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by Carla Diamanti

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Street Food is less of a cookbook than an extended series of postcards. Divided into continents (with Europe, the Mediterranean and Asia receiving the lion’s share of attention), the pages are dominated by vivid photographs of market and bistro scenes, pushcart vendors and floating farmer’s markets where boats are piled high with spiky fruits and bags sit on sandy floors filled with almonds and rose petals. (There is not a single health department certification to be seen anywhere). There is a “wish you were here” feel to the book:

Try going for a stroll through the streets of Innsbruck in winter. At sundown the air becomes redolent with spices rising from the huge containers of steaming vin brûlé, hot and bracing red wine simmered with sugar, cloves, spices and sliced citrus fruit. It celebrates friendship when shared in a grolla, which is passed from hand to hand and sipped while browsing the Christmas markets.

As a travel book, a window into other foods and cultures, Street Food is enticing—the kind of book designed to set you dreaming of far-away places and the great good things there are to discover. As a cookbook it has its frustrations, since the foods described and pictured aren’t always the ones they give recipes for. “If you're in the mood to discover Japanese cuisine,” the authors advise, “then shabu-shabu is a must. The onomatopoeic name of this dish comes from the sound of thinly sliced meat being plunged into boiling broth and then rapidly swished back and forth to cook it.” You will have to find another source for the recipe though, since they don’t give it.

There is no index of recipes or ingredients, perhaps because the book isn’t very long. And the recipes that are provided aren’t always as clear as they could be—one of the spices included in their satay recipe is cumin, but they forget to say how much to add. The guiding principle when this happens, as it turns out, is to season “to taste.” Cook until it is “to taste.” Add in whatever is “to taste.” This is excellent and freeing advice for the instinctive kitchen cook (I am not) but will result in a little trial and error for the not-so-confident cook (like me). I had to make the kibbeh (Middle eastern deep-fried meatballs) twice before I got them the way I liked (more mint, less parsley).

Instead, the book is more of a call to be adventurous, on a small, bite-sized scale. Diamanti and Esposito wander through Marrakech market scenes and African rail stations, Basque cafes and New York City street vendors, and they seem to be saying eternally to each other and to the reader, oh look, try this! Oh, now try this! read full review
  southernbooklady | Jan 16, 2012 |
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NATIONAL & REGIONAL CUISINE. On the surface, cities like Naples and Marrakech, New York and Tokyo, Paris and Sao Paolo might appear to have rather more differences and contrasts than affinities, but if you think about it, there is one thing that links all these cities, or rather all the world's big cities: street food, which, as well as being perfect for sudden attacks of hunger, represents a genuine insight into metropolises and cultures around the globe. This book, packed with glorious color photographs, presents the very best in street food, with images, information, and recipes for the specialties habitually prepared and consumed on the street. It is a discovery of traditions, cultures, customs, and ways of life--street food reflects the lifestyle of a nation.… (more)

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