There is nothing we love more than a good market, and London has them in spades. Borough Market is one of the largest and oldest markets in London, and the current iconic glass and metal structure was originally built in 1851, and after additions over the years it was refurbished at the beginning of the 21st century into its current form. Though it was originally a wholesale market, Borough Market today is a mishmash of food stalls selling everything from fresh fruit to meat pies to olive oil to tapas under one roof. Though we are always fans of food from all over the world, it was especially great to see all of the local British foodstuffs available for sale, especially the cheeses. We pieced together a light meal (very reasonably priced for London) from various stalls, after wandering around and taking in all the sights and smells.
Tag Archives: United Kingdom
Many visitors to London, so we are told, cap their trip with a leisurely boat ride along the Thames – a journey which, surely, will take you to some fine culinary destinations. But – and this knowledge is thanks to a trip from our well-traveled friend Robin – London also possesses a series of small navigable canals in the central and northern parts of the city. You can ride, as we did, a British longboat from the back of Paddington Station to the Camden Lock, a leisurely ride through London’s “Little Venice” that took us by grand estates, leafy parks and an assortment of floating homes and cafes. And, prize of prizes, the boat will drop you off at what may be one of our favorite food markets ever: Camden Lock Market.
Camden Lock Market is large, with a wide range of stores, restaurants, and shops that can get very crowded and touristy. But at this end, nearest to the boat dock, you find “Global Kitchen,” which features a plethora of appealing and appetizing food stalls around a gridded series of walkways. Even at the odd hour of 3 pm, this place was jam packed (the market is open 10am-6pm most days). Our first reaction? Overwhelming. It took half an hour just to find all the options available: Japanese noodles, Argentine grilled meats, Peruvian snacks, West African meals, kielbasa, vegan wraps, paella, cookies, piadina, and more. Everything- and we mean everything- looked good!
Choices, choices. L finally opted for South African bunny chow at Boerie en Bunny (£5.5). Operated by a woman who wins the award for genuinely nicest person we have ever met, Boerie en Bunny serves South African curries and fish stews over your choice of rice or “Bunny Chow” – a hollowed out roll (bun – get it?), stuffed with your order. We went with a rich and deeply flavorful spicy goat curry, topped with yogurt and fresh cilantro – a choice that was only made after our amiable friend forced us to try all the options she had available, and then asked us to stay just to taste a her seafood stew (fantastic, and very reminiscent of a Brazilian moqueca).
Next, we opted to reminisce about our 2011 Istanbul trip with a Turkish lahmacun at Istanbul lahmacun (£5), a pizza-esque dish topped with ground lamb. Lahmacun are a very popular street snack in Istanbul, and we had the good fortune to try a few while were there. The stall owner, from Istanbul herself (authenticity points!) was very happy to learn we enjoyed her hometown, and eager to talk about her life experiences and food in London. The good food matched the owner’s ambiability: our lahmacun was huge, covered in ground lamb, yogurt and veggies, which made for a filling and delicious main course.
Finally, for dessert we had one dozen Dutch poffertjes (aka “Dutch Pancakes”; £3.5) from a stall of the same name. These little puffs have the appearance of mini dough UFOs or slightly flattened donut holes. The gentleman manning the stall (see photo below) was a complete pro: flipping the poffertjes in the special pan at a lightning speed with a pair of chopsticks. Of course we could not resist topping them with Nutella.
We ate a lot of street food in London, but the Camden Lock Market was our hands-down favorite! If you are looking for cheap, good food in London you absolutely must go. You can get there by tube, but the boat is even more fun.
It is no secret that we are mad about food carts, and we consider them to be one of America’s most important exports. Food cart culture has spread to Paris in recent years and has taken root in London. It is worth noting that food “cart” and food “truck” have very different connotations in British English, with food carts having a somewhat dubious reputation. Not to fear though, high quality and innovative food trucks are on the rise in London, right on the heels of booming food truck culture in the US. The variety of London food truck is admirably vast and street foodies can choose from gourmet burgers, curry, chocolate, Vietnamese, and Mexican, among others.
The Guardian has a list of food trucks picks in London , along with some mouth-watering recipes from each (we are especially digging the Carnitas recipe from Luardos). Migrationology has another round of 6 picks, including meatballs and hotdogs (sounds a little familiar to Chicago, no?). Another truck that found its way onto nearly all of the lists was Crêperie Nicholas, a fan-favorite for crêpes, served out of a restored 1965 Citroën truck. Southern food has also made its way to London, and the Pitt Cue Co. truck even offers pulled pork. This extremely important development means we could move to London easily, should the need arise. Most intriguingly we are excited to note the appearance of the HMS Flake 99, an ice cream truck that doubles as a BOAT (see below). For the latest in London street food developments, you can keep up with the Eat.st site.
Until about a week ago, Team GB had all but struck-out in the medal department at their home Olympics. Fast forward half a fortnight, and their 16 golds places them third on the overall list, as well as garnering them today’s national dish highlight at ETW – chicken tikka masala. Wikipedia offers this succinct definition: “Chicken tikka masala is chicken tikka, chunks of chicken marinated in spices and yogurt, that is then baked in a tandoor oven, [and] served in a masala (‘mixture of spices’) sauce.” The recipes variations are as wide-ranging as its origin histories, but nothing obscures its popularity. Recently Robin Cook, the British Foreign Secretary, declared chicken tikka masala as the new national dish of the United Kingdom. Today, 1 in 7 of all curries sold in Britain are tikka masala, and it is the most popular restaurant dish in the country. But while tikka masala is unquestionably popular in Britain, and has been declared the national dish, its transnational origins reveal a fascinatingly complex and controversial history.
