Mali, February 18, 2005
The best cooking is always streetside
Oh am I hungry. Its been hours, seemingly days, since a good meal and I need one now. Not content to wait the usual two hours for 'fast food', there is only one option for me. There is only on way I can eat quickly in Mali: street food. Yes, what your mother warned you about is my best option to eat good, cheap, and fast.|
And I have to say it is good, it is cheap, and it is fast. Probably and arguably the best food in Mali, in Africa, worldwide even, is street food. From Russia, to China, to Africa, I love street food. First it is always fast, for if it wasn't, it would be in a restaurant. Then it is always cheap, for it never has restaurant overhead. Last but not least it is always good.
Not only do you see every ingredient, you can watch exactly how each dish is prepared and can even direct the cooking if you're good in the local language. Oh and for those that worry it might not be clean or healthy, unlike the swank expensive hotel, a street food vendor has much reputation riding on his or her meal. In China and India, a street vendor can be legally beaten to death for making someone ill. I'm not sure about Mali, but I expect it similar. In this way alone, street food is so much better over here.
Still the proof is in the pudding, or in Mali's case, the salad. It might be sparse, with just lettuce, tomato, and cucumber, but damn are Malian salads good. With the freshest ingredients, and tomatoes that rock, salads here are better than any stateside.
So is the fish, caught locally and the beef slaughtered next door. The chicken might be shipped here and there, but I doubt it, No, in Mali, all is produced locally and shipped around the block, not around the country.
And street food is cheap. A full belly-busting meal of salad, fish, rice, and plantains is around one dollar. Breakfast of an omelet on baguette sandwich is less than twenty cents. Now if I could only get a beer with my meal, and not have to drink by Braille, I would only eat street food.
Still, the beer draws me into real restaurants, there are a few that serve beer, and then I have the wait. Even speedy restaurants here take at least an hour or two to prepare dinner. My theory: They go buy the ingredients after I sit down and order. My rule: Always eat on the street.