Homemade Savoury Rice Dumpling (Bak Chang) – West London

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Junk is always up for a challenge when it comes to replicating food from my childhood days. Previous endeavours include yam cake, radish cake, samosas, laksa and various other dishes my Mom would make. With time on my hands and a pair of spare hands from Boom, decided to up the ante and try something more daunting.

Bak chang or zongzi is a Chinese bamboo leaf wrapped snack made from glutinous rice stuffed with various ingredients. Depending on the stuffing, it can either be savoury or sweet. There is even a Nonya version which is a hybrid of the two with a slightly sweet minced pork stuffing. I went for the traditional version with pork, dried mushroom, chestnuts, dried shrimp and other bits and pieces with five spice seasoning.

Won’t bore you with the ingredient list and detailed instructions. You can refer to other blogs for that. I know you are only interested in the pics!

The most important ingredient – Glutinous Rice, in original packing. after an overnight soak and fried with seasoning

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The wrapper – Bamboo leaves, in original packing and also after a soak.

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Stuffing – Chinese wax sausage and Salted Duck Egg. Note, you only need the egg yolk and it does not need to be cooked as the salting process solidifies the yolk

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More stuffing – Dried Shrimp, Dried Mushroom and Chestnuts. The dried stuff needs to soaked before frying.

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Shallots – Skinned, thinly sliced and fry till golden. See the amount of steam released while frying the shallots. Dreamy…

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Junk’s bunch – Proudly supported by Boom

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Boom’s bunch – Not bad an effort from the big clumsy cheese!

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The horde – After slow boiling in water for 2.5 hours.

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What we had for dinner! 2 bak chang each and some homemade samosas.

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What I had for breakfast this morning. Reheat in microwave on medium for 2 minutes.

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Best served with Lao Gan Ma’s Flavoured Chilli Oil or Maggi Garlic Chilli Sauce. I had a mixture of both!

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If anyone of you are interested and located in London, I have frozen the reminder of the horde and will be more than happy to share. Just drop me a comment!
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Beef Rendang Set Lunch – Sedap, Old Street

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Sorry folks! I have been on hiatus for a couple of weeks between jobs and also took a well earned holiday along the way. Now I’m back and I’m glad to say I’ve moved location and hopefully the better, newer and varied food available will give me the kick to eat and write more!

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Lunch today is just a trot down the road and I’m proud to say I steer cleared from the laksa on offer and opted for the set lunch. Sedap is a small restaurant along Old Street which I have visited awhile ago. My experience previously was not too bad though I thought the portion was a bit on the small side. Read other food blogs about the place and it would seem the standard and portion size has taken a plunge recently so I’m keen to verify my fellow blogger’s observation.

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For the set lunch, you select a main course from item 16 to 41 of the main menu with prawn, duck or fish dishes costing £1 more. I tried the Beef Rendang the last time I visited and if I recall, it was not perfect but totally serviceable. So I ordered the Beef Rendang as my main, the Kerabu Vegetable Salad as the starter and Egg Fried Rice as the protein. Total came up to £7.80.

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I think everything I’ve ordered was pre prepared as I was served within minutes of placing the order. Can’t complain as rendang needs a lot of stewing while the salad is more of a pickle. I was really looking forward to the Kerabu Vegetable Salad and thus was a tad disappointed at the minute portion. Taste wise, it was good though. Thin slices of cucumber and wood ear mushroom pickle in a sweet and slightly sour dressing which I think contains tamarind. Crunchy and refreshing, wished the portion was bigger.

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For those of you aficionados of Beef Rendang (Boom, I’m referring to you!), you would think that the colour of the rendang is slightly off. I thought so too as the version I’m accustomed to is usually dark brown and rather dry. This was green and had quite a good amount of gravy. Taste wise it was reasonable, the whiff of pandan leaves was prominent and the gravy went very well with the egg fried rice. Once again, portion size was my main gripe. 5 pieces of stamp sized beef which could be stewed more till tender was not worth the £7.80 price tag.

