Published: Tuesday, March 19, 2013

FOOD-0-GRAM

Street treats in Asia

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love Dhaka’s street food… from the rolls in front of Doja market, ‘phuchka’ in Dhanmondi Road 5, to the ‘jhal muri’ and ‘pithas’. Think about the trips to Thailand and I’m sure you’re thinking about the Thai sausage — sai krok — filled with beef and rice, the spicy and the tangy papaya salad, the fried chicken and the amazing Pad Thai in Khao San!
One of my most memorable moments in Beijing was going to the Wangfujing Snack Street, need I say more? Even when I was planning on visiting my cousin in Vancouver, the first thing I found out was whether there was a Japadog stand in the city.
I’m not alone in my love for street food; these are the times of ‘street-food’ mania. The world has become obsessed with street food more in recent times, starting from street food TV shows like ‘Eat St.’ to restaurateurs who are trying their hand in gourmet street food.
But what is street food? It seems that the subject of eating on the kerbside carries with it all sorts of strong beliefs about food, culture and the rest of society at large. Regarding the idea of quality, it would be quite interesting to understand what defines the quality in street food and what doesn’t. For instance, the first words that I connect with the idea of quality are passion, sustainability, information (ingredients and so on), pleasure and last but not least, the balance between price and what is prepared.
Asia has always been big on street food and they are all absolutely amazing! With the lack of funds to go all over Asia to eat all of the yummy food, I’ve tried to make them at home and today I share some recipes with you! Enjoy!

BANGLADESH
Chotpoti:
Ingredients –
2 cups white pea (soaked overnight)
2 onions medium (thinly sliced)
1 tomato (thinly sliced)
2 large potatoes (boiled and thinly sliced)
2 eggs (boiled and thinly sliced)
1 cucumber (thinly sliced)
½ bunch coriander leaves (finely chopped)
3 green chillies (chopped)
1 tsp rock salt
2 tbsp vinegar/lemon juice
Regular salt as per taste
2 tbsp sugar
100 g tamarind

Dry masala (whole) –
1 tbsp cumin
1 tbsp coriander
4 red chillies
5 or 6 cloves (whole)
6 black peppers
1 tsp of five spice
½ tsp aniseed
Roast all the dry masala in a hot pan very lightly, cool and grind altogether.
Method –
Cook the soaked white peas with a little salt and turmeric in a pressure cooker until they become soft. The peas should not be totally mashed and they should be left with a little water (don’t make it dry).
Boil the tamarind in a cup of water. Add a little red chilli (one pinch), sugar and a pinch of dry roasted cumin powder. Boil for ten minutes. Cool and strain and keep the watery portion only. Cool and then add lemon juice and rock salt.
Take a big bowl. Mix the cooked white peas, tamarind juice as cooked in the last step and other ingredients. Mix them thoroughly. Place the mixture in small, individual serving plates. Garnish with coriander leaves, onion sprinkles, crushed ‘phuchka’/'nimki’. Depending on your taste, you can vary the amount of roasted ‘masala’ and tamarind juice.

MALAYSIA
Dry Chilli Pan Mee (Spicy Broad Noodles)
To make the noodles, I used a 2:1 ratio for flour and water. So for two servings, use 1 cup of flour and ½ cup of water. Mix flour, water and a pinch of salt and knead until it forms a ball (Add more water if it’s too dry and add more flour if it’s too wet or sticky). Continue kneading for a few minutes and wrap the dough with clingwrap or place under a wet cloth for at least 30 minutes.
After 30 minutes, divide the dough into two. Roll out the dough to your desired thickness. Generously flour the dough as you fold the rolled dough. Cut into strips using a large sharp knife and unroll/unfold the strips of noodles.
Just before you assemble the dish, cook the noodles in boiling water until al dente. (Remember: it’s fresh noodles so the noodles cook really quickly!)

Dried chilli paste –
2 handfuls of dried chillies (soaked)
2 fresh red chillies
2 medium-sized onions
5 cloves garlic
1 handful dried shrimp
4 tbsp vegetable oil
Blend all of the ingredients (except oil) in a food processor. Heat the oil in a wok under low heat and stir-fry the blended mix for 30-40 minutes until dry. Remember to watch your chilli paste and continue stirring to prevent burning.

Minced meat sauce –
500g minced beef (marinate in soy sauce, salt and pepper)
½ medium-sized onion, finely diced
2 cloves garlic, finely diced
2 tbsp vegetable oil
1 tbsp oyster sauce
1 tsp dark soy sauce
½ cup chicken stock (non-salted; do not use Maggi cube stock. I use the continental chicken stock powder).

Method –
Heat the oil in a wok with medium-low heat and stir-fry diced onion and garlic for a minute or two. Add minced meat and stir-fry until cooked. Then, add oyster sauce, dark soy sauce and chicken stock into the wok. Continue simmering the sauce until it reduces. Season with pepper.

