The ever increasing popularity of street food has brought a wave of delicious and authentic dishes to our streets by talented and inspiring traders; none more so than Mei Mei Street cart. Their bright yellow stall is the brain child of twins Melissa and Oli Fu who saw a gap in the market for their jianbing’s and home cooked inspired comfort food. We talk to entrepreneurial young trader Melissa to find out more about their award winning food.
What inspired you to set up Mei Mei Street Cart?
It was after I tried Jianbing for the first time and basically became addicted to them. This happened just as I was finishing my degree in creative advertising and had become increasingly aware of the burgeoning street food scene in London. I’ve always been passionate about Chinese food and was thinking about starting a business so it just seemed the natural thing to do. My main aim in the beginning was just to see if people would even buy Jianbing and it’s just gone from there.
Was it always your ambition to be in the food industry?
It wasn’t actually! I always wanted to go into the film industry – there’s still time! There was a point when I took a year out of study to do a chef vocational course but it didn’t last long, there was too much classic French and not enough wild Asian cooking!
Did you face any struggles when first starting out?
I started in street food at a time when there were no resources (online or offline) for guidance let alone for making a dish that no one’s ever made in the UK, so I learnt what to do and how to do it through a series of infinite blunders. I started out with a small stall at Camden Town market back in 2012. It was just me and a massive 15kg crepe griddle that I lugged around until I realised there was overnight storage…..The hardest part was selling something that nobody had ever heard of, but over the years I’ve found that people are becoming more open to trying new flavours and more exciting foods!
I see your signature dish is a Jianbing. For those who haven’t had the pleasure of sampling one before, can you tell me a bit more about what a Jianbing is?
Jianbing is a street food dish commonly found at street markets in China – a staple street food dish that originated in Tianjin. Batter made from mung bean flour or normal flour is spread around a hot plate like a crepe, an egg or two are cracked on top, along with fresh spring onions and coriander. It is then flipped over and brushed all over with hoisin sauce, chilli sauce and soy bean paste and folded up around either a crispy fried pastry sheet or a fried dough stick. We add extra fillings like garlic fried soy milk chicken and char Siu pork to ours to make for a more substantial meal. Traditionally, Jianbing is eaten for breakfast and served to you in a plastic bag!
Sounds delicious! We love your bright yellow food cart, tell us a bit more about the food you serve from there and the ingredients you use.
Thanks! It was very fun to build. We source all our ingredients from Chinese supermarkets and use traditional ingredients and cooking techniques to make our Jianbing and Bao. We make our Jianbing batter fresh in the morning and cook them to order on a French crepe machine. On an average day we will use between 180 – 360 eggs! Our Bao buns are made at a Chinese bakery to our specifications to produce a lovely soft, sweet glazed bun – like Chinese brioche! All of our ingredients are fresh – we want to show that Chinese food doesn’t have to be greasy or unhealthy, and that there are so many amazing ways to cook delicious Chinese food.
Do you frequently change the dishes on offer or stick to a staple menu?
We have a staple menu that we have expanded on and occasionally we will put specials on or add a Jianbing filling – like Duck or shichimi Tofu. We really get creative at our pop up restaurant – Wong’s Happiness Diner where we serve traditional and contemporary Chinese dishes that you don’t find easily in restaurants.
What is your favourite street food location and why?
We like doing the smaller local markets more than big festivals because it gives us a chance to tell people about the food and you do get regular customers which is really cool. The bigger street food events are fun though because everyone is partying – enjoying good food and music!
Where can we expect to find you over the summer months?
We will be at this years London Dragon Boat Race Festival as part of a collaboration with Tsingtao Beer. We’re also at a number of events in and around Manchester this summer, the Blue Dot festival in Cheshire, Leeds Feast, Peddler in Sheffield and even down in London at an Alfred Hitchcock festival!