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Street food has caught on in a big way among gourmands. Here are some of our favorites, from Peru to Singapore.
3. Beef pho in Vietnam. The main ingredients of this dish are echoes of the main cultural and political influences of Vietnam: beef from the French and rice noodles and ginger from China. It's the signature dish in Vietnam's vibrant street food repertoire. It is common for a chef-vendor to make only one dish for nearly their entire life: The same woman, for example, has parked herself on the same corner in Saigon for the past 30 years with her sticky rice flavored with turmeric and coconut and served on a banana leaf. But Vietnamese street vendors face a modern threat: Their government (like Singapore's) is pressuring street vendors to relocate away from well-traveled streets populated by tourists. Chef Bobby Chinn said the move will alter the nature of the food. “When the market stops coming to the people is when you’ll see the change,” he said.
|A woman prepares pho at a roadside restaurant in Hanoi, Vietnam, Nov. 28, 2008. Pho or noodles is one of the most popular traditional dishes for breakfast in Vietnam.
Nguyen Huy Kham/Reuters
4. Sfenj in Morocco. Street food in Marrakesh, Morocco originated with poor, working class people who traveled to the city from outlying areas for work and had no car or means to return home for meals, and would treat themselves to sweets like sfenj, a type of doughnut, and hearty meals like kefta, spiced ground meat. Today, residents — working class or not — are choosing to go out and eat street food for dinner rather than stay at home and cook. It’s cheap and simpler than the preparation and cleanup at home. But the trend to eat away from home reflects another class shift, said chef Mourad Lahlou. “Ten or 15 years ago people had maids and cooks in their homes. No one wants to do that anymore. They’re there from 8 to 5, and then they go home to their own families.”
Sfenj, Moroccan doughnuts, are made with an unsweetened yeast dough.
5. Laksa from vendors at a 24-hour hawker center in Singapore. Ten thousand itinerant street food hawkers used to crowd the one-square mile that is central Singapore. Fifty years ago the government swept them all into 120 hawker centers the size of a football field, each of which houses 200 tiny kitchens measuring no more than 8 feet by 8 feet. Today some 35,000 licenses have been issued to hawker center vendors. The secret to their food? One chef-vendor does one dish and one dish only. For Laksa, a spicy noodle soup, the chef prepares each component in the morning — makes broth, blanches noodles, cooks shrimp, shreds cucumbers and grinds chilies — and sells it until it runs out.
|Chef Bobby Chinn sips from a bowl of Laksa, a spicy noodle soup, in Singapore, April 6, 2009.
Editor's note: This story was updated to correct two photo credits.