Why Are These Foods So Hard To Find In London?

Helen Graves
By Helen Graves Last edited 91 months ago

Last Updated 24 October 2016

Why Are These Foods So Hard To Find In London?
Is London ready for deep dish pizza? Photo by A Gude in the Londonist Flickr pool

We keep our eye closely on food trends at Londonist, and recently we've been thrilled to watch some previously under-represented cuisines such as American-style BBQ and Greek food begin to thrive.

Sometimes however, we're left scratching our heads as to why certain foods just haven't become 'a thing'.

Here's a list of those we're craving, but we just can't find. Do tell us what we've missed. Or indeed if you know where we can get any of the ones we've listed!

Deep dish pizza

London has enjoyed a wave of Neapolitan pizzeria openings in the past few years which is unlikely to stop any time soon, but what about deep dish?

We often wonder why no-one has dedicated themselves to producing a really good version of this Chicago-style pie.

Characterised by a high sided base which contains lots of filling, it requires a longer cooking time than the nippy Neapolitan, so the toppings are assembled upside down to avoid burning - cheese goes on the bottom, tomato sauce on top.

There are many regional styles of pizza in the US, but we think this is the most likely to turn up in the UK first. The question is, when?

Shabu shabu

We've got plenty of Chinese hot pots, so why not Japanese shabu shabu?

This dish consists of very thin slices of raw beef which are then dipped briefly into hot stock to cook at the table. Lots of dipping sauces are served for seasoning the beef once cooked, and other ingredients are served alongside, such as vegetables and tofu.

The name shabu shabu, incidentally, comes from the sound the ingredients make when they are stirred around in the cooking pot.

Really good Caribbean food

We know this one is going to be controversial, and we hope you'll tell us your favourites in the comments.

The fact remains, however, that the number of places serving Caribbean food that is better than average is very small. The range of dishes is also limited. In terms of jerk chicken (and no we don't think Caribbean food means just jerk chicken) we've long been a fan of Tasty Jerk, all the way out in Zone 4, and for a while we often darkened the doors of Smokey Jerkey in New Cross (it sadly went downhill).

Cooking Jerk Chicken

There are a few others who have been up and coming in recent years (we feel a 'best of' list coming on) but generally, it's hit and miss.

Other dishes you're likely to find include curry goat, brown stew chicken, rice and peas, fried plantains, ackee and saltfish and so on — all fantastic classics — but we'd love to see someone really getting under the skin of Caribbean food, and raising the bar above what's widely available.

Really good Mexican food

Okay so Wahaca has done an admirable job in reminding people that Mexican food is not the same thing as Tex-Mex, which often means lots of different things baked under cheap shredded cheese, but London has a very long way to go.

It baffles us as to why Mexican food, one of the most vibrant and exciting cuisines in the world, just isn't represented here at all.

We've had flashes of brilliance, such as street food stall Buen Provecho, but that has now sadly closed.

Tacos at the sadly now closed Buen Provecho. Please come back!

We understand it's not possible to get quite the same sun soaked flavour to ingredients such as avocado, and that importing specialist ingredients is expensive, but there's still room to adapt flavours and experiment.

Most burritos in London, in case you're curious, come in 'mission style' — those huge fat logs which originated in the mission district of San Francisco.

Mexican burritos are much smaller and sparsely stuffed, typically containing only one or two fillings.

Cuban and sloppy joe sandwiches

Cuban sandwiches are available in London but most of them are terrible.

The basic idea is a ham and cheese sandwich enhanced with spiky additions such as pickles and mustard, then pressed until quite flat. The Cuban bread must be fairly easy to replicate or substitute here, and we feel like there are loads of potential variations on the classic combo of fillings.

Careful with the salami though — Cubans tend to argue over whether or not this should be included.

We think it's only a matter of time before the Cuban takes off, closely followed by the sloppy Joe — a burger bun filled with a rich mixture of seasoned minced beef. You mark our words.

Chicken parmo

This chicken schnitzel covered in Neapolitan sauce and melted cheese is popular in America, Australia and the North of England, but weirdly absent in London.

In Australia, they're so dedicated to the dish that there are entire websites documenting regional variations.

Up north in the UK, it's more of a late night takeaway job, found often spreading its cheesy lava over the base of a takeaway box next to its good mate, the pile of chips. Okay so we're not really selling this one.

Piri piri chicken

No, Nando's doesn't count. Piri piri chicken is a Portugese dish made by grilling chicken which has been marinated in lots of chilli, oregano and vinegar. It has a really distinctive smoky flavour and just doesn't seem to be something that's easily found in London, despite our Portuguese population.

Oddly, some of the best we've ever found was at a takeaway in Nunhead, although even that was hit and miss.

Piri Piri chicken.

For a really good fix, we suggest making your own using Grant Hawthorne's African Volcano marinade, available at Maltby Street market or online.


At Londonist we are sad about the absence of parkin around town.

This dense cake from Yorkshire and Lancashire is made using black treacle and oatmeal and is baked until quite hard, then allowed to rest until soft and moist. We're at a loss as to where to find this, so if anyone knows then please share your secret.

A Google search for 'parkin London' brings up pages of results about where to find car parking. Sigh.