Make a Street Vendor Picnic in the City Using Delicious Ethnic Specialties
If you think of New York street vendors, you might be thinking solely about hot dogs, hamburgers, and other types of "fast food." However, New York City is an ethnic melting pot, which provides lots of opportunities to sample other foods also.
In this city, many different nationalities live together, in areas where busy streets and congestion are frequently a way of life. This is why street vendors also come from many different nationalities. In a case like this, it wouldn't make sense for all these different ethnic groups to be selling the same things. Here's a closer look at what street vendors can tell us about creating a picnic from their selections.
Street Vendor Prestige
The city actually holds an annual competition called the Vendy Awards, where street vendors vie for the distinction of serving the tastiest, most unique food selections in town. The event is an all-you-can-eat-and-drink day of culinary fun that commands a high ticket price. The vendors get a chance to showcase their unique creations and compete for the title of “best food on the streets.”
In fact, many big cities sponsor festivals during the summer months where street vendors offer their best dishes to patrons. The long lines at some of these events are a testimonial that the food is anything but ordinary.
A good street vendor, then, can offer things that could contribute to a delicious theme picnic. On any given day, many city dwellers grab something special from a favorite street vendor, then head for a public square, local park, or anywhere they can enjoy the meal they've chosen.
In a city the size of New York, the food selections are varied enough so that you wouldn't often have to eat the same thing twice - unless, of course, you wanted to. So, how do you replicate the feel and taste of a “citified” picnic? Just bring along various samples of the food you'd find on the streets.
Crossing Cultural Culinary Lines
It won't take long to discover that hotdogs and hamburgers are not the only food in town. The cultural diversity of a big city like New York lends itself to a selection of foods inspired by many different countries. It is our fortunate advantage that each culture holds onto traditions and customs that create delicious flavors and foods.
One such treat is a Turkish treat called doner kebabs, which is a lamb dish served either by itself or in sandwiches, with a variety of sauces. Greek dishes also utilize lamb often, particularly in gyros - pitas filled with meat and an assortment of vegetables, topped with a creamy tzatziki sauce.
Another Greek street vendor favorite is moussaka, another dish made with lamb, tomatoes, eggplant, and cheese. This is a perfect, portable picnic food that's tasty either hot or at room temperature.
German street vendors are hard to miss, with the pleasant, pungent aroma of fried sausages filling the air. A classic German bratwurst has been a picnic favorite for years, and the street vendor is partly responsible for that popularity. Meat lovers who like a little extra hearty flavor love a good bratwurst covered with a variety of toppings.
German vendors are also well known for their schnitzel, which is pounded thin with a mallet, then coated in breadcrumbs and fried. This is another simple dish that adapts well to picnics, as a main course meat source or combined in a tasty sandwich with other ingredients.
To put a Mexican fiesta twist on your street vendor picnic, you could try some homemade tamales. It's basically a portable Mexican version of a sandwich. They're simple to make and easy to transport, making them good candidates for picnic fare. Tamales are normally cooked in a leaf wrap which gets discarded right before you eat one.
Tamale fillings vary, depending on who's cooking them. Traditionally, vendors use chicken or beef, but in larger metropolitan areas near the sea, you'll find more shrimp and fish. These meats grill easily, and they're a convenient quick fix for lunchtime meals.
Middle Eastern street vendors serve falafel dishes, either as snack or full pita sandwiches topped with crunchy vegetables and a tahini or hot pepper sauce, whichever you prefer. Falafel is a filling dish made with chickpeas, which is both a vegetable and a protein source. This is yet another easy picnic dish you can prepare at home before you head for the picnic.
Faithful Muslims serve a group of halal foods in the city, which are those permitted by Islamic law to be eaten. Islamic law requires that animals be treated with respect, so only certain types of meats are allowed in their diets.
You don't have to be a Muslim to enjoy the consistent quality of halal food. Street vendors who serve it include ample servings of vegetables, grains, fish, fruits, nuts, and legumes for a healthy, full-course meal that your body will thank you for.
Truth be told, urban picnics can be fun to plan, if you take the time to choose a number of delightful combinations straight from the street. Whether you're a New Yorker or a veteran of another big city where street vendors sell their wares, you'll find good foods and great ideas for hosting your own picnic in your own backyard or neighborhood park. Bring a world of flavors from around the globe to your next street vendor picnic.