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cookbook author Corinne Trang,
a celebrated expert
on Asian cuisine, as she guides you through New York City's
Chinatown demystifying the world of Asian ingredients. You'll discover
markets specializing in dried seafood, bird's nests, and more, and meet
an herbalist. You'll visit a typical Asian supermarket and vegetable
stand where condiments and produce will be identified and tips on
proper storage and use will be revealed. You'll taste all sorts of
dumplings, northern style pulled noodles, Southeast Asian beef jerky,
and Asian-style ice cream including black sesame and lychee. The tour
will also include a Taiwanese tea service. Bring an open mind and an
Tours are scheduled every Wednesday starting the first week of July,
from 10 AM to 2 PM (unless otherwise noted) for a minimum of 8 and
maximum of 10 people. (Please note: autographed copies of Essentials of
Asian Cuisine, The Asian Grill (2006), and Noodles Every Day (2009) are
extra and available at a discounted price.) For more information
including cost or to arrange a private group tour, please email
email@example.com. Also feel free to browse through the website at http://www.corinnetrang.com/
Luke Nguyen in London
He is, for many of us, the face of Vietnamese food and
travel. His easy manner allows him to present informative yet engaging
TV programmes showing Vietnam, its food and its people in a positive
and inclusive fashion.
Luke was in London to promote his latest book, The Food of Vietnam (see
and I discovered that he
is indeed the same animated and convivial character in life as he is on
the small screen. What was his inspiration for the book? "I didn’t set
out to write a cookbook: it’s the culmination of all my research into
recipes, stories, family heirlooms, history, photography, and it was
just for my own development. Then I thought ‘Wouldn’t it be great to do
a book?’, and then, ‘Wouldn’t it be great to do a show?’ So it’s the
other way around from the usual format."
I asked Luke about the place of food in Vietnamese culture."I think
everybody in Vietnam is a foodie – it’s so much a part of our culture.
Growing up in Australia only a small percentage of people appreciated
good food and good produce; it’s getting bigger now, but in Vietnam –
indeedin Asia – food is everything. The greeting is ‘Have you eaten
yet?’ When we’re cooking breakfast we’re thinking ‘What shall we have
for lunch?’ and when we’re cooking lunch we’re thinking ‘What shall we
have for dinner?’ That’s my family – that’s Vietnam.
"My parents were both brought up in a market, and both their parents’
stallsspecialised in exotic fruits. Mother’s side was lychees,
rambutans, mangoes – the smaller fruits; father’s side was durian,
jackfruit – the big ones! My parents’ marriage was arranged, because
both families were in the business, so they have always been surrounded
by great produce, and an appreciation of great food.
"When they fled Vietnam my mother was nine-months pregnant with me and
I was born on the boat as we landed in Thailand. We stayed in a refugee
camp there before going to Australia, and because of theirpassion for
good food my parents eventually borrowed enough money to open their own
restaurant. I was raised in an area called Cabramatta in south-western
Sydney, where there was a big Vietnamese community, and I grew up in
"As soon as we could walk we were working, and I had a passion for food
and cooking. We didn’t have food suppliers: everyone would go out and
buy their own produce, so I learnt how to choose the perfect chilli, or
the perfect green mango, and I learnt how to balance the flavours,
which is very important in Vietnamese cuisine because it’s so refined.
From the age of ten I knew what I wanted to do: I wanted my own
restaurant, so I worked towards that.
"My parents didn’t want me to do it; they worked so hard because they
had no choice, it was all they knew, and they said to me: ‘You have
been brought up in Australia, with so many opportunities – why are you
doing this?’ I said, ‘Even though it’s low profit margin and hard work,
it’s what I want to do.’ So I saved up my money and opened Red Lantern
when I was 23, and haven’t stopped since."
Did Luke think that his young age gave him an advantage? "That’s the
time to do it, because you have no fears! There’s nothing to lose – you
don’t have children, you don’t own property, a car – what you have is
just the money you put into it. If I had to do it again now I wouldn’t
do it that way because I have so much to lose, but at that time I had
the courage to do it, so why not? The cooking world, the restaurant
world, or even home cooking – the beauty of it is that you never stop
learning. I find that still, every day, I’m learning about the business.
"I think the most important thing is the quality of the
product and the way we use it – to respect it and don't do too much to
it, or else the flavours that we put into it have to be very well
balanced and elegant. A lot of people ask me: ‘We know about Thai
cooking, it’s been around a while – what’s the difference between that
and Vietnamese, it’s all part of South-East Asia, isn’t it?’ When I eat
a Thai dish it’s amazingly flavourful: there’s the lemongrass, the
kaffir lime, the chilli, it’s really a ‘party in the mouth’, quite
strong. When you look at the ingredients in Vietnamese cuisine –
lemongrass, kaffir lime, chilli, galangal, ginger – they are much the
same, but it’s a little softer and more delicate, more refined. Why is
it more refined? Take a thousand years of Chinese rule, a hundred years
of French colonisation, influences from Thailand, Laos and Cambodia –
centuries of taking the best elements of all these to make Vietnamese
"I find it so fresh and elegant; it has flavour but you have to figure
out what it is, and I like that – just a suspicion of
something – which is why today Vietnamese cuisine is rising, and will
be the next after Chinese, Thai, Japanese. Our culture in the UK and in
Australia is about watching what we eat; we’re very knowledgeable about
how to eat well, very health-conscious, and Vietnamese is the perfect
cuisine for that. It’s light, fresh, lots of raw vegetables, lots of
salads, a lot of summer rolls – which is so good for you. The herbs are
very medicinal – when I was growing up my grandmother and my mum would
say not ‘Eat this because it’s tasty’ but ‘Eat this because it’s good
for you – it’s good for this, it’s good for that.’ And the up-side is
it all tastes good too. So it looks vibrant, incredibly colourful, it
tastes fantastic, and it’s healthy – there’s always a reason to eat
"In Australia, Vietnamese food is popular at the moment. Walking around
Londonand seeing what’s available I think it is going
to be the next big thing here. I almost want to jump in right now: give
me a space, I’ll do a pop-up and show people what Vietnamese food is
all about, and you guys will love it, although it may be a little
difficult to find saw-tooth coriander, perilla leaf, banana blossom,
green mango, green papaya. There is a cross-over between Indian and
Vietnamese cuisine. There is a big Indian community in Vietnam, so a
lot of our curries are Indian-based. Looking at all the influences in
Vietnamese cuisine, don’t forget that the Japanese were there, the
Americans, the French, it’s just so diverse.
"Vietnamese dishes are also very regional – my family is from the
South, so I grew up only knowing southern cuisine, and I needed to
expand my knowledge. I have been to Vietnam over and over again
documenting recipes and stories of these wonderful people. To me, food
is not just the dish, it’s all about the history, the story, the
culture behind it. I had gathered all this information, which is why
the book, The Food of Vietnam, is so big – it’s all in there!"
I asked Luke about his restaurants in Sydney. "Red Lantern is
essentially authentic Vietnamese cooking but in a
restaurantdiningenvironment. Traditionally all the dishes come at once
– meat, seafood, salad, vegetable, soup – it all balances out and
complements each other, and you eat with rice and you share. At the Red
Lantern it’s entrée, second, main course, dessert, wine-matching
– authentic recipes but Western presentation. We use the most fantastic
local produce: if you have a caramelised snakehead fish recipe and you
can’t get snakehead fish, I would use barramundi or perch, so it’s
adapting to local produce.
The first restaurant, Red Lantern on Crown, is in an old
heritage-listed building, with 40 seats, which I opened when
I was very young. It was about putting Vietnamese food out there to
Australians. Ten years on I had saved up enough to get something
bigger, and that is more Colonial French, because my food has evolved.
The more research I did, the more the first Red Lantern has become
focused onregional Vietnamese cuisines. Now doing more research again,
I am looking at the French influence – they were there for a hundred
years, how could they not have an impact? I have been to France to
reconfirm the connections, and that will be a new TV show, airing in
the UK maybe in January or February. So Red Lantern on Riley is very
much ‘Indochine’ style, and there’s a bar called Red Lily that offers
"Cooking and food is such a big part of Vietnamese culture, and I don’t
want to see it lost, like sumo wrestling is disappearing from Japanese
culture. I recently did a series on Masterchef Vietnam purely to put
the cuisine on the map, and it did really well because the Vietnamese
really love cooking – but not the younger generation. A ‘Masterchef
Junior’ just wouldn’t work. Kids don’t want to cook – they don’t know
how – and it’s really sad. In Saigon and Ho Chi Minh there are the
fast-food outlets now and I think, ‘Oh, no! What’s happening to our
"So I really want to urge the younger generation to keep cooking, which
is why my inspiration for my food programmes, my books and restaurants
is history – traditional, authentic cooking, heritage, there’s nothing
molecular or modern about it. It’s showing not just the young
generation but my generation how it’s done. How is rice cultivated? How
much work goes into it? How are noodles made? How is fish sauce made?
It’s so important to understand those things, to keep the traditions
"When I show young chefs our restaurant kitchen, they see someone using
a mortar and pestle and ask, ‘Why are you doing that for twenty
minutes, when you could just throw it in a food processor?’ Yes, you
can, but it will be quite different. There’s nothing like producing
your own paste, bringing it all together, incorporating all the
flavours – that’s the beauty of slow cooking. It’s a reminder of my
family – many aunties getting together in the kitchen, with multiple
mortars – it’s the noise, the music. It would be like cooking in a wok
without the roar of the flame."
I asked Luke about his earliest food memories. "My earliest memories
are of shopping. My parents had a hole-in-the-wall
restaurant; they didn’t care about the décor, it was all about
the food. I was told that my job was, say, to go and buy two kilos of
chillies. So I’d go out and scoop chillies from the stall until I had
two kilos, go home, and my mum would scold me: ‘Did you just scoop them
into your bag? Get back out there and choose the best chillies!’ So I
learnt to buy 100 grams from this shop, hand-picked, 50 grams from that
one, and so on until I had the best two kilos in town. In the same way
I learnt to pick green mangoes by smell, feel, colour -it was like an
apprenticeship. Then you learn to prepare them and balance the
flavours. It’s so important in this cuisine to train the palate, and
then you understand.
"Now, I can taste the expertise of the chef, I can tell where he has
been trained by the amount of fish sauce he uses, or oyster sauce –
things that you cannot learn by reading a recipe. The biggest challenge
is the balance of flavour, and learning the elegance of Vietnamese
cuisine. The texture is also important – it has to be right, be it
crunchy, crispy, silky, soft, gelatinous, glutinous, the elasticity –
it’s a big challenge.
"When I go visiting my family in Vietnam, I really want them to cook
dishes that their grandmother cooked. I always ask for that, and they
think about it, go to the markets (Vietnamese people go to the market
two or three times a day), and I see dishes that I have never seen in
the streets or in restaurants. I want to see them making things from
scratch – it takes a long time, but at least we know how to do it, like
making your own tofu, or ricecake flour. I loved doing that – a big pot
of boiling water, muslin cloth stretched out, steaming, drying in the
sun on a bamboo mat."
Luke Nguyen has a passion for the flavours, aromas, textures and
heritage of Vietnamese food. He conveys the subtleties of dishes and
the conviviality of meals. He is a worthy culinary ambassador, and one
should not separate the food of Vietnam from its warm and vibrant
Kaul at Chor Bizarre
This restaurant has long been a favourite. Chor Bizarre in
swanky Mayfair enjoys a reputation for excellent cuisine,
seamless service and an ambiance which is unique. Chor Bizarre is
We are blessed in London with a raft of good Indian restaurants and
this one has always been on that creditable list. It's noted not only
for its food but its decor. One enters at street level into an exotic
world of subcontinental charm. Here a table is not just a table but a
former window shutter, a table is not just a table but a four-poster
bed in another life. The restaurant is a textured tapestry of dark
carved wood, marble, tile, mirror. A meal at Chor Bizarre is a
There have been changes not only in the fabric of Chor Bizarre lately
but also in personnel. There is a new chef at the helm and he is
maintaining the high standards of Manpreet Singh, the previous
incumbent. Chef Sanjay Kaul is enthusiastic about his new charge.
Had Sanjay's family had anything to do with the food Industry? "Yes, my
father was a director of all the catering schools in India, and the
principal of two hotel management schools. He started in Delhi as a
kitchen instructor, and eventually became its principal. I followed his
example as far as the practical side was concerned, but I didn’t go
into teaching. He was an inspiration.
"I did a degree in business and commerce first; my father had told me
to do an MBA because the catering industry is a hard route. He had been
involved in teaching throughout his life, and said that if I was to
succeed I had to do well on the kitchen side. It was hard work, and I
did a management training programme at the Taj Palace in Delhi, and
then to ITC Sheraton – I worked at Bukhara under Chef Manjit Gill. He
gave me a big break by promoting me to run the restaurant at ITC
Rajputana in Jaipur. I also managed the well-known Great Kabab Factory
in the Radisson Hotel Delhi, and was a Master Chef with them.
"When I was at Bukhara, making the naan dough, you had to use your
hands, they would never allow anyone to use the dough mixer. You had to
feelthe elasticity of the dough, and my gurus teaching me there were
very strict on how to knead the 60 kilos of dough! Some things just
have to be done as they were a hundred years ago.
"I worked for a while in the UK with Wagamama, because I wanted the
experience of other Asian cuisines; and it’s very important to learn
the standards required in this country. I was senior sous-chef there
for four years, then, missing my home food, I returned to India to work
at the Habitat Centre for Mr. Rohit Khattar, and he gave me the
opportunityto come to Chor Bizarre in London as Chef."
How would Sanjay define the food at Chor Bizarre? "I worked in Germany
for three years: in Germany people often eat their curries with a
little cream ... but here you can’t do that – every second person knows
Indian food so well, and experimentation brings youinto the ‘fusion’
category. With a traditional restaurant like ours we stick to the
original. We have a ‘Chor Bizarre’ in Delhi, and another in Pune, so
it’s a well-known brand. This restaurant has completed 15 years, and we
have almost all the regional cuisines represented on the menu –
Kashmiri, South Indian, North Indian, and so on – a complete menu:
whatever you want, you can usually find.
We have Kerala Fish Moilee, Chutney Nadroo, Pepper Garlic Fried Prawns,
and amongst other things we have a good collection of Kashmiri dishes.
I think ours is the only restaurant in London that serves authentic
Kashmiri food, because the company in India has several hotels and
restaurants in Kashmir – Indian Srinagar – so they know what Kashmiri
dishes are all about. In fact my ancestors are from Kashmir, and I have
been eating Kashmiri food since I was small.We have a lot of expertise
here in this cuisine."
How does this chef describe the food of Kashmir? "Kashmiri
food is aboutmustard oil which has been tempered. It has a distinct
flavour: you heat the oil but don’t let it burn, let it cool a bit and
add some yoghurt or onions. Fennel (saunf) along with dry ginger powder
are the key ingredients, with onions and tomato. Rogan Josh is red from
chillies, and Yakhni is more of a yoghurt dish, white in colour; both
are tempered with mustard oil so that the distinct flavour can be
I wondered what proportion of diners at Chor Bizarre are Europeans.
"I’d say 60% of diners are not Indian – we have lots of Americans ...
it’s Mayfair, so there are all nationalities. We offer traditional
dishes, not fusion food, no deer meat, we offer what is well-known in
India. Those who dine at top restaurants in India will find the same
dishes here. We reduce the oil content, as people here are more
health-conscious, but customers do want the authentic taste.
"We slowly adapt and introduce a few dishes as required, although this
menu has done very well, and if there are slow-moving dishes we can
replace them. Our most popular dishes are the Chicken Chettinad and our
Sharabi Kababi chicken – a dash of spirits makes the difference. Rogan
Josh and Yakhni sell very well here and a lot of thought has gone into
this menu. Curries are more popular in this country than in India, and
you won’t find Chicken Tikka Masala in the same form there!
"If I’m eating out, I would rather go to a chef who gives me authentic
food, ‘like his mum cooked’ – if he forgets his way, he should go back
to what he has eaten at home, or perhaps street food. You find so many
stalls at the roadsides across Asia – freshly cooked, and it’s done
well. I love to cook biryani at home – it’s a complete meal. Cooking
rice is an art, especially in ‘dum’ (with a sealed lid). An excess of
anyingredientmight ruin the whole thing! Being of Kashmiri origin, I
love dal tadka (yellow dal), or anything spicy."
Although a loyal regular at Chor Bizarre in London, I had never
ventured to the lower level. This is now a striking private
dining area of great Bollywood character.
"We have just modified this room six months ago, totally redecorated,
and with photos of stars in the Indian movie industry, from owner Rohit
Khattar’s collection – heroes, villains, early and recent actresses – a
unique theme. It’s a private dining room, and we can use it if we are
full upstairs. There are about 95 covers all together." These portraits
chart Indian cinema from the days of its black and white infancy
through to the dash and dazzle of modern Bollywood block-busters. The
overall impression of this room is of themed opulence, of quirky
elegance. It works.
Chef Sanjay Kaul is a new chef here but there is so much that remains
unchanged at Chor Bizarre in Mayfair. The location is still unbeatable,
the quality is outstanding and the hospitality is still Old World. It
remains a winner.
Trishna has morphed into a group that now has a sister
restaurant, Gymkhana, in Mayfair and a more northern outpost
in Denmark. I guess that’s a surprising choice of location, but those
Danes shivering in snow-driven winters are bound to appreciate the
warming and aromatically spiced foods of the subcontinent.
There is also a new Group Head Chef for that expanded restaurant
collection, and he has been noted for his flavours and his thoughtful
presentation. He is Rohit Ghai and the name might be somewhat familiar,
as he is brother to Chef Sunil Ghai who has made a mark in the Indian
food industry in Dublin.
Rohit has had a creditable training from hotel companies in India
including the Taj group, which is famed for producing some of the most
recognised and successful chefs who now continue their careers all over
the world. Rohit has worked in London for a number of years with one of
the most celebrated Indian restaurants in the city, but now he is
taking more responsibility for the three Trishna projects, including
Verandah in Copenhagen.
Did Rohit encounter any unique problems when opening the Danish branch?
“When I arrived in Copenhagen I found so many difficulties there – I
couldn’t locate the specialist spices, and had to organise supplies
from London. But after two weeks I discovered a couple of people with
good contacts in India who can deliver just what we need.
“I found that Danish people didn’t know the Indian palate and culinary
traditions, the flavours and the balance, so I designed the menu around
‘basics’ – contemporary as well as traditional. Claus Meyer, the
co-founder of Noma, opened The Standard, which is a complex of three
restaurants: our Verandah, plus Almanak and, upstairs, Studio.” It’s a
new restaurant and the food
is unfamiliar to most Danes, but the reviews have already been positive.
I asked Rohit if he had changed much on the menu since arriving at
Trishna. “When I joined, the food was very simple because it’s broadly
a ‘coastal food’ concept, and I changed the presentation a little, but
I’m conscious of the expectations that customers have of a
Michelin-starred restaurant. These days, seasonality is very important
at a fine-dining establishment.
“For me, presentation is crucial. The plate has to be very tidy,
so that when it’s presented to the diner they will be happy with it.
The educated diner can be very critical, and if you can inspire them,
get their interest, before they even taste the food, you have a
Trishna has always had a good reputation for quality of food and
service, but in an intimate and cosy environment. It doesn’t glint with
polished candlesticks. The staff don’t hover in intimidating fashion.
Service is seamless and friendly but the food has always been the main
attraction and Rohit is ensuring that continuity.
Trishna offers special menus for occasions such as Diwali and game
season, but their standard fare will never disappoint. Rohit amuses the
diner with a miniature but perfectly executed Grouse and Guinea-fowl
samosa with plum chutney. A one-bite morsel but showing this chef’s
dexterity and humour. The scallop with puffed rice, spring onion and
moong dal was courageously spiced and probably the best scallop I have
had in several years.
Tandoori Grouse – Chivas-marinated tandoori grouse breast, grouse seekh
kebab served in a shot-glass, and garlic
pickle – was a striking and delicious presentation; but the Partridge
Pepper Fry with Keralan spices, black pepper and aromatic curry leaf is
good enough to be a signature dish …on a menu that offers so many
But Rohit is aware that, to many, Indian food is about comfort, so more
traditional ‘curry’ dishes are offered to diners with discerning
tastes. Malwani Jhinga Curry of prawns, malwani spices and coconut is
rich and offers the diner a bowl of accessible decadence. South Indian
Coast Lamb Curry offers those flavours which have defined Trishna, and
this lamb curry is memorable and moreish, and lighter than some
northern Indian versions. Our side dishes were the indispensible dal,
and okra with coconut.
Trishna has a Michelin star and Verandah will likely head in that same
direction, and that is a lot of culinary pressure for a young chef, but
Rohit Ghai has dedication, passion and an eye for flavourful
aesthetics. He will doubtless continue to make his mark.
Verandah, The Standard, Havnegade 44, 1058 Copenhagen, Denmark
The Dal Cookbook
We have always had those little red lentils on supermarket
shelves. They seemed to be the only ones available when I was growing
up. Mum would put them in a beef stew with half a cardboard tub of
yellow ‘curry powder’ and call it ‘Indian’. We would eat that with
mashed potatoes, as rice was for pudding.
Well the above recipe, although containing lentils, fell short of
authenticity on almost every count; but India does truly
have a wealth of lentil or dal recipes that offer a real taste of the
subcontinent in the most delicious and economic fashion.
Those red lentils are still found in supermarkets but these days they
will be flanked by packets of other varieties. The array might be
confusing to the novice dal cook, but they are all mild in flavour, and
some are interchangeable. It’s just as much about texture as taste.
The Dal Cookbook offers simple recipes for comforting and healthy food.
Spice adds vibrancy, and a raft of half a dozen or so spices will
enable the home cook to produce every recipe in this book. Buy your
spices in plastic bags from an Asian food market, as they will likely
be a lot cheaper than collecting those little glass jars. You know the
ones: you still have paprika from that range and it’s gone pink with
age. Don’t display spices in sunlight, and don’t use out-of-date spices
as they lose their kick.
So buy those spices with confidence, as these recipes will have you
using them frequently and to great advantage. Part of that advantage is
financial. Money is tight these days and food prices have taken an
unseemly hike, of late. Lentils provide one-pot meals that are
comforting – the sort of food that one craves on cold winter nights,
and one doesn’t have to be Madhur Jaffrey to produce them. Author
Krishna Dutta has selected dishes that can easily be rustled up in a
The book is divided by region, and there are even some dal dishes that
one recognises from restaurant menus. However, one doesn’t need a
professional kitchen to tackle these lentils. Many of them just need a
largish pot and perhaps a small pan …and a hob. The Dal Cookbook would
be a gift welcomed by anyone with limited access to a fully-equipped
kitchen. The basics are, well, basically, cook lentils till done with
spices; add veggies. Sounds simple, and it is, but the results of your
minimal exertions will be flavourful and memorable.
I have several favourites from The Dal Cookbook including Lentil Kutu
with Green Beans, which makes a marvellous side dish served with just a
bowl of rice, and perhaps some chicken roasted with Indian spices.
Tadka Dal is an indispensible part of many traditional Indian meals –
it’s delightfully rich with a finish of cream. But my pick-of-the-book
is Matar Peas Paneer. It’s green peas with Indian cheese, and it’s a
hearty one-pot meal that could always be served with some Indian bread
or rice. It’s colourful and satisfying.
Grub Street always publishes thoughtfully selected books that are great
value for money, and this one costs less than £17.00. The Dal
Cookbook is a winner.
The Dal Cookbook
Author: Krishna Dutta
Published by: Grub Street
The Food of Vietnam
We in the UK, and in London in particular, are blessed
with ingredients from across the globe, and with restaurants
popular as we prize its vibrant
flavours, Japanese cuisine is demanding notice and presenting delicate
tastes. Chinese restaurants have long graced high-streets and now there
are authentic and classic dishes from that country found in most cities.
