Browsing articles in "street food"
Dec 18, 2014
Tim Lester

The road to Greece: Getting Greek food flavors off the street and into your …

Michael Kambouroglos, co-owner of Souvlaki Boys on West James Street in Lancaster, refers to Greek food as a kind of peasant food.

With an emphasis on simple, fresh ingredients, most home cooks could easily add some Greek flavors and techniques to their repertoire.

And, given the ubiquity of Greek yogurt in the dairy aisle, cooks now have the main ingredient for one of the most versatile of all Greek spreads: tzatziki.

“Everything. You can use it with everything,” Kambouroglos says.

Kambouroglos recently discussed some flavors, techniques and dishes that are typical of Greek street food.

What are some basic flavoring ingredients in Greek cuisine?

Oregano, sea salt, olive oil and lemon are common seasonings that people flavor with. Cumin comes into play as well as tomato-based sauces.

On the sweet side there’s honey, walnuts, almonds and cinnamon, with honey being the leading sweetener.

How do you prepare meat for skewers?

Some people marinate, but we don’t marinate ours. We put our chicken in a brine for about a day, which gives more moisture and flavor. We use a simple brine of a 1/2 cup of sugar, a 1/2 cup of salt and a little lemon to every gallon of water.

Is there a common, easy-to-prepare side dish?

Green beans and zucchini that are cooked in a tomato-based sauce is a pretty common side dish, or even a main dish. Greeks are very literal with their names, so the name would be “Zucchini and Green Beans.”

Cook the tomato sauce with garlic, oregano, sea salt, pepper, thyme and rosemary while putting a little olive oil on the beans and zucchini.

What’s a good salad?

Traditional Greek village salad is just tomatoes, cucumbers, red onion and a little bit of green pepper.

You put a little salt on the vegetables and tomatoes which draws the juice out, and the olive oil mixes with the juices, and that’s pretty much your dressing. Serve with just a little olive oil, pita and a hunk of feta.

What about dessert?

A simple dessert is pressed Greek yogurt topped with honey and crushed walnuts.

What can you do with tzatziki?

You can use it as a spread on just about any sandwich as a substitute for mayonnaise.

It is also great as a dip with pita wedges or pita chips or as a dip for meat, such as souvlaki.

A lot of people use it as a dressing, mixing it into their salads or with vegetables, instead of ranch. Or, it can also be used as a marinade, especially for a tougher cut of meat.

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Dec 18, 2014
Tim Lester

Gymkhana Restaurant Backers Bring Taiwan Street Food to London

The owners of Gymkhana, the restaurant named
the U.K.’s best after only a few months in business, are backing
a new London venue serving Taiwanese street food.

Bao, scheduled to open early next year in London’s Soho
district, began life as a market stall in the east of the city
and will specialize in “xiaochi”: small snacks, especially
steamed buns called, you guessed it, bao. It’s the brainchild of
a young chef, her husband and his sister, all of whom have
traveled across Taiwan learning about the cuisine.

“We tried bao about a year ago at Netil Market: We ate one
and then we ate two and we kept going because they were so
delicious,” Gymkhana chef and co-founder Karam Sethi said in an
interview. “The concept is unique and this fits with what we
are doing, backing young chefs who are ambitious and very
talented.”

Gymkhana, an Indian establishment in London’s Mayfair,
topped the U.K.’s 100 best restaurants in the National
Restaurant Awards in July. Sethi and his family have also backed
new venues Bubbledogs, a gourmet hot-dog and Champagne bar;
Kitchen Table, which offers a tasting menu that changes daily;
and Lyle’s restaurant in East London. All are proving popular,
and Gymkhana and Kitchen Table won Michelin stars in September.




Source: Carol Sachs/BAO via Bloomberg

Karam Sethi is the chef and co-owner of Gymkhana. He and his family are backing the new Taiwanese restaurant, Bao. Close

Karam Sethi is the chef and co-owner of Gymkhana. He and his family are backing the new… Read More

Open

Source: Carol Sachs/BAO via Bloomberg

Karam Sethi is the chef and co-owner of Gymkhana. He and his family are backing the new Taiwanese restaurant, Bao.

