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The street food that stole our hearts

Our ever-growing love of Korean cuisine; a free downloadable recipe book; and a great competition to help you bring street food into the kitchen...

With street food well and truly stealing the show in 2014, many new cuisines and exotic influences have sprung up along our pavements and cobbled streets. Our tastebuds have been tantalised and tickled by food from all over the world, and we’ve scrapped plates and cutlery in favour of laps and napkins.

But out of the array of world cuisines, one in particular has cast a spell over us Brits. Seoul street food is something we’re embracing wholeheartedly. Korean food has soared to the top spot as our all-time favourite street food; it has captivated us and satisfied our craving for spice. While we might not be quite up to eating silk worm larvae or live octopus on our lunch breaks, we are lapping up the kimchi and bibimbap. Food festivals such as The Real Food Market now boast Korean barbecues and, this year, Gizzi Erskine went down a storm at Taste London with her Korean masterclasses.

Korean restaurants are nothing new; they have been prevalent on the London scene since the 1960s, but its recent pavement phenomenon is something that has organically flourished as part of the street food vibe. Street food is part of Korean life. Seoul, the capital of South Korea, is notoriously stacked to the brim with food vendors and so perhaps it was only a matter of time before it found a home on our narrow streets – and when something hits the pavements of Shoreditch you know it’s something to stand up and take notice of. Korean pop-ups and street vendors have been slowly growing in number. On the Bab, for example, and Korrito are among those to have made a home in London’s trendy Shoreditch and The Busan BBQ, has taken the trend to the next level, hailing the ‘AmeriKorean dream’.

Korean food is built upon some fairly strong flavours and fresh vegetables and it’s the combination the bright, vivid colours and the medley of hot, sour and sweet flavours that has got us all hooked. Korean cuisine offers so much variety that it lends itself to most tastes and diets appeals to a wide range of people. What you might not know is that it also boasts a number of health benefits.

Kimchi is traditionally served with every meal in Korea. It’s a tangy, pickled concoction of vegetables such as cucumber, cabbage, red onion and spring onion which is then given an additional kick with a blend of chillies, ginger, garlic and salt. Some find it an acquired taste, but there are plenty of different ways of making this dish to suit. What you need to know about kimchi, is that it not only tastes amazing, but it’s also filled with antioxidants. It supposedly helps to combat cancer, diabetes and obesity and is known for its anti-ageing properties.

The main component of kimchi is cabbage which is already known for its detoxifying properties, and kimchi is also high in Vitamin C and good bacteria that can control the appetite and help with weight loss. In fact this understated Korean side dish is simply overflowing with health benefits. Fermenting foods, such as you do with kimchi, is thought to be one of the most effective way of preserving nutrients. Perhaps this is why scientists spent years developing ‘space kimchi’. Although one of the most difficult of Korea’s national dishes to make space-friendly, it was nevertheless deemed one of the most necessary to accompany the first Korean into space. "If a Korean goes to space, kimchi must go there, too," said food scientist, Kim Sung Soos.

Bibimbap is another popular Korean dish and translates as simply ‘mixed rice’. White rice topped with a layer of sautéed vegetables and finished with sliced meat and a raw egg. This is a bit of snazzy dish: the hot stone bowl that bibimbap is served in continues to cook the meat and egg as all the ingredients are traditionally stirred together before tucking in.  

Our taste for world dishes was never going to stop in the street; we’re far too creative for that! Now that the winter days are drawing in, bring the food inside and give it a place in your kitchen. Kenwood have recently released a comprehensive cook book, comprised of recipes from all over the world, compiled from a variety of talented chefs including street food champion, Andy Bates, familiar face Matt Tebbutt and culinary author Celia Brooks. There’s enough in there to have you cooking up your own street food party, with recipes from across the globe.

To help you on your way to the perfect kimchi, we’re giving away a Kenwood Pro X to one lucky Food Festival reader. Just pop your email address in the box to be in with a chance. No one need know you didn’t chop all those vegetables by hand!  

Competition is now closed. Thank you all for entering. Winner has been notified by email - please check your inbox.

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