Saturday, 30 June 2007

Shahi Nan Kabab in Balti Triangle

Dim and I visited Shahi Nan Kabab on 8 December 2006.

This is how it looks like from the outside. Curiously it has two kitchens, one on the front, and the other in the rear. For this reason, the waiters were running to and fro all the time.

We did not eat very seriously. I had only vegetable biryani.

It is quite wet for Biryani (as wet as Italian risotto), and it was very hot (biryani is usually only slightly hot). First, the waiter did not bring the curry sauce that was announced on the menu, and I had to call his attention to it. It was quite nice, and again very hot.

Dim had mixed kebab, chips and garlic naan.

I don't remember exactly how much did it cost, but it looked bit too steep considering significant part of the chops was bone. Lamb chops were very nice, though.

This is garlic naan. Loads of garlic. Average.

All these and 1 tin of coke cost about £16. It is not particularly of good value, as we did not have full meal.

The interesting thing about this restaurant is that the most of the people were eating with their hand. If you want to feel to be in Bangladesh or Pakistan, this is a good place to go.

Pomegranate Juice

Pomegranate juice

A portion of the British people have health obsession and, when some health food specialists speak for a particular food, a boom starts. These health food in fashion are called "superfood".

I guess it is already passed fashion, but pomegranate was one of them. As I cannot give a damn to every advice of the dietologists (usually not enough proven scientifically), I don't know what the pomegranate is good for, but for curiosity sake, I drank Pomegranate juice on sale at the House of Fraser (the pic taken there).

I could hardly tell the taste of pomegranate. It was just red and sugared water, with some artificial flavouring. I barely think it is good for health, although it is possible that it is slightly better than pops.

Thursday, 28 June 2007

Dim Sum @ China Court

On 6 June 2007 (Sat.) we went to the China Court restaurant in China town of Birmingham for Dim sum.

This place is the best reputed among my Japanese friends, so I had high expectations. When we visited, the most of the patrons were Chinese or Chinese looking people. The family sat next to us was paying even with foreign banknotes (I don't know if they were Chinese or Taiwanese, but definitely its like). In Birmingham, I have never seen so many Chinese people in a place at the same time.

The menu was as long as the other places' Dim Sum menues. There is a printed sheet to fill in on each tables, and you just have to tick the ones you want. The sheet printed only in Chinese, but the items are numbered exactly as in English menu. So no worries.

The interior is spacious and much brighter than Chung Ying Garden. As I was depressed by the dimmness of the CYG, I much appreciated the sunlight of China Court.

As we did at Chung Ying Garden, we chose 5 dishes: these are the photo of what we ate.

Usual Cheung Fun with King Prawns.

As you might be able to tell from the image, this Cheung Fun is not as soft and delicated as it should be. Even prawns were a bit stinky. This is inferior to the same thing in Chung Ying Garden. As Cheung Fun is my favourite, I was quite disappointed.

Rice pot with Chicken and Chinese Mushrooms.

Rice is nice, but again, difficult to eat because of small bones in the chicken. I will not order rice pots any more (but don't take me wrong: there was nothing wrong with China Court's rice pot, just personal preference). £4 is over-priced for this small pot of rice.

Vietnamese Spring Rolls.

This is deep-fried dish for Dim. Came with sweet chili sauce. I don't remember what there were inside, but the skin was too hard and bit too oily for me. Even Dim did not like them so much.

King prawn and scallop dumplings.

King prawn and scallop bits wrapped in transparent skin. This is potentially good dish, but, again, the prawns were stinky. On the other hand, scallop was sweet and tasty.

Stuffed bean curd rolls.

There were 3 pieces of them, but I ate one before taking this photo. This is interesting one. Various stuffings rolled in bean curd skin, and stewed in soy sauce. They might have been fried once before being stewed.

Summing up, it was not bad, but not too good neither. Probably I need to choose dishes to order more carefully.

Wednesday, 27 June 2007

Greek Garlic

Nowadays, all the garlics we can find in market come from far abroad, especially from China. I found organic garlics from the South America, which is still very far.

Some time ago, Dim's mom sent us this garlic from Greece. Evidently in Greece, they still can buy home grown garlic.

They are much larger than Chinese ones, and there is no green part at the centre that I usually find in Chinese garlics. Is it because the Greek ones are fresher, or is it because they are different varieties? I don't know.

