Eating while traveling is not just luxury restaurants and famous chefs. It is also exposing ourselves to a culinary culture very different from our own. Several ingredients used in foreign street cuisine are unfamiliar to us. And the rules of hygiene are not necessarily compatible with ours, especially when dining on street food dishes.
In developing countries, cooking is inextricably linked to the lack of resources in the region. This means that people who are cooking must be more ingenious. In return, some dishes that, for us, are totally bizarre, have entered the culture of the place: people grew up with this taste, which became an integral part of their culinary culture.
To discover the street food of the places where we visit is to expose ourselves to ingredients, recipes, techniques that are totally foreign to us. It’s also getting started, hoping not to have to work overtime on the porcelain horse saddle. But this is the discovery: if you know what to expect, then the adventure is a bit of a waste of time!
Yes, you can already hear grumbling in front of your screen: “Disguuuuusting”!
Mexico City, Mexico – Street Tacos
In Mexico City, the capital of Mexico, there are tacos kiosks on every street corner, and in great concentration around the subway exits. The vast majority of them serve tacos of “carnitas,” that is to say pieces of pork mixed and cooked, confit-style, in lard. The meat is served on two small corn tortillas, with chopped white onions, coriander and a lime wedge. A salsa is often available, in a bowl, on the kiosk counter. Meat of unknown origin on a sidewalk of Mexico? It’s so good!
Cebu, Philippines – Balut
It is not only balut that is sold in the streets of Cebu. There are all sorts of creations! But balut is the one that captures the imagination. It is a duck egg in the embryonic state, steamed. The eggs are taken from the mother after a few weeks of incubation. The younger ones remain relatively edible, while the older ones have bones and feathers. This is the kind of thing that’s eaten as a challenge, a bit intoxicated, while our friends look on, laughing … I eat one at the end of the video above!
Singapore – Sup Tulang
Singapore is known as an ultra-clean city. It is also famous for its almost totalitarian application of laws, cost of living being out of control and … hawker centers. Dozens of street kiosks, all in the same building!
There are hundreds of dishes available there, but the one that is probably the most polarizing is sup tulang. This is a sheep bone soup! The bones are broken so that the marrow can be eaten with a straw. The bones – and the little meat that remains attached to them – are cooked in a scarlet red, gelatinous and spicy sauce that stain so much that we are offered plastic gloves to eat! Again, street food dishes that are an incomparable delight.
Negril, Jamaica – Drum Pan Chicken
In Jamaica, “jerk” marinade/sauce is put on just about anything, from chicken to pork to fish. And the most popular street food is cooked in an oil drum!
On the roadside, whether in Negril, Montego Bay, or Kingston, entrepreneurial cooks take old oil barrels, saw them in two, fill them with coal and grill chicken marinated in jerk. Motorists stop, buy, and leave for home. Simple and efficient!
Bangalore, India – Akki Roti
Eating street food in India? It gives chills of disgust to many people! Yet, it’s so delicious…
In Bangalore, street food is most popular on a street food street called VV Puram Food Street. And in the evening, the whole street turns into a restaurant where everyone eats up! There is an excellent akki roti, that is to say an unleavened rice flour bread. These street food dishes are accompanied by a different spicy and fragrant curry each evening. You have to go back often to taste it all!
Bangkok, Thailand – Isan Sausage
Ready to try roadside fermented meat? It’s one of those street food dishes that make people squirm…
The typical sausage from the Isan region is available, stuck at the end of wooden sticks, cooked on charcoal grills, all over Bangkok, among others on Sukhumvit Soi 38. They are made of pork, rice, vinegar and salt. And it’s fermented, just enough to give it that funny, sour, vinegary taste!
New York, United States – Dirty Water Hot Dog
Street food from Asia or the Caribbean is a challenge for some of us, but what about the best-selling street dish in New York, the dirty water hot dog? Sausages that come straight out of a factory lay still in dubious water all day on a street corner in Manhattan, then are put in a white bread bun and covered with yellow mustard. Who says “Western” street cuisine is any better?
Street Cuisine: Taipei, Taiwan – Oysters cooked on charcoal
Taipei is the capital of the “night market,” these markets where you find a little bit of everything, including street food dishes, and at a small price, as soon as the sun goes down. Bubble tea, fake Ray-Ban glasses, Beyoncé t-shirts, counterfeit Converse shoes and … delicious seafood!
In Taiwan, oysters are roasted on charcoal then opened, simply offered warm, in its natural liquor, with a pair of chopsticks. Would you like some?
Street Food Dishes: Bali, Indonesia – Martabak
If you are looking for a real culinary show, order martabak at a wheeled kiosk on the roadside! Available throughout Thailand, Indonesia and Malaysia, martabak can be sweet or salty. The cook takes a paste and stretches it as thinly as a sheet of phyllo dough by striking it on the counter. Then a filling is added to the dough – in this case eggs and scallions – then fried. It’s crunchy, hot, tasty! It’s one of these great street food dishes!