Over the past few years, the street food scene in Manchester has really exploded. I’ve had the pleasure of interviewing some of my favourite traders, and today I share with you another one. Mama Z, aka, Zosima sells wonderful Filipino food inspired by her childhood. She experiments with vegetarian and vegan options which don’t compromise on flavour. Find out more below!
(Photos used for this interview were taken from Mama Z with permission)
Tell me about you and what made you start Mama Z?
Hey Elsa! I’m Zos, short for Zosima and I am the owner of Mama Z. Ever since leaving home and cooking for myself I always craved my Mum’s Filipino food, especially when I was ill. It was only until I kept cooking more dishes I grew up eating that I realised I had learnt a lot more than I realised about Filipino food, simply by just being around the food when I was younger and watching my Mum cook. My Lola taught me how to separate rice grains from a Bilao (a rice winnower) and taught me how to cook rice. My mum also got me to taste everything for seasoning whenever she made food for us. I feel like it was an innate skill to know how flavours work and how they should be put together.
How did you decide the name for your business?
Before deciding to start my business I kept thinking about some obscure Tagalog (Filipino) name that could be my business. I decided to keep it as Mama Z because Mama Z is me! I’ve always loved to look after people and feed them. The name kind of stuck with my friends and it felt fitting to start my business as that! I also love to cook other types of food and didn’t want to pigeon hole myself into just one cuisine for any future projects. I grew up in the Middle East and love eating and cooking food from that part of the world too. Mama Z is an amalgamation of everything that is a part of me.
What were you doing before trading as a street food vendor?
I was previously working in kitchens and before becoming self-employed I was running a deli in the NQ. I absolutely loved my job, but its always hard working amongst people who aren’t as supportive and especially in the kitchen industry. After working for other people I decided it was now or never. I was so unhappy in my work life situation that I knew I had to make a change.
What was your worst kitchen disaster?
Worst kitchen disaster….does chopping the tops of your fingers off count as that? The food was never really a disaster I think it’s more the kitchen accidents I can remember. I had a lot of accidents in previous kitchens with chopping my fingers
Tell me about your collaboration with Wok’s Cluckin
(Note from Elsa: I’ve interviewed Wok’s Cluckin in the past!)
My Collab with Woks Cluckin was not only a collaboration of our culture’s and food but also our friendship. I think we have very shared experiences, the same love of food, values and life. A lot of Filipino food is actually descended from Chinese settlers in The Philippines and it’s Hakka community influence. Yen cooks Nyonya food from her family and having been to Malaysia myself and loved all the food, it was a dream to collaborate to bring our food together. It is so gorgeous on the plate and tastes delicious. We just love cooking, sharing our stories and making people happy!
What would be your final meal if you were on Death Row? Specify at least 3 courses, but feel free to add more.
To start it has got to be a Shawarma but has to be a Mama Noura Shawarma from Saudi with a fresh Pomegranate juice as a drink. Lamb Kabsa would also be on there as a main alongside Molokhia (an Egyptian Jute leaf stew) to coat the rice. I’d then finish the food coma off with a massive slice of Ube (Purple Yam) cake. Wow- I want that now!
Is there any food you are not too keen on?
I’m just not that into fast food that is like over the top burgers, Mac and Cheese with 100 toppings and burgers with Twiglets on. Maybe the word is gimmick over the top food? That’s not my style. Also, have a weird thing with condiments and food like coleslaw that’s covered in it.
Are you more of a savoury person, or sweet?
Put these carbs in order of preference: Potatoes, bread, pasta, rice
Rice, potatoes, bread, pasta.
What are some of your favourite places to eat in Manchester?
OooOoodecisions! I love Happy Seasons in China Town, Glamorous, IamPho, Try Thai, Wong Wong’s bakery, Hip Hop Chip Shop, Sugo, Bundobust, Streetfood at markets and different venues around MCR, Arndale Food Market stalls, Al Borz and Levenshulme Bakery in Levy, Cafe Marhaba for rice and three… there are so many places!
Best places to visit and/or places to eat in the Philippines?
Well, I have barely touched the rest of the Islands but I would say some of the best food I had was home-cooked by my friend, Ricas, mum at their beautiful Island near Port Barton, Palawan.
The mangos are the best in the Philippines and all the delicious fruits! I had some wicked Veggie Filipino food in Wrenz Kitchen in Moalboal in Cebu. A lot of stuff is cooked fresh on the boat on different island tours and also the BBQ on the street is the best! I would recommend going to the different Islands and regions to get a taste of how different it was. I had the best homemade sausage in Vigan called Longannisa in the North of Luzon to delicious fresh scallops in the very North of Cebu in Bantayan. Like I said, I’ve only seen a few out of the 7000 Islands!
And finally, one final question. How old is Mr Fabesy (Mama Z’s cat!)?
Mr Fabesy has been with me now for 5 years. I’m not sure exactly when his birthday is as I got him when he was already potty trained etc. but I just celebrate his bday for the first day someone knocked on my door and gave me him!
So random and it was the day I literally got back from Asia after half a year but I do feel like it’s fate that I got him! The young lad who gave me him actually named him Fabien and was so sad to give him away. His stepdad was so horrible to Fabien as a kitten and the boy wanted him to go to a good home and decided to keep his name that! If only he saw Fabesy as the cat he is today.
You can catch Mama Z trading at various markets around Greater Manchester. The best way of keeping up to date with these is to check her Instagram page, @cookingwithmamaz.
For events, private bookings and recipes, check out her website!