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Archive for May, 2008

A round up of Street Food news around the world…

Kate Armstrong, from the Sydney Morning Herald, writes a colorful round up, with great historical research, of street food in Dolores Hidalgo, Mexico.

…and Dan Perlman puzzles over the lack of street food in Buenos Aires before he discovers where to find it.

…meanwhile Christine Grimard discovers a street in Hanoi, Vietnam dedicated to cooking bbq chicken wings.

And cities around the US and Canada have been changing their street food licensing laws, some, like Toronto are attempting to compete with NYC’s vibrantly varied street food scene, though it seems the plan has momentarily stalled and others, like LA, are limiting the ability of vendors to sell their foods. DC is trying to ease its regulations though some fear the new regulations are having a negative effect.

In India, the Urban Development Department in Kolkota has been teaching the city’s 120,000 food vendors about food hygiene and safety to great results. I’ll be traveling through there in November and look forward to tasting this abundance of (hygienic) street food.

While in Mumbai, a political party uses street food to promote its anti-immigrant ideology.

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Driving by Japantown last weekend, I was seduced by the sight of a fair and by the possibility of street food I could discover. We were wandering through the Asian Heritage Street Celebration, among the suped-up cars on display and kiosks celebrating Asian food and culture, when a sign, Sukiyaki Rice Burger $2, caught my eye.

Street Food at Asian Heritage Fair

Sukiyaki is a one-pot Japanese meal with vegetables and thinly sliced meat cooked at the table in a combination of soy, sugar, sake and mirin (sweet sake). Here the Hokkeshu Buddhist Church used the sweet sukiyaki beef as the “burger” and sticky rice as the “bun”. The sweetness of the meat contrasting with plain sticky rice was perplexing as, with a western palate, I expected the white rice to be the sweeter of the two ingredients. But the “burger” was filling, cheap and flavorful. I’d go back for seconds. Rice Burger

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Rondon Post CardI was thrilled to receive a postcard from one of my closest friends who, after a few years of being a very successful lawyer, realized that suits and contracts weren’t for her. She quit a year ago, has been traveling round the world and currently lives near a beach in Costa Rica.

Kate and I bonded while living in Paris in 2002, over our shared love of food—dinners with my home-stay mother Victoire, crepes from Costas, extravagant mixed cocktails from our friends’ bars, prix-fix bistro lunches, market specials and the like. When I told Kate about this blog and my attempts to chronicle the street food I eat at home and around the world, she excitedly emailed me about the fresh mango and coconut treats she was buying off the street in Costa Rica. And three days later I received a postcard with a recipe for a traditional Costa Rican and Nicaraguan soup, Rondon.Costa Rican Stamp

Rondon is patois for “run-down” as the cook needs to run-down or chase the ingredients necessary for this fish soup. The ingredients and ratios in this soup are flexible and should be adjusted to suit personal taste and available ingredients. For example, I couldn’t find breadfruit so I substituted potato.

Rondon Recipe

The soup was sweetly flavored, although the combination of coconut milk and so many starchy ingredients was too rich for me. Also, I had misgivings about adding the fish in the first stages of cooking, but I decided to follow the recipe—bad choice. The fish was over cooked and disintegrated into the soup as fish-flavored flakes.

Rondon Ingredients

But the soup still had excellent flavors and with the following modifications it would be an easy dish to make and well worth serving. It would be a chance to impress dinner guests with typically Central American flavors:Rondon cooking

1. Ñame=yam, Ñampi=taro

2. Use a ratio of 1:1:1 for the liquid, coconut milk, chicken stock, water

3. Chop onion in quarters

3. Add few cloves of crushed garlic with the onion

4. Add 5 additional stalks of thyme when you add the liquid

5. A handful of jalapeños, sliced in half, will give the soup a spicy edge (clearly I like my food spicy)

6. Add the fish into the soup at the end and cook ’till just opaque and still tender, 5-10 minutes.

7. Serve with fresh ground pepper and slices jalapeños.

Rondon Soup Served

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I’ve spent the past week looking into al pastor recipes and noticed that there’s no typical recipe out there. Each has it’s own blend of ingredients and most are dumbed-down for the home cook by using pork chops or sliced pork loin marinated, cooked and chopped up rather than a large chunk of meat roasted. The pineapple juice, responsible for this dish’s unique flavor, is prone to burning due to its high sugar content so while I wanted to roast my dish, I worried it would become a charred, burnt mess. I figured I’d try a braise.

I coerced a few friends over to test the recipes that follow and everyone approved.

Al Pastor Recipe

The pork butt is a fatty cut of meat, but a 3-hour braise will render most of this fat and turn the meat a mouth-wateringly tender dish.

