Browsing articles in "street food"
Oct 11, 2014
Tim Lester

8 dishes we want to see at the Maginhawa Street food Festival

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Festive buntings at Maginhawa Street gears the latter for its first street food festival on October 11, Saturday. Photo by Romsanne Ortiguero, InterAksyon.com.

Festive buntings at Maginhawa Street gears the latter for its first street food festival on October 11, Saturday. Photo by Romsanne Ortiguero, InterAksyon.com.

Over the past years, Maginhawa Street in UP Village, Diliman, Quezon City has evolved from a quiet neighborhood to a thriving food destination sprouting with holes-in-the-wall, stalls, and full-blown restaurants in new buildings.

A few years back, a number of enterprising residents in this street transformed their garage to small eateries—to accommodate customers, mostly students from nearby universities like UP, who are looking for affordable meals.

Later, the number of restaurants along its two-kilometer stretch rapidly grew in number, offering different cuisines including Filipino, Japanese, Korean, Latin-American, Italian, and Persian, to name a few.

Now, Maginhawa Street is unofficially the “newest food hub of Quezon City” through the promotion of its city government as it celebrates its 75th founding anniversary on October 11 and 12. The Quezon City Food Festival is a much talked about event of the city’s jubilee celebration.

For less than Php500, people can already enjoy full meals and drinks at the Maginhawa Street Food Festival on slated to happen on October 11. Restaurants along Maginhawa and its neighboring streets will join the city’s first food festival, adding to the long list of 140 food stalls that will be offer various food products on Saturday.

Meanwhile, here’s a wish list of dishes we want to see a the festival. Share your own recommendations and photos in the Comments box below.

1. Green Daisy’s Callos Set Meal

Green Daisy's Callos Set Meal that is hearty and healthy. Photo by Romsanne Ortiguero, Interaksyon.com.

Green Daisy’s Callos Set Meal that is hearty and healthy. Photo by Romsanne Ortiguero, Interaksyon.com.

A popular hang out among artists and musicians, owner Daisy Langenegger was among the first to transform her garden into a restaurant more than 10 years ago. With wooden tables set in a garden with a small pond outside their home, Green Daisy lets you experience al fresco dining in a serene ambiance. The atmosphere of the cafe sets your mood for a hearty meal composed of soup, salad, and entree. The fresh produce—from the rice, vegetables, to the herbs—are grown in her organic farm in Alicia, Isabela.

The cafe’s Callos Set Meal, for Php 358, is composed of a creamy pumpkin soup, mixed organic greens, and callos with organic rice and vegetables on the side. The complete set can be ended with a refreshing drink of lemongrass tea.

• Green Daisy Organic Cafe. No. 20 Maginhawa Street, tel. no. (+632) 922-2409.

2. Leona Art Cafe’s Good Morning Pizza

The 10-inch Good Morning Pizza is good for 6 persons. Photo by Romsanne Ortiguero, Interaksyon.com.

The 10-inch Good Morning Pizza is good for 6 persons. Photo by Romsanne Ortiguero, Interaksyon.com.

Leona’s Art Cafe’s interior is cozy, with small art pieces displayed on walls or shelves. With a homey ambiance and welcoming staff, it makes a good hangout place to do meetings or catching up sessions. If you’re the type of pizza lover who prefers crispy, thin-crust pizza, this restaurant is right for you.They have a wide variety of pizza offerings that can suit your taste—from classic three-cheese pizza to specialty pizzas.

One of their premium pizzas include the Good Morning Pizza (Php300) composed of sliced spicy sausages, bellpeppers, mozarella cheese, basil, and topped with sunny side up egg.

• Leona Art Cafe. No. 45 Matimtiman Street, tel. no. (+632) 929-7490.

3. Cocina Juan’s Dinamita

Cocina Juan's Dinamita is good for 6 persons. Photo by Romsanne Ortiguero, Interaksyon.com.

Cocina Juan’s Dinamita is good for 6 persons. Photo by Romsanne Ortiguero, Interaksyon.com.

This 20-seater casual restaurant with tables set with fresh flowers, offers a number of Latin-American treats from appetizers to entrees; with Churarasco (grilled meat) dishes as their best sellers.

The restaurant’s Dinamita—deep-fried Anaheim chilies—will surely whet your appetite for its mild spicy kick combined with the saltiness of melted cheese inside. During our experience trying this dish, some chilies were not as spicy as we expected, making the dish a friendly appetizer for non-spicy eaters.

• Cocina Juan. No. 100 Maginhawa Street, tel. no. (+632) 434 3911.

4. Pi Breakfast and Pies’ K-Lime and Smores pies

Breakfast and Pies' K-Lime (background) and Smores (foreground) pies go well with brewed coffee. Photo by Romsanne Ortiguero, Interaksyon.com.

Breakfast and Pies’ K-Lime (background) and Smores (foreground) pies go well with brewed coffee. Photo by Romsanne Ortiguero, Interaksyon.com.

