Hoang Yen Supermarket


Sweet basil, Vietnamese mint, purple perilla, fish mint, betel leaves, sawtooth coriander, three crabs premium fish sauce… You don’t need all these things to cook good Vietnamese food but if you have all of them then you have no excuse not to!

I’ve all but given up hoping for a good Vietnamese restaurant* in Brum, one with a decent repertoire of grilled things and rice based products loaded with the intoxicating blend of herbs they use in Vietnam. For me it’s the herbs that make it special. But freshness is key, trying to keep it that way is difficult and expensive for a restaurant. Without it Vietnamese food can seem muted. Wing Yip have a limited selection and the Asian Mini Market in the Brimingham Indoor Market is good too but a £3.50 bunch of sweet basil in those places costs just £2 in Hoang Yen. Go on Friday after the late Thursday afternoon delivery and you’re good for a whole weekend cooking and bingeing on bun cha, bun cuon and salads of amazing complexity yet lightness. Perfect summer food.

18 Holyhead Rd, Birmingham, West Midlands B21 0LT

Bun cha; chargrilled lemongrass pork, rice vermicelli, dressing and a bucket load of herbs

* Pho, the London chain of noodle shops is coming to Brum’s new shopping behemoth Grand Central. The pho is pretty decent there and the rest of the menu is serviceable, a little skimpy on the fresh herbs other than coriander and mint. No doubt Birmingham foodies will hail this as the holy grail of Vietnamese food. It’s ok for a start.

Bamo Freshnaan


IMG_3249.JPGThere’s a direct correlation* with how pissed off your Middle Eastern baker is and the quality of his bread. I have never seen the bakers in Bamo smile or make small talk with non Kurds, but blimey their naans are tasty. So much better than the lank dishcloths in Pars supermarket (the folk in there are preternaturally smiley and friendly). The shelves of Bamo are pretty bare, the shop is no more than a front for the constant motion of tandoor and two deck bread oven. This is what they do, just churn out as much flat bread as humanly possible. Nemrut next door takes its fair share, which if you haven’t been yet has probably surpassed Istanbul in my mini league table of best Turkish restaurants in Brum.

Pop in if you’re driving by or have a craving for keema (chicken or lamb) naan. It’s £1.50 and is basically a perfect thing. The freshly baked crusty crispy chewy bread folded over soft juicy lamb seasoned with sumac and a little chilli. I don’t even know how they make money from this, one is perfect lunch sized. If they open in town they would lay waste to every indie cafe and eatery in sight.

16a Holyhead Rd, Birmingham B21 0LT

Keema naan, just about the best £1.50 you can spend on food

* sample size may not stand up to statistical scrutiny

Arabic Chicken and Rose Bakery

Fresh roast chicken and fresh bread for just £3.80, beats a sandwich and packet of crisps at Tesco

There’s a cheerful Yemeni chap on the Stratford Rd in Sparkbrook that sells “Arabic Chicken” from a rotisserie on the street. His rotisserie is fuelled by a worn looking gas tube snaking from the letterbox of Al Saada Middle Eastern store. If the prospect of stopping in Sparkbrook as you drive to your homes in leafier suburbs is unappetising, then you’re not going to like hearing that it’s really delicious. Oh and it’s £3.50 for a small whole freshly roasted chicken. It’s generously slathered in his secret recipe spice paste, heavy in garlic and cinnamon. He only cooks in the afternoon, so the chicken is always freshly roasted and moist. Now if only I could persuade him to stick a tray of potatoes at the bottom to catch all that aromatic chicken fat. Like they do in French markets.

Lucky then that the Rose Bakery is next door. For 30p you can get a fluffy Middle Eastern style flatbread to soak up all that chicken goodness. Less than £4 for real bread and meat made by real cooks. Worth getting out your car for I think, you’ll be stuck in traffic anyway.

