I have one of the weakest of stomachs. As such when I go abroad, specifically to developing countries, I avoid street food. Not because the smell of something cooking on an open air fire on the street doesn’t smell delicious or that I don’t want to support the culinary entrepreneur; it’s just that I don’t want to increase my chances of getting sick while on a trip. (I say increase because I known well enough there’s always a chance one can become sick from dining at even a five star restaurant.) Worries over cleanliness and freshness beat out tantalizing aromas any day.
My first ever trip abroad was to Mexico, a country well regarded for its street food. Carts and stands abound in cities and pueblos (small towns) alike offering various antojitos (snacks) such as sopes, tacos, gorditas, and tortas. I never partook, too afraid of contracting the common stomach malady so many tourists get, Montezuma’s revenge, and thus sticking with the close comforts of my host family’s cooking and brick and mortar restaurants. Although there were kids in my program who did snack as we walked the streets and browsed potential goods in the mercados (markets) and never got sick, I didn’t chance it. I figured that everyone’s digestive disposition is different.
In Belgium, frites (fries, and no they are not called French fries there, it is the greatest indignity) are one of the country’s most common and beloved street foods. Friteries/frietkot (the French and Flemish words for fry stands) are found in abundance and one of the fondest memories of Brugge (besides the stunning medieval architecture) were of the frites D and I got from the stands under the belfry. They were some of the best frites I have ever eaten and eating them our first day in Brugge in the markt was wonderful. Simply put, street food at its best.
Turkey is high on my list of destinations to visit and its street food is considered its own cuisine, even having its own culture, some feel. I remember one episode of Anthony Bourdain’s television program No Reservations when he visits Istanbul. Seeing the bounty of all the different street foods he tried made my mouth water-doner kebab, patsos (a sandwich composed of fried fries and sausage topped with kasar which is a type of cheese), kumpir (a baked potato filled with a variety of toppings) and pilav (steamed rice with chicken and chick peas). Although I’m sure Bourdain has a much stronger stomach compared to mine based on all that he eats and drinks, I still hope that with the right recommendations from knowledgeable guidebooks, I too could partake in some of Turkey’s wondrous street food cuisine.
Don’t gamble with your stomach when abroad if something looks questionable, but don’t not gamble by never trying some unique food finds either.
|Image courtesy of beerandnosh.com|