“The xiao chi houses in Taipei, which we take our
inspiration from, usually specialize in one or two dishes, so
they spend decades perfecting a recipe. That’s the part that we
really like and we want to bring back,” said chef Erchen Chang.

Family Affair

Bao will open on Lexington Street and will be led by Chang,
24; her husband Shing Tat Chung, 28, who will help design the
restaurant; and his sister Wai Ting Chung, 29, who will oversee
the front of house.

“We are specializing in steam buns. Our classic is slow-braised pork in soy sauce and other spices with sour pickle,
coriander, and peanut shavings,” Chang said. “That’s the most
classic one. We haven’t got decades but we’re working on it.”

The food won’t be expensive, said Shing Tat Chung.

“We want to keep it very informal, very casual,
affordable, fun,” with buns priced at 3 pounds ($4.70) to 5
pounds, and other snacks at 3 pounds to 8 pounds, he said.

Breaking Ground

Chinese restaurants in the U.K. have generally been
Cantonese. More recently, other regional cuisines, including
Sichuan and Hunan, have started to gain favor. There are still
few Taiwan restaurants in London.

“Taiwan is quite a melting pot of different cuisines,”
said Chang, who was born there, moved to the U.K. at the age of
14 and later studied at University College London’s Slade School
of Fine Art. The cusine “uses a lot of soy braising, a lot of
herbs, coriander, thai basil, and quite savory heavy big
flavors.”




Source: Carol Sachs/BAO via Bloomberg

Bao’s signature steamed milk bun. Close

Bao’s signature steamed milk bun.

Open

Source: Carol Sachs/BAO via Bloomberg

Bao’s signature steamed milk bun.

(Richard Vines is the chief food critic for Bloomberg.
Follow him on Twitter @richardvines)

To contact the reporter on this story:
Richard Vines in London at
rvines@bloomberg.net

To contact the editors responsible for this story:
Justin Ocean at
jocean1@bloomberg.net
Robert Valpuesta

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Dec 17, 2014
Tim Lester

Be a beef ‘street food’ hero

From January, entries will be showcased on the Beef Australia 2015 Facebook page where the public can show their support for their favourite dish.

From the most popular entries, the winner will then be decided by Beef Australia.

More information is available at the Beef Australia 2015 website.

To enter, submit your recipe and a photo of your dish to Beef Australia 2015′s email address.


Shane Bailey’s beef brisket burger

with spicy chilli chutney and mustard mayonnaise.

  • Take 1 marbled beef brisket, take the point end deckle off but leave fat on.
  • Rub the brisket with pepper and a little sea salt (just a touch), a good slash of red wine and place in oven fat side up for 3 hours at 90 degrees Celsius. Drain off any excess fat.
  • Heat 2 litres of veal or chicken stock, with ½ cup smoky bbq sauce, ¼ cup Worcestershire sauce, 50g brown sugar and ½ bunch of thyme and add to the brisket. Cover and continue to cook for 7 more hours or until meat is tender enough to pull apart with a fork.
  • Once cooked, shred the meat, season and add enough of the cooking liquid (fat removed).
  • Mustard mayonnaise:

  • To 100g good quality mayonnaise add 20g Dijon mustard.
  • Tomato chutney:

  • 1kg ripe tomatoes, 1 onion finely sliced, 2 cloves garlic, a small piece ginger finely chopped, 2 red capsicums finely chopped, 100g sugar, 80g brown sugar, 1 cinnamon quill, 2 red chillies finely chopped, 60ml red wine vinegar, and a good splash of olive oil.
  • Heat oil, garlic and ginger for 30 minutes, add tomatoes and then the remaining ingredients and cook slowly for about an hour and season. This can be made in advance, and will make more than enough.
  • Other ingredients:

  • 10 x 60g brioche buns.
  • Assembly:

  • Warm buns and cut in half, smear bottom with mayonnaise, add some iceberg lettuce, add a good amount of brisket, top with some chutney, put the bun lid on and enjoy!
  • More recipes are available at Beef Australia 2015.

