Food without borders: celebrating the tastes of East London

We've all had that moment when the taste of food brought us back to a person or a place. Food contains our memories. In a new series, ELL explores the rich dishes and food cultures of East London

“For each and every one of us, food means far more than a quick snack. When we prepare food together, eat food together, share food, we are not just sharing calories; we experience emotions, our history, and our culture.” These are the words of professor Louise Manning at the University of Lincoln who places great importance on food and its “deep cultural and spiritual significance.”

In two Eastlondonlines boroughs, the story is no different.

According to the latest census data, 47 per cent of Tower Hamlets residents are born outside of the UK. The borough also has the largest Bangladeshi and the third-largest Chinese population across England and Wales. As for Hackney, non-white minorities represent 47 per cent of the population, with Black people accounting for 21 per cent of the population, making them the largest minority group in the borough.

This diversity brings different food cultures to East London – a wide range of dishes that come with memories ranging from the sunny beaches of Jamaica to the historical city of Lahore in Pakistan, to inspiration from the streets of Beijing or the markets in Milan.

Over the next three days, we will be serving up a series of articles about rich and delicious food in Tower Hamlets and Hackney with videos, photos, and an interactive map (below). Discover which ingredients to buy in your local Asian market and read the inspirational life stories of local restaurant owners. Simply click any icon on the map, and it will lead you to the world of food. Get ready to tuck in.

(Top illustration: Henry Zhang; Photos: Charmaine Wong, Morgan Ofori)

Here are the stories due to be published later in the week, when these links will go live. Check back everyday to see the rest of our series.

Monday, April 17

A hidden blow: why migrant communities are hit harder by rocketing food prices

The price of minority community staples such as noodles, the root vegetable Mukhi taro or the Lithuanian agurkas pickle has risen sharply but what is the hidden cost?

My life on a plate: Imran Sabir, Maza Takeaway
Meet the Pakistani vendor bringing the flavours of Lahore to Ridley Road market. Charismatic Imran Sabir speaks about his love of street food.

Tuesday, April 18

Food and faith: What we eat (and don't)

From Ajwa dates and Bangladeshi kesuri to unleavened bread and matzo ball soup, the kitchens of Sufia Alam and Rabbi Roni Tabick are in full steam during Ramadan and Passover.

My life on a plate: Bec Wharton, My Neighbours The Dumplings

Home is where the dumplings are. Bec Wharton reflects on the inspiration behind the parcels of joy at her supremely popular dumpling shop in Victoria Park.

Wednesday, April 19

“The link between food and memory is profound”
From the softness inside a French baguette to the chewy texture of Chinese noodles, food holds a special place in our heart, conjuring up precious memories.

Food without borders: your complete guide to Asian ingredients

You may have watched 'Chinese food in 10 minutes' on TikTok but where on earth do you source the specialist ingredients? Eastlondonlines rustles up the beginner's guide to Asian grocery shopping.

My life on a plate: Kaysor Ambiah, Green Glow

Kaysor Ambiah, owner of Green Glow in Hackney, speaks about his food memories and what it was that drove him from Milan to London.

Thursday, April 20

Eat your heart out at East London's tastiest food markets

Want to grab a bite but don’t know where? We got you covered with the best food markets in Tower Hamlets and Hackney.

My life on a plate: Deslyn Marks, Patty Heaven

Deslyn Marks, owner of Patty Heaven, speaks about memories of her family from Jamaica and specific foods she loves.

Follow us on all platforms with #ELLFoodWithoutBorders.

Reporters: Morgan Ofori, Charmaine Wong, Henry Zhang and Melody Chan

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