Monday 30 April 2012

Thai Stir fry Chicken With Holy Basil (Pad Kai Kraphao)

The Holy basil is revered by the Thai for it's aromatic fragrant as well as for its medicinal purposes. It is high in antioxidant and is used to treat a wide variety of conditions.

I have been looking for Thai holy basil for some time now and for a while, it was practically impossible to locate them even in the best supermarket in Chinatown. The recent flood crisis in Thailand destroyed many of the crops hence the scarcity of this delectable fragrant herb. After numerous back and forth trips to Chinatown for almost a month, I've finally managed to tracked them down.

The holy basil has a sharp, mentholated taste which is completely unique and refreshing. My first thought was to make this classic Thai stir fried dish which make the best of this herb by allowing its flavour to shine through. It is extremely simple and quick to prepare but with the ending result being so delicious, no one will ever guess.

Ingredients (Serve 4)

3 tbsp sunflower or vegetable oil
2 garlic cloves, crushed
6 large chicken thigh fillets, skinned and deboned and cut into bite-size pieces
1 large red chilli, deseeded and chopped
a large handful of fresh Thai Holy basil, leave picked and roughly torn
2 tbsp fish sauce
1 tsp sugar


Heat the oil in a wok over high heat until smoking, add the garlic and stir fry for 30 seconds, until fragrant. Add the chicken and stir fry for 3 minutes before adding the chilli and half of the holy basil. Cook for another minute and add the fish sauce and toss to mix well.

Transfer onto a clean plate, scatter the rest of the holy basil and serve immediately with some steamed rice.

Sunday 29 April 2012

The Big Smoke - Tonkotsu (of Tsuru Sushi) House Ramen Event

Over the past six months or so, Tonkotsu (of Turu Sushi) held a series of ramen pop up events at their Bishopgate branch attended by all the ramen aficionados like myself. Like all good things, this has finally came to end and what a spectacular ending this was.

Since the last Classic Shoyu ramen event, I have been waiting anxiously with bated breath to find out what their house ramen will be. Upon arriving and once seated, it was finally revealed to us that it will be their own take on the traditional English breakfast in a slat based ramen. That sounded exciting and since all classic ramen were named after the city they were from so London ramen just seemed like an appropriate choice.

The crispy kara-age were juicy and moist as usual, great flavours and I am delighted to see that the standards of this had been very consistent over our past few visits as were the pork gyoza. They were both excellent and  perfect starters to the meal.

The London ramen arrived once our starters were cleared, bringing with it a whiff of intense smokey bacon aroma, which was rather comforting on a cold rainy day.

Adorned with three slices of flamed-charred smoked bacon, a soft curd-like egg with oozy yolk, some woody shimeji, lightly pan-fried shiitake, spring onions and sesame seeds. The clarity of the soup base masked the punchy flavours hidden within, a result of cooking the smoked bacon in the soup stock first. There was a dirty taste about the soup, not dissimilar to a  classic Tonkotsu ramen but without the cloudy, milky-white appearance. The bacon were tender and packed full of toothsomeness. The searing of the shiitake before adding to the ramen was a clever touch - adding charred flavour and fantastic texture. It was very well done indeed. This, we were told will definitely be on the menu of the restaurant and deservedly so - A big smokey ramen in honour of 'The Big Smoke'

Another news announced on the day was the Tonkotsu has finally found a home (hurrah!) and it will be residing in Soho, 63, Dean street opening in June/July. We were told that this was all very recent and that the contract was only finalised a couple of weeks ago, so good news for all ramen lovers in London.

The ramen world has had the Tokyo, Hokkaido and Tonkotsu and now it has London ramen, or as I prefer, The Big Smoke.

Follow the progress of Tonkotsu Bar and Ramen on twitter @tonkotsulondon

Pretty Little Rosettes - Spicy Prawns and Chinese Flat Cabbage/Tat Soi Stir-fry

A couple of days ago, while seeking shelter from the torrential downpour that crazy London has been experiencing lately in Chinatown, I came across this green rosette-like vegetable that I remember from back when I was a child.

