Monday, 28 June 2010

The Woolpack - Bermondsey, London

Burger and Fish & Chips - The Woolpack, Bermondsey

The cold front has finally lifted and London is bathing in glorious sunshine. And what better way to welcome the warmth of summer than a cool icy pint of Sweden’s best perry and a plate of food in a beer garden.

Fish & Chips - The Woolpack, Bermondsey

The batter was crisp, the fish fresh and chips even crispier than the fish batter … just the way I like it.

Burger with the Works - The Woolpack, Bermondsey

A fully loaded burger - cheese, bacon and a smack of the Heinz ketchup bottle. Good stuff.

A thoroughly enjoyable afternoon with the day’s excitement provided by a celebrity sighting of Gok Wan and a power failure that affected the whole of Bermondsey Street.

The Woolpack
98 Bermondsey Street, London SE1 3UB

Friday, 25 June 2010

In Search of Penang's Best - Char Kway Teow

For every plate of char kway teow that is served up in Malaysia, there are only a few that gets the distinct nod of approval. And apparently there are more heads nodding in Penang than anywhere else in the country. Good char kway teow is all about the 'ummph' factor. The big fire to lend that great 'wok hei' flavour, the right amount of ingredients that goes into the wok at any one time just so not to overwhelm the heat ... it's beautiful art and science rolled onto a plate.

Char Kway Teow - Lorong Selamat, Penang

Whilst Sisters on McAlister Road serves up a decent plate of noodles; with those big crunchy prawns and sprinkling of crab meat just before the dish is served, I have always been left with a twinge of disappointment of the lack of ‘ummph’ I felt. On this trip to Penang (for VO’s wedding ….or should I now say Mrs VT) it was straight pass McAlister Road and on to Heang Huat on Lorong Selamat instead. Look for the lady in the wacky sunglasses and you know you’re at another of Penang’s char kway teow institutions.

Char Kway Teow - Lorong Selamat, Penang

The noodles were good but I was still not feeling the ‘ummph’ . I was not throwing up my hands in the air and declaring it one of the best plates of char kway teows I’ve ever had. Even worse I was beginning to think that Penang food was standing on an extremely rickety pedestal. All the elements of a good plate of char kway teow were there – good wok hei, good balance of the ingredients, some very nice big crunchy prawns but if I were to be pedantic (which I am so totally not … ) there was not enough chives and it was so oily that at least a healthy half a teaspoon of oil was left on the plate after I had finished. I walked out of Heng Huat feeling slightly dejected. At this rate there was still no challenger to my all time favourite from Seng Lee in Damansara Heights.


A flurry of wedding festivities over, we were headed back to KL but not before one last plate kway teow. This time we let a local take charge. First impressions of Khoon Hiang were pretty bad. Tucked away in a corner of a not particularly busy area (but let’s remember it was in the middle of the afternoon on a Sunday), the coffee shop was dead quiet save a few old men gathered around a formica topped table sipping cups of iced tea and a few strays flopped about in the shade. And it was hot, not helped much by the corrugated tin roofs. Grumpy and eager to be on my way home (it had been a terribly long weekend with too much food and booze and not enough sleep) I wasn’t even cheered up with arrival of the first plate of noodles. But as the chorus of ‘emmms’ and ‘not bad, not bad’ (high compliments coming from a bunch of discerning Malaysian eaters) compelled me to dig in. It was good. Good flavours without the feeling of an oil slick in my mouth (which was perhaps my biggest objection to the CKT from Lorong Selamat).


If I thought the first plate was good, the second was better. For a few ringgit more they add extra prawns (those big crunchy babies that are so darn delicious) and mantis prawns (which look suspiciously like smaller version of a witchetty grub). If you want the full whack, spend an extra 50 cents and your run of the mill chicken’s egg will be upgraded to a duck egg.

Belly full and burping wok hei garlic I think I may have just eaten some very good CKT. Is it my personal favourite? Maybe not … call me a KL girl at heart. I like my noodles with a touch of thick dark soy sauce KL style. Penang CKT may just be too fine a dish for me ….

Kafe Heng Huat, 108 Lorong Selamat,Penang
Ah Leng Char Koay Teow, Kafe Khoon Hiang, Jalan Dato Keramat, Penang
Sister’s Char Koay Teow, Lam Heng Cafe, Jalan Macalister, Penang

Thursday, 17 June 2010

It's A Long Ride Home

I hate travelling. Oh I don't dislike going on holiday, quite the contrary in fact, but I hate the journey. The waiting around, the boredom, the stress ... especially long journeys with transits when you're travelling alone. After awhile all airport transit lounges roll into one. This time it was Dubai International, the last it was Schiphol. Funny how I've been through these airports but have never visited the cities of Dubai and Amsterdam.