For breakfast foodies, Breakfast and Pies is a fitting choice for those looking for big breakfast sets and sweet desserts throughout the day.

Upon entering the establishment, customers are greeted by the smell of baked breads—one of their staple offerings together with other beloved breakfast choices including pies, cakes and even rice breakfast meals that can be perfectly combined with drinks such as brewed coffee, chocolate, tea, and milk.

The restaurant’s best sellers include Egg’s Benny and Huevos Rancheros, and for desserts, must-tries are K-Lime and Smores pies.

Those who have a sweet tooth will enjoy the combination of melted marshmallows and chocolate fudge of Smores while those who prefer not too sweet desserts would enjoy the combination of lime with meringue of K-Lime.

• Pi Breakfast and Pies. No. 39 Malingap Street, tel. no. (+632) 212-1212 or (+632) 441-1773.

5. Muchentuchen Magic Carpet Ride’s Beef Wrap

Muchentuchen can be bought in deluxe and ultimate sizes. Photo by Romsanne Ortiguero, Interaksyon.com.

Muchentuchen can be bought in deluxe and ultimate sizes. Photo by Romsanne Ortiguero, Interaksyon.com.

Missing Ababu since it left Maginhawa and moved to a new location? Well, that’s exactly what moved the owners of this place to start their shawarma business.

Also located on No. 20 Maginhawa Street, Muchentuchen’s meat lover customers would have a magic-carpet-ride-experience with the beefy goodness of their Beef Wrap—a combination of grilled beef, vegetables, and yoghurt wrapped in pita bread. Muchentuchen uses pure lean beef with minimal fat. It also bakes its own pita bread. The Beef Wrap is a good option if you want a to-go meal; it comes with a yoghurt drink.

• Muchentuchen Magic Carpet Ride. No. 20 Maginhawa Street, mobile phone no. (+63) 920-9217200.

6.  A Taste of Heaven Milkshakes
A good way to cool down during the day is to have a to-go glass of milkshake from A Taste of Heaven. They offer classic milkshake flavors such as chocolate, strawberry, and vanilla. Specialty milkshakes and other light snacks like burgers are also available.

• A Taste of Heaven Milkshakes. No. 71 Maginhawa Street, mobile phone no. (+63) 947-9927434.

7. The Burger Project’s design your own burgers

Design your own burgers at Burger Project. Photo by Bernard Testa, InterAksyon.com.

Design your own burgers at Burger Project. Photo by Bernard Testa, InterAksyon.com.

From the same owners of Breakfast and Pies, and Pino Resto Bar, this popular joint stands out among other burger joints in the area because of its design-your-own burger concept. No scrimping in this place as you can have truffles, wasabi, bacon, blue cheese, and other evil things in your burger sandwich.

• BRGR The Burger Project. No. 122 Maginhawa Street. Tel. no. (+63@) 212-1212 for deliveries.

8. Indonyaki’s Ayam Goreng. 

A go-to place for street food staples like shawarma and kebabs, this food stall stands out because of its Indonesian offerings such as satay and beef rending. One of its bestsellers is ayam goreng, which is a spicy and crunchy fried chicken infused with spices such as turmeric and garlic. Super flavorful and, even better, cheap at less than Php100.

• Indonyaki. No. 54 Maginhawa Street. Tel. no. (+632) 560-8521.

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Oct 10, 2014
Tim Lester

Jason Jones to open Moroccan street food eatery

Jason Jones of B'Stilla and Mamasita.

Jason Jones of B’Stilla and Mamasita. Photo: Paul Jeffers


Jason Jones, whose cooking has had us queuing at Mamasita in the city and South Yarra’s B’Stilla, has just returned from a three-month trip across Morocco, Portugal and Spain.

He has been gathering inspiration for his next venture, a yet-to-be-named Moroccan street food eatery he hopes to open in Brunswick Street, Fitzroy, next month.

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Oct 10, 2014
Tim Lester

Night Tales street food market is back for another winter

night tales

Good news London! One of our favourite pop-ups from last winter, Night Tales, has just announced that it’s returning this November for seven weeks of eating, drinking and general merry making. For its latest incarnation, it’s moving down the road from Dalston to a 10,000 square foot car park in Shoreditch where it’ll be taking over two floors and filling them with bars, gardens, log fires, private chalets and, of course, enough street food to ensure you’re well and truly stuffed.

Night Tales vetrans Patty Bun will be selling their fine wares from a new swanky 1987 Grumman Olson Kurbmaster van, complete with full-size grill, smoker and DJ booth. There will also be guest appearances from Pitt Cue Co, for what’s billed as ‘filthy sexy meaty concoctions’. Yes please. Foodie newbies include Rum Kitchen who’ll be serving up Caribbean soul food, Dalston pizza playas Voodoo Ray’s and grilled cheese toasty heaven from Morty and Bob’s.

