Book Review: The World’s Best Street Food

World's-Best-Street-Food-1-(Mini)-9781760340650The World’s Best Street Food
celebrates the rich and wonderful cultures of the world through the flavours and colours of the food created for the everyday person on the street. Often sold by characters as vibrant as the food, it’s an experience not to be missed when you travel abroad.

You’ve either been recommended to try it, or warned to avoid it – street food stalls either pull people one way or sends them in the opposite direction. But sampling street food can give you lasting memories and a taste of the unique flavours of a city. It’s a chance to put your finger on the pulse of the people living there.

Many street food options have been cooked for centuries, and often have colourful histories. The World’s Best Street Food is essentially a recipe book of street foods from different countries, and each page has a snippet on the recipes’ origins which can be fascinating reading. For example, the Inca marinated raw fish to make ceviche centuries ago, but it was the Spanish Conquistadors who bought the limes to South America to flavour the bona fide ceviche that we know today.

The Malaysian and Singaporean murtabak (spiced lamb stuffed pancake) is believed to be invented in India in the Middle Ages, but was brought to South East Asia by Tamil Muslim traders in the 10th Century. Now you’ll find these tasty treats everywhere in night markets and outdoor food stalls.

The Tasting Notes on each page pitch you headfirst into the steaming, dusty, loud, colourful, zesty environs for where that particular street food is prepared and describes the flavours and how they fit into the experience. You’ll feel like you’re in Peru, the Caribbean, Malaysia, Bahamas, Mexico, Argentina, India, or that place you can’t recall but ate that amazing thing sold by that guy on the corner that blew your tastebuds away.

We tried making mohinga at home, a comforting noodle soup lemongrass, shallots, turmeric and freshwater fish – a national dish of Myanmar. It was less of a success than we’d hoped. The ingredients for the recipes will often need to be sourced from a specialist store – and you’ll be googling ‘substitute for gram flour’ for some of the more obscure ingredients. However this is a great book for the traveler and the creative cook, and if you can find the right ingredients, the results will be more satisfying.

If you’re worried about the safety of eating street food on that next trip to Thailand, the rule is to watch where the locals are eating and go there. They’ll often go there day after day and tend to know whether the food is safe or not. Also, if there are people waiting in line, it’s usually good food. With a copy of The World’s Best Street Food in your pocket, you won’t have to wait in line: impress your friends and make it yourself at home!

Reviewed by Amie Lightbourne

The World’s Best Street Food – where to find it and how to make it
Published by Lonely Planet
ISBN 9781742205939

Book Review: Picaflor: Finding Home in South America, by Jessica Talbot

Picaflor is available online and in selected bookstores. It is currently a finalist in the Bookbzz author competition, you can vote here.cv_picaflor

Picaflor is the South American Spanish name for the hummingbird – ‘a snacker, nibbler, pecker of flowers’. When Jessica Talbot first arrives in Peru at the age of 32, she identifies immediately with this little bird, calling herself ‘a restless searcher of sweet nectar’ in her attempts to find some sort of meaning and contentment in her life, a place to call home. She has no idea if South America is it, but for this native New Zealander, her life as she has lived it to date in New Zealand and Melbourne has not brought her the peace and reason for being she craves. As a psychologist, she is well used to analysing the human mind, but this does not help her in understanding herself. Since her early twenties, she has been drawn to South America, so one day, after a particularly difficult time in her life, she packs her bags and goes to Peru ‘because it seemed exotic and wild and mystical’ for a three month holiday of sorts, first working as a volunteer with street children in the city of Trujillo, then travelling around.

Her gut instincts prove spot on. Everything about where she travels – Peru, Colombia and Ecuador – completely captivates her. A holiday romance with the delicious-sounding Paco ultimately leads to her packing up her life in Melbourne and moving to Buenos Aires. She learns Spanish, makes friends with the locals, retains her sanity with her other expatriate friends, falls in love with the equally delicious-sounding Diego, marries and has a child. She has found her place to call home, and has been living and working in Buenos Aires since 2004. This book is the story of how she found that inner peace and stability.

