Sam Sams used to share its premises with Salmon Cabs and for years, the place was a late-night haven of safety and sustenance in Hulme. Salmon Cabs was sold around 2001 but Sam Sams is still going, although these days it closes around 9pm.
Salmon Cabs first operated from Greenheys Lane in 1983, and Sam Sams Take-Away moved in in 1988. Salmon is also the name of the owner, who still works there.
I used Salmon Cabs alot in the early nineties. Black cabs wouldn’t stop in Hulme in those days, so if we’d been out at the PSV, we had to walk back towards Oxford Road to pick up a black cab. It was quicker and cheaper to walk to Sam Sams and get some food at the same time.
There was always a good atmosphere inside Sam Sams… probably because of the smell of cooking and the anticipation of eating. I would usually get there around 2.30am and it was very busy because most clubs tipped out at 2am; Salmon cabs was open all night but I think the food finished around 3am. Combining a taxi rank with a take-away under the same roof was a master-stroke! The two businesses complimented each other perfectly.
I’d never heard of a saltfish patty before I went to Sam Sams, let alone eaten one, but someone recommended them on my first visit and I liked them and stuck with them. A saltfish patty is just a pasty filled with salt-preserved fish and veg. I also tried pineapple punch on a recommendation but after drinking beer it was very sickly. A saltfish patty, on the other hand, was a good substitute for a bag of chips.
The biggest shock for me when I first went to Sam Sams was the apparently universal popularity of dumplings! I hadn’t come across them since school dinners but now I found myself surrounded by enthusiastic dumpling eaters, some of whom I had known for years… yet mysteriously dumplings had never been mentioned. I began to wonder how well I really knew my friends…
The menu looks just the same as I remember.
Ackee & Saltfish is the national dish of Jamaica. Ackee is a fruit, a bit like a lychee, which was imported to Jamaica from West Africa in the 1700s; its latin name ‘Blighia Sapida’ is after Captain Bligh who took it to Kew Gardens in 1793. Unripe ackee fruit are poisonous and so are the seeds and the pods. This illustration is from http://www.thoughtswanderer.com:
Callalloo is like a spinach stew, made with a green leafy vegetable of the same name; the stew can also contain okra, coconut milk and seasoning like chilli. It goes really well with seafood.
I did ask Salmon what ‘Irish Moss’ is; it’s a Jamaican drink made from a seaweed of the same name, which is boiled up to form a thick liquid (it’s a gelling agent); this is then mixed into a punch with condensed milk, nutmeg and vanilla. It’s reputed to have aphrodisiac qualities. You can buy it already made up in a can:
Sam Sams is at 9 Greenheys Lane, Hulme M15 6NQ; telephone: (0161) 226 7673. Open 1pm – 9pm, 7 days a week at present, but Salmon says he’s aiming to cut back to 5 days a week in the future.
Postscript May 2015
I’m so pleased I took these photos because Sam Sams is gone now… it has been for a while, but I didn’t get round to saying so on here.