East London Food

The East End of London offers some interesting options for local cuisine not found anywhere else in the capital, or in the rest of the UK for that matter. You may have to dig around a little to find some of these once-common traditional delicacies, but, if you want to experience real East End life, this is certainly worth doing!

London’s East End Food

The area is also renowned for other cuisines introduced by immigrants over the years. So, what are the food specialities of East London?

Jellied Eels: A History

Home Made Jellied Eels

One of the best-known dishes of the East End is jellied eels. The dish may not be part of the staple diet of Cockneys any longer, but it is still popular with many locals and some visitors. It is made up from chopped pieces of eel cooked in a specially spiced water-based stock.

Eels are particularly gelatinous so, as the dish cools, they turn the stock into a type of jelly. This can be eaten hot or cold, and it is one of those things that you either love or hate. Don’t be put off by the way it looks – it is hard to make pieces of eel in a jelly look really attractive – you might surprise yourself and actually like it if you dare try it!

It is thought that jellied eels date back in popularity to the 1800s – there were hundreds of shops and stalls selling the dish then. The reason for its popularity was the abundance of eels in the Thames.

River Thames North Woolwich
River Thames North Woolwich

There were loads of them and they were easy to catch locally. This made them readily available and they were cheaper than meat and other types of fish, so they became a staple food for working East Enders.

Jellied eels are generally found locally in the few remaining pie and mash shops in the East End. Each shop has its own particular recipe, which is usually kept a closely guarded secret.

It is also possible to buy jellied eels from fish stalls in the East End and around the capital and in some local supermarkets.

Pie and Mash

The East End’s jellied eels go hand in hand with the area’s other speciality dish – pie and mash. Again, this dish originally came from the abundance of eels in the area and the need for cheap and nutritious food to feed working people with not a lot of money to spare.

East End Pie and Mash
East End Pie and Mash

Your typical pie would traditionally have been made from stewed eels with a nice dollop of filling mashed potato on the side.

The piece de resistance of the meal is the liquor, or gravy, that is poured liberally on the plate around the pie and mash.

Traditional liquors are made from the water used to cook eels and this may look a little off-putting at first, as it is green, but bear in mind it is basically a parsley sauce so it does taste better than it looks!

Over time, eel pies were replaced with ones made from minced meat or mutton. Eels became less common in the local rivers and meat became easier to source and cheaper. Most pie and mash shops today will sell meat rather than eel pies now.

Some pie and mash shops also give you the option of a gravy that looks like gravy if you prefer a brown coloured sauce rather than a green one. If you want the real pie and mash experience, however, you should go green!

Cockles and Winkles

A bowl of cockles and mussels.

In the past, East Enders also ate a lot of seafood and shellfish, often as snacks.

Cockles were often offered as a side dish with a plate of pie and mash and fish sellers and stalls would sell tubs of winkles, cockles and jellied eels on the streets and in local pubs on busy nights.

Again, this kind of food was easily transported into the area from local estuary and coastal towns.

Salt Beef and Curry

The East End of London has traditionally been the first stop for many immigrants looking to settle in the UK. The cultural make-up of the area over the centuries has always been rich and diverse, and many communities have introduced their own cuisines into the East Ender diet.

Jewish Bagel East End Food

Although the Jewish community is now focused around North London, the East End is still home to some traditional bagel bakeries, Jewish cafes and restaurants.

You can still buy proper chewy bagels and get an authentic salt beef sandwich here.

Today London’s East End is also the curry hub of the capital. The West End may have more posh Indian restaurants, but the curries you can try in the East End of London are likely to be more interesting and authentic. The Brick Lane area is sometimes even known as Banglatown because of its many Bangladeshi restaurants – if you are a curry lover, this really is the place to eat!

East London Food – Recipes, Guides, History


7 comments on “East London Food
  1. chris savory says:

    hi there
    does anyone remember the p& m shop in bow rd?

  2. Marion Crane says:

    Am in NZ and devising menu for fund raiser lunch. Needs to be all east end cheap food. Can’t get eels but can include NZ variety of cockles and mixed shell fish pieces with home-made bloomer bread (me) as all continental here. Pickled onions, gherkins and a salad followed by good old fashioned bread pudding and custard – NZ bread pud is really bread & butter pud.

  3. Marion Crane says:

    When I was a kid, used to wait for bus outside Cooke’s and watch the eels being chopped. Fascinating and free entertainment to watch the pieces carry on wiggling.

