Stockbridge market: Every Sunday this corner of the capital is a bustle of activity, with local traders offering a range of deli delights, jewellery, wools and continental cheeses. There are scented candles, and there are organic meats to take home and cook.
It is also at the forefront of a global revolution – street food.
A trip to New York two years ago sold me on street food. I had always appreciated it on my many trips to Paris and Rome, too.
The Glaswegian street food scene is designed to put a few inches around the waist. However, continental food markets and real derring-do in Edinburgh enhances the reputation of fast food that truly delivers.
Sugey Giacometto from Venezuela and her husband Juan Alvarez set up Orinoco Latin food shortly after they met at a Stockbridge bread shop in 2003.
Juan from Columbia who arrived in Edinburgh in 1990 had already established himself on the Edinburgh food scene with two Spanish restaurants Tapas Ole in the New Town and the Old Town.
He is now happy to be providing street food with help of Sugey and her mother Rebecca. Their speciality is arepa, a Latino styled pancake stuffed costing £6 with various fillings and dressings.
He said: “It is very authentic. It is what we eat every day. It’s a way of keeping in touch with home.
“The difference with running a restaurant is that here you have to be more prepared. In a restaurant you have all the facilities available. So when you have less space everything has to be right, and also because you don’t work every day it’s more fun and not like working.”
One of Orinocco’s customers Virginia Rodriquez from the Dominican Republic is studying for a Masters Degree in Festivals and Events at Edinburgh University.
She said: “This food is very good, very tasty. It contains sweet plantum, black beans, avocado and cheese and all for £6. It’s like tasting a different culture, it’s very original but also reminds me of street food back home.
“Here I would normally go for a hamburger and chips but back in the Dominican Republic we would go clubbing and then eat before going home. This reminds me of those times.”
Harajuku Kitchen specialising in Japanese dishes is a favourite not only in Stockbridge where queues led from their pitch up onto the street via a stairway, but also at the Grassmarket on the second Saturday of every month.
Sometimes they spring up at the Pitt in Leith and they also have a restaurant in Bruntsfield where their speciality dishes are prepped prior to ‘going street’.
Caroline Elms of Harajuku Kitchen says: “This style of eating is trendy, it’s social, you have small portions so you can try a lot of different dishes with your friends and it is cheaper than restaurant prices.”
On a very busy Spring Sunday Caroline and her co-workers were challenged when two of their griddles broke down and they were still dealing with queues.
Cooks Stefano Murray and Marie Continat had their work cut out but managed to cook through the crisis while Caroline and her co-worker Momoko Cotinat made sure that everyone was looked after.
Noodles and hand-made dumplings featuring chicken and pork and various veggie options range in price from £4.50 to £6.00 depending on how hungry you are.
I ordered a small portion of four pork dumplings with spring onions and chilli garlic sauce which I was warned packs a punch. It was very filling and flavoursome and indeed better than some food I’ve sampled served on a white tablecloth.
Lovely Paella is the brand name and a labour of love for Spanish chefs Adrian Fernandez from Seville and his business partner Gonzalo Martin from Valencia.
Their partnership has flourished over five and half years and you can see the joy of creation in the huge urns of Spanish comfort food they preside over at £6 a portion. Again their queues were enormous stretching from the market place and around the street corner for hours.
Adrian says: “The most important part is the mix of spices and the fresh ingredients. It’s very important that they are fresh. I’ve been cooking for 24 years. If you can’t master cooking in Valencia you are doing something wrong.”
Obviously, they are doing something right. Diego Estevez from Ourense in Galicia now working as a dentist in Leith shared some paella with Sandra Llorente from Madrid.
Sandra said: “It is great. Quite similiar to what I am used to. It is really nice to find typical dishes here. It is tasty and intense. The chicken is tender and the rice is perfect.”
In an age of fast food chains and homogenous High streets it is great to see individuality and quality putting smiles on the faces of foodies, and it doesn’t have to cost a fortune.
Value for money: 10/10