Street food curators Kerb have launched their first meat-free market, serving up vegetarian and vegan-friendly fare in Devonshire Square from Wednesday to Friday. The new venture is a collaboration with office space specialists WeWork, who introduced meat-free policies into the business back in July.
Traders are bringing in influences from around the world and will include the likes of Thai vegan curry specialists Greedy Khao, veggie Mexican outfit Elote and Club Mexicana with its burritos, tacos and nachos. Other operators include Biff’s Jack Shack, serving up jackfruit burgers; Vegals, which sells vegan bagels; Little Leaf’s vegan sourdough pizzas and Palm Greens’ vegan salads.
Food Spark highlights the bestselling dishes from some of these street food innovators.
Biff’s Jack Shack
The dish: Father Jack burger, a crispy fried jackfruit patty loaded with 'bacon' jam, iceberg lettuce, smoked 'cheese,' bourbon BBQ sauce and onion rings, all served in a vegan brioche bun. The burgers and 'wingz' are made from jackfruit, which is braised, coat in a panko crumbs and fried to produce a unique 'off the bone' chicken-esque texture.
The idea and why it’s popular: It came from trying jackfruit in Indonesia, which impressed due its incredible meat-like texture, says co-founder Christa Bloom. “We realised some people were using it as a replacement for pulled pork. However, we had the mad idea of deep frying it and realised we'd created something special. Our ethos is about making incredibly creative and indulgent food that just happens to be vegan. At least 50% of our customers aren't vegan and I think our food excites so many people simply because it looks so good – people see the burger and aren't scared that they'll miss the meat,” she says.
How it began: Their journey to jackfruit-based fame started in late 2016, when co-founder Biff Burrows was transitioning to a 100% vegan diet. After suffering a string of sad bean burgers, Burrows was struggling to find a vegan option that hit the spot. So he and Bloom set about creating their own meat alternative. After months perfecting their secret recipe, they decided to go big: Biff quit his marketing job, they bought a van instead of a house and the Shack started trading in May 2017.
The dish: Khao Soi, an iconic curried noodle dish from Chiang Mai in Northern Thailand. It features a deep, decadent curry broth, filled with Thai-style flat noodles and fried tofu puffs, and is decorated with an array of crunchy, zesty, colourful toppings, such as lime, pickled mustard greens, chilli oil and Thai shallots.
The idea and why it’s popular: Faai Kerdphol, co-founder and head foodie, is from Bangkok, but her dad is from Chiang Mai, so the dish has always been a family favourite. “But it's super hard to find in London – and even harder to find a version that tastes as good as she's used to,” says husband and co-founder Lee Bardon. “It's a traditional Thai dish, so we didn't have to develop it in the ‘from scratch’ sense. But it did take Faai's deep knowledge of Thai ingredients, flavours and cooking techniques to be able to recreate the dish – with its rich and complex flavour profile – without using animal products like fish sauce and egg noodles. It's an unusual dish, but it comes in a very recognisable form that people instantly understand – noodles, broth, contents, toppings. But – and most importantly – it's an incredibly moreish dish, with a delicate balance of sweet, sour, salty and spicy flavour notes. Our customers often tell us that they slurped up every last drop, and can't wait to come back for more.”
How it began: Upon moving to London, the couple made their way through a plethora of Thai eateries, from the tragically old school to the achingly hip, and were mostly met with disappointment. In fact, the only time they could access the flavours they craved was when Kerdphol conjured up her Bangkok magic at home. Thus, Greedy Khao was born. Initially, it started off with meat and dairy options, but they transitioned the street food stall from the traditional to a plant-based brand.
The dish: Salt bae bagel, made with smoky and herby seitan, smoked gouda, pickles and American mustard. The name of the dish was inspired by the Turkish chef who went viral on YouTube for the way he salts dishes.
The idea and why it’s popular: Co-founder Chloe Watt says she is trying to nudge people into a different way of eating by providing an option where they can still have all the same bagel fillings that they craved before, but meat-free, cruelty-free and good for the environment. She experimented with using jackfruit originally, but found seitan gave a more beef-like mouthfeel for her bestselling bagel. “I think it’s popular because a lot of people crave that meaty texture, especially within a bagel, and no one is really doing that in London in terms of a salt beef bagel that is 100% vegan. So there is an element of curiosity and wanting to try it, and people love the combination of cheese as well,” she adds.
How it began: After years of never being able to find a classic vegan bagel in London, the founders took to the kitchen to create recipes inspired by their favourite delicatessens in New York and London. They launched in February 2018 at Vegan Nights on Brick Lane.
The dish: Sans Elote Bowl, a heaped helping of quinoa, black beans, pickled onion, roast squash, shredded red cabbage and kale with a roast cauliflower tostadas top and chipotle crema, along with guajillo chilli oil and toasted sesame.
The idea and why it’s popular: The bowl is inspired by a Mexican corn street food that co-founder Kali Hamm loved when visiting the country. “We started it in the summer with fresh summer fruit and veg, tomatoes, nectarines and of course fresh corn, finished with chipotle cashew crema and guajillo chile oil. Since summer's over, we've switched it to the Sans Elote (without corn) – taking the summer veg out and replacing it with roast squash, topped with a roast cauliflower tostada. It's a punchy, flavour packed fun salad, but still healthy. I think it reflects my style of cooking. It looks great and sounds interesting and I think that's why it sells so well,” she says.
How they began: Hamm has worked as a freelance chef for several years and trained at the Natural Gourmet Institute in New York, a school specialising in vegetarian health cooking, which is where her culinary style began to develop. Her travels have inspired her to create modern international dishes and flavours while keeping food fresh, vibrant and nutritionally balanced. Palm Greens' mission is to provide fast food that fits with the city’s pace without skimping on quality, ethics, taste and fun.