Wednesday, 6 July 2011

Food Trend Wishlist

Food trends that I’d like to see in Manchester.

1)       Pork buns
2)       Dumpling shops
3)       Chipotle peppers
4)       Food trucks

Manchester tends to cotton on pretty quickly to national and global food trends: we have cupcakes and handmade noodles, and Vietnamese and South Indian are starting to figure on people’s Friday-night-dinner maps.  But some things are still missing.

New York’s continuing and growing obsession with pork buns (pillowy white buns filled with succulent roasted char siu pork) does not yet seem to have crossed the Atlantic.  Seeing as they are portable, delicious and cheap, they should be well on their way to becoming a national obsession here.  Manchester’s Chinatown is the second largest in the UK, and has been undergoing a bit of a culinary renaissance recently, moving away from the kungpao/black bean/General Tso’s chicken menus that previously predominated.  Now, with Hunanese, Szechuan and Korean cuisines becoming commonplace, the next step will hopefully be East Asian snack foods, including pork buns.  Both Chinese bakeries – Ho’s and Wong Wong - sell pork buns, but these are poor imitations of those available in New York (and China), with stodgier buns, fattier pork and unappetising fillings (only in Wong Wong, where pork buns come with either pineapple or scorching-hot honey).  Either the current providers need to reinvigorate their products, or new pork bun stockists need to come on the scene.

Similar to my obsession with pork buns is my one with dumplings.  Thin-skinned, soupy, pork or seafood, I love them almost equally.  It should be possible to get a take-away serving of six or so freshly made dumplings for a reasonable price.  Unfortunately, this is not currently the case.  Perhaps the East Asian snack food bar dreamed of above could provide these along with tasty pork buns.

Chipotle peppers are smoky and spicy, imbuing whatever they’re cooked with a unique Mexican aroma and flavour.  They tend to come either dried or in sauce in a can, and can be used with everything from eggs, to sauces, to vegetable dishes to meats.  Their smokiness adds an extra dimension to whatever they’re used in, and becomes slightly addictive after a while.  Chipotle hummous and mayonnaise may sound like unorthodox combinations, but hit all the right tangy-spicy-smoky notes.  As a nation that prizes spicy things and sandwiches, we really can’t afford to miss out on the chipotle fever that has swept the United States over the past couple of years.

Last, but possibly most important, is the issue of food trucks.  Currently taking London by storm, they’re an excellent idea.  Manchester has a relatively compact city centre with a lunch scene that manages to be both pricey and moribund.  Vans selling fresh-cooked falafel, curries, wraps, noodles and sandwiches would provide good quality and cheap lunch and snack foods to a working and shopping population that tends to have little time to spend on lunch but requires enough top-notch fuel to get them through hectic afternoons and evenings.  Being able to spend under a fiver on lunch would be beneficial to the legions of low-paid office workers inhabiting Manchester’s glass and concrete blocks, and the take-away aspect would satisfy the most time-conscious of bosses and workers alike.  For people looking to test their culinary skills in the open market before starting a restaurant, café or catering company, food trucks provide venues that can be based in the city centre but don’t have the sky-high rents attached.  Everybody wins, as long as the health-and-safety brigade ensure the trucks remain proper standards of hygiene.     


  1. I agree - I always thought Stephenson Square could have Exmouth Market-style potential on the northern paved area, especially if they got rid of the buses.

    Also - Manchester has taken to burritos quite well so vans are a natural evolution!

  2. Just saw this now. Couldn't agree more. As a former New Yorker and dedicated chowhound I've always wished for more stuff like this... Real Chinese dumplings are something I really miss (not gyoza or the odd spongy cantonese dim sum, which seems to be all you can get here... the beijing dumplings at Red Chilli are the closest I've come to the stuff I used to eat in NYC and Taiwan. Also, I would kill for decent Banh Mi sandwiches. The ones at Bubble Cafe are the only ones I've found and they're not great.

  3. I just came across your blog when Googling Guyana Roti in Brixton.
    Interesting post, pork buns sound most appetising.
    Sorry if I sound like a bit of a preachy twat here, but you seem to have noticed something that very few people in this country have, that pork buns are A: delicious, B: hard to come by, C: available offerings are terrible, and crucially, D: fashionable in New York.
    As you seem to be quite passionate and knowledgeable about food, and also unemployed, could you sell pork buns from a truck in Manchester? It seems to me that making money in the food business is just like fashion, i.e. being aware of trends and making sure you sell the right things at the right time. You seem like someone who'd be very good at that.