Archives for posts with tag: Yum Bun

It is always difficult when you place yourself as someone who has knowledge about food because you inevitably get asked about where to go for dinner and I often find myself trying to match the people and occasion to the right place. It is increasingly hard in London where new restaurants are popping up all over the place and to varied abilities. I have honestly had as many disappointing meals as I have successful ones. Many times the hype does not match my own personal experience.

This weekend I was meeting friends over from South Africa and with the rand making everything so expensive, I needed to find a great cheap eat. So my mind went straight to Asian, which is not only the tastiest food around right now but also the most interesting for me. I find myself drawn to it every time I want a good meal.

Over ten years ago now, David Chang took the New York food scene by storm with Momofuku and since then it has gone from strength the strength. The pork belly bun earned its own fan club, followed closely by the lines queuing up for the crack pie and cereal milk ice cream. The savoury bun took the Asian bao into a new modern era by opening up these soft steamed pillows and filling with sticky slices of pork belly, hoisin sauce, quickly pickled cucumbers, spring onions and a dash of sriracha if you want. Hot, spicy, sweet, sticky it was a mouthful to beat all mouthfuls and stayed with me for some time after I returned home.

bao-taiwanese-steamed-buns-restaurant-soho-london-menu

It was much copied and I found Yum Bun doing a great impression of the original at Eat Street in Kings Cross before they went on to open a bricks and mortar place to showcase their creations. And others followed suit. But it was really only this year that the bao bun had a resurgence and that comes with the restaurant, suitably and simply named Bao. What more do you want? So I took my friends to this tiny space in Soho with pared back seating, simple hanging for coats and bags, staff in white coats and a small menu of perfect mouthfuls.

Fried chicken bao

Fried chicken bao

We shared many of the dishes between us savouring the balance of flavours. We started with pickles which are almost obligatory at any self respecting restaurant these days. And very good they were too. Tasty aged beef in white soy and really hot and spicy fried chicken was followed with guinea fowl rice served with a well placed egg yolk to be stirred through. But the heroes for us were those boa buns. Chicken was served in a sesame pillow, pork belly with sweet and sour flavours and the classic, well my favourite to be sure, with a sprinkling of chopped peanuts, herbs and more pickles.

The classic

The classic

 

At £50 for the three of us including sake it was a great value meal. But beware, you will have to queue. We put our names on the list and then popped into the next door pub for a really good G&T. Just make sure you don’t miss your place in the queue because there will always be someone waiting to pounce behind you. But know that it is worth the wait.

Beautiful pickles

Beautiful pickles

 

BSF 2013

This week the British Street Food Awards 2013 were announced and there has been a lot going on since I talked about these awards last year.

Street Food has long been the centre of food creativity in many many countries, most especially in the Far East and India. But since it hit the avenues and promenades of the US it has taken on a marketing slant, defining a whole new way of eating. New York quickly tagged on but it was in LA that I really got it. I fondly remember being in Abbot Kinney and experiencing First Friday –  a hyper street of food trucks on the first Friday of every month. The food truck is where the city discovered chefs like Roy Choi and his Kogi tacos and in the same way, so young pretenders came into the fold in the UK.

I have spoken a lot about Pitt Cue co. who started in an airstream trailer under Hungerford Bridge and now they are permanently placed in their restaurant near Carnaby Street. The mobile food truck was the birthplace of other now permanent places such as MEATliquor, Yum Bun, Homeslice and Daisy Green. This formula of trying out a concept in a more secure and less costly format has worked for many.

Eat Street

As individual traders, it is hard to know the best sites to go to and so it is important for people to find ways of pulling together and create a big street in which to eat. My first experience in Britain was at Eat St in Kings Cross, now under the brand KERB. The team cherry pick the best of the best for their offering every week at the ever growing enclave that surrounds the Kings Cross development. It is such a great place to chill and the mobile offering is a clever position for people discovering all that is in the area.

