If you can buy it on a street corner and eat it while you’re walking, then you’ve likely discovered street food.
Americans have their hot dog stands and snow cones, and Canadians flock to poutine and Beavertails. Every culture has its own version of these sidewalk icons. Some countries have built entire traditions around them. In Guatemala’s small towns, the main squares fill up at night right after church. Families are looking for a festive atmosphere and a large selection of finger foods. While the kids play ball, the parents–dressed in their finest–perch on steps and lean against buildings talking about their week in between bites. In Thailand, Chiang Rai’s night bazaar has live music and line dancing to accompany the streets filled with fresh food that serve as the main attraction.
We love to be right in the middle of these cultural festivities and to introduce our travelers to the street food that accompanies long-held traditions in every country we travel. So, we go out of our way to be in the markets when the locals are and to experience the sights, sounds, smells and flavors that draw them.
Here are some of our favorite sweet and savory options you’re likely to encounter in our destinations… Don’t worry, your guide knows how to find the stands that meet the standards necessary for foreign tummies!
Guatemalans love the fresh produce that grows in delicious abundance all over the country. It isn’t uncommon for our guides to stop along the roadside to introduce Niteo travelers to the differences between the banana and pineapple varieties or to pick up a coconut, hack off the top, and insert a straw. The guide always has a bias about their favorite. The great thing about these roadside stands is that often the fruit is peeled right in front of you, making it safe for visitors to eat. It’s a perfect, refreshing choice for the hot and humid conditions that cultivate all of this bounty!
SLOVENIA AND CROATIA
Welcome to the countries that Paleo dieters were made for – Slovenians and Croatians love their meats! BBQed sausages are a traditional favorite and come in a variety of forms. To make them easy to consume on the go, sausages are often wrapped in a bread of some sort (think pig in a blanket or a sausage torte sandwich). Also in the meat category are gourmet burgers. They have really taken off in recent years as a walking market favorite.
Ljubljana hosts a “Beer and Burger Fest” in the heart of their magnificent city center during the month of April. Food trucks compete with fresh ingredients and unusual, albeit delicious, combinations. During the colder seasons, there is another popular street food that will likely catch the eye of your guide–roasted chestnuts. Big kilns with hot fires are set up around city squares and locals are walking around with these seasoned and roasted nuts mounded inside of rolled up paper cones. October is the month when you might land in the middle of a town’s chestnut festival. (You can take advantage of this opportunity on our photography tour coming up in the Fall of 2019.)
Thailand is THE snacking culture. It seems not an hour goes by before a local brings up the idea of grabbing a snack. I can’t remember a second where I was hungry when I was there. Consequently, there are food stands EVERYWHERE (including floating in the rivers) and plenty of people to frequent them. There is also a ton of variety when it comes to street food, sweet, savory, sour, bitter, deep fried… you name it! Totally memorable for me was the sweet, sticky rice packed into a bamboo stick, and Khanom bueng (a crispy, thin pancake filled with coconut cream and topped with condiments). But, there are savory options too – plenty of grilled meats to eat on a stick, and for adventurous eaters there are always the deep-fried crickets.
You just can’t think of Italy without a vision of it’s iconic street food – gelato! While Italians are known for “slow food” (meals out at a restaurants takes a lot of patience for Americans), gelato and its savory counterparts – focaccia and ham sandwiches – are the exceptions. The shops that specialize in street food are all about getting you in and out fast. Most don’t even offer the option of taking a seat. So, these quick bites are consumed while walking en route to somewhere or sitting out on a street bench for a few minutes.
Americans are already familiar with Mexican street food – trucks that serve up fast food versions of tacos, quesadillas and tortas. It’s pretty hard to imagine cooking anything this fast that packs such a satisfying flavor punch. In Mexico these taco stands will be fresh… even the tortillas are rolled from raw dough right before you eyes. The variety of toppings are also exciting if you hit on the right location. Niteo Tours hosts one taco stop that’s prepped in a family’s garage and the food is really special.
The other incredible gift to street food that Mexico is known for is churros. Churros are deep fried dough sprinkled with sugar while they’re still hot. You can find them almost anywhere people are walking and shopping, even long after dark!
What countries have you visited? What street foods do you love there? We’d enjoy hearing from you!
Check out our website for your opportunity to travel to one of these destinations at https://www.niteotours.com