Saturday, 23 January 2010

A new home for Street Foodie!

I might still be blowing in the wind after our Asian escapade, but at least Street Foodie's got a new home.

As of now I'm moving operations over to For reasons that will be obvious to anyone who's made the switch, I've opted for wordpress this time over blogger.

In line with the improved functionality, I hope to start posting recipes as well as (hopefully) soliciting a few contributions now and then.

Here's to a busy 2010!

Tuesday, 12 January 2010

Street Smarts

Whilst in Asia I realised I was developing a subconscious set of rules when it came to choosing the right street cart to eat at. These rules aren't absolute, and exceptions frequently occur, but so far they've done a decent job of keeping me on the straight and narrow.

First and foremost is local patronage. The number one indicator of good street food is the prescence of a long line of hungry locals. Many a time I've foregone the busier places out of self consciousness and regretted it. People tend to be pretty helpful, and I've usually found someone just within my preiphery vision to help me out when I get stuck.

I also tend to favour one dish operations over multi-food extravaganzas. If a stall is selling paejon, soondae, dukbokki and tempura, chances are that one (or all) of them will be below par. Time and again my favourite stalls have been those that specialise in one particular food item. These places often combine passion, expertise and attention to detail in a way that shows in the food.

There are of course exceptions, but I've found that the best street food stalls generally don't tout for business. If they look like they don't need nor want your money, you're probably on to a good thing. You're also less likely to get ripped off.

It seems obvious, but I try to avoid stack-em high joints in favour of somewhere that will cook to order. This is especially true of the Korean Tempura and Pajeon stalls, where sogginess tends to set in after a relatively short time. Even grandma's old socks taste good as long as they're straight off the hotplate!

Also, avoid vendors outside tourist attractions. In my experience, these places consistently turn out below average food at above average prices. They also tend to fall foul of at least one of the points above, meaning they should be doubly avoided.

Finally, the most important aspect in choosing somewhere to eat is to follow your gut. Never feel pressurized into ordering something until you properly suss it out. A place might satisfy all the positive criteria listed above but if it doesn't feel right, don't do it!

Wednesday, 6 January 2010

The Scooby Snack: Glasgow in a Bun

Named last year as one of Lonely Planet's top ten cities, Glasgow is arguably Scotland's biggest, fiercest, and most exciting city. Once considered the "second city of the British Empire," it's a town that has ricocheted between economic boom, decline, and back again - and still bears the scars to prove it. These days, although the city is enjoying increased tourism and growing global presence, Glasgow remains a working, drinking, fighting city. Somewhere that, as Gordon Ramsay observes, is "full of people with no other ambition but to live life."

The Scooby Snack is a proud part of this hard-living tradition. Available only from a handful of after-hours burger vans, this monument to meat and grease means business. It's not a novelty item or publicity stunt and you don't get a prize for eating it. It's simply over-indulgence in an casual, distinctly Glaswegian way.

I recently grabbed one from the Street Cafe burger van on Glasgow's Sauchiehall Street.

Fried egg, flat sausage, bacon, cheese, potato scone and a burger patty were served in a floury roll and sprayed with brown and red sauce (it's not for nothing that Glasgow is frequently cited as being among the most unhealthiest places in Europe.)

The result was a mammoth sandwich that was mostly quantity over quality. The burger was of the cheap, fast food variety that comes out of the box, the cheese was processed and the bacon pretty standard stuff. Where it did shine however was in the Lorne sausage and potato bread. Lorne sausage (also referred to as flat sausage) has a much coarser texture than regular sausage, and when cooked properly (i.e not too much) can be exceptionally juice and tender.

Potato bread meanwhile ranks as one of Scotlands greatest exports - floury, absorbant and tasty.

The Scooby Snack is no mean feat. But then again, Glasgow is no mean city.


Tuesday, 22 December 2009

St Georges Market, Belfast

St Georges Market, on the south eastern edge of Belfast city centre, is one of the best places in the city to catch a glimpse of Belfast's past and present. Dating back to 1896, this beautiful structure of red brick and cast iron was initially built to house an outdoor food market that had been in the area since the 17th Century.

Over the years it has been put to a number of uses. It was used as an emergency mortuary for the victims of Nazi bombing raids during World War II, and gradually developed into a general goods market. By the early 90s the market had fallen into disrepair, and a massive renovation project was undertaken to restore it to its former glory. Today, the market is home to a vibrant Friday and Saturday morning market, and is occasionally used as a live music venue and exhibition space.

When I visited on Saturday morning it was easy to see why the market is so popular. The high, vaulted, glass ceilings allow plenty of natural light and ventilation, while the expansive floor space allows for easy browsing of the multiple food stalls.

Following a rather disappointing experience at the Belfast Christmas Market involving Paella and Chicken Tikka, I decided to go local for the day and try some good old fashioned Norn Iron grub.

First up was a homemade sausage roll from one of the bacon, sausage and burger-style purveyors. At only £1, this was the cheapest item on the menu and exceptionally good value. Light, crispy pastry surrounded a substantial filling of coarse, well seasoned, sausage meat. Sausage rolls can sometimes feel processed, watery and gross, but this one hit the spot nicely.

Next up was a bowl of hearty Irish stew. This involved a semi-liquid mass of roughly mashed carrots, onions, potatoes and what looked and tasted like shredded, slow cooked beef. Eaten with plenty of salt and brown sauce, it was tasty, warming, and brought back good memories of primary school dinners.

Elsewhere, there was more exciting food on offer. The market has a real focus on quality, local produce and it's great seeing the Northern Irish food industry get some good exposure.

