Street food is a phenomenon sweeping the nation…finally. Here's how to translate it onto your menus.
One of the most significant trends shaping modern foodservice is the democratization of food. Dr. Tim Ryan, C.M.C., president of The Culinary Institute of America, called it out at the 2009 Worlds of Flavor conference that surveyed the landscape of world street food and comfort food. He identified food democracy as "of the people, without pretense, class distinction or privilege." Since then, street food in this country, long a tradition in Asia, Latin America and the Mediterranean, has made tremendous inroads. Food trucks, from L.A. to N.Y.C., enjoy cult followings, tweeting their locations in a catch-me-if-you can manner, pied piping with aromas and sounds of expertly prepared plates of both culture and personality.
But how do operators capture the street-food trend and interpret it on their menus? How do you catch lightning in a bottle? After all, one of street food's most hypnotic draws is its immediacy—a steaming bowl of Vietnamese pho passed from cook to consumer. The answer lies in value, variety and small portions. "Value, affordability, providing great food at lower prices...we've seen a casualization of America," says Ryan. "And the American dining public is becoming increasingly enamored with having all kinds of choice."
Our chefs at the Kraft Culinary Centre created new street-food recipes that celebrate its ethnic flavors, casual presentation and laid-back vibe. "There's drama and entertainment with street food—you can capture that on menus," says Max Mong, senior executive chef for Kraft Foodservice. "We took the idea of street food—small plates, food trucks, ethnic, themed, fun—and developed recipes that capture that sensibility while offering a hard-to-resist value proposition," he says.