Street food is some of the tastiest food you can try when traveling, but for those of us who crave sweets, the options tend to trend toward savory far too often. Unless, of course, you know where to look. No matter where you are in the world, there’s likely a sugary street food nearby to satisfy your cravings.
1. Kluay tod
Kluay tod are fried bananas that are sold from a cart at street markets in many major cities in Thailand. The sweetness here is all natural. The base is an unripe banana, which has a batter coating that includes rice and tapioca flours, coconut, and sesame seeds. It’s crunchy on the outside and soft and sweet on the inside. A similar streetside, deep-fried banana goes by goreng pisang in Indonesia, Malaysia, and Singapore.
2. Khao niew ma muang
Sold throughout Thailand, khao niew ma muang, or mango sticky rice, is a popular street food made with sticky rice, coconut, sugar, and mango. Naturally, khao niew ma muang is best when the mangoes are ripe (though there are few bad times when it comes to mangoes in Thailand). It’s a popular dessert in the country, and it only takes a taste to figure out why.
3. Dragon beard candy
Don’t take dragon beard candy for granted. This traditional Hong Kong sweet is skillfully made by stretching sugar strands into long, hair-thin pieces and then wrapping the strands around a mix of crushed peanuts, coconut, and sesame into what looks almost like a sweet bun. The name comes from the resemblance to a long white dragon’s beard.
4. Ding ding tong
Follow the dinging sound to find this popular Hong Kong street candy. Ding ding, or deuk deuk tong, gets its name from the sound of vendors breaking pieces of the candy off a long coil for customers. The treat is made with rice, maltose, ginger, and sesame. Suck on it, don’t immediately bite down after getting a piece, or you might break a tooth.
You’ll find tánghúlu, or sugar-syrup-coated Chinese hawthorn on a bamboo stick, on the streets of Beijing. It’s red in color with a sweet and sour taste. Variations exist where the Chinese hawthorn is filled with red bean paste, making for an even sweeter treat. Other coated fruits like strawberries and kiwis are commonly sold alongside the traditional hawthorn.
These fried sticks of dough are a sweet breakfast street food common in Beijing. Yóutiáo are similar to a mix between churros and doughnuts with a crunchy outer layer and soft insides. The sweetness is accompanied by a light salty taste, and it’s typically eaten alongside rice congee or milk.
The love of fried dough is a near-universal feeling. In Athens, it manifests through loukoumades, which are deep-fried and bite-sized. A pastry of this sort has been served since ancient times, and it’s considered by some to be the original doughnut. Aristotle throws a mention out to a similar sweet fried pastry in his writings along with other Greek poets, and they were served at the original Olympics. When you buy one from today’s street vendors, expect it to come hot and filled or topped with honey and cinnamon. To venture further from its origins, try the equally delicious versions with additions like chocolate or custard.
Sweet and nutty fried pancakes that will cover your entire hand, hotteok are filled with honey, nuts, sugar, and cinnamon. These dense little street treats are commonly served in the winter and make for a lovely warm snack.
Oliebollen translates from Dutch to “oil bulbs.” Admittedly, it’s not the most appetizing name. It is the most appetizing taste, though. In Amsterdam, oliebollenkramen (oliebollen food stalls) open up for winter to serve the fried pieces of dough with powdered sugar on top. They’re especially prevalent as a food to ring in the new year.
Originally a Spanish snack, churros are today sold by street vendors around the world, from Argentina’s dulce de leche churros to the cinnamon-dusted churros sold in New York City’s subway stations. Some of the best, however, are found at street-side stalls in Mexico. The sticks of dough are coated in sugar and cinnamon, and if you’re lucky, you find a vendor selling churros with warm chocolate for dipping.