  4. adam byrne says:

    It’s a pie, and it’s mash, but it certainly isn’t east end pie & mash.

  5. Jenny Merrington says:

    The pie was made from a suet pastry, never puff pastry. It was only served with ‘liquor’, which was the parsley sauce. It never came with vegetables, apart from one scoop of mash. In East Ham there were two main pie and mash shops in the 1950/60’s Cooke’s in the High Street and Mudies in the Barking road, near the town hall.

    • Del says:

      Cooke’s was about half way up East Ham high street, and used to have live eels in a tank in the window.
      Great place to eat pie and mash, tiled walls in black and white with bench’s and marble tables if i remember right ?

  6. Arments Pie and Mash Shop says:

    What a great article promoting our local foods of the East End. Our customers love our Jellied eels and we think you will to. Come to Arments Pie And Mash Shop to taste our traditional English pies and jellied eels

Please Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Recent Comments

  • Joe Clarke 26th March 2019 at 1:27 pm on History of Canning Town East LondonOk see you there - I will bring a picture of the French family and it is sadly the only picture my mother has of George [Bernard]. I'm sure you
  • Charles Sage 26th March 2019 at 1:19 pm on History of Canning Town East LondonHi Joe , I will be there , called in there yesterday for lunch.
  • Joe Clarke 26th March 2019 at 1:11 pm on History of Canning Town East LondonCharlie - assume we are still on for 7.30pm tonight Bell Inn? Looking forward to meeting you. Joe
  • billellson 23rd March 2019 at 7:36 pm on Three Tuns City of London | WW2 PhotosMr Frederick George Motteram presided over The Three Tuns P.H., until his death on 21st December when his widow Ada Caroline Motteram née Gollar took over.
  • Chris Hopkins 23rd March 2019 at 2:00 pm on The Silvertown Explosion of 1917 – WW1 HistoryHi Gill, Regarding the cause of the East End Explosion, those that are convinced of German sabotage must explain why it was that supposedly trained German agents would use such
  • David Timcke (Porter) 21st March 2019 at 7:07 pm on History of Canning Town East LondonHi again Billy I now have the history straight, thanks to my mother! We are talking about the same person - George Walter "Billy" Adams. Your grandfather was my great
  • Brian Snowdon 21st March 2019 at 2:49 pm on History of Canning Town East LondonHi Avril , I was also born in 1946 and lived in Kildare Road off of Hayday Road . I went to Ravenscroft Infants and junior schools , and don't
  • Avril Summers 20th March 2019 at 1:30 pm on History of Canning Town East LondonI used to buy Lemon ice at Forinos and i have never forgotten the taste. I remember when it caught on fire and they gave my dad slightly burnt Honey
  • David Timcke 18th March 2019 at 11:21 pm on History of Canning Town East LondonHi Billy. I have just seen the posting you made in 2017 - better late than never!! My late Gran, Liz Porter (nee Adams) was the sister of Walter Adams,
  • Stanley Marshall 18th March 2019 at 9:19 pm on Britannia Theatre Shoreditch | WW2 PhotosWow! Small world. I commented earlier about my GGG mother.Court dress maker. I have recently found her birth certificate,, and other info. Her name was Sarah Debouss, or Debuse, hard
  • Nora 18th March 2019 at 3:50 pm on Hughes Mansions Stepney | WW2 PhotosMy mother lived there and during war lost one of her sisters after last bomb dropped. My mother was a war bride and came to America and would go back
  • Toni hills 17th March 2019 at 12:20 pm on London East End Street NamesHi all I lived at number 27 Murray square my name then was mason I had two sisters Tina and Debbie my mum and dads name was Jim and pat
  • Toni hills 16th March 2019 at 4:24 pm on History of Canning Town East LondonI lived in murrary square number 27 until 1969
  • Toni hills 16th March 2019 at 4:05 pm on History of Canning Town East LondonI lived in murray square aswell we moved to kent in 1969
  • Toni hills 16th March 2019 at 3:59 pm on History of Canning Town East LondonHi hun i went to star lane secondary i also lived in custom house when ronan point fell we watched it fall
  • Anthony Spencer 16th March 2019 at 1:35 pm on London East End Street NamesI am trying to find details of "Rosher Row Stratford" I have found "Rosher Close" but cannot find any references to Rosher Row. I am 99.9% certain it was Rosher