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    Dec 17, 2014
    Tim Lester

    Real street food: Mongolian Khuushuur

    What is the dish?

    Khuushuur – Mongolia’s version of a handheld meat pastry. It’s a circle of wheat flour dough folded in half around a filling of minced or ground mutton, sometimes beef, and pan- or deep-fried. The meat is seasoned with onion and salt; some cooks add garlic and pepper as well. It’s possible to get versions with a mix of potatoes, carrots and/or cabbage as well, but these are far less popular. (Vegetarians beware: the veg versions can taste strongly of mutton from the cooking oil.)

    What’s the history?

    There’s some reluctance here to acknowledge good things that have come from China, but Mongolians traditionally were nomads, not farmers, and did not grow wheat. Khuushuur and its dumpling siblings, buuz and bansh, are localised versions of Chinese dumplings.

    What does it taste like?

    Just like meat in fried dough! Seriously, it doesn’t vary much: better-quality meat or lower-quality cooking oil make some difference, but it’s a simple, straightforward dish. For westerners, there is sometimes more fat included with the meat than we’re used to.

    How is it served?

    At its most basic, khuushuur comes on a plate with paper napkins or tissues to pick it up. In a restaurant it comes four to an order with a lettuce leaf and gherkins on the side, carrot salad if the place is a bit more posh.

    Anything extra?

    Some people eat khuushuur with ketchup or Maggi sauce, less often with mayonnaise.

    Why should someone try it?

    It’s tasty, cheap, filling and very Mongolian. Khuushuur are also strongly associated with the summer festival, Naadam, and it would be very sad to come all the way to Mongolia without trying such a typical dish.

    What’s the bill?

    Khuushuur cost between 800 and 1500 tugrik (30-50p) each, though many restaurants won’t let you order by the piece; they will give you four.

    Where can you get it?

    Anywhere in Mongolia that sells Mongolian food. In a central business district this means restaurants; outside of town people sell khuushuur from little stands or their gers (Mongolian tents) as well.

    Can you make it at home?

    Yes, every home cook knows how to make khuushuur, and patting the dough into circles is considered restful after a busy day. Home cooks chop the meat themselves for better flavor, buying pre-ground meat is considered inferior.

    What does this dish say about Mongolia?

    Mongolians love their meat, and khuushuur are simple, hearty and practical.

    Homemade khuushuur recipe

    (Makes around 16)

    250g flour

    150ml water

    400g fatty lamb or mutton mince

    1 small onion, finely diced

    2 garlic cloves, finely chopped

    Salt and ground black pepper

    1 tbsp caraway seeds

    750ml vegetable oil, for frying

    1 Preheat the oven to 180C/350F/gas mark 4. To make the dough, put the flour in a large bowl then gradually add the water, mixing to a firm dough. Knead lightly for a minute or two, then wrap in clingfilm and put in the fridge while you make the filling.

    2 Mix the mince with the onion, garlic, seasoning and caraway seeds, then take the dough out of the fridge. Divide into 16 pieces, then roll one out to a 10cm diameter circle. Place a couple of heaped tsps of the meat mix in the centre, then fold one side over the meat. Press the edges together, then fold the sealed edge over again, crimping as you go. Repeat with the remaining meat and dough.

    3 In a wok or frying pan, heat the vegetable oil to around 180C, or when a piece of bread sizzles and turns golden in less than a minute. Gently lower the khuushuur into the oil in batches of 3-4, then cook for around 4 minutes until golden. Once all the khuushuur are cooked, place on a baking sheet and cook for 10 minutes in the oven, then serve.

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    Dec 17, 2014
    Tim Lester

    The Hits Keep Coming At This Filipino Street Food Smorgasbord

    At about 10 p.m., a small-of-stature woman sitting behind a table that’s in front of a large, white food truck turns around and picks up a huge microphone that’s attached to one of those Aiwa stereo systems, like the one gotten before you went to college. You know, with the detachable speakers on each side, a 3-disc CD player and an ominous red glow, like undercarriage lighting on a tricked out Honda? One of those.

