Introduction

Introduction

By
Chris Whitney and Nud Dudhia
Contains
0 recipes
Published by
Quadrille Publishing
ISBN
978 184949 799 2
Photographer
Kris kirkham

After many years of living in London together, being disillusioned with our professions and having food ideas that never came to fruition, we got talking about tacos, or rather the lack of good ones in our area. Ideas were discussed, but this time, for whatever reason, it seemed to be more than idle chat. The decision was made in the pub after six pints (as all the best ones are), we were going to start a taco stall. First things first, we needed a name…

‘Breddos’ is a bastardized, slang word that originates from the term ‘brethren’. It’s an expression we coined whilst we were at university to refer to our friends. Fifteen years later, when we decided to build a makeshift taco shack in an abandoned car park in Hackney, East London, we couldn’t think of a better name, and so breddos Tacos was born. We started with no real understanding of what we were getting ourselves into nor what we wanted to achieve. Little did we know what lay in store over the next couple of years…

The ritual before we started breddos Tacos was to leave our respective jobs as early as humanly possible on Friday evening (much like the rest of the right-thinking world…) and we would settle into some pints at The Cat & Mutton on Broadway Market in Hackney. We’d sit there until closing, setting the world to rights with our friends. Broadway Market is famous for its Saturday market but it’s also home to several others. Netil market was based in a derelict car park with a couple of food traders and assorted stalls of oddments. After a short email application we were granted permission to build a shack, and before we knew it, we had a 2 x 3 metres taco shack. This is when things began to take shape. Recipe tests were carried out, funny moments ensued, arguments were had; a particularly memorable one was when we realized a week before opening that neither of us had the faintest idea of how to roll a burrito.

When the first day of trading snuck up on us, we had written list upon list to ensure that nothing was overlooked, every eventuality planned for, and that nothing could faze us. We opened the hatch, ready for business. Our first customer arrived, it was really happening! Until we realized that we’d overlooked a tiny detail. We’d forgotten to buy tortillas…

We soon developed a Friday night schedule for our slowcooked short-rib tacos. Whoever arrived home from work first would go to the Ginger Pig Butcher in Victoria Park and buy the ribs, then on to the shack, in order to marinate them. This done, we would head to the pub. At about 10 p.m., the time came to prepare the ribs and start cooking them, so that they’d be perfectly ready for midday on Saturday. Access to our little shack at this time of night was slightly precarious. The gates were always locked and so we’d have to jump over a 2-metre wall. Now, due to the fact we had been sitting in the pub most of the evening, there was the added element of drunken ineptitude to contend with. Once we’d scaled the wall, we’d fumble our way to the shack and prepare the ribs. One of us would prep the broth and the other would sear the ribs and get them into the slow cookers. We’d always have an argument or three during this time of the night, normally about overcooking the onions or failing to adhere to a recipe. Once the slow cookers were set up we would retire and get a good night’s sleep before getting up at the crack of dawn to begin preparing for an afternoon of trading.

During these first few weeks we only had one slow cooker, which was enough to cook 2-3kg of short-rib. But, as we started to gain loyal customers who visited us week in, week out, we noticed that we started to sell out earlier each time. This was great as it meant we could adjourn to the pub early. On the other hand, with the hope that this might turn into an actual business, it was pretty stupid to be turning people away. We needed to expand…

First off, we bought a couple more slow cookers, an extra burner and a new fridge. All this extra kit meant that we could let our creative juices flow and offer a larger menu. However, the only issue with all of this new kit was that we no longer had room to move around in our tiny shack. So we tracked down a guy to build us an extension. He also built us new work surfaces and a sink area comprised of an entire shelf under the counter for the slow cookers to sit on (we had amassed 10 by this stage); they were the workhorses of the breddos Tacos kitchen. Alongside the kit, we also realized that the local vegetable suppliers were not proving to be cost-effective, nor was their produce up to scratch. Thankfully, we lived pretty close to one of London’s two giant wholesale fruit and vegetable markets. There was ‘the avo guy’, ‘the herbs guy’, several ‘tomato guys’, and once they got to know us, they started to set aside the best produce they had for when we came to visit early in the morning.

A few short months after we began trading, we had our first encounter with Jonathan Downey (aka JD), owner of the Rushmore Group and partner in Street Feast (now London Union), namely, a man who knew his stuff. Word had spread about our little shack and one morning in the middle of service we were mentioned in a tweet by JD saying that our tacos were his favourite in London. It’s hard to describe how happy this made us. We had been speaking with JD for a couple of weeks when he invited us to compete in Taco Wars, the competition to find the UK’s best taco. To say we were stoked would be an understatement! Taco Wars was a big deal for us and we wanted to make our mark. The decision was made to create the world’s most complicated taco, so much so that it required one of us to stay up all night filling pipettes with hot sauce for one of the umpteen elements. The challenge was then for the three of us (one vegetarian girlfriend with a water bath full of short ribs, one breddo with RSI from pipette filling and the other with temporary anger management issues) to serve a hungry and discerning crowd of 550 people in a little over two hours. Added to this the shack was broken into two days before the event and someone made off with our over-aged short-ribs that we were going to braise down. What else could possibly go wrong?