But what of Vietnamese food? A few restaurants have now opened up, and
the ingredients for this fascinating food can be found in Asian stores
and online, but it could be the next big restaurant and home-cooking
trend. Luke Nguyen and his TV programmes have done much to raise
awareness of Vietnamese dishes as well as the country, which is more
accessible to the European tourist than ever.
Luke has penned several books and the latest addition to his list of
culinary tomes is The Food of Vietnam. This guy must be considering
retiring from cookbook writing as this masterwork seems like it would
be hard to better! To call it a coffee table book would diminish its
evident worth, although if one was to screw a table leg on each corner
of this mammoth volume then one would indeed have a coffee table.
The Food of Vietnam appeals on so many levels. Yes, it’s a cookbook
strewn with tempting plates and all achievable by the European home
cook. It’s also a travelogue taking the armchair tourist on a delicious
amble across the Vietnamese landscape. It’s a personal and family
culinary history with anecdotes and humour that engage the reader in
charming fashion. This would be a wonderful gift for anyone planning a
trip to Vietnam or who has returned from an adventure there, as well as
any home cook who would like to try this tapestry of Vietnamese recipes.
The book is divided by region and one notes the difference in produce
and style of cooking. There is an abundance of seafood used and one can
substitute one’s local fish for the more exotic originals. The
vegetables are fresh and vibrant and healthy, showing influences from
all Vietnam’s neighbours and the French as well, in this colourful
collection. The cuisine is contemporary and exciting.
Luke Nguyen has a talent for painting a picture with words. Vietnamese
food isn’t just a selection of ingredients, it’s just as much about
culture, sharing, continuity and pride. He brings to life personal
stories of ordinary folk who are selling food from carts and markets,
and making remarkable dishes at home.
The Food of Vietnam is more than cookbook: it’s an introduction to a
country and its people, who seem to be eating rather well.
The Food of Vietnam
Author: Luke Nguyen
Published: Hardie Grant Books
Dr Wong Lai Sum
CEO, Malaysia External Trade
Food and partnership – a recipe
Malaysia Night has become an eagerly anticipated event for
Londoners who crave the distinctive flavours of that peninsular. It
attracts locals, tourists and even Malaysians who support this
delicious initiative. We met Dr Wong Lai Sum, CEO, Malaysia External
Trade Development Corporation, who took a brief pause to talk to us
about this fascinating and gentle land that has an increasingly
elevated standing in the Asian arena of trade, technological
manufacture, and food and tourism.
Dr Wong is a diminutive dynamo of energy and enthusiasm
for the promotion of all things Malaysian. “My visit
to the UK is timed to coincide with the Malaysia Night event in
Trafalgar Square on Friday 4th October. This is the fourth time we have
held this and we are pleased to have this ‘night out’ with our friends
from Great Britain. It is for us a very engaging platform – people can
meet and get to know one another better, through our cuisine. Both our
Prime Ministers are enthusiastic about increasing trade between our
countries and we share such a long history that we decided to carry on
that tradition and remain close to one another, and that’s one of the
reasons that we are having the Malaysia Night. It is of great strategic
importance: if you look across all the events planned by Malaysian
agencies and ministries I think the UK ranks very highly. It’s an
investment on our part and we would like to see it grow.
“At this time of the year there are an amazing number of visitors in
the UK, and this is one reason why we are holding the Malaysia Night
just now: to invite tourists visiting Britain to come and visit us.
People cannot possibly collaborate and do business and become friends
if they do not begin with partnerships, and that is what we are trying
to build. If you want to know what this night is about, it’s about
building linkages, providing that platform for people to see that the
country has diversity and racial harmony; we are very friendly, and we
love inviting our friends to Malaysia. The airlines have been invited
to be a part of it, and the restaurants are there so even if you can’t
go to Malaysia you can take a bite of Malaysia here in London.
“If I’m asked to describe the cuisine of Malaysia, I say it’s three
cultures in one mouthful – Malay, Indian and Chinese! It’s pretty
simple, and in that sense we offer great value. Why did we choose food?
If you have a good mind experience and stomach experience in a
particular place your palate is overwhelmed and you become enamoured of
that country, and you want to be a part of it.
“Yesterday we had lunch at Selfridges, and on the menu was Malay Curry,
Char Kuey Teow, Malaysian Curry Laksa, and Nasi Goreng, and I think
that demonstrates Malaysian cuisine coming into maturity. I would like
to flood your whole market with Malaysian restaurants, but that is not
going to be the way to get people to eat Malaysian. The idea is
developing relationships, getting people to bring home a piece of
Malaysia. People want to eat Malaysia – instead of ‘chicken tonight’ it
could be ‘Malaysia tonight’. Why roast turkey in the traditional way
when you can serve it at Christmas the Malaysian way?
“We want to generate a taste for Malaysian cuisine so you
can embrace it, and now you can find those flavours all
over the UK in supermarkets. When I first went to Wing Yip’s there were
a few pastes and sauces from Malaysia, but now there are rows of
products, and I was really pleased by the fact that these actually
sold, and people really came to buy them! These and non-food products
are now available online through Amazon, and Wing Yip’s are looking at
selling them online – that’s ‘making it in the market’. We hope that
when people keep seeing the word ‘Malaysia’ they will come and visit
us, come and do business with us.
“We involved the restaurants in the Malaysia Night event because before
you can get people to cook Malaysian they have to know how it tastes.
Not everybody cooks, and they need to get a mouthful of what we are
about, and that’s an opportunity to get it. Social media has been
active in promoting the event, and that’s the way to get people engaged.
“Food is everywhere – Malaysians just love to eat! You can stay at a
5-star international hotel in Malaysia for a song – we are among the
lowest price in South-east Asia but our service is top-class. At the
same time we are able to cater to your western palate, even if you want
a shepherd’s pie – but you might have to take it with a twist!” We all
laugh at that prospect.
“There are lots of visitors who come from Europe to Malaysia every year
and we would like to encourage people to spend the coldest months in
our country. At the same time we have plenty of people who come from
Malaysia to London at Christmas, we love Christmas in London – it’s not
just one-way traffic. That helps us all to draw closer together.
“Malaysian companies are fairly well invested in the hospitality
industry in the UK, and we link it with food and cuisine. We have a
knack of producing great confectionery – we don’t have your quality of
milk, but we buy milk from Europe and we produce great chocolates! We
make very good quality cocoa, and we manufacture very good cocoa butter
– some of the cocoa butter available in the UK comes from Malaysia, and
is used in skin-care as well as food applications.
“There is some Malaysian food that comes into the UK in the form of
ingredients that many people are not aware of. For example, palm oil:
our palm oil often comes in as speciality fats – some is used for
cooking but a lot is used in pastries and confectionery. We invest
here, and we seek investment from British companies into Malaysia,
levering on the fact that we are right in the heart of ASEAN (the
Association of Southeast Asian Nations) – we are smack in the middle of
On my last visit to Malaysia I had the chance to taste many Peranakan
dishes and these are unique to the Malay peninsula. Dr Wong told me
more about this extraordinary community and their vibrant food. “When
the Chinese first came from the Fujian province in around the 15th
century, there were a lot of intermarriages (because people get
lonely!). One of the Chinese emissaries was Princess Hang Li Poh, and
to get diplomatic relations going in those days people got married!
Very uniquely the Peranakans do not speak Chinese; they adapted to the
local culture and speak Malay. They dress in a unique way, and have effectively
their cuisine you get the hot,
the spicy, the sour, and, interestingly, the Chinese aspects too! And
the pottery in which it is served is very much Chinese; however, the
cooking is rather Malay mixed with Chinese. In a way it’s fusion, but
it came about in the 15th century.”
Malaysia has coast and farmland and provides fresh produce for many
is cuisine from region to
region? “Absolutely. For example on the east coast there is a dish
called Nasi Dadang – trade rice – so-called because the traders used to
carry it on their journeys. The people of the east coast were mostly
fishermen, and they would preserve the fish by deep-frying and pounding
it, mixing it with rice, blue colouring from flowers, and fragrant
herbs. As you move further down the coast to Pahang the colour changes
– it is no longer blue but white. Take Assam Laksa or Penang Laksa: if
you go south to Johor the original noodles were not available so they
use flat cut noodles and cook it with coconut and fish.”
I was in Malaysia a few months ago, and I noted on my return to the UK
that it seemed to be referred to as ‘that country next to Singapore’ –
no, Malaysia is Malaysia. Singapore is sometimes seen as a polished gem
but Malaysia is that hidden one! Hidden in plain view and it should not
be overlooked. It’s a country of such natural beauty and with such
cultural and gastronomic diversity. It’s a warm and welcoming haven for
those who want to enjoy some of the best that Asia has to offer, and
all in one country.
Dr Wong flies the Malaysian flag for food tourism and much more. “We
not only want to promote Malaysia as a stopover, but also as a great
place to do business – in and with. For a long time people described
Malaysia as ‘that land-mass between Thailand and Singapore’, but over
time, as people come to know Malaysia better, they recognise our
strengths: many people speak English, so there are no difficulties with
communication; there’s no problem of training the work force; we have
more land available than some other ASEAN countries; looking at
services, we are quite strong in banking, in logistics and ICT
(Information and Communication Technologies). Malaysia has special
qualities, and we are not just that ‘land-mass’.
“Other agencies and ministries like the Ministry of Tourism are
organising a number of events. The Ministry of Culture organised
‘Malaysia Culture Week’, then there is Malaysia Night, and then there
will be a whole month of art shows. This is about building links,
because only when people understand how rich each other’s culture is
can they start digging deeper. We have capabilities in Malaysia to
produce even equipment for the aerospace industry – there’s a lot of
interest from British companies to come over and invest in Malaysian
aerospace, and we encourage that. The market today is not just about
the United Kingdom, nor Europe, it’s about the whole Asia-Pacific, and
the whole world.”
There are indeed many Indian restaurants named after
buildings, but unlike curry houses claiming to be the Taj Mahal,
Dockmaster’s House truly is the house of a dockmaster …or at least it
London’s Dockland has had a history of vibrant
around leisure rather than heavy labour. For centuries these docks
bustled with stevedores unloading cargo from around the world and some
of that would likely have been exotic spices, so there is a degree of
The striking brick building that is now home to the Dockmaster’s House
restaurant is a listed three-storey model of Georgian architecture.
Built 200 years ago it has gone through several incarnations including
that of a pub called the Jamaica Tavern, and in 1926 the building
became the offices for the Dock Superintendent and his staff; it
remained a dock office until 1980.
A remarkable building deserves a chef of equal stature and it has just
that in the guise of chef Navin Bhatia. No, you don’t see him gracing
your TV screens and his name might not be familiar to most regular
restaurant-goers. He is, however, one of the most respected chefs in
contemporary Indian restaurant circles. He has the highest of culinary
Navin attended the Institute of Hotel Management
the prestigious Oberoi School of
Hotel Management. (It has changed its name since then, and is now known
as The Oberoi Centre of Learning and Development.) That temple of
gastronomic excellence has turned out some of the world’s finest chefs.
Navin came to London in 1998 and he got the opportunity in 2006 to come
to Dockmaster’s and redevelop the place from its previous existence as
a ‘curry house’. Over these past years it has gained a reputation for
quality restaurant dining as well as providing excellent catering for
events, including weddings. The building lends itself to smart soirees,
with much of that Georgian grandeur remaining, but now trimmed with
Dockmaster’s House is a superb spot for summer dining and even
barbecues, as there is a quiet garden that invites warm-weather
lingering. That verdant space still enhances the restaurant ambiance
with the onset of cooler weather: it’s delightfully lit by night,
creating a romantic and calming vista.
Navin Bhatia takes his inspiration from across India and he is
imaginative. We attended an event for Zomato, the new
to shine still
further and ring some changes to an already mouth-watering bill of
fare. I particularly enjoyed Prawn Balchao, a traditional spicy prawn
curry from Goa. It’s a unique dish often described as a pickle with
sweet and sour flavours. On this evening it was presented on a steamed
bun that offered a foil to the heat of the prawns. Very different from
the expected rice but this bread worked admirably.
Sea Bass with Malabari Coconut Sauce was acclaimed by the whole table
as a triumph. Navin has a deft hand with the spice tray – this dish was
well-balanced and delicious. The sauce was the kind that one would eat
even without the garnish of succulent fish, and indeed eat by the
bucketful. This should be a signature dish and you won’t want to miss
this on your visit to Dockmaster’s House.
Lamb rump was our main course and each slice was cooked to a delicate
pink and with a rich sauce that enhanced the flavour. A pastry-topped
biryani was the side dish, although that golden-crested bowl of rice
would have been a very acceptable stand-alone meal. With every course,
each jockeying for position to be the favourite for the evening, came
an introduction or an anecdote from Chef Navin.
Dockmaster’s House has architectural charm by the boatload, the food is
memorable and noteworthy, but perhaps the biggest asset of this fine
restaurant is its chef. Navin Bhatia has an easy way with his guests;
he is a natural speaker and a fine ambassador for his restaurant and
for Indian food, for which he shows so much enthusiasm.
For lunch or dinner, the Courtesy Car Service to and from Dockmaster’s
House will pick up diners from anywhere in Canary Wharf and surrounding
areas and take them straight to the restaurant free of charge. To book
the car, phone: 020 7345 0345.
1 Hertsmere Road
London E14 8JJ
Phone: 020 7345 0345
The name is somewhat familiar but the celebrated Imli has
now graduated to a rather urbanly sophisticated Imli Street. Both
the menu and décor have changed but the assured quality remains
the same. It’s part of the Tamarind Collection and its illustrious
parent, Tamarind of Mayfair, sports a Michelin star.
Imli Street occupies an enviable plot on Wardour Street in Soho. This
corner of that colourful neighbourhood still offers clues to its
cinematic past, with a ‘Film House’ just along the road. There will be
few of my readers who will remember the ubiquitous ads between the B
and the A film; that promoter had an address in Wardour Street and its
productions represented the face of the ‘swinging 60s’.
That thoroughfare has changed and now shows a different facet of
vibrant London life. We have a restaurant scene that is considered to
be the most exciting, eclectic and vibrant in the world. Imli Street is
at the forefront of a new breed of Indian restaurants that are
dedicated to making culinary and design statements. It presents good
food that happens to be Indian, in a space that is distinctly urban.
The new-look Imli Street has a broad focus on Indian food, which
Coastal Shacks: Celebrating India’s vast coastline and beaches
Food Carts/Dhabas: found on roadsides and streets, creating urban
Railway Cuisine: In India food is a big part of long trips, and most
railway stations have become famous for their iconic and varied dishes
Beyond Borders: Sub-continental influenced food - the cuisines of
We were looking for breakfast at Imli Street and it was bound to be
noteworthy. People have, in the past, joked about English food but we
do in fact have a number of dishes sporting the additional moniker of
‘English’. We have English mustard, English muffins (although these are
also crumpets or pikelets), sauce anglaise (custard if you are from
the British); …and
then there is the ‘Full English’, for which we are famed.
Imli Street is unapologetically Indian but its location allows it to
include some British favourites, and one of those is the traditional
breakfast, here called the IS Breakfast. It is a spread to gladden the
heart of any ‘Full English’ aficionado. Tourists will appreciate
the chance to graze on this iconic meal at a price far lower than their
hotel might demand: Eggs, Sausage, Bacon, Mushrooms, Beans, Toast,
available from 8am – the plate is bound to be popular.
If the Full Monty is a bit too full-on then there are other traditional
grilled options at Imli Street. Open Toasted Sandwiches of Bacon and
Poached Egg with Hollandaise Sauce,
Bacon and Melted Chilli Cheese with Chutney, Sausage and Fried Egg with
Chutney. The addition of chutney adds a hit of Anglo-Indian to this
breakfast bill-of-fare. There are the usual baked goods and cereals for
the less adventurous, and then there are some sub-continental
Warm Rice Pudding with Goji Berries makes for a sustaining breakfast
that takes advantage of an old-fashioned dessert staple, which works
well even at an early hour. It has a soft and comforting texture and
it’s perhaps a surprise that it’s not a regular part of morning menus
across all ethnic persuasions.
Pancakes have long been popular, and in particular with
those visitors from across the pond. Perhaps they would be
In contrast to Indian Railways, British Rail and its descendants never
has had a positive culinary reputation, and actually gave birth to the
‘curly sandwich’ of dry bread and scarce filling. Imli Street offers
morning diners a taste of delicious exotica in the guise of a Railway
Omelette, with a slice of bread tucked inside its coriander-flecked
cooked eggs. This is distinctly Indian; the flavours and filling are
well-balanced and this homage to Indian railway catering is far more
interesting than a European version.
Bombay Toast can be ordered either sweet or savoury and is a take on
the more usual French Toast. Chilli Cheese Toast Soldiers is
deliciously mildly spiced and a real winter warmer; it would be a
substantial breakfast if one added some Crispy Potatoes and Fried Onion
Bits. Committed carnivores could have some sausage or bacon on the side.
The new Imli Street is retaining those faithful Imli diners of its
first incarnation and attracting new regulars who appreciate its fresh
city-inspired look and broad menu. Tamarind quality continues, but Imli
Street stays unique and confident.
Tamarind of Mayfair - Early
or Late, and always on time
Tamarind has long enjoyed a reputation for excellence and
it’s been a deserved but hard- won accolade. Competition is fierce but
Tamarind of Mayfair is thriving and has indeed blossomed into a
creditable collection, which includes a Tamarind in the US along with
Imli Street in Soho; Zaika in Knightsbridge has recently joined the
group which now covers every style concept of Indian food.
Executive Chef Alfred Prasad, along with Director &
Head Chef Peter Josephs at Tamarind of Mayfair is at the sharp end
here, and he ensures that day-to-day continuity of quality.
Yes, this is Mayfair and yes, Tamarind is the first Indian restaurant
in the world to have been awarded a Michelin star (it remains as one of
only half a dozen to hold the accolade), so one would assume that it
might take either a lottery win or the generosity of your favourite
uncle to facilitate a meal here. Well, actually, no!
Tamarind has done much to elevate the reputation of Indian food in the
UK. That glittering distinction has helped, but they still strive to
introduce a growing audience to traditional Indian food served with
flair, pride and imagination. To this end they offer a remarkable early
or late menu with theatre-goers in mind, although you won't be asked to
present your tickets for row B seat 17 to take advantage of this offer.
A menu for £28.50 per person is available between 5.30pm and
6.45pm and from 10:00pm to 10:45pm. (Minimum order 2 people, maximum
group size 6 people; tables are limited to 1½ hours.) There is a
good selection of dishes on offer which will give the diner a condensed
overview of the genre of food here, and at a price that will be just as
appealing as the bill of fare.
Many dishes at Tamarind draw on the culinary traditions of the North of
India, with tender meats cooked in comforting sauces as well as
slow-cooked and rich lentils. There is an extensive menu to appeal to
every taste, from the robustly spiced to the mild and aromatic.
The tandoor (traditional clay oven) has centre-stage in the kitchen,
although in truth it’s geographically more towards the front with a
window onto the restaurant. Meat, fish and breads are grilled to
perfection by chefs who have the skill to add a delicate char and
tempting perfume to anything on a skewer.
Tamarind evidently upholds the Indian philosophy of Atithi devo bhava,
the guest is God. They have retained dishes on the menu simply because
they are so often requested, and no request seems too much trouble.
Service is attentive but discreet and the staff here understand the
food and can offer advice on wine pairing. The restaurant buzzes with
animated conversation from the many regulars and all the others, who
will likely become just that. The walls are a restful muted gold and
tables are well spaced. This is comfy opulence and a non-theatre
evening will have guests lingering from early to late, with no pressure
from waiters eager for another sitting. You are welcome to stay for the
I can recommend the whole menu at Tamarind as it’s
universally delightful, with never a dish that strikes an iffy note,
spiced chickpeas, whole-wheat crisps, mint chutney and sweetened
yoghurt topped with blueberries and tamarind chutney is a must-try
starter to nibble with a glass of something refreshing.
Grilled Scallops seasoned with mixed peppercorns, fennel and star
anise, topped with oven-roasted peppers and served with smoked tomato
chutney is refined and memorable.
Pudhina Chops must surely be a signature dish. Exceptionally tender
lamb chops are marinated and then grilled in the tandoor to produce
probably the best lamb chop of any culinary hue in this part of London,
and perhaps beyond.
Paneer is an Indian pressed cottage cheese. It’s a mild ingredient that
is a marvellous carrier of more vibrant flavours. Tamarind serves cubes
of paneer with red onions and green peppers simmered in an aromatic
sauce with tomato and spices.
Another vegetarian dish that has long been a favourite with Tamarind
regulars is Baingan Bharta - smoked aubergine pulp with garlic, red
chilli, turmeric, cumin and fresh coriander leaves. This is addictive
with comforting texture and distinctive flavour.
Boneless lamb braised with ginger, browned onions, tomatoes and
Kashmiri chillies is my pick of the restaurant. The meat is melting and
the sauce rich and silky with plenty of balanced heat from the chillies.
Fish lovers are not forgotten and I can recommend Tali
mango on a sauce of tomato with mustard, curry leaves and coconut. Sea
bass has become ubiquitous and it is a firm sweet fish that tempts
those who appreciate all things piscatorial, and doesn't alarm those
who would normally avoid anything that swims. But it's so often a
boring also-ran on a menu, seeming like a high-end necessity, a dish
for which the chef evidently had little enthusiasm. Tamarind’s bass is
thoughtfully presented and could convert a carnivore. It's
unapologetically delicious, moist and fresh-tasting.
Desserts in Indian restaurants are too often predictable and
unimaginative but Tamarind has Stewed Pears; that doesn't sound very
exotic until one adds star anise and cloves and serves that rosy fruit
with a Fennel & Ginger ice cream. I might change the name from
Stewed to Poached for the sake of literary refinement but the dish
itself needs no alteration.
Tamarind is iconic but doesn't rest on its laurels. It continues to be
loved by its diners and respected by its emulators. It remains a
significant gem in London's crown of fine restaurants.
Sunday to Friday lunch: Midday to 2.45pm
Monday to Friday dinner: 5.30pm to 11.00pm
Saturday dinner: 5.30pm to 11.00pm
Sunday dinner: 6.00pm to 10.30pm
Tamarind of Mayfair
20 Queen Street
London W1J 5PR
It’s a cookbook by the celebrated Indian TV chef Sanjeev
Kapoor, so it’s bound to be full of delicious innovation and
temptation. But my dear reader will be thinking the master has
overstepped the mark with this one: The Yellow Chilli Cookbook? How
many recipes contain yellow chilli?
Perhaps a timely word of culinary explanation is needed here. It isn’t
the recipes that contain yellow chilli but more
accurately Yellow Chilli that contains the recipes. Yellow Chilli is a
chain of successful casual restaurants that are found in India and,
increasingly, beyond. The book offers an insight into the bill of fare
for those of us who, as yet, have not had the pleasure of visiting a
This is undoubtedly an Indian cookbook but these days the ingredients
are almost universally available. Tawa Aloo Jeera could likely be made
with spices already in a Western store cupboard. These cumin-flavoured
baby potatoes could constitute part of an Asian meal but would also
work well in place of roast potatoes with your traditional Sunday joint.
Sanjeev Kapoor’s Chicken Chettinad is vibrant with those spices that
make this cuisine so prized. Yes, there is a sizeable list of
ingredients but those spices are inexpensive and easily available, and
once you have them you will be able to turn your attention to many of
the other recipes in this book. This is a perfect Northern winter
warmer and chicken is still one of the most economic non-vegetarian
Another ingredient to spin-out the housekeeping money is minced lamb.
In truth Sanjeev suggests minced mutton and that is available in some
specialist butchers and Asian markets, but lamb is found everywhere.
The flavour will not be so pronounced but it will still work in Keema
Hari do Pyaaza. The main flavourings here are onions (that’s the pyaaza
element) and chillies which offer both heat and remarkable taste.
