Here in London, we’re lucky enough to have some of the country’s best street food at our fingertips, from the fresh, local produce at Borough Market and the slightly more indulgent options at Maltby Street Market (most notably the doughnuts at St John’s restaurant), to the flurry of international food vendors that arrive on Portobello Road each Friday. We’re firm believers that eating your way around a country is one of the best ways to experience the local culture, and there’s no better way to do this than heading to a local market to sample some local delicacies. Here’s our guide to the very best street food experiences from around the world.
Plaza de la Trinidad, Cartagena, Colombia
Those seeking a true Colombian culinary-cultural experience must head to Plaza de la Trinidad, which each evening comes alive with street food vendors, entertainers and magicians, filling the vibrant square with the sights and smells of traditional Colombian cuisine. Bespoke tour operator, Amakuna, recommends trying traditional homemade empanadas (fried pastries filled with meat), bollos or tamales (boiled yucca packed into buns and wrapped in a banana leaf) and patacones (twice fried green plantains, plied with garlic and topped with a spicy tomato salsa). Sign us up for all of the above.
Old Delhi, India
Filled with the rich aromas of freshly prepared street foods, the buzzing city of Delhi (note: buzzing both in an atmospheric and literal sense — there’s no escaping the constant beeping of car horns here) is a delight for those looking for a unique street food experience. Head off the tourist track into Old Delhi, where you’ll be able to visit the traditional spice markets and roam the streets tasting some of India’s most renowned street food dishes, such as rich chole or chana masala — a chickpea curry dish — accompanied by fragrant freshly baked breads. Make sure you leave room for afters to sample some of India’s traditional sweets, including kulfi, India’s answer to ice cream, or gulab juman — traditional Indian donuts.
From fresh and zingy ceviche to Chinese-fusion Chifa cuisine and indigenous Andean dishes, Lima is a mecca for gourmet travellers. Our friends at Aracari have developed an exclusive Urban Eats tour, taking in bustling local markets, traditional bodegas and artisan eateries. The specialist tour operator will introduce you to Peru’s ‘hero’ ingredients, from the freshest seafood to the humble potato, countless Andean superfoods and obscure Amazonian fruits. Highlights include tasting home-style pan con pejerrey and papa rellena in artsy Barranco and tapas-style causitas and choritos at neighbourhood favourite La Preferida, all washed down with an icy chilcano or two.
Im Viadukt, Zurich, Switzerland
Located under the railway arches of a former railway viaduct built in 1894, Im Viadukt lies at the heart of trendy Zurich-West, just a stone’s throw from the boutique Marktgasse Hotel. The space is a colourful mix of delicatessens, studio galleries and fashion boutiques, with a traditional ‘Markthalle’ at its heart, where over 20 farmers and vendors come each week to sell their produce. Here you’ll be able to try anything from homemade pizzas and traditional cured meats and cheeses, to freshly baked breads and Swiss pastries. Still have room for more? The abundance of fresh produce stalls and shops means you can try your hand at recreating your favourite dishes at home.
La Boqueria, Barcelona
A highlight of any trip to Barcelona, La Boqueria is the city’s most famous food market, and one of the largest in Europe. The cavernous space is filled with wreaths of hanging chorizo, fresh seafood, artisan cheeses and throngs of locals doing their weekly shopping. Pick up some of the city’s freshest produce and head to the beach for a thoroughly Spanish picnic, or peruse the offerings with a cone of freshly sliced jamon in hand, before grabbing a drink at the perenially popular El Pinotxo.
Gili Lankanfushi, Maldives
Okay, so maybe we’re cheating a little bit with this one — but who says that street food markets have to involve perching on the pavement, balancing plates of nibbles, in the midst of the urban jungle? Gili Lankanfushi takes the typical street food experience and turns it on its head: serving up sizzling plates of gastronomic goodness in the midst of an actual jungle. Each week, a palm-fringed stretch of beach plays host to a vibrant Asian street food market, serving up the freshest Maldivian reef fish alongside authentic Vietnamese pho, Japanese okonomiyaki, Indonesian satay and more. Forget queuing for hours and eating standing up; at Gili Lankanfushi’s market your dishes will be served up sizzling and you can tuck in at your table with your toes in the sand. Heaven.