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Takin’ it to the streets

HerCanberra Team

The rise and rise of Canberra’s street food culture.

The words ‘street food’ used to conjure up images of 1am kebabs and greasy chips. The hot dog and pizza vendor outside The Private Bin, Checkers in Belconnen, RJ’s in Woden, The Mandalay Bus, even the original red Brodburger caravan…they were doing street food before it became ‘cool’. These days you’d be hard pressed to find a Canberra foodie without at least one Instagram post raving about the range available in Canberra.

So how did this happen? How did a hot dog served in a cardboard box become as sought after as a two-hatted chef restaurant meal? Perhaps because it’s delicious, accessible and affordable…

Street food, as it’s called because it’s usually run out of market stalls and caravans, has the benefit of impermanence and low overhead costs, meaning that culinary ventures can be started almost overnight, with a crazy idea turning into a marketable, tangible reality with a few key purchases, a cute van and some health and safety checks. Without the need for financial backers, the cost of fitting out a kitchen and seating area and the freedom of being on four wheels, the concept of street food has flourished in Canberra as a way for food industry newbies and young entrepreneurs to start a small business without rent hanging over their head or a long term commitment to a space or area.

People who have travelled to Asia, Europe or South America know that street food is the lifeblood of so many lively major cities, and its flowing strongly through Canberra’s veins. Here are five Canberra street food experiences not to miss.

#1 Mandalay Bus, Braddon

One of Canberra’s oldest food trucks, you can’t miss the Mandalay Bus parked proudly at the North end of Lonsdale Street. The menu rotates regularly so just pop up to the counter and ask some of the nicest chefs in Canberra ‘what’s good?’.

You won’t believe the amazing things that come out of this stately double decker bus, with dishes like Curry Aioli Waffle Fries sharing a chalk board with Red Curry with Roasted Cauliflower, Tofu, Coconut Foam and Shrimp Powder. The service is fast, seating is bountiful and the music is always en pointe.

MandalayFeature6

Image: Michelle Brotohusodo

MUST TRY

Marshmallow, Peanut Butter, Nutella and Banana Crêpe: When I first spotted this Chris Hemsworth of a dessert on the menu I thought I had to choose between the toppings (and took ages doing so) before the chefs kindly informed me that it came ‘with the lot’. Cue a faint of happiness and then the best crêpe I have ever tasted.

Read our full review of The Mandalay Bus here.

The Mandalay Bus | Cnr Lonsdale and Girrahween Streets, Braddon (in the carpark next to Haig Park) | 6pm-late Wednesday to Friday, 7pm-late Saturday | 0405 551 782| www.facebook.com/themandalaybus

#2 The Forage

Last April, Belinda Neame just wanted to start a ‘little’ street food event. 18 months later, it’s grown into a monster, with more than 7000 people through the gates of the last event. Every event, The Forage keeps raising the bar, with the last event introducing some of Canberra’s top restaurants as vendors, presenting their ‘upmarket’ twist on street food. This time round, the innovation comes in the form of Beer and Cheese pairing sessions with master importers, The Cheesesmith, and celebrated Canberra microbrewery, BentSpoke.

There are 10 new vendors coming to The Forage at the Old Bus Depot building in Kingston this weekend, including locals such Tikka Stand, 4 Bee Meats, Honey & Glow and 54 Benjamin. Old favourites include Pialligo Estate, Mr Papa, Sweet Bones Bakery, East Street Canberra and The Brathaus.

So much street food, so little time.

So much street food, so little time.

MUST TRY

Chanchito: We know we’ve banged on about it before, but Mr. Papa’s Peruvian Pork Belly Sandwich is worth the raves. Slow-cooked and juicy pork belly, golden-fried sweet potato, Creole salsa and home-made chillies all served in ‘Pan Frances’ Peruvian-inspired bread made by local bakers.

Find out more about what’s in store at this weekend’s Forage here.

The Forage | 2pm to 7pm, Saturday 12 September | Old Bus Depot Building, Wentworth Avenue, Kingston 

#3 The Hamlet, Braddon

The hub of the hipster haven that is Braddon, Lonsdale Street is the place to be if you’re a serious foodie i. The neighbourhood hang out is The Hamlet, a motley assortment of food vans clamouring for attention in an open space: artisan pizza, Peruvian street food, souvlaki, coffee and donuts, hot dogs, milkshakes, schnitzel…it’s all here! Grab your dish of choice, pull up a seat at a communal table and say hi to the locals.

 

cupcakes chasing mr morris

From top left: Brownie Doughnuts, Nutella Cupcakes, Caramel Cupcakes, Hot Chocolate Doughnuts and Chocolate Popcorn Doughnuts. Image: facebook.com/chasingmrmorris

MUST TRY

Doughnuts and Cupcakes from Chasing Mr Morris: This cosy little inner-city nook is a veritable playground of edible delights – one of which is the sweet treats available from Chasing Mr. Morris. If there’s a doughnut dream recipe or a cupcake that would brighten anyone’s day it’s probably here – pair this with a love of great coffee and stacks of T2 Tea and you have the best afternoon tea/morning tea/treat ever.

Find out more about The Hamlet here.

The Hamlet | 16 Lonsdale Street, Braddon | Open 12 noon to 9pm Monday to Saturday, 12 noon to 3pm on Sunday | www.facebook.com/pages/The-Hamlet

#4 The Slab, Kingston Foreshore

The newest kid on the block, The Slab is the Old Bus Depot Markets‘ (OBDM) brand new pop-up street food area. OBDM has always been known for its diverse flavours, including food from Laos, Ethiopia, Spain, Mexico and France; The Slab’s rotating pop up street food stalls are designed to offer a true trip around the world.

The Slab kicks off this weekend with gourmet German sausages fromThe Brathaus, street food from Morks, French sandwich store Get Lucky and Kurbside Kitchen, adding to the usual mouth watering array of delicacies on offer at the Markets, such as handmade cheeses, olives, fudge and chocolates.

 

Image: Supplied

Image: Supplied

MUST TRY

Thueringer – Owned and operated by father and son duo, Alex and Thomas Hanner, Brathaus sausages are probably one of the best feeds you can have in Canberra for $7, which includes their homemade sauerkraut. Noms.

The Slab |Old Bus Depot Markets | Wentworth Avenue, Kingston | www.obdm.com.au

#5  Westside Acton Park

Standing on the shores of Lake Burley Griffin on a former futsal slab is a tower of shipping containers, fashioned into a community space – this is Westside Acton Park. Street food vendors dish out a range of fresh options – from Vietnamese to Middle Eastern cuisine and tender meat sandwiches. This is probably the streetest that Canberra street food gets. Westside has plenty of sunny outdoor seating, a basketball hoop for kids and it’s gloriously close to both the water and the city, making it a perfect spot for lunch before or after a stroll around the Lake.

miss vans car suit pork

Image: facebook.com/missvansfood. Char Sui Pork. Also shown is Miss Van’s Vietnamese Creme Caramel

 

Find out more about Westside’s street food vendors here.

MUST TRY

Miss Van’s Char Siu Pork Noodle Bowl:  Made from house-made BBQ Char Siu pork, egg noodles with oyster sauce, sesame oil, confit garlic, bean shoots, fresh asian herbs, crispy onion, constructed freshly when you order, Miss Van’s is a HerCanberra office lunch favourite. We recommend accompanying it with a Vietnamese Ice Coffee. Any maybe the Rare Beef Noodle Pho and the Pork Rolls.

Featured image courtesy of Trevor Dickinson’s (Newcastle Productions)

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