With World Cup fever soon to hit, chef Andy Bates heads to Brazil for his new series, Brazilian Street Feasts. We join him in Rio for beach burgers, caipirinhas and even some samba dancing.
Camels are not an unusual sight in north African deserts, but when the distinctive humps are spotted on the sands of Rio’s Praia do Pepe beach it’s an altogether different phenomenon.
Yet Marco Antonio Maciel and his 6ft 6ins camel on wheels, built with the help of the local Mangueira Samba school, are just as much a part of the landscape as wide-brimmed parasols, garish beach towels and girls in eye-watering ‘cheese wire’ bikinis.
Every day, Marco walks up and down the beach dressed in a keffiyeh (headdress) and a long tunic, selling 1,000 esfihas (Middle Eastern parcels filled with ground meat, chicken, or vegetables) from a hot plate in his camel’s rear.
He’s one of the many local characters that bring Brazil’s colourful street food scene to life in a new TV series with British chef Andy Bates. As the country gears up to host the World Cup this summer, it’s the latest in a wave of new programmes dedicated to all things Brazilian.
Following the success of programmes in the UK and America, 36-year-old Bates, who started out running a pie stall in London’s Whitecross Market, has spent four weeks travelling through Brazil looking for street snacks – and the masterminds behind them – that get the country’s taste buds tingling.
I’ve joined him in Rio for the final leg of filming to get a real flavour for the ‘carioca’ (Rio native’s) lifestyle.
Already, Andy has salivated over Gloria Gonzalez’s Uruguayan barbecued meat and chimichurri sandwiches – a favourite of Anthony Bourdain – at Ipanema’s famous Posto 9, learned how to make a caipirinha at a music stall in the back streets of Santa Teresa, and even danced samba on stage at the Sunday Feira das Yabas – a festival of music, dance and food lovingly masterminded by Afro-Brazilian women.
He’s a good sport, ready to embrace any mayhem, mishaps and marvels that come his way.
“There’s no one specific dish that really sums up this country,” says Andy, now sitting on the back of Marco’s camel, with reins in his hands. “But it’s the people and their passion that really stand out.”
One of Andy’s favourite characters is wonderfully off-the-wall Rafael, a 26-year-old entrepreneur who sells “cosmic” Hareburgers to hungry beach-goers, grabbing their attention by playing a wooden flute.
“I use mushrooms from space and special cosmic cheese,” says Rafael, throwing his hands upwards to the heavens. Although he admits the cashew nuts which provide a crunchy topping are “just from the Amazon”.
But Andy has found ample inspiration to create a collection of recipes, which he hopes viewers will try their hands at this summer.
“I want people to have a go at some of these dishes in the kitchen, then sit back and enjoy the World Cup matches with mates,” he says.
Pronounced and also spelled Kolo Mee, this is a dry-noodle dish topped with seasoned mincemeat, usually marbled pork. The seasoning is typically a combination of garlic, shallots, soy sauce, lard, pepper, and fish sauce. The noodles are “flash boiled,” meaning they are dipped in cold water once they are soft, then dipped again in hot water before being plated. There are many different takes and versions found on the streets, such as replacing the pork with beef. Post up next to a stand for a few moments to appreciate the separate “dipping tanks” used in the flash-boiling process.
Despite being a shrimp-based dish, this “wet-noodle” bowl is eaten for breakfast by the locals. Prawn paste is boiled down and combined with tamarind, ginger, garlic, shallots, and coconut milk, resulting in a light, creamy broth that the unknowing might confuse for a curry flavoring (curry is added to some versions, but not in the traditional Malaysian recipe that uses tamarind). Squeeze a lime over the top and use both chop sticks and a spoon to enjoy this delightful street soup.
This snack is far from complicated, but it is a staple of Southeast Asian culture. Beef, chicken or pork is barbecued on a stick and served with a spicy sauce, such as peanut or pineapple. You can pay for these with the change in your pocket, and they make great snacks for a walk and talk through the city streets.
