London is full of wonderful places to eat, both with or without Michelin stars, but as most Londoners will attest, some of the best eateries are local secrets. Street Hawker is one of ours. Located so close to Maida Vale tube stop that it might as well be part of the station, Street Hawker is tiny, with only a handful of wipe-down laminated tables and its faithful following jostling for elbow room. Take away patrons sit by the door, flicking through copies of Hello or OK! Magazine, or drag on a fag outside. Everyone is patient. There are no reservations. No one complains. The food here is simply worth any wait and inconvenience.
Street Hawker’s menu is crammed full of favourite dishes from the Far East. If you’re hungry enough, you can make a culinary tour of the whole region, starting with Vietnamese Spring Rolls, moving on to a steaming hot Laksa, following that up with Singapore Mee Goreng, a plate of hot Thai Gaeng Keo Wan with Monk’s vegetables and finish it all off with Teriyaki prawns. Then again, the portions are generous, so you probably wouldn’t make it through more than two or three countries’ worth of deliciousness.
Monsieur and I have both eaten in and taken away and we’re fans of both. In spite of the lack of space, there’s a wonderful atmosphere at Street Hawker. In its absolutely no-frills appearance, with a glass of cool Singaporean lager in hand and aromas of coriander, lemongrass and coconut milk wafting past our twitching noses, it’s possible to imagine oneself seated at a hawker stall in a land far, far away. It’s also worth the trek to collect a take away, but don’t be late because the manager will tell you off and if your deepest craving is for one of the soups, you’ll see a warning on the menu: “NOT AVAILABLE FOR TAKE-AWAY”. In reality, if you take along a big enough tupperware container and ask nicely, you will be allowed to take home one of their divine laksas or a kau chi dumpling noodle soup. Once again, the effort will be worthwhile.
Monsieur and I will gladly recommend the crispy chicken moneybags – small and crunchy mouthfuls of chicken minced with vegetables, shitake mushrooms and spring onions, perfect for dipping into the accompanying chilli dipping sauce which is so intensely fire-engine red that it almost glows in the dark and will keep your taste buds tingling for some time. We almost always choose some pancake duck wrappers, based on your typical Peking duck experience, served with salad garnish, hoisin and chilli sauce. There’s the option to pay for extra pancakes so make sure you do because the first lot will disappear all too quickly. The Street Hawker version of Phad Thai is the best I’ve ever eaten and has become a top-rated comfort food, but it’s a good idea to semi-starve yourself before eating this one; it’s BIG. Meanwhile, Monsieur’s current favourite is chargrilled Blackened Chilli Pork, marinated in dark soy, palm sugar, ginger, garlic and chilli, but don’t forget the rice, as I did on one occasion. While this absent-mindedness delayed the start of chow down as I quickly cooked up some Uncle Ben’s Boil in the Bag to go with the pork, the scents of all the delightful spices and blends almost killed me. It was a very uncomfortable 15 minutes.
Street Hawker’s prices are more than reasonable for food of such freshness and quality in almost-Central London: a typical main will set you back between £5 and £8. The portions are generous and the flavours authentic. According to Monsieur and me, a pair of enthusiastic foodies, this particular local secret is definitely worth a visit, although it may not stay quiet for much longer. As I sign off, my stomach is grumbling and my mind is on chicken in a nyonya bean sauce with cashews… Monsieur, you’d better cancel all plans for Friday night! We’re off to Street Hawker.