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Recipe: Fuchsia Dunlop’s Spicy Peanut Butter Noodles (with Prawns)

Fuchsia Dunlop's Spicy Peanut Butter Noodles with Prawns

Fuchsia Dunlop’s Spicy Peanut Butter Noodles with Prawns

Convenience isn’t always about using your store cupboard bits and bobs. Convenience, for me, is often about avoiding leaving the house. I know. I live in a big city about 10 minutes walk away from a supermarket and 2 minutes from a reasonably stocked corner shop, but some days I am so deep in cabin fever / cosy / lazy / attached to my pjs, I will do anything to just stay indoors.

So, if I want a sandwich I may delay it so that I can bake the bread. Yes, I do that. Not often, but I do. That is also because I can’t stand the really processed stuff and the bakery is, well, 10 minutes away, but you know, I don’t want to leave the house (and I like baking). Or, if I need peanut butter to cook someone else’s store cupboard supper, I will make it at home rather than walk 2 minutes to the corner shop. The result is a much better peanut butter and the effort is not too great.

If you work from home (all the time, not just occasional days), you will understand this sophisticated form of cabin fever. When working from home I hold myself captive, until it spirals out of control and then I become a little weird and try to arrange everything so that it happens within a few metres of my living room. I need to get an office, with a kitchen, can someone arrange that, please?

Back to that peanut butter. Yesterday was OFM Sunday, and this months issue had a lovely feature on store cupboard suppers.[Read more]

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Haozhan

I am a little late with this one, I am possibly the last food blogger to write about Haozhan. I’ve wanted to go since it opened, but never did and I think this is because it is in Chinatown. This made me nervous, as, generally the best Chinese food in London is found outside of Chinatown. I like going there for their grocery shops, and, go frequently for sichuan pepper, spring roll wrappers and random treats. I enjoy the bakeries and their dairy free semi-savoury delights. But, with few exceptions, the restaurants are not great. However, I continued to read good things and I decided I should really try it.

Hoazhan comes with solid credentials – Jimmy Kong of New Fook Lam Moon opened it with Chee Loong Cheong, formerly of Hakkasan, in the kitchen. Hakkasan is one of Alan Yau’s famed establishments and one of London’s few michelin starred Chinese restaurants. It offers sophisticated Chinese fusion food, but, is in the upper echelons of my current budgetary restrictions, so it was good to get an opportunity to taste the offerings of a chef that had worked there.

I have been twice now, the first time for a friends birthday on a Saturday night, nervously as I had recommended we try it, but had no experience of dining there to reassure me. On arrival, we were ushered upstairs to a round table, and within a short while, we were ordering. It was very busy, full to capacity. The appearance is quite trendy and very different to most of the other restaurants on Gerrard St. The green and black is attributed to Feng Shui, the whole effect was very modern, clean and efficient.

Service, on the other hand, was very much what I have come to know in chinatown – abrupt and swift – but, unlike alot of its neighbours, it had a charm, and by the end of the night we were all laughing at the misunderstandings surrounding getting a birthday candle put in a dessert for the birthday boy. Reviewing the menu, it appeared to be fusion, blending influences from regional asian cuisines with Chinese cooking, there’s marmite prawns and cheesy lobster on the menu, the lobster is a step too far for me I think, but maybe one day I’ll try the prawns.

We ordered a selection of starters – standout were the chilli squid which was crisp, light and beautifully spiced and so full of flavour, the veggie mixed starter was good, if average and the coffee ribs were rich and flavoursome.

Mains went from fabulous to bizarre. I had a gorgeous homemade tofu dish and would have written this post if only to tell you about it – Haozhan tofu – four fried homemade tofu cubes, like a savoury custard with spinach skimming the surface, all topped with a scallop and some fish roe. A friend had curry prawns which were very spicy and came served in a huge round of bread. Bizarre and super spicy. I’ve already mentioned the lobster and the prawns!

For dessert I had the red bean pancake, which was just ok, nothing spectacular. The deep fried ice cream was fine but not amazing.

