lundi 8 octobre 2007

Kiosk Krawl

By Yasha Levine

source :

A couple of years ago, Moscow's Mayor Luzhkov started bulldozing kiosks within 10 meters of metro stations. So kiosk proprietors needed to rethink their strategy. What if the laws change again? What if they rebuild their kiosk outside the 10-meter prohibition zone, and then Luzhkov goes on another rampage and starts tearing down all the kiosks within 20m?

The answer: go mobile. Put those kiosks on wheels and if shit hits the fan again, hire a chinaman to rickshaw the kiosk away before the bulldozer gets it. Unlike all the 90s kiosks, which were just plank thrown on the asphalt sidewalks, newer kiosks have discovered The Wheel.

Kiosk time

With new kiosks have also come new food trends in the kiosk culinary world. The new mobile fleet of kiosk food is hopping on the elitny bandwagon, offering Italian, Chinese, Nazi, French and American-styled fare. There are even sushi kiosks, for chrissakes!

But before you celebrate, consider this: According to a 2004 report by SES (Sanitarno Epidemiologicheskii Sobe-sednik), a monthly magazine put out by the Moscow's office of sanitation, nearly half of the kiosks failed rudimentary inspections simple things as maintaining proper refrigeration temperatures, keeping different meat separate and touching money then food without washing hands. By law, every worker in the food industry must undergo regular medical checkups and keep an updated medical history handbook handy. But SES reported that over 90% of these books were counterfeit. Twenty-five thousand workers were found with infectious diseases. And that's just a small sample of the larger kiosk food workforce! Think of it, the prodavshit-sya handing you that pirog could be one of the 41 people identified as having a highly contagious form of tuberculosis (that's a real stat). These are official government statistics available to anyone and the language of the publication doesn't even try to paint a rosy picture. To the average food-pussy, this may be scary news. But our readers are hearty people. And poor. What they want to know is, which kiosk food should I eat? Thus was born my Kulinary Kiosk Tour, a tragid story of one eXile editor's digestive tract's losing battle with kiosk food.

Day 1: Riksha I Van

The worst experience was definitely Chinese. I first sampled Riksha i Van get it? near Puskinskaya ploschad and the food might as well have come from a pond. It was fluorescently bright and covered with a shiny slime. According to the prodavshitsa, their food is delivered to their kiosks once a day in the wee hours of the morning and then microwaved to warm and soggy perfection upon order. She also claimed that all food is dumped after 24 hours. I ordered their beef chow mein with curry sauce (55R) just after 6pm The heavy curry sauce (in chow mein?) was clearly used to mask the rankness of the meat. A close inspection proved that there was indeed a hint of a smell of rot t. I went through about 1/2 of the stuff before I gagged and had to move onto the second course, bright orange sweet and sour pork (75R). According to the prodavshitsa, this dish was the most popular, especially with the "well off" clients. Personally, I couldn't tell the difference between the foam-like fried batter and the meat.

Conclusion: Do I VAN for breakfast.

Day 2: Huan He

Next day I went to Huan He's to compare the Chinese kiosk options... and was surprised to find exactly the same chow mein! It was identical in consistency, heavy curry flavor and price. The prodavshitsa microwaved my order way too long, starting and stopping the microwave a few times to feel the bottom of the Chinese takeout containers. When the grease is dripping, the food's ready. At the end, the dishes still came out lukewarm. I guess Huan Ho deep freezes their food and that's a good thing. The beef definitely fresher than at Riksha's. Huan He's been around longer. Also, Huan He has what Riksha doesn't: a vegetarian menu. Don't be fooled. The veggie wontons were made of pure tasteless dough stuffed soggy unflavored vegetables. The woman at the kiosk even recommended that I pour the special spicy vinegar sauce on them. The sauce gave the wontons a kind of slug-like texture. They were impossible to consume. I don't even think it had any MSG on it.

Conclusion: Go next door and eat a shaverma.

Day 3: Pasta La Vista

Nobel prize winning pizza design

My next day's stop on the Kruel Kiosk Kulinary Tour was a chain that had the most wrong, most wicked culinary concept imaginable, but unexpectedly scored high in the flavor dept. It was none other than Pasta la Vista. So far they only got one kiosk in town, right off of Okhotniy Ryad. Their claim to fame is a grand concept outlined in the film The Jerk: pizza in a cup. Except that in The Jerk, it was a joke because it was so ridiculous and foul. In Pasta La Vista, it's not only serious, it's a big hit. They modified the idea a bit and put all the ingredients into a sort of pizza-dough-ice-creme-waffle-cone hybrid. I cringed as I took the first bite of the spicy pepperoni cone (65R) but I was immediately blown away by its taste. It had the perfect consistency of the ideal wasted-drunk late night snack: crispy, spicy, cheesy and greasy. I hardly even chewed. I couldn't resist the urge, so I also ordered their lasagna (95R), which wasn't in a waffle cone but in a tray. I was disappointed. It didn't pack the same punch as the pizza cone and had a high school cafeteria feel to it, a small aluminum deep dish with a paper top.