  • James Toone 16th March 2019 at 7:35 am on London East End Street NamesI've only just found this website; hence my late response. Yes, 'The Balloon' was the name of an inn: a member of my family, Hugh Hopley, apparently was, in the
  • Lisa Davies 14th March 2019 at 2:31 pm on History of Canning Town East LondonYes cribbs was across the road, I lived opposite The White House for 25 years on Shirley Street til 2005, I never see coffins in the windows... Still give me
  • Tom Garnell 14th March 2019 at 11:23 am on History of Canning Town East LondonThe White House was really The Hallsville Tavern. It was a triangular pub facing up Raffy. I hated passing Cribbs with all the coffins, empty I suppose, standing in the
  • Tom Garnell 14th March 2019 at 11:21 am on History of Canning Town East LondonI was born in Plaistow, Beatrice Street backing on to Chargeable Lane, moved at the outbreak of war to Dale Road, bombed out in March 1941. My father worked for
  • Valerie Connelly 14th March 2019 at 7:15 am on The Silvertown Explosion of 1917 – WW1 HistoryMy grandmother Nell Greenwood had a ship's laundry in Constance Street, Silvertown where she serviced the ships in the docks. My mother was a small baby at the time of
  • Mackenzie Smith 13th March 2019 at 9:45 pm on History of Canning Town East LondonI remember ian the son who went to a private school when he came home on a school holidays he would call round my house to play I'm not Jewish
  • Mackenzie Smith 13th March 2019 at 9:18 pm on History of Canning Town East LondonYes the white house opposite was cribbs the undertaker
  • Ann Terry 13th March 2019 at 6:00 pm on History of Canning Town East LondonHi Elaine Apparently my father (now deceased) named Lewis (Louis) Terry was fostered to an Aunt in Clarence Road, Canning Town in the 1920s, her name was Fanny Wells and
  • stanley Marshall 12th March 2019 at 9:37 pm on Britannia Theatre Shoreditch | WW2 PhotosHello all, I find these memories amazing. I was born in Bethnal Green 81 years ago. I found out recently that my GGG G D, had a daughter who was
  • Jane 12th March 2019 at 5:46 pm on Britannia Theatre Shoreditch | WW2 PhotosLoving these East London posts, Malcolm! Would be interested in 19th century silk weaving stories. An ancestor who lived on London Street, Bethnal Green (where the rail line goes through
  • Pauline Williams 12th March 2019 at 4:18 pm on White Horse Hotel East Ham | WW2 PhotosMy fathers first wife and son aged 4 were killed in an air raid in Gyledune Gardens in 1944 they were the only casualties in that area that night. The
  • Stan Marshall 12th March 2019 at 3:20 pm on Hughes Mansions Stepney | WW2 PhotosVallence Rd., had some very interesting tenants, especially at 178. Iremmber the address as I also lived at 178 But not Vallence RD. I did go to school with the
  • Tim 12th March 2019 at 3:06 pm on White Horse Hotel East Ham | WW2 PhotosPub was rebuilt (am not sure when), but has now been demolished and new flats being built as we speak.
  • Mackenzie Smith 12th March 2019 at 2:25 pm on History of Canning Town East LondonYes the pub opposite caters supermarket ,before the supermarket I lived in the round top Nisson huts ,I was Born in Howard's road plaistow 1948 I lived in Lawrence street
  • Bry Carling 12th March 2019 at 12:16 pm on History of The East London CockneyMy dad’s people were from Mile End... they came there from Yorkshire in 1820. The family had 22 children quite a number of which survived. 14 to be exact. I
  • Frank Oakley 12th March 2019 at 11:44 am on Hackney a Brief HistoryI also worked in Hackney on and off till 1995,and still ave family living there,if only I could drive in there and park.
  • Malcolm Oakley 12th March 2019 at 10:46 am on Hackney a Brief HistoryWe share a great surname ;)
  • Gerry O'Neill 10th March 2019 at 11:06 pm on The Silvertown Explosion of 1917 – WW1 HistoryMy great, great uncle worked at the plant. He was, as they said at the time, a "bit simple" and he was only employed to sweep floors. On the day
  • Frank Oakley 10th March 2019 at 10:08 pm on Hackney a Brief HistoryI lived in Homerton from 1940 and moved out 1964 to Plaistow when I married.Hackney was a great place too live then.

Subscribe to Blog via Email

Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Join 207 other subscribers.

Top