is ready-to-eat food or drink sold by a hawker, or vendor,
in a street or other public place, such as at a market or fair. It is
often sold from a portable food booth, food cart, or food truck and
meant for immediate consumption. Some street foods are regional, but
many have spread beyond their region of origin. Most street foods are
classed as both finger food and fast food, and are cheaper on average
than restaurant meals. According to a 2007 study from the Food and
Agriculture Organization, 2.5 billion people eat street food every
A video clip of a vendor making churros in Colombia
Today, people may purchase street food for a number of reasons, such
as convenience, to get flavourful food for a reasonable price in a
sociable setting, to try ethnic cuisines, or for nostalgia.
2 Around the world
3 Cultural and economic aspects
4 Health and safety
5 See also
7 External links
Satay street vendor in Java, Dutch East Indies, c. 1870, using pikulan
or carrying baskets using a rod.
The presence of street food vendors in New York City throughout much
of its history, such as these circa 1906, are credited with helping
support the city's rapid growth.
Small fried fish were a street food in ancient Greece; however,
Theophrastus held the custom of street food in low regard. Evidence
of a large number of street food vendors was discovered during the
excavation of Pompeii.
Street food was widely consumed by poor
urban residents of ancient Rome whose tenement homes did not have
ovens or hearths. Here, chickpea soup with bread and grain
paste were common meals. In ancient China, street food generally
catered to the poor, however, wealthy residents would send servants to
buy street food and bring it back for them to eat in their homes.
A traveling Florentine reported in the late 14th century that in
Cairo, people brought picnic cloths made of rawhide to spread on the
streets and sit on while they ate their meals of lamb kebabs, rice,
and fritters that they had purchased from street vendors. In
Renaissance Turkey, many crossroads had vendors selling "fragrant
bites of hot meat", including chicken and lamb that had been
spit-roasted. In 1502, Ottoman Turkey became the first country to
legislate and standardize street food.
Aztec marketplaces had vendors who sold beverages such as atolli ("a
gruel made from maize dough"), almost 50 types of tamales (with
ingredients that ranged from the meat of turkey, rabbit, gopher, frog
and fish to fruits, eggs and maize flowers), as well as insects
and stews. Spanish colonization brought European food stocks like
wheat, sugarcane and livestock to Peru, however, most commoners
continued to primarily eat their traditional diets. Imports were only
accepted at the margins of their diet, for example, grilled beef
hearts sold by street vendors. Some of Lima's 19th-century street
vendors such as "Erasmo, the 'negro' sango vendor" and Na Aguedita are
still remembered today.
During the American Colonial period, "street vendors sold oysters,
roasted corn ears, fruit, and sweets at low prices to all classes."
Oysters, in particular, were a cheap and popular street food until
around 1910 when overfishing and pollution caused prices to rise.
Street vendors in New York City faced a lot of opposition. After
previous restrictions had limited their operating hours, street food
vendors were completely banned in New York City by 1707. Many
women of African descent made their living selling street foods in
America in the 18th and 19th centuries, with products ranging from
fruit, cakes, and nuts in Savannah, to coffee, biscuits, pralines, and
other sweets in New Orleans.
Cracker Jack started as one of many
street food exhibits at the Columbian Exposition.
In the 19th century, street food vendors in
gingerbread-nuts, cream mixed with corn, as well as bacon and other
meat fried on top of ceramic vessels with hot coals inside. French
fries, consisting of fried strips of potato, probably originated as a
street food in Paris in the 1840s. Street foods in Victorian
London included tripe, pea soup, pea pods in butter, whelk, prawns,
and jellied eels.
A whole street was taken up by street food vendors during the Yasothon
Rocket Festival in Thailand.
Ramen, originally brought to Japan by Chinese immigrants about 100
years ago, began as a street food for laborers and students. However,
it soon became a "national dish" and even acquired regional
variations. The street food culture of Southeast Asia today was
heavily influenced by coolie workers imported from China during the
late 19th century.
In Thailand, although street food did not become popular among native
Thai people until the early 1960s, because of rapid urban population
growth, by the 1970s it had "displaced home-cooking." The rise
of the country's tourism industry is also contributed to the
popularity of Thai street food.
Indonesia — especially Java, travelling food and drink vendor has
a long history, as they were described in temples bas reliefs dated
from 9th century, as well as mentioned in 14th century inscription as
a line of work. During colonial
Dutch East Indies
Dutch East Indies period circa 19th
century, several street food were developed and documented, including
satay and dawet (cendol) street vendors. The current proliferation of
Indonesia's vigorous street food culture is contributed by the massive
urbanization in recent decades that has opened opportunities in food
service sectors. This took place in the country's rapidly expanding
urban agglomerations, especially in Greater Jakarta,
Around the world
Main article: Regional street food
See also: List of street foods
Food carts lining Indonesian street, selling street foods.
Street food vending is found all around the world, but varies greatly
between regions and cultures. For example, Dorling Kindersley
describes the street food of
Vietnam as being "fresh and lighter than
many of the cuisines in the area" and "draw[ing] heavily on herbs,
chile peppers and lime", while street food of Thailand is "fiery" and
"pungent with shrimp paste ... and fish sauce." New York City's
signature street food is the hot dog, however, New York street food
also includes everything from "spicy Middle Eastern falafel or
Jamaican jerk chicken to Belgian waffles"
Street food in Thailand offers various selection of ready-to-eat
meals, snacks, fruits and drinks sold by hawkers or vendors at food
stalls or food carts on the street side.
