Pie maker Andy Bates's American Street Feasts begins on Food Network on Monday, October 8. Street food may be making a splash in the UK, but it's an even bigger story in the US. Diana Pilkington joins Bates in San Francisco as he enjoys a road trip around America sampling tasty and inventive street food, and brings home some mouth-watering recipes.
Outside the bright orange truck belonging to street food purveyors Curry Up Now, an excitable queue is forming. The punters have heard good things about their Sexy Fries - sweet potato chips topped with paneer tikka masala - and want in on the act.
Off The Grid, a weekly gathering of mobile food in San Francisco, has a festival vibe, with a folk band playing, hundreds of young people milling about, and delicious smells wafting from the food trucks and stalls crammed into the car park where the event is taking place today.
It's one of many opportunities to experience the vibrant street food scene in the Californian city, and to see fusion food at its most inventive. One truck has a mac 'n' cheese spring roll on the menu, another is offering tacos filled with char sui pork, and the brains behind the Creme Brulee Cart have concocted 30 flavours of the popular dessert.
While the vendors appear to be doing a roaring trade, it's not all about the money.
Azalina Eusope, who brings a Californian twist to her Malaysian cooking, turned to street food to get her through a difficult time in her life.
"I had no family members here and the only thing that could comfort me was the food [from home]. It was my lifeline," she says.
"In any food business the margin is low, but we do it because we are passionate. Once my children grow up maybe then I can start thinking about opening a restaurant. But this is good at the moment because I can balance my personal and business life."
For TV chef Andy Bates, who is on the "trip of the lifetime" sampling street food across the US, the cuisine in San Francisco could be the best he's tasted in the whole country, and that's saying something.
"I love how they're not scared to mix the food from different countries together, like Mexican and Korean," he enthuses.
"And the food is restaurant quality. I don't doubt that for a minute. I've stopped eating in Michelin-starred restaurants for the last few years anyway because it's too expensive.
"Over here, there's a culture of eating for an hour and then getting on with your night. It starts off your evening."
His trip, to be shown on his new show on Food Network UK, has seen him sampling everything from the famous Philly Cheesesteak, to a New Orleans jambalaya, to the freshest of sushi sold out of a truck in New Orleans.
"All I knew about America was its media, politics and films, so to actually go and meet the people has been great. And the food is unreal. It's definitely not just fried," he says.
Bates is well placed to comment on street food, as he is juggling his burgeoning TV career with running three pie stalls in London. As the recession has taken its toll, he has witnessed more and more people with foodie ambitions bite the bullet and set up their own small-scale businesses in outdoor markets and, in turn, more customers are taking to the streets in search of decently priced fare.
Bates says: "There's so much competition in England now. But I think it's a great thing as long as it's good quality food and fairly affordable.
"I think people are starting to wake up to the fact that it's good quality so you've got to pay that bit more, but it's still not restaurant price. It won't cost you £15 or £20 for a main course.
"And the people are good and the stories are good. The seller has a personality and you get to meet the person who makes the food, which is really important."
Try these dishes, inspired by Andy Bates's American adventure...
Calzone Pizza (Inspired by San Francisco)
For the pizza base:
300g strong bread flour
1 x 7g sachet instant yeast
1 tsp salt
200ml warm water
For the tomato sauce:
1 onion, peeled and diced
3 cloves garlic, crushed
200g vine tomatoes chopped (or ½ tin chopped tomatoes)
1 tsp caster sugar
Salt and pepper
For the topping:
250g mozzarella, cubed and dried
A handful of fresh basil leaves
Olive oil for drizzling
100g Parmesan cheese, grated
To make the base, mix all the ingredients together and knead for 5 minutes, place in a bowl, cover and leave somewhere warm for an hour.
For the tomato sauce, put the onions and garlic in a frying pan and sweat on a low heat until translucent. Add the tomatoes, sugar and seasoning, bring to the boil and simmer for 15 minutes. Blitz until smooth in a food processor and chill.
Preheat the oven to 250°C with the baking tray or pizza stone inside the oven.
On a board, roll out the dough as thinly as possible, then cover half of the base with sauce, the mozzarella, half of the Parmesan cheese, basil leaves a drizzle of olive oil and cracked black pepper. Fold it in half and crimp around the edges. Transfer to the hot baking tray or pizza stone. Bake for 10 minutes.
