Browsing articles in "street food"
Mar 27, 2015
Tim Lester

Birmingham vs London: who will win the ultimate street food fight?

big papas brisket bun  onion rings

There’s a bun fight going on in Elephant and Castle. Literally. On Sat March 28, for one night only, Corsica Studios’ pop-up drinking/dining/dancing-like-a-goof space Paperworks is attempting to decide whether London is a better city than Birmingham, via the medium of a cook-off. It’s the first bout of FlavaClash: a nationwide tour pitting two different cities’ street food vendors against each other,  with the winner being chosen by crowd vote. London’s being represented by patty genius Burger Bear and awesome Austrian specialists – and current Paperworks residents – Fleisch Mob, who will be going up against a team of Brummies including soul-food specialists Big Papa’s Beautiful South. Every attendee gets a judging pack to cast their vote, but we’re gonna go ahead and say it now: London’s blatantly gonna win.

#Flavaclash is at Paperworks, 48 Newington Causeway SE1. Saturday March 28, 5-11pm. Free entry, dishes are £5.

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Mar 27, 2015
Tim Lester

Arlington food truck-turned-restaurant churns out Mexican street food with a twist

A food truck makes the leap to real restaurant when La Blue Casa celebrates its soft opening in Arlington, in the College Park district on the University of Arlington campus.

Co-owner Gabriela Lopez, who launched the La Blue Casa food truck two years ago with her fiance, says they took their inspiration from a famous Mexican artist. It started out as La Casa Azul before they changed its name in March 2014. They’ve been a regular at food truck parks in Fort Worth and have a circuit of corporate buildings they serve as well.

“The concept is based on the work of Frida Kahlo,” she says. “It’s colorful and vibrant, and the food is authentic Mexican — no chips and salsa, no Tex-Mex.”

Lopez moved here five years ago from Mexico City and was disappointed she could not find good Mexican food. “People are used to Tex-Mex, but when they come to our truck, they say it reminds them of what they ate in Mexico,” she says.

She and her fiance launched the food truck as a ramp-up to this restaurant.

“We always wanted to be in restaurant business and start a place together, but nobody would give us a space because we had no experience,” she says. “We decided to start a food truck, and it did amazing. We’re glad to be able to do something a little fancier now.”

Her menu includes dishes such as “Mexican trash,” a goulash of rice, chips, black beans, chicken or steak, and tortilla chips; and “street noodles,” which are butter-seasoned noodles with chicken or steak. A “gooey melt” is a grilled cheese sandwich fortified with chicken, steak or pork. There are also sopes, stuffed poblano peppers, quesadillas, enchiladas, tacos and even a “Hawaiian” burger on a Hawaiian bun with Swiss cheese and a slice of grilled pineapple.

To clarify, she says that what they’re doing is street food.

“Our street noodles are a Mexican spin on the regular noodles you would get anywhere,” she says. “The Hawaiian burger, you can find in Mexico City. If you go to Mexico City, you’ll find a burger truck with a Hawaiian burger. It’s street food.”

The foundation of their authenticity is their sauces, which she learned from attending culinary classes in Mexico.

“We have five sauces, poblano, black bean, mole, green tomato and mango habanero, and you add them to anything you get,” she says. “We make everything ourselves, you will not find anything like it.”

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Mar 26, 2015
Tim Lester

Grab grub and club at East London’s street food markets

For a dining experience with a festival twist, look no further than East London's street food markets

For a dining experience with a festival twist, look no further than East London’s street food markets

Saturday night in East London, and a crowd of hungry pre-clubbers have gathered in a three-storey warehouse on Kingsland Road.

Passing through giggling groups of smokers into a darkly lit hallway, I pay £4 at the door and make my way up the eerie staircase towards loud music and Street Feast’s offerings of late-night food.

Spread across three levels, Street Feast’s Hawker House offers visitors a choice of street food from across the globe, with bars on each floor to wash it down. The days of drinking in cramped student flats have been swapped for pop-up food stalls and Aperol Spritz bars.