My pick of the book and a truly outstanding entertaining dish is Chandi
Korma. Its garnish of silver varq will reinforce the impression of rich
extravagance and it is edible, but the dish will become a favourite
even without the glittery bits. It’s not only the shimmer of silver,
though, that is royal. It’s well-laced with mawa (a condensed dairy
product), and cheese and nuts. A little goes along way and it will be a
Sanjeev Kapoor is perhaps the most recognised face in India and was
even voted the Man Most Trusted. He is a trained chef rather than a TV
presenter drafted for the job. His recipes are as trustworthy as he,
and indeed his international audience is increasing with Yellow Chilli
restaurants arriving outside India. This is real Indian food which is
displayed with flair and good taste – a classic culinary jewel in a
The Yellow Chilli Cookbook
Author: Sanjeev Kapoor
Published by: Popular Prakashan
Price: Rs 595/-
Visit Sanjeev Kapoor here
Visit Yellow Chilli here
Taoka of Kiku – Fish aficionado
Kiku is a Japanese restaurant conveniently located near
Green Park station in Mayfair, and at the top of Half Moon Street. It’s
one of the quieter thoroughfares, but popular with ‘them in the know’
as it’s the home of this exceptional eatery. I wonder why it isn’t more
celebrated, but perhaps those regulars have the right idea: enjoy Kiku
but say nothing lest increased fame change its quality, ambiance or,
heaven forbid, its prices!
Kiku was first established in Mayfair in 1978 and has gained a
reputation for serving authentic Japanese cuisine. The owners,
Mariko and Hisashi Taoka, are dedicated to presenting the freshest of
food in a calming cocoon of blond wood. Mariko oversees front of house
and seems to know many of her diners personally. She manages to
maintain the sense of a traditional Japanese restaurant but in such a
charming fashion that the Japanese food virgin need not feel
intimidated by what might be an unfamiliar menu.
The restaurant is unmistakably Japanese; the upper level is artfully
designed to allow for perching at the sushi bar, and that level also
has regular table seating. The ground floor is the principal dining
area, and there is a room for private functions. It’s a light and
contemporary space that is uncluttered without being too zen and
clinical. It sports none of those sunken seat wells that have become
ubiquitous in other Japanese-esque restaurants. I prefer a regular
chair or a cushion, both of which offer at least the possibility of an
elegant ascent and exit. Kiku has regard for the comfort and dignity of
Kiku diners are both Japanese and non-Japanese. The Embassy is just a
few yards along Piccadilly and I know that the restaurant has devoted
followers associated with various embassy departments. One is reassured
when one discovers national groups enjoying food in their own culinary
establishments. I assume they know more about the food than do I, and
Kiku attracts some knowledgeable and supportive Japanese
Yes, this is Mayfair and the home of the polished, posh and pricey, and
perhaps that’s the reason why Kiku has endured and thrived. Its menus
are deliciously accessible without the need of a second mortgage. The
lunch menu offers dishes that I have not found elsewhere – simple yet
authentic fare that will gladden the heart of anyone looking for real
Japanese food at a reasonable price and preferably not served on a
plastic tray covered with plastic wrap and tasting of …well, plastic.
Dinner can be as rustic or elaborate as one would like.
Hisashi Taoka is a fascinating man with an extraordinary talent and
passion for fish. His enthusiasm is infectious and his engaging manner
enthrals even those listeners who would normally find the piscatorial
world underwhelming. He has spent his life buying fish, selling fish,
and eating fish (and good food of every hue).
Hisashi was no stranger to London even before he set up in business
here. He came as a student working towards his graduate thesis; on his
return to Japan he joined a company that periodically sent him back to
these shores. “I eventually joined my father’s business. He had a small
Japanese inn, the Mikuniya ryokan. I tried to run the company, but that
didn’t go well so he gave me some capital to help me start up my own
business, and I came back to the UK.
“I had for many years been looking for a place to set
up, and eventually I found one in White Horse Street, Mayfair. Then an
investment company took the property over, and about 16 years ago we
moved to our present location in Half Moon Street.
“I knew the taste of Japanese food more than the average
every day three fishermen’s wives and different
fish merchants came to my father’s ryokan, so ever since I was small I
could recognise the best quality fish, and every day I had the chance
to see how it was prepared. The fish markets were near to my home so I
became familiar with every kind of seafood.
“I had a fish shop in Billingsgate market for 3 years and I also
imported Japanese food and sake. I developed the tuna fish element of
the business and became a consultant for fishing in Malta. It was 1996
when I was asked to advise Algeria, first with sea-urchin fishing and
later with tuna fishing, but security issues were a problem –
terrorists were targeting tourists. The Japanese embassy telephoned me
to say, ‘Don’t go!’; the Algerian embassy said, ‘Don’t come!’, but I
went anyway. It was difficult to find a fishing boat, but this was the
first breakthrough for Algeria. Libya asked us for help to export fish,
but again security was an issue.
“Six or seven years ago the Egyptians asked me to help, and I gave
advice on the octopus and tuna fishing. I worked with them to set up a
factory, establishing the standards that enabled them to export their
products. I taught them how to control the quality on the boat so they
could get a much better price.”
In fact on cross-questioning one realises that Hisashi Taoka has worked
as a consultant in the fishing industry across the globe and can talk
with authority about business practices and risks. He had to come to
terms with the shadier elements of Sicilian society when he was taken
on a sightseeing tour. His host showed Hisashi the extent of his
business interests - ‘This is the sea: MY sea; we catch the fish: they
are MY fish.’”
Although still a respected fish expert, Hisashi spends more time
looking after local projects and the Kiku fish supply, rather than
risking life and limb in potential war zones or criminal strongholds.
“I used to go to the airport, pick up tuna and take it to the Japanese
fish merchant, although I would cut the fish up myself, because I think
I can do this better than most! Some fish merchants who set up here
don’t really know the fish very well, so I am often asked to help.”
Fish will always be close to the culinary heart of Hisashi, but he
loves food in all its guises. As a young man he says he would spend all
his cash on food, trying new restaurants and returning to favourites.
He has an educated palate for all cuisines, not just for classic
Japanese dishes. I asked Hisashi if he felt that the subtleties of
Japanese gastronomy were best displayed by Japanese chefs. “One of my
old friends, a chef in this country, now works at a Japanese fish
merchant. The merchant had several restaurants and once or twice a week
the chef had to visit to check the consistency of dishes because the
taste would change. A non-Japanese chef, although working in a similar
fashion to a Japanese chef, might revert to his own mother’s taste
references. It’s very difficult to set a standard for the authentic
Hisashi definitely has well-practised Japanese cuisine
“I, with the chef and some help from Japan,
considered what ingredients we could get here. For example, looking at
squid, there are more than 120 types and only a few are available from
Cornwall. Similarly, cuttlefish: we had to find recipes to suit the
catch. Squid is seasonal, too, so we take them at the best time, and
freeze them. We used to do the same with salmon, or we would bring them
in from overseas – luckily I knew how to arrange the import of the best
fish. Our main menu does not change much, but on the other menus we
change items every couple of weeks, and if any dish is popular with our
diners it may find its way onto the main menu.
“I choose all the fish, vegetables and meat that we use at the
restaurant. I was the first to import black cod into this country in
1990. It came from Alaska via Japan to the UK. It was much appreciated
by our Japanese customers. At that time we had a very shabby location
for our restaurant in a side street, so not many people knew what we
It’s evident that fish is still the core of the Kiku business, and they
have the advantage over many other Japanese restaurants, or fish
restaurants of other culinary persuasions: they have Hisashi to
safeguard the quality of ingredients. But the customer is the honoured
guest at Kiku. Hisashi explains his philosophy. “I tell the staff to
put themselves in the customer’s place, and to remember the customer
only wants the best.”
Covers: 96 seats including 15 at the counter and 10 in an intimate
private dining room.
Kiku Japanese Restaurant
17 Half Moon Street, London W1J 7BE
Phone: 020 7499 4208
Visit Kiku here
Trishna – Michelin in Marylebone
Village- Asian Food review
Trishna was awarded its first Michelin star last September
but to those in the know it’s always been special. Yes, special’s
the word, but in a subtle and understated fashion.
This is as far from your old-fashioned stereotypical Indian restaurant
as you could imagine. It spans the temperature spectrum for ambiance,
being cool in both colour and trend, and warm in hospitality.
Trishna has that well-deserved Michelin star, and furthers the cause of
having Indian cuisine taken seriously – it’s a classic and stands
shoulder to shoulder with French, which has too long held the world in
awe of its refined recipes. Look to the subcontinent, mes amis, and
find equal gastronomic excellence.
Trishna’s interior was created by B3 Designers. Its clean and
minimalist feel is offset by tumbled marble, smoked oak, brickwork and
glass. Trishna has an enviable location: a quiet side street in the
stylish and vibrant neighbourhood of Marylebone Village. This has
become the haunt of those discerning diners who are looking for
restaurants offering notable food at reasonable prices, and away from
the thronging throngs of Oxford Street, which has never had a
reputation for anything other than the iffy and inedible.
Trishna delivers on its Michelin star expectation, and without the
culinary trills, decorative fandangos or overtly ethnic chachkies that
always shout ‘You might not recognise from our food whence hails our
chef, so here is the Taj Mahal’. Trishna is confident in its excellent
coastal cuisine and its subtle embrace.
This isn’t a cavernous space but more a bijou restaurant that has a
total capacity of 60 people, with a few sitting on outside tables.
That’s the advantage of this quiet side street – one can enjoy some al
fresco dining sans too many fuming cars. The basement features a
private dining area for a dozen.
The menu at Trishna is broad and enticing, and having dined here a
couple of times I can attest to the quality of both
dishes and presentation. Patron Karam Sethi has gathered some of the
best of the capital’s Indian chefs so there is never that nagging worry
that tonight the chef might be ‘off’. Every night offers the same
expectation of a memorable meal and a sommelier who will complement
your choices with some striking wines.
Trishna lists mouth-watering and vibrant meat dishes, and the Guinea
Fowl Tikka should not be missed, but this restaurant has its focus on
the sea. Karam and his team treat fish and shellfish with tender
respect adding spices to enhance rather than overwhelm the delicate
natural flavours. Hariyali Bream must be a signature dish and
illustrates the sense of that Michelin star.
There is a myth that one can’t eat Indian food for lunch. One therefore
wonders what the population of, say, Delhi, does for those noon hours!
In truth they are eating lunch just like the rest of the world. Trishna
offers a Lunch Bites Menu – light meals that can be accompanied by a
wine flight to turn that midday repast into an occasion of outstanding
London is blessed with some of the finest restaurants in the world.
Indian chefs are at last gaining recognition for their skills and
culinary sensitivity. Trishna is deserving of its place in Michelin’s
firmament and does much to change the image of Indian food in general.
It’s just right in every regard.
15 -17 Blandford Street
Phone: 020 7935 5624
Fax: 020 7935 9259
Visit Trishna here
Restaurant – Soho
- Asian Food review
This is a relatively new kid on the block although Dozo in
Old Brompton Road has been around for a while. This new Soho branch
enjoys a spot on Old Compton Street. That’s not the touristy side of
Shaftesbury Avenue but the more eclectic streets to the north of that
thoroughfare and away from Chinatown proper.
Dozo swells the ranks of that new breed of Japanese restaurants that
tend towards tatami matting and sunken seat wells. Its location in this
trendy corner of Soho assures this Dozo is filled with younger lovers
of Japanese food who have the physical flexibility to negotiate such
extraordinary seating. There are regular tables with regular chairs
ranged over the back half of the restaurant, so prospective diners need
not be put off.
The Soho branch, practicalities aside, is a rather attractive
restaurant with a striking mural and plenty of natural wood. The
crockery is rustic and in earth tones and adds to the impression of
warmth. Dozo presents its dishes in a thoughtful and appealing way that
one would more readily associate with far more expensive restaurants.
Sushi and sashimi are on the menu at Dozo and that’s no surprise, but
it offers so much more and it would be a shame to visit and not try
something a little different. Aburi sushi is prepared with thicker
slices of fish or meat than would be used for regular cold sushi or
sashimi. The fish is quickly grilled but remains moist and picks up a
delicate flavour from the charring. The salmon Aburi should not be
Robata Raki are skewers of grilled foods – meat, fish or
belts. Try the Tori Negima –
grilled chicken thighs – and skewers of glistening
shitake mushrooms; but the Enoki Bacon skewers are outstanding and
bacon is seldom seen in Japanese restaurants.
Black cod has become ubiquitous on Japanese menus over the last four or
five years. Dozo presents Gindara Saikyo Miso cod. This miso is pale in
colour and prized for its sweetness. This is perhaps the most visually
impressive dish on the bill of fare here, and neither flavour nor
Ironically I found the most deliciously striking dish on the Dozo menu
wasn’t to be found on the list of fish or meat dishes but with the
vegetables. It’s the remarkable Nasu Dengaku – grilled aubergine with
sweet miso dressing and sesame seeds. This was a beautiful
mahogany-coloured preparation with a silky texture. I believe the
aubergine is first steamed and then pan-fried to give its marvellously
Dozo Soho hasn’t been open long but it already has a loyal following of
those looking for more than sushi. It’s an ideal restaurant in which to
try some unique dishes.
She is passionate about sake but Rie Yoshitake is a woman
with many facets. This slender and attractive woman exudes
sophistication and refined Japanese charm but she has a sense of
humour, a quick smile, and loves tennis. She is a consummate
professional, is vibrant and enthusiastic and it’s that energy that has
allowed her to become a powerhouse for the promotion of sake and
anything else that might introduce fine Japanese goods to a wider
market in delicious fashion.
Ms.Yoshitake has called London home for more
two and a half
decades and is uniquely placed to represent and support Japanese sake
and wine producers. Her heart remains proudly Japanese but her
experience as a successful businesswoman in the West has won her
professional respect from both quarters. She has a natural flair for
communication and for understanding both European and Japanese business
‘When I came here my interest was to build a bridge between
want to do, I really enjoy being a part of both Japan and the
UK, and doing something useful.’
This lady is comfortable with the frenetic pace of London’s wine and
sake industry but her birthplace is gentler. ‘I came from the
countryside, a remote, tiny fishermen’s village, so I was brought up at
the seaside, which was very much associated with seafood. My house was
a 200-year-old hotel or ryokan and fish-house, selling seafood to the
local people. I was always eating good food; and sake was always part
of entertaining. Sake is integral to thousands of years of our history,
it’s our lifeblood: we marry by exchanging sake, we start the New Year
by drinking sake, when we build a new house it is consecrated with
sake. It’s used for every ceremony, every celebration in Japan, but as
a child I never thought I would like it!’
Rie graduated from Seinan University in Japan with a Bachelor's Degree
in English. She gained a teaching qualification and worked at Tokai
University’s Daigo Senior High School, before becoming a research
assistant at the School of Medicine, Kyushu University; but that was
not to be Rie’s ultimate career.
Rie’s family were traditional. ‘By the time you reach say, 24, after
university, you were expected to get married and be happy as a
housewife, and that is exactly what I was looking for, too – to find a
man to whom I could devote my life. Omiai is arranged
marriage in Japan and most of my girlfriends got married like that –
meeting two or three times, the next rendezvous is to set the wedding
thought that was quite natural, but somewhere in my blood there was an
interest in travel. Watching European and American films,
subconsciously I was inspired to see more of the world. I wanted to
study overseas, to go abroad to find something different.’
Rie studied and worked in Canada and the US before arriving in London
in 1986 with two suitcases, and she stayed for five years without going
home. ‘When I went back I was offered a job working for a Japanese
company. I was very happy to see my parents, and to see that they were
pleased that I had done something independently.’
In 1990 Rie became the sole UK representative
Sogo, one of Japan's
largest department stores. ‘I was given a mission to help develop the
Japanese fine wine section. I knew nothing about it – I didn’t even
like wine, but meeting with a wine merchant, I was given my first taste
of serious wine – a Pétrus. I thought, “My God, this job is not
too bad!” I found the wine interesting because it was delicious, and
came with a lot of history behind it. After that I learned about wine
and got to know the wine merchants here, and eventually became one of
the biggest wine buyers in London. After ten years, I became more
Rie left Sogo in 2001 to become a founder of
Claret Ltd., in
partnership with two former colleagues. ‘Wine is my expertise and
profession, and I think I know quite a lot about the wine network in
this country. Not many people appreciate how important London is as a
wine capital. It’s not France – they make it, but London has always
been a centre for wine and controlled by networking.’
In 2007, the Sake Samurai
Association asked Rie to take on the role of
their UK representative. ‘Japanese sake makers are struggling. At the
time of World War II there were 7000 sake makers in Japan; now there
are barely 1000, and ten close every year. So young sake brewers
decided they had to do something, and set up the Sake Samurai
Association in 2006. They came to me because I was in London in the
wine network, and asked me to be their sake representative. They
believed that to promote sake overseas it should be presented as part
of the wine market, focusing upon England first, as this is where the
wine trade and prominent media are based. So they asked me to help to
set up a wine competition outside Japan.
‘There is a highly respected International Wine
Challenge which is
networked around the world and has been running for 30 years. We set up
a sake competition in 2007 and sent out the sake to the judges,
European as well as Japanese. We gave awards, to publicise sake to the
world. After seven years the competition is really thriving. In the
first year we only had 100 sakes, now there are nearly 600. The
Japanese government realised how important it was to maintain the
identity of the country, especially after the earthquake in 2011. Japan
really struggled and tried hard to safeguard its culture. Japan decided
to protect sake and recognised the International Wine Challenge,
together with the Sake Samurai Association, as groups that would help.
Now the government is buying award-winning sakes and sending them to
embassies and official residences overseas, for them to promote it.’
I asked Rie if, after so many years living away from her homeland, she
was able to look at Japanese culture with fresh eyes? ‘I learned that
away from Japan I can understand my Japanese culture better. If you
really want to know yourself you have to look from outside in. If I
could say something loudly to Japan it would be: “Don’t look just for
happiness overseas. Although it might seem that the grass is always
greener on the other side, you have lots of beautiful things at home,
beautiful traditions, beautiful sakes – cherish them.” That’s my
message. Japan tries to Europeanise, to Americanise, everywhere. When I
go back I feel really sad when I see all the advertising in English and
in katakana (foreign characters) – I hardly ever see the beautiful
Japanese characters. Even houses are modernised – no tatami on the
floor any more. I’m sure everywhere is the same, it’s very difficult to
balance, but you have to respect tradition and also respect movement
and change. You can’t not change, because if you don’t change you risk
‘Sake is in a way the same. When I started helping Sake Samurai seven
years ago I was promoting sake in the old-fashioned way, to respect the
past, because I always thought of sake as something traditional. So
when we did events everyone was wearing kimonos. But to be honest I
don’t think it totally works. It has a value, but now I say to them
that if you really want to export sake overseas you have to be
flexible, adapt to their way of doing things – if they cannot use
chopsticks, why force them to use them? You don’t have to expect other
cultures to do the same thing as the Japanese.’
Since Rie has been at the forefront of sake promotion outside Japan for
many years I wondered if she had noticed a change of perception of sake
in London. ‘Sake has changed a lot. When I started, the sake available
was old and consumed in poor condition which meant that it had to be
drunk warm to disguise the taste. People didn’t know any different. But
good sake is now coming here and when we started offering good sake to
the market and restaurants, people started saying, “My God, sake is
delicious!” People were suspicious at first, but everybody’s reaction
was very positive. I want people to understand that sake is not a
spirit, it’s brewed, and it’s slightly higher in alcohol than wine, and
it’s not bad for your health – in fact it’s said to be good for the
skin and the liver. The mindset is changing, slowly, as we continue the
competitions and tastings, and thanks to the popularity of Japanese
food in this country many more people have the opportunity to taste
‘The next stage of my mission is to prove that
sake does not fight with
food, which means that it can be drunk with other
cuisines – European,
Indian, Chinese, Lebanese. That’s something I want people to know and
to try. I want sake to be just one of the choices they have on the
drinks menu. You could start with champagne, go on to sake, then red
wine, and then even finish with sake. People shouldn’t think that sake
only goes with Japanese food, or that it doesn’t go with other drinks.
‘I went to Paris for a sake summit recently. Eight countries got
together, and for the first time I tasted sake made in Norway, using
rice imported from Japan. It was good, and from my knowledge of the
European palate I think it will be greatly appreciated in this country.
I think this is the way it will go – making sake outside of Japan but
using the technology of Japan. We cannot hold on to such a tradition,
insisting that sake can only be made in Japan. Sake makers will have to
travel outside, and help others to make sake. If you want to protect
it, the more mass-market it becomes, the more people understand, and
they will want to go back to try the original, authentic, Japanese
version. This will raise the Japanese sake profile, and more people
will know about and buy Japanese sake. It’s rather like the phenomenon
of the fine-wine market – most people will buy mass-market wines, but
they learn to respect the finest wines and will always want to buy
those when they can. So Japanese producers must go out with pride, and
teach others overseas.
‘Sake needs a new image and a new audience. I know that sake makers do
not like sake being used for cocktails, or sake drunk from glasses, but
it’s much better in terms of taste. They have to be open-minded.
I feel I am a bridge – not to bring A to A, B to B, but to adapt A to
B’s culture. Both of them should understand that it’s not a matter of
logistics, but cultural interpretation. I enjoy trying to find the best
way, and it seems to be successful.
‘I found sake is a good medium for me to promote Japan. My main aim is
to introduce Japan to the UK, and maybe vice versa – I can present
something new from here to Japan; but I am not limited to sake or wine,
or any kind of commodity. I call myself an international communication
specialist. I want to help people understand each other. I am very
interested in producing documentaries on culture, sake, or wine, for
instance. I would also like to send useful people like journalists to
Japan: I want to create a cultural liaison.’
Rie Yoshitake has a focus on international dialogue. She works closely
with Japanese fine wine producers, and their labels are making a mark
in the world-wide viticulture arena. But her joy and her strengths lie
in her ability to tell Japan’s story. Yes, it’s sake and more.
Find out more about Rie Yoshitake and her work with Sake
Yoshinori Ishii of UMU of Mayfair
One searches for a striking restaurant, and once found,
one feels quietly impressed. Perhaps it’s a collection of elements that
combine to offer comfort without showy embellishment, and gastronomic
excellence with disarming simplicity. Chef Yoshinori Ishii presides
over just such a rare establishment, and that is UMU of Mayfair (see
All chefs, one would hope, have a passion for food and most channel all
their energies into culinary excellence. But Yoshinori Ishii is a true
Renaissance Man, a talented polymath. His influence in UMU is evident
in every corner. His skills take him from the heat of the kitchen (more
realistically a set of very sharp knives) to the potter’s wheel, to the
calligrapher’s brush and to vases of flowers.
Yoshinori’s family have had no connection with food but
a therapist, my mother was an
office worker, and my wife is vice-president of a pharmaceutical
‘As a child, I used to go fishing with my family, friends, or by
myself, whenever I had the chance, to a river or a pond near my house.
If I went with my father he took me to the sea, and when I became a
high-school student I bought myself a motorcycle and used that to go
fishing further away. I started cooking the fish that I caught, and
that meant that I had to cook sauces or side dishes to go with them. I
learned little by little from magazines, cookbooks and TV. That’s just
one of the reasons that I wanted to be a chef.
‘I loved to make things by hand: calligraphy, photography, pottery.
Whatever I had around me I used: if I had clay, I made pots; if I had a
pen, I would write something; if I had a brush, I practised
calligraphy. I loved to see the smile on the face of my mother or my
friends if I gave them something that I had made. Maybe that’s the main
reason for my decision: if I became a calligrapher I could only do
calligraphy; if I became a potter, I could only make pots; but if I
became a chef, I thought that I would be able to do all those things
together, as indeed I am doing now: the flower arrangements here, the
calligraphy. I designed the menu, and I made the hanko seal stamp
myself.’ He is in the process of making hundreds of dishes that will,
perhaps, grace the tables at UMU for years to come.
