10 days to organise your first ever stall in a street food market, when you have a full time job, a cold, and are still recovering from an 80-cover pop up dinner, is not an insignificant challenge, but one we decided to take up. We survived and thankfully, we think it went quite well. The 5footway South East Asian Street Food Market was set up by Michelle Lee as part of the SEA Arts Fest. She found a cosy location on Union Street in Southwark, where Bangkok Kitchen has a trailer.
We were were involved quite late on and thought, let’s do this properly and started this blog and designing a logo and banner. We had already changed our name from Dawei Sisters to Rangoon Sisters, to try and make it more obvious that we do Burmese food (we’ve since discovered that many people still don’t get it and don’t know Rangoon is in Burma, but we figure even more people won’t know Dawei). Then most importantly, we had to decide on the food. We opted to keep it simple and do two dishes – ohn-no kauk swe, a classic – a coconut chicken noodle dish with lots of condiments – people love adding condiments! For our second dish we decided on baya kyaw – yellow split pea fritters – that we made served with tamarind dressing on carrot salad for our first pop up.
Estimating how much food to make was pretty difficult and of course we ended up with excess! Not sure I need to buy a chicken thigh for a while and we’ve survived on leftovers all week.
Sister Amy and Mum were busy preparing the day before the market – mainly onion based activities. Over the last three weeks (i.e. two events) we’ve probably peeled and chopped more onions than most normal people would use in a year!
This was complicated by a freak incident: the top of the only-a-few-months-old Magimix food processor wedged itself on the mortar…stuck FIRM…and both essential kit. After a few whiskeys, futile attempts at breaking the mortar with a hammer (yes, really) these were happily separated by Ned and Uncle John.
The actual day started early as we were the first to set up on the site. This was a blessing in a way because during the morning there was a power failure – fortunately the unflappable Michelle came through with solutions and we were able to cook everything we needed to on time for the market opening at 12pm. Invaluable pieces of equipment were the chafing dishes we borrowed from Bangkok Kitchen.
One of our first customers was Debbie from HushHushDining – who was complimentary about our ohn-no kauk swe so we were off to a positive start! Then we were also visited by one of our Burmese childhood family friends, who had found out about 5footway from @Thoozy, who we knew through twitter. Small, small Burmese world! We were really touched by the support from our friends who came along. Here are some photos from our parents and John and Jenie.
The atmosphere was really lovely – couples, families, all ages, people with dogs (we love dogs) and they all seemed to enjoy the event.
In summary, it was a great experience for us and we’ve learnt LOTS. It was nice to watch people who had not tried Burmese food before really enjoying it and also to meet lovely people who like food! Next time (hoping there is one and we’ve heard whisperings), we’re hoping we’ll be a bit less busy/occupied and can try the other food on offer which looked and smelled absolutely delicious. Well done to all the other vendors – Pepe’s Kitchen, Woolfson & Tay, Azi’s Kitchen, Bunta, Bangkok Kitchen, Pitstop Cafe and big thanks to Michelle for organising everything whilst keeping calm and smiley.