There are so many amazing places to eat in Japan, but where do you start? I typically start my eating tour in Tokyo. Here’s a rundown on the places I go once I step into the Narita airport
Street food has never flourished in Japan as it has in the rest of Asia. First, the authorities are not as supportive of street food/vendors as they are in the rest of Asia. They see street food as poor people's food, and a reminder of a time, after WWll when there were food shortages throughout Japan. As a whole though, the Japanese view eating on the go as being rude. However, that is starting to change. There are areas throughout Tokyo that have their rendition of street food. Though different from the rest of Asia-think small plastic chairs and tables in the middle of the street, food in the back of pick up trucks or push carts-Japanese street food differs quite a bit. You’ll find kiosks and windows where you can order food throughout this sprawling metropolis. You’ll also find small vendors with varying specialties grouped together in dark alleyways and dark corners under bridges and near train stations. They create these enclaves of what we would consider an American food court; however, seating isn’t communal like it is in a typical American food court, each vendor can have anywhere from 1-10 seats in their tiny little space. Following are some of my tried and true best places for “street food” in Tokyo!
Arguably the most well known Japanese dish is sushi. Sushi as we know it in the West is not only fresh and delicious but also quite delicate and pricey. Sushi in Japan though is a different story. Did you know that sushi in Japan started as Tokyo street food? From those humbles beginnings, it has won the world over and is now enjoyed by the rich and famous….and the rest of us! In my opinion, you can’t get better sushi anywhere else in the world then on the doorsteps of the largest seafood market in the world, Tsukiji fish market. Tiny stalls surrounding the market offer the days catch. You can choose between sashimi or nigiri, you can also enjoy some simple rolls and chirashi. Whatever you order, whichever stall you visit, it will be guaranteed to be the freshest you can find. Try going early in the morning because lines begin forming by about 9am!
In my previous posts, I briefly talked about the infamy of Pho from Vietnam and Laksa from Malaysia. This post would not be the same if I didn’t mention the Japanese noodle dish-RAMEN! Not the .10 cent bag of your neighborhood grocery store, but the Ramen with the fresh al dente noodles with the rich pork and chicken stocks filled with tender cuts of meat and vegetables. That’s the Ramen I’m talking about. After your sushi breakfast near the Tsukiji market, you can wander just a little further on the squares and find some great bowls of ramen pretty close to the fish market. Depending on how you like your broth, lighter or heavier, you’ll be able to find just what you’re looking for. For a lighter chicken based ramen, go to Inoue (4-9-16 Shin Ohashi Dori, Tsukiji, Chuo-ku, Tokyo). Their stock is fairly light, made with chicken stock and is popular with the locals. That will get you warmed up after spending your early mornings in a cold fish market!
Remember those dark alleyways and dark corners under bridges and near train stations? There are plenty of those all around the city, filled with vendors selling skewered and grilled meat and offal. You can find one here: Higashi Gotanda 1-26-8, Shinagawa-ku, Tokyo. Trust me, you won’t forget it and hopefully, you’ll love it!
Next stop on this culinary tour is Piss Alley aka Shonben Yokocho or Memory Lane, Omoide Yokocho, a collection tiny buildings, with staircases leading nowhere. It's a few minutes walk from Shinjuku station. This is the place to enjoy Japan’s “fast food”= skewered and grilled meats: yakitori or chicken skewers, motsu-nabe aka offal stew and of course hormone-yaki better known as grilled organ meats. If that doesn’t sound appetizing, don’t fret, there are also stalls that serve grilled vegetables, fresh fish, prawns and oysters. Just look for a crowded stall and check the merchandise on the counters.
Next stop is Ebisu Yokocho, 1-7-2 Ebisu, Shibuya Ward. You’ll find a lively food scene, but very different some would even call it a bit more respectable than that of Piss Alley. In fact, Ebisu Yokocho is basically a food arcade in the basement of a building. It’s filled tiny stalls one after another, all separated by plastic curtains, each with it’s own atmosphere and charm. What I loved about this place was the variety of the foods that were offered from stall to stall. Grilled meats of course are everywhere, but here you’re able to also enjoy kushiage, breaded/fried skewers or oden a hearty Japanese hotpot and even okonomiyaki-the infamous Japanese pizza/pancake.
If you really want to be a Japanese street food expert, though, the best way to learn is to experience it! If you can’t make it all the way to Japan, you can join us at Street Kitchen for our great Japan-focused events.
Try five courses of Japanese delicacies paired with wine, beer, and sake for only $40 per person at this month’s Japan Wine Dinner on the 22nd . Call 303.799.9800 to make your reservations!
I would have to say that aside from Pho, the national Vietnamese noodle soup that has won the world over, Laksa is my second favorite soup. This Malaysian noodle soup is just as complicated and nuanced as pho. Some would argue that laksa is more complicated in it’s preparation process. However, unlike pho, it requires less cook time, so I think it’s fair to say that it evens out. Like pho, each family has it’s own recipe that has been adapted and changed throughout the years. Pho aficionados can tell the difference between a Northern style pho, versus a Southern style pho, just by aroma and apperance; It is exactly the same with Laksa.
Before diving into the differences between Kare Laksa and Asam Laksa, you may be asking yourself, “What is Laksa?”