The 2012 Olympic Games begin today in London, and Britain is using the international exposure to rebrand its still paltry international culinary reputation. Of course, anyone who still believes Britain has terrible food has either not visited London in the past ten years or, if they did, managed to have their heads stuck in the Underground for too long. As Henry Chu of the LA Times noted, London is a very different place from when it last hosted the Olympics (1948), and Londoners today are used to having the world at their doorstep. But just in case you missed the memo, here’s some light reading to catch you up: The New York Daily News is asking whether or not the Olympics can put British cuisine back on the menu, noting that the Olympic Village’s main dining hall contains a number of different culinary zones highlighting the international influences that make up the British culinary menu, including “Best of Britain; Europe, the Americas and Mediterranean; Asian, and Afro-Caribbean” cuisines. Meanwhile, Gavin Cleaver at An Englishmen in BBQ Sauce (he’s a Briton writing in Dallas – get it?) has a celebration and occasional loathing of British cuisine, dishing out gold, silver, and bronze medals (try the curry!) in an Olympics of British food. Lastly, Katrina Heron at The Daily Beast outlines how, as spectacular as the Beijing Olympics were overall, they were an unmitigated culinary disaster, with terrible food that kept running out. Instead, in London, they are trying to launch a “culinary revolution,” insisting that this Olympics presented “an unprecedented opportunity to look at our diets and our health, at our catering industry, at the state of our farms, and to commit to a long-term plan for good food and environmental stewardship.” Internationally diverse, readily available, locally sourced, delicious food? London, we wish we were there too.
What with the Diamond Jubilee reaching fever pitch, you might find yourself hankering for some British food while stateside. Though Chicago may be flooded with Irish (and even Scottish) pubs, it is also home to some pretty good British food. We were very pleased to learn that the historically Irish neighborhood of Bridgeport on the south side is home to a couple of noteworthy British options. The first is Bridgeport Pasty, a food truck which was recently awarded 3rd place in the World Pasty Championships. The pasty (rhymes with “vast”) is a filled savory pastry that originated in Cornwall, and is now found in countries with large amounts of Cornish immigrants (such as the Upper Peninsula of Michigan where there is even a PastyFest). For other British cravings, a bricks and mortar shop also in Bridgeport, Pleasant House Bakery (964 West 31st Street) is known for its savory pies. So there are definitely some places for homesick British and American Anglophiles alike.
This coming weekend marks Queen Elizabeth’s Diamond Jubilee – 60 years on the throne – and British companies have been pulling out all all of the stops to put out special editions of clothes, tea and even Heinz baked beans. However, what has most caught our eye are the special Laduree jubilee-edition macarons. The Union Jack themed box of six red and white macarons runs $25 and is available at Laduree NYC, Paris and London locations (and also Harrods in the UK). Apparently this is only the second time that special edition macarons were made – the first being a special nod to Hello Kitty. This year also marks the 150-year anniversary of Laduree, which first opened at 16 Rue Royale in Paris in 1862. We are a little sad that we cannot sample the special edition macarons, since Laduree was voted the winner of our Parisian macaron taste-test, but maybe one of our lovely readers can let us know how they are!
Having long been a fan of bagels – I never realized they are called “beigels” at some places in the UK – where they have long been sold at stores on Brick Lane. The wonderful blog Spitalfields Life recently had a detailed post about the Grandaddy of all of these London bagel shops “Brick Lane Beigels” which includes a history and some great photos of the employees and beigel production. I highly recommend it.
Jaffa Cake by Stuart Bryant
A co-worker recently got back from the UK and brought back a dozen boxes of Jaffa cakes, specifically McVitie’s, the producers of the original Jaffa Cake in 1927. Jaffa cakes are a soft cookie with a layer of apricot/orange jam on one side, covered in dark chocolate. I am all for the flavor combo of orange and chocolate so these are right up my alley. However, that’s not all there is to the Jaffa cake story, apparently every British snack food maker has their own version of the cake. And moreover, there was some scandal over if they were proerly classified as “cakes” or “cookies” because in the UK cookies get taxed much more steeply than cakes. McVities even went to Inland Renvue to claim their status as ‘cakes.’
So what is it? Welsh rarebit is apparently a beloved Welsh sauce (served over toast), consisting of cheese, mustard and beer. Actually sounds pretty tasty! For a long time I though it was something akin to sweetbreads – innocuous sounding, but disgusting. According to Wikipedia, this bechamel-esque dish has a long and storied past, originally being called “Welsh Rabbit.” Ambrose Bierce even included ‘Rarebit,’ in The Devil’s Dictionary:
“RAREBIT n. A Welsh rabbit, in the speech of the humorless, who point out that it is not a rabbit. To whom it may be solemnly explained that the comestible known as toad in the hole is really not a toad, and that ris de veau à la financière is not the smile of a calf prepared after the recipe of a she banker.”
The New York Times has a tasty-sounding recipe, definitely worth a try in the near future, especially given the lack of British dishes in our repertoire.