Tag Archives: street food

Top Food Trucks in London

It is no secret that we are mad about food carts, and we consider them to be one of America’s most important exports. Food cart culture has spread to Paris in recent years and has taken root in London. It is worth noting that food “cart” and food “truck” have very different connotations in British English, with food carts having a somewhat dubious reputation. Not to fear though, high quality and innovative food trucks are on the rise in London, right on the heels of booming food truck culture in the US. The variety of London food truck is admirably vast and street foodies can choose from gourmet burgers, curry, chocolate, Vietnamese, and Mexican, among others.

The Luardos Food Truck in London

The Guardian has a list of food trucks picks in London , along with some mouth-watering recipes from each (we are especially digging the Carnitas recipe from Luardos). Migrationology has another round of 6 picks, including meatballs and hotdogs (sounds a little familiar to Chicago, no?). Another truck that found its way onto nearly all of the lists was Crêperie Nicholas, a fan-favorite for crêpes, served out of a restored 1965 Citroën truck. Southern food has also made its way to London, and the Pitt Cue Co. truck even offers pulled pork. This extremely important development means we could move to London easily, should the need arise. Most intriguingly we are excited to note the appearance of the HMS Flake 99, an ice cream truck that doubles as a BOAT (see below). For the latest in London street food developments, you can keep up with the Eat.st site.

HMS Flake 99 photo by Eater


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A guide to street food in Sicily

After our visit to Next Sicily we have Sicily on the brain. We visited the real Sicily last fall on our honeymoon, and we loved the food there (no surprise). What we especially loved was the abundance of cheap, tasty street food. Palermo in particular is a street food mecca – with fast and delicious morsels being sold from stands or tiny storefronts on almost all corners. When we were headed to Palermo we shortlisted a few types of street food we had to try while there, and fortunately we were not disappointed. We set out right away to start sampling street food, and made a beeline to the markets, where street food is king. Below are the favorite street foods we sampled (and one even we were not brave enough to try). So let’s go to Palermo….

Panelle – Panelle is a riff on a falafel – and is composed of chickpea flour fried up on a hot griddle. It is then served in a pita or eaten alone. One wouldn’t think that this carby concoction would work, but it is actually quite delicious (fans of falafel will approve). We had some handmade Panelle griddled up for us at the bustling Ballarò market, a cool food market with a lot of awesome African stalls.
Crocchè – We dodn’t even realize our Panelle would be coming with a special topping – crocchè- a little fritter made of mashed potatoes and parsley. Think of them as the most delicious tater tots you will ever have. The crocchè are the top layer of the snack below, and panelle is the bottom layer. Don’t forget to add a squeeze of lemon to help cut through all of the starch.

Arancini – The humble arancine is basically a fried dough ball filled with cheese and meat. However, the beauty of the arancine lies in its proper execution. If done wrong, an arancine is a gelatinous mealy blob that settles into a leaden ball in the pit of your stomach. Yes, we’ve had a few of those. However – when done right – the arancine is a warm gooey mess that does not leave you feeling like you ate a cannonball. Let’s just say – we had both varieties for Arancini on our Sicilian adventure. Arancine were found in pretty much every snack shop in Palermo, and one, Bar Touring, even specializes in giant arancini.

Pane cà meusa – Pane cà meusa is for braver stomachs than ours, and this street food dish consists of boiled calf spleen served in a roll. When happening across a pane cà meusa stall, you will usually find a hot bubbling cauldron of spleen. While its sheer popularity leads us to believe it is probably decently good, we would much rather take gelato in a brioche, thanks.
Gelato con Brioche – Saving the best for last, Gelato con Brioche is perhaps the most epic street food we have ever encountered in all of our travels. It is exactly what it sounds like, amazing gelato stuffed in a split brioche roll. Think of it as an ice cream cone carried to its next logical extreme. The first gelato in brioche we had even helped us get over the gruesome sites at the Convento dos Capuccinos in Palermo.

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Great Non-Taco Items at Maxwell Street Market

Huitlacoche Quesadilla at Rubi’s – our favorite! (via SeriousEats)

It’s no secret that we love Maxwell Street Market for its awesome array of street food, so we were happy to see this Serious Eats Chicago profile on the some great things to eat at the Market (beyond the taco).

