Sunday, 30 March 2008

Chinese food and chips

Yesterday, D and I went to one of our favorite Chinese diners for dinner, because, according to D, yesterday was the Earth 60 Day (or something like that), and we had to turn off all the lights of the house for 1 hour from 8 to 9 o'clock. I have not heard anything about it from BBC news, but it seems that it was a big thing in Greece and in some other countries.

I really did not want to go out, as it was rainy but D insisted and I gave in. (sigh)

Anyway, the diner was busy, but not full (it is a very small place with less than 20 covers). Every time we come here, we feel as if we are in Hong Kong, and this place serves what I think as the authentic Hongkongese popular food.

While we were eating our lovely food with huge mounds of rice, an Asian young man, in early 20s, came in and tried to order take-away. He chose an egg fried rice, some main dishes that I missed, and lastly he said.

Asian guy: "And chips, please".

Chinese waiter: "Sorry, we don't do chips".

Asian guy: "All right, then".

And he walked out. (At this point, D and I started laughing).

The owner chef, who was not listening to the conversation, asked the waiter what happend. Having been explained what happened, he made face muttering "chips, chips" with thick Chinese accent. Then he walked out from the door.

I don't know what he did outside, but probably he felt disgusted and wanted fresh air. (I don't think he tried to stop the guy, as I have never heard him speaking in English; he would rather have the waiter go, if he wanted so).

This reminds me of my Korean hair-dresser's observation that the British people like Chinese buffet restaurants, because there they can eat Chinese foods with chips.

I don't mind the people eat the food in the way they want, but I also understand the chefs who want the people to eat their food in a certain way. (Reversing the case, I guess no one will be amazed if a French chef feels annoyed, if a Japanese or Chinese customer insists on pouring soy sauce on the food).

Anyway, what happened made me like more this chef.

Thursday, 27 March 2008

Paper towels agaisnt Health and Hygiene

Some days ago, I went to the town centre, and use the toilets of Debenham's (thank you, Debenham's).

When I finished to wash hands and went to dry my hands, I found this.

The mouth for the paper towels was covered with a piece of paper with this message.

Heath & Hygiene?

How the paper towels can damage Health and Hygiene? Besides, I have never seen the message like this elsewhere. The British people (not really people, but really institution and organizations) are allergic to anything they think MIGHT damege health and safety. Some times, it is funny to a foreign observer like me.

Monday, 24 March 2008

Delia Smith on Frozen Food

Today I ate lunch at Lahore Buffet (review) restaurant in Ladypool Road. I ate so much that I could skip dinner. A review will be posted soon on

And in the evening I watched much discussed Delia Smith's new TV show accompanying her new book, Delia's How to Cheat at Cooking.

Whole thing did not make much sense to me. She introduced us to how to make hummus from frozen chick pea. Well, why shouldn't we use tin chick pea which does not even need to defrost, and virtually all the cooking books say that it is a viable solution? I am sure I will have harder time to find frozen chick peas than to find tin chick peas, which do not even occupy precious space in freezer and consume electricity.

She insists that it goes well with frozen Greek pitas. Come on! Where can I found them in Birmingham? (If you don't know, my husband is Greek and we have been looking for Greek pitas here for some years now).

Then frozen sea bass fillets grilled with bottled tomato sauce, and frozen scallops with garlic butter. Are we really need to be told how to do it? And these ingredients (frozen sea bass fillet and frozen scallops) are pretty expensive, and I don't want to ruin them with her "cheating" method.

Well, it was a dismal viewing. Really.

Sunday, 23 March 2008

New entries from 16 to 23 March

These are the new entries to WonderBirmingham between the 16th and 23rd March.

Birmingham Restaurant Guide

Village Cafe

We returned to this place after half a year.

It seems that not everyone likes Village Cafe. The portion of the food probably is inferior comparing to the other Chinese diners in the area, but for those who do not have big stomach, including myself, shouldn't worry. I tend to avoid places like Chinatown Noodle Bar or Cafe Soya that serve enormous portions that I can never finish. Besides, Village Cafe manages to serve, imho, South eastern cuisine definitely different from the Chinese food, which, very popular places like Cafe Soya fail (to me their Vietnamese food is not Vietnamese at all, but, again Cafe Soya has other advantages and I don't mean to criticize only for this ground).

And then, finally, I managed to go to the restaurant Beirut.


I was a bit let down by the lack of service and decor; it was more like a take-away place with eating area than a proper restaurant. The entrance door was left open all the time, presumably because the ventilation isn't good. The food was good, apart from partly carbonised lamb shish kebab.

Oysters @ Indoor market

I like raw oysters, but they are too expensive at restaurants.

So when I want to eat it, the place I go is the Indoor Market. There are two shops that offer raw oysters, and I went one of them the other day.

I ordered two of them, and this is what I got.


They were not plump as much as I would have wanted (the Japanese oysters are more plump, when freshly open), but tasted sweet and fresh (they were alive until just a few seconds ago, so what else?)

70p. per one is not a bad deal!

