Know your thit heo from your turon with help from a new street food encyclopedia

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As I explained in this week's story about west-side street vendor Yoland Cannon, you needn't make a special trip to Greenville, Mississippi, to put some spicy, wet, hot Delta tamales in your face. But you probably won't stumble across Singaporean otak-otak, Nigerian fried snails, or Israeli sufganiyot in your travels around the city's neighborhoods. Still, a new book with a host of local contributors can help you become a knowledgeable armchair connoisseur of the world's street food.

More than a year in the making, Street Food Around the World: An Encyclopedia of Food and Culture is edited by Bruce Kraig and Colleen Taylor Sen, and compiles entries on nearly 100 countries from Afghanistan to Venezuela. While most contributors are academics from (or living in) their respective areas of expertise, more than a few are based here, including WBEZ's Monica Eng (Uzbekistan), Northwestern anthropology prof Robert Launay (West Africa), food writers Cynthia Clampitt (Jordan and others), David Hammond (Singapore and others), and Viktorija Todorovska (Italy), as well as Kraig and Sen. I wrote the section on South Korea.

At 504 pages, it's not the sort of thing you're going to stuff into your backpack, but if you study hard you'll learn that a Rolex in Kenya won't give you the time (it's like an egg burrito) and a dead Indian with blood, poop, and puke in Denmark is how you might order a hot dog (probably if drunk). Even if you're not headed to any of these places, there's an appendix of more than 100 recipes for those moments when you crave Norwegian potato bread, Australian pie floaters, or Polish zapiekanka.

The book is pricey: it's listed on Amazon for $95—and it's out of stock anyway. But right now Walmart has it for a deeply discounted $60.

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