Issue 63 / The Indian Street Food Trend Is Taking Over The World!

The Indian Street Food Trend Is Taking Over The World!

Jan 01, 2017

With street food and food trucks on the rise, people don’t have to go far to experience South Asian flavours, especially Indian street food, which has pretty much taken a life of its own across the world. 

K.F. Seetoh, creator of the World Street Food Congress, once said, “Street Food is a brand; it is a cuisine inherited from our parents and culture. People love to travel to eat the best dishes of that country, bringing home the ultimate culinary souvenir.”  The world has been munching on street food from improvised kitchens for centuries, especially in Asian countries, and it’s often known that in order to experience a different country and their culture, you should dive face first into their food.

Today, street food is consumed by an estimated 2.5 billion people worldwide, producing a $281 million CDN market in Canada alone. As food trends have been seeing a rapid change from the normal chain restaurants to our friendly cooks on wheels, the idea of serving street food, whether ethnic or not, to everyday consumers has become quite the trend worldwide.

Indian street food has become a rather large competitor to the new scene where chefs are taking Indian inspired dishes that South Asians have drooled over for years and introducing them on innovative platforms for hungry fans. This trend has opened the doors to internationally renowned foods crossing borders and entering cuisine capitols around the world. This impact on food culture has professional chefs leaving their restaurants to open their own trailers, food trucks or drive thrus. But what’s driving this sudden shift?

Food consumption worldwide is making a change; people are opting for flavours, exciting new mixtures of spices, and more importantly, culturally derived food products, rather than a regular old burger with greasy fries.

Just a glimpse of street food at the World Street Food Congress.
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Hemant Bhagwani, owner and chef of Indian Street Food Co. in Toronto, says, “Indian Street Food Co is my tribute to fading restaurants in India, and to the street hawkers who are more innovative then 5 star chefs.” Although Indian Street Food Co. is an actual sit down restaurant, Bhagwani offers his patrons what any food consumer in India would be snacking on every day, authentic Indian street food.

His dishes range from the ordinary potato chaat to experimental dishes like tuna bhel ceviche and beetroot peanut butter tikki.  “I want to give a modern take on these types of food to show how the cuisine continues to evolve”, Bhagwani says.

A look inside the traditional Indian Street Food Co.
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When talking about cultural influences in today’s food, nobody explains it better than the Kati Roll Company, located in the heart of Greenwich Village, New York. The Kati Roll Company opened in 2002 and started serving the most humble and non-pretentious street food they could think of: a helping of well spiced vegetables, meats or cheeses wrapped in a simple roti or parantha. Fourteen years later, this wrap has become a New York staple, producing two more locations in the New York area and one in London.

Their objective is clear: “Street food gave pushcart vendors and their families a means of income as well as a vital cultural connection. Street food is still an integral part of Indian life and, though served from a diner rather than a pushcart, The Kati Roll Company upholds this essential Indian tradition.” It’s food like this that is bringing together people from all different backgrounds and even winning awards, but more importantly, who could say no to delectable wraps with savory fillings like meat, cheese or vegetables?  Nobody, that’s who.

A delicious Kati Roll.
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Being able to indulge in food the way its country members can is a great way to experience a culture, which is exactly what chef Angus Duncan is doing with Jhal Muri Express, his Bengali chaat cart in South London. Jhal Muri is crunchy, spicy, sweet and sour, thanks to fresh lime juice, cucumber, ginger, onions, tamarind sauce, hard chickpea noodles, puffed rice and fried lentils.

Duncan made a trip to Calcutta nine years ago and has fallen in love with the food and culture ever since. His goal was to bring a piece of the Bengali culture back to London, thus creating the Jhal Muri Express, where he offers up lassi, jhal muri, daal, and chai, all essential flavours of Bengali street food. Duncan truly brings Calcutta back with him as his cart is decorated with flowers, bright colors, spices in cans and signs that point out, “The Everybody Love Love Jhal Muri Express”.

The Jhal Muri Express in all its glory.
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While chefs like Angus Duncan are celebrating the old, chefs like Rick Matharu, owner of Rick’s Good Eats in the greater Ontario area, are putting a spin on the old and creating a new food craze. Rick’s Good Eats is a home-style Punjabi-Canadian cuisine, always with a fusion twist. Matharu, winner of Food Network’s “Recipe to Riches,” decided to start serving India’s ultimate street food product, the infamous samosa, not just one way, but five different ways.

His insane pairings of flavors prompted an explosion of fans immediately and lead to Matharu eventually opening up his own restaurant. “Samosas have been done the same potatoes and peas way for so long, so it was time to give them a refresher,” he says. The epic line-up of samosas? The Butter Chicken Samosa, The Creamy Channa Masala Samosa, The Punjabi Cheeseburger Samosa, and The Ras Malai Cheesecake Samosa. His restaurant offers up plenty of street food with a modern twist as well, featuring some favourites like Fries Chaat, Samosa Chaat, and Dosa Burgers, just to name a few.

Rick’s famous Samosa Chaat.
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With this epic trend of street food only getting stronger and coming across only five per cent of street food eaten in India, something tells me we’ll be seeing a lot more Indian street food entering the culinary scene.


Original Post Date: October 2, 2016


Shilpa Sehgal-Rajput


Shilpa Sehgal-Rajput is a freelance writer based in Chicago.  Reminiscing about her passion for writing during her college days, she has made her way back from the corporate world, armed with a lace pen.  When she’s not working on humorous short stories and epic novels, she’s living out her se...


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