Bangkok is often mentioned as
one of the best place for street food. Popular street
offerings includes pad thai (stir fried rice noodle), som tam (green
papaya salad), sour tom yum soup, various selection of Thai curries,
to sticky rice mango
Indonesian street food is a diverse mix of local Indonesian, Chinese,
and Dutch influences. Indonesian street food often tastes rather
strong and spicy. A lot of street food in
Indonesia are fried, such as
local gorengan (fritters), also nasi goreng and ayam goreng, while
bakso meatball soup, skewered chicken satay and gado-gado vegetable
salad served in peanut sauce are also popular.
Indian street food is as diverse as Indian cuisine. Every region has
its own specialties to offer. Some of the more popular street food
dishes are Vada Pav, Cholle Bhature, Parathas, Rolls, Bhel Puri, Sev
Puri, Gol Gappa, Aloo tikki, Kebabs, Tandoori chicken, Samosa, Bread
Pav bhaji and Pakora. In India, street food is popularly
known as nukkadwala food. There are several restaurants and QSRs in
India that have also taken their inspiration from the vibrant street
food of India.
street food in Hyderabad Andhra Pradesh India.
In Hawaii, the local street food tradition of "plate lunch" (rice,
macaroni salad, and a portion of meat) was inspired by the bento of
the Japanese who had been brought to Hawaii as plantation workers.
In Denmark, sausage wagons allow passersby to purchase sausages and
In Egypt, a food sold commonly on the street is ful, a slow-cooked
fava bean dish.
Mexican street food
Mexican street food is known as "antojitos" (translated as "little
cravings") which include several varieties of tacos, such as tacos al
pastor, huaraches and other maize based foods
Cultural and economic aspects
Street vendor of snack foods in Nepal
Because of differences in culture, social stratification and history,
the ways in which family street vendor enterprises are traditionally
created and run vary in different areas of the world. For example,
few women are street vendors in Bangladesh, but women predominate in
the trade in Nigeria and Thailand. Doreen Fernandez says that
Filipino cultural attitudes towards meals is one "cultural factor
operating in the street food phenomenon" in the Philippines because
eating "food out in the open, in the market or street or field" is
"not at odds with the meal indoors or at home" where "there is no
special room for dining".
Walking on the street while eating is considered rude in some
cultures, such as Japan or Swahili cultures, although it is
acceptable for children. In India, Henrike Donner wrote about a
"marked distinction between food that could be eaten outside,
especially by women," and the food prepared and eaten at home, with
some non-Indian food being too "strange" or tied too closely to
non-vegetarian preparation methods to be made at home.
In Tanzania's Dar es Salaam region, street food vendors produce
economic benefits beyond their families. Because street food vendors
purchase local fresh foods, urban gardens and small-scale farms in the
area have expanded. In the United States, street food vendors are
credited with supporting New York City's rapid growth by supplying
meals for the city's merchants and workers. Proprietors of street
food in the United States have had a goal of upward mobility, moving
from selling on the street to their own shops. However, in Mexico,
an increase in street vendors has been seen as a sign of deteriorating
economic conditions in which food vending is the only employment
opportunity that unskilled labor who have migrated from rural areas to
urban areas are able to find.
Coca-Cola reported that China, India, and Nigeria were some
of its fastest-growing markets: markets where the company's expansion
efforts included training and equipping mobile street vendors to sell
Health and safety
The hepatitis A virus can be spread through improper food handling and
poor food hygiene.
As early as the 14th century, government officials oversaw street food
vendor activities. With the increasing pace of globalization and
tourism, the safety of street food has become one of the major
concerns of public health, and a focus for governments and scientists
to raise public awareness. However, despite concerns
about contamination at street food vendors, the incidence of such is
low, with studies showing rates comparable to restaurants.
In 2002, a sampling of 511 street foods in Ghana by the World Health
Organization showed that most had microbial counts within the accepted
limits, and a different sampling of 15 street foods in Calcutta
showed that they were "nutritionally well balanced", providing roughly
200 kcal (Cal) of energy per rupee of cost.
In the United Kingdom, the
Food Standards Agency
Food Standards Agency provides
comprehensive guidance of food safety for the vendors, traders and
retailers of the street food sector. Other effective ways of
enhancing the safety of street foods include: mystery shopping
programs, training, rewarding programs to vendors, regulatory
governing and membership management programs, and technical testing
Despite knowledge of the risk factors, actual harm to consumers’
health is yet to be fully proven and understood. Due to difficulties
in tracking cases and the lack of disease-reporting systems, follow-up
studies proving actual connections between street food consumption and
food-borne diseases are still very few. Little attention has been
devoted to consumers and their eating habits, behaviors and awareness.
The fact that social and geographical origins largely determine
consumers’ physiological adaptation and reaction to foods—whether
contaminated or not—is neglected in the literature.
In the late 1990s, the United Nations and other organizations began to
recognize that street vendors had been an underused method of
delivering fortified foods to populations, and in 2007, the UN Food
and Agriculture Organization recommended considering methods of adding
nutrients and supplements to street foods that are commonly consumed
by the particular culture.
List of street foods
List of snack foods
Ice cream van
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Media related to street food at Wikimedia Commons
Street food travel guide from Wikivoyage
Wikivoyage has a travel guide for Civilisations.
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