Mean Streets: Our Favorite Street Food Dishes From Around the World

We have a special place in our hearts for a tasty plate of street food and if the growing number of food trucks, carts, and quick-service joints are any indication, most Americans do too. In fact, the whole world loves quick, delicious food, which means that there are more fantastic cultural street foods than we can count. Average American eaters have a skyrocketing interest in foods from other countries, so it’s only a matter of time before one of these dishes makes it into your favorite restaurant. Who knows, maybe it’s already there!

Som Tham

This Thai favorite combines all of the five main tastes (sweet, sour, salty, bitter, and savory) into one aesthetically pleasing, surprisingly nutritious dish. Alternatively known as “green papaya salad,” som tham has a lot of regional variants, but most incorporate green, unripe papayas, citrus, chilis, and a palm sugar based dressing. Unlike traditional salads, papayas make up the base here, so be sure to cut thin slivers of the fruit to cover up more ground.  

Banh Mi

An absolutely addicting combination of French and Vietnamese cuisines, the humble banh mi adds traditionally Asian ingredients into a freshly baked baguette. The real success of your banh mi comes from the unison of every ingredient; if your meat is under seasoned or your baguette is too dry, you’re out of luck. Importantly, this applies to toppings too; use this list of our favorites for inspiration! 

Tostones 

Another South American favorite, tostones are an extra crispy, seasoned take on American plantain chips. Derived from the Spanish word meaning “to toast,” tostones have a crisp, crunchy bite that pairs fantastically well with guacamole and fresh salsa. Tostones are good options for the health conscious eater too; they’re naturally gluten-free and are a healthier chip alternative for those on the keto diet!

  • Pro Tip: Learn how to make killer plantain chips here!

Ceviche

With chefs beautifully plating and experimenting with this dish, it can be easy to forget that ceviche got its start as a humble street food. Although the origins of ceviche is contested, it is an extremely popular street food throughout most of Southern and Central America. Naturally, fish is the main star here, but it would be nothing without the traditional citrus marinade. Not only does lemon and lime juice brighten up the flavor profile of the fish, but it actually helps cure the fish, making it safe to eat!

Churros

Is there anything else we need to say about this delicious dessert? The entire concept of street food originates from Spanish and Portuguese cuisine, and we’d argue that churros are king over all other street food desserts. Kick yours up a notch by pairing with a melted chocolate or dulce de leche dipping sauce!

Rojak

Commonly found in Indonesia, rojak is an excellent option if you’re cooking with a vegetarian or vegan crowd in mind. Essentially a combination of tropical fruits (think pineapple, mango, and starfruit), fresh vegetables, and spicy chilis, rojak has a unique flavor profile that balances sweet, savory, and spicy flavors all at once. To add to that sense of contrast, we’d recommend incorporating peanuts to get a more varied texture.