roasted cabbage wedges

sort of like wedges – just that they aren’t fried. or made of potato. so really not much like wedges except for their shape. I really am just a bag of laughter on this blog.

this is a method-post, more than an exact-measurements exposition on how to turn a huge head of very inexpensive green cabbage into a soft, sweet blast of a dinner with charred edges and a kiss of garlic. I’ve taught (I use this word loosely) you how to sauté any vegetable chinese-style, and now here’s an introduction into the world of roast-any-green-matter you like.

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ikoi japanese restaurant, town

amazing japanese spread at the miramar hotel. the hotel is run-down, and really looks rather dodgy from the outside, but this gem of a japanese restaurant pulls in a huge clientele (who you can usually see hanging out around the lobby and outside the hotel) with its affordable (and worthwhile) prices and frankly good food.

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aroy thai, town

really good thai food at the funan shopping mall. we’ve been coming to this restaurant for quite a few years now, and it constantly surprises me that the place isn’t filled to its rafters with people. the restaurant is relatively small, and the tables placed in a rather cramped manner, but service is usually prompt and friendly and the food really good and rather authentic.

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pizzeria mozza, town

great pizza joint at the marina bay sands. so I’ve been here before and also written a post – but removed it because I wasn’t happy with the photos – so I made such a huge sacrifice in coming back here again just so I can share nice photos with you. ok, so maybe it wasn’t such a huge sacrifice. I really really like this place, and sometimes I start daydreaming about the pizza here.

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hummus bros, london

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truly awesome hummus (and more) in soho. I haven’t enjoyed a meal more at this price point in london for a very long time – and I really regret not having come here earlier even though it’s been on my to-do for ages.

the menu is small and simple, and suits the sort of walk-in-or-stay-for-a-while style of cafe they’ve set up at wardour street (land of the wonderful busaba eathai, princi, and more; also one of my favourite streets in london). service is friendly and fantastic – and very prompt. you basically have a choice of toppings over their specialty hummus, and you can get pitas alongside or salads.

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okra with chillies

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this is just a quick stir-fry and not so much a recipe, as with my other posts on chinese cooking. there is something very fundamental about chinese home-cooking where you basically throw in a basic set of ingredients in varying amounts to make it taste good.

I stand by my conviction that all vegetables can be cooked successfully chinese-style.

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broccoli and mushrooms (with abalone)

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this dish is typical of chinese restaurants, and especially around chinese new year, especially since abalone is such an expensive ingredient. I bring a couple cans over to london every year with me as rations (rations for my emotions, okay).

I cooked this dish out of desperation for something a little decadent and homey tasting, especially since I’ve been surviving on simpler food due to a lack of time to cook more elaborately.

it’s a simple dish to make, and really is more tricky to assemble if you want to stack it up to make it look pretty, like I tried here.

  1. soak your dried mushrooms the night before or in the morning before you cook this dish. I know many people recommend using large mushrooms, but I prefer to use small-tending-to-medium ones because being able to eat an entire cooked mushroom at once and and risking scalding from the juices is a remarkable experience. I highly recommend it.
  2. when you’re ready to cook, mince up about half an inch of ginger and three garlic cloves. set aside, and also trim the stalks off your mushrooms – these are going to be too hard and will not be of any use eating-wise, but they give good flavour when fried as an aromatic alongside the garlic and ginger.
  3. fry your garlic, ginger and trimmed mushroom stalks in about 1 tbsp of sesame oil until they are golden brown but not burnt. squeeze the ‘shrooms slightly to remove excess water and throw it into the pan – be aware that it can splatter! stir-fry the mushrooms for about 2 minutes, then throw in the water used to soak the mushrooms in together with about a tablespoon of oyster sauce and half a tablespoon of dark soya sauce.
  4. bring it to a boil, then reduce to a simmer and cover with a cartouche i.e. a round of baking paper so it doesn’t dry out at the top and keeps deliciously moist and succulent. the longer you cook these the better they get.
  5. meanwhile, trim the florets off your broccoli and slice up the stem into half-inch disks. typically, the stem isn’t used in this dish but you are at home, and the stem is the best part of the broccoli in my opinion. prepare an ice bath using a large bowl with cold water and ice cubes.
  6. bring a pot of water to the boil and salt it liberally – about a tablespoon of salt – and also add about a tablespoon of sesame oil into the water. this is an old woman’s trick for getting boiled vegetables bright and green. I don’t usually do this, but it is absolutely irreplaceable for getting vibrantly green vegetables. do not overboil your vegetables. once you can stick a knife through the stem you will want to take it out.
  7. drain the broccoli, give it a brief rinse under the tap and then throw it into the ice bath. this stunts the cooking and keeps it crisp. add more ice cubes or change the water as necessary to keep it cool and once you’re sure it is, drain the broccoli as you don’t want it to get soggy.
  8. open the can of abalone and slice it up into thin slices of about 2mm. steal a couple of slice while you’re at it.

