Street food. This is a bit of a buzz word and today there are hour long TV programs dedicated to Thai papaya salad, Taiwanese pancakes, and Colombian Arepas. But beyond gawking fodder for armchair world travelers, what is street food? What does the term really mean?
I was never exactly sure. I mean, isso vadai comes from a cart on the street and I eat it on the street so that probably qualifies, but what about Yarl Eat House, that’s sort of off the street… McDonald’s Drive through – aren’t you literally on the streets when you eat that?
Then yesterday I was, I was walking (no change for bus, too cheap for tuk – damn you HNB ATM), along the Galle road from Dehiwala to Bambalapitya. Just as I reached the W A De Silva Mawatha junction, of course it had to happen, it started to rain. I ducked into the nearby Bombay Sweet Centre and nosed around for something to order so I could justify myself being in their nice, dry shop. I settled on a glass of almond milk, a beef samosa and a small piece of pistachio muscat. Again, a standard Sweet House order but the result was just excellent. The almond milk (Rs. 150) – almonds, water and sugar in a blender was rich and not overly sweet. The beef samosa (Rs. 30) was the best I’ve had in the city – full of meat and gleaming green chillis, but not stomach unsettlingly spicy. The piece of muscat was pure indulgence.
So I had walked off the street and munched on these goodies for five minutes, by which time it had stopped raining, so I continued on my way. This is when I thought of a pretty good definition for street food- stuff you can get within close proximity of the street, and without having to go through a lengthy waiting time. To qualify as a real street food experience though, its also got to have some discernible local character, be good value for money and obviously taste pretty damn good. The samosa and almond milk at Bombay Sweet Centre qualified on all counts. I still think the original Bohra run sweet shops are a class above in terms of Indian sweets but for almond milk and a great samosa, Bombay Sweet Centre is worth stepping into.
I left feeling genuinely happy to be living in Sri Lanka, walking down the Galle Road in the light evening drizzle holding a small bag of beef Samosas. If the Bombay Sweet Centre made Galle Road, Wellawatte seem like a blast on a gloomy day, they must be doing something right!
Check it out if you’re in the neighborhood.