Linsey Reith: Big Healthy Eats at Big Feed Glasgow

Ginger & Chilli
Ginger & Chilli

I am a Glasgow-based chef. I’ve built my career around food. Eating is up there at the top of my list of hobbies and interests. Yet my first trip to Big Feed, established in March this year, came but two weeks ago. Long overdue.

On this debut outing, I was on two distinct missions, such is the tug of war between myself and… my other self. As Linsey, one of Three Sisters Bake, I turned up to sell a power of bakes at the street food social. A sugary sweet Stacey Slater, if you will. And in my Chefarella guise, my online persona as a clean food concoctionist, I was keen to explore the new evolution of street food in the city and see what was beyond the burger and hot dog offering prevalent at most food markets and events.

As I walk in to the Govan warehouse, all achingly excellent palate divides and glowy festoon lights, my first thought is how I write this piece without overusing one of my least favourite terms… ‘hipster’. Least favourite primarily because I am not one. But the smattering of graffiti art, warehouse iron work and traders with one word names – Duck and Burrito, like the Madonna and Beyoncé of street food – all point to Big Feed being pretty damn hip… cool.

It’s the window dressing that Big Feed needed to be to make this food concept stick. People return here religiously to see a rotation of enigmatic local caterers in an urban chic environment that feels part of a wider movement.

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I was, in part, slow to take a trip over the squinty bridge to Big Feed before now, because my previous experience with Scottish street food has been comme ci comme ça. I appreciate a terrific burger, and I’ll never truly shake my chips and cheese first love, but after spending many of our early Three Sisters Bake years working at outdoor events and farmers markets, too many food hangovers later, I learned to safeguard myself and come prepared. You know you’re not 21 anymore when you turn up to an event bearing fully charged stackable Tupperware.

Since developing Chefarella last year, I’ve spent a lot of time looking into how to make healthy eating more accessible for people on an everyday basis.

This includes being able to eat out, and not just in designated healthy-eating spots. I made it my mission to explore as many Scottish eateries as I could and I admit that often my perception of certain restaurants is off kilter.

I previously missed out on a lot by prejudging certain venues, branding them point-blank unhealthy. When I started to explore menus further and ask servers/traders about their dishes, in pursuit of a healthy option, I more often than not find that there is choice out there.

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So I entered Big Feed tupperwareless and vulnerable, with nothing but twenty boxes of cake for sustenance. I was on the war-path for something nutritious before I dipped into the delicious cupcake supply.

Cake sales are an all consuming exercise, so I didn’t have screeds of leisurely roaming time – too busy chatting to folk and recommending bakes. I had two short breaks for meals to be sampled. And in short, you will be delighted to know that homemade, healthy fare was easy to come by. And gloriously, it was not packaged up as intimidatingly clean or overtly healthy.

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GINGER AND CHILLI: 3pm
BENGALI COCONUT DAHL

Vegan inspired curry with Indian spiced lentils, coconut and sweet potato, basmati, Jaipur slaw, homemade chapatti.

I’m approaching the Ginger and Chilli stand, and I have butterflies. Yes, this is what I get kicks from. They do not have the most elaborate set up in the building, but they do have the longest queue. The very uniquely great thing about Big Feed, for me, is that it is an event purely focussed on food.

The customer is not there to see a gig or sporting event, for example, with food traders as an added convenience. They are there with the sole purpose of eating. What a time to be alive! I have found my tribe. So hearing countless passers by throughout the morning mention Ginger and Chilli gives me a sure indication that I’m on a trustworthy path here in their queue.

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There are four Asian inspired, hearty curry style dishes to choose from. The server steers me towards the vegan inspired Bengali curry with Indian spiced lentils, coconut and sweet potato. And then to the bar of toppings. For someone who has two (of four) shelves in their fridge dedicated to condiments, this is the holy grail. I opt for coconut chutney, spring onion and pomegrate seeds piled on top.

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This detail alone suggests to me a company who care heartily about their food. They’re not in the business of dinner hall style service and swiftly on to the next customer. They couple expertly spiced curries with delicate accompaniments, using fresh ingredients to bring a beautifully considered offering to the street food floor.

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FACEPLANT FOODS: 8pm
KOREAN STYLE PULLED JACKFRUIT WITH SPICY KIMCHI SLAW

At this stage in the evening, the Big Feed warehouse and it’s people are settling in to a mellow, comfy rhythm. There isn’t the same frantic consumption of food (displayed only by myself as I’m determined to shoehorn another meal in to this 8 hour shift), just lazy board-game tapping, relaxed chatting and craft beer sipping. I have time to do a final ambling loop of the street food cul-de-sac and come full circle back to our neighbours at Faceplant Foods.

The guys at Faceplant Foods talk passionately and knowledgeably about their plant-based concept. We descended for a hot minute in to a veg appreciation heart to heart. They put me together a sweet, tender sandwich with a side of firey hot slaw. It has all the comfort factor of a plump burger, but none of the after slump.

I return a little later to beg further knowledge of the mythical jackfruit (closest in texture to mushroom or, ironically, chicken) and ask where I can get my hands on some to experiment with. That the Faceplant crew could give me this info off the bat filled me with joy and proves that we are moving in to a street food scene where food is prepped from scratch and not taken out of the freezer before being placed in a fryer.

And that was my overarching feel about Big Feed- that healthy or indulgent, you are in a place where traders really give a damn about food. The founders of Big Feed have collated and nourished a collective of talented artisan cooks and creatives who are changing the reputation of street food from junk to real food. Long may it continue.

Faceplant Foods can be found regularly at The Cran, Finnieston, serving up plant based, gluten free dishes like sweet potato and coconut stew.

Ginger and Chilli are back at Big Feed for the 11th-12th November weekend with more Asian inspired recipes.

Big Feed returns to 249 Govan Road this weekend for a special Halloween event.

You can find Three Sisters Bake at Killearn, Quarriers Village, Glasgow markets and on Facebook.

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