Laksa is a general term that encompasses two very different types of noodle soup dishes typically found in Malaysia and Singapore: kare (curry) laksa and asam (assam) laksa. Generally speaking, kare laksa refers to noodles served in coconut curry soup. Asam laksa refers to noodles served in a tamarind-based soup. There are a multitude of variations of Kare Laksa and Asam laksa, but these are the two main types.
Laksa is commonly made with a variety of different ingredients. Depending on the type of laksa, you may be served thick rice noodles, rice vermicelli noodles or even egg noodles. The majority of Laksa’s are seafood based, and may contain shrimp, fish, fish cake, tofu, hard boiled eggs, and a variety of different vegetables and fruit, ranging anywhere from bean sprouts, snow peas to mangosteen and pineapple.
The basis of the Kare Laksa broth is coconut milk, galangal, candlenuts, belacan, tamarind juice, turmeric, lemongrass, ginger bud and kaffir lime leaves. The main ingredients for most versions of a Kare Laksa include fried tofu, fish cake, boiled eggs, shrimp, cucumbers, pineapples and cockles. Typically served with sambal, for added spice, lime wedges and laksa leafs aka Vietnamese coriander or “rau ram”. Kare Laksa typically is served with thick rice noodles, known as laksa noodles. However, in other parts of Malaysia, and Singapore, you may be served rice vermicelli or tallow egg based noodles.
The basis of Asam laksa is similar to Kare laksa, but instead of coconut milk, you will find that Asam laksa derives it’s flavors from fish that is cooked in the stock and tamarind as well as galangal, lemongrass, turmeric, ginger buds, mangosteen and belacan. The main ingredients for most versions of Asam laksa include shredded fish, cucumber, onions, red chillies, pineapple, lettuce, ginger buds and mint. You might also find Vietnamese coriander in some versions as well. Unlike Kare laksa, Asam laksa is usually always served with rice noodles, although those could be vermicelli or thick rice noodles.
We serve a Kare laksa at Street Kitchen, but for this month’s Malaysian wine dinner on 4/24, we’ll be serving up an Asam laksa. Try them both and let me know which one your favorite is!
There are so many Thai street food items; dedicating only one post doesn’t do it justice! Following are a few amazing dishes you should look for the next time you’re in Thailand!
Khao Mok Kay (Chicken and Rice)
Seems pretty simple but this is not your typical chicken and rice. Bone in chicken is marinated in a variety of fragrant spices. Note that this is a dish from the Southern region of Thailand where there’s Muslin influence. This dish is a great example of the Muslim and Thai fusion that is apparent in some Thai dishes. This makes it one of my favorites when I’m “Pad Thai and Larbed out”! The rice served with this dish is cooked with saffron and is delicious! Typically this dish is also served with fresh cucumbers, fried shallots and a spicy sauce.
Jok (Rice Porridge)
It seems that every Asian country/culture has some rendition of the rice porridge. Rice porridge is typically eaten in the morning in all Asian countries but is usually readily available all day long. Thai porridge is similar to other Asian porridges. It’s garnished with scallions and you can usually choose a various meat to throw in there. But I love Thai porridge for the way it’s different from Vietnamese, Kapanese, Chinese and Malaysian porridge. In Tjailand, Jok is served also with fresh julienned ginger and a raw egg (you have to ask!). The creaminess of the yolk blends so well and adds a level of richness to the soup. Add a little fish sauce and I’m in heaven!
Phad Kra Phrao (Basil Stir Fry)
This is a pretty common dish that you can find in Thailand. I like it because it’s very representative of Thai flavors and ingredients. It is healthy, filling and appeals to all palates. In fact, I bet you can find this in you local Thai restaurant. But trust me when I say you’ll enjoy the dish you get in Thailand better…. but isn’t that how it always goes!?!? Anyway, this is a simple stir fry with ground chilies, garlic, fish sauce and of course basil. Depending on the vendor, some may throw in onions, mushrooms, peppers or even bean sprouts and carrots. You can typically choose beef, chicken or pork to add into the dish. Sometimes the vendor may even have shrimp or tofu. Any way you have it, it’s great and it’s served with rice!
Khao Niao Ma Muang (Sticky rice with mango)
This is one of those all time desserts that have you reminiscing about the exact flavors and feelings you had when you enjoyed the first bite. For me, it stirs up nostalgia and always makes me run out in search for ripened mangos (not the green unripe ones in the store!) so I can try to recreate that feeling! A very simple dish of sweet and ripe mango, served with sticky rice that has been sweetened with a coconut sauce.
Kuay Tiao (Noodle soup)
This is a typical Thai noodle soup. For those who have never heard of or tried this dish, prepare yourself for the many variations that you can find. Usually served with rice noodles, this dish can change depending on the type and size of noodle served. You can choose small rice noodles, “Sen Lek”, big rice noodles “Sen Yay” or even egg based noodles that are typically also made with wheat “Bami”. Like many other Thai dishes, you can also choose among chicken, beef or pork to eat in your soup. But this isn’t any normal soup because you can actually order it with the broth “Naam” or without the broth “Haeng”. And the following condiments are always available for you to add and adjust the dish to your tastes: chilies, sugar, fish sauce and vinegar.
