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Why street food is a better experience

Sure posh nosh is great, but you don't get the atmosphere and the flavors on the street are better than you'd think

Peter Harrison

Published: Updated:

Sitting in a car driving from my hotel in Singapore back to the airport my driver asked me if I had enjoyed the food.

“If you ate at the five star restaurants then you didn’t have the best food in the country,” he said.

He wasn’t the first person to say this to me during my time in his country and Malaysia, and I’m glad I followed this advice. I’m one of those travelers who likes to experience a place the way the people local to the area do.

Sure I like the touristy stuff and I’m not opposed to posh nosh – but to not have seen the truly local aspects of a place leaves me feeling like I haven’t experienced it properly.

In Singapore and Malaysia it was no different – I don’t think I had a single meal that wasn’t served to me in a market somewhere in the two countries – duck and rice has never tasted better.

But it isn’t just the absurdly cheap, flavorsome food that makes this experience so great (I was eating good sized meals for barely $5) – it’s also the atmosphere that these places offer.

Sure the lack of air conditioning in the Singaporean hawker markets and the Malaysian streets leads to a somewhat sticky affair – but there’s a buzz in the air that you just won’t get at a celebrity chef’s place.

Sitting on plastic furniture you can people watch to your heart’s content, without some pushy waiter eagerly trying to move you on to the dessert’s before suggesting the bill.

Okay some of the people you watch tell a very sad tale – but that’s life isn’t it? The loaners sitting at tables staring into the distance.

But there’s also the groups of people chatting, laughing and joking – the families with the excitable children running around, worn out parents watching on as they hope at least one morsel of food will pass their son or daughter’s lips before the evening is over.

Okay I’m not the best person to take you on a hot date to the most exquisite of restaurants. And my paying the bill is definitely not going to impress when you see precisely how inexpensive the date was.

Some people say I’m cheap. But surely sometimes the wealth comes from the experience, rather than the size of the cheque settling the bill – doesn’t it?