Friday, June 20, 2008

What Scottish Breakfast?

Hoho, I'm on holidays at LAST --- for a week only though, but nevertheless, Grace is going to Greece :) ! Good sun, beautiful beaches and hopefully not too crowded, definitely haven't chilled out properly and the idea of catching up with some story book reading sounds amazing ...

Anyways, I digressed and let's go back to my last day in Edinburgh ... time to check out what the Scottish lads have in the morning ... Yes I've been lousy and couldn't resist a nice cuppa cappucino to start off

And then the full Scottish breakfast comes ... something in between a British and American fry up to put it simply. You have buttered toasts, lorne, grilled tomatoes, fried eggs, tattie scones, sausages, hashbrowns and of course, black puddings. Lorne, black pudding and tattie scones are probably the Scottish influence there.

Tattie scones is easy (bottom left of the picture, near the toast and sausage), if you remember from previous posts, tattie = potatoes basically. It's like a soft potato oatcake in a fan shape, quite thin and chewy. On the other hand, black pudding (black thing in the picture, easy to spot) is a sausage made with animal's blood, typically pig or cattle's. Yea, it sounds a little gruesome I suppose, but it's really flavorful like haggis and I prefer them in small doses, goes well with bread and other fillers.

Lorne (the piece rectangular meat near the tomato and baked beans top of the plate) is something I've totally not heard of, but apparently its some sort of squarish sausage. To me it's a Scottish version of luncheon meat (something like corned beef), too salty to me but P's a great big fan of luncheon meat and simply adores it, LOL

And do you know this whole serving is HALF a portion for breakfast? I can't imagine how anyone could take on the full monty ...

Meanwhile we had an extra does of baked beans on toast, just had the odd realisation I haven't had those for ages, weird ....

So that's most of what I had in my short weekend in Edinburgh, but hoping to make another trip in July soon when the weather is even better!

I will be heading to Greece tomorrow to slack in a beautiful island for a week :P Promise to take a lot of breathtaking views of the place and of course share some delicious photos with you all when I'm back!

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Edinburgh Eats II

Ok, I'm super tired now on a Wednesday night and have to be in office early tomorrow. With about 6 hours left of my precious beauty sleep, let me just briefly show you the best bits of Edinburgh that I was raving about previously...

After the quaint market, we head towards town center (Princes Street), with many beautiful architectures around such as this ...

And I'm determined not to be like one of them, doing typical boring touristy stuff sitting on one of these red sightseeing buses *shudders*

and instead headed straight for the beautiful park where the Edinburgh castle is! Definitely have to be there to see it for your own eyes really: fresh air, good sun, shady trees, green grass and most importantly no crowds, it was pure bliss just lying down on the grass facing the bright blue sky and watching the day go by ....
I really liked this picture taken by P in particular, super focused on the park surrounding and the greeneries, pretty soothing and calming, my new wallpaper now, lol. Apparently its good for the eyes too, especially at work when staring at computer screens the whole day, its best to take a break and look at something green and faraway ... yup that was totally random :P

And I knew I had to show you guys this Mister Potato statue, as I call it, not sure what it is, or what it was for, probably some memorial, but it's queer shape definitely caught my eye

and of course I have to take some Scottish-y pictures for you, here with a man in his favorite kilt performing on the street ... Super keen guy I must say :)

Next, time to grab some FOOD (finally)! There was a shopping mall nearby and I was super excited to check out the local McDonald's, hoping to see the globalised giant have some interesting local specialties just like McRib in Germany or Green Bean Pie in China.

I was hoping there was a McHaggis or something which would make my day for sure ... to my dismay, there wasn't anything 'local' and all I saw was this typical menu, what a let down!

Nevertheless, we walked around and spotted this really nice looking place called 'The Garden Cafe', which offers alfresco dining, perfect for the sunny weather. You know you can't say know when you get such a nice atmosphere like this....

P ordered Haggis, Neeps and Tatties with Brandy Sauce ... Come on, how can you not order that when you see that funny name?! I couldn't stop laughing at the word Neeps, its probably a Scottish word for mashed swede. Tatties on the other hand is just mashed potatoes, just an old English way to say potatoes I suppose. More importantly, something very Scottish and probably the traditional dish is Haggis - to put it simply its minced animal intestines with spices, something like Christmas stuffings, but the method of cooking is unique, in the sense that it is boiled in animal (usually sheep's) stomach for a few hours.