No longer is street food just a thing of sunny days and festivals, after-dark street food markets are spreading; forget the traditional wine and dine, and make room for your Saturday night club and grub.

Host to some of the most renowned markets in London, the East End has its fair share of street food stalls. Whether you’re wandering down Brick Lane, taking a stroll through Old Spitalfields Market, or paying a late night visit to Kingsland Road, you can’t escape the sweet aroma of freshly cooked food.

But these markets are neither a new phenomenon, nor one that seems to be fading, so what is behind this obsession with street eating?

In the midst of its 10-week run, Street Feast’s pop-up at Haggerston’s Hawker House entices an eager audience every weekend. And it’s not alone; street eating destinations are popping up all over East London and people can’t seem to get enough.

Tucking into a burger and fries from a stall called Bleecker St, Daisy Scott, 17, said: “These kind of events have such a vibrant atmosphere, they give you the opportunity to meet loads of different people from all over the place. And the food is always delicious, it feels so fresh because it’s cooked right in front of you.”

The infamous Bleecker St burger stall, host to a queue all night, is one of the most popular at Hawker House. Although small, the burgers are packed with a mouth-watering combination of succulent beef, melted cheese, and perfectly cooked bacon. Competing on either side of Bleecker St are a stand offering pulled pork burgers, and another boasting weirdly wonderful ice-cream buns.

Offering another street food alternative to pricey restaurants, Urban Food Fest is re-launching next weekend on Shoreditch High Street after huge success last year. Running every Saturday night from 5pm to midnight, Urban Food Fest boasts different food stalls every weekend with the added benefit of free entry.

City lawyer by day and street food extraordinaire by night, founder Jessica Tucker believes in high quality food at a low price. She explained: “We provide gourmet global street food at very cheap prices, so anyone on any budget can come along. Every Saturday night there’s a new experience, a new food to try, and amazing live music.”

Not only cheaper than restaurants, street food markets provide customers with an atmosphere you can’t seem to find anywhere else. Tucker pins it down as a festival feeling, she said: “We have live musicians and sharing tables so friends can sit down together, meet new people and try street food from places around the world that you’re never going to visit in your lifetime. It’s like a mini festival on a Saturday night; we want people to just relax and have a good time.”

And these markets don’t just give customers the chance to try something they’ve never tasted before; the expansion of street food markets provides vendors with the opportunity to get their food to the public with low operating costs.

So, for a dining experience with a festival twist, look no further than the ever-expanding street food markets in East London. With two weekends left at Hawker House, closely followed by Street Feast’s 1950s market in Lewisham, and Urban Food Fest launching on Saturday, there’s really no excuse to visit a restaurant ever again.

Visit their websites for more details:

Street Feast – http://www.streetfeastlondon.com/

Urban Food Fest – http://www.urbanfoodfest.com/

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Mar 26, 2015
Tim Lester

Taste it while you can: Shanghai’s vanishing street food

(CNN)To visitors, the draw of Shanghai might be the gleaming skyline, but to born-and-bred locals the charm of the city is street food.

The egg pancake rolling fresh off the pan at wet markets, the steaming baskets of soup dumplings served at local canteens or the pungent stinky tofu in the Old Town alluring every passerby.

While skyscrapers are shooting up in Shanghai, the heartwarming scene of buying and eating from the streets is slowly disappearing.

But you can still taste these classic foods.

Each is deeply loved by proud Shanghai residents.

Absolute classics

Steamed buns

    Quick, yummy and easy to carry, steamed buns are the bagel of the East, only heartier.

    Under a layer of soft and puffy dough, there are various fillings — minced pork, chopped vegetables and red bean paste are traditional.

    There are a number of street-corner chains in Shanghai (with confusing names such as Babi, Biba, Bibiba). A stop at any of them gets you a fresh bun to brighten up your morning.

    Fried pancakes with spring onions

    Until about 20 years ago, most traditional alleyways in Shanghai had a fried pancake, or cong you bing stall, at the entrance.

    These little round wonders are generously greased and exquisitely layered.

    Between the layers lie aromatic spring onions.

