It’s Bank Holiday weekend – and down on the South Bank there’s a street food festival which includes takoyaki from Japanese street food specialists Yumi. I went along on Friday to try it out and see how it measured up to the takoyaki you get in Japan.
Tako is octopus and yaki means grilled or fried. Takoyaki is a speciality of Osaka where pieces of octopus are dipped in batter and grilled in special pans with small indentations so they come out as little balls you can pop in your mouth (but watch out, they’re hot!).
At the Yumi stall they were serving what they called ‘samurai balls’ – a choice of octopus, cheese or prawn ‘takoyaki’ – plus gyoza, which are Japanese dumplings.
I tried all three kinds of samurai balls. My verdict? Not as good as you get in Osaka (well, you wouldn’t expect them to be) and prawn and cheese are not strictly takoyaki, but the seaweed and shaved bonito give them an authentic flavour of Japan. If you’ve never tried them, a stroll down the South Bank this afternoon could be your chance.
If you fancy a drink to wash down your takoyaki there’s a variety of stalls, including a craft beer stall and Fever Tree’s Ultimate Gin and Tonic bar.
And for something sweet to follow, the Arabica Food & Spice Company next door to Yumi serves Levantine pastries from the Eastern Mediterranean, using recipes from Syria, Lebanon, Jordan, Palestine and Israel.
I had a stroll round some of the other stalls and was attracted by the huge bubbling pans of paella on the Jamon Jamon stall. Each pan was a metre in diameter – a truly impressive sight.
Further on, the Polish Deli offered a range of traditional cured sausages, including ostrich (didn’t know that was a Polish tradition).
The sausages on the grill looked delicious.
I was also attracted by the savoury strudel at Karantania (Karantania was apparently an ancient state in Central Europe, roughly where Slovenia and Austria are now).
The Real Street Food Festival is at Queen’s Walk, which is the bit of the South Bank just next to Hungerford Bridge. It’s open from 12-8pm today (Sunday 25th) and from 12 to 6 pm on Bank Holiday Monday. If you miss it, there’s a winter festival planned for 1-3 November.