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

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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

Indonesian Beef Curry – Kastner and Ovens, Spitalfields

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Brrr…. The weather really turned this week. Gone was the incessant rain and lingering clouds to be replaced with bright blue skies but also chilly winds and numbing cold. It’s getting hard to venture far for lunch forages but persist I shall!

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It has been awhile since I tried a new food joint so decided to check a rather curious place out which I noticed when I went to Mangiare awhile ago. Kastner and Ovens has no obvious signage apart from some minimalist decals on the glass facade and the menu is rather cryptic as well. But it is pretty obvious they serve food looking at the display and the number of people in the queue. Apart from food, the joint is also like a delicatessen selling freshly baked bread and some specialist groceries.

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Anyway, I joined the queue and when it came my turn, asked what they have on offer. There was a couple of pies, quiches, a beetroot and celeriac terrine (Boom, they copy you!) a choice of salads which you can mix and match and an Indonesian Beef Curry with rice. You don’t have to be a genius to guess what I went for.. Collected my order and went to pay at the cashier not knowing how much it cost since the curry was not on the menu. The cashier rung up £6 which was what I paid.

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By Indonesian Beef Curry, I think they meant beef rendang. Well it certainly looks like one and a few colleagues commented on the delicious smell from my box. Yes, it smells like one as well. Added 4 spicy wings to my lunch from some random fried chicken place along Brick Lane, the 4 wings for £1 deal.

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If it looks like a duck and sounds like a duck, it is a duck? Unfortunately, the look and smell did not translate to the taste. Don’t get me wrong, it does not taste bad. The beef was cooked well, tender enough yet still has a bite. The potatoes were also well done having absorbed the taste of the sauce. But the dish just taste one dimensional, definitely missing lemon grass and pandan leaves.

Oh well, not being racist but what do you expect when a complex dish like rendang is cooked by non Asians? I should not be that harsh, at least the attempt was tasty enough. Or perhaps they were not after the rendang taste afterall?

Kastner and Ovens
13 Frying Pan Alley
London E1 7HS
0203 538 6992

Chili Chicken and Spicy Aubergine – Mama Thai, Spitalfields

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Felt guilty for not having been to the gym all week till today. The idea did cross my mind the past couple of days but with my workload heading towards a car crash, only managed to find some free time today. Threw in my usual 50 laps and did the whole hog by walking back to my office. Mama Thai was on the way and so thought why not?

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By the time I reached Mama Thai, it was closed to 1pm and geared myself for a long queue. Interestingly, the queue was only 4 deep and I managed to get my order within 5 minutes. Today’s special dish was Chili Chicken so I got that as well as a side of Spicy Aubergine. As before, a fully packed box with rice for just £5.

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Somehow, did not enjoy today’s lunch as much as I did before. Perhaps it’s cos the Tech Lead came to quiz me about work as I was eating or maybe my mind was occupied trying to get work priorities right. Though the Chili Chicken looked appetizing, taste wise, it was pretty one dimensional. Slightly spicy, moderately seasoned but just plain bland. The aubergine was slightly better with a smoky yet slightly sweet sauce. Lucky I have the container of pickled chilies to help pickup the taste.

Well, I never expected gourmet and for just £5, one can hardly complain. At least my tum was filled though my taste buds were not.

Mama Thai
10 Toynbee Street
London E1 7NE

Laksa Off! Keke vs Momo’wich

Having tried Momo’wich’s laksa, I’m now finally able to complete the Laksa Off! which I have mentioned many times in my previous posts. On with the fight!

Our first contestant, occupying a takeaway stall in the corner of Spitalfields Market, meals cooked to order but with no website of their own, we have Keke!

Our second contestant, located along Commercial Street, tagging themselves with the “Pan-Asian Bites” moniker and all social media up, we have Momo’wich!

Round One – If looks could kill…

In my post about the laksa from Momo’wich, I waxed lyrical about the concept of the rempah and how vital the film of oil is to the appearance of a laksa’s gravy. Comparing the gravy of both Momo’wich and Keke’s laksa, I would say Momo’wich’s version looks more appealing, the film of red oil will stir all laksa addict’s appetite. Keke’s version looks anemic in comparison.

Momo’wich’s Laksa

Keke’s Laksa

Round Two – Only when the price is right…

There is not much of a price difference between Momo’wich and Keke. Momo’wich’s laksa was £6 while Keke’s was £5.80. I think I can afford a 20p difference anytime. Unfortunately, at £6, I was expecting more prawns in the Momo’wich laska. Felt a tad cheated by the few small shrimps.