Phad Thai (Pad Thai, Fried Noodles)
The single most popular Thai dish available on almost every street corner in Thailand. This has become such a common dish at Thai restaurants in the US that I’m sure you’ve enjoyed this dish before. A stir fry of rice noodles, bean sprouts, and egg, this dish typically always includes cilantro, peanuts scallions and a wedge of lime. Choose the protein and make sure they add the dried shrimp and banana flower-that’s the Thai difference!
This is only a small representation of the amazing dishes you’ll find on the streets in Thailand. I haven’t even begun to go over the satays, soups, salads and dumplings that you can get. Look for my next post to include these items and also a thorough comparison of all the “Toms”-I mean all the soups!
I had a blast during the Thai dinner and cooking class. Next month we’ll tackle the foods of Malaysia.
No trip to China would be complete without a stop in Shanghai. The food in Shanghai is a food lover’s paradise. You can choose to dine in a Michelin-star restaurant on the Bund, or try any of the amazing street food vendors throughout the City. Of course, I like to opt for the scavenger hunt that leads me to great discoveries and of course amazing food. The adventure down dark alleyways is just a plus! Here’s a list of some of my tried and true Shanghai favorites (in no particular order)!
Shaxian steamed dumplings, These flower-petal-shaped steamed pork dumplings are one of my favorites. Not only for the amazing flavor and chili sauce that accompanies them…but also because they’re easy to locate. Shaxian is a large chain restaurant and have multiple outposts in Shanghai!
Jian Bing is a breakfast crepe that I wake up early for every time I’m in Shanghai. Similar to a Vietnames banh xeo, the Chinese crepe batter is made from mung bean flour, egg, pickled greens, scallions and cilantro. The filling varies from fried tofu, wonton skin, or dough. What I love about this crepe though is the sauce; a combination of chili, red bean and hoisin sauce. You’ll find these crepes in back alleys and on side streets—I tried the crepe cart just behind the Ritz on the northeast corner of Xikang Lu and Nanyang Lu. Lines typically start at dawn, so be prepared to get some sleep the night before or risk them being sold out!
I think I’ve mentioned this before, but I love fried chicken! I especially love Chinese Fried Chicken! Why? Because it’s perfectly seasoned and typically perfectly fried! There’s a vendor on the corner of Fuxing Zhong Lu and Wulumuqi Zhong Lu that fries his chicken in oil that’s seasoned with ginger, garlic, chilies and scallions. A great way to impart flavor without overpowering especially since it’s then dusted with Chinese five spice powder and sesame seeds.
If you make it out to the “real” Apple store on Huaihai Zhong Lu, don’t miss the Xi’an Niu Rou Bing shop across the street. Technically a beef pancake, but with a crispy exterior. The pancake is stuffed with ground beef that is seasoned in some amazing spices including Sichuan peppercorns. It’s a bit spicy so if you’ve never tried Sichuan peppercorns, there’s no better place than China to taste them! They will leave your mouth tingling and your palate open!
Similar to to the Xi’an Niu Rou Bing, one of my top ten items to try in Shanghai is the Cong You Bing. Essentially a scallion pancake, they are phenomenal early in the morning. I love them with an over easy egg on top. You can find these vendors all throughout Shanghai…just follow the smell!
Dan Dan soup is one of those dishes I savor after a long day. Typically served at night, a bowl of dan dang soup is comprised of glass noodles, minced pork and tofu skin stuffed pork and bits of crispy tofu. I like having this soup at a small shop at Fuchun Xiaolong.
Xiaolongbao also known as soup dumplings is one of those dishes you have to have. You can get these delicate, soup filled steamed dumplings anywhere in Shanghai-on the streets, in hole in the wall restaurants, at high end restaurants and even at the mall. ThoseXiaolongbao from smaller street vendors are typically filled with pork, but larger stands and brick-and-mortar shops offer crab roe and shrimp varieties. Since they’re available pretty much everywhere, you can imagine the variety offered throughout the city. For authentic soup dumplings, try Fu Chun, a popular restaurant. For those looking to try something off the beaten path, you can enjoy some very upscale dumplings are Din Tai Fung. The black truffle is unforgettable.
If you’re anywhere near the People’s Square, stop and try the Malatang. Similar to hot pot, when meats and vegetables are simmered in broth, this differs a bit because instead of dropping your own meat and vegetable in, you actually pick and choose skewers of meats and vegetable from a display and they’re cooked for you.
And last but not least are Shengjianbao. These dumplings hold a special place in my heart. I remember roaming the streets of Shanghai over 20 years ago, alone, hungry and basically lost. I stumbled upon this shop that only served these crispy-bottomed dumplings that were similar to soup dumplings. They were filled with pork and broth, but the main difference was that they were pan-fried, and garnished with sesame seeds and chopped green onions…they were amazing. At the time I didn’t know what Shengjianbao were but I knew they had become and still are my favorite dumpling. I like these by themselves, but you they are typically dipped in vinegar. The first little stall I stumbled upon is no longer there but you can get these anywhere. But, if you’re shopping in Xintiandi, try the stand on Songshan Lu, near Taicang Lu!