To wet your whistle, you can head to the hot cocktail bar hut and the long bar serving craft beers and limited edition ales. The DJ line-up is still to be confirmed but for the launch weekend, disco crew Low Life will be on to the decks to get the party started. And thanks to a canopy over the top, you’ll be cosy, dry and happy whatever the weather. See you there.

Find out the latest from Night Tales by following their Facebook page

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Oct 10, 2014
Tim Lester

Street Food Gathering for UAH Hockey Tailgate Party

Come check out the last Street Food Gathering in Downtown Huntsville this year. On October 17, Downtown Huntsville, Inc. will host the UAHuntsville Hockey Tailgate Party from 6 to 9 p.m. on Church Street between Clinton and Williams Avenues. The event celebrates the first home game of the hockey season. There will be live music and food vendors at the free event. The Tailgate Party is a way to support the Chargers Hockey team while eating some delicious local good.

“There’s so much going on downtown, just make a night of it,” said Amy Jones, Downtown Huntsville, Inc. “Let that be one stop on your way to a great downtown Huntsville evening.”

“If you haven’t been to a food truck rally yet, come to this one,” said Jones. “Our street food gatherings have really been such a big success story for us.”

When: October 17 from 6 to 9 p.m.

Where: Church Street between Clinton and Williams Avenues

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Oct 10, 2014
Tim Lester

From Dumplings to Bubble Tea, Asian Street Food Goes Artisanal

Gone are the days when a journey to Chinatown was the only way to find authentic Chinese food. Today, stores across America are taking traditional Asian dishes and re-imagining them with more upscale presentation. Asian street food has officially gone high-end.

Before it was the hipster summer beverage of choice, bubble tea surfaced in Taiwan in the late 1980s as a cheap and refreshing street stall drink. San Francisco’s Boba Guys turned their tea “artisanal,” and are now to bubble tea what Blue Bottle became to coffee.

Originally limited to a pop-up shop, now with two storefronts and counting in San Francisco, Boba Guys say they are changing the way bubble tea is culturally perceived.

Boba Guys bubble teaCourtesy Boba Guys

“If you’re trying to change culture, you’re going to face polarizing thoughts,” Chau said. “They say this is not real bubble tea. This is hipster boba.”

The brand’s Instagram account is flooded with pictures of bubble tea in mason jars and “bobaristas” working behind the counters with high-end espresso machines, glass pitchers and flasks. A photo shows the co-founders in lab coats, like two food scientists. They cater weddings, deliver to local start-ups, offer tea tastings and sell house blended loose-leaf tea. The most expensive item on the menu – the “golden honey black” – runs $5.50 and is steeped from tea that costs $180 per pound.

“They say this is not real bubble tea. This is hipster boba.”

Chau and Chen first met working in San Francisco. Instead of the usual lunch spots, they scoured their office’s surroundings for their go-to bubble tea joint. But when the one store they found closed, they panicked and took their caffeine fix into their own test kitchen.

“It kept coming back to food and culture,” said Chau about the initial concept. “I really wanted to do something that was bigger than the product itself.”

Hours of YouTube videos and recipe testing later, they debuted their boba drinks at a temporary, pop-up shop. What sets them apart, say founders Andrew Chau and Bin Chen, is their mandate for high quality, detail and passion for their products.

Boba Guys co-founders Bin Chen (left) and Andrew Chau (right)Courtesy Boba Guys

Boba Guys use organic milk, make their own syrup and source tea directly from Asia; Chen himself regularly visits their tea farmer. To perfect their menu, they used spreadsheets with decision trees, churning out more than 300 permutations of ingredient combinations before choosing the best brews.

Hipster or not, the design and aesthetics of Boba Guys intentionally nulls any prejudice of what an Asian tea shop should look like. Their stores are best described as minimalist — open concept, all-white with the exception of their logo, a bubble tea sipping anteater.

“Quality by definition is you can’t skimp on anything,” said Chau. “If you’re a high end food, you can’t have high end food and cheap packaging.”

In May, Boba Guys were fully funded on Kickstarter to start “Boba Guys Lab”, a research space inside their Union Square, New York store where they’ll concoct new flavors and host community events.

Bubble Tea isn’t the only Asian street food having a moment on the culinary scene.

“It got to the point where it’s now or never.”

At first glance, Mimi Cheng’s, a dumpling bar in New York’s East Village looks like a cupcake shop. The scalloped edged pastel blue and yellow striped awning invites customers into the bright and clean space through its French doors. On each side of the entrance sits a wooden bench and potted plant, often kept company by customers, bicycles and baby strollers. Inside, an orchid graces the communal picnic table while succulent plants drape the bar along the wall.

There is no sign. There is no billboard. Only a modest sized “Mimi Cheng’s Dumplings” in gold font decals on the windows.

What you see is new, fresh, and modern. But don’t be mistaken – Mimi Cheng’s sells traditional Chinese dumplings, from an old family recipe at that.

