Some stalls at Brick Lane Market, London
- limster May 26, 2008 09:30 AM
• Brazilian Food Stall
Good salgadinhos (fried snacks). Good deep-frying, with a nice clean finish to the food. Coxinha consists of minced chicken (fairly moist) flavoured light with herbs and spices (wished for a touch more) and then battered and deep fried.
Kibe is just like the Lebanese version -- ground beef, with some dark spices, also fried.
Pao de queijo (cheese bread) has a nice salty cheesy flavour and with a good chew
Mousse de maracuja is a passionfruit mousse; this version is topped with real passionfruit seeds and has a nice fruitty flavour that comes up over the condensed milk.
Probably one of my favourite stalls so far, looking forward to trying their feijoada.
• Takoyaki stall
A firm piece of octopus on the inside, surrounded by soft dough. The outside could be a touch crispier, and more bonito flakes would be better. But pretty good overall.
• Fried Japanese Food stall
Not too greasy overall, fairly decent oil even if not 100% fresh by the time I got to the stall. They refry cooled stuff so you'll get something hot.
Spicy chicken karaage was decent, probably spiced up with tobasco sauce in the batter. The double frying certainly helps the texture of the batter.
Salmon rice croquette is essentially a battered and fried onigiri, with salmon flakes insinuated into the triangle of rice.
Banana doughnuts are pretty cool - a chunk of banana inside a ball of fried dough that's dusted with sugar.
Decent on the whole, even if its not the best of its kind.
• Tibetan Momo Stall (wasn't there this week)
Chinese shui3 jiao3, northern style dumplings, masquerading as momos. A weak chilli soy with soy sauce, rather than the earthy robust ground chilli.
• Yakitori stall
A decent negi (green onion and chicken thigh) skewer. Ok seasoning, but nothing exceptional; probably better at Donzoko.
• Okonomiyaki stall
Fairly ordinary okonomiyaki, largely consisting of batter and shredded cabbage, with some melted cheese on top and a worchestershire like sauce (resembling those served with fried breadcrumbed Japanese foods). Finished with lines of mayonaisse and parsley.
• Portuguese Stall
A pudim flan that's not bad - fairly eggy, and a nice balance between wobbly lightness and stiff dense richness. I'm more of a fan of the so dense your fork will stand up version, but nothing wrong with this rendition.
• Peruvian stall (looks like they replaced the momo stall...)
Delicious cod and quinoa stew. Loved the savoury base of the stew (tomatoes? herbs? with fish stock?) and the beautiful baubles of quinoa with a lovely touch of earthiness.
Pretty good alfajores although the shortbread could be crisper (more butter would do the trick) and the dulce de leche inside could be just a touch more sour.
• Spanish stall
A honest tortilla espanol - a thick potato omelette. I thought the potatoes were a touch too mushy about it's perhaps a quibble. Will probably try their paella soon.
• Turkish Stall
Boureka were a bit skimpy on the filling, I caught bits of cheese and that was about it. Interesting looking stews, maybe those would be better.
There's quite a number of stalls there, not sure if all are good, but I'm very slowly making progress. There's also something like three or more Thai stalls, a couple of Ethiopian stalls etc... One of the Thai stalls seemed to be making som tom and also had some duck spring rolls that looked good but haven't tried. There a pie stall that had a small variety of sweet pies that were tempting. Been mostly snacking, hoping to get more main course type dishes as I go along. Probably a few more months before I get a decent sample of the food there.
Thanks for another good report. Are these stalls all in the Sunday Upmarket or the Backyard Market or both? You may be interested to know that, as of 31st May, the Backyard Market will also open on Saturdays 10am to 5pm.
Btw why would you wish for slightly more sour dulce de leche? For me it's all about the [almost sickly] cloying, indulgent sweetness of the caramel so much so that I have been known to eat straight from the jar in full return-to-childhood mode :-)
What's the difference between the Upmarket and the Backyard Market? Some of these stalls were inside a building, and others were outside on the streets surrounding it.
I like the complexity brought about by the touch of sourness in the dulce de leche, it balances the sweetness a bit. Don't know if it's true, but I was only later told (assuming I remembered correctly) that it's a characteristic of the Peruvian versions, as compared to the Argentinian ones.
I'm attaching a pdf showing the whereabouts of both markets. I've only ever been to the Upmarket, I imagine that the Backyard Market is more of the same but may be worth exploring.
That makes sense about the dulce de leche, from my [limited] knowledge of Peruvian cuisine, I'm guessing that sour is a more popular flavour profile than it would be in say Argentina. One thing's for sure, in true Latin American fashion, each nation lays claim to having the finest variation!
Can't seem to attach the pdf, I'll describe. Upmarket is indoors and bounded on three sides by Hanbury Street, Brick Lane and a little street serving as the car park entrance. In and around the car park street there are more outdoor food stalls. I'm guessing this is where you've been exploring so far.
For Backyard Market, walk down Hanbury to Brick Lane, take a left, walk down to #93 (on the right hand side opposite the Vibe Bar), go down the little side street and you'll come to a courtyard which houses the market.
• Brazilian stall
Got the feijoada -- very good, deep and slightly smokey flavour, with the emphasis on the beans (per the name). There were a few chunks of pork knuckles, a nice topping of farofa (toasted manioc flour), couve (shredded kale) and the requisite orange slice.
Fairly dense and somewhat eggy pudim de leite, which I liked better than the one from the Portuguese stall (I love my flan-type desserts super dense).
• Changing Lives stall
Not the best apple strudel in the world (need to have a crisper shell), but a generous helping for the price.