Unsurprisingly, we didn’t win. Surprisingly, we came second, but people seemed to love the craziness of that taco, affirming the path we were starting to take. By luck, one of the (many) components of these tacos was candied chillies, which required a lengthy cooking process; it began with boiling the chillies in a sweet vinegar solution for at least four hours, before then baking them for another two hours. Once the chillies were removed, the liquor left behind had taken on the heat and, in a simple happy accident, this, combined with the sharp, sweet character of the juice, created something delicious. Nud called over JD who tasted this nectar and immediately ran off to grab a bottle of tequila. After one shot of blanco tequila and a shot of the chilli juice we all decided that this was brilliant (after far too many shots); and the Chilliback was born…

It was at this early stage in our taco story that Street Feast began establishing itself as a cultural movement in London, creating some of the best food and drink experiences in derelict and disused spaces across the capital. We were invited to trade, firstly in the guest spot, then we slowly managed to establish ourselves as part of the core team. The people who attended Street Feast wanted to eat the world, which allowed us to truly push ourselves and develop our menus. As a platform for culinary experimentation and exposure to a great audience, we don’t think there’s anywhere more influential and important than Street Feast. It was revolutionizing the way Londoners ate and drank and really changed the game for us. Finally, part one of our dream was realized. We were able to quit our jobs and focus on breddos full time.

As we grew, we soon realized that our Golf GTi probably wasn’t the best vehicle to be running a street food business out of. Yet we soldiered on, knowing that at some point we’d have to do something about it. That point came more quickly than we had envisaged... One day, JD called up and told us about a new project they had in mind called Truck Stop. The concept behind this was to amass loads of food trucks in Wood Wharf near Canary Wharf, which would sit alongside areas and bars created out of shipping containers. We were to be given pride of place next to the bar, a real coup for us. As always there was a snag; we had no truck… Despite hours spent searching, we were getting nowhere. Out of the blue, Nud bought a van on eBay. A 1984 VW LT31, which had a face like a Japanese animė fish. Work finished, we raced down to Surrey to inspect her and pick her up. Once we got there the scale of the thing was revealed – she was massive. Trying to appear like we knew what we were talking about, we looked at the mileage and kicked the tyres a bit. We were surprised to see that she’d only done 45,000 miles. This was brilliant, what a bargain! It was only later that we realized there were only five digits on the odometer and the true mileage was probably around 650,000… The princely sum of £1,300 was exchanged and she was ours. We christened her ‘The Beast’. We sent her to a chap called Ockie in Cambridgeshire who transformed her into a food truck with hatches and hot water. Our friends at Jose Cuervo donated some money to the cause and helped us design a motif that included our logo, Chilliback, Jose’s logo and all manner of odd skull imagery. She was ready to go and looking fresh. Job done. This process, however, took a year, missing the deadline for Truck Stop by a solid nine months. Winning. It was only once all this work was done that we noticed we had neglected to include the word ‘tacos’ on the livery...

We returned to Taco Wars a year later. The competition was stiff this time. We settled upon a pimped-up version of our classic short-rib, with the addition of a few bits such as morello cherry jam to up the ante. Of course, this being Taco Wars, there was still a pipette involved, although this time around we didn’t have to stay up all night filling the bloody things! Our secret weapon was giving away a Chilliback with every taco. We thought this was an ingenious idea, until almost half of our customers insisted that we join them in this libation. This time around, we won the competition. The best taco in the UK! We were over the moon but at the same time unable to string a sentence together due to the Chilliback debacle. Another day, another lesson learned…

Of course every journey begins with tentative first steps (and mis-steps) and over time we’ve grown and developed our culinary philosophy, celebrating the versatility of the humble taco. We should note that breddos Tacos is not an authentic Mexican offering. Although Nud spent a summer living there back in 2001, we are not Mexican. Our interpretation of the cuisine is based on a deep understanding of and huge respect for its history, and our approach has always been to take flavours, techniques and ingredients that we love from Mexico (and around the world) and develop recipes that we feel represent who we are, where we are from and where we are going.

The taco has always brought everything together on an edible plate. The space is limited to a 12cm diameter onto which we place our ingredients and we have always focused on sourcing the best ingredients we could find. This is the basis of the book you’re currently reading. It’s been an immensely fun and rewarding ride so far. We hope this comes across in our recipes and that you have as much fun creating them as we do.

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