Street food is an intrinsic part of the culture of a place, allowing locals and tourists alike to rediscover history one plate at a time. Posh restaurants can be great too, but to find the most authentic and flavorful food that a place has to offer, you will have to venture a little deeper into the street food scene. Not only is street food incredibly accessible and cheap, but it will also allow you to fully immerse yourself in the local culture by asking people about the origin of the dishes you are eating. While every country has something special to offer, we rounded up five street foods you absolutely need to try!
Chicken Masala from Pakistan –
Pakistani food is best known for expertly marrying bold flavors and hearty portions, and the chicken masala you will find on the streets of Pakistan prove just that. Masala is a mix of herbs and seasoning, and it is used to add a burst of flavor and complexity to various Pakistani dishes. Chicken masala is typically made on high heat in a large wok, in which tender chicken meat is tossed in the masala mix. This makes for a great on-the-go snack as well, if you’re looking for something to warm your heart and fill your belly when you’re in transit.
Shandong Pancakes from China –
The Shandong Pancake, also called “Jianbing,” has a particularly interesting origin story. It was first made by soldiers at war in the Three Kingdoms Period, almost two millennia ago. Having to make do with the scarce resources they had, they combined flour and water and spread the mixture over their shields to cook them. What resulted was a light and crisp pancake that has since been adapted to include eggs, scallions, cilantro, chili paste, hoisin sauce, and lettuce.
Beef Empanadas from Argentina –
Empanadas are typically served during festivals and parties in Argentina, with each local region adapting them ever so slightly according to their palettes. It has a lush and hearty filling called “recado,” which is enclosed within the dough using a technique called “simbado.” Empanadas were initially a working man’s lunch because they could be made fairly easily and filled with whatever ingredients people had. The beef empanadas are particularly delectable.
Chimney Cake from the Czech Republic –
Chimney cake or Trdelnik, is a sweet treat made with thin strips of dough that are meticulously wrapped around a Trdlo, which is a wooden stick. It is glazed with sugar syrup and then grilled over open coals, giving it a flavor unique to the Czech. These rolls can be eaten plain, or with a variety of toppings, ranging from tiramisu to chocolate mousse, and if you don’t particularly have a sweet tooth, there are plenty of savory options as well.
Pierogi from Poland –
Pierogi is so celebrated in Poland, that the city of Krakow even has a festival dedicated to it. Most locals believe that Pierogis originated in the 1200s as a sign of gratitude for prosperity. This dumpling eventually became a staple part of the Polish diet, and the types of filling vary, even from household to household. Sweet Pierogi is typically served with sour cream and sugar, while savory Pierogi is served with bits of bacon.
All in all, street food is a great way to fully immerse yourself in the culture of the places you visit. Searching for their origin stories can help you connect with history in a whole new way because while times change, the shared love for food never does.