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The Egg Fried Rice was the surprise of the meal. Almost all rendition of Egg Fried Rice I have encountered is just rice fried with scrambled egg. One will be lucky to get some garlic and seasoning. As you can see, Sedap’s version added some dark soya sauce which adds an extra dimension to the otherwise easily boring rice dish. Simple, basic but I really enjoyed it. Could eat another big plateful with no problem!

In all, I think my fellow bloggers were correct. The portion and standard of Sedap has indeed took a nose dive since my last visit. But I will check out their laksa in the near future before I give my final verdict. Will be sure to report back!

Sedap Restaurant
102 Old Street
London EC1V 9AY
0207 4900200

Nasi Lemak and Curry Laksa – Woolfson & Tay, Bankside

A couple of post back, I promised to return to Woolfson & Tay to check out their Nasi Lemak and Curry Laksa when they are on the menu. True to my word, I managed to do both this week! Why the rush you might ask? Well, my stint in this part of town is ending soon so best put in the effort when there is still time. Not that eating some of my favourite food is much effort 🙂

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First up was the Nasi Lemak for Tuesday’s lunch. The topping option was Curry Chicken or Veg Curry and as usual, went for the half and half which cost £5.50. Also packed a portion for my Pinoy tester who was gamed enough to give this a try.

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The Chicken Curry like the Braised Chicken was made with chicken thigh pieces and was perhaps a tad too spicy for the typical Caucasian. The gravy was rich and thick with coconut milk.

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The Veg Curry was also pretty good with fried tofu slices, cabbage and other mix vegetables. What I loved about the Nasi Lemak was the small but very crispy Ikan Bilis which provided the crunch in contrasts while the humble slices of cucumber adds a refreshing note.

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Overall, pretty good. Only gripe would be that the rice was a tad mushy, especially after the gravy assault from the 2 curries.

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Next up, the Curry Laksa. Once again there was a chicken or veg option and yes, I went with half and half at £5.50. The Pinoy chickened out this time. Apparently her stomach said today is not a curry day. I was wondering how the laksa will be packed for takeaway, was half expecting those big soup containers but I think packing the gravy separately is a much better idea.

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The chicken comes in the form of a dry chicken curry, very similar to what was served with the Nasi Lemak.

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The same goes for the veg curry. Was glad that thick rich vermicelli was used, soft and silky, goes so well with the crunchy beansprouts and blanched green beans.

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Totally satisfied! I might just repeat the effort next week.

Woolfson & Tay
39 Bear Lane
London SE1 0UH
0207 928 6570

Braised Chicken and Veg Mapo Tofu – Woolfson & Tay Cafe, Bankside

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Another great find thanks to Twitterverse! Came across a tweet about this South East Asain Food Market which leads me to this bookshop nearby that also serves homecooked South East Asian dishes for lunch. Since it’s just a short walk away, off I went!

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Woolfson & Tay is a small independent bookshop with a even smaller cafe which also doubles as the cashier. There are 2 dishes daily, veg and non veg, £5.50 if you eat in and a discount of 50p for takeaway. If you are greedy like me, you can also have the half and half (i.e., half portion of both dishes) at £6 if eating in. Same discount applies for the half and half for takeaway.

I discovered this quaint little place on Thursday which was when one of my all time favourites, laksa was on the menu! But I bought my own lunch for that day so had to put my appetite on hold. I was so excited the next day that I was at the bookshop before food was ready, the glut, the shame…

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The setup for lunch service was the epitome of simplicity. A food warmer holds one dish, an electric pot holding the other with a rice cooker by the side. Shows you don’t require complicated setup to run a food business. As you can guess, I went for the half and half to go which cost me £5.50. The 2 dishes available were Braised Chicken in Spicy Bean Sauce and Veg Mapo Tofu.

My first reaction when I took my first mouthful was “this is homecooking, like what Mom would make”. Humble, simple and heart warming.

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Chicken thigh was used to make the braised chicken which I highly approved. The umami of the slightly spicy bean paste was offset by the freshness of the chinese leaf which accompanies the chicken pieces. Not unlike what I would cooked at home.