This is not just a travelogue; although for anyone considering a move to South America, particularly for a woman, it is great reading. This book is very much a personal journey of self-discovery and growth that we could all take a lesson or two from. After all, Jessica left a successful career, a comfortable life, family and many friends to go on some sort of wild goose chase in search of some sort of unknown intangible, based essentially on a gut feeling. But the way she tells her story, she was dead inside living in Melbourne, and realized for her own personal survival she did need to change something. The major decision that resulted in her life taking such an unexpected and different path also enabled her to deal with a lot of long-buried family issues, resulting in some much-needed resolution with her family.

It would have taken some courage to write this book, and maybe that is why it has taken ten years from when she went to Argentina for her to do so. She works through a lot of ‘stuff’ in this memoir and would appear to come out a happier, healthier, more contented person. Most of us are not really in very deep touch with our inner selves, and her analysis / coming to terms with all this ‘stuff’ is just as interesting and touching as the family ‘stuff’. Being the type of person that prefers reading plot-driven books, at times my eyes did glaze over a bit when she was yet again visualizing or angsting about something, for which there is no shortage of material. I did find her ongoing ‘letters’ to her one time love Daniel annoying, but if it helped her process everything going on, then all power to her!

Despite my initial doubts, thinking it was going to be another Eat, Pray, Love, I did really quite enjoy reading this book. I got to like Jessica, and at the end I was smiling to myself, thinking how great it was that things had turned out for her, how far she had come since she got her picaflor tattoo in her second month. As she says in her author’s note at the very beginning – ‘my intention has always been to write a warm, human story about overcoming a difficult past and creating a brighter future’.

Reviewed by Felicity Murray

Picaflor: Finding Home in South America
by Jessica Talbot
Published by Picaflor Press
ISBN 9789873347726

Book Review: The Silver Gaucho, by Jackie Ballantyne

Available now in bookstores nationwide. 

Jackie Ballantyne worked in advertising in Australia and then began writing fiction. Shecv_the_silver_gaucho has won awards and commendations for her short fiction. Her first novel, How to Stop a Heart from Beating was published in NZ in 2007. She currently lives in Dunedin.

This book opens with the breaking news “El Gaucho de la Plata esta muerto” –“The Silver Gaucho is dead” being flashed on all the television screens in Argentina. Luis Felipe Alessandro Mabon who played The Silver Gaucho in a popular television series has been killed in a traffic accident on 9 November 2001.

The story then flips back to 1998, to the events preceding Luis Mabon being killed. Lachlyn Steele, known to all as Lockie, is in Argentina doing research for a travel book on Argentina. Her books are called “snapshots”. When she is not travelling, Lockie lives in Dunedin, New Zealand. She is introduced to Luis Mabon by her tour guide Mijale. They arrive at his home Finca Carliotos – a place with a rich history. The house now serves as a guest house. It was a former trading house where many deals were executed, cocoa in exchange for grain, naimlas for tobacco, and parcels of land for salt. Her first impression of Luis was of a cocky self-assured man who liked being the centre of attention. Lockie summed him up as “smarmy”.

Leaving Luis, Lockie travels by a circuitous route, led by Mijale which finishes at Estaneia Pequenos Milagros, Luis Mabron’s family home where they train horses. A suite has been prepared for Lockie, with Luis expecting her to stay. What follows is the reason for her apparent “hijacking” by Luis. He wants her to help his family. His younger brother Javier has gone missing. Lockie is not sure how she can help until she is told that he flew to New Zealand. The family have had one letter sent to their father to say Luis’ brother is not coming home, and then nothing for some time before he sent a postcard with a few short sentences in Spanish, telling them nothing. They are naturally worried and want Lockie to find out where he is and why he has chosen to disappear. They want to pay for her services to find him. There are secrets within the family that they won’t discuss with Lockie. Lockie returns to her home in Dunedin.

The ensuing story is one of friendships in unexpected places, adventures and romance and is well written. I was very impressed the way this book is set out and the obvious research that had taken place by the author.

Reviewed by Christine Frayling

The Silver Gaucho
by Jackie Ballantyne
Published by The Doby Press
ISBN 9780473275259