Firepop review

Chinatown market stall Firepop operates on Fridays.
Chinatown market stall Firepop operates on Fridays. Photo: James Brickwood

Little Hay St Haymarket, NSW 2000

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Opening hours Fri 4pm-11pm
Features Cheap Eats
Prices Cheap (mains under $20)

With so many pop-ups in this city, it takes a lot to stand out. For most, this means making the most ridiculous food possible.

New food truck Firepop keeps things simple: there are only four items on the menu, and each item is just meat (or tofu) on a stick.

While meat skewers are hardly a surprising food to find at a market, it's Firepop's presentation that makes it stands out.

Must-order dish: The OG: lamb and cumin skewers.
Must-order dish: The OG: lamb and cumin skewers. Photo: James Brickwood

The smell is familiar – sizzling fat over charcoal – but when was the last time you saw a barbecue stall describing the cuts of meat used for their skewers, and the origin of that meat?

Firepop co-owner Raymond Hou sources his lamb from Port Macquarie, and it proudly says so on the beautifully designed pamphlets handed out to each customer before they decide which skewers (Hou calls them "pops") are for them.

"We want to make the best pops we can from the best produce we can find at the most accessible price as possible," says Hou.

Tofu skewers were inspired by Taiwanese stinky tofu.
Tofu skewers were inspired by Taiwanese stinky tofu. Photo: James Brickwood

"Whether it's our own custom-designed and built charcoal stove, Australian responsibly sourced and produced nut shell charcoal, premium fresh produce and most flavoursome herbs and spices, we strive for the best."

Hou and his family have been grilling lamb skewers showered in cumin and chilli since 2006. They've been the main source of smoke at the Friday night Chinatown markets on Dixon Street, and have recently expanded their skewer repertoire since the creation of their Firepop truck. You'll now find their signature lamb pops alongside sticks of grilled eel and fried tofu.

Where the tofu skewer (the "Golden Soytime") is inspired by Taiwanese stinky tofu, the grilled eel pop ("The Burra") was created for the recent Parramatta Lanes festival, itself inspired by Parramatta's Aboriginal heritage (the "Parra" in Parramatta comes from "Burra", the Aboriginal word for eel), with a little Japanese twist.

Eel skewers are a nod to Parramatta's Aboriginal heritage.
Eel skewers are a nod to Parramatta's Aboriginal heritage. Photo: James Brickwood

Hou says that with his combination of grilled eel and Australian native Davidson plum "sansho", "we extend our respect to all Aboriginal people and hope, with the Burra, not only to pay homage to the Burramattagal people but to inspire a thirst to learn more".

The other half of Firepop, Alina Van, handles the truck's design and aesthetic – and "pop" only begins to describe her work, the splashes of red and bursts of bright colour really separating Firepop from the largely Americana inspiration most other pop-ups have turned to.

Even the packaging is novel in its own way – which feels weird to say about a bunch of wooden sticks in a plastic cup, but everything just works.

Hou, Van and Firepop can be found every Friday night in Chinatown, where they've been doing their thing under different names for the last 13 years. You should also keep an eye (and nostrils) out for them over summer at the Lunar New Year markets in The Rocks.

Bottom line: Three skewers $8.50-$15.

Must-order dish: The OG: lamb and cumin skewers, five for $13.50.

https://www.firepop.com.au/