Sister entrepreneurs Marian and Hannah Cheng of Mimi Cheng's dumpling shop.Courtesy Mimi Cheng’s

Sister entrepreneurs Hannah and Marian Cheng grew up on their mom’s dumplings. Even in college, they had an endless supply of frozen dumplings meticulously packed by their mom. But when they moved to New York City, they found a lack of good quality Chinese food, especially their beloved dumplings, and decided to do it themselves.

“The gap in that scene is so viable and we were kicking it back and forth for a few years,” said Hannah. “It got to the point where it’s now or never. Otherwise you can only think of an idea for so long.”

“We’re happy and proud to share this family recipe while trying to change people’s misconceptions about Chinese food”

In July, Mimi Cheng’s opened its doors. The shop is named after their mother, Mimi, whose contribution during a brainstorming session — “Excellent Dumpling House” — was quickly vetoed.

With no restaurant background, finding fresh and sustainable top-notch ingredients meant a lot of research and sampling. Mimi Cheng’s uses grass fed and organic meats, pasture raised pork from upstate New York, 100% free range chicken from Pennsylvania and organic vegetables – just like their mom did. Dumplings are available in-store, for delivery, or even online, and are priced at $8 for six, or 10 for eight.

Hannah mentions the lack of Chinese restaurants in New York that offers home cooking, a void Mimi Cheng’s hopes to fill. “We’re happy and proud to share this family recipe while trying to change people’s misconceptions about Chinese food,” said Hannah. “Hopefully we can get there.”

Boba Guys bubble teaCourtesy Boba Guys

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Oct 9, 2014
Tim Lester

Street food with a sizzle

Just one taste of bhelpuri and you could imagine yourself in Mumbai’s Chowpatty Beach watching the sun sizzle as it sinks into the Arabian Sea.

Welcome to Babu Bombay Street Kitchen, the only place in Glasgow where you can dip into pau bhaji and bhurj pau then wash it down with an ice cold bottle of the wonderfully retro Limca, Thums Up or Mirinda.

Set up by Rachna Dheer and Gail Finlayson, the basement kitchen in Glasgow’s West Regent Street is a homage to India’s great tradition of chai and roti shops – come in and buy food to go or sit down at one of the small tables, surrounded by Bollywood posters, to delight in the taste sensation that is Rachna’s home cooking.

Born in Mumbai, this is the street food she remembers growing up in Juhu Beach: sizzling spices, delicious vegetarian snacks and rich curries to entice the tastebuds. This is real Indian food, once tasted you’ll never want a bland chasni or dull chicken tikka masala ever again.

“This is the reason we opened the place and why it’s so important to me: pau bhaji,” Rachna sits a plate of mouth-watering spicy vegetables on the table. “You’ve got to try it.”

Crushed cauliflower, peas, green pepper, tomatoes and potatoes are topped with red onion, lime juice and fresh coriander, served with a touch of Glasgow – a toasted, buttered Morton’s roll. It tastes incredible, hard to believe this explosive burst of fresh spices could come from such a small plate.

“We have a special spice mix which is only used for making pau bhaji. You can’t make anything else with it,” explains Rachna, 39, who now lives in Strathbungo, in the city’s South Side.

“Unlike garam masala, you can’t use it in other dishes, bhaji masala is only for pau bhaji. In India, it’s street food and we have it with bread because there’s no time to make chapatis on the street, so in Glasgow a buttered Morton’s roll is perfect. Just tear the bread and go in.

“This is why I opened because I couldn’t find pau bhaji anywhere.”

Open from 7.30am, breakfast specials include a Bombay omelette roti wrap made with ginger, onion, chilli, coriander, topped with green chilli and coriander mayo and wrapped in a roti. And spicy scrambled egg bhurji pau, using free range eggs, ginger, red onion, tomatoes, green chilli and coriander, is served in a toasted and buttered Morton’s roll.

FORGET the abomination of chai lattes that appear in high street coffee shops – wash it all down with a cup of proper chai tea, made the traditional way.

“We make the chai with our own spices – cloves, cardamom, cinnamon and black pepper – we then have to boil it and reduce it, then add milk and reduce it again,” says Rachna. “It takes hours to make but then you have that thick sugary tea. We also use the same masala to make our chai chocolate brownies.”

The lunchtime rush serves hot food, including dhal, homestyle curries and cold snacks. There is also Kerala coffee and homemade mango lassi, traditional tiffins, layered lunch boxes filled with curry, dahl and rice to take away.

Open until 8pm from Wednesday to Friday, pop in for a bite to eat after work or take home butter chicken or garlic chilli chicken.

“We started off at the farmers’ market in Glasgow, then I went to Edinburgh and other places,” says Rachna.

