Street food has a lengthy history. So, it’s no surprise that people line up when new foods and flavors hit the stalls. What better way to expand your palate and taste the world’s delights than by following your nose?
Of course, while you could sample the latest cuisine trends on your next country-hopping tour or regional exploration, satisfying the munchies is so much more … well, satisfying … when you discover new flavors on the streets. Here are the top street food trends for 2023.
Hong Kong Trends
In Hong Kong, street food trends take you from sweet spiciness to plant-based proteins.
One of the biggest 2023 trends is all about swicy foods. Swicy, a combination of sweet and spicy, is taking over Hong Kong. Consumers are loving the contrast between these diverse tastes — even though spicy is technically more of a sensation than a taste quality.
What are some common flavor combinations for spicy and sweet street food? You might see hot honey, spicy chocolate, pineapple curry, or an array of sauces like yangnyeom or its close cousin, gochujang sauce.
In terms of flavor trends for food and sauce pairings, you’re likely to see rice rolls drizzled in spicy chocolate sauce, sweet pineapple buns with a swirl of spicy chocolate sauce, or sui mai dumplings accompanied by hot honey and soy sauce.
Flavor trends also extend to proteins, with consumers in 2023 preferring alternative or plant-based options as they seek more health-conscious diets. You’ll be seeing products that substitute meat with tofu, soy, quorn (mycoprotein), wheat gluten, and mushrooms — like sweet-and-sour "pork" dinners.
Vegan foods are increasingly finding a solid place, especially with younger demographics. As a result, consumers are flocking to sample street foods like vegan seafood, vegan snake soup, and vegan bean curd rolls.
Two-Dish-Rice Meal Boxes
Another food trend we see is the two-dish-rice meal box. Consisting of steamed rice and two sides, these “combo” meals have even spurred a Facebook fan group with 77,000+ members. Common street flavors include fish-flavored eggplant, steamed egg, steamed carp or pomfret, pork patties, curry ribs, pork belly and taro stew, and braised brisket with turnip. One popular option is cai fan — steamed rice with vegetables and deep-fried sweet-and-sour pork.
Across Hong Kong, Mexican ingredients are also inspiring new street food flavors. Consumer trends show that chicharrones (fried pork skins) are adorning everything from egg noodles to rice noodles in the locally ubiquitous cart noodle dish.
You’ll also find Mexican-inspired zongzi — Asian tamales with mung beans, rice, char siu, and vegetables in bamboo wrappers — agave nectar drinks, and different meats drizzled with guajillo chili sauce.
Street food trends in Tokyo show that fusion and innovation make the world go ‘round.
Yuzu has long been a staple in Japanese cuisine. With its lemon and grapefruit notes, this zesty citrus adds flavor to sweets, custards, vegetables, ramen, and fish. It also has time-honored appeal as a dipping sauce, enhancing gyoza dumplings, grilled meats, and other dishes.
Now, 2023 is seeing yuzu branch out. Consumers are enjoying its tart yet floral taste in shio ramen, vinaigrettes, liqueurs and hard seltzers, and salted tiradito — a Peruvian take on sashimi.
Nori as Umami
Wandering through Tokyo street food stalls will reveal another everyday food staple: nori seaweed. Nori is one of the most common sushi and onigiri wrappers. You’ll also find it in ramen and miso soup.
However, like yuzu, nori is undergoing a transformation. Food trends in 2023 are seeing nori add umami flavor to vegan dishes and seafood flavor to fishless dishes. You might see nori wasabi rice or soba noodles with grated nori on top. Nori vegetarian sushi rolls are also becoming a popular sushi alternative as consumers shift away from seafood toward vegan options.
First up is Japanese-Thai fusion, where Thai flavors like coriander pop up across Japanese cuisine. In the street food market, we see consumers try everything from coriander soda drinks to coriander hot pot dressings.
Another fusion food is Thai pad krapao gai and Japanese natto, with the proteins drenched in Thai chili, holy basil, and sugar sauce. In addition, curry and gapao food trucks are now a common sighting at mealtime.
You also see fusion within Japanese cuisine, with dishes like tako chibi inari, where takoyaki (octopus-filled fried dough balls) and inarizushi (fried tofu with rice filling) become fried tofu wrappers with rice and octopus inside.
As with other street food trends in 2023, vegan food is becoming mainstream. Consumers want to be more environmentally conscious, and they’re sampling foods like vegan sushi, vegetarian gyoza, and golden sesame tan tan ramen, using nori and umami flavors for a richer taste.
Ho Chi Minh City Trends
What do we see for street food trends in Ho Chi Minh City? Alcoholic beverages and Mexican fusion take the top spot.
Food stalls that sell beer are starting to shift to zero- or low-alcohol beers like Belgo, a Belgian microbrew craft beer brewed locally. Also trending is bia hoi, a fresh, home-style beer with minimal alcohol, and ruou gao, fermented rice liquor.
Mexican-Vietnamese Fusion Food
Fusion foods are popular, with Mexican-Vietnamese appearing in food stalls and trucks across the city. Local favorites include bun cha street tacos (grilled pork, chili mayo, and pickled vegetables) and vietlote (grilled corn sprinkled with tom yum seasoning). "Hue-vos" rancheros, also gaining popularity, blends traditional Mexican flavors and eggs with bun bo hue rice noodle soup.
Finally, as in Hong Kong, guajillo chili sauce and agave nectar are adding Mexican flavors to many Vietnamese dishes.
In Colombia, street food trends 2023 are all about cool, refreshing flavors.
Tea in Cocktails
In Cartegena, consumers enjoy tea in cocktails, like gin with a green tea infusion and chai mixed with brown-butter whiskey. This trend gives a complex flavor to cocktails, whether mixed in directly or infused into the alcohol.
Passion Fruit and Cape Gooseberry Flavors
Another popular street food trend focuses on fruit flavors, specifically passion fruit and cape gooseberry. While one is tropical and the other is a South American native, both fruits have a mix of sweet and tart flavors. Passion fruit is becoming popular in cocktails and fresh ceviche, while cape gooseberry adds a floral yet tart kick to sauces and juices.
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