A common question I get asked is, “What’s your favorite Vietnamese dish?” That is a question that is really difficult for me to answer. There are so many amazing Vietnamese dishes that I don’t think I can even limit it to 10, much less one. However, when I’m in Vietnam, I do have my list of “Go To” street food dishes that I enjoy on a VERY regular basis. Regardless of where I’m travelling, these are dishes I can find throughout Vietnam. Though some will vary depending on the region, every rendition is absolutely are all DELICIOUS!
Call 303.799.9800 for more information!
There are still a couple items on my list of dishes I just can’t resist having when enjoying Japanese street food.
One of my favorite items is taiyaki. It is essentially a fish-shaped waffle that is traditionally stuffed with sweet, red bean paste. Though the traditional taiyaki is quite good, there are now many different fillings for taiyaki from custards and chocolate, and even meat and cheese. My all time favorite is the bacon and egg filled taiyaki. Filled with bacon, some cabbage and little bit of mayonnaise, the beauty of this taiyaki is egg yolk that is soft but not runny. It’s amazing!
I’m not a big fan of fried chicken unless I’m in Japan! The fried chicken in Japan, karaaga, is typically boneless and cut into little, bite-size morsels. Think of them like chicken nuggets - but these are not your typical chicken nuggets! Fresh ginger, sake and soy sauce are typically used in Japan to brine the chicken. Then they are dredged in a mixture of potato starch and corn starch before they’re deep fried. Simple and delicious.
You guys know how much I love meats on sticks… and since the Japanese love their yakitori, you’re sure to find something delicious meats (or kushiyaki) grilled on a stick. One of my favorite kushiyakis is grilled pork belly brushed with a sweet soy glaze and served alongside scallions. This one makes my mouth water.
But what really makes my stomach grumble is grilled squid, my other favorite kushiyaki. You can choose between head or tentacles - I like both! The squid is brushed with the same sweet soy glaze and served to you piping hot. It has an amazing smokiness and sweetness that is hard to match.
If you really want to be a Japanese street food expert, though, the best way to learn is to experience it! If you can’t make it all the way to Japan, you can join us at Street Kitchen for our great Japan-focused events. Come learn about rolling sushi with me during my Cooking Class on December 8th and try five courses of Japanese delicacies paired with wine, beer, and sake for only $40 per person at this month’s Japan Wine Dinner on the 26th. Call 303.799.9800 to make your reservations!
Malaysian cuisine is so diverse and Malaysian street food is so plentiful! Here are some of my favorite Malaysian street food items:
Char kuey teow, also known as stir-fried rice noodles, is the iconic Penang street food dish. You’ll find char kuey teow stalls all over Malaysia. Traditionally, flat rice noodles, shrimp, Chinese sausage, cockles, egg, fishcake, Chinese chives and bean sprouts are wok fried over very high heat in pork lard with a soy-based sauce. This dish is as addicting as it is infamous. As you travel throughout Malaysia, you’ll find different chefs cooking up their own interpretation of this dish. In fact, when you travel throughout Asia, you’ll actually find some rendition of this dish with a similar name. Of all the different versions throughout Malaysia, the Penang style of char kuey teow is the most famous and the most popular. So popular that when travelling outside of Penang, you’ll find char kuey teow stalls labeling their product "Penang char kuey teow" in order to attract customers.
Satays are another one of my top five favorite street food items. I love trying different satays/skewers whether I’m in China, Vietnam, Thailand or Japan. If I had to choose my favorite version, I have to say I love Malaysian satays the best. You can find great satays throughout Malaysia. Typically, they are cooked at Muslim Malays stalls and are amazing beef and chicken satays. If you are craving pork satays, you’ll need to search for them while in Penang. They are harder to find but just as good! Regardless, the Malaysian have a way fanning their flames and using their coals to impart an amazing and unique smoky favor into the satays that is ADDICTING!
Popiah, pronounced – po-pee-ahh is also one of my can’t-miss street food dishes in Malaysian. Some compare it to a spring roll…but it’s a lot bigger than a spring roll, so I like to think of it as a Malaysian burrito. It is essentially a very thin crepe made from wheat and stuffed with different types of both fresh and cooked vegetables – such as bean sprouts, carrots, jicama, turnips, green beans, lettuce and proteins like Chinese sausage, tofu, shrimp, crab meat and even pork depending on the vendor. It is typically eaten with a sweet sauce that is made with a blend of soy sauces, hoisin, shrimp paste, and bean paste and a spicy chili sauce.
My all-time favorite Malaysian street food dish is Laksa….but which one? That is a blog topic all unto itself! So stay tuned for my next Malaysian blog post as I discuss the differences between Kare and Assam Laksa. But you can join us this month for our Tour of Malaysia wine dinner and try some fantastic Malaysian dishes not available on our current menu.
So, looking back at past blogs on Thailand, first we talked about who, then came where and finally, it’s only fitting that next comes what. “What“ kinds of food will you find served on the streets in Thailand?
Pad Thai - the quintessential Thai dish on every Thai restaurant menu.
Rad Naa, flat rice noodles stir fried with beef, pork, or chicken and vegetables. This dish is topped with light gravy.
Another noodle dish is Pad See Iw, the same flat rice noodles but instead of light gravy, these noodles are stir fried with a dark soy sauce, vegetables, meat, and chili.
