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

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Chicken Ramen and Hosomaki Set – Deli Mama, Eastcheap

IMG-20130412-delimama_lunchA colleague from the US office was in town this week for work and I was asked to take a walk with him for lunch today. He had a couple of things he wanted to buy which took us across the river. Seeing we have made the trek, decided to go by my regular haunt when I was based out in Monument.

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Deli Mama is located around the corner from the Monument and is an independent Japanese/Korea takeaway joint ran by a team of Korean staff. There is a range of hot dishes which you can have with either rice or noodles at the steam tray counter.

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Or you can also pickup tubs of udon, ramen and a selection of bento boxes and sushi set from the fridge units. As you can see, the selection is pretty good and all pretty affordable.

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I decided on my old favourite which is the Chicken Ramen where I got the spicy broth added when paying at the counter. Also added a small box of Hosomaki Set. The ramen was £5.80 while the Hosomaki Set was £3.75.

IMG-20130412-delimama_chickenramenAs you can see, the noodles is not exactly ramen but more like the korean ramyun style instant noodles. Other condiments in the noodles includes bean sprouts, shredded carrot, big bunches of coriander and sliced up fried chicken breast. I highly recommend you top up the container to the brim with extra hot water as the spicy broth has a tendency to be pretty salty. perfect comfort food on cold wet days.

IMG-20130412-delimama_hosomakisetI really enjoyed the Hosomaki Set. There are 2 Gunkan style sushi, one topped with chopped salmon and mixed pickles while the other is with a smoked mackerel salad and fresh cucumber. The one in the middle is a inari pocket with tuna mayo and pickled ginger. The last two are normal nigiri with cooked prawn and fresh salmon. Strictly speaking, these are not Hosomaki as they are the small skinny rolls but I will let that rest since they were really fresh and tasty.

When the weather gets better, I will be sure to visit Deli Mama more often. The quality and price of the offering is worth the trek!

Deli Mama
2 Eastcheap
London EC3M 1AA

Bun Bo Hue and Banh Mi Dac Biet – Pho, Spitalfields

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Had a team Xmas booze up last night and you can imagine how I feel today. Well, at least I managed to get to the office on time. Did bring my leftover mutton curry for lunch but need some comforting as I’m feeling rather fragile. Weird that seeing I’m such a big soup noodle fan, I only went to Pho at Spitalfields once.

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Instead of ordering my usual pho, I decided to order a bun instead, the Bun bo Hue to be exact . Not bun as in a bread bun silly, it’s Vietnamese and refers to the cylindrical rice noodles used in the dish as compared to the flat rice noodles used in pho. Also ordered a banh mi in case I still feel hungry after the noodles. The bun cost £6.45 while the banh mi was £5.50. Not a cheap lunch but the Junk needed some soothing.

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Like the pho, the Bun bo Hue came deconstructed, almost all components are packed separately to ensure freshness but can be a pain if you are starving. I guess it makes putting together a takeaway order easier as well as I bet the kitchen would have packed some containers beforehand. The bun was a nice change from the usual pho, the broth was spicy but still has a deep beefy taste. The lean beef was thinly sliced which is good and the plethora of herbs added freshness to the dish. Only complain would be that the portion seems to be rather small, much smaller than I recalled.

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There was 2 options for the prepacked banh mi, a chicken and a grilled pork. I went with the grilled pork and was pleasantly surprised that it’s says Banh Mi dac Biet on the receipt. if I’m not wrong, dac Biet means special in Vietnamese. You will be asked whether you want to add some Sriracha sauce (thai chili sauce) to be added while the Maggi seasoning sauce is added by default. The baguette is nice and light, pretty close to the ones I had when I was in Ho Chi Minh with slices of roasted lean pork, a smearing of pate and stuffed with picked mooli, carrots, coriander and spring onions. Perhaps I waited too long to have it, the baguette went a big soggy on me. How I wished I had more banh mi when I was in Vietnam, the £5.50 I paid could have bought me probably 10!

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In all, a good lunch. But food can’t rid hangovers, only time and loads of liquid will 😦

Pho
48 Brushfield Street
London E1 6AG
0207 377 6436

50 Shades of mutton, Carribean Goat Curry and Sup Kambing – Chez Boom

Why 50 shades of mutton you might ask? Look at all the pictures below and I think you will understand…

So the Boom and I have always lamented that beef nowadays is somehow lacking it’s “moo” while you don’t get the “baa” unless you resort to mutton or goat. One can’t get mutton or goat unless you have a halal butcher close by. Supermarkets tend to only stock lamb. The Boom is currently based out in Croydon and he happily told me he has easy access to mutton/goat if I’m keen. When it comes to cooking, I always am and so he turned Neanderthal on Friday and lugged home a huge leg of mutton/goat.

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We are still not sure whether the leg belongs to an old sheep i.e., mutton or a goat. There was some communication breakdown between Boom and the butcher. To the both of us, mutton = old sheep while goat = Billy Goat Gruff. Perhaps to the ethnic community here in London, there is no such difference. One thing’s for sure though, the smell of the meat while butchering the leg, what we have here is no bouncy spring lamb!