[Photos: YienYien/Will McGough/thanislim.com]
The next pieces of Michael Ng’s Jackson Ward food court are sliding into place.
Ng, a landlord and owner of the Thai Cabin food carts and Thai Corner restaurant, has leased space to a mobile food business looking to put down roots and is working to launch another restaurant on North Second Street.
Slideways Bistro plans to open next month in Ng’s 700-square-foot space at 317 N. Second St. The restaurant will be a brick-and-mortar incarnation of Garret Walker’s Slideways Mobile Bistro, which, as its name implies, specializes in sliders or mini sandwiches.
The eatery signed a one-year lease for the storefront that was briefly home to Estes BBQ’s first try at a stationary restaurant. Estes closed in November after what Ng described as a trial period.
Slideways joins a growing list of restaurants to set up shop in Jackson Ward.
“More people are realizing that going downtown is not a bad idea anymore,” Slideways director of operations and head chef Mike Siler said of the decision to open in the neighborhood.
Walker launched Slideways Mobile in April 2013 with a single food trailer and has added two more to his fleet. Slideways has between $20,000 and $25,000 budgeted for the new restaurant, Walker said. He is financing his efforts with personal savings and a loan.
In addition to signing his new tenant, Ng is working to open Ándale, a taco shop, in the 700-square-foot space at 325 N. Second St.
He has owned the property since 2006 and has used it as a commissary for Thai Cabin and Thai Corner. He expects it to cost between $20,000 and $25,000 to open his taco shop.
Ándale will sit next to Thai Corner at 327 N. Second St. Ng owns that space, along with 315 N. Second St., which is occupied by Big Herm’s Kitchen.
“I like variety,” Ng said. “As long as no one is opening a Thai restaurant across the street, I’m okay.”
He said it’s long been his hope that the corner at East Marshall and North Second streets would become a dining destination.
Ng said he paid $85,000 for the property at 325 N. Second St. almost eight years ago and has put $150,000 into it. The news that more than 200 apartments are planned for the nearby Central National Bank building renewed his confidence in Jackson Ward.
For now, the eateries planned for and already open on North Second serve lunch only. Ng, who started Thai Cabin with food carts downtown in 2000, said he is hoping to begin dinner service at Thai Corner in 2014.
There’s a lot of intelligence coming from the street these days, and I’m not talking about a stock tip or the latest wisdom from financial analysts. The street where all the action seems to be is paved on local menus, with more “street” versions of otherwise conventional dishes than I can count, and it’s causing heavy traffic at local eateries.
To find out what’s behind the street food sensation, I recently sat down with Chef Christopher Christian, partner and co-founder of Fox Restaurant Concepts (which, in full disclosure, is a client of my public relations agency) for some street talk at Blanco, 2905 E. Skyline Drive.
“At its soul, street food is food for the people,” Christian said. “It’s generally local fare with fresh ingredients, served in small portions, that is simple, fun, affordable and recognizable.”
Christian tells me that tradition also plays a big part in street cuisine, as many of today’s street foods were inspired by dishes that have been prepared and sold by vendors on the streets of Mexico and other countries for generations.
“The kind of food we associate with festivals and cultural celebrations, food that you can enjoy literally walking down the street, food that you hold in your hand and eat with not a lot of effort, that’s street food,” he said.
While some of Blanco’s menu is built on the soul of the street, the esquites, or street corn, is perhaps the best representation of the street style.
The dish begins with fresh ears of corn which are roasted in-house over an open fire. The kernels are then shaved from the cob and tossed with ground chilis, green onions, lime juice, cilantro and Cotija cheese.
“Our secret ingredient is a touch of mayonnaise and sour cream, which brings a fatty richness to the sweetness of the corn and the smokiness from the wood.”
Though Blanco has featured street corn on its menu for quite some time, Christian said he believes the seemingly sudden spike of street food on menus today is a response to market demands for smaller dishes that are sharable.
“Street foods are like our version of tapas,” he said, “where you can share a number of different dishes in a social gathering that are really on the inexpensive side.”
