Mia's Arepas are too good to lose
Last year, we brought you news of awonderful hidden street food gem, when we went to meet Mia Mendoza who was cooking up generously stuffed arepas from a home kitchen in Chinatown.
I was working 12 hours a day including weekends, trying to raise the money to apply for festivals
The word about Mia’s Venezuelan comfort food spread fast and she was soon popping up at so many street food events we wondered if she’d had herself cloned. But no, she’s a 'roll up your sleeves and graft' kind of girl, an honorary Manc. But a year on, Mia is fighting harder than ever to keep her business afloat.
Mia’s problems started in December last year. While it is legal to operate a commercial food business from home (as many street and market traders do in between festivals), in rented accommodation your landlord’s discretion is key. Mia’s landlord forbade her from operating her food business just as she was building a substantial following on the food delivery apps. She tried to step up the festivals and markets as much as possible, but with her home delivery service no longer helping to raise application fees, it was easier said than done.
Deflated and in need of some TLC, Mia went to Spain to stay with family over Christmas and returned in January with no income. She got herself a job working for a cleaner for a construction company.
She told us: “I was working 12 hours a day including weekends, trying to raise the money to apply for festivals, I managed to apply for some but then - due to COVID-19 - all of them were cancelled. I had to move house because the landlord asked me to move in the middle of the pandemic.”
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Mia invested all the money she had earned working as a cleaner into finding a new place to live and moved to Ancoats in May. It was there that a landline for her business was thrown her way.
Blossom Street Social, a new wine bar and shop from the owners of the highly respected Hanging Ditch wine shop, opened in January (opposite Sugo) and was just finding its feet when the pandemic pulled the rug. The booze industry has not done too badly out of lockdown though and BSS turned itself into a takeaway bottle shop. Mia was invited to move into their unused kitchen space - previously intended to house a variety of pop-ups in association with social events - for a small cut of her profits.
This gave her the opportunity to keep cooking for four hours a day to comply with Blossom Street Social's opening hours. Mia continues to work part time as a cleaner to cover her bills, but has been able to offer a takeaway and collection food service from this location.
Mia’s food is really good and she has recently launched a DIY Arepas kit. We tried it and the arepas are fun to put together at home and the kit is well packaged and generously portioned, making an easy and satisfying dinner.
Kits are available for two people or there's a larger one to feed a family. The kits contains arepas, which are somewhere between a thick, soft taco and a pitta bread made from corn flour; spiced, shredded chicken or beef; shredded cheese; slow cooked black beans; fried plantain; and two of Mia's homemade sauces, chilli and garlic. You warm the arepas in a pan, griddle or even a toaster then split and cram them as full as you can. There is also a vegan option as well as frozen empanadas and tequenos available.