You can get simple dishes like satays - these meats skewered on sticks come in a number of varieties: chicken, beef, pork, lamb and sausages. If you want to be adventurous, you can also try crickets, scorpions, grasshoppers and beetles. You can find different types of curry and fired rice (Khao Pad) throughout the country. One of my favorite items that you would expect to find in a sit down restaurant, Tom Yum Kung is also available on the streets nicely packaged for consumption and/or travel in a plastic bag. You’ll notice this as you become a Thai street food veteran, food is typically served in a plastic bag. It’s actually quite ingenious. Instead of bulky to go boxes and bowls for items such as soups and curries, not only are plastic bags cost effective but they’re also a lot more earth friendly
I really do love Thai food of all kinds. I am excited to be doing Thai food for the first class of my cooking class series starting October 13th at Street Kitchen. We have a fantastic menu planned for the class, and Amore Vino wine shop is also joining us to provide wine education.
I am teaching these classes every 2nd Saturday of the month, and I have a menu from different Asian region planned for each class. Call Street Kitchen at (303) 799-9800 for more information.
The search for good street food in China can be intimidating, overwhelming and a bit stressful.
There are so many options to choose from but at the same time, so many obstacles to overcome.
First you have to be able to navigate your options and answer the difficult question - “where to start”? Then there’s the “what to order” and of course “how to order” and that can be a difficult task depending on what region and what dialect you should be speaking….so, yes, street food in China is everywhere, but finding the GOOD street food is an adventure and a process.
In the next couple blog posts on China, I’m going to make it easy for you and offer my suggestions on places to go-they’re tried, true and sure to please.
No trip to China would be complete without a visit to the capital, Beijing.
As I’ve mentioned in my last post, there is so much street food available in China it would be almost impossible to adequately describe it all. When you go to a huge metropolis like Beijing, you will find all of the variety in one place which is overwhelming– it is a country’s worth of food contained all within the limits of one very large city. To disseminate all that’s available, here are some of my go-to dishes and places that I like to frequent when eating in Beijing.
Yang rou chuan - lamb kebabs, or lamb on a stick – are one of Beijing’s best and most coveted street foods! As you’ll notice in other areas of Asia, meats on stick are pretty common. It is no different here, roasted lamb kebabs are a staple of Chinese street food, and are literally found all over the country. They are essentially lamb skewered, seasoned with cumin and chilies then cooked over a charcoal fire. The best ones are those that have chunks of fat nestled between each morsel of lamb. These skewers originated from China’s Western Xinjiang Province and are usually sold by ethnic Uyghurs from this region. There are literally hundreds of these vendors throughout Beijing- and they typically also sell other varieties of meat and organs on a stick.
I like to get my Yang rou chuan at the intersection of Gulou Dong Dajie near hutong Nanluoguxiang. Expect to pay around 25 cents.
Jianbing Guozi is one of those things I absolutely have to have when eating in Beijing. Originating from the east coast of China, native to nearby Tianjin, it is perfect for a quick bite. In Tianjin, they enjoy this for breakfast but in Beijing you can find it for lunch and sometimes at night outside bars and internet cafes. Jiān Bĭng vendors usually push a cart around. The cart holds their oven and all the ingredients. They typically set up on busy street corners or offices and schools for the breakfast and lunchtime crowds.
Jianbing Guozi is essentially a pancake-although a very complicated pancake and probably not one you’d find at home. The pancake batter is spread on a hot plate, and cooked. Then the pancake is spread with egg, scallions, chilies and a generous serving of a sweet soy based sauce. The finishing touches that add amazing texture to this delicacy is a generous stuffing of a light and crunchy dough…it seems a bit odd but it’s amazing! I like to have these for breakfast, so when in Beijing, go to the corner of Baofang Hutong and Dongsi Nan Dajie. But make sure you get there pretty early because by 9:30 they’re nearly sold out or have left for the day.
Stuffed buns are ubiquitous in China and can be found billowing steam out of bamboo steamers piled high and high. They are typically eaten for breakfast, so if you want the good ones, be prepared to stand in line by 8am. Baozi, as they’re called, which translates to ‘steamed stuffed buns’, are essentially steamed bread- the outer layer is fluffy and light, white bread which is then stuffed with a filling. Usually the filling is comprised of meat and/or vegetables but you can also find them filled with brown sugar.
Baozi come in many different sizes throughout China, you can find some the size of a baseball in other areas they’re the size of a tennis ball. You can even find some so small-the size of a golf ball and so delicate you can see actually see the filling. The ones you see commonly in Beijing are the size of a tennis ball, but a little flat, so similar to the size of a tangerine. The ones in Beijing are filled with pork, but as I said before but there are infinite varieties. You can usually also find shrimp-filled baozi as well as vegetable baozi in Beijing.
One of my favorite and Beijing’s most popular baozi stands sits on Xinzhongjie, about .50 a mile south of the busy Dongzhimenwai Street. Each bun costs about 75 cents.
One tip is to eat them right out of the bag before they get cold. Consider them a breakfast hot pocket!
This is just the start of my advice on Chinese street food and I will have more great street food advice for the discerning connoisseur in my next installment of my China blog. In the meantime, join us at Street Kitchen this month as we prepare a delicious Tasting Tour Dinner based on the cuisine of China. The dinner will be held in on Sept 26th, and will feature 5 courses with pairings for just $40 a person! Call 3030.799.9800 to make your reservations today.