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How to Properly Enjoy a Brazilian Beach (Hint: Eat Everything)

Brazilian beaches have the stereotype of being all about beautiful people, sun, and skin. We tend to think that big stereotype gets out just so people won’t discover the real reason Brazilians go to the beach: to have a great time with lots of food. So much so that Rio’s mayor recently declared beach vendors as part of the city’s cultural heritage. What follows is what we learned from multiple trips to beaches in Bahia over two months: our no-nonsense guide to enjoying one Brazil’s best full-service and sinfully gastrononmic experiences. Really!

1. Relax! You’re on a beach.
Brazilian beaches vary widely in quality, but we are here to tell you that while beach quality as judged by swimming or picturesqueness is important, going to a beach with good-quality food options and service more than makes up for that. In either case…

2. Don’t bring anything except a little money.
Why? Because everything you need will be provided to you. Free yourself of all of your worldly possessions, and come to the beach prepared to be pampered, Brazil-style. If you bring a lot of stuff to the beach, not only are you asking to get it stolen, you are going to immediately divorce yourself from the great fun of the beach market!

3. Pick a chair, and sit in it all day. 
Any beach worth going to for the service will have a large set-up of chairs. Umbrellas too. Typically you can rent a chair for a few reais all day, or at some less-frequented beaches it is free. Pay the attendant whatever the going rate seems to be, and be this person’s friend: he or she is your one-stop shop to all the goods for the rest of the day.

See all these people? They know how to live life.

4. Survey the culinary landscape.
Remember when we said you got the chair all day? That means you have a ton of time to check out all the beach food. No, no, don’t get up from your chair! Yoou don’t need to, since the food comes to you. Tens of hundreds of beach food sellers, roaming amongst the beachgoers, selling whatever is on the market for the day. Investigate the offerings for a while: sit there and see what is being solid by the many roaming foodsellers, and if you can, check out the prices being paid by Brazilians. Also take a moment to sit in awe at the selection. Here, for example, is a shortlist of the food we encountered on a recent 2-hour beach excursion: soda, beer, fresh fruit juices, coffee, bottled water (with and without gas), picoles (popsicles), chips, queijo coalho, grilled shrimp, sandwiches, moquecas, oysters, sugarcane, cocadas (coconut cookies), roasted cashews, meat skewers, salgados (various savory fried snacks), fried fiesh, hard boiled eggs, acarajé, and cotton candy.

And this is only the food. There are a number of other items being sold by roaming sellers, like gum, suntan lotion, aloe, sunglasses, jewelry, kangas (Brazilian sarongs), dresses, hats, sandals, and towels. The world is at your disposal!

Picoleishion blasts cheesy Brazilian tunes from his colorful cart while selling the best picoles in Itaparica. He’s famous!

5. Sample everything.
After three months, we found this to be the best thing about Brazil’s street/beach market economy: nobody cares if you do not buy. Sample, sample, sample – but if you don’t want it, say no, thank you, give a thumb’s up to the seller, and go along with your day. They’ll give you a thumb’s up back, and move right along selling. No guilt tripping, no bargaining – especially on beaches where there are more than enough customers. It’s incredibly refreshing.

6. Get whatever you want!
You know those Brazilian steakhouses becoming so popular in the USA, where the meat comes to your plate as long as you ask for it? That’s how the beach is – wave people over, pay a little money to get as much or as little as you want, and keep buying and buying until you are full. Get full? Go swimming, relax, take in some sun, nap, wake up, and then eat more. Repeat ALL DAY, eating cheaper, better, and more comfortably than you could have in any restaurant.

So nice we posted this photo twice: beijus filled with chocolate and coconut on Ipanema beach.
You know you’re jealous.

And finally,

7. Don’t necessarily avoid the crowds.
One of our best days on the beach was in two chairs absolutely packed in between other groups and families. We couldn’t even see the water. But you know what? People share! You make friends! And suddenly you realize the best part of the beach is not the water – it’s the community, the service, and the great food.

You’re welcome, travelers.

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Queijo coalho, essential Brazilian beach food

There is something about food on a stick that makes it all the more awesome. This trend carries over to Brazilian street food, which has many stick-laden options. One of our favorites among these was the queijo coalho – roast cheese. You have to love a country where roasting sticks of cheese over an open flame and coating it in rosemary is a viable beach snack. The cheese used to produce queijo coalho goes by the same name, and has a squeaky texture similar to cheese curds. The cheese is near-impossible to find in the US, but Carlos Figueira has a great roundup and review of some possible substitutes. Once on a stick, the cheese is roasted over a little handheld coal stove and coated in rosemary or possibly molasses, for the sweet-lovers. The roasting gives the cheese a bubbly, burnt outer layer. Surprisingly, it is the perfect complement to a hot day.

