[t]../articles/images/2530-Food.jpg[et]I returned home from my two-and-a-half-week vacation in Southeast Asia about a month ago. Since returning, I am nostalgic for the local street food. If you are unfamiliar, street food is exactly what it sounds like – ready-to-snack food served to you on the side of the pavement. Having grown up in Shanghai, street food was never foreign to me but I am still impressed by the broad range of diversity and culture waiting behind every vendor in almost every major city in Asia. Unfortunately, with the pace of development in these cities, many of these cherished local vendors are disappearing, and the age-old tradition is gradually becoming obsolete. There’s a certain nostalgia as I reflect fondly on the memories of growing up surrounded by mouth-watering street cuisine, soon to be replaced by corporate franchises. As a tribute to street food, I dug up some of my favorites from my trip this summer.
Drinkable Soup Buns: Shanghai
Walking through Yu garden, I saw many tourists carrying colorful straws and drinking from a doughy bun. Enter: the soup bao. Soup bao along with other baos are an integral part of Shanghainese cuisine. I found the soup hearty, aromatic, and fresh. Although I admit, I’m not a huge fan of baos without some solid protein in it.
Beef Vermicelli: Huainan
The city itself is known for beef vermicelli. Every street features their own rendition of the dish. Beef vermicelli has a flavorful beefy broth with clear, -glass noodles that’s perfect for the summer. The spiciness of the broth helps you sweat off the summer heat, leaving you cooler and fresher than before. Having tried the authentic version, it’s hard to be satisfied with this dish outside of Huainan.
Crispy Chicken Schnitzel: Taipei
The last time I tried schnitzel was in Austria. Schnitzel refers to thinly sliced pork lightly coated with batter and fried to produce a crispy texture. Unlike its Austrian counterpart, often served only in restaurants, Taipei’s night markets are swamped with local vendors selling massive slices of fried chicken. The chicken is often coated with five spice seasoning and features a crispy outer shell and tender chicken on the inside.
Stinky Tofu: Hefei,
I knew my southern China trip would not be complete without this local speciality. Its infamous stench would waft through the air as I walk down alleyways in my hometown. However, I was pleasantly surprised by the tender texture, and the spicy, hearty flavor of the tofu. It was freshly fermented and lightly grilled on the side of the street by a local family.
Peppery Beef Buns: Taipei
One of the first vendors you see walking into Raohe Night Market in Taipei makes these juicy, peppery beef-packed buns baked outdoors in makeshift ovens. The crunchy smoky texture of the dough paired with the fragrant beef tastes like a restaurant delicacy rather than a night market staple.
Watermelon Juice: Taipei
Luckily after exhausting my supply of water, I found a watermelon juice vendor in a nearby night market. Despite the hype with this drink at night markets, I found the juice to be less refreshing and more watered down than what I anticipated. I would have preferred going with purchasing a whole watermelon instead.
Egg Waffles: Hong Kong
Let’s be honest, who doesn’t love waffle that look like a portion of a gigantic bubble wrap? I tried these for the first time in Hong Kong after an exhausting day of hitting up popular tourist attractions. These egg waffles taste fluffier than the typical Belgian waffles with a strong eggy flavor that could only be experienced but not described.
Xin Xu is a post-graduate health-science AU student, aspiring clinician, globe-trotter, parrot-breeder and tea-connoisseur.