Tuesday, 6 June 2017

Highlights from the World Street Food Congress Dialogue 2017

World-Street-Food-Congress-Dialogue -2017

For two full days, we listened with rapt attention as international and Philippines culinary experts and chefs shared their insights on heritage and street food at the World Street Food Congress Dialogue from 31 May to 1 Jun 2017. On my left and right, and all around me in the audience were diverse street food stake holders from culinary schools to government, policy think tanks, corporations, private investors, entrepreneurs, chefs, food manufacturers, suppliers, and media etc.

The Dialogue was held at SM Mall of Asia Concert Ground in Pasay City, Manila. This was the second consecutive year the WSFC was held in Manila.

World-Street-Food-Congress-Dialogue -2017

This year's speakers and audience were challenged to "Re-imagine Possibilities" of street food heritage, culture, education, business, tourism, policy, regulation etc in the face of unprecedented opportunities from globalisation, technology etc. For me and other food lovers, there was never a dull moment as the world's top culinary minds, one by one shared their invaluable insights with us.

World-Street-Food-Congress-Dialogue -2017

The WSFC17 Dialogue is co-chaired by KF Seetoh, founder of Makansutra and creator of WSFC together with Philippines celebrity chef Sau del Rosario owner of Cafe Fleur and 25 Seeds restaurants.

World-Street-Food-Congress-Dialogue -2017

Philippines actress and ardent food lover Issa Litton hosted the two day Dialogue, priming the audience with her poise and infectious enthusiasm for street food.

World-Street-Food-Congress-Dialogue -2017

Ms Katherine De Castro, Under Secretary of the Philippines Department of Tourism and KF Seetoh with Chef Sau del Rosario and Ms Tan of SM Prime Holdings declared the WSFC 2017 Dialogue opened in a most delightful and appropriate way - with a toast of homemade ice cream from a push cart!

World-Street-Food-Congress-Dialogue -2017

In his keynote address, Greg Drescher, VP, Strategic Initiatives and Industry Leadership at the Culinary Institute of America (CIA) spoke about the emerging excellent possibilities and huge economic opportunities in street food. But, he cautioned that vendors have to up their game, professionalise, ensure succession, set and commit the community to standards in quality, hygiene and safety, and learn to tell their stories in an acutely competitive media environment.

World-Street -Food-Congress-Dialogue-2017

Speaking after the break, KF Seetoh observed a global rise in interest in street food, a movement "from street market to world market". Countries that traditionally have street food recognise its value more clearly and countries that do not historically have a street food culture now desire to have them. Seetoh saw in this great possibilities of all kinds which would create jobs and opportunities for many.

World-Street-Food-Congress-Dialogue -2017

Next on stage was creative Chef Sau del Rosario who is also the Philippines Team Captain for WSFC17. He demonstrated his latest culinary creation, the sisig paella. It's the classic sisig Pampanga Aling Lucing cooked with rice the Spanish way.

Chef Sau del Rosario has long been a passionate ambassador of Philippines food, which to quote Anthony Bourdain is "under rated" for too long. When Chef Sau worked in the restaurants of Nice and Paris, he volunteered to cook working lunches for his French colleagues. It was a brilliant way to build rapport and camaraderie in the kitchen, not to mention the great introduction to Philippines cuisine for his new French friends, many of whom have never tasted such food before.

World-Street-Food-Congress-Dialogue -2017

Arbind Singh founder of National Association of Street Vendors of India (NASVI) spoke of the years of arduous court battles NASVI fought before India's 6 million street food hawkers (and another 4 million street vendors) were finally granted legal status in 2014. Now, NASVI's focus is on training street vendors and promoting street food through festivals and carnivals. NASVI is also working to get the message out to more street vendors, many of whom are still unaware of the Act that has granted them legal status.

World-Street-Food-Congress-Dialogue -2017

You know, there are always arguments among food lovers if food is a science or an art. Well, Chef Claude Tayag has the answer. The Philippines chef, authour, and TV personality started out with an accomplished career in art and design. From his private dining restaurant, Bale Dutung, Chef Tayag promotes Pampanga cuisine through his culinary creations which fused science and art.

