I’m starting to like the format of these short little posts that allow me to quickly expand on my thoughts of a place or a dish I’ve had recently. I like the instant publication of Instagram but something about it doesn’t allow me to wax on as I do here. One recent meal whose photo I posted was my lunch from Mother Clucker, who I encountered in the monthly KERB street food market in Sheldon Square, Paddington.

My £10 was exchanged for their lunch deal of 3 chicken strips, Cajun fries, and a can of soft drink.

Chicken strips and Cajun fries from Mother Clucker. They are freaking excellent.

Those chicken strips were huge! These tea-brined, buttermilk soaked and twice battered (that’s what their website says) chicken strips were utterly fantastic, very moist and tender and with a great crust. You know I love me some fried chicken and these were hands-down the best Southern-style strips I’ve had in a long time. As you can see, I also put good use to the proffered squeeze bottles of homemade lime mayonnaise and hot pepper sauce. Two thumbs up.

These guys are definitely worth seeking out.

Mother Clucker
All over London – check out their website for details.

Croydon Council and the Greater London Authority, along with the Portas Town Team, have opened Surrey StrEatery on, you guessed it, Surrey Street, a market street that’s existed in some form or other since the 13th century. It’s kind of like a food court, but with indoor street food stalls.

Surrey StrEatery

Seven street food stalls were invited/accepted to open in the building for half a year and there are also events and a good overall sense of community there. The seven stalls get promotion for the 26 weeks as well as general business support; I think it’s a brilliant idea to help out new local small businesses!

When I visited earlier this month, Christmas was in full swing at the StrEatery, with food hampers filled with goods from the stalls available for gifting. It was warm inside and it was welcoming; every stall radiated smiles.

Inside Surrey StrEatery

Inside Surrey StrEatery

The current stands there are:

  • Cravings “La Carreta” – Mexican street food
  • Mum’s the Chef – fresh wraps
  • Olivier’s Bakery – bakery and patissserie
  • Plumbun – cakes
  • Ro Co Coffee – coffee
  • Sannas Goan Street Food – Goan street food
  • The Liquid Pod – soups, stews and smoothies

I grabbed a flat white from Ro Co (excellent) and perused the rest of the stalls.

Inside Surrey StrEatery

That day, I opted for a bit of Goan food – for £5.50, I received a plate with Goan fish curry on a soft steamed rice cake, freshly fried vegetable bhajis, a lamb samosa and a bit of homemade carrot pickle. It was all brilliant – the curry was fabulous, the bhajis were crisp and not greasy, and the samosa had a great spicing to the lamb.

Goan Food

I really enjoyed my visit there and I can’t wait to get back in the new year to try the other stands. It’s definitely worth a visit and after you’ve had a good fill, you can pop outside and shop for groceries to take home too!

It’s open from Tuesday to Saturday, from 8am to 5pm each day. (Do check for Christmas openings!)

Surrey StrEatery
Unit 3 Bridge House
13 Surrey Street
Croydon CR0 1RG

On Little Newport Street in Chinatown, next to Baozi Inn (and owned by it too, I believe), there’s a tiny slip of a shop that sells chuan chaun xiang, a Sichuan spicy snack food. It also goes by the name mala tang and is not dissimilar to Sichuan hotpot, only the foods are on skewers and its the vendor who cooks your selection in their one gigantic communal pot. Jeanne and I stopped in one afternoon to try it out.

Chuan Chuan Xiang

The little place has a menu posted outside on the window and inside on the counter. Everything costs the same per skewer and there’s a good variety of meats (mainly processed) and vegetables available.

Menu

Inside, there’s just room for a few people to order over a counter. In the back, all the ingredients are lined up on skewers or awaiting skewering. A plexiglass window stands between you and a bubbling cauldron that seems to only be filled with chilli oil, chillies and Sichuan peppercorns. Don’t worry – it’s not too bad! That day, we split a pork luncheon meat (read: something similar to Spam) skewer and a fish ball skewer since we just had lunch.

Bubbling Pot

When your order has had its time in the jacuzzi from hell, your skewers are dumped into a foil takeaway container and sprinkled with chopped spring onions and coriander. There may have been a sesame based sauce available as well but I’m not entirely sure.

