By Tim Hazell
Street vendors share a history stretching back to the cities of ancient Greece, whose populations could buy fried fish, falafel and gyro; paper-thin slices of roast meat, in a pita warp. Street food was widely consumed by commoners of ancient Rome, whose apartment blocks (insulae) lacked ovens or hearths. Wooden seats along the thoroughfares, some with small back gardens, were provided for a quick meal or take-out. Chick-peas porridge, pies, pork sausage, pastries and figs tempted a hungry throng.
Vendors purveying “fragrant bites of hot meat” in Renaissance Turkey, offered succulent patties and kebabs of chicken and lamb.
Beverages such as atolli (a gruel made from maize dough) and almost fifty recorded types of tamales ranging from the meat of turkey, rabbit, gopher, frog and fish to fruits, eggs and maize flowers, as well as stews and insects could be purchased in Aztec marketplaces.
Street food in Thailand originated with the country’s ethnic Chinese population. Here are two delicious recipes that epitomize Thai urban fare and complement each other beautifully!
Thai Fish Cakes
1 lb. boneless white fish fillets, cubed
3 tbsp. red curry paste (or substitute 2 tbsp. oyster sauce, 2 tbsp. sweet chilli sauce)
1/4 cup coriander leaves, chopped
1 tbsp. fish sauce or light soy sauce
1 tsp. brown sugar
1 tbsp. lime juice
1/2 cup cornstarch or all-purpose flour
4 medium spring onions, sliced
4 – 6 tbsp oil
Sweet chilli sauce
Place fish, red curry paste, coriander, fish/soy sauce, sugar, lime juice, egg, cornstarch/flour and spring onions in a food processor. Process until fish is minced and ingredients form a paste. Transfer to a bowl. Refrigerate for 30 minutes. Measure about 1/4 cup for each fish cake and form thick patties. Dust with flour or cornstarch. Heat oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat until it shimmers. Place patties in the hot oil and fry, turning once, for 8 minutes or until golden brown. Transfer to paper towel lined plate. Serve with sweet chilli sauce, coriander leaves and lime wedges on the side.
Thai Fried Rice
2 tbsp. oil
2 large garlic cloves, minced
1/2 onion, diced
5 oz. (150 g) small raw shrimp or chicken breast, thinly sliced
3 green onions, white and green parts divided, cut into one-inch pieces
2 eggs, lightly beaten
3 cups cooked jasmine or preferred rice
2 tbsp. fish sauce
1-1/2 tbsp. oyster sauce
1 tsp. sugar
Heat oil in a large wok or skillet over medium-high heat. Add 1 tbsp extra oil if using a skillet. Add garlic and onion, stir frying for 30 seconds. Add shrimp/chicken and white part of green onions. Stir fry for an additional minute. Push skillet contents to one side and pour the egg onto the other side. Scramble rapidly – about 30 seconds. Add the rice and sauce. Stir fry for 2 minutes, adding the green part of green onions halfway through, until rice is coated. Serve with Thai fish cakes and raw cucumber slices.