The Hobo Guide to Street Food
Street food: one of the most praised and scorned terms in the travelling lexicon. For some, it’s the answer to authenticity and tight budgets; for others, it’s an all-too-vivid memory of a hellish time alternating between bucket and bowl. So, how do you go about choosing when and where to roll the dice with your bowel movements and give the stuff a crack? Here’s a handy guide based on the hits and misses of my own love affairs with this temperamental mistress.
Assess your Ingredients
When it comes to street food, investing a little thought into what you’re consuming could save you
a world of pain. If you can see dismembered rat carcasses tossed to the side of your new favourite en plein air restaurant, the chances are you should jog on. If your chosen lunch spot lies a stone’s throw from the burning ghats on the Ganga, take time to consider that the goat in those momos you’re about to chuck down your throat has probably drank its fair share of dead person. Don’t become a part of that vicious people-eating-goats-eating-people-eating-goats cycle, hobo. Pull yourself together, you’re better than that.
Assess your Plans
Where can you go if everything turns to shit (literally) a lot quicker than it usually would? If you’re planning on hanging around town, you’re all good. You’ll find a toilet even if it means bribing a random guest house with a few hundred rupees or at the very least finding a predominantly deserted alleyway in which to flush out your troubles (and dignity). Conversely, if you’re about to endure a 16-hour bus trip across a developing country, back the fuck off. Step away from that lukewarm samosa hobo; you and I both know you didn’t fork out enough for a bus with an onboard toilet. And the only restroom stop you’re getting on this route is when the engine kicks it. Do you really want to be that deadbeat foreigner frantically searching for something to wipe their burning anus with in front of the locals with whom you are to share a further 10 hours aboard this sweltering, overcapacity, vinyl-upholstered bus? Don’t do it to yourself, you silly fuck.
Commit to your Purchases
So you’ve just realised that what you thought was beef/pork/fish is actually dog/cat/rat and ideas of turfing it and eating elsewhere are beginning to tick over. Come now, you don’t have the money to be doubling up on food costs. Are you forgetting that your budgeting didn’t account for being robbed twice or bribing your friend’s way out of Polish prison? I recently made the purchase of a steamed bun that was unlike any other I’d had my way with in the past. Usually a safe and uninspiring choice, this limited edition bun came with its own little Kinder Surprise treat at the centre: an in-tact snout, nostrils and all. I’m not sure why the street vendor had opted against blending the pig’s face into oblivion. I guess for me it’s a lot like the chicken nugget. I know the content ain’t top quality, but I don’t go looking for answers because I fucking like the taste. Ignorance is bliss. Regardless, I’d just invested 2000 riel in this snout and it was all mine. So I gobbled it up before I could conjure any images of it breathing down my throat as it slithered its way into the depths of my digestive system.
At the end of the day, what’s the worst that could happen? So what, you might spend a couple of days feeling that if you were thrown to the growling, rabies-infected street dogs, you wouldn’t even mind. But let’s take a look at the silver lining. Your incapacity to move from your bathroom tiles for 48 hours will markedly revive your dwindling budget. And who’s to say you’re any safer at a conventional restaurant? Just this morning I fished a piece of mouse shit from my iced tea while enjoying all the luxuries of a table, chair and wifi. Now, what are you waiting for? Hurry up and devour that dirty, skewered mystery-stick before any more bacteria clings to it.
Cover by Alain Rafer