People like different foods, even foods you might consider weird or unappetizing. You probably like at least one thing someone else thinks is awful. It’s fine that people like different things, the world would suck if we all wanted everything the same. And with that in mind, here are some obscure street food delights from around the world that are far less well known than a hot dog.
10. You Can Dine on Sweet and Sour Genitals in Vietnam
Street food is unique because it has two diametrically opposed reputations. Some people swear the best food you’ll ever eat, the most real and authentic food from any nation, is its street food. Others think it’s off putting garbage. But it’s hard to deny that street food does really lend itself to local flair and customs in ways that most fast food and restaurant food never quite does.
For people from other nations, street food can be a little tough to swallow sometimes in more ways than one. People often have a certain food xenophobia that makes them more judgmental of “different” foods and that can lead to a lot of the food articles that populated the internet 20 years ago where everything was “can you believe how gross people in this foreign place are?”
As we said earlier, people like different foods and that’s okay and you should always be open to new things, even if you end up not liking them. At least you tried. And with that in mind, there are parts of Asia like Vietnam where you can find dishes like sweet and sour cow genitals for sale, or pig if you’d rather avoid red meat..
It may have inspired a similar dish far to the west in Copenhagen where you can find uterus sandwiches on a high end restaurant menu.
9. Dorilocos is a Truly Bizarre Mexican Street Food
Do you remember when Taco Bell unleashed the Doritos Locos taco? That was just a taco made with a shell that was a big Dorito chip and it was something some folks really liked. But while Taco Bell seems to have indicated this was an innovation created by the restaurant itself, there is precedent. Tostilocos and eventually Dorilocos are also a well known street food that started in Mexico. They made their way to the US around the same time as Taco Bell came up with their innovation which, to be fair, added a new twist by making a taco shell out of the chips.
Dorilocos, as you’ll find them in Mexico City or Tijuana where they are said to have originated, use a bag of Doritos instead of a taco shell. Vegetables like jicama and carrot are added to the bag along with pickled pig skin, hot sauce, peanuts, Chamoy and gummy bears because we’re really leaning into the loco part of the name.
The appeal of the food seems to be a mix of youthful nostalgia and also just an overpowering mix of flavors and textures that inexplicably work well together. The result is a weird sounding street food that has broad appeal to those brave enough to take the first taste.
8. Baked Potatoes Doubled as Hand Warmers in Victorian England
The humble baked potato is generally not a noteworthy dish and certainly not something to write home about. It was popular street food in its heyday, however, and once upon a time potato vendors on the streets of London sold thousands of them.
In much the way a modern vendor might have a hot dog cart set up on a street, vendors in the 1800s London had cans set up that housed potatoes that had been imported from France. A small fire, coals and hot water to make steam could keep the potatoes warmed up and ready for buyers all day long. There was also salt, pepper and butter available.
Part of the appeal of the baked potato transcended food, however. On a chilly day, a baked potato could serve as a hand warmer for someone walking to or from work. They could eat it later if they wanted, but it was a decent and reliable portable heater for the coldest days of the British winter, too.
7. Ramen Burgers Replace Buns with Ramen Noodles
Everyone and their uncle knows about ramen these days. It got many a student through lean times in college and is also a staple of the bachelor diet for the man who knows how to boil water and little else. But not all ramen is hot water and dry noodles coming together in a steamy marriage of convenience. Some folks have learned to get creative with their ramen, for better or for worse.
Ramen burgers have been around for a few years now and you can find them in restaurants and in food trucks on the streets. The idea is fairly simple, too. The burger part is anything you might expect, but the ramen part is just the bun. You take a normal burger bun and replace it with slabs of dried, crunchy ramen noodles.
The dish seems to trace its roots to Brooklyn in 2013, but it made a bigger splash in Toronto in 2016 with some crispy-outside-but-soft-inside sesame oil grilled ramen buns to fancy the whole dish up.
By 2017 they were such a tremendous hit at Toronto’s Canadian National Exhibition, a place where new trends in street foods often make their first splash, that people were waiting in line for hours to get them.
6. Korean Poo Bread Is Shaped Like a Turd
If you were going to make a list of unappetizing things, there’s a good chance that poop would rank near the top of that list, assuming you’re not part dung beetle. Most humans prefer not to eat turds as a rule. That said, we still have a weird fascination with poop as witnessed by generations of hilarious scatological humor up to and including the popularity of the poop emoji.
Korea has given unto the world poop bread, a street food treat which is filled with red bean paste and is sold in the very distinct shape of a cartoon poop. Surprisingly, this isn’t a recent innovation, although the molded shape may be a more modern stylization of it.
