Historically speaking, street food is as old as the wheel. Quite old.
The Asian continent and it’s island nations have of course long been the home of amazingly exotic food both indoors and street side and anyone fortunate enough to partake in some Cobra in Vietnam or Tarantulas in Cambodia will know that a gastronomic odyssey awaits should you be brave enough to try. I must take my hat off to Gordon Ramsay who ate the beating heart of a snake and an unborn duck foetus. Watch that here
Thailand and more specifically Bangkok’s Khao San road, has been a gourmand’s hotspot for many moons, having been named twice as the best street food in the world by CNN and frequented by hundreds of thousands of tourists a year. But, it seems, not for much longer.
For those who enjoyed a roadside bowl of scrumptious Tom Ka Gai soup then I bring you the sad news that the Bangkok government plans to shut down these stalls by the end of the year targeting the regions of Khao San road and Yaowarat. For reasons of public health and possible tax avoidance “Every street vendor will have to move out” as dictated by Wanlop Suwandee, chief adviser to Bangkok’s governor.
So who takes the top spot once Thailand is out.
Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia:
Street food in Kuala Lumpur just called food. For the most part, the street just happens to be there and the flavours you’ll find in Malaysia are totally unlike any you’ll encounter in the West. With local ingredients that combine sour, sweet, and spicy tastes in unique proportions, it’s the resulting blend of Chinese, Indian, and Malay that makes this part of the world a serious contender.
One must try dish is nasi lemak i.e. rice cooked with coconut milk and served with spicy sauces, boiled eggs, slices of cucumber, and fried ground nuts.
Every evening just after sundown the famous square of Marrakech transforms itself in to a busy food court where one finds cheap local food items of different quality.
Many of the dishes are made in a Tagine and range widely but a definite must try is the B’stilla, a flaky pastry pie traditionally served at celebrations. It has a perfect balance between sweet and savory – stuffed with, succulent pigeon meat, almonds, and saffron, cinnamon, with fresh coriander spiced eggs.
Beijing is known to be one of the street foods capitals of Asia. Jianbing is the ultimate breakfast of China made up of fried onion, fried eggs along with a special sauce and for later in the day, there is the Jiaozi, similar to a crepe but with vegetables and/or meat, jiaozi – or Chinese dumplings – are common street foods. Shaped like ancient gold ingots, they are often shallow fried or deep-fried and eaten with a dip of soy-vinegar sauce for flavour.
For starters, you can expect to find groups of people at any Pho stand across the country slurping on this salty broth consisting of rice noodles, herbs and chicken or beef but venturing on there’s Bun cha; small patties of seasoned pork and slices of marinated pork belly over a charcoal fire which, when they’re charred and crispy, the morsels are served with a bowl of a fish sauce-heavy broth, a basket of herbs and a helping of rice noodles. Within the traditional open-air markets you’ll find single-dish food stalls, run mostly by women, offer finely crafted dishes passed from mother to daughter for generations.
Hong Kong of course has a plethora of high quality restaurants harking back to it’s colonial days but venturing on to the streets will reward you with tantalising treasures such as the curry fish ball, a blend of corn starch and fish, then deep-fried to give it an alluring golden colour. It is drizzled with curry sauce and can be made both spicy and mild, depending on preference. If you are in the mood, some deep fried pork intestine, where the chewy intestine is coated in delicious golden yellow marinades and dipped in mustard and sweet sauce before serving.