10 Great Street Food Holidays

Photo by Freeimages.com/Donald Cook

by Chris Caldicott, The Daily Telegraph, April 29, 2016

Experiencing the aromas and tastes of street food in the company of local people in a far-off land is one of travel’s greatest treats. A tour is the best way to explore the delights on offer (and avoid the potential hazards) while tucking into an unfamiliar cuisine.

Street food culture thrives in warm countries, where eating outside is an utter pleasure, so it's no surprise that most tours head for the pavement cafés and street stalls of Vietnam and India, the souks and bazaars of Istanbul and Marrakesh, and the colonial plazas and roadhouses of Ecuador, Mexico and Cuba. Others are to less obvious destinations like the market squares of Crete or the Irrawaddy River Delta in Burma. Here is a selection of the best street food-themed holidays and culinary adventures currently on offer. 

All prices are per person sharing and exclude international flights unless otherwise stated.

1. A taco tour of Mexico 

Chillies, tomatoes, corn and chocolate, which are all indigenous to Mexico may have made their way into cuisines all over the world but they remain key ingredients in the humble street food of their homeland. Many Mexican dishes like tortillas, tacos, tamales, corn on the cob and quesadillas are made to be dipped into zingy salsas, savoury mole chocolate sauce, guacamole and sour cream. The beach shacks on surfer beaches do a brisk trade in mezcal cocktails to wash down the local version of ceviche.

How to visit: Intrepid Travel (0808 274 5111;  intrepidtravel.com/uk ) offers a nine-day Real Food Adventure that covers street food experiences of Mexico City, Puebla, Oaxaca and Zipolite from £1,105. 

2. On the road in Cuba

Until recently the idea of a food tour of Cuba would have been absurd, then as soon as private enterprise was liberated, the lid came off. Street stalls and paladars - restaurants run by locals in their own homes - proliferated serving delicious and nutritious Cuban classics like seafood enchilado and moros y christianos using homegrown ingredients. Many places are hard to find so being escorted by a homegrown foodie like Tanja Buwalda on this small group tour by Esencia is ideal.  

How to visit: Esencia Experiences (07793 451 652;  esenciaexperiences.com ) runs a 10-day food tour from £2,650 including all meals. 

3. The temple towns of Tamil Nadu 

South Indian dishes like masala dosa and idli - which have become street food favourites all over india - are originally from Tamil Nadu where pilgrims flock to vast temple complexes and feast on fabulous fast food vegetarian thalis of multiple dishes served on banana leaves served at hundreds of street stall cafés. The cuisine turns non-veg in Chettinad where trade and travel have given the local villagers a taste for spicy meatballs and chicken fries, and in Pondicherry a French fusion influence lives on.

How to visit: I am leading a 10-day Discover Tamil Nadu's Culture and Cuisine tour from Cazenove+Loyd (02038 135 082;  cazloyd.com ) which costs £3,895 and combines off-the-beaten track street food experiences with luxury travel.

4. The bazaars of Istanbul

The residents of Istanbul have a passion for cooking and eating outside. The bazaars and streets of the old city host stalls and hole-in-the-wall joints offering mezes of small hot and cold dishes of tantalising tastes served with oven warm fresh bread to scoop up every last morsel, and succulent chargrilled kebabs, slow cooked stews, or grilled fish simply cooked with a brush of oil and a squeeze of lemon. It's a heady mix of Ottomon and Mediterranean flavours spiced up with pul biber (dried red pepper flakes), lemony ground sumac and dried thyme.

How to visit: Culinary Back Streets (+905366203844;  culinarybackstreets.com ) offers Istanbul culinary walks from $125 which includes all meals and snacks.

5. From Quito to Cloud Forest in the Andes

Ecuador is emerging as a Latin American culinary destination to rival Peru. In Quito - the high altitude colonial-era capital - Metropolitan Touring runs an excellent "Live Quito Like A Local" culinary tours of the once dodgy San Roque market neighbourhood, combined with lunch in the stunningly-restored Casa Gangotena. Breakfast on green plantain scrambled with ahiote, snack on shrimp empanadas and avoid the steaming cauldrons of bull’s penis soup before returning to the hotel for an exquisite feast of dishes, such as llama spring rolls, shrimp and coconut milk ceviche and cloud forest yams with aji.

