The London street food community is booming thanks to a diverse bunch of traders who are cooking exciting food with global influences. From toasted cheese sandwiches to hog roasts to ice cream sandwiches — if you can think of it, there's usually someone serving it. But which vendors and markets are the best? Who are the people behind the stalls, and why do they do it? What is it that makes their food special? We thought it's about time we started profiling some of the best.
Where are they?
Lemlem Kitchen, Netil Market, 23 Westgate Street, E8 3RL. Every Saturday and selected Sundays: 11am - 6pm
Who are they?
Lemlem is run by husband and wife team Makda and Jack, who serve Eritrean-inspired food from a wooden hut in Netil Market. Makda is from Eritrea and used to work in fashion, but wanted a career which allowed her to spend more time with her family. That's not to say street food trading isn't very hard work, of course, but she gets to spend more time with her kids when she's prepping, which happens for much of the week.
What's on the menu?
There is something you need to know right away, and that is that the best chicken wings in London come from Lemlem. Seriously. Okay so we all love American buffalo wings, but even these seem so one-note in comparison to Lemlem's wings. A rich, intense coating sticks to the meat, which has been powerfully flavoured with awaze, an Eritrean and Ethiopian spice paste. The paste is made with berbere, which is a rust-red spice mix made from dried and ground chillies, plus other spices including nigella and fenugreek. There are many different spice combinations and variations, and the type of chilli is very important. So crucial in fact, that Makda gets hers imported from Eritrea. The resulting flavour is deep, sun-roasted and earthy. It's what makes these wings so incredible. They're spicy, too, but the heat level is pitch perfect.
There are 'tacos' too, which are not tacos at all, but just an ingenious way of serving injera, the spongy pancake-like bread that Eritrean food is served on. Usually, pieces would be torn off and used to scoop various stews and other dishes into the mouth. Here though, Makda and Jack have found a way to make it manageable. They're excellent; we tried both the lamb and chicken versions, although we couldn't get it out of our heads that for £6 at lunch time we'd like to be full, and the serving of two per portion didn't quite hit the spot in that respect.
To wash it all down, there's plenty of gorgeous spiced, sweet tea; think masala chai but without the milk. Makda pours this into teeny cups from a giant teapot. We'll take two cups and another portion of those wings, thanks very much.