• Thai stall (there's several, this one sells duck rolls and payaya salad)
Pretty good duck rolls, a poor man's version of peking duck -- slice of duck with stiff slightly crisp skin, spring onions and a dab of hoisin sauce, reasonable as a substitute for the fermented wheat paste (tian2 mian4 jiang4) used in peking duck. Ok thin wheat pancakes as wrappers.
• Moroccan stall
Fine but not mind blowing chicken tagine with cous cous, with pleasant spicing (cardamom, cloves etc.). I was wishing for fluffier cous cous, but have to understand the limitations of a market stall. Be sure to grab a pickled chilli paper as a side.
• Pie and tart stall
I liked the custard pie with raspberry sauce and fresh raspberries -- good interplay of richness and fruity tang, the custard had a nice eggy flavour, and the crust was decent.
Had a treacle tart on a separate occasion, the crust was weaker, perhaps liquid had seeped in from the teracle. Nice treacle but could have been slightly more intense, imho.
• Crepe stall outside on the north side of the Up Market
Solid banana and nutella crepe. I liked the thinness of the crepes.
• Juzu - Japanese stall serving rice bowls
Nice flavour in the pork stir fry -- lots of sweetness from onions, and probably mirin. Wished for a touch more of the pork. The base was rice with mixed grains, including barley and millet, for a toasty complexity.
• Turkish Stall
An ok lamb casserole, I kept tasting a heavy herb flavour in the tomato base, decently flavoured lamb. Comes with a triangle of pita, shredded lettuce, slices of cucumber, rice.
Will probably hit the Ethiopian stalls and the various Thai stalls next, and might do a back-to-back comparison of the two paella stalls.
I wonder if limster gets around on a scooter. He sure makes tracks. I know a good editor if he needs one for this food book. I've been missing Japanese food because my husband lived in Tokyo for years and rarely wants to eat that cuisine now, but going to the stalls may just be the answer. He can eat something else. I'd love to try the Brazilian food, too... something new for me.
Thanks for all the kinds words...but the problem with books is that they take a long time to get published; years ago I helped Jim Leff & gang with the chowhound guides and quite a bit of the information in there was obsolete by the time the books came up. OTOH, with a website like chowhound, it's practically in real time, and more importantly fellow hounds can chime in right away with their opinions. This medium is so much better in so many ways.
And you've got to realize that I've barely scratched the surface; London is a big hunting ground and there's still tons more to eat. I revel in what I haven't eaten yet!
Admittedly, the Japanese stalls at the Brick Lane market have been only ok to good, not great. Do try Donzoko in Soho sometime for very solid izakaya food. I still have a list of izakayas to try, such as places like Tomoe which have been very strongly recommended by oonth and other hounds. I'll probably make a trip to Tosa around Hammersmith first, since I have a a craving for shiso maki and these guys have it on their menu.
I do have a soft spot for the Brazilian stall, but I do need to find that Peruvian stall again, as it's no longer at the Up Market, perhaps it's shifted to some other location nearby.
The Ethiopian place closer to the entrance looked good and I'm hoping to try it soon.
P.S. I use the tube and walk -- it's useful to browse menus or stare at food at places on the way to a meal.
I hadn't thought about the time involved with publishing... and restaurants often do come and go quickly. We're so into magazine and web publishing here, and I should have realized that other media are very different!
I use the Tube and walk, too....it's a great way to learn about the restaurants and London. One of these days, I'll just twist my husband's arm....really hard... and get to Tomoe or Donzoko.
• Spanish Caravan
Not bad paella, but not the best of its kind. The rice is a touch grainy in the centre, rather than just outright al dente; I'm guessing that they undercook it a bit so that it comes out ok with the microwaving. pretty good saffron flavour tempered witha good squeeze of lemon, fine prawns, peas, peppers and chicken. Not as good as Moro's paella at the Exmouth Market on Fridays, but that's a pretty high bar.
• Paella stall outside, near the car park. Heavier on the herb flavour, mostly rosemary. OK saffron, but a little less aromatic than the version at Spanish caravan. Comes with chicken, squid and peas, as well as a squeeze of lemon.
• Stall with puff pastry. I liked the mascapone filling with a good fruity mix of strawberries, blueberries and raspberries. The crust of puff pastry gets a little soggy; may be better to get there earlier.
• Rosa Thai Stall. Solid green chicken curry, not the best I've ever had, but certainly not the worse. Could be a lot spicier, but I suppose this is cooking for a broader audience. Reasonable amount of basil. They also have a storefront nearby that recently opened.
• Hog Roast stall. A favourite. Moist pieces of pork with just the faintest hint of pink. A nice base of apple sauce with well calibrated cinnamon really complements the flavour of the meat (along with a mild herb seasoning, bit of rosemary I believe), along with the sharp nuanced bitter of rocket, all in a solid bun. Best part - finely chopped cracklings - hard and crunchy, and porkily aromatic.
• JuC. A decent blended smoothie - acai berry, banana, etc... Not particularly memorable or anything but perfectly serviceable.
• Yakisoba/yakiudon stall. Minispring rolls are well fried and have that warm soft centre of cabbage and carrots, moist and just the right level of sticky texture to contrast the crisp skin. While they're not perfect, they're areasonable deal at 6 for £1. Yakiudon is pretty good, lots of vegetables, good use of various seasonings and generous bits of onion for a natural sweetness. May not be the most authentic experience, but ain't bad.
• Japanese salad stall. I liked the red bean sandwiched between two puffy pancake-like griddled cakes. The "pancakes" themselves are ok, but suffer from not being freshly made, lacking the warm and the hot opff the griddle bouncy texture.
• Thai Noodle and Curry stall. A decent pad see ew with chicken, but nothing massively soulful. Got a good glower of chilli heat upon request, would have liked a touch more basily flavour, but I'm nit-picking. Balanced array of vegetable ingredients.