How to visit: Metropolitan Touring (02033 717 096;  metropolitan-touring.com ) offers a Live Quito Like a Local tour which costs $221, including lunch. 

6. Off the beaten track in Central India

Joining colourfully turbaned, finely mustachioed men at a village street chai stall to sate a desert thirst with a steaming cup of sweet milky cardamon-and-ginger infused tea is one of the great pleasures of a road journey through central India. Spicy snacks of fresh vegetable samosas, steaming potato bondas and crispy cauliflower pakoras only improve things further. Curries of aloo ghobi and channa masala served in organic bowls made of dried leaves stapled together with twigs and sweets dripping with rose water have to be consumed on the spot.

How to visit: The Ultimate Travel Company (02031 315 588;  theultimatetravelcompany.co.uk ) has a 17-day Colours, Forts and Flavours street food and culinary tour of rural Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh staying in heritage hotels departing February 18 2017, from £4,730 including international and domestic flights.

The weekly markets in the fishing ports and mountain villages of Crete are piled high with mouthwatering fresh produce: figs, lemons, olives, honey, artisan cheeses, wine and olive oil, and clouds of blue smoke rise from dozens of makeshift barbecues roasting skewers of succulent pork souvlaki. Bakeries supply grab-and-go ring shaped kuuri bread sprinkled with sesame seeds and irresistible flaky savoury pastry spanakopita pies laced with feta cheese and spinach.

How to visit: MasterChef Travel by Cox & Kings (020 3811 0642;  coxandkings.co.uk ) runs a seven-day Hidden Gems of Crete tour from £1,395, departing on May 6 and October 7. 

8. The Irrawaddy Delta Burma 

Burma is a perfect destination for street food tourism, local people have their morning mohinga lemongrass and rice noodle soup squatting on tiny plastic stools on the pavements of Rangoon. At ferry stops along the Irrawaddy delta crunchy yellow split pea fritters are served in newspaper pages with chopped onion, a squeeze of lemon and garlic, ginger and chilli dipping sauce. In the spice markets zesty dhouo pomelo salads, Chinese-style wok fried tofu and watercress and Indian-style aubergine, pumpkin and shiitake curries laced with turmeric all compete for attention.

How to visit: Globetrotting Gourmet ([email protected]globetrottinggourmet.com ) run by Robert Carmack, the author of The Burma Cookbook runs Burma Food Tours from $2,999. 

9. From the souks of Fez to the Marrakesh medina 

The nightly market held in the Djemaa el-Fna of Marrakesh is street food heaven, packed with locals tucking intoharira soup cous cous and kebabs. The labyrinth of lanes winding through the ancient medina of Fes are lined with food stalls offering a tasting trail of local delicacies. Sample fresh seafood sharmoolas on the seawall of the fishing harbour in Essaouira and share a hearty ras el hanout spiced tajeen with Berbers in the mountains of the High Atlas.

How to visit: Intrepid Travel (number;  intrepidtravel.com ) runs a 10-day Real Food Adventure including all the above from £755, with departures between May 2016 and November 2017. 

10. From Hanoi to Ho Chi Minh City 

Vietnam is street food central with four distinctive regional variations in cuisine making. This tour from north to south is a perfect culinary journey. The pavements of Hanoi’s charming old quarter are crowded with people slurping pho noodle soup. The speciality of Hue is bun bo hue, vermicelli soup infused with chilli lemongrass and heaped with fresh herbs. In Hoi An, it's coa lau soba noodles with roasted rice crackers and crackling while in southern Saigon, the street food favourite is banh xeo, a crispy savoury pancake.

How to visit: Insider Journeys (01865 268 941;  insiderjourneys.co.uk ) offers a 12-day Culinary Discovery tour of Vietnam following this route, from £1,730 every month, with departures between October 2016 and December 2017. 

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This article was written by Chris Caldicott from The Daily Telegraph and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network.