There’s something timeless about the intoxicating aroma of a well-seasoned kabob to complement the sights and sounds of your favorite neighborhood. Or maybe you prefer that first bite of fresh-fried dough coated with powdered sugar and drizzled with honey. Either way, street food exudes an essence of simple joy. Online culinary students who bring that sentiment off the street and into restaurants can spice up their menu and delight patrons at the same time.
Here are a few street food–inspired dishes to get you started:
A new take on the classic bahn mi
The bahn mi, once emblematic of the Vietnamese people’s unwillingness to abandon their culture during a period of French colonialism, has become a street food classic that’s as fit for the food truck as it is for fine dining. This original version of the sandwich that originated on the streets of Saigon is made by arranging grilled pork, pickled daikon radish and carrots, cucumber slivers, spicy chilies and cilantro between slices of an airy French baguette, according to Saveur.
But the beauty of the bahn mi is that you can customize it to fit your menu. For example, you can take away the baguette and transform it into a sit-down entree with this bahn mi–inspired rice bowl from World Market. Swap out the pork with chicken or jackfruit to accommodate kosher and vegetarian customers. Serve a curry-chicken option for Indian inspiration. There are plenty of ways to mix and match ingredients of the simple but delicious recipe to make a standout menu item that your customers will crave.
Tacos, tacos, tacos … and wraps
The taco is a culinary canvas unto itself; there isn’t really a wrong way to make a taco as long you put thought into it. Your goal, then, should be to take this widely beloved street food dish and make it your own. Take the example of fried-chicken tacos with buttermilk jalapeno sauce, courtesy of Southern Living. You still get the spice of the original dish paired with the heartiness of the Southern cooking tradition.
Another take on the taco is to replace the proteins with seasoned, roasted sweet potatoes. Add the potatoes, along with refried beans, chopped vegetables and cilantro, to a hard-shell tortilla for crunch. For some added flavor, mix sour cream, lime zest and juice, and garlic in a bowl to make this delicious lime crema recipe from Budget Bytes.
The bottom line is that there’s more than one right way to make tacos – or for that matter, most types of wraps. Swap out the tortilla for pita bread and the chicken for lamb, and suddenly you’re in Athens. Stuff a small pita pocket with fried chickpeas and you’re in the streets of Tel Aviv. Lose the carbs altogether in favor of some lettuce and now you’re in a hip New York City neighborhood. Let your food take you places.
Some extra spice on the side
Whether you want some side dishes to complement a gourmet grilled-cheese sandwich (also a street food–inspired dish, by the way), an appetizer that your customers can share around the table or some happy-hour finger foods, look to the streets for inspiration.
Instead of bite-sized sliders, you can fill bao buns with pulled pork or shredded Korean chicken. Rather than a simple basket of French fries, why not create your own take on this garlic parmesan French-fry tower from Savory Experiments?
Alternatively, just go with with some of the classics on the side: Mexican-grilled street corn (aka elotes), nachos, spicy chicken wings or zesty, seasoned clam fritters. From the most creative of appetizers to classic finger foods, as long as it’s tasty and it delights your patrons, there’s no wrong approach to street food–inspired cooking.