Increasingly busy lifestyles have prompted a dramatic rise in the ‘food to go’ market, which is now valued at over £20billion in the UK. Whereas as we might once have “grabbed” a sandwich on the hoof at lunchtime, this trend has filtered into all day-parts and is becoming ever more inventive, drawing inspiration for global food trends and street food offerings. Here, nine chefs and industry experts share their thoughts on the latest flavour combinations and innovations for handheld snacks…
Gaz Phillips, co-founder of award-winning street food sandwich operator Sub Cult www. sub-cult.com Whether it’s breakfast, lunch or dinner – exceptional grab and go offerings have now become the norm for most Londoners. The street food trend has played a crucial part in this. It’s allowed restaurant quality concepts to become available in accessible locations across central London and currently particularly popular are gourmet sandwiches, tacos and poke bowls. Also the ever increasing awareness for healthy, vegan and free-from options shows no sign of slowing down. Our gourmet sub bar has just opened in the City and we are continuing our mission to exceed expectations on how good a sandwich can be. Our ‘Sub Marine’, combining slow roast pork, seared scallops and calamari, has been getting the best reaction so far.
Stefano Leone, chef at the Grand Cafe, Royal Exchange, London www.royalexchangegrandcafe.co.uk Tuna poke taco – pronounced poh-KAY and rhymes with okay – is a typical Hawaiian dish with a strong influences of Japanese, Korean, Filipino and even Portuguese cuisines in this exploding preparation. At Royal Exchange I took the delicious Ahi poke (tuna poke) and “shook it up”. Served into a toasted soft tortilla as a taco, the tuna is spiced with cumin, coriander and black pepper and marinated in soy sauce and sesame oil. The chipotle is in charge of the ‘hot’ bit. The three onions – crispy shallot, spring onion and pickled red onion – give crispness, sharp and sweet taste. Avocado is diplomatically balancing and has connecting flavours with coriander leaves, and a squeeze of fresh lime over adds a zing. Serve with chipotle mayo on the side to add extra heat.
Sanguan Parr, head chef at Nipa Thai, London It’s clear to all chefs that handheld food is continually becoming more popular, however this doesn’t mean we have to scrimp on flavour or authenticity. Our Thai burgers at Nipa Thai retain traditional flavours; the Chicken Satay Burger for example is served with sweet basil, red onion, and cucumber relish, which would all be present in a classic Chicken Satay dish. The same goes for our Fishcake Burger, made with Whiting, which is topped with a green mango salad. Many customers are looking for the flavours they know and love, presented in new, innovative, and perhaps more practical ways.
Rachel Hugh and Neil Potts, founders of The Vurger Co The burger is the perfect handheld and on-the-go indulgent meal. In all their glory, however, working with vegetables can be super unpredictable. One way we manage this is by baking our mushrooms, for example, in Tamari for 20 minutes ahead of blitzing them in the blender. We then keep the consistency of the product by using a nut ‘milking’ bag or muslin to squeeze out all of the excess water. It’s a golden oldie but always the perfect solution! The great thing is you can use the drained excess for a consommé, soup, juice or smoothie so that absolutely nothing gets wasted in your kitchen!
Fergus Martin, Major development chef Customisation has become a real deciding buying factor even when it comes to grab and go. People know what they want to eat and how they want it and are even prepared to pay that premium to have the latest in terms of innovative flavour. This year Major have been piloting a new “simply grab and go” concept to show how by using a quality gluten free Mari Base, this can be a viable option on menus. More than just a marinade not only are these products water-based but give that ideal punchy street food inspired flavour. From DIY hot snacks, burgers, hotdogs to customised sandwich fillings and condiments and even tapping into healthy eating trends, used to infuse a dressing for that super salad with marinated proteins, simply brush on, or stir in.
Olivia Shuttleworth, brand manager for Prep high performance frying oils Tapas, mezze and other kinds of sharing foods are a real hit with diners as they’re all about experiencing different flavours and textures with others. Bring the essence of tapas into grab and go foods, with a lunchtime or snack menu crammed with easy-to-eat sharable morsels that are bursting with flavour and inventiveness. Think about popcorn chicken, breaded mozzarella sticks, deep fried coconut shrimp and spicy little empanadas, or potato croquettes, the school dinner favourite with a continental twist – mix the mashed potato filling with cheese, pieces of smoky chorizo or finely chopped chillies for a contrasting kick.
James Davidson, executive chef, Rich Sauces With kale on its way out chefs are turning to more exotic vegetables to attract the now fashionable flexitarian growth, vegan dishes are becoming more and more palatable with exciting vegetables, spice flavours coming from Africa and working their way across America, it won’t be long before we are all digging into this wealth of cultural flavour. Another big trend is the growth of the Banh Mi, a by-product of Vietnam being colonialised by the French, this toasted baguette filled with Vietnamese grilled pork or cold cuts of pork, pickled carrots, Daikon radish, coriander and fresh mayo. A delicious blend of European and Asian cuisine makes this the bang on trend sandwich!
Aine Melichar, brand manager for Kerrymaid Once seen as purely an evening meal opportunity, Indian cuisine is becoming more than that; and we are seeing it filter into the lunchtime grab and go market. Taking a classic favourite, naan bread and curry and combining the two gives an alternative to a filled flatbread; an option to be enjoyed on quick lunch break. Being able to offer consumers miniature versions of their beloved curries is another great lunchtime grab and go option as consumers with smaller appetites or less time would be satisfied with the smaller option.