The Veg Mapo Tofu was equally good. Instead of minced meat, finely sliced green beans, baby corn, carrots, wood ear fungus and other veg was used. I like the idea of mixing both silken and fried tofu. Gives the dish another dimension in mouth feel.

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Can’t wait to see what’s on the menu next week! You bet I will rush there and report back on either Nasi Lemak or Curry Laksa day.

Woolfson & Tay
39 Bear Lane
London SE1 0UH
0207 9286570

Pad Prik King Pork and Green Chicken Curry – Grab, Mansion House

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Dragged the Boom out for lunch again today to try out another place I spotted across the bridge. So once again, the picture above is lunch for 2! Stop saying Junk is a glutton…

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Grab is a Thai takeaway joint with a focus on dishes served with white or brown rice. Apparently they have another outlet near Old Street with a bigger menu but this outlet by Mansion House is nice and convenient for moi! What really piqued my interest is the breakfast menu where they serve congee which to me is the quintessential comfort food as well as brekkie staple in most of Asia. I really need to get my lazy butt over the bridge in the morning to try out their congee! Will definitely report back with my findings.

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As you can see from the menu above the counter, the options are limited which is not a bad thing for those who are indecisive. It’s a 3 person operation and not very efficient as 1 person is permanently squeezing fruit and veg for the juices on offer. The foot print of the shop is miniscule so be prepared to queue outside. Having said that, they do have a small sit down area where you can eat downstairs. Would said it can sit 10 at best.

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The Boom decided to go back to basic and got the Green Chicken Curry on brown rice while I went slightly left field with the Pad Prik King Pork on brown rice. They were £6.25 and £6.45 respectively while the Som Tam which we shared was £3.95 I think. With 2 Cokes, the total bill came up to be around £18. Not cheap but did not break the bank.

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We both enjoyed the Som Tam,  made with julienned green papaya, carrots, green beans, cherry tomatoes and crush peanuts, it was tart, crunchy and refreshing.  Don’t be fool by the container size. The portion was more than ample for 2 as a side dish. Do watch out for the smashed up bird eye chilies in the dressing if you can’t take the heat.

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Boom gave his Green Chicken Curry a 6 out of 10. Typical Westernised, White-man version of a Thai classic. Typical of Boom, there is not enough protein in his portion. He would have liked more chicken.

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My Pad Prik King Pork was a bit of a disappointment. The problem: it was too dry, especially when paired with brown rice. I had to load up the container with soy sauce, Siriracha and the dressing from the Som Tam to moisten the dish. I know it’s a stir fry dish and this would probably be passable if the dish and rice were served separately. More sauce in the stir fry next time please?

The best gauge of how much I like a shop is would I make a return visit? Unfortunately, except for the breakfast congee.

Grab
68 Queen Victoria Street
London EC4N 4SJ

Flaming Dragon Curry – JJ Moon, Ruislip Manor

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Junk resorted to having dinner by herself in da hood last week. Blame the Boom for being mentally inflexible and leaving Junk all by her lonesome. In fact, the abandonment turnout to be a blessing in disguise as Junk managed to worm herself into a small pow wow by the pub’s regulars and had a great time! 😉 But that’s a story for another day…

image-4166-jjmoonJJ Moon is a Weatherspoon pub and is located directly opposite the Ruislip Manor tube station. Don’t be fooled by the frontage of the pub, it is very spacious inside and it even has a couple of tables in a small patio area right at the back. Come evening time, the front of the pub will be filled with regulars and smokers and can be rather intimidating but fear not, they don’t bite and are in fact a pretty nice bunch.

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Seeing it’s Thursday which is Curry Club in most/all (??) Weatherspoon pubs, I went with the hottest option on the menu. I’m sure you have seen menus whereby the number of chili icon by an item indicates how spicy it is? I never found that scale to be trustworthy and went “poo poo” to myself when I ordered The Flaming Chicken Curry with 5 chili icons. The meal with a pint of cider cost £5.99 and I threw in a couple of Vegetable Samosas for £1.
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After ordering, decided to study the menu in more detail and noticed a phrase in brackets “Y Ddraig Fflamllyd”. Looks like Welsh and it even has a trademark symbol next to it, this is a job for Google! From my searches, it would seem like it’s a product trademarked by a Welsh company producing ready made food for wholesale and retail. I guess Weatherspoon caters this curry from them. Welsh curry eh? Who would have guessed!

