Pinoy, Asian street food conquer London

By Patrick Camara Ropeta, ABS-CBN Europe News Europe

Posted at Oct 26 2013 11:20 AM | Updated as of Oct 27 2013 01:13 AM

Fresh Filipino treats at a food fest in London

LONDON - Popular Filipino street food kwek kwek were among the mouth-watering tastes on offer at the first ever Southeast Asian Street Food Market in London.

The event premiered earlier this month at the trendy Union Street in Southwark, near the Tate Modern art museum and a short walk from the River Thames.

Hundreds of foodies and cultural explorers from different nationalities and backgrounds descended onto a small yard converted into a bustling culinary street with food delights from all over Southeast Asia.

Countries represented included Thailand, Malaysia, Burma and Singapore, each showcasing their country's specialties in barbecues, stir fries, stews, fried snacks, rice, noodles, and even Asian wine.

“I wanted to get as many cuisines from Southeast Asia as possible so you can taste the variety of food there is because it’s so diverse. But there are also similarities in the way they use their spices like pepper and soy sauce,” said Michelle Lee, organizer of the event.

She added: “Southeast Asia has been a crossing point for lots of different cultures and, historically, trade routes so I wanted it all in one place. I wanted to have that buzz, that atmosphere, that casual informal feeling you have when families come and eat.”

A small corner of Southwark turned into a bustling street food market with treats from across the Southeast Asian region

Philippine street food was represented by Pepe's Kitchen, a start up food business by UK-based Filipino Mae Magnaye Williams, who previously catered for a number of events at the Philippine Embassy in London.

“The British community should know about our food because it’s delicious. It’s humble but at the same time with big, big flavors,” she told ABS-CBN Europe.

“Filipino food has everything - we have noodles, stews, barbecues. We also have American and other influences like burgers and spaghetti. There are loads of dishes to choose from and I’m sure non-Filipinos will love at least one thing.”

Williams said her menu was drawn from her memories of the bustling streets in Manila with its street food vendors and the buzz of the urban landscape.

“It’s street food with a wholesome twist. We have kwek kwek which I know everybody loves in the side streets of the Philippines. So I just wanted to bring all that into the UK,” she explained.

Treats like ukoy (vegetable and shrimp fritters), humba (braised pork belly), and kwek kwek (battered quail eggs on sticks) proved popular at the festival, with people from different nationalities queuing up for the finger food.

There was also sticky rice, an Asian food staple, as well as deserts like suman and latik, glutinous rice cakes in banana leaves served with coconut caramel.

Kwek kwek was a hit among finger food lovers

“It’s amazing that lots more people get to taste what we have in the Philippines because we have amazing food,” said Irene Alano, a UK-based Filipino performer who visited the event.

“Filipino food is tasty. We have a lot of sweet dishes. We add a lot of sugar so it balances the taste. Lots of stew also and not too much on the spicy side.”

Renee Montemayor, a British Filipina actress, also came out to support Philippine food alongside other offerings from neighboring Asian countries that are better known in Britain.

“People in the UK need to experience Filipino food. It’s not as popular yet as Chinese food and Thai food, but I think it’s starting to gain popularity,” she observed.

“Every Asian culture have different flavors. Filipino food is very meat-based and flavorsome. There is an appeal for everybody. I know my husband loves adobo.”

Julian Essex-Spurrier, an Englishman married to Montemayor, said he has fallen in love with Filipino food, even with its quirks that may first seem strange to other nationalities.

“The concept of rice for breakfast was alien to me before I married a Filipino and now it’s normal. I like things like kare-kare and sinigang,” he revealed.

“I always recommend adobo because it’s kind of a neutral one that I know people will probably like, and I cook tenola for quite a lot of my friends.”

With the success of 5Footway’s first Southeast Asian Street Food Market, organizers are hoping to make it even better next year by aiming to acquire an even bigger venue with more street food from the region.

This year’s event was organized, in conjunction with the Southeast Asian Art Festival, which runs until November, offering a wide range of creative works across the city from film and photography to fine art and live events.

The Southeast Asian Street Food Market was a visual[comma] cultural and culinary delight