05 | Sep | 22

Richard Johnson

Our BSFA finalists

Ladies and gentlemen, please meet YOUR FINALISTS! Thousands applied for the 2022 British Street Food Awards  (2,892 to be exact), hundreds competed, and 12 won their way through to the finals – at Hackney Bridge in London this weekend. Tickets here. Before they load up their vans, and start on their MASSIVE road trips to the East End, have a look at this line-up. Best in the business. You just need to decide who you’re going to head for first. Menus here.

Oh Babu from London

The best Indian street food in the UK? You decide. Start with a mouthful of their Toofani Chicken Momos. These street snacks – steamed or fried – are found all over India . “Our Momos are made with a spiced chicken stuffing, marinated with a number of spices, and grilled in the oven. After getting the right texture they are finally tossed in cream, butter and masala. Our customers love them – and so do we.”

Karan Abbot, founder of Oh Babu, worked over 12 years in hospitality, managing some the top Indian restaurants in London and the UK. “But this business started during the pandemic when all the restaurants were closed and I was seeking to do something different. My obsession with Indian street food was something I had from my childhood days and was major reason why I decided to run a food truck.” Was it a good call? Come along to Hackney Bridge and decide for yourself.

LJ Hugs from Bath

It’s a joy, watching LJ Hugs as the team dance (and sing) round each other, pushing out their modern creole menu to the thumping soundtrack of summer. That’s why their queues in Bath and Bristol are always the longest. And no-one really seems to mind, as long as they come away with with the grilled chicken taster box.

It’s a family thing – a multicultural family of Chinese, Italian, Malaysian, Jamaican and English. “We love to eat together” says founder Lewis Farquharson, “and we love food full of taste. So we created LJ Hugs to replicate that same family feel of eating round a table – and pure comfort in your mouth.”

Junk from Edinburgh

The idea for Junk – exquisite, high-end comfort food – came to Cam, the founder, in a dream. “Covid hit us all pretty bad but rather than drink ourselves into a blunder we decided to create a little recipe website together – wearejunk.co.uk. A combination of our fine dining backgrounds and infatuation for all things not good for you. We’re not your average Junk. 2 years later: 0 bank balance; 2 kids; 100+ recipes published; 12 pop-ups; 1 Scottish Street Food Award; and 1 restaurant in the works. We’re loving life!”

The Fork Society from Birmingham

They used to be the Pork Society. In a clever rebrand, to widen the appeal of their menu, they became the Fork Society. They’ve now built up a reputation as 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. “Our van is certainly one of the big boys” says Gemma, “set up to be a professional kitchen on wheels. Not your usual street food set up.” And their signature? Chargrilled pork collar steak, sliced over skin-on fries with Chimichurri and pink pickled onion. “The Chimichurri is our own recipe with a unique take on the traditional dressing. The pork collar is the best cut of meat we’ve found to use in our dishes as it’s tender, universal and always guaranteed to be “melt in the mouth”….”

The Bearded Taco from Cardiff

The Bearded Taco is the love child of Sian and Jake, hailing from Cardiff and California with a few other countries in between. We love to travel and we love to eat and so we have attempted to create a taco menu using influences from the many countries we have been lucky enough to visit” says Sian. “We trade from a uniquely converted ford transit van named Contessa, who spent most of her previous life as a police riot wagon before being lovingly restored to her current position. We source all ingredients locally wherever possible and all packaging used is recycled / compostable. EVERYTHING on our menu is made from scratch including the gluten free handmade corn tortillas and we always offer at least one tasty and innovative vegetarian option. Signature is an avocado tempura with agave, lemon slaw and chipotle aioli. 

Kochchi from Glasgow

Shehan and Suki were born in Sri Lanka but first came up with the idea for Kochchi (pronounced ko-chee) in Glasgow. “We’re food enthusiasts who were raised on traditional Sri Lankan home cooking” says Shehan. “Our street food dream was finally realised when we converted a rice trailer on our driveway during the pandemic.” The pair took away the People’s Choice at the Scottish Street Food Awards with their signature Kotthu – think chopped flatbread and vegetables, seared and drenched in Sri Lankan curry. 

