Petra Barran, street food expert, reveals her top ten outdoor treats to Stylist
The tour de force behind feted chocolatier van Choc Star, Petra has become something of a legend in foodie circles over the past few years thanks to her ability to drive the street food trend forward in Britain.
In 2009, she co-founded street food members group Eat St in London's King's Cross, aiming to "cultivate a more exuberant street food-scape" via the growth of curb side cuisine.
As summer approaches, Petra shares her favourite street food from all over the capital. Delve in for some gourmet inspiration and prepare to work up a serious appetite as you peruse her recommendations, from Deep-fried Valrhona brownies to sweet potato roti...
Petra Barran is one of the judges in The Young British Foodies, a nationwide search for new food and drink talent. To enter visit the-ybfs.com
1. THE EVERYBODY LOVE LOVE EXPRESS – jhal muri
I first stumbled across Angus, creator of the ELL Express, at a little festival in Norfolk. He was mixing up some goodness by the swimming pool, doing his thing, caught up in the moment. I was feeling rough after no sleep. What he made me can only be described as life saving.
From a jaunty trolley covered in garlands sat a tray with little stainless steel pots filled with coconut, coriander, tomato, peanuts, onion, ginger and the muri – the puffed rice – he expertly cut, mixed and added to lime juice, mustard oil, tamarind, magic ... and served to me in a paper cone with a fork.
Find Angus and his trolley keeping it itinerant around London – Tooting gets him sometimes, as does Hackney. He likes to keep moving and unrestricted. If you manage to spot him it’s your lucky day. His jhal muri makes everything right with the world
2. HEALTHY YUMMIES – scallops
This would be one of my desert island dishes. Mainly doing set catering, owner Nicky does have a bit of a penchant for the streets and when she’s there with her old Bedford van, Elvira, she’s on the fire tip.
Into a pan of pancetta jewels and melted butter are thrown hand-dived scallops, a squeeze of lemon to flambee, a bit of Sea Asper and then these juicy little pucks are placed on top of celeriac puree. Over it is poured the lemony juices and then handed to you with a bit of wink.
Look out for Healthy Yummies at various eat.st events this summer
3. HOMESLICE – chorizo and rocket pizza
Kiwi trio Homeslice just get it right: the wood-fired oven on wheels, the immaculate dough and the toppings… ! I could stand by that trailer of flames all day, being fed slice after slice by these lads. My favourite is the chorizo with rocket. They uncase Brindisa sausages and sprinkle the little red meaty nuggets all over that great tomato sugo. Only been going since last summer but heading for a long and tasty career in the pizza world.
Find them at King’s Cross with eat.st every Thursday in May, at Broadway Market Schoolyard on Saturdays and various other spots around London
4. YUM BUN – pork yum bun
Another person who knows how to do one thing really well is Lisa of Yum Bun. Some people say her ‘pillow-soft’ steamed buns are better than NYC’s Momofuku – probably because each one is handmade in her North London kitchen by her loving hands. Steamed, parted open, a thick little tranche of Blythburgh pork slid in, and served on a sheet of paper, this is the ultimate £3 street snack.
Yum Bun are at King’s Cross with eat.st most Thursdays in May, at Broadway Market Schoolyard Saturdays and other eat.st events over the summer
5. THE BOWLER – meatball ‘shooter’
This ‘shot’ is a class act – ideal for a quick, curbside pick-me-up when London’s wearing you down.
Less than a year ago, Jez got in touch with me with an idea – he wanted to bring real meatballs to the streets of London. Within weeks of our first meeting he was up and running and balling his heart out. Trained in cooking at Ballymaloe, the combination of really incredible pork/beef balls, a proper tomato sauce, a grass-covered van and a side order of Jez charm makes this quite the most perfect balls you can get.