‘I wanted to travel, and I was thinking that if I became a very good
chef I could leave Japan. Even without other languages I thought that I
could find work if I had the skills. I was talking about this with my
best friend at high school. I was playing drums with a band, and my
friend was a punk rocker. We were sharing a 50-Yen bread roll, because
that was all we could afford for lunch – everything else was spent on
music. My friend told me that if I wanted to become a chef I should go
to Kitcho to work. I didn’t know what this was. Now I know it is one of
the best restaurants in Japan, with 3 Michelin stars.
‘I had no connections with the restaurant, but a culinary school in
Osaka had associations with it. I was still a bit too young to join
such a restaurant, anyway. I wanted to see more before I started work
at a restaurant, because I knew that once I joined I would be working
from 6 in the morning until late! So I spent a year at culinary school
where I learned French and Chinese cuisines, before I joined that
traditional Japanese restaurant, Kitcho.’
Yoshinori appreciated the quality of every aspect of Kitcho’s
fine-dining experience. ‘For example I learned about pottery. At the
restaurant they were using plates of museum quality – just one plate
might be worth £500, and the most expensive bowl would buy a
castle in this country. It was an unbelievably high-end restaurant!
Visiting a museum one can just look at such dishes, but using that
plate I could feel the potter who made it 300 years ago. It was very
interesting for me.
‘Little by little I learned everything I needed, and in the
The owner of the restaurant was teaching
me so much, so I was very happy, but it became harder to leave. By the
ninth year at the restaurant, when I was 28, I was thinking that if I
stayed any longer I would spend the rest of my life there, and that
wasn’t part of my dream.
‘I had a connection with the Japanese Foreign Office,
and I asked about a chef position with an embassy. I wanted to see
Europe, and one day I got an offer from the Japanese ambassador to the
United Nations in Geneva. I decided to go; everything went smoothly and
I spent three years there. I was in charge of his parties at the
residence or at the embassy: ten guests at the residence or two or
three hundred at the embassy.
‘This was a big change for me. I could not get any fresh fish in Geneva
at first. Then I found a fisherman in Lac Léman (I’m still in
contact with him), and he gave me his best Arctic Charr – it’s a rare
fish, but when he got some I would use it for sashimi and sushi. Even
the vegetables I tried to grow at the residence, and served them to
guests. Everything was very positive, but at the same time I had to be
‘I spent three years with the ambassador there, and then he was asked
to move to New York. He invited me to go with him, and I thought “Why
not?” I spent three years there, but when the ambassador returned to
Japan I had to follow because of my visa terms; but it was my dream to
open a business in New York. It’s a very different story from London –
I could order any fish from Japan three times a week, good ingredients
were always available, and I would already have a good customer base.
‘At this time I had a girlfriend in New York (who is my wife now) and
there were friends in Japan who said that they wanted to help me as
investors. I returned to New York and met Mr Morimoto, the most famous
Japanese chef in America; he enabled me to get an artist’s visa by
employing me as a ‘culinary artist’. I spent four years with him in New
York. I met a lot of investors, but it would have needed big money to
set up a small restaurant. At the same time I had an invitation from
UMU, so I came to London.
I asked if it was very difficult for a traditional Japanese chef in
London to find the quality of ingredients needed. ‘I think so, but it
depends on what level of Japanese food the chef pursues. The quality of
fish that I am buying is the best in this country, even in Europe,
because most of the fish comes directly overnight from Cornwall. They
catch 100 or 200 fish every day, but select maybe ten to send to me.
They are packed correctly, as I have taught them, and I only accept
fish that are undamaged, and that means line-caught, not farm-raised as
far as possible, and sustainable.
‘I have a lot of fishmonger friends in this city, and I know that 95%
or more of Japanese restaurants are using farm-raised fish. It is easy:
same quality all the time, no need to think about the weather, no need
to worry about the cost.’
Yoshinori is not only a chef but an educator. He is concerned about
fish stocks, sustainability and freshness, and he teaches fishermen
techniques that address all those issues. ‘Most of the fishermen in
this country just put the fish into a bucket or container, pile more
fish on top, and then back in port they put them on ice. The bigger
boats sometimes stay at sea for 5 or 6 days, and at the market the fish
are sold as ‘just caught’, but they might be 5 days old already. I was
surprised when I saw that. The first time I went to sea it was April,
but a warm day, and yet the fish were not put in ice. They explained
that if they took ice to sea it would make the boat heavier, and they
would not have anywhere to store the ice on board, either.
‘So I decided that I should buy from fishermen who
main fisherman for the shop, and they
have a big ice store. They provide fishermen with the ice free of
charge, and will then buy the fish at above market price. Having found
this fishmonger, I needed to teach their fishermen how to kill the
fish. The best way is to sever the spine immediately with a knife, just
as it comes on board. Then I ask them to put a wire through the spine,
from head to tail, to remove the spinal cord. This way the fish lasts
longer at the highest quality, because the flesh is disconnected from
the brain. This technique is well-known in the Japanese food industry
and among restaurateurs and fishmongers. In Japan the fish-markets are
equipped with an air-gun to remove the spine instantly.
‘Since I started here, I have asked more than ten fishermen to use this
technique for me, but only a few will do that regularly. I have seen
for myself how busy the crew are as the net is hauled in, and it is a
lot of effort to kill the fish in the way that I want. I offer to buy
these fish at a 50% premium, but even so, only a small proportion can
be processed this way. The rest are put straight into ice, and this is
so much better than nothing.
‘If we look at sea-bass as an example, a 2kg to 3kg fish is enough for
us for one day, but if several fishermen go out and catch sea-bass I
might receive two fish, which is too much; but when the spine is cut
the fish changes colour, so the fishmonger cannot sell it elsewhere. In
Colchester we have a fishmonger from whom we buy when the weather in
Cornwall is bad. I asked if someone there could provide sea-bass or
Dover sole, and some fishermen were interested in my work. I offered to
come any time, to teach them the technique.’ Yoshinori is still waiting
for that call.
‘Bringing live fish to the restaurant would be the best way. In Japan,
I can call my supplier and order, say, one live Red Snapper from Kyushu
Island tomorrow morning, and tomorrow it arrives! But I don’t want to
keep a fish in a tank for long, as the taste begins to change. In Japan
they have developed a process of using an acupuncture-type needle to
render the fish unconscious; when the fish gets to the restaurant the
needle is removed and the fish becomes active again. In this country I
suspect that I am the only one talking about that, so no fishmonger is
going to do it for me.’
UMU is celebrated for its fresh fish but Chef Yoshinori is just as
dedicated to presenting the best quality meat and vegetables. ‘From
June to October we can get wonderful local produce from a farmer who is
running a 100% organic farm. His wife is Japanese so they can bring in
some very rare vegetables that they are growing in Kent. They deliver
at least once a week directly to the restaurant, and we use it for
green salad, for garnish, and for vegetables. Today we got some yellow
Caesar mushrooms from Italy, so some special ingredients come from
outside the UK, but we always try to source our vegetables locally.
‘As to the meat, the lamb and beef, I get these from an organic farmer
in Wales. I visited to check their organic system.
when I tasted the soil I found
that it had a very natural taste, not chemical – and all their animals
were smiling at me! They are very good people, as well, so I decided
that I would buy all our meat from them.
‘Being a Japanese restaurant many customers expect Wagyu beef, which,
sadly, is difficult to get from this country. The only sources that
export to the UK are Australia and Chile, and it’s very expensive, but
that’s what our customers ask for. For myself, there are two kinds of
beef that I like: one is from the farmer in Wales; the other is
dry-aged beef, which I love – it’s not too fatty and has a fantastic
flavour. Wagyu beef I find too fatty for my liking. In Japan a small
piece might cost £100 but for me it’s too tender, too soft. Some
people will spend that much, but I love British beef!’
UMU is in skilled and dedicated hands. Chef Yoshinori Ishii is easy
company, has a ready smile and understands the Kaiseki philosophy of
making customers happy and content. He has a regard for seasonality and
a passion for quality of ingredients. His talents are many and he has
used them to complement marvellously this fine-dining restaurant.
14 - 16 Bruton Place
London W1J 6LX
Phone:+44 (0)20 7499 8881
Fax:+44 (0)20 7016 5120
One might suppose that Secrets of Indian Gastronomy is a
cookbook. Yes, it is. One will assume it is packed with delicious and
authentic recipes. Well, it is. One might be drawn to the conclusion
that those secrets will be bizarre cooking techniques or the necessity
to poach a particular exotic vegetable on a moonlit night in the shadow
of the Taj Mahal. Not at all.
Secrets of Indian Gastronomy is a well-measured and
culinary evolution of
Indian food and the reasons for that. It introduces the reader to the
vibrancy of Indian dishes and even touches on why this formidable
culinary philosophy can be translated to the Western food battery.
It’s a truism, and a fact that is appreciated across the globe: we are
what we eat. But we are, for the most part, ignorant about how to
balance our diet to get the best out of eating, which should be a
pleasurable and healthful pastime.
We in the West assume that a balanced diet must involve the modern
concepts of ‘5-a-day’ and ‘cut down on burgers’. Indian culinary arts
have evolved over millennia and include all food groups, spices, and
even the disposition of the cook. That isn’t such a foreign concept, as
we often hear that the magic ingredient in a favourite dish is love; or
never to eat food from an angry chef.
Chef Manjit Gill isn’t a new gastronomic kid on the block. He has
decades of experience and is one of the most respected and recognised
luminaries in the international food arena. His distinctive red turban
has become his sartorial trademark. He is held in high esteem by the
most celebrated chefs, who appreciate his dedication to the craft.
Chef Manjit graduated from the Institute of Hotel Management, Catering
and Nutrition in Pusa, New Delhi, in 1974. He was a trainee in the
kitchens of the Oberoi School of Hotel Management, one of the most
sought-after places, and he graduated in 1976. Manjit stayed with the
group and in 1977 he joined the Oberoi Intercontinental Hotel as Chef
de Partie in European cuisine. Then at the WelcomGroup Maurya Sheraton
Hotel and Towers his talents were fully recognised when he was
eventually given the prestigious appointment of Executive Chef.
Now Executive Corporate Chef of the ITC-WelcomGroup hotel chain, chef
Manjit Gill has charge of Bukhara, which is internationally regarded as
one of the finest Indian restaurants, as well as Dum Pukht,
Dakshin, Peshawari and more. He is the instantly recognisable
face of high-end Indian cuisine and an ambassador for Indian food. In
2007 he received a “Lifetime Achievement” national award from the
Indian Ministry of Tourism. Chef Manjit Gill is the President of the
Indian Federation of Culinary Associations.
Indian food is popular and, yes, Manjit is admired by his peers and
lucky restaurant-goers, but he is a man with a wider mission. He
believes that Indians should take pride in their national dishes and
consider them just as worthy as Western offerings. India has a wealth
of recipes, techniques and know-how of which to be proud and it should
surely be considered one of the world’s most important and influential
cuisines, sharing equal status with French and classic Chinese. Manjit
champions Indian cuisine across the globe and strives to persuade
Indian chefs that their native dishes have nothing for which to
apologise. He is changing its negative perception and replacing
indifference with enthusiasm.
Secrets of Indian Gastronomy is compiled by Chef Manjit Gill for
PIHMAA, that’s the celebrated Pusa Institute Hotel Management Alumni
Association. The recipes here are penned by some of the most respected
chefs in India. They are presented with the home cook in mind, although
any professional with even the slightest interest in Indian food will
find this a unique and inspiring book.
Bhuna Khatta Gosht from Senior Executive Chef, ITC Hotels, Vijay Nagpal
is a rich and mouth-watering dish made with ingredients available to
almost every household. Alok Shivpuri, Principal of IHM Pusa, offers us
an iconic Kashmiri Biryani. It’s a striking dish but easily
accomplished by the home cook. Sunil Gadihoke, Executive Chef,
WelcomeHotel Sheraton, has a remarkable Chettinad Eraichi Kari –
Chettinad Chicken – as his contribution.
Sanjeev Kapoor is perhaps the most celebrated of celebrity chefs in
India and his recipe for a stunning Khaas Seekh is included,
which looks as good as it tastes, a recipe that will show off the
skills of the enthusiastic amateur chef and will garner compliments at
any dinner party.
Secrets of Indian Gastronomy will be sought by anyone who wants to
learn about Ayurvedic food principles, which are becoming increasingly
recognised and respected in the West, with balanced dishes and
delicious recipes. The chefs are all experienced and knowledgeable, and
this is indeed a rare collection of their works. Both Chef Manjit Gill
and PIHMAA deserve to be proud. Long may they both continue promoting
Indian food to its rightful status!
Secrets of Indian Gastronomy
Author: Chef Manjit Gill
Published by: Shubhi Publications
Grand Hyatt Kuala
Kuala Lumpur is a sometimes overlooked gem. It’s
overshadowed by its glitzy cousin, Singapore, but this city has
its own vibrancy and a unique character that deserves to be promoted.
It’s not just a stop-over en route to some rather nice beaches, it can
be an exciting and exotic destination in its own right.
It’s the federal capital and most populous city in Malaysia with an
area of 243 sprawling square kilometres (94 sq mi) and has an estimated
population of 1.6 million. It’s the official residence of the Malaysian
King and has played host to many international, sporting and cultural
events over the years including the Commonwealth Games and the Formula
One Grand Prix. Even those of us who have not the slightest interest in
excellence on the track for either man or machine will surely know that
Kuala Lumpur is home to the spectacular Petronas Twin Towers.
The ground floor entrance to the Grand Hyatt is imposing, spacious and
airy and what one would hope for in this standard of Asian hotel. Its
sweeping staircase, pond and a crescent-shaped sculpture which is
symbolic of Brunei and Malaysia, is the centrepiece. A circular
coloured glass art feature inscribed with a classic welcoming verse
from the Quran, “A thousand dinar,” stands near the entrance to the
ground floor restaurant.
Grand Hyatt Kuala Lumpur is a 39-storey hotel that officially opened on
August 24, 2012. Its location is superb in every regard. Those towers
decorate the view in the most impressive fashion from the hotel lobby -
that is the Sky lobby for check-in, on the top floor. One has a sense
of height and space when one looks towards the towers.
This well-appointed hotel has spacious accommodation that includes 370
regular rooms and 42 suites. Those suites are remarkable in both style
and facilities, and equal, in this traveller’s opinion, to the best you
will find anywhere. The floor-to-ceiling windows give views over the
city or to the Towers, making the panorama quite memorable when
appreciated from the vantage point of a roomy, round, marble bathtub.
It’s a pampering and sensual experience.
The hotel is aware that many of its guests must work. Its proximity to
the Convention Centre assures many business visitors who would,
doubtless, much rather be lounging in the bath-with-a-view than
working. The desk is substantial with every connection for
entertainment and communication that a budding executive might need.
Kuala Lumpur has a wealth of dining options and luckily one of the best
can be found on the ground floor of this very
guests and locals alike.
JP teres features some of the most traditional of Malaysian dishes.
There are both indoor and outdoor dining areas set amongst lush
greenery and trickling water. The ambiance is tranquil and cool but the
food is vibrant and exotic.
I love Asian food in general and I find that Malaysian cuisine offers
so much that is exciting in this culinary region. The food ranges from
the spicy and addictive to the mild and comforting. Desserts are not
forgotten and they take advantage of local ingredients to produce
confections that will gladden the heart of anyone with a sweet craving.
Samosa - Potato, peas, Indian spices are familiar to every lover of
Indian food but they are a popular snack or starter in Malaysia, which
is a country of ethnic diversity, and that has added to the complexity
of cuisine and breadth of dishes on offer. Indian food is well
represented at JP teres, which has an imported tandoor, and the Chef de
Cuisine Azman Ahmad, although a local lad, draws upon his
Pilihan aneka satay - barbecued skewers – must be the
Otak otak is one of my favourite dishes from the Malay peninsula. It’s
a peranakan dish and is made by mixing fish paste (most often mackerel)
with spices. The resulting fish mousse is usually wrapped in a banana
leaf and cooked. It’s a must-try for any visitor.
Curry laksa - Yellow noodles, tofu, shrimp, fishcake, beansprouts, mint
and chicken in a curry broth is a classic and ubiquitous dish …and
Nasi lemak – Coconut rice, fried chicken, egg, crispy whitebait,
cucumber, peanuts, sambal – is a leaf-wrapped parcel that is often
consumed for breakfast but is popular at any time of the day
Murgh makhani – tandoor-oven roasted chicken, tomato and kashmiri
chilli – is a dish from India and is one of the most popular across the
Rendang daging - Braised beef, lemongrass, galangal, turmeric leaf,
spices and coconut combine to make one of the most delightful dishes in
the region. The meat is cooked to tender perfection in an aromatic
Carrot cake - White radish, shrimp, chilli paste, pickled vegetables,
sweet soy sauce make this unique dish. That white radish is in fact
mooli or dikon that cooks with rice flour to give a type of vegetable
pasta. Don’t miss this one.
Pandan Chiffon Cake is beautifully impressive. It has the texture of an
American Angel Food Cake but that pandan is the key ingredient. It’s a
leaf that is used extensively in this region and it gives an
unmistakable flavour and colour. A light cake to enjoy with a cup of
Chendol is a refreshing dessert of shaved ice, coconut milk, pandan
jelly and gula melaka (palm sugar). I find this far lighter than
regular ice cream and it’s difficult to replicate at home as the ice
shavings are very fine, so try it here. The gula melaka is an essential
part of the dessert and brings an almost caramel sweetness.
Pineapple tarts – bite-size shortbread-style cookies (biscuits) that
are topped with pineapple jam. The fruit is cooked down to a soft paste
with a golden hue, with a sweet and mellow flavour.
Grand Hyatt Kuala Lumpur offers accessible luxury laced with Asian
charm and attention to detail. The staff are professional and friendly
and will make any weary traveller feel at home. The hotel location
makes this one of the world’s greats.
Daily, 11:30am – 11:00pm
For more information phone: +60 3 2182 1234 extension 2333
or email firstname.lastname@example.org
Dress: Smart casual
Grand Hyatt Kuala Lumpur
12 Jalan Pinang
Phone: +60 3 2182 1234
Fax: +60 3 2182 1288
Visit Grand Hyatt Kuala Lumpur here
For more information on Malaysian holidays visit
For flights to Malaysia visit Malaysia Airlines
UMU of Mayfair- Asian Food review
Mayfair isn’t ashamed of its style and quality. It shows
it along every boutique-trimmed street, it flaunts leafy squares and is
bejewelled with Blue Plaques celebrating the famous who have called
this neighbourhood home. The likes of King Charles X of France lived
here; Jimi Hendrix, who will be remembered for plucking guitar with his
teeth, played and laid his head in these environs; and Sir Alexander
Korda had a place in Mayfair, and he is held practically as a saint by
any lover of fine films.
has long been smart and international and that trend continues with a
Japanese restaurant that is worthy of its location. It’s particularly
appropriate to enjoy Japanese food just now as this year sees the
celebration of Japan 400. We have been associated with that land of
magnificent mystery, refinement and elegance for four centuries and the
bond is stronger than ever.
UMU flies the culinary flag for Japan and sets the bar
is as far from a typical
high street sushi bar as one could get. It pays attention to detail in
UMU demands thought. Yes, it is undoubtedly a pricier
impression of being short-changed.
Bruton Place is a side street off Berkeley Square. It was evidently
once a mews with shops and boutiques taking the place of stables. UMU
has a discreet entrance that could easily have the virgin visitor
baffled. My advice is to look for an unassuming wooden door and search
for the touch pad on the wall. It will save lots of loitering and
unseemly tapping on restaurant windows. It’s easy when you know.
Once across that discreet threshold one is welcomed into a cosy
restaurant of dark wood and upholstery in muted earth tones. It’s not a
themed restaurant – the receptionist isn’t masquerading as a geisha and
nor are napkins origami-ed into bullet trains. UMU is just solid and
correct. A restaurant for discerning restaurant-goers.
Chef Yoshinori Ishii has had a couple of decades of experience in the
most renowned of Japanese restaurants, not only in his homeland but
also in New York – and that is a city that has long appreciated good
Japanese food. He entered Tsuji culinary school in 1989 and that is
where he first learned the traditions and philosophy of kaiseki.
This most cultivated style of cuisine is a meal that epitomizes
possible. He is an avid angler and has formed alliances with British
fishermen to assure that the fish he receives is of a quality worthy of
both his restaurant and his reputation.
Apart from the celebrated kaiseki menu UMU offers a very
reasonably-priced lunch menu and an à la carte selection of
starters, the ubiquitous sushi, and main courses. But UMU takes pride
in that kaiseki menu with many courses of foods offering an array of
textures and utilising various cooking techniques to present a taste
tapestry that will excite all the senses. One eats with one’s eyes even
before the first bite is taken. Chef Ishii is so appreciative of that
notion that he uses his skills as a ceramicist to provide canvasses for
these edible landscapes. He is a man of many parts. (Interview to
UMU dishes will likely change with each visit, but will never
disappoint. The sashimi will be cool and fresh, the soups clean and
well-balanced. Every dish with be tastefully plated and striking, but I
have my favourite. Kabayaki, charcoal-grilled eel basted with sweet soy
sauce is a simple preparation and should surely be a signature dish.
The service here is attentive yet understated, with staff who are
thankfully well-trained and enthusiastic. The wine and sake list is a
credit to the restaurant, and any sake sipper will want to pick several
of UMU’s selections to savour, in the knowledge that it’s unlikely they
will fall upon them in other London establishments.
I am a fan of sparkling sake and UMU suggests Bijofu Mai Usunigori
Junmai Ginjo, from Kochi Prefecture; my choice for a still sake would
be Kamoizumi Nigori from Hiroshima, a well-priced star. Yes, it’s a
rustic sake but I think it’s a particularly interesting pairing choice.
This is unfiltered and is therefore white-opaque due to the suspended
sediment. That might not sound appealing but it is a
deliciously-flavoured sake with classic aromatic characteristics.
‘Charamisu’ Japanese tiramisu is a charming fusion dessert
that will be a fitting end to a meal that marries Japanese dedication
to perfection and local ingredients that need no apology. Perhaps that
truly does give a nod in the direction of Japan400.
14 - 16 Bruton Place
London W1J 6LX.
Phone: +44 (0)20 7499 8881
Fax: +44 (0)20 7016 5120
Visit UMU here
Visit Japan400 here
Sanjeev Kapoor is perhaps the most recognised face in
India. He isn’t a Bollywood star although he probably has just as many
supporters. No, he is a chef with impeccable culinary credentials and
his own food TV network called Food Food. But this book appeals to
lovers of chocolate across the globe.
Aah! Chocolate has its focus on that universal sweet delight. Good food
ever penned. This chef draws from his Indian food background to
introduce the reader to some Asian departures from standard European
We have all made chocolate cakes for birthdays, and chocolate brownies
will never go out of fashion, but this book has some other simple
sweets that have taste, beauty and impact. Chocolate has always been a
classy ingredient and, let us not be a cocoa snob, we can admit to
enjoying the less sophisticated milk chocolate and white chocolate,
which technically isn’t chocolate at all. Sanjeev has garnished these
pages with classics and innovation, using every shade of chocolate and
hints of Indian je ne sais quoi (or whatever that is in Hindi).
Hot Chocolate Nut Sundae is a dish, or more accurately a suitable
glass, that the kids will love to assemble. It’s ice cream with nuts
and chocolate sauce as one would expect, but then add grapes and
oranges and you have a dinner party dessert; but it’s the pomegranate
that makes this exotic …and rather adult.
An afternoon drink for those hot London summers (one can dream) is
Chocolate Lassi. This is pure fusion with chocolate being a European
staple and lassi putting in a regular appearance at Indian restaurants
across the world. This is quick to prepare, silky and decadent.
For those with a veritable addiction Aah! Chocolate has a triple-layer
chocolate mousse. It’s easy to prepare but the end result of those
labours will be a memorable, restaurant-quality finale for the smartest
of gatherings or a romantic interlude. Sanjeev suggests a scattering of
white chocolate chips as decoration, and I have used edible gold
glitter to great effect.
Mithai are Indian sweets and Aah! Chocolate has a selection with
chocolate as their key ingredient. They are distinctly Indian but that
chocolate makes them an appropriate inclusion in a thoroughly English
Afternoon Tea spread, or with a cup of coffee at the end of any dinner
of whatever culinary hue.
Chocolate Burfi is a mithai for which to die. The only truly Indian
ingredient is mawa (also called khoya) but this is found in all Indian
supermarkets. It’s a set milk product used extensively for sweets from
the Subcontinent. This particular preparation is a two-layer confection
of white and brown burfi. A box of this would make a striking gift for
any food lover although it’s doubtful you will want to give any away.
Make a double recipe and have a clear conscience.
Aah! Chocolate is a book that will gladden the heart of any home cook
and particularly those with a sweet tooth. Chocolate is romantic so
consider giving this book to your special chocoholic in the hopes of a
sample of the resulting treats in exchange. Sanjeev Kapoor is
celebrated for his food style and imagination – Aah! Chocolate is a
fine addition to his portfolio.
Author: Sanjeev Kapoor
Published by: Popular Prakashan
Price: Rs 595
Tourists are creatures of habit. They tend to stick to the
familiar and that is very much the case in Malaysia. There are fabulous
beaches and the city lights of the capital, but there is charm and
history waiting to be discovered in Malacca and it’s only a few hours
drive from Kuala Lumpur.
According to 16th century Malay historians, the city was founded by
Parameswara, a Palembang prince who, fleeing from his Japanese enemies,
eventually found himself on the west coast of the Malay peninsula.
While hunting near the mouth of a river called Bertam, he rested under
a tree and spotted a white mouse-deer. This timid animal kicked one of
his hunting dogs which fell into the river. The prince was so impressed
by the deer's brave attack that he decided to build a new city on the
banks of the river. He asked one of his servants the name of the tree
under which he was standing and was told that the tree was called
Malaka. Parameswara named his city after the tree.
By the first decade of the 16th century Malacca was a noteworthy
international seaport and a centre for the trade of silks and spices
from both China and India, and this inevitably attracted the attention
of foreign powers. The Portuguese under the command of Afonso de
Albuquerque arrived first in the early 1500s and after taking the city
by force he constructed the massive fortification of A Famosa on the
coast to deter any future counter-attacks. A small part of the fort can
still be seen today, although it’s now a little further away from the
sea due to modern land reclamation.
A Famosa remained until 1641, when the Dutch invaded Malacca after an
eight-month siege which left the city in ruins. They rebuilt it over
the following 150 years but in 1795 Holland was captured by French
Revolutionary armies and they handed Malacca over to the British to
avoid its capture by the non-revolutionary French forces. Malacca
the peninsula, occupied by the
Japanese from 1942 to 1945. Independence from the British government
was not achieved until 1957 with a proclamation of independence by His
Highness Tunku Abdul Rahman Putra Al-Haj, Malaysia's first Prime
Chinese, British, Portuguese, Dutch, Thai and Arabs have
come to trade or invade over the previous centuries and
each one of them has left their distinctive mark on Malacca. It is
considered Malaysia's most historically significant city and it’s easy
to see why. The rendered walls, painted doors and windows, tiled roofs
combine to give a very particular ambiance. It’s a living and energetic
city but there are those charming architectural features that remain,
allowing the visitor to take a peek at the past.
The Majestic Hotel in Malacca provides all that the discerning
traveller might want. It’s unique and nothing like the usual 5* hotel
which although well-appointed will have a degree of familiar sameness –
yes, very comforting but one might awake wondering if this is Brussels
…or Bratislava, as the drapes are the same. No, The Majestic is
bespoke, polished and full of local character.
The imposing frontage of The Majestic hints at the quality
and style within. Its painted shutters and shady veranda hark back to a
gentler time of rubber plantations and unabashed style. The original
section of the hotel was built in the 1920s as a private home and only
later became a hotel. It was purchased by YTL Hotels in 2007 and
reopened as The Majestic we see today with its 15-floor extension
creating 52 sumptuous rooms and suites.
The ground-floor reception and bar offer dark wood and
tiled floors which are original. It’s the attention to detail in the
public spaces that points to the accessible luxury throughout the
hotel. Jars of local sweets and treats tempt the visitor to linger but
more awaits in your room.
Dark wood and swathes of silk fabrics help to create an exotic nest for
the guest. Bathrooms are big here in every regard. Claw-foot roll-top
baths partner spacious showers, and those facilities become part of the
bedroom when the wall shutters are slid back. Rooms at the Majestic are
designed for those who expect and appreciate the best.
But tourist cannot live by unadulterated in-room pampering
alone. There is also a celebrated spa for those who can drag themselves
away from charming private opulence, and a restaurant that should be on
the list of must-experience culinary delights to be enjoyed by hotel
guests and Malacca residents alike.
Chef CK Pow presents a Nyoya or Peranakan menu and its dishes are
memorable. One can dine, or one can learn at one of the regular cooking
classes. The dining room is beautifully appointed and the perfect spot
in which to sample some of the iconic dishes of Asia’s original fusion
cuisine. It’s a tasteful melange of Chinese and Malay spice palates:
Pie Tee are crunchy pastry shells filled with vegetables and shrimps –
they make a popular Peranakan starter. The Laksa in Malacca is unlike
the more common Malaysian varieties as it’s a coconut curry-base with
fish cakes. Kuih are Peranakan cakes or desserts and are a must-try;
Onde Onde are rice dough balls filled with liquid palm sugar and coated
in coconut shreds. Bright blue Pulut Tai Tai are delicious sweets, and
isn’t blue food novel?
The Majestic Hotel in Malacca is a diminutive resort in
its own right. There is a small
library for those solitary sorts who relish the quiet of
that veranda out front. There is a pool for cooling dips on sultry
afternoons, a gym to work off those Kuih, and don’t forget that spa for
recovery after the gym. This hotel has polish and panache but it
remains cosy with the lingering ambiance of the original home.
The Majestic Hotel is a destination within a destination. Don’t miss
The Majestic Malacca
188 Jalan Bunga Raya
For more information on Malaysian holidays visit
For flights to Malaysia visit Malaysia Airlines
Train2e@t Local Foodbook - Kuala Lumpur by Danny Chen
Danny Chen is the author of this small yet deliciously stuffed book. He
is the complete modern man, being a lover not only of
Malaysian cuisine but of music and travel too, and well placed to pen a
volume that considers one of the best things in life: Food.
Danny isn’t a full-time food writer although he is evidently a
full-time eater. It’s the Malaysian national hobby which is practised
to perfection at least five times each day. People talk about lunch at
breakfast. They ponder dinner at lunch, and then there are those other
Malaysian street food is fast food. That expression will lead my
dear reader to assume that the roads of Kuala Lumpur are lined with
pizza parlours and burger joints. Well, they are creeping in and it’s a
mystery why. Fast food here is the traditional street food that is made
while the drooling diner waits, or is already in a steaming pot ready
to be served. Now that is surely faster than that Western ‘fast-food’
for which one will queue to order, queue to pay, and leave after only
moments, having chewed an insubstantial and iffy patty which lacks
flavour, cultural context and pertinence outside the land of its
Kuala Lumpur has thousands of restaurants and street stalls selling
food to the local population who appreciate a cuisine as diverse as
those who seek it. Every resident will have his favourite spot for a
soup noodle dish, his preferred stall for fried tofu, and a restaurant
which he believes sells the best rice dish.
Danny Chen gives the food lover, be they Malaysian or visiting tourist,
an overview of some of the most iconic, tempting and economic dishes to
be found in the city, and the element that links all these plates is
the transport system. Danny has selected eateries that are within a
kilometre of a station. There is an Integrated Train System map at the
front of the book to enable the hungry to plan both meal and method of
getting to it.
Kuala Lumpur offers vibrant foods that reflect the cultural mix of
those living in the city. Train2e@t Local Foodbook will encourage locals to try some
restaurants and stalls with which they might not be familiar, and it’s
surely going to become the must-read guide for the visitor. More
accurately it’s the must-carry guide for any tourist who wants to
immerse himself in traditional culture. Remember those aforementioned 5
meals per day.
I was lucky enough to spend an afternoon with this charming and
culinarily passionate writer who took me on a mini grazing marathon.
There is a world of traditional Asian dishes in Malaysia and it seems
we made an effort to sample an embarrassing wealth of them. Every
nation who has had even a passing relationship with this peninsula has
left its mark. Along with Malay there are Chinese specialities and
Indian curries, amongst others.
We stroll through the thronging Chinatown and pass stalls selling
‘designer-label’ handbags along with the usual array of tourist
kitchery, but we were on a mission and heading for Madras Lane. The
official name of the street is Jalan Sultan but Madras Lane is the name
by which it’s known, and is said to pay homage to the Madras Cinema
which burnt down in 1978. In typical Malaysian fashion, the Madras
showed Chinese films to a Malaysian audience.
Madras Lane can be intimidating with its cramped tables and novel
dining etiquette. Danny says that it’s important to pick a stall for
one’s food and then find its associated tables, as there are rules
about sitting in the correct zone.
We sample assam laksa which is a sour, fish-based soup and was
listed at number 7 on the World's 50 Most Delicious Foods complied by
CNN Go in 2011. Assam is the Malay word for tamarind which is a common
souring ingredient in Indian recipes. It was used to great advantage
here to give rich sharpness. Next was the more usual Curry Laksa
which has a creamy coconut stock base. We also enjoyed rice noodles and
stuffed tofu. With each dish Danny gave information about origin and
The meal was hot and spicy so a refreshing drink was in order. Danny
suggests Petaling Street market in Chinatown for a mug of Air Mata
Kucing. This is a traditional Malaysian drink and the name translates
literally as "Tears of the Cat's Eyes" as the leaves of this tree seem
to glow in the dark. You may know the fruit as a Longan which is
related to the lychee. Dried longans are boiled with rock sugar to
produce a sweet liquid looking like black brewed tea. Unmissable.
Our next stop introduced us to Indian food in Malaysia. It’s exactly
like Indian food in India and Anuja restaurant made no concessions to
Europeans. No silverware here …and no plates. Restoran Anuja, in Jalan
Pudu, is a 2-storey restaurant and those in the know will head upstairs
to enjoy air-conditioning. It’s famed for its banana leaf rice. The
leaf is in fact your plate and it’s a substantial swath of green to
accommodate an equally copious spread of biryani with eggs, side
dishes, sauces, chutneys and piping hot fried fish. There was also
moist and flavourful fried chicken along with papadoms and naan bread.
The restaurant is casual but the standard of food was as good as one
would find in any restaurant sporting the usual complement of forks and
Yes, I was spoilt by having Danny Chen as a guide but anyone can buy
his book and it’s worth the investment. You will find the best examples
of remarkable dishes; you will eat with locals; you will eat like
locals; and will doubtless be planning your stay to encompass as many
of the gastronomic attractions of Kuala Lumpur as the historic variety.
This is a colourful, informative and exciting book for anyone who
considers eating as important as breathing.
Train2e@t Local Foodbook - Kuala Lumpur by Danny Chen is available here
For more information on Malaysian holidays visit
For flights to Malaysia visit Malaysia Airlines
Hop-Off – Day and Night Tour in Kuala Lumpur
This city makes an ideal stop-over for long-haul
passengers heading for Australia or New Zealand, although
One can miss so much without a guide, but walking tours take time and
might not be appealing in hot weather …and it’s liable to be hot
weather in Kuala Lumpur. But a bus tour will give the visitor an
overview and will cover the most celebrated attractions. Hop-On Hop-Off
Day and Night Tours are unique, comfortable and give that
aforementioned overview, and some of those sites visited are actually
shown to best advantage after dark.
The Hop-On Hop-Off service has a regular circular route that allows
tourists to start the tour at any point and end at the same place. The
route passes around three dozen local attractions with 22 designated
Tickets can be purchased on the distinctive double-deck buses, from
authorized agents and, conveniently, on-line. They offer a flexible
"hop on, hop off" service which allows the passengers to alight at any
of the stops to see sites in more detail, or they can stay on the bus
for the whole circuit. Tickets are valid for either 24 hours or 48
hours allowing passengers to set a relaxed pace but still see plenty of
The Hop-On Hop-Off service has a pre-recorded commentary on headsets in
nine languages (Bahasa Malaysia, English,
Mandarin, Hindi, Tamil, Arabic, Japanese, French and Spanish).
There is a driver and a tour assistant on each bus to help passengers
during the trip. They are both local and will be able to answer any
There is a Customer Service Centre for the Hop-On Hop-Off tours at
Malaysia Tourism Information Centre (Jalan Ampang), Bukit Bintang, KL
Sentral (arrival hall) and Central Market, and there is also a
toll-free info-line at 1-800-88-5546.
Petaling Street is the main thoroughfare for Kuala
Lumpur’s Chinatown. It’s vibrant and exciting with stalls selling
food and tourist souvenirs but you will likely be there for a bargain
handbag. Note that a designer label at a low price is liable to be a
knock-off, so beware. Stick to a non-label with a nifty design and you
might just get a bargain. You will be expected to haggle!
Sri Mahamariaman Temple
The Hindu temple is striking and is, surprisingly, found
in the heart of Kuala Lumpur’s Chinatown. It was built in 1873
and is considered the most impressively detailed Hindu temple in
Malaysia. Its entrance is bedecked with ornate sculptures of Hindu gods
and its floors and walls are covered in coloured tiles.
Petronas Twin Towers
Also known as the Petronas Towers or Twin Towers, whatever
you call them there is no argument that they dominate the Kuala Lumpur
skyline. They were the world’s tallest buildings from 1998 to 2004 but
they are also masterpieces of design. Tower 1 was built by Hazama
Corporation of Japan and Tower 2 by the South Korean multinational
Samsung Engineering & Construction. Rising to 451.9 metres, the
88-storey building is said to be inspired by Tun Mahathir Mohamad's
vision for Malaysia as a global power. The Skybridge connecting the
towers is the world's highest 2-storey bridge.
Batu Caves and Lord Muragan Hindu Temple
The Hop-On Hop-Off offers a night tour that will allow the
visitor to see The Lord Muragan Hindu Temple at, in my opinion, its
most magnificent. The Batu Caves and the temple are found in the Gombak
district, 13 kilometres north of Kuala Lumpur. The caves take their
name from the Sungai Batu or Batu River, which flows past the hill.
The Batu Caves are set in limestone rock riddled with caves. The main
Batu Cave is known as the Cathedral Cave and is reached by a steep
flight of nearly 300 steps. This isn’t a climb to be undertaken by
anyone with health issues or those with vertigo. During daylight hours
the steps are invaded by macaque monkeys who will terrorise anyone
The top of the stairs opens into a huge cave with a high vaulted
ceiling. The cave serves as a Hindu Temple devoted to Lord Muragan, the
Hindu God of war and victory, who is a popular deity among Hindus, and
is worshipped primarily in areas with Tamil communities. At the foot of
the stairs there is a 42-metre high golden statue of the god. This is
the tallest statue of any Hindu deity in Malaysia and second only to
the Kailashnath Mahadev Statue in Nepal. This Malaysian giant took 3
years to build and was unveiled in January 2006. It’s mystical at night
when it is illuminated in all its gleaming splendour:
it is covered with 300 litres of gold paint!
Kuala Lumpur City Gallery
Located in a 114-year-old building, this is a must-see for
anyone who wants to know all about Kuala Lumpur, its history and its
future! The souvenir shop has a selection of marvellously crafted
wooden pictures, screens and other enticing gifts.
You will likely want ether a snack or a sustaining meal
during your tour of Kuala Lumpur. The Hop-On Hop-Off stops at Satay
Station where you will find the national speciality and it’s cooked on
glowing embers at the front of the restaurant. You will be served with
your choice of either chicken or beef satay and its associated
peanut-based sauce, and these will be served with the traditional
garnish of compressed rice cake, cucumber and onion. There are also
hearty noodle dishes and soft drinks. If you visit from the Night
Hop-On Hop-Off tour you might even be serenaded by local musicians
playing traditional Malaysian songs. You might not be able to join in
but you will be charmed.
Hop-On Hop-Off will teach you about the history, culture, food and
religions of this diverse country. You will cover more ground by bus
than on foot, you won’t get lost and the guide will give you
information not found in guide books. The staff are well-informed and
enthusiastic so sit back, relax, listen the commentary and watch Kuala
Lumpur unfold before you.
For more information on Malaysian holidays visit
For flights to Malaysia visit Malaysia Airlines
In the 15th century some city-states on the Malay
Peninsula paid taxes to China and Siam, now Thailand. There is a
legend that the Emperor of China sent a princess, Hang Li Po, to the
Sultan of Malacca as a token of appreciation for his tribute. The 500
nobles and their servants who accompanied the princess eventually
married local girls, and their descendants became “Straits-Chinese” or
You might think you know nothing of this unique culture, but Peranakan
ladies have inspired the striking, beautiful and iconic costume worn by
Malaysia Airlines staff that is loosely, or more accurately, tightly,
based on the Peranakan kebaya. The traditional dress for Peranakan
women is a long skirt adapted from the Malays’ batik sarong, with a
chiffon embroidered blouse called a kebaya. These gorgeous creations
are enhanced still further by the traditional three fastening brooches
called kerosang. The costume is completed by a pair of intricately
beaded slippers called kasot manek. These were originally made by
sewing Bohemian glass beads onto canvas-topped shoes. The designs
tended to be floral and reflected the patterns found in the colourful
Peranakan dinner services and tea sets.
Malaysians and Indonesians use the word ‘Peranakan’, meaning
descendant, followed by a qualifying indication of ethnicity, such as
Cina for Chinese, and Belanda for Dutch, the term referring to the
origins of someone’s great-grandparents or ancestors even further back
than that. Female Straits-Chinese descendants were called nyonyas. The
word nyonya or nonya comes from Javanese and is thought to be a
corruption of the word ‘donha’, the Portuguese for lady. Baba is a
Persian word borrowed by Malay speakers as a respectful name for
grandparents. The term is thought to originate with Hindi-speaking
Baba Nyonya heritage is celebrated at the private museum, called the
Peranakan Museum, run by the Babas and Nyonyas of Malacca. This
traditional 19th century Peranakan house is located along Jalan Tun Tan
Cheng Lock. The building shows some of the typical elements of a
Peranakan house: it’s a long house as properties were taxed by width,
and has an interior courtyard which allows both light and refreshing
rain into a home that would otherwise be rather gloomy.
From the Malay and Chinese influence Nyonya cuisine has developed, and
it’s becoming more popular as food-lovers search for regional or speciality
dishes. There is too much exciting food in Malaysia to even consider a
burger or even the ever-popular fried chicken on your visit, and it’s
unlikely you’ll find Peranakan dishes outside the Peninsula.
Peranakan cuisine takes advantage of a larder of regional spices, and a
battery of unique dishes has evolved to entice and intrigue the diner –
they range from the mild and comforting to the spicy and complex. The
visitor might have had Peranakan food in Singapore and that is also
authentic, but the Peranakan food in Malaysia is said to be hotter.
Laksa Lemak – rice noodles in coconut sauce – is a popular dish in
Malaysia with each restaurant offering its own interpretation. Ayam
Buah Keluak – Chicken with Keluak nuts – Is one of the most famous
Peranakan dishes. It’s delicious but needs to be prepared by
professionals: the seeds contain hydrogen cyanide and are poisonous if
consumed without proper processing. The nuts are boiled and buried in
ash and banana leaves and covered with earth for more than a month.
They change colour from a creamy white to dark brown or black; the
hydrogen cyanide released by the boiling and fermentation is washed
away with fresh water. The result when cooked is a nutty-sweet
preparation which is often returned to its shell for final
presentation. Ayam Buah Keluak is thought by many Peranakan food
aficionados to be the characteristic expression of how well a chef has
mastered the Peranakan culinary arts.
Nyonya cooking in the home has been in decline over the last several
decades. It’s not lack of regard for the epicurean heritage but more
the constraints of modern life. Long marinating of meats and
seafood before cooking, and the time-consuming preparation of spice
mixes make some of these dishes appropriate only for celebrations these
days. Here is a delicious and vibrant fish recipe that uses easily
found ingredients. This is a spicy dish but one could cut down
the number of chillies for a milder flavour. Other fish could be used
but be sure to choose a fish with firm flesh so that it doesn’t
disintegrate in the sauce.
Assam Pedas Mackerel
500g mackerel, in fillets
8 dried chillies soaked in water
2 cloves garlic
1 stalk lemongrass, crushed
1 tsp turmeric powder
20g shrimp paste
10g daun kesum / vietnamese coriander, or a
combination of mint and
2 cm ginger, peeled and finely chopped
2 tomatoes, cut into quarters
50ml tamarind juice or extract
Oil for frying
Salt to taste
Process the shallots and garlic together to form a paste.
Process the dried chillies and the shrimp paste together.
Remove the top and bottom parts of the okra but keep them whole.
Cut the aubergine into bite-sized chunks.
In a large pan or wok, heat a little oil and sauté the shallots
and garlic paste for a few minutes but without browning.
Add in the turmeric and dried-chilli-and-shrimp paste, and fry until
the oil separates slightly.
Add the tamarind juice, tomatoes, okra, aubergine, ginger and herbs.
Add salt to taste.
Simmer until the vegetables are just tender.
Add in the fish and simmer for a few minutes until the fish is cooked
Serve with steamed rice and other Peranakan dishes.
Malaysia is famed for its fine food and friendly faces.
Restoran Peranakan in Malacca offers a good selection of Nyonya dishes,
many of which show the Chinese influence. The restaurant is superbly
furnished with the dark wood and heavy furniture which is so much a
hallmark of traditional Peranakan homes, and now restaurants.
107, Jalan Tun Tan Cheng Lock,
75200, Melaka (Malacca)
For more information on Malaysian holidays visit MASholidays here
For flights to Malaysia visit Malaysia Airlines
Park Regis – Singapore
Singapore is blessed with hotels of every comfort hue.
There are a few cheap and cheerful (if
you are lucky) small
hotels and a wealth of high-end spots to lay one’s travel-weary head.
But as with property of any kind, it’s location, location, location
that adds the word ‘memorable’ to ‘comfort’.
Park Regis Singapore is centrally located
Chinatown will likely be on your must-see
list and it’s only 10 minutes away. There are more
souvenir shops than one could shake an ornamental chop-stick at, and
dozens of restaurants offering anything from dim sum on which to snack
to full Szechuan banquets over which to sweat.
Park Regis has a metro station just across the road. Clarke Quay MRT
serves the eponymous neighbourhood just a short walk away, with its
restored warehouses which are now forming a hub of Singapore nightlife.
Set on the Singapore River this is a
tranquil spot for a coffee during the day, but it comes alive when the
sun goes down.
That handy metro stop offers Park Regis guests fast, clean and safe
transport to all Singapore attractions. It’s just a few
stops to the remarkable Marina Bay Sands complex with its iconic three
hotel towers. That’s right next to Gardens by the Bay with its huge
metallic trees. Little India has a metro station – go here for some
stunning fabrics. Orchard Road is all about tempting shops and
boutiques, and the metro will take you directly into its largest
Yes, Park Regis is a well-placed base from which to explore the city
but you will want a haven from the rigors of sight-seeing and you will
find it here. The service is impeccable and friendly and that’s welcome
after a jet-lagging flight that will have you longing for your room.
This is a fairly new hotel so everything is pristine and smart. Plenty
of dark wood but rooms are light and airy and ours had windows on three
sides. There is broadband internet access, 42" LCD TV, cable TV with
plenty of channels and Interactive TV (IPTV) and movies on demand,
although it’s unlikely you will find time for much viewing. The
individually controlled air-conditioning is a necessity as are the
spacious shower, crisp sheets and a good night’s sleep.