In addition to the esquites, Christian says that Blanco’s carnitas taco is another great example of street fare, featuring braised pork shoulder, salsa verde, orange, chilis, onions, cilantro and lime juice.
“This is a traditional carnitas preparation right from the street; it handles well and eats well,” he said. “Pair this one up with some esquites and a cold beverage, and you’re good to go.”
With respect to that cold beverage, Christian stopped short of assigning a specific cocktail to the street moniker, but suggested that a fresh margarita comes close.
“Fresh-squeezed lime and orange juices with some muddled mint and cucumber, along with a unique tequila, together with a street taco and street corn – yep, that’s it right there.”
In addition to Blanco, other local restaurants that I’ve observed doing interesting things with street fare include The Abbey, Café Tepa, Gio Taco and Saint House Rum Bar.
The next time you see a street on a local restaurant’s menu, I suggest you head that direction without a detour.
Correction: Due to an editing error, a photo caption misidentified the restaurant that made it. It was Proper.
Contact Matt Russell, whose day job is CEO of Russell Public Communications, at email@example.com. Russell is also the host of “On the Menu Live” that airs 4-5 p.m. Saturdays on KNST 790-AM, as well as the host of the Friday Weekend Watch segment on the “Buckmaster Show” on KVOI 1030-AM.
You’re rarely more than a couple of blocks from a banh mi shop or street vendor in Saigon, as Ho Chi Minh City is still called by southern Vietnamese. See more photos.
As pho is to Hanoi, so banh mi is to Ho Chi Minh City. The French-inspired sandwich – a split baguette spread with mayonnaise and sometimes pate, filled with meat, cheese or canned fish, and garnished with daikon-and-carrot pickle, a few sprigs of cilantro, and often spicy Sriracha and umami-rich Maggi sauce – was born in northern Vietnam but moved south with bread bakers after 1954, when France’s colonial rule ended and the nation was divided in two. Nowadays you’re rarely more than a couple of blocks from a banh mi shop or street vendor in Saigon (as the city is still called by southern Vietnamese), yet a mediocre version marred by flabby bread and insipid fillings is more the rule than the exception.
Last month I set out to identify a few banh mi worth travelling for, and enlisted the help of Saigon-born food writer and banh mi expert Andrea Nguyen, who baked daily for three months to perfect the baguette recipe for her forthcoming cookbook “The Banh Mi Handbook,” out in the U.S. in July.
Our first stop: a wheeled cart operated by Thanh Mai Hoang, a relative newcomer who’s been in the business for only two or three years.
“When she slid open the door and I saw the egg cooking over charcoal… my banh mi radar went off,” said Ms. Nguyen. She was referring to Ms. Hoang’s ingenious kitchen-on-wheels, a stainless-steel trolley with a low compartment housing a brazier and a heated warming cabinet in which loaves crisp on a slatted wooden rack.
With the exception of gio heo, Vietnam’s steamed mortadella-like pork sausage, Ms. Hoang makes each of the ingredients herself in her banh mi dac biet – a meat-laden “special” banh mi with pate, pork three ways (barbecued, roasted and gio heo), and carrot-and-daikon pickle. She’s so keen on quality that fresh baguettes are delivered to her several times over each three- to four-hour workday, during which she sells about 100 sandwiches.
“Kheo,” a Vietnamese word for doing something with thought and care, is how Ms. Nguyen described Ms. Hoang’s operation. The observation was confirmed with my first bite of warm banh mi, which sent shards of golden crust flying and littered my shirt with crumbs. An optimal ratio of bread to filling meant ingredients stayed put as I worked my way down the loaf, with each bite marked by the fresh tang of crunchy pickle and the richness of mayonnaise, pate and an optional runny-yolked egg.
David Hagerman for The Wall Street Journal
Patrons dig in to op la (eggs fried with sausage in single serving pans) and banh mi at an alley table at Hoa Ma. See more photos.
