Street food can be really hit and miss. You might ﬁnd yourself paying £5 for a frankfurter in a bun just because it has Mrs Marple’s Marvellous homemade relish on it (which turns out to be a combination of tomato ketchup and balsamic glaze,) or you might manage to indulge your senses in something truly scrumptious and creative.
‘Guerrilla Eats’, a group of street food traders based primarily in Manchester, is a typical example of both ends of the spectrum. Tired of the usual pizzas and burgers I went in search of the Chaat Cart selling traditional Indian roadside snacks. Never has a vendor had such a welcoming smile even after the ﬁfth customer in a row asked her to explain what was in the food. Unlearned as I am in Indian cuisine, I just said I’d have whatever she thought was best and I was given a Masala Dosa; a pancake made of lentil and rice ﬁlled with a spicy potato mix and topped with her own coconut and tomato chutneys. This was something I’d never make for myself, it was inventive and you could really tell that the vendor was serving what she loved to cook. Her passion certainly manifested itself in the food, which was delicious, healthy and hearty.
Contrary to the enthusiasm shown at the Chaat Cart, round at Pancake Corner the mood was bleak. Perhaps it was because their ﬁllings were so uninspiring? Yes, I too would be bored stiff after my 200th customer asked me for a Nutella pancake. There is nothing wrong with doing something traditional and simple but if you’re going to do it, you have to do it really well, and these thick doughy pancakes really didn’t make the cut.
At Ginger’s Comfort Emporium, however, it was a different story. As winner of ‘Best of the Best’ at the British Street Food Award 2012, the ice creams, with fantastic ﬂavours like orange saffron and whiskey marmalade, were good enough to tempt you to have one in Manchester in February – and that’s pretty good.
Other things on offer included rustic artisan pizzas, marinated and barbecued smoky beef buns and traditional Mexican burritos, among others. My friends vouched for the delectability of all of these though none of them were likely to leave a lasting memory.
The great thing about street food is that it’s a fun and cheap way to eat out, as well as an opportunity to get to know a different part of the city. As we bobbed along to Jamie T and the Libertines blaring out of the speakers – whilst attempting to keep the contents of our burritos from escaping – I decided that it wasn’t really about the food. Of course, it’s always a bonus if there are some sellers that leave a lasting impression, but the fun is really to be had in the relaxed atmosphere. With everyone wrapped up in coats, holding a chilli hot chocolate in one hand, a burger in the other and happily chatting away, it’s the most casual and inexpensive way to go out to eat that you can get. Main, pudding and a can of beer for a tenner: what could be better?
Check out their website for news on upcoming events in Manchester: www.guerrillaeats.co.uk