Book Review: Street Food by Susan Feniger
Reviewed by Karen Miles
I love exuberant food. And that's why Susan Feniger's Los Angeles restaurant, Street, is on my bucket list. In the meantime, here in the middle of the country, I'm mesmerized by her cookbook of street food from all over the world. Subtitled "irresistibly crispy, creamy, crunchy, spicy, sticky, sweet recipes," the book delivers recipes from street stands and home kitchens in Vietnam, India, Korea, Scandinavia, Burma, Tunisia, Ukraine, and many other countries. Susan also includes fascinating travelogue pages, in which she reports on her food excursions to Ho Chi Minh City, Kochi, Bezirgan, and Mongolian Steppes.
"I believe that in any country, what you see and taste on the street is the best food you'll find, because it's usually one family's recipe handed down and perfected over generations. There aren't any frills; there's no service; all the focus is on the food," Susan tells us. Here's a tiny sampling of the recipes you'll find while perusing the book:
The Starters & Small Bites chapter includes Ukrainian Spinach Dumplings with Lemon Marmalade and Sour Cream; Salads include Scandinavian Mixed Greens and Apples With Juniper Vinaigrette; the Vegetables and Grains section provides recipes for Thai Creamed Corn with Coconut Milk and Egyptian Bus Stop Kushary. A Land & Sea chapter includes Lebanese Chicken Wrap with Marinated Vegetables and Spicy Tahini and Singapore Crab Cakes with Red Chile Sauce; Curry & Tofu & Noodles offers Anatolian Ravioli with Chickpeas, Feta, and Brown Butter; and Chutneys & Pickles & Other Condiments includes Jamaican Ginger Hot Sauce and Tamarind Date Chutney.
A chapter on Basic Spice Mixes and Pastes provides instructions for making Indian Dry Spice Mix, African Spice Mix, Middle Eastern Za'atar Spice Mix, Thai Curry Mix, Mexican Spice Paste, and Tamarind Puree. And the dessert chapter, Sweets, offers Thai Tea Pudding with Lime Caramel and Candied Cashews; Danish Black Licorice and Cherry Biscotti with Buttermilk Koldskal; and Egyptian Semolina Cake with Lime Curd and Berries. A section on Elixirs & Tonics & Lhassis includes recipes for Canton Ginger Kick and Fresh Turmeric and Honey Lhassi.
Irresistibly bursting with flavor, right? Yes, many of the ingredient lists and directions are relatively long, but I'm enticed—and a firm believer that food doesn't have to be "quick and easy" to earn a spot on the home menu. Besides, we're not talking fussy food prep. "There's no daintiness in street cooking; there's rolling up your sleeves and getting involved in a new culture with brand-new flavors and lots of joy," Susan explains. I can do that. I want to do that!
Speaking of exuberant, I hope Susan is at Street if I ever get there. Judging by the pictures of her in the book, she'll be laughing out loud and thoroughly enjoying herself.
Here are three recipes from Susan Feniger's Street Food for you to try: