23 | May | 22

Richard Johnson

Taco Bout Us

The Welsh Street Food Awards are always a special date in the calendar. Hosted by Street Food Circus and Food Mutiny at Roath Yard, an old milk depot off the City Road, it’s a right good knees-up. The Welsh just get street food. Cafe Mor, the seaweed forager from Pembrokeshire, won the British Street Food Awards back in 2012 – and earnt the right to trade in the Olympic village. And last year’s People’s Choice, Janet’s Authentic Northern Chinese, went all the way from Roath Yard to become British Champion. Following in their footsteps this year will be The Bearded Taco and The Fork Society who were People’s Choice. On to the British finals with them!

The Welsh Street Food Awards always attract media attention. Joanne Page – from Gavin and Stacey and BBC Radio Wales – wanted to speak to our judges about the finalists. And Krish was invited on to Steph’s Packed Lunch on Channel 4 was happy to talk about his plans to reclaim his title in 2022. But it was always going to be tough against a lineup like this.

The 2022 Welsh shortlist was:

Cosmo’s Mexicana
Ringo’s Dirty Diner
Dirty Gnocchi
Nomad Kitchen
Bearded Taco
Fork Society
Smokin Griddle
Keralan Karavan
Bao Selecta
Tokyo Nights
Poutine Punks
Kapow Ribs

Bao Selecta would surely have won something – again – if they hadn’t declared themselves unavailable for the British Street Food Awards finals in September. And Nick’s slaw, with a lime, coriander and black pepper dressing, plus a garlic mayo, served with his home-made seitan, was a winner. So we have to wait until 2023 to see them compete again. And Dirty Gnocchi were doing very well in the public vote but had to pull out of trading on Sunday due to a fire on the Saturday. So sorry guys. See you next year.

On the judging panel this year was Cardiff blogger Kacie Morgan (therarewelshbit.com) PLUS Queens of Cue
Sam Evans and Shauna Guinn. “It’s fantastic to be back judging the Welsh Street Food Awards for our third year running” said Sam. “It’s a hugely important event on the Welsh culinary scene, run nationally and internationally by the British Street Food group. Each winner gets a chance to represent Wales and compete in the British Street Food Awards – an event that can really open doors for talented traders.”

“We are often asked ‘How do we choose a winner?’ For us it’s about giving us something that really represents you, not what necessarily is your best-selling item. Each trader has a few minutes to tell us about their dish and we’ll ask about you, your business, and how you prepared the dish. Please make as many elements of the dish yourself – give us something that blows your own mind and you’ll have a recipe for success”

So many favourites. The classic burger from the guys at Smokin’ Griddle. Those delicious cheese curds (with VEGAN curds and gluten free gravy available for those in the know) at Poutine Punks. The beautiful, handmade dim sum from the ex-Hang Fire team at Nomad Kitchen and the street food yakitori from Oli at Tokyo Nights. Oli is serious – so serious he butchers the chickens himself, and even offered up the chicken skin as an optional side dish on the Saturday afternoon. His pursuit of authenticity even extends to his use of Japanese charcoal.

The plant-based burritos from Cosmos Mexicana, especially the cayenne-roasted sweet potato, were a revelation. And from a team so new to street food. Those loaded hot dogs from Ringo’s – wow. Another lockdown startup, and that rarity in street food – a brother/sister kitchen combo. Kapow ribs (a finalist in 2020) are still the best in the business, but the addition of a new potatoes/sour cream side gave their entry a real substance. And Fork Society impressed with an ability to be a high-volume business that still keeps an eye on quality, with a pork collar tender as anything you’d eat in a high-end restaurant kitchen.

Keralan Karavan – last year’s Welsh champions, and tv stars after Steph’s Packed Lunch on Channel 4 – entered a tiny popping pani poori. A sweet, entertaining, surprising little mouthful that was beautifully presented, with all of Krish’s usual panache, and sat alongside a mango and cardamom mousse. It wasn’t QUITE enough to beat The Bearded Taco’s avocado tempura with agave, lemon slaw and chipotle aioli. But it was close. And with wild cards to the final of the British Street Food Awards being given to the best runners up, there will certainly be more than two traders waving the Welsh flag this September.

Matt ‘the Hat’ Lawton, the founder and ‘ringmaster’ of the Street Food Circus, is delighted to be back in business. “We set up Street Food Circus with a mission to create platforms for new, independent chefs to sharpen their skills, create new dishes and build a customer base. So we’re thrilled to see them go on to win UK awards, open their own restaurants or land TV and book deals. It’s great to be hosting the Welsh Street Food Awards again here in Roath Yard, supporting and showcasing all the creative cooking talent we have here in Wales,” he said.

Judges’ Choice was:
1. The Bearded Taco
2. Keralan Karavan
3. Cosmo’s Mexicana
4=. Kapow ribs and Nomad Kitchen

People’s Choice was:
1. The Fork Society
2. Keralan Karavan
3. The Bearded Taco
4. Kapow Ribs

National and regional heats take place throughout the UK with the British Street Food Awards finals held in September.