Everything Fried Rice

Long trips away mean cleaning out the fridge of any immediate perishables. There have been numerous occasions when I have been away only to return to find rotting veg - nice, eww! This time I smartened up (finally!) and cooked myself a big wokful of vegetable fried rice, dumping in all those bits and pieces that seemed to have built up in the fridge. Overnight rice, beansprouts (which I had always turned my nose up at in fried rice but it's actually quite nice if the crunch is maintained), broccoli, tomatoes, sliced ham, tinned tuna in oil - all mixed together with a good dash of fish sauce, oyster sauce and white pepper. This is my Everything Rice. Ingredients are, of course, seasonal :)

Dubai Stopover - Dubai International Airport

I guess it's not entirely true to say that if you've seen one airport you have seen them all. They are remarkably similar but some are a whole load nicer than others. I'll probably say the same thing about Starbucks. I'm sure I've said this before - whilst I'm all for the independent coffee shop I do love my Starbucks. There's something quite comforting in getting the same thing that tastes the same anywhere you are in the world. At Dubai International my Iced Mocha tasted good, the same, the usual .... but oh dear god ... that is not a muffin! It looked normal enough. You know muffin like. It smelt like what it said on the label - banana and choc chip. But I could have given someone a serious concussion if I had lobbed it at their head (not that I had reason nor occasion to). It was that solid. Hard and dry. Let's just say it gave for some interesting eating.

Dubai - KL Flight Refreshments

Back on the plane I was pleasantly surprised to find myself with three whole seats to myself. Since Emirates separated the KL and Jakarta legs, the KL flight has been a bit quieter. From the refreshments cart I got myself an orange juice and a glass of water. Got to keep those hydration levels up. Next up food - yay! I only managed to chip through a quarter of that muffin.

Dubai - KL Flight Meal

Sweet and sour chicken on fried noodles. Sounded promising, tasted disgusting. To be fair the meat was fairly tasty and moist. The sauce and and noodles, on the other hand, were so gloopy they just melded together and formed a large pool of mush.

Dubai - KL Flight Meal

The strangest Niçoise salad I have ever encountered. I thought the version I had in Paris last summer that was served with rice was a bit odd but this didn't even look like a Niçoise. If I hadn't checked the menu, I would have just brushed it off as a very untasty potato salad.

Dubai - KL Flight Meal

The saving grace of the meal was dessert. Tiramisu, halal style (minus the alcohol) with chocolate sauce. It wasn't traditional but more like a nice creamy dessert.

Dubai - KL Flight Meal

All that food and I still managed a good 4-5 hour sleep. Next stop - KL International. I'm going home!

Post Holiday Blues

It's been awhile since I posted anything - a jet set lifestyle leaves a girl with little time to blog about her eating adventures :) True, I have been traveling - a much needed break to Istanbul at the end of May with sister and mum and two weeks later it was back home to KL for the wedding of a very dear friend. But trust me, it's all been un-glamourous slogging at the office in between trips trying to make a decent penny to pay off my credit card bill.

Two lovely holidays and I should be raring to go, bursting with energy as I sit nine hours at my desk, five days a week. Instead I find myself bemoaning the injustice of another British summer washout. I look out the window at work and it's absolutely miserable - clouded over with that light drizzle that goes on for hours (yet as I write this today, the sun is out and shinning brightly but I'm stuck indoor with a sore throat whilst feeling hot and cold all at once).

So put the salad orders on hold and keep the stodge coming. I made cottage pie ... well, sort of anyway. The basic elements were there - mince beef and potato. Ahh ... so this is what deconstructed food is all about. In my case I was merely being lazy but I think it tasted pretty darn good.

Deconstructed Cottage Pie - Weekday Dinner

Deconstructed Cottage Pie*

Mince beef (about 250g)
Jersey Royal potatoes (or any baby potatoes of your choice)
1 Red onion (diced)
4 Garlic (minced)
1 large Courgette (diced)
Peas (about 50g)
Milk (about 1 wine glassful)
Red wine (about 1/2 a glass)
Tomato purée (a generous tablespoonful or two)
Chipotle chili jam (a good heaping tablespoonful)
Olive oil (2 generous glugs)
A handful of grated Chedder (or any other good melting cheese)
  • Heat your oven to about 170-180 °C. Wash and boil the potatoes until tender (you should be able to push a knife into a potato quite easily). Drain the spuds and let it stand for a minute or two. Transfer to an oiled baking tray. Using the back of a fork, crush each potato (or just slightly flatten each spud - no need for prettiness). Pour over the 1st glug of olive oil, season and put the tray into the middle shelve in the oven. It should take about 20 minutes ot until the potatoes are golden brown and the edges are crisp.
  • Heat a large pan with the 2nd generous glug of olive oil. When the pan is decently hot, add the mince and breaking up any large chucks. Let the meat brown (I find draining the meat once or twice of the juices that come out during the browning process helps it cook faster - there is so much moisture in pre-packaged meat).
  • Once the meat is nut brown (or thereabouts), add the onion and garlic to the pan. Cook for a few minute or until the aromatics are released from the onion and garlic. Mix the tomato purée in and let the meat cook for another minute or two.
  • Pour in the wine. Let the alcohol evaporate before adding the milk, chipotle chili jam, peas and courgette. Season and mix. Cover the pan with a lid and let contents simmer for about 10 minutes.
  • The meat is done when the veg is cooked through and the sauce has thickened. Serve with the potatoes and topped with some grated chedder. I put my bowl back into the still oven for a minute or two to let the cheese melt.
*As with most of my recipes (if you can call them that as I tend to make things up as I go along) I don't usually keep track of measurements. I'm a staunch beliver in personal taste - little more of this or none of that at all, it's all up to you. Everything I write is just a guide. Your tastebuds will lead you.