    One of the most popular stalls is on Xiangyang Nan Lu by lane 578. A local grandmother starts frying every afternoon around 4 p.m.

    Egg pancakes

    Northerners call them “fried pancakes,” but Shanghainese know them as “egg pancakes.”

    It’s like a breakfast burrito.

    Jolly street chefs ladle flour mix on a hot pan, swirl it into a perfect circle, break an egg on top, then fill the center with what seems to be a full Chinese breakfast: a Shanghai-style deep-fried dough or a sheet of crispy dough, ham sausages, sweet paste, chili sauce as well as sprinkles of coriander.

    Deep-fried stinky tofu

    Stinky tofu is like cheese.

    You usually have to grow up with it to enjoy it.

    It’s best paired with chili paste, sweet bean curd paste or better yet a mixture of the two.

    The tofu comes in small cubes and is usually sold in fours.

    In a perfect batch, the honey golden tofu pieces are slightly puffed and are still sizzling deliciously.

    You can hunt for them in Qibao, a quaint water town on the outskirts of Shanghai that has a buzzing food street selling traditional eats.

    Tea eggs

    Tea eggs. Made with tea and eggs.

    To make these popular afternoon snacks, eggs are first boiled in water then put to simmer for hours in a broth made with soy sauce, tea bags, cinnamon, aniseed and rock sugar.

    Traditionally, chatty grannies are the oligarchs of tea egg selling.

    They sell eggs from large pots transported in metal push chairs.

    Nowadays, the most popular vendor is Alldays, a chain of ubiquitous convenience stores (228 Nanchang Lu, Lu Wan Qu, Shanghai).

    The eggs with cracks on the shell are the most flavorful.

    Glutinous rice cakes

    Shanghainese favor sweet tastes.

    In the world of street food, this translates into glutinous rice cakes.

    Lots of them.

    Wangjiasha on Nanjing Xi Lu (805 Nanjing Xi Lu, Jing’an, Shanghai; +86 21 6253 0404), a time-honored Shanghai-style deli, has an impressive selection.

    Classics include tiao you gao, a tube-shaped cake filled with red bean paste; shuang niang tuan, a little glutinous rice ball filled with red bean paste as well as black sesame and coated with shredded coconut meat; and qing tuan, a bright green dessert sold around the tomb-sweeping festival in April.

    Modern favorites

    Pearl milk tea

    A classic cup of pearl milk tea is made up with tapioca balls, black tea and condensed milk.

    Deluxe cups can include — on top of the classic recipe — egg puddings, nata de coco, sago, red beans, crushed ice, herb jelly, you name it.

    It’s impossible to escape the reaches of milk tea chains in Shanghai.

    Jackhut is one of the earliest brands.

    Coco has a drink menu long enough to rival a Belgian beer pub.

    Happy Lemon (Wu Jiang Lu 150-1; Shanghai) does excellent lemon-based milk tea.

    Octopus balls

    Its easy to get your tentacles on some octopus balls.

    These cute little balls are a successful Japanese import.

    One of the most popular stalls is in the nightly Changli Lu Night Market, which attracts endless queues every evening.

    Made in a baking tray, octopus balls contain ground shrimp, octopus cubes and octopus paste, while the floury coat is usually topped with a special teriyaki-style sauce as well as wafer-thin flakes of smoked skipjack tuna.

    Deep-fried chicken steaks

    Originating from Taiwan’s street food markets, these generously battered, heavily tenderized chicken steaks have become incredibly popular in Shanghai.

    Known as jipai in Chinese, they’re normally sold at take-away-only stalls, the most popular of which is Hao Da Da (branches across Shanghai, try 187 Nanquan Bei Lu, near Qixia Lu, Pudong, Shanghai).

    Chefs usually cut these gargantuan steaks, which can be as large as two palms, into manageable strips then coat them with various powders, such as plum, chilli and seaweed.

    A must-try at Hao Da Da is the chicken steak with melted cheese in the middle.

    Meat balls on sticks

    Called guan dong zhu, these are another Japanese import.

