Every first and third Saturday of the month, a man opens a market stall in my tiny little town just outside of central London. It’s a Spanish specialty food stall, with jamon iberico, saffron, manchego and many of the best tastes of Spain, which he imports directly from his native land. On the weeks I recover from my travels, I turn up, like clockwork the moment he opens for business. It’s these simple tastes that instantly transport me to the wonderment and joy of travel through food.
On these Saturdays, I forget that my feet are planted in London and for a brief moment, I’m sitting in a Madrid plaza with a delicious glass of wine and a racion of my favourite European snack. While street food tourism has always been a major part of any foodies journey, a new Netflix show is turning up the heat, driving a new wave of travel buzz, all through street food.
Street food is not new, it’s not novel and for the most part it hasn’t changed. It’s about the sacred, often decades old recipes passed down from humble people to humble people to feed the people at prices anyone can swing. It’s often served without plates, without tables and almost always without air conditioning.
What no one may have suspected from it decades ago though, was that it would become a vital part of tourism trends in emerging countries.
If you haven’t seen it, Netflix has a new series titled none other than “Street Food”. Season 1 of this new venture is an exploration of the endless street food gems in Southeast Asia, taking a look at some of the most prolific kings and queens of the street, and a few regional delicacies travellers might otherwise miss out on.
One thing is for sure, people are taking note.
Put it this way: most programs about food thus far have been about morsels and delicacies far out of reach to most television audiences. $500 a plate multi-Michelin starred dinners, which are often sans wine are incredibly aspirational, but for those who love equally yummy mouthfuls with the decimal moved over at least two places, this trend in travel through affordable food is everything.
What’s brilliant about the show is that it not only showcases the obvious choices, but also a few lesser frequented areas which are experiencing major tourism boosts as a result. It’s expanding travel horizons. Speaking of which, this Twitter thread party prompted by Street Food has plenty of ideas…
If you flew into Singapore and had a week to bounce around Southeast Asia, where would you go?
— Gilbert Ott | GSTP
(@godsavethepoint) May 3, 2019
Bangkok, Singapore, Seoul, Ho Chi Minh and Delhi have always been on the radar for food-focused travellers in Asia, but the likes of Cebu, Chiayi or Yogyakarta might not. Plus, Tokyo and Kyoto have long taken too much spotlight away from Osaka, which also receives a nod in season one. Osaka has always been the market, street food capital of Japan, and episode 2 cements that firmly.
Heard of Chiayi? It’s okay to say no. Within weeks of the “Street Food” release, interest in trips to Chiayi, Taiwan skyrocketed. The mountainous region of Taiwan is gorgeous from every angle, but also home to some of the world’s greatest night markets. Hungry travellers who would typically stick to more frequented paths are now aiming squarely at these delicious cities and breaking down barriers.
Who knew a $2 meal could be responsible for billions in travel growth? We can’t wait to see which part of the world takes centre stage in the next installment…