It was great to see that last week’s piece on fish and chips in County Donegal struck a chord with readers and on social media – it ended up being shared more than 250 times on Facebook. As a result I thought I’d follow up with a new occasional feature, a look at top street food and local eats around the world. They don’t quite merit a full review, but are all damn fine eating and all absolutely worth a visit.
Kumpir, Ortaköy, Istanbul, Turkey
For once the lure of meat in bread was overtaken by, of all things, a baked potato. But not just any spud-u-like. Hell no. These enormous steaming beauties are an Istanbul institution, especially popular around Ortakoy and the mosque under the bridge connecting Europe to Asia.
The baked potato is actually puréed with unsalted butter and kaşar cheese, before you choose from a mind-boggling variety of toppings available from the stands selling them – every type of cheese, meat, salad, vegetables, sauces, dressings, pickles.
As you eat with your little plastic fork which invariably snaps, watch the tankers and ferries heading out to the Bosphorous or three generations of the same family enjoying an evening waterside stroll.
Hot dog stand, Reykjavik, Iceland
Bourdain mentioned this place a few years back and, after a couple drinks in Iceland’s capital, the pull was strong despite the freezing winds I had to battle to get there. It’s a nondescript little stand with a long line. Was it the world’s greatest hot dog? Probably not. Was it just what was needed after a night on the sauce? Absolutely.
Baejarins Beztu Pylsur, Tryggvagotu 1, Reykjavik 101, Iceland
Francesinha, Porto, Portugal
There are sandwiches and then there is the Francesinha, the deceptively-named ‘little French girl’ in Portuguese. Until ordering one, I had never been defeated by a sandwich. I left a broken man. It starts life as a cheese, ham and chorizo sandwich, before being drowned in melted cheese and a tomato sauce made with beer, before a huge amount of French fries are shovelled on top. It is a terrible and wonderful thing in equal measure.
Take your pick, most cafes in central Porto serve them
Cuy, Cuenca, Ecuador
The first pet I had was a guinea pig called Marmalade, alongside three rabbits called Flopsy, Mopsy and Cottontail. Giving me, incidentally, the most unfortunate p*rn star name of Flopsy Nelson. Guinea pigs are Ecuador’s national dish so, in the interests of cultural exploration, I could hardly turn down the opportunity to try one.
The cuy has to be pre-ordered but, when it arrives, it clearly still looks like a guinea pig even when spatchcocked. I’ll admit it made it tough, as did sitting next to my vegetarian wife.
It’s proudly served with a brilliantly-retro fanned egg, cherry tomatoes and a sprig of parsley. Accompaniments of boiled potatoes, a tomato and onion salad and the national condiment, a chilli sauce called aji. The truth is that it was sensational, like the most delicate and subtle roast suckling pig you can imagine.
I felt guilty, all the more so a couple hours later at Cuenca airport as, to my horror, a movie was playing featuring armed guinea pigs. It was clearly a sign.