    She picks up the microphone and begins making an announcement in a high, sweet voice over the crowd of people on the sidewalk. The reverb is turned up so much, though — who knows, maybe it’s on purpose — that you can’t really make out but every other word. “[LOUD INAUDIBLE] DOLLAR HITS [ECHO ECHO] EVERYTHING’S ONE DOLLAR [ECHO ECHO].”

    Dollar Hits 2

    Dollar Hits has been serving traditional Filipino street food for just over a year now. Everything on the menu, mostly skewers, goes for the low, low price of — you got it — one dollar. The popular truck has a carnival atmosphere about it on weekend nights; music playing from the stereo or a neighbor kid who brought his guitar and a plug-in amp is noodling around, families mill about, waiting to pick up trays of meat and fishball skewers, friends laughing and talking around the big communal charcoal grills that are set up on the sidewalk, cars jockeying in and out of the postage-stamp-sized parking spots in the small lot in the mini-mall.

    Dollar Hits 3

    Dollars Hits 4

    Dollars Hits 5

    [Fish balls, balut, pig ears, and pig blood]

    Step up to the table, grab an order sheet, and mark the items you’d like to try. Hand the sheet to one of the ladies behind the table, and she’ll smile and ask your name. If you’re Asian, she may ask you if you’re Filipino. If the answer is “yes,” she’ll be very happy. If the answer is “no” (Author’s note: I’m part Chinese), she definitely won’t be unhappy, but she may look slightly concerned.

    She definitely won’t be unhappy, but she may look slightly concerned

    You also might notice that everyone there is calling her “Auntie.” Does that mean everyone there is literally her niece or nephew? Nope! In Filipino culture, sometimes you just call women who are older than you “Auntie” as a term of endearment/respect.

    Dollars Hits 6

    Outdoor chillin’ and grillin’

    Pretty much everything at Dollar Hits is a skewer, and it’s mostly non-vegetarian. The food is pre-cooked but comes cold — it’s then up to you to mosey over to one of the grills and GYOS (grill your own skewer). Don’t make the mistake I did the first time I went, and immediately shove the food in your maw when it’s handed to you from the truck. Cook it first. If it’s busy, you may have to wait a bit for some free grill space to open up. Also, as you might guess, everything costs a dollar — with the exception of a few items. The pares bowl (beef stew) is $3. The nightmarish balut (partially-formed duck embryo, still in the shell. Google it. Well actually, don’t Google it.) is $2.

    Balut

    Fish balls, lobster balls, BBQ pork and BBQ chicken — perennial Filipino favorites — are all on the menu. The rest of the selections lean heavily toward organ meat and offal. If that’s not your thing, let’s just say that Dollar Hits may not be the place for you. No part of the animal goes to waste. The names of the items are, generally speaking, pretty fun to learn. Some are onomatopoetic, others merely awesome: kwek-kwek is breaded quail egg, enrile is a chicken head, adidas are chicken feet, and betamax is pork blood.

    Grilling Hits

    Pork isaw (intestine) you’ll want to let sit on the grill for awhile, and once it’s got a nice char, it tastes just like a piece of maple-glazed bacon. Fish balls and fried lumpia (egg rolls) go perfectly with a homemade sweet sauce mixed with spicy vinegar. Betamax comes as a skewer of three or four cubes of congealed pork blood. If you can mentally get past what it is, it’s quite enjoyable, tasting like a firm, iron-rich tofu.

    Sodas and water are $1, as is a bottomless styrofoam cup of sweet, icy cantaloupe juice, ladled from a communal barrel on the front table.

    Dollar Hits is located at 2422 Temple St. (at Carondolet) in Historic Filipinotown. They are open from Thursday-Sunday, 6:30 to 11 p.m.

    Photos by: Matthew Kang

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    Dec 15, 2014
    Tim Lester

    Street food earns Palm Beach Food and Wine chefs street cred

    Forget the white linen table cloths.

    Street food is how the chefs at the Palm Beach Food and Wine Festival decided who has street cred.

    A team of five Palm Beach chefs took on five Miami chefs in the festival’s first ever street food cooking competition Saturday night at the Four Seasons Palm Beach, and it was hard not to call this knife fight a draw.

