Tiffy Chen Gave Mashed A Genius Method To Pick Out The Best Street Food Vendor - Exclusive

Because it is almost inevitable when we start philosophizing about street food, let us begin by remembering Anthony Bourdain. "Street food, I believe, is the salvation of the human race," the rockstar chef once said. Had the idea of street food not already emanated a certain mystique before Bourdain rhapsodized about it at the World Street Food Congress in Singapore, his declaration would have endowed it with the grungy glamour that Bourdain gave everything he touched.

Whether it is our salvation or not, any true street food connoisseur will forgive Bourdain's outpouring of passion. These are people, like Vancouver-based foodie and blogger Tiffy Chen, who don't need to pore over Google reviews before selecting a nightly vendor. If you're one of them, you — like Chen — understand the magic that Bourdain so clearly did. Good street food is not delicious because it is quick, easy, and often greasy. (Extra points if it is though; are we right?) Good street food is exquisite thanks solely to its owner. 

"I grew up eating lots of night market food, lots of street food," Tiffy Chen told Mashed in an exclusive interview. "You can tell by standing at their stall how much love the owner has toward their food and the pride."

How to pick a street food stall and not regret it

Consult internet ratings if you want, but a good street food vendor has three tells, according to Tiffy Chen. First, pay attention to smell. "Definitely trust your gut. Usually, when something smells good, when it comes to street food, you can smell it from blocks away," Chen advised Mashed. "That's something that I always depend on, especially when it's Taiwanese street food. If I'm in Taiwan, I can smell a very good vendor from blocks away."

Second, don't shy away from asking for recs — no, not from Google. Ask real, live people. "There's always lines. These street foods are oftentimes local favorites," Chen said. "If you ask around [to] local people about what tastes good, usually, they'll have street food recommendations." 

Finally, pay attention to passion. A street vendor's emotional connection to their food is what makes it special. "Street food owners ... the reason why I love them a lot is because a lot of times, they specialize in one dish. A lot [of] times, they themselves have a very strong passion for that dish," Chen reflected. "Even when I order, I'll ask the owner, 'What is your number one recommendation? What do you like on the menu?' ... That's the main difference between street food and restaurants — the owner's love toward that one specialized dish that got them started in the first place."

Keep up with Tiffy Chen! Follow her on Instagram for near-daily updates and visit her blog for recipe inspiration.