10 Best Street Foods From Around the World

Quesadilla, Mexico
Eat Mexico guide Natalia Gris (R) splits quesadillas with tourists in Mexico City in 2013. Founded in 2010, Eat Mexico is the only culinary tour operator in the country that focuses exclusively on street food and markets. © TOMAS BRAVO/Reuters/Corbis

First of all, forget everything you think you know about quesadillas. A microwaved flour tortilla stuffed with cheddar cheese is about as authentically Mexican as a Dorito Loco taco from Taco Bell. When my wife and I lived in Mexico, we discovered that the soul of real Mexican food is masa, the ground-corn dough — not wheat flour — that's used to make soft corn tortillas for tacos, steamed tamales, gorditas, and innumerable regional antojitos, Mexican street snacks with deep indigenous roots.

A real Mexican quesadilla starts with that freshly ground corn masa. A large hunk of soft dough is pressed or rolled into a rough circle and laid on a hot griddle. The basic version is filled with shredded Chihuahua or Oaxacan string cheese and folded over into a half moon. But why stop with cheese? At Mexican street stalls, you'll find mouth-watering fillings like potato and crumbled chorizo sausage, nopal (cactus), squash blossoms, sautéed mushrooms, huitlacoche(an earthy corn fungus), refried beans, and all varieties of grilled or slow-cooked meats.

I've found that real-deal quesadillas are best enjoyed on a wobbly wooden bench inside a bustling open-air market with a healthy dollop of salsa verde (the tomatillo-based green salsa) and an icy agua fresca, a sugary fruit juice in every imaginable flavor ladled from giant plastic jugs.