In a constantly fluctuating market, chefs are often challenged to ensure their menus feature a variety of interesting-yet-accessible and unique-but-appealing dishes. It can be particularly challenging to attract millennial customers, who are often inundated by competing brands vying for their patronage. Many operators have found success by incorporating global street food dishes—which appeal to millennial interests and tastes—into their list of offerings. However, it can be difficult to keep up with changing trends, and training staff to cook new menu items requires additional time and support from management.
“The greatest challenge that some chefs encounter when trying to recreate street food is a lack of knowledge around flavor profile, which can inhibit sourcing the appropriate ingredients,” says chef James Bickmore-Hutt of Dole Packaged Foods. “Kitchen staff may struggle with the correct utilization and preparation of certain ethnic ingredients, but that can be fixed.”
The global street food trend, according to Bickmore-Hutt, was largely initiated by the food truck emergence of the past three years. In addition, colleges—as well as many high end eateries—began to serve more bona fide interpretations of international cuisine.
“The emergence of global street food is largely being driven by the adventurous and food educated millennial consumers,” Bickmore-Hutt says. “They are looking for more authentically inspired food, which can be traced back to a region and a story.”
Chefs and operators can attract millennial guests by incorporating street food inspired dishes onto their menus. A particularly popular cuisine is Asian street food, which features somewhat familiar flavors prepared in new, increasingly-authentic ways.
Here, we offer four recipes to inspire chefs and operators.
Originating from the Northeastern province of Isan in Thailand, this salad balances shrimp, pomelos, mango, and fish sauce, paired with peanuts and garlic to create a savory-tart dish. “The heart of Thai cooking can be found in Isan,” Bickmore-Hutt says, “where tongue-tingling chilis and sticky rice reign supreme.
“Most meals in Isan are eaten family style, tantalizing taste buds with pungent fish sauce and bright, sour pops of flavor,” Bickmore-Hutt says. “The spicy yet simple cuisine has been around for centuries, and has flourished with very little outside influence.” This recipe for a crispy whole roasted snapper emphasizes all the best flavors this region has to offer, from sweet mango to chopped chiles.
These Chinese steamed dumplings are a popular dish for nearly every daypart, including brunch or tea. “Dim sum got its start in Guangdong, on the Southern border of China,” Bickmore-Hutt says. “The cuisine there is lighter, sweeter, milder, and more subtle, emphasizing roasting, stir-frying, and steaming techniques and minimizing spices.”
“The Ilocos region along the Northwest coast of the Philippines mixes comfort food with fresh island flavors,” Bickmore-Hutt says. “There is some Spanish influence on the local cuisine, but most dishes are authentically Filipino, including deep-fried morsels, such as the coconut and toasted rice puffs that top this recipe.” Halo-halo is a type of shaved ice sweetened with condensed milk, fruit puree, and different types of beans.
According to Datassential, millennial customers are much more likely than other demographics to enjoy global cuisines. Asian foods are particularly popular among this age group, and 48 percent of all millennials report that they will try a new food simply because it sounds interesting. Bolstered by the heightened demand for diverse flavors and menu offerings, the global street food trend is expected to continue well into 2019.
Several establishments have found success attracting millennial diners by adding Asian street food items to their menus, and to ensure continued efficiency in the kitchen, chefs and operators are using ready-cut fruits and purees, which can be incorporated quickly into new dishes. These products minimize the training required for kitchen staff when implementing new menu items, and speed up kitchen processes to ensure efficiency—and continued customer satisfaction.
Click here to receive a free sample of Dole Chef-Ready Cuts.