Street Food Adds Adventure and Culture to any Fishing Destination
My goodness that looks like a big plate of food, how much is it? $6.00 the lady said in Spanish. We’ll take three plates I replied in kind. She smiled a wild smile and said – Por favor siéntese (Please sit down). My son Nico, friend Alex and I sat down on plastic milk crates in front of her hand pushed food cart and watched in amazement when she broke out her hair dryer that was hard wired to some live wires coming off the electric pole. We were whooped after an incredible day of fishing, releasing eight striped marlin off of San Cristobal Island, Galapagos and the hair dryer stoked fire was a perfect setting for an excellent street side meal.
Street food is the life blood of nutrition found in most of the countries we travel to test and introduce our Squidnation products. We as traveling Americans get pushed towards fine restaurants in every port town we visit. But as wonderful as some of them are I am a sucker for a street vendor wielding a knife, a spatula and yes sometimes a hair dryer. When I sit down at one of these carts, shack or cantinas I want to be the odd man out sitting or standing amongst everybody who goes there three times a week. There is an excitement while feeling a little tense and apprehensive about doing exactly as the locals do. Only to find out once we sit, we quickly become just another customer. The shoulders relax, we stop looking over our backs to see if people are staring and maybe if we are lucky we strike up a conversation as best we can. Street food to me is cultural, scent, atmosphere and life. The fact that the food is usually incredible is an afterthought and a bonus. But sometimes we must be a little adventurous because street vendors typically don’t come armed with a 12 page Denny’s menu. You eat what they got in the pot or you move.
The crystal clear ocean off Isla Mujeres, Mexico can bring some big seas but the abundance of sailfish keeps us coming back often. The morning before our first trip I needed a hearty breakfast knowing that if the seas were big we may not be eating much. So we set off in the golf cart to look for a market of some kind. What we found was a corner shop with two hot plates, some big kettles of soup and two plastic tables. 6:00am and old men were filing in asking for some kind of soup but I couldn’t figure it out so I just ordered a bowl. When it came I dug right in with a side of tortillas and a pork enchilada, now that’s breakfast. The old woman walked by and asked if I had enjoyed the soup? I said of course but what was it. She replied Tripe and rubbed her belly while pointing at it accompanied with a big smile. Sometimes a language barrier will force you to try things you might never have.
Language barrier was not necessarily the issue in Beijing China. But the lizards, scorpions and grubs on a stick were. As I walked the famous food cart row at the end of the Beijing Shopping district I started to see some foods that I could not consider eating. But then I did find one young man grilling up something that did catch my eye. Big fresh caught squid. He had a squirt bottle of some kind of goodness and he butter flied the big squid and threw it on the grill and continuously pressed it with his spatula and squeezed more of whatever was in that bottle. He told me stories all along the way. I being the street veteran and son of a father with a thick accent am skilled at the art of laughing when they do. So when my street side squid chef broke out in laughter so did I and luckily so did the rest of the folks waiting for squid. As if I need to say this, the squid was phenomenal. So good that I kept coming back so by the last day in China he was half way done before I even got to the cart, armed with a calamari stick and a funny story. Wish I knew what the hell he was saying.
As much as I love to fish and as much as I love to grub on street food I don’t necessarily ever want these two activities to mesh in anyway. Unfortunately that wasn’t the case one week in Guatemala. My friends and I had chartered a boat to test some Squidnation Rubber Mauler Squid Teasers and enjoy a great day of Pacific Sailfishing. Our captain showed up wearing jeans and work boots. He just didn’t seem to have that sportfishing captain look that seems to be ubiquitous amongst the fleet captains. Heading out to the grounds we starting getting an alarm and an oil light came on. The captain pulled back on the throttles and checked the oil, said all was fine and continued. This caused a bit of a stir considering the captain never turned the motors off. Early that morning we hooked into a nice sailfish. Our captain somehow managed to run over the same fish three times. This time our “this ain’t a damn captain” warning lights came on to all of us on the boat. I asked nicely if by chance he would let my friend drive. He looked relieved and handed over the helm. We ended the day with 14 sailfish releases and Capt. “Run em over Ralph” had a banner time drinking beer, eating sandwiches and napping.
The next day I had a lay day and was walking the streets of Puerto San Jose, Guatemala by the new shopping center. I stopped at the street vendor cart and was gonna get a panchito (hot dog) when out from under the umbrella popped out Capt. “run em over Ralph” Yep the owners captain had bailed that day and the only person he could find to run the boat was the guy that ran the hotdog stand. The hotdog was delicious and I suggested that he keep that as his day job. He smiled and agreed and handed me another dog!
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