05 | Nov | 09

Richard Johnson

A New View?

Antony Worrall Thompson has just sent me this article. He wrote it for the Express, a few years ago, when he was — understandably — down on the whole idea of British street food. Now he’s coming to Ludlow to  judge the British Street Food Awards. And he’s not doing it ironically. How times have changed — thank goodness.

“You’re on holiday, you’re feeling peckish, what do you do? You don’t really want the expense of a full blown meal, so you think to yourself ‘Do I trust the street vendors?’  The answer in many cases must be no.

My general rule of thumb is, if you’re in a western country (USA, UK, Germany, Australia), don’t touch them with a bargepole — unless, of course, you are into greasy nondescript burgers with boiled onions or boiled frankfurters with tasteless cotton wool bread.   Let’s face it — we don’t do street food well. Except, of course, the great bacon buttie. As long as good quality bacon is used.

Take the sub-continent, the Far East or other Asian Countries and even North Africa and we’re talking a very different story, I love this sort of street food.   In the hawkers’ markets of Singapore I’ve experienced some of the most delicious stuffed flatbreads and piping hot bowls of steaming noodles with chicken and prawns, cooked to order in large woks.

Then in Indonesia you can’t afford to miss the different sate with a variety of sauces including the traditional peanut.   There are times when you yearn a steaming spicy vegetable stir-fry enriched with sambal oelek, soy sauce and honey or some fab seafood encased in a fritter with a spicy chilli sauce.

And in China you can’t go wrong with their vegetable or chicken spring rolls. So cheap to make, but so delicious to eat.  I’ve even eaten saffron ice cream from an Indian street vendor, how brave was that? But it was delicious, and I’m still here to tell the tale. Street food done well has to be one of the nicest forms of instant fodder, but be selective — go where the crowds go; it’s definitely the best endorsement.