Impressed as I was with the savoury food, I wanted to bring another foodie friend there. I, the creature of habit and desperate for more squid and tofu, ordered the same meal. He ordered the chilli deep fried soft shell crab and the crispy shredded beef. My meal was spectacular as before but his was disappointing: the crabs were slightly burned and the beef was borderline – very sweet and average.

It was a shame, as the previous night was generally, a very positive experience. I’ll definitely go again, if only for the tofu.

2 courses with one glass of wine, 2 beers and tea was £60.

Haozhan
8 Gerrard Street
W1D 5PJ
0207 434 3838

http://www.haozhan.co.uk/

Correction (20th June 2008) – I had the chilli squid starter, not the chilli tofu. I am clearly just a little focussed on that tofu main course!

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Alan Yau’s latest flavour – Cha Cha Moon

Cha Cha Moon

Another year, another stylish restaurant opening from Alan Yau. The entepreneur and restaurateur, native of Hong Kong, has taken London by storm in recent years with a succession of well received asian restaurants including two michelin starred restaurants (Yautcha & Hakkasan). He started with Wagamama in 1992 which he sold in 1998 when it comprised 2 restaurants. These were followed swiftly by Satsuma (for the Royal China Group), Busaba Eathai, Hakkasan, Yautcha, Sake no Hana and now Cha Cha Moon.

Cha Cha Moon

Famously, he was very unhappy with what happened with Wagamamas. It was a hostile buyout and he is quoted as saying that that was “was like seeing your baby brought up by strangers with different values”. He is seeking to make amends with Cha Cha Moon. It is intended to be the Chinese Wagamamas serving healthy, casual fast food.

On approach, Cha Cha Moon is even more startling and modern than previous offerings with bright panels of lights on the walls, broader than at Yautchas, a pretty neon sign by the door. The kitchen is open and, as you walk in, behind red glass, which lends it a surreal and exciting effect. Stylish, modern and in a great location, it’s a similar formula to some of his previous establishments offering communal eating on long wooden tables and food served swiftly as it’s ready. The menu, on first glance apperars very traditional, serving the likes dan dan noodles & szechuan wontons.

It was quite empty when we arrived at 7.15pm, I can only assume that not many people know that it’s there yet, and we had no trouble getting a table. In fact we had a large table to ourselves. I took a couple of photos until someone ran over quickly advising “no photos allowed”. I obliged and put my camera away, but really, it’s a little silly. Especially as I already had taken some ;)

We ordered a beer and a shibuya casual cocktail. The cocktail, made of lychee, sake and martini bianco, was delicious. It was also very pretty with four raspberries nestling on some white foam on top. To eat we ordered jasmine tea smoked chicke lao mian, seafood ho fun, szechuan wonton and spring onion pancakes.

I really enjoyed the chicken, it was delicately flavoured and light, and the noodles were flavoursome especially when blended with some nice accoutrements inluding a beautiful light bowl of light soup/stock. The seafood ho fun was extremely fresh and contained scallops, prawns and squid but the sauce overwhelmed. I am not a fan of black bean sauces generally, so I am sure this is why it disappointed on that front. Why order it then? It wasn’t my dish but my dining partners, he also was underwhelmed. The szechuan wonton was tasty, but not as firey as one I previously had at Angeles, a traditional szechuan restaurant in Kilburn in London. The spring onion pancakes were very flavoursome and a nice accopaniment.

Overall judgement? It opened only last weekend, and so, while they are perfecting their craft, all food on the menu is £3.50. Bargain! Therefore, I can’t really judge the food just yet, it wouldn’t be fair. First impressions are that it’s cheap, stylish, central and quick. I think it will be good for that stopgap on a busy evening or a quick sociable bite with friends.

Cha Cha Moon
15-21 Ganton St, Soho, W1F 9BN
020 72979800

28/05/08 Visited Cha Cha Moon again and had Sigapore fried noodles which were delicate, light and beautifully seasoned. Choi Sum on the side was well seasoned and flavoursome. Spring rolls were disappointing. More photos added to the post. I managed to take some this time! :-)