Bao buns have soared in popularity in the UK in the past few years, but now they have competition in the form of dumplings, which are steaming onto the food scene.
Popular London street-food trader The Ugly Dumplings is about to make the switch to a permanent location, opening at the former Little Pitt site just off Soho’s Carnaby Street. The street-food van made its name by combining traditional Asian recipes with western ingredients, with the current menu featuring satay chicken dumplings with mixed spices; and spinach and tofu dumplings with shiitake mushrooms and carrots. The permanent site is expected to feature a refreshed dumpling menu as well as a brunch offer.
Street-food trader Dumpling Shack is looking to follow in The Ugly Dumplings’ footsteps after hosting its first pop-up event at Leicester House in Soho last year, where it served dishes including crab and truffle versions of shengjianbao (Shanghai-style soup dumplings). The event was created to enable diners ‘to sample some of the dishes that will be going on our menu at our permanent site’, it says, so watch this space.
Beijing-style street food brand Mamalan, meanwhile, recently teamed up with Duck & Waffle executive chef Dan Doherty to create a duck dumpling for the launch of the sixth Mamalan, in Shoreditch. The restaurant group says it intends to team up with more local restaurants and chefs to create a number of hybrid dumpling dishes throughout the year.
And then there’s famed Taiwanese steamed dumpling restaurant group Din Tai Fung, which is believed to be opening its first UK outpost later this year. The brand, which has 135 restaurants in 13 countries, is notable because two of its dumpling restaurants in Hong Kong hold Michelin stars.
Hawaiian marinated raw fish dish poké hit the London restaurant scene last year and - like its Peruvian counterpart ceviche - has proven to be more than just a fleeting food fad.
Taking its name from the Hawaiian word for to slice or cut, poké was traditionally eaten by fishermen who served the off-cuts from their catch as a snack.
The dish, which is often made using tuna or salmon, is heavily influenced by Japanese and other Asian cuisines and usually features ingredients such as sesame, ginger and onion.
A number of poké-focused restaurants have launched in recent months, adding to the likes of Island Poké, Ahi Poké and Black Roe poke bar and grill, which all opened in the capital last year. The latter, launched by Chotto Matte founder Kurt Zdesar, serves eight different types of poké, including a more unsual beef tataki version.
Last month, Honi Poké launched in Soho with dishes that include its signature Octo Poké – flame-torched octopus, kimchi, chive, togarashi, sunomono cucumber, red chilli and kimchi sauce.
Soho House and Sydell Group’s hotel and restaurant development The Ned in the City will also champion the dish. Modern Asian-Pacific restaurant Kaia, one of nine restaurants to be housed in The Ned when it opens later this month, will specialise in healthy bowl food, including poké. If it’s good enough for Soho House...
3. British charcuterie
The weakening of the pound hasn’t been a blessing for every food supplier, but one group that has benefited is British charcuterie producers. Often overlooked by restaurants in favour of Italian and Spanish alternatives, British air-dried meats are much more desirable now that their price is more in line with their European rivals.
Twinned with this has been the great strides taken in the British charcuterie scene, with the likes of Cannon & Cannon, Cobble Lane Cured and Rutland Charcuterie producing excellent hams, salamis and biltong.
“There’s been a cured meat revolution in the UK in recent years with a new generation of artisan producers developing air-dried sausages and hams that are more than a match for anything made on the continent,” according to fine food supplier Harvey & Brockless. “The movement has evolved to such an extent that companies are fusing Spanish, Italian and British traditions to create products that are truly original.”
Products in the company’s portfolio include air-dried duck breast from Somerset Charcuterie; cold-smoked mutton cured with rosemary, juniper, garlic, black pepper and port from Capreolus Fine Foods in Dorset; and smoked venison from Great Glen Charcuterie in Scotland.
British charcuterie is also finding its way onto many UK restaurant tables, including Jamie Oliver’s Jamie’s Italian, which is supplied by Cobble Lane Cured in London. The team behind the company met while working at Barbecoa butcher’s shop and Oliver has since invested in the company.
4. Portuguese food (and wine)
With the exception of Nando’s, Portuguese-inspired restaurants haven’t taken off in the UK in quite the same manner as their Spanish counterparts. But that is changing with a number of places opening up serving Portuguese food – and not just piri-piri chicken, either.
