Friday , 26 April 2019

World of street food

Zubin Dsouza

We all know about how the world has its riches divided. There are clear demarcations between the haves and the have-nots.

It spills out into every facet of our being.

There is a 1 per cent of the world that has 99 per cent of the wealth.

The 1 per cent enjoys the luxuries of life; does not have unattained dreams and definitely does not have a budget.

The remaining 99 per cent to which I proudly belong lives life to the fullest and truly enjoys their time on this blue planet.

Living life to the zenith of happiness always involves food.

Since street food normally caters to working class people that form a major chunk of the 99 per cent, the food has to be budget-friendly, served rather quickly and above all – exceptionally tasty.

Most nations in the world have a national favourite that as grown rather iconic. It has come to define their lifestyle and their cultural identity.

I don’t just mean a fried potato which finds itself in different versions at different points on the map. There is the Canadian poutine which are fries smothered in cheese curd and gravy or the Spanish patatas bravas which are diced potatoes topped with a spicy and tangy mojo sauce.

These I find are not really unique; they do not have a standout quality or flavour to them.

Curry flavours find themselves a rather common commodity amongst the food loved across the globe.

The Germans have currywurst which are fried sausages topped with ketchup and curry powder! The Indians are most definitely going to be pleased.

Indians love their snacks and street food but nothing defines Indianess more than a stall selling ‘chaat’. Chaat refers to a wide variety of savoury snacks that employ rather unique ingredients like puffed rice, chickpea flour vermicelli and a range of delectable chutneys to create a spectacular munching experience. You can never be more than walking distance away from a stall or store that sells these wonderful creations. Although you should try them all; make sure that you never miss out on the puffed rice and crisp biscuit-like papdi mix called ‘bhel’.

The Italians also love their rice but they prefer to form their ‘arancini’ into crisp deep-fried croquette like dumplings stuffed with mozzarella cheese. The smaller versions are referred to as ‘suppli’ which translates rather clumsily to mean surprise.

Fried foods are really popular as street snacks but nothing can probably beat the appeal of Israeli falafels. Although the origin and ownership is a hotly contested debate between the neighbours that include Egypt and Lebanon, the Egyptians managed to pull one over by creating ‘ta’amiya’. Ta’amiya is similar to a falafel except that it substitutes creamier fava beans as a substitute to chickpeas.

I mean whenever people think of New York, they have visions of hot dog carts that also sell warm pretzels and pizza stands beckoning customers. Surprisingly, however it is candied nut carts that outsell these stores every day.

The best hot dogs belong to Reykjavik. In fact one of the stands located in this capital of Iceland is so famous that it has a long list of celebrity diners that include Bill Clinton. The biggest difference between the ‘dogs’ here and elsewhere is the Icelanders use of lamb as a filling for their sausages.

Stuffed breads have long been a staple fare for many a food cart.

The South Africans gorge on ‘bunny chow’ which is a hollowed out loaf of bread filled with curried chicken. This harks back to their colonial days when they picked a recipe or two out of the Indian labourers stationed there.

The Vietnamese credit their French colonial past for giving them the wonderful ‘banh mi’. They have piles of freshly baked baguette breads that are deftly converted into sandwiches with the addition of decidedly Vietnamese ingredients like slow roasted meats or meatballs topped with traditional Vietnamese sauces and a dash of mayonnaise.

The ‘durum’ in comparison is a lot less complicated. This Turkish specialty uses a flatbread as a wrapping for a traditional spit-roasted spiced lamb doner kebab which is subsequently filled with sauces, fresh vegetables and lettuce and grilled to a crisp finale.

The Chinese Xanxi province has something similar called ‘rou jia mo’ which at an estimated age of 2,000 years has bragging rights of being the world’s oldest sandwich. It consists of a flatbread filled with cumin scented stewed pork which is complimented by the addition of peppers and cilantro.

This is not too far from the capital Beijing which boasts the most incredible crepes filled with eggs and cilantro called ‘jian bing’.

The delectable Chinese, Thai and Ethiopian versions of the crepes notwithstanding, the best crepes hands down has to come from France where they are complimented by a wide variety of flavourings that include condensed milk, nutella, honey and lemon curd.

The fragrance of crepes cooking is very similar to that of egg waffles that Hong Kong is famous for. They are best eaten plain but they also come with a variety of toppings with my clear favourite being ice cream!

It is no surprise that Italy has scores of gelato stands. These hand-churned artisanal ice creams filled with natural goodness and complex flavours are a true wonder.

The Filipinos took this one stage further when they created ‘halo-halo’. Halo halo which literally translates to mean mix-mix is the craziest version of an ice cream sundae that you could ever come across. It combines shaved ice topped with evaporated milk to which there are further additions like sweet potatoes, tapioca, jackfruit, crushed rice, caramelised bananas and ice cream!

From the looks of it, the 99 per cent are doing pretty well for themselves.

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