Taste is also stronger than Chinese one. Some times Chinese ones do not smell garlic, but these ones do.

When I returned to Japan about 6 months ago, I could not find Chinese garlic any more, and on the supermarket shelves are Japanese garlics prised about £1.5 (US$2.8). My mom told me that the Japanese consumers don't trust Chinese vegetable any more after some incidences of prohibited insecticides found in them.

So far as I know, British consumers still trust vegetables coming from poorer countires. What they care is only carbon foot print issues so far.

Anyway, for the Japanese people who don't use garlics so much, paying 1.5 pounds does not hurt so much, but for us who eat pasta almost every day, it is too expensive. I wonder if we cannot import reasonable garlics from south European countries.

Monday, 25 June 2007

Duck Eggs

I bought duck eggs.

Back then I had never eaten duck eggs, but I got curious when I saw chefs cooking them in tv programmes.

6 eggs cost 90p. More expensive than chicken eggs, but not so much. Free range chicken eggs can be more expensive.

As you can see, the duck eggs are larger than chicken eggs. They are greyish blueish white, but sore some reason, they look as if they are dirty, even if they are not.
Duck eggs

I heard that the poached duck eggs were very nice, so I poached them and ate with rice and beans. Duck egg gad denser flavour than chicken eggs and really delicious. Do try them whe you have a chance!

Sunday, 24 June 2007

Polish cheese for the first time

From the Polish grocery Polka in my neighbourhood I bought this Polish cheese. This is one side of the package (for those who know Polish).

And this is the other side of the package. Inside is white sweet (meaning "no salt") cheese, similar to Italian ricotta cheese. The Polish guy in the shop told me that it could be eaten also with sugar.

When I tried it raw, however, it had a bit unpleasant taste, similar to milk going sour (but I don't think the cheese was actually going bad). I would not eat even with sugar as it is.

So I decided to cook it.

I mixed the cheese with little salt, fresh chili and fresh dill and put the mixture inside long red peppers I bought from supermarket.

After 30 min. in oven, something like this came out.

After being cooked, the cheese lost unpleasant flavour, and tasted actually better than ricotta cooked in the same wise. Very nice. Similar to the stuffed peppers in Greece. I will try again.

Saturday, 23 June 2007

Dim Sum @ Chung Ying Garden

As far as I know there are four Chinese restaurants that offer dim sum lunch in Chinatown. 1) Chung Ying(中英), 2) Chung Ying Garden (中英花園飯店), 3) China Court, and 4) Golden Pond. Each of them has its followers and when I asked around my friends and acquintances, I could not get the consensus. So I decided to try out all of them. This is the first one.

2/6/07 (Sat.) Dim and I went to a Chinese restaurant called Chung Ying Garden in Birmincham city centre.

This is the eating area inside. It was dim, although it was lunch time.

We had 5 dishes, no. 9, 19, 42, 70 and 99 from the Chinese menu. Obviously I don't remember exactly what we ate...

This is king prawn cheung fun (£3.00). Cheung fun is my favourite dim sum and I try it whenever I find it, so I have eaten in many places in several countries. These contained big chunks of king prawn (satisfying quality) , and cheung fun itself is soft and delicate. Very good.

king prawn cheung fun

This is mixed meat and glutinous rice wrapped in lotus leaves. Lotus leaves have particular perfume and it gets infused into the rice when they are steamed together. Very good, again.

mixed meat and glutinous rice wrapped in lotus leaves

This is how it looks like when opened.

mixed meat and glutinous rice wrapped in lotus leaves

Spring rolls. I ordered these for Dim who is more conservative in food than me. Indifferent to me.

Spring rolls
Steamed pork dumpling "Shao Ron Pao". Nice but not perfect. The juice was not separted from the meat filling. I would liked some vinegar to go with. Dim did not like it as it was quite gingerly (he hates ginger).

This is rice with chicken and broccoli. Nice, but chicken had small bones and difficult to eat.

Total bill was about 18 pounds. A pot of tea is provided for free.

Next in the list is China Court Restaurant.

Thursday, 21 June 2007

European Market @ Harborne

Here are some photos from the European Market at Harborne, Birmingham, end of last month.

There were about 30 stalls selling various things from handbags and candles to cheese and paella.

This is a stall selling French cookies. They looked nice, but I don't particularly like cookies, so I did not try any.

