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Review: Lonely Planet’s guide to the World’s Best Street Food

Diane Leow

Tue May 29 2012

FTW Lonely Planet street food

MELD foodie Diane Leow takes us around the world in more than 80 dishes as she reviews Lonely Planet’s The World’s Best Street Food: Where to find it and how to make it. Read on to find out how you can win yourself a copy.

Travelling is one of life’s greatest luxuries. It seems unthinkable that just a few decades ago, it took ages for anyone to get anywhere on what would most likely be a treacherous journey, fraught with dangers and difficulties.

But just because we can travel in an instant now doesn’t mean we should take the experience for granted. Every minute spent needs to be fruitful, be it visiting tourist attractions, getting to know the city or wandering around the little alleyways, getting lost in the culture, atmosphere and just that wondrous sense of being somewhere different.

When I’m on vacation, the one thing I have to do is taste the local food. It doesn’t need to be fancy. I’m happy to squat by a dank drain if it means I can taste the best homemade cendol (an icy Malaysian dessert), or sink my teeth into a fried banana fritter covered in glorious golden batter. The place doesn’t matter. What matters is creating memories with all five senses – hearing the crunch as you crack into the caramelised layer of a crème brulee, having to talk over the toots and horns of busy traffic while digging into a bowl of Vietnamese pho. Remembering the smooth texture of freshly-made gelato or watching street vendors wrap a falafel straight out of the fryer.

But what happens when your travels come to an end? Do those experiences have to come to an end too? Not anymore, thanks to the Lonely Planet’s new street food guide, The World’s Best Street Food: Where to find it and how to make it.

Written by Tom Parker Bowles, with the help of many other accomplished food writers/lovers, the book is a compilation of  some of the most memorable street food from around the world. And we’re not talking about a list of restaurants or cafes to visit. This is the real deal – the best-hidden spots that only the locals knew about… until now.

Lonely Planet lays it all down for you – the origins of each dish, where to find it, an approximate cost, and a recipe to recreate the dish at home – and that’s for pretty much every country you can think of.

In Australia, they recommend a Four ‘n’ Twenty meat pie, purchased from Melbourne’s MCG. But if it was up to me, I would have recommended fish & chips as the Aussie street food of choice instead. Luckily, this is about the only thing Lonely Planet and I disagree on.

Travelling to Singapore? Lonely Planet got it spot on by suggesting you try Tian Tian’s Hainanese Chicken Rice at Maxwell Market. But if you’re no where near Southeast Asia and have a hankering for tender, juicy chicken with a plate of fragrant rice, don’t worry –  you can make the dish at home thanks to the accompanying recipe on the opposite page.

Categorised by type, there are recipes for everyone from the culinary-challenged to the master chefs. Everything in the Easy category involves the bare minimum of work, as all you seem to have to do is put together a few ingredients. Then there are the Medium recipes, for those of us who like cooking, but don’t want to venture too much out of our comfort zone. And last but not least, there are the Complex dishes, made up of recipes that may cause a little mess in your kitchen if it’s your first time trying your hand at cooking. But hey, good food is worth the fuss right?

And vegetarians, don’t fret, there are plenty of dishes in this book for you to try too.

All in all, I think the Lonely Planet’s The World’s Best Street Food: Where to find it and how to make it is a great read. They’ve gone to a lot of effort to choose the best and most tasty street food dishes the world over – a daunting task when you think of the fantastic street food on offer in some Asian countries. The vendors they recommend also seem like the sorts of places the locals would go to for cheap and plentiful food – therefore making them perfect for cash-strapped students like us!

But the best part of the book has to be the recipes. There are tons of them and they seem like the genuine thing, allowing you to relive the taste, smell and feel of your vacation over and over again. Not to mention how they allow you to explore new corners of the world without having to ever leave your kitchen. That’s the amazing thing about books and food.

So if you do get your hands on this book, try out a recipe or two and take a short trip to Israel, Thailand, the United States or wherever else you want to go – all from the comfort of your own home.

Lonely Planet’s The World’s Best Street Food: Where to find it and how to make it is retailing at $29.99

We’re giving away a copy of The World’s Best Street Food: Where to find it and how to make it to one lucky Meld reader. For your chance to win, tell us what your favourite street food dish is and where to get it in the comments section below, remembering to provide your real name and email address so we can get in touch with you.

The competition closes June 14 and is only open to those living, studying or working in Victoria. Winners will be picked in a random draw and announced via email on June 15.