The Future of Cardiff’s Street Food

By Josh Ong

Street food throughout the UK has seen a meteoric rise in the last decade. With ever increasing growth of ‘Grab and Go’ convenience food within the culinary industry, street food vendors have begun to find a more grounded position in the nation’s food sphere. Indeed, for the last 5 years there has been a notable boost of events popping up around Cardiff and the surrounding areas.

[Brother Thai’s Roti]
Over the next three weekends, Cardiff is hosting the annual Summer Feastival housing a rotating lineup of the local areas best food stalls alongside sets of live music. One of the vendors is the Welsh based British Street Food Award Winner Brother Thai. Having been awarded of serving the best vegetarian dish with their shredded Jackfruit and Shitake mushroom Roti in 2017, founder Andrew Chongsathien certainly believes there’s still room for growth within the market. Chongsathien argues that the demand for more events is present. However, he continues by saying that the city could better utilise some of its already existing spaces to accomodate for the growing number of sellers to avoid losing the momentum.

[Dirty Bird’s Gangnam Style Korean Fried Chicken Wings]
On the other hand, Neil Young – the founder of Dirty Bird – claims that there are already enough opportunities through which all street food sellers can operate. Nonetheless, the close-knit community that Cardiff currently maintains makes it more difficult for any new vendors to join. He also believes that the product speaks for itself and so, any truly exceptional work would shine through.

Yet, whilst opportunities and customers are easy to come by in the summer, both businesses agree that there is one large barrier which stands from preventing them to elevate to the next level: Wales. More specifically, Welsh weather. Indeed, the scorching summer of this year has been fortunate to all outdoor food sellers. However, when winter comes, nobody particularly enjoys standing around in an outdoor market soaked through from head to toe, no matter how outstandingly tasty the food is. Whilst indoor venues such as The Depot do offer a temporary roof under which they can trade, today their opportunities remain for events based work only. The Depot tends to hold weekly events with one or two vendors catering per event, but the number of opportunities to trade in the warm and dry remains fairly limited.So what could Cardiff do to bring street food to the next level?

Inspiration can certainly be drawn from London’s increasingly popular network of street food sellers – many of whom operate all year round. London has converted many of its spaces into designated street food markets in the attempt of recreating a similar style to the hawker centres of southeast Asia. Examples of this can be seen in Shoreditch’s Dinerama which serves as a self titled ‘street food arena’; they provide an enclosed area with music and a vast array of food producers catering to everyone’s tastes. However, the success of these areas all year could be attributed to the quantity of covered spaces which London possesses. Given the comparatively small size of Cardiff, it would be difficult to mimic due to the density of the city. While Cardiff has retained much green space to use during the summer, perhaps it’s time for a few specialist indoor venues to be created in order to entertain the future of South Wales food scene.

The role that local vendors play of aiding society to expand and develop it’s collective palate is undeniably large. These local businesses are filling the void between home-cooking and convenient large scale corporation food. In the particularly volatile nature of the economy and its accompanying difficulties, street food continues to offer an alternative minimalising the risks faced by many restaurants today. The movement ability to adapt and evolve to the current climate is what has kept street food and will continue to keep it thriving in the foreseeable future.

The Summer Feastival is running every Friday through to Sunday from the 17th of August – 9th of September. Entry is free.