Though portion sizes here in the States may be a bit bigger, junk food is popular the world over.
“I was thrilled," says Susan Barnes of TravlinGirl.com, "when, during a stop at the Atomium [the building-size model atom originally constructed for the 1958 Brussels World 's Fair], I saw a group of school kids pause for their mid-morning snack — waffles! Yes, the tasty Belgian waffles were individually wrapped, much like our Little Debbie cakes or the like, and they began munching away. I bought about three eight-to-a-pack packages of waffles to bring back with me and savored every bite!” Barnes went on to take a train to Waterloo and the vending machine in the train lobby had — you guessed it! — individually packaged waffles! These treats are available everywhere! Snack vending machines are actually quite popular in Belgium. In fact, you can also get another junk food fave — hot, greasy fries — from them.
"I would say one of the most ubiquitous junk foods in Brazil," says travel journalist and Lonely Planet author Kevin Raub, "is the beloved coxinha, which is best translated as sort of a chicken croquette, and usually comes in two versions, with or without Brazilian cream cheese (catupury), Shredded chicken is wrapped up in dough shaped like a chicken leg and fried to high heaven. It's a very popular on-the-go snack, available at every bakery and boteco (local bar) in town. They are often doused with housemade hot sauces as well.”
“Everyone’s obsessed with Petit Ourson, the chocolate covered teddy bear marshmallows," says Sara Lieberman, a travel and lifestyle journalist living in Paris. "You can get them at any grocery store. It's impossible to eat just one!” In Paris, you can also get snack packs of Nutella with dippable sticks kind of like Pocky, says Paris-based culinary writer Emily Monaco. “France doesn't have much of a snack food culture," she continues, "but kids get a 4 p.m. snack every day when they get home from school, and they have these puffy rolls called pains au lait (literally milk rolls) that are like a less rich brioche.”
In Germany, people tend to prefer sweet snack foods and there aren't as many savory ones. One of the most popular junk food snacks is Erdnussflips, which are peanut butter corn puffs. Interestingly, this snack is popular among Czechs as well. “There’s a bit of an overlap here with the Czech Republic with Erdnussflips, says writer Naomi Kaye Honova. "In Czech they are called Křupky.
Spam is extremely popular on the Hawaiian Islands, and a popular snack food is Spam masubi, which involves a slice of grilled Spam on top of rice (much like sushi — except not), wrapped together with seaweed. Found in convenience stores across the island chain, it is composed of a slice of marinated Spam grilled on top of a block of rice and held together with nori.
Bamba is the number-one selling snack in Israel, and is so important to Israelis that the factory making Bamba has been deemed part of an essential wartime industry. “Bamba is a uniquely Israeli treat that you can't find anywhere else in the world," says Lilit Marcus, contributing digital editor at CNTraveler.com. "It looks like cheese puffs but tastes like peanut butter, and there are some versions that have halva or chocolate filling. It's consistently the #1 snack food in the entire country,” Also very popular in Israel is a pasta-shaped fried wheat snack called Bissli, says writer Meirav Devash. The snack is savory and comes in five classic favors and shapes: Grill-flavored (a unique BBQ flavor) spirals; pizza-flavored squares; onion-flavored (this one's smoky) rings; taco-flavored rigatoni; and falafel-flavored sticks.
While you may picture delicious tacos from street carts when you dream of snack food in Mexico, the fantasy doesn’t end there. Takis are tiny corn taquitos that look like a cross between cheese doodles and potato sticks, and they come in awesome flavors like fuego hot chili pepper and lime (the most popular), guacamole, salsa brava, crunchy fajita, and Nitro.
“When most foreigners think of Peruvian food, images of fresh ingredients and exotic produce usually come to mind, says Terra Hall, a multimedia journalist and travel writer based in Lima. "I'm talking banana and mango and avocado, and ceviche, of course. And while locals eat reasonably healthy, they also like their comfort foods in the form of junk food. Doña Pepa is to Peru to what Oreo is to America. These chocolate-covered cookies are doused in sprinkles. The purists eat them straight out of the package, though they taste just as amazing crushed and mixed in with ice cream.". Also popular is Canch. “It’s like popcorn without the pop," according to Hall. "The corn kernels are dried and then tossed in a frying pan with oil and salt. They are crunchy and salty and oh-so-delicious.” Authentic Peruvian restaurants leave these out on the table while you wait for your food and top off the dish when you run low.
Scotland is famous for some pretty crazy junk food, most notably deep-fried confections like butter balls and Mars bars. Deep-fried Mars bars are famously Scottish, but you can get just about any candy or chocolate confection fried if you go to your local chip shop. And is there any food junkier than deep-fried butter? This heart attack on a plate involves deep-frying butter in batter, and often serving it with coulis and ice cream to make it a pretty intense dessert. Good luck. Keep your doctor on speed dial.
Aside from the unique Asian varieties of chips (shrimp or roast octopus flavor), a favorite snack on the island is mochi. “Coming from the indigenous Hakka culture, mochi are chewy, gooey balls made from rice flour and filled with peanut powder, sesame, or adzuki bean paste," explains Andrew Bliss. "They get stuck to the roof of your mouth and swallowing is not always easy, but that is part of the fun.” Mochi is sold in both specialty gift stores as well as in grocery stores and convenient stores.