Fast, fresh and streets ahead

What is it about street food that makes it so amazingly satisfying? It's sweet and spicy, sticky and salty; it's fast, fresh and flavour-packed; and it's usually eaten in the hand or on the go.

It is what it is, honest and unpretentious; big, bold, bright food. Whether it's prawn rolls or pizza, fish tacos or lamb koftes, rice noodle soups or burritos, street food sizzles and frizzles, even when taken off the street and cooked at home.

The trick is to cook like a market stall-holder in Mexico, a hawker chef in Singapore or a noodle master in Shanghai - don't dilly-dally and don't fuss.

Here's proof - a spicy chorizo hot dog; crisp little Vietnamese spring rolls to wrap in lettuce and leaves; and warm and filling Honduran wraps of flat bread, beans and fetta.

Keep it fast and simple, and you'll capture the flavour and energy of the street in every bite.

Vietnamese cha gio

These crisp spring rolls are best rolled small and tight rather than large and loose. Add 100 grams of fresh prawn or crab meat if you're feeling fancy, and serve with lime or lemon wedges.

4 dried shiitake mushrooms
50g cellophane (beanthread) noodles
1 carrot, peeled and grated
250g minced pork
1 medium onion, grated and squeezed dry
1 garlic clove, grated
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper
1 tsp sugar
1 tsp cornflour
1 tbsp fish sauce
2 tbsp coriander leaves, chopped
1 pack small spring roll wrappers, thawed
Vegetable oil for deep-frying
1 iceberg or baby cos lettuce, leaves separated and chilled
1/2 bunch mint
1/2 bunch Thai basil

Dipping sauce

3 tbsp fish sauce
1 tbsp rice vinegar
1 tbsp lime juice
2 tsp white sugar
3 tbsp water
1 garlic clove, finely grated
1 mild red chilli, sliced

Cover shiitake with boiling water and soak for 30 minutes. Drain and finely dice, discarding stalks. Cover noodles with boiling water and leave to stand for five minutes. Drain and snip into short lengths. Combine dipping sauce ingredients with half the grated carrot and refrigerate.

Mix minced pork with onion, garlic, salt, pepper, sugar, cornflour, fish sauce, coriander, mushrooms, noodles and remaining grated carrot. Place one tablespoon of filling in a row near the corner of a wrapper (not in the middle) and fold the corner over the filling, pinching the filling tight. Fold in sides, then roll up tightly. Brush the tip with water to help it stick.

Heat oil until a cube of bread turns golden in 15 seconds. Fry rolls a few at a time for three minutes, turning once, until golden. Drain on kitchen paper and serve with lettuce leaves, herbs and the dipping sauce. To eat, wrap each roll in a leaf, tuck in some herbs and dip in the sauce.

Makes 16 rolls

Baleadas with red beans and feta

Simple, filling and sooooo delicious, this is a fast version of a popular breakfast or lunch in Honduras. Serve open or closed, then grab with both hands and eat. (With thanks to Honduran coffee importer Gerardo Barrios of Don Adan in Mosman for the inspiration.)

2 x 400g tinned red kidney beans
2 tbsp olive oil
1 red onion, finely minced
2 garlic cloves, crushed
1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
2 tsp cumin, freshly ground
1 tsp hot paprika
1 tsp brown sugar
1 tsp sea salt
1/2 tsp black pepper
300ml water
4 flour tortillas
100g sour cream
1 avocado, halved, stoned, sliced lengthways and peeled
150g feta cheese, crumbled
1 tbsp or more pickled jalapeno chillies, sliced
2 tbsp coriander sprigs
Extra virgin olive oil for serving
Chilli salsa for serving (optional)

Drain beans, rinse and drain again. Heat olive oil in a frying pan and cook onion for 10 minutes until soft. Add garlic, beans, cayenne, cumin, paprika, sugar, salt, pepper and water, and simmer over medium heat for 10 minutes or until most of the liquid has been absorbed.

Mash a few beans with a potato masher and stir through. Heat each flour tortilla in a dry frying pan on both sides until lightly golden. Top each tortilla with a good ladleful of beans, a dollop of sour cream and two slices of avocado. Scatter the feta, jalapeno and coriander on top, drizzle with extra virgin olive oil (and chilli salsa if you like) and serve.

Serves 4

Tip To get perfect slices of avocado, don't peel it. Cut the avo in half and remove the stone, then cut through the skin into slices or wedges and peel the skin off each piece - perfect.

Chorizo hot dog with red peppers and onions

Look for squirt bottles of French's yellow mustard to get that streetwise squiggle of vinegary hot mustard on the sizzling sausages.

1 red capsicum, cored and seeded
4 tomatoes, coarsely chopped
1 mild red chilli, sliced
1 red onion, halved and finely sliced
2 garlic cloves, finely sliced
2 tbsp olive oil
Sea salt and pepper
4 fresh chorizo sausages
4 sourdough rolls
Mustard for serving (e.g. French's)

Heat oven to 190C. Cut capsicum into one-centimetre strips. Toss tomatoes, capsicum, chilli, onion and garlic with olive oil, sea salt and pepper and arrange on a baking tray lined with baking paper. Slash one side of each chorizo sausage three times and arrange on top of vegetables. Bake for 40-45 minutes, or until chorizo skin is crisp and the vegetables are soft and cooked through.

Split rolls lengthwise by cutting through the top and heat in the oven for two minutes. Pile roast vegetables into each bun and top each with a chorizo. Top with a long squiggle of mustard and serve immediately.

Serves 4

This story Fast, fresh and streets ahead first appeared on The Sydney Morning Herald.