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 (part one): The World’s Best Street Food

The World’s Best Street Food is in bookshops now.

Somehow I missed out on my OE; in high school I was an exchange student (to Saginaw, MI, USA) but following that it was Art School, university, work work work.

I also grew up as an unadventurous eater although I’ve since seen the error of my ways and regularly scarf down chilli and curries and olives and feijoas and avocados and other things I’d never heard of before leaving home.

Opening Lonely Planet’s new title The World’s Best Street Food  was like taking the round-the-world trip I’ve never had. It was exciting flipping through pages of exotic foods, learning about places I’d never been and imagining myself in the hustle bustle of the marketplace or making small talk with street vendors.

But any old monkey can be excited by pretty pictures and delicious looking food so I thought I’d better stump up and cook something. This is the first of my attempts …

For my first cook up I went with Spinach and Cheese Gozleme (a savoury traditional Turkish hand made and hand rolled pastry) that I thought would work well with tomato soup for a dinner.

How much flour?
The World’s Best Street Food is handy in that it gives you a guide of skill-level required for each recipe and a glossary, but for me it’s failing is that it doesn’t tell you how many portions something will make.

I’m not actually running my own vending cart so when the recipe called for over five cups of flour I balked. Some quick calculations (and notations onto the book for next time) and I’d knocked the recipe back to half, which was a much more reasonable amount.

Make your own adjustments - unless you're running a street food business

The recipe and it’s method were super-easy to follow and while I don’t often bake bread (or cook for that matter) it was easy to follow. I do recall some light kneading (the one thing that stops me making bread more often) but it’s nothing strenuous.

It was pretty easy to make a nice, good-looking dough.

The thing I liked about the recipe – and you’ll appreciate if you’re a busy person – is that the dough needs to rise, which allows the perfect amount of time to wash some dishes or to cook other things if you’re making this as part of dinner.

Once the dough was ready to work with (it rose exactly as the recipe said it would) it was onto rolling and filling. One thing I HATE is when dough sticks all over the bench and makes a giant mess. I countered this by using a little extra flour (as the recipe suggested) as well as oiling my hands before pulling it out of the bowl.

Half way through rolling and stuffing

I’d recommend paying attention to how well rolled out your gomeze are because the thinner the better once you get to cooking. Spinach and feta was a fine combination but this recipe (for a little less of a street food flavour) would equally lend itself to using whatever you have in the fridge.

Sadly I was a very bad reviewer and didn’t take a photo of the finished product (it was delicious).

What can you use this recipe for?
I found that this recipe in The World’s Best Street Food lent itself well to my everyday life. In fact, one of the selling points of this book is that it recommends common ingredients that can replace some of the more exotic ones if you can’t find them.

I thought this would be a great upgrade on toasted sandwiches, would be a good use of leftovers from the fridge and would also – if you made mini versions – be great party food.

9/10 for this recipe. It was delicious (the leftovers the next day were equally good) and easy to follow. My only gripe was that a) the quantities were HUGE and b) I had no idea what the end product should look like.

The World’s Best Street Food
by Tom Parker Bowles et al
Published by Lonely Planet
ISBN 9781742205939

Reviewed by Emma McCleary, Web Editor at Booksellers NZ