You’re bored of boardroom sandwich platters, instant coffee, and water from crushable plastic cups. So forego the usual lunchtime doldrums on your next city business trip, and head out onto the street for daylight, air-conditioning-free oxygen and a quick bite of something more memorable than a cheese-and-cucumber triangle.
Getting good food on the hoof in a metropolis the size of London depends very much on exactly which district you find yourself in. If you’re near the Hammersmith & City line, hop on the Underground to the Ladbroke Grove station, to fill up fast at Portobello Market. Here you’ll find Moroccan tagines and plentiful kebabs up for grabs; look for the stalls with the longest queues and the most tempting aromas then dig right in. Alternatively, track down Exmouth Market (Farringdon Tube) to slurp up a divine ‘pure vegetarian’ thali (two curries served with rice) at Gujarati Rasoi (Thursdays and Fridays), build a panini at 50-year-old The Gazzano’s (167-169 Farringdon Rd, Farringdon tube), or head over to Borough Market (London Bridge tube) to take away chorizo rolls from Brindisa, old-fashioned British pork pies from Mrs King’s, and vegan treats from Veggie Table.
When in Mumbai, ignore all the killjoy warnings to visitors not to eat from the street, and tuck in with both daring and aplomb. As everywhere in the world, pick the street stalls with the freshest-looking produce and the biggest crowds of customers, and you can’t go far wrong (indeed, that street snack might be considerably fresher than your hotel conference room’s offerings). First on the menu is Chowpatty beach, and its manifold chaat (an all-encompassing word for snacks), including puris (small doughy pockets, deep-fried to crispy) stuffed with a plethora of fillings. Opt for pani puri (filled with potatoes, green mung beans and a tangy tamarind sauce) or bhel puri, a heap of puffed rice, chickpea noodles and potato, served with tamarind sauce and spicy chutney, spooned into your mouth with pieces of puri. Alternatively, dine with the students outside the KC College on Churchgate on batata wadas (spiced potato patties inside a bun with tamarind or garlic chutney), and dosas (a crisp rice pancake, stuffed with potatoes and onions) served with sambar (a thin lentil soup) and coconut chutney. Finally, after the working day is done, sneak a snack behind the Taj Palace Hotel at Bade Miya (Tulloch Rd, Mumbai; open from 7pm), whose kebabs, legendary amongst Mumbaikers, are too good to miss – with or without dinner reservations.
Manhattan, come lunchtime, is full of whizzing trucks bringing a whole new dimension to the term ‘street food’. Before you leave the office, check online for the locations of the following. Schnitzel & Things (www.schnitzelandthings.com) vends breaded pork, cod or chicken schnitzel, with inventive sides like braised sauerkraut and spicy sriracha mayo Monday to Friday throughout Manhattan. NYC Cravings sells Taiwanese specialities like fried tianbula (fish cakes) and zongzi (Taiwanese tamales) whilst Rickshaw Dumplings (www.rickshawdumplings.com) serves up pork and Chinese chive dumplings or edamame with lemon-sansho dip on a daily schedule that roams Manhattan and Brooklyn. For something sweet, seek out a Monday Sundae, a Salty Pimp or a Bea Arthur from the Big Gay Ice Cream Truck by following its tweets, or an ‘oatmeal jammy’ cookie from the Treats Truck.
Home to some of the best street food on the planet, Tokyo’s street food scene is all about walking, stopping, sampling and repeating, as many times over as you’ve space to try more. Ask for directions to tiny ‘Yakitori Alley’ in Shinjuku, where Japanese kebabs of all varieties are grilled up, wander the Kabukicho district to try the very best takoyaki (octopus dumplings), look out for little okonimayaki (Japanese pancake) joints, or slurp up huge bowls of ramen noodle soup. For the ultimate exotic street food lunch, however, make for Nihon Saisei Sakaba (Marunaka Bldg, 1F, 3-7-3 Shinjuku) where the yakitori consists of such delicacies as pork brain and tongue, perhaps accompanied by a nice tripe salad. Meanwhile, on wintry Tokyo days, look out for oden (Japanese hot pot) stalls, where the combination of fish cakes, boiled eggs and daikon radish will warm even the chilliest of street-side diners.