Queijo Coalho in production in Rio Vermelho

The finished product

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Street / beach food in Brazil: Beijus

We are huge fans of street food, but Brazil has added a whole new dimension to that love – beach food! On the beaches of Brazil there are always a plethora of food trucks and roaming food vendors who are ready to fill you up with snacks (including cheese on a stick – more on that later) while you are chilling on the beach. The key to beaches in Brazil is to basically bring nothing to the beach, because the rest will be provided for you – water, sunglasses, sarongs, cheese on a stick, whatever. One of the more unique beach finds we encountered was the Beiju – a sort of tapioca crepe with a myriad of sweet and savory fillings. Popular choices include Nutella, fresh coconut and a delicious combination known as “Romeo and Juliet” (Goiabada and Minas cheese). In order to make a Beiju- a layer of tapioca starch is cooked in the bottom of a pan or mold on a flattop- solidifying the tapioca into a type of pancake. The texture is a little bit unusual – and the Beiju has a certain amount of chewiness and crumbliness – but in a good way. Though Beijus are more popular in the Northeast, you can find them around Brazil. We have tried Beijus both at Ipanema beach in Rio, and at a storefront in Salvador. Much like crepes – there are a million different variations – but what you are basically getting is always comfortingly familiar.

Beiju on Ipanema Beach

Beiju with a view – Ipanema Beach

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The Food Trucks of Austin

SXSW is notorious for having free food at many shows, and I definitely enjoyed this aspect. At the British Music embassy, food was available nearly all day every day, ranging from tacos to trifle. The Barbados tent, on the other hand, was dishing out BBQ and the Dutch party had Speculoos and tea. However, the pickings were more slim at night time, and that’s when I took to the food carts. Austin is known for its competitive and varied food truck scene, even branching out into some more esoteric varieties.

The first food truck we tried was on our night of arrival – Mmmpandas. They served nothing but – you guessed it – empanadas – in my opinion one of the most perfect portable meals. There was a small variety of empanadas for sale, though the selection dwindled rapidly as the night wore on. One of my colleagues in fact snagged the last green chile chicken empanada. I ordered the ($4) spinach and cheese empanada.

After seeing many of the shows at venues around 5th and Congress, we frequented what I would like to call the “Food Truck Court” a small gathering of foodtrucks in a parking lot. Over the course of our stay there we indulged in many of their offerings. By far my personal favorite was a cleverly titled truck called “Coolhaus” – which combines playful Mid-century modern references with build-your-own ice cream sandwiches. The truck itself was tiny and had a very midcentury-modern sloped roof, as befitting the name.

An ice cream sandwich at Coolhaus runs $4, and allows you to choose the type of cookie outer layer (chocolate, ginger, oatmeal or chocolate chip) and a rotating range of ice cream flavors (Mocha, Mexican Chocolate, Pistachio, Vanilla), etc. We actually ended up eating at Coolhaus 2 nights in a row and I can safety recommend their ginger and chocolate cookies and the Mexican chocolate and coffee/toffee ice cream. In theory the sandwiches are portable, but definitely only if you eat very quickly (I opted to put the whole sandwich in a bowl to consume at a slower pace). The cookies were soft and fresh-baked and as if that wasn’t cool enough, the labels were even printed on edible rice paper.

Also in the food truck court was a rather well-known truck called Chi-Lantro. Chi lantro is a purveyor of tacos with a Korean Twist – such as bulgogi or kimchi tacos. We split a chicken bulgogi burrito, and enjoyed the vinegary tang of the kimchi with the usual taco fixins. Korean Quesadillas and loaded fries were also available.

The final stop in the food truck Court was The Peached Tortilla  – an eclectic truck selling exotic tacos ($3) (Bahn mi, BBQ Pork) and sliders (like crab cake). However, they also had sweet potato fries ($3.50) an assortment of sauces (like peach mint and sriracha mayo). I was also impressed by their wide selection of esoteric canned and bottled drinks – including canned Thai iced tea.

