Originally from the province of Shaanxi 陝西, roujiamo 肉夹馍 is a common sight in China's larger cities, but it's rarely seen in the West. So I was really intrigued when I heard that a street stall called Mama Wang's Kitchen was knocking out this sandwich near Archway tube station.
To the uninitiated, roujiamo simply consists of slow-braised pork in a crispy unleavened bun, but in common with many street food dishes, vendors like to put their own spin on this classic. Mama Wang's Chairman Mo (£5 for a large one) is a generously filled sandwich full of red-braised pork cheeks (think of a pot bubbling away with star anise, cassia bark, cardamom amongst other aromatics), tiger salad and pork scratchings.
The pork cheeks are a great idea, as the tender meaty strands soak up the fragrant braising liquor. However, I would've liked to see some extra pork fat as well as more punch from the star anise. I'd also ditch the tiger salad; it was a good salad but the coriander was fine on its own and the julienned carrot and cucumber felt surplus to requirements. On the plus side, the pork scratchings are a welcome addition giving a contrast in texture as well as injecting some naughtiness to the sarnie.
As purveyors of traditional Shaanxi-style flatbreads are a bit thin on the ground in north London, Mama Wang's use English muffins. I'm not sure the muffin really works in the same way as the flatbread does in the original version, but there aren't too many alternatives. The only one I can think of is pitta bread, but then again that's probably too thin for roujiamo. Some of you may be thinking steamed Chinese mantou could be the answer. This would no doubt make a great sandwich, but it wouldn't be a roujiamo. If any of you can think of a solution to this conundrum, do let Mama Wang's know.
I fear I'm coming across as a bit of a grumpy bollocks in this review. I don't mean to. All told, Mama Wang's roujiamo is a more than welcome addition to London's street food scene. Yes, they could tweak it more to my tastes, but then again not everyone is a salad dodging, pork fat loving, star anise worshipper. So if you do find yourself down on the Holloway Road on a Saturday, give the Chairman Mo a try.
Mama Wang's Kitchen - stall outside Budgens on Holloway Road
Open Saturdays 10am-4pm
Nearest stations: Archway, Upper Holloway