This post is probably gonna piss off a few people, and make other people doubt my sanity or street cred, but street food in Asia is almost uniformly bad. I’ve eaten from food stalls all across Asia, and most of the fare was pure crap. Boiled fishballs in water with seacress is not food – it’s fish food for goats.
But that’s what is usually served from food stalls in Bangkok, Pattaya, Kuala Lumpur, Jakarta, Surabaya, Denpasar, Delhi, Varanasi, and Trivandrum. I’ve eaten street food in all those places, and mostly it has been less than garbage. Unless you have absolutely no taste or distinguishation in food, skip the street foodstalls and spend a little extra money and dine in a cafe where the chef actually knows how to cook.
Carl Parkes, Moon Guide author and acerbic critic of dire travel writing, has returned from his brief holiday wearing a new pair of contrarian pants. Itâ€™s an easy target to put the boot into every Asian street food vendor because they canâ€™t fight back when you are out of reach of their razor-sharp cleavers, boiling oil and botulism toxin. The only expectation I have from a full meal that cost me less than 50 cents is that it will not permanently incapacitate me. You canâ€™t make a silk purse from a sowâ€™s ear, but you can make a non-lethal and tasty soup and possibly a selection from the Taco Bell menu. With this exceedingly low expectation as a starting point, Iâ€™ll occasionally discover something that befits any man or woman of distinguishation. At this stage, Iâ€™m not going to censure Carl for losing his marbles, street cred or dictionary because my personal theory is that heâ€™s pitching for a job at an upmarket travel magazine and needs to offer them a low-budget food sacrifice as penance to the Gods of Luxury.