Street food in the UK used to be little more than the fish-and-chip van or a late-night burger or dubious kebab in a less than lovely part of town. But things have changed.
We Brits love food. LOVE food. We love to talk about it, watch TV programmes about it, watch reality TV shows about it, buy books about, rave about it, criticise it. It’s all we can think about. But it’s not just chefs stepping up to answer our food prayers.
Our infatuation with food has seen a boom in entrepreneurs setting up a plethora of unique street-food stalls to appeal to every taste, innovating recipes, fusing cultures and completely changing the street-food landscape.
Celebration of diversity
Gone are the days of stodgy British dishes with a side of soggy veg; as a nation, we have grown. Our melting-pot country, despite some headlines, has prospered and grown, thanks to our global community of newcomers.
Neighbours from Asia, South America, Africa and Europe bring with them new ingredients, exciting dishes and culinary innovations we had never thought of. As a result, our dinner tables are more diverse and interesting than ever as we explore new tastes and incorporate all things new.
Vegan street food
If you could combine the two biggest new things in food at the moment, it would be street food stalls and veganism. Not a challenging combo: pulled ‘pork’ jackfruit wraps, vegan pizza, steamed vegan Chinese dumplings, loaded vegan nachos, heart chilli sin carne and all things Middle East mezze.
Veganism it a direct response to the concern that meat production is a huge contributor to climate change and that eating too much meat just isn’t great for humans. Two things that are nationally important in 2020. For street-food vendors, veganism is fantastic. Most of the ingredients are considerably cheaper than meat, and because it’s the next big thing, good vegan food can make a tidy profit. Most of the time now, you can tuck into vegan street food and forget meat even exists.
Look out for insect street food
It’s coming. When veganism has its feet well and truly under the table, we’ll move on to insects. Just watch this space. Insects are high in protein, eco-friendly and they have the shock factor that will undoubtedly place them high on the next-big-thing list in the coming year or so. But insects have been a food staple in many regions for centuries. It’s just the West lagging behind.
Online you can already get insect flour, chocolate covered crickets and insect protein bars, but they haven’t hit the mainstream yet. There are 2,100 edible insect species, though, so it won’t take long for them to make their street-food mark and eat into the meat market.
Local, organic, happy street food
But meat does exist, and although many foodies and bon viveurs are cutting back on meat, they do still enjoy it. Instead, many people go for organic, locally reared meat that at least feels like it had a happy life before ending up on a plate.
The slow-food environment of street food creates a personal connection between the chef and the consumer, too, which makes us feel more comfortable we’re eating sometime local, which has had the least impact on the environment.