Today I went sightseeing in my city. After I got home I wrote the diary in English, but I didn't know what to call a place that sells "street food". Should I call it restaurant, cafe or something else?

Street food:
Street food

From Marcin's answer, I searched each words in his/her answer to find out how to call each type of place that sells food.

Food stall Food stall

Food cart Food cart

Food van (I'm not sure I can call it "Food van" or not, please correct me if I'm wrong) Food van

  • 3
    You could call it a snack bar Commented Dec 12, 2011 at 15:59
  • We honestly don't have anything -quite- like that in America. So, I'm not sure we have a specific word for it.
    – user606723
    Commented Dec 12, 2011 at 20:23
  • 2
    Food vans and lunch vans are making a comeback in America; even in smaller cities like the one I live in there are Salvadorean, Mexican, Thai, and local barbecue vans around. Commented Dec 13, 2011 at 15:33
  • Around here these are generally referred to as salmonella vans. Commented Sep 11, 2013 at 15:35

9 Answers 9


The answer depends on the physical nature of what the place is - it might be a stall, a cart, a van, or something else.

In the case of the sellers pictured, they are located at what appears to be a stall (a table on the street), or a cart (it looks like it has wheels).

Edit: In the US, a van that sells food is idiomatically referred to as a "food truck". You will no doubt be understood elsewhere if you use that expression, but in the UK, without the "food" qualifier, a "truck" and "van" are not the same thing.

  • 4
    I agree: I would call the pictured item a "food cart". (In the US at least, a vehicle that sells food is often colloquially or "affectionately" known as a roach coach, but I've only seen that applied to a van, i.e. a vehicle where the seller stands inside it and dispenses food out a window.)
    – Marthaª
    Commented Dec 12, 2011 at 16:32
  • This answer sounds like the right answer for the words of the question. But the picture does not look like a temporary stall, cart, or van. In fact it looks like it is associated with the restaurant and tables directly behind it.
    – Mitch
    Commented Dec 12, 2011 at 18:01
  • 'Cart' implies something that can be rolled away, which this doesn't look like (though the wheel in the left may prove me wrong). I would go with 'stall' or 'stand'. Commented Dec 12, 2011 at 21:43
  • This brings up the issue that you may need to distinguish between a restaurant that has a building with indoor dining but that puts a table or stall out front as an alternative to inside dining or for a special event, as contrasted with a vendor who ONLY has a stall on the sidewalk. In America, we'd call the first "a restaurant with an outside stall", and only the second would be considered a street vendor.
    – Jay
    Commented Dec 13, 2011 at 16:41
  • @Jay: I have never found the need to explicitly draw this distinction. In fact, I would suggest it does not exist - if you are selling street food on the street, you are a street vendor, whether or not you have a kitchen and restaurant nearby.
    – Marcin
    Commented Dec 13, 2011 at 17:02

You can also use the generic term, "vendor". I am not sure to what extent this word refers to the physical place, but to me it does as much as the word "store" refers to the building as much as the abstract entity.

  • Agreed, may prefix it with [type of item sold]. Example [Dumpling] Vendor. If you wanted to get even more specific, you could simply pad the definition with more information, e.g. "The dumpling vendor on X street in Y prefecture.", though that may be a little verbose...
    – malgca
    Commented Dec 12, 2011 at 20:29
  • 1
    To modify Moo's idea a little bit: I would be comfortable calling the folks in the picture street food vendors, and I am quite confident that people reading it will understand, especially if they know this is in an Asian city and have seen such vendors before.
    – John Y
    Commented Dec 12, 2011 at 22:23

People who sell things on the street like that are often called "street vendors" whether they have a stall, a cart, etc. I don't know a term specifically for someone selling FOOD on the street.


You might want to say in your diary:

Today I went to local street food market with my friends. We grabbed some yummy food at one of the street food stands or street food stalls.

  • 2
    'street food' sounds somewhat infelicitous. 'food vendor' all by itself is natural and sufficient. 'Vendor' already gives the connotation of informal.
    – Mitch
    Commented Dec 12, 2011 at 23:50
  • @Mitch agree. I was just sharing what came to my mind.
    – Terry Li
    Commented Dec 13, 2011 at 0:21
  • 1
    @Mitch: "Street food" doesn't sound infelicitous to me. Searching for the phrase "street food" gives an estimated 8 million articles, and even a Wikipedia article by that name. Commented Dec 13, 2011 at 2:01
  • @ShreevatsaR: yes, I agree. what I should have said is that 'street food -vendor-' sounds 'off'. I still find that 'street food' is mildly strange, but that the triple is much more 'off'.
    – Mitch
    Commented Dec 13, 2011 at 3:44
  • As I said, this depends on where you are. In Mexico, for instance, "street food" does not have a reputation for sanitation; in Kuala Lumpur, I wouldn't worry about it. But of course they don't call it "street food" there very much. Commented Dec 13, 2011 at 15:31

Those familiar with South-East Asia might call it a makan stall.

  • 4
    @JasperLoy: I know. Commented Dec 12, 2011 at 16:44

Like almost everything involved with popular food, terms for places like this are intensely local. In Singapore they used to be called Hawker Centres, and there are several other terms now for modern variations on Lee Kuan Yew's original idea of rounding up the street food vendors and putting them all in one sanitary place.

In Malaysia this might well be Pasar Malam, or Pasar Minggu; in Indonesia it might be Rumah Makan, and there are lots more terms that I don't know because I haven't been there.

  • 1
    Are any of those English words?
    – tenfour
    Commented Dec 12, 2011 at 23:38
  • 2
    You tell me. Hawker is from the English verb hawk, and Centre is from the Latin centrum through English; Pasar is originally from Arabic, cognate to English Bazaar; Minggu is originally from Latin Dominus, through Portuguese Domingo to Malay, where it means Sunday. Rumah, Malam, and Makan are Malay words, meaning house, night, and eat, respectively. All can be used as phrases in English; I've heard'em. Commented Dec 13, 2011 at 0:34
  • 1
    Hah! Nice explanations. I also would say that the answer to the question does not need to be an English word, depending on the locale of the market. +1
    – tenfour
    Commented Dec 13, 2011 at 11:46
  • Are these general terms or do they refer to one specific place? I mean, is, e.g. "Pasar Malam" a term that is applied to one particular place where vendors are selling, as a proper name, or are there many "pasar malams" scattered about? But in any case, I don't think any of the terms you mentioned would be recognized outside of those specific places.
    – Jay
    Commented Dec 13, 2011 at 16:38

Among other words, I usually go with kiosk: A small open-fronted hut or cubicle from which newspapers, refreshments, tickets, etc., are sold.


Street Food Market is the closest term that is not specific to a particular location. I used to work in the city I think your picture is in, and that is the general term we used in English.


They can also be known as "Stands"

Taco Stand, Fruit Stand, Hotdog Stand, Popsicle Stand are some of the most-common, even idiomatic examples.

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