that’s basically it! arrange your abalone on a traditional chinese-looking plate prettily and then stack your broccoli in the centre to form a nice ring. I usually stack the florets outside and then the slices of stem in the centre to give it some height.

scoop out the mushrooms and place it within the broccoli ring. this time I had some black moss that I bought from a trip to china – add this to your mushroom stew just before you want to eat it as you don’t want to over the moss – and so I added it right on the dish.

so yes, this dish is a tad fussy. but it returns a lot in flavour and looks, and you can add other things to the dish as you’d like, such as dried scallops or dried mussels, as well as use vegetables such as mangetout if you’d prefer. let me know if you get to try this out!

bistro kos, gdańsk

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fantastic food in gdańsk. I haven’t been so impressed by a restaurant in a long time, not even here in london – but then I haven’t been going out as much recently – but this place is spectacular for both price and quantity and quality of food.

I had done some research (tripadvisor, anyone?) on this recommendation from the receptionist at the hostel, and so I knew we were going to get big portions. beyond that, we weren’t too sure hat to expect.

when we arrived at 8pm for dinner, the small space was packed out with people either  eating or waiting to get their takeaways. this is a semi-self-service establishment, where your food is brought to you but you go up to order and to pay, and you damn well get your own table in the place. the demographic of people here was wide-ranging, from young groups of teenages to working men to old couples. I fancy this must be the hangout in gdańsk.

for dinner, we got two main courses of fish – one of halibut and one of sole. the large battered fillets were fried golden (perfect!) and served alongside your choice of fries or boiled potatoes, as well as three vegetable side dishes. the fish was marvellous; the batter was not thick and yet substantial enough, the fish was sweet and flaky, and my boiled potatoes were heaven (let me tell you that if you have never tasted the beauty of a well-boiled tasty spud sprinkled with the merest scattering of salt, you have not lived). the three ‘salads’ was a grated carrot salad (the best one), a horseradish-dressed cabbage one, as well as a beetroot salad. they were so good even my salad-averse partner finished most of it up. I ordered a side dish of boiled vegetables – it is called something like sports salad or something equally ingenious – which really was a plate of overboiled carrots, broccoli and cauliflower. I didn’t actually mind it too much though.

the best thing about this meal? two huge main courses (we couldn’t finish the potato or the salads), 1 pint of paulaner and a side dish came up to the equivalent of 9 pounds. HOW RIDICULOUS IS THAT.

we liked it so much we returned the next morning. they have a dedicated breakfast menu on top of the regular one available at lunch and dinner. I opted for a smoked salmon salad (I had lots of envy for a large plate of salad the night before) and my partner had scrambled eggs with bacon, as well as a plate of white sausages.

the salad was lovely – there was a raspberry vinaigrette on very crunchy salad leaves; the smoked salmon was generously draped over the the leaves and it was all topped with a perfectly-fried yolk. I love eggs, and one with a liquid yolk that unctuously (yes this is my attempt at a nigella impersonation) drapes over the rest of my meal is a very good thing.

the eggs kept my partner very happy, and he decided to up the (cholesterol) ante by matching the white sausages and the eggs on a roll – but that was too much even for him. these white sausages aren’t the ones we expected – we were thinking of the bavarian ones – but this was very good though a tad too salty.

this place is a must-go. I’m hungry just thinking of the perfect fish we had.

jewish quarter zapiekanka, krakow

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mega-overloaded snack in the jewish quarter.