“We opened here a year back in May and the feedback has been good. At first we had to convince people that we didn’t have doner kebabs, samosas or pakora. Now we have so many regulars and they know exactly what they want.”

l Babu Bombay Street Kitchen, 186 West Regent Street, Glasgow. Visit www.babu-kitchen.com

angela.mcmanus@eveningtimes.co.uk

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Oct 9, 2014
Tim Lester

What’s Cooking on 1060: Vegan Food, Whiskey Tasting, Old City Street Fest

By Hadas Kuznits

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) —  Bank and Burbon, at 12th and Market Streets in center city, will be hosting a special “scotch class” on Wednesday, October 15th, with whiskey sommelier and author Heather Greene of New York City.

“She does a really good class,” says the restaurant’s burbon-master, Brian Bevilacqua (top photo).  “It’s a lot of fun, and we’re going to be going over some really, really good scotches.”

Hear the full “Whiskey Tasting / Book Signing” interview (runs 4:20)…

whats cooking border 375 Whats Cooking on 1060:   Vegan Food, Whiskey Tasting, Old City Street FestA vegetarian and vegan “street food” restaurant is set to open next week, a half-block from Rittenhouse Square.

Co-owner Kate Jacoby says the name will be easy to remember: “V Street.”

(Kate Jacoby, outside V Street, the week before its scheduled opening.  Photo by Hadas Kuznits)

(Kate Jacoby, outside V Street, the week before its scheduled opening. Photo by Hadas Kuznits)

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“We’ve got a lot of small and medium-sized plates, global inspiration through and through,” Jacoby tells What’s Cooking.  “We’ve got a little section of street snacks and we have what we’re calling grilled plates.”

As for desserts:

“We have a soft-serve machine, which is amazing and fun.”

And it’s vegan!

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Hear the full “V Street” interview (runs 8:27)…

whats cooking border 375 Whats Cooking on 1060:   Vegan Food, Whiskey Tasting, Old City Street Fest
And the first-ever Old City Fest takes place on Sunday afternoon, October 12th.

(Job Itzkowitz, executive director of the Old City District, outside their offices on Market Street.  Photo provided)

(Job Itzkowitz, executive director of the Old City District, outside their offices on Market Street. Photo provided)

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“We have many food vendors, all of whom are local, inside Old City,” says  Job Itzkowitz, executive director of the Old City District.   “High Street on Market will be there, Lucha Cartel will be there, Mama’s Balls — which is a food truck based in Old City — will have their truck on site.”

Mama’s Balls?

“Yeah, it’s meatballs,” he explains.

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Hear the full “Old City Fest” interview (runs 6:54)…

whats cooking border 375 Whats Cooking on 1060:   Vegan Food, Whiskey Tasting, Old City Street Fest

And for this week, that’s “What’s Cooking on 1060!”

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“What’s Cooking on 1060″ main page

Follow Hadas Kuznits on Twitter!

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Oct 9, 2014
Tim Lester

Has Britain’s street food revolution run out of road?

Street food is all around you. But probably not on the street – vendors in trucks and gazebos have a hard time securing permission and space from councils, so they gather in disused car parks at night, or form mini food terraces in the privately owned public spaces that fill British cities. At the Trinity shopping centre in Leeds, a scissor elevator hoists repurposed horse boxes up the outside of the building and into the first-floor food court. The wheels of street food are turning so fast that soon they won’t touch the ground: the developers of Battersea power station, in south London, promise a third-floor street food market “in the sky”. SSP, the company responsible for all those Upper Crusts and Ritazza coffee shops in train stations and airports, is signing up food trucks. There is something touchingly double-edged about the idea of a mobile vendor stuck at a transport terminal. It seems both brilliant for travellers looking for food, and contrary to the promise of free-roaming, pop-up, impulsive, informal dining that first took hungry people to trucks.

As if to prove that street food is reaching saturation point, even KFC now runs a truck, and the street food vendor is a trope of romcoms (see Chef, The Five-Year Engagement, etc). Usually, because street food is seen as a kind of social saviour, the vendor as he appears in romcoms is a guy in search of a life with more soul. No wonder that in parts of the US, food writers have decreed the end of the food truck. But what about Britain? Has the street food revolution, as one book has it, democratised good honest food or moved it further from reach?

Let’s lift the romcom guy across the Atlantic – perhaps with the help of a scissor elevator – and picture him walking into last month’s British Street Food awards. In Leeds’s Millennium Square, food trucks are arranged in a squared-off figure of eight. Each looks different. (The image the trucks project is as important as the food they sell.) One, the Hip Hop Chip Shop, is a brilliant boombox, with artwork courtesy of the illustrator Stanley Chow. Fresh Rootz is a jigsaw of salvaged wood. The soft-shell crab tempura vendor has squirted builder’s foam into a sand mould to make a giant crab claw for his shack. A man scuttles into a truck wearing an ornamental apron that says: “Fuck off, I’m busy.” It’s all pretty idyllic.

