Friday, 28 October 2011

Revisiting Silk Road Restaurant

Well, business certainly seemed to have picked up at Silk Road Restaurant since the last time I wrote about it. Back then, we pretty much had the place to ourselves, even if it was a weekend. On our last two visits (twice within a week, both on Sunday nights), the place was packed with a mixture of students and family groups. Lucky for us though, there was a long, empty table left so we didn't have to endure an awkward table-sharing situation until halfway through our meal - and we were so engrossed in our meal by then that we hardly noticed the newcomers. 
Kelp in spicy sauce
Manbacon and I started with kelp in garlicky, spicy sauce - it's the one dish we always order on our visits there. I love it so much I'm pretty sure I could eat it every day if I had to (not really sure what situation would come up in which I would HAVE to eat it all the time though).
Egg, leek and shrimp dumplings
I wasn't feeling particularly meaty that day, so we got the egg, leek and shrimp dumplings instead. As usual, not particularly shrimpy, but still tasty and filling. I like dipping them into vinegar (provided on the side of every table) - the acidity really helps cut through the rather thick skin and gives it a bit of a kick.
Beef and potato
This was Manbacon's choice and it was...just okay. Which isn't necessarily a bad thing, but in a restaurant that has so many outstanding dishes, this just didn't stand out. It's slow-cooked beef with chunks of potatoes, in a soy sauce based gravy. The beef was tender and the sauce went well with white rice (we ordered a bowl to share) but it was just a little...meh.
Spinach with chilli
I'm not sure what kind of spinach they used here, but it was definitely a more robust cousin to the soggy, easily-wilted kind other restaurants use. The hardy greens were great for soaking up the garlic and chilli sauce, and for injecting some much-needed vitamins into my relatively poor diet. 

They may have become busier, but I'm glad to report that standards haven't slipped one bit, and prices are still as low as ever. But it would be great if you didn't all come at once - I still like not having to wait for an empty table there. 

Silk Road Restaurant
49 Camberwell Church Street

Monday, 24 October 2011

Novelty Food

 A tin of Hello Kitty pasta shapes in a 'tomato based sauce'. As yet unopened (working up the courage) but expect a visual report of the contents when I finally crack it open. It's rather encouraging that this helps make up 'one of (my) five a day'.
Chocolate boobs from Brussels, with a red pompom and nipple tassles, filled with marshmallow-y cream. What else can I say? 

Saturday, 22 October 2011

Malaysian Canteen

Some old friends visited London recently, and suggested a trip to Malaysian Canteen in Bayswater. Hidden away in a basement under the Malaysian Embassy, it's easy to miss if you're not paying attention. So, pay attention and keep your eyes open if you're intent on heading there! 

Like its name suggests, the Malaysian Canteen serves up Malaysian dishes, canteen-style - no surprises here! There's a long counter at the back piled high, buffet-style with all sorts of dishes. The back wall is plastered with A4-sized photos and names of dishes. The rest of the space is taken up with tables covered in a red gingham printed plastic, and lots of customers (we did visit during lunch, after all). 
 Nasi lemak with beef rendang.
We had the nasi lemak with a side of beef rendang, but there are other curries you can choose too. Or fried fish. Or fried chicken. Or a fried egg. The nasi lemak came with a portion of fried ikan bilis and peanuts, some sliced cucumbers and half a hardboiled egg. The nasi lemak and rendang were alright, in that it tasted pretty similar to what I've eaten in the past in Singapore and Malaysia. I don't think I would make go all the way to Bayswater just for it. The ikan bilis, on the other hand I could have done with more of - it's crunchy and ever so moreish and I found myself craving more after I left. Guess I'll just have to try and make it myself then. 

