I imagine when some people hear the term ‘street food’, they groan, roll their eyes and return to reading an article in The Telegraph about how Katie Hopkins thinks she’s too good to eat cupcakes and they should be called fairy cakes. But what has led to ‘street food’ popping up across the country like an untreated rash or well…Nandos. Is it the recession? Is it an excuse to exploit free spending foodies with fake horn rimmed specs, willing to part with £10 on a glorified burger van with no overheads? Or is it the only way new food business can get started these days? In Leeds some worry about the commercialisation of street food, with Trinity Kitchen potentially capitalising on the recent trend. I for one signed the petition to keep Leeds hallowed pizza van from being moved by the city council. The council hoping to to move in trendier vans which also sold pizza. However, I’m a big fan of Trinity, anything that moves us away from the Mcdonald’s, KFC, Nandos screen saver of traditional food courts is okay in my book. Especially if some traders can make in a month what they might make in a year.
I don’t have the answer by the way to the popularity of street food, but I know why I think it works. Think about the number of menus featuring every conceivable cuisine, trying to be something for everyone but ending up being a distant fart of a memory. Street food vendors don’t have this ‘luxury’, every dish needs to count. They do a few things incredibly well as if their livelihoods depended on it, and quite often it does. Whilst we get to try cuisines from around the world, last weekend’s now annual Amazing Graze proved to be just this. Here’s a quick low down of what was on offer and who to keep an eye out for…
Original Fry Up Material
Following their stint in Trinity, the boys were back to Leeds. I’ve claimed previously that this is the best burger I’ve ever had and the first bite had to be a let-down right? It was not. This is the kind of food to make grown men cry. A burger you want to take a little private moment with. Take it out for a drink, to the movies, let it meet your parents, take a trip away with it, get down and one knee and propose to, get a kitten with, having a few kids with…then eat the crap out of it and your burger offspring.
This time I went for ‘cheesy’, a free range burger, cheese, lettuce and yellow, green and red sauces on a brioche bun. The burger, deep in flavour, perfectly pink and oozing tasty juices joined by layers of flavours from the sauces. Seeing these chaps cook, you can see the care attention and fun they have. The burger stayed intact just to the end as the juices steadily soaked into the tasty brioche bun. It was a bit messy to hold but it meant I didn’t wash my hands for a good week afterwards to hold on to the memory. Their ‘brekkie’ is a home-made sausage patty with bacon, cheese and egg…it’s just like the McDonald’s classic only it tastes of something other than bitter disappointment, the cheese doesn’t resemble a warped condom and it’s just bloody delicious. Usually based on London, all I can say is come back chaps, you’re always welcome on Leeds.
The Greedy Pig
I’ve reviewed the Greedy Pig before and I had a few nice things to say about their down to earth, high quality, affordable food. Friendly Jo and Stu tried something different at Amazing Graze and chef Stu has put his passion for offal on a plate with their nose to tail tapas. They mentioned the struggle to get some of the cuts for these dishes which included heart kebabs, meat balls, terrine, and quail scotch eggs. The revelation of all the dishes, and possibly the day, were the tongue tacos. Stu explained that tongue is like brisket in that it needs cooking with the same time and patience. He wasn’t wrong – the rich, tender, flavourful meat topped with sour cream and crunchy seeds really impressed. The wantons were simple, the iron rich tasty black pudding cut through with bold, sweet and sour onions. The biscuit for the terrine was a little too thick, the sweetness competing against the flavoursome pork, liver, kidney and cognac. The meatballs with barley were like the best school dinner you can imagine and the scotch eggs surprisingly light and moreish with their own brown sauce. This was the bravest of menu’s on the day and it’s also the one I’ll still remember by next year’s Amazing Graze for all the right reasons – can’t wait to see what they come up with next.
Gingers Comfort Emporium
When I was 15 I spent many an hour wondering the hallowed halls of Afflex Palace in Manchester, a sort of alternative indoor market. These were the days of having my hair gelled like Peter Andre, wearing Bob Marley T-shirts without a hint of irony and believing Natalie Imbruglia was edgy music Thankfully those days are gone and it’s now permanent residence to Ginger’s comfort.
The ice cream flavours are bold, unique and they rightly describe themselves as ‘an ice cream van for grownups’. First up the Plum and gin didn’t hold back flavour with mouth-watering plum and strong smack of gin. A dazzling and refreshing taste after such a heavy day of eating. Their Chorlton crack- salted caramel & peanut butter, bordered on too salty for me but the rest of the group couldn’t get enough. The spiced pear crumble immediately conjured up Christmas with plucky, warming spices mixed with crunchy buttery, crumble. My only issue is their toasted brioche sandwiches weren’t on offer which were a real highlight from last year. Looks like I’ll be heading back over the Pennines for those!
Special mentions are needed for…
- First for El Kantina, I loved their pulled pork last year and was simply too full this time round to give them a go. I heard some good things from those who tucked in.
- Noisette Bakehouse (and the Madeleine Express) I won’t mention yet as I’m crafting a blog on the best cakes in Leeds as we speak (spoiler alert).
- Fish& as always made their twist on fish and chips without compromising on quality ingredients, perfectly crisp batter and melt in your mouth fish.
- Last but certainly not least was Grub and Grog shop, quite new to the scene but if their garlic sausage sandwich is to go boy, these chaps are one’s to keep an eye on. You can try their stuff at Outlaw’s Yacht Club every Friday.