The process or result of joining two or more things together to form a single entity
In this day and age, fusion is a term that is used every day in cooking. In fact, as an adjective, the term “fusion” is has a definition that refers specifically to cooking:
Referring to food or cooking that incorporates elements of diverse cuisines
Fusion is used very loosely in cooking. You can sear a piece of tuna and throw some salsa on it and all the sudden it’s a fusion dish. However, to me, the truest form of fusion cuisine is Vietnamese cuisine.
Let me give you a brief historical lesson: the French officially colonized Vietnam for a little over a century. However, the presence of the French in Vietnam can actually be traced all the way back to the late 16th century, and continued up until their expulsion in the mid 20th century. During that long period, the French imposed significant political and cultural changes on Vietnamese society. Along with these social change, it is evident that the cultural influence was also adopted into Vietnamese cuisine. When you think about the definition of fusion as “The process or result of joining two or more things together to form a single entity” then it makes sense that Vietnamese cuisine is true fusion. French ingredients and cooking techniques coupled with Vietnamese ingredients, palates and Eastern cooking techniques give us what we know as Vietnamese food today.
The French introduced to Vietnam baguettes, which were then combined with Vietnamese stuffing to become a popular fast food in Vietnam called bánh mì and known overseas as "Vietnamese sandwich". The French also brought to Vietnam onions, potatoes, tarragon, asparagus, and coffee. Onions are called "hành tây" (literally "Western onion") and potatoes are called "khoai tây" (literally "Western yam") in Vietnamese, which reflect their origin before arriving to Vietnam.
Despite their dominance, the French are not the only influence in Vietnamese cooking. From India the Vietnamese adopted curry or as we call it “cà ri”. Though not common in the North, cà ri is a quite popular dish in central and southern Vietnam. Typically, we eat the curry is eaten with either the French baguettes or with steamed rice. From Thailand, Vietnamese adopted xôi xoài (mango sticky rice) and lẩu Thái (Thai hotpot) - a very popular party food in Vietnam, especially in Saigon.
The cooking and culinary traditions of Vietnam are complex and exciting. It is a fascinating culture, with delicious food to complement its history. Stay tuned for my next Vietnam posting which will feature many of my favorite Vietnamese dishes and their recipes! In the meantime – this month is Vietnam month at Street Kitchen, so join us on August 26th for our Tour of Vietnam Tasting Dinner featuring some of my favorite items.
When in Malaysia, I always like to start my eating tour in Penang. Known as one of Southeast Asia’s finest destinations, Penang is to me a food lover’s paradise. Given the cultural diversity, and the importance of food in this culture, I find myself completely spoiled when walking through the streets. Penang's cuisine reflects the Chinese, Nyonya, Malay and Indian ethnic mix of Malaysia. To top it off, you can even find Thai influence in the cuisine.
Though you can enjoy hawker food any time of day, what I have found is that nothing compares to the energy and vibrancy as the food stalls at night; where throngs of people come out to join and delight in this city’s culinary creations-al fresco.
In Kuala Lumpur's former red light district you'll find Jalan Alor, a wide shopping street by day but at night transforms itself into an endless stretch of food stalls and open air restaurants. The air is thick with charcoal smoke as vendors furiously fan away their satay grills, and the metallic clang of woks punctuate the air.
It is this kind of dynamic energy embodied by Asia’s street food culture that has inspired the design and the food of Street Kitchen Asian Bistro – come by and indulge your love of street food and let us bring Malaysia to you!
In my last post about Japan, I was discussing Japanese street foods. This is a continuation of that post.
One thing you can’t miss when it comes to enjoying Japan’s street food is the yakitori. Yakitori is the main staple of a Japanese pub, “izakaya” but are widely found on the streets of Japan. Yakitori is bite-sized pieces of chicken skewered on a bamboo skewer and barbecued over a charcoal grill.
They’re pretty hard to miss because you’ll smell the aroma of fresh chicken with a sweet and savory sauce charred in the air as it leads you to the vendor. Yakitori is a very quick and delicious item…but be forewarned, just because I said chicken doesn’t mean it’s just chicken breast. In Japan as in other countries in Asia, the whole animal is appreciated.
Following is a list of item commonly found on yakitori menus:
hatsu or kokoro - chicken heart
rebã - liver
sunagimo , or zuri - chicken gizzard
tsukune - chicken meatballs
(tori)kawa - chicken skin, grilled until crispy
tebasaki - chicken wing
bonjiri - chicken tail
shiro - chicken small intestines
ikada -(lit. raft), Japanese scallion, with two skewers to prevent rotation
nankotsu - chicken cartilage
toriniku - all white meat on skewer
If chicken cartilage isn’t making your mouth water then perhaps the little food trucks with pictures of beautiful crepes will whet your appetite. Although crepes are not Japanese, there are modern Japanese versions of crepes sold throughout the streets of Tokyo. You can find them everywhere. They may not be as healthy as a grilled piece of meat on a stick, but some are loaded with fruit, whipped cream and chocolate if small intestines aren’t your thing!
This past spring, I was lucky enough to have spent a week in Thailand, enjoying the sites, the Songkran festival and of course Thai Street Food!