From Ms. Hoang’s cart we taxied to Hoa Ma, a little corner shop that serves banh mi and op la (eggs and sausage fried in a single-serving pan) at tables parked in the alley that runs alongside the shop. Here, proprietor Thi Hanh Le carries on the business founded by her grandfather in 1960. “He sold banh mi so that he could finish work in the morning and devote his afternoons to writing poetry,” Ms. Le told us, standing beside the big metal box set atop the charcoal brazier in which Hoa Ma’s baguettes are kept warm.
Ms. Nguyen was intrigued by the distinctively short, plump baguette, with its unusually dense ruoc (“innards” or crumb), featured in Hoa Ma’s banh mi, which is stuffed with extra-thick slices of meat and sausage. “You don’t need the long loaf unless you’re going on a trip, and our customers prefer less bread and more meat,” said Ms. Le. I was especially enamored of Hoa Ma’s pickles – thick cross-slices of carrot, daikon and cucumber rather than the standard strips of daikon and carrot – and pate as smooth as crushed velvet.
On my own the next morning, I was lured by the scent of grilled pork to So 1, a shallow corner unit selling banh mi, noodles and lunchtime rice plates. Owner Tran Linh Son worked for a decade in hotel kitchens before opening his shop in 2008, and his innovative style shows in the trio of condiments – oil-softened scallion greens, fish sauce, toasted crushed peanuts – that replace the usual mayonnaise, Sriracha and Maggi sauce on his banh mi. A more subtle foil for the smoke of barbecued meat, it made for a sandwich for the banh mi purist, stripped-down and satisfying.
Where to Eat Banh Mi in Saigon
Mornings only, until noon or supply runs out:
Thanh Mai Hoang’s banh mi cart is next to a coffee shop in the middle of the block. Truong Dinh between Ngo Thoi Nhiem and Nguyen Dinh Chieu. VND 15,000.
Hoa Ma Quan, 53 Cao Thang, District 3. VND 30,000.
So 1, 1 Nguyen Thuong Hien (at Nguyen Thi Minh Kai), Phuong 5, District 3. VND 15,000.
Robyn writes about food and travel. She’s lived in Hong Kong, Shanghai, Bangkok, Ho Chi Minh City and Kuala Lumpur. Two years ago she moved to Penang — for the hawker food, of course. Follow her on Twitter @EatingAsia
TAMPA — Most Americans are only familiar with foods from two or three Asian countries, say the owners of Royal Palace Thai. Now they say it’s time to discover Philippine, Korean, Japanese, Indian, Vietnamese, Mandarin and other Asian cuisines.
Randall Knowles, who runs the S Howard Avenue restaurant with his wife, Tapanee Damrongwatanasuk, are introducing a new small-plates menu called SoHo Hawkers.
“In 16 years of traveling to Thailand, we often ate Asian street food,” Knowles said. “Cooked in big woks by ‘hawkers,’ people who hawk street treats.”
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Hong Kong noodle soup, Bahn Mi sliders and Thai flatbread made with peanut sauce instead of red sauce were instant hits. Wings are a specialty: five for $5, with 10 sauces, such as green jalapeno and Bangkok Is Burning. Japanese teriyaki bowls come with a choice of chicken, shrimp or mixed vegetables. Definitely save room for mango creme brulee and Indian mango ice cream desserts.
A new bartender handcrafts cocktails to sip on the Deck811 drink area. During happy hour, from 4:30 to 6:30 p.m., IPA goes for $2.
Royal Palace Thai Restaurant and SoHo Hawkers, 811 S Howard Ave., is open 11:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. and 4:30 to 10 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday. Visit royal palacethai.com or call (813) 258-5893.
Jet City wakes up Seminole Heights
Coffee entrepreneur Jessica Glover expanded into Seminole Heights this month, opening Jet City Espresso on N Florida Avenue, north of Hillsborough Avenue. Her Hyde Park coffee bar on Edison Avenue remains open daily.
