Would I write a blog post dedicated to an oil pancake, a simple street food snack? Why yes, yes I would. To me, this is what is being a foodie is all about.
There’s been a backlash against the term “foodie”. The argument is that it has lost it’s meaning … and in a way, it has. That’s because it’s drowning in meanings. It can be someone who knows a lot about food, someone who enjoys their food, or someone who really appreciates high quality food and is probably/possibly slightly snobbish.
I would class myself as planting both feet and an elbow(?) in all three categories. Junk food is definitely out, but I’m flexible when it comes to the health benefits (or not) of different food.
Actually, there are many places in Japan I haven’t been yet (despite a good friend accusing me of marking my territory like a dog) but I heard that Kyushu, the third largest island of Japan, had really good food. It’s not hard to see why it quickly became a priority.
Booking flights less than three weeks before, my mother, flying from London, and I from Tokyo, began and ended our adventure in Fukuoka, conveniently the birthplace of tonkotsu (pork broth) ramen, the most delicious type of ramen in my humble opinion.
I’ve been a little absent of late but I’m back! Pheebz continues to eat. So read on….
Back in May, Dalston became a foodie paradise with a purpose that extended beyond guzzling oneself silly. Charity Action Against Hunger teamed up with Street Feast to provide a gourmet evening hosted by Gizzi Erskine. However, there was a twist: amazing foodie experiences were available to be won by the highest bidder.
Action Against Hunger were taking action indeed: this was Auction Against Hunger.
We arrived early as it was just kicking off. Which was perfect for diving into the food! I was beside myself with excitement because not only was the event full of some of my favourite street food traders, but some really, really good restaurants were trading there. Continue reading “Auction Against Hunger”
Ladies and gentlemen, listen up! There is something new in town and it’s coming your way on June 6th.
Last month, I was lucky enough to win tickets, cocktails and food at Emporio Eivissa, an Ibiza-themed pop-up bar on the rooftop of East London’s Rockwell House, sponsored rather incongruously by Brugal rum from the Dominican Republic (thanks to London on the Inside – love their website). I guess a Spanish-speaking party island needs some Dominican rum, and who am I to question something awesome like that? Continue reading “Emporio Eivissa – Brugal Rum Rooftop Pop-up”
Once upon the time, Kerb market started introducing really great street food to London. Londoners, all too accustomed to cardboard pre-packaged sandwiches, were very excited by this sudden flavour explosion across the capital. Kerb became really popular and started sending traders to the Gherkin, allowing all the City workers to be well fed too.
But one day, something terrible happened. The City of London decided that it was far too pretentious and sterile to allow a lively, delicious and buzzing street food scene to thrive. It banned Kerb from cluttering up its tightly controlled urban environment.
However, people of the City were very sad. They were hungry. And they were angry. Even worse, they were hangry. Their Thursday al fresco lunches were replaced with bland ‘al descos’. Perpetual gloom settled over the City and it rained every day (oh wait, that might just be England).
Talks between Kerb and the City of London continued, and the City had to grudgingly admit that a lot of people missed street food. So several negotiations and dinosaurs later, and after the slaying of a few metaphorical dragons, Kerb triumphed in the Battle of the Bland, and glorious grub once again glimmered at the Gherkin.
The Londoners rejoiced and not even the perpetual rain could dampen their enthusiasm or their appetites.
In other news, I tried a Bacon Candy Mother Flipper burger (bacon fried in maple syrup, American cheese) and it was awesome.
Yes, ladies and gentleman, London has finally got its act together so good quality street food is no longer found at the fringes of one’s dreams but has become an easily accessible actuality. Following this trend is the Urban Food Festival just off Shoreditch High Street. (You’ll have to be quick to catch it though – the last one of these gastronomic gauntlets is TONIGHT- Saturday October 12th.)
In the crowded space that is Euro Car Parks, street food trucks and stalls present a vast array of global cuisines from Korean to Mexican, from Argentinian to Indian, with a bar, some music and dash of street art thrown in for good measure. What’s brilliant about these kind of events is that they shift the rather heavy emphasis on alcohol in British culture to a more well-rounded evening where alcohol is somewhat secondary to the shift on food. Social points are earned by how many different dishes you manage to cram in, or whether you’re brave enough to sample the ‘gator balls’ from Geaux Cajun (not testicles as we’ve been assured). All in all, Urban Food Fest makes for a fun, foodie evening.