Food in Bangkok is plentiful and EVERYWHERE! There are over 11,000 sit-down restaurants in Bangkok, and tens of thousands fixed stalls of street food! With so many choices, it’s a bit daunting to try to decide where to go and what to try, especially on a strict time constraint. So, I made a list of my top neighborhoods to go to enjoy the glories of Thai food!
First on my list is Chinatown… Yes, there’s a Chinatown in Bangkok! And of course, its no surprise that this neighborhood would be known for excellent food, but what is surprising is that some of the best stuff isn’t Chinese, but traditional Thai and Thai-Chinese. Yawolat, the main road, gets really busy at night. I love going there to get great seafood. If you’re looking for a broader selection of items, stay on the side streets in Chinatown where I was able to find amazing fried chicken and noodles.
Next, I would suggest heading over to Victory Monument. There’s a large street market on the edge of the Victory Monument rotary called Victory Point with scores of street vendors, outdoor seating and plenty of diners stopping for a casual bite to eat. The food here is really typical-lots of noodles and rice dishes. Since this area is known for a younger crowd, I was also able to enjoy a little more western yet quirkier dishes like waffles on sticks.
After Victory Monument, head to Lumphini Park for dinner. Just outside of Lumphini Park on Ratchadamri Road you’ll find a cluster of vendors surrounded by tons of locals. I came here and enjoyed authentic som tam, lab and sticky rice.
And finally, for a little taste of everything, I head to Thong Lor.
It is a small strip just off of the main road. The vendors here offer the most comprehensive selection of Thai food. This is really convenient for a group since you can basically please everyone in one place. We were able to enjoy common dishes like pad thai to som tum to mango sticky rice. The strip is just outside of the Thong Lor Skytrain station, and is only open in the evening.
Next stop is Huay Kwang Market. While known as more of a market area, I found some fantastic food once I turned left off Ratchadapisek Road and followed Pracharat Bamphen Road for a few hundred feet. This is the best place to go late night since all the vendors serve until the early morning.
And finally, there’s Bang Rak. Beginning at the base of State Tower at the foot of Silom Road, I walked south on Charoen Krung toward the BTS. Once there, I found a selection of vendors specializing in amazing noodle and soup dishes, not to mention the satays, rice paper rolls and of course som tum.
Coming up in October, I am going to be starting cooking classes at Street Kitchen. The first class will feature Thai cooking, and I will be using many of these gastronomic experiences in Thailand to inspire the first class. Stay tuned to my Facebook page for more information.
When enjoying street food in Vietnam, one thing I’ll have to warn you about is the seating. Now some vendors have a more fast food style where you grab and go. Others have just seating and sometimes tables where you can enjoy the day’s special. However, “seating” is a loose term for miniature plastic chairs-similar to those you would find in a kindergarten class-except instead of wooden chairs, these are bright pink, yellow, red, green and sometimes blue plastic chairs. The kind that collapses beneath the weight of normal westerner…so beware of the chairs-be gentle and balanced!
As I mentioned in an earlier post, the food may taste different from region to region. However, the mainstream culinary traditions in all three regions (North - Hanoi, Central - Hue and South – Ho Chi Minh) of Vietnam share some fundamental features:
FRESHNESS OF FOOD: Most meats are only briefly cooked to preserve their original textures and colors. The most common meats used are fish, chicken, pork, beef, and various kinds of seafood. Vegetables are rarely cooked; if they are, they're boiled or only briefly stir-fried.
HERBS AND VEGETABLES:Herbs and vegetables are used abundantly in Vietnamese cuisines. Vietnamese dishes are incomplete without herbs and vegetables.
BROTHS AND SOUPS: based dishes are characteristic of all three regions
PRESENTATION: The condiments that accompany Vietnamese meals are usually colorful and arranged in eye-pleasing manners.
While sharing some key features, Vietnamese culinary tradition differs from region to region.
In Northern Vietnam, colder climate limits the production and availability of spices. As a result, the foods here are often less spicy than those in other regions. Black pepper is used in place of chiles to create spicy dishes. In general, Northern Vietnamese cuisine is not bold in any particular flavor - sweet, salty, spicy, bitter, or sour. Most Northern Vietnamese foods feature light and balanced flavors that result from subtle combinations of many different flavoring ingredients. Being the cradle of Vietnamese civilization, many of the signature dishes of Vietnam, originated in the North, such as phở, bún riêu, bánh cuốn
The abundance of spices produced by Central Vietnam's mountainous terrain makes this region's cuisine notable for its spicy food, which sets it apart from the two other regions of Vietnam where foods are mostly non-spicy. Once the capital of the last dynasty, the food from Hue is characteristically highly decorative and colorful, reflecting the influence of ancient Vietnamese royal cuisine. The region's cuisine is also notable for its sophisticated meals constituted by many complex dishes served at small portions-similar to tapas style eating. Some Vietnamese signature dishes produced at this region are bún bò Huế and bánh xèo.
The warm weather and fertile soil of Southern Vietnam create an ideal condition for growing a wide variety of fruit, vegetables, and livestock. As a result, foods in Southern Vietnam are often vibrant and flavorful with liberal uses of garlic, shallots, and fresh herbs. Sugar is added to food more than in the other regions. And coconut milk is prevalent in Southern Vietnamese cuisine. Seafood is a natural staple here.