The owners of these joints have made their way here from different life paths. The brains behind the Hip Hop Chip Shop has a career in advertising; Spud from Fresh Rootz worked with people with challenging behaviour. Douglas Ritchie-Robertson of the Crabbie Shack was once lead singer with the Chineapples. James Tabor, of Dogtown hot dogs, came to street food via Felsted boarding school and a career as a City trader. What has brought them all here is a passion for food, the desire to create something original, tasty and fun, to enjoy self-governance in the workplace, to be free to roll. You can see where romcom scriptwriters were going with this one.

Diners enjoying street food
Diners enjoying street food at Exmouth Market in central London.
Photograph: Linda Nylind for the Guardian

Actually, what has brought them all here, as well as their passion for food, are the efforts of Richard Johnson who, in 2010, founded the British Street Food awards, and who is also responsible for winching those food carts into Leeds’s Trinity shopping mall. (His is another career-change story: in his previous life, he was a food and drink writer.) “There is big, serious money floating around street food,” he says. “It all comes from venture capital. Some of the most exciting restaurant openings of the past few years have been rooted in street food.” He cites Meat Wagon, Pitt Cue, Pizza Pilgrims, all of which started as trucks and now have fixed-venue catering empires. “There is a whole raft waiting to join them, and for very obvious reasons. We are in a society that values realness. The whole thing of keeping it real – that’s what these brands offer.”

This year alone, between 600 and 700 new street food businesses have signed up to Nationwide Caterers Association, a rise of 100% on last year’s figures. Around 2,000 street food businesses are estimated to trade in Britain, touring events everywhere from Devon to Norwich, Brighton to Glasgow. A sub-industry has grown up of businesses that nurture new street food outlets, such as Kitchenette, which helps to get traders started, loans out stalls at markets and advises on health-and-safety requirements in return for a slice of profits. Its financial model is based around the idea that some of the companies it helps will launch fixed premises and then multiples – The Good Egg is expected to do so soon. Even for established traders, the street food chain usually includes a facilitator role. Traders at the British Street Food awards, or the London-based Kerb, for instance, pay 15% of their takings to the organiser.

Johnson’s diagnosis of the value of “realness” is correct, at least according to comments from some of the 7,000 or so people who have paid £8 in order to enter Leeds’s normally open Millennium Square and spend money on the finalists. “It has to be authentic.” “You can see who’s cooking it.” “The people who are here, it’s their life, their passion.” “It’s all about authenticity and taste.”

But the authenticity of British street food (this wave of it, at least: it’s good to remember that archaeological digs of Roman Britain frequently turn up oyster shells from ancient street stalls) is evolving. Tucked away in a corner of Millennium Square is Buddha Belly, owned by 28-year-old Sai Deethwa. Street food is in Deethwa’s blood. Her mother has a street food stall in Gloucester, before which she ran one in her native Thailand. Deethwa’s cousins have stalls in Bangkok; her aunt has a shack in Sikhoraphum.

Back in January, on her first trip to Thailand, Deethwa visited her aunt’s shack, “a sort of 7-11 of street food. Quite a lot of the neighbours are elderly. They all come to her for their tea. They can get a really good, hearty meal cooked fresh for them for about 30 baht – 50p.”

Sai Deethwa of Buddha Belly
Sai Deethwa of Buddha Belly in the Trinity Kitchen in Leeds’s Trinity shopping centre.
Photograph: David Sillitoe for the Guardian

Deethwa looks up at her own gazebo, which she recently took a fortnight off trading to decorate. It looks great, mainly because when she was invited to take part in the Trinity food court, Johnson “wanted a different kind of look”. He didn’t want any plastic or anything that looked like a gazebo. So now Buddha Belly has wooden pallet walls, bamboo at the counter and fully tiled kitchen-like worksurfaces. It looks the part, and Deethwa’s cooking is great: the heat of her beef massuman creeps up, gives time to enjoy the flavours, before curling slowly around the mouth. She charges £5 or £6 for this experience. “We want it to be affordable,” she says, unlike the trader she has seen elsewhere, who is charging £11 for a double-stacked burger. “If we’re verging on the £10 mark, it takes the joy out of street food.”

How does Deethwa think street food in Britain differs to the experience in Thailand? She looks around the square. “I’m just trying to imagine my auntie now, if she came here. She’d be like: ‘What is this?’ She’d probably think, ‘That looks organised!’ I don’t know if ‘gimmicky’ is the right word, but they obviously focus a lot on your setup now in street food. Not upmarket. But the glitzy, glamour side of street food, whereas theirs is everyday living. Necessity, almost.” And then she adds: “She would be really impressed.”

Actually, “upmarket” is exactly what British street food, at least in this incarnation, has become: a sort of upcycled market, typified by farmers’ markets, those havens for middle-class shoppers in search of an artisanal experience. Such is the evolution of street food that the term itself, far from implying cheap hotdogs, has become a designation of quality, and the street, by implication, a place of gentrified consumerism, where the chef takes your money and gives you the time of day. The food may be genuinely good, but the way that street food has become organised, and developed its own conventions of presentation, has taken it another step further from the street.