Unfortunately, I made the mistake of eating this after 10pm. See, I'm a lactose intolerant Jew. I don't process milk products. I came armed with a Lactase pill, but still wasn't prepared for the hellish night that cone and lasagna would give me. I spent the entire night rolling around and belching and farting under my covers, having a reoccurring dream in which I'm struggling to stay afloat in a pool. I would repeatedly half-awaken the moment I'd start gulping water, only to go right back into the same dream.

Conclusion: Do it once and then Pasta la Vista, baby!

Day 4: Kroshka Kar Tosha

Pre-digested Kroshka Kartoshka spud

Onto Kroshka Kartoshka. How do I explain this place? Imagine watching a woman take an ice-cream scooper and scoop a lump of butter, then tong a hunk of cheese, and mash them together into a baked spud. For your humble lactose-intolerant reporter, this was especially painful, knowing that cholesterol bomb will soon explode in his stomach. On the other hand, Kroshka Kartoshka passed the taste test with flying colors. Which explains its massive popularity. I now know why I always hated spuds while living in California health-conscious locals didn't know how to make them taste good. Your potato should have an equal weight of butter-to-spud. I took it farther, Russian style, adding an extra of mushrooms with sour cream topping. That day I enjoyed a baked potato for the first time in my life, and got a good six hours of peaceful sleep to boot.

Conclusion: Kroshka Kartoshka represents a serious Russian advance in spud-nik technology.

Day 5: Kura Grill

DANGER: this kura grill is highly flammable

Next stop: a kura grill larek kiosk on wheels, located near the Alexeevskaya metro. I bought a whole kura, a loaf of bread and had myself a first sit-down dinner at home in days. That gave me a better view of the chicken's Rosneft-esque oil content. These things are rotis-serie grilled, so in theory all their fat should drip out, like what happens with a George Forman Grill. But then again, at 140R for an entire chicken, you are getting your money's worth. I washed the chicken down with a few shots of vodka to make it more of a real Russian experience and I got a good 8 hours sleep out of the meal. Two good days of sleep in a row! Maybe kiosk food isn't so bad?

Conclusion: Perfect for a house party or a lazy housewife.

Day 6: Star Dog's

When I lived in Berkeley I used to fre- quent a great hotdog stand called Top Dog run by a bunch of Libertarians. It was as good of a frank as you were liable to get anywhere, and I used to go there a few times a month. But then one day, I took a double dose of liquid LSD a few hours after a Top Dog meal. And my love ended. I spent the first hour of my trip sitting on a nasty Berkeley co-op toilet squeezing that Italian sausage out of my system. The acid gave me a direct sensory connection to my gastric system and I contemplated the various pains my digestive system sent to my brain in order to digest it. It was an excruciating experience. That day I swore I would never eat another sausage again. And more or less, I've stuck with that promise.

Authentic Danish cuisine!

But yesterday, that all changed when I visited Star Dog's. The kiosk has gone through many incarnations. First it was Steff, named after the Danish sausage company that supplied it with franks. Then it was rebranded as Stop Top and sometime later finally settled on its present name. This kiosk chain is unrivaled in Moscow there are roughly 120 of them, and more coming. I was worried. Not only was I going to eat a sausage for the first time in years, but I was going to do it at a kiosk. I was skeptical even after the prodavshitsa informed me that that all their ingredients are from Denmark, but one bite into their Hot Sandwich (70R) dispelled all my fears. I didn't dig the pickles nor the bacon bits sprinkled on top, but the freshly toasted focaccia bread and a nice and juicy pork sausage tightly rolled into a snail shape hit the spot so much that I gorged myself on two other types of dog. Their Danish dog was a pure Nazi sausage joy, long and thin, with just the right balance of spici-ness. The French-style dog, a beef frank wrapped in bacon and stuffed into a kind of tiny baguette pocket, was a letdown. Too much bacon and the bread had plastic feel to it. The binge was clearly excessive and an obvious result of my self-inflicted sausage deprivation. Needless to say, I got two hours of sleep last night.

Conclusion: Eat a Star Dog's today, not tomorrow. Rumor has it Star Dog's looking for Russian sausage suppliers.

Aucun commentaire: