This year we’ve seen many more varied menus on our markets and 38 brand new businesses have come through the inKERBator programme, full of fresh ideas and far-flung influences. [Full look back on 2018 here]. But it’s not just the new kids bringing in the showstoppers; our more seasoned KERBanists continue to pull in the crowds – BBQ Dreamz’ Filipino Megabox remains a head turner; nothing beats Smokin’ Lotus’ Asian BBQ hoisin chilli brisket on a cold day on the Quay, and Mother Clucker’s twice-brined Cajun fried chicken still holds the record for the top-selling dish of all time.
Here are are some KERB classics that have made the London streets taste a whole lot better in 2018. Dishes like these help to secure our capital’s reputation as one of the best cities to eat in the world:
1. TOP SELLING (MARKETS): BIAN DANG’S BEAST BOX
No one ’s built a cult following quite like Tristan Lee Son of Bian Dang; 11am on the Quay and he’s already got a queue 20 people deep. His signature Taiwanese ‘Beast Box’ is a consistent best seller, with 20,000 of those whoppers sold at our lunch markets this year.
Three years on since launching in 2015 and he’s still there on the ground, serving up his dish from the stall – the unmistakable face of his business. And his dish hasn’t changed much; why would it when he’s compiled such a treasure box of sweet potato crumbed, deep fried pork chop, salt and pepper oyster mushrooms and chicken with crunchy daikon, house-made mushroom gravy, chilli oil, steamed rice, spring greens and a perfect tea-marinated, soft boiled egg on top? (Gulp). CULT DISH.
2. MOST INNOVATIVE (MARKETS): CALLY MUNCHY’S FUSION JOLLOF
Cally Munchy’s food has been booming this year and of all 58 of the food businesses we’ve seen come through our inKERBator in the last two years, it’s Cally Munchy who we’ve seen grow the most.
Run by one of the youngest of our KERBanists, Ebeneezer, who was 23 when he joined us, has developed a dish that we think is the most flavour-packed on our markets. You better believe you can smell those Suya steak sizzles all the way up the Boulevard when they’re trading on Granary Square!
What’s in it? Jollof rice, Suya spiced steak / chicken / cauli, fried kelewele, two types of hot sauce – the Nyiragongo (named after a famous volcano in Congo) and their housemade Shi-Tuan (made with 12 types of chilli!) plus coconut flakes. They’re a fantastic representation of London street food and it’s great to see more KERB customers learning about West African food through Ebeneezer and his team.
3. MOST COMPLEX / YOU CAN’T MAKE THIS AT HOME DISH: KAKI LIMA’S SAMBAL SOTO
Kaki Lima’s Indonesian soto – the first soup dish to really gain traction on our markets – and well deserved. It took a while for our customers to understand it when Maya and Kristy started inKERBating, but now they’re killing it. It just shows that hard work and patience to introduce something less familiar to the street pays off – and that our customers don’t necessarily want to ‘play it safe’ with their lunch (legends!).
It takes the Kaki Lima sisters over 18 hours to brew their hot bubbling, lemongrass and tumeric cauldrons then carry them down to the likes of KERB Gherkin. 28 different ingredients go into the soto (!) The homemade sambal chilli sauce, soft boiled egg, ginger chips and melinjo nut cracker alone would have been enough to knock it into one of our top spots – but that time they did a giant pork wonton on we entered dreamland 😍 (and they’ve got the vegans covered with their pulled jackfruit soto or special sweet soy garlic tempeh). These women are both full-time mums too – which is no easy feat to juggle with slinging such consistently beautiful food on the streets. FEMALE POWER! (Look out for Kaki Lima at the Old Nun’s Head taking over the kitchens in Jan).