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Enough of sleuthing, back to the food. Starting with the mundane, the Vegetable Samosa were pretty awful. The filling was fine, typical mix bag of diced veg and the wrapping was also nice and crispy. The problem was its filled with oil! Guess the chef did not drain the samosa before service. Then again at £1, can’t really complain.

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From the mundane, we move on to the fiery. Wow! Junk is pretty blown away by this smoking chook! This really deserves the 5 chili icon I have to admit, its a rare occasion when Junk is left panting by the spiciness of food and believe you me, this left me slightly winded. Took 2 pints of cider to finish my meal. Well, I would normally have 2 pints or more anyways but this time, I needed it. Apart from the heat, the curry has a nice tangy flavour with bits of bits of red peppers laced throughout and I thoroughly enjoyed it.

Boom! I challenge you to a Flaming Chicken Curry showdown! Or are you too chicken (pun very much intended!) to take me on!

JJ Moon
12 Victoria Road
Ruislip Manor
London HA4 0AA
01895 622373

Pork Tonkotsu Ramen and Chicken Teriyaki Donburi – Japanese Canteen, Middlesex Street

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Junk is capable of healthy activities apart from those conducted in pubs. Yesterday’s outing was case in point. Bought a couple of vouchers for African Drumming class after work and had to look for something quick to eat for dinner. Most of the dinner places around the Spitalfields area are sit down, big menu, slightly long drawn out affairs unless one resorts to pub grub. Luckily, I found this place.

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Japanese Canteen is another Jap food chain catering mostly to the lunch crowd. But this branch at Middlesex Street, a stone throw away from Spitalfields also serves dinner. It was rather empty when we were there and it’s perfect for a quick eat and run dinner. I think this branch is rather new as it was not there when I was working in the area less then a year back.

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The menu is extensive and one can chose between donburi, bento box, ramen, sushi with a couple of non Japanese options like bibimbapgua bao and even Dan Dan noodles. Prices are very reasonable and definitely won’t break the bank!

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As expected, I could not resist any soupy noodles on a menu and seeing that the ramen is freshly made and they have a tonkotsu soup base, I’m sold! The Tweet being his usual boring self, went with the mundane option of Chicken Teriyaki Donburi. *Yawn* To each his own I guess. Total bill came to £11.40, good deal on paper.

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So is the deal as good taste wise? The Tweet was not impressed by his Chicken Teriyaki Donburi and neither am I. The chicken pieces according to the menu were supposed to be grilled but we could not see scorched marks nor taste any smokiness. Worse yet, the chook was tough and dry! The teriyaki sauce was typical, sweet, savoury and sticky while Tweet thinks the rice is too mushy. With just a sprinkling of spring onion as garnish, we both think this dish needs some other taste sensation. I had to donate all of my bok choy to Tweet to make his meal more enjoyable.

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What about the more complicated ramen dish? At £5.95, I was not expecting much from the Pork Tonkotsu Ramen especially when I was disappointing by the much hyped Tonkotsu in Soho at more than double the price. One should not underestimate chain outlets I’d say, like the offering at Wagamama, I was impressed!

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The toppings were generous with beansprouts, half a boiled egg, menma, nori, bok choy, spinach and 2 cuts of pork. The thinly sliced pork belly was tender but would be better if they were grilled while the shredded slow cooked pork was great soaked in a slight sweet and smoky sauce. The freshly made ramen could be cooked less but I’ve always prefer my noodles with bite. The star of the dish has to be the broth! Rich, milky with a slight hint of porkiness, just right and not too overpowering. The slight sheen of pork fat with a slight sweet and savoury taste complimented everything exceptionally well. The Tweet asked whether it was a 2 thumbs up and I violently nodded my head.

I have tried another branch of Japanese Canteen awhile back and I was not impressed. After this experience, I will definitely locate another branch near me to be my staple for lunch!

Japanese Canteen
100 Middlesex Street
London E1 7EZ