Hawkers or street food cooks today are seen increasingly as vendors of food culture, especially in countries that have a rich heritage street food history. They lend a culinary brand to a place, offer a dish that is a part of their culture, may it be old or progressive. In the new world of travel and lifestyle experiences, these heritage street food vendors are very sought after by new age traveller and millennials, seeking no expectations from their culinary journeys except to experience a slice of that true local meal culture, it’s the ultimate gastronomic souvenir for any visitor. So, again, at the World Street Food Congress this year, we place on the pedestal, the Top 50 of the best World Street Food Masters award winners.
We look at their operational efficiency and basic level of hygiene, ingredients sourcing, food preparation techniques, consistency, confidence and the quality and flavour of food. We also factor its culture to inspire and create jobs, reputation and opportunities at large, if the reputation is a game changer.
Our panel consist of widely travelled commentators, writers, food celebrities and professionals, with a peculiar penchant for heritage street food culture. We’ll be the first to admit that this list, nor any, will never be exhaustive as there are over 10 million street food vendors around the world. India alone, has an estimated 6 million (according to the National Assn of Street Vendors of India), but we’ll get smarter along the way.
Top of the deck is Hill Street Tai Hwa Bak Chor Mee (466 Crawford Lane, #01-12, Singapore) They are the first family of this dish and it has become iconic over the decades and is a dish Singaporeans bond over and call their own. They have also won a Michelin Star in 2016. But here are some highlights.
Franklin’s BBQ, (Austin Historic East Side, 900E, 11th,Austin Texas, TX 78702, USA franklinbbq.com), comes in at second. They are legends and are known for their soft juicy, aromatic wood smoked meats with “bark”. Third is Che Paek Pu Ob Voon Sen, (Thanon Charoen Rat Soi 1, Khlong San, Bangkok). They created a sidewalk jam of sorts when they open each evening. Their steel pot glass noodle crab is a sensation and made on the spot upon order. For the first time, Philippines entered the list and at fourth spot, is Aling Lucing’s Sisig (Glaciano Valdez St, Angeles, Pampanga) . They created this chopped pig head sizzling platter with lime, soy sauce, onions with chillies and it is now a national dish of sorts. Food and travel TV host Anthony Bourdain regards this as the next big thing in Philippines food culture, and that it should be featured in his upcoming Bourdain’s Market in New York. Slipping to fourth slot, from the top in the 2103 list, is Pak Sadi Soto Ambengan form Jakarta Indonesia (Jl. Wolter Monginsidi No. 28 Petogogan Kebayoran Baru, RT.1/RW.6, Petogogan, Jakarta). Their spiced chicken soto broth is redolent with blended bits of fish and seafood and they thicken it with extra oomph with a spoonful of crushed prawn crackers with fried garlic.
Notable entries include Dinesh Kumar’s Litti Chokha food stand in Delhi. He was featured in the inaugural WSFC2103 and the humble hawker had never travelled before. He became a star of sorts after the event and today , he has 10 stalls in the city. His garam roasted bread with dahl and chicken curry is a hit every year he is featured. You can check out the full World Street Food Masters list at http://wsfcongress.com/award-2017-winners/