Al Saada
168 Stratford Road, Birmingham B11 1AG

Rose Bakery
170 Stratford Road, Birmingham B11 1AG

Samosa City

Sweet Mahal's meat samosa, greatness
Sweet Mahal’s meat samosa, greatness

A great samosa is never too far away in our fair city. You don’t ever have to eat an onion filled meat samosa at your local Farmers Market ever again. A full guide to Black Country and Sparkhill samosa shops can be found on my Foodist blog.

Truly delicious meat samosas can be found at Sweet Mahal and Mushtaq’s on the Stratford Rd. Suraj gives a different spin on veggies samosas. Uppals sneaks in with great paneer rolls. The Punjabi Sweet Centre is a nice place to eat in, samosas could be better though.

Sweet Mahal
826 Stratford Road, Birmingham B11 4BS
Tel: 0121 777 6777

451-455 Stratford Road, Birmingham B11 4LD
Tel: 0121 772 0631

Suraj Sweet Centre
703 Stratford Road, Birmingham B11 4DN
Tel: 0121 778 5100

33 Barcroft Road, Wolverhampton WV2 3HF
Tel: 01902 451113

Punjabi Sweet & Curry House (aka Punjabi Sweet Centre)
285/287 High Street, Smethwick B66 3NJ
Tel: 0121 565 2187

Black Country Pork Pies

Don Guest and Walter Smith pork pies
Don Guest and Walter Smith pork pies

The butchers of the Black Country have a long history of making delicious pork pies. I visited some of the best and worst in my Foodist blog.

The best I found were Don Guest in Halesowen and Walter Smith in Wolverhampton. Honourable mention for Michael Kirk also in Wolverhampton.

Don Guest & Son, 106A Stourbridge Road, Halesowen, West Midlands B63 3UN Tel: 0121 550 3832

Walter Smith, Mander Centre, Wolverhampton WV1 3NN Tel: 01902 423 755

Michael Kirk, 56 Woolpack Street (off Dudley Street) Wolverhampton Tel: 01902 425064

Lewis’s of Moseley

There patently aren’t enough delis in Birmingham, which I believe is an indicator of the level of homecooking going on. Though supermarkets provide the essentials, you really aren’t going to find five types of dried Mexican chillies in them. For that you need places like Lewis’s sitting in its prime location between the Fighting Cocks and Bulls Head in Moseley Village. Along with the venerable (and musty) Nima it’s one of two whole delis in this suburb.

I wasn’t joking about the dried chillies, Lewis stocks a nice selection of Cool Chile Co’s Mexican stuff from corn husks and masa harina to tomatillos. He’s also got a spiffing line in Mediterranean goods which are the lifeblood of delis like his. Where else would your yummy mummies (and me) go to find Spanish Tapas essentials like Santo Domingo Pimenton De La Vera, Valdespino sherry vinegar, Brindisa chorizo or Perello Gordal olives? Interesting pasta shapes like bucatini and panettone at xmas? Or even Vietnamese summer roll kits.

There’s a limited but good selection of charcuterie and cheeses, some fresh seasonal veg including gorgeous heritage tomatoes. Fresh artisanal bread daily from Lucky 13 Bakehouse and cakes from the Bake Birmingham gents. Service is superbly friendly and best of all there’s seating so you can try everything whilst sipping an excellent Monmouth Coffee Company coffee. Just what every suburb in Birmingham needs, not another flipping Tesco Express. Gets busy on Moseley famers market day (4th Saturday of the month).

Lewis’s of Moseley
11 St Mary’s Row, Moseley, Birmingham B13 8HW
Tel: 0121 4499933

A K Superstore


I love Asian grocers, I particularly love the cheapness. It makes me chuckle every time I see a tiny 25g sachet of coriander leaf in Waitrose for 89p. A two minute drive down the road and for the same price I can get two whole bunches of the stuff. More coriander than I know what to do with (might be an exaggeration). Garlic, ginger, chillies, spices, fresh fruit and veg. I can stuff a carrier bag full and never have to break a bank note. Anyone serious about cooking living in a big city knows their nearest Asian grocer. Springfield (Sparkhill) Parade on Stratford Rd is close to where I live, on it there are 5 big grocers all vying for business. It’s a perfect competition scenario as studied in Economics class. Stock is turned over quickly and always fresh.

