In-Depth: Multiculturalism all on one plate

Cardiff street foods may be all the rage, but Alt. Cardiff looks to see if this is the best way to taste authentic international cuisines?

Having the world on your plate; good or a bad thing? Photo Source: The Ethical Chef

It’s that festive time of year again. Where walking the streets of Cardiff results in finding yourself immersed in wonderful different sights and smells from all kinds of different street food all around.

The diversity of food types in Britain has increased as food has become more affordable and more readily available. The popularisation of street food has encouraged more and more vendors to appear in Cardiff and other cities.

Cabinet Member for Sport, Culture and Leisure, Cllr Huw Thomas, says, “Each year all different kinds of food festivals in Cardiff attract thousands of people and food has become a focal point for people from far and wide.”

So what exactly is street food? The Ethical Chef blogger and Cardiff street food festival creator, Deri Reed, explains that, “When we talk about street food, we’re not talking about your run of the mill burger van but gourmet, restaurant quality food at low street prices. It’s been a vibrant tradition in many countries, but it’s a culture that is fairly new to the Cardiff streets.”

The first ever Cardiff Street Food Festival was created just last month, and the festival was a big hit. Deri stated that there were many reasons behind the food festival. The aim was to bring affordable and restaurant quality food to members of the public. Ensuring a strong connection between Cardiff street food, the customers and the vendors.

The world on your plate

People are now becoming more exposed to different cultural varieties of food as more international restaurants and takeaways are opening across Cardiff. Deri says that since the launch of Cardiff Street Food Festival, they have expanded and taken on Persian, Indian, Thai and Israeli caterers. Not only does street food offer a great range in international foods Deri explains that, “There’s an exciting buzz around things if you can smell it and see it, you’re more likely to try something different and more likely to buy something than if it’s written down on a piece of paper.” Street food may be offering food and atmosphere from all over the world, but that may not always be for the best. 

Yuk Wah Hui serving up an asian sensation

Yuk Wah Hui, Chinese takeaway owner, weighs up both options of having such diversity in foods. Claiming that on one hand street foods provide a taster to the public of what unknown foods are out there. But, of course there is the downside as street foods only offer a sampler into a taste of authenticity rather than the full thing, “having them all together in one place makes it easier for people. So, it’s really in a way, a matter of quantity over quality,” added Yuk Wah.

British domination

Since the introduction of numerous international street foods in Cardiff such as foods from Chinese to Lebanese cuisines, the public have become more open-minded when it comes to foods from overseas. Although Cardiffians are now able to try foods from further afield, international chefs often adapt recipes for western palettes which suggests that the authentic taste we experience is not as authentic we are led to believe.

Being a Chinese takeaway owner Yuk Wah feels that international food vendors have had to adapt to British tastes, “people may now be open to trying new things, but they won’t go completely overboard. They’re used to their norms and won’t completely step out of their comfort zone. That’s why I’ve had to suit the tastes of British people, as they’ll probably think authentic Chinese food is weird and disgusting.”

Rachel Kichin, We Love Bites vegetarian food blogger agrees and suggests that, “Well, we are in Wales, so maybe street food has Welshicised slightly; but as a vegetarian, that’s good. It’s important to embrace Welsh culture in our food events, showcase local produce and when cooking international cuisine, source things locally or ethically where possible.”

Despite thinking that altered multicultural cuisine is a bad thing, having authentic international cuisine is not necessarily always a good thing either. “Many cultures still hunt and serve endangered species (or parts of) to the rich, guests and business people. Authenticity needs to be re-thought once in a while in order to do the right thing,” added Rachel.

However, The Ethical Chef, Deri disagrees and believes that chefs are sticking to their guns. “This is what we cook, like it or lump it. They’re not going to change for British food, British food is all about wheat, milk, cream and butter, whereas international cuisines are more about spices, techniques, flavours and skill.”

Street food, glorious street food

Even though street food may or may not be the best way to taste multicultural foods, it is still a very popular choice. Cardiff Street food festival is already looking to expand and is already setting up for their next street food festival. “We want to be holding seasonal festivals, so the next one would be in the spring where we have a big celebration with bar, music and food,” added Deri.

Whether multicultural foods are truly authentic or not, or whether they’re altering themselves to fit with the Welsh food society, the future of international street foods within the Welsh capital is on a steady rise and it’s here to stay.