Food on the run is streets ahead
Street food sold from stalls is all the go and so are food trucks, or at least in places where civic authorities can see benefits for locals and tourism. Cities such as Vancouver, Canada; Portland, Oregon; and Austin, Texas, have become food-truck hubs in North America. Last year, at the surf town of Tofino on Vancouver Island, I met Kevin of Tacofino, busy selling takeaways from a canary-yellow van. He told me he longed to open a food truck at Byron Bay on the NSW north coast, which he believed could be the most exotic surf town in the world.
On the topic of surfing, I have no knowledge or insight but I think Kevin would like The Farm at Ewingsdale, near Byron Bay (T & I Loves, August 15-16), with its paddockto-plate produce and air of a great big diner (albeit without wheels). He’d like historic George Town in Penang, too, because everyone seems to, and it’s thick with markets and tiny cafes. In this part of Malaysia there is a noodle soup known as asam laksa. It is unlike the laksa found in Singapore and Asian restaurants in Australia. Instead of creamy coconut milk there is tamarind paste, which adds a salty, slightly sour zing. Apparently, pineapple is another key ingredient; the dish is topped with shredded mackerel. Our guide, May (who we privately refer to as Marshall May as she is a wonder at getting us to the top of queues and has elbows that slice all known red tape) is horrified that we want an asam laksa from a roadside stall.
“You Australians!” she announces with grudging admiration. “It will not be like a restaurant!” Bring it on, we say, and soon May has us seated on tiny tin stools (previous diners having been dispatched) at open-air Pasar Air Itam Laksa. We ask for extra chilli. May swoons and fans herself with a copy of our (now derailed) itinerary.
We lap up the delicious vermicelli noodle-filled broth with metal spoons and slippery red chopsticks. We have brownish stains on our summer shirts and have made quite a mess on the bare tabletop, which is how it should be. What a pleasure it would be to have a laksa food van parked near my office or home. A bowl would cost heaps more than the equivalent of $2, however. On hearing this, May, at last, looks ever so slightly smug.
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