As for the food, one must expect THE trendiest dishes in town, given that the market is in Shoreditch. It was with little surprise, then, that we encountered croughnuts (croissant-doughnut hybrids) and ramen burgers that have recently spread across the pond from New York.
Here’s just a few of the amazing traders my (very hungry) dining partner and I got to try!
Ramen, the popular Japanese noodle dish, is very trendy in the West. Burgers are also a big food fad of the moment. So what should we do? COMBINE THEM.
The Galbi Brothers – who met whilst producing Gangnam Style parody, London Style – serve up ramen burgers (£6) with Korean BBQ maintated beef and, of course, kimchi. However, they’ve gone one step further and created a rice burger. Both are worth trying, as they offer very different textures and allow different flavours of the ingredients to come through. Personally, I felt the rice burger went best with the beef, but I think the ramen burger would go really well with a pork burger as food writer MiMi cooked up here.
Everyone likes pizza, but Streetzza takes it to a whole new level of total awesomeness. How about pizza fresh from a wood fire oven in the back of a converted horse box… covered in street art? Yes, that’s right! The Streetzza van is actually a green and pink monster truck featuring art from SweetToof and Ronzo. A feat of engineering, it took owner Hubertus a couple of months to build. Temperatures reach 500°C inside but the outside remains completely cool.
Hubertus has been making pizza for 10 years, inspired by his Corsican family. This means very thin, crispy pizza crust and a lot of deliciousness. After he finishes making pizza, he often throws a joint of pork into the oven and slow cooks it for an extra – and very tender – topping. There are plans for some amazing Christmas dinners at the end of this year, so keep your eyes peeled.
Inspired by helping Petra, founder of street market Kerb, with a chocolate van, Simon Luard saved up £10K to open his very own Mexican street van. Things didn’t quite go as expected on his first day of trading – he’d installed a chargrill that led to smoke so thick that people tried to call the fire brigade! Fortunately, he didn’t ruin the van or his lungs as, six years on, Luardos is a bit of a Mexican street food legend on the London scene. Expect dangerously lush burritos. Muy rico indeed.
I’m having a love affair with their brownies. The salted caramel brownies are so gooey and rich that I practically drank them out of the paper bag and I am shuddering with pleasure just from the memory. For something really unusual, try their Lemon Meringue Blondies.
The sweet treats from The Crumbery will also change your life. Vincent Josse is a French trained pastry chef and thrives on the creativity that The Crumbery provides. There macaroons are otherworldly. How exciting can macaroons be, you might ask. The answer is very, very exciting. How about Lychee, Raspberry and Rose? Or Peanut Butter and Jelly? Or Cream Cheese and Rosewater? I hear a Wasabi and Grapefruit is in the pipeline too! The flavours are beautifully executed as is the presentation; they are truly works of art.
The Crumbery began with making artisan chocolates before expanding. Currently based in Kent, they’re hoping to open a store in London very soon. They’re super-hip too as they have their version of cronuts – Crumbnuts. The pastry/dough is, as would be expected, amazingly light.
Tom likes disco and burgers, so you’re guaranteed two things when you visit Burger Bear Tom: music and some really good burgers. What’s more, he has concocted a sweet, morerish bacon jam that is really worth ordering and that you can also take home for £5 a jar. Not only are the burgers juicy and the condiments well-balanced, but ordering can be a lot of fun. Ask for Grizzly Bear. Or an Angry Bear. Or ask for a Greedy Bear (double patty) and make it Angry with the Ribman’s famous Holy Fuck sauce.
SCROLL DOWN … for lots of pretty pics at the bottom!
I’ve been hearing good things about Wahaca for ages. Self-advertised as Mexican street food, it’s bound to be a winning formula. Plus they’re keen to emphasise the ethical side of the business, by buying UK-only meat from ‘trusted’ farms, although their chicken is not free-range. Their branch at Southbank is particularly interesting – it’s built from 8 recycled shipping containers and also acts as a trial location for new dishes (I don’t know if they’re still serving up grasshoppers, but from the sounds of things, we can expect some exciting stuff).
Despite my slow introduction to Wahaca, I’ve now been to both the Covent Garden and Charlotte Street branches. I enjoyed my meals both times. The décor is fresh, colourful and modern, the staff extremely helpful and food is delivered promptly and beautifully presented.