World-Street-Food-Congress-Dialogue -2017

KF Seetoh asked the Liew brothers Wayne and Paul from the popular Keng Eng Kee or KEK restaurant in Singapore what are the challenges facing a family business. KEK restaurant was founded by the parents of Wayne and Paul.

One of the challenges was how to maintain family unity and harmony as the business navigates into the future that demands keeping up with the times to stay relevant. Wayne who is the chef at KEK shared that he has been creating new takes on KEK's traditional best sellers like coffee pork ribs and re-interpreted them as the coffee pork ribs hamburger.

Initially, Wayne's dad was reluctant as his thinking was "if it works, why change it"? He eventually relented after some coaxing from KF Seetoh and when the customers responded favourably to Wayne's creations. Paul summed it all up best when he said that "It's a family business. Family must come first."

World-Street-Food-Congress-Dialogue -2017

Chef Peter Lloyd is the chef-owner of Sticky Mango serving his take on South East Asian street food. Peter was executive chef of Michelin Star Spice Market at the W Hotel before starting Sticky Mango. At the Dialogue, Peter demonstrated how to make his signature interpretation of the classic Thai mango and sticky rice dessert (Khao Neeo Mamuang).

World-Street-Food-Congress-Dialogue -2017

The Street Food Pitch Box segment is a key part of the Dialogue intended, especially for younger participants to pen down and share their food culture and business ideas. The best ideas were pitched and presented at the Dialogue.

World-Street-Food-Congress-Dialogue -2017

For example, Chef Andy Yang enthusiastically shared his Thai style sausage with curry dip idea for small mobile stalls. Like an Asian style "Subway", this low start up cost, small foot print idea could get one-dish street entrepreneurs going.

The Pitch Box session wrapped up the first day's dialogue. We left with plenty of food for thought and it was just the right time to visit the 30 international street food stalls at the WSFC Jamboree personally curated by KF Seetoh 👈 click

World-Street-Food-Congress-Dialogue -2017

Day 2, we can't wait for the session to start 😄

World-Street-Food-Congress-Dialogue -2017

Chef and authour Ruth Alegria kicked off the second day of the Dialogue sharing the interesting history followed by a survey of Mexican street food varieties and culture. Mexican street food has deep pre-Hispanic roots and is closely attached to the rich produce of the land.

An expert on Mexican food, Chef Alegria owns two Mexican restaurants in Greenwich Village and Princeton, New Jersey. She is the founder of the Princeton Cooking School, and she enjoys organising cultural culinary tours for chefs, writers and media personalities.

World-Street-Food-Congress-Dialogue -2017

Michelin Star Chef Andy Yang is one of the most inspiring persons I've ever met. Andy Yang in his serious yet articulate and humorous way recounted his amazing rags to riches story. When Andy started Rhong Tiam restaurant in New York City, survival was a daily meal to meal struggle. Chef Andy had to rely on takings from lunch to buy ingredients to open the restaurant for dinner.

Today, the Rhong Tiam is a Michelin Star restaurant with over a dozen branches around the world, including in Singapore. Andy's passion project now is his restaurant in Bangkok which he has set inside a grounded jumbo jet - the huge restaurant is set to open this year.

A specialist in cuisine of his homeland, Thailand, Chef Andy grew up in a talented culinary family. Andy's great grandmother cooked in the palace for the Thai King. Andy said that Pad Thai, the Thai national dish is the hardest Thai dish to cook well.

Read more about Chef Andy's Pad Thai secrets here 👈 click

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Chef Malcolm Lee, owner of Peranakan restaurant, Candlenut shared about the struggles he went through building his business while striving to create re-interpretations of classic Nonya dishes to keep it relevant with modern tastes. Malcolm's determination paid off as customers including Peranakan old timers are coming around to appreciate his interpretations. Snagging a Michelin Star this year for Candlenut just re-affirmed that Malcolm is in the right groove.

