Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Top 5 Global Backpacker Foods

So much for pizza and instant noodles. These 5 meals have won me over as the best eats on the streets when travelling on a budget!

5. Fried bananas

I came across my first battered and fried banana in the mountain town of Dalat, Vietnam and my life was forever changed.  Never again can I truly enjoy a standard unfried banana with the knowledge of how much more delicious it could be.   Known as Pisang goreng in Maylay and Indonesian, fried bananas are a snack food found throughout Southeast Asia.  Usually sold from street vendors it makes for a great sweet treat.

4.  Burek

Burek is another great greasy snack grabbed while on the run in Eastern Europe. Burek is made from layers of phyllo dough, alternating with layers of other fillings in a circular baking pan and than topped with a last layer of dough. Traditional it is baked without any filling ("prazan"), with stewed mince meat and onions or cheese. Modern bakeries offer cheese and spinach, apple, sour cherries, potatoes, mushrooms, pizza-burek as well. Traditional meat was my favourite and made for an excellent post-bar indulgence.

3. Banana and Nutella Roti

Mobile push carts can be found serving up Roti to the masses of backpackers and locals alike in most Southeast Asian cities.  The dish is composed of dough containing copious amounts of fat, egg, flour and water. Rotis are prepared by flipping the dough into a large thin layer before folding the outside edges inwards. The dough will then be heated on a hot plate. Bananas, Nutella and sometimes condensed milk are added before it's folded and flipped to seal in all the sweet goodness. A sweet and greasy desert that is not to be missed.

2. Pad Thai

Pad Thai is a classic Thai dish of stir-fried rice noodles with eggs, fish sauce tamarind juice, red chili pepper, plus any combination of bean sprouts, shrimp, chicken, or tofu, garnished with crushed peanuts, coriander and lime.  
Brought to the ancient Thai capital of Ayuthaya by Vietnamese traders, It was first made popular as a national dish by the  prime minister during the 1930s and 1940s. As an element of his campaign for Thai nationalism and to reduce rice consumption in Thailand the poor were educated in the production of rice noodles, as well as in the preparation of these noodles with other ingredients to sell in small cafes and from street carts.
Street carts remain to be the cheapest way to get your fill of this Thai icon, found on the streets of any Thai city. 

1. Shawarma, döner kebab, gyros, donair or whatever you choose to call your rotating pillar of street meat.

A meal that is popular with backpackers and any hungry person on a budget around the world, Shawarma, is a Middle Eastern sandwich-like wrap of shaved lamb, goat, chicken, turkey, beef, or a mixture thereof. The meat is placed on a spit, and may be grilled for as long as a day.
The rotating pillar of meat goes by many names: In Greece, it is called gyros, meaning "turned"; In Armenian, it is "Tarna", literally meaning "to turn"; and in Turkish it is called döner kebab.
After a quick count I believe I have eaten Kebab in at least 17 countries across North America, Asia and Europe and fancy myself a bit of a street meat connoisseur.  The ingredients and sauces vary from country to country with only the spinning meat remaining constant.
My all time favourite Shawarma was had in Krakow, Poland where the kebab is served with fresh cabbage salad with cucumbers, tomatoes and other vegetables, added to the meat in a sandwich which is topped with a choice of white or red sauce (I don't exactly know what the sauces were, but i assure you they were delicious).
No matter what country you find yourself in, there is probably a Kebab shop somewhere within your 100m radius. So if your looking for something cheap check out the local 'spin' on this fast food classic. 
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