The bread is called ttongppang, or ddongbbang, and it can trace its roots to a specific neighborhood in Seoul. It’s meant to be shaped like poop and the filling can even include walnuts because of course it does. In Korean culture, poop is linked with prosperity and therefore lucky. Dreams about poop are portentous of good things, so a poop bread can only be viewed as good despite what your instincts may tell you.
5. Betamax is Congealed and Grilled Cubes of Blood
If someone asked you about Betamax, what do you think they mean? For most people this either means nothing or, if you’ve been around a few years, it’s the video format that lost out to VHS all those years ago. But, for a more select group of people, it has an entirely different meaning.
Betamax is a Filipino street food made from blood. To make it you need to drain the blood from a chicken and then let it cool, presumably while you actually do something with the chicken carcass. The blood is allowed to congeal with some seasoning added.
You can add some heat to help the process of making it more solid. The thickened mix can be cut into Jello-ish cubes and then skewered and grilled. Serve with some seasonings and sauces and there you go. Chunks of blood called Betamax.
Why the name? Because you’re cutting it into cubes which apparently resemble Betamax tapes. And sure, a million other things are also rectangles but nevermind that.
4. Suodiu is Saucy Pebbles
In the summer of 2023, every media outlet ran with a story out of China showing the latest food trend that is apparently a real thing that is hundreds of years old and not just a prank. The street food fad is called suodiu and involves putting some small, smooth, clean river stones in a wok or on a grill and saucing them with chili sauce and other flavorings.
Once the dish is ready, however that may be judged, it’s plated in a bowl and diners suck the sauce off the pebbles and set them aside. So the stones are just a vehicle for tasting the sauce which is kind of like when someone just wants to drink barbecue sauce or eat mayo out of the jar but wants to include a middle step to make it seem less shameful.
3. Indian Vendors Make Omelets with Soda and Cookies
Eggs aren’t much of a street food in the West but fried egg dishes are not uncommon in parts of Asia, especially omelets. But not all omelets are created equal and while onion and bacon may seem run of the mill, omelets made with things like soda and Oreos are another matter.
The offending omelet was witnessed in a viral video in 2022 where an Indian street vendor was filmed making it for a customer. After adding bread, the finished dish was garnished with onion, cilantro and lemon juice because why not?
2. The Douche Burger Was a $666 Hamburger
It’s difficult to innovate a burger because there’s not much left to do. You have a bun, the burger, and toppings and there are only so many ways you can tweak any of those to make something different.
One avenue a few people have tried is to “elevate” the burger, which often means just adding unnecessarily expensive ingredients and then charging an arm and a leg for it. The burger may not taste good but at least it’ll get a splash of virality when it trends on social media.
The Douche Burger was one such burger, and it hit the scene in 2012, cutting a lot of these other wagyu and gold leaf burgers off at the pass. It also did it the best by acknowledging that it was stupid right in the name.
The Douche Burger, costing a moderate $666, was sold from a food truck in New York. It was a Kobe beef patty wrapped in gold leaf, foie gras, caviar, lobster, truffles, imported aged gruyere cheese (obnoxiously melted with champagne steam), kopi luwak (that’s coffee made from beans harvested from civet poop) bbq sauce and Himalayan rock salt. The creator acknowledged it probably won’t taste good but it’ll make you feel rich as f***.
1. Pagpag Is Made From Leftover and Garbage Food
Modern eaters are a lot more conscientious about what they eat than people in the past were. We find fair trade coffee, dolphin friendly tuna and other sustainable items. People choose to be vegan for health, moral and sustainability reasons, and there are restaurants that make a point of having little to no waste in their food production. And then there’s pagpag.
Pagpag is a Tagalog term for dust on your clothes or carpet. But it’s also a colloquial term for leftovers from restaurants that have been thrown out. It is, quite literally, garbage. Pagpag vendors will stake out the trash behind a fast food restaurant and then raid it when the restaurant makes their daily dump.
They’ll go through it and pick out scraps of meat – maybe someone only ate half a chicken breast, for instance. Or a bone might have scraps around the joints that weren’t chewed clean. That leftover meat is taken home, cleaned, repackaged and sold as a new dish. That dish is pagpag.
The meat could be sold packaged alone, floured and fried with sauce, or pagpag can be a soup or stew made up of those scraps and bones and whatever else was harvested from the trash along with some new seasonings. The food is sold in the poorest neighborhoods in the Philippines and it’s very popular. Some meat collectors can even sell what they collect back to restaurants.
One thing keeping pagpag going strong is inflation. While “normal” food prices keep going up, cheap foods like pagpag become more and more attractive to locals. Food prices in Manila rose remarkably in 2023 but a serving of pagpag can be as little as 40 cents from vendors who sell it from carts. For many residents, though they know pagpag is not something they should be eating,eato the best they can do for themselves or their families.