Specially commissioned by the clan at Trinity Kitchen

Specially commissioned by the clan at Trinity Kitchen

Last weekend I was up at home and my Mum took me to see the new Trinity Centre in Leeds city centre. It is quite a development, most fitting for such an important UK city, and then I learned about Trinity Kitchen. Those clever people at the centre decided to embrace the whole street food trend and put mobile trucks on the food floor of their impressive mall, supported by 5 pop up traders to add variety. This team have really understood the fashion and so it was no surprise to see them sponsoring the British Street Food Awards and celebrating the winner with these specially commissioned biscuits.

So who won this year? well the top prize went to Bristol based duo from Katie and Kim’s Kitchen. Their stovies, oatcakes and toasted cheese scones were all highly commended in different categories and overall, this added up to the big prize.

Here comes the book...

Here comes the book…

Entries covered the whole world in cuisine with offerings from across Europe, Taiwan, Mexico and the US. People really have figured out the truck concept and the quality of food is now better than ever. True to form, previous winner Ginger’s Comfort Emporium won again with their incredible ice cream and the one to watch went to Best Young Trader Stan’s Snow Cones. This 13 year old discovered People’s Pops in New York and brought the concept back to Lewes to create his wonderful snow cones. Clever boy.

Bibimbab

Bibimbab

Korean cuisine came to the forefront of the culinary world when David Chang burst onto the scene some years ago in New York with Momofuku. Since then, he has expanded his empire across New York and into Sydney and Toronto. He also achieved two Michelin star status at Ko and has become a leading light amongst fellow chefs for his innovative creations. His pork buns retain a legendary status and are fast becoming a street food favourite with the likes of Yum Bun doing such a great job at recreating this bite sized treat.

Here in London, Korean is a lesser known Asian cuisine although it is gaining more prominence lately. Last night I ate my first authentic Korean BBQ in London at Asadal in Holborn.

We walked past another Korean restaurant on our way and both places boasted very long queues in this unlikely area of London to house just such a cuisine. Thankfully we had booked, so we swanned past everyone and found ourselves in a lovely corner table, wondering just what it was that brought so many people to this very spot.

It was easy to understand once we had experienced the meal, because we had ticked so many of the boxes that people are embracing in the eating world at the moment. Firstly, there is a basic premise that this is a sharing experience as dishes are brought to the table for you all to tuck into.

Don't stab the pork belly!

Don’t stab the pork belly!

The lovely thing about this was the BBQ in the centre of the table. It was a shame that it wasn’t charcoal, but the gas burner sufficed and we had much fun searing the marinated meats ourselves. In fact, we took much umbrage to the waiting team who seemed intent on stabbing the life out of our meats with increasing levels of aggression but once we had reassured them that we were more than happy with DIY, they left us to it. Thankfully the health and safety militia were nowhere to be seen so we could risk burning ourselves or poisoning ourselves as we saw fit.

Each meat was meltingly soft with a wonderful balance of flavours although our favourites were those with extra spiciness. Mr Jones unveiled a trick to creating that fabulous texture which he learnt when in Korea and apparently it is all down to the addition of pineapple in the marinade because the enzymes break down the meat and tenderise it. Well, whatever the trick, it was yummy.

Kimchee

Kimchee

The next fashion to be addressed in this meal was served by the appearance of the signature Korean dish: kimchee, alongside all the other pickles and sides that accompanied the meat. This preserved Chinese cabbage dish is a wonderful balance of fermentation and spice that really does complement the meal. As well as being delicious, it is also very good for you which is a real bonus. The trend for pickled and preserved anything continues and couldn’t be better served than by this traditional dish.

Finally, the whole meal just felt healthy, in a Japanese, Asian kind of way. There was very little fat in any of the dishes and each plate was freshly cooked but with a lovely balance of flavour coming through. I positively skipped out up the stairs feeling like I hadn’t been too naughty and yet having indulged to way beyond my fill. How wonderful.

Empty plates all round

Empty plates all round