    Meatballs and vegetables, such as beef balls, crab meat balls, curry fish balls and vermicelli knots, are cooked in an umami broth, sold on sticks and usually eaten from a paper cup.

    It’s almost like having a mini hot pot on the go.

    Beauty-conscious ladies eat them as light lunches and busy office workers resort to them while working overtime.

    Get them from most branches of Lawson, a popular convenience store chain originally from Japan (try 555 Jiujiang Lu, Huangpu, Shanghai).

    Sit-down street food

    Xiao long bao

    An authentic xiao long bao has pork skin jelly in the meaty filling and at least 14 pleats on the skin.

    Melted after being steamed, the jelly forms a delicious and precious broth inside the dumpling.

    Nanxiang Man Tou Dian in Yu Garden is the most famous xiao long bao restaurant in Shanghai — attracting long lines round the clock.

    Neighborhood canteens, such as Fu Chun, Xiao Long on Yuyuan Lu and De Xing Guan on Guangdong Lu, serve excellent baskets too.

    Fried mini pork buns/dumplings

    Sheng jian and guo tie are two types of fried dumplings.

    Sheng jian looks like a mini version of steamed buns.

    It has a crispy and slightly burnt bottom, thickish flour dough and black sesame as well as spring onions as garnish.

    Chain canteen Xiaoyang Sheng Jian is a hugely popular destination for the dish.

    Guo tie, on the other hand, is fried pork jiao zi without any garnish.

    Sometimes it comes in a yellow curry flavor, stuffed with minced beef.

    Soup with firm bean curd and vermicelli

    The best partner for sheng jian is a bowl of hearty vermicelli soup.

    It was originally sold from makeshift night stalls with tiny coal-powered stoves.

    Now the best ones come from Fengyu Sheng Jian (Ruijin Er Lu, Shanghai) a chain restaurant that also makes excellent sheng jian.

    The texture of the silky jelly noodles is contrasted by cubes of fried firm bean curd and pillow-shaped pork dumplings wrapped with bean curd sheets.

    Wonton

    Most-wanted wontons.

    Wonton is the Shanghainese rival to jiao zi dumplings, which are more popular in northern China.

    Usually considered a meal rather than a snack, the dainty “little wonton” is a legendary Shanghai street food.

    They usually come in batches of eight or 10, filled with half a teaspoonful of minced pork and wrapped with a thinner and smaller pastry than normal wontons

    Jixiang Hun Tun (Sichuan Zhong Lu 504, Huangpu, Shanghai), the emperor of wonton selling, delivers a bowl guaranteed to satisfy.

    The brand has a limitless menu that appears to cover every wonton you could possibly imagine.

    Ma la tang

    It’s hard to find a dish with a more straightforward name: it translates to “numb, spicy and boiling hot.”

    From what’s usually a hole in the wall, diners get to choose their own ingredients from a large fridge — meatballs, different meat fillets, leafy green, bean curd products, all sorts of noodles.

    Customers hand ingredients to the chef to boil in a large communal pot filled with spices and bone stock.

    The cooked meats and vegetables are served in a tongue-numbing broth for eating in or takeaway.

    Crayfish

    Served in bucket and paired with cold beer, these bright red crustaceans play a leading role in Shanghai’s buzzing street life from spring to early fall.

    Purposely bred crayfish are simmered in a broth with chili and abundant spices, then served dry.

    Shouning Lu, a small street near People’s Square, has become famous for its crayfish spectacle.

    Diners spill out from jam-packed restaurants, sit on tiny plastic stools indoors or outdoors, and order bucket after bucket of the delicacy.

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    Mar 25, 2015
    Tim Lester

    Visit Indore’s Sarafa, India’s only night street food market

    Indore is a city that prides itself on its food. It’s the only city that I can think of where they have a whole street famously called ‘Sarafa’ that serves the most tasty vegetarian snacks, chaat and sweets right from 8 pm upto 2 at night.

    The street, that otherwise is largely an area for selling jewellery, converts into a fully pedestrian one with people from Indore and tourists in equal numbers visiting it at night. Needless to say that it’s completely safe to go there and the experience is something I would recommend every foodie to take at least once in your life. Exclusive coverage of Jackky Bhagnani and Arshad Warsi’s visit to Sarafa.

