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.
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.