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After loads of hacking, slicing and dicing, we ended up with enough meat to cook 2 dishes. Mature cuts like this requires slow cooking. I decided we should have a Sup Kambing which is a soup dish I grew up with and a Caribbean Goat Curry which Boom loves. Looked through the interweb for recipe inspiration and interestingly, both recipes use almost identical spices. Fennel, cumin, coriander, black pepper, ginger, onions, garlic are in both recipes with the Sup Kambing requiring some nutmeg while the Caribbean Goat Curry asking for curry and all spice powder. This makes Junk’s life much easier as I only need to toast and grind one set of spices.

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The meat for the curry was left to marinade while I proceeded to cook the Sup Kambing. Mr Saucisse lucked out as he got to have bones after they have done their work flavoring the soup stock.

While the soup was bubbling away, I started on the curry. Dust the marinade off the meat, brown the meat then add coconut milk and enough water to cover. Leave it left bubbling for at least 3 hours on low heat, taking care to give it an occasional stir so the bottom don’t catch and burn.

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The soup turned out pretty good. Spicy with a good body from all the onions and bones. The pepper warmed up the body on cold nights like Saturday. Served with a side of garlic bread and crispy shallots, it made for a heart and rich meal. Highly recommended.

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As for the curry, it continued to cook on Sunday and was served with Rice and Peas. Threw together a small side salad to cut the richness from celery, tomatoes and spring onion with a dressing of yogurt, lime juice and maple syrup. Boom did not fancy the salad but I thought it was ok. The curry could be better, perhaps the leftovers will brew up better. Still tasty though.

Blame lighting at Chez Boom, everything is of a similar shade. But then again it’s just a permutation of the same ingredients. Not at all surprised.

Chez Boom
Somewhere in West London
Open 24/7
Strictly by invitation
Only for the worthy

Cataplana de Porco Alentejano – Eyre Brothers, Shoreditch

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Junk lucked out today! She got to go to a rather posh restaurant for lunch and all thanks to Stan! Yes, that damned one I was cursing the other day. Then again, it wasn’t purely out of the goodness of his heart, it took a Kindle to make him cough up lunch. The story goes, since I got a tablet and am running the Kindle Android app on it to read, saw no point to my Kindle with keyboard. In the spirit of decluttering, decided to flog it off to willing takers. That’s where Stan came in and I offered him the Kindle in exchange for lunch.

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Apparently he has been wanting to try Eyre Brothers after reading about it in Timeout, guess this is the opportunity. The restaurant is located within walking distance from Shoreditch High Street Overground and is in the midst of some pretty funky shops, restaurants and cafes. I should really spread my wings and wander around that area for lunch.

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Unlike other Spanish/Portuguese restaurants, the decor is very modern with no reference to the restaurant’s culture influences. I find that very refreshing, not a single toro in sight. Stan made reservations and suggested the Cataplana de Porco Alentejano which is a sharing dish for two. Pork, clams and being free, can’t say no now can I?  Also ordered a side of braised cabbage greens as the token veg. The Nigerian and Mr CSS were also invited and they ordered a lamb and a hake dish respectively and they both looked pretty good as well.

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Pork and clams, some might think that it is a weird combination but it turned out spectacular. The pork belly was braised just right, tender enough to tear with a spoon yet still maintained a slight bite. The clams provided the briny ozone taste of the sea to the braising liquid which I think had some red wine, rosemary and something that gave it the anise taste. Tarragon perhaps? Some lemon wedges and coriander were served with the dish and we were told to pile our plate with fried potatoes, the stew, a scattering of coriander and topping it all off with a good squeeze of lemon juice. The recommendation worked great, the lemon juice and coriander complimented the rich stew perfectly.  2 minor complains, the fried potatoes were slightly under cooked, could be crispier and if only bigger clams were used. The ones we had were tiny. Perhaps it’s not clam season?

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Mains for the 4 of us with water, 2 Cokes and an orange juice for around £110 which includes service charge of 12.5%, not an everyday lunch thing but good as the occasional treat! Thanks Stan! Hope you enjoy the Kindle.

Eyre Brothers
70 Leonard Street
London EC2A 4QX
0207 613 5346

Massaman Beef Curry and Green Chicken Curry – Mama Thai

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I have just died and gone to heaven! Ok ok, at least that’s how it feels like after today’s lunch. So I managed to drag Mr CSS to Mama Thai for lunch today and we made it a point to go later to avoid the long queue I saw the last time I walk by the shop.

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When we got there, though the queue is not too bad but it’s surprising as it’s almost two o’clock. The queue, the smell, the various options in the 2 steam tables all had me buzzing with excitement and anticipation. So much so that Mr CSS complaint I paid no attention to what he was telling me though I’m usually very attentive! Sorry, food addict in the zone you see…

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How can I not be excited when there is a separate condiments area where you can load up on pickled chillies, dried crush chilli sauce and various other sauces when you eat in? Most places are not trusting enough to allow their customers to help themselves to condiments.

