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Earlier this month, the World Street Food Congress in Singapore schooled me on the history and origins of street food around the planet. I immersed myself in the food culture, enjoyed the lively food stalls, and began to understand just how important the tradition of street food is to families overseas.
But there was one thing missing: I needed to taste the food.
Feasting at the World’s Table
Host KF Seetoh wanted the World Street Food Congress to "preserve, professionalize, and create new possibilities for the world’s greatest culinary phenomena: comfort and street food culture." That couldn’t happen without tasting and appreciating the unique dishes offered at the event.
At the Jamboree Feast — a 10-day festival featuring food and culinary demonstrations — I was proud that many of the American vendors had some of the longest lines of people waiting to enjoy their hard work. The EuroTrash Food Cart, which served beer-battered, soft-shell crab burgers, and the Swamp Shack, featuring a take on shrimp and grits and smothered chicken, were two standout U.S. vendors.
The cuisine at the Jamboree was not limited to familiar dishes from the States. With more than 10 countries represented by 37 food stalls, there was a wide diversity in the preparations, spices, and styles of food. To name just a few dishes that impressed me is almost impossible; however, these five dishes were the highlights:
- Chili Crab: This was one of the most expensive street food dishes I tried, but it was well worth it. The vendor from Lion City, Vietnam, covered the crab in a memorable mixture of red chiles, garlic, and ginger.
- Spicy Chicken Leg: India’s Chicken 65 dish was almost too simple, but the flavors they put into one chicken leg were extremely complex. It was accompanied with lime chile salsa, making it one of my favorites. I went back for more four different times!
- Assam Laksa: A Malaysian vendor mixed up a soup of sour fish stock, rice noodles, and a spicy, tangy seasoning.
- Porchetta Sandwich: Seattle’s The People’s Pig served up a sandwich that made me homesick. The cook used acidity to cut through the pork’s fat and a bun that could absorb the flavor.
- Banh Chuoi Nuong: At a Vietnamese stall, I was able to try this dish featuring baby bananas covered in charred sticky rice, coconut milk, and toasted sesame seeds. It was the perfect mixture of sweet and savory!
The Street Food Experience
These five were only a few of the memorable dishes served up during the festival. The real value is not in comparing different countries and their local cuisines, but in seeing how certain dishes have inspired a cuisine or a dish from another country. While street food might have humble beginnings, it has made a big impact on the international culinary scene.
Blake Beshore is the co-author of the James Beard Award-winning book, “Notes from a Kitchen: A Journey Inside Culinary Obsession,” and is the co-founder of Tatroux LLC, a growing culinary arts publishing company. Connect with Blake on Twitter and Google+.
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