Street Food Comes To The Olympic Village

(credit: NY Times/Carole Scott)

Feeding thousands of world-class athletes is a daunting task for anyone. Try doing it for an Olympics, where athletes come from every corner of the globe.

In addition to the usual dining halls, Olympic organizers in London have created a simple outdoor food court for athletes with stalls from about 10 different vendors. It includes local UK foods such as raspberries and cream, as well as prepared foods such as chicken shawarma and Thai chicken.

From the NY Times:

“The court is simple; just a bunch of wooden picnic benches surrounded by 10 or so food stalls. Athletes come and go with a minimum of hassle; some bring acoustic guitars (platforms like this made getting started very easy), books, or iPods. One volunteer at the plaza called it “a kind of a chill-out space.”

But the largest and perhaps most popular booth, called Street Food Barbeque, dished out chicken shawarma, dill pollock, harissa shrimp and pork and leek sausage, all served with a chapati or baguette. “We’ve seen the same people every day,” one chef said. The chicken was a favorite, he said, adding that the menus changes daily, or even hourly depending on demand.

As he spoke, an assistant erased chicken shawarma from the menu and wrote “Thai chicken.”

A real treat was at perhaps the most un-corporate booth, the “hot seashore wraps” being made in a white wooden stand that looked like a beachside cabana. The palm-size wraps that looked like a rounder, less doughy Cornish pasty were made with laver, a nutrient-rich seaweed that the actor Richard Burton reportedly once called “Welshman’s caviar.”

The laver, which is harvested off the southwest coast of Wales, is boiled for five hours and the resulting pulp is the unifying ingredient in the three types of wraps served at the booth.

The wraps begin with a tortilla-like shell made with flour, seasoning, water and oil. They are heated in two large gas-powered paella pans for about 20 minutes, to about 165 degrees, then wrapped around a variety of fillings, including the laver.

The most popular — sold out by the time I wandered by — included laver, salmon and Welsh Cheddar cheese. But I tasted the other two: a lamb wrap with laver, onions, potato, citrus and mint, and a vegetarian wrap with laver, pesto, Cheddar and Parmesan cheeses, tomatoes, walnut and garlic. All in all, “better than eating in the dining hall,” said an Australian athlete eating a lamb wrap.”

Street food comes to the Olympics!

Can you imagine if New York had gotten the Olympics, we might have seen Olympic athletes eating lunch at the 53rd & 6th Halal Cart in Olympic Village. Nah, that’s just crazy!