Your Everything Guide to Paris Street Food

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Your Everything Guide to Paris Street Food
New York is synonymous with its hot dog carts; Italy has cones of deep-fried seafood tailor-made for walking; Osaka is beloved for its fried takoyaki. But in Paris, street food is far from the norm. Pizza is sold in pies made for eating with a fork and knife, and even burgers, while omnipresent, are more likely to be found on bistro menus than drive-thru windows. As for native street food options, it’s hard to think of anything aside from the roasted chestnuts sold under the stone archways of the Louvre.  This wasn’t always the case. According to Patrick Rambourg, culinary historian and author of Histoire du Paris gastronomique – Du Moyen Age à nos jours, medieval Paris was rife with roving cooks selling pastry-wrapped meat pies out of rolling carts, and gastronomy guide Allison Zinder cites concurrent rissoles, “a savory turnover stuffed with either meat or fish and then fried,” she says. “Almost like what we call a pasty in Great Britain.” Paris’ oldest bridge was once home to peddlers of early French fries dubbed pommes pont-neuf, and these, according to Rambourg, were available well through the 18th century.   A barquette of frites. Photo: Popo le Chien / Wikimedia commons But these days, street food options are thin on the ground. While massive paella pans sizzle with rice and seafood at weekly marchés, portions are packaged to eat at home. And while some festivals like the Fête des Vendanges de Montmartre or Rock en Seine boast tartiflette or grilled hot dogs for enjoying on the go, these are an anomaly.  “I don’t think street food is in our culture,” muses culinary journalist Stéphane Méjanes, who notes that the gastronomic French meal as recognized by UNESCO is a structured, sit-down meal of many courses, enjoyed on plates and at a table. “I think that sincerely, culturally, we are not a street food country.”  For the most part, Paris’ street food scene has indeed come from elsewhere. Crêpes may well have been the first arrival on the capital’s culinary landscape. The 19th century arrival of train travel from Brittany saw a proliferation of Bretons in Paris, and soon, the neighborhood around Montparnasse train station was dotted with crêperies. While in many cases, crêpes and galettes are eaten seated, a long-held Rennes tradition of galette-saucisse, a sausage wrapped in a buckwheat crêpe, may well have inspired the now commonplace practice of taking galettes to go.  Galette saucisse, a specialty from Brittany. Photo: Trizek / Wikimedia commons
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Lead photo credit : L’As du Fallafel. © Emily Monaco

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Emily Monaco is an American journalist based in Paris. Her work has appeared in the BBC, Saveur, Atlas Obscura, and more. She is the host of the podcast "Navigating the French" and pens a weekly newsletter, Emily in France, with tips for dining (and cheese-eating) in Paris and beyond.