What’s your idea of street food? What do those two words mean to you? Are you thinking kebab with all the sides on a Friday night after the pub; a fish & chip supper (sadly no longer wrapped in newspaper); a takeaway burger from one of the well-known (or hopefully not) brands littering our high streets? Well move on, sister (and brother because here we truly are PC), because street food is hot, here and now. And you’re missing out.
Truth be told, those dishes listed above could actually be our own great street food, but when was the last time you had a really great version of any of them? Ever? Realising that you can’t reinvent the wheel but you sure as hell can put a truck on it, our new mobile food vendors have taken over our streets with a fresh new take on outdoor eating. What do you fancy? Flatbreads; a mini sizzling marinated chicken skewer; pulled pork sandwiches; a quick take of Chinese dumplings; a spicy fishcake with lip-tingling chilli sauce; a slurpy bowl of noodles – it’s all there for the taking. It’s quick, it’s cheap and invariably delicious.
Obviously the idea’s not a new one. Think Breton crepes, BBQ ribs, pizza, even. The world got a jump-start on this outdoor eating malarkey before we’d lifted our dozy heads from our roast beef dinner. And let’s be honest, they do it a little more stylishly than we do – at least right now. Flash back to the last time you saw a drunken bloke standing by a catering van trying to fit a whole kebab with too much lettuce, sauce, meat, everything, whole into his mouth. Lovely. Or bring to mind a sophisticated Thai lady, skipping down the street, nibbling elegantly on a chicken’s foot. Chicken feet aside, what they’ve realised is that street food only works when it’s small. It’s got to be dainty, not necessarily elegant, but able to be consumed without making you look like a slob.
And the fact is that street food is taking the food scene by storm. Are we slightly over restaurants, with their often outdated notions of what constitutes good food, good service, good value? Are these mobile vendors, with their low overheads, zero staff costs, and ability to be flexible and adaptable to whatever the seasons throw at them, a better bet for a satisfying meal? Well, frankly, they’ve all to play for and nothing to lose.
Where to track them down? Well, Twitter’s a good place to start, festivals another. And keep an eye on your high street, because before long, they’ll be sautéing and deep-frying and chopping their way on to your territory. Make the most of them when they get there, because only the strong survive.