 Asam laksa
Now, asam laksa is a different breed of beast to what I refer to as 'regular' laksa - that is, the curry based type - so I was expecting it to look something like this when we got it. What was unexpected though, was the taste. It just wasn't that great - the flaked fish in it tasted canned, and the vermicelli was so soft it pretty much disintegrated when I picked it up with my fork. We resorted to scooping up the broken vermicelli with our spoons. The others thought the soup was too sour, but I quite like sourness, so that part was alright with me, but I definitely won't be ordering this again. 
The choice of lakna was a pure shot in the dark - we thought it was a mispelling of laksa when we first saw it on the menu, but when it kept popping up all over the menu, we realised that it must be a dish in its own right. So we asked for it, and this arrived. It turned out to be rice noodles in a tomato-based sauced, with a fried egg on top. Simple and almost studenty but surprisingly tasty. 

By the way, I still have no idea what lakna actually is - I've been to Malaysia several times, but don't recall any dish with that name, and I've never heard any Malaysian I know speak of it. Can anyone shed some light on this for me, please?
 Nasi goreng
The nasi goreng was served with more of that delicious ikan bilis and more sliced cucumbers on the side too. Like the nasi lemak, it was alright, but not particularly wonderful. I remember enjoying it at that time, but I was really hungry. It was also a little too on the salty side for all of us, in fact, most of the dishes were. We had to wash it down with plenty of bandung, but that's fine by me because I love bandung. In fact, I forgot how much I love it until this trip to Malaysian Canteen - I might have to pop by the Asian supermarket down the hill to get myself a bottle of rose cordial so I can have homemade bandung all the time. 
Kueh dadar and nyonya kuih lapis
The four of us were pretty stuffed by this point, so only opted to share these two little pieces of kueh. The kueh dadar was moist and coconuty on the inside, and not toothachingly sweet, which I like, but the pancake outside was just a little too dry. I'd still eat it again if I was there though. I was told the kueh lapis tasted like 'solid bandung', but can't confirm it as I only really had a tiny little bit.

Oh, another thing - we were told only Malaysians are allowed to eat here, but I went with an Indonesian and two Singaporeans, and we didn't get kicked out or anything. It probably helped that we could speak and understand Malay when ordering, but everyone working there seemed really nice and helpful, so I don't think you'd need to worry too much if you don't. 

Malaysian Canteen
30-34 Queensborough Terrace
W2 3ST

Friday, 14 October 2011

Refashioned Maternity Dress

Nope, it's not my maternity dress - thank goodness! Isn't it hideous? It's almost like someone wanted to punish women for getting pregnant! Aldona, my cushion-making partner in crime, donated the baggy monstrosity to me and told me to do whatever I wanted with it. 
So I came up with something very different to a baggy, shapeless maternity dress. I started by unpicking it, then ironing each piece to flatten it out. Then I made a whole new dress out of it - a tiny, low-cut, fitted, halter dress. It's completely different from the original dress, and not really something I would normally wear, but it's good to try new things when sewing, right? The bodice pattern came from Style 1911, and was matched to my trusty pencil skirt pattern, with the high waistband removed. I also chopped four inches off the bottom of the skirt. 

Here I am, looking down the top of my dress and hoping it doesn't slip. Since I'm not exactly *ahem* blessed in the bustal region, I decided to add some straps to hold it up and prevent an embarrassing wardrobe malfunction. I had more than enough of the grey fabric to make up the new dress, but decided to add a bit of interest to it by using a tartan fabric for the midriff. The midriff piece was an offcut from another shapeless monstrosity - a 1980s maxi-length skirt I'd recently shortened. 
The other adjustment I made - which can't be seen in these pictures - is to add boning to the sides of the bodice (sewn into the lining) for more support. Yes, boning! My first time! It adds some structure to the top, and prevents it from slipping and sliding about too much.
Hairband - Diva, dress - selfmade, tights - supermarket, shoes - Office

Wednesday, 12 October 2011

The Assistant

New collage for the Giant Cat Project fundraising effort. A framed 8x10 inch print of this will be auctioned off in November, with the proceeds going to the Great Ormond Street Hospital.