    Buccan chef Clay Conley won the people’s choice award for his Asian-style fried chicken bun, while Miami chef Timon Balloo — a one-time executive at the former Omphoy under Michelle Bernstein and colleague of Lindsay Autry — won the Blogger’s Choice and the Best Bite, which was judged by a panel of celebrity judges, including Chopped’s Ted Allen. Conley won a Big Green Egg smoker/grill as the critic’s choice.

    “We taste so much great food,” Allen said as he announced the winners. “But unfortunately, it was a competition and we were forced to choose one.”

    Each Palm Beach chef competed head-to-head with a Miami chef in one of five categories: fried chicken, hot dog,  meatball, taco and the wildcard “on a stick.”

    Four Seasons Palm Beach executive chef Darryl Moiles led the Palm Beach team of Lindsay Autry (newly engaged and newly of the Washington D.C. restaurant Firefly), Conley (Buccan), Tim Lipman (Coolinary Cafe) and Dean Max (Max’s Harvest).

    Four Season Miami chef Aaron Brooks captained a team of Miami’s Balloo (Sugarcane), Jamie DeRosa (Tongue Cheek), Giorgia Rapicavoli (Eating House) and Daniel Serfer (Blue Collar).

    Conley was pitted against Brooks in the fried chicken category and the two reveled in jokingly trash-talking in person and on Twitter in the days leading up to the event.

    “The Miami guys love to talk smack,” Conley said in earshot of the Miami chefs, many of whom are close friends from his time cooking at Miami’s Azul inside the Mandarin Oriental.

    “You guys are going down tonight,” Max called to the Miami chefs during the day’s earlier event, Chillin’ and Grillin’ at the Four Seasons.

    Conley applied his bend toward Asian flavors to a fried chicken bun that was crispy, moist and bursting with fresh flavors, reminiscent of why he is a two-time James Beard Award semifinalist.

    Balloo’s richly marinated and deeply flavorful Korean barbecue flap meat steak skewer with a fresh kimchi slaw and shrimp chip won over both sets of critics — the celebrity judges Allen, Robert Irvine, Marc Murphy, and Jeff Mauro, and the press for Blogger’s Choice.

    NOTE: I was asked to judge as an impartial blogger because of my Miami roots, work life in Palm Beach County and residence in Broward County. I tweeted my choice 20 minutes before the judge’s announced their selection as to not be swayed. 

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    Dec 13, 2014
    Tim Lester

    Street Food Cardiff has just two more weekends

    It’s been one of those food events that Cardiff has clasped to its collective foodie bosom, but now Street Food Cardiff’s days are number.

    Since its launch in October, the weekly fiesta at the The Depot on Dumballs Road has brought its unique concept in food to a very appreciative dining public. So why not have a look at these top tips for the best night out and then join the queue?

    Vendors this weekend include:

    Slow Pig

     

    Wholesome homegrown fare from Pembrokeshire that’s no stranger to festivals.

    Spice Essence

    Spice Essence offers reliable renditions of traditional Indian favourites.

    El Salsa

     

    A mobile catering company specialising in tasty, wholesome Mexican food and based in West Wales.

    Chucks­ Burger Bar

     

    Chucks is a pop-up dining experience that throws two fingers up to convention, serving chicken and burgers made ‘the right way’.

    Dirty Bird Fried Chicken

    Dirty Bird fried chicken will be available at Street Food Cardiff

     

    The controversial buttermilk-fried chicken vendor made waves with its logo earlier this year, but the chicken promises to be finger-licking good.

    Haute Dogs

     

    ­Gourmet Hotdogs from the creators of Chucks in Pontcanna, these inspired creations and flavour combinations are nestled inside a soft steamed brioche bun.

    Mr Churro

     

    Hot, fresh, crispy-on-the-outside, fluffy-in-the-middle churros.

    Meat and Greek

    Family-run business serving traditional Greek Souvlaki.

    Dough Boys

     

    Artisan hand-thrown wood-fired pizza from right here in Wales.

    Brulee Bar

    Offering loads of different creme brulees, including at past events one topped with sticky toffee pudding.