I imagine many people reading this and thinking just when is she going to finish with her polish trip?! and I promise you that there are only two more to come after this.  I hope this information becomes useful to someone out there – I am an incredibly OCD foodie in that I try and search for the most well-known restaurants in places,  especially from blogs, but there was barely any information to be had on gdańsk! the best resource was tripadvisor – which is a good website and all, but still I would have liked to have read more blogs.

in any case, we took up the free walking tour in the jewish quarter in krakow, and we escaped part way from an overtly enthusiastic not-funny-but-thinks-he’s-funny guide who punctuated all his jokes with a sleazy wink. it was a painful experience to listen to that many bad jokes in such a short interval – and we escaped to preserve our holiday mood.

it was just as well that we were in (what I think is) the market square of the jewish quarter at plac nowy. there were fruit stores around (see photos here) and a central building that housed lots of food stores. I think store might be an over-statement since they were basically windows where you ordered.

before escaping from the guide he had told us about these ‘snacks’. I insert them in quotes because these were nearly 1.5 foot long – who eats this for a snack?! however, the rich food in poland probably explains how this could be relegated to snack status.

they are essentially halved crusty loaves topped with ingredients of your choice. we got the standard – which was cheese and mushroom – because we weren’t really sure what it was like. it came topped with ketchup, and  didn’t really taste of much. it was mildly cheesy and savoury, but it was hot and that was all we needed.

my partner became incredibly jealous when we saw that another customer had ordered a version stacked with salami and ham and sorts of man ingredients so I would say go adventurous (and greedy) since it really is just a hot sandwich!

squid and red peppers

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I never used to eat red peppers, and now I have an abiding love for them – both raw and cooked. but especially cook, when they get a little slinky and smooth and sweet.

I chanced upon a fantastically inexpensive bag of frozen squid tentacles while I was at chinatown, and there was no way I could walk away and not buy it. seafood is a rare commodity (cheaply, anyway) in london, and fresh seafood even more difficult to find. frozen works fine for me – and really you can thaw it painlessly overnight in the fridge. cheap, fresh and painless!

you could really do anything with the squid, from using black bean sauce with spring onions and garlic, or do a stir-fry with more greenery, as I’ve chosen to do here.

strip and mince some garlic – I used 4 medium-sized cloves, but I’d up it if you like garlic. strip ginger, and slice it thinly – you don’t really want to eat the ginger here; in chinese cuisine ginger is often used to ‘remove’ the fishiness of seafood, and since we believe it absorbs that toxicness, we don’t really eat it in the dish and so it should be prominent enough to remove.

slice up some spring onions matchstick-long; I love onions and how they melt when cooking – use as much as you’d like. I sliced up 2 peppers, one orange and one red, because I think they are sweet and colourful (just look at that colour!). I really still can’t abide green peppers.

remember that your frozen squid needs to defrost overnight in the fridge, and I took them for a quick rinse to remove any extraneous ice.

so start with a mix of sesame oil and vegetable oil in the pan, and heat it to medium before throwing in the garlic, spring onions and ginger. I don’t like heating the oil too hot before hand as I don’t want char on these aromatics – I just want the flavour to seep into the oil for maximum taste!

throw in your peppers and cook them till they are nearly three-quarter-way done; i.e. just before you want to eat, you should throw in the squid as it doesn’t need too much time to cook.

season with a mix of shaoxing rice wine, oyster sauce and dark soya sauce; or add in some black bean sauce now for flavour. go forth and experiment! chinese food is forgiving and easy, and built on the very simple tenets of quick, colourful and wholly nutritious food.