Whether you are on the go, or stopping to eat, “street food” is a great and delicious source of nourishment. Street food is defined as: ready-to-eat food or drink sold in a street or other public place, such as a market or fair, by a vendor or from a portable booth, truck, or cart. What makes it great is the ability to make one or two key signature dishes extremely well. It offers way to connect with the locals, get a feel for the local culture, and have a great meal.

In China, street foods generally catered to the poor, and lower class. It is often prepared right outside the homes, usually cooked with a portable hot-stone hearth. “Poor” or “lower class” families usually get their food for themselves, whereas wealthy residents would send servants to buy street foods and bring meals back for their masters to eat in their homes. Street food in China is broken down into subcategories: Classical, Sit-Down, and in-between. It is a great way to get to know the area, try some great foods, and mingle with the locals.
Classical street food is what one would expect: Classical street food revolves around meals that are easily packaged, served, and eaten, after being cooked by the vendor. These meals are often packaged in either a plastic bag, or wrapped in deli paper, and handed off. For breakfast, one might try the egg pancake, available at most vendors. What this entails begins with a ladle of a flour mixture on a hot plate, swirled around. Next is the egg cracked right in the center, and mixed all around, breaking the yolk. The center is then filled with an array of Chinese vegetables, a sweet paste, Chinese chili sauce (sparingly), and then folded. All of this happens in a matter of minutes, and is served with either a sweet roll, or a crispy sweet stick.
Other classical street foods include small barbecue stands, noodle stands, and other snack vendors. In some places, one can buy live seafood, and then take it right around the corner where restaurants will cook the seafood for you for a small fee per dish. Many street food vendors wait until the bars “officially” close to start selling their foods to the patrons wandering out, looking for some late night grub.

One big classification of Chinese street food is street meat. This ranges from chicken, beef, pork, to insects that are usually skewered onto a stick and cooked over an open flame, or in a wok. Most of the street meat is cooked right in front of you as you order, and handed off, without any utensils. If you’re lucky, some type of parchment paper may accompany it, but don’t hold you breath.

Sit-Down street food, although still great, can’t really be eaten on the go, but still classifies as so because it is still served from a vendor of some type. This type of food is usually served in some type of liquid or broth (soup or fish balls), in a plastic container, and handed to the customer.
Other sit-down favorites of locals are Pineapple Rice, people who have a little more time to sit on a corner and eat, and who do not want to spend a lot of money in a pricier restaurant usually eat this type of dish.

What I found while in China, street food was really a time where locals would gather and converse with the owner/food-provider about daily life. People seemed to gather around, especially first thing in the morning and then again late evening (9pm or so), to have a “community” meal.
Greek street food is a little different, respectively. In ancient Greece, street food was often catered to the “lower class” and “peasant food.” Those who did not have ovens or hearths in their homes, used open-air ovens to cook utilized this idea of street food. The vendors would often set up shop in large markets and other large gathering spots, to sell their product. Similar to China, higher class officials would send their servants to go to these markets and pick up the street food and bring it back.

In Greece, street food can be considered anything wrapped in a pita, such as Falafel, Shawarma, or Souvlaki, and served ready to eat. The falafel is the smallest of the three, served in a pita with the falafel patties, hummas, lettuce, tomatoes, and fries, (which would come on the side, but being a “walking” meal, come right inside of the meal.) Shawarma, considered to be fast food, is along the same idea, but with some slight differences. The pita is much bigger, but is still slightly toasted over an open flame. The filling includes a hummus spread, cucumber, onion, tomato, lettuce, eggplant, parsley, pickled turnips, pickled gherkins, pickles, rhubarb and cabbage. Other dressings that may be added are Tahini, Amba sauce (pickled mango with chili), or flavored with various spices such as cardamom, cinnamon, and nutmeg. The main part Schwarma is the shaved meat. Like most wrapped sandwiches in Greece, a heaping amount of fries comes stuffed inside, almost like having chips and a sandwich, but are wrapped with everything.

Much of Greek food is centered on family heritage, and families keeping their small business in the same family. It is important to keep these recipes in the families, and “the way” of cooking them is important. This is seen by local business being run by the younger generations, as they “learn the trade” and recipes. Another important aspect of these family run restaurants, (especially those located right on the street), is they tend to all eat together. This ties into the idea of family and unity.

Street food is located all over. There are many of the same dishes, but no two are the same. Each dish offers a unique flavor, taste, and personal touch of the proprietor, and of the ingredients that they use. All-in-all, street food is delicious, flavorful, and offers the chance to not only have, but connect to the local culture of wherever you are!

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With a crash of thunder and with a bolt of lightening, Sam Bieber was born. A native of Keene, New Hampshire, Sam grew up with a natural love for dabbling in the kitchen. His first experience was breaking a few eggs, and making some omelettes at a young age at home. He slowly began enjoying being in the kitchen, mixing and stirring, all while learning the “basic” cooking techniques. After high school, he enrolled in Johnson and Wales for Culinary Arts, and although he did not graduate, he gained the information and techniques needed to work in a kitchen. Let’s hop into the DeLorean, hit 88mph, and flash-forward a few years where we find Sam working in a kitchen in a family-style restaurant in his hometown, seeing all his friend’s graduating and moving on with their lives. Not thrilled where he was, he enrolled in a local college in Vermont, and earn a basic Associate of Arts degree, in hopes of transferring to another college to earn his B.A. The year was 2013 and we now find our hero, Sam, enrolled at Plymouth State University, majoring in Tourism Management and Policy. He is particularly interested in the intersection of food and local culture and, in New Hampshire that means the collaboration between local producers/farms and their connection "to table.” While at PSU, Sam worked with various local businesses, refining and retuning their business methods, in hopes of helping them with their return rate of customers. Sam has also been fortunate enough to explore this food-culture connection in Italy, Israel, Greece, and, most recently, China. It was here he observed the critical issue of the food-culture connection: whether it was in Greece, seeing the 3rd generation learning the proper techniques and having the Grandmother getting up from the corner, shuffling across the kitchen, “shooing” away the younger generation, adding MAYBE a grain of salt, looking at them, nodding, and shuffling back across to her chair; or in China, seeing family run restaurants with the entire family having some part of the experience. What makes this great is that not only are entire families participating, but ensuring that the way and know-how never dies. Sam also finds this connection in his love of learning about his personal heritage, and family recipes. He finds learning to cook these recipes that are being passed down into the next generation incredibly satisfying, even on those occasions when he asks: “Why is it done this way?” and the response is: “Because that’s the way your Grandmother did it.” Either way, Sam loves learning and combining food and culture, and truly believes that that they are connected.

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Street Food: China vs. Greece
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Street Food: China vs. Greece
Street food is located all over. There are many of the same dishes, but no two are the same. Each dish offers a unique flavor, taste, and personal touch of the proprietor, and of the ingredients that they use. All-in-all, street food is delicious, flavorful, and offers the chance to not only have, but connect to the local culture of wherever you are!

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