    Jol’s Food

    Jamie O'Leary

     

    The sous chef from the Hardwick Jamie O’Leary has been known to serve up such outlandish grub as rabbit and gnocchi with parmesan.

    Mr Croquewich

    Toasted sandwiches with a little je ne sais quoi.

    More details on Twitter @streetfoodcdf or at streetfoodcardiff.com

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    Dec 13, 2014
    Tim Lester

    Get into the festive spirit with Cardiff Street Food

    Street food is all the rage at the moment, and the cold weather doesn’t seem to be any impediment for inviting people out to get their foodie thrills.

    RCMA, the people responsible for Cardiff’s excellent Riversidea nd Roath Markets among others are getting together with Cardiff Street Food to present their first ever street food night.

    Tomorrow night (Saturday December 13) at the usual Riverside Market location on Fitzhamon Embankment from 4pm until 9.30pm they’ll be hosting an evening of hot street foot, locally-produced ales and wines, warming coffees and hot chocolates and more.

    Wrapping up warm and eating some delicious food sounds like an ideal way to get into the festive spirit, although they assure Sunday morning regulars that they will also be there bright and early on Sunday morning.

    More details from Facebook or at their website cardiffstreetfood.co.uk

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    Dec 12, 2014
    Tim Lester

    Chinese street food chain makes a ‘bing’ impression in Australia – FoodNavigator

    Ming Liang Ma has so far taken his Bing Boy urban Asian crepe stores from one test location in a South Australian food court to more than 30 around Australia.

    To establish and develop a franchise, it’s always been my passion to do that,” said Ming, Bing Boy’s Adelaide-based managing director.

    Ming’s determination has been rewarded with growth of 204% in 2014, earning Bing Boy second place on the In-business Fast Movers ranking. According to In-business, the company had a a turnover of A$4,871,940 in the year.

    Jian bing, a sort of folded Chinese pancake, is a popular breakfast street food in Beijing and the rural area that surrounds it.

    After cutting his teeth in other food franchises, Ming had the idea to introduce the jian bing, with some modern twists, to a new audience in Australia.

    Bing itself as a product is absolutely new on the market,” said Ming. “It has some similarities with the French crepe, it’s a little similar to giros as a wrap, but the combination of how we cook it, how we wrap it and deliver it to the customer, that’s quite new.”

    Bing Boy has undergone a measured yet rapid expansion since the first store opened in Southern Cross Arcade in Adelaide in June 2011, growing to 14 stores in its first two years.

    That more than doubled in 2013-14 to 30 stores, made up of 14 in South Australia, 14 in Victoria and three in Queensland. Over the next year, Ming wants to see another 20 restaurants open across Australia, and he recently opened his first standalone shop in the refurbished Rundle Mall in Adelaide.

    Before we even opened the first store, I had planned it as a franchise business,” he said. “When we designed the store, the logo, the name and everything, it’s all related to the franchise’s expansion down the track.”

    The first store served as a test for the ideas at the foundation of Bing Boy.  When the second store opened, it took off, which gave Ming the confidence to expand.

    There are a lot of things you can’t predict. Even though my teams and I sat down with a designer and went through marketing materials, design, layout, operations, there’s a lot we changed,” Ming said.

    One of the first areas to come under scrutiny was their packaging. After observing the messy process of wrangling a bing in its plain wrapping paper, the team came up with perforated paper that tears off in stages as the customer makes their way through a meal.

    We develop as we grow. Even now we are still changing a lot of things in terms of operations and design,” Wang says.

    Their second and third years marked Bing Boy’s larger expansions interstate. He admits this was a challenge, something that defied conventional wisdom on the topic.

    We keep hearing people say if you can run a business in Adelaide and be successful, you can be successful anywhere else in the country. I have a bit of a different view.

    Because we’re locals in Adelaide we feel we know the market more. When we move to other states there are certainly a lot of opportunities, no question, but the competition, understanding the market and location geographically, that requires a lot more work.”

    Recruiting franchisees will become a major focus over the coming years. The last few had Bing Boy concentrating on operating the business and developing the systems, but that attention is shifting.