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The menu shown on the window of Mama Thai merely gives an indication of what’s available. The menu on the top wall in the shop provides more detail but surprisingly, no price? Prices are only shown for some of the snacks and starters. According to their website, apparently Mama Thai used to be in the Old Spitalfields Market but since has relocated to their own premise. They are open Mon-Fri, only from 1130 – 1530hrs. Guess they strictly cater to the office lunch crowd.

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I decided to start with the basics of Beef Massaman curry and Thai Green Chicken curry. I think you can have noodles as your carb but I went for steam rice. The portion was more than generous as you can see when laid out on a big dinner plate. The beef was nice and tender with chunks of potatoes and sprigs of coriander. The green curry was also pretty good though its missing the basil that is usually present in green curries. If you are wondering are the curries those that will leave you with a ring of fire, worry not. They are both flavorful but not at all hot. I did ask for some pickled chillies that are already prepacked in a small plastic container. Lucky I did as the tartness of the pickled chilli complemented both curries very well. All this for £5! Bargain!

Mr CSS got the exact same order as me so I did not bother to take a pic of his portion. Great minds think alike! Would I go back to Mama Thai again? I definitely will!

Mama Thai
10 Toynbee Street
London E1 7NE
Mon – Fri 1130-1530

p/s: Sorry for the blurry pictures, I was quivering with excitement! Really need to get my addiction in check!

Pho Chin Bo Vien – Pho, Spitalfields

Pho in containers

Clockwise from left: Fried Pork Spring Rolls, Bean Sprouts/Sliced Onions/Spring Onions, Slice Beef Brisket and Beef Balls on top of rice noodles, Soup, Bag of Herbage

So today is part two of the Pho Off! Apologies to everyone who was looking forward to this. The weather was nice and warm recently and not conducive for soupy and hot lunches. But I decided to pull my finger out today.

So Mr CSS and I decided to get lunch together today. It’s nice to have a buddy walk with you and a good opportunity to talk about other stuff apart from work. Appreciate the fact that though he decided to satisfy his addiction for the Chicken Katsu Curry Rice at Japanika, he still walked with me to Pho. Thank you!

Pho Shop Front

I have eaten at other branches of Pho before, the Oxford Circus and Westfield Shepherd’s Bush branches so I know the quality of the food. This branch at Spitalfield is brand spanking new. At most a month old? It has a cut down takeway menu and the takeaway counter is upstairs up a flight of wooden stairs. According to the takeaway menu, you can call and order in advance and just turn up to collect. I did not know about that so ordered on site. It did not take that long which was great! Apart from pho, they have other interesting choices so definitely worth a revisit in future. Since this is part of the Pho Off! installment, I had to order a pho. I went with the Pho Chin Bo Vien and a side of Fried Pork Spring Rolls. Chin = Beef Brisket, Bo Vien = Beef Balls. Total bill came to £10.90. Yikes! Perhaps I can do without the Fried Pork Spring Rolls….

Pho Herbage

The small budge on the top right hand side contains sliced red bird eye chilies

I know that when you eat in, you will get a tray of herbage for you to customise your pho the way you want it. I was not expecting this with a takeaway so was pleasantly surprised. The small bag contains sprigs of mint, basil, coriander and a lime wedge. Yes! Lime wedge, not lemon. They even bothered to separate the evil sliced red bird eye chilies! That’s the way to go!

Pho with torn herbage

If you refer to the first pic, I really appreciate that almost all the components of the pho is packed separately. This prevents the bean sprouts and rice noodles from getting soggy if they were soaked in the soup. But it does take some effort to assemble all the components and tear up the herbage.

Pho stirred but not shaken

This is what I expect a pho to taste like. Though not as good as what I have tasted in Vietnam, I think it’s not a bad attempt, for a chain store at that! The broth could do with a stronger star anise taste but has a deep but not coying beefiness. The herbage and squeeze of lime juice really helps to life the flavour. The beef brisket was slice evenly and of the right thickness and the beef ball taste as they should. All in all, I was satiated.

I really did not need the Fried Pork Spring Rolls. I was stuffed after I finished the pho (well, I drank all the broth).They were filled with minced pork, granted carrot, rice vermicelli and wood ear mushroom. It was nice and crispy when hot and is served with a side of nuoc chiam. Maybe a tad oily. I only had 1 roll and kept the rest as a snack for later.

I don’t think it takes a genius to know which of the 2 pho I prefer. But I will still bored you folks with a PROPER summary post in the next couple of days.

Pho
48 Brushfield Street
London E1 6AG
0207 377 6436
Mon-Wed 1130 – 2200
Thus – Sat 1130 – 2300
Sun 1130 – 2200

p/s: Mr CSS and I got caught up in a celebrity filming session on the way… guess who?

It's Robbie!

Who is the gentleman in pink? It’s Robbie Williams!