One of the most exciting things about traveling to another country is being able to sample the local cuisine. Through food, you can get to know and understand the rich culture of the place that you’re visiting. While an elevated sit-down meal can be a wonderful experience, more often than not the best way to sample the best local dishes is through street food.
Street food is usually inexpensive, easily available, and full of tasty dishes that are either very traditional or new takes on classic flavors. In the past, street food may have been limited to just the cuisine of the country that it’s in. In today’s world, many street food vendors are playing around with new flavors and blending in influences from around the world.
Here are some of the most exciting street food trends on the radar this year.
Asian Food Trends 2023
Asia is world-famous for its street food flavors as many countries have dedicated markets or streets where you can snack on bowls of noodles, delicious dumplings, or other favorites any time of the day. One of the biggest food trends coming out of Hong Kong is “swicy,” or foods that feature both sweet and spicy notes. Think hot honey, spicy chocolate, or wing sauces with these flavors. Consumers are loving these flavors in both sweet and savory dishes, thanks to their versatility.
Another important food trend in 2023 that we see coming out of both Hong Kong and Japan is the ability to enjoy classic flavors without the need to add meat. Eaters are looking at alternative proteins that are animal and environment-friendly, like soy, tofu, or even mushrooms. One of the biggest flavor trends in Tokyo right now is using nori to add umami flavor to vegan dishes. This helps vegan sushi, noodles, and other dishes have a taste of fishiness without the need to add fish.
Street Food Fusion
One of the coolest 2023 trends is that consumers are looking to other cultures when it comes to culinary inspiration. In Hong Kong and Vietnam, eaters are looking for bold Mexican flavors mixed in with their favorite street foods. In Vietnam, for example, street tacos prepared with Vietnamese grilled pork and elotes with Tom Yum seasoning are showing how well these cuisines can complement each other. In Hong Kong, traditional Mexican ingredients like agave nectar, chicharrones, and Guajillo chili sauce are being incorporated more and more into traditional street food recipes.
In Tokyo, Japanese consumers are also interested in expanding traditional street foods and incorporating more global flavors. Hot pot is one of the nation’s most popular dishes in the winter. This year, consumers are adding Thai flavors and herbs to take something comforting and turn it into a new and surprising dish.
Besides lending new flavors to traditional dishes, chefs are looking to fusion to create completely new ones, too. In Tokyo, street food vendors are dreaming up exciting new dishes that are based on Japanese classics but look to outside dishes to revolutionize them. We see this with the rise in popularity of the latest Tokyo street food craze, tako chibi inari. This is the combination of fried Japanese dough balls filled with octopus and inarizushi, pockets of fried tofu stuffed with sushi rice. Ideas like these allow consumers to try exciting global flavors in a way that isn’t intimidating, as they are presented in a somewhat familiar way.
Sweet Street Food Flavors
As mentioned previously, consumers are loving sweets that are mixed with other flavor sensations, especially spicy notes. Eaters in Hong Kong are excited to jump on this trend, gobbling down sweet treats like rice rolls and pineapple buns drizzled in a rich, spicy chocolate sauce. In Tokyo, yuzu is making its way into various dishes to add a touch of brightness and sweetness. Yuzu is being used as a key ingredient in many savory dishes right now, including vinaigrettes, broths, and other condiments.
Looking forward, it seems that consumers are interested to keep trying different combinations of flavors, especially when mixing sweetness with other taste sensations. This leaves the door open for chefs to be creative when playing around with new ideas for treats and desserts.
2023 Trends for Street Cocktails and Drinks
Don’t forget the drinks! In Cartegena, street vendors are introducing exciting new beverages, both alcoholic and non-alcoholic, for foodies to try. One of the most popular trends right now is tea cocktails or drinks that have tea added in to create complex and unique flavors. Tea can be mixed in or steeped in alcohol, giving the bartender some room to play around with the strength of the flavor. Some popular cocktails that are trending right now are a warming chai with whiskey and a green tea-infused gin cocktail.
Also in Cartagena, street food vendors are trying out drinks with two emerging flavors: cape gooseberry and passion fruit. These two fruity flavors are being used in cocktails, juices, and sauces to add some sweetness to classic drinks, like mojitos and mixed drinks.
In Vietnam, people are turning to classic beer, but either with low or no alcohol. Popular in many parts of the world, beer with little-to-no alcohol gives people the chance to enjoy the beverage and its taste without the effects of alcohol. That is, people who normally don’t drink can still partake and feel included while enjoying a round with friends.
Street Food is Here to Stay
Street food is a trend that will never go out of style since it’s at the heart of so many global cuisines. For many, going out to eat street food is a time-honored custom that lets people savor dishes that they love. However, incorporating new flavors into the mix is an excellent way to please foodies and introduce people to cuisines that may otherwise be out of reach.
Playing around with street food also allows diners to enjoy relatively cheap eats in a casual environment for the days when they want to go out but don’t want to limit themselves when choosing a restaurant. Street food is fun and creative, and that's the main reason that eaters worldwide keep coming back for more.
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