There are many names for this wonderful vegetable, I known it as taai goo choy, but it also called tat soi/tot soi in Japanese and Chinese flat cabbage or rosette bok choy. Coming from the same family as the Chinese white cabbage, it has tiny spoon-like leave that grows flat and round, spreading out like a blossoming flower, which is rather unusual and beautiful to look at. Unlike the white cabbage, it has darker green leaves which are stronger and peppery in taste and has a tougher texture. It is great for used raw in salad as well as lightly wilted in quick stir fry dishes. 

Due to it's abundance of leaves, it is also considered as very lucky and auspicious. My family would used to served this during Chinese new year celebration, cooked alongside with another auspicious ingredient,  Fat Choy (black moss) in a sweet oyster sauce.

With this and some tiger prawns that I have bought from the market on the day, I made a very simple stir fry dish for supper. Feel free to substitute the flat cabbage with other Chinese greens but I simply adore the crunchiness and flavour of this vegetable.

Ingredients (Serves 4)

400g raw tiger prawns, shelled and deveined
3 or 4 Chinese rosette cabbage, separate the leaves, washed and dry thoroughly
2 tbsp sunflower or vegetable oil
2 garlic cloves, crushed
1 tsp finely chopped ginger
1 red chilli, deseeded and thinly sliced
2 tbsp shaoxing rice wine
2 tbsp soy sauce
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
2 tsp roasted sesame oil


Heat the oil in a wok over high heat until smoking. Add the garlic, ginger and chilli and stir fry for 30 seconds, until fragrant.

Add the prawns and stir fry for 2 minutes, or until it turned pink before adding the cabbage leaves and stir fry for another 30 seconds., until they just wilted. Add the rice wine, soy sauce and toss together. Season with black pepper and add the sesame oil. 

Served immediately with some steamed rice.

Saturday 28 April 2012

Rise Of The Street Food Index - The StockMKT at Bermondsey Square

Following the success of last year, the StockMKT is hoping to repeat itself again this year with another pop up night market in the middle of Bermondsey square on 28th April. When I got wind of this, I immediately crossed everything out of my diary and headed down to Bermondsey. I was that excited that I found myself arrived way too early and all the traders were still setting up their stalls. But very soon, it all started to get going with the local Bouther Primary School choir singing an arrays of songs.

(Clockwise from top left) Pizza Pilgrims, Bhangra Burger, Kamm and Sons, Kebab Kitchen

The night market put together a strong collective of art, jewellery and fashion traders etc. But what really attracted my attention were all the street food vendors and what an impressive selections on the night. There were the Pizza Pilgrims, who usually based in Soho Berwick Street market who serves some pretty mean pizzas; and then there were the almighty Abiye's Big Apple Hot Dogs; James Ramsden new venture - Kebab Kitchen ; Bhangra Burger and many more.

I came prepared by starving myself silly throughout the day to be able to eat as much as I can. I zoomed in on the newly established Pom Pom Takoyaki by two lovely Japanese girls, Hana and Tamo. I learnt about them through the medium of twitter and had been dying to get my paws on those delectable octopus balls and I wasn't disappointed. In addition to the classic octopus combination, they also offered chicken mayonnaise and curried potatoes version - their reinvention of the classic. Light and truly flavoursome, they were all delicious and it was hard for me to pick out a favourite, so much so that I went back for a second helping of all three toward the end of my stay at the market just to be sure. I am predicting great things from  these girls.

Pom Pom Takoyaki
Next on the firing line was the fantastic Egg Boss. Sean's inventive scotch eggs have been gaining quite a reputation lately and after a series failed attempts to head down to Brockley Market, I was glad that he was present on the night. It was great to see his brilliant sense of humour as his pictures. He posed when visitors took pictures of the stall.

'Look at these eggs! That's why they called me the boss!' he chuckled.

