A Story of Sumptuous Street Food
Personally, for me, the three most important aspects of travel are climate, culture and food.
Food is, without question, the most important. Tastes, smells and flavours are the cornerstones to an enjoyable trip. Food creates memories for me. I can still remember the smell of dried fish in Thailand, the taste of traditional gyros in Greece, Swedish beetroot salad with meatballs in Stockholm and my parents being offered mint tea in North Africa while I got Coke in a glass bottle. Curiously, Coke always tastes better from a glass bottle.
Travel in part is about discovery, from the Romans to the age of explorers such as Vasco De Gama and Christopher Columbus. They travelled to uncharted lands, explored new countries, and brought home new and exotic flavours and ingredients. This, although obviously on a smaller scale and not involving conquering lands, is not unlike modern day travel. People will travel to new countries, eat amazing new food, which is not available (or just not as good) at home, and bring back unusual sweets and flavours, sometimes for the name alone!
One of my favourite things about going to Europe as a child was crisps. As I’ve travelled I’ve realised that everywhere else in the world makes better crisps than the UK. In Europe you could get ‘spaghetti bolognaise’ flavour, or cheese and chive. In Asia, cuttlefish or spicy squid flavour and other more interesting flavours than cheese and onion. For the record, I’m not slandering cheese and onion; it’s actually one of my favourites… it’s just very English.
Anyway, as brilliant as crisps are I’m actually trying to write about street food. From fresh gyros in Greece to bits of meat on sticks in Bangkok, street food is amazing.
Street food is great because it’s quick, it’s cheap and it’s generally pretty healthy. These are good things for impoverished backpackers. While everybody who’s ever been to Bangkok has probably had mediocre Pad Thai on the Khao San road, there’s so much more to be had. Two of the best things I’ve ever eaten came from street restaurants in northern Thailand. The absolute best snack I’ve ever eaten was a curried pumpkin spring roll. The balance between hot crisp pastry and rich, spicy, creamy vegetable was something akin to alchemy in a culinary sense. Well, in my opinion at least. They were so brilliant that I ate just enough for the rich pumpkin curry to make me feel quite ill.
The second best meal was from a pushcart restaurant with little plastic chairs and tables and they made the best tofu noodle soup. It was actually the best noodle soup I’ve eaten, ever. The balance of flavours and spices was absolutely perfect. That balance, sweet, spicy and citrus in Thai food is something that always amazes me. Thai food is the only thing that even when mediocre still makes me incredibly happy and content.
The third best meal was a heavenly portion of Sukothai noodles from a street vendor by the Chaophraya River. These rice noodles are thin, and served in a delicious pork broth that’s sweetened with palm sugar. Swimming in it were tender slices of pork, green beans, and peanuts. Piping hot, and so, so tasty.
There are a huge amount of street eats to sample when you’re abroad, far too many to mention here. If you want to get a flavour of the local culture, and save yourself a bit of money in the process, embracing street food culture is the way to go. Enjoy!
If you’re interested in finding out some more information about Ben’s travels then head over to his blog thehungrybackpackers.wordpress.com.
If you’re a vegetarian traveller and you need to get your fill while backpacking and travelling then read Nikki Smith’s guide to vegetarian travelling.
And of course, jump on the message boards and get chatting about where you can find the best street food in the world!
About the Author: Ben Turland
Ben is a tea drinking, food hunting travel fan. Since his first trip InterRailing in 2004 he has mostly been working boring jobs and dreaming about trips, or travelling. Ben has recently become a travel blogger and specifically writes about street food and assorted adventures. When not reading, or dreaming about travelling, his interests are photography, graphic design and music. His favourite places are Scandinavia, Thailand and Australia. His dream holiday trip is a food tour of Tokyo; he expects it to be one big crazy adventure with lots and lots of food…