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05th Mar 2024

£8 chicken fillet rolls are being marketed as ‘Irish street food’ in London

Fiona Frawley

irish street food

Header images via TikTok/madzhungrybelly

It’s the CMAT-showing-her-arse-at-the-Brit-awards of the deli world.

Across TikTok, X and beyond at the moment, an interesting phenomenon is growing legs.

London food-fluencers are posting slow pans of baguettes smothered in taco sauce, Americans are being introduced to the inner workings of a jambon and former members of the EU are scrambling to find ways to import Club Rock Shandy in bulk.

This is largely due to the introduction of Irish-owned business Emerald Eats to the London food scene, and food bloggers christening chicken fillet rolls, curry chips and spice bags as “Irish street food”.

@madzhungrybelly Irish street food has landed in London 🇮🇪🍗 In this new series I’m going to tell you all about the food traders that need to be on your radar in 2024! 🙏. First up is Emerald Eats who have been taking London by storm with their chicken fillet rolls, curry chips and spice bags 👀. I went down to check them out at Kerb at Cowcross Yards, the lunch time rush was no joke and these guys had a huuuuge queue forming by 12:30. The weekends at Broadway Market are just the same but even longer apparently 😅. The chicken fillet roll was banging and the chicken was soooo crispy and so juicy inside, for £8 it’s great value imo. #irishstreetfood #ireland #chickenfilletroll #londonfood #cheapeats ♬ Irish Jig – Irish Pub Society
A moment for the soundtrack, please.

Back on Irish soil, the globalisation of the breaded chicken and iceberg combo is being met with mixed response – some are outraged by the idea of petrol station tapas being dubbed as “street food”, with demands to “wise up” flooding the comments section. Others are describing an Irish woman convincing Brits to pay eight English pounds for a chicken fillet roll as “brilliant”.

With the large cohort of Irish folk living in London, it obviously makes sense to have these deli delicacies on offer somewhere in the city. We’d never begrudge an immigrant the warm embrace of a McDonnells curry chip. There’s just something inherently funny about hearing these foods reviewed by someone who sounds like Jamie Oliver.

Deli food isn’t “bangin'” or “heaven” – it’s a necessity, something that by its nature is perpetually scaldy and this remains true even if the spice bag is €100 (we’re looking at you, Hang Dai) or if the jambon is made with creamy Toonsbridge and imported mortadella. It’s still something you eat with last night’s fake eyelashes hanging off your cheek, or after waking up on a stranger’s sofa with genitals drawn on your forehead in sharpie. All this isn’t to say Brits can’t try the cuisine for themselves; it is after all, impossible to stop the English dipping their toes into other cultures and picking up whatever they like – it’s just that they’ll never understand it the way we do. Deli food is nuanced, complex. Yes, it can be the thing that drags you out of your pit of despair after a particularly rough night, or taxing day at work, but it’s also nasty – we’ve all seen deli rashers that look like they should be taken away in a zip lock as forensic evidence. Like many of the things we love about Ireland, deli food is by nature a little bit shit, and it’s hard to describe the cultural significance of 5 mini sausage rolls that are 98% overly flaky pastry to anyone who favours a herby Cumberland over a pure and perfect Superquinn link.

I once heard tell of a lad at a Centra near Leopardstown racecourse at about 9am, still in a suit ordering a sausage roll in a wrap with sweet chilli sauce, grimly following the order up with “please, it’s been a rough night”. That’s a culinary combo no one outside of Ireland will ever understand, no matter how many “Irish street food” stands grace the streets of South London. It’s the kind of order that James Joyce would have found a way to weave into Ulysses if he was writing it today. I’m not even saying it’s something I want to gatekeep – deli food is one of those things that’s neither good nor bad. It’s just part of our culture, something that feels safe and threatening all at once (if you’ve ever been brave enough to order a deli egg, you know exactly what I mean).

@chriskentcomic They say you’re never more than 6 feet from a sandwich in Ireland ☘️ #irish #chickenfilletroll #sandwiches #irishabroad☘️ #irishinlondon🇮🇪 #irishsandwich #standup #comedy #chriskent #centra #supervalu #fyp #foryou #foryoupage ♬ original sound – Chris kent
The magic of the Irish deli, as artfully described by Cork comedian Chris Kent. 

Maybe it’s the rising success of Irish actors beyond in Hollywood that has everyone gasping for a bitta Irish culture – the trend of journalists insisting upon quizzing Andrew Scott and Barry Keoghan about what they have in their chicken fillet rolls may have been heavily parodied by our country’s finest front-facing-camera comedians, but it seems to have incited a ripple effect in the UK – those not native to our land are now curious about our national sambo, and looking to get in on the action themselves. Maybe it’s like when Paul Mescal put GAA shorts on the map back in 2020, and it’s only a matter of time before we see Gucci launch a collection of leather chicken fillet roll baguettes.

In any case, I’m glad our Irish brethren who’ve departed this land can still get their hands on a spicebag and a chicken filly. The food at Emerald Eats looks great (the chicken fillet in particular appears impeccably seasoned, juicy and nicely crisp) and if the Brits want to make jambons Ireland’s answer to dosa, so be it. Once we’re charging them £20 per two-inch sausage roll, that counts as reparations in my eyes.


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