Let’s taco about the street food boom

Leeds’ street food scene is taking off, as the days of bog standard burger vans and classic chippies are long gone.

Street food selling dates back to Ancient Greece. But today’s city streets across the UK are filled with vendors eagerly selling their finest foods. The trend has risen significantly over the last few years as there is a huge gap in the market and a demand for this quick on-the-go food.

Owner of Fiesta catering, Kristy Fletcher, says: “There’s a rise of quick-fix-food, as people are constantly on the go.”

She created ‘Frida’ because she was inspired by her previous trips to Mexico, where she fell in love with the Mexican artist that we can see all over her van. “It’s just so nice to have convenient food there and then. My food’s super authentic too, I’ve gone to Mexico and I know what I’m tasting.”

Fiesta Catering van.

Today, numerous street food vans focus on authentic, flavoursome and nutritious bites, often providing tasty alternatives for vegans and vegetarians. This is a big part of why they’ve become so popular, as they provide more options than chain restaurants.

Eating in restaurants as vegans is not always plain sailing, especially when there are minimal options on the menu. This is where street food is taking off, with multiple meat-free choices.

Halal healthy street food.

Tony Mackenzie, 23, from Leeds, says: “Street food has made eating out as a vegan a lot more convenient and tasty.  My everyday favourite is a falafel and hummus wrap.”

But Kristy Fletcher worries that the market is becoming too crowded: “There’s a real difference between street food traders who know what they’re doing, and catering companies who’re just making money out of it.

“There’s a difference between street food vans and ‘pop-up make money whatever you can vans’, they’re both completely different concepts.”

“Not all of us have time to sit down for 40 minutes, we’ve got busy lives.”

Street food sign at Cafe Moor in Kirkgate market.

With more people working longer hours, food can take the back-seat in our day-to-day lives. Staff member Zee, from Yorkshire Hot Sweetcorn, agrees that “people’s lunch breaks from work would be all taken up if they went and ate in a restaurant.

“Some people can’t be bothered to go to a typical chain restaurant. Our stall is more convenient and it’s cheaper too.”

Dirty street food. Who doesn’t love a bit of grease?

It is evident that many people enjoy street food, but the dinky disposable packaging isn’t to everyone’s taste.

Last year, a study done by The London School of Hygiene and Tropical medicine, showed that “98% of salad samples prepared by street food vendors were contaminated with bacteria which cause food poisoning.” (http://www.myjoyonline.com/lifestyle/2016/December-29th/ghanaians-who-eat-outside-pay-little-attention-to-hygiene-health-study.php)

Kristy Fletcher told us that nowadays “food regulations and food standard agencies are on top of everything. I wouldn’t touch anywhere that doesn’t have five stars.”

Anita Walker, from Barnsley, says she “would rather go to a chain restaurant such as Nandos, because I know what food there is to offer, and I like to stick to places that I know are hygienic.”

Popular chain restaurant, Pizza Express.

We launched a twitter poll, to see what people prefer: classic chain food, or newbie niche bites? The results were evidently in favour of the niche street food, with 68% of votes for niche food, and only 32% voting for chain restaurant food.


Traditional Hungarian Food stall.

For Traditional Hungarian food worker, Melinda, this was also the case.

“I think here in the city centre of Leeds, people want cultured food, not boring English food. It’s more interesting as people can try new foods from all round the world.”

Nowadays, these different cuisines give more options for the customer to choose from. In Leeds Trinity Kitchen there are bundles of different street food stalls, meaning no more arguing over which restaurant to go to.

This allows families to sit and eat together in a restaurant format, but with the huge variety of different menus to choose from.

Is this combination of fine dining and exotic street food what the world is really hungry for?

Below is a video showing just some of Leeds’ food stalls.

What’s the weirdest street food you’ve ever eaten? Tweet us @LeedsHacks

By Tia Buckle and Sophie Barnett

About the Author

This article was produced by a student or students on the BA in Journalism at Leeds Beckett University.

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