Then there’s the food. You can’t really go wrong when ordering at Wahaca, but equally you won’t have a taste-induced orgasm. The food is simple, tasty and uncomplicated, but never rises above pleasant to be really, truly moreish. As a result, it’s been a tricky review to write – for those of you who’ve been, do you agree?
There are two options for ordering at Wahaca: you can either order lots of little dishes and share (recommended) or take a large plate for yourself.
It seems to be a classic to start off with their Guacamole with Tortilla Chips (£3.85). These are perfect for preventing any table-cloth-gnawing whilst waiting for the rest of the dishes, although they never take long to arrive. The chips are fun to munch but I find the guacamole a little bland for my tastes.
One of the most popular little plates is the Pork Pibil Tacos (£3.95) – slow cooked in a Yucatecan marinade with ‘fiery’ pickled onions (it’s a lie – they’re really not that spicy). This is the option for all meat-lovers out there. And whilst I’ve ordered this twice now and would order it again, it is too salty and a little one-dimensional in its taste.
Black Beans & Cheese Quesadillas (£3.60) make a good veggie option but again, there’s nothing too complicated happening taste-wise.
For dessert, the Chocolate Tres Leches Cake (£4.95) with peanut butter ice-cream sounds divine but is actually pretty light on chocolate. Instead, I recommend the Salted Caramel Ice-Cream (£4.25) with shavings of shavings of Valrhona chocolate – but only if you’re prepared to lick the bowl clean in appreciation.
A ridiculously good value deal is the Wahaca Selection (£19.95) for two people to share. It is so generous that many may be defeated and the variety is great: 3 pork pibil tacos,1 large broad bean quesadilla, 3 chicken tinga tacos, 2 black bean tostadas, 2 new potato taquitos, and Wahaca slaw.
Check out some of the dishes below:
One final point: if you want to drink wine at Wahaca, you have to drink it out a thick glass because wine glasses don’t exist in Mexico!?!
Have you dined at Wahaca? Opinions? Is there some divine dish I’ve yet to try? Hit me with your thoughts.
Wahaca 3/5 – Great atmosphere and service. It’s a crowd-pleaser – not spectacular, but perfect for eating out in groups if you haven’t booked anywhere and need some reliable, tasty food.
Website:http://www.wahaca.co.uk/ Where: Bluewater, Canary Wharf, Covent Garden, Charlotte Street, Islington, Soho, Southbank, Stratford, Waterloo, White City When: Various, see website.
Zoo Lates. An adults-only party at London Zoo. I must admit I was a little sceptical. Was this really going to be appealing? And surely allowing alcohol-fuelled revellers to run about in close proximity to wild animals is a recipe for disaster?
Well, I’ve yet to hear of any humans being munched or of any alcohol-poisoned animals, but I’ll say that on my first point, I was entirely wrong: Zoo Lates is deliriously good.
It’s a carnvalesque party that borders on the surreal. Imagine crowds of people dressed as animals, drinks and street food in hands, strolling around and admiring animals. I wouldn’t want to tackle what this scenario says about human nature. Instead, let’s take it for what it is: crazily good fun.
Women dressed in feathers, giant twister, a ball park and lots of costumes brought out the kids in everyone. Plus there were lots of awe-inspiring animals, and feeding demonstrations and talks, including an introduction to the Zoo’s newest residents, Sumatran tigers Jae Jae and Melati, who live in a swanky £3.6m Tiger Territory.
Oh, there was also a drag queen swallowing balloons.
I, of course, tucked straight into the street food and got this fabulous Girzzly Bear burger (£7 – smoked bacon and bacon jam) from Burger Bear Tom. It was perfectly seasoned with just the right amount of sauce and the patty was succulent and flavourful. It was a good start to the evening.
Bordeaux Wines are supporting the event and have deployed some smartly-dressed usherettes with trays of free samples.
A lucky few of us were invited to Bordeaux Jardin du Vin for some more in-depth wine-tasting… in the name of quality control purposes, of course!
We were given a little background information…
Bordeaux is a very large wine-producing area in France, with around 100,000 hectares of land producing 700 million bottle a year. Bordeaux Wines’ motto is “good food would choose Bordeaux” and, having been brought up by foodie parents who drink a lot of Bordeaux wine, I would have to agree.
We sampled the following:
Château du Puy Bonnet 2010 – This is a very approachable red from the Montagne Saint-Emilion region on the right bank of the Dordogne. It was smooth and full-bodied, with a warm fruitiness.