Park Regis has its own restaurant and several bars but breakfast here
is a treat. Hotels in Asia can be a joy for food lovers. They cater to
both western and eastern tastes and so present guests with lots of
early-morning grazing opportunities. There are the usual traditional
goods such as mounds of bacon, sausages (these were chicken), eggs and
potatoes but so much more. The omelette station was popular with both
Asians and Europeans but there were also steamed buns and dumplings and
congee for anyone looking for a
Chinese start to the day. Japanese guests had miso soup and there was
also a simmering pot of Laksa with its array of condiments for those
who want a taste of Malaysia.
So you have had a substantial breakfast and roamed the city for hours
and now it’s time to unwind. Park Regis has its own
pool in which to cool. There is a fully equipped gym for anyone who
needs a bit more exercise, and you will never be far from a snack or a
drink. For those unfortunates who must work, there is a full-service
Business Centre providing secretarial services. There are iMac
workstations with complimentary broadband internet access. Rental of
mobile phones and laptops and private meeting rooms are available.
Park Regis ticks all the boxes for this traveller. Yes, its location is
unbeatable but it’s that combined with all the other elements of
comfort and kindness that makes this one of my favourite hotels in the
area. It’s cosy, charming, practical and good value.
Park Regis - Singapore
23 Merchant Road
I first met Chef Janice Wong at her deliciously unique
dessert bar in Singapore in the early hours. It’s called,
unsurprisingly, 2am: dessertbar. It’s a showcase for this talented lady
and offers a flavour of this, her literary debut.
Janice looks even younger than her young years but she has
packed a lot into less than 30 of them, and has earned the respect of
her peers. That regard was broadcast internationally when she was
recently acclaimed Asia’s Best Pastry Chef at Asia’s 50 Best Restaurant
Awards in Singapore. This local girl has brought yet another accolade
to a city that is renowned for being the home of some of the most
innovative restaurants in the world.
But Janice didn’t initially find this passion for food in Singapore.
She was studying in Melbourne, Australia, when she was struck by the
wealth of foods from many different culinary traditions. She changed
her academic path and eventually went to France to study patisserie in
earnest. Yes, Janice has learned techniques from the world’s finest but
the imagination, drive and whimsy is Singapore-made and totally
Perfection in Imperfection is striking. Its cover is …well, partly
missing. The front is torn (each one by hand) and the spine isn’t there
at all. But remember the title and you will start to ponder, muse,
think, understand …and that’s what Janice Wong encourages her diners
and readers to do.
Perfection in Imperfection is a cookbook, but it is so much more. It’s
not a culinary destination but more a gastronomic signpost for the
reader. Janice’s dessertbar desserts are difficult to replicate. She
presents food in the form of art …or is that art in the form of food?
Some recipes are composed with the professional or dedicated and
experienced home cook in mind. There are a few with Bloomenthalesque
ingredients, but lots that can easily be accomplished by a regular food
enthusiast with a more limited larder. Rocher Magnums would be a start,
as it uses readily available ingredients to produce a classy, rich and
chocolatey frozen dessert. I am intrigued by Bubblegum Gummies, which
would make amusing retro edible gifts. Definitely one for every adult
with childhood bubble-blowing memories!
Attention to detail of not only the sweet creations but of the book
itself is beautifully evident. It’s the class of book that wins awards,
the style of book that will become a food literature collectable.
Janice successfully combines her love of ingredients with her flair for
design. She deftly combs and crumbles, brushes and blends, but – above
all – Janice Wong inspires.
Cookbook Review: Perfection in Imperfection
Author: Janice Wong
Published by: 2am: Lab
21A Lorong Liput
Curry is said to be our favourite food in Britain. Popular
indeed, but quality of restaurants can be patchy. We hear from friends
that a particular chef is a star, that the local tandoori has chops for
which to die, and the recently closed estate agent (it's the economic
climate) now sells Biryani. But a good bespoke curry guide would be
worth its weight in gold vark.
Pat Chapman has penned more than thirty books on Indian food and is one
of the most respected supporters of the Indian restaurant industry, as
well as being a passionate educator. His cookbooks are considered
classics, but his annual Good Curry Guide will be sought by those who
prefer to have someone else do the shopping and the chopping.
Cobra Good Curry Guide is without rival. It’s comprehensive with many
full reviews as well as listings of those which are considered ‘OK’.
Pat takes pride in the fact that his guide has morals. The restaurants
included are there by popular public demand and not because the judges
have been garlanded with folding moola – in fact, for the most part,
the judges are the diners. No exotic trips have been promised and no
assessor’s children have been sent to university on the strength of
‘putting a good word in’. Pat rightly notes that would discredit the
The guide covers every genre of Indian restaurant from the polished
Michelin-spangled likes of Atul Kochhar’s Benares to the traditional
high-street curry house. We are encouraged to enjoy both styles of
cuisine (and everything in between) as restaurants are not compared and
each one stands on its own individual merits. 2013 finds this tempting
tome in its 30th year. Pat will have seen changes in our expectations
of Indian food over those three decades. We can find, if we are lucky,
a good meal in a Bangladeshi ‘curry house’ and those dishes have become
a hybrid cuisine, and it’s comfort food and familiar. These days many
diners also want the chance to taste truly authentic Indian dishes and
we can find more and more restaurants providing those.
India has introduced the world to its classic cuisine and it is now
taking its place alongside the much-vaunted French and Chinese. Cobra
Good Curry Guide enables us all to find the best and the most exciting
of Britain’s thousands of Indian restaurants, and for only £14.95
it should be on the wish-list of any good food lover.
Cobra Good Curry Guide
Author: Pat Chapman
Hanggang sa Muli – Homecoming
stories from the Filipino soul
Filipino and English are the official languages of the
Philippines. Filipino is a de facto version of Tagalog, spoken mainly
in Manila and other urban areas where the phrase Hanggang sa Muli might
In English “Until we meet again” is a collection of essays, poems and
stories from the Filipino diaspora, which is a considerable one. The
Philippines has a population of more than 92 million with an additional
11 million or so Filipinos living overseas. That could constitute a lot
Hanggang sa Muli sensitively considers the reflections of Filipinos who
live away from their motherland. They yearn for the taste of home, the
smell of home, the sound of home, and they wonder where is home? Am I
the same person here as when I am at home?
We all move house from time to time and we are reminded that moving is
right up there with such adventures as divorce and death. We arrive at
an unfamiliar building, try to remember where we put the cat, and feel
ourselves very savvy when we find the airing cupboard. But our
neighbours still look like us and speak like us, and Tesco’s is just
where you would expect it to be. Yes, we have been very brave.
Hanggang sa Muli reminds us of the anxieties and practicalities of
cross-cultural moving. Filipinos have faced racism and hardships as do
any migrant group, but those featured in this book are eloquent and
imaginative in their discourse. We eavesdrop on conversations and
memories of first impressions and unromantic reality. The writers have
Filipino accents but their words are those of so many transplanted
Homesickness Bequeathed (Tricia J. Capistrano) offers us the concerns
of those who have children. Should one stay in one’s adoptive home and
rarely return, to avoid confusing the children, or should one return
often in order to acquaint the kids with their cultural roots? The
author points out that the latter choice offers its own hazards, with
the possibility of second-generation Filipinos being just as likely to
say “I wish I was home” in either country. Could two homes become
Hanggang sa Muli – Homecoming stories from the Filipino soul is a book
by Filipinos and it will have instant appeal for all scattered
Filipinos; but look beyond that exotic title and we find a book for so
many of us. Well-written and poignant anecdotes, observations on
mankind in general and thought-provoking scenarios that encourage “what
if that was me?” pondering.
In The Laughter of my Father (Carlos Bulosan) a father gives his son
these moving parting words: “Remember in America that I am your father.
Don’t forget I touched you at birth.”
Hanggang sa Muli – Homecoming stories from the Filipino soul
Available at Tahanan Books. Visit here
restaurant review: Blue
Elephant – Imperial Wharf, London
- Asian Food review
Imperial Wharf sounds smart and indeed it is. It was for
centuries a working-class area with poor housing. My mother’s
This isn’t a new restaurant but it is a new location for a much-loved
establishment. Until recently Blue Elephant called Fulham Broadway home
and it was an outpost of Thai refinement there for 25 years or so. But
the views from Imperial Wharf are much more interesting and attractive,
and now there are tables outside – they will be the ones sought, should
we ever have a summer.
Blue Elephant occupies an enviable plot in that new development, but
step though those anonymous doors and you are in Thailand; more
accurately a traditional house in Thailand. The interior was inspired
by the Saran Rom Palace of Bangkok, which was once the seat of
Thailand’s Minister of Foreign Affairs. It has the ambiance of a home
rather than a restaurant. OK, a home with lots of friends over for
The new Blue is smaller than the original but its intimate proportions
add to the cosy atmosphere. It’s designed to give flexibility of
seating as well as space for private dining. The restaurant is a
testament to Thai craft and continuity. There are carved statues and
friezes and a lower ground floor bar which is a shimmering vision of
tooled gold. Teak woodwork and exotic flowers make this an unmistakable
satellite of mainland Thailand.
The menu has been created by the founder of the Blue Elephant Group,
Chef Nooror Somany Steppé. She is one of the most celebrated
chefs in Asia and indeed among the most respected woman chefs in the
world. She is considered the unofficial culinary ambassador of
Chef Nooror was born in Chachengsao province and grew up surrounded by
a family that was involved in the food industry. Her mum taught her how
to pound spices to make the curry pastes to sell at the market. These
days Blue Elephant curry pastes can be found all over the world.
When Nooror was a teenager she moved to Brussels where her brother was
studying Hotel Management. She met Karl Steppé there and married
him, and a few years later they and a few friends opened their first
Thai restaurant in Brussels. There is now a veritable herd of Blue
Elephants across Europe, the Middle East and Asia. It’s still very much
a family business though, with Karl taking care of the administration,
daughter Sandra looking after the Bangkok complex, and son Kim is in
Phuket at the new branch.
Sunday Brunch at Blue Elephant is a must for any lover of Thai food
with midday hunger pangs. It’s also the ideal venue for an introduction
to Thai food, as one can take just a little of each dish from the
buffet, and decide on one’s favourites. One can graze on exquisitely
crafted starters. There are fish cakes with dipping sauce and they are
a perfect first taste to provide the novice with a hint of aromatic
spice typical of this cuisine: a Thai dish should have hot, sour, salty
and sweet notes to create a delicious flavour tapestry.
Spring Rolls offer texture and freshness. This is a ubiquitous dish on
many Asian restaurant menus but these were generously stuffed and
worthy of a try. Rice cakes are offered on porcelain spoons with a
chicken sauce alongside. Thai salads are chopped and crushed before
your very eyes. Skewers of marinated grilled chicken
partnered with satay dip is bound to be popular as it’s a snack
familiar to everyone, but a must-try from the starter station is Banana
Dim Sum: strange but true – this is a startlingly simple Oriental
nibble of crunchy deep-fried wrapper and sweet banana interior. Banana
is, in fact, one of those fruits that work perfectly well in both
savoury and sweet dishes.
You will want to take the rare opportunity to try some Thai wine.
Monsoon Valley Blended Red (vintage Buddhist era 2553) from the Siam
Winery was a revelation. In truth Thailand isn’t a country famed for
its wine but this was a creditable bottle and would have passed muster
even if it had sported a French label. Siam Winery was established in
1986 by Chalerm Yoovidhya and now has a state-of-the-art winery in
Samut Sakorn, 30 miles south-west of Bangkok. They cultivate over 300
acres of vineyards and have a wine tourism and education centre. Siam
Winery is surely a producer to watch, and a visit is bound to be
fascinating for any wine enthusiast.
Blue Elephant offers an array of vegetarian and non-vegetarian main
dishes, many of which are unique to the restaurant, along with some
traditional soups and salads. The seafood curry had plenty of tender
fish, squid and shellfish and an aromatic sauce, but the star of the
non-vegetarian selection was the venison with chilli. This was rich and
warming but without searing, mouth-numbing heat. Thai cuisine does have
fiery dishes but it has many more that are complex melanges of ginger,
lemongrass, kaffir lime leaves and Thai basil. The pineapple curry was
outstanding, mild and comforting.
I have one small criticism of Blue Elephant. They don’t supply
blindfolds at the door. It’s a great restaurant to go to if you
subscribe to the philosophy of eating dessert first: it takes strength
of character to stride by that display
Blue Elephant introduced me to a new fruit. The salaka looks like a
long-faced lychee with a hair-cut but has a taste somewhat between that
and a pineapple. The jellies, flavoured with fruit or jasmine, and with
a crunchy sugar coating, make an exotic petit four, with a few morsels
of moreish Kao Too, rather like a brown-sugar coconut ice which I think
this restaurant should sell by the boxful.
This isn’t Indian food with a difference; it’s not Chinese food with a
slant. Thai is a classic cuisine in its own right and
Blue Elephant is spreading the word. The Sunday Brunch is great value
for money and it’s the opportunity to relax and enjoy high-end food
with the family. Children are welcomed and will find not only food to
enjoy but also face-painting to make their outing even more memorable.
There is an elephant on the Thai flag, and Blue Elephant flies that
flag every day to entice us with glimpses of Thai culture and
delightful food. Chef Nooror Somany Steppé is an ambassador with
some amazing embassies across the globe.
Blue Elephant - London
The Boulevard, Imperial Wharf, Townmead Road,
London SW6 2UB
Phone: +44 20 7751 3111
Fax: +44 20 7751 3112
Visit Blue Elephant here
Asian restaurant review: La Porte
des Indes for Sunday Jazz Brunch
- Asian Food review
Sundays are for relaxing, or that was the old-fashioned
notion. It is the day, at least in most of the Western world, for
gathering with friends and family, and there was usually a traditional
Sunday roast involved in the conviviality
Lots of Indian restaurants offer a special Sunday menu, but all Indian
restaurants are not created equal and it’s easy to be put off from this
gastronomic interlude by previous encounters with dubious curry-houses,
the sort that proclaim as many as 6 dishes (one of them being a
poppadom) and as much as you can eat for £7 a head with service
that will continue till the oil congeals on top of last week’s
left-over korma. There is a quite different class of Indian restaurant
that will charm, tempt and enthral its guests, and La Porte des Indes
is counted amongst their number.
It’s long been a favourite of mine and one visit will convince those
weary of dingy curry-houses that this will likely be their weekend
venue of choice, their polished gem in a sea of culinary mediocrity (or
worse). It is, quite frankly, stunning. Sunday Brunch here will offer
the visitor the chance listen to some live jazz and to wander around:
the buffet is displayed over two floors so you will get the chance to
glide down that sweeping especially-imported-beautiful-bespoke
staircase like some transplanted Rajesque Scarlet O’Hara.
your next visit.
Some tables are placed for animated chatter between just two diners,
while others are big enough to accommodate a family:
brunch is a casual meal and a buffet allows everyone to try a little of
this and to have an extra portion of that with never a hint of “Finish
those sprouts or you don’t get any Arctic Roll.” Everybody can pick
their own favourites, tantalise their tastebuds with the best of Indian
cuisine; parents can enjoy a stress-free mealtime and kids might
discover that they do actually like fish.
The Sunday Brunch buffet is famed and it’s easy to see why. The lower
floor is where you will find the starters. Chefs man hot food stations
and will tempt you with such things as mini potato-filled dosa or
stuffed puri. There are several kebabs from which to choose and each is
presented with their accompanying chutney. It’s a street-food
extravaganza and it would be easy just to spend an afternoon grazing on
these perfectly-formed little savouries, but there is more food on the
Copper chafing dishes stand in rows – one section for
vegetarian dishes and another for those containing fish and
meat. I am not an Indian food expert but I noted that half the diners
at La Porte des Indes were Asian. They all seemed to be
enjoying the food as much as I did, and many were evidently regulars
there. Surely that must be a sign of the quality of the
food. These folks know more about Subcontinental cooking than this
writer, and they were all going back for seconds, so we followed them.
The selection of dishes on offer is huge; there is something to please
every palate. The Lamb Biryani was aromatic and the meat tender. The
Chicken Makhani was flavourful and mild. The vegetarian options
supplied a spicy star in the guise of small, whole Asian aubergines.
This was a rich and warming vegetarian option that just needed some
plain boiled rice and some yoghurt on the side. Fresh naan bread was
provided at the table.
It’s a universal truth that one can eat savoury dishes until one can
eat no more and one swears that not another morsel will pass one’s lips
until at least teatime, and then someone mentions that the desserts are
at the foot of the stairs. Somehow we get a second wind: well, perhaps
something light might help with digestion; sweet after savoury
definitely constitutes a balanced diet. The desserts here are almost
too good to eat. Individual portions of each and sized to allow
everyone to try almost everything on offer. Kheer (Indian rice
pudding), mango yoghurt served in terracotta bowls (my favourite),
chocolate truffles, white chocolate and lime mousse, a mithai platter
sweets) with a fig and honey confection for which to die; and then
there was the fresh fruit that you will take either because you know
it’s good for you and it does look refreshing, or (and this is more
likely) because, even though you really want some more mithai, you want
the people on the neighbouring table to think that you have amazing
Sunday Brunch at La Porte des Indes isn’t the occasion for overt
displays of restraint. It provides all the fixin’s for a thoroughly
civilized smart-casual meal. The restaurant offers the most delicious
Indian cuisine in a setting that is unique and a feast for the eyes.
One visit will never be enough and the experience can be summed up in
one word: Memorable.
La Porte des Indes
32 Bryanston Street, London W1H 7EG
Phone: +44 20 7224 0055
Fax: +44 20 7224 1144
Visit La Porte des Indes here
Singapore – A moving
One huge flyer, 2 feet, 3
small wheels and 4 F1 tyres
Singapore is my destination of choice. It offers everything for which
any civilised traveller could hope: vibrant and delicious food (eating
is a universal hobby here), friendly locals and a rich and diverse
heritage. Singapore has a wealth of contemporary design and fashion
outlets, alongside history and traditional culture, still very much
alive on the peninsular.
This is the land of the short break, so how does one make the best of
just a few days on that first visit (for there will doubtless be many
happy returns)? What would constitute an overview? How to see lots
without the kids complaining?
The Singapore Flyer
The quintessential ‘overview’ must surely be that afforded
by the Singapore Flyer. This is the wheel that dominates the
Singapore horizon, higher than the London version and in fact the
world’s largest observation wheel. This month (April 2012) the Flyer
will celebrate its 4th year.
Singapore Flyer stands 165m from the ground at its highest point and
gives stunning views of Marina Bay, the city of Singapore and even
across to Malaysia and Indonesia. The cargo ships offshore will remind
you that despite its exotic charm Singapore has one of the world's
busiest ports in terms of total shipping tonnage and it’s the world's
busiest container port.
Strategically located at the new developments of Marina Bay, the Flyer
has 28 air-conditioned capsules from which your view will slowly change
– historical and cultural buildings and neighbourhoods like Chinatown,
Little India, the financial district and now Marina Bay Sands. That’s
the beautiful and impressive 3-towered structure with a
boat-like platform straddling those skyscrapers. High-flyers on this
wheel can indulge in a flute of Moët & Chandon Champagne, a
glass of Singapore Flyer Signature Cocktail or a version of the
Singapore Sling. Those who are celebrating and who want an exclusive
experience while enjoying those views can take advantage of the world’s
first full-butler Sky Dining on board the Singapore Flyer.
The Singapore Flyer extravaganza doesn’t end with your landing. Back at
ground level there is a lush tropical rainforest as the centre-piece of
a three-storey shopping mall. There is a waterfront dining promenade
and a street-food option for those who want a retro eating adventure.
It’s called The Singapore Food Trail and presents a selection of
old-fashioned food carts (you will remember them from the Singapore of
the 1960s if you’re of a certain age, like me) which will give you the
chance to try so much that is typically local and delicious. Try Nasi
Lamak from one of the carts – rice, chicken, spicy sauce, dried
anchovies and a fried egg.
Singapore Flyer is the only observation wheel to be part
of a Formula One Grand Prix race circuit. It is a rotating
grandstand at the F1 night race in Singapore.
The Singapore Grand Prix is a celebrated motor race, currently in the
calendar of the FIA Formula One World Championship. It is held at the
foot of the Singapore Flyer in the Marina Bay area of Singapore. The
event was resurrected in 2008 and was the championship’s first night
race; it was won by Renault F1 team with Spaniard Fernando Alonso
It would be a horrible tease to show you the circuit from your vantage
point of the Flyer and then not invite you to take a closer look – a
very close look. The ‘Ultimate Drive’ is a 15-minute or half-hour
experience that will take you around most of the track used by those
famous F1 racers.
‘Ultimate Tour’ is an extended option that will allow you to get your
eye in on the F1 circuit before taking to the local freeway for around
an hour of performance driving. This extended route will give you
plenty of opportunity to discover the power of a Lamborghini or a
Ferrari. If you are a couple then you can have one car apiece and swap
your Supercars halfway through the tour and experience the pleasure of
each of these celebrated vehicles.
Visit Ultimate Drive here
Visit the Singapore Grand Prix here
The Endearing Trishaw Uncle
There are still a few of us around – that dying breed of
folk who don’t drive. I can appreciate a Supercar for its superb lines
and gleaming paint finish even though I couldn’t turn a wheel myself. I
won’t be driving when I visit Trishaw Uncle, either.
There are truly quite a lot of Uncles and that might encourage the
untutored to come to the conclusion that everyone in Singapore must be
related! The term Uncle or Aunty is used by younger people to show
respect. In this case the Uncles are the trishaw riders on the streets
It’s a quaint mode of transport that was a necessity before the era of
the combustion engine. Originally the vehicle would have been a 2-wheel
affair and pulled by a wiry gentleman. Eventually a bike was tacked on
the side and the contraption was driven by that same surprisingly
powerful style of men, mostly labourers who formed the historic work
pool of Singapore. Trishaw Uncle is a term of respect for the riders,
and it’s the name of the company that employs them.
Trishaw Uncle is introducing a new fleet of 100 battery-assisted
trishaws. It’s tough work and some of the Uncles left youth behind a
while back, but they are just the sort of characters to enhance your
ride, with faces that one would want to sketch. A bit of electric
assistance must be welcome.
Take one of the Trishaw excursions on offer. There is even a taped
commentary which is piped to your bench
That’s the beauty of this expedition – no glass between you and the
action. It’s all at eye level and passing slowly enough for you to snap
some pictures and take note of shops to return to or restaurants to
visit. It’s all conducted at a very civilised pace. You will smell
flower garlands, munch some Subcontinental snacks as you drive though
Little India; you might spot a Buddhist family burning paper money and
even a paper iPhone to honour departed family members. This is
Singapore in all its colourful diversity, and you are in the middle of
this moving tapestry.
Trishaw Uncle offer a couple of tours so visit them here
Starting point: Albert Mall Trishaw Park
Ending point: Albert Mall Trishaw Park
Highlights: Bugis and Little India
Duration: Approximately 30 minutes (subject to traffic conditions)
Starting point: Albert Mall Trishaw Park
Ending point: Singapore River Cruise, Liang Court Jetty
Highlights: Bugis, Little India and Singapore River
Duration: Approximately 45 minutes (subject to traffic conditions)
The Albert Mall Trishaw Park is Trishaw Uncle’s home base where they
wait and from where they operate their trishaws. It’s located at Queen
Street between the Fu Lu Shou Complex and Albert Centre Market and Food
Trishaw Uncle opens daily from 11am to 10pm
So you are visiting Singapore for a few days and you have,
it seems, spent much of your time sitting. The landscape has moved
before your eyes with little energy used by the viewer. You need an
outing that will make you feel healthy and noble and which will show
you another face of Singapore: Henderson Waves. It’s not a water park
with indoor surfing and slides, although this structure does indeed
Henderson Waves was commissioned by the Urban Redevelopment Authority
of Singapore following an international competition. The commission was
awarded to IJP Corporation and RSP Architects, Planners and Engineers
in 2004, with concept and scheme design engineering by Adams Kara
Taylor Consulting Civil and Structural Engineers. They have been worthy
of the task and brave in their vision. It’s organic, contemporary and
appropriate for its use and the environment. Henderson Waves
constitutes the highest point of The Southern Ridges, which is a 9km
trail connecting parks along the hills of Singapore.
