WHY I LOVE STREET EATS

MasterChef host Matt Pre­ston takes us on a global tour of the street food favourites that wake him up in the night.

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5.28AM AND I’VE AWO­KEN with the sort of blind­ing clar­ity that usu­ally ac­com­pa­nies mo­ments of great in­sight… or the on­set of a mi­graine. Why is it that if I make a list of my favourite street food dishes, it is far longer that the great restau­rant dishes I’ve eaten? And why is the mem­ory of these dishes gen­er­ally far, far clearer?

I can al­most taste the food and re­mem­ber the tex­ture. I can throw my­self back to Bangladesh and that tiny, dark hole in the wall by the river in old Dhaka, where two old men are fish­ing out hot lit­tle flat­breads from a sunken oven, the orange glow of the em­bers play­ing on their faces. These cakes of bread are flaky, plain and de­li­cious, eaten straight from a twist of news­pa­per.

It’s the same with the tacos in Mex­ico City that fire out with the speed and reg­u­lar­ity of one-lin­ers from a great co­me­dian on a roll. Or the mem­o­ries of that first falafel wrap from a street cart in NYC that in­spired this month’s recipe. With this, it’s the rivers of peo­ple and the way the sound of a fire-en­gine siren and the horns of the yel­low cabs re­bound around the deep canyons of steel and glass.

Per­haps it is the unique sense of place and the iconic stature that ac­com­pany ev­ery serve of the best street food that make it so spe­cial. Or maybe it’s the life­time of spe­cial­i­sa­tion in cook­ing one thing re­ally well. Cer­tainly, the way that these, of­ten blind­ingly sim­ple, dishes have been re­fined over gen­er­a­tions to make them this way must be part of it, too.

Here are the 60 street food dishes (well, 10 here and the rest of Matt’s favourites at de­li­cious.com.au) that make up my most mem­o­rable street food ex­pe­ri­ences from around the world.

1,2 & 3 Crispy lamb belly tacos… the pineap­ple-topped tow­ers of meat that go into a taco al pas­tor… and Roy Choi’s Korean fu­sion kim­chi que­sadil­las from food trucks in LA.

4 Those tacos in Mex­ico City. 5 This falafel wrap from NYC. 6 That warm flat­bread in Bangladesh. 7&8 A lamb souva from the stand in the pedes­tri­anised shop­ping cen­tre of Oak­leigh in Mel­bourne, or the clas­sic pork ones you find ev­ery­where in Athens.

9 A pork chop roll from an old dai pai dong in Hong Kong, espe­cially when the meat is joined with a gen­er­ous dol­lop of salad cream, but­ter (or more likely mar­garine) on a soft, sweet roll.

10 A tray of chewy tteok-bokki rice cakes slosh­ing around in chilli sauce, picked up af­ter a night on the lo­cal tip­ple of mak­ge­olli in some rau­cous bar in Seoul. These old po­jang­macha street stalls might be a dy­ing breed, like the dai pai dong of Hong Kong, but they are also mag­nif­i­cent. And not just for the long­necks of beer…

Place the chick­peas in a bowl, cover with wa­ter, cover the bowl and stand overnight to soak. The next day, drain and rub off any loose skins.

Place broad beans, onion, pars­ley, co­rian­der, gar­lic, bi­carb, ground co­rian­der, cumin, flour and 2 tsp salt flakes in a food pro­ces­sor and whiz un­til finely chopped. Add chick­peas and whiz un­til well com­bined.

Line a bak­ing tray with bak­ing pa­per. Place the se­same seeds in a bowl. Us­ing wet hands, roll heaped ta­ble­spoons of chick­pea mix­ture into balls, then roll in se­same seeds and place on the pre­pared tray. Chill for 30 min­utes.

Half-fill a deep-fryer or large saucepan with oil and heat to 180°C (a cube of bread will turn golden in 90 se­conds when the oil is hot enough). In batches, deep-fry falafels, turn­ing oc­ca­sion­ally, for 6-8 min­utes or un­til they float and are cooked through. Re­move with a slot­ted spoon and drain on pa­per towel.

Com­bine yo­ghurt, tahini and le­mon juice in a bowl, then spread some in­side each pita. Fill pitas with ex­tra pars­ley and co­rian­der, let­tuce, pick­les and falafels, then driz­zle with a lit­tle more yo­ghurt mix­ture. Serve with gar­lic sauce, tzatziki and chilli sauce.

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