What's The Best Street Food You Ever Ate? Tell Us To Win!

by  Paul Eisenberg | Mar 13, 2012
Street food in Jerusalem
Street food in Jerusalem / efesenko/iStock

Lonely Planet has come out with a new guide to the world’s best street food – and, it’s a cookbook!

My weak “Twilight Zone” joke aside, The World’s Best Street Food really is one part guidebook, one part cookbook. The book identifies the planet’s top one hundred can’t-miss street treats, revealing their origins and the best places to find them. For the home cook itching to replicate these delicacies, recipes are helpfully tagged as easy, medium, or complex. And, of course, having the ingredients handy will help parents determine if these foods will be potentially problematic for their families, whether they’re trying them in the destination or at home.

While traveling snackers will no doubt find this guide handy, parents who may love street food themselves nonetheless may be reluctant to try out curious and exotic treats on their kids. So how best to minimize the risk to your kin’s digestive health? There are a few precautions you can take, says Robert Reid, Lonely Planet’s U.S. editor.

As a cautionary tale, Reid notes that while living in Vietnam he got food poisoning, “not from the street stands serving vermicelli noodles and grilled pork, or beef noodle soup, or banh mi sandwiches. But from a posh, air-conditioned Thai restaurant. It was excellent food, but no one was [eating] there. I probably got something that had been left out – a sauce, a dish, I don't know.”

Among the lessons he took from this episode was that “busy street stands are actually more transparent than restaurants” and that you’ll likely have better luck with your street food if you "look for popular places where they're freshly preparing the food. Not serving long-ago grilled barbecue on a stick. Street carts have to be fresh, as they won't have refrigerators, so in many places you're more likely to get fresh food.”

Once you start getting a feel for which carts, markets, and bazaars have the freshest food, what are some easy picks for young palates? Among Reid’s favorites are “burritos and tacos. Not just in Mexico, but San Francisco too, where they are a must. The Mission district there developed its own walk-away burrito – stuffed with rice and beans and now internationally known as the 'Mission burrito.' You can get them from simple taquerias, or 'taco trucks' across the Bay Area.”

Another treat that’s worth having your family experience beyond the confines of  a convenience store or theme park is that deep-fried tube of deliciousness known as a Spanish doughnut or churro. “They're fun to snack on [on] their own, but better if you get a hot chocolate to dunk them into,” says Reid, adding that “Madrid's Chocolateria San Ginés is a legendary churro spot."

Reid also recommends sampling different pizzas, not only in Rome, but by way of the guide's Roman recipe, which he says is among several that will please young and fussy eaters.

Once you've found street vendors that you’re comfortable trying, the easy part is showing your kids that its okay to have a culinary sense of adventure, Reid suggests. “Kids might be more reluctant to try some of the weirder street foods out there, depending on their palate,” he says, adding that one way to shake things up on a vacation is to “skip your hotel's free breakfast, go to a market, and line up to get a breakfast bowl of noodles (like laksa in Malaysia, pho in Vietnam, or mohingya in Burma), served fresh and hot and slurped up as noisily as you can."

“Street food isn't just good food,” says Reid, “but fun food.”

How to Win a Copy of  The Book

Lonely Planet is graciously donating two copies of The World’s Best Street Food to the ShermansTravel Blog. For your chance to win a copy, submit a comment to this post by noon on Monday, March 19, letting me know what’s the best street food you’ve ever experienced, as well as where you ate it.

By submitting your comment:

-- You will be eligible to win a copy of the book. I will choose two winners at random next week.

-- You give me the honor of possibly quoting your comment (with attribution) for a potential street food sequel post  (should you all send me enough material).

So show your love for street food! Shut your eyes, think about that glorious moment when a morsel of street food made you weep joyfully, and leave me your comment. Remember to indicate where you ate said street food, specifying the destination as well as the vendor location as specifically as possible.

Thanks, all.



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