If you are a wanderlust, and have an addiction for travelling, discovering cultures and people; bonding with the new city’s colours, thoughts, smell and taste; then you would also know that a city’s travel quotient is determined by its flea markets and the food on its streets. It’s here that people and cultural vibrancy converge and connect. Whether it is a Murthbak from Malaysia or a Gelato from Italy, Arabian Gazette brings you its selection of 10 top favourite street foods from around the globe.
1. Irresistable Balik Ekmek: Istanbul, Turkey
The Balık Ekmek (fish sandwich) is one of the most popular treat in Turkey’s thriving street food scene. Istanbul’s bustling street stalls are a delight to the hungry tourists. Anyone who visits Istanbul will not get enough of the Balık Ekmek. It is essentially a fish sandwhich with glorious sprinkling of herbs and ground red chili onto the mackerel fillets and smoked on the grill. The sandwich is served with a generous squeeze of lemon, doses of vegetables (lettuce, carrots, tomato) and a delicious topping of chili paste.
2. The Glorious Crêpes: Paris, France
As appealing as it is to indulge in a three-course meal at a Paris bistro, you can also delight yourself with the most amazing French crêpes on the street, a hallmark of street food in the French capital. The classic traditional Crepe is a buckwheat galette (crêpe) that has a fine slice of Jambon de Paris, grated Gruyère cheese, and a softly-fried egg centred inside, making it a moistened “melting in your mouth” slice of heaven. The best of Galette Crêpes are crispy at the edges, with the rustic taste of real, freshly-ground buckwheat.
Crêpe Tip: A regular crêpe made with white flour is called a crêpe, and one made with buckwheat flour is called a galette, or crêpe au blé noir.
3. Temptation Overdrive – The Gelato: Italy
As intensely delightful as the Pizzas and Pastas are the Gelatos that have become synonymous with Italy’s street food culture. The Gelato is a frozen egg custard and is made with milk, cream, various sugars, and flavorings such as fresh fruit and nut purees. Italian Gelato does not usually contain cream. It is made with milk and egg or milk and cornflour, and is generally low in fat. The first scoop in your mouth and it’s love at first taste. You can actually feel the tingly frisson of delight glazing down your back, and your happiness quotient has shot from 15 to 110! This, you think to yourself, is what Divine Love must taste like…
4. The Soul Food Murtabak: Singapore & Malaysia
Anyone who has visited Singapore and Malaysia would not return without dedicating his taste buds to the Murtabak and pledging his gastronomic loyalties to it. You come back to your home country and try to replicate it, and end up in frustration. The magic simply does not happen! The Murtabak is essentially a meat filled pancake/roti that is rolled and chopped into squares. In Indonesia, it has a sweet avataar, known as the Martabak manis. It’s found wherever you go, especially the street food stalls across Singapore and Malaysia. The Murtabak styles have innovated itself to reflect local tastes and ingredients. The Chinese-style egg and green onion is a favourite filling in Singapore, while the spiced curry one is common in Malaysia.
5. The Sumptuous Gordita: Mexico
Gorditas are a slice of heaven in your hands – the ultimate Mexican soul food. A thick slab of Masa (maize flour dough) is heated on a dry griddle until puffed, and then stuffed with fillings. The other variation is to prepare the Masa cake on the griddle and then transfer it to bubbling oil for a perfect finish. The cooked Masa is split, then filled with your choice of meat, punchy Chorizo, or cheese and chillies. It’s finished off with a sprinkling of shredded lettuce, chopped onion and the usual dollop of hot sauce. The Gordita, to a street foodie,is a culinary work of art!
6. The piece d’resistance Takayoki : Japan
Imagine this: A ball of crisp, puffy wheat batter encasing a sweet, tender chunk of octopus! The mixture is poured onto a cast iron or electric takoyaki pan with many half-spherical molds. The filling consists of diced octopus, tempura scraps, pickled ginger, and green onion. The Takoyaki are then brushed with takoyaki sauce, and mayonnaise and is then sprinkled with green laver and shavings of dried bonito. A bite of garnished Takoyaki and you are lost in its crisp and melting smoothness in your mouth at the same time, a burst of colours, taste and textures . The shell is firm and chewy, and inside a hot and creamy batter that invades your senses – and you think to yourself: You are in heaven!
7. The Exotic Curry Fishballs & Mango Sago with Pomelo: Hong Kong
Hong Kong is known for its diverse and exotically delicious cuisine and seafood. Street-side food vendors are seemingly everywhere in Hong Kong. Our favourite street food pick is the Fishball, a very popular snack in Hong Kong and in southern China. It is made of fish meat which has been finely pulverised. There are two kinds of fish balls in Hong Kong. One is smaller in size, and yellow in color. It is often sold in the street stalls in bamboo skewers. It is made of cheap shark meat and are usually boiled in a spicy curry sauce. It is one of the most popular and representative street foods in Hong Kong. The other kind is bigger in size, white in colour, made with a more expensive fish meat. This kind of fish ball is usually eaten with noodles.
The Mango Sago with Pomelo, one of the most divine desserts in Hong Kong has a very distinct taste – sweet, sour, light, and a little bitter. Much like Love! Pomelo lends such a delightful texture that the taste buds are on an overdrive, wandering between bitter and sweet. Mango meringue and thick sticky coconut with sago and tasty corn vividly produce a magical gastronomic effect!
8. Heavenly Roti breads with Kaya & Ramly Burger: Malaysia
Kuala Lumpur has an amazing array of indoor and outdoor food centres and markets. The cuisines are an influence of Chinese/Malaysian Indian/Muslim. The Roti breads stuffed with kaya (coconut jam) are a foodie’s ultimate comfort haven. The Rotis are flakey and buttery and stuffed with coconut Pandan paste. It is served with vanilla ice cream and deliciously devoured.
The typical Ramly Burger consists of a beef or chicken patty, margarine, onions, an egg, cabbage, mayonnaise, Worcestershire sauce and Maggi Seasoning. The patty in the Ramly Burger is first covered with the desired condiments, then wrapped in a thin layer of egg to create a foodie’s delight.
9. The Divine Pastel De Nata: Portugal
The Pastel de Nata is a Portuguese egg tart pastry. It consists of a small baked tart with a flaky pastry shell filled with a sweet, creamy egg-based custard and sometimes sprinkled with cinnamon. The aroma of sugar and cinnamon, whilst biting into the crunchy pastry and the lingering of the luscious custard in your mouth – absolute bliss!
10. The mouth tingling Pav Bhaji and Chaat: Mumbai, India
When in Mumbai, a visit to one of the thousands of street stalls is a must. Most dishes are sweet or vegetarian. The most popular treats include Chaat and Pav dishes (buttered breads served with vegetable curry, cooked for considerable time into a pulp).
The Pav Bhaji consists of spiced up potatoes and vegetables, simmered in butter. It is served with Pav buns that are toasted crisp ,in butter. The Pav Bhaji has been a favourite road side food for many decades and can be found on thousands of street stalls across Mumbai and other Indian cities.
The Chaat, another street food favourite, on the other hand, consists of small, crisp, spiced Indian crackers, layered with potatoes, chutneys, chaat masala, yogurt and sev sprinkled with cilantro, onions and green chilly. The sweet and hot chutneys, add the final embellishment to the perfect snack. It creates a symphony of taste with sweet, hot, sour being the central theme to the dish.
(Perhaps we missed listing your favorite Street Food? Do let us know in the comments and we will make sure to add it to the list!)