    Ming understands that key to a franchise’s success is growth and presence—in its case, through franchisees. Tempering that, however, is upholding the brand’s image and standards.

    We are always trying to find a better franchisee system. We have two interviews as well as psychological testing. The second part is training. There’s online and office training as well as on-site training, and ongoing training once they’ve started.

    “Further to that we have a supervisor to help a franchisee open a store, to sort of hold their hands to get it settled. We also have external consultants give them three-, six- and 12-month reviews to make sure they understand not only operating a store, but also the HR and business areas,” he said.

    There’s the further requirement that a franchisee have to be hands-on owner-operators within the business, rather than an outside investor, and are expected to put in at least 30 hours a week in their stores. To save drama, perhaps, there’s also the caveat that stores have to be solely owned, or within immediate family.

    Ming’s other challenge has been to grow awareness of the Bing Boy brand. The trouble, he says, is that people talk about their product, the bing, more than the name of the chain.

    We’ve been working on brand positioning. We want to work on what Bing Boy means to consumers rather than the bing product itself,” Ming said.

    This is the result of two things. First, that the product is entirely new on the market. Ming isn’t trying to sell another burger or sushi shop, where the brand name is the distinguishing factor. He’s selling a food new to the market where the product itself is what distinguishes it from competitors.

    Secondly, the initial challenge was selling people on the idea of the bing. And in that, Ming and his team have been very successful.

    There are some people who are willing to try new things. There are also people cautious about what they eat. The way we have solved that is by giving a lot of samples to the customer. We found that so far, that’s the most successful local marketing we’ve done.

    Bing Boy’s marketing efforts are being redoubled in the coming year. Their challenge is that, as a younger, smaller brand than most on the market, they probably can’t compete in the channels popular with the big chains.

    A commercial wouldn’t be our first preference—we prefer local marketing. The sampling alone works out really well for us, but the brand awareness is still pretty low.

    When we get the customer to experience and try the product, we then need them to acknowledge there is a Bing Boy store in the sense that it’s a place. That’s something we need to work hard on,” he says.

    Bing Boy is also be experimenting with an on-street location rather than its usual food court model. It launched its first street store on November 29, in Rundle Street in the Adelaide CBD.

    We carefully consider locations for all Bing Boy stores, which have traditionally been confined to shopping centres and food courts. So developing a street store is something new for us, but is something we’re really excited about as we think it will give us more of a presence in Adelaide

    Rundle Street is one of Adelaide’s busiest and most popular places to eat, drink and shop, so we’re looking forward to tapping into that and introducing our popular bings to a new band of customers.” 

    For Ming and his team it’s an exciting chance to try new things. Longer trading hours and different locations will give them a whole new perspective on the business’ expansion.

    We have to have innovation all along the way,” said Ming. “Otherwise the business will die.”

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    Dec 10, 2014
    Tim Lester

    South Indian street food, groceries at San Rafael’s Lotus Chaat & Spices

    One of the most delightful things about traveling in India or Southeast Asia is the street food. It’s sold everywhere. From bite-sized snacks to bowls of soup and savory pastries, a world of taste adventures is available for pennies.

    Finding a restaurant in San Rafael that specializes in street food is a treat. That the street food reflects one of the world’s most interesting, vegetable-oriented cuisines – South Indian – is even better.

    Lotus Chaat Spices on the West End of downtown San Rafael has been in business five years. It’s part of the privately owned Lotus group of restaurants (also includes Lotus Cuisine on East Fourth Street, and Lotus Café in Fairfax), but has its own distinct character, thanks to the fact that this eatery not only serves South Indian dishes, but it also features an Indian grocery store on the premises.

    In the last couple of years, Lotus Chaat has expanded its menu to start serving Indian pizzas, a unique sideline that has amped up its popularity (in particular with students from nearby Marin Academy).

    The atmosphere is as vibrant as the spice palette. A visually resonant paint job of tangerine/mango and teal is a wake-up call for the eyes. Paintings of Indian countryside scenes, or portraits and other photographs, add more exotica.

    Chairs and tables are wood; the chairs are hard. Bring your own cushion if you need padding. In nicer weather, the outdoor tables on the expanded sidewalk are a nice place to sit and watch the action in downtown San Rafael’s West End.

