If the devil is in the details, someone should probably check Leyli Homayoonfar for horns and cloven hooves.
I first fell for her food at her Leyli Joon & Co Grangetown supper club: a true family business. She took her Bab Haus to Sticky Fingers for its purple patch, a time we will likely one day look back on and recall fondly as ‘the classic SF line up’. Her flatbreads quickly won many fans, with the Korean fried chicken becoming downright essential. It was so good it made ordering at Sticky Fingers problematic- every dish ordered elsewhere reduced your capacity for that chicken– and that was with her neighbours serving some of the best street food in South Wales. She was one of the first locally to send out themed ‘cookalong at home’ kits: her Korean bibimbap (featuring that chicken) was a thumping success.
Now Barry’s Goodsheds is Bab Haus HQ and these taco kits are available for delivery across the region. And to miss out on these would be, well…inadvisable. Choose between two meats and celeriac: to whit, the answer to the question ‘Ox cheek birria or pork belly carnitas..?’ is, obviously, ‘both.’
Everything is well packaged (don’t take this as a given, I’ve had some horror shows lately). It’s quick hob work, the food ready in minutes, the emphasis on feeding you quickly and well. Which is ironic given the time that has gone into it. That beef is reassuringly knotty, clumpy: evidence of hand-work, of patience and care. Details.
It’s impressive stuff: fascinated by the flavours and textures, I ask Leyli for some insight into its preparation. Multiple chilli varieties, even more aromatics. Rubbing, dry curing, smoking, simmering, shredding, braising: it’s over a day’s worth of investment in time and care and the interplay of smoke, herbs and spicing which brings this to your door. ‘Artisan’ has become a drearily misappropriated term, with street food the worst culprit. But this is true craft.
Days in the making, moments in the eating. The beef tacos (£25) are stuffed with cheese and toasted briefly in the pan- that savoury, warming, oozing tangle which leaves your hands dripping and your eyes smiling is no accident. It’s a hot mess. Elegant? No. A volley of indulgence, messy in all the right ways? Yes, please and thank you.
And the pork? I like that even more. I’m seduced by the language: ‘Fry your carnitas in the pork belly fat’ is the kind of talk which can only end well. Again, it’s all in those deft touches: the process is time-consuming, swallowing hours of careful preparation and oversight. Could it be done more quickly? Doubtlessly. Are details and integrity important? Evidently. Thankfully.
It’s time well spent. These are instantly memorable handfuls, smoky-juicy and aromatic, and with plenty of ways provided to build each one, from the snap of light pickled onions to sour cream and guacamole, red chillies or shredded cabbage. The richness of the peanut matcha would be a standout in any other kit it’s nothing short of lovely. But the one you’ll keep coming back to, the one that’ll have you running your finger around the rapidly emptying pot? That’ll be the salsa roja.
What a compelling thing this is. By turns smoky and fruity, sweet yet hot and sour, this is something they should bottle or at least offer as ‘add on’ for delivery. You could add this to scrambled eggs, ham sandwiches, stir fried broccoli- anything that would benefit from that warming lift. I eat it with a spoon. It’s superb.
Portions are generous to a fault: you get six tortillas per box for your £28 but you could spin this amount of meat out into another few tacos at least. Quality and quantity. They won’t last long- this is fun food.
You never hear a bad word about Leyli’s food. Trust me, when you come out swinging for good local businesses, there’s always someone who will get in touch to tell you of the time they went and found it overpriced, underwhelming, just lacking in something. Consistency is key after all: many restaurants can impress you once, but let you down another time, which is why this blog rarely reviews off a single visit.
The quality in this box is just the latest example of Leyli Homayoonfar’s commitment to skill, to her craft. It tastes as if she’s intent on raising the profile of Mexican street food, our understanding of how good it can be.
It’s all there in the details. But you’ll see that when your own box arrives, won’t you?
Bab Haus Mex kits are here.
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This blog is a very simple thing.
I won’t try to sell you any hand lotion, exercise programmes, coffee syrups or Patagonian nose flutes. You won’t find tips on dating, ‘wellness’ or yoga mats.
I write because I love it (and food, as indicated by my increasing girth). Greed happens to be my Deadly Sin of choice, but at least it is never shy of providing me with subject matter.
A simple thing, then: all you get is me wittering on semi-coherently about places I’ve eaten at; hence a ‘restaurant blog’ rather than a ‘food blog’, although there are a few recipes scattered throughout.
From mezze to Michelin ‘fine dining’ and all points in between.