Neighbors quickly swarmed to the cozy bungalow for coffee, espresso, chai latte and her signature Cafe Borgia, a honey- and orange-infused latte. They also liked the free Wi-Fi and ample parking.
Glover’s baked goods include many paleo and gluten-free choices.
“Everything as healthy and organic as possible,” Glover said.
Here’s an example: Jet City Salad, $12, mixes greens and kale, slow-cooked apricot chicken, black rice, cauliflower mash, toasted pumpkin seeds and thick shavings of asiago. Two sandwich selections are smoked Gouda portobello and smoked whitefish on a croissant with all fixings, both $9. For dessert, try gluten-free chocolate pumpkin cake or paleo lava chocolate cake.
There’s outdoor seating on the front porch and coming soon, a side deck. A beer and wine license application is in the works.
Jet City Seminole Heights, 5803 N Florida Ave., is open 7 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Friday, 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. weekends. Visit jetcityespresso.com or call (813) 541-5048.
Olive Garden grows on West Shore Boulevard
The West Shore district welcomed Olive Garden on Feb. 3, near the entrance to International Plaza. General manager Bert Corbett transferred from the Tampa Palms location to run the 300-seat restaurant.
In addition to favorite Italian entrees, diners will find lighter fare and small-plate selections such as Parmesan roasted asparagus and crispy risotto bites starting at $4.
A new Italiano burger comes topped with prosciutto, fresh mozzarella cheese, arugula and marinated tomatoes.
Olive Garden, 1802 N West Shore Blvd., is open 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Sunday through Thursday, 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. Friday and Saturday. Call (813) 286-6564.
Do you know something that should be Everybody’s Business? Call (813) 226-3332 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Several years ago, acclaimed Houston chef Hugo Ortega — originally from the slums of Mexico City — traveled 4,000 miles across Mexico with his father and his brother Ruben.
Their collection of tastes, personalities and stunning photographs conjure a vibrant portrait of a national cuisine.
Part cookbook and part travelogue, “Hugo Ortega’s Street Food of Mexico” is full of exotic yet familiar recipes: a citrusy ceviche with fresh blue crab and a sour prickly pear called xoconostle; a chunky auburn salsa of peanut and pumpkin seeds from the state of Michoacán; tortillas the color of wine.
Ortega, who will speak at the Tucson Festival of Books Culinary Tent March 15, came to the United States at 17 and worked his way from dishwasher to executive chef of Backstreet Cafe in Houston.
Many of the recipes in his book draw from Ortega’s time living on a family farm in Puebla, Mexico, a colonial city southeast of the capital. A highlight is the cilantro-spiked crawfish and cactus-paddle salad Ortega would eat from a plastic bag as he walked through the market with his mother as a child.
A large section of the book also is dedicated to the colorful ceviches of Baja California and the southern port city of Veracruz. Many recipes from Mexico City, such as the tacos and fried masa cakes, called antojitos, can be a little labor intensive, requiring you to shape the dough and prepare the frijoles a day in advance. The heavily detailed process is a testament to the traditions and work ethic of Mexican street vendors: the tireless nation of workers who form the backbone of Mexican cuisine.
Ortega will speak at 10 a.m. March 15 (see “About This Series”).
Cary cookbook author Sandra Gutierrez has a cooking class next month exploring Mexican street food.
At 6 p.m. March 26, Gutierrez will teach recipes from her recent book, “Latin American Street Food: The Best Flavors of Markets, Beaches and Roadside Stands from Mexico to Argentina.” The class menu includes horchata; orange, onion and pepita salad; homemade corn tortillas; tacos al pastor; traditional Mexican refried beans; Mexican rice; and candied yams.
The class costs $45. To register, call 919-929-7133 or go to southernseason.com. Gutierrez’s Feb. 19 class on Peruvian street food has already sold out. So you may want to register sooner rather than later.
Finally, after nearly seven years of planning, thousands of hours of debate, and a disastrous first attempt, Toronto is on the verge of passing street food policy that could actually lead to street food being sold.
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