Good Food Blog
Snacks under attackPosted at 12:02PM, 22 August 2008 by Graham Holliday - Blogger
Not too long ago I was praising street food from around the world on this blog and bemoaning the lack of it in Britain. Now, I'm worrying a wee bit about its long-term future. I blogged about the Vietnamese government's attempts to clear the streets of hawkers, only to discover the purge was hardly a local phenomenon.
The excellent Serious Eats blog picked up the baton and detailed a similar pogrom inflicted stateside,
"This isn't the first time local politics has denied grubby delicacies. There was the taco truck tragedy in Los Angeles, the Red Hook ball field vendors in Brooklyn, and, though Washington, D.C. has seen a slight spike in street eats recently, the city had a moratorium against vendors for many years."
It's the same story in Hong Kong. A number of local activists are trying to save Central Street market. They've even drawn up an alternative plan for the future of the market and submitted it for review by the Town Planning Board.
Street food is celebrated the world over. Al-Jazeera recently produced a series about street food; from London to Nairobi, San Sebastian and beyond. If you search on the Al-Jazeera YouTube channel you'll be able to see the entire series online.
I'm not romanticizing street food, like some Panama hat-wearing tourist on a colonial tour of the Orient
I'm not romanticizing street food, like some Panama hat-wearing tourist on a colonial tour of the Orient. It's all about food. Good food. The best food in many cultures is to be found on the street and this is predominantly because it's family food. You'll often find the best street stalls are kept by families who gained a reputation over the years on their street or alleyway for the best soup, best sandwich, best noodles or whatever. So much so that it made commercial sense to start a small catering business. As soon as you place a ban on street food, all that goodness goes back behind the porch for private consumption.
While I trust the Asian palate and absolute insistence on good food and quality, I doubt whether in the long term these small family-run stalls will withstand the march of so-called progress. It's a bit of a cliche, but they'll all end up as sterile as a Singapore hawker market which is hardly the world's most exciting dining experience. As Andrea Nguyen at the excellent Asian recipe blog, Viet World Kitchen, says,
"Hawker centers in Singapore are convenient but there's some soul missing."