This is a stall selling stir fried noodles. They were selling also paella. 4 quids for a plate of fried noodles on a plastic plate, however, seemed too pricey for me.

This photo has nothing to do with the market. There was a cafe selling these terrible looking dry pastas. I wonder if they look appetising to the English people.

Chinese Bakery @ Chinatown, B'ham

If you ever have been to the Chinatown of B'ham, you must have seen this bakery.

It is called Wah Kee Bakery. If you have never been, it is in the Arcadian Centre, about next door to Day-In Supermarket, and in front of Arcadian Palace Chinese restaurant.

I have never interested in the shop, but as I have heard good things about it several times, I decided to sample some.

Inside, I found quite interesting range of products, especially kinds of small buns that I thought I could find only in Japan, like curry bun and red bean paste bun.

We tried the pieces in the above. One is Chinese custard tart and the other is sponge cake, 80p each. The tart was average, but the cake was very eggy and tasty.

If you have never visited, I would recommend you to try. I will go back to try other special breads!

Wednesday, 20 June 2007

Return from Pisa

Leaning tower of Pisa

I returned from Pisa yesterday after 8 days stay.

In the past, I lived in Pisa for 5 years, so I still have some friends there.

It was not really a vacation and I could not see around (except for Sunday), but I could meet old friends and absorb glorious Mediterranean climate.

Last time I visited there was two and a half years ago. The major change I notices was that the increase in the number of tourists. The airport was enlarged and many budget airlines like Ryanair started to arrive, bringing many more tourists from the northern Europe and the USA. The price of restaurants in the town centre showed quite a large (and unjustified, I think) increase. Friends told me that several large hotels were constructed and a couple of new ones were still to open, I did not see them personally (as they are in suburb, rather than in the town centre).

In the photo above is the famous leaning tower of Pisa. This is as near as I went to the tower, although I always stayed quite close.

I will write about the stay there in coming entries, although it is not my Brummie life.

Sunday, 10 June 2007

Polish Restaurant "Polonia"

Some time ago, we went to a Polish restaurant in a place called Great Bridge, near West Bromwich.

We have never eaten Polish food, and I got curious when I read good reviews about this newly opened restaurant. As I have written in the past, a lot of new immigrants are coming from Poland and my impression is that this restraunt is mainly targeted on them.

Polonia Restaurant Exterior

Looking from outside, it is not promising. Besides, it is very difficult to find, as it does not face directly on the street.

Inside, however, it is another world: it is cosy and elegant. Only distraction is the large flat screens on the wall with Polish MTV style programme on.

Guests were mainly Polish, but the menu is in bilingual and the waiting staff (well, I guess these are the people who have the restaurant) speak good enough English.

Dim and I ordered 2 starters, 2 mains, 1 side, and 1 bottle of beer. This is the first dish: ravioli in beetroot soup. The interest thing is that we can read on the menu, as to main dishes, how many grammes of food are to be served. I have heard that in some East European coutries (and maybe in Germany?), the restaurants have to indicate on the menu how many grammes of meat they mean to serve. There must be a similar rule in Poland.

Polish Ravioli

The soup was sour and had a smoky flavour. Ravioli in themselves were not big deal, but they went well with the soup. Dim does not usually like soup, but when I gave him the bowl to test it, he finished it without leaving me anything!

D’s starter was marinated herring with cream.

One fillet of raw salted herring, and raw onion slices mixed with heavy sour cream. I love raw blue fish and I have bought and enjoyed several times Polish fish marinated in oil or vinegar, but this one was far too salty. We were also served several slices of Polish bread, but they disappeared to finish this salty fish.

These are the main dishes. Mine was a potato pancake in a Hungarian style and Dim's was bigos (mixed meat with sauerkraut). They were both presented beautifully. Potato pancake was green, and folded in the middle to wrap meat (I think it was chicken) stew with paprika pepper pieces. On top of it there were tomato sauce and white cream. I did not like it so much, as the meat was cooked too long, resulting in the consistency of meat served in airplane, and most of all, it was too salty.

Bigos was various bits of sausages and hams cooked with sauerkraut, that came with chips that we asked as side dish (included in the price of main dish). It was, again, too salty.

The “mixed salad” was not what I imagined, but basically 4 types of picked vegetables. Although I love picked vegetable, on that occasion I would have preferred raw veggie to neutralize heavily salted main dishes.