    The must go-to places for food in Indore:

    1) Sarafa: -Joshiji ka dahiwada (started in 1977): Going to have a dahiwada here is not just about the taste, but it’s also about the experience of watching the founder Ram Chandra Joshi’s son Om Prakash Joshi make the dahiwadas. Joshiji is a performer. He flips the dahiwada with the curd without spilling a drop. He also does a quick magic show. After pouring curd in your bowl, he sprinkles five spices using just one finger without allowing them to mix together. Of course, you have to make it there before 11pm, otherwise there is no way you will get a dahiwada. He almost rations the last few pieces and I actually saw people fighting over the last few that were left, as the number of people outweighed the number of wadas.

    -Saawariya ki sabudana khichdi: Yummy and unique, Om Prakash Vyas has his own style of making the sabudana khichdi that his father started making in 1983.

    -Saawariya ka bhutte ka khees: This Indori unique concoction is made of corn dana that is boiled, fried in ghee and then mixed with besan, hing, jeera, dhaniya and their own unique masala.

    -Vijay ki kachori: A must try is Vijay’s special kachoris that, of course, finishes by 10pm.

    Also, a visit to Sarafa is not complete without having Nagori ki chikanji, Anna ka paan and your pick of sweets that include the best jalebis, gulaab jamuns, kulfis and rabris.

    Important note: You are bound to put on weight with just one visit there, as every thing is served with a lot of love but made in pure ghee.

    2) 56 shops (chappan dukaan): This unique stretch of 56 shops is famous and is an extremely popular hangout joint in Indore. Indore is known for its poha-jalebi combination. Vijay’s chaat, Young Tarang’s poha-jalebi and the good old Indian expresso coffee is a must try here.

    3) Indori namkeen: No visit to Indore can be complete without a visit to one of the many popular chains of namkeen stores. While there are countless varieties and variations of namkeens, the staple is the famous Indori khata meetha.

    Unique about the food culture in Indore: What was most impressive in the city was how,when you ask any one where you get the best poha or any other item, they are happy to guide you to another shop even though they may be selling the same themselves. The food shop owners are extremely welcoming and hospitable and most importantly, very honest. They leave you impressed as no one ever shares a competitor’s name usually.

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    Mar 25, 2015
    Tim Lester

    British Street Food Awards plan Cardiff heat for vendors

    It seems like Wales has more than its fair share of street food vendors, so there’s excitement around a Cardiff heat of the 2015 British Street Food Awards.

    The Welsh heat, taking place from June 5-7, promises to be unique and fun, with music, entertainment and, most importantly, street food aplenty.

    “Whether it’s around a bonfire on a secluded beach, under a circus tent or by a barge of fireworks on the canal, they will be spectacular parties,” promises the website.

    Entry tickets will entitle the public to a free pint of craft lager, plus an line-up of live music and DJs.

    The food on offer at last year’s Street Food Cardiff event

    “They will be able to buy sharing plates from the competing traders and then vote for their favourites on the British Street Food app. Winners of the vote – plus a few wild cards — will then go through to compete for a life-changing prize at the big finals in London.”

    The categories include Best Snack, Best Main, Best Burger, Best Drink, Best Sandwich, Best Vegetarian and Best Dessert, as well as the People’s Choice, voted for by the public.

    Other awards which will be decided through Facebook are Best Street Food Collective, Best Street Food Event and Best Looking Mobiler.

    To compete, traders are invited to join the British Street Food app at www.britishstreetfood.co.uk/app

    For food fans, tickets will be on sale next month from britishstreetfood.co.uk or follow @britstreetfood on Twitter

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    Mar 25, 2015
    Tim Lester

    Nightlife Debate: Street food wee hours business looks to expand

    For Haresh Jethwa, who sells frankies in the narrow bylane that goes by the name of Ghatkopar Khau Galli, business starts only after 11 pm. Owner of a tailoring store nearby, he latched on to the sudden popularity of street food two decades back. While dosas and vada pavs made for brisk business, there was no frankie stall in the Ghatkopar Khau Galli. “It became popular instantly, it’s been 20 years now,” Jethwa says about his business decision.