There are so many different street food vendors in Thailand, but let me break it down into four categories:
Those street food vendors who are the most established typically own or rent a small space that looks somewhat like a kitchen/restaurant in a garage. Inside there are tables and chairs crammed into it and onto the sidewalk. These vendors tend to specialize in dishes that require tables and chairs where you can sit down and enjoy like, noodle or rice dishes.
The next groups of street food vendors are those who have their stalls directly on the sidewalk. Their eatery is clearly marked by the layout of their tables and chairs. You’ll notice though that as you walk down these streets, there are so many of these types of vendors that you’re not really sure where one ends and the other begins. These eateries are a bit different from the more established vendors because they have to pack their “restaurant” away every night and then set it back up every morning.
Then you have street food vendors who have the transportable stalls. These vendors normally come out at night and set up shop in front of businesses that have closed for the day. They transport their mobile units each and every day and park it right on the sidewalk. Typically these vendors specialize in only one or two items, since the transport and prep of their unit is very labor intensive. But, you’ll always find what you want, because there are dozens of them lined up on any sidewalk in the city!
And finally you have the "mobile" Thai street food seller. The person you see walking the streets, selling their wares on a long bamboo pole with a grill on one side and tray of raw ingredients on the other end to counterbalance the weight. This is the vendor who will stop and set up “shop” anywhere, ready to cook at your whim! These vendors typically have more “snacky” food items like, satays and grilled vegetables.With all of these options, you will definitely never go hungry in Thailand! If you want to experience a variety of Thai food without travelling across the world, join us this month on the 28th for our Taste of Thailand Wine Dinner series! Call Street Kitchen at 303.799.9800 to make your reservation.
As one of the largest countries in the world by land mass, with over 1.3 billion people, China is a street food lover’s dream.
I would have to say that China sets itself apart from the other Street Kitchen countries by the quantity and variety of items that you can get on the street corners. China has not only mobile stalls like those in Thailand and Vietnam, but also cavernous alleyways like Japan and market areas focusing on street food like Malaysia.
Whereas the street foods in the other countries are usually meals and dishes that require some kind of assembly or craft, in China everything is for sale. You can purchase items like crackers (in trash-bag-lined boxes!) from the back of a pickup, tea boiled eggs, boiled vegetables like potatoes, corn, taro or even dried fruit. The myriad of different steamed buns stuffed with different meats and vegetables is one of my favorite meals. Walking the streets of Shanghai, you’ll find different dumplings - steamed or fried with your choice of meats or vegetables.
You can find flat bread, crepes, fried rice, fried noodles and meat on sticks... any kind of meat, and I mean ANY kind - from chicken, pork, beef and lamb to silkworms, crickets, and seahorses. If you want it, someone is bound to have it! But if you want your meat fresher, try the stalls that have the live animals in cages for you to pick and choose from - snakes, turtles, chickens, eels and geese, just to name a few!
From halal beef noodles from the Lanzhou province to cold noodles from the Xi'an province, every region of China has amazing street food to enjoy. If you’re looking to have the experience without travelling across the world, join us for Street Kitchen’s November Wine Dinner – a Tour of China on Wednesday the 23rd!
When travelling in Vietnam, it’s easy to notice the difference between the regions. The food in the North is richer, darker and heartier. The food in the South is lighter, fresher and sweeter. Once the capital of the last dynasty of Vietnam, the food in Central Vietnam is very decorative and colorful reflective of the influence of ancient Vietnamese royal cuisine. The food is also spicier and you’ll notice that most meals are composed of many small plates.
Though the food may taste a little different from region to region, no matter where you are in Vietnam, you’ll come across someone wanting to sell you food. On any street corner, you’ll see a thriving culinary scene, hundreds of vendors and street-side “cafes” all clamoring for business.
These vendors, transport their portable “cafés” and food stalls each day appearing very early in the morning…ready to catch you on your way to your tour bus enticing you with the sweet smells of sticky rice, of freshly brewed Vietnamese coffee, aromatic pho or of baguettes stuffed with fresh sunny side eggs. Once they sell their wares, it’s off to replenish for the next day as another vendor takes their place to remain packed well into the night-serving anything from cha gio, bun cha, banh mi, pho, canh chua, chao tom, banh xeo, and my favorite balut eggs… If you can name it, you can have it here, because in Vietnam everything is street food.
Many of these “cafés” or food stalls are carried in bamboo baskets suspended from wooden yolks on the shoulders of little women. They carry all manner of foods in these baskets - more often than not, though, they carry a portable kitchen! In one basket sits a charcoal stove where tea is brewed or soup stock is simmered, and in the other basket could be tea cups, cookies and fruit, stacked bowls of noodles, fresh herbs, sliced meat, spoons, or bowls and chopsticks. You might see an elderly woman carrying a “don ganh” (two baskets slung from each end of a wooden or bamboo pole) or a young girl pushing a bicycle cart, selling freshly cut pieces of melon, pineapple, caramel popcorn or steaming hot buns. The street food in Vietnam is everywhere - it is a way of life. It is an amazing sight to see….and even better to taste and experience.
Vietnamese food is the food I crave when I’m far away from home, when I need comfort from a stressful day, or when I want to excite my palate with strong and refreshing flavors.
Meet STK's Mary Nguyen!