Friday, 25 March 2011


The Great Mall of China aka Cho Mee may not have been around since the 5th century BC but  its 20 years of trading make it a veritable ancient monument around these parts.  Here on Cambridge's Mill Road shops open and shut quicker than you can say Ghenghis Khan, but Cho Mee is an emporium built for longevity. Having hit upon the word emporium I realise it is exactly the right term for Cho Mee: it's a cavernous, old-fashioned  kind of place selling a wide variety of far eastern food. Here you can find everything you need to make authentic dishes whether Szechuan, Hunan or Thai is your thing. You can find pickled mustard greens, Shaoxing wine, Chinkiang vinegar, 100 year old eggs (more about them soon!), silken or smoked tofu; certainly there are no concessions to the Western palate here and some may find a few of the foodstuffs a tad recherché ... pig uteri anyone? 

At weekends it's crammed with families loading up with produce for what can only be gargantuan feasts sizzled and steamed in woks. There are more varieties of noodles you can shake a chopstick at and piled high  in a dimly lit corner are great white sacks of rice - sticky, Thai, jasmine - you name it they have it. And of course there's the smell, unmistakeable and indefinable - fishy, sweet and pungent with undertones of what can only be called putrefaction - if anyone is familiar with food markets in Hong Kong  you'll know what I mean.

At Chinese New Year Cho Mee really comes into its own, scarlet streamers garland the aisles and boxes of live crab and razor clams are shipped in along with stinky durian fruit and pomelos.  The husband and wife team who run Cho Mee  know their stuff - they can advise on the best rice cooker to buy, how to prepare a good tofu dish and may even have  a few good pig's uteri recipes up their sleeves -...
Cho Mee  108–110 Mill Road

Tuesday, 8 March 2011


Maybe it's the spring weather, the warm sunshine and clear blue skies that we are enjoying at the moment, but we are on an extended Asian flavours' kick this week.  Our taste buds relish the fresh edges of lime juice, galangal, chilli and lemongrass, and demand more of the same. This "Thai-style Steak and Pomegranate Salad" recipe on one of our favourite blogs, Hollow Legs, really hits the spot:

Lack of a pomegranate to hand means a bit of improvisation: the beef is marinaded in a mix of pomegranate molasses, lime juice and fish sauce along with the chilli garlic and sugar - I confess to doubling up the chilli and garlic too.

Spring is also bringing the allotment back to life, with new shoots bursting through everywhere, flashes of jewel-bright green set against the tattered browns and greys of winter. 
We scatter freshly picked mustard leaves and chives over the salad to add to the range of sharp, zesty herbal notes that cut against the sweetness of the steak and red pepper. 

Sunday, 6 March 2011


Saturday night in Cambridge and having watched a bleakish film (Archipelago if anyone is interested) sustained only by a few handfuls of popcorn we are up for something quick and delicious. We walk out and it is soon evident that while we have been in the cinema dusk has fallen and Regent St has transformed itself into a Bacardi Breezer version of Dante's Inferno.  We edge past a girl slumped senseless outside Emmanuel (whose friends stand around her listlessly chatting and text messaging) and hotfoot it to King Street and Yippee.

Yippee is a noodle bar ... now I've frequented quite a few noodle bars in my time, both here and in the Far East, and Yippee can punch its weight with the best. The standard accoutrements are here: brightly lit interior; trestle tables; lightning service and an open kitchen where you can register the sizzle of food in boiling oil and the clang of woks and pans. Suffice to say we scan the menu and then have our usual - Tempura Prawns, Spicy Squid laced with birds' eye chillies, Prawn Toasts and Beef Ho Fun Noodles.

 It's all brought to the table together and we chow down (no point in any chit chat between us the noise level is so high we have to yell at each other - we can talk about the film later). It's startlingly good and mouth searingly hot - I still have blisters in my mouth. It was so worth it....

Saturday, 5 March 2011


Ice cream in February? Oh yes!

We had some friends around last week for a Thai curry fest and having chopped about 60 chillies in preparation for the paste, I had an inkling that our tastebuds might be .... how shall I put it... enlivened. What to make for pudding? I rooted around in the freezer and found tucked at the back some frozen blackcurrants harvested last summer from the allotment. Ah blackcurrant ice cream - cool and soothing with a sharp fruit kick to counter the Thai spice and coconut.

Blackcurrant Ice Cream

350 g blackcurrants
4 eggs, separated
225 g caster sugar
575 ml double cream

Stew and sieve the blackcurrants to make a purée. Allow to cool. Whip the cream to soft peaks and beat in the egg yolks. Combine this with the pur ée,
Whip the the egg whites with the sugar and fold this meringue mixture into the fruit cream. Place the mixture in a sorbetiere, if you are lucky enough to have one. I scraped it all into a plastic tub and stirred it a few times to break up the crystals.
If you want to make a blackcurrant ripple ice cream make a little more puree and half way through the freezing -when the mixture starts solidifying - streak the mixture using a spoon or fork with some puree. Be careful with any subsequent stirring not to amalgamate it all.

One of the many nice things about inviting friends to supper is that they often arrive with presents ... such as beautiful white roses...