Street Food, what is it? Why does it matter? Can I jump on the chuck-wagon and bring it indoors to my pub? All very sensible questions as it seems you cannot open a newspaper or magazine these days without stumbling across some gushing review of the latest “street food” sensation. The days of the dirty burger and the three day old hotdog look to be numbered as tastes from around the world are informing palates across the nation, and pubs need to be able to bring some of these techniques and flavours in from the street and onto our specials boards.
What is street food?
According to streetfood.org.uk:
“The term ‘Street Food’ relates to a relatively new concept in the UK. It has various influences and inspirations, however, it is generally considered to be artisan food sold on the streets, or more accurately, not served from restaurants or cafés. The term probably came from America, where for several years the food truck craze has been steadily growing into a sizable industry. Many of the UK’s first street food traders took inspiration from the American food trucks for the food they serve, cooking methods, marketing (especially social media) and to a degree attitude.”
Why does street food matter?
According to the UN’s food and agriculture organisation, street food is consumed by 2.5 billions around the world every day and whilst developing economies are by far the largest consumers, the tastes and de-constuctionist techniques used by the originators of this style of cuisine (literally food cooked by hawkers on the street) is beginning to pervade the mainstream.
In the UK there is a growing street food industry, which, has the potential to make inroads into the casual dining market in which most pubs sit, so understanding its appeal, how the food is prepared and then replicating that on your pub’s menus, special boards and even outdoor cooking occasions could give your pub a competitive edge over other traditional venues. Whilst it started in London, as many food trends do in the UK, you’ll find artisan chefs the length and breadth of the country who are, in effect, priming the pump for pubs who want to capitalise on this increasingly popular cuisine.
Can I bring street food to my pub?
Whilst you cannot truly replicate the whole grazing in the street experience and the theatre of kerb-side cooking, you can bring the tastes and methods used into your pub kitchen and create a vibrant addition to your offering, which is ideal not only for daily specials but can be harnessed to add value to your entertainment program or sports coverage events and liven up the humdrum barbecue offered in your outdoor areas. One way to introduce the concept of street food to your pub’s menu might be to invite a street food vendor to set up shop in your car park for a special occasion, for instance, in support of a beer festival. Not only will it be a point of difference from your local competitors, but it could help create demand for your new street food style offering.
“Scoff”, a Birmingham based collective of street food sellers, reckons there are 5 characteristics to street food, which I believe can easily be incorporated into the pub market:
- “It’s got to be portable and you need to be able to “munch that bad” boy standing up.” Sounds perfect for busy match days, band nights or sunny days in the beer garden.
- “It’s got to be quick”. Queues aside, the essence of the street food “experience” is the rapid service of food. This may be a tad difficult to in normal circumstances, however, with a modicum of planning your street food options could be served relatively quickly from a carvery unit or from counter based hot food holding kit you might already have in your pub, such as that tired old “Victorian Potato Oven” or pot-bellied soup warmer.
- “It’s got to be different.” This is where your (or your chef’s) imagination and culinary flair has to come into play, but to start you off you can download this free Street Food For Pubs Summer 2014 – Recipe Sheet.
- “It’s got to be from folks who care.” As with any food you serve it has to be because you love it, you’re proud of what you do; because it took a lot of work to make it this epic and now you want to share it.
- “It’s got to be scoffing brilliant. Like Nigella with a spoon, it’s all about the Taste.” There’s precious little point in producing bland, uninteresting food which customers can’t differentiate from the rest of your menu or those of your competitors. So make sure you (or your chef) create food which not only will your staff talk about (after all selling the product is their job) but also have your customers raving and recommending to their family and friends.
For more Street Food Recipes visit the food network