My Nominee for Best Street Food Vendor

It is surprisingly easy to choose which restaurants are my favorites.  Whether or not it has cheap eats, waitstaff that sit down and awkwardly talk with customers, windows, soap and water or some combination of the four, is of minimal importance in the ranking system.  Ultimately, if I was limited to one city on each continent in which to have a 24-hour food marathon, including only those which I have visited, I’d go with Mexico City, Lima, Cairo, Istanbul, and Tokyo…except that the flight between Istanbul and Tokyo was diverted to Seoul due to nothing other than my inability to choose one city in Asia.

Not to mention, it is just as simple to do the reverse.  For example, Manhattan has an overabundance of restaurants that aren’t worth mentioning here or there, so I’ll offer vague descriptions in lieu of names.  ThinkAmerican cheese instead of paneer stuffed into naan, nacho cheese woefully added to tonkatsu sauce and (hmm, this theme is pure coincidence) a stiff rectangle of cheese that forgot to melt itself on pizza.

Street food, though?  Now I’m in trouble.

Or am I?

Alexandria, Egypt.  A Mediterranean metropolis best known for its library and its 19th century trams.  For me, it was a food, well what’s the word between mecca and paradise?  Don’t be alarmed, there’s no hidden meaning in that question. I’ll save myself by writing good food, good food.  Koshary, falafel, sugar cane juice, grilled eggplant, zabadi, ful (fava bean stew) – a breakfast staple, and cantaloupe ice cream.

Enter, my favorite street food vendor. located by Sidi Gaber train station.  I had an early morning ride to Cairo, so I hopped aboard one of the storied trams earlier than necessary, in the event that the boarding situation might be entropic.    Turns out that that the chaos that awaited my arrival at Cairo’s train station wasn’t present in Alexandria, so I wandered around with plenty of time but sadly (fortunately?) only one stomach.

Alexandria, Egypt - Street Vendor (Foul, Eggplant, Falafel)

Ah, one of those soap-free joints. The welcome mat has been rolled out.

After already having tried out two nearby ful stands, I ended up at the one above.

Pickles, a tomato and cucumber salad, fries, ful, grilled eggplant, and falafel.  The mainstays of a breakfast vendor in Egypt.  All brilliant, but nothing out of the ordinary.

Except that no one seemed to mind that the customers freely picked away at the eggplant and falafel – the profit margins – sitting in buckets in plain sight.

Now that I think about it, I ought to buy this vendor dinner.


What are your nominees for best street food vendor?

This entry was posted in Food & Drink, Turkey, Southwest Asia/Middle East & North Africa and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

10 Responses to My Nominee for Best Street Food Vendor

  1. Jess Carey says:

    I found the food in Egypt amazing too – would have loved more time to explore the street food side of it though!! Falafels look unreal! This was one of my best street food experiences –

    • What are some of the more memorable Egyptian dishes you’ve tried, Jess? Better yet, if you had the option of ordering Egyptian or Thai on a plane…

      • Jess Carey says:

        I had the most amazing falafels, flat bread and fresh tabouleh at Khan el-Khalili market… the food at the hotel we stayed at in Cairo was phenomenal too actually! I’m pretty sure all food is good food 😉 How about you?! Any all time favourites?!

  2. David says:

    I have never been to Egypt, but love just about any street food. To (poorly) paraphrase my favorite sentence in Bourdain’s “Kitchen Confidential,” My body isn’t a temple, it’s a theme park.” When I have the opportunity to eat the real stuff, I do. I have had great street food in every country I have visited – Morocco, México, throughout Europe – but my favorite is from my hometown in Tucson: the vendors from the Tohono O’Odham nation who sell incredible green and red chile from under the ramadas at the Mission San Xavier del Bac. Truly wonderful.

    Thanks for sharing your favorite – I look forward to being there someday.

    • Thanks for your comment, David! Sounds like a good reason to visit Tucson. Even though they are from your easterly neighbor, are you a fan of Hatch chiles?

      While on a brief stopover in Phoenix, I didn’t come across much in the way of street food, however wandering into massive Mexican supermarkets made up for that…

  3. In NYC I loved the “street” food in Chelsea market. Though ridiculously over-priced, it was pretty good food. Otherwise, though I am biased, the old street in my Japanese “hometown” of Ise in Mie has loads of good offerings. Matsusaka-beef korokke, tofu ice cream, shaved ice with matcha sauce… ahhhh I wish I could be eating it all now.

    • Ah yes, there’s generally no reason to go to Chelsea market…save for the surprisingly decent deals on dried herbs in one of the stores. Did you try the anomalous vegetarian sushi stall there too?

      Is the ice cream in Ise made of tofu, or is that one of the flavors? I recall walking through a Lawson and finding a soy-flavored tofu. I don’t get it!

      • I didn’t eat any sushi there. I had some Mexican food (verrry expensive but had a huge queue) and an Australian pie. Both of which were delicious.

        I think it’s made with tofu, it’s definitely more creamy than regular ice cream, but with a very subtle taste.

  4. Adam says:

    I have found that the best food in New York is found in its suburbs


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