A slow-roasted duck and pllum sauce waffle
A slow-roasted duck and pllum sauce waffle served by Waffle On at Street Feast in Dalston, east London.
Photograph: Alex Sturrock

Petra Barran is running late. She arrives at the Shoreditch Grind coffee bar, beside Old Street roundabout. She orders a cornflake soft-serve ice cream, and for the next hour she fidgets nonstop on one of the picnic-style benches wedged between the coffee shop and the graffitied wall of the neighbouring cocktail bar. It is easy to see why an itinerant career would appeal to her. Barran runs Kerb, a company along the lines of Johnson’s, which acts as an intermediary between street food vendors and the landlords of potential host sites.

Nine years ago, Barran underwent her own romcom-style epiphany, the first of two, when she abandoned her four-year career cleaning private yachts with toothpicks and bought an ice-cream van on eBay. As Choc Star, she toured the UK, worked festivals, earned plaudits for her chocolate confections.

The second epiphany came five years ago, after a festival organiser cancelled an event at short notice and declined to return the grand she had paid him upfront. “I thought: that’s bullshit,” she says. “We’re vulnerable on our own; combined we’re not.” That’s when she started a collective of traders, which soon became Kerb, with its “urban agenda to transform the space between buildings and to humanise spaces in London with good people creating good food and attracting a food-loving public, whoever they happen to be. Inclusively.”

In the nine years since Barran started fly-pitching in the Choc Star van, street food has come a long way. “It’s definitely changing and I often think to myself: ‘I wonder what it would be like to be a trader now.’ If I was still running my van, I’d probably be making more money. I’d probably be more busy. Would I like it? Would I want to get into this scene if it was already a scene? Probably not.”

Barran is not alone in her disquiet at watching the “scene” coagulate. Scott Collins, of Meat Liquor fame, got into street food when he gave use of the car park at his pub the Florence, in south London, to Yianni Papoutsis for his now-infamous MeatWagon. “I couldn’t imagine doing it now,” he says. “I wouldn’t want to touch it.” When the MeatWagon started, “you didn’t need a collective. People would travel for that one product and queue for hours.”

The MeatWagon
Where it all began: the MeatWagon, a 1980s Chevrolet ambulance.
Photograph: Danny Elwes/Evening Standard / eyevine

Interestingly, none of the early traders thought of themselves as purveyors of street food. For Papoutsis, it was “guerilla dining”. Barran was “a mobile food trader”. At Kerb now they’re “space hunters”.

“Street food” itself seems a term that has arisen from the sector’s growing self-consciousness. Use the phrase for your wares, and you’re on to a winner. The apotheosis of this development may be the launch last weekend of a street food “roadshow”, which takes trucks to retail parks around the north of England. The term “street food roadshow” is so tautologous it is tempting to think that the idea has eaten itself. After all, if street food were truly of the street, it wouldn’t need a roadshow.

Perhaps this is just an unfortunate choice of phrase. Like Barran, and no doubt many market entrepreneurs, Johnson – who is curating the roadshow – sees his job as “a conduit”, a guarantor of authenticity. Barran says: “Part of Kerb’s role is to protect against naffness and cynicism. There’s a lot of people sizing street food up. Big companies: ‘I want to take ownership of that. Let’s take that, and put it on our campus.’” The restaurant chains Wahaca and Byron are among those to have experimented with street food. Johnson is working with others. Ritchie-Robertson says he has had Marks Spencer reps buy his crab tempura just to take it apart in front of him. Did Britain get street food wrong, and miss an opportunity to democratise decent, affordable eating out?

Pizza Pilgrims
Have van, will travel: London’s Pizza Pilgrims.
Photograph: Pal Hansen for the Observer

When this wave of street food began, it was unorganised. Traders needed only tweet their location – or invite offers of a free spot – and food fans would turn up, just like a rave. It was a new scene with a music crossover. From outside, it looked subcultural, and small proofs of this linger in the presentation memes of traders. Take the graffiti-style signage. The propensity for puns, as if language, like cuisine, were something to be fused and mashed. The rebellious “Z” of Fresh Rootz, BBQ Dreamz and others.

Street style, street art, street justice, street photography … Pretty much anything can be prefixed with “street” to make it sound sharper. (The term “street cred” is a good demonstration of how calling anything “street” suggests it has ceased to be so.) Now street-style bloggers are on fashion’s front row. Street art is in galleries. It was almost exactly 20 years ago that Ted Polhemus published his groundbreaking book Street Style. Perhaps he can shed some light on the street food phenomenon?

