Providing you don’t get struck down by Delhi Belly or even salmonella, street food is the only way to savour local food and ingredients in foreign parts.
Sitting on a dusty plastic stool watching a small Thai man ladling steaming stock broth into a deep bowl filled with glass noodles, small slivers of chicken and topping it off with green citrusy herbs and hot fresh chilli, sublime.
Out of the corner of your eye watching green VW beetles whizzing round the Zocalo in downtown Mexico City while the rest of your body is attuned to the tiny old lady sitting in front of you. And in front of her, the accoutrements of her trade: large, round, green crispy tortillas piled high, an array of salsas, advocado, chilli, tomato, maybe some shredded cheese, ‘a gusto, a gusto’ she urges, keen to serve the hungary businessman waiting patiently behind for his tostada, or taco, or quesadilla, or gordita or picada…..hmmm.
Or how about a banana leaf topped with boiled yucca, sharp cabbage salad and a hunk of crispy pig skin courtesy of a young Nicaraguan girl, sounds unusual but is utterly delicious. The simple cabbage salad served throughout Central America is just fresh shredded cabbage, lime juice and salt – delectable.
Although creating these dishes is nigh-on impossible as each one is imbibed with the exotic emotional overtones felt in that historic moment, yet it is in the trying, and in the eating, that you can sit back and recall that mouth-watering epiphany.
I don’t often buy meat here in France as I am unfamiliar with the sources, even less the cuts. But when I occasionally find myself eye-to-eye with a vintage, French chicken farmer bearing his frugal, organic wares in the market I find the birds hard to resist. The inevitable chicken stock made almost always finds itself flaunting that Thai taste.
Simple, filling, nutritious and delicious. Dice onion, garlic and fresh ginger, saute until golden and soft, add steaming hot chicken stock to the pan. Prepare your greens to throw in at the last minute: peas, green beans, bok choi, spinach, lettuce, spring onions, cook the noodles in the steaming broth add the vegetables – you want them crunchy. Serve with a squeeze of lime, some fresh coriander or mint and finely sliced chilli – enjoy.