The East End of the city has its own unique cockney food delicacies to offer us. The history of the East End and its traditional food are a mixture of the various ethnic groups who have settled there over the years. It began as a renowned place for terribly poverty, and many of the dishes were created out of necessity for cheap food. The Bangladeshi community have most recently turned Brick Lane into “Bangla-Town,” known the world over as one of the best places to go out for a good ole ‘Ruby Murray’ (curry).
The locals call it ‘luvverly grub’ and you can’t call yourself a cockney until you’ve tried a plate of the following Becks and Posh (Nosh!):
A very cheap dish dating back to the 18th century when eels were all that could be found surviving in the polluted River Thames, it’s said that because of the heavy pollution, many were brought in by eel barges from Holland. The eels are cooked in herb stock and produce enough of their own gelatin creating the ‘jellied’ texture. Easy on the pocket, nutritious and ready available, eels were the number one filling of choice in pies sold door to door. There are modern day twists in many a London Pie and Mash shop, often served as a side dish, but the traditional eel dish remains chopped up eels served hot or cold with white pepper and vinegar. According to experts, the dish tastes delicious with chilli vinegar.
Cockles, Winkles & Whelks
An East End Seafood extravaganza! Back in the day, cockles (mini-clams) used to be hand raked from the Thames and sold out of wheelbarrows in the East End, along with the snails of the sea (winkles and whelks). This cockney seafood mixture was the must-have pub snack of choice, Fishermen would go from pub to pub with their catch and flog them to the punters.
Much of this ‘poor man’s food’ still exists and you can find them in eel shops around the East End. You can also find them in most supermarkets today as the popularity of this cheap nutritious food has surprisingly grown to cater for demand outside the East End.
Pie and Mash
Whether it’s steak and kidney, chicken and mushroom or traditional beef, no trip to the East End would be complete without tucking into a hefty Pie & Mash smothered completely in a serving of parsley sauce ‘liquor’!
Most traditional East End Pie & Mash shops will also serve you jellied eels. Try M. Manze, established in 1902, eat in or take away, they use the same traditional recipes and their original shop is at 87 Tower Bridge Road, SE1 4TW.
F. Cooke are another surviving original Pie & Mash family business and have also kept the food true to its roots. Find them at 150 Hoxton Street, Shoreditch, London N1 6SH
Chicken Tikka Masala has been crowned ‘Great Britain’s National Dish,’ a dish supposedly created for British tastes by Bangladeshi or Indian cooks and it’s one of the most popular dishes for Britain’s to cook. ‘Going out for a Ruby Murray’ is a regular pastime in the East End. “Bangla-Town,” is the place to go for this modern day Cockney cuisine. There is a whole lane of curry houses to choose from so to get the low down and check out the reviews here
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