The Bowler trades with eat.st at King’s Cross on Thursdays in May and is ‘Baller in residence’ at The Imperial Arms, Chelsea, Tuesdays-Thursdays every week
6. ZARDOSHT – saffron & orange chicken
When you get to Zardosht on Broadway Market it’s like a haven form the mania of the rest of the strip. All of the heavy-churn stalls on that strip can have an overwhelming effect where you can’t face any of it – a bit like going into Primark. Zardosht is like the small boutique where you can see and try it all – and want everything.
Beautifully cooked and displayed by Soli, Zardosht is an ancient word from her Persian homeland and the food is fragrant in taste as much as it is rich in history. The saffron and orange chicken is an oasis of a dish in the Hackney hipster storm.
Zardosht is on Broadway Market every Saturday
7. TASTY K – sweet potato roti
Anyone who knows Brixton, knows Tasty K – the bright blue, hand-painted caravan, selling Guyanese roti. The strip of food traders on Brixton Station Road don’t have Twitter followers and Facebook pages, yet what they all serve is the real goods, at home in its skin on this once throbbing market and Mon-Fri lunch spot for a whole load of locals.
Now there is a resurgence of stalls on Fridays-Sundays, selling posh Austrian food, French Dip sandwiches and vegan cookies. All lovely, but push a bit deeper back and find the cradle of Brixton, through its food. A few plastic tables and chairs are parked outside Tasty K’s, order your roti (there are loads of flavours), park yourself and taste heaven in a roll. This is one of the best ways of checking Brixton’s pulse – and that roti keeps me ticking over too.
8. BEA’S OF BLOOMSBURY – deep-fried Valrhona brownie on a stick with ice cream and caramel sauce
This is a brand new entry, having just experienced this monstrosity on Friday at The Stock MKT in Bermondsey. Bea is famed for her brilliant American-inspired tearooms around London. Lately she’s been reconnecting with her street beginnings by doing a few events. She talks of starting a pancake truck. Having tasted them, I can vouch that this would make London a better place. So, back to this obscenity on a stick: There she is with a vat full of meringue batter (don’t ask – just go with it) and a rack of be-sticked brownie slabs, dunking those suckers into the batter and then holding them in the deep frying fat for about 4 minutes.
Out they come, hot and golden and joined in a box with a scoop of homemade vanilla ice cream and hot caramel sauce. You just straight drag that beast through the rapidly melting ice cream and bite down to your soul’s freedom. The brownie inside is a moist, fudgey mess, the hot batter casing is a bridge to new horizons, whilst the ice cream fills in any holes that your life at that moment may have. Now I need to see that realised as a business model, regularly appearing on the streets to slay anyone who comes near it. Deadly. Awesome. Thrilling.
Find Bea at The Diner on Maltby St, SE1 every Saturday
9. LUARDOS – fish tacos
Simon had been rolling those fat burritos for a few years before the idea of fish tacos came along. He had a soft fish taco opening last year and people dived straight in. They’re much bigger than a typical Baja one, with a perfectly fried, chunky strip of fish, chipotle sour cream, cabbage shreds and big lime squeeze.
And he always griddles his tortillas – this makes al the difference and seals the deal by lifting the casing into flavour. Find these specialities at one of the Luardos vans at some point. Whenever he’s ready to start going there again. Apparently it’s a summer thing. Get ready for the summer of fish taco love.
Luardos are at King’s Cross with eat.st every Friday in May, Saturdays at Brockley Market and Mon-Fri at Whitecross St in the other van
10. CHRIS, THE GUYANAN HANDMADE ICE CREAM GUY – coconut and cinnamon ice cream
This guy is hard to find – I’ve come across him round by the Southbank a few times; just him and his ice cream bucket and a sleeve of little cups. It’s the old school ice cream approach – a wooden bucket, salt and ice to freeze the ice cream base and then churned by hand. He makes his with cinnamon and coconut and peddles it to passers-by (or people he passes). Keeping it mobile, on the hoof, not staying for too long in one spot, churning that fine, spiced icy deliciousness; unlike any other ice cream I’ve had.
Keep your eyes skinned for this cat – could be anywhere.
Eat.st at King’s Cross is open Tuesday-Friday every week, and from Monday-Friday from May 14