Sounds gross? But it actually tastes pretty good. Only thing is that I can take it in small doses as the strong flavor of offal is not really my cup of tea. But P absolutely loved it, especially with the brandy sauce ....

Me ? I ordered a Seafood Pizza with Watercress as there were no other interesting Scottish things I'd like to try and the menu is pretty general (pasta, pizza, sandwiches, steak). Pizza was great with the chewy and cheesy texture, a large portion too, unfortunately diminishing marginal returns sets in as I get less satisfaction out of each extra bite, as the pizza loses its chewiness as it gets cold ...
Yes I'm ashamed of myself not having found a fried mars bars place yet and ate a French breakfast and Italian lunch in Scotland, WoooT is THAT?! But I love Edinburgh all in all for its quaint, peaceful and beautiful town, getting all the balances right with a bit of city and a load of countryside :)

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Edinburgh Eats I

So I went to the land of kilts last weekend ... and man, I couldn't resist my laughter when ScotsAir actually had kilt-covered flight seats, it's definitely the first signs of a fun filled weekend :)

Even pronouncing the road names in Edinburgh was a task itself, nevertheless the taxi man definitely had a good laugh at my attempts, but we got there finally before midnight. A good night's rest definitely renewed my appetite, as I was famished the next day and went straight into a bakery that serves this...

Yea yea, I almost can hear you scream "WooOT?!" when you saw the wines and French flags, not to mention the croissants below, but you've to forgive me, I'm hungry in Scotland and the pain au chocolates were tempting, as you can see from the half eaten one below even before I snapped the picture ... The cappuccino helped too, very comforting to get a slight caffeine jilt with the tiring travel the night before (yes, sadly I love my coffee a lot and display some withdrawal symptoms sometimes, P is convinced that its just psychological)

Nice quick breakie and I'm super charged for the new town I'm visiting. Edinburgh is big and spacious, with many nice buildings just like in Cambridge, but more uniformed, which gives a nice tranquil feeling especially when you walk into town. The air is crisp and fresh, roads are wide, traffic is almost non existent with greeneries everywhere - the perfect place to live and retire :)

On the way, we passed by a mini flea market which sells an array of interesting products. Think you all know by now that I'm a hopeless market-y sort of person, having gone to many food markets in London and absolutely love strolling in large supermarkets aisle by aisle, awed by the choice of *insert any food here* (cereals, breads, cheese etc) LOL

This one in Edinburgh is slightly different, there's food as well as local arts and crafts too, even better. There's a chocolate fondue store (yes, in the morning!) selling fruits to go with it, now you know that fried mars bars doesn't sound too absurd after all.

What I really liked was this store selling bags and belts made from some sort of cloth (wool maybe?) which I completely forgotten. They have tiny colorful brooches too

And belts like these look pretty funky I think .... makes good accessories if you have the height I think

My favorites were the bags, especially the one with orange belt around it as below, pretty chic don't you think? Though perhaps cloth materials do get dirty pretty quickly in polluted London. Maybe that's why she doesn't have a store in London but the US, hehe. But it's certainly encouraging and inspirational to see these talented artists gather and pursuing what they love doing and still expanding their business across the continent.

And the hat lady is even better! She has so many cool looking hats made from some sort of cloth as well, which seem to maintain its shape yet bendable.

Not something I can pull off I think, but don't you just love this red hat? Very Sex-And-The-City don't you think?

More Edinburgh sights and tastes to come in the next few posts!

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Review: Lahore Kebab House in Whitechapel

Given that my favourite curry place in London (Nutmeg in Pimlico) had closed down recently, curry craving triggered last week and P & I decided to check out a new place called Lahore Kebab House (LKH) in Whitechapel.

Location is slightly interesting as I'd not been to this part of London before, but Lahore Kebab House thankfully wasn't too hard to find, and its just at the edge of a T junction and very easy to spot. Be warn though that there are many "Lahore **insert your favorite word**" named curry houses all nearby that area, capitalising on their reputation. So its Lahore Kebab House or nothing at all, make sure you get the right one!

