Jiao Zi, dumplings from TaiwanTom and I relish (hah! pun intended) meeting the people behind the food we enjoy, and we loved discovering new-to-us flavors at Basel’s recent street food festival. Most impressive, though, was the passion with which so many of the participating cooks prepared and shared their creations. A number of them were testing the waters for new culinary ventures, from catering to online shops to full-fledged restaurants. Colorful Tawainese Jiao Zi provide just one example.

The culinary entrepreneurs we met at the street food festival were all intent on sharing their food passions with a Swiss clientele, and bringing new food memories to the Basel culinary scene. We had a chance to taste new flavors, and our reactions, along with those of thousands of our fellow festival-goers will help these folks determine what works–and perhaps doesn’t–in Switzerland.

Cultures and brands build “stomach share”, and they do it plate by plate.

We left the festival with happy stomachs and admiration for the work of the culinary adventurers we met there. Here are eight of them.

Gabriele Streetfood all‘italiana

Gabriele Streetfood at Street Food Festival Basel
Gabriele’s motto: ‘Fatto a mano con cuore’ or ‘Made by hand, with heart’

The food truck phenomenon has yet to take firm hold in Switzerland, and there were just a few trucks at the festival in Basel. One of them was Gabriele Streetfood all’italiana, a sleek, aqua-toned steed, carrying flavors as light and fresh as its paint job.

The Italian food truck had my taste buds dancing with the lightest gnocchi I’ve had anywhere. Served on skewers to suit the street food occasion, the tasty bites were topped with homemade pesto and a sprinkling of pine nuts. Checkout Gabriele’s agenda for scheduled stops, and for other options: catering with or without the truck, and coming soon, cooking classes.

 

Okonomiyaro

Okonamiyaki is a specialty of Osaka, Japan. As prepared by the crew at Okonomiyaro, the savory pancake comes topped with thin-sliced bacon, a lashing of spiced mayonaise and flakes of bonito. Co-founders Paul Bassing, Marcos Novon and Karim Ayadi have taken the recipe of Paul’s Japanese wife to just six fairs thus far, but it’s an impressive beginning. Look for them at a fair near you!

Okonomiyaro at Street Food Festival Basel
The start-up team from Okonomiyaro

FischFritz, Olten

Jiao Zi, dumplings from Taiwan, are savory delights. Handmade with meat, fish or vegetable fillings and splashed with spicy sauce, the dumplings we tasted at the Basel street food festival were exceptional. Plus, we learned that they are available at FischFritz in Olten, just 20 minutes from Basel! These goodies come frozen, ready to boil, sauté or deep-fry at home. Or, if you’ve a mind to make your own Jiao Zi, here’s a dumplings recipe from Tiny Urban Kitchen.

Zheng und Patrick Käser at Street Food Festival Basel
Zheng und Patrick Käser offer Jiao Zi in three colors and fillings: rose (meat), green (fish) and yellow (veggie).

ADA Lokma

The family-owned ADA Lokma offered festival-goers sweet and savory specialties from the west coast of Turkey. Ayser Ŏrikaya enthused about her husband’s talents at the stove, saying “Street festivals enable us to show Switzerland what this food can be!” After tasting freshly made Kumru (homemade wrap with chicken sausage and seasoned mayonnaise), and the tiny balls of sweetness called Lokma, still warm and just-dipped in syrup, I was ready to book a ticket to Izmir.

ADA Lokma at Street Food Festival Basel
Family team at ADA Lokma

Stierlis Fine Food

At Stierlis, Chef Daniel Fernandez Capellan presented us with beautifully smoked beef and a Kartoffelwolke (potato cloud). The savory concoction married the smoked meat with potatoes, a sous-vide egg, whipped sour cream, cheddar cheese and chives. Protein-carbo overkill? Perhaps, but this chef knows his way around a smoker, combining traditional barbecue with the gentle cooking process and ingredients of molecular cuisine. Originally from the Dominican Republic, now Swiss-trained and experienced, Chef Capellan showed us that meat, already done to perfection, can benefit from a little dressing up from time to time. Check the Stierlis Standorte page for food truck locations. Catering is also available.

Chef Daniel Capillan and the Stierlis crew at Street Food Festival Basel
Chef Daniel Capillan with his family of helpers

Auyán

“A party just isn’t a party without tequeños!” So says the founder of Auyán, a new online shop specializing in specialty foods from South America. Basel street food fans had a chance to taste the Venezuelan appetizers, and can now order them online, to prepare at home.

Auyán presents Venezuelan tequeños at Street Food Festival Basel
The Auyán stand presented Venezuelan tequeños at the Basel street food festival

BBQ Catering

Alex Zehnder is a trained chef and winner of barbecue competitions in Germany and Hungary. He has participated in the Jack Daniels barbecue invitational in Lynchburg, Tennessee, USA, and dresses his world-class barbecued pork with his own recipe for a blueberry-based BBQ sauce. Still, he insists that BBQ Catering is a hobby business. He and his team–all barbecue fanatics with full-time jobs doing something else by day–share a passion for slow cooking and bringing good food to events all over Switzerland.

BBQ Catering at Street Food Festival Basel
Alex Zehnder of BBQ Catering, with his team

Taucherli Handmade Chocolate

At the Taucherli stand, I had a lesson in couverture–very high-quality chocolate with a high cocoa butter content. Impassioned owner Kay Keusen is a self-proclaimed “Chocolizer”. His new line of couverture has interesting characteristics–a bar that gets its snap from roasted rapeseeds, or dark cocoa with chili and fleur de sel. Taucherli products are available in a number of shops across Switzerland, and can be enjoyed at specially organized events.

Anita's with Kay Keusen of Taucherli, at Street Food Festival Basel
Kay Keusen of Taucherli is a self-proclaimed “chocolizer”. Perhaps these premium bars and dips will help get his message across?

Street food to food culture

Back in April, at the World Food Tourism Summit in Estoril, Portugal, we heard about and experienced first-hand, street food as a “free-styling…way to re-learn food culture”. There, Richard Johnson, co-founder of the British Street Food Awards, talked about street food as living proof of the power of passion and a love of food in invigorating culinary tourism.

We reveled in a food truck extravaganza in Estoril, and now in Basel, we’ve met passionate culinary entrepreneurs who are doing the necessary to broaden cultural norms, grow their brands–and most of all, bring us all better, and very interesting, food.

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