A fusion of Japanese and Latin American street food that’s set to conquer London
Fusion is one of the fastest-growing food trends around the world, not just London. Chefs love it, as it allows them free rein to experiment with flavours and textures and to really express their creativity. And happy diners love it, too, as it produces some really great food, just like the ‘’noritacos’’ from award-winning start-up SugoiJPN.
What’s a noritaco? I hear you ask. Well, it’s a new concept inspired by Tokyo’s street food hub Omoide Yokocho and the food stalls of Latin America. SugoiJPN have combined the best of both street food traditions and come up with the noritaco.
We all know what a taco is – a tortilla folded around a filling, a Mexican classic. Fans of Japanese food will know that nori is the edible seaweed used to wrap sushi. Put nori and taco together and you’ve got noritaco, a softly crisp seaweed tempura shell stuffed with Japanese-Latin American fusion fillings on a bed of sushi rice. The secret recipe took a year to develop in order to create the ideal street food, something tasty and easy to eat on the go. Add some similarly inspired side dishes and a clever dessert and you’ve got the full SugoiJPN experience.
The SugoiJPN menu is like a Japanese car, maybe not big, but well-engineered. The six noritacos on the menu include some very creative combinations, with a lot of ingredients you’ve possibly not heard of before. (It’s actually great fun looking up what they all are). But you can rest assured, it’s all seriously tasty food. The Señor Crab (£9), soft shell crab tempura is served with lettuce, sesame seeds, aonori, chive, coriander, shichimi togarashi and spicy mayo on a layer of sushi rice. Although there’s a lot of flavours, the delicate crab isn’t overwhelmed.
The Diablo (£7) is karaage (Japanese-style crispy fried chicken) with a touch of ginger, lemon, mixed salad, eel sauce, furikake, chilli and chilli sauce. Nicely crisp chicken is enlivened by some zesty, tongue-tingling heat. If you are looking for a vegetarian option, the Veggie (£7) has lamb lettuce, carrot, onion, green apple, edamame, cabbage, avocado, sesame seeds, aonori, chive, coriander and sesame dressing. All fresh and crunchy.
The Chingón (£9) comes with sashimi-style tuna, salmon, pico de gallo (tomatoes, coriander, red onion, lemon juice), lamb lettuce, sesame seeds, aonori, chive and kimchee sauce. Muy Bien! The five side dishes include crispy and tasty karaage (£6.50) with unagi sauce, sesame seeds and chive, and Takoyaki (£6.50), four balls of an octopus snack with takoyaki sauce, spicy mayo, sprinkled with aonori, sesame seeds, chives and katsuobushi (bonito flakes). Really tasty. For vegetarians, the side dish options are Gyozas chingonas (veggie fried dumplings) and Yuca fries.
There’s only one dessert (£5.50) but it really is very good – Cool vanilla mochi ice cream, topped by strands of Nutella, with Oreo biscuit crumbs and bubuarare (Japanese popped rice). The mochi ice cream is good and chewy (don’t worry, it’s meant to be!) and nicely set off by the choc flavours of the Oreo and Nutella. It’s a good fun pud. The dishes can be washed down with Ramune and Colombiana sodas (£3.50) or a can of Japanese green tea (£2.75).
SugoiJPN first opened up in 2018 in a small dark kitchen (only for delivery and takeaways) in Bethnal Green. Post-lockdown they are now looking to expand to 10 sites across London in a year, boosted by the success of head chef, Osamu Mizuno, who was awarded Best Takeaway Chef in Britain at The British Takeaway Awards 2019. SugoiJPN are also finalists for The Good Food Awards 2020 (winners to be announced in November). With Bethnal Green re-opening soon, the first post-lockdown outlets have started up in Merton Abbey Mills, South Wimbledon SW19 and in Palmers Green N13, both open Thursday-to-Sunday. If you’re browsing in the Merton Abbey Mills shops, there’s an avenue of outdoor seating for SugoiJPN’s takeaways. For both sites, Deliveroo will fetch your food for you, if you live within a few miles. If you’re wondering about the name, Sugoi is a Japanese word, a superlative, an exclamation used to describe something extraordinary, meaning something like “amazing” –
As in ‘’It’s not sushi, it is not taco, it is Sugoi!’’
Nick was a guest of SugoiJPN
For an alternative, take a look at our review of Zuaya in Kensington