Laos is famous for being one of the most laid back countries on the planet; however its street food scene is anything but! On my travels through this South East Asian beauty I found myself eating my way around the streets of Luang Prabang, sampling as many of the tasty delights this country has to offer as I could in two weeks.
Laos food is like a burst of fresh flavours that are pummeled together with a traditional mortar and pestle and topped off with a good splash of padaek, otherwise known as the pungent fermented fish sauce used to add a salty zing to dishes. The signature flavours that typify Laos cuisine are galangal, chilies, kaffir lime, lemongrass, lime juice, garlic, ginger, coriander, mint, dill, and a whole bunch of different kinds of basil local to Laos. Taste buds aside, I’d have to say the best part about Laos street food has got to be the way it’s eaten – with your fingers, and rubbing shoulders with the locals!
The dishes on offer have descriptions that are pretty hard to resist. Like marinated fish steamed in banana leaf, or the Laos delicacy dried spiced buffalo meat, and Jaew Bong a thick sweet and spicy sauce made from roasted chillies, tamarind and dry buffalo skin which is best lapped up with a serving of sticky rice.
Perhaps one of my favourite Laos street food memories was after a night of wandering through the dimly lit night market – a Roti style chocolate and pineapple pancake, cooked on a humble food cart over casual conversations with the lovely vendor, and eaten on the back of a tuk tuk.
Step right up! It’s time for some authentic Mexican street food, brought to you on a cart no less. This season’s STREAT menu serving from our Fed Square location is—yes, you guessed it—tacos. We’ve got two options for you. Try a chorizo taco with salsa verde made from unripe tomatoes for a special tang, or our vegetarian black bean taco with nopales, or pickled cactus. It sounds exotic but actually tastes like a cross between gherkins and aloe.
I caught up with Rob, our food service manager and head chef, for a chat about the new menu. Rob came by the inspiration for the menu on his travels to Mexico. When he entered Mexico City’s main plaza near the Metropolitan Cathedral he sampled nopales, or pickled cactus pad, and loved the simple but well put-together flavours of Mexican cuisine. He’s also brought the spice of cumin and paprika to Melbourne by using the loose meat chorizo that is common in Mexico, as opposed to the sausage variety that is typical in Spain.
One night I ate some good street food in Buenos Aires, Argentina. We drove down to what’s called the costanera sur, a paved street beside the ecological reserve where many food vendors or carritos line up to offer a cheap, delicious selection of chorizos (pork sausages), bondiolas (pork shoulder), vacíos (flank primal cut), and hamburgers. Each carrito offers a variety of sauces to accompany the sandwich, including chimichurri, la criolla, and la cebollita. Buying a drink and a sandwich of one of these mouth-watering Argentine meats will cost you about 12 Argentine pesos, or roughly 3 U.S. dollars, and the ironic thing is that it’s right next to Puerto Madero where the richest condominiums and the most expensive restaurants are in Buenos Aires. As a hungry student I was quite happy with my sandwich de bondiola. :)
Willkommen, ladies and gentlemen, to today’s edition of the esteemed Pie Blog. Although new to STREAT, the Pie Blog has been around in various guises for a while now, and things are looking great. We’ve been getting some pretty good press lately, with write-ups in the Gore Weekly, the Taumarunui Sun, and Wodonga’s version of the TV Guide; Matt from MasterChef has been trying to get hold of my vast amount of pie puns; even Australian PM Kevin Rudd is getting in on the action: as the Women’s Weekly reports, he’s held more than his share of pie parties in Parliament. (He’s apparently also trying to push a referendum to officially change the name to Pieliament. Whether this is a good idea, I’m not so sure. Religion and politics shouldn’t mix). It seems the Pie Revolution is spreading, carried from town to town by truck drivers and travelling salesmen, along with VD and a bunch of crap from China.
After several months of planning and discussion, we are finally about to road test our first menu items. Planning a menu that meets all our criteria – authenticity, affordability and most importantly flavour and taste.
Our menu has to capture the flavours that you would find in a hawker stall anywhere around the world – chillies, garlic, fish paste, cinnamon, garam masala, limes, coriander and noodles.
STREAT's food has to be vibrant and exciting, and the preparation of meals on our carts by our young people has to entice tourists and Melburnians to come over and join us for their STREAT experience.