Some stalls at Brick Lane Market, London
• 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.
I checked out a couple of stalls at the Sunday UpMarket off Brick Lane the weekend before Christmas. Just to clarify the locations, the indooor covered market is called the UpMarket, and is on Sunday's only (they have an out of date web page at http://www.sundayupmarket.co.uk/index.html). I believe the location is used as a car park the rest of the week. The outdoor market is the Backyard market, and is open both Saturday and Sunday (see http://www.backyardmarket.co.uk/cgi-b..., which has a good map for both markets).
I first tried the Okonomiyaki stall, which claims to serve Osaka style oknomiyaki. I was rather disappointed, it had too much cabbage compared to the batter, so it didn't hold together at all. For this style of okonomiyaki, I find that Abeno on Museum St does a much better job.
Then I had a good Som Tam (Thai green papaya salad) from one of the Thai stalls. I didn't catch the name of the stall (and I counted at least three Thai food stalls), but this was the only one that had the big mortar and pestle to make freshly pounded Som Tam. There was no salted crab or dried shrimp in this version, and they used about equal amounts of shredded papaya and carrots (I would have preferred all papaya). Still, it was nice to find somewhere to have a freshly made Som Tam to taste. I asked the vendors about Kanom Krok (a sweet Thai sweet food that I long for), and they said that come spring, there's normally a stall outside that makes it.
I also tried a couple of Pao de Quejo from the Brazilian stall. The flavor was good, but the texture was too dense, hard and dry. The search for good Pao de Quejo in London continues (I had a bad rendition in a market off Queensway, and some ok ones at Canela in Soho).
Unfortunately, by the time I saw the Bahn Mi stall, I was too full, that'll have to wait till my next visit.
Sunday for sure, otherwise it's the outdoor stalls only. But don't wait till Spring, there's plenty of good stuff there now, and with the seemingly fast turnover of stalls, the ones you had your eye on may no longer be there. I talked to one stall owner that used to be in the indoor market, and they really increased his rates last year (more than triple I believe), so he had to move to an outdoor location right on Brick Lane itself.
By the way, the URLs in my post above seemed to have gotten mangled, here's another try. Sunday Up Market: http://www.sundayupmarket.co.uk/index.html
Map of both Sunday Up and Backyard Markets: http://www.backyardmarket.co.uk/cgi-b...
Note that there are also other outdoor stalls, at least on Sundays, on Brick Lane itself as you walk northbound.
The banh mi stall is pretty good. The combination of flavours in the pork banh mi is respectable - pickled carrots and daikon could be sharper, perhaps a thicker spread of pate, but otherwise, things come together well, good slices of roast pork, cha lua (mortedella-like in texture), nicely rounded by the umami from dashes of the various sauces. Only minus is the bread - which was kept warm on a grill but not toasted after assembly to give it an extra crispness.
Haven't been back in a while, and went back for some updates.
• Turkish Delight
The newer Turkish stall making gozleme (get ones that are made to order, rather than pre-made), a Turkish crepe filled with various savoury items. I had the version filled with a creamy, salty and slightly tangy cheese as well as sparse leaves of spinach. The surface was very slightly crispy, with a good amount of a chewy layer beneath that. Don't rush out there just for that, but its pretty good, and certainly nice to get it fresh from the griddle. They roll it with yogurt and lettuce, but one can get it without all the unneeded extras.
• Thai Satay
The chicken has a deep, penetrating marinate, with good wisps of lemongrass. Hot off the griddle (rather than grill), it still has a few nice char marks, and is remarkably tender. A thin but suitably flavoured peanut sauce works well with it, as does a soy sauce with minced garlic, cilantro, chilli and other condiments, adding a layer of pungence and umami to the dish. I got mine served over rice with shredded lettuce, peppers, cucumbers and tomato slices. Surprisingly good cohesive and tasty flavours, would love to get it again.
• Scone stall
Pleasant and fairly soft scones (I had a fruit scone dotted with big fat raisins) their own plum jam (very sweet, somewhat runny with big pieces of fruit in between) and ok clotted cream (despite being from a plastic tear-off metal foil container). With strong tea, perfect between creamy sweet mouthfuls. Not the best cream tea you'll ever get, but not bad for £3.50. They also serve a savoury scone with onion marmalade. Plain andorange (iirc) scones available too.
• Falafel stall - basic falafel wrap, nothing great, nothing bad. If you have to have one, try angling for freshly fried falafels.
• Southern Indian stall - I kinda liked their keema (minced lamb) but on the whole it's pretty basic, decent daal and chickpeas with spinach.
• Anima cupcakes - the cookies and cream cupcake worked well, a pleasant recreation of the oreo in a different form, a white frosting over basic choc cupcake. The chocolate cupcake by itself is nothing special, the coconut & lime version was somewhat coconutty but could have used more lime imho, and flavours could also have been more prominent on the banana and cinnamon.
• Mediterranean Stall - I liked the homey texture of the bread stuffed with spinach and cheese. Was a bit lukewarm (temperature-wise) but the texture of the bread had a rustic home-made feel to it.
