Street food in the UK has gone beyond fish and chips wrapped in newspaper or a late-night kebab. Street food styles are a massive part of so many cultures worldwide, and the UK is just getting started when it comes to embracing it. Cities have so many iconic dishes that originated from the vendors of these street food stalls. Traditional dishes from the likes of Mumbai, Rome and Bangkok initially made their name at the roadside. We’ve got some of the best street food you’ll have to track down and try. And the best part? Vendors creating authentic dishes from all over are easy to find in the UK! With Covid restrictions proving to be a massive challenge for the hospitality industry, getting street food is a great way to show your support for these fantastic businesses.
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Vietnamese Banh Mi
Vietnamese cuisine has really taken off in the UK. The style of cooking is wholesome, and many restaurants across England now specialise in this cuisine. One popular dish, in particular, is Banh Mi. The dish was created in Vietnamese culture after baguettes were introduced to the country by the French in the 1860s.
Banh Mi is a crunchy, sandwich-style dish. It is typically filled with traditional Vietnamese ingredients such as different meats, pickled vegetables, cucumber, fresh herbs and, of course, lots of chilli! You can find Banh Mi in the UK reasonably easily. Cities from London up to Manchester and York all have highly rated Banh Mi takeaway options. Vietnamese chefs have mastered the art of street food and will deliver a dish that is bursting with new flavours and styles.
South African Bunny Chow
Bunny chow, known by the locals of Durban as a "bunny", was created in the 1940s to serve food to people of colour who were not allowed to sit in restaurants. The idea came as a way of serving Indian-style curries that were easy to eat and affordable. Bunny was initially served with white bread, as it was the only bread made cheaply available by the nationalist government. The Indian influence comes from the migrant workers brought to Durban as slaves to work on the sugar plantations. With them came the vibrant flavours and spices from India as well as delicious dishes.
Bunny chow is half a loaf of bread, hollowed out, with curry in the middle. Created for ease of eating, the bread taken from the centre is used to eat the curry on the inside with one’s hands. Bunnies are now made with any curry but started with whichever ingredients were the cheapest, mostly beans and legumes.
Bunny Chow has made a name for itself in the UK. Many restaurants and stalls across the country now offer this dish. You don’t have to be in London to find a decent bunny as vendors and restaurants all across the UK have made the dish something everyone has to try! It’s worth researching where your nearest bunny chow vendor may be. Even if it's a short drive, the experience will be worth it.
Peruvian cuisine is becoming more prominent, particularly in markets around the UK. Anticucho is one of the most authentic Peruvian dishes out there. It's a flame-grilled ox or beef heart. Although this may sound strange, ox heart is a beautiful lean piece of meat full of flavour. The dish is served on a skewer and accompanied by a traditional salad, often with quinoa and pulses. If you're out and about, you’ll know you’re near a Peruvian vendor from the mouthwatering smell of barbecued meat. Peruvians are the masters of cooking food over a fire. If you’re a meat lover, this dish is an absolute must-try for 2021.
The dish is said to originate from African slaves who were brought to Peru in the 1500s. When the Spanish introduced garlic and cattle to Peruvian cuisine, it was common practice for slaves to eat the scraps of butchered meat left by their owners. Although anticucho has a humble origin, it has now become a staple in Peruvian dining.
Something to try for those of you with a sweet tooth, Churros are wonderfully moreish, and you can have them with pretty much anything sweet. This type of street food is easy to come by in the UK, and places that serve them often put their own twist on the delicious dessert. Many commercial chains serve churros, but keep an eye out for independent vendors. These guys usually make them from recipes they have spent years perfecting. The dish came about in the 1500s during the Spanish Inquisition when Spaniards were returning to the European continent with cacao.
The dish is mainly deep-fried flour batter coated in cinnamon and sugar. Vendors drizzle them in anything from chocolate sauce to syrup and top them with fun garnishes like marshmallows and chocolate chips.
Middle Eastern Falafels
Falafels are a fantastic vegetarian street dish that you’d only want more of. The dish is composed of chickpeas or fava beans, fresh herbs, and spices that are mashed and rolled into balls or patties. These street snacks capture the flavours of the middle east. They are often served with hummus or other dips such as baba ganoush. The balls are either baked or deep-fried and can either be eaten on their own or in pitta bread.
Although debated, the falafel is said to originate from Egypt. The Egyptians used fava beans as opposed to chickpeas. The falafel is said to have been created as a replacement for meat during the period of lent. Once the dish was adopted in more northern regions, chickpeas replaced the fava beans.
Join the street food frenzy!
Whether we're in a period of lockdown or subject to a tier system, Covid-19 is proving catastrophic for restaurants. However, many offer takeaway and have even taken to the streets. As such, street food is now more popular around the UK than ever! These are just a few of the beautiful dishes and cuisines out there. Ensure you check out what street foods are available in your area, even if there’s only a local fish and chip van or mobile pizzeria or burger joint you're sure to find something tasty! If you're able to try more exotic cuisines from around the world, fantastic!
Rachael Kinsella from Tea With Rachael told Age Times: "I would recommend visiting the various food festivals up and down the UK as a great place to try street food and a number of dishes mentioned in the article, such as churros or falafel, or favourites like arancini. I’ve enjoyed visiting these food festivals for years now and they introduced me to street food I couldn’t necessarily find anywhere else at the time.
"Better still, you can make an occasion of it and enjoy good food in the great outdoors with friends! Now it’s easier than ever to try different cuisines, with street stalls and vans a regular feature in most city centres and regular specialist pop-ups and markets."
You can find out where sellers operate near you on social media platforms such as Facebook and Instagram. Many of them have pages for their businesses. Keep an ear out as often word travels via word of mouth too. Street food vendors are masters of their crafts, and it shows in their magnificent foods.