Street food in Asia is a veritable cornucopia of sights and flavors previously unfamiliar to me. Many different species of vegetables and fruits can be found, and several are unknown to those of us in the Western world.
For me, the best and worst thing about the food in Asia is one and the same: it’s different. The most noticeable thing about the food all over Asia is the variety. At each corner I turned, during my trip throughout China, Cambodia, and Thailand, I was presented with a strange new food item.
Sometimes I would see picture of a pig, and knew for certain that the dish was pork-related. I was able to recognize a banana with some certainty, and I was fairly sure that I could ascertain a piece of fried chicken when I saw one. However, there were many food items that were completely foreign to me. To quote Forrest Gump, "You never know what you’re gonna get."
For an English-speaking person, unable to read a single letter in Cambodian, Chinese, or Thai, often the best I could hope for was to recognize something familiar about the foods, and then just go for it.
There were times that I was tempted to eat foods upon which the locals were chowing down, and often I did take that risk. But it is a crapshoot, as they say. The best way to order something it to just point and smile, because even if you ask what it is, you will get the answer in a language that you don't understand.
All that being said, my mind was open and I was hungry for adventure.
I hadn’t planned intentionally to eat any snake, insects, or dog, but there was one moment in my journey when I chomped down on something unfamiliar and boney, leading to another Tom Hanks moment (remember the mini corn in Big). When I spied a dog, that had been toasted and grilled, I had to walk away, feeling just a little bit nauseous inside.
Which brings me to the fact that as a Westerner, my stomach wasn’t always ready for street food. I did wake up one morning incapacitated by food poisoning in Cambodia, and spent most of the day praying to the porcelain God. Fortunately, the pharmacists in Siem Reap are prepared for people like me. I was able to get some medication to help the "situation."
To see some of the strange foods, and one or two recognizable street food dishes, from my journey, click here.