August 1, 2013
Street food seems to take up a lot of my time when I’m abroad. Whilst many consider extended travel to be synonymous with weight loss, for me the opposite is true. The reasoning behind my gorging is simple: I cannot afford to be a ‘foodie’ (a term that I try to avoid using) in London, but I certainly can elsewhere. Here are five of my favourite street foods from around the world, accompanied by their equally enjoyable prices:
Gulab Jamun, India
Gulab Jamun are essentially deep-fried doughnuts, submerged in a warm sugar syrup: comfort food, Indian style. These exceptionally rich sweets are piled high from Kerala to Kashmir, it is almost impossible to turn a corner without being tempted by a sticky golden pyramid and, consequently, they were a pretty regular feature of my time in Rajasthan. After three, you’ll promise yourself that you will never eat again, and will probably believe this to be true for all of ten minutes, before jogging back to the sweet shop half an hour later, ready for the second round. At only 10 Rupees (11p) for three it isn’t hard to see why I rarely went without.
Ghoulal (snail soup), Morocco
Street food is huge in Morocco so, if it’s good food you’re after, look up from that ‘safe restaurant guide’ and follow your nose to the squares. Whilst ghoulal is a little fiddly to eat (you have to pick out the snails with a tooth pick) its flavour makes the effort well worth it. Seasoned with 15 North African spices, this dish is Moroccan fusion at its best, and the fact that you have to do battle with locals just to be served is testimony to its deliciousness. As it’s only ever available after sunset, ghoulal could be considered the Moroccan equivalent of the late-night doner and, much like the humble kebab, it seems to increase in popularity after a pint or three of the local tipple. At 10 Dirham (70p) including free refills, ghoulal is a must try, even if you are a little squeamish.
Malta’s complex history makes it a cultural melting pot when it comes to cuisine. Despite its confused culinary style, the pastizzi is delightfully simple. Stuffed with either a light ricotta cheese or a spicy pea filling, these puff pastry treats are the perfect Mediterranean snack. I’m not entirely sure if the pastizzi is reserved for a particular meal time as, for me, they existed as breakfast, lunch and dinner. And, at 20 cents apiece (17p), you can buy three and still bag yourself the cheapest and tastiest meal in town.
Phad Thai, Thailand
Yes, I know it’s the obvious choice, and perhaps I should have been more adventurous and suggested something like jok (savoury rice porridge). Yet, in my opinion, this is one of the best dishes in the world and I am willing to invite accusations of predictability to promote it. Where else can you choose your meat, noodle type, nut combo and levels of seasoning all for the outrageous price of 35 Baht (73p)? In London, you’ll find yourself paying 15 times more than you will in Thailand, it’ll take 20 minutes to arrive rather than two, and it will come nowhere close to rivalling the blend of flavours that the south-east Asian street vendors are able to create daily.
Jamaican Curry Goat, London
As much as I resent the cost of good food in our capital, there is one time of the year that the streets are blessed with outstanding cuisine, and that time is Carnival. Curry Goat is the party dish of Jamaica and it is not hard to see why; the meat, slow cooked in a sauce of curry spices, falls off the bone by the time it hits the plate. Add to this the compulsory side of rice ‘n’ peas and you’re onto a real winner. If you’re eating curry goat, the chances are you’re having a great time. Yes it costs £4.50 and yes, you could buy all of the above and more for that. But who cares, it’s a bank holiday weekend, the sun is (hopefully) shining and you’re celebrating in style at Europe’s premier street festival! Be sure to grab some goat this year if you’re heading to Notting Hill on August 25th.