Street food is increasingly fashionable. This “come back” that it's made is certainly a welcome one, considering that, at the end of the day, street food is the heart of the most genuine and truly traditional Italian cooking: we all remember Sofia Loren in the film directed by Vittorio De Sica, “The Gold of Naples” as she makes pizzas for the locals. Although pizzas are Italy’s most famous street food, nowadays we cannot ignore the food truck revolution, which has come over straight from the States: in these “kitchens on wheels” tasty dishes using high quality raw ingredients are prepared and sold directly to the public, so that a direct and honest rapport can be built up with the customer.
In Italy you can find some of the most traditional foods, like those of Farinel on the Road, which serves miasse, basically cornmeal wraps like a polenta flatbread, filled with specialty salami and cheeses from the Valle d’Aosta and Piedmont regions, or those of Ape Scottadito, selling arrosticini (grilled mutton cubes on a skewer) and fried stuffed olive all’ascolana to tourists in San Benedetto del Tronto in the province of Ascoli Piceno. But there is more, because street food brings creativity to the fore: Cucinando su Ruote (Cooking on Wheels) from Turin offers vegan hemp dishes on wheels, and Matilda sells Medieval recipes from the 13th Century. Below is a guided tour of the street food you can enjoy tasting at Expo Milano 2015.
A cone of steaming hot fries: street food for foodies and one of Belgium’s most famous dishes. These fries are different from all others and their secret is that they are cooked twice. The potatoes are cut into large pieces, fried, cooled and then fried again: this makes them very crunchy outside and soft and fleshy inside. Indeed, when you try them, you are struck by the sweetness and consistent texture of the inside, which explodes after you have bitten into the crunchy, toasted outside. Making fries is an art in Belgium and this is confirmed in the Pavilion of Belgium: not only the taste, but the color too is a joy to behold, as they are a perfect golden color. There are three sauces on offer: traditional mayonnaise, with its soft, rounded taste; ketchup, which is sweet and less acid than usual and, for those who like more original tastes, Andalusian sauce, which has a mayonnaise base, enriched with chili pepper and spices for a more aromatic taste and a finale with a kick.
Where: Pavilion of Belgium
How much: 4 euro
Mixed Neapolitan Cuoppo
The cuoppo is one of the pillars of traditions in Naples. It is a piece of greaseproof paper, also called “straw paper”, which is rolled into a cornet and becomes the perfect “container” for little fried treats to snack on while strolling around Naples. But not only there, because this tasty street food is also an important player at Expo Milano 2015 thanks to the cuoppo misto from Frie n' Fuie – which means “Fry and Run”. It contains a variety of fried tidbits, according to the cook’s inspiration, but always includes zeppole fritte, or fried leavened dough balls, rice arancini, which sometimes have saffron added, and rissoles, which range from the classic meatballs to those with broccoli rabe, tomatoes or olives. The cuoppo was already cited in literature in 1884, as Matilde Serao mentioned it in “Il Ventre di Napoli” (the Belly of Naples): in those days it contained mostly fried whitebait and a few panzerotti (fried pizza pockets).
Where: Frie n' fuie, near the Pavilion of Brazil and in the street food area near Cascina Triulza
How much: 5 euro
Rice on a skewer
The gastronomy of the People’s Democratic Republic of Laos is typically Asian, with lots of fresh vegetables and spicy flavors. The main staple is rice, which is boiled and served with vegetables, fish, chicken, pork or beef. A fun street food, which children will certainly love, is the rice on a skewer which is on offer at the Pavilion of Laos at Expo Milano 2015. It is made of rice, simply steamed and without any added flavors, squashed into a medallion shape and put on a skewer, dipped in egg and breadcrumbs and then fried. An unusual way of eating rice and a simple, tasty and nourishing takeaway dish. Those who prefer stronger tastes can try the Luang-Prabang sausages, made of soured pork and spices including a substantial dose of black pepper.
Where: Pavilion of Laos - Rice Cluster
How much: 3 euro
You don’t have to sit down at table in order to enjoy a great helping of meatballs. At the Pavilion of the Netherlands, in the large space where all kinds of food trucks are parked, surrounded by music and tables in the open, Dutch Fries and Meatballs stands out over the others. Its specialty is takeaway meatballs, which you can buy in the three-piece format, but we advise the large size to be fully satisfied. They are extremely crunchy outside and soft inside, and curry flavored. If you add a cone of fries – fresh, organic, hand chopped and fried while you wait, they make a complete and substantial meal.
