The Zurich Street Food Festival was in full swing this past weekend, this time along the scenic banks of Lake Zurich with the Swiss Alps providing a stunning backdrop. The diversity of cuisines prepared by the food stands and food trucks was a welcome surprise in a city where the local fare is often limited to cheese, sausages and potatoes. From Austrian dumplings to Yemeni pancakes, with various burger outlets and Asian dumplings also proving popular, visitors were treated to a sumptuous array of international cuisine, served by friendly and passionate chefs and cooks.
Street food is often synonymous with fast food, but rather than being confined to a sit-down meal in a restaurant, street food is as its name suggests – food which is prepared and eaten on the streets. Throughout south-east Asia, street food markets abound where diners can grab cheap and quick food from stalls often specialising in just one or two dishes, the recipes for which have been perfected and passed down in the family-run business from generation to generation. It is interesting to see this concept spread to other countries and cultures, and at the recent Zurich Street Food Festival, it was particularly exciting to have so many different cuisines represented in one event.
The secret to a successful street food stand is to offer a menu limited to just a few items, sometimes just one, and to execute it quickly and perfectly. Many stands stuck to this formula and delivered top-notch food to the delighted visitors. The Palestine Grill was one of the most popular food trucks at the event, both with their edgy ensemble and delicious wraps on offer. But, at the risk of being perceived as biased, my favourite was the Restaurant Saigon stand where Vietnamese sizzling crêpes (or Banh Xeo) were the main attraction. Crisp and crunchy pancakes wrapped around a light filling of stir-fried vegetables with either chicken or tofu, and accompanied by the requisite herbs and lettuce cups, they were a delight to eat.
The French crêpe stand, on the other hand, missed the brief on street food. Not only did they offer a complicated menu of eight or more different crêpe fillings, and also allowed customers to design their own fillings, their crêpes were made to order at a snail’s pace, two at a time. Even the batter was made on the go (ignoring traditional convention to rest the crêpe batter for several hours). The results were, unfortunately, thick and doughy crêpes, as well as an hour-long queue of frustrated and disappointed customers. We learnt from our mistake and headed straight to the churros stand the following evening which had a long but quickly-moving queue, as well as hot, crispy churros for the devoted.
The excellent fare on offer at this event, as well as the central lakeside location, made this particular street food festival a resounding success. I’m looking forward to the next instalment!