Top 5 Street Food Experiences with TravelLocal: a Guest Post for Phileas French
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Street food, the original food of convenience, has undergone a transformation in recent years. No longer the food of the impoverished, instead each country’s offering has come to represent what that country stands for best, whether that’s the delicious Dim Sum of Beijing or the spiced snail soup or sheep heads of Marrakech. We’ve pulled together 5 wonderful destinations where the street food available provides a whole other experience to your time there.
Stepping into Marrakech’s Jemma El Fna square is an experience in itself, even before you let yourself get swept away by all the tempting stalls (and fascinated by all the not-so-tempting ones). There’s a distinct French influence in places – snail soup anyone? – and the orange juice squeezed fresh in front of your eyes is supposed to be the tastiest you can come by. If you’re a fan of a pie, then why not try B’stilla, a delicious morsel of layered pastry, pigeon meat, almonds, eggs and spices that originally came to Marrakech from Fez. If you are a little adventurous, then trying a sheep’s head should definitely be on your list – it’s surprisingly delicious! Finally, when your energy levels are lagging, you should ask for some Ma’gooda. These are delicious little deep-fried balls, often served with a spicy harissa sauce or sometimes a fried egg – perfect as a carb-heavy, energy injection.
A myriad of colours, smells and flavours, Mumbai is home to some of India’s best street food, much of which happens to be vegetable-based. If you are a vegetarian, then this is where to travel to unleash your adventurous side.
Start your experience at a Vada Pav stall – it won’t take you long to find one. Vada Pav are essentially fantastic veggie burgers, consisting of spiced, mashed potato that is deep-fried into a patty, packed into a soft white bun and served with a variety of chutneys and spices. If you like a kick of heat, then crunch on some of the fried chillies on the side.
Another great veggie experience, is to try Sev Puri. This is a mouth-wateringly delicious meal composed of a little potato crisp heaped with mashed potato, onions, cilantro, sev, and garlic, tamarind, and chili sauces, all topped off with a grating of sour mango. It is quite the sensory explosion!
Yogyakarta plays host to some incredible, and often spicy, street food dishes that you won’t want to miss out on. Located on the island of Java, it has been repeatedly hit by earthquakes and eruptions, however this has done nothing to dampen the spirits of the locals, nor the explosive flavours in their food.
A particular recommendation is Nasi Gudeg, a sweet dish, consisting of fried chicken, crispy fried buffalo skin, and jackfruit cooked with palm sugar and coconut milk, served with a hardboiled egg, sambal and steamed rice. It sounds bizarre but this traditional Javanese dish is definitely worth a taste!
If your taste-buds are well-acquainted with spice, then give Spicy Goat Soup a try… It is now often made with mutton rather than goat, but it sets your mouth on fire with an incredible rich heat with every mouthful. Wash it down with a cup of Kope Joss, where a chunk of hot charcoal is dropped into a cup of black coffee. Unique, if we say so ourselves.
It’s a barely-kept secret that Beijing is home to some of China’s most delightful gastronomic experiences. Different cultures have gathered here for centuries, so you can expect to find Hui, Mongolian and Manchurian ethnic flavours in the street food stalls, as well as foods that date all the way back to the Qing and Ming dynasties.
Dim Sum is of course China’s most well-known morsel commonly found at food stalls, and if you haven’t had it before then you must have a nibble, but there is lots more out there for the more adventurous diners. The Chinese are famed for eating pretty much everything, and you will come face-to-face with this as you wander the stalls – insects, including scorpions, are deep fried and served on skewers, kebabs are welcome flashes of meaty normality, and seafood sizzles in an array of sauces. If you’ve got a less adventurous palate and don’t fancy crunching on insects (it’s admittedly an acquired taste) then there are plenty of stalls that serve various vegetables, spring rolls and dumplings.
Brazil is a cultural melting pot in many ways, but particularly when it comes to cuisine. Ingredients and methods of working with them come from as far afield as Japan, Africa and Portugal, and these far-flung cultures mix with the products of the native Brazilian landscape. Since this is an exotic blend of stunning coastline, soaring mountains, lush farmland and jungles, the resulting food is incredibly exciting, and often best seen and sampled on the buzzing streets of Rio de Janeiro.
While you are there, you must try what is frequently regarded as Brazil’s national dish, Feijoada. This is a hearty, homely, rich stew of black beans and various cuts of pork, including offal. If you like blow-your-head-off-spice, then try Acarajé with Vatapá. These African-influenced nibbles are not for the faint hearted! Made from mashed black-eyed
beans and onions, deep-fried in palm oil, these delicious little balls are then stuffed with hot and spicy fillings, often Vatapa – a mixture of bread, nuts, prawns, vegetables and spices.
Finally, you can’t leave Brazil without having some barbequed Picanha. Brazilians are, rightfully so, very proud of their ability to barbeque meat, the tradition filtering down from the Gauchos who would spit roast their beef over an open fire, seasoned simply with a sprinkling of rock salt. A thick layer of fat penetrates this particular cut, taken from the top of the sirloin, meaning that it simply melts in the mouth – heavenly!
Inspired to travel to any of these fabulous countries? A top tip to heed when travelling and enjoying street food, is to make sure you attend the busiest stalls wherever possible – this means the food is having to be continually freshly prepared and will be all the better for it.