Skewers

The heat was a lot milder than I expected but they were still delicious. Can’t go wrong with Spam in chilli oil. Now, while I say that the heat wasn’t too bad, I did notice that the chilli oil doesn’t cling terribly well to Spam and fish balls. If you were to order the Chinese leaves, for example, my experience has been that those wrinkly leaves provides lots of little nooks and crannies for burning red oil to hide. It’s probably not clear yet but I love the skewers and I love the concept and I wish that there were more sunny days in London in which I may wander down to Chinatown and munch on street food like this.

In addition to the skewers, the little shop also sell massive baos which are also available to eat next door at Baozi Inn. While I believe this is the first chuan chuan xiang place in London’s Chinatown, a competitor has already opened around the corner on Gerrard Street so…time to try them too!

Chuan Chuan Xiang
(next to Baozi Inn)
Little Newport Street
Chinatown
London

I was looking forward to a day out to one of Hong Kong’s smaller islands but I was to choose between Cheung Chau and Lamma Island. I went with the smaller island – Cheung Chau – mainly because it sounded like fun and heck, it’s home to the bun festival every year (not that we’d get to see it that day). It was a quick half hour ferry ride from Central and we emerged onto an island that was just as crowded as Hong Kong island but with a more relaxed, holiday feel to it.

Apparently, the thing to do on Cheung Chau is eat seafood. With empty stomachs, we wandered down the road and ended up at one place where the tables were packed and the food looked good. The New Baccarat Seafood Restaurant, it was!

New Baccarat Seafood Restaurant

What a lovely spread we had out there in the sun (yes, about 20C that winter day)! Scrambled egg with prawns was the first to our table and it was excellent, all fluffy egg and juicy, crunchy prawns.

Scrambled Egg with Prawns

Stir fried gai lan with garlic was crunchy and all the green we needed.

Stir Fried Gai Lan with Garlic

The salt and chilli squid was greaseless and crisp and made up for a hard and greasy version the previous day at Hay Hay Kitchen in Wan Chai.

Salt and Chilli Squid

Salty, carby goodness came in the form of chicken and salted fish fried rice.

Chicken and Salted Fish Fried Rice

Our steamed garlic scallops came with a wonderfully ridiculous amount of sweet garlic and unexpected but pleasantly slippery mung bean vermicelli. We scraped the contents of each shell straight into our mouths.

Steamed Garlic Scallops

Finally, a whole steamed fish, a Cantonese classic. We picked it clean.

Steamed Fish

The seafood was all magnificently fresh though I doubt they’ve been caught very locally. I was told most of the waters surrounding Hong Kong had been fished clean though I did see a few fishing boats come in with a small catch and some fish and prawns being dried in the sun. Local or not local, with the warm sun on our backs, fresh breeze on our faces and cold drinks in our hands, this was a memorable lunch.

New Baccarat Seafood Restaurant
9A G/F Pak She Praya Road
Cheung Chau
Hong Kong

With full bellies, we strolled around Cheung Chau’s car-less streets and over to the beach on the other side too. And I knew Hong Kong was famous for its wide variety of street foods but the variety of snacks available on Cheung Chau was still amazing and surprising. Fish balls, deep fried mochi ice cream, sticky rice cakes, popcorn, waffles, egg waffles, ice cream, shaved ice, pastries, grilled squid … all that temptation was just too great.

We first stopped at the Grand Plaza Cake Shop (91B, Hoi Poi Road, Cheung Chau) where a large crowd was jostling for just-out-of-the-oven egg tarts of both the Hong Kong and Macanese varieties. We had one of each – the mini dan tat (the Hong Kong version) was particularly tasty.

Macanese Egg Tarts Mini Egg Tarts

One of Each

We couldn’t pass up this Taiwanese shaved ice stand and I walked away with this aromatic guava one. The flavours are already frozen into the ice block and the shaved ice almost resembles freshy fallen snow in its consistency – all light and fluffy.

Shaving Ice

Guava Shaved Ice

Finally, on the way back to the ferry port, my first tornado potato! It’s a single potato spiral cut on a stick and mine was fresh out of the fryer. A bank of shakers in front of the shop allowed you to custom flavour your fried potato however you wish – there was curry, extra hot, chicken and garlic powders all along mine. Salty, greasy, good.

