The words ‘vegan street food festival’ used to fill me with dread. To be honest, I don’t think I would have ever heard them until quite recently anyway, unless you were somewhere in Stokie. Now, those words fill me with straight up delight, and even my carnivorous friends don’t sneer at it anymore . Times are a changing (or maybe they’re just humouring me).
Full disclosure here: I’m only a part time vegan. I cook vegan at home and work (although I have fallen foul with the odd chocolate biscuit at snack o’clock) but I eat pescatarian when I go out. Because it’s easier, and I don’t like making a fuss, and also, sometimes it’s more delicious and I’m selfish like that. I’d like to be fully vegan one day, but it’s never going to be overnight.
So: enough about me. Onto the food. No, wait, let’s talk about the music. OH MY GOD IT WAS SO LOUD. We got there early on Friday after work, thinking we’d beat the queues. That was a mistake. It was packed. We were there for four hours, half of that queuing. And the music was pumping, ear-splittingly loud from the start. You couldn’t talk, you could only queue mutely. Having said that, three drinks in I was tapping my foot and shouting merrily at the boy. So if you ever go to one of these things, get there for around nine, when all the diners have cleared out to drink elsewhere, there are no queues and you’ve hopefully lubricated yourself at the pub beforehand and are willing to shout to be heard.
Right so there’s a lot of dishes so let’s get through them quickly. FYI – we paid £30 or so for all the dishes and voted for our favourite at the end. I’ll do the order we ate them in. Biff’s Jack Shack – double fried jackfruit buffalo wings speared on sugar cane bone with maple bourbon hot sauce, blue cheese, toasted almond kale slaw and a fresh seared peach. The coating was crispy, the flesh of the jackfruit soft and yielding. It didn’t have the metallic aftertaste of the only other jackfruit I’ve ever tasted – Nanban’s at Model Market – but I have it on good authority their jackfruit is usually excellent, so I think it was a frying mishap. The coleslaw tasted like bitter chopped salad. Good, but not a winner.
Next, Spice Box – charred makhani-smothered tandoori cauli steak with coriander chutney and homemade pickles on a grilled naan. This was my favourite of the night. I ate low carb for a long time (I still do in the evening when I’m being good) and I got sick of cauliflower. This dish completely reinvented it. They used the off casts from the cauliflower steak to make a creamy korma. A delicious, delightful surprise. The boy complained it was too hard to eat – it was stupidly gooey on a pillowy soft naan – but I perfected the tear and scoop manoeuvre. Plus the girl that served us was ace, and really had her patter down. This dish got my vote.
Next, Lemlem Kitchen with their Timtimo split pea afro-taco, served on injera with a red cabbage and ginger slaw, and pickled chillies and seeds. This was like a crisp taco within a flabby pancake – not unpleasant as it sounds. It tasted wholesome, and I loved the big snaps of jalapeños but the boy thought it overpowered everything. I can’t remember much more so it wasn’t the star dish for me.
Next, we braved the queue for the famed Temple of Seitan fried ‘chicken’ slider in an agave mustard glaze. I don’t want to make the hipster vegans angry but I don’t like TOS all that much. I went to the store once before on a Friday night, late around 9, and we could only get what was left – chicken nuggets, mac and cheese and fries. Turns out seitan doesn’t agree with everybody – we had a few drinks then both had to go home, complaining of a bad stomach. It wasn’t great. But I had the same thing with That’s A Wrap! so maybe I just need to stay away from huge quantities of the stuff.
This time round, the slider was pretty good, actually. The mustard glaze was sweet as fuck but I quite liked that – the boy thought it was too much, but overall he was really impressed. And slider size = less seitan. Score. Spoiler alert – this won second place.
Shit this blog is so long. I’m so sorry. Next: Eat Chay – Korean BBQ Bahn Mi baguette filled with crispy seitan, mushroom walnut pate, pickled carrots, parsnips and Sriracha mayo. This was in my top two. The boy voted for this dish. The seitan didn’t have that weird cloying taste of soy Quorn pieces, and instead was umami as fuck. The pate was fucking awesome, rich and unctuous, perfectly contrasted by sharp, tangy pickled carrots.
Then Greedy Khao’s Thai red curry tofu and butternut squash pillows, on soy sesame slaw and hom mali rice. This tasted like a really good curry from your favourite Thai takeaway, but vegan. Which is a win to be honest, because Thai food is the nuts but they use a shit load of fish sauce in that stuff. The boy loved it. Fuck off tiny portion though.
Nearly there: next up Petare (Bucket List reigning champ!) – Venezuelan ‘chip butty’ arepa stuffed with cassava chips, sweet fried plantain, “feta”, avocado and garlic sauce. We’ve had it before actually, at Model Market in Lewisham. We had the vegetarian version that time – real feta. It was good, different to anything I’ve had before. Spoiler alert – these guys won. But we didn’t rate it as much this time. We didn’t get to this stall until about nine. The place was dead but they’d cooked out all the original portions so were doing a fresh lot. I got the last of the original batch – it was SCALDING hot. The plantain and the bun thing just formed into one stiff deep fried mass, and I couldn’t distinguish between the two, other than occasional notes of sweetness from the plantain. The boy got a fresh one and unluckily for him it was completely underdone. He didn’t like it at all.
FINALLY – Young Vegans with their chocolate peanut butter mud pie brownies. This was actually crazy good, and you would never have guessed it was vegan. Got crazy busy at the end, too – no one goes straight for dessert. It was really, really gooey and really, really rich and I couldn’t finish it. I also don’t like sweet stuff when I drink booze and I was already stuffed, so that contributed.
I have no idea if you’re still reading but if you are, that’s it. Thanks for coming this far. Maybe I should have done highlights. Maybe I will actually just delete this whole line. Either way, the whole point is, vegan food is actually really fucking good if people can be arsed to make it, and you can be arsed to eat it. Watch some documentaries and just realise we’re destroying our planet for bacon. Which probably makes a lot of people high five and say ‘totally worth it’ but it’s not, stop it. Have some seitan instead. Not too much though, that stuff is not good in large quantities. Trust me.
Five out of five stars for effort, and for giving a fuck.