Château La Freynelle 2012 – Combining Sauvignon, Sémillon and Muscadelle grap varieties, this is a light and fresh wine, with floral undertones.
Dourthe No. 1 2012 – A dry, classy and elegant accompaniment to seafood or summery puddings, it has a deep and complex flavour with perhaps a whisper of raspberries?
Château Simon 2009 – A juicy dessert wine from the Sauternes region of France. It is made from Sauvignon, Sémillon and Muscadelle grapes that have been infected by noble rot, causing them to be partially raisined. This wine steered away from extreme sweetness and had delightful hints of grapefruit and barley sugar.
For more information on Bordeaux wines, click here, or check out this video (there is a familiar face at 1.19…):
Sadly, Zoo Lates is sold out for the rest of the summer, but I advise you to sign up to the mailing list to be first in line for tickets next year.
Street food – it’s all the rage. Which is an invitation for all kinds of foreign dishes to hit London as, let’s face it, Britain doesn’t have a street food culture. One might invoke our national obsession with the weather as an explanation for this. One might also invoke the weather as the reason to why a lot of this foreign “street food” is being sold in cafés rather than on the streets.
Yalla Yalla (1 Green’s Court, Soho) is a tiny little café that serves up Beirut “street” food where squeezing around the wooden tables is an achievement in itself. One wall is lined with cushion-filled bench and small stools provide seating for the people opposite. Be prepared to be cosy.
They serve a whole range of tasty Lebanese dishes, including casseroles, grills and meat skewers, along with mezze and wraps. We sampled the following:
Halloum Meshoue – grilled halloumi cheese with tomatoes, black olives, fresh mint and olive oil. The mint provided a refreshing contrast to the saltiness of the halloumi. And it’s hard to go wrong with halloumi. Mmm.
Makale Samak – deep fried calamari, white bait and tiger prawns with spring onions, crispy aubergine and chilli minted greek yoghurt. The batter was fairly light, crisp and well-seasoned. Overall, it was pleasant but not outstanding.
AND NOW….the WRAPS! (Can you tell that I enjoyed them?)
I took the Lamb Shawarma (£4.50) – slices of marinated lamb, sumac onion, pickled turnips, tomato and tahini sauce. It was so succulent and flavourful. And at a bargain £4.50, I thought life couldn’t get any better.
Then I attacked my sister’s Chicken Shawarma (£4.50) and realised that… yes, life could get better. The wrap was full of a fantastic garlic sauce that basically meant I had to eat half her wrap. I’ve been wistfully thinking about this chicken shawarma ever since. Highly recommended.
Yalla Yalla 4/5 – Cute and cosy café with reasonably-priced and very tasty food. It’s a winner.
I’m a little slow off the mark, but I finally got round to visiting the amazing street food vendors, Yum Bun, in their new home – a take-out shop off Old Street roundabout.
Yum Bun are regulars at street food markets like Kerb, so you might already be familiar with their unbelievably delicious ‘pillow-soft’ steamed buns filled with Chinese and Japanese-inspired flavours. The team are taking break from the market scene in order to vastly improve lunch prospects in the Old Street area by setting up a take-out shop. As well as selling buns individually (£3.50 each or 2 for £6), they also offer a £7.50 bento box containing two buns, two veggie gyoza dumplings and salad, served with a cup of miso soup.
I got the classic belly pork with hoi sin sauce, cucumber and spring onions – and its tender sweetness was pure bliss.
Yum Bun have branched out and now offer mushroom, chicken, beef and salmon. I tried the braised ox cheek with coriander and peanuts, which was also tasty, but didn’t quite reach the ecstasy levels of the pork classic.
The veggie gyoza were great and the salad was fresh and crisp. One small point – the miso soup definitely needed to be stronger.
I cannot wait to stop by again. The new flavours are a challenge – gotta try ‘em all! Anyone sampled the others? Would love to hear your opinions.
Anyway, get yourself to Yum Bun ASAP. Apparently you can take your bento box next door into the long-term pop-up Rotary Bar and Diner (which I reviewed here)…. or you can end up eating it in a graveyard like I did.
Website: http://www.yumbun.co.uk/ (I think it’s a super-cute website – seriously have a look) Where: 31 Featherstone Street, EC1Y 2BJ When: Lunch Monday to Friday 11.30am – 2.30pm; Thursday to Saturday, 5pm – 10pm