Another fun-filled, busy week is coming to an end here in London and I find that I still haven’t found time to share our Lisbon trip experience. Being a world traveler is time consuming, y’all! However, before I (eventually) get my thoughts together and sum up our Tour de Portugal, I absolutely have to share the food journey we went on today at London’s oldest food market, Borough Market. Borough Market has served the people of London in some form or fashion for the last 1000 years. That’s pretty impressive, right? I mean, when’s the last time you did anything for 1000 years?
Borough Market is known around the world and has made appearances in many movies, music videos, magazines, and, of course, culinary publications. Upon first arriving at the market, the sights, smells, and seemingly endless number of stalls is mesmerizing and overwhelming to the senses all at the same time. Fishmongers, butchers, fromagers, and farmers stand ready at their stalls to give a tour, hand out a sample, and tell you all about the time and care required to create the delicious morsel you just consumed. There are too many stalls to count and contain everything from fresh seafood, cheeses, black truffles, and salamis, to delicate French pastries, fudge, and Turkish baklava. A rainbow of colors can be seen within produce stands and vendors meticulously arrange their wares in a way that is so appealing to the eye one cannot help but be lured in to buy something without regret.
Borough Market is basically a foodie’s paradise. And today, we took full advantage of the wonderland that was before us. I feel that a disclaimer is warranted at this point. Shortly you will hear about a massive amount of food that was consumed over the span of a few hours. Do not judge. Rather, be thankful for the sacrifices made by foodie travel bloggers like myself so that readers like you can virtually experience a wide array of foodie delights instead of just one or two measly little items. Luckily, I was joined by travel mates (including my son who is a total food adventurer) to help work our way through Borough Market one culinary explosion at a time.
Our food tour started at The Turkish Deli where we tried a variety of Turkish delights, literally and figuratively. We tried two types of coffee, the traditional Turkish coffee in the Mesir-Macunu (41 spices) flavor, and the Menengic Kahvesi, or, pistachio coffee. My personal favorite was the pistachio coffee which was perfectly sweetened with a unique flavor profile that is quite hard to describe. However, it was well balanced and palatable…very easy to drink and not too heavy or strong. Now, the Turkish coffee, good gracious!! I do realize that Turkish coffee is hugely popular, but since I couldn’t handle more than two sips I will likely never fully understand or appreciate the love that people have for it. It was the strongest coffee I’ve ever tried. Ever. Like, in life. For those of you out there who are able to make it through even a single Turkish coffee, my hat’s off to you. And, I’m slightly worried for your level of caffeine tolerance. Aside from the coffee, we also tried two different types of Baklava, and five flavors of Turkish Delight, a gelatinous sweet made from sugar and cornstarch that is dusted in powdered sugar and comes in a large variety of favors. We tried the Turkish coffee flavor, cinnamon, rose, geranium, and pistachio. Being that these treats were incredibly sweet, my son was a big fan. Me, not so much. I liked a few of the flavors but the texture, somewhere between a gummy candy and those jelly fruits you see around Christmas time, was hard to get past for me. Prior to today’s market I had never tried Turkish coffee or delight so that’s a couple more things off the foodie bucket list!
Next it was on to a local favorite, the Scotch egg, from artisan vendor Scotchtails. Despite its name, the Scotch egg isn’t actually Scotch at all. It was conceived in London as a quick, on the go snack that rapidly became popular with commuters. In its simplest form, the Scotch egg is a hard-boiled egg enclosed in sausage meat, rolled in breadcrumbs, and deep fried. From there, you can really put any number of unique spins on the classic. We tried a traditional pork sausage and fennel Scotch egg. The jury is still out on this one. Visually, the Scotch egg is very unique and pretty to look at. The outside crunch from the crispy fried breadcrumbs provides a great contrasting texture to the softer inside. It’s the inside I’m not so keen on, but again, definitely worth trying and loved by many a Londoner!
Our next stop was Koshari Street, serving authentic street food of Egypt. Koshari is a vegetarian staple that is absolutely delicious and as an added bonus it’s also really healthy! Koshari, the national dish of Egypt, is a layered dish of rice, pasta, lentils and chickpeas topped with zesty tomato sauce, caramelized onions and doqqa… a crumbly spicy mix. In summary, this was my favorite thing all day and I’m really sad I can’t find this back home. I will probably have Koshari dreams of longing for several months, followed by failed attempts to replicate the dish in my own kitchen, followed by more sadness. Koshari…I will miss you.
Next up, my favorite type of food, Indian street food. Indian food became my favorite quite a long time ago for a variety of reasons. There is no lack of vegetarian dishes in Indian cuisine, the flavor profile created by the abundance of spices completely wakes up your taste buds, and when all else fails…curry. Enough said. I have no doubt that Indian food is now your favorite food also. At Horn OK Please, we tried the Moon Dal Dosa, a spiced lentil crepe filled with masala potato and served with chana chaat (chickpeas topped with chutneys and sev). We also tried the Aloo Tiki Chaat, lightly spiced potato patties also served with chana chaat. This was also one of my favorite stops of the day, right behind the Koshari. You can’t really go wrong with Indian food, and Indian street food is a double win!
By now you’re probably thinking, “How much more could they possibly eat?” But do not despair! We would not give up the good food fight so easily (pun completely intended). At Balkan Bites we tried the spinach and cheese filled Bureka. A Bureka is made of homemade fillo dough, stretched, and stuffed with any number of fillings, topped with black and white sesame seeds, and can be eaten with or without hummus. Burekas are hugely popular in Israel and traditionally served with tahini and hummus, boiled eggs, and pickles. The bureka we tried was savory, flaky, and perfectly cooked!
Once we had our fill of savory foods, we made our way to the dessert stalls. However, we quickly realized we were in over our heads, or, stomachs to be exact. Borough Market has no shortage of delicious desserts, pastries, chocolate truffles, and any number of other sweet treats. But we could not eat another bite during our visit which had already spanned the course of four hours. So, we decided instead to take a variety of sweets home to sample later.
We ended up leaving the market with all the provisions necessary to make a charcuterie board of sorts later at night for dinner, with smoked chorizo with caraway seed, marinated green olives with herbs, sourdough bread with white truffle honey, white cheddar farmhouse cheese, roasted tomato, red onion, and green olive focaccia loaf, carrots and English cucumbers with hummus, and apricots.
Since a charcuterie board is left lonely without an accompanying dessert board, we went for a fresh raspberry tart, walnut and almond baklava, and a variety of French macarons, including flavors like Earl Grey, blackcurrant, passion fruit, salted caramel, and the ever popular pistachio.
All in all, I think we walked away from Borough Market fully confident that we had experienced all there was to offer, albeit, walking much more slowly as we left than when we arrived! Until next time, I’ll be sleeping off the food coma and looking for my stretchy jeans. Thanks for stopping by, y’all!