LKH is a halal establishment hence they do not serve alcohol, however, they have a Bring-Your-Own (BYO) policy and its definitely a plus point in Britain. There's even an off-license shop just right next to it, very convenient if you'd like a cold beer with your curry. The place seems pretty newly refurbished and clean, and was rather full upon arrival at 730pm, another good sign.

For starters, we had a Seekh Kebab each (£1 each), made from lamb minced, really nicely spiced and grilled just right with very little charred bits. Meat was juicy though a tad salty for me, other than that really enjoyable. Wished I had space for more starters like samosas and bhaji...

Hankering to try out their famous lamb curries, I ordered Karahi Gosht (£7) - a lamb dish with medium heat curry (which was all I could get as a description from the waiter)

whilst P had Lamb Curry (off the bone) (£7), one of their signature dishes ...

Chapati/Roti (
£1.50) was just the perfect accompaniment for me ... :)

Though the curries look the same, mine was thicker and slightly sweeter, but has good level of heat and was great with roti. P's lamb curry would be better off with pilau rice I feel, as it kind of makes the bread soggy, just a personal preference :) Overall, I felt that the lamb curry was nothing to shout about really, the rest of the items in the menu is worth trying as well. This place would be great for a big group, since you get to try out more varied dishes and starters. Prices has apparently increased due to popularity, and services are VERY quick though slightly cunning in the sense that they tend to place bottled water on your table in hope that you'd consume them instead of ordering yourself. And when we ordered them to take it away, another waiter just pops it right on our table 2 seconds later! Must be some sort of strategy, LOL

Overall, authentic curries, loved it to bits, worsens my craving (since I wanted more!), price wise reasonable to moderate for central London, I'd say probably expensive for the location. Definitely worth a try despite the location which isn't that convenient to get to by tube.

Lahore Kebab House
2 Umberston Street, Whitechapel (just off Commercial Road)
E1 1PY

Sunday, June 08, 2008

Fried Noodles with Fishball

Sorry for the long absence! Just got back from a weekend in Edinburgh and the weather was excellent! Expect an interesting one on Edinburgh this week!

Meanwhile, here's a 10 min recipe on something that I'll always miss from home and can't find it even in London: Fishballs :) Always had homemade ones and definitely not taking those for granted when I'm devouring it at home the next time ...

This is a usual breakfast/lunch item for me at least, where you just need a pack of fishball, some vegetables (I used chinese leaves here), and some flat rice noodles. Garlic or shallots as usual starts up the frying process, makes the dish a little tad more aromatic. Then simply fry the fish balls for a bit and stir in the freshly boiled noodles and stir fry. Season as you wish, mine here is a little light as I usually prefer my food less salty. But if you like a bit of color, dark soy sauce gives it a dark brown color and a sweet aftertaste which some may prefer. Mix in the thinly slices leaves and it'll be done it a jiffy

Sunday, June 01, 2008

Review: Awana at South Kensington

It's been 3 months since I've been home, but yet it somehow feels much, much longer than that ... It may be the working factor, which probably make the days feel more strenuous and long, or it might just be London itself, doing one thing to another non stop, and the only time you can slowdown is the weekend which is way too short to begin with :P

So with the taste of familiar dishes from home feeling ever so distant all of a sudden, P and I decided to go for some authentic Malaysian street food, albeit in a fine dining setting, at Awana Restaurant in Sloane Avenue, London.

Having been there once, I was pleasantly surprised as my initial doubts of losing the mamak stall atmosphere whilst having those street food wasn't really an issue after all. Awana proved that having authentic traditional Malaysian food in a classy setting is possible and the Malaysian cuisine is increasingly well known and accepted in London just like its other Asian cousins (Thai, Chinese, Indian etc). We had the Rewards Menu as P had enough points for redemption to get us both a 3 course meal free!

For starters, we had Chicken Satay with Homemade Spicy Peanut Sauce and Popiah Sayur Goreng, which are vegetable spring rolls served with sweet chilli sauce.