Ingredients
2 ½ lb. pork butt, fat not trimmed
3 T canola oil

Marinade
2 arbol chilies* dried or fresh
4 guajilo chilies* dried or fresh
10 tepin chilies* dried or fresh
1 chipoltle chili* dried or fresh or tinned
1 bay leaf—only if re-hydrating dried chilies
Juice of 1 orange
1 c pineapple juice
1 yellow onion
5 cloves garlic
½ t ground cloves
1 t ground cumin
Salt and ground black pepper to taste

To Serve
Corn or flour tortillas
Tomatillo sauce (recipe follows)
Smoky Red Salsa (recipe follows)
Chopped onion
Diced pineapple
Cilantro
Limes

*This is a combination of chilies based on what I could find in my local stores and me trying to re-create the spiciness and complexity of the dish I’d tried at the taco truck. But if these aren’t available this link describes flavors and substitutes.

Season roast with salt and set aside.

If your chilies are dried, place in a saucepan with enough water to cover and a bay leaf. Bring to boil and turn off heat. Allow them to soak until soft, about 10 minutes. Discard the bay leaf and water.

For both fresh and dried chilies, removed the stems and seeds to taste, as the seeds are very hot. I kept the majority of the seeds when I cooked this dish; however, I had a very spicy meal. To temper the heat, discard the seeds of the chilies.

Place all marinade ingredients except for the pineapple and orange juice into a food processor. Process until well blended. Add additional water if the marinade is too dry and season with salt and pepper. Marinade pork overnight.

Pre-heat oven too 270 F.

In a large Dutch oven, or oven-safe pot with tightly fitting lid, heat 3 T of oil until hot. Scrape excess marinade off meat and sear until brown on all sides, about 10-20 minutes. Once browned, reduce heat to low and pour the marinade into the pot. Add pineapple and orange juice and enough water to almost cover the meat. Bring the liquid to a simmer, cover with lid and place in the oven. Braise for 3 hours, turning twice. Meat should be tender enough to shred with a fork and the liquid will be reduced by two-thirds.

Shred meat and serve on tortillas with smoky red salsa, tomatillo sauce, diced pineapple, chopped onion, cilantro and a squeeze of lime.

Tomatillo Sauce
Ingredients

Vegetable oil
8 tomatillos, husked and halved
2 Serrano chilies, stems and seeds removed and halved
4 cloves of garlic
1 bunch of cilantro
Squeeze of lime
Salt and pepper to taste

Place first 3 ingredients on a baking sheet, lightly brush with oil and roast at 450 F for 15-20 minutes until slightly charred.

Blend in a food processor with remaining ingredients.

Smoky Red Salsa
Ingredients
4 vine-ripe tomatoes, diced
1 medium red onion, one half diced, one half sliced
2 tinned chipotle chilies
1 bunch of cilantro
Vegetable oil

Brush the sliced red onion with oil and roast at 450 F for 15 minutes or until browned. Dice.
Mix roast onion with all remaining ingredients. Blend half the mixture in a food processor for a chunky salsa consistency.

For more salsa inspiration check out Clay’s Kitchen.

Strawberries are in season, so for dessert I served my friends vanilla-bean custard hidden under strawberries.

Vanilla Custard Recipe
2 cups of heavy cream
1 vanilla bean, split lengthwise
4 large egg yolks
5 T sugar

Heat cream and vanilla bean in a heavy saucepan till almost simmering. Scrape seeds of the vanilla bean into the cream and discard pod.

Whisk egg yolk and sugar in a bowl. Slowly whisk in a few tablespoons of the hot cream mixture to temper the yolks. Continue adding the cream slowly and whisking well so the egg doesn’t curdle. Once the cream is mixed into the egg yolk mixture, return to the saucepan. Heat over a low heat, stirring constantly till mixture thickens. The custard will thicken further as it cools.

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I’ve been in a “hot dog stage” of my eating habits since reading Ruhlman’s ode to his favorite emulsified forcemeat in Gourmet Magazine two years ago. Without fail, once a month or so, I begin craving dogs, and think of little else but that snap of the casing as you bite into a grilled hot dog, the firm, smoothness of the meat and the contrast of my favorite condiments: tangy sauerkraut, sour-sweet pickles, Dijon mustard and ketchup. My mouth waters as I write this.

I discovered Prather Ranch’s organic meat store in San Francisco’s Ferry Building when on a mission for a large hunk of meat to braise. The guys manning the store gave me great meat advice and later on their website I became enthralled with their “low-stress approach to animal handling” and the photos of the ranch nestled at the base of Mount Shasta. Happy cows producing flavorful meat. For day’s I enthused, to anyone who’d listen, about the rich and tender happy-cow meat I’d discovered.

Fast-forward a few weeks and I’m having a hot dog craving. When I lived in New York, finding a dog was easyit’s a ubiquitous street food found on most corners, not so here in San Francisco. But the Tuesday Farmer’s Market is set up across the street from my office at the Ferry Building and a smell of grilling meat wafts through the air. I see a long line of people waiting at a standPrather Ranch food stall. And there, at the top of the menu, for $5, is an all-beef, nitrate-free frank. Bliss.

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