To serve, cover with the remaining Parmesan cheese and olive oil and a couple of basil leaves.
Crab Benedict on English Muffin (Inspired by San Francisco)
4 English muffins
For the Hollandaise sauce:
2 egg yolks
50ml white wine vinegar
250g clarified butter (see tip below) or ghee, melted
A squeeze of lemon juice
Salt and pepper
For the crab:
200g brown crab meat
2 tbsp creme fraiche
Salt and pepper
A squeeze of lemon juice
400g cooked baby spinach
400g white crab meat
2 tbsp chives, chopped
To make the Hollandaise sauce, whisk the egg yolks and vinegar in a large bowl over a pan of barely simmering water. Whisk the mixture until it has doubled or tripled in size. Take the bowl off the heat and lay on a folded damp cloth, which will stop the bowl moving when whisking. Slowly, in steady streams, add the clarified butter, whisking continuously. When the butter is mixed in and emulsified, add the lemon juice and season, then whisk again and keep warm.
Now prepare the crab. In a small saucepan combine the creme fraiche and brown crab. Bring to a simmer then season and add a squeeze of lemon juice.
To serve, split and toast the muffins and spread them with brown crab mix. Add a quarter of the spinach and then a quarter of the white crab meat. Pour over the Hollandaise and then finish with another muffin rested on top. Drizzle with some more Hollandaise and sprinkle with chopped chives.
Tip: To clarify butter, heat it over a low heat until melted. Skim off any foam and pour the clarified butter from the pan, taking care to leave behind the milk solids.
Andy's Jambalaya (Inspired by New Orleans)
6 chicken thigh joints, bone in, skin on
200g Andouille sausage, sliced or chorizo
2-3 tbsp olive oil
1 large onion, peeled and cut into slices and roughly chopped the same size as the peppers
1 red pepper, sliced
1 yellow pepper, sliced
1 green pepper, sliced
1 stick of celery, sliced
4 large garlic cloves, peeled and sliced
½ tsp smoked paprika
½ tsp cayenne pepper
50g sun-dried tomatoes
1 tbsp tomato purée
225g brown basmati rice, washed
500ml chicken stock
Salt and pepper
200g raw tiger prawns
For the garnish:
3 chopped spring onions
2 tbsp chopped parsley
2 tbsp chopped tarragon
Preheat oven to 170°C.
Season the chicken thighs and seal them off in a casserole dish, making sure the skin is golden brown. Transfer them to a warm plate then seal off the Andouille sausage or chorizo until browned a little, then transfer to the plate with the chicken.
Heat the olive oil in the casserole then add the onions, peppers, celery and garlic to the pan and sweat off until softened. Add the spices, sun-dried tomatoes and tomato puree and cook for a further five minutes. Pour over the rice and mix thoroughly, making sure all the rice is coated in oil and juices.
Add the stock, season and bring to the boil. Add the chicken and sausage.
Cover and bake for 55 minutes. Remove from the oven, add the prawns, cover and return for five minutes. Leave to rest for 10 minutes.
Remove the lid and garnish with spring onions, parsley and tarragon. Serve immediately.
Ceviche Tacos (Inspired by Los Angeles)
For the ceviche:
200g mackerel fillets, cut into 1cm pieces
1 medium red onion, finely diced
2 tomatoes, blanched, chopped and seeded
1 chilli, seeded and finely diced
Salt and pepper
Dash of Tabasco or a pinch of cayenne pepper
1 tsp chopped fresh oregano
100ml freshly squeezed lime juice
100ml freshly squeezed lemon juice
For the Korean slaw:
½ white cabbage
1 red onion
2 tbsp sesame oil
2 tbsp sesame seeds (toasted)
1 tbsp soy sauce
1 red chilli
4-6 corn tacos
Hot chilli pepper sauce
Place the fish, onion, tomatoes, chilli, salt, Tabasco and oregano in a non-reactive Pyrex or ceramic casserole dish. Cover with the lime and lemon juice then leave, covered, in the fridge for 1 hour. Stir, making sure more of the fish gets exposed to the acidic lime and lemon juices the leave for a further few hours, giving time for the flavours to blend.
For the slaw, slice the white cabbage into thin strips, along with the red onion. Mix all the ingredients together in a bowl.
Place the tacos side by side and load up with filling then top with soured cream and pepper sauce to taste.
:: Andy Bates's American Street Feasts begins on Food Network UK on Monday, October 8