Street food’s inception is the street. Hence, a busy street is the integral part of street food.
I was mesmerized with street food on my recent visit to China. It gave me a different perspective of street food. I realized street food depicts the soul of a culture. It is a reflection of the community, economy, diet, religious bent and customs of a culture. It feeds the underlying belly of most cosmopolitan cities. It is a watering hole for busy people who value fresh, almost home cooked food, but do not have the time to prepare it at home.
For me street food is a bond that unites the old and new. It is a bridge between old times when big family meals were cooked daily and eaten communally, as opposed to the new times, when grabbing a burger from McDonald’s and eating it in our car is defined as a “meal.”
Street food is a quick meal and adapts to the modern “on the go” meal mold; yet it stays true to the roots of a culture. Street food for most part is healthy, nutritious and fresh with local ingredients used. It provides an opportunity for people to stand around, even if for a few moments, and participate in a communal activity, thereby a throwback to a bygone era of family meals.
When we travel, street food is a must to fully explore the pulse of a culture. China has amazing offerings of street foods, fresh long noodles (a symbol of longevity), an array of meats (yes, a carnivore heaven for the meat lovers), interesting locally grown vegetables, and even sweet glazed fruits on a stick.
All old cultures have some type of street food. Can you possibly forego the Injera in Ethiopia or the Kebabs and fish sandwiches in Turkey? How about the gol gappas and chaat in India brimming with sour tamarind and an array of flavors that simply burst in your mouth creating an amalgamation of sensual delights? What about a bowl of yak milk in Mongolia? Oh, a foodie like me could go on and on.
My suggestion to you is that to fully delve into a culture, to fully touch the vein of a culture, be brave and experience the hidden enchantment of street food. Don’t fear gastrointestinal discomfort–it is only in passing and is far outweighed by the joys of gastronomic delight….Buon appetito!