Instant Street (Food) Cred. Tom Kime's Street Food — Exploring the World's Most Authentic Tastes. A Book Review.
Eat this book.
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.
(excerpted from The Road Not Taken by Robert Frost)
Taking the road less traveled is a good philosophy by which to live a unique life, but if you plan on eating enthusiastically in a strange town you’ve never been, then venturing down the street most eaten is probably the best approach. So with that…
Two streets diverged in a town, and I—
I took the one most eaten by,
And that has made all the difference.
(with apologies to Robert Frost)
It’s my ultimate dream to travel to exotic locales, unabashedly eat the local fare, nuzzle in foreign food bosoms and learn about this wondrous world via my stomach. Armed with a good supply of Imodium and Zantac, I’d be famished and fearlessly foraging for delicious snacks and odd bites through the bustling alleys of Hong Kong to the manic streets of Mumbai, inhaling every fragrant fume these aromatic avenues have to offer until my synapses burst with pure joy.
Even if I’m not actually eating the exotic stuff of my dreams but merely reading about them, I’m very happy to have discovered Tom Kime’s new book Street Food to teleport me to the tastiest streets in the world.
Tom Kime’s Street Food introduces us to the unpretentious, unpredictable and always delightful nibbles found at food stalls on streets the world over, like savory Indonesian beef saté skewers, grilled sardines, Lebanese lamb pizza, stuffed fish balls, sweet fried ravioli, salt cod croquettes, Mexican pumpkin flower soup, hummus with cinnamon lamb and so many more. The names of the dishes themselves awaken the senses and are slightly poetic. If you have a good sense of flavor imagination, this book is enough to drive you mad.
In his exhilarating book, Kime relocates this humble culinary genre of street food from the mean streets to the fashionable boulevards. The deliciously simple and modest street snack gets a culinary makeover. Thanks to Kime’s recipes even the inelaborate bolani, an Afghani flat bread, wouldn’t look out of place at a snotty Hollywood soirée.
Part-travelogue, part-cookbook, this how-to tome is a favorite of mine not simply because of its subject matter and mouth-drenching recipes but also for the intimate travel photos that pull you forcibly right into Kime’s gastronomic quests, not caring a wisp if your passport is still valid. The food photography by Lisa Linder conjures the aroma right off of the page without being too flashy (this is still street food, after all). I also like how Kime himself is shown slurping, chomping and chewing his way through various victuals in a few of the photos. He looks like he’s thoroughly enjoying himself, more than a man really should while on the job and with his clothes on. Yeah, I’m jealous.
I tested the char siew (Chinese barbecued pork) recipe. It turned out excellently authentic — sweet and tender with a broad spectrum of Chinese spice flavors. And it’s a very easy recipe with most of the ingredients available at any well-stocked supermarket above the Mason-Dixon line.
From Sri Lanka to Singapore to Sicily and more, Kime journeys through four continents and puts together over 90 recipes each of which incorporates authentic ingredients or close substitutes (unfortunately, this can also make some recipes difficult to recreate if your grocer doesn’t carry the items). As a bonus, there is a great menu section at the end of the book with recipe grouping suggestions for picnics in the park to swanky cocktail parties.
This really is my kind of cookbook — one through which I can vicariously travel and imaginatively feast. I think Tom and me would travel just fine together.
Recipe for Char Siew (Chinese barbeque pork):
Serves 4 – 6
3 tbsp Asian fish sauce
1/2 tbsp soy sauce
1 tbsp sugar
1 tbsp rice wine
1 tsp five-spice powder
1 1/4 lb fresh pork shoulder, cut into longs strips about 1 1/2in thick
1. Combine all the ingredients except the pork to make a marinade. Stir well to mix. Place the pork in a glass or ceramic dish, pour in the marinade, and refrigerate, covered, for at least 2 hours. Turn a few times to ensure that the meat is coated by the marinade.
2. Heat an outdoor grill to medium, and place the pork on the grill over indirect heat. (You can also cook this in a grill pan or under a broiler.) Cook the pork for 15 minutes, brushing the marinade and turning to avoid burning. Serve hot or cold, in salads, soups, or stir-fries, or with some chili jam or sambal-style sauce.
Get Tom Kime’s Street Food for yourself or your favorite foodie who's trying to earn a little street (food) cred. Peace!