    For Jethwa and hundreds of others who run food stalls that operate into the wee hours, especially on weekends, the proposed changes in the nightlife policy starting with a possible 24-hour licence for bars and pubs in non-residential areas are an opportunity to expand their business. Jethwa says more party slickers means more hungry people looking to snack, more drivers searching for chai at 2 am, more bouncers and staff expecting an affordable meal at an unearthly hour.

    Jethwa says, “For us, this is Mumbai’s nightlife — thousands of people enjoying with friends and families. I don’t know if the proposed new plan will make any difference to us who sell food on the streets, but if we’re allowed to stay open too we’re certainly ready.”

    For now, the large chunk of the clientele comprises BPO or night-shift employees, families and youngsters looking for a post-dinner snack.

    Vidyut Maharishi, a PR executive whose workday ends at 11.30 pm, says the Vile Parle Khau Galli offers the dual prospect of food and fun. “It’s impossible to plan dinner with friends post-work. So Khau Galli is always a saviour.” He adds that he actually prefers the late night street food to restaurants sometimes.

    From Opera House to Mithibai College to the streets outside Andheri, Churchgate, Ghatkopar, Lower Parel railway stations, the bustling street food scene is perhaps the original Mumbai nightlife, breaking barriers of class quite easily, staying open despite pouring rain.

    The cycle-wallahs operate on a much smaller scale, offering piping hot watery tea or coffee as well as cigarettes and chewing gum until as late as 3 and 4 am. The impact of a more vibrant nightlife on their business is still unpredictable, they say.

    Ram Milan, who sells anda-pav-bhurji at Churchgate and gets 40-50 customers on a daily basis, says his business depends on the train timings. “Most customers are on their way to the station. Unless the train timings are extended later into the night, I don’t think my business will be affected,” Milan says.

    But Manoj Sharma, an Uttar Pradesh native who makes about Rs 400 daily selling chana-chor-garam, says he’ll position himself better if the policy goes through. More people would stop by at Marine Drive or Girgaum Chowpatty, perhaps. “If I roam on Marine drive till 2 am, I earn about Rs continued…

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    Mar 25, 2015
    Tim Lester

    Taste of Bangkok’s secret street food menu livens up Lloyd District: Cheap Eats

    Secret menus are like Easter eggs for restaurant obsessives. The first time I ventured into Taste of Bangkok, a new, strip-mall Thai restaurant tucked among the Lloyd District’s land of fast food, the lunch crowd was busy eating wok-fried noodles and inoffensive curries. But there, on the counter, next to a stack of takeout menus, was a small orange book. On the cover, “Bangkok Street Food.” Inside, photos of a half-dozen dishes you wouldn’t expect to find at a restaurant overlooking a McDonald’s and a Walgreens. Gold mine?

    The chow: If you’ve eaten at one of Portland’s newer Thai restaurants — Pok PokChiang Mai or Tarad, say — you’ve seen most of the dishes in that orange book. There’s yen ta fo ($11), the hot-pink soup with its fish balls, fried tofu, rice noodles and sour, elegant broth. Khao kha moo ($11) is a super-tender braised pork shank, redolent of five spice, served on a square plate with long-grain rice and half a hard-boiled egg. Taste of Bangkok’s khao soi gai ($11) — the signature curry of Chiang Mai — subbed four chicken drumettes for the usual whole leg and arranged its fried noodles into a trellis off to the side, rather than a nest on top. (Pickled mustard greens, a traditional condiment, would have helped cut through the sweet curry, though like most khao soi, this one hit the spot.)

    Real deals: At lunch, Americanized combo meals built around pad Thai, drunken noodles and the stoplight curries come with jasmine rice and a spring or egg roll for $8.

    Hangout factor: The decor is minimal, with thin black tables and a mod banquette, but staff are enthusiastically friendly. Settle in at happy hour with a cocktail made from house lemongrass-spiked vodka or lime-infused gin.

