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Street foods here to stay: Give tacos, pizza a try without traveling

Street foods here to stay: Give tacos, pizza a try without traveling

Monitoring Desk

BERLIN: The great thing about street food is you often don’t have to travel to their country of origin to give them a shot.

You can find street food snacks at festivals but you also find carts selling food at weddings and corporate events too.

That’s no surprise to many. Street food has a long tradition in Asia, where vendors serve fresh meals that people eat as they walk or sit outside.

Carts often specialize in a particular type of cuisine, from Mexican burritos to falafel and they give us a taste of places far afield.

A bite of a gyros pita gives us a moment in Greece while chewing on a banh mi is like a brief trip to Vietnam.

Food carts have become a permanent fixture in many cities. In Britain, there are treats aplenty at the Market Halls on Oxford Street in London, the Food Hall in Leeds Kirkgate Market or St Nicholas Market in Bristol.

Meanwhile, in Germany, trucks serve tasty treats at St. Pauli in Hamburg, at Berlin’s Markthalle Neun or on Cologne’s Rudolfplatz.

Street food enjoyed soaring popularity before the pandemic and is bouncing back, industry sources say. In Britain the scene is set to be worth 1.3 billion pounds ($1.6 billion), growing at a rate of 7% year on year, according to research by Lumina Intelligence.

That’s thanks to investments by small sellers, many of whom struggled during the pandemic. “The past 14 months have been the most challenging of my career,” says Andy Lewis-Pratt, Market Halls founder and former chief executive.

”Prior to the pandemic, we were fast-growing and had exciting plans for our business.” Market Halls was forced to close for a while but reopened in March, he told The Grocer trade magazine.

Now, people are making up for lost time. “We’re seeing three years’ worth of events crammed into one,” Josh Ebsworth, a former street food chef who runs a booking platform, told The Grocer. That’s leading to “insane” demand for traders over the summer months, he says.

Is there a secret ingredient that makes street food so appealing?

The colorful scene is part of the appeal, with hipsters jostling for a spot alongside families with kids, and former chefs munching alongside people on welfare, according to Klaus Peter Wünsch, who started a food truck in 2010 and is now a consultant.

For guests and cooks alike, this is an accessible form of eating, he says. You can try a lot of tasty foods without spending the kinds of sums you might have to pay in a restaurant.

Street food is the campfire of the modern age, says Wünsch, adding he heard the phrase somewhere.

If you are thinking of setting up your own street food cart, you may not become rich overnight, he says. But bring a creative concept, good products and some skillful social media marketing and that may be one route to a fun form of self-employment.

Meanwhile what about hot dog stands on the corner, do they count as street food? Not really, in the view of Wünsch. “Chefs and recipes often come from abroad and are sharing their culture. They make almost all the products themselves and use few ready-made products,” he says.

Plus, often the food trucks are decorated in their own individual way, too. Usually, food trucks can be found for a small window of time, and are stationed in different spots throughout a city at different times of the day. That draws loyal fans, unlike stands that have a walk-in clientele.

Growing cosmopolitanism is fuelling people’s hunger for street food, says Stevan Paul, a professional chef who wrote one of the first cookbooks to collect street food recipes.

Street food is fast, though otherwise it seldom resembles fast food as we know it, with a smaller number of dishes prepared fresh before our eyes, from unprocessed ingredients and products. They also come packed with plenty of heart and soul.

Paul heard a lot of good stories in the tasty process of collecting almost 100 recipes from around the world. He describes what it’s like behind the scenes, working in the mobile kitchens and explored where some of the meals are from.

Take Anh Vu Dang who makes banh mi, a Vietnamese sandwich typically containing some variety of pate, mayonnaise, Asian ham, pickled vegetables, green onion, coriander, fresh chilies and seasoning.

He started out with his grandparents’ recipes then tweaked them further – and also created a vegetarian option for his Berlin cart.

Dang wasn’t willing to share the original recipe for his crispy rice-flour baguette but he did share how to prepare the liver pate, marinate the pork and what else is packed in his sandwiches.

Meanwhile, Michalis Josing, who makes food from a stand called Dionysos in Hamburg, spells out his Gyros de luxe secrets. You can try making his spicy fried pork seasoned with garlic, herbs and grape oil, topped with raki-flavored tzatziki and a salad containing two kinds of beans, all served on homemade flatbread.

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