Whaam Banh Mi, Soho

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When Brits return home from Asia, they rave about the street food they tried on their travels… so it seems logical that London’s restaurant scene is working hard to recreate some of the favourite fast food enjoyed so much abroad.

As the name suggests, Whaam Bahn Mi celebrates the Vietnamese sandwiches (‘banh mi’) enjoyed on the streets of Ho Chi Minh. Tucked away behind Piccadilly Circus, this cheerful takeaway café provides the workers of Soho with an exotic lunch offering.

Operating only as a takeaway, this characterful little venue only has a few menu choices. There are five banh mi on offer which can be accompanied by the side salads or fresh summer spring rolls. Founder Tom Barlow spent time in Vietnam researching and trying the authentic banh mi snacks so he could offer the real deal in London.

The fluffy baguettes are filled with the slow-cooked filling of your choice and loaded with pate, pickled shredded carrot and mooli radish, cucumber, coriander, crispy shallots and red chilli. It is a wonderful assortment of flavours and textures. We chose to try the Luc Lac beef brisket and the BBQ shredded pork, though chicken, fishcakes and tofu are also available. Both meats were delicious – tender and rich in flavour thanks to the slow cooking technique. The extras were tasty too, though I found the chicken liver pate a little overpowering. These sandwiches need to be eaten quick – we found after five minutes that the bread became sloppy and was increasingly difficult to eat.

Whaam Banh Mi offers a friendly service and a lovely cultural lunch option for the arty Soho crowd. I’m visiting Vietnam later this year and can’t wait to try a banh mi in its original context.

More information here: www.whaambanhmi.com

London Food Markets

For foodie fanatics London is the perfect city. With frequent restaurant openings, new cafes and constant pop-up events there is always something exciting to satisfy your appetite. In my opinion the best way to try tasty trends is on the streets at one of London’s outdoor markets. Whilst enjoying the summer spells I have scooted round town trying the best delicacies and recipes from London’s street-food sellers, here’s my pick of the bunch…

Street Feast – this seasonal event took place in Dalston Yard and Model Market every Friday and Saturday and in Battersea Thursday – Sunday, until September 21st. Enthusiastic eaters hopped from stall to stall trying fragrant foods. Head to the Gin Store first for a wonderfully mixed aperitif tipple. For food there are endless options, my favourites were: juicy burgers from Bleecker Street Burger, Indian inspired snacks at Rola Wala, Pork buns from Yum Bun, thick pork ribs from Smokestak and finally salted caramel ice-cream from Sorbitium. Take plenty of cash so you can eat as much as you want, and trust me you will want a lot!

Broadway Market – This market covers the street from Regent’s Canal to London Fields and takes place every Saturday. This lovely neighbourhood will delight all your senses. I encourage you to walk the whole length of the street before deciding on a dish. The Butchies buttermilk chicken burgers are absolutely unmissable… a crunchy crispy coated chicken slammed between a lightly fried brioche bun with mustardy mayo, lettuce and thinly sliced gerkins. For something sweet head to the pretty Meringue Girls stall and for coffee Climpson & Sons is the best bet.

Netil Market – Just round the corner from hectic Broadway is this smaller and more relaxed marketplace. Here you will find vintage stalls, a mini coffee shop, and a bike servicing shed for cyclists. Enjoy retro burgers from renowned patty producers, Lucky Chip or go for something more exotic like pork buns from Bao London. For the thickest milkshake you’ll ever taste order an Oreo Shake from Street Shake. Once your stomach is filled look round the clothes and gifts, I loved the delicate handmade jewellery from We Are Arrow.

Brockley Market – This friendly South London market recently celebrated its third birthday.  Located in Lewisham College car park this market offers locally sourced seasonal fresh fruit & veg, meat, fish & poultry, plants & flowers,  ice-cream, award-winning coffee,  artisan bread & charcuterie and much more. Moments away from St John station (just 8 minutes from London Bridge) this market is not as far away as it seems. I sampled an exquisite VanDough pizza, juicy MotherFlipper burger, and Ruby Violet salted caramel ice-cream for pudding. Takes place on Saturdays 10am-2pm.

Wapping Market – the sister market to Brockley, Wapping takes place by the picturesque canal of Brussels Wharf. Visit on a Sunday morning (10am-2pm) to pick up your weekly shop from the artisan stalls, or just indulge in a decadent lunch. Here a group of us tried Spit and Roast chicken burger, authentic Italian pasta from Pasta e Basta and exotic baps from Bill and Beak. My favourite was the sweet Crosstown donut which I paired with a Dark Fluid coffee.

Market followers should also check out other markets Maltby Street Market and Columbia Road.

THOROUGHLY MODERN MAN: Street food at Lanes of London, Mayfair

Street food is a big deal on the capital’s foodie horizon, as vans selling hotdogs, burgers, and other artisanal efforts have been popping up across London in recent years. Lanes of London have decided to launch their own interpretation of street food, with the pleasing twist of having these “small dishes” represent the many international cuisines present in London’s culinary landscape. Among the six my intrepid companion and I sampled (yes, we felt greedy), we had Indian, Persian, Asian fusion and the good old US of A represented on plates, and many were delicious. Highlight of the meal were the beef brisket sliders with roasted bone marrow and horseradish cream – be prepared to order another round, they were that succulent and flavourful. The sliders are pictured above with the sweet smoky duck hash and fried egg, which also hit some delightful flavour notes, although tested the definition of ‘street food’ – it is served in a hot skillet, which I for one would be unwilling to carry around, regardless of how delicious its contents. The salad of green papaya, chilli, pork, prawns and peanuts, as well as being an alliterative pleasure to say, was a culinary pleasure to eat, and a textural pleasure to crunch. In fact it looks so appetising as it arrives that unfortunately we cannot offer any photos of that particular dish. Our apologies, dear reader. Other arrivals at our table included the token vegetable dish of salt-baked pumpkin with goat’s cheese and black quinoa, lamb koftas paired suitably with smoked aubergine, and a particularly well-balanced samosa chat, both in terms of its spicing, and how it perched atop chickpeas, mint chutney and yoghurt, finished with an artful sprinkling of pomegranate seeds. The relationship of powerful flavours in the latter in particular was well-marshalled by the kitchen, and served up beautifully.

As we had dined so greedily, we thought it only right to order dessert in matching style. Although I would have considered it blasphemy to think that anything might top the sliders, “home made jammie dodgers” did. The home baked shortbread was crumbling and buttery, the strawberry jam’s sweetness cut with just enough homemade strawberry liqueur, with fresh strawberries & cream included, because why not. Our second dessert (all this, of course, we do to inform you on as much of the menu as possible) was a chocolate torte with clotted cream ice cream, which was rich and glossy with an absolute guarantee of a nap 40 minutes after finishing. Although William Sitwell might rant against the rectangular black board on which the torte arrives, even he would struggle to find much wrong with the taste. As is often the case with hotel restaurants, the atmosphere was not buzzing, but that’s what interesting friends are for. The food arriving at your table, however, may well leave you silently admiring it.

More information and book a table here: www.lanesoflondon.com

Written by a Thoroughly Modern Man, James Bomford.