no doubt taste divine. However, the idea of pig intestines is something we’re not so struck with so for now, we think we’ll stick with the egg waffles whilst in Hong Kong. Braised turkey kidneys are another popular street food here in Hong Kong, which also don’t strike everybody’s fancy. But there is such a huge variety of street foods in Hong Kong, it would be hard to go hungry.
7 Worth every penny: Tamales, Mexico
The idea of cooking something in a banana leaf or corn husk sounds bizarre, right? Well, that’s how they make Tamales in Mexico and even though it sounds like an unconventional way of cooking, we love unconventional food – just not as unconventional as reindeer hot dogs, if you know what we’re saying.
Tamales are made from corn dough and stuffed with meat.
Then they are steamed inside either a banana leaf or a corn husk and served with salsa. Abuelas from all around Mexico pride themselves in making delectable tamales and can even spend up to 3 days making them. Luckily, we don’t have to find our own abuela to cook it for us because we can buy them from virtually any food store in Mexico.
6 Unappealing: Snail Soup, Marrakech, Morocco
Marrakech is famous for its street food. Any foodie will have a blast exploring Marrakech’s street stalls, but they have to watch out for some pretty wacky dishes. Although Marrakech offers some amazing food options like Meloui, a type of pancake, and a variety of other delicious snacks, it’s the snail soup we’re not too keen on.
It might just be the name, but the idea of snail soup, kind of freaks us out!
Not that we’ve tried it, so we can’t give you a true opinion. It’s just the fact that we’re not too keen on eating snails, so the idea of snail soup isn’t any more appetizing for us. The good news is, that’s not your only option here.
5 Worth every penny: Ceviche, Peru
It may be a little more exotic than foods we’re used to, but it must be pretty good. The dish even has its own national holiday. How many dishes do you know that have the same? Then again, when we hear more about what this dish contains, it does sound intriguing.
It’s white fish marinated in citrus juice, seasoned with chilli and served with potatoes and beans.
Although some people prefer to stick to food they know and flavours they’re familiar with, Ceviche is a special dish worth testing. Street food in Peru is all good anyway, but this one is one of the best.
4 Unappealing: Seahorse nibbles, Beijing, China
China boasts some of the best street food in the world, so it’s definitely worth a trip just for the food alone – if you’re a foodie, of course. However, it also offers its share of bizarre street food snacks that are too strange to get our heads around.
Seahorses and scorpions as nibbles?
Considering the fact that seahorses are supposed to be endangered around the world, there’s something pretty unappealing about eating them as a snack. It sounds as if we are so careless about our world and what we eat. We’re sure they might be tasty and all, but we also care about our oceans and the welfare of its inhabitants.
3 Worth every penny: Dango, Japan
At first glance, they resemble eyeballs on sticks. In actual fact, they are little Japanese dumplings cooked over an open fire on skewers. Although they look a little strange at first sight, we shouldn’t let that put us off trying them. Dango is a popular street snack in Japan and they are very delicious.
The dumplings themselves are made of rice flour and served with a variety of things from sesame seeds to sweet chestnut paste. There is definitely something completely unique about this Japanese street snack. It is like nothing we have seen before. We’ve heard of dumplings before, but they’re not the same as these ones.
2 Unappealing: Tokneneng, Philippines
Tokneneng are boiled eggs that have been deep fried in batter and they are extremely popular in the Philippines. Best eaten when hot and still crispy, these fried chicken egg balls are typically dipped in vinegar or a sweet chilli sauce. It’s not that they look bad or anything. They probably taste great, like most of the food does in the Philippines. It’s more the idea of deep fried chicken eggs that sounds so unappealing. We’re so used to eating boiled eggs with bread or alone from an egg cup, so the concept of it being deep fried is just something not usual for us.
1 Worth every penny: Churros, Spain
Think of churros as donut sticks. That’s the best way to describe them. Spain’s naughtiest street treat. They look unfamiliar at first because they’re vertical, but essentially Churros are freshly fried donut sticks. They are the perfect sweet treat to bring along with us on a walk around the town while admiring beautiful buildings and scenery. They come served with melted chocolate or occasionally with a pot for dunking. While they might seem strange at first because they’re not traditional donuts, and shaped at all as we know them, Churros are amazing! We certainly wouldn’t turn one down if someone offered one to us. They look divine!
References: bangkok.com, eatingeurope.com, globalblue.com, theculturetrip.com