Winning tip: a stink in Taiwan
In the Taiwanese town of Jingtong, I tried what is widely known as “stinky tofu”. At the back of a roadside stall, I sat on a low seat and watched three squares of tofu being cut into four before being plunged into a wok of hot oil. It was served in a bowl with soy sauce and picked sliced cabbage and carrot. It was surprisingly good, not greasy and, although there was a slight smell, it was no worse than a strong blue cheese. With a chilled lime drink, I paid about £2.
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Every week we ask our readers for recommendations from their travels. A selection of tips will be featured online and may appear in print, and the best entry each week (as chosen by Tom Hall of Lonely Planet) wins a £200 voucher from hotels.com. To enter the latest competition visit the readers’ tips homepage
Nice surprise, France
I tried socca (chickpea-flour pancakes) for the first time while on holiday in Nice and I will remember it forever. I think I devoured three people’s portions. We were walking through the old town and I noticed queues at various street vendors, but one on a corner had the longest queue. The staff were working in immense heat over enormous flat griddle pans, scraping off the strange-looking substance with a flat utensil like a piece of folded cardboard. I handed over a few euros and it was literally slapped on to a plate and handed to me. With glasses of cold rose from the bar next door, we sat down in the shade to eat our food. I have never been so surprised by, or fallen in love so quickly with a food – and one that’s pretty much impossible to find anywhere at home.
Every Friday from spring to late autumn Ljubljana’s Pogačarjev Square fills with food and drink stalls from local producers and restaurateurs, showcasing Slovenia’s best dishes. Tourists and locals perch on the steps outside the cathedral to scoff delights such as potato dumplings with blue cheese sauce, and strawberry cream cake. All waste is recycled at the end of the market and leftover food donated to those in need.
Car park doughnuts, Romania
The best street food sometimes takes you by surprise. We exited the Salina Turda salt mine in Romania into a drizzly, cold car park with empty bellies and – seemingly – without much to eat on offer. We joined the queue at a food van and handed over 2 lei (about 40p), not really knowing what we’d get. It turned out to be a kind of flat deep-fried savoury doughnut covered in salty cream cheese… and it tasted of heaven! A bit of googling revealed that this mystery dish was langosi cu branza. We rejoined the queue.
No name pork, Bangkok
There’s a little stall with a little old lady on the corner of Rambutturi alley and Chakrabongse Road in central Bangkok that serves the best slow-cooked pork and rice in the world. It has no name, there’s no menu and she doesn’t speak English. But that’s OK: she only serves one dish and does it spectacularly well. Point at the bubbling pork, hand over 60 baht (about £1,40), take a seat on a little plastic stool and prepare to be blown away. I’ve been visiting this lady every time I go to Bangkok (for more than 20 years), and I love her like my mum!
Breakfast in Battambang
The pork-rice lady across the street from the Banan Hotel in Battambang, Cambodia, sets up for the breakfast rush every morning. As is typical with this type of establishment, once she runs out of product she closes for the day. The pork was sweet from the marinade and delicately smoky from the charcoal brazier, and at about a dollar it made for a quick, tasty and cheap breakfast.
Traditional treats, Kathmandu
Momos are steamed dumplings beloved by Nepalese that are typically stuffed with vegetables, chicken or “buff” (buffalo: for Hindus, cows are sacred). These delicacies are served from stalls that spring up by the kerbside from the late afternoon all over Kathmandu. Dished up on small plates made from banana leaves, they come with a dash of spicy sauce. In Kathmandu’s Thamel, the main tourist hub, here are usually a few stalls selling momos for 100 rupees (about a dollar) – they are a bit more expensive, as it is a tourist area, but still represent great value.
Local colour, Mexico
La Tilapia is just opposite Villa Las Estrellas on the long beach road in Tulum. You can’t miss the small, but beautifully painted, hut where a charming Mexican lady serves amazing tacos, burritos and ceviche. We stopped here for lunch and enjoyed several of her dishes for a modest price compared to that around. Not only does the food taste amazing it’s served on fantastic colourful plates. A stand out place for sure.
Empanadas: parcels of Chilean joy
A tiny crowded stall at the far end of the tiny town of San Pedro de Atacama drew my attention. My language skills meant pointing awkwardly at a pile of crispy treats and receiving four perfectly filled, crispy steaming parcels of meat and vegetables. I handed over the equivalent of £2 in the hope it would be enough and received £1.75 back in change. With a can of Coke (essential for altitude sickness), I gazed at the lunar landscape and devoured these parcels of joy that Ican never recreate but are always fondly remembered.
Wherever you are in Uzbekistan it seems you are never too far from a giant kazan, an iron pan where palov, the country’s ubiquitous street food, is cooked over an open fire. The basic ingredients are rice, meat and vegetables. My favourite variety, tuy palov, also contains chickpeas and raisins. Wandering through Tashkent’s central food market, we were invited to share a huge plate of this delicious, Persian-influenced food with a group of friendly workmen who were sitting at a long bench tucking into their lunch: a lovely example of the country’s hospitality.
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