Labels: ,

Sunday, 13 December 2009

Partick Farmers Market

Today was my first full day back in Glasgow, and although I had planned a full gastro-tour of my old chomping ground, a late night and way too much Guinness ruined my plans for an early rise (not to mention my appetite.)

One place I did manage, however, was the Partick farmers' market. The market has been running on the 2nd and 4th Saturdays of the month for a quite a few years now, and was a common feature of my fortnightly schedule back when I lived here.

It's typical FM stuff: Pates, cheeses, hunks of organically raised meat etc. Way to many things to spend my money on - at prices that make my overdraft wince. It's also one of the very few places you can get anything resembling street food in the city.

After a quick scout, I grabbed one of these Aberdeen Angus burgers from a stall on the market's fringes. The burger had been pre-cooked on a hotplate, and came simply in a roll with cheese.

The patty was pure quality - a hockey-puck sized slab of meat, well reared and well seasoned, with just a suggestion of pink at it's beefy heart. This combined with a tasty wedge of cheddar that equalled the meat and almost made it more of a beef and cheese sandwich than a burger. The roll for its part was largely non-descript, but did a good job of holding the thing together (don't you just hate it when it falls apart in your hands?)

The result was a decent, all-round burger made with quality ingredients. Enjoyable, reasonably priced (£3) and worth braving the cold. It also gave me an excuse to throw up some FM signs


Wednesday, 9 December 2009

Please ignore once more

Again sorry about this! I'm in the midst of trying to switch from blogger to wordpress and having a few teething problems. NORMAL SERVICE SHOULD BE RESUMED SHORTLY.

Sunday, 6 December 2009

Best Street Food 2009

With my Asia trip fresh in my mind and the year coming to a close, I thought it would be a good time to recommend some of my favourite street food and street food locations of the past year. The list is of course subjective, and I am positive there is alot I missed, so please feel free to chip in with any suggestions of your own!

Best Breakfast - Lijiang Baba

Breakfast vendors often provide some of the best, and most elusive, street food around. Many of these stalls start early and are finished by the time most tourists even consider waking up. We stumbled on Lijiang Baba whilst on an early morning, crowd-beating stroll around the beautiful (but over-touristed) Chinese city of Lijiang. I had to be dragged out of bed that morning, but the combination of fluffy freshly cooked flat bread, egg and the tarty hotness of the chili sauce proved the perfect wake-up call. If you visit, beat the crowds and the bland and overpriced cafe fare for one of the best breakfasts around!

Best Beverege - Ca Phe Sua Da

Not something I always consider street food, but Vietnam's Ca Phe Sua Da is one drink that simply can't be missed. Served hot or with ice, this thick Vietnamese coffee with condensed milk is strong, sweet and a great example of the country's appropriation of some its former colonial masters' culinary heritage. Indeed, Ho Chi Minh once worked as a pastry chef under Le Coursier himself!

Best Street Food City - Penang, Malaysia.

Delving into Penang's street food feels like being a steel ball inside a pinball table. Make sure to bring an appetite as the city bounces you between cultures and vendors with little thought for the constraints of appropriateness or digestion. Three dishes in particular (Char Keow Tay, Hoikkien Mee, and Laksa Assam) should not be missed, but as with anywhere, most of the fun is in pointing, tasting and discovering for yourself. You might want to steer clear of the Oysters though!

Best Overall Country - China

It's a toughie, but for sheer quality and variety I'm going to have to go with China. From grilled lamb kebabs dusted with cumin to intricately flavoured noodles, China's expansive size and myriad of cultures makes for one hell of a street buffet! Places of note include Xi'an (home of the terracotta warriors and a lively Muslim quarter) and Yunnan, in the country's Southwest. Ignore the scorpions on sticks and spend your money on some real food instead. You won't regret it.

Best Rice Dish - Com Ga

So ubiqitous are rice and noodles in Asia that I decided to give them a categories of their own. On the rice side of things, Vietnam's Com Ga takes the first prize. Rice is cooked in turmeric, chicken stock and coconut milk until fluffy and flavoursome, then mixed with a killer combination of coriander, shredded chicken and chili. Hands down one of the best street dishes ever and one I intend on recreating as soon as I get access to time and a kitchen.

Best Noodle Dish - Yunnan Noodles

I never did find out the name for this popular Yunnan cold noodle dish but after a while I didn't much care. Many versions exist, but most include raw onions, crushed peanuts and up to a dozen sauces, oils and pastes. Spicy, filling and refreshing at the same time, I've yet to come across anything similar anywhere else. I'm still amazed at how intricately these ladies were able to balance and cajole some combustable flavours into something approaching perfection. A must eat if ever there was one!

Best Market - Chiang Mai Sunday Night Market

Every Sunday night Chiang Mai's main street shuts to traffic and turns into a celebration of shopping and eating. This market is notable not only for Thai classics but also for the refreshingly international vibe of many of the stalls. In addition to the usual curries and noodles, novelties such as sushi and pie 'n' mash were also on the menu. A great place for a wandering graze, and something that any trip to Chiang Mai should be planned around. The nightly market outside the old town pales woefully in comparison and isn't worth the sole rubber.

Best Korean Street Food

One final mention should go to my past and future home, Korea. I spent 12 months in the Hermit Kingdom and my intial experiences there sparked the idea for this blog. In my opinion, Korea's best street food is Pajeon, a pancake made with flour, chili, spring onion and squid. Pajeon tastes best when eaten huddled around a street cart and dipped in salty soy sauce.