On 6th street, right in the heart of all of the SXSW mayhem, another foodtruck caught our eye with it’s aesthetic sensibility. Housed in an airstream trailer with a giant Plexiglas cupcake on top, “Hey Cupcake,” serves nothing but cupcakes ($3). A small menuboard announces the flavors – including carrot cake, red velvet and a confection called the Michael Jackson – a chocolate cupcake with cream cheese frosting (my pick). While the hordes descended on the pizza stands we were happy with our choice to go sweet.

While I only scratched the surface of the Austin Food Truck Scene, it was easy to see why it was popular – Austinites are definitely spoiled for choice. Hopefully Chicago will someday reach such food truck heights. Which reminds me, we need to visit the Southern’s Mac and Cheese Truck very soon.

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A taste of Mexico at Maxwell Street Market

Birria, Huraches, tostones, pambozo, tacos, Canela Tea galore! Are we in the Distrito Federal? More like Maxwell Street Market. Maxwell Street Market is basically an open air food court of Mexican cuisine, combined with a totally eclectic outdoor flea market. Despite having lived in Chicago for a long time neither of the Eaters had ever been to the Maxwell Street Market (currently in its 3rd incarnation in its 100+ year history, on Des Plaines).

Maxwell St. Market by Lobstar28

Maxwell St. Market by Lobstar28

Though there are sports jerseys, knockoff sunglasses powertools and tchotchkes galore, we really came out for the food and produce. M could not resist hitting up the mobile truck, Churro Factory, which sell, unsurprisingly only churros. When we arrived at 11:30 they were already out of chocolate churros, unfortunately. Even as a second choice, M thoroughly enjoyed his vanilla cream-filled churro. However, the “out of food” saga continued to haunt us throughout our visit.

Churro Truck by Edsel Little

Churro Truck by Edsel Little

You know it’s a popular time (and that fall has arrived)  when the champurrado (a thick, spiced hot chocolate made of masa) is clear sold out at not one, not two but THREE locations. We were jonesing for some choco-cinnamon goodness so we kept looking. We ended up at La Paz, a food vendor that had a long line forming (which we took as a good sign) where they had only enough champurrado left to fill one cup, which we figured was better than nothing! Turns out we were not disappointed.

Estilo DF by Stu Spivak

Estilo DF by Stu Spivak

Along with our awesome Champurrado ($2) that was perfect for the slight chill in the air, we ended up ordering a Huitlacoche tortilla ($3.50), one of our favorites, and usually rather difficult to find in many Mexican restaurants. There was no room to sit at La Paz so we hunkered down under the kitschy pop art signs that marked the market’s presence on Des Plaines. On our way out we also picked up some purple tomatillos and cilantro for salsa fixins. We can’t beleive it too us so long to get here – but we’ll definitely be back!

Maxwell Street by JosEnrique

Maxwell Street by JosEnrique

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Thailand: Rotis for Breakfast

Roti Mataba
136 Phra Athit Rd.
Banglamphu, Bangkok

When you are in a different country sometimes you have to do things a little differently…. M’s breakfast in the US usually consists of cereal, and L’s consists of a bagel. However while in Thailand we opted  for something a bit different (but still carbo-loaded) –  Rotis – a typical indian flatbread. Rotis, though native to India, are very popular as a street food in Thailand and there are ton of great places to sample them in Bangkok.

In the shadow of a whitewashed fort from the 17th century sits a tiny store manned by an industrious woman with a supernatural ability to turn out hundreds of rotis. The menu at the place, unsurprisingly was mainly rotis, which we dug, and all fr less than 100B (about 3 dollars).

Feeling unconventional, even at 9 AM, we opted for a sweet and savory mix: one chicken Curry roti and two others topped with chocolate sauce and condensed milk. The rotis were literally piping hot of the griddle and were presented to us in no time. The curry was a good mix of sweet and spicy, and the chocolate roti was perfect in its simplicity. Nothing like a little curry and chocolate for breakfast!

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Friday Foodie Links: Food at Art Basel

Art Basel is one of the premier contemporary art events in the world, so we were excited to see a show featuring food there. Street food to be exact. Mike Meiré’s Project called “Global street food” features photo, video and most importantly, an amazing range of vendor carts and kitchens. There are pieces from all over: from a lollipop vendor in Argentina to a fruit stand in Namibia. Below is a floating market from Vietnam.

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