You can blame the hipsters for many things (and believe me, I do!). However, occasionally there is something for which to thank our bearded, tight-denim-clad brethren and one of those things is the Renaissance of street food. The Street Food Festival Basel has been established for more than two years now. This bonanza of food truck eating was introduced to Basel Messeplatz for the first time in 2015. It has taken place a number of occasions since then and has become increasingly popular. The Street Food Festival also takes place in Bern, Luzern, Olten and other Swiss cities.
Street Food Festival Basel – a celebration of food diversity
The spot on Messeplatz plays home to more than 50 food stalls over the course of the Street Food Festival Basel weekend. The organiser of this event has said that because of the increased popularity, they could choose from over 900 different stalls. For this reason, the vendors are likely to change somewhat each time. However, there are some staple choices that seem to return year on year. One of our personal favourites is the Indian food stall – Kumars – which returns year on year. Their menu includes a range of currys, lamb, chicken and lentil among others. However, their pakoras and samosas are too good to miss and make an excellent appetiser whilst you are browsing the other stalls.
The Street Food Festival Basel takes place in three fairly narrow alleyways around the buildings of the Basel Messehalle. It always attracts quite a crowd, which demonstrates how much the Baslers love events like this. People of all ages and backgrounds turn up to experiment with the different flavours not usually found on the traditional Swiss menus. However, this does mean it gets quite crowded especially during the early evenings. The seating space outside is limited especially when the weather is good, so you often need to wait for someone to leave a seat free. Luckily, most food you can eat while standing anyway, and there are usually spare seats available inside the Messehalle.
You can choose from a really wide range of different cuisines at the Street Food Festival Basel. As well as the afore-mentioned Indian stall, there are often different types of Asian foods not often seen in Switzerland. Tom tried this Taiwanese steamed bun. It was made with pork belly and a kind of sauce that tasted like Hoi-sin. The entire thing was delicious but the pork belly was amazing. It had been cooked so that it just melted in the mouth like butter.
Other Asian choices include the usual rice and noodle choices – Pad Thai always gets a look-in! – but another favourite of ours is Chinese dumplings made with spiced beef, pork or chicken.
Latin American food
If Latin American cuisine is more your thing, then there are stall selling Argentinian empañadas – we tried one with spinach and feta cheese that was particularly good. A new one this year was Honduran tortillas. However we didn’t try these as I could not see any distinction to be made between this and any Mexican-styled tortilla!
You can also get Peruvian burgers and other meat specialities.
Europe, Middle East and African food
From the European kitchens, you can get the usual Swiss staple street food options of Wurst and Fondue. Also available are pizzas, Alsatian Flammkuchen, Dutch-style fries and even Greek gyros. If Mediterranean and Middle-Eastern flavours are more your thing, then you could also try traditional Turkish meat dishes or Jordanian falafel.
One particularly exotic choice is the African food stall selling meat grilled over open flames. This is also quite a spectacle to watch, as the guy is continually tending to both the meat and the flames!
Another Street Food Festival Basel personal favourite of ours is a stall selling flame-cooked Norwegian salmon. It is served simply, thick flakes of hot grilled salmon meat, with iceberg lettuce, a dill-yoghurt sauce and a hunk of white bread. The flavours are straightforward but absolutely delicious.
There is plenty of food available at the Street Food Festival Basel if you are more inclined to the sweeter things in life. Frozen yoghurt is a recurring and popular feature. Mini donuts were also a recurring staple, however more recently churros have appeared and seem to be similarly popular. You can also get some very Instagram-worthy mini-strudels filled with different flavours than the normal apple/cinnamon combo.
For us, and for many others as well (judging by the long queues), crepes are the hands-down favourite of the Street Food Festival Basel. To mis-quote Charlton Heston, I will give you my crepe when you pry it from my cold dead hands. You will need to wait at least 10-15 minutes to get served and for them to prepare your crepe. But seriously, these things just get better the further you eat into them. They fold them together in such a way that the middle of the crepe itself is the bottom corner, and you eat down to where the chocolate and banana have melted together. It’s pure sin in food form. Nevertheless, I’d willingly walk straight through the gates of hell myself if the reward is one of these bad boys.
All my hipster reservations aside, street food is currently enjoying something of a moment in the Western world. It is for good reason. It is a great way to taste the flavours of the world without having to leave your own home town. If it means people are more likely to try local food when they are actually in another country, then that can also be a good thing. Especially if it means more tourist money goes directly back into local communities rather than global corporations.
So if you love street food and you’d like to visit either the Street Food Festival Basel, or one of the other Swiss street food festivals, then you can find out more at their website. Otherwise, why not see if there are similar events taking place in your own area? You could try something that may lead you to a country you never visited before!
What is your favourite street food of the world? We’d love to hear from you, leave your comments below!