• Momo stall - revisited and this time it was an improvement, the pork momos a better resemblance of an actual momo and a fairly serious chilli sauce to back it up.
• Addis Go Jo - the other Ethiopian stall, which I prefer over Red Tent. The flavours of their stews (spinach, lentils, and the third a thick paste/gravy of some sort, peanut perhaps? hope someone will chime in here) are more integrated and mellow, the green achar-based hot sauce is potent but they do tend to bulk up your plate with a cabbage salad that is just ok.
• Hippie Bites - serving a number of battered and fried items, a reasonable fish cake, but a touch tired since they weren't freshly fried (or re-fried, like a couple of the Japanese stalls). Good lime flavour in their tartar sauce and a zingy chilli sauce, both of which really enlivened the fish cakes.
Manjay Tout - a Carribean stall, where I tried to recreate KFC - good fried chicken drumstick, ok cole slaw, pickled cucumbers, plantains and nice dumpling, moderately dense but not leaden.
Ciao's Griddled Chorizo - an attempt to recreate Brindisa's chorizo sandwich at the Borough Market. This one's a bit bigger and slightly cheaper £4 for 2 chorizo, rather than £5 iirc at brindisa (note that Brindisa sells a 1 chorizo sandwich for £3.50). It's not a bad sandwich by any means, but Brindisa has nothing to worry about.
• Outside pad thai outside, across from the car park
An excellent and complex pad thai marred only by the use of pre-cooked chicken breast (a serious woking of chicken thigh would have been more flavourful).
• Mauritian Island cuisine - I have a real soft spot for their hand made roti - very fresh and good wheaty texture (but slightly more flakey wouldn't hurt). The curries are not bad, but need their tomato chutney to bring out a more multifaceted flavour combination. A fairly light chickpea stew -- where turmeric held centre stage (also earthy touches of clove and curry leaves), a reddish (tomatoey?) curry with kingfish and aubergine with a tangy-ier deeper flavour and a basic chicken curry that was probably less distinguished than the other two. Also decent rice, with just a bit more coriander heavy spicing, sparsely dotted with onion, peas and carrots.
• Waffle stall - always nice to get fresh off the iron waffles - these are basic but there's little argument against a hot fresh waffle. I got mine with an ordinary maple syrup.
I've tried the donburi stand twice now (see pic), and both times have found that portions of what I've ordered are cold or in one case, still partially frozen. The frozen time I went back and they were very nice about it, gave me a new one and a free prawn stick. I'd try them again because the rice bowl was nice enough for street food, but I really hope they get their temperature issues under control.
I also tried the dumpling stand inside the Upmarket today. (I think this is the momo place you were talking about.) I thought the pork dumplings were nice--very doughy in an appealing way. The chili sauce was okay, but not amazing. The dumplings also were a little too cold, but overall they were good.
• Vegetarian Ethiopian Stall (the one closer to the brick lane entrance)
They usually make roll their injera into a wrap but you can ask them to just leave it open, like the regular Ethiopian way of eating, which is a lot easier to see what one's eating. The injera is decent if not the most fresh but still relatively spongy and with a slight teff-y sourness. Green beans and carrots are cloaked with a coconut sauce with pleasant microfibres of coconut that reminds me of southern indian cooking, potatoes are stewed with mustard seeds and very mildly spicy, a light spice (coriander and cumin and the usual suspects?) on the lentils. Potent spicy and sour pickles give a great boost to the food, as does the earthy hot sauce.
• Paella stall near the car park (outside)
A basic tortilla with onions, a standard mix of eggs and potatoes. Nothing special but nothing bad.
• Carrom Cafe
A simple rose drink blended from syrup and ice totally hit the spot on a hot day, reminding me of ice bandung.
• Takoyaki Stall
The takoyaki stall is now also selling om-soba, a thinnish crisped egg with separate patches of yolk and white as a shell for a merely ok yakisoba.
• Pad Thai Stall (outside, near car park)
Also sells spring rolls with a sweet spicy dipping sauce. Not bad.
• Thai Stall (inside upmarket, across from the okonomiyaki stall)
A decent red chicken curry, coconutty and all with a good whiff of thai basil, but could obviously be more spicy.
• Italian antipasti stall
Saw this place once inside the upmarket, haven't seen them again. A bruschetta with various colours of (roasted?) bell peppers seemed tired, more soury than sweet.
• Donburi stall near the backyard market on brick lane
A base of ok rice (not the densely packed short grained stuff unfortunately), decent fried battered chicken (karaage) with a somewhat ordinary teriyaki sauce, heavy rather than mellow. I kind of expected more of these guys, oh well. But might them again, just in case they turn out better.
• Brazilian stall (backyard market)
Powdery batter in the brazilian savoury "lollipop" - a crepe batter on the outside holding ham and cheese in a cavity the dimensions of a sausage. Admittedly fun to try, but relatively eh.
There is a Brazilian restaurant/cafe that is on Regent's Park Rd near Finchley Central. Going from Henley's corner it is on the left hand side of road, after the traffic lights nr. Gravel Hill. Can't remember the name. I have had little snacky things there, and coffee.
• 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.
• 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.
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.
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.