The Popiah/Spring rolls were fresh, crisp and piping hot when served, always a good sign. It was filled with minced carrots and chopped Chinese mushrooms, nevertheless I found it a little too salty for my taste, but the sweet tangy chili sauce balanced it out so it was okay.

Definitely preferred the chicken satay starter! Perhaps its the peanut sauce factor, but I found the succulent chicken pieces to be well marinated and grilled to perfection, slightly charred, just the way it is back home. Peanut sauce is delicious, I love the bits they sprinkle on which gives a chunkier texture so the sauce can hold better when you dip your satay into it. Would be more authentic if they had the rice squares (ketupat) to go with it as well! And of course, more peanut sauce, I could drink that thing :P

P ordered his favorite Bandung drink, which is a pink colored drink consisting of rose syrup with added milk, hence the color. A popular drink back home as its cold and sweet, Awana definitely created a classier version of this drink when served in cocktail style, with swirls of mango and raspberry puree, lychee juice, rose syrup, milk, brown sugar - Fruity Bandung. As you can see below, they've not mixed the drink entirely and the layers of red rose syrup and milk and clearly separated.

Definitely like the funky cocktail glass a lot ...

For mains, we chose Ayam goreng kacang gajus and Kari Ayam. The former is basically chicken fillets stir fried with peppers and cashew nuts, whilst the latter is good ol' comfort food of (corn fed) chicken curry served with coconut, potato and snake beans.

The dishes were served in a nice dark green/brown plate, giving the white rice a nice stark contrast. Somehow gives you an impression of the exotic tropical cuisine you're about to experience ...

All in all, I felt that they were presented well, nothing surprising or unexpected taste wise.. Perhaps its the choice of the dishes itself that is not too exciting, given that I had higher expectations from previous visit having things like Lobster Char Kuey Teow (Lobster Stir Fried Rice Noodles), so it's not comparable:) The only gripe I probably have, especially for P, is that the portions are too small, but then that serves as a great excuse to try out many other dishes in their menu, as we'll see later ...

Desserts was probably one of the more exciting courses given that I love and miss the kuih-muih (local Malay cakes/desserts) from home. We decided to go for Tiga Krim Chocolate - a trio of chocolate mousses, served on a crisp biscuit with raspberry sauce ...

and Dadar - a pandan flavored pancake with a sweet dessicated coconut filling, served with a scoop of coconut icecream! The coconut ice cream was Awana's own addition, but it matched the dadar perfectly as pancake and ice cream usually never go wrong together.

The chocolate mouse fits well into any chocoholic's dream, since it has white, milk and dark chocolate all in one plate. Being a dark chocolate fan, I was slightly disappointed as it was infused with Brandy or some sort of alchohol which distorts the bittersweet taste I was looking for... but that's just me :)
Feeling a bit underfed given the tiny portions, we decided to indulge in some extra Roti Canai goodness post desserts :) For those who are not familiar, Roti Canai is a type of local flatbread with many of its variations found mainly in Asia. It's a usual breakfast item or a great tea time snack. Definitely not the healthiest of all breakfast, but heck, its so GOOD!

We ordered a Garlic Roti Canai (£5.50) and it arrived on our table fresh and crisp 10 minutes later after witnessing the roti chef exhibiting his roti-flipping skills. Apparently they have a large flat screen LCD focusing on the chef and it seems to be quite a star attraction at Awana. And yes, I can feel all your wide gaping mouth at the price tag for this, especially when it's like 20 times cheaper in Malaysia, LOL. But rest assured, it's well worth every penny when its done to perfection as in Awana. The roti was garing (dry and crispy) outside, but soft inside and melts in your mouth instantly! The accompanying dhal curry was nice, mild and did not overpower the slight hint of garlic flavor in the roti. So they say leaving the best for last, in this case it was definitely accidental for us :)

Overall, Awana did Malaysian cuisine a great justice, providing creative improvisation of local dishes in a classy dining ambiance without losing the key authenticity features, very important in our increasingly globalised world of food.

A few words of wisdom to maximise your gastronomic and cultural experience at Awana: be brave, be adventurous in terms of trying out a variety of new dishes and definitely go for at least one Roti Canai!

85, Sloane Avenue,
London SW3 3DX
Nearest Tube: South Kensington