Having spent a decent amount of time traveling around the world, I have come to the conclusion that Street Food is the greatest invention of all time. For just a few dollars and little effort you can find yourself sitting on the side of the road, blissfully slurping up a mind numbingly good mystery meat noodle stew. Street Food is so good that people have tried to capture it’s greatness here in America through food trucks and pop-up cafes but it always seems a bit JV compared to what you get on a street corner or in a municipal parking garage in say, Bangkok. It’s kind of like soccer in America. We form a league and have teams in most major cities but it’s a far cry from what you will find in England or Spain or Germany.
You know if you’ve had truly great Street Food because you can’t just describe the food, you have to tell a whole story that goes along with your experience. More times than not, your story will go something like this: It’s early in the morning and you find yourself wandering down a nondescript street in search a magical elixir to clear your head from the night before. When, out of no where, you hear a slight commotion and rustling coming from up ahead. As you continue to wander forward, the commotion grows louder and louder. Not knowing what is going on but knowing there is a good chance you won’t be welcome, you start to turn on your heal to high tail it out of there. But something stops you. There’s a faint, yet growing aroma of deliciousness in the air. The hunger inside you is triggered and like a moronic character in a horror movie who finds his dead buddy with a knife crammed up his ass and decides to investigate the creepy basement, you too decide to continue on.
As you trek on, like in any good horror movie, there are many indications that tell you to turn around and go home. You might encounter downed power lines, screaming babies, a flash flood, confused/lifeless stares from old women or a salty old fisherman might appear out of nowhere and actually say: “Turn around and go home.” But none of this will stop you because with every step closer the smell gets stronger and pulls you towards it like Dark Helmets tractor beam in Spaceballs. Finally, against all odds, you make it to source of the commotion and the aroma. And unlike the character from the horror movie, your day is not coming to an end, it’s just beginning.
The smell, it turns out, is coming from a makeshift kitchen that is ingeniously welded to the side of a moped and the commotion is coming from the long line of anxiously waiting people, hoping that breakfast won’t sell out before they get to the front of the line. Before you know it, you find yourself waiting nervously online like a degenerate gambler next to a roulette wheel. When you make it to the front of the line, you hand the proprietor a few coins and graciously take the steaming bowl of magic to a nearby broken card table and pull up a cinder block for a chair and dig in.
Half way through the first spoonful you feel a warm glow come out of your soul and surround you and everything around you. The skies open up and you are awash in warm sunshine. The downed power lines have been fixed, the screaming babies are giggling, the old women are no longer staring but are laughing from the bottom of their bellies and the salty fisherman is now a leprechaun handing you his pot ‘o gold. You are a changed person. You are no longer the snarky tourist considering everything you encounter as inferior to it’s counterpart you would find back home. You now, truly, see the world differently.
Now I know that if you visited a place like this on a daily basis, it would become like listening to your favorite album over and over again. You wouldn’t get that same magical feeling as the first time but you wouldn’t love it and appreciate any less either. With that being said, I wonder if anyone has ever visited America and gone back home with an amazing Street Food story? Probably not. But don’t give up hope because like great Street Food there is always a story involved and with any luck that story is just beginning here in America.