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. Think– American 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.
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?