At 36 metres above Henderson Road, Henderson Waves is an unforgettable
landmark. It is the highest pedestrian bridge in Singapore and was
built to connect the two hills of Mount Faber and Telok Blangah Hill.
It has a unique ‘wave’ form constructed of seven curved steel beams
that create a unique walkway.
Slats of yellow balau wood form the surface of the walkway. This wood
comes from Malaysia, Indonesia, Vietnam and the Philippines. It is a
tropical hardwood very much like teak, and often used for garden
furniture. It isn’t yellow in colour but a soft natural grey. The
timbers undulate and wrap over to create shade for sun-kissed walkers.
This footbridge is 284 metres long and was built at a cost of S$25.5
million and it’s the largest project of its kind in Southeast Asia. Its
curves mimic the undulations of the landscape and offer not only a
casual arena for gentle exercise but also a platform from which to
admire the city, and a tranquil (mostly) refuge from the activity of
modern life. Stroll through tree tops and listen to the birds.
Asian cookbook review: The Food and
Cooking of India
It’s quite honestly a stunner. The Food and Cooking of
India by Mridula Baljekar is an engaging almanac of Indian cooking with
elements of travelogue. Even those who have yet to discover the inside
of a kitchen will be tempted to invest in a spice box, or at least a
plane ticket to the subcontinent.
I am surprised that Mridula Baljekar is not still gracing our TV
screens. She had a successful series which won her fame, for her food
as well as her calm and charming delivery. Her manner suggested to the
anxious viewer that, yes, they too could cook authentic Indian food
without exotic kitchen equipment and a degree in Asian culinary arts.
All would be well. It’s only dinner, after all.
In real life Mridula is exactly that same person. She insists that she
is a cook rather than a chef, although she is a sought-after restaurant
consultant both in the UK and overseas. She has a sense of what the
European domestic god/goddess needs to give them confidence and a real
insight into Indian food.
The Food and Cooking of India is published by Lorenz Books, an imprint
of Anness Publishing. They present some of the very best cookbooks for
those who actually want to, well, cook. All recipe books are not
created equal. There are those which have a few pictures of restaurant
kitchens with ghostly, blurred shots of fast-moving chefs in the
background and some lovely snaps of their favourite beetroot grower,
and if you are lucky an ‘ooh, aah’ image of a baby piggy called Hamlet
who is soon to have his name changed to ‘Lunch’; but Lorenz give us
books stuffed with pictures not only of finished dishes but a slew of
step-by-step photographs to keep the novice cook on track.
This volume offers a collection of 150 recipes from across India with
more than 850 pertinent photographs. It’s a beautiful yet practical
book that will serve you just as well in the kitchen as it does on the
coffee table. It’s a book that entices with its vibrant food and
descriptive text. The recipes are simple to follow and we all have
access to the ingredients these days. There is a glossary of fresh
groceries, along with a directory of authentic Indian kitchen
paraphernalia, none of which is essential, and an overview of Indian
spices, all of which are essential - only half a dozen or so, but armed
with these you will be able to attempt and indeed master every recipe.
Mridula Baljekar has penned 20 or so books and has won numerous awards
so it’s obvious that the lady can write a bit. Thousands of recipes
have earned her a reputation as an author but the food she makes has
earned her a reputation as a lady who truly can cook. She demonstrates
across the globe, and her books are paper versions of her
masterclasses. Here she offers classics and family favourites that you
will likely not find in your local Indian restaurant. There are dishes
for economic family meals as well as celebrations and each one will
take the reader one step nearer to becoming a confident and
well-informed home chef.
The first pick of the book is the recipe for Chicken Biryani. This is a
dish that’s oft abused but I can tell you from firsthand experience
that Mridula presents a very fine Biryani that is surprisingly easy to
prepare and is fragrant and memorable. It works as a regular week-day
dinner or as an impressive centrepiece for friends on a Saturday night.
As yet there is no tax on eggs so they can still constitute a delicious
and good-value family meal. Egg Do-piaza is well-flavoured, with onions
in the sauce and as a crunchy garnish, but it’s the battered and
deep-fried egg halves that are the stars. Mridula even offers a tip on
keeping the egg yolks in the centre of the boiled eggs!
Spicy Stuffed Bananas – kela na sambhariya – is easy to prepare and
it’s probable that you will have some bananas lingering in the fruit
bowl. The filling is a mix of gram flour (chickpea flour) and some
spices. The flour is toasted so it takes on a rich nutty flavour. A
unique vegetarian dish that’s striking to look at and different from a
traditional vegetable curry.
The Food and Cooking of India offers something for every taste and
every pocket. There are creamy and rich royal dishes as well as simple
breads. There is a good selection of desserts as well as recipes to
delight vegetarians and fish lovers. It’s a gift-quality book and for
less than £15 – a bargain.
The Food and Cooking of India
Author: Mridula Baljekar
Published by: Lorenz Books
Kitchen – Terminal 5 Hilton- Asian Food review
There are many Mr Todiwalas strewn around the world but
there is also “THE” Mr. Todiwala. It’s a familiar
name to those who
know anything about Indian food in the UK. His iconic
restaurant Café Spice Namaste at Tower Hill, and his numerous TV
appearances, have assured his high profile; but it’s not his celebrity
that has garnered such a faithful following.
Cyrus Todiwala is a chef, and the showbizzy bit isn’t much in evidence
in his restaurants. Yes, ‘restaurants’ plural, as now there is the
eponymous Mr. Todiwala’s Kitchen at the new Heathrow Terminal 5 Hilton
Hotel. He is just the same as ever, visible in the restaurant rather
than remaining aloof as the majority of celeb
chefs tend to be. He takes notice and cares about his guests.
We arrived on a cold and wet evening to find both Mr and Mrs Todiwala
on duty. The “missus” is Pervin and she is one of the unsung heroes of
both restaurant teams. She has a phenomenal memory for the previous
meals ordered by guests. She is herself a trained chef and has the same
passion for food and fresh produce as does her husband. She is a
consummate professional but with a warm personality and a sense of
humour which has endeared her to diners.
C and P Todiwala were staying later than they had planned, as one of
their regulars (to have ‘regulars’ already in a little over a month
speaks volumes) had asked for something a little different, something
not on the menu. No problem at Mr. Todiwala's Kitchen. The guest is
just as important as the food. I
don’t want to give the impression that the table staff hover too
closely or watch your every move from a distance. The
service is appropriately attentive, with a good number of waiting staff
who are indistinguishable from the chefs. OK, the chef jackets and
taupe aprons are spotless but one has the impression that each dish has
been made and delivered fresh from the open kitchen just for you
...which indeed it has.
So that’s introduced my readers to the stars, but what of the new
stage? When I dream of exotic spots I have a vision of a bungalow (an
Indian word), sun-bleached shutters, lime-washed floors, rustic
furniture, sumptuous soft furnishings and an elephant called Roy. In
truth, I have just added the animally element after visiting Mr.
Todiwala’s Kitchen, but all the rest of it is indeed also there.
The huge wooden elephant is just about the only overtly
Indian adornment in this stunning restaurant. It’s light and
Mr. Todiwala’s Kitchen offers an extensive menu but if you are new to
Indian food, as many at this airport restaurant might
well be, then consider Mr. Todiwala’s Kitchen Menu which will give you
an overview. This menu is bound to be popular with rugby players – or
American Football players – as the main dishes can be continually
replenished. There is also a Gourmand Tasting Menu for those who want a
food-and-wine pairing experience.
Cyrus is Parsee and he has incorporated some of his family dishes into
his menu. In fact there is much that will be new to even the most
ardent of “curry” enthusiasts. Papaeta Purr Eedu is a recipe from
Cyrus’ mum who was a great influence on his culinary repertoire. This
dish incorporates both potatoes and eggs, two ingredients
Mankyo Chem Peri Peri or “dynamite” squid is vibrant with heat. Baby
squid rings are marinated in a fiery Goan peri-peri masala then dipped
in wheat, rice and white lentil flour. The squid is fried and garnished
with more red Goan-style spices. This is one of the hottest dishes on
the menu but there is also flavour that shines through the heat.
Dhaansaak was bound to be my guest’s choice of main course. He enjoys
all Indian food but he does find the Dhaansaak at either venue to be
unmissable. This is a classic Parsee lamb dish, prepared in the
traditional way. Dhaansaak is composed of two words: ‘dhaan’ meaning
rice and ‘saak’ meaning puréed vegetables and lentils with lamb.
The rice served with the meat is different from your regular steamed or
boiled rice. It’s a brown onion rice, which has
a flavour of its own. The lamb was meltingly tender but there were some
small and delicate meatballs in addition. These were peppery and
moreish and alone would have been a delight with just the sauce and
that celebrated onion rice.
Keeping with the theme I also chose another Parsee favourite, a recipe
from Cyrus’ great-grandma. Murghi Na Kofta Ni Curry Nay Chaawal is a
rich and aromatic dish with lots of ground nuts to make a silky sauce
to coat moist chicken dumplings. Simply served with steamed rice, this
sauce would have been just as good with some Indian bread. A winner.
Mr Todiwala’s Kitchen offers some tempting desserts and a little
different from those you will find in most Indian restaurants. The
ice-creams are unique and there are a couple that I will sample on my
next visit. Black Pepper Ice Cream sounds intriguing as does the Stem
Ginger Ice Cream, but we chose the Parsee Caramelised Apricot version,
which was delicately perfumed by the slowly cooked Hunza apricots so favoured
am addicted. The
caramelised topping was perfect and was evenly speckled with dark burnt
sugar. A simple and sophisticated dessert.
Mr. Todiwala‘s Kitchen boasts an Indian Tea Library. This is actually a
changing list of exceptional boutique teas that will delight the
connoisseur and educate the rest of us. We tried Makaibari Estate First
Flush Grand Reserve 2011 from Darjeeling. Makaibari is located at
Kurseong, and was the world's first tea factory, established in 1859.
Rajah Banerjee, the fourth generation, is now the owner.
We were expecting a special cuppa, but there was also theatre and a
thoroughly engaging masterclass. A tray arrived laid with white linen
and brandy glasses. I was starting to think this might be a misplaced
order for those chunky American businessmen a couple of tables down. No
error, these were just some of the props for the unique brewing process.
The glasses were warmed over steam while hot water was poured over the
chosen leaves contained in a handmade ceramic pot. The slowly trickling
sand in an egg-timer showed the passing of a couple of minutes. Once
the infusion was complete the heated glass was filled with the light
amber tea. Yes, it truly was a step up from your habitual dusty teabag.
I preferred the first pouring as I felt it had more taste notes and
less tannin. If you are into strong builder’s tea then you might like
the darker and gutsier second brew. Tea at Mr. Todiwala’s is an event.
Mr Todiwala’s Kitchen is an outstanding example of a remarkable
restaurant that just happens to be housed in a
hotel. Gone are the days when hotel restaurants were mediocre and dull
with a focus on merely fuelling a captive
audience. Mr Todiwala’s Kitchen can compete with any Indian restaurant.
Nothing mean, skimpy or banal here. This is an apt showcase for the
talents of the Todiwalas – Mr and Mrs.
Mr Todiwala’s Kitchen
Hilton London Heathrow Airport Terminal 5
Colnbrook SL3 0FF,
Asian cookbook review:
Cooking with Olive Oil
An acquaintance gave me this book, Cooking with Olive Oil.
I was rather surprised. No, in truth I was shocked.
The title ‘Cooking with Olive Oil’ explains just what this book is
about. Europeans, and especially those fortunate enough to live an
olive-pit’s throw from the Mediterranean have used this “green gold”
for millennia. It has been widely promoted as a healthy food, natural
and delicious. Yes, olive oil and I have been on nodding terms for several
So, OK, it was not the olive oil that stunned me but rather my
acquaintance. Sanjeev Kapoor is perhaps the most celebrated and
recognised face in India. He can hardly walk a few yards even in
England without being recognised, his hand pumped, a snap for the album
taken, and even his feet touched by those who admire the most-viewed
chef on the planet. Sanjeev Kapoor has penned a book on, obviously,
cooking with olive oil, but this is Indian food cooked with olive oil
and that is tantamount to a revolution!
So many people in the UK complain that Indian food in restaurants is
too heavy and oily. That has changed over the last years, and now we
have many fine Indian restaurants which replicate traditional home
cooking and authentic fare. Those gloopy and oil-drenched “curries” are
still with us but they are fewer these days. The best Indian food is
often found in homes and the insertion of olive oil into the kitchen
larder adds to the appeal of this great and classic cuisine.
So is this still “classic” Indian food? Well, yes indeed. A cuisine
must live and evolve. We think of Indian dishes as being chilli-hot
with good use being made of potatoes and tomatoes. But those
ingredients are not indigenous to the Subcontinent – they arrived with
the discovery of the New World. Amazing food should never be limited by
anything other than good taste and imagination. Olive oil is a natural
and healthful addition to the regular battery of Indian ingredients.
Part of the inspiration for this book came from Sanjeev's own home
cook, a lady of fairly advanced years who used some bottles of olive
oil just because they were there. Her endorsement must be taken
seriously as she is, after all, the chef to a chef. The family had been
unaware that they had been enjoying olive oil in place of the regular
choice for a while. I guess that was the most convincing of blind
This book is full of tempting Indian dishes that have been adapted take
advantage of the positive qualities of olive oil. Several recipes also
include the olives themselves, to offer an intriguing and unique
fusion. Carrot, Raisin and Black Olive Salad is reminiscent of those
North African side dishes found along the southern coast of the
Mediterranean. Corn Bhel with Tomato and Olives has its origins in the
snack culture of India.
My pick of the book is Punjabi Kadhi. These are spicy and aromatic
pakoras dressed with a yoghurt-based sauce. The dumplings are
deep-fried in olive oil but, cooked at the right temperature, these
will absorb hardly any oil, making this a delicious and guilt-free
meal. That’s dinner this evening, chez nous.
Cooking with Olive Oil by Sanjeev Kapoor will appeal to all of us, and
particularly to those who have health or weight issues. A simple
replacement of olive oil for your habitual medium is a 21st century
departure, but it’s a healthy choice rather than a trendy fad. No
flavour is diminished and the olive oil will not be noticed, even by
the purists, in those hearty and flavourful dishes.
Cooking with Olive Oil
Author: Sanjeev Kapoor
Published by: Popular Prakashan Ltd
Kapoor - Master of the Art of Indian Cooking
Talking on the radio a few months ago, I was musing on
books I would take to a desert island. Those who know this city ‘girl’
will understand that the prospect of an isolated space would induce
sweaty palms. Red buses and black taxis are my comfort zone.
My choice of essential reading matter was at that time the (mythical)
Marine Carpentry for the Beginner, with chapters on “How to whittle a
speedboat out of a log” and “Making an outboard motor from a coconut
and two sardines.” Sanjeev Kapoor has swept that volume from my
home-made fantasy island bookshelf, and replaced it with Mastering the
Art of Indian Cooking.
We met in a comfy corner of London’s celebrated Bombay Brasserie, a
favourite restaurant with not only plenty of buses and taxis nearby but
the security of Gloucester Road Underground on the doorstep. Sanjeev
Kapoor is the least affected and most charming of celebrities I have
ever met – a funny, warm character that truly is in life exactly as his
TV persona. He has been voted one of the most trusted men in India.
Sanjeev Kapoor is perhaps the best-known chef in the world. If the name
is not familiar then I could guess that you are not Indian or Asian of
any description. This man stars in Khana Khazana (it is actually
India’s longest-running TV show) which broadcasts to 120 countries and
in 2010 was estimated to have more than 500 million viewers. He now has
his own food-dedicated TV station aptly called Foodfood. He remembers
that “Some said that 24-hour food TV would never work, but it does. We
keep the content pertinent to the Asian market. We give viewers what
they want – recipes that they really would like to cook themselves.” He
was the first TV chef to become a culinary star. “Till that time chefs
were not really appreciated. People were almost sympathetic when they
saw me on TV. They hoped that I would get a proper job in the near
future,” he joked. He has been recognised as giving the food industry
and chefs in India respectability, and he himself has gained much
personal caché. Richard Quest selected Sanjeev Kapoor as one of
the top celebrity chefs in the world, along with Gordon Ramsay, Jamie
Oliver and Wolfgang Puck, featuring them in his programme “Quest” on
the CNN channel.
Sanjeev started in the hospitality industry in 1984 with a Diploma in
Hotel Management from the Indian Institute of Hotel Management (IIHM)
in Pusa. He was academically brilliant so his choice surprised some,
who had expected him to become an engineer or a doctor. Many Indian
chefs have come from families who have had a connection to restaurants,
hotels or catering, but Sanjeev chose this path independently, not
being associated with any foodie family firm. “My Dad used to cook
wonderful meat dishes. In those days it was unusual for a man in India
to cook at home.” Perhaps his father sowed the seed of Sanjeev’s future
Mastering the Art of Indian Cooking is the latest in a
steady stream of cookbooks penned by this Indian culinary worthy. All
others, although eminently accessible to the Western audience, have
been written for the Asian reader. This latest tome offers dishes
selected for those outside the Subcontinent. The recipes are not
‘dumbed-down’ for the non-Indian palate, but they have been chosen to
introduce an array of both classic and contemporary delights that can
easily be prepared with the use of your regular high-street shops. For
those folk who live in a lighthouse off the coast of Shetland then
there is always the internet.
Sanjeev Kapoor is on a panel of India’s Ministry of Tourism set up
specifically to document Indian cuisine and to present to the world an
authentic view of these classic dishes. We are all very enthusiastic
about French cuisine and it has indeed given us so much: remarkable
patisserie, memorable sauces, refined plates; but the cuisine of India
has been for too long overlooked. It should, in my humble opinion,
stand proudly shoulder-to-shoulder with French cooking. Different but
equal in every regard.
Mastering the Art of Indian Cooking would be my all-encompassing
cookbook for my island adventure. Yes, this book is a considerable
size. No, it is not garnished with photographs of exotic food shown
tastefully balanced on the back of an elephant. Not a single lacy dosa
silhouetted in front of the Taj Mahal. This is a straightforward book
of recipes that you can and will make in your very own and not very
exotic kitchen. There are more than 500 recipes listed here. Many will
be familiar but there will be others that reflect Indian home cooking,
and it’s unlikely you would have found them on any restaurant menu.
A quick flick through the pages will assure you that the majority of
these recipes are simple. Note that the dishes that seem to require a
lengthy list of ingredients are easy to prepare. That list will
comprise spices that you will find in your supermarket. Once you have
your battery of half a dozen or so common spices then you are set to
make pretty much all the dishes collected here. Just add a couple of
fresh ingredients, fish, flesh or veggies, and dinner is on the way.
Not even home cooks in India want to spend too much time chained to the
Beans Poriyal represents the easy yet truly Indian dishes found in
Mastering the Art of Indian Cooking. Few ingredients, which combine to
make boring green beans a thing of the past. Ten minutes cooking time
gives a delicious side dish for an Asian or European meal. The majority
of Indians are full-time or part-time vegetarians so Indian cuisine
offers a wealth of vibrant yet healthy dishes for those who prefer to
stick to vegetables. The spices in Indian food compensate for the lack
of animal, so even card-carrying carnivores will be wooed by these
I love Shrimp Balchao. I could consume this pickled Goan delicacy by
the bucket-full. It’s eaten with rice or even with the Goan savoury
coconut cakes called Sannas (included in this volume). This isn’t a
seafood version of our English pickled onions. Shrimp Balchao is a
sweet and sour preparation that is moreish. The vinegar is added early
in the cooking and the sugar added near the end to produce a zesty and
striking, well-balanced dish in less time than ordering a take-away.
Indian sweets are seldom found on restaurant menus. There are plenty of
sweetshops in Indian neighbourhoods but unless you are lucky enough to
live near one you’ll want a good recipe. Chocolate Walnut Burfy is a
two-layered confection made with rich solid condensed milk (found in
Asian supermarkets or on the internet for those in the lighthouse). It
has a shelf life of only a day or so but it will be gone before the
Mastering the Art of Indian Cooking is, like the author, trustworthy.
No need to be an expert in the kitchen. The ingredients for the dishes
are not expensive. In fact the most costly and indispensible ingredient
will be the second copy of this book. You will want to keep that in the
kitchen and at hand to use frequently. It will become stained and
dog-eared over the years. It will naturally fall open at favourite
pages after a decade or two. Mine is already a little creased around
Shahi Paneer and a peppercorn is acting as a book-mark at Chettinadu
Mastering the Art of Indian Cooking is a must-have for any serious
cookbook collector or lover of real Indian food. It will, I feel sure,
become the Indian equivalent in status of the French Larousse
Gastronomique. Sanjeev Kapoor presents us with a delicious and
practical masterwork that is entirely relevant to today’s lifestyle and
tastes in both the East and West. Amazing value for money.
Mastering the Art of Indian Cooking
Author: Sanjeev Kapoor
Published by: Stewart Tabori and Chang (Abrams)
Price: £19.00, $27.28
ISBN: 978-1-58479-933-7 (UK)
ISBN-10: 1584799331 (US)
ISBN-13: 978-1584799337 (US)
Khaadras Club Night- Asian Food review
In the seventh century, Arab armies conquered Persia (now
Iran). Some Zoroastrians were converted to Islam whilst others fled to
India. They settled in the western part of the country where the
community already had trading contacts, and they established
settlements to the north of Mumbai. Their descendants founded the
community which later took the name Parsi (Parsee),
They were not universally welcomed in India. Jadi Rana, the king of
Gujurat, is said to have pleaded “My country is overflowing already so
how would we find room for you as well?” The leader of the Parsi
community asked for a bowl of milk filled to the brim and also a
spoonful of sugar. He then carefully stirred the sugar into to the bowl
without spilling a drop of milk. “We are like sugar. We will only
sweeten your land.” explained the Parsi.
Parsis have enjoyed great success in India but we in London also have a
celebrated Parsi who has come to sweeten London with his notable and
delicious food, and he even offers his guests the chance to try some
traditional Parsi fare. Celebrated chef Cyrus Todiwala invites one and
all to The Khaadras Club Night!
This ‘Greedy Gourmand’s Club’ was established after Parsi friends
begged Cyrus and his wife and partner, Pervin, for some dishes from
their own community. It was to be a meeting of friends with a focus on
food. It has become such a popular event that Café Spice
Namasté has made these feasts available at intervals throughout
the year. The event is always eagerly awaited by Parsis but equally by
lovers of fine food, and as this is a true Parsi event one can be sure
that the helpings will be generous. It is indeed well-named the Greedy
The food on these evenings is authentic and presented to an audience
comprised of many who know exactly what they want, and how it should be
cooked and presented. I am no expert on this little-known cuisine but I
can attest to the fact that the food was mouth-watering, served with
many smiles and much good humour, and there was plenty of it – food and
humour, that is. This wasn’t just an evening at any old restaurant.
This was a Todiwala celebration and had the air of a family party.
Cyrus and Pervin are famed for knowing their regulars by name, and that
warmth is magnified on these special evenings when all of us were
welcomed as friends.
The company was outstanding, with many a story told and laughs provided
by our hosts. But the food was the centre of our convivial evening.
Saria/achaar was a basket of light crackers served with spicy chutneys,
while Waffer Nay Bhaji Purr Eedu – finely chopped onion sautéed
with minced garlic and cumin, blended with chopped spinach and wafers,
gently simmered with whole steamed egg on top, served with crispy naan
– was our first course.
