Street food dressed in Sunday-go-to-meeting clothes
Latest visit: November 10, 2013
First visit: July 19, 2013
About Street Food
Street food is ready-to-eat food or drink sold in a street or other public place, such as a market or fair, by a hawker or vendor, often from a portable stall.
Street food vending is found around the world, but has variations within both regions and cultures.For example, Dorling Kindersley describes the street food of Vietnam as being “fresh and lighter than many of the cuisines in the area” and “draw[ing] heavily on herbs, chile peppers and lime”, while street food of Thailand is “fiery” and “pungent with shrimp paste … and fish sauce” with New York City’s signature street food being the hot dog, although the offerings in New York also range from “spicy Middle Eastern falafel or Jamaican jerk chicken to Belgian waffles” In Hawaii, the local street food tradition of “Plate Lunch” (rice, macaroni salad and a portion of meat) was inspired by the bento of the Japanese who had been brought to Hawaii as plantation workers. You can read more about Street Food Around the World on Facebook. And here’s a list of Asia street food types.
Perhaps my favorite street food can be found on the street corners of Lima and many other Peruvian cities: anticuchos, marinated and grilled on charcoal beef heart served on skewers. Sadly, anticuchos cannot be found in any of the three Paruvian-oriented restaurants in The Duke City. My favorite street food in the USA is the Maryland Crabcakes served at Faidley’s Seafood stand in Baltimore’s Lexington Market, a legendary stand-up eatery.
Tai Tok is the driving force behind Street Food Asia. I first met Tai at the January 26, 2013 Roadrunner Food Bank Souper Bowl, where his entry (Chicken Kai Soi Green Curry Soup) won second place in the Critic’s Choice competition (I was one of the judges). After the judging was done, I walked the floor to see what was not entered in the Critic’s Choice competition (desserts and such), and Tai spied me from about 50 feet away. He rushed over to me and asked me why I had not visited his place and written about it. Well, Tai, I finally got around to Street Food Asia last weekend, and am I sure glad that I did.
The restaurant concept is clever: put a handful of food types together (such as wraps, rice cakes, sandwiches, rice bowls, noodle dishes, curries, dumplings, spring rolls, grilled meats, wok fried foods, and more) from many Asian countries and cities ( such as Saigon, Tokyo, Seoul, Bangkok, Kuala Lumpur, Beijing, and more) and let the diner choose from a ginormous menu (which costs $25 to produce) If you can’t make up your mind or if you don’t see your favorite, just ask and the kitchen will do their best to accommodate you. You should probably read the menu online before you go for the first time.
Tai tole me that he makes the best and only authentic Thai Iced Tea in the city. It is sweetened with condensed milk, and while Tai may exaggerate a bit, it is excellent. The exaggeration is part of Tai’s charm.
Wow. Where to start. Fortunately, I had read the menu online that afternoon and knew exactly what I wanted. Five of the other six in our party had all been here before, and knew the ropes. And Dr. Jane almost always gets Pad Thai in a new place. The staff is very helpful, answering questions that the veterans had (yeah, it’st that complicated) .
Spring Rolls, Vegetarian (Fried)
While we were sorting through the complications, our server brought us a bowl containing seven fried spring rolls. Sh had overheard that we had one vegetarian and one vegan at the table. Good ears and good choice. These rolls were perfectly fried with no discernible oily taste, and the vegetable stuffing was as juicy and tender as could be. A delicious winner.
Summer Rolls with Portobello and Mango Relish
Our veggie, Dr. Gail, had these beauties for her entrée. The rice paper skins were thin and semi-transparent. Accompanied by two dipping sauces, this was a fabulous dish. I will probably get them on my next visit. A nearly perfect dish.
Deep fried battered shrimp with a tangy dipping sauce.
These shrimp are served on a bed of coarsely shredded coconut pieces. The shrimp are expertly fried, being crispy on the outside and still juicy and succulent on the inside, and are among the tastiest that I have had anyplace.
All Asian (and Thai) restaurants serve a version of Pad Thai, some being more successful than others. The Street Food Asia version is among the best That both Jane and I have had. Not too dry, not too wet. Perfectly done. Jane ordered this with shrimp and chicken. The shrimp were large, juicy, and succulent, with just the right texture. This is a standout dish. The vegan in our party ordered this with tofu, and was equally delighted.
Red Curry with Seafood and Noodles
Red curry (Thai: แกงเผ็ด) is a popular Thai dish consisting of curry paste to which coconut milk is added. The base is properly made with a mortar and pestle, and remains moist throughout the preparation process. The main ingredients are garlic, shallots, (dried) red chiliepeppers, galangal, shrimp paste, salt, kaffir lime peel, coriander root, coriander seeds, cumin seeds, peppercorns and lemongrass. Common additives are fish sauce, sugar, Thai eggplant, bamboo shoots, thai basil (bai horapha), and meat such as chicken, beef, pork, shrimp, frog, snake or duck. Tofu, and meat analogues or vegetables such as pumpkin, can be substituted as a vegetarian option. This dish normally has a soup-like consistency and is served in a bowl and eaten with steamed rice or noodles. The standard red curry paste contains shrimp paste, which renders it inappropriate for vegetarians. There are, however, vegetarian red curry pastes available.
I ordered this curry with seafood (shrimp, mussels, clams, and whatever else was on hand) and noodles (rice vermicelli). It comes with peas in the pod. I asked for it extra hot, and that’s what I got. Notice the red chiles floating atop the curry). Mix the noodles into the broth, stir them up, and get down to it.
The first taste sent my taste buds on a trip to heaven. This is a complex dish that explodes on the palate. The version here is richer in flavor than any other that I have ever had. The shrimp was perfectly cooked and incredibly tasty. I would come back here every week for just this dish. It’s that good.
Red curry rice bowl with chicken
The pulchritudinous Natalie had the rice bowl version of this curry with chicken. She has had this before, and keeps coming back for more.
This is heavenly stuff.
As we were finishing our meal ans settling the bill among us, Tai came over to the table and asked if we had any dessert yet. I replied that we were too full. What I really meant was that I rarely eat desserts in Asian restaurants, but didn’t want toe conversation to go down that road. He insisted that we try some, and brought three desserts to our table: Bangkok Street Black Rice Pudding with toasted coconut flakes served cold, black sticky rice, and banana fritters. Both rice desserts were very good, but a bit sweet for my taste (everyone else loved them).
On the other hand, the Banana Fritters completely took me by surprise. Yeah, they were sweet, but the taste (with a hint of cinnamon) were spectacular. My next meal here will be the red curry (with noodles, shrimp, and calamari) and these marvelous banana fritters.
The portions are between generous and ginormous. We had enough Pad Thai for two large dinner plates the next night (and it still tasted great, too).
There are 51 places listed in Urbanspoon that serve Asian food. I love Asian food, and Street Food Asia is one of the best in town. That being said, is this authentic street food? Probably not (arguably), but who cares. It is what I call street food dressed in Sunday-go-to-meeting clothes. Street Food Asia is at times crowded and noisy. Everyone is having fun. Just relax and join in the fun. Treat this place as a fine adventure.
And talk with Tai. Hus enthusiasm is infectious.
Street Food Asia has earned an Honorable Mention on my Top Ten List.