When it comes to street food you would think we’d seen all the culinary permutations it has to offer.
From Thai to Middle Eastern, Spanish, Italian, Mexican, Cuban, Cajun, Indian, Chinese, Polish, Mongolian, fishy, vegan, deep fried and even good old traditional British you can, quite literally, eat your way around the world these days on the street food circuit.
It’s a boom time for the dining concept. Fuelled no doubt by the recent recession (although some may argue we still have a long way to go before finally waving goodbye to our economic woes) and people’s desire to still eat out but on a tighter budget, pop-up street food ventures and one-off festivals have proliferated.
The North East has wholeheartedly embraced the concept and no food event these days would be complete without a dedicated area given over to the cuisine.
One of the most successful street food happenings has been the monthly Boiler Shop Steamer in Newcastle, held in the city’s increasingly trendy Stephenson Works behind the central station.
The vibrant weekend gathering, organised by Adam Riley of Riley’s Fish Shack fame and his friend Matt Boyle of Wylam Brewery, celebrates all that’s great about food, drink, music and art.
At its core is the chance to sample fresh, flavoursome and often innovative food served up by one-man (and women) bands and even some of the region’s top restaurants looking to move outside their comfort zone and experiment with new cooking styles.
It has introduced a population hungry for different dining experiences to a wealth of exciting and novel eats.
Now a new one has joined the region’s street food ranks – Anticucho.
It sounds a bit like the name of a hitherto unknown Mediterranean pre-dinner nibble along the lines of antipasto, the traditional first course of an Italian meal featuring a selection of cured meats, olives, anchovies, artichoke hearts and more.
Or a Spanish tapas-style dish perhaps based around a hotly spiced sausage.
The Spanish part isn’t too far from the truth. Anticucho is actually the name for a particular style of Peruvian cooking. And it offers a big clue as to the type of food being offered up by the pair behind the endeavour – Adam Hedley and Dave Glover.
Their story is as interesting as the delicacies they are serving.
Adam, 29, is a former chef at Terry Laybourne’s Bistro 21 in Durham who swapped the kitchen for the courtroom and re-trained as a solicitor. He now works for Bond Dickinson in Newcastle.
Dave, 32, meanwhile, is a music industry tour manager from Newcastle who, having travelled extensively and dined on many different national cuisines, has developed a well-honed taste for exotic and well cooked foods.
The duo met via their respective partners, found they shared a lot in common – not least their culinary interests – and both being fans of events like the Boiler Shop Steamer, decided to join in the fun by launching their own street food business.
But with hundreds of other budding foodies having the same idea, the friends knew they needed to stand out from the crowd and offer something different.
Hence the catchily named Anticucho, which specialises in ‘easy to eat on the go’ Peruvian fare.
When it comes to food the South American country isn’t top of most people’s list of must-try cuisines – one of the reasons Adam and Dave chose it.
Dave says: “We knew we needed to be different and offer up something unique. When you go to street food events quite often it’s all pulled pork or Tex Mex and we have always felt there has been a bit of a misconception about what South American food really is.
“I have done a lot of travelling with my job and I’ve been to South America and both Adam and I are fans of that sort of cuisine. But if we were going to go down that route we didn’t want to be doing what everyone else is.
“That’s why we have gone with Peruvian. It’s unusual, it’s exciting and it’s fresh.”
And there’s thankfully more to it than fried guinea pig (and yes, that is a genuine delicacy in Peru).
Foodies are just starting to recognise this. Indeed, Peruvian food is being hailed as the next big culinary trend.
Ceviche – raw fish marinated in citrus juice and spices – is now available in some supermarkets. And in London there has been a smattering of Peruvian-inspired restaurants opening in recent months.
It’s easy to see its appeal. It draws on a mind-boggling array of ingredients stretching from the Amazon to the Andes and down to the Pacific Ocean. It’s a country that boasts hundreds of different chillies, a massive variety of corn and literally thousands of potato types – the three traditional staples of Peruvian cuisine.
A spud is most definitely not a spud in Peru.
It also reflects an appetising range of culinary styles from indigenous Inca to Spanish (who introduced rice, wheat and meats like pork, beef and chicken to Peru), Chinese, Japanese, German, Italian and even African.
Fusion food is an over-used term these days. But Peruvian fare can justifiably lay claim to the title.
Anticucho is just one small example of the plethora of cooking styles Peru has to offer the world.
There is much argument about where the word comes from. Some believe it’s a corruption of the Quechua word antikuchu (anti meaning ‘Andes’ and kuchu ‘to cut’). Others think it’s a melding of anti (Andes) and uchu (denoting aji or hot pepper). Then there are those who say it comes from the Quechua word antic-ucha, a name given to very hot soup.
Whatever its origins, it is a popular style of street food consisting of small pieces of grilled, skewered meat (most commonly beef) marinated in red wine vinegar and spices like cumin, garlic and chillies.
In Peru it’s commonly sold from street carts and dedicated food stalls called anticucheras.
Adam and Dave are serving up their own chargrilled meat and seafood skewers. Their menu also features the wonderfully named Bang Bang Bolas – fiery deep-fried croquettes – as well as Machu Picchu, which are chocolate pots flavoured with the little known South American tonka bean, which taste not unlike vanilla.
Adam, from North Shields, does the cooking while Dave runs ‘front of house’. In other words, he’s the one who does the talking.
But having spent the last nine years touring the world with mainly North East bands like the Motorettes from Tynemouth (which featured Lindisfarne supremo Ray Laidlaw’s sons, Jack and Jed), indie rock band Detroit Social Club, South Shields-based Lulu James and Sunset Sons, ensuring they got from A-B without a hitch, he’s not usually stuck for something to say.
Neither Adam nor Dave has been to Peru. The nearest Dave got was last year when he went to Colombia with the London-based electronic pop duo Chew Lips. He describes Colombia as “an amazing place for food. It’s all pickles and fiery tastes.”
They don’t see their lack of personal Peruvian experience as a drawback, however. “With Adam’s chefing background he has a feel and taste for different cuisines and instinctively knows how to put food together,” Dave explains.
“But we both definitely want to go to Peru as soon as possible on a fact-finding mission. It’s such exciting food.”
Adam adds: “Cooking has always been a passion of mine and Anticucho is something Dave and I have been planning for a while. It’s a really exciting time.
“The Boiler Shop Steamer is the perfect backdrop to our food because you can have our ‘flavour on a stick,’ as we’ve been referring to it, in one hand and a drink in the other while enjoying the entertainment.”
Adam and Dave aren’t looking to give up the day jobs just yet. But already Anticucho has been booked for a smattering of summer parties and future food events are planned.
“Our slogan is ‘barriga llena, corazón contento,” Dave says, “which translates as ‘full belly, happy heart’, and that’s exactly what we hope to do.”
Follow Anticucho on Twitter: @Anticucho_UK or like them on Facebook: www.facebook.com/Anticuchonewcastle
The Boiler Shop Steamer is held on the first Friday and Saturday of the month at The Robert Stephenson Centre, Sussex Street, Newcastle.
The next outing will be on August 1-2. It brings together some of the UK’s leading street food vendors alongside live music in a family friendly atmosphere. Fridays it opens from 5.30pm and Saturdays from 12pm. There is a £4 entry fee on the Friday and from 6pm on the Saturday.
See www.theboilershopsteamer.com for more details on each event.