International Street Food Festival: Eating The Unexpected

Most people travel with some cultural baggage, especially when it comes to food.

If, like most Westerners, you think tea is for drinking, meat is for mains and stodge is the domain of the British, you need to think again.

If you stick to that view of the world you’ll miss some amazing taste sensations, such as fermented tea leaf salad, chicken as dessert and Egyptian stodge with the unstodgy name of koshary.

On day three of the International Street Food Festival here on The Dropout Diaries, three great travel bloggers will make you review the way you think about food. Please welcome street food aficionados Jodi from Legal Nomads, Robin from A Lot Of Wind and Mark from Migrationology.

The Dropout Diaries' International Street Food Festival

Street Food Sensation: Chicken Pudding, Istanbul

You read that right: chicken pudding, and it’s a perfect dessert too. During my weeks in Istanbul I wanted to eat as much as possible – but do so venturing past the usual kepabs and Isakander that make the city’s food so popular.

I’m not a dessert person, but I do love thick puddings, and anything with coconut. So when a friend told me about chicken pudding, of course I had to try it! In Turkish, it’s known as tavuk göğsü.

Chicken pudding (tavuk göğsü) from Turkey

The pudding is thick and creamy, folded into a roll and broiled so the top layer is slightly crunchy. It doesn’t taste whatsoever like chicken, but the white meat that is boiled and mixed into the dessert lends it a consistency not unlike coconut cream. It’s a pudding with a capital “P”.

The same thickening technique was used in the Middle Ages, seen in ancient blancmange recipes (contemporary iterations do not generally include the poultry), and this also means you need to leave plenty of room for dessert – it’s a dish that will really fill you up.

So where’s the best place in Istanbul to get it? A tiny stand called Kismet Muhallebecisi (Kucukpazar Cad. 68, Eminonu, Istanbul) near the old Spice Bazaar allegedly had the best chicken pudding in town. After trying it around Istanbul, I can safely say the recommendation was spot on. Delicious!

Nominated By: Jodi …

… who quit her job as a lawyer in April 2008 in order to see the world, and is still eating her way through it, one country at a time. Jodi blogs at


Get inspired!

Jodi says: To inspire learning and personal growth, I read the fabulous BrainPickingssite, curating the best of books and design from Maria Popova. In terms of sites, I love StoriesofConflictandLove or look at the terrific photography curation from AlexOglestumblr. For full-on photo essays from around the world, I look no further than Alan Taylor’s InFocus, on the Atlantic.

 The Dropout Diaries' International Street Food Festival

Street Food Sensation: Koshary From Egypt

Koshary is all wrong.

Served as fast food, and pretty much Egypt’s national dish, it consists, bizarrely, of rice, macaroni and lentils. The sprinkling of a few fried onion flakes over the top with a few chickpeas thrown in would seem a desultory effort at injecting a bit of flavor into this carb-fest; a little tomato sauce served on the side unlikely to elevate the whole stodgy mess to the status of decent meal.

Koshary from Egypt (Image by jeminichronicles)

Insulting, almost.

Until, that is, you take a mouthful. At which point what looked so wrong tastes . . . oh so right. An alchemy is at work here. It might be the Cairo air – thick with pollution – or perhaps the fluid, expert motion of the koshary men as they flick their metal bowls, combining the ingredients in the flash of an eye, almost unconsciously – their work done by muscle memory.

Whatever the extra ingredient, koshary is an extraordinary dish.

But it’s all wrong, I tell you.

Nominated By: Robin …

… who has immaculate hair and likes to cook in the nude. A former malcontent, Robin moved to a windy part of Spain to write, teach and carry shopping bags for his fabulous fiancee, K. He blogs at

Get Inspired!

“It is unfortunately a brutal truth – you either write your own story or someone else will write it for you. Your choice.” – advice from Robin for people who have a dream but are a bit scared to jump into it.

The Dropout Diaries' International Street Food Festival

Street Food Sensation: Lahpet Thohk from Burma

There are only a handful of countries in this world that not only drink tea but also eat tea leaves. Burma happens to be on the prestigious list for its varieties of salad where pickled fermented tea leaves are the fundamental ingredient.

