Guidebook in one hand, fork in the other: travel means eating. And eating means street food. While the tourist hordes flock to this church or that, scenic overlooks, museums and monuments, we worship the drop of balsamic on our gelato, snap selfies with the swirl of sriracha in our pho, send postcards of pushcarts, blogpost the back alleys. The world is our kitchen. In fact — maybe all you need is the fork. Ditch the guide and follow your gut. Smells of curried popcorn beckon down this side street, the steam of roasted almonds leads you round that corner (if only Instagram had smell-o-vision!) Or, let us pick your route for you. From Punjab-via-the Rockaways to Thailand-via-Vermont, here’s the best street food mashups from around the world.
Maple Sriracha Verde // Vermont Maple Sriracha // Pittsford, VT
What’s a green mountain sriracha fan to do when he gets sick — literally — of the sulfites and preservatives in his favorite sauce? What any good Vermonter does: ask the neighbors. And like any good Vermonters, his neighbors make syrup. Thus was born this curious sauce, a mix of peppers, spices, and real maple syrup (the verde uses jalapeños, not red fresnos, for a citrusy bite and a bit more heat). Diehards may replace their pancake toppings, but we prefer it in a chicken satay: skewer cubed thigh meat on bamboo sticks, oil, and grill, then brush with a blend of Maple Sriracha and good fresh butter.
Salty Mango Lassi Taffy // Salty Road // Brooklyn, NY
Our first taste of street food is, in some ways, its psychedelic, carnivalesque epitome: summertime delights on boardwalks and county fairs, technicolor sno-cones, ephemeral candy floss, and the king of it all, saltwater taffy. But today’s reality is a far cry from that sunny childhood dream — most modern taffy doesn’t even use sea salt! Not so, Salty Road. These hand-stretched morsels, made first for a friend’s beachside stand on the Rockaways and now available to you, use all natural ingredients, from real vanilla beans down to the large-grain sea salt. Bonus: this particular batch was inspired by another street eat, the Punjabi summertime (hell, anytime) yogurt mango shake.
Pho Beef Jerky // Lawless Jerky // Santa Monica, CA
Some foods aren’t really, technically street food — but we wish they could be. Take pho. You need a big table, and plenty of napkins, for all the spooning, splashing, and slurping that the best bowls require. thats why we swooned for Lawless’s remix: all the flavor of the best broths, in a pocket-size bite, drool-worthy but splash-free. And while some pho comes with a side of mystery meat — is that tripe or tendon? — this jerky is made with real grass-fed beef, no fillers and no flavor-boosting nitrates or MSG. Just a little brown sugar, real pho herbs like anise, cinnamon, and cloves, and of course, a big pinch of jalapeño. No napkin needed.
Chai Masala Popcorn // Masala Pop // Portland, OR
Wander urban India, and if you listen hard through the clanking rickshaws, shouting street vendors, and constant droning horns that make up daily traffic-clogged life here, you might hear the familiar rat-a-tat snare of popping popcorn. But this Indian staple is far from familiar: heavily spiced and made in an iron wok, it’s the Bollywood version of your buttery movie snack. The Masala Pop founder first tried the curry spiced kernels in his mom’s homemade Indian trail mix; now he makes it himself, with the extra spicy touch of tea-infused caramel coating each crunchy bite.
Lemon Ginger Almonds // Clif Family Kitchen // Napa, CA
Nothing says winter in New York like the scent of roasting nuts, sizzling on street corners. There, the smoke dissolves into the city’s haze of subway steam, taxi exhaust, and, yeah, trash. But not in Napa. On the Clif family vineyard, nothing touches these almonds but a Mediterranean breeze through the grape vines. That, and a dash of ginger, lemon zest, and herbs de Provence. If only the 6 train made it this far.
Balsamic Nectar // Balsamic Nectar // Boulder, CO
Think you know balsamic? No way, Giuseppe. Most is just red wine vinegar with caramel coloring. But real-deal balsamic vinegar — the certified stuff, straight from only two regions in Italy, and only one kind of Modena grape — is a hundred-buck-a-bottle investment, each one at least 12 years old and each precious drop a life changing burst of flavor. Thankfully, a drop is all you need. Sadly, that drop can take decades to mature. Except at the hands of this Boulder, CO producer, who uses a secret shortcut to speed up the aging. The process may be new, but a traditional application is still best: toasted country bread, sliced tomato, a drizzle of good olio and a drop (or two) of nectar.