4. MOST INSTAGRAMMABLE: LONDON SMOKEHOUSE’S SLOW-SMOKED BEEF RIBS
London Smokehouse’s giant beef short ribs. A new dish, brought onto the menu after owner and full-time mum, Meriam Putros graduated earlier this month, we think this one’s going to be big on Instagram in 2019. When soft-spoken Meriam came into the office a few months ago, sitting quietly with a box which she up to reveal this gigantic, 12hr smoked, brisket burnt ends we got all Pulp Fiction on it as we peered in.
It’s certainly the heaviest dish on our markets – so you can work the biceps while you manoeuvre that 10inch (Tyrannosaurus 😮) bone through the crowds and back to the office to spark off MAJOR lunch envy. Served with a side scoop of truffle potato salad, mac ‘n cheese and a handmade, South African smoked chicken sausage tucked under it, this isn’t something you see every day out here – and it photograph’s real nice too.
5. MOST INNOVATIVE (KERB CATERS): THE BEEFSTEAK’S BEETROOT MACARON CANAPES
In 2018, KERB Caters has got all up in the grill of the traditional London catering industry more than ever; our traders have used it as a chance to take their creative flair up a notch and showcase their talent in ever original ways.
It’s the ‘street food canapés’ that have really dropped jaws in the corporate event world this year. Some of our favourites: Only Jerkin’s vegan triple fried plantain, halloumi, avo and lime canapés for Radio Fest at the British Library in August; The Patate’s deep fried Bourguignon and camembert pepper crumb nuggets with remoulade and cherry jam dip for Google Campus in Jan; and these whipped feta and beetroot macarons with crispy sage by The Beefsteaks’ Alex Pashby, who cooked a three course buffet for a KERB Caters wedding in May – just look at them! [See the main event – black peppercorn steak and chips dish].
6 BEST NEWCOMER: YUN’S DOUHUA MIXIAN 豆花米线
The silken tofu rice noodles (Douhua Mixian 豆花米线) with pork mince, crushed peanuts and crunchy Yunnan pickles from new street food business (and 2018 inKERBator graduate), Yun.
The best dish to come through our inKERBator this year – as voted for by the man who runs it – Ollie Hunter. Why? Yun are the only people to be doing authentic Yunnan cuisine on the streets of London, they are constantly evolving their menu, expanding it from 3 to 8 dishes since they started “because customers sometimes tell us: ‘Please don’t take Pickle Fish out of your Menu, please’, and that encourages us to do right thing”; and their hand-painted, ocean blue gazebo (and lip-tingling hand-cut Sichuan peppercorn crinkle cut chips) are a breath of fresh air to the kerb.
7. BEST SWEET: LE CHOUX’S PASSION FRUIT CURD CHOUX BUNS
Ex-Parisian pastry girl turned star choux-maker, Abigail at Le Choux, has gone from strength to strength this year and we’re so proud to have watched her ascend.
She began making chocolates after school at 15, then came over to London to work as a pastry chef but got “fed up of working in a male-dominated industry” so started her own choux business. Abigail started trading at our markets in 2016, then opened a counter at Fortnum & Mason and has hand baked some absolute beauties for our KERB Caters events this year.
High quality ingredients, artisan methods and mind-blowing flavours, our favourites this year: banoffee eclairs filled with peanut crumble, roast banana and liquid caramel, topped with vanilla cream and caramelised pecans; and these passion fruit rounders stuffed with passion fruit curd above. Heaven.
8. MESSIEST (but worth it): BAGGIO BURGER’S DOUBLE TOPPOLINO
Showing that there will always be a place for “food porn” in this industry; our lunch crowds will always want a burger to sink their teeth into, but it has to be incredible and make a mark and this one from 2017 inKERBator graduate, Nino at Baggio Burger does. Nino’s speciality is Italian style, dry-aged chuck steak patties made using authentic Amalfi Coast-inspired ingredients and family-run with mum and dad behind the grills.
If you haven’t tried the ‘Toppolino’ with house-made fig jam, Dolcelatte, mozzarella AND parmesan, ditch the January diets and get down to KERB Gherkin pronto to do so.
What have your favourite KERB dishes been this year? Instagram and tag us in.