Emerging trends - street food is impacting our 'culinary' kudos
Pretty much everyone who has travelled abroad, especially East, will have tried genuine street food: whether eye-wateringly hot curry in Southern India or spicy noodles on the streets of Bangkok and pretty much all those have pronounced it among the best food they’ve ever eaten. Then they come home and its back to a town centre dried-out hot dog and, if you’re lucky, a slice of hog roast that’s been hanging around all day in a dry bun with processed apple sauce accompaniment.
Well, that’s now changing – the street food revolution is gathering momentum in the UK which could be a sign that Britain is well on its way to becoming a ‘culinary nation’ – Gordon Ramsay once said we will never become one because we don’t have a ‘bottom-up’ enjoyment towards food!
Street food isn’t actually new to Britain – street vendors in Roman times fed the masses with oysters; the medieval man on the street munched away on hot sheep’s feet, salmon, rhubarb, cakes and pastries hit the spot in the Stuart and Georgian era (‘Here comes the Muffin Man’ topped the charts then) while we all know about the Victorians and their pickled whelks, eels, pea soup and pies.
The craze actually took a dive then as snooty Victorians considered it infra dig to eat on the street, preferring to leave that to the lower forms of riff-raff. Early farmers’ markets- where it was again deemed acceptable to mooch around in public while gnawing on a bun - music festivals, and a backlash against the late 20th Century obsession for charging a massive amount of dosh for a very tiny amount of food in posh restaurants, have all helped bring about the resurgence.
Street food is also bang on trend regarding freshness and provenance – the best vendors charge reasonable prices, affordable to the majority, which means that their margins are pretty tight. They have to source local and seasonal, often from the market up the road, because that’s what’s cheapest. As a gauge of popularity, the inaugural British Street Food Awards in 2010 had 300 entries, last year was over 3,000.
It goes without saying that the scene is massive in London and other cities, Bristol, Birmingham and Cardiff are big, but many reasonable size towns now have regular vendors or even a Street Food Festival – Bournemouth’s finished two days ago!
So, next time you’re out and about, in the words of Dionne Warwick ‘walk on by’ McDonalds or KFC and seek out some real food – you’ll find it worth the effort.