He was a great entertainer. The eggs were just as mesmerising with flavours such as the spicy Creole, black pudding and the notorious Holy F*ck sauce by The Ribman and many other. I handed over £12 and walked away with all the flavours I've mentioned and a St Georges version which contains pickles. All were brilliantly cooked, the yolks were gooey when cut through and the meat casing were well seasoned. My favourite was definitely the Holy F*ck and the spicy creole, being a chili aficionado myself. (Please note: The * has been added to make this blog more family friendly)

Egg Boss

The Big Apple Hot Dogs served what I think is the best quality hot dog rolls around. I have tried the Big Dog from their usual Old Street stalls and decided to go for the Big Frank this time round. Most of you who have read my past review of this brilliant hot dog joint would have noted how disappointed I was not being able to meet the man behind all this but this had been rectified as Abiye himself was here on the night and I was able to have a quick chat and what a privilege it was. And as for the Big Frank, it was  beautifully seasoned and the pork was meaty and firm with light smokey flavour, miles better than any hotdog rolls that I've ever had, beside the Big Dog that is. For those who always think that all hot dogs comes from a jar should really ought to pay the BAHD a visit just to see what a true hot dog is.

Big Apple Hot Dogs

Bea's of Bloomsbury, with their amazing displays of beautiful baked goods were also another stall that I had the fortune of sampling. Bea herself were manning the deep-fried brownies which although I was tempted, was eventually too faint-hearted to go for. Although I did bought all three different cupcakes -  red velvet, sticky toffee and raspberry - and a slice of the very naughty fudge and chocolate brownie cheese cake. The cheese cake were creamy and just sweet enough with the doughy brownies and the chewy toffee, offered an all balanced texture. It might be sinful, but it was also delicious! The cupcakes were light and fluffy and had a creamy and rich toppings which were just divine. I had initially bought then to keep for breakfast the following day but none of them survived the night. They were just too moreish.

Bea's Of Bloomsbury
There were many more street food delights that I had wanted to try at the StockMKT but I will save them for next time. It was a fantastic night and the atmosphere were just amazing. There were live music throughout the night and it was constantly buzzing with people. What a brilliant event and a massive well done to the organiser of this pop up night market.

For more information on upcoming pop up from The StockMKT, visit their website by clicking on the link or follow their progress on twitter @TheStockMKT.

Friday 27 April 2012

On The King's Boulevard - Eat Street at King's Cross : Eat My Pies and Kimchi Cult

After being on my mind for what seems like forever, I've finally had the opportunity to pop down to the Eat Street down by King's Cross for a light lunch.

Eat street comprises of a group of street food vendors that have settled on one end of the King's Boulevard, sandwiched in between Pancras Road and Goods Way. Running weekly from Tuesday to Friday, different traders rotates and set up their stalls on varies days. These ranges from the delicious Hot Dogs from Big Apple Hot Dogs to the scrumptios Vietnamese Bahm Mi from Bahn Mi 11. Each traders have been carefully considered and only the very best were showcased which is what made this such a superb collective and regardless of what day you visit, there will only be good quality food served by traders who are passionate about their work.

On arrival to King's Cross station via the Victoria line, I gallantly braved the pouring rain and made my way to this street food collective venue. There were already a handful of street food enthusiast who, like me, ignored the dreary April shower in a quest for good street food.
Well Kneaded Ltd
French and Grace
On the day I visited, there were four stalls on the premises - French and Grace, Well Kneaded Ltd, Kimchi Cult and Eat My Pies. After a brisk walk along all the stalls, they all looked mighty fine and alluring.
From my last encounter with Danny of Kimchi cult, he was top on my list as I simply had to try out the Mexican-Korean Torta that he had spoken of. Once stood in front of the stall, the aroma of the meat grilling on the sizzler were just sensational. Still the same old amiable self, Danny were doing his thing and chatting to the customers at the same time. His helper took the order and assemble the tortas. There were a choice of either Bulgogi beef or pulled pork (£5) and I went for the latter.  Nice chunks of pork that were not only moist, but also beautifully tender; with the unusual pairing of guacamole and spicy kimchi (it worked!) and together the jalepenos and oozy cheese all encased in a traditional Mexican Boulillo bread. These were then toasted with a panini presser which gave the torta a contrasting crunchy crust. Without a doubt was one of the best sandwiches I have had in yonks and I might even go as far as to say that it was even better than his Kimchi Cult Special. Thumbs up from me!
Another stall that I tried was the Eat My Pies. I was mesmerised by the arrays of pies, scotch eggs and the solitary custard tart on display. But what really caught my eye was the clever and inventive giant Yorkshire pudding filled with rare beef. I happily handed over £3.50 and was given one of those magical Yorkie.  
It might not be the most conventional way to serve Sunday lunch but by gosh, what a treat that was. The beef was tender with just enough pinkness. The fresh horseradish cream and the peppery rocket provided a nice kick to the ensemble. The Yorshire pudding itself was light although being served cold meant that it had none of the crispiness, although it does remind me of a brioche-like texture which was lovely once you get past the notion of eating a cold Yorkie.

