An Aussie Abroad: Street Food is Good For You

The endless spread of a Korean bibimpap. Photo: Keegan Thomson

The Internet is full of opinions about how you should spend your holiday. One opinion I take extreme resistance against is that you should avoid street food at all cost.

I’m writing this in Siem Reap, the ancient city in northern Cambodia home to Angkor Wat, where we’ve almost consumed nothing but street food each night for dinner.

The chef at Ma Net cooking up the goods. Photo: Keegan Thomson.

Our favourite local haunt is Ma Net, a little stall on the side of a busy road, across from the old Psar Chaa markets, where each night we are served up tasty, steaming hot serves of Khmer curry, bok choy and fried chicken with morning glory. All lovely dishes cooked to order.

I call bullplop to anyone who claims street food is dirty and potentially gut churning. The food is prepped, cooked and served up in a matter of minutes. In a restaurant you don’t know how long the food has been sitting out for, you don’t know what cuts of meat are being prepared and you certainly can’t see the state of the kitchen your food is cooked in.

Korea was a place that served up a near endless supply of fresh, homemade goodness including kimchi dumplings, knife cut noodles and a trove of crunchy bibimbaps. These foods are as quintessential to Korea as hot dogs and pizza are to Americans. Ironically hot dogs and pizza are considered street food to most New Yorkers.

(left) Fried goodies on sale in Seoul and (right) fresh kimchi dumplings. Photo: Keegan Thomson

To simply skip street food while travelling Asia is to completely ignore some of the best foods that a country and culture has to offer.

Street food is one of the most democratic versions of eating out. The longer the line, the busier the food stand, the better the food. Some places like Jay Fai’s in Bangkok requires a booking made months in advance.

Street food stalls are often the product of female entrepreneurism. Across seven months of travelling Asia I saw more women running street food stalls than men. It is well known that women spend more money on a family when they have the chance to earn it. By supporting a women led business you’re supporting a whole family.

Next time you’re travelling in a far off land and you smell something delicious cooking in a little stall on the side of a road, try it, taste it, it might just change your life, and it certainly will help another one.

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Keegan Thomson

Keegan Thomson

Journalist. House sitter. Foodie. Global gallivanter with my wife. Follow our publication — Backpack Gallivants. Email: keeganthomson93@gmail.com