VIETNAM
Pok Pok Wings
Ingredients –
½ cup Vietnamese fish sauce
½ cup superfine sugar (or just regular white sugar)
4 garlic cloves, 2 crushed and 2 minced (we used about 4 heads of garlic, divided)
3 pounds chicken wings split at the drumettes (we used drumettes and wings and find it’s easier to fry)
2 tbsp vegetable oil, plus more for frying
1 cup cornstarch
1 tbsp chopped cilantro
1 tbsp chopped mint
Method –
In a bowl, whisk the fish sauce, sugar and crushed garlic. Add the wings and toss to coat. Refrigerate for 3 hours, tossing the wings occasionally.
Heat the 2 tablespoons of oil in a small skillet. Add the minced garlic; cook over moderate heat until golden, 3 minutes. Drain on paper towels.
In a large pot, heat 2 inches of oil to 350°. Pat the wings dry on paper towels; reserve the marinade. Put the cornstarch in a shallow bowl, add the wings and turn to coat lightly. Dust off any extra. Fry the wings in batches until golden and cooked through. Drain on cooling rack and transfer to a bowl.
In a small saucepan, simmer the marinade over moderately high heat until syrupy. Strain over the wings and toss. Top with the cilantro, mint and fried garlic and serve.

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THAILAND
Som Tam Thail (Papaya Salad)
Ingredients –
2 cups of shredded green papaya
2 tbsp of toasted peanuts
2 cloves of peeled garlic
1-2 fresh bird’s eye chilli (or more depending on tolerance)
1 tbsp of dried shrimp (optional)
3 tsp sugar
7 cherry tomatoes
Juice of ½ lime
1½ tbsp of fish sauce
1-2 tbsp Thai snake beans (long beans or green beans) cut into 1 inch sticks
Method –
Roughly crush a small handful of unsalted peanuts with mortar and pestle. Set aside. Wipe the mortar and pestle clean.
Melt sugar in a small pan at low or medium heat, adding 2 tablespoons of water. The cooking process should form a shiny and thick syrup. This makes it easier to mix the sugar with the salad.
Peel the papaya (or swede), shred it with a shredder (or a mandolin slicer) to thin strips and soak them in cold water while you prepare the rest of the salad. This makes the papaya crunchier and gets rid of any excess starch from the swede.
Cut the green beans into one-inch pieces. Throw away the endings. Take the chillies and peeled garlic and give them a gentle bash with mortar and pestle. You still ought to see bits and pieces, not a puree. Add the shrimp and continue bashing. Add the crushed peanuts and mix well.
Add the shredded papaya and continue bashing, but not too hard; just enough so the mixture soaks up the flavours. Use a bigger spoon as a support tool, that way you can shift the salad in the mortar and it will not fall out while bashing and mixing.
Add the liquid sugar, tomatoes, beans, lime juice and fish sauce. Continue to lightly bash, shift with the spoon, and mix a little more.
Serve on a big dish or bowl, sprinkle some crushed peanuts on top. Voila!

SINGAPORE
Roti John
Ingredients –
100g minced beef
1 large onion, chopped
3 eggs
Salt and pepper to taste
1 loaf crusty French bread, sliced like a subway sandwich, then cut to fit into frying pan
Method –
Mix the minced beef, chopped onion, eggs, salt and pepper together. Heat up a frying pan with about a tablespoon of cooking oil. Scoop the beef mix onto a piece of bread. Quickly press the bread, beef-side into the hot oil. Hear the pan sizzle. Smell the aroma of the oil meeting the egg and onions.
Use a spatula and give the bread a good press down and then flip it over to make the crust crispy. Remove from the pan and slice the bread smaller if needed. Serve with Sweet chilli sauce.
Sweet chilli sauce
Ingredients –
About 3 tbsp of chilli sauce
About 1 tbsp of ketchup
About 1 tbsp of sugar
About 3 tbsp of water
Method –
Mix all the ingredients together. The mix should be a bit runny rather than thick.

INDIA
Vada Burgers
Ingredients –
Burger bread, 8 pieces
For the vada filling –
1½ cups boiled and mashed potatoes
2 green chillies, chopped
1½ tbsp grated garlic
1 tsp mustard seeds (rai/sarson)
¼ tsp asafoetida (hing)
6 to 8 curry leaves
½ tsp turmeric powder
1 tbsp oil

For the outer covering –
3/4 cup besan (Bengal gram flour)
¼ tsp turmeric powder
A pinch of baking soda
1 tsp oil
Salt to taste
For the vada filling:
Pound the green chillies, ginger and garlic using a mortar and pestle. Heat the oil and add the mustard seeds. When they crackle, add the asafoetida and curry leaves and sauté for a few seconds. Add the pounded mixture and sauté again for a few seconds.
Add the potatoes, turmeric powder and salt and mix well. Remove from the fire and cool. Divide into 8 equal portions. Shape into rounds.
For the outer covering:
Combine all the ingredients in a bowl and make a batter using approximately 1/3 cup of water. Dip each round of the vada filling into the batter and allow it to coat the mixture well. Deep fry in hot oil, till golden brown. Drain on absorbent paper and keep aside.
Slice each pav into half and spread some dry garlic chutney or garlic tomato sauce inside. Place one vada in each pav and serve immediately.