It poses the question for me of what would actually constitute street food in the UK (some answers might be here: http://britishstreetfood.co.uk/). We, as a rather ‘magpie’ culture with our food do have mainstays of our cuisine in the usual suspects. Whenever you stop a punter in the street (a la market research) and ask what they regard as a truly British dish, you get Fish and Chips, Stews, Pies, Jellied Eels, Haggis, Pasties and so on. Thinking about it, there are a number of items that would qualify for street food here in the British repertoire; Slow cooked stews of lamb and beef (presented in a small cone perhaps?), Scotch Eggs, a bag of fish and chips is sometimes eaten on the move in smaller portions, stotties, the stalwart sandwich and so on.
Unusual to think then, that we as a culture have never really given a thought to applying a sub-genre into our cuisine to fulfil the gap where ‘street food’ sits in other far flung corners of the Earth. This could be for environmental or any socio-politico-economic reason (you know what I am getting at!), working hours, weather, affluence and so forth. We do have street vendors in the UK, some are present in every major city and town 7 days a week, selling hot dogs, burgers, doughnuts and in some cases pizza; alas none of which are particularly British. It would be a wild assumption to declare that no-one would go for the style of street food that works so well in certain areas of the far-east, even done with more traditional British meat and potato stews (served in a biodegradable container of some sort, possibly edible – in the interests of sustainability *cough*), however, it would be equally lacking in sense to declare the contrary.
In Liverpool, since lacking El Macho (sold up in both Liverpool and Manchester and moved operations to Birkenhead under another name) and the rather lacklustre Savina (Never really made too much of an impression both times I have visited) we are now treated to a slice of Mexican street food in the Wood Street establishment ‘Lucha Libre’ (http://www.lucha-libre.co.uk/). Serving a menu of small dishes comprising tacos, tostadas and quesadillas complimented by sides, smaller ‘starters’, a few large plates and salads, the food stands up to give a good account of itself for a lunch time snack. The tostadas and tacos come in at £5 – 7 approximately, which for the portion size, isn’t all that cheap in the grand scheme of things. However, the quality of the food made up for the size and the staff and environs are plus points; it is worth a return visit I think, perhaps for an evening meal for a more substantial meal.
London based and effervescent Wahaca (with numerous restaurants dotted around the city and also in a rather fetching pink an blue van – the website is also very striking to say the least) are another Mexican market food chain of restaurants, taking their inspiration from food available in the market places around Mexico. Supplying tacos, quesadillas and much more to a ravenous public, Mexican food in this style with effectively what is an edible plate or cutlery (in the taco or tortillas or tostadas etc) makes mobility whilst eating very possible. The monopoly for Mexican style street food does not sit with Wahaca though; places like Luardos and Tacuba are in on the act. There are also one or two stalls such as this one covered by another food blog (http://helengraves.co.uk/2010/05/buen-provecho-seriously-good-mexican-street-food/). In terms of an end of night treat though, following the obligatory 9 pints of beer or copious glasses of wine (whatever tickles you), I have found it odd that very easy-to-eat and tastier-than-a-kebab-or-anaemic-chicken-burger Mexican style fajitas, tacos, chimichangas and quesadillas are not commonplace for a snack on the way home. Surely an indictment on the Great British public that they have their staple diet for end of night street food and that is that.
In other news, albeit not quite ‘street food’ in the sense of this article, but still in the vein of food available on the street, there is new filtering through that London is to get its first cupcake vending machine – full details here: http://www.guardian.co.uk/lifeandstyle/wordofmouth/2012/mar/20/cakehole-in-the-wall-machine and also here: http://www.finedininglovers.com/blog/culinary-stops/cupcake-vending-machine-london/. Anyone up for that?
Aside from automatically dispensed cupcakes, what street food would float your boat, when would you be most receptive to having some freshly made, easy to eat and (given the current fashion – as food fashions dictate that street food is in right now and has been for a while) authentic street food?
Have you seen any food heroes out there on our streets trying to provide tasty sustenance from the kerbside?