One of my favorite things to do at home or when visiting a new area is to visit the local markets. It is the best way to not only try the local produce, but also to get a good taste of the local grub the town has to offer. In London I was able to visit the Sunday Up Market on Brick Lane and the Borough Market by London Bridge.
The Sunday UpMarket
The Sunday UpMarket is a hodgepodge of many stands that show not only the variety of food and goods, but also the mixture of cultures. On Brick Lane in London, the Sunday UpMarket is located inside the Old Truman Brewery. The market is made up of two halves. One half offers visitors fashion, crafts, knick knacks, goods and other bits and bobs. The second half is made up of the UpMarket’s famous food market. It is a variety cuisine stalls with influences from Morocco, India, Japan, Thai, Spain, Turkey, the Caribbean and more. The UpMarket gives the designers and food vendors the ability to sell their goods directly to the customers.
Walking into the UpMarket you immediately get a whiff of the different delicious cuisines it has to offer. My visit to the Sunday UpMarket was very short since I was strapped for time for my afternoon flight to Edinburgh, Scotland. I only had enough time to get a quick walk around the food section to grab a quick bite.
The stall that intrigued me the most was a Turkish and Indian fusion cuisine called Roti Roll. Roti Roll offers many selections from hummus, kabobs, roti wraps and etc. One of the choices offered is a £5 dish that gave a variety of the cuisine fusion: one choice of curried halal meat (lamb, chicken, beef or vegetarian option) with various heat levels, a salad, chickpeas, masala potato, rice, colorful cumin flavored poppadum chips and pickled vegetables of various heat levels to help yourself to on the side. I decided to choose the mild lamb sheikh kebab for the £5 dish combination plate. The lamb was robust in flavor and well balanced with cumin and other spices. The rice was flavored with coriander, cardamom and think cut carrots with a medium heat level and complexity to the dish. I found the dish very flavorful with contrasting heat levels of all of the components of the dish. The meat, rice, red pickled vegetables and onions sauce gave off heat while the masala potato and chickpeas gave a cooling sensation to balance out the meal. The salad on top brought a crisp freshness to the dish with the chopped greens, crumbed cheese, salty marinated olives and creamy cool yogurt sauce. This dish is large enough that two people can share easily.
The Borough Market
The Borough Market is located by London Bridge steps down from the Southwark Cathedral. The market itself is big in size especially when the full market is open from Thursday through Saturday. The size of the market and the variety of food even puts New York City’s famous Union Square farmers market look amateur. I was lucky to visit the Borough Market twice during my trip. The first time I visited the market was when the market was open for lunch only during the earlier part of the week. During this time only the green market area of the market is open showcasing food stalls of all types of cuisine to grab a quick lunch break from the busy day. Some vendors were nice enough to let you sample their food with intention that a purchase will be made.
My second visit was on a Friday when the whole market was open. This is when the market is really lively and bustling with more to offer hungry mouths. When the full market is open, there is produce, meat, fish and dairy available to purchase. There were a lot of the fruits and vegetables sold in the market that I have not seen in the United States such as the strazberry and pineberry. I also saw an abundant of familiar and unfamiliar breeds of heirloom tomatoes that looked so delicious. The only regret visiting the market was that I was unable to try some of the beautiful produce.
However here are some highlights from the Borough Market during my visit (separated by section):
Green Market Area
Khanom Krok, Authentic Thai Street Food: Coconut Pancakes
I tried this vendor when I first visited the market. The big show stopper that intrigues customers to the stand are their sweet and delicate coconut pancakes. The mixture of the base is poured from a teapot and formed in this circular pan of mini wells to form their unique semi-circular shape.
The coconut pancakes are made with a mixture of rice flour and coconut milk. The light shell of the pancake is then filled with a small amount of sweet coconut cream and topped with black sesame seeds, scallions or corn kernels. These small crispy well-shaped pancakes are sweet and creamy in flavor and are a great snack to grab during the lunch hour. Each order is served with eight in a decorative wooden boat for just £2.50.
Borough Nuts, Confectionery: Turkish Delight (Mon-Sat)
Borough Nuts offers various nuts and dried fruits to take home to eat as is or to use in recipes, but what is even greater are the sweet and soft little squares of Turkish delight. The vendor offers samples of their pistachio Turkish delight. It was soft, chewy and full of coconut flakes and chopped pistachio nuts. Another flavor I would suggest buying is the rose flavored Turkish delight. The rose Turkish delight is light and so soft that it just melts in your mouth without even chewing. All products from this vendor are sold by the weight. It is a great treat to bring home back from the UK with low spoilage.
Comptoir Gourmand, Desserts and Pastries: Pastel de Nata and Meringues (Mon-Sat)
Two sweet treats I tried from this stall is the pastel de nata and the meringue. The pastel de nata is a Portuguese custard tart that reminded me of those Chinese egg custard desserts. They are similar in taste, but differ in crust. Instead of the pie crust-like shell the Chinese egg custard tart has, the Portuguese tart has a flaky phyllo dough crust with a creamy custard inside. Each cost £1.50 or 3 for £4.
How can you pass up a delicious French meringue that is as big as a softball? The appearance alone catches eyes of passersby in the busy market. They are light and may come with either fruity or chocolate toppings on top. Each of these comes at £2.50 apiece.
Flat Cap Coffee Co: Your Caffeine Fix a.k.a Coffee (Tues-Sat)
For that energy pick-me-up when the day is going slow or when you need a cup of joe to get around a busy day at the market. These drinks are strong enough to get you through the rest of the day. You can order from a flat white to a long black and the usual espresso or latte. There is even hot chocolate served there for the kids or those who do not want coffee.
Middle Road Section
Le Marché du Quartier, French Cuisine and Goods: Duck Confit Sandwich (Wed-Sat)
The smell of the duck confit cooking in a huge pan is good enough to attract customers. This rich and meaty sandwich is generously filled with duck meat and arugula in ciabatta smeared with mustard. The duck confit was rich and juicy and paired well with the peppery arugula and spicy deli mustard. The soft and ciabatta bread with its crunchy crust completes the meal to create a perfect bite. For only £5, it is a duck-eating lover’s dream.
I highly recommend going to both markets and suggest visiting Borough Market when the entire market is open. For more information to visit the Sunday UpMarket or Borough Market please refer to the information below:
The Sunday UpMarket
The Old Truman Brewery
91 Brick Lane (entrances on Brick Lane, Hanbury Street and Ely’s Yard)
London E1 6QL
+44 0207 770 6028
Closest Tube Stations: Aldgate East or Liverpool Street Station
8 Southwark Street
London SE1 1TL
+44 020 7404 1002
Open For Lunch Mon-Wed 10am-3pm
Full Market Open: Thurs 11am-5pm
If you are looking for a specific stall or vendor use the market map (http://www.boroughmarket.org.uk/market-map) to find them.
Closest Tube Station: London Bridge