The price for all these, with 1 bottle of beer came ca. £18. So it was very good value for two two-course meals. But I could not enjoy because of excessive quantity of salt. It is a pity that I cannot return.

If you are interested, here is their address and phone number.

Saturday, 9 June 2007

Eastern Promise @ Lye

I went to an Indian (I am not sure of the nationality, but was probably Bangladeshi) restaurant in Lye, near Stourbridge, with 4 friends.

As I wrote some days ago, Dim and I went to a restaurant called Bengal Lounge in Lye and had very good dinner, so I had high expectations.

The food, however, let me down. I had prawn pathia, but it was too sugarly and had very little or no sourness that pathia dish must have. Besides, it was too red! It should come from food dye. I don't like un-natural, and especially un-necessary colouring in my food.

Prawn pathia at Eastern Promise, Lye

I also had Bindhi bhaji (indian style okra dish) and boiled rice. The quantity of rice was not sufficient to me.

The prawn madras that a friend of mine took was even worse. I don't know why but it was BITTER and it was not enough hot (chili wise) as madras should be.

The other people seemed to fared better. Especially the fish special (of which I don't remember the name) was quite beautiful and tasted good. I did not tried the other two people's dish, but they said ok.

The service, however, was excellent and the waiters very attentive and polite. We were offered free coffee at the end.

The bill of 5 popadoms & dips, 4 main dishes, 4 rice or naans, and 1 special dish (which came with rice) came to less than £45. If the food was a bit better, it would have been better value.

If you are interested to go, the address can be found here:

Cypriot Sweets @ Birmingham Greek Orthodox Church

Sundays we go to the Greek Orthodox church in Birmingham city centre. (Telling you the truth I have not been there for several weeks, as I have been a bit busy recently).

The Sunday liturgy at Greek Orthodox churches is very long: it lasts for a couple of hours. As it is a bit too long for us, we go there in the middle of the service (in fact, the people who attend full service is an absolute minority), and attend it for 1 to 1.5 hour.

After the service, the people of the church offer some food and tea to those who want. As the most of the people there are either Cypriots or Cypriots decendents, the food offered is Cypriot.

In the photo is some examples. Apart from sandwich, there were a kourabies (white round one : kind of crumbly biscuit), karidopita (below kourabies : walnuts cake), and ravani (right side of kourabies : cake soaked in syrup). Frankly speaking, the food is usually hit and miss, but this time all the sweets were very tasty.

These sweets are a kind of reward after the long service. If you want to taste some Cypriot sweets, why don't you come to the Church?

Thursday, 7 June 2007

New Polish Grocery "Polka" Open!

A new Polish grocery "Polka" opened near our home a couple of weeks ago, and we went there right after the opening.

Many of the stuff are dry food like biscuits, tinned or bottled foods, instant dried food (Knorr style soup, stew mix etc.), but there is a small fridge in which hams, sausages, cheese and preserved fish are kept.

We decided to sample some.

This is a glass container of preserved herrings. Herrings seemed to be first treated with vinegar, then rolled with shredded onions and carrots, and soaked in oil. I had bought in the past two types of Polish preserved fish from another Polish grocery in Digbeth area of Birmingham, but this one tasted better than those.

This a kind of smoked ham. 470g for £2.74 is cheaper than average British hams, but this is waterier and a bit too salty than my liking.

Not bad, however.

I cut thick slices of it and made ham eggs, and ate with Polish bread. Thick ham slices give me an idea of luxury, as when I was young ham was very expensive in Japan.


For the address, see this page

Wednesday, 6 June 2007

Persian restaurant "Danial" near our home

Alert : This restaurant is now closed.

We went to a newly opened Persian restaurant near our home, Danial. No, it is not Denial. It sounds like Daniel; maybe it is a name used among the Persian Christians (I am just shooting).

These are the photos of the food we ate there.

For starter we had a naan panir sabzi to share. It was exactly what it said: 1 naan, feta cheese, and raw herbs.

naan panir sabzi

The feta, however, was very diffrent from the usual Greek fata. It was more watery and REALLY salty. We asked our waiter where it came from. He said it was imported from Iran, and we could find it in Persian groceries. Regardless of its saltiness, this feta was very tasty. It just melted in the mouth leaving behind creamy milky flavour. Some people might be put off by its saltiness, but it is worth trying even just for experience sake. Naan and herbs were both fresh and generous. Very good value for £2.50.