Round Three – The proof is in the pudding…

Taste wise, how do they compare? I would say Momo’wich’s version is a more accurate rendition of a typical laksa. The colour, the taste fits the bill. Perhaps I my expectation was too high but after eating it, I was still felt somewhat lacking.

Momo’wich’s Laksa

I think I’m a tad biased when it comes to Keke’s Laksa. It’s my go to laksa afterall! Though it’s not entirely authentic, it’s more along the lines of a curry noodle but it always manage to more than satisfy my laksa craving. Keke’s still get my vote.

Keke’s Laksa

Verdict

Afraid to say, the slightly cheaper, less authentic but definitely fulfills my craving laksa from Keke gets my vote!

Keke
Old Spitalfields Market
10 Horner Square
London E1 6EW
0207 375 2002

Momo’wich
75 Commerical Street
London E1 6BD
0207 377 6409

Chicken Laksa Reblog – Keke, Spitalfields

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Finally, the inevitable has arrived! I’m eating something I’ve blogged about before. Gave myself several reasons for this:
1. The weather is turning cooler and it’s perfect for a warm spicy noodle
2. I intend to do a laksa off with the version from Momo’wich
3. It is one of my favourite lunch to have around the area
4. It was my first post and I did not get the chance to include pictures of the joint
Blah, blah, blah…

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Darn it! It’s my mouth, I get to eat what I like with no need for excuses! So it’s Chicken Laksa from Keke in Spitalfields again today. Before I talk about the laksa, some pictures of how Keke look like. For those of you who are unfamiliar with Chinese food and can’t picture how the dish will look like just by reading the menu, Keke has kindly displayed sample of some dishes in their glass display case.

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Amongst the other dishes mentioned in my previous post, Keke also serves Dim Sum. The selection is not as varied as what is available in most Chinese restaurants but it gives a taster to what Dim Sum is like for those uninitiated. The steamed Dim Sums are in the steamer frame while there is also a selection of fried ones on the menu.

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Back to the laksa. Unlike the last time where I asked to replace the rice noodles with egg noodles, I stuck with the rice noodles this time. As before, the gravy is creamy and not too spicy, tender chicken thigh meat is used instead of breast and with the bean sprouts and fried tofu, makes for a very satisfying meal. The price is still £5.80, no change from last time.

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Can’t wait to try the version at Momo’wich for a proper laksa off!

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Keke
Old Spitalfields Market
10 Horner Square
London E1 6EW
0207 375 2002

Spicy Luxe Dog – The Luxe, Spitalfields

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Some colleagues and I went to The Luxe last Thursday for lunch and we had a good time. The menu was extensive, food was tasty and service was prompt and friendly. Noticed that they have a takeaway service so thought I give it a go for lunch today.

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The takeaway lunch menu consists of mainly burgers and hot dogs. I went with the Spicy Luxe Dog with a side of chips. The dog was £4.50 and chips was £2.25. Not that cheap but was not expecting it to be. To order, you walk up to the side of the both where there is a cash register (or look for the Order Here sign), place your order and move to the other side of the booth while your order is being prepared.

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On the menu, the Spicy Luxe Dog should have cheese, jalapeno and Luxe sauce. Where is the jalapeno? I feel cheated. The hot dog bun is griddled with the cheese inside to melt it. Could definitely do with more cheese. There is a sprinkling of chilli flakes on the cheese but that is far from the spicy I was expecting. The hot dog is a normal frankfurter style dog so nothing much to wow about. It’s split in half to facilitate the grilling which ruined the snap of the dog. As for the Luxe sauce, it’s nothing but just Heinz ketchup. Disappointing. The saving grace was the chips. I was a bit wary as the chip has been resting under a heated lamp for God knows how long and I was expecting it to be soggy and nasty. They turned out much better than expected, crunchy on the outside, fluffy on the inside.

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Overall, a rather lacklustre lunch, seeing I really enjoyed my sit down lunch last week. Also, I think they cater to those who eat on site rather than proper takeaway back to office. There are no paper bags or proper container to speak of. I had to juggle a cup of chips with no cover and a hot dog wrapped with paper (curiously, the wax paper belongs to Smith of Smithfield!) together with my tablet and wallet on the walk back to office. Verdict: you are better off having a sit down meal at The Luxe. Or go for the Polish Sausage Baguette at Cafe 1001 if you are craving for a banger.

The Luxe
109 Commercial Street
London E1 6BY
0207 101 1751