    There are various meats – chicken, lamb, shrimp and fish – prepared in a range of possibilities, but I think this cuisine comes into its own as a vegetarian or vegan experience.

    Indian pizzas ($9.99-13.99 small, $18.99-$24.99 large), the new house specialty, are true fusion food. A housemade wheat, thin-crust pizza dough amped up with turmeric and herbs is layered with Indian-spiced ingredients. One of the best is the house special, with its rich, complex topping of curried spinach, cauliflower, mushroom, cilantro, green and red onion, ginger and garlic under a blanketing melt of mozzarella. The spice is mild yet distinctive; this combo of ingredients becomes one of the most interesting flatbreads you’ve ever had, yet unlike anything you’re likely to have had. I was impressed.

    Classic street foods include the distinctive dahi puri ($7.99). Four translucent, crunchy bite-sized pastry shells are filled with mashed potatoes, a bit of chili, lightly sweetened yogurt and topped with wispy, crispy lentil noodles.

    There’s a kaleidoscopic quality to the way the different textures and spices play out in each dish. Take a salad-like street snack called bean sprout bhel ($8.99). Raw bean sprouts are mixed with ovals of puffed rice, cooked diced potatoes, onions, tomatoes, peanuts, tamarind and mint sauces. Each mouthful has so much going on in terms of contrasting textures and flavors that jump from sweet to tangy to savory to citrusy to spicy, there’s a stop-you-in-your-tracks quality to the experience of eating it.

    Dosas – huge, crepe-like pancakes made of lentil flour – are a house specialty. While they are typically served with your choice of filling rolled up inside, I asked for the filling on the side, so I could scoop a bit with a piece of dosa and eat like a taco. This way the pancake stayed crispier. But if you’re a traditionalist, get it stuffed.

    The dosas come with small bowls of thick coconut chutney and bowls of soupy, lentil and tomato sambar that has just enough kick to wake up your mouth, but not so much spice that it’s painful. Varieties include everything from the traditional, served with an egg, or a spiced potato mixture, saag paneer, eggplant bartha, to versions that mix lamb and spinach, chicken and mushrooms or shrimp and broccoli, to name a few.

    These Indian crepes range in price from $9.99 to $14.99. One order makes a solid meal for an individual; two could make a feast out of a shared one plus a couple of smaller items such as sambar or dahi vada ($7-8.99), deep-fried savory lentil donuts served in that soupy lentil curry or a spiced yogurt.

    Salads include a meal-sized combination of mixed greens with tandoori-grilled tofu, roasted almonds, avocado, red onion and curry vinaigrette. It’s much more interesting than the salads available in a typical Indian restaurant.

    More fusion shows up in Indian-style wraps and burritos that combine thin flatbreads with stuffings such as ground lamb, spiced marinated chicken, prawns or vegetarian options.

    Other qualities I loved about Lotus Chaat: Much of the ingredients are listed as organic. There are unusual sodas and other drinks from India, including classic Mango lassi and chai tea. The Indian Grocery store component is fascinating in itself. You can get a variety of bean flours, spices, cookies, teas, grains, all sorts of esoteric items, like Fijian spices, that we rarely see in regular American stores. There are also frozen foods such as Indian fish and Indian ice creams, and the restaurant sells its own organic ghee, available in small and large sizes, and dosa batter to take home and make yourself.

    If you are used to Northern Indian cuisine, try Lotus Chaat. The prices are moderate to low, the portions are large and the food, quite frankly, is fun to eat because of all the textures and unusual flavors.

    Lotus Chaat Spices is at 1559 Fourth St., San Rafael. Open 11:30 a.m.-9 p.m. Tuesday-Saturday, 11:30 a.m.-8 p.m. Sunday. Buffet champagne brunch available on Sunday. Lotus Chaat’s “Chai Club” offers specials on chai tea between 2:30 and 4:30 p.m., with order of one main dish and another one half off. For more information call (415) 454-6887 or visit lotuschaat.com.

    Contact Leslie Harlib at lharlib@gmail.com.

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