RANTS & RANDOMS

Tune In, Zone Out: YouTube Street Food Videos are a Meditative Lockdown Distraction

June 8, 2020

Sometimes, I spend hours watching vids of people making street food.

Polished Netflix documentaries are all well and good (OK, some of them are good) but there is an under-appreciated genre of food content and it is people cooking with eggs on YouTube. Not chefs, not aspiring TV presenters and not influencers, but people on the street or in breakfast cafes making a hard living cooking the same dish many times over.

This may seem niche – and it is – but deep-diving into the differences in layering between one Mumbai toastie seller and another, or watching an employee at a Korean breakfast cafe flip twenty pieces of toast at a time is strangely soothing.

Mostly unedited, amateur footage gives a sense of everyday life that shiny documentaries do not. There’s a practised skill to the vendors’ movements which is hypnotic, and a gentle percussive rhythm as they tap, flip and scrape well-worn utensils. There is mesmerising repetition and, importantly, a total lack of commentary or explanation.

The videos feature several returning characters: giant butter stick, makeshift potato masher and knives made from hacksaw blades for example, but the protagonist is usually egg. It’s no surprise that eggs feature heavily since they’re a cheap source of filling protein which is versatile and quick to cook. Eggs bind ingredients together and are almost universally liked. Still, people find new ways to use them.

These videos do not offer anything in the way of story, either about the cook or the dish they’re selling, but they do offer a window into another world, require absolutely no mental effort to watch, and are good for wasting several hours instead of doing something productive. Tune in, zone out.

 

‘Egg Wrapped Masala Toast’

One of the most enjoyable features of these videos is the curveballs that often come near the end. The clue is in the title here but it’s still very pleasing to see someone put together a fairly high effort sandwich and then think ‘this is not enough’.

‘Amazing Skill of Fish Cake Master’

A couple of points knocked off for the subtitled ingredients explanations at the beginning but the shaping is hypnotic and the table tapping segment some high-grade rhythmic content. It’s no wonder this has had more than 27 million views.

‘Amazing Toast Master’

This first sighting of Giant Butter Stick is textbook stuff – a huge foamy swoosh of fat before the toast is laid down then flip, shuffle, flip, shuffle. Toast shuffling features heavily in the Korean breakfast sandwich genre, as does the square omelette maker and So. Many. Toast. Closeups.

‘Toast Master’s Toast with Egg’

Bit of renegade butter stick action here from a different Toast Master along with many, many different camera angles on an omelette. A slightly messier approach to mass sandwich assembly than is common but pleasing final cup presentation.

‘Disco Fry Egg’

The video that started an obsession. These eggs are easy to recreate at home (use a potato masher) and can be flavoured according to taste. A faithful recreation of the video may be named ‘Mumbai Disco Eggs’, while a Vietnamese variation using pork belly and fish sauce makes a fantastic ‘Hanoi Disco Eggs’. The world (literally) is the limit.

‘Amazing King Takoyaki’

A Korean restaurant makes Japanese octopus balls, only #extra. The batter is poured from a giant golden teapot, and just when it seems there can be no more filling, there is always more filling. Will it ever become a ball? Watch and learn.

‘Omelet Bacon Toast’

Incredible scenes here as the chefs cook omelettes so thick they could legit be used as pillows. Bonus points for the crust work and deep-fried bacon brick.

‘Cheese Masala Toast Sandwich’

Spiced potatoes, salad, chutneys and cheese: the Mumbai toastie is one of the world’s greatest sandwiches and this vendor is still using one of the traditional toastie clamps, cooking the sandwich over fire.

‘Fried Squid, Spicy Rice Cake’

There’s pimping rice cakes with an egg and spring onion, and there’s pimping rice cakes with a whole deep-fried octopus.

‘Garlic Shaped Garlic Bread’

Real-time footage coming into its own here as someone films people making buns into garlic-shaped garlic bread. Only dedicated professionals will be able to tolerate this truly brain-numbing example.

The image at the top of this page is of my Mumbai toastie recipe.

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4 Comments

  • Avatar
    Reply Laura August 13, 2020 at 12:16 am

    I have been obsessing over street food lately & I had a Mumbai sandwich last week from my own favourite recipe. I found this blog around Christmas last year and never associated you with the Mumbai sandwich recipe I‘d scribbled in my notebook so much longer ago. And then I followed the link. Mind blown!

    • Avatar
      Reply Helen Graves August 13, 2020 at 8:02 pm

      Hahaha! I absolutely LOVE a Mumbai sandwich. Which link did you follow? The recipe on Great British Chefs?

  • Avatar
    Reply Laura August 14, 2020 at 2:13 pm

    Yeah, the link at the end of this street food post took me to the Great British Chefs Mumbai sandwich recipe and the penny dropped! It’s one of my favourites, and I store the chutney in the freezer spread thin between layers of greaseproof paper so I can make one whenever I want. Maybe I have a problem hahaha

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