Potjie Man from London

Inspired by his upbringing in South Africa, Nick Franklin serves Cape Malay street food – fragrant curry with tantalising toppings. He works in potjie pots – traditional cast iron cookware brought over from the Netherlands to South Africa in the 17th century. Expect melt-in-your mouth 12 hour slow-roasted lamb shoulder, or griddled aubergine and cashew nut sour cream, poured over Potjie Man’s signature fragrant rice.

Mr Murray’s Scotch Eggs from Manchester

There’s a unique quality to our next finalists. It’s their quintessential Britishness. Not in a parochial way. Mr Murray’s offer up real British street food, with high-end ingredients. “My special dish is the chilli cheese Welsh rarebit scotch egg served along side my home-made pickled red cabbage slaw, apple and ale chutney” says Mr Murray. “I offer seven flavours of scotch eggs all served with pickled red cabbage slaw, watercress, spring onion, tomato concasse and a choice of homemade condiments (from English mustard to habenero chilli jam, aioli, apple and ale chutney). In the winter I offer parched peas (a very Lancashire dish) as an additional garnish which I will definitely bring to the finals!”

Humble Kusina from Cheltenham

Forget breakfast, lunch, and dinner – Filipino food culture is 24/7. “Ever since I can remember, I’ve always loved Filipino food” says Jennifer Chaney, founder of Humble Kusina – BSFA southern champion. “When I was young, mum literally had to put a lock on the fridge because she would regularly find me hiding underneath the dining table scoffing my face! Her menu of siopao buns – and Bao buns, all the colours of the rainbow – is prepped fresh, and cooked on site with bamboo steamers.”Everybody loved my Mum’s food, and she taught me how to make everything I ate growing up. Seeing as Filipino cuisine isn’t as widely known, I wanted to share the undiscovered delights with the world.” Reports that Jennifer’s mum will be cooking up at the finals are as yet unconfirmed.

Cosmos Mexicana from Cardiff

Cosmos offer up plant-based burritos from Doris, a one of a kind 1953 Fisher Holivan. Husband and wife team Darryl Evans and Michelle O’Donnell-Evans found Doris for sale on the Isle of White. “The second we saw her we were smitten. So much so that we booked a ferry there and then, drove through the night and 24 hours later she was back in Wales, parked on our driveway! “ Their signature serve is their Burrito Favorito – that’s cayenne roasted sweet potato, charred peppers, pan-blackened shallot, smoked cheese, mixed bean, chipotle crema, lime and lemon rice, pico de Gallo, and soft flour tortilla.

Skullduggery Desserts from Coventry

Cake or fake? Skullduggery Desserts from Birmingham always mess with EVERYBODY’S head. At the grand final of the 2021 British Street Food Awards, they served the judges a traditional Sunday roast: it was a lemon drizzle roast turkey, pancake ‘roast beef’, white chocolate cheesecake ‘mash’, chocolate truffle ‘roasties’, a rich chocolate ganache ‘gravy’ and an old school Yorkshire pudding filled with jam and cream – just like your Gran used to eat for tea. What’s she got planned for the 2022 finals? Will the cheesecake chariot return? Come to Hackney Bridge and see….

Unagi from Manchester

The Unagi food truck – lovingly named ‘l’il kimchi’ after a public vote – was Unagi’s first foray into street food, And purchased two months prior to lockdown….Hopefully she’ll be making an appearance at the BSFA grand finals in London where these Manchester traders hope to acquit themselves well. House special? The mushu special uramaki roll. “Named to represent the Chinese zodiac symbol of the dragon, this is our top selling roll of crispy katsu prawn, avocado, cucumber, seared salmon, black tobiko & teriyaki. For veggies we will be offering our classic Veggie Crunch. It’s our top-selling sushi roll – to watch our chef’s roll is always a spectacle but with this one the roll is ‘blowtorched’ to finish leaving a lovely smoky finish to the fish on top…”