Common street food with an uncommon story

street food around the world

Just like fashion, music and other popular culture, the streets have always dictated terms when it comes to food. Often touted as being indigenous to the area, you would be surprised to find how many of these delectable street dishes own their hazy origins to cultural clashes and need-of-the-moment improvisations. So if you find yourself in a new city, start with the busy lanes filled with aromatic spices, ‘cause in the zesty and oh-so-very savory tang of street food is an untold piece of history that is actually tangible and at the same time, alluring to the senses.Безопасные SEO эксперименты

This exceptionally hot and feisty street food goes back to the colonial era, when slaves from South America were brought to the Island for sugar cultivation.

With food in short supply, they learnt to preserve the meat with salt and spices, wrapping it in leaves before hiding it, cooking it later over covered charcoal or latticed wood, to escape detection.

This particular style of cooking came to be known as “jerk”. Today this native dish is as popular for its historical significance as it is for its sheer flavor, which is quite evident by the presence of the numerous “Jerk Huts” that can be found all over the Caribbean Island.

While for the ordinary traveler Istanbul can be all about Kebabs and Shawarma, the more meticulous epicurean would know where to seek out the lesser known snack, Stuffed Mussels. Filled with aromatic herbed rice, pine nuts, currants and orange mussels garnished with lemon, this gleaming black, slightly sweet, slightly spicy and tangy treat is a surprise street food that wasn’t featured in the crowded streets of this old city until recently.

Commonly believed to be an Armenian recipe, the history of this humble fast food can be traced back to the Kurdish migration to Istanbul during 80’s and 90’s, after the destruction of their villages by the Turkish army. Legends has it that the Kurds learnt the mussel trade from an elderly Armenian and turned to the business to escape the dreary clutches of unemployment.

Introduced by the Arabs during the 10th century, this dish was originally served to  guests with nothing but large plates of meat filling surrounded by flavored saffron rice. It wasn’t till the time of Frederick II, when they were battered and fried so that the emperor could carry them while going out for a long hunt.

Apart from the various legends and myths surrounding this delicious snack, there is this one belief that claims the signature dish of Milan, the “Saffron Risotto”, is just a poorly executed Arancini that crumbled on the plate.

The Lebanese migrants of the late 19th century – early 20th century brought along with them their signature ottoman flavors in the country, that evolved into the culinary traditions of modern day.

Prepared by marinating the layers of pork in a vinegar, spice and pepper seasoning and then slowly cooked with a gas flame on a vertical rotisserie called a trompo. Thin slices of pork are then shaved from the giant stack and piled onto tortillas. Topped with hot salsa & lime juice, Tacos Al Pastor is believed to have been inspired by the spit-roasting technique of Shawarma, with pork being substituted for lamb in this case.

Tracing the piquant story of Indian cuisine is akin to tracing the country’s long history of cultural amalgamation. From colonialism to immigration, each wave of migrants has left behind their unique footprint in the national fare. But sometimes shifting through the distinct flavors of all these different cultures can be quite baffling, even for an epicurean.

From Egypt to Libya and from Central Asia to India, this fried triangle of mouthwatering deliciousness has traveled far and wide across the globe. And yet, if you ask any self respecting native of the sub continent about the origin of this snack, none will be able to tell you that the meaty sanbusak was imported from Central Asia during the Sultanate rule over Delhi and later transformed to its vegetarian counterpart, the samosa, over a better half of two centuries.

As one travels across continents and oceans, one is liable to come across these miniature meals which are as varied in taste as they are unique in their origins. But whether it’s lamb or pork, tortilla or samosa, Istanbul or Mexico, the ingredients have remained the same: fat and fire, a smattering of spices, a quick fare, and a taste of tradition. The next time you travel, embark upon a gastronomical trip to the local markets, savour the local street food and listen to the myriads stories surrounding these regional meals; and perhaps you would be lucky enough to leave your footprint in the history of time’s relentless march to the ever-changing future.

Priyanka lives in the hope of catching fireflies in a mid-summer twilight. Occasionally she dreams of owning a huge library with a fireplace and a Chesterfield chair, where she can cozy up with Ms Austen, a bag full of fish popcorn and her dog, Tasha, for company. When she is not working, she is trying to create a world without smartphones (she constantly tries to lose her own and then panics when she can’t find it!)