Tornado Potato

Needless to say, go with empty stomachs to Cheung Chau. To get to the island, take a ferry from Central Pier 5 in Hong Kong. You can use an Octopus card to pay – did I mention my love for their Octopus card? I love that all transport around Hong Kong can be paid with it and many eating establishments also accept payment with it.

I’ve been waiting for this post for a while! I love exploring the street food culture of any place I visit but I had the highest hopes for Beijing and luckily, the city didn’t let me down. Now, this is by no means a complete guide to the street food available in Beijing; instead, it’s what I encountered during my two week trip.

I’ll quickly start by saying that the two most famous streets to have street food in Beijing are located off the central shopping street of Wangfujing: Donghuamen Night Market and Wangfujing Snack Street. The former is known for its many insects and other unknown creatures on sticks while the latter serves more traditional street foods. I visited them both early in our trip and was not inspired by either of them; they’re extremely crowded with tourists and the food didn’t look that great either. Apart from one stick of candied fruit, we didn’t eat anything there.

Breakfast

My first breakfast in Beijing was found just down the road from our first hotel (a courtyard/hutong hotel right by the Forbidden City). Of the many places to eat, this one had a queue – a queue is always good! I came away from the queue with a hot shaobing nestled in an impossibly thin plastic bag. A shaobing is a flaky pastry topped with sesame seeds and mine was filled with a fried egg. It was a little too salty but the flakiness was delicious.

Shaobing with Egg

To go with my shaobing, I got a sealed plastic cup of hot sweetened soy bean milk. Jab your straw through the seal and your breakfast beverage is ready – and this turned out to be the freshest soy bean milk I’d ever had and the perfect complement to the salty shaobing. I saw many places offer this drink in the morning along with a very dark drink that I couldn’t identify.

Hot Soy Bean Milk

Another morning, I headed straight for the little hole in the wall where I’d seen jianbing being made. A very stern man and his jianbing pan (like a big crepe pan – pan may be the wrong word. It’s just a big, flat and hot disk) were framed by a literal hole in the wall and he was making them to order. First, the crepe batter was spread onto the disk, followed by a freshly cracked egg spread thinly on top. When the bottom was judged to be done, the whole was flipped so that the egg could cook some more and the top was spread with a hoisin-based sauce, a chilli paste, chopped spring onions, chopped coriander and finally, a sheet of crispy fried dough. The whole lot is folded together into a manageable square and placed into a plastic bag for you to takeaway. 3.5RMB (I hear this is quite expensive but this was near the Forbidden City). This was incredibly moreish – I love anything spicy for breakfast. I only just wish that the fried piece of dough in the middle would stay crispy; it tends to go limp in the heat.

Jianbing

There were a few places close to my first hotel with these steamers set up at the window but I never got a chance to see what was inside. I can only guess some kind of steamed bao.

Steamers

Lunch

Other than an overpriced yet very pretty jianbing at the Great Wall at Mutianyu, I didn’t eat any street food for lunch. However, many of those places that sell breads and pastries for breakfast continue into lunchtime.

Snacks

Snack Vendor

I saw one place just switch from freshly made pastries at breakfast-time to large bowlfuls of cooked dishes that were being packaged into ready-to-takeaway lunchboxes with rice at lunch-time. They looked fab.

Snacks

It’s snack time! You could have any of the small bites that were also available for lunch or breakfast or you could stop by one of the many candied fruit on a stick vendors to be found at most of the tourist attractions. Each stick is about 5RMB.

I first chose plums on our visit to the Wangfujing Snack Market. The candied coating was thicker than I expected and the sugar sticks something nasty all over your molars but there’s something quite addictive about it when paired with the juicy plums. See that odd looking plum at the bottom of the stick? Yeah, that’s because it was a cherry tomato. Candied tomatoes on a stick appear to be popular but it’s just not for me!

Candied Plums on a Stick

The original variation is tang hu lu, fresh hawthorn fruits coated in that thick, sticky caramel and when I saw them being sold near the Forbidden City on my penultimate day, I bought a stick and spent the next hour in a park gnawing away at them, the perfect way to rest my weary feet after a morning visit to Tian’anmen Square. They have a texture like floury apples with plenty of seeds inside. Spit spit spit.

