For the street food novice, the options in Asia can be overwhelming. Enter: Luke Nguyen, a Vietnamese-Australian chef who was born in a Thai refugee camp following his parents' escape from Vietnam, their home country. His family settled in Australia and opened a Vietnamese restaurant, and this is where Nguyen first became interested in exploring his roots. He is a television personality and runs The Red Lantern restaurant in Australia. But now, he's bringing his in-depth knowledge of Asian street food culture to the page.
In his book Luke Nguyen's Street Food Asia: Saigon, Bangkok, Kuala Lumpur, Jakarta, you'll find all the must-know snacks, and below, this is his favorites.
Saigon: Silkworm Noodles With Shredded Pork and Coconut Milk (Banh Tam Bi)
This is a popular dish in Saigon and across southern Vietnam, though it is not easily found outside of the country. The thick noodles—which resemble silkworms, hence the name—are made from a combination of rice flour and tapioca flour.
Coated in a thick, coconut milk sauce, they are drizzled with generous quantities of Nuoc Cham sauce and served with shredded pork and pork skin, cooked bean sprouts, julienned cucumbers, fresh herbs, pickled vegetables and Spring Onion Oil. Both sweet and savory, somewhere in between an entrée and dessert, I love to enjoy it as an afternoon pick-me-up treat!
Saigon: Rice Paper Rolls With Grilled Lemongrass Beef Betel Leaves (Bo Cuan La Lot Banh Trang)
On Cô Giang Street in District 1 there is a guy who cooks this dish using just a basic chargrill. Betel leaves are interesting; where the Thais like theirs raw, the Vietnamese love to cook them either in stir-fries or stuffed and chargrilled, as here. The stuffing is a mixture of minced beef, lemongrass, garlic, fish sauce and coriander; it’s rolled neatly in the leaves to make small, tight rolls, which are then grilled.
Jakarta: Chicken Satay Skewers (Sate Ayam)
The street vendor grab around 20 beautifully threaded satay sticks at a time, submerge them in a dark, sticky marinade, and then put them straight onto the grill. Coals hiss, flames ignite, smoke puffs and the meat quickly cooks to succulent, charred perfection.
The sticks are plated with sticky rice cakes, kecap manis, crispy fried shallots and a gorgeous peanut sauce. Customers eat right outside, among the smoke and fumes, sitting on wooden benches and watching the world pass by. I buy a serve of the dainty skewers; they’re not huge. I get a mix of chicken and mutton, their specialties.
Jakarta: Smashed Chicken with Green Chile Sambal (Ayam Penyet)
A popular East Javan dish, ayam penyet (‘ayam’ means ‘chicken’) is cooked using chicken maryland pieces that are marinated in tons of spices and deep-fried until they’re exceptionally crispy. While this is happening, the cook makes the sambal. This involves deepfrying a handful of green chillies until soft, then pounding them in a cobek with some salt to make a vibrant green paste.
The cooked chicken goes onto the stone as well and is smashed hard with the pestle, so the meat is torn and softened and becomes easier to eat. Next, the green sambal is slathered over and the chicken is served in a paper-lined basket with coconut rice, fried tempeh, mint and raw cabbage. And even more chilli, of course.
Kuala Lampur: Banana Leaf Rice (Nasi Kandar)
These are all pre-cooked and you choose the ones you want – Usha is famous for her goat tripe curry, dry mutton curry, chicken korma and salted fish curry. She also cooks mean fried chicken and fried fish and there are some unusual things on her menu, like the finely sliced bitter melon that is battered then deep-fried until it’s really crispy. And her dried salted chillies, which are great. Everything is aromatic with spices and curry leaves and you eat using the fingers of your right hand. Done well, this is a super elegant way to eat.
Kuala Lampur: Flying Wantan Mee with Roast Pork (Wantan Mee Babi Salai)
Wantan mee is a street food classic in Kuala Lumpur. Basically it consists of thin egg noodles topped with an almost black sauce made from soy sauce, sesame oil and lard. Slices of sticky, sweet, home-made char siu (Cantonese barbecue pork) go over the top with some blanched choy sum (Chinese flowering cabbage). The small bowl of wantan in clear, pork-flavoured soup is to have alongside your noodles. This is considered fast comfort food in Kuala Lumpur and it’s simple but delicious.
Bangkok: Boat Noodles (Kuai Teaw Moo Nam Tok)
Traditionally, they feature a distinctive brown stock that’s colored using pig’s or cow’s blood, which also gives the broth its particular texture. You can still find the dish made this way but not all cooks use blood. Other ingredients and flavors, which tend to be strong, include cinnamon, dark soy, fermented tofu, pork or beef, bean sprouts, water spinach (morning glory), fried garlic, soft-boiled eggs and crisp pork rinds.
Bangkok: Wafer-Thin Sheets With Egg Floss and Dried Shrimp (Khanom Bueang)
The batter is made using rice flour, pea flour, some palm sugar, eggs, water and a pinch of salt. It’s spread to form small, super-thin discs on a hot plate; they look like tiny tacos.
Once the rounds are brown and super-crisp, they’re topped with an egg white and coconut sugar mixture that’s been whipped until it’s stiff and resembles meringue, or a mixture of dried shrimp, grated coconut and fine threads of egg yolk called ‘foi thong’, or ‘golden strands’, with chopped coriander (cilantro) finishing the whole thing off. Buying a combo of the two, as is normal, delivers a mix of sweet and savory flavors that may sound weird but I promise you khanom bueang taste amazing.
Excerpted with permission from Luke Nguyen’s Street Food Asia: Saigon, Bangkok, Kuala Lumpur, Jakarta, published by Hardie Grant Books March 2017, RRP $45.00 hardcover.
Source : Saveur.com