By Michael Karlo Lim
THE World Street Food Congress (WSFC) 2017 is largely known for the WSF Jamboree – the curated collection of pop-up hawker stalls peddling street food delights from all over the world. From last year’s run, a larger group this year from 13 countries pushed about 30 different street food items packed with flavor, wrapped in their vendor’s stories and served with a generous side of the cultural experience. From the almost overwhelming number of selections, the following are some of my personal favorites.
I wouldn’t be the Hamburgero if I didn’t have any of their burgers. Sticky sweet and savory with a delightful coffee flavor, Keng Eng Kee of Singapore stepped up to the plate with their Coffee Pork Ribs Burger. Already partial as I am to the product, their Curry Chicken Burger also didn’t disappoint. The generous and juicy chicken breast fillet was wonderfully crisped with batter and a deep-frying before a good dousing of a nuanced curry dressing.
Litti reminded us so much of the Dal Baati we’ve had in Jodhpur, India. In this Bihari specialty, the whole wheat dough ball is stuffed with a mixture of herbs and spices in roasted chickpea flour to burst into the mouth in little explosions of flavor with each bite. Ours came with a chicken piece slathered in a curry sauce heavy with the earthiness of jeera.
The Aloo Tikki is basically a potato croquette taking the Indian identity with a profusion of onions and various curry spices. It is served as beautiful mess with grapes, julienned radishes, beets and carrots plus splashes of chutney making it an allusion to some colorful Indian festival to the eyes and in the mouth.
Interestingly similar in name to the Cebuano Puto Maya, the Malaysian Putu Mayam is also similar in that it is also rice-based. Also known as string hoppers, what reminded us of palabok rice noodles are also served with grated coconut with palm sugar — much like how some permutations of the local puto are.
The German Currywurst is not to all unfamiliar to the Pinoy palate but came denser and meatier than the usual local commercial offerings with a curious zing of Indian masala. Spicy notes continue in the “Original Curry Tomato Ketchup Sauce” and the curry powder finish.
The Chocolate Martabak from Indonesia was easily the Pinoy crowd favorite. The chewy, thicker crepe-y base crisps towards the edges in a great contrast of texture. Our sampler of four slices had Green Tea KitKat, Nutella, Oreo and Chocolate & Cheese toppings.
Soi Lum, bean paste mochi dumplings had a good chew but still kept somehow light. Candied Chrysanthemum floats about in the fragrant and slightly sweet broth that makes it a novel warm dessert or snack.
Representing Bacolod, the regional signature BBQ Chicken Inasal is filleted, chopped and stuffed into a pita pocket. Classic goodness just made even so much easier to eat in the handy pick-up package.
Pyanggang is one regional heritage dish from Sulu that I have recently discovered and grown to love. This version from Davao is intensely black with a concentration of the charred coconut husk component giving it an earthier flavor beyond the usual spicy and smoky.
The famed Ilocano Empanada is made even more flavorful with a generous inclusion of cheese. The unmistakably Northern Luzon version of this Spanish colonial dish is best eaten hot. For that gorgeous cheese pull in this one, too.
Chef Sau Del Rosario’s version of the sisig at last year’s WSFC had me looking forward to his dishes this year. Featuring his Sisig Paella, the fusion was none too strange with the traditionally beer match food, sisig, now being eaten with rice as meals from its pulutan origins. The flavors and textures of various pork parts both contrast and come together in the yet another culturally ingrained and almost guilty flavor of margarine.
Batagor is a Sundanese Indonesian fried fish dumpling with tofu and vegetables in peanut sauce. The Chinese siomai has, over time, become a Pinoy street food stable and this fish and tofu version is a seafood shakeup to the usual pork offal ingredients.
As of the most recent pronouncements, the World Street Food Congress will, once again, be held in the Philippines in 2018.