Lahpet Thohk is a dream for foodies who relish tongue tingling sensations where every bite is an ecstatic mouth burst of flavor and texture.

Lahpet Thohk (fermented tea leaf salad) from Burma

The salad begins with pickled tea leaves tossed into a bowl with a combination of sliced cabbage, tomatoes, raw garlic, spicy chillies, peanuts (possibly other nuts of some kind as well), and sometimes crunchy soy protein granules. It is dressed with salt, fish sauce, lime juice and often a splash of fragrant sesame oil.

After being hand mixed the result is a salad where the tea leaves and lime juice zing the tip of your tongue, the chillies and garlic burn fire on your throat, and the cabbage and nuts offer a special crispy touch.

Laphet Thohk never tastes exactly the same twice – each vendor has their own unique twist, addition of a certain ingredient, or even their own secret formula. But despite the tea leaf salad made differently every time, it’s always delicious!

Nominated by: Mark Wiens …

… a cultural traveler with a hungry passion to devour as many street food delicacies as he can cram into his stomach. He is based in Bangkok, Thailand, but frequently lets his belly dictate his next destination. Mark blogs at

Get Inspired!

Our whole perspective on life can be altered by the digestion of a heavy lunch, I feel quite a different person before and after a meal. – Montaigne (via Mark Wiens)

The Dropout Diaries' International Street Food Festival

Drop back here again tomorrow for some amazing Asian street food finds brought to you by three Asian-based bloggers who, if ever were in a room together, would be mistaken for Charlie’s Angels. Not only because they are hot-hot-hot but because they have the blonde-brunette-red-head thing going on.

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10 years ago

By: Barbara

A career girl who dropped out, traveled, found love, and never got around to going home again. Now wrangling a cross-cultural relationship and two third culture kids.


  1. Loving these posts Barbara! Good to see Turkey pop up again by way of its famous chicken pudding. And I think us Brits do ‘stodge’ very well. You can’t beat stodgy food for a hangover. 😉
    Turkey’s For Life recently posted..Turkish Recipes: Şehriyeli Domates Corbası

  2. Yes, it’s so great to read what people have been stuffing their heads with in different parts of the world, and chicken pudding sounds like something I must try.

  3. robin says:

    I had chicken cake once in Morocco. It didn’t look much like the pudding but was equally baffling and turned out to be delicious.

    Thanks for including me here, immaculate hair and all.
    robin recently posted..Gran Día

  4. Aledys Ver says:

    Chicken pudding? That’s a new one!

    What a wonderful series – it makes you want to visit all these places… after packing a couple of pairs of stretchy pants, of course!
    Aledys Ver recently posted..There is still Nederland beyond Amsterdam

  5. Sandra says:

    Thanks for the Burmese dish Barb. If we’re ever in the same country, I might cook some for you x

  6. The chicken pudding is one of the oddest foods I have heard of. It really does look like a dessert.
    Stephanie – The Travel Chica recently posted..Finding a Comfortable Apartment in Santiago with Roomorama

  7. i LOVE this series. i’d try all of these amazing dishes!
    wandering educators recently posted..So You Think You Can Drive?

  8. Justin says:

    Great Idea for a post Barbara. I can’t imagine limiting myself or my kids when it comes to food. Food teaches us so much.

    Chicken pudding? That looks awesome!

    Thanks for this!

  9. Kurt says:

    I didn’t get to have the chicken pudding in Istanbul, but I was right there. To bad I didn’t read this sooner. It would have saved me finding a great place to eat!

  10. […] what kind of delicious & unique street food dishes will you find? Shan Tofu Soup from Burma, Chicken Pudding from Istanbul, Greek Doner Kebab in France or an Oil Down from Grenada (what a […]

  11. Roxanne says:

    I love this series, even though as a Greek living in the Middle East at the moment, it made me so hungry! A big thank you to you and Jodi for naming me among her favorite sites!

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