These are the main courses.

Dim chose Kabab-e-Chenjeh (“Grilled chunks fillets of tender lamb with grilled tomatoes, served with fresh naan or saffron steamed rice”) from grill section, and I went for Zereshk polo ba morgh (“Steamed saffron rice with sour barberries, almonds and pistachio, served with cooked chicken”) from traditional dish section, £7 and £5 respectively.

Kebab meat was very lean, almost no trace of fat. It was a bit hard, as being well done. Dim always likes his meat well done (most of the Greeks I know like their meat well done) and he did like the way it was cooked, but I thought it was too cooked. If the meat had not been so lean, it would have been softer as well. Dim thought the meat was marinated in something he did not like, but I could not detect it. Otherwise the dish looked ok. One skewer of lamb was served with a mound of rice, herb salad, two pieces of grilled tomatoes, and purple sour pickles. I liked very much this pickles; they were very similar to Japanese a type of Japanese pickled called "Shibazuke".

My main was the rice served with chicken, not the chicken served with rice. In fact it came as a large mound of rice on one dinner plate, and one large chicken thigh cooked in red sauce, served in gratin dish. The rice (Zareshk Polo) was interesting. It was usual Persian white and yellow saffron rice, topped with some nuts bits (I did not see pistachio) and sweet dried berries. Well presented and tasty, if rather sweet. Chicken was cooked with slices of carrot, tomato sauce, and probably with sumac, as it tasted fruity. It would have been better, if they had used better quality chicken, but it was acceptable. I have to tell, however, it was very difficult to cut chicken thigh in a gratin dish filled with sauce.

They offer also rather interesting Persian sweets, but we were too full to try. The bill came to £15.30 for the items above plus one can of coke. Good value.

Tuesday, 5 June 2007

Live crab from the market

In Birmingham in-door market there are two shops selling shell fish. They almost always have live crabs and I have always been curious about them, so one day I decided to buy one.

It cost less than I expected, £3.30, but as it did not contain so much meat, it is still expensive.

Before cooking it, I tried to kill it with a knife, but it did not die! I saw on tv how to kill it, and I expected easier. In the end I had to cook it alive, and I am really sorry for poor creature.

With crab meat I made sushi. Nice.

Monday, 4 June 2007

Bengal Fusion @ Lye

Maybe a month ago, Dim and I went to a Bangladeshi fusion restaurant in Lye. Lye is close to Stourbridge, and it took us more than 30 min of bus ride (I guess it takes about 20 min with car).

Food actually was very nice, and I upload the photos.

First, 2 popadoms. They were offered without our ordering and we were not charged. Came with 4 types of accompaniments. They were nice, but not exceptional.


This is Dim's Saatiya Paneer (stir fried paneer in sour sauce). Nice, but a bit too sugary. This must have been an Indo-Chinese (well, Bangla-Chinese?) fusion dish; sweet and sour paneer can be a good description.

Sweet and Sour Paneer

These are my Sheek Kebabs. Kebabs were succulent, well-spiced, tasty, but bright-red! Why they wanted to make them so artificially red is beyond me.

Sheek Kebab
From the bottom anti clock-wise, Cheese naan, Shatkora with lamb tikka (“Richly spiced dish infused with Bengal lime”), vegetable rice, and Sabzi Gost Archari (“…rich and spicy herbs and spiced together with chicken, lamb and vegetables”)

Main course

The quantity of the lime in the Shatkora dish proved to be too much for Dim. We imagined the dish would have been made with something like Moroccan preserved lemon, but it contained a lot of slices of bitter fruit, which must be different from the citrus I know as lime. It was too strong for him. I liked it as I love lime flavour and it was quite new to me, but I cannot deny that it was too bitter to be really enjoyable. Besides, the meat were shreddeed slightly too large for a morsel and it was a bit dodgy to cut them with knife in unstable kalahi. Otherwise, it was very good and interesting dish. The Archari dish, on the other hand, was really lovely, with generous quantity of meat and vegetable, combined with unusual pickles pieces in the sauce (waiter taught us after the meal that archari means aubergine).

As we were too full for the pudding, we ordered 2 coffees. They came with a small piece of balfi each.


In British curry restaurants, they offer mint chocholates when they bring the bill. Here, they brought this odd tray. I have never seen anything so strange offer before!


We spent £28 including tip. It is a pity that it is not close to our home.