There are almost as many definitions for ‘street food’ as there are types of food and vendors selling it. To people in the developing world it is more likely to mean convenient and cheap local dishes served by street hawkers; to us, a way of sampling food from far-flung places on-the-go. Whatever your definition of street food, one thing is certain: it is gaining popularity in the UK. Sure, there have always been hot-dog and hamburger vans, but the variety available today is astonishing. In a large city, like Manchester, you only have to drive a short distance to eat street food from almost every continent. And the quality is often comparable to, or better than, that of some restaurants.
So it was that we decided to visit The Hungry Gecko – an American-style aluminium trailer, parked in the beer-garden of The Beech Inn in Chorlton, serving Asian street food. I had heard good things about The Hungry Gecko and its founder, Jackie Kearney, who was a top-four finalist in the 2011 edition of MasterChef, and so I decided to visit on one of Manchester’s rare sunny days.
My partner and I ordered the Seafood spring rolls to share. They were delicious. The wrapping was crispy, without being oily, and the filling was made up of large pieces of crayfish and crab-meat– rather than the un-identifiable paste you sometimes find in spring rolls. The salad was wonderfully crisp and the two sauces provided were the perfect accompaniment to the dish.
I ordered the Slow cooked Malaysian rendang and my partner, the Nasi Goreng with five-spice pork-belly and crackling. My partner and I both thought the rendgang was good; it was fresh tasting and pleasantly spicy. I began by trying a small amount of my partner’s Nasi Goreng, under the guise of sharing, but ended up depriving her of it. It was incredibly good. The pork was perfectly flavoured and tender, the crackling crispy and moreish and even the tofu, which I normally avoid, had absorbed the taste of the surrounding spices.
The Hungry Gecko is one of the new-breed of street food establishments that are successfully bringing reasonably priced, geographically diverse, high-quality food to our towns and cities. I would certainly recommend visiting them on Manchester’s next sunny day – or before, if you can’t wait that long…