Where: Pavilion of the Netherlands
How much: 7.50 euro
Basmati rice arancine
Basmati rice is a long-grained rice originally from India, which has a distinctive fragrance and flavor. The arancina, on the other hand, is typical Sicilian street food comprising a round or cone-shaped ball of rice which is stuffed and fried in boiling oil. When fried, it takes on a golden color reminiscent of an orange (the fruit in Italian is called arancia). At Expo Milano 2015 the friendship between Italy and the countries producing basmati rice is sealed by the Risotto Basmati stand, where you can try a basmati rice arancina: the filling can be the classical meat sauce with peas, or with mushrooms or with raw ham and mozzarella.
Where: Rice Cluster
How much: 5 euro
Popi, polenta on the road
Polenta is a dish which goes back many centuries in northern Italy, made from cornmeal cooked slowly in boiling water until it becomes a smooth, creamy porridge. Polenta is usually turned out onto a large wooden chopping board and left to set for a few minutes. It is served cut in slices, perhaps with a rich stew, or with mushrooms or cheese. But if you have a sudden craving for polenta while visiting Expo Milano 2015, the answer is called Popi. Here “polenta on the road” is a reality and you can choose between the classic polenta fingers, or those flavored with rosemary or chili pepper. If you are looking for a more substantial meal, you can accompany your polenta fingers with meat or chicken kebabs, chicken wings or a shank of pork.
Take away ramen
When you think of Japanese food, you immediately think of sushi and sashimi, but their hot dishes can also be delicious. Ramen is a traditional soup made of wheat noodles in a meat or fish soup with soy sauce added to it. The richest version contains slices of pork, creamy egg yolk, greens and spring onion, which gives it a fresh, crunchy taste. Other street foods include tasty chicken wings, a Japanese fried specialty to use up rather than throw out the less valuable part of the chicken, and the famous gyoza, Japanese ravioli stuffed with pork which acquire a marked, toasty flavor when they are grilled. And if we’re going for Japan, let’s go all the way, with drinks too: to accompany your takeaway dishes you can choose between the classic green tea, a lychee-flavored drink or cold sake.
Where: Zen Express
How much: 12 euro
Los granos de mi tierra
You can eat healthily in “street food mode” and Los granos de mi tierra is proof of it. It is a small van offering tasty ancient grains which have high nutritional value. These include quinoa, the “wheat of the Incas”, which is gluten-free and rich in protein and essential amino acids; amaranth, a plant originating in Central America and the seeds of which are full of vitamins and fiber, and which is also gluten-free; wholegrain wild rice, bulgur (cracked wheat) made from sprouted durum wheat which is prepared in a particular way. These foods go perfectly with vegetables or new versions of sauces, such as light pesto or a lighter version of fish sauce. Plenty of these sauce and grain combinations are suitable for people with coeliac disease or for those who choose vegetarian or vegan diets. There are also creamy vegetable soups, mixed salads, fruit salads and fresh fruit smoothies.
Where: near the Pavilion of China and the Pavilion of Qatar
How much: 8 euro
The “starred” Panini of The Rolling star
No longer the preserve of traditional or exotic food offerings, street food is becoming more and more gourmet. At Expo Milano 2015 you can enjoy the buzz of tasting award-winning food even by visiting a food truck: the place to go to is The Rolling Star, an old Citroen H van, made over with a brand new kitchen, “driven” by the chef Felice Lo Basso, from the one Michelin-starred restaurant Unico in Milan. Here there is a choice between three haute cuisine takeaway offerings: a meat panino with pulled pork cooked for 14 hours, with a horseradish and apple sauce; a prawn panino, filled with a shrimp tartare in cocktail sauce; and the vegetarian panino with a veggie burger topped with peppers and burrata cheese.
Where: near the Pavilion of China
How much: 8 euro
Nasi goreng is a typical street food that you find everywhere in Indonesia: its name means “fried rice” and it is a takeaway dish made of steamed or boiled rice which is then sautéed in a wok, with chicken or beef, vegetables, shrimps and little strips of plain omelet. It is a tasty and nourishing dish which everyone can enjoy, as it is not too spicy. It can be accompanied with ayam kalio, chicken seasoned with lemongrass and spices, cooked in coconut milk, tahu balado, or fried tofu, and mie goreng, wheat noodles sautéed with meat and mixed vegetables.
Where: Pavilion of Indonesia
How much: 10 euros including a free drink