Eating Street Food is probably the best way to get deeply in contact with the people, the culture and the traditions of one of the most beautiful parts of the world, Asia!
In particular with all that area which starts from China and stretches across South-East Asia, which has a lot to offer from a culinary point of view.
The socio-cultural aspect what lies behind the Asian street food is quite relevant.
First of all, what we can find today at any corner of the street, cooked on the spot by a local man or a woman, in small food carts, is the result of the history, the wars, the colonization, is the result of conquest, defeats and migration, result of merger of history and traditions between people.
Today the street food is one of the few ways, which is able to remove barriers between different social classes. It is not hard to see labourers eating a noodle soup next to a group of businessmen in suits.
Even though the businessmen could spend is lunch break comfortably sitting in a fancy restaurant, he prefers to eat on the street on low and unwieldy chairs, usually close to busy streets, where humidity is king, just because he knows that there is no restaurant which will beat that food stall.
It follows that eating on the street remains the main experience. A single action, eating, contains many single experiences: share a table with a stranger, eating food born from ancient recipes, immerse itself in the chaos of a city.
Living in Bangladesh, I’ve had the possibility to travel in South-East Asia and after having tried many different cuisines, I believe that the two countries which best express the genuine sense of street food, both in terms of quality and variety, are Thailand and Vietnam.
Bangladesh itself, for sure has great street dishes, like Singara, Samosa, or Puchka, but Thai and Vietnamese food are way lighter and healthier.
In Thailand, if you want to do a full food tour, remaining in a single city, no doubt you have to go to Bangkok.
Hardly in Bangkok, you can’t find a traditional Thai dish, which is not sold by a food vendor on the street. Most of the vendors are specialized in one or two dishes and often they make food which needs express and fast cooking, with very high temperature. An example is the Pad Thai, which is a stir-fried rice noodle, with egg, tofu, peanuts, dried shrimp, flavoured with tamarind pulp, fish sauce, fresh chili, lime and palm sugar, definitely a must!
The Vietnamese cuisine has a lot in common with the Thai one, and the main differences are related to the cooking techniques and the use of some ingredients.
In 2016 I had the opportunity to travel in Vietnam for three weeks, doing a real food tour, starting from the north down to the south of the country.
I discovered a huge variety of dishes, which change from one region to the other, where the fresh herbs are always the main ingredient.
My favourite street food?
It’s not easy to identify just one, but when I was in Vietnam the most I appreciated was the Pho Bo.
This is a Vietnamese Beef soup which is enriched by onions, ginger, cinnamon and peppercorns. In short words, it’s the purest expression of the Vietnamese Kitchen riches in thousands of different products.
This dish reminds me of the vastness of the green rainy-hills of Vietnam, where, only in the company of my motorbike I was driving through the country looking for new food tastes.