Monday, October 24, 2005

Conceptually confused

The benefits of working in a university is that you find out where all the students eat. Tonight I'm eating at a conceptually confused Japanese restaurant. The proprietor speaks Mandarin, there is kimchi noodles on the menu along with special fried rice and roast duck. I order Singapore noodles, shying away from the fatty katsu curry. My dish it is tasteless but redolent with turmeric.

I spy a plastic container on the bench containing what looks suspiciously like cold Singapore fried noodles. Obviously it's been a while since my noodles have seen any frying, but they do know the insides of a microwave intimately.

I guess I can't complain at £4.50.

I find myself here again, but only because my first choice, Oriental Canteen, is closed. What kind of eatery closes at 9:30 on a Friday night? This time I order roast duck and rice. Dionne Warwick is singing Why Do You Have to be a Heart Breaker in the background. I am the only Asian (Oriental) face here aside from the proprietors – this is telling. It comes with a weird sour-sesame cabbage salad thing.

I won't deign to give Oriental Canteen a picture. They're the best deal for Chinese food in the area and they know it. They wouldn't last two seconds in Sydney of course, but here because the British put up with so much, they do. One afternoon I ordered Char Kuey Teow and asked politely if I could have extra vegetables with that. To which the mainland Chinese girl replied, "No! Only one size." Their roast duck/pork/bbq pork/etc. is just meat and rice - not even the token three green vegetable strands. Their food is passable, but I sense far too much microwave cookery here for my liking. I spy a plate of Singapore noodles that are whisked out of the dumbwaiter almost before the waitress has a chance to shout the order down into the basement kitchen.


Sorry I haven't been responding to comments. I've only got dialup at the moment while I wait for IT expert boyfriend to come over from Sydney. He's going to decide on the best broadband deal.

I've been waiting for nearly two months now - but at least I know he's sent our boxes over by ship and stored the rest. If he ever wants to see our stuff again he'd have to come over here.

It's been interesting setting up house by myself. The bureaucracy in the UK is quite...stupendous.

Sunday, October 02, 2005

UK Food TV: The Slimming Club

Another funny segment I watched was all about real life foodies and their kitchen. This particular one documented a old woman making beef wellington for lunch with the ladies. She laboriously made the butter-puff pastry by hand using 300g of butter for pastry used on one fillet of beef, rolling and folding it deftly a million times.

The pastry-lined bottom of the tin was slathered with homemade chicken liver pate, then the beef put in, which was previously browned in a mixture of butter and oil, then folded and baked. It looked absolutely amazing when she served it - I have a soft spot for beef wellington although having only eaten it once. I think it is quite an amazing dish.

She served this to her friends with potatoes dauphinoise (cooked in butter and cream), red cabbage and broccoli. Dessert was a pavlova stack with cream and raspberries. It was lunch for the weekly meeting of The Slimming Club where all the ladies would weigh in to record how much weight they'd lost.

Kinda like going to the pub after an AA meeting, perhaps?

UK Food TV: Slow Food

One of the benefits of having cable tv is the UKtv Food channel: all Food, all the time. Unfortunately they tend to bunch up all the chefs, so it will be either Rick Stein and his multitudinuous Seafood Odyssey incarnations, or a wincing Gary Rhodes for 3 hours on end.

They also have a segment called Great Food Live where this middle-aged posh lady who wears too much purple and speaks with half-lidded and gold-rimmed eyes in an off-handed casual (slightly drunk) manner interviews the audience or brings in chefs for themed events. This is live TV gone wrong. Whose stupid idea was it to have a cooking show live? Don't the channel execs know that there are lots of boring bits in cooking? Why-ever do you think cooking on TV popularised the phrase "And here's one I prepared earlier..." Anyway, the funniest segment I ever saw was when purple-woman introduced the Slow Food movement chefs.

Now, I admire the Slow Food movement. I agree with many of their principles, in principle. However, I do think that these people that have the freedom to participate in a Slow Food lifestyle, also don't have careers to build, laundry to wash or tasks like cleaning the house. They have people do that for them. Anyway, Great Food Live is showcasing the Slow Food movement and three slow food chefs have to prepare and serve their favourite dish in 45 mins. Does anyone else see the irony in a Slow Food chef being forced to work to a TV deadline? I mean, these chefs are all about growing the vegetables, nursing them slowly, picking off each leaf from the watercress one by one over a long leisurely afternoon whilst nibbling on homemade brine-soaked olives and bread.

Of course each one decides to do a stew - and none of them would use a pressure cooker as that's against the Slow Food philosophy. One even attempts a rabbit confit to be cooked in 30 mins - HA - foolhardy for I have cooked rabbit and you need at least an hour (preferably two) to render the flesh tender.

I didn't watch to see how the segment ended. I didn't want to see proponents of Slow Food rushing to cook food - it wouldn't have been natural.


Carluccio's is a chain of café-delis around London, usually located around the posher areas of town. He's this stereotype of an Italian cook with his big round face, salt and pepper hair and rolling Italian accent.

To celebrate the return of all my banking facilities (an address confusion followed by an overzealous sales assistant meant I only had internet access to my money and credit for two weeks) I treated myself to a chocolate tart from Carluccio's in South Kensington. This was far too big for one sitting so I had the remainder for afternoon tea.

The tart is dark chocolate and only semi-sweet. The pastry is buttery and crumbly to perfection. Carluccio is obviously making a mint with his name and brand - the shop itself is pretty good if a tad expensive with ready access to glorious olives, wild mushrooms and artisan pasta.

Name change

I've changed the name of the blog from "A Banana in Australia" to "Banana Tikka Masala". This is to reflect the fact that I'm now based in London instead of Australia. It's a lot more curry here - less Thai. I'm missing the fresh food and veges, although it's actually not as expensive as people say. You can get fresh fruit and veges at good prices if you look, e.g. at markets and at certain supermarkets.