10 Reasons to Love Street Food in Europe
Why do I love street food in Europe so much? And why should you? After spending six months traveling through more than 20 countries across the continent, I have some answers.
While the phrase “street food” may once have conjured images of food vendors in less-than-ideal states of cleanliness, this is simply not true. Modern food trucks and food stalls challenge the standards of even the cleanest restaurant. With recent laboratory tests like this one from The Guardian even street food from Mumbai was found to be completely clean and safe for consumption. Also, without the worries of paying for brick-and-mortar restaurant buildings and multiple service staff, chefs are left to one primary focus: making incredible street food.
Regardless of your culinary preferences or social status, I’m convinced everyone can find dishes to fall in love with all of the options for street food in Europe. From my personal favorite bánh mì, to dumplings, fried fish, burgers, tacos, sandwiches and vegetarian or vegan dishes such as salads, wraps and many Indian dishes, we are in an exciting era for street food. You need only explore and be open to new ideas, unique flavors and the adventure that has become modern street food.
Here are 10 reasons why I love street food in Europe, and you should too:
Carnivores, vegans, vegetarians and gluten-free requests can now be accommodated at the many new street food vendors that continue popping up all over the world. Even if they don’t advertise themselves as such, ask what options they have for your culinary preferences and most will likely have a few ideas.
See the Fresh Ingredients
Witness the quality of ingredients before your eyes. No food truck or stall will dare having low quality or old ingredients if they’re on display before their customers. I also loved watching my meat being sliced of the vertical rotisserie in Athens, Santorini, Istanbul and Bucharest. For grilled meats, I loved watching preparation techniques in the Balkans.
Watch Your Food Preparation
When I had one of the best burgers of my life at Fisch Street Art in Copenhagen, I got to watch the entire preparation process. The burger being grilled, the cheese sauce being made, the whiskey onions, prawns, scallop and sweet potato fries were all prepared before my eyes. The chef seemed to enjoy my excitement of the preparation almost as much as I enjoyed the burger!
There is a huge incentive to the chef to ensure every meal is of the highest quality. For example, when I was in Edinburgh at Tupiniquim Brazilian Creperie, one of the crepes separated while it was being flipped. The chef was upset at her mistake but didn’t hesitate to discard it and start over again.
Without extra costs for a building and additional staff, this allows cost savings to be passed along to customers. Expect to pay around half the price you would pay for a similar dish in a traditional restaurant. In Stockholm for example, you can get a lunch special of 12 dumplings, a side and a beverage, similar to what I had here for about $13. That is a steal of a deal for one of the most expensive cities in the world! I even found this burger in Kiev for a mere $3.50!
Recommendations & (Sometimes) Free Extras
Don’t be surprised if you get questions like “would you like extra cheese?” or “how about trying some whiskey onions?” or “how about we add some squash to this to add a slight sweetness to the savory?” These are all questions I’ve been asked while watching my street food being made. Each time, the chef was absolutely right, the extra ingredients did make a difference. It allowed them to experiment a bit and it allowed me to experience some new flavor combinations. I was more than happy to oblige.
Meet the Chef
They may also be your cashier, but if they’re not, they will usually allow you a chance to poke your head in through the side door to say hello. If there’s one thing I’ve learned it’s that they appreciate your enthusiasm and any feedback you may have about the food. Good or bad (within reason) this helps them to enhance their art of preparing delicious street food.
I’ve met countless people sitting in the common spaces while enjoying my street food in Europe. At Bánh Mì in Gothenburg, for example, I met a Swedish couple who explained to me their perspectives on food, travel and relationships. It was a unique opportunity to meet some locals and enjoy great food and conversation together. At Paper Island in Copenhagen, you will find 32 food truck and food stall vendors with a beautiful common seating outside. Meet some local Danes and check out the picturesque New Harbor just across the water.
Enhance Your Cooking Skills
If you enjoy cooking like I do, even if only occasionally, take note of the chef at work. You may learn a trick or two. I never would have thought how incredible frying up some crispy onions could be for a hot dog but I was happy to learn this delicious concept in Reykjavik at Bæjarins Beztu. While talking to the chef, I had some additional onions added to the top for extra crunch. It was one of the best hot dogs I’ve ever had.
In addition to being fresh, versatile and affordable, my experience shows me street food can rival and beat the culinary of many traditional restaurants. Challenge your expectations and give one of these incredible food trucks or stalls a try. If nothing else, try talking to one of the chefs about what you like and see what ideas they have before you order. You won’t be disappointed.
Street food in Europe offers many options for all budgets, culinary preferences and styles. Quality and value allow street food trucks and stalls to compete and challenge the way traditional restaurants do business. If you were previously hesitant to try street food or weren’t aware of how versatile it has become in Europe in recent years, I hope this information and this site will help to give you some options you will enjoy. Having only explored northern and eastern Europe on this journey, I can’t wait to see what the rest of the world has to offer!
Was this article helpful? Subscribe to my RSS Feed for upcoming posts!