CNN article about Asian street food did not 'rank Sri Lankan snack first'

Sri Lankan social media users have repeatedly shared a false claim that a CNN article published in 2022 ranked achcharu -- Sri Lankan pickles -- as the number one street food in Asia. The users said that achcharu had pushed Malaysia's asam laksa into second place, and banh mi from Vietnam into third. But the article's author told AFP the dishes were listed alphabetically, not in order of preference.

"Sri Lanka's achcharu ranked first in Asia," reads the Sinhala-language title of a YouTube video published here on October 23, 2022 by a channel with more than 1,800 subscribers.

Achcharu is a catch-all Sinhala term for pickled fruit and vegetables that have been seasoned with local ingredients. According to Time Out Sr Lanka, pickled fruits are among the island nation's favourite street food snacks.

The video's narrator says in Sinhala that CNN Travel conducted a survey about street foods in Asia, and looked at 50 dishes.

At the video's 26-second mark, the narrator says Sri Lankan pickles took the top spot and adds: "Sweet, hot, spicy, sour... Pickles made from vegetables and fruits have thus become the best street food in Asia."

Screenshot of the misleading YouTube video, captured on November 1, 2022

Similar claims were also shared multiple times on Facebook here and here.

Comments left by some users indicate they believed CNN had ranked the Sri Lankan snack as number one in Asia.

One comment read: "Wow! Number one in Asia! We don't value our culture and food but look at how it has been recognised by foreigners."

Another user wrote: "This is amazing. I have tasted Malaysian and Indonesian food and they taste really good but Sri Lankan achcharu has beat them all to the top."

The claim, however, is false.

A keyword search on Google found a CNN Travel article published on August 24, 2022. titled "50 of the best street foods in Asia".

The article states that the dishes were listed alphabetically.

"To celebrate the region's bottomless culinary talent and passion for food, we've rounded up 50 must-try, much-loved street foods and beverages in Asia in alphabetical order," it reads.

Sri Lanka's achcharu appears first on the list, followed by asam laksa -- a Malaysian fish-based soup -- and banh mi -- a type of Vietnamese sandwich.

Yakitori -- chicken skewers from Japan -- featured at the bottom of the list.

The article's author, Kate Springer, told AFP on October 31 that the dishes had not been ranked in order of preference.

"I did not rank any of the foods listed in the article -- they are simply in ABC order. We tried to get a broad geographic spread across the region and include diversity amongst the types of foods chosen," Springer said.