By Katherine McAllister 

Carnival is a day of colour and festive fun, packed with music, dance, performance and the fabulous procession.

But for me, the food is a main attraction.

Carnival day is the best opportunity of the year to try something new with stalls cooking up dishes from all round the world to tempt me.

Of course there will be plenty of Caribbean jerk chicken and rice and peas around but this time I think my tastebuds will be looking east.

Qing (pronounced Ching) Yu Carver will be at the carnival for the first time and she has plenty of fans of her Japanese street food already, queueing at her Gyoza & Buns stall at Gloucester Green market every Wednesday, Thursday and Saturday.

Qing is actually Chinese and was born in Shanghai.

Oxford Mail:

Her love of Japanese food began when she went to study in Japan for five years.

She then came to Oxford to study English on a language course, followed by a masters at Warwick University.

She was making hand-made jewellery when the recession hit in 2009 and so turned to food instead which is always in demand.

“I really missed Japanese food. You couldn’t get anything in Oxford at that time and I had to go to London to get decent Japanese food,” she said.

Rather than sushi, Qing made gyoza, a stuffed dumpling which is a regular snack in Japan, but not common here.

“People were having to eat cold things for lunch – sandwiches and baguettes but I wanted to offer hot food.

“Gyoza is very popular in Japan where it is a common snack. You get it in most restaurants in Japan,” she says.

The perfect street food, it is incredibly tasty, easy to eat with your fingers while on the hoof, and something exotic that you aren’t likely to rustle up at home.

Qing says: “It is very popular at the stall with the locals in Oxford. But I also decided I needed variety.”

Come to Carnival and you will find not just the chicken, and vegetable gyoza (the latter suitable for vegans) but also bao (steamed buns with pork/ vegan veg/ chicken fillings), yakitori, a sweet BBQ chicken, ebi tempura (prawns), takoyaki (octopus balls), kabocha korokke (Japanese pumpkin croquettes), nori rice balls (seaweeds rice balls with fish & vegetable fillings), inari su-shi (su-shi rice in a sweet tofu pocket, also suitable for vegans) and harumaki (Japanese spring rolls – both duck and vegan will be available).

So, this is the perfect opportunity to enjoy some top class Japanese food for a fraction of the price.

I know that I will be first in the queue, although it is hard because there is so much choice at the carnival.

The only answer is to eat little and often and then take some home afterwards.

For example, Patrick Dombawalage, who is also coming to the carnival for the first time, is cooking up Sri Lankan chicken, vegetable and coconut curry made to a traditional family recipe at his stall Ceylon Spicy.

For the second year there is also an Indonesian Village at Carnival with seven food stalls serving a range of regional dishes such as spicy gulai chicken from Sumatran noodles, Javanese meatballs and spring rolls as well as the national dishes nasi goreng, beef rendang, and satay.

Then there is the Crab Shack: soft-shell crab burgers with a spicy peanut slaw, Thai crab cakes, piri piri king prawns and salt and pepper squid… my mouth is watering already.


The Cowley Road Carnival is on Sunday July 1, 11am-5pm. Donate £1 to Keep Carnival Around. To find out more