Malcolm's approach is to modernise Peranakan classics with contemporary techniques but respectfully keeping faith with the essence of the original dish. Malcolm demonstrated his version of an old staple, Kiam Chye Ark or duck soup with salted mustard leaves. I was thrilled seeing how Malcolm treated Kiam Chye Ark and I was the first person to jump on stage to sample it. It was just wonderful. I like this version even better than when the dish is done the old way 😱 That is progress for me too as a diner 😄

World-Street-Food-Congress-Dialogue -2017

Indonesian entrepreneur Gibran Rakabuming Raka spoke about his hugely popular franchise Markobar specialising in "Murtabak". It is an evolvement of Meen Chang Kueh or Appam Balik. Gibran gave the original crispy pancake recipe a twist by swopping the traditional sugar and crushed peanut topping with trendy chocolate chips, green tea, cheese, shredded coconut etc. Gibran's murtabak is the most popular stall at the WSFC Jamboree in 2016 and 2017. Now with several shops in Indonesia, Gibran plans to expand into Singapore and throughout Southeast Asia. At 29, the eldest son of Indonesian President Jokowi, Gibran is focussed on developing his fast growing business.

World-Street-Food-Congress-Dialogue -2017

The Philippines is proudly represented at the Jamboree by street food vendors from six regions namely Davao city, Bicol, Pampanga, Iloilo, Ilocas and Bacolod. At the Dialogue, the regional representatives shared their personal stories about their home's street food heritage.

World-Street-Food-Congress-Dialogue -2017

Chef Mai Pham owns Lemon Grass Restaurant and Star Ginger Asian Grill & Noodle Bar in California. Mai authored award-winning books, "Pleasures of the Vietnamese Table," "The Best of Vietnamese and Thai Cooking" and "Flavors of Asia". Mai is also the San Francisco Chronicle's food columnist.

Mai's voice broke a little when she related how her family arrived in the USA in 1975 following the fall of Saigon with "nothing but the clothes on our backs". In those difficult years in a strange land after losing everything, Vietnam was a taboo subject and nobody would say or mention it in any conversation. So, the only way teenaged Mai could connect with her past and find some solace was through cooking the food of her homeland. From that, it led to her amazing achievements and contributions in the culinary world today.

World-Street-Food-Congress-Dialogue -2017

Singapore's successful hawker centres are a role model for street food vendor management around the world. Richard Tan is Singapore's former Director of Hawker Centres Division in the National Environment Agency. Richard is now Business Development Director of the social enterprise NTUC Foodfare.

In his speech, Richard spoke about the opportunities for greater productivity and lower costs while preserving heritage when automation and technology are applied wisely in street food businesses.

World-Street-Food-Congress-Dialogue -2017

Ms Perapan, Senior Vice President, NCC Management & Development from Thailand has two great news for the Dialogue. First, the viral "news" about the ban of street food in Bangkok is nothing more than fake news. Nothing of the sort is in the minds of Bangkok authourities - thank goodness! On the contrary, Bangkok will host the next World Street Food Congress in late 2017. That would really seal Bangkok's already stellar street food city credentials 😄

World-Street-Food-Congress-Dialogue -2017

Seetoh saved the best for the last - Anthony Bourdain, Chef and street food advocate famed for his Emmy award-winning TV shows, “Parts Unknown” and “No Reservations” was the last expert to address the Dialogue.

It was a real treat. Plenty of delicious food for thought 😋

In the characteristic Bourdain style, he covered a broad sweep of issues across the street food terrain punctuated with sharp observations that provoked deeper thoughts in the audience. Thoughts that would provoke our own explorations and keep our minds hungry for a long time.

Bourdain briefly touched on the interconnections between food and history, politics, economics, globalisation, down to personal feelings at the level of the soul.

He felt it is "scandalous" that New York City, the most culturally diverse city in the world does not have any eating place like the hawker centres and food streets of Singapore, Hong Kong and Vietnam. This anomaly he will address with his passion project the Bourdain Market.

"This [Bourdain Market] is not some Disneyland version, like McHawker or Hawker World. We’re talking about the real deal." "We’re talking a riotous collection of the real deal. I just want it to have the same tastes and flavours that I fell in love with."

"Not exotica", and certainly "no bullshit" Bourdain promised.

More on Anthony Bourdain at the World Street Food Congress 2017 👈 click

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Family photo (from left to right) Chef Sau del Rosario, Richard Tan, Greg Descher, Chef Malcolm Lee, Chef Mai Pham, Anthony Bourdain, Department of Tourism Secretary Wanda Corazon Teo, Ulf Tassilo Muench, Chef Claude Tayag (partially hidden), Creator and WSFC Curator KF Seetoh, and Chef Peter Lloyd.

