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The food truck revolution at Expo Milano 2015: 10 street foods you have to try

Taste / -

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Street food is the heart of every culinary culture. The most famous street foods in Italy are pizza, cuoppo from Naples and arancine from Sicily, but at Expo Milano 2015 you can also find Laotian rice on a stick and takeaway ramen.

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.
Double-fried fries
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
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

A virtual thread ties Egyptian potatoes to the European market

Innovation / -

Le patate egiziane certificate iniziano il viaggio verso l'Europa

With Italy's help, the Egyptian Ministry of Agriculture has developed an information system for improving controls and tracking of its agricultural products for export. Thanks to the new system, potatoes will now travel more securely from Alexandria to Trieste.

No matter what the route, all trips have a beginning and an end. But if the travellers are agricultural products, trade rules with Europe dictate that all the stops in between need to be tracked as well. This is what led to the Egyptian Ministry of Agriculture's decision to implement a reliable internal control system for food products intended for export, taking advantage of international technical support. The objective is to use an information system to ensure that the departing food is healthy, fresh and genuine.
This enhanced stringency and transparency is a boon for Egypt, allowing its local products to be exported and giving them a competitive edge – starting with the potatoes that leave from Alexandria for Trieste.
Computerized control
The change is intended to strengthen customs inspections at points of departure and entry, reducing the risk of foods that are harmful to humans and preventing the introduction (and propagation) of dangerous pests and diseases.
Data on agricultural products (mainly on potatoes) have been transmitted and shared between the port phytosanitary offices in Alexandria and Trieste since 2009. All this takes place through new digital procedures that allow all the information on the shipped products to be easily displayed and tracked, and to issue Digital Phytosanitary Certificates (DPC). This enhanced control process allows producers to have their food products certified by the phytosanitary services, and to prevent the exports from being rejected by customs at the port of entry, along with the costs for disposing of them.
The entire information system speeds up controls, increases transparency and simplifies bureaucratic procedures.
Transparency guaranteed
According to port phystosanitary services in the two countries, potato traffic from the Egyptian coasts to Italy amounted to roughly 32 tonnes, accompanied by only 68 DPCs issued by the authorities in Alexandria. In 2012, 55 tonnes of potatoes arrived in Trieste, but they were all accompanied by DPCs. This is proof of the effectiveness of the newly implemented system, which will continue to be put in place in the coming years. The environmental impact can be seen in the reduced paper documentation, which is now available and traceable online. The plan is applicable to other countries in the South of the Mediterranean that want to initiate trade with Europe and start exporting quality certified food.

Thierry Benoit. The real strength of the SRI method is its flexibility

Innovation / -

Courtesy of IFAD

Thanks to the project implemented in Madagascar by IFAD and Cornell University, the yield of the rice cultivation has been increased. Nevertheless, the Intensification System still divides the experts. These are the arguments of those in favor.

Its name is SRI – System of Rice Intensification – and it could represent a huge step towards the agriculture of the future. But like all potential miracles, it stirs up contrasting passions and causes divisions.
The initiator of SRI, in the 1980s, was a French Jesuit called Henri de Laulanié, who by carefully observing rice-workers in Madagascar developed a system designed to produce more rice with less seeds, less water and less fertilizer. How? By using younger plants, planted one by one at a distance of 25 centimeters, only intermittently watered, but frequently and precociously weeded. The real impact of this method – which was perfected by Professor Norman Uphoff, of Cornell University – has been seriously doubted by other scientists and researchers, such as those of the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI), which contests its results and its large scale applicability.
This is why, in the margins of the Official Awards Ceremony for Best Sustainable Development Practices by Feeding Knowledge, we asked Benoit Thierry – Country Program Manager of the Asian and Pacific Division of IFAD (International Fund for Agricultural Development) – to illustrate the strong points of the project carried out in Madagascar by Cornell University, which won the prize in the Thematic Priority 2 category (Quantitative and Qualitative increases in Agricultural Productivity).
The SRI system has raised various doubts relating to its large scale application and effective productivity gain. What is your reply to the detractors of SRI?
Naturally, there’s still an enormous amount of work to be done, but thanks to this method the income of the rice farmers using it in Madagascar increased by 75 percent. Actually, the great thing about the SRI is that it’s such a flexible system. Because it can be used with modern seeds or traditional seeds, with chemical or natural fertilizers. The most important result of this project is that it has demonstrated that there are many different methods of applying this method.
The criticisms from the IRRI, for example, regard the fact that we didn’t use modern seeds. Actually, we wanted to show that even using local seeds we could still increase their past productivity. And we did: the traditional seeds which used to produce roughly 1 ton of rice per hectare, when grown with the SRI method produced between 6 and 8 tons. Therefore, the seed’s potential is high, and the farmers who have used the same seed for centuries can now, thanks to this technique, finally liberate the full potential contained in each seed.
And can this happen in every country?
Yes, because SRI was invented in Madagascar, but it has already been applied by researchers in other countries. In the Philippines, for example, 1 million farmers use it, and likewise in India. It exists everywhere: in Latin America, Asia and America. And people adapt it to their own regions, also using it for crops other than rice: maize, wheat, etc. In the end, the person who invented SRI simply developed a system based on various good practices regarding the use of water, of seeds and of crops. SRI helps farmers to create a good product, using very simple methods. And it’s highly important that this is achieved while saving huge amounts of water!
Apart from your best practice project, which other projects most struck you, among the 18 award winners?
Above all I was amazed to see so many good practice projects coming from so many different countries, and with such variety. I was especially struck by some of the case histories from the Middle East, particularly from a country like Syria, where farmers – despite the war – still do their best to produce food. This is truly extraordinary, because it shows the potential of their country, their people and their territory.
The photo story of the Madagascar System of Rice Intensification project is exhibited in the last room in Pavilion Zero in Expo Milano 2015. 

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