Sad to say, I was too full up to be able to try out the other vendors but maybe next time when I'm near King's Cross again, this will definitely be my top choice for a nice spot of lunch.

For more information on Eat Street, you can go to their website by clicking on the link or follow their progress via twitter @EatStreet .

Wednesday 25 April 2012

Life In A Rockpool - Linguine with Red Mullet, Baby Tomatoes and Basil

Freshly red mullet is one of the most highly prized fish in the world of seafood. It has a rich intense flavour, not dissimilar to crustaceans which coincidentally formed part of it's natural diet. When the ingredients is of this good quality and full flavoured, minimum effort is required and needed to bring out the best in taste.
A simple pan frying or grilling is how I usually like to cook this delicious fish. That is before I stumbled upon some beautiful British grown organic tomatoes in the market. It was as if these crimson red delights were calling out to me. And it won't be right for me to turn it down now would it? So who am I to refuse such a perfect opportunity. With these amazing produce, I have rustled up yet another pasta dish that makes the best of these fantastic flavours. As for the best part, it is incredibly easy and quick.....which is just what you need for a midweek supper.

Ingredients (Serves 2)

4 red mullet fillets,  about 300g altogether
225g dried linguine
4 tbsp olive oil
2 garlic clove, crushed
8 baby tomatoes, cut into halves
a small handful of fresh basil
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
Extra virgin olive oil, to serve


Bring a large pan of salted water to the boil and cook the linguine according to the instructions on the packet, until al dente.

Meanwhile, heat the olive oil in a large frying pan and fry the red mullet fillets, skin-side down, for 3 minutes. Turn them over and fry for 1 minute before removing them from the pan and set aside and keep warm.
In the same pan, add the garlic and fry for 30 seconds before adding the tomatoes and fry for another minute. Drain the linguine and add to the pan along with the red mullet fillets (reserve 2 of the fillets for garnish if you wish). Mix everything well and finally add half of the basil and gently toss everything together so that the fish just begins to break up.

Serve immediately, drizzled with the extra virgin olive oil and garnish with the remaining fillets and basil.
Linguine with Red Mullet, Cherry Tomatoes and Basil

Monday 23 April 2012

Into The Wild - Linguine with Wild Garlic, Lemon, Olive Oil and Pecorino

Wild garlic is one of the few reasons why I love spring. The others being asparagus, Jersey Royal potatoes, tender spring lamb, broad beans etc, So okay, there might be more than just a few. But why wouldn't I be? If you think about the long dreary winter that preceded this wonderful season when suddenly you get bombarded by all these beautiful zingy and fresh seasonal produce, it's simply marvellous. The possibility of soon we'll all be sitting in our sunny garden(if that ever happens) and merrily sipping some chilled Pimms  while watching the boat race on the television (yes that's what mobile TV are made for, however a long cabled TV will work just as well).

So guess the excitement I had when I walked past Borough market yesterday and came across this solitary packet of organic wild garlic - not all of us are habitual forager so do not judge me. I'm sure the greengrocer were bemused by my reaction as I gasp quite loudly right in front of the till when I spotted this parked next to it.
Once I got home, I immediately started planning on what I can do with it. I decided to just let the wild garlic be the true star of the dish and treated it with as little adornment as possible. And so this quick and simple supper is what I've made. The lemon worked very well and gave the pasta sauce a fresh and zingy taste. Perfect for a light spring supper.

