Right here (Singapore), right now (until 9 June), the inaugural World Streetfood Congress (WSFC) is happening, celebrating all things streetfood. One of the things that I love most when going to any country is seeing people sell food on the streets and the smell of grilling meat in the air. Some of the best food I have had had been eaten from such places, so when I heard about the WSFC, I knew I had to go. Part of the WSFC is a 2-day dialogue where speakers from all over the world talk about streetfood in their country and the importance of keeping the streetfood tradition alive. I’m sure that’s interesting, but for me, it’s all about the eating. How could I pass up the experience of eating shrimps and grits and other yummy stuff?
The atmosphere at the WSFC was more “congress” than “street”, stalls lined up in a row, the radio playing rather sleep-inducing music, but that’s all fine, I was there for the food. Though some hint of a “jamboree”, as the event was touted to be, would have made the experience more fun. One thing that they did right was having a lot of ice cold beer there, the weather was hot!
There were food from the US, though strangely enough, no hot dogs :(, Mexico, India, China, Indonesia, Malaysia, Vietnam and Thailand. I’d wanted to try food that I can’t get easily here in Singapore, so that meant hitting up the American and Mexican stalls. I headed straight for Tacombi’s Mexican crispy fish tacos with pickles ($10); fried fish topped with spicy chipotle and bright purple pickles. Made a pretty picture and tasted good to boot. The pickles slightly overwhelmed the taste of the fish, but it was so good and refreshing, I still liked it a lot. Oh! Anthony Bourdain was in town for WSFC too! Saw him from a distance and while I was interested in getting a picture, he was too far, the weather was too hot and I was too full to make the effort to get over there. You can tell that the man is tall, even from a distance.
The dish of the day had to be the porchetta burger ($9) from The People’s Pig, definitely not one for the health conscious. Thick slice of pork, with lots of fat attached, with arugula, some sweet-sourish sauce, sandwiched between a ciabatta roll. Gosh, heaven! The meat would have been too much on its own, but the bitterness of the arugula and the sweet-sour sauce helped cut through the fattiness to make it a luscious mouthful. All of us were transported to orgasmic heaven with the first bite!
As a result of watching numerous travel and food shows, I’ve always wanted to try shrimps and grits, it’s practically the only thing that they talk about when in the American South, so when I saw this on the menu, I knew I had to have it and I love it! For me, The Swamp Shack’s version of the sauce on top of the grits was what made the dish for me, it’s slightly spicy, slightly sweet and a lot flavourful. I could happily have had the grits with the sauce on its own ($10). The Swamp Shack also served smothered chicken, which while it was delicious, think tender chicken and yummy mashed potatoes, it reminded me too much of KFC. The smothered chicken had not been on our list of things to try, but a friend had overheard someone describing it for a TV show and it sounded so good, she could not resist trying it out.
Next up was Hoy Tord Chao Lay’s seafood omelette, kind of like our Orh Lua (or oyster omelette), but lighter and filled with bean sprouts. The seafood was fresh, loved the clean taste of oyster with egg, and it was non-greasy. Apparently Hoy Tord Chao Lay is one of the top eateries in Thong Lor, Bangkok.
For me, Eurotrach Food Cart’s soft shell crab burger with beef patty ($16) was perhaps the most disappointing dish of the afternoon. With everything that went on in the burger, I could not taste the soft shell crab, nor even feel the texture. The beef patty was dry and too chewy. To top it off, there was too much sauce, causing everything to slide all over and it was just too messy. To be fair, it wasn’t bad, it just wasn’t good.
The rest of what we had was putu mayam from Singapore’s Heaven’s Indian Curry, sweet vermicelli topped with desiccated coconut and orange sugar. Once a food that we could easily find in Singapore, it’s getting harder to find this here, so I was excited to try this, since it’s been a while since I’ve had it. Unfortunately, this did not perform to expectation, the vermicelli was a tad too dry and there just wasn’t much taste to it. At the top corner is Gurney Drive’s Penang assam laksa. A lot different from our local laksa, assam laksa is a sweet-sour concoction that tentalises the taste buds. While a friend thought that this was not authentic Penang laksa, being that it was too sweet and all, I liked it as it was refreshing and quite perfect for the scorching hot day.
There are still food that I didn’t get to try because in all honesty, I was full to bursting, which is why I’m planning for a repeat visit. I really did like the WSFC and hope that it will come back next year with more food from places like Japan, Korea, and hot dogs! There could be more exciting music being played too.