Chutney May Luptaeli Machchi - filet of fish folded over with fresh
green chutney, rolled in flour, dipped in egg, fried and served on
Tamota Ni Gravy Nay Rotli, a rich tomato sauce – was exceptional.
The main course was Vaegna Ni Buriani - Lamb and Aubergine stew –
although the name does not honestly do this dish justice - dark and
flavorsome meat wrapped in slices of melting aubergine: there must be a
better word than stew. There was more meat in the guise of Masala Ma
Taraeli Jungli Murghi Ni Boti – dices of chicken marinated
cubes of potato
cooked with diced mixed peppers, cumin and garlic.
Saev Nay Mitthu Dahi is a traditional Parsi dessert served at
celebrations, a confection of vermicelli, fruit and nuts served with
thick yoghurt which was a fitting sweet end to a meal that was indeed a
celebration of Parsi culinary heritage and culture.
This veritable feast is prepared just once every couple of months, and
has a different menu every time: these regulars want to see different
dishes to tempt their well-educated palates. At a very reasonable
£25 for all of that food, I’ll be returning again and again.
Book by contacting Binay Aryal at email@example.com
London Asian restaurant review:
Café Spice Namast, 16 Prescot Street, London E1 8AZ
Open Monday – Friday
Lunch: 12.00 – 3.00 pm
Dinner: 6.15 – 10.30 pm
Asian cookbook review:
Food from Northern Laos
– The Boat Landing Cookbook
I am driven to describe some cookbooks as recipes with a
bit of travel. Other volumes I have reviewed as travel adventures with
some cooking on the side. Food from Northern Laos – The Boat Landing
Cookbook is as much a travelogue as an encyclopaedia of every culinary
tradition of Northern Laos.
Note that I suggest that there is more than one cuisine in Northern
Laos. In fact there are several distinct cultures that call this region
home. Some of these groups have lived there for many hundreds of years
whilst others have moved in more recently from the neighbouring
countries, and naturally they have brought with them their style of
cooking and their love of diverse foods.
The Boat Landing in question is a guest house and restaurant which
introduces travellers to the food of this corner of Laos. These dishes
represent the regular fare of the local population. They have been
carefully chosen to appeal to the Western palate but are authentic and
Now, it’s true that there are some recipes here that will be a bit
challenging if one does not either live in the tropics or have access
to a good Asian supermarket. But there is much here that can be made
with the spices that you will likely have lingering at the back of your
larder. There are even dishes that are familiar to lovers of south-east
Asian food. Pho originated in Vietnam but now this soup has become a
The book starts by tempting the reader to visit this charming and
culturally rich corner of our shrinking planet. Each of the resident
communities is presented in prose and pictures. It’s a small world
that’s fast changing – this book is as much about archiving the lives
and values of the population of Northern Laos as it is about preserving
its culinary heritage. A couple of hours in the company of this book
will have even those who are strangers to the inside of a kitchen
booking a flight to Laos.
Food from Northern Laos – The Boat Landing Cookbook is a must for any
passionate cook who might be considering a trip to south-east Asia.
Many of us are enthusiastic home chefs who are comfortable preparing
Indian curries, Japanese domburis, Chinese dim sum and Thai soups, but
this book introduces so many unfamiliar ingredients and combinations.
Yes, it’s true that some dishes have been influenced by other cuisines,
but Laos has indeed cultivated its own culinary identity.
Food from Northern Laos – The Boat Landing Cookbook is well written,
and illustrated by some of the finest photography of that region that
one will ever find. A credit to both the author, Dorothy Culloty, and
the photographer, Kees Sprengers.
Asian cookbook review: Food from Northern Laos – The Boat Landing
Author: Dorothy Culloty; photographer: Kees Sprengers
Published by: Galangal Press
review: Vegetarian Cooking
Mridula Baljekar presents us with another superb
example of her skill as a food writer. Vegetarian Cooking of India is
latest in a string of books which exemplify the reasons why she is held
high regard by home cooks, those with a passion for Indian food, and
of beautiful recipe books.
Vegetarian Cooking of India is a
large format volume
from Aquamarine. This publisher offers some of the most thoughtful and
practical cookbooks around. They have found a path that strikes a
between a food manual and a food annual. Mridula puts recipes in
geographic context and there is a very appealing element of food
This is not only a vegetarian cookbook but also a culinary reflection
One can always expect something
Mridula, and this latest work will not disappoint those who have
enjoyed her previous
recipe collections. She does not assume that her reader has any
kitchen prowess. She starts with an overview of ingredients, equipment
techniques. Each recipe includes a few words to give confidence to the
and to inspire the more practised.
There are 80 classic recipes here,
but classic does
not mean that they are facsimiles of those already contained within the
of your other favourite Indian cookbooks. The dishes here are authentic
there is something for every taste: Sweet Pineapple Salad flecked with
seeds from South India to Potatoes in Chilli-Tamarind Sauce from West
Vegetarian Cooking of India
represents the style of
food that is eaten in homes all over the Subcontinent and indeed in
homes worldwide. The dishes are lighter and fresher-tasting than those
in all but the best Indian restaurants. The recipes here contain more
spices than searingly hot ones. It’s about flavour rather than fire.
Channa Madra – chickpeas in a
sauce – is North Indian. This is a substantial dish which will be
even by those who would normally crave meat at every meal. The use of
and beans in these recipes might persuade many carnivores down the
Sanar Kofta – cheese balls
from North East
India – are made with Paneer which can be found in most large
a mild cheese which absorbs flavours and is used extensively in Indian
kitchens. These balls are covered in a piquant sauce and served with
rice for a
main meal. I would think that they could equally work as a vegetarian
tempting version of the ubiquitous cocktail sausage, which was
passé by the end
of the 60s yet endures in some quarters.
Dimer Dalna – egg, potato and green
pea curry from
East India – is economic and a must-try dish. It is delicately infused
cinnamon, cardamom and cloves. Mridula serves this with Indian bread
she includes several recipes. Comfort food at its warming finest.
Good Indian desserts are more often
found in Indian
homes than Indian restaurants. Mridula has some tempting traditional
suggestions, and Shrikand – saffron-scented strained yogurt – is one of
favourites. It has to be made at least 2 hours in advance so it’s ideal
end of an exotic meal or to finish a light summer lunch.
It’s no surprise to find a chutney
recipe in a
Mridula Baljekar cookbook: she produces her own brand of seasonal
are delightfully flavourful and different. If you can’t find her jars
supermarket then you can at least enjoy her Tomato Achar – roasted
chutney – made by your own fair hands.
of India is a book that will encourage you into the kitchen. The
recipes are simple to execute but are exciting enough to be appreciated
those who already have lots of Indian dishes in their repertoire.
drive a debutant into panic but plenty to inspire.
Asian Cookbook review: Vegetarian
Cooking of India
Author: Mridula Baljekar
Published by: Aquamarine
Dal and Kadhi
Sanjeev Kapoor is the Indian chef with the golden touch.
His acclaimed TV series, Khana Khazana, has
enjoyed a 15-year run, has won the Indian Television Academy “Best
Cookery Show” and the “Indian Telly” awards year after year, such is
the popularity of this man.
Dal and Kadhi presents regional comfort food at its best and the book
is as delightful as the food. Each recipe is accompanied by a
photograph by Bharat Bhirangi who has a talent for showing these dishes
in a mouth-watering fashion. You’ll be planning your next meal before
you leave the bookshop.
What could be better than a flavourful dal or kadhi to eat with rice or
roti? Your meal might be humble or you could add a dal to an array of
other dishes to make a sumptuous and satisfying spread. They range in
texture from the rich and substantial to the light and refreshing to
suit the season or the occasion. These are the dishes that people miss
when they leave home and crave when they are in far-off countries.
This book offers 45 recipes that you will want to add to your culinary
repertoire no matter what your home region. They are a broad-based
selection of recipes so there is sure to be something to please every
palate. Dal Makhni is perhaps the most celebrated both in India and
overseas where it has become a restaurant speciality, although seldom
cooked in an authentic style. Maharashtrian Kadhi is a traditional dish
and represents India’s culinary diversity in a most delicious way.
All these dals and kadhis are tempting but as with life in general
there are firsts among equals and I have picked a few that are
particularly tempting. Rajasthani Baati ki Dal is made with split green
gram (dhuli moong dal) and Bengal gram (chana dal) and the resulting
dal is served with traditional baked balls of dough.
Bhindi ni Kadhi is bound to be on my list as I love ladies’ fingers
(bhinda/ bhindi). This is a soupy combination of yogurt and gram flour
(besan) flavoured with spices. The vegetables remain a little crisp
giving the kadhi an interesting texture.
Dal Hari Bhari contains spinach and fenugreek leaves, onions and
spices, and Sanjeev uses it to tempt those who would not normally enjoy
green vegetables. This would be an easy meal when served just with rice.
Dal and Kadhi is an Aladdin’s cave of ideas for quick, tasty and
healthy dishes. One expects lovely books from Sanjeev Kapoor and this
is another in that collection that never disappoints. You don’t have to
spend a lot of money to enjoy good food. This book will show you the
way in fine flavourful fashion.
Asian cookbook review: Dal and Kadhi
Author: Sanjeev Kapoor
Published by: Popular Prakashan
The Blue Elephant
This must surely be the most celebrated of Thai restaurant
empires. It would be diminishing the class and
the quality of the group to describe them as a chain. This is far from
the KF Mac Hut of the Thai food world – think sumptuous and exotic and
The Blue Elephant has a fine reputation wherever you might find it. and
the cookbook now allows its followers to replicate its dishes in their
home kitchens. Those who have never had the pleasure of visiting a Blue
Elephant will soon appreciate the attraction.
Thai food in general has gained worldwide popularity over the past
decade. More of us have the opportunity to travel to Thailand and also
to visit Thai restaurants in our home countries, and we want to try
those dishes for ourselves. The Blue Elephant Cookbook will offer you a
marvelous array of recipes that represent the very essence of Thai food
with all its vibrant flavours.
Blue Elephant recipes are authentic, attractive and tempting. They are
not over-taxing for the competent home cook, and the ingredients are
all availiable either from your favourite supermarket’s Asian food
aisle, from a specialist Thai food store or by mail order via the
internet. You’ll not only learn how to make soups, starters, salads,
main dishes and desserts but also curry pastes and sauces.
Thai Fish Cakes will be instantly recognised by travellers returning
from sun-kissed Thai resorts. They are delicately soft with a crunch
supplied by a garnish of peanuts and refreshing lettuce. Serve this
with Cucumber Sauce (recipe in this book) and you have a delicious
snack or light lunch, or combine with other dishes as part of a Thai
Stir-Fried Seafood with Garlic and Peppercorns (Seafood Krathiam Prik
Thai) is elegant and flavourful and would be an ideal “special” meal.
OK, the prawns, scallops and crab are not cheap but this recipe makes
the best of that seafood, and the finished result is stunning. The base
is Blue Elephant Special Sauce which you can easily make and freeze for
Tuk’s Duck Salad (Laab Ped) is a dish devised by the aforementioned Tuk
who is a chef at the Blue Elephant in London. The duck is grilled and
flavoured with a spice paste and garnished with fried shallots,
chillies, fresh coriander and salad. A simple dish to prepare but it
has great impact.
The Blue Elephant Cookbook is a jewel of a volume and definitely among
my favourite Thai cookbooks. It will be snapped up by lovers of classic
Thai food as well as those who are regular diners at The Blue Elephant
restaurants. A lovely book.
Asian cookbook Review: The Blue Elephant Cookbook
Author: Chefs of Blue Elephant.
Published by: Pavilion – Anova
This is a collaboration between two of India’s finest sons
of the culinary arts. If you have not heard of Sanjeev Kapoor (Sanjeev
you must have been living under a rock with no access either to
cookbooks or the internet, for surely you would have read my previous
review of his work! Chef Harpal Singh Sokhi is an expert on Hyderabadi
cuisine, and Sanjeev's respected friend and colleague.
But what is Hyderabadi cooking? It will be a mystery to most
Westerners, who are very unlikely to have encountered it, and it is
revered by Indians, who might also have trouble tracking down authentic
dishes. It’s truly courtly, special and grand but at least this volume
makes those dishes more accessible to the home cook... and what home
cooking that would be!
Royal Hyderabadi Cooking is an elegantly presented volume with stylish
photography by Bharat Bhirangi illustrating every recipe. The book has
a modern feel with the food being the rich focus in a minimalist
setting. Although the ingredients look a lengthy list for some dishes,
it’s mostly spices that are commonly found in the domestic larder.
Apart from being a striking cookbook, Royal Hyderabadi Cooking is also
something of an archive for a style of food preparation that is
disappearing. The authors have been lucky enough to recruit the
indispensible aid of two national culinary treasures who have lifetimes
of expertise. Begum Mumtaz Khan is considered a living legend and is a
member of the Jagirdhar families of the last Nizam, and has actually
tasted the food from the Royal kitchens. She has conducted cooking
classes and hosted Hyderabadi food festivals.
Ustad Habib Pasha has a passion for Hyderabadi food and a wealth of
experience. He has worked in Hyderabad’s most famous restaurants and
has been generous to our authors with his knowledge, revealing the
secrets of aromatic blends of herbs that help to give this cuisine its
There are so many striking recipes to discover here but I have a few
favourites. Murtabuk is a layered stack of chapattis with a filling of
minced chicken, eggs and spices and is served in wedges as you would a
savoury birthday cake. It was Begum Mumtaz Khan who taught the authors
how to cook this to perfection.
Thikri Ki Dal is a delicious and comforting dal which contains amongst
the spices, onions and ghee... 2 three-inch pieces of earthenware! The
thikri are heated till red hot and then plunged into the food. They are
removed before serving to avoid damage to either guest or crockery.
This method is said to impart a distinctive and earthy flavour. Truly
Double Ka Meetha is a sweet and syrupy dessert that would be a fitting
end to a Royal Hyderabadi meal. It’s a confection of bread, nuts, cream
and saffron and simple to make. I wouldn’t reserve this for just
Hyderabadi meals, this would be welcomed anytime by those with a sweet
The title suggests something sumptuous and rich and that is just what
this food is all about. Royal Hyderabadi Cooking presents recipes that
are regal and festive but accessible to the home cook. Amazing!
Asian cookbook review: Royal Hyderabadi Cooking
Author: Sanjeev Kapoor and Harpal Singh Sokhi
Published by: Popular Prakashan
You should expect something special when you are presented
with a Sanjeev Kapoor cookbook. Low Calorie
Vegetarian really is something a bit different and this could start an
exotic diet trend.
Sanjeev is probably the most celebrated of Indian chefs, presenting
Khana Khazana on India’s Zee TV. It’s been airing since 1993 and its
600th episode is now just a memory. He has won several awards such as
the Best Executive Chef of India Award and the Mercury Gold Award at
Geneva, which has earned this man international as well as home-grown
Low Calorie Vegetarian Cookbook is just one of many cookbooks from this
charming, handsome and charismatic man. Each book is welcomed by an
adoring audience who have been impressed by the author’s skill on the
small screen. It’s said that Sanjeev never repeats a recipe and will
not need to for several decades; such is his volume of work.
Low calorie carnivorous and low calorie vegetarian recipes have often
seemed to fall into one of two categories: boring or boring with
vegetables. But Sanjeev’s book will strike the right chord with many
readers who want a low calorie diet that offers food with taste and
texture. If you don’t enjoy the food that does you good then you will
fall back into the same old unhealthy eating habits which got you into
your chubby mess to start with.
Low Calorie Vegetarian Cookbook is about flavour, and Sanjeev has a
collection of recipes that will tempt even those with no health or
weight issues. This is good food with intriguing combinations of spices
and fresh ingredients. There are Nutrition Information charts with each
recipe to enable the home cook to make the best choices to achieve a
The recipes are broad-based and you don’t have to be a lover of
traditional Indian food to appreciate the dishes. Sanjeev has French
onion soup but his version raises the bar with French Onion and Garlic
Soup. Spicy Pineapple Boat is light and refreshing but with a little
kick from green chillies. For those who want a cool and summery salad
then Minted Mushrooms should fit the bill. This is a dish of mushrooms,
tomato, cucumber, mint leaves and a dressing of low fat yogurt, and the
addition of lemon juice provides a tang.
However delicious the European-inspired dishes might be, most of us
will be looking for that unmistakable taste of the subcontinent and
it’s here in glorious profusion. Spinach and Cabbage Parantha is a
flatbread with aromatic cardamom and spicy red chilli powder to
complement the vegetables incorporated into the dough.
Desserts are not forgotten. Kesari Phirni is a lovely dessert of
Pistachio nuts perfumed with saffron and cardamom. The sweetness comes
from a sugar substitute such as Equal or Splenda so you can indulge
with no guilt.
Do I have a favourite recipe? Well, you know I do and its Mushroom Dum
Biryani. This is a rice dish made with the traditional method but have
no fear, it’s not difficult and the results will impress both Western
and Asian friends. I’ll make this dish often, not because I have a low
calorie diet (although perhaps I should) but because it’s delicious and
A Western cook will have no problem finding the spices in local
supermarkets or from one of the many online Asian stores. The cooking
techniques are not taxing and you don’t have to take a trip to Mumbai
to kit out your new Asian kitchen. This is a fascinating book with
recipes that will encourage you to make, eat and enjoy flavourful and
Low Calorie Vegetarian Cookbook is the first of Sanjeev Kapoor's books
that I have had the pleasure to review, and there are more to follow.
This volume is bound to be a success with readers from every continent.
Asian cookbook review: Low Calorie Vegetarian Cookbook
Author: Sanjeev Kapoor
Published by: Popular Prakashan
Price: Rs.250.00, £11.69, $25.00US
The Asian Grill
Yes, it’s a BBQ book but one with a difference. This will
capture the imagination of those who long for
something more exotic. There are those fire-extinguisher-wielding,
burnt-offering-offering culinary pyromaniacs who think that charcoal
adds flavour. No, my little Webber warrior, my Hibachi hero! The
charcoal is the fuel and not the food; add flavour by thoughtful use of
marinades and condiments.
Corinne Trang is an international chef and food authority. Her heritage
is Asian and European, and she is one of the few who are truly at home
with both genres; but more importantly she loves food. Might sound a
strange and rather obvious statement but there are many chefs and
food-industry gurus who are just doing a job, but Corinne is a chef, a
food professional, and a foodie with all the passionate enthusiasm that
I am not a lover of Fusion food as it is so often a compromise. Some
chefs have built reputations on marrying ingredients which should never
even have been introduced. Corinne’s food is easily described as good
food with Asian flavour. There is nothing here that will bring the cry
of horror, nothing that jars, but plenty that looks good on paper and
even better on a plate.
The Asian Grill will gently lead you away (you can return from time to
time) from ketchup, mustard and liquid smoke and will playfully nudge
you in the direction of soy sauce, sesame oil and mirin. All the
ingredients are available in a supermarket near you or via mail order.
The cooking techniques don’t require a training course and you probably
already have the equipment, so you are ready to dazzle.
Back-yard grilling isn’t famed for having a sophisticated meal as its
end-product. It’s more often burgers like hockey pucks and flavourless
chicken. It’s rarely the food that is the centre of attention but
rather the grilling process that encourages conviviality. We marvel at
the “skill” of (mostly) men who only don an apron when the smell of
lighter fuel is in the air. Grilling is simple and was the first
cooking method. Cavemen didn’t say “I’ll rustle up a nice
soufflé for lunch” or “How about a delicately toasted English
muffin with passion-fruit jelly?” No, dear reader, it would likely be
“Pass me the pinny, Unk, I’m grilling tonight.”
Corinne has a flair for flavour, not only for the dishes that are
grilled, but for all the associated breads, rices, noodles, and even
sweets and drinks. There is everything you will need in this one
vibrant and attractive volume. You will be able to compose meals around
the grill that will be elegant but still fun both to cook and to eat.
I love lamb and The Asian Grill has a recipe that is a joy. Lamb
Marinated in Yellow Spice Paste is flavoured with a pungent mix which
elevates these kebabs into something mouthwatering. Corinne suggests
serving these with Scallion Flat Bread from this same book. Pork
Patties could be an alternative filling for that bread, and this recipe
has a distinct Vietnamese flavour with fish sauce and lemon grass. BBQ
Pork is Corinne’s version of the Cantonese classic, Char Siu, often
seen hanging in windows in Chinatowns the world over. This will always
be a crowd-pleaser.
Perhaps my favourite recipe is that for Spicy Sweet Soy Sauce Marinated
Chicken. It couldn’t be easier to prepare but the resulting bird is a
long way from the usual lack-lustre poultry of by-gone BBQs ...or I
might choose Spicy Squid Salad ...but Asian Clambake is impressive
The Asian Grill is a book stuffed with tempting and flavourful food.
You don’t need to know anything about cooking Asian food, and even a
novice griller should be confident of a lot of compliments; everything
you need to know is here. Corinne Trang has once again produced a book
that will soon be stained through much use, and that’s a fine accolade
for any cookbook.
Asian cookbook review: The Asian Grill
Author: Corinne Trang
Published by: Chronicle Books
Noodles Every Day
To the untutored this might seem an uninspiring
proposition, but it’s perfectly possible to eat noodles every day and
perhaps even several times a day without feeling as though it’s an
Corinne Trang is a US based author, radio and TV broadcaster on the
subject of Asian food. She is a well respected authority on foods from
China and Southeast Asia and has been described as the “Julia Child of
Asian Cuisine” by the Washington Post and me. Corinne has penned
numerous books and has won a raft of awards - her very first won Best
Asian Cuisine Book in the World at the World Cookbook Fair. Not too
Corinne has a passion for food and not just Asian food (a casual
conversation with this lady about anything from bread to breakfast will
have you drooling). Her background, a combination of French and
Chinese, equips her very well to take her place in the culinary arena
of both East and West.
Noodles Every Day is an attractive volume with marvellous photographs
by Maura McEvoy. It’s more than a cookbook – this is an encyclopaedia
of all things noodley. Every possible variety of noodle is considered
and a wealth of recipes is offered. This is the original fast food and
it’s both healthy and sustaining which is more than can be said for
most of the popular western alternatives.
Every noodle type has its recipes but you can mix and match to suit
your own taste. The five noodle categories are Wheat, Egg, Buckwheat,
Rice and Cellophane but there is an additional chapter which covers
Buns, Dumplings, and Spring Rolls. Although these are not noodles they
do fall under the “snack” umbrella as do some of the noodle dishes.
Corinne introduces you to stock making and some typical Asian
condiments, as well as basic ingredients. You will have all you need to
be ever ready, with the addition of a few fresh items, for a quick but
impressive meal... and fast!
Wheat Noodles with Spicy Ground Pork is a Szechuan classic. Dishes from
this region are prized for their robust flavours and this one is no
exception although the stir-fried Napa cabbage (Chinese Leaves) adds
sweetness. Stir-fried Egg Noodles with Beef and Broccoli is another
meat and vegetable recipe and a worldwide restaurant favourite but it’s
easy to make at home. It’s flavourful, rich and comforting.
One of the most striking recipes in Noodles Every Day is that for Egg
Noodle Soup with Five-spice Duck. This would make a smart dinner party
dish with its succulent, aromatic meat and the soup served on the side.
For sheer luxury though, Crab-flavoured Noodles with Velvety Crab Sauce
and Green Peas takes some beating. It’s a simple recipe but has a
cheffy quality about it. The crab-flavoured noodles can be found in
larger Chinese food stores but if you can’t get hold of them you can
substitute regular thin egg noodles.
Noodles Every Day is an instructive and inspiring book. It’s
thoughtfully written with the western cook in mind but Corinne Trang is
never pedestrian in her choice of recipes. This isn’t just another
Asian cookbook but rather a vehicle which will help you to appreciate
all the subtle flavours and textures that Asian food has to offer.
Noodles Every Day will surely be another award winner.
Asian cookbook review: Noodles Every Day
Author: Corinne Trang
Published by: Chronicle Books
Price: $22.95 US, £12.99