Nuno Mendes’ Taberna do Mercado in Spitalfields is one such restaurant . Here the Portuguese chef champions his country’s excellent tinned fish as well as its traditional stew cozido, cured meats made from acorn-eating bisaro pigs and the prego sandwich – his comes packed with beef, prawn paste and wild garlic.
Mendes has been joined in his mission to popularise Portuguese cuisine by Max Graham and Tiago Santos, the duo behind Bar Douro, in London’s Flat Iron square. Bar Douro, which opened at the end of last year, serves popular Portuguese dishes such as salt cod cakes and salted cod with scrambled egg and chips, and roast suckling pig with home-made crisps.
This year will also see former Viajante and Climpson’s Arch chef Leandro Carreira open his first restaurant. Details are still under wraps but it is likely to build on the cooking at L.C at Climpson’s Arch where he focused on dishes from lesser-known parts of Portugal, including egg and tomato stew with fava beans and chorizo; and duck fricassee.
Portuguese wine is also tipped for greatness in the UK market this year. Berkmann Wine Cellars has identified Portugal as one of the key wine producing countries, according to research conducted at its annual portfolio event. Attendees gave their predictions for the world of wine in the coming year, with 48% naming Portugal as the emerging wine region for UK consumers in 2017.
Drinks supplier Bibendum also believes 2017 will be the year for wines from Portugal, in particular white wines. It reports that Portuguese sales in the on-trade grew by 25% in value last year.
5. Danish pastries
New Nordic cuisine has stolen much of the limelight of Denmark’s culinary output in recent years thanks to René Redzepi and co, but the country’s most famous dish – the one that bears its name – is enjoying a renaissance on these shores.
Danish pastries have long been a regular part of any self-respecting bakery’s repertoire, and Nordic bakeries have been cropping up across the country – chef Christoffer Hruskova and Danish baking master Per Brun’s The Bread Station in Hackney for one – helping to elevate Danish baking. Now there’s a big kid in town in the form of Ole & Steen, the UK roll-out brand of the Lagkagehuset bakery company that has more than 50 sites in Denmark.
Ole & Steen, named after founders Ole Kristoffersen and Steen Skallebæk (who presumably thought Lagkagehuset was not a good roll-out name for the UK) opened its first London bakery in December and has won plaudits for its cinnamon snegl, poppy twists (frøsnapper), rabarberhorn (rhubarb crescents) and _lødebolle – marshmallow puffs covered in dark chocolate and rolled in hazelnuts. And there are further openings intended for Richmond, Canary Wharf and Nova in Victoria in the coming months.
With French pâtissier Dominique Ansel – the creator of the Cronut – looking to open a second bakery in the capital this year, we can expect 2017 to feature a more posh patisserie – but it is the Danes and not the French that are on a roll.
6. Syrian food
The ongoing conlict in Syria and the plight of refugees led food Instagrammer Clerkenwell Boy and Serena Guen, founder and CEO of Suitcase magazine, to create the #CookforSyria cookbook featuring recipes from top chefs. The campaign, which ran during November in the UK, raised money for UNICEF’s Syria Relief fund not only through the sale of the book but also with restaurants giving a Syrian twist to a dish on their menu and the proceeds being donated .
Not only has such activity thrown a light on the ongoing problems in Syria, it has introduced the country’s largely unknown cuisine to a wider market.
Syrian cuisine shares similarities with Turkish and Lebanese, with falafel and tabbouleh key components of many dishes, as are pomegranates, chickpeas, freekeh, olives, lemon and garlic. Its national dish is kibbeh, a fried, torpedo-shaped croquette usually filled with minced lamb or beef.
Last month, Syrian chef Imad Alarnab ran a two week pop-up restaurant in Bethnal Green, called Syrian Kitchen, where he served dishes such as fattoush (toasted latbreads, pomegranate molasses, tomato and cucumber); kabsa (spicy chicken with cardamom and rice); and tabakh rohoo (aubergine, squash and tamarind stew). Alarnab used to own two restaurants and juice bars and cafés in Damascus, before they were destroyed and he hopes the pop-up will help rebuild his business in the UK and push Syrian food onto the UK foodie radar. Watch this space.
This article appeared in the April issue of Restaurant Magazine. Subscribe here from just £70 a year.