Sunday, March 4, 2012

World's Best Street Food

Street Food: Food on a budget without having to hold back on the local flavors. 

Having been introduced to street food in Mexico when I was young, I’ve sampled some of the best and the worst in cities across the globe.
I am an adventurous eater and have never been sick but there is one basic rule by which I’ve survived: Never drink the water.
I’m not a cerveza drinker but I live on beer when I am in a foreign country. It’s a matter of survival... or so the excuse goes.
Fruit and fresh fish can also be uncertain so my suggestion is to know who your street vendor is and only eat food that is freshly cooked. Go where all the rest of the locals wander. The most popular cart on the block is likely to be the most reliable.
Try street food in all the cities where you travel because street chefs are known to cook up some of the best local eats anywhere.
While some chefs are just starting out, others have cooked for years and can’t imagine doing anything else but packing up their carts every day and heading to their same spot on the street.
Where to go in Chicago? Go to any of the places listed below and enjoy your food outside. It's been nice enough all winter for a picnic.
The cities listed below boast celebrated street chefs, some who compare to the best restaurant chefs in the world. Just ask Rick Bayless who, year after year, explores what’s cooking on the streets of Mexico.
Safe to say that their customers are a mix of people like you and I who are just trying to find the great taste of authentic, local cuisine.
Bon Appetit!
Paris - Paris Street: Sidewalk Cafes
Fresh crepes smothered in fruit are some of the best flavors to watch people by…an essential of street food culture in the sidewalk cafes of Paris.
In Chicago: Green City Market .
Hanoi, Vietnam – Bahn Mai
Wrapped in a newspaper you’ll likely never be able to read, this 50 cents sandwich (in Hanoi that is) happens to be one of the most successful street foods ever.
Take one bite of the fresh, crunchy bread (thanks to a touch of rice flour) and you’ll understand why, when stuffed with grilled pork and pickled vegetables, it’s become one of America’s favorite sandwiches.

In Chicago:Saigon Sister’s in Chicago’s French Market.
Philadelphia – Philly Cheesesteak from Philadelphia’s Italian Market
Nothing better when you’re in the city of brotherly love than Pat’s where it all began back in the 30’s with a simple stand at the southern end of Philly’s Italian Market.
In Chicago: Grab a sandwich from Philly’s Best in Lakeview and walk down to Evergreen Park.
Berlin, Germany – Bratwurst with Sauerkraut
Only one place to eat your favorite brat. Piled high with homemade sauerkraut and bacon potato salad, this dish motivates me to book my next flight to Berlin and head straight to the streets.
In Chicago: Sorry, almost any place 73 miles north in Milwaukee.
Mexico City – Tacos al Pastor and Churros
Mention Tacos al Pastor and Churros and you have my undivided attention. One thing for sure: I will always be the first in line to eat.

In Chicago: Maxwell Street Market every Sunday morning where you can get a delicious fix of either one with grilled corn on the cob.
Tel Aviv, Israel - Falafel
These pita sandwiches, made of either fried chick pea patties or eggplant and topped with pickled cabbage, beets and a creamy tahini, are the favorite addiction of my entire office.
In Chicago: Where else but Sultan’s Market in Wicker Park. Did I mention that they are almost as cheap here as they are in Tel Aviv?

Los Angeles – Kogi BBQ
The one who started it all made street food as celebrated in the U.S as the hot dog.
In Chicago: Korean anything and I head straight to Bill Kim’s Belly Shack and for a double dose, Urban Belly for Round II.
Istanbul, Turkey – Where street food is an ALL DAY experience
You’re sure to survive eating off the streets of Istanbul because they are dishing it up 24/7.
Want a high-quality caffeine buzz? Start your day with Turkish coffee…it will definitely wake you up in a hurry.
Lunch? Head to a köfte stand for skewered grilled meat and if that’s not enough…
Dinner time already? Go straight for lahmajun’s, a grilled flat bread topped with meat and grilled veggies and kokoreçs - chopped lamb intestines seasoned with oregano and hot pepper.
In Chicago: The Turquoise Café in Roscoe Village has every Turkish delight you can imagine going on including the coffee.
Marrakech, Morocco – Slow Cooked Lamb
This is a country where the food comes to you. Every night the central square turns into street food central where Chicken Tagine and slow cooked lamb rule.
In Chicago: Shokran Moroccan Restaurant in Irving Park. Just like in Morocco, bring plenty of Dirham’s because they only accept hard cash.
Bangkok, Thailand – Floating Street Vendors
Working out of boats along the city's waterways, Bangkok's food vendors serve up generous portions of pad thai and if you're feeling really brave, sample some of the multi-legged ants, crickets or beetles.
In Chicago: Sticky Rice on Western where you will find plenty of serious Thai and no bugs whatsoever on the menu.
Singapore – Satay drenched with Peanut Sauce
For anyone out there that hates to cook but loves to eat, this is your died- and-gone- to- heaven food zone.
Singapore's hawker centres are the perfect mix of street food and local restaurant. In other words cheap eats with service.
Did you know that each vendor perfects usually just one dish? You can literally eat for months without repeating the same meal.
Satay skewers of grilled beef or lamb, drenched with fiery peanut sauce, provides the perfect dish for multi-tasking: eating and walking at the same time.
These food stalls are the best way to try Singaporean favorites for a fraction of the cost.
In Chicago: Although true Singapore food is still on my hunt, The Bento Box in Bucktown will do in a pinch.

Brussels, Belgium – Frits are not a side show…they are the main event!

Sold in a flimsy paper cone and saturated with some of the best flavored mayo, local bintje potatoes provide a crisp, greaseless fry.

My second choice: Waffles of any kind overloaded with fruit and whipped cream.
In Chicago: Frietkoten Belgian Fries and Beer in the French Market. Four stars for the best fries on the planet to grab before you get on the UP North Line home.
Portland – The Street Food Capital of the U.S
From stands, carts, trucks and even bicycles, Portland has earned the number one spot for the best street food in America. Why? They were doing it before anyone else knew what street food actually was.
In Chicago: The pork pozole naan-wiches from Matt Maronis Gaztro-Wagon. That's when I suddenly realized that food trucks were here to stay and I didn't feel the least bit ridiculous chasing one through the streets of Ravenswood early one Saturday morning.
Mumbai, India – Bhel Puri
With 16 official languages, you can say street food until you’re blue in the face…that is until you whisper Bhel Puri…the universal “food language” in India.
In Chicago: Patel Brothers: Shop then hurry home to cook up a magnificent Indian feast…one of the easiest foods to cook including Frontier Chicken.
Cartagena, Colombia – Arepas
Corn bread flattened into a pancake and filled with egg or cheese, then griddled to form a brown, crispy crust.
Delicious and yes…I can see the butter sliding down your face now.
If this were not one of my favorite street foods, I would have to go to Cartagena just to find out what I was missing but luckily the Arepa lady from New York was the hit of the San Francisco Street Food Fest this past year so I got a much needed fix until next year. Or did I?

In Chicago: Mekato’s Columbian Bakery in Lincoln Square.

Toronto – Poutine.
Call it the world’s best hangover food, Poutine ranks among the top 5 cures for whatever you did the night before.
Take your pick of Poutine spots in Toronto because every one of them will have you A- OK in the morning…even without an Alki Selzor.
In Chicago: The Gage or my poutine ever!