    Liquids: Thai iced tea or coffee ($2.50), Thai tea slushy ($3.75), iced pea flower or lemongrass water ($3), coconut juice ($3), soda ($1.75), fruit smoothies/shakes ($3.75-$4.75).

    What’s half-baked: By my second visit, most of the dishes from the orange book — borrowed, I learned, from sister restaurant Mai Thai (3104 S.E. Belmont St.) — had been folded into the regular menu. No Easter egg for you.

    Inside tips: Taste of Bangkok delivers to homes within a three-mile radius.

    The numbers: Monday to Friday, 11 a.m.-3 p.m. and 4:30 p.m. to 9:30 p.m.; Saturday and Sunday, noon to 9:30 p.m.; 1618 N.E. Sixth Ave., 503-946-8387, tasteofbangkokpdx.com.

    – Michael Russell

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    Mar 24, 2015
    Tim Lester

    Chinese street food coup

    In a bakery nestled in Shanghai’s historic, tree-lined French Concession area, Jenny Gao sits sipping her coffee, a food processor in a tote bag next to her, as she gears up to cook for what she hopes will be hundreds of customers at her pop-up food stall later in the day.

    “This bakery has the best bread in Shanghai,” said the graduate of Western University’s Richard Ivey School of Business, who has followed her passion for food and travel across China, documenting in her blog, Jing Theory, the restaurants, flavours and heritage of the food she encounters.

    Born in Chengdu in western China and educated in Canada and Europe, the 27-year-old is now set on becoming a restaurateur in China’s booming market. With their new restaurant concept, Baoism, Ms. Gao and her Torontoborn partner Alex Xu hope to create what they call “a Chipotle for China,” which will serve safely sourced Chinese street food in an ingredient bar format.

    A typical Baoism lunch combo allows a customer to choose either baos (steamed white buns with fillings such as fresh vegetables and slowcooked pork) or rice bowls with toppings and sides. The concept targets working Millennials on the lookout for grab-and-go contemporary Chinese food that’s safe and affordable. A Baoism lunch costs 40 RMB or about $8. In Shanghai, restaurants touting clean and wholesome food are limited to Western eateries serving salads and sandwiches, or upmarket vegetarian outlets, Ms. Gao said. “It’s excessively expensive, 100 to 150 RMB per head, and in the Chinese food scene, there really aren’t many affordable options for safe food.

    “Food safety is the No. 1 thing on people’s minds, even ahead of pollution,” said Ms. Gao, who has worked at PG, BlackBerry and Frog Design.

    There have been alarming food safety scares in China in recent years: Black market “gutter oil” recycled from garbage, exploding watermelons caused by growthaccelerating chemicals, and a Shanghai factory of U.S. food producer OSI Group selling rotting meat to restaurant chains including McDonald’s and KFC.

    The latter has had a significant impact on Western quick service restaurant chains in China, market research firm NPD Group noted. Spending at food outlets rose 3% in China in the third quarter of 2014, while traffic declined 1% compared with a year earlier, said Bob O’Brien, global vicepresident of food service.

    “Some really serious food safety scares have happened … and it makes everyone wonder what’s going on. People in China find out this stuffso fast through social media, and they have a strong reaction to food safety issues,” he said.

    Since the fall of 2014, Ms. Gao and 24-year-old Mr. Xu have been introducing Baoism to Shanghai through popup events. They plan to open three stores in two years, as well as develop a platform on WeChat – a popular messaging app – for customers to order from their smartphone for delivery to their door.

    Financing has come from family and friends to open the first outlet in April in a complex of two office buildings under construction in Xintiandi, a restaurant and entertainment hot spot in Shanghai. The development will be home to about 10,000 office workers, Ms. Gao said.

    Sources for all of Baoism’s ingredients will be listed on menus, posters and placemats. “We want to be transparent with our ingredients and champion the farms where we get our meat and vegetables,” Ms. Gao said. “We have been able to find suppliers and farms by doing research, travelling around the area, going to organic trade shows and talking to chefs in Shanghai who are adamant about [safely sourced food].”

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