They sell also eel jelly.

Eel jelly

I tried once. It was ok, but I prefer eating them with soy sauce and wasabi.

Saturday, 22 March 2008

Big Chill

Since yesterday, it is very very cold in Britain, including Birmingham.

Yesterday, waking up, I had this view in front of me.

I went out to the garden to see what was this white stuff, and I found these small bits of ice.

It was hail. In fact, a big noise woke me up early in the evening even though I did not get up.

And today, I went to Cotswolds with three friedns. Our plan was to do some walking and eat nice lunch in a country pub, but with intermittent snow, rain, and hail, it was impossible to take a decent walk.

Look this. We stopped at a farm shop with a real farm, and there was this sympathetic pony that came to greet us.

You see hail on her back?

It was very very cold, indeed. And you say it is later March? You must be kidding.

Friday, 21 March 2008

More new restaurants in Chinatown area

I am in Easter break from today until Thursday next week. Wow.

As yesterday was like a Friday to me, I decided to go to the Lebanese restaurant Beirut where I have been wanting to go (I reviewed it here), but for one reason or the other, it was put off until yesterday. I will write a review very soon.

Before going to Beirut, I walked around the area between Holloway Circus to Chinatown, and found some new restaurants. I am not sure when I will have a chance to visit them, but here I make a memo about them.

First, the Shisha cafe in the Smallbrook Queensway is not Indian restaurant, "Royal Bengal".

The menu is like the one of usual curry houses; nothing new.

Then, next to Chung Ying Garden (Thorp St.), now there is a large Caribbean buffet restaurant called Cuizene.

When we walked in front at around 9:00 there wasn't anyone eating. It is a bit worrying considering it was practically a "Friday night". We grabbed a flyer, which says, all-you-can-eat lunch buffet for £5.99 and dinner buffet for £11.99 (limited choice during the lunch hours). Not being a big eater, I am not keen of buffet (I feel like losing money!), but I might go to see what's on offer.

Lastly there is a Polish restaurant in Hurst street.

The menu looks rather limited, but I might give it a go very soon.

I posted the addresses and phone numbers of Cuizene and Duet on WonderBirmingham (click here).

Thursday, 20 March 2008

Polish Pickled Fish

When I bought Pierogi from a Polish grocery in Birmingham town centre, I got also pickled fish.

Polish Pickled fish Bismarck

This bottle contains 400g (but only 200g of solid mass), and costs 1.50GBP, which I found quite reasonable.

It is not complicated to eat; just pull the fish out of the bottle and then eat! I like to eat it with salad, but should be good also with boiled potato. The Poles seem to eat it also with cream; I tried once, but found it unpalatable.

Considering that many English people like sour food (I am referring to pickled onions, garkins, various sour relishes, and very sour berries), I guess some would like pickled fish.

If you want to try, go to Polish grocers (but recently many Asian grocers and normal supermarkets have Polish food, too). I listed some in this page.

Tuesday, 18 March 2008

Farmers' Market at University of Birmingham

Today there was Farmers' Market at the University of Birmingham. I never grasped when it is held, but if today's was the regular one, it should occur every third Tuesday of the month (don't trust me; I will verify this next month!)

It is a small market of 10 or 12 stalls, but I recognised some familiar faces. There was not only the ubiquitous Ostrich Burguer shop, but also Hilltop Farm, Parson's Nose (sausages, but the choice was limited), Woodhouse Farm, and the apple guy whom I saw in Moseley and Stratford farmers' market.

Besides, there are a soup shop, a green grocer, a sauce shop, an ice cream shop, a baker, a cheese shop, a pie shop, and another butcher.

It is convenient if you work there or live nearby.

More about farmers' markets in Birmingham, look up this page.

And, about some of the sellers, check out this page.

Monday, 17 March 2008

Pierogi (Polish dumplings)

This Saturday, I went to a Polish grocery shop in the city centre to get the address so that I can list it on my "international grocers" page. And as I was there, I decided to buy something, but unfortunately, husband is on Lenten fasting and I could not buy anything dairy, meat, or fish.

In the end I found this: pierogi with cabbage and mushrooms. Sounds Vegan.

Pierogi are Polish dumplings, and should be a cousin of Italian ravioli and Chinese giaozi.


One packet contains 400 g. of Pierogi, and the price is £1.60 no matter what is the filling.

The package was saying that these could be eaten cold or hot (microwaved or deep-fried). I guess I could have boiled them, but decided to reheat with tomato sauce.

(You might wonder why I was having ravioli with rice; well, combining various carbohydrates is what happens often to us during the Lenten period).

They had a pretty thick skin, and carbo-heavy (the package says that the skin does not contain butter or egg - banned items during the Lenten fasting), but they were sufficiently pleasant. They might have gone well also in soup.

Mushroom and Sauerkraut pierogi

This is how it looked when I cut it in the middle with folk. The cabbage was actually the pickled version (Sauerkraut). Although I did not recognise the mushrooms visibly, they did taste of mushroom, possibly dried porcini.