World-Street-Food-Congress-Dialogue -2017

The last official business of the Dialogue was to announce the World Street Food Masters Award 2017 winners.

The Awards Committee made up of expert culinary travellers and industry professionals selected the 50 award winners as role models with a view to inspire greater skills and education to stimulate street food business development.

Presenting the 50 World Street Food Masters 👏👏👏

1. Hill Street Tai Wah Bak Chor Mee, Singapore 👈 click
2. Franklin’s BBQ Austin, Texas, USA
3. Che Paek Pu Ob Voon Sen, Bangkok, Thailand
4. Aling Lucing Sisig, Pampanga, Philippines 👈 click
5. Pak Sadi Soto Ambengan, Jakarta, Indonesia
6. Datau Roast Goose, Shunde, Guangzhou, China
7. General’s Lechon, Manila, Philippines
8. La Guerrerense, Oaxaca Mexico
9. Line Clear Nasi Kandar, Penang, Malaysia

10. Chey Sua Fried Carrot Cake, Singapore 👈 click
11. Pho Vu Vuong, Ho Chi Minh, Vietnam
12. Yaowarat Xiang Ji Fish Porridge, Bangkok
13. Selingsing Cepaka Warung Babi Guling, Indonesia
14. Siam Street Cha Kway Teow, Penang, Malaysia
15. Pad Thai Thip Samai, Bangkok, Thailand
16. Master Tang Wanton Mee, Singapore 👈 click
17. Sai Tin Hang Or Luak (Oyster Omelette), China
18. Sate Ayam Barokah Haji Basiri, Indonesia
19. Niu Jian Claypot Rice, Guangzhou, China
20. Mariscos Reuben, Mexico

21. Hoy Tord Chao Lay, Bangkok, Thailand
22. Zeny’s Pinangat, Philippines
23. Fauzi Nasi Kerabu, Kuala Terengganu, Malaysia
24. An Ji Sang Mee, Singapore
25. Martabak Markobar, Jakarta, Indonesia
26. Tan’s Kueh Tutu, Singapore
27. Ibu Weti Nasi Campur, Kota Denpasar, Bali, Indonesia
28. KEK Seafood, Singapore
29. Kupat Tahu, Kota Bandung, Indonesia
30. Hoy Yong Cze Cha Seafood, Singapore

31. Ketoprak Ciragil, Jakarta, Indonesia
32. Sharyn's Kansi Beef Soup, Bacolod, Philippines
33. Sin Kee Famous Chicken Rice, Singapore 👈 click
34. Nonya Mee Siam Donald and Lily’s, Malacca, Malaysia
35. Ban Xeo Bun Thit Xuong, Ho Chi Minh, Vietnam
36. Guan Heong Biscuit Shop, Ipoh, Perak, Malaysia
37. Nam Bo Chuoi Nuong, Vietnam
38. Gang Yuan Beef Noodles, Kaoshiung, Taiwan
39. Tong Ji Steamed Chicken, Guangzhou, China
40. Hwa Heng Beef Noodle, Singapore

41. Churros Locos Portland, USA
42. Kim’s Fried Hokkien Mee, Singapore
43. Jalan Kuli Satay, Malacca, Malaysia
44. Soon Wah Fishball Kway Teow Mee, Singapore
45. Heng Kee Curry Chicken Noodle, Singapore 👈 click
46. Doods Ihaw and BBQ, Davao City , Philippines
47. Khun Pas, Thailand
48. Nasi Ambeng Dapur Ummi, Singapore 👈 click
49. DK Litti, Delhi, India
50. Ah Lim Oyster Omelet, Singapore 👈 click

My heartiest congratulations to all award winners. This will be my eating wish list for the year 😋

World-Street-Food-Congress-Dialogue -2017

Disclosure: The trip to World Street Food Congress was organised by Makansutra and presented by Tourism Promotions Board, Philippines.

Date: 31 May to 1 Jun 2017

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I share hoping that everyone will have a good time but your experience may differ from mine. I love to know how you enjoyed yourself or if you didn't.

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