Tang Hu Lu

I saw these pottery jars all over Beijing; full jars and empty jars were always stored side by side, indicating that there must’ve been some kind of deposit system going on or perhaps you had to consume the contents immediately upon purchase. We found that both were in effect when Mirna went to attend a Hutong Eats tour with Hias Gourmet. What’s inside? Fresh yogurt, lightly sweetened! You jab a thin straw through the paper covering and suck it up. If I remember correctly, they’re usually 2RMB if you drink there and then and return the jar immediately; 3RMB if you want to take the jar away with you.

Yogurt Jars

Dinner

Our second hotel, which was closer to my conference location, was situated right by the Olympic site, a place where there was quite the dearth of snacking foods (apart from a few western fast food joints) – quite surprising seeing that loads of Chinese tourists make a visit here. I did see one actual street cart that only sold grilled hot dogs on a stick: from what I gather, it’s a very popular street snack in Beijing.

Anyway, I noticed a few street carts adjacent to a random restaurant where we ate one night and I vowed to visit them after I’d given my presentation at the conference (I was watching what I ate up until that day). And one clear night, with Mirna, I had my chance.

This cart is the first sign that we were onto something good.

Street Vendor

However, we skipped that first cart and went for one further inside, mainly because he (of a husband and wife team) was rolling his flat breads from fresh dough. See the hot dogs? Told ya they were popular.

Street Vendor

We ordered one of these flat breads with an egg cooked into the bread, a sweet wheat sauce and lettuce, all rolled up. It’s quite the healthy little snack though not a terribly exciting one.

Egg Wrap

We also ordered chicken skewers from him, which were freshly grilled and then sprinkled with a magical powder of chili and cumin before being handed over to us. The recipe for the sprinkling powder seems to vary from stall to stall to restaurant; this man’s recipe was very heavy on the cumin I quite liked with the tender chicken. Both the skewers and the wrap came to 6RMB.

Chicken Skewers

We moved further past these two carts to find a few more. We stopped at a fried noodle setup run by what looked like a mother and her teenage son; she was frying noodles furiously over a flaming wok while her son was handling the orders and payment. From the variety of noodles available, we chose flat rice noodles and yes, we wanted them spicy and then we waited – that queue was long! After about 15 minutes, we got our little takeaway container of spicy noodles and I love that she fried in a lot of greens. Yum yum. 10RMB for the noodles, I think.

Fried Noodles

We took our noodle order over to some plastic garden patio furniture laid out by a chuan’r vendor – everyone else was doing it too! When there, we had a browse around their various raw skewers and chose a few (strangely, we didn’t order the classic lamb/mutton chuan’r). Our lack of a common language between us led to a hilarious exchange of bad sign language to establish our need for grilled chicken wings. Mirna, three people involved with the stall, and I, all flapping our arms and making chicken noises were quite the show for everyone that night!

Our charcoal grilled chicken wings were excellent. This vendor’s cumin and chili sprinkles were a more superior version as his recipe included toasted sesame seeds.

Chicken Wings

We also ordered some aubergine slices and rolls of tofu sheets filled with coriander. Unfortunately, the aubergine does end up a bit dry on the charcoal grill but the tofu sheets were lovely – tender on the inside, chewy on the outside, and all sprinkled with the excellent spice mixture.

Aubergine and Tofu Sheets

The skewers and a large bottle of beer came to 22RMB – bargain! And so much fun too! I really enjoyed our street food dinner and would have returned another night had the weather been better in the days following this one. And guess what? No dodgy tummies!

Dinner

One thing we didn’t try was malatang; these are various foodstuffs on sticks bubbling away in a fiery red broth. At our little street food area, there were a number of tables set up with a big rectangular pot in the middle. People were making up platefuls of dipping sauces before pulling up a stool to one of these tables. They’d help themselves to the sticks they liked, dipping them into the sauces and gnawing off whatever it is that they fancied. Great excitement would descend upon the table when the proprietor would come along with even more skewers.

Malatang

So, where is this amazing place? It’s right by the Olympic site and I can point it out to you on a map if you’re going to be staying in the area. However, I do encourage you to go an discover new stands and stalls and carts in Beijing – there must be hundreds if not thousands of exciting things to eat out on its streets!