Forget gourmet restaurants, the best way to sample a destination’s cuisine is through its street food offerings, writes Clinton Moodley.
Tamales, a traditional Mesoamerican dish steamed in a corn husk or banana leaf, is undoubtedly one of the popular dishes in Mexico. Travellers can find it at food vendors or restaurants across the country. Other popular options include tacos, quesadillas, tostadas, empanadas, nachos, fajita and tortas.
Thailand is famed for its food markets and street vendors. When the destination fully reopens, you will find street vendors prepare meals in front of you, with plenty of options to choose from. Popular food includes pad thai, kaao laad kaeng (curry on rice), mango sticky rice and Thai iced tea.
Morocco is distinguished by its Berber, Arabian and European cultural influences. The street food scene is flourishing. Harira, known as the national soup of Morocco, is one of the traditional meals you must try. The tomato-based soup is made with chickpeas and lentils.
There’s also the merguez, a grilled red, spicy mutton or beef-based sausage and sardines served with parsley and paprika. Morocco is the largest canned sardine exporter. For those with a sweet tooth, try their chebakia.
The pastry dough, created to look like a rose, is deep fried and poured with a syrup of honey and rosewater, finished with sesame seeds. Be sure to explore the streets of Fez, known as Morocco’s culinary capital.
South African cuisine combines African, Asian and European elements. For the best street food experience, explore Durban. Indulge in a bunny chow, hollowed-out bread filled with a curry of your choice: mutton, chicken or beans.
Also, try the amagwinya (vetkoek), a deep fried savoury dough filled with mince or cheese. Many vendors serve this comfort food at street corners, but restaurants serve “gourmet” versions with additional combinations. Other notable mentions include koeksisters, boerewors, biltong and kota.
Bali is another Asian destination that thrills foodie travellers. Besides its spectacular views and array of temples, Bali is a destination packed with flavour. Popular street food items include sate (satay), a south-east Asian dish of seasoned, skewered and grilled meat; bakso, an Indonesian meatball with hot broth; and pisang rai, a boiled banana wrapped in rice flour and rolled in coconut.
India is known to offer some of the best street foods and the majority of them are vegetarian-friendly. Among their traditional meals is bhelpuri, a mixture of puffed rice, potatoes and roasted peanuts and pani puri, a crisp, hollowed puris with potato, moong and chickpeas.
Also try aloo tikki, a deep fried dish made with mashed potato, lentils and cottage cheese. For those with a sweet tooth, sink your teeth into a jalebi smothered in a sugary syrup. No trip is complete without trying some chai tea prepared by a chaiwala. Visit Delhi, Kolkata, Chennai and Mumbai for the best street food offerings.
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