These days Polhemus lives in Hastings, where “street food” mainly means “people wolfing down fish and chips in a seafront shelter on a grey day”. Like the visitors to Leeds’s Millennium Square, he thinks “the idea of street is bound up with our great obsession with authenticity. We’re in this desperate search for something that’s real. But street isn’t a real place,” he says. “We see it as the ultimate in authenticity, but it’s a mythical place.”

From where he’s sitting at home, chatting on the phone, Polhemus catches sight of a cookbook, Street Food in Japan. There has been a spate of such books, taking street food from outside into the domestic kitchen. Perhaps the place we really want our street food is indoors, in shopping malls and the comfort of our own homes. But, then, that doesn’t sound so revolutionary, does it?

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Oct 8, 2014
Tim Lester

Savor Scrumptious “Elevated Street Food” at Assembly Row

Somerville welcomes a new trendy venue to town, and it goes by the name of River Bar.  This Assembly Row eatery and bar will open its doors to eager patrons in October…so get excited!

The space’s outstanding design is credited to Niemitz Design Group.  River Bar’s intimate, chic and savvy interior is complemented with both a culinary bar and traditional bar.  The tall glass, exposed steel structure and natural woods define the top-notch simplicity feel this restaurant presents to its guests.  River Bar’s upbeat outdoor setting spotlights cozy fire pits and trees, with a grand overlook of the Mystic River. The restaurant’s aura truly encompasses its ‘urban-industrial’ origin, along with its superlative location on the Mystic River.

The venue’s menu highlights a mouthwatering variety of chef Patrick Gilmartin’s “elevated street food.”  Esteemed veteran in the Boston restaurant world, Gilmartin brings together his food truck and fine dining backgrounds to create River Bar’s incredible menu.  The options are designed to be innovative, fun…and sinfully delicious, of course!  Each preparation on the whimsical brunch, lunch, dinner and late-night menus is passionately and thoughtfully created.

To give you a delicious snippet of what the lunch and dinner menu will comprise: Chorizo Scotch Quail Eggs ($9), Gratineed Littlenecks (prepared with gruyere and cider – $13), Housemade Chinese Sausage Sub (highlighted with black bean mayo, red cabbage and cucumber slaw – $13), Shrimp Chips (black garlic aioli – $7), Smoked Bluefish and Avocado Salad ($12) and Whole Grilled Fish (red onion, preserved lemon and sautéed greens – $21).  As far as brunch is concerned, some of the preparations include Bourbon French Toast (served with maple bacon – $10), Confit Chicken Scrapple Eggs ($8), Fried Sweet Potato with Pomegranate Mollasses ($6) and Smoked Bluefish Hash (poached egg – $9).

Be prepared to have an enticing spirit experience at River Bar.  Head of Operations Jess Willis, along with her management team, intend to establish a unique and upbeat cocktail scene with seasonally influenced drinks, highlighting traditional roots and modern spins.  The cocktail menu will feature warm drinks to cozy on up by the fire pits with, in addition to the signature Absinthe Frappe ($10) and Cardamaro Smash (made with Cardamaro, fresh grapefruit, mint and crushed ice – $10).  Local craft beer options and limited releases/rarities will be offered, along with an elite wine selection.

Restaurateur Ken Kelly is surely making his mark in Somerville, adding River Bar to his accomplished list of venues including Brass Union, Foundry on Elm, The Independent and Saloon.

Check out River Bar on Facebook and Twitter for scrumptious scoop!

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Oct 8, 2014
Tim Lester

Learn to Cook Thai Street Food During 8-Course Dinner Party

Food from the chefs at Pata Paplean, pictured, will be the main attraction of an eight-course pop-up at the bar on Oct. 18.

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ELMHURST  A Thai bar will host a tasting to show off the authentic food served by its chefs — and they will send participants home with a recipe and ingredients so they can whip up the delicious fare themselves.

Satika “Cherry” Kanchanamusik, Chompoo Nitmaitaken and their team will whip up authentic Thai street food at their funky Woodside Avenue eatery Pata Paplean next weekend.

On Oct. 18, the restaurant host a pop-up along with food writer and local culinary expert Joe DiStefano, in which they’ll serve an eight-course meal and feature demonstrations on Thai culture and cooking.

“This is real Thai food, the type of stuff people eat at home that you can’t get in a restaurant,” said Kanchanamusik.

DiStefano said he couldn’t reveal the full menu but “some of it has never been offered in New York City before.”

One item is a beef salad with roasted rice, red onion and mint leaf, and seasoned with lime juice, fish sauce, and chilies, as well as Thai shrimp two ways.

The chefs will also show off some of their cooking techniques, which they learned growing up around kitchens in every regon of Thailand.

Guests will also go home with a recipe and an ingredient so they have a leg up on cooking some of the food they learned about. 

There will be a 12 p.m. and 5 p.m. seating for the pop-up at Pata Paplean, located 76-21 Woodside Ave. Tickets are $80, which includes eight courses and a free drink from the bar. Seating is limited to 12.

For more information, visit the event’s website

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