As someone who tries to keep costs down when traveling, to free up money for more of it (or for spending on genuine, must-have luxuries while traveling), street and fast food are things I pay some attention to.
I will admit, I am also somewhat wary of certain street food in certain countries due to hygiene and disease considerations; in some cases, I’ve had to be, because of things like potentially being pregnant (and wanting to stay pregnant, should I have been). For that reason, while I wish I could say the samosas my husband ate in Kuala Lumpur could make this list, they can’t quite—I didn’t try them because if it’s a choice between being extra cautious about food because your doctor told you to, to avoid any risk to a potential pregnancy that you were told you would probably never be able to have, or tasting the samosa, you sacrifice the samosa. For the time being. I will go back to Kuala Lumpur and I will eat their samosas. And, I suspect, so will my kid.
In any event, with the samosas disclaimer now being out of the way, here are my top five recommendations in terms of street food/fast food.
1. Pieminister, London (and elsewhere!)
Pieminister is phenomenally excellent. The food is high-quality. The selection is vast. They come with mash and mushy peas. What’s not to like?
My ability to sample Pieminister’s full range of pies is limited, as I cannot eat beef (for medical, not religious or ethical reasons). However, I have had the pleasure of sampling the Chicken of Aragon, Deerstalker and Thai green curry chicken pies.
(picture via pieminister.co.uk)
They are all amazing. And cheap. You can easily eat here for less than £10. That’s a good deal in a city full of expensive, and sometimes not all that great, food.
2. Lobster soup, Iceland
One of the things you find in Iceland is lobster. Lots of lobster. And one of the things you can get from food trucks in Reykjavik, the capital, is lobster soup. Amazing, delicious lobster soup.
It basically tastes like the very best lobster bisque you’ve ever had, but with a hint of turmeric, and richer—not least because you can get it with whipped cream (yes, whipped cream) on top.
Iceland is expensive, as you would expect. Lobster soup is cheap by comparison to most food there ($10 or less for a good-sized bowl). If you go, be sure to try some.
3. Malasadas, Leonard’s Bakery, Honolulu
Imagine the best donut you’ve ever had. Now, imagine it hot, fresh, and filled with either rich custard cream or coconut cream. Imagine heaven in a lump of fried dough.
What you have just mentally conjured is a malasada. Brought to Hawaii by the Portuguese, Leonard’s Bakery in Honolulu makes great ones.
I am personally undecided as to which is best: The custard cream or the coconut cream variety. For what it’s worth, my husband prefers the custard cream variety. But hey, you should really get both, and see for yourself. And if you’re still not sure, go back for seconds. Or thirds. You can surf the calories off later.
4. Chilaquiles, Mexico City
Chilaquiles are Satan’s way of efficiently packaging the requisite ingredients for obesity and a heart attack into a single, easy-to-find and cheap Mexican street meal. They are also incredibly delicious and something that you must try at least once in your life.
What are chilaquiles? Fried corn tortillas layered with sauce of some sort: Mole, or red salsa, or green salsa (your author’s preference is green). Depending on when the sauce is added, it can soften up or merely flavor the tortillas. On top sit shredded chicken, beans, queso fresco and crema. Onions, avocados and other bits and pieces may be added.
(image via Food Network)
5. Crepes, Paris
I lived in Paris for a year, and in that time, I ate a lot of crepes. They are cheap, available all over the place, good, and easy to eat on the fly. This matters greatly if you are a stressed-out student running around like a headless chicken. It also matters greatly if you are a student needing to fill up on something after stumbling out of a bar at closing time, before passing out on your floor.
The best crepes are buckwheat. But any crepe, served with a liberal helping of ham and grated emmental cheese, together with an appropriate amount of black pepper, is awesome. The fact that they come rolled up in a little triangular package perfect for eating on the go makes them even more wonderful. The fact that they are so cheap (single digit dollars) is fabulous, not least because you can always afford to get a second one for dessert. For that option, my money is on the lemon and sugar crepe, or a crepe with Nutella.