But A K Superstore is not there. It’s on the Coventry Rd in Small Heath. The bit you never go down because that’s why the Small Heath Bypass was built. That stretch of the Cov road is teeming with Asian and Middle-eastern businesses. AK Superstore is opposite the park and has the freshest fruit and veg of all the Asian grocers I’ve ever been in. Whenever I go there is always someone checking over the produce and discarding any that aren’t pristine. Worth a detour if you’re in the area especially during mango season.

A K Superstore
640-642 Coventry Rd, Birmingham B10 0UT


The Dovehouse parade of shops, where Dovehouse Lane meets the Warwick Rd in Solihull, may be the most complete parade of independent businesses in the whole city. From babywear, drycleaners, chemist, rugs, chip-shop, Chinese takeaway and Indian restaurant to hairdressers, off-license, boutiques and funeral directors, all of life’s necessities are covered. There’s even a bakery, Sonya’s Bakehouse, but to be honest I don’t much like the bread there. For an independent bakery they don’t half make their bread taste bland and slightly mass-produced. They’re going strong though so their customers must be happy. Maybe bland, safe bread suits the Solihull palate!

The real wonder of this packed parade is that there is an actual fishmonger in amongst it. Yes a fishmonger, you remember those, they’re like a butcher but they sell fish. Vickerstaff fishmonger is tucked into the back of Cornucopia which is an amalgamation of three businesses. The front of the shop is split between a greengrocer/florist (the Cornucopia bit) and Dovehouse Butchers (nice hogroast at the weekends). Vickerstaff never seems to have much fish on display, maybe a few pairs of kipper or some salmon steaks. But it’s one of those places where with some notice they can get you anything you want. So make friends with them because they may be the last fishmonger outside of the Indoor Market (and supermarkets of course). At the time of writing I believe it’s the only one out there, and you thought high street butchers were becoming a rarity.

Hillers Farm Shop


It was the Becketts Farm Breakfast I ate the other morning that had me thinking about farm shops. It reminded me that I haven’t been to Hillers for ages, maybe it’s not quite asparagus season yet because when it is you’ll find both Nick and me on the trail of those sweet green spears. That’s why we come here, during the asparagus season the counters are overflowing with the stuff freshly picked within the locality. As everyone knows the finest asparagus comes from Evesham.

But it’s not only asparagus, it is really one of the best farm shops in the region. You’ll find Ragley Estate Meats in there, a butchers that rears it’s own meat on adjacent Ragley Estate. You want provenance? You got it. Great seasonal veg as well the usual farm shop deli fare. What’s more there’s also a fishmonger.

It takes about 30 minutes to drive there from the south of Brum, why not stop by The Chef’s Dozen on the way?

Hillers Farm Shop
Dunnington Heath Farm, Alcester, Warwickshire B49 5PD

Fenky Janes


Wah gwan bredren?! Everyone loves Caribbean food right? Curry goat, jerk chicken, rice and peas, saltfish and ackee, fried fish, festivals, curry patties. The canon of West Indian food is like comfort food for spice lovers. But I had big issues with curry patties though, for some reason the bright yellow patties from the likes of Island Delight never cut it with me. They were well rarted! The pastry is crumbly and dry and the filling is like some kinda slop, give me a Ginsters any day.

Fenky Janes Caribbean Patties are a local treasure. Find them in discerning West Indian outlets or better still get them from the small factory unit in Hockley. Buy them by the dozen because they freeze really well and you can bake them from frozen. The flaky pastry is perfection and all the fillings are great but my fave is the Ackee & Saltfish. Quite simply you have not eaten a curry pattie until you have tried one of these. They are proppa!

(Some people say that Russells in Lozells make the best patties but not to start a turf war or anything, them people are damnfool)

Fenky Janes
Unit 6, Park Trading Estate, Birmingham B18 5HB
0121 507 0660

Find other great places to eat and buy food in Birmingham on the Birmingham Food Map!