Halal Katsu Wraps and Jerk Chicken Bagels - the Guts of a Postcolonial City

Wednesday, July 16, 2014: 5:30 PM
Room: 424
Oral Presentation
Alex RHYS-TAYLOR , Sociology,, Goldsmiths College, London, United Kingdom
In recent years there been a growing recognition and celebration of culturally hybridised dishes as part of a Northern European and American street food revolution. As this paper discusses, this hybrid characteristic is nothing new for a port city such as London, which, for the majority of its history, has cooked up  an assortment of transcultural dishes. Through a consideration of everyday lunches such as the halal chicken katsu wrap, jerk chicken bagels and the mince sandwich pakora, this paper examines the relationship between life in the city’s margins, taste, transculturation, adaptation and entrepreneurship. Attracting some of the longest queues of the inner-city’s urban food courts, the popularity of such dishes will be considered in terms of both economic necessity (offering the most calories for the least money) but also as important cultural meeting points, a role that is derived through histories of global exchange. Taking the increasingly ubiquitous chicken katsu curry wrap as its main focus, the paper reveals the origins of the ‘authentic Japanese’ dish amongst early twentieth century dialouge with European and Amwerican tatses. The more recent proliferation of the dish through the lunchtimes of working Londoners is related to the affordances delivered by this early moment of intercultural exchange. The paper also considers the importance of this earlier moment of cultural exchange in the light of the recent rise of Asian economic and cultural influence in the city. Through tracing the evolution of this dish and a taste for it the paper demonstrates the transformations local and global culinary cultures undergo as entrepreneurs strive to accommodate the super-diversity of globally embedded cities. Alongside the jerk bagel and deep fried mince sandwich, the importance of chicken katsu curry wraps will be emphasized for what they lend to an understanding of the complex genealogies of contemporary urban culture.