From Berlin to Bangkok, traveling the streets of the world’s most vibrant cities puts you nose-to-vendor-cart with some of the most delicious meals you could ever hope for. There’s no need to plunk down a lot of cash at a fancy restaurant when visiting a new location to experience the best cuisine a city or country has to offer. Instead, spend just a few dollars (and sometimes much less!), support the local economy, and treat your taste buds to a new experience with some street food.
Be forewarned that you’ll find many greasy calorie-bombs at food trucks and carts around the world, so order judiciously and defensively. Here are some of my favorites.
What it is: Ceviche is a popular fish dish throughout Latin and South America, with most sources saying it has its origins in Peru. Ceviche is raw fish cured and “cooked” in citrus juices like lemon and lime, and then mixed with spices and seasoning including chili, onions, and cilantro.
Where to try it: You’ll find ceviche all over the world and especially in coastal towns where the fish is fresh and caught that day.
What to watch out for: Since its raw fish, there’s always the risk of foodborne illness with ceviche. Make sure the vendor keeps the fish well refrigerated. In most cases, if you see a big crowd of locals and tourists waiting for a meal, you can be sure the vendor has a good reputation.
Mango Sticky Rice
What it is: Mango sticky rice is a dessert made from fresh mangoes, glutinous rice, and coconut milk. The cooked rice absorbs the coconut milk to give it it’s unique flavor, and it’s then served with sliced mangoes.
Where to try it: Anywhere mangoes are grown locally, especially in Thailand.
What to watch out for: Eating street food in Thailand used to be a pretty dicey affair, since vendors didn’t follow safe food-handling practices. Fortunately, the U.N. spearheaded an education campaign and new standards are largely enforced by local authorities, which means you can feel confident when trying this tasty dessert.
What it is: A döner kebab is a popular Middle Eastern meat dish that makes our healthy street food list since the meat is typically lean and served with a variety of vegetables, such as tomatoes, lettuce, cabbage, onions, and cucumbers. The meat is slow-roasted on a spit and sliced to perfection before being served on a plate or in a pita.
Where to try it: Döner kebabs have a cult-like following in Berlin, so don’t miss your chance to try some of the best versions of this quick meal if you visit. The locals swear by Mustafa’s in downtown Berlin.
What to watch out for: There’s not much to be wary about when trying a döner kebab, other than the long lines you’ll find at some of the most popular stands.
What it is: Just like it sounds, coconut water is the liquid inside fresh coconuts. It’s teeming with potassium and naturally occurring electrolytes that will keep you healthily hydrated better—and with less sugar and additives—than your favorite sports drink.
Where to try it: Coconut water is a popular street food around the world, from India and Vietnam to the sun-drenched beaches of Jamaica.
What to watch out for: Not much can go wrong with coconut water, but since it’s high in potassium you could potentially create an imbalance if you drink too much. Unless you’re stranded on a deserted island and drinking only coconut water, the risks are pretty low that you’ll experience a problem.