A Primer On Southeast Asian Fast Food
Street food is the very best way to glimpse the heart of a culture. You can sit and observe moms, dads, kids, and grandparents all in a "play" of life right in front of you. The smells wafting by of spicy salads, grilling satays, flavourful bowls of steaming noodles, chicken on a barbeque, and skewers of fresh topical fruits and a plethora of sates.
It is an assault on the senses! The colours you see, the aromas you smell have you drooling shamelessly, the deafening roar of motor bikes whizzing by intermingled in choruses of barking dogs and laughing children bring a smile to your face, all amidst the sticky humid blinding sun which begins to mesmerize you to the sheer delight of watching life unfurl.
What is amazing about this scene, and makes you so very special, is that each street vendor prepares your meal fresh just for YOU while you get the added benefit of watching them cook-hey free entertainment. If you watch carefully you can learn to make some of these soon to become favourites-you know those tastes that make memories that come flooding back as you sit on a cold Winters' day at your desk back in Buffalo, New York. Savour every smell, every sound, every taste for you will be missing this all too soon.
Part of the magic of Southeast Asia's street foods is that they are loaded with flavors-perfect balances of hot-sour-sweet-salty-amazing on the plate-it literally wakes your very being out of the ho-hum of eating. This isn't Mc D's for sure. You quickly develop the talent to tweak the flavors just to your tastes. You proudly add a dash of fish sauce, a squeeze of lime and smugly add some more chilies while catching a glance sideways to see if anyone notices that this farang is brave! Or do they sit quietly waiting to be entertained when you dive into the fiery bowl you have just doctored to your taste?
Mai Pen Rai you proudly say to yourself-the new learned phrase for no problem. You have a Singha beer in hand to meet the chance you have indeed over dealt your liberal offering of dried chillie powder. You take your first bite and break into a sweat, but settle back to the rush and euphoria of your bowl of fiery goodness thinking this sure beats a smear of that yellow guck called mustard at "Doggie Palace". Already planning how you will recreate this amazing bowl of noodles back in your own kitchen you begin to ponder where to find those "mie"-rice noodles, and the lovely salad herbs served on the side.
A loud motor bike comes all too close to your leg hanging out from under the too-low for firangs table. You react by jerking your leg back and hit your knee on the table top-ouch! Suddenly reality sets in again, but you are taking many mental notes of what you are eating and seeing along the streets of SE Asia.
This is how it often begins-the journey into cooking street foods. On a vacation or even from watching a Discovery Channel Show where you view a wonderful simple dish you simply must have!