Meet the chef behind the Asian street food shack coming to Leeds restaurant House of Koko

An Asian street food vendor is coming to Leeds restaurant House of Koko for a pop-up event.

By Geha Pandey
Saturday, 16th July 2022, 11:45 am

Asian Street Food Shack will serve street food with a fine-dining twist at the Chapel Allerton and Oakwood restaurants on July 29-30.

Founder Whaheed Rojan found his love for food at a very young age.

He said: “I remember I used to sit with my grandmother and do all the things that perhaps we don’t like doing in the kitchen, like peeling garlic.

Asian Street Food Shack's salmon dish

“At the time I didn’t know cooking would be my love”.

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Starting his career as a pot-wash in a restaurant, he was always nosing around the kitchen to see what the chefs were up to.

“I worked with the owner of that restaurant for 13 years,” Whaheed added.

Whaheed Rojan is the founder of Asian Street Food Shack

“He asked me what I wanted to do, and I told him I wanted to be a chef.”

Shortly after, Whaheed started working in five-star hotels. He was even invited to cook for a top-secret event at the turn of the millennium.

He said: “It’s a day I will never forget. It’s not everyday you get to cook for Nelson Mandela!”

Whaheed has worked in multiple hotels, and even a cruise ship, where he got the opportunity to travel and see different cultures and experience their food.

He added: “Eight years ago, I started Round Table Dining which has the main focus of providing a fine dining experience.

“It was very successful until Covid hit.”

Whaheed used this knowledge and founded the Asian Street Food Shack, putting a food truck in his very own driveway.

“It went flying,” he said.

“I didn’t expect it. The council didn’t want there to be a queue so issued a 15-minute slot rule. People would wait two to three weeks to book a slot with us.”

The most popular item on the Asian Street Food Shack is grilled chicken thighs with gochujang and kimchi in a bao bun, but the menu is constantly changing.

Now running his two businesses, Round Table Dining, and Asian Street Food Shack, the event with House of Koko will combine the two - Asian street food and a fine dining experience.

Whaheed added: “Commercial restaurants will hold back with Asian food and make a recipe more palatable for their audience.

“I don’t do that. It’s the flavours which I enjoy the most about Asian food, and their culture comes with the food.

“If there is too much chilli for you, then I’m sorry but that is how I learnt and that is how it is done.”

The menu for the fine dining experience will be different to what’s on offer at the shack.. At the heart of each dish will be traditional Asian flavours and street dishes, but with a modern take.

Whaheed said: “Seeing people take their first bite, smile and nod - that’s the most important part for me.”

“I’m always on the lookout for new trendy places, where you can invite people to try new things. Younger people tend to feel more comfortable trying new things and House of Koko seemed like the perfect place to debut this experience.”

The best way to book onto the event is to send Asian Street Food Shack an email, or message them on their Facebook group, where they will be sent a link to make a payment.

There are a limited number of seats, at £45 each.