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Tuna Poke Mini Tacos

Street Smarts

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.

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Recipes: Bringing Street Food Inside

Savory Dishes

Street food is perhaps at its finest when it comes in small, savory bites. Here, we translate the on-the-run sensibility, giving dishes a casual, shareable vibe.

Mini BBQ Ribs

Mini BBQ Ribs

Menu solutions: shareable appetizer; bar food; catering; buffet

Other uses for barbecue sauce: pork chops; any other ribs, like spare ribs

This recipe taps into America's original street food—roadside barbecue. Our chefs braise baby backs in Gevalia Kaffe, infusing the ribs with smoky, acidic flavor. They then drain the coffee and brush the ribs with a beautifully balanced barbecue sauce, made with Kraft Original Barbecue Sauce, orange-juice concentrate, honey, brown sugar, Miracle Whip Dressing, chipotle and sriracha.

Bahn Mi Dog

Bahn Mi Dog

Menu solutions: bar food; lunch or dinner entrées

Other uses for embellished mayonnaise: spread on Latin-themed sandwich

A loose, fun interpretation of the Vietnamese sub, our chefs spread a flavorful blend of Kraft Mayo Real Mayonnaise, TAPATÍO Hot Sauce and fresh cilantro onto a bun, then lay an Oscar Mayer Hot Dog down, adding jalapeño, peppers, carrot, jicama and cucumber.

Tuna Poke Mini Tacos

Tuna Poke Mini Tacos

Menu solutions: shareable appetizer; bar food; catering; buffet; lunch

Other ideas: substitute the tuna with grilled white fish or grilled chicken

Tacos are the ultimate street food, and easily translated onto restaurant menus. Here, our chefs add a prickle of heat to the clean, beautiful flavor of sushi-grade tuna with red and green chilies. Kraft Oriental Sesame Dressing adds authenticity of place and a bed of nori heightens the plated presentation.

Green Papaya Salad with Sesame-Lime Chicken Satay

Green Papaya Salad with Sesame-Lime Chicken SatayHealthy Living

Menu solutions: shareable appetizer; bar food; salad menus; lunch

Other applications: put ingredients in a sandwich wrap; make a summer roll with ingredients; serve with jasmine rice for an entrée

One of street food's greatest traditions is loud flavor housed in wholesome profiles. Better known in Thailand as som tam, our chefs offer a better-for-you street-food dish that soars with refreshing flavors—green papaya, cucumber, daikon and lime juice. Ease of execution here, thanks to a blend of Kraft Oriental Sesame Dressing, sriracha, lime juice and lime zest that serves as both a dressing for the salad and a marinade for the grilled-chicken skewers.

Hand-Held Salads: Three Ways

Offer your diners a fun way to get their greens with these hand-held salads that play off the traditional Vietnamese summer roll, a staple food on the streets of Hanoi.

Menu solutions: shareable appetizer; bar food; salad menus; catering; buffet; lunch

Other salad roll idea: Caesar Salad Rolls

Hand-Held Salads: Three Ways

Hand-Held Italian Chopped Salad
These rolls take the best of the popular chopped salad and package them into a hand-held profile. Kraft Greek Vinaigrette with Feta Cheese adds a bright Mediterranean touch.

Hand-Held Asian Salad
The fresh flavors of baby greens, carrot and red pepper dressed with Kraft Oriental Sesame Dressing get a hit of crunch from fried wonton strips.

Hand-Held Classic Side-Salad RollsHealthy Living
A memorable, convivial way to present your all-American side salad, dressed appropriately with Kraft Ranch Dressing.

Desserts

For diners, these street-food inspired desserts are portable and flirty with a low level of commitment. For operators, they offer simple execution and easy end-of-meal transaction. "The frozen pops are so fun. You can see the bubbles, which makes them even more appealing," says Chef Mong. "And the cake balls are perfect for diners looking for just a taste of something sweet."

Raspberry-Ginger Fruit Pops and Lemon-Ginger Fruit Pops

Raspberry-Ginger Fruit PopsHealthy Living and Lemon-Ginger Fruit PopsHealthy Living

Creative add-ins: add fresh blueberries or raspberries to the bottom of the frozen pops mold before pouring in liquid

Crystal Light On the Go Raspberry Ice or Crystal Light On the Go Lemon-Lime Flavor Drink Mix plus diet ginger ale equals refreshing deliciousness.

Carrot Cake Balls

Carrot Cake Balls

Menu solutions: dessert; to-go; catering; buffet

Other ideas: mix cream-cheese frosting with red-velvet cake, spice cake or cookies-and-cream cake

Diners enjoy immediate gratification with these pop-in-your-mouth treats. Our chefs make carrot cake, cool it, then crumble it. They mix it with a lush frosting made with Philadelphia Cream Cheese, roll it into balls, then dip those balls into melted white chocolate. Perfection, in miniature.

Tales from the Front: A former chef shares his triumph on the street.

Catch the Grilled Cheese Truck if you can. Thirty-two thousand folks on Twitter try to do just that. They follow this L.A. truck, literally, hoping it makes an appearance in their neck of the woods, hoping to beat the snaking lines, and hoping to order their favorites—from the Cheesy Mac and Rib to the Plain and Simple Melt, featuring American cheese. Dave Danhi is the man behind this phenomenally successful food truck. In fact, so quick was its success, it now has two food trucks zipping across L.A., creating food frenzies with their on-the-fly, all-American comfort food.

"I hit on the perfect storm: classic comfort food is the culinary common denominator," says Danhi, who once helmed the kitchen at the city's famed Water Grill. "Everyone's grown up on grilled cheese. I've taken their childhood food memories and now feed their adult palate." And feed them he does: an average of 500 lunch transactions a day. The most popular grilled cheese? The Cheesy Mac and Rib, which features barbecue pulled pork, caramelized onion, sharp cheddar and mac and cheese on artisanal French bread. Danhi charges $7.50 for the sandwich and runs a 26% food cost. Sales of this sandwich make up a staggering 80% of food sales. His advice to chefs: "You can get in the game by giving diners great value," he says. "Do it with smaller portions, so you don't impact your bottom line negatively. Diners seek value, comfort and fun." For those in the L.A. area, track the whereabouts of The Grilled Cheese Truck on Twitter at @grlldcheesetruk.

Street Smarts