He’s a firm favourite on the North East’s street food scene and now Ryan McVay plans to get people tasting his Caribbean cuisine through private dining bookings, at weddings and events and with the launch of The Calabash Tree’s new takeaway business.
The firefighter turned chef, who grew up in a mixed heritage household enjoying the delicious recipes and flavours of Trinidad and Tobago where his mum grew up, has been so successful with his street food business, The Calabash Tree, that he has now expanded.
As well as offering private dining experiences in customers’ homes that are perfect for celebrations, Ryan caters for brides and grooms at weddings as well as corporate events.
“We served more than 3000 dishes during lockdown, delivering to people’s home and it became evident that people here in the North East loved the Caribbean flavours we have to offer,” said Ryan.
The business has also moved its kitchens to larger premises in Washington, Tyne and Wear, and has opened a takeaway on the site – which has seen fans flocking from all across the region to try Ryan’s authentic dishes.
On The Calabash Tree menu is curried chicken marinated in a traditional mix of herbs and spices, cooked with potatoes and chickpeas and served with rice, peas and dhalpuri – an Indian-inspired flatbread that has its origin in Trinidad and Tobago.
“It all started with my aunt Phyllis’s curry and roti, my gran cooking for us when she visited and trips to Trinidad to see family and get my foodie fix.
“Growing up in the North East Caribbean food was not available anywhere unless ingredients were picked up in London and cooked at home.
“I don’t know anyone north of Leeds who does this style of food, so I decided to do it myself”
Although The Calabash Tree has grown, Ryan maintains the authenticity of his food by importing his spices from the Caribbean and won’t use anything else in his recipes.
“We use authentic herbs and spices and aim to remain true to the ingredients, flavour and attitude of Trinidad and Tobago. My dad is a proper chef and he always jokes because I never weigh my ingredients, I cook curry by smell. I know it’s right when it smells like my aunt’s kitchen.”
On The Menu
Trinidad and Tobago’s dishes are heavily influenced by history and food reflect flavours of Africa, India, China, Spain and more.
“I think there is a bit of a fear factor because people think it’s the kind of food that’s going to blow your head off, but it’s not like that at all,” explained Ryan.
On the menu are dishes such as hand-pulled jerk brisket, which is beef brisket marinated in The Calabash Tree’s blend of jerk spices and slow cooked then served with a sada roti and slaw on a toasted brioche bun with pickled red onion, garlic and coriander aioli and hot pepper sauce.
Curried Chicken marinated in a mix of traditional herbs and spices, cooked with potato and chickpeas served inside a warmed dhalpuri with tamarind chutney.
The Calabash Tree Street Food
The Calabash Tree trailer can be found at lots of different venues across the North East.
From Sunderland’s Roker Hotel and The Palm to visiting festivals, including Hardwick Live, throughout the summer.
Want to know where The Calabash Tree will be? You can out via the Insta page.
The Calabash Tree Private Dining – Editor’s Choice
If you’re reading this and you’re not from the North East, I can only apologise in advance.
Because The Calabash Tree private dining experience is one that every foodie needs to book.
As there’s only one of Ryan, his private dining experiences are only available in the region – but if you live here then you’re in for a real night to remember.
Yes, Ryan might be self-taught and he may have started his career in street food, but the level he cooks at deserves to be taken seriously. His dream is to one day own a restaurant and if he puts the Trini crab cake starter on from his private dining menu, I’ll be there ordering them at least three times a week.
Mains include his famous pulled jerk brisket which is rich and juicy and wonderfully balanced with the side of ‘slaw; his family-recipe of curried chicken and dry fried fish with tomato choka – Trinidadian roasted tomatoes crushed with onion, garlic, and hot peppers.
I don’t really have a sweet tooth, but Ryan’s mango, lime and coconut cheesecake is so addictive that I promise you’ll be dishing out side eye to the family member sat next to you in the hope they don’t finish theirs. – Savour Editor, Georga Spottiswood
To find out more and to book private dining, call 07584 358206. Prices start at £50 per person. Drinks packages, including Caribbean cocktails, are also available at an additional cost.
The Calabash Tree Weddings and Events
Whether it’s a wedding, party or corporate event, The Calabash Tree mobile catering will add a tropical taste to any occasion.
Menus can be provided or tailor made and the street food trailer looks the part in any setting.
To enquire about weddings and events, call 07584 358206.
The Calabash Tree Takeaway
From street food at festivals to private dining and events and now a takeaway – The Calabash Tree is taking the North East by storm.
Ryan has now launched a takeaway arm to the business in Washington, Tyne and Wear, and customers have been flocking from as far as Northumberland to try his Trinidadian flavours.
“It was the next step for us, to have a base to operate our kitchens from for the event catering and it just made sense to provide a takeaway service, too.”
Unit 30,Swan Rd Industrial Estate, Washington, Tyne & Wear, NE38 8JJ
For more information about The Calabash Tree, menus and services, visit: www.thecalabashtree.com