And now there is just one thing I need to do....forage for more (from farmers market or perhaps taking up foraging as a full time career, which I am serious contemplating)


225g dried linguine
50ml extra virgin olive oil
juice of 2 lemons
75g Pecorino cheese, grated
a bunch of wild garlic
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper


Bring a large pot of water to the boil and cook the linguine according to packet's instructions until al dente. 

In the meantime, whisk the olive oil and  lemon juice in a large bowl and gradually add the pecorino until  well mix and slightly emulsify. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
 Drain the linguine and immediately add to the bowl. Roughly tear up the wild garlic and add to the pasta. The remaining heat will gently wilt the herbs. Serve immediately with more grated pecorino if wish.

Sunday 22 April 2012

A Real Taste Of Borough Market - Elliot's Cafe, SE1, London

Very rarely you get a dining establishment that is so relaxed and pared down that it instantly put a diner at ease and that's what Elliot's cafe managed to do. With its monotone facade and stripes canopy, it exudes a chill-out atmosphere. The cafe has an outdoor sitting where one can enjoy their food while taking in all the surrounding bustling scene of Borough Market.
Once entered, the exposed brick walls and a large cast-iron communal table slap bang in the middle dominated the room and had a vintage industrial feel about the place. Large skylight at the back of the room provided ample natural light to make the room feel spacious despite being really busy.

We arrived 15 minutes before our reservation ( yes, you can make a reservation for lunch here on the weekend - what a relief!) but thankfully, there was a vacant table and so we duly sat right next the window where the view of Borough market was in full sight.
The cheerful and friendly waitress came over and took our order before she trod off to the kitchen and return with  some wine and a complimentary bottle of filtered water. She chatted to us for bit before leaving us again to attend to other tables, while popping back every so often to top up our glasses. If this was a dinner party, she would be the perfect hostess.
It didn't took very long before our orders started arriving. The charcuterie (£10.50) and the fresh bread (£2) were both excellent. The bread was fresh and has an amazing flavoursome crust.
The scallops (£10.50) were so fresh and beautifully cooked that it has a melt-in-the-mouth texture and a gentle sweet taste. The tangy lemon and the green-tasting broad beans were perfect additions to these delectable seafood. The six wild rock oysters were incredibly fresh - sweet, slightly tangy with a smooth and pleasant aftertaste of the sea. This was not surprising, given that they sourced all their ingredients from the market on their doorstep which meant minimum transporting time and thus the seafood were of stellar quality.
The biggest surprise was the steak tartare (£9). It arrived looking nothing like the conventional presentation; with the finely chopped steak spread out in the middle of the plate and surrounded by petals of salted crisps. We weren't that sure about this until we took a bite and what a delight it was! The meat was so tender that it almost dissolved in the mouth, beautifully flavoured with a touch of sweetness and together with the crunchy crisps, the combination of the textures and flavours was just marvellous.

The fried maris piper potato with aioli (£3.50) were just as brilliant. Good flavours and crispy outer just as it should be.
For puddings, the lime curd, meringue & milk jam ice cream sundae (£6.50) went down a treat.. As for the sheep ricotta and honey cheesecake with pistachio ice cream (£7), it divided our opinions. I liked it but M did not and doesn't think it worked. I did not agreed as it was creamy with a subtle sweetness from the honey and together with the pistachio ice cream, I thought it was a great idea. Although I did agreed with M about the base being far to hard to cut through with the spoon.
Elliot's cafe is a charming little venue that concentrate on serving the very best of what is on offered seasonally from the local Borough market. And these shown through from all the top notch quality food the we had sampled. The service was friendly and the food reasonably priced. We did not have the burger (£10.50 with shoestrings fries) which they were famous for as it was only available for weekdays lunch but rest assured that it won't be too long before we frequent this little gem again.

Our meal came to a total of £83 with a bottle of wine, the filtered water and the superb service are free.

Elliot's Cafe
12 Stoney Street

Elliot's Cafe on Urbanspoon
Square Meal


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