Streetwise…a series on street foods… Coconut and chili toasted cashews…

Winter has me dreaming of travel, mostly for the warmth, but also for some color and energy and experience of the senses. Street food is one of the best ways to get to know a culture and to discover what the people and food are really about.  I always find myself wondering about the back story of the vendor’s lives, what their homes look like, their family, and what actually goes on their dinner table. I love the sounds of food being cooked, sold, bought, and wrapped up on the streets.  One scene in the film Monsoon Wedding has always particularly captivated me. It depicts a betrothed couple stopping for chai at a makeshift, roadside café. The colors, sounds, and the exchange between the vendors and customers shows a local intimacy that I like to imagine streaming through the street food. There is such warmth and familiarity, and it illustrates a utilization of a local food culture.

One of my favorite places for exploring the street vendors was in Bangkok.  There is a market for just about anything; fish, fruit, vegetables, meat, flowers, fabrics, and little plastic do dads.  Food vendors sell an array of meats on sticks (which seems to be popular cross culturally), noodle soups, sodas tied up in plastic bags with crushed ice, caramelized bananas, and my favorite: spicy toasted cashews.  I’m sure the real thing sits in a well oiled, well seasoned pan for days, absorbing the savory goodness.  However, this recipe is quick and delicious.  Here is my first installment of recipes inspired by street foods.

Coconut and chili toasted cashews…

2 cups cashews, whole

1 tbs raw coconut oil

¾  tsp kosher salt

¾ tsp chili powder

1 tsp red pepper flakes

pinch of sugar

2 heaping tbs shredded, dried coconut shavings

2 heaping tbs fresh cilantro, minced

serve with lime wedges

In a large pan over medium heat, melt raw coconut oil into liquid.  Add cashews, coat in oil and begin toasting, mixing regularly.  Add salt and chili powder.  Toast until medium golden brown, and the aroma of cashews is evident. Add pepper flakes and sugar.  At the very end add shredded coconut. Careful not to burn the coconut as it toasts quickly.  Remove from heat. Add cilantro. Serve warm and with a wedge of lime. They can make a beautiful appetizer at a party served in cones of colorful paper lined with parchment paper. You know, kind of like an amped up beer nut.

I would love to hear suggestions, requests, stories, and ideas about street food experiences…good ones that is!

Eat together, toast to each other, and share!


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