Chefs all over the world are inspired by the authentic taste of street food, creating their own versions. Read more on how to get around in this dynamic food scene.
The culinary level of street food has increased enormously -– it is even recognised by Michelin. Why is street food so popular and why are more chefs turning to it?
Street food is a bustling food scene; its importance is even recognised by Michelin. They added a street food category to their 2016 Hong Kong guide to showcase the local culinary scene. Unfamiliar cooking traditions and ingredients, as well as their authentic taste, are a great source of inspiration for chefs. Bold flavours are transformed into more elegant dishes. A heavy peanut sauce becomes a subtle cream, a rustic empanada is more gourmet with a filling of stewed octopus.
Street food lacks pretence. It is simple and straightforward and that is exactly what people long for these days, tired of complicated dishes with many components. The Adrià brothers understood this well when they closed their world famous molecular restaurant ElBulli and opened a series of successful casual restaurant concepts in Barcelona, like Tapasbar Tickets, or ‘haute’ Mexican restaurant Yauarcan. They offer simple dishes of high quality.
Using exotic flavours and ingredients, street food is a real fusion galore. Take the legendary American- Korean chef David Chang, who combined his fine-dining experience with his knowledge of Asian street food and now runs a group of successful restaurants in New York, among which are noodle bar Momofuku, Michelin starred Momofuku Ko and the most recent Fuku, a restaurant specialised in fried chicken sandwiches. Chang’s kitchen is a culinary cross road, serving dishes like Japanese egg custard with chanterelles, Asian pears and brown butter, or pig head with Thai basil, melon and Mexican fresh cheese.
Jord Althuizen is a renowned Dutch barbecue master, who learned the barbecue craft while travelling the United States. He shares some vital street food tips.
Inspired by a barbecue battle in Colorado, Jord Althuizen was determined to bring the American barbecue culture back to the Netherlands. He now travels the country with his Smokey Goodness food truck, has been a judge on TV and radio shows and works as a barbecue consultant.
“When it comes to street food, I am a big fan of the AIDA-model: Attention, Interest, Desire and Action. So first, get people’s attention: potential customers should be able to understand at a 20 meters’ distance what you are selling. Then arouse interest with an alluring and good priced menu. Barbecuing is all about creating a desire. Convince people with interesting cooking techniques. Show the smoking and grilling, the use of fresh products. All this is crucial to stimulate ‘action’, that is, for people to actually buy your food.”
2. Take time
“We are on location at least half a day earlier to slow roast our pulled pork and spare ribs and do all the mise-en-place. This way we can give the attention that is needed to our cooking. Taking short cuts will lower the authenticity of your food.”
3. Airtight system
“Like in any restaurant scene you’re dealing with highs and lows. Develop a system that allows you to handle the highs and minimize waste in lows. Do so by creating buffers. If my pulled pork sells out before a new batch is ready, I always have extra portions ready in a hotbox. Offer a mix of slow and fast roasts. If the slow roasts sell out, you can offer fast roasts to prevent customers from waiting. The assembly of a dish should take no more than 30 seconds. Therefore, eliminate as many steps as possible (the baking of the bread, dressing of the coleslaw, seasoning). One way of minimizing waste is to work with a combination of home made produce and store bought ingredients with a longer shelf life. For example, I use Hellmann’s mayonnaise and mix it with my own home made flavour compounds, stored in vacuumed portions. Compounds that have not been used can be frozen until the next event.”
4. Stand out
“Meet your customers’ needs and offer a varied range of products, like fish, chicken, lamb and pork. Take into account the reality of people eating less sugar and salt and always offer a gluten free option. High quality food starts with good ingredients: don’t underestimate the importance of the bread and work, where possible, with artisanal meat and sustainable produce.”