We both liked them, and will buy again.

Sunday, 16 March 2008

New entries from 10 to 15 March

These are the newly uploaded pages on WonderBirmingham website.

* Birmingham Gourmet Guide
Han Dynasty : new Sichuan & North-East Chinese restaurant on Station Road

This restaurant was better than I expected. I think we will be back pretty soon.

* London restaurants
A Korean restaurant near Tottenham Court

I don't identify the name, as the owner guy seemed unhappy that I was gathering data.

* Heart of England Guide
Alcester, Warwickshire

Some photos from our recent visito to the attrative market town of Alcester.

Saturday, 15 March 2008

Anti-burglary device

When I was walking Moseley the other day, I saw this sight in a closed restaurant (closed because it was not service hours).

Can you see what they are doing?

They put the money drawer of cashier machine on the bar counter so that potential burglars could see that there was no money kept in the restaurant.


Thursday, 13 March 2008

New Chinese Restaurant "Han Dynasty"

This Saturday I went to one of the new Chinese restaurants in Station Road, Han Dynasty 漢朝.

Han Dynasty, Birmingham

I have already posted a review, so you can find the details here.

Again, it is a Sichuan and North-Eastern Chinese restaurant. It might not be obvious to non-Chinese readers, but all the new Chinese places in this area - Jacky's Kitchen, BBQ Village, Han Dynasty, Shangri-La, Red N Hot (these two last are Sichuan only) - are of the same category.

The combination of Sichuan and North East seems a bit odd to me, as they are very distant regions in China.

Anyway, I have now visited all but one (BBQ Village is the only one left), and I can say that most of them are of high standard. I was rather disappointed by Jacky's and I still don't understand why Mr. Paul Fulford (Birmingham Mail) was so impressed. Probably I need to pay it a second visit to evaluate the place better, but, in difference to the real restaurant critics, I have to foot my bill by myself, so I would rather return to the places where I had good meal. So the secret of Jacky's will remain mystery to me.

If you are interested, read my photo-reviews on Shangri-La, Jacky's Kitchen and Red'n Hot.

Monday, 10 March 2008

Chinese Instant Noodles

When I visited H-Mart, Korean grocer, last time, I found instant noodles made in China & in Korea. Although I have read that some kids died because of poisoning eating instant noodles, I ventured to try. Considering how many people lives in China, the risk should be low. :D

This is the one I tried: Original Hot & Sour Flavour Instant Vermicelli. I am big fan of Hot & Sour flavour and also of the sweet potato flour noodles, and that was why I could not resist. I think it costed me 60p or so. Later I found the same thing in also Spa in the university (UoB).

Original Hot & Sour Flavour Instant Vermicelli

These are the things contained in the packet.

The noodles are not usual rice flour vermicelli, but made of sweet potato starch flour. Sweet potato flour noodles are not sweet and do not taste of sweet potato. They are greyish and opaque in colour and tougher in consistency.

Then, the red bag is chili sauce & refined palm oil (!). White balls below are soy beans. The black bag is vinegar. Then the silver bag contains "gourmet powder". Yes, "gourmet powder", so is written in ingredients table. And I am afraid it is mainly MSG (Monosodium Glutamate).

The instruction said that I just had to keep the noodles in hot water, but I boiled them, as I like hot soup. Nutritionally, the instant noodles aren't good, so I put some stir-fried vegetable on top. Here is the outcome.

The floating white balls are soy beans. I have never seen this use before, and I don't think they added any flavour to the dish.

They tasted lovely... in a junk-food way. I was surprised that the MSG soup did not taste awful (and I am disappointed in my taste buds...). I started to wonder how much MSG I eat when I eat at Chinese restaurants.

It was an interesting experiment, but I still don't like the idea of eating that much MSG in one go. :(

Sunday, 9 March 2008

New Chocolate shop in Selfridge

Passing Selfridge Food Hall yesterday, I noticed they installed a new chocolate shop. It is called Bouquets de Chocolats, and just behind Yo! Sushi  (now, you should be wondering if there is any such space between Yo! Sushi and Pret a Manger, and you are right; there isn't and they just crammed into it).

Bouquets de Chocolats

It is from Bayonne (town French Basque region) and makes bouquets with chocolates, as well as other small chocolates. One bouquet of 220g costs £10, 440g for £20, and so one. I guess it is expensive, but the price of chocolates changes greatly according to the quality, so I cannot really tell without eating it.

There is also demostration by a chocolatier (well it was a chocolatière when I saw).

I don't like chocolate so much, so I don't think I have chance to buy it. However, this chocolate drink counter looked interesting.

£2.45 for a cup. Even so I should be really hungry to be able to try one, as good chocolate drink is very filling.

New entries from 3 to 9 March 2008

Yesterday, we went to Han Dynasty, a new Chinese restaurant in Station Road. We wanted to visit here for some time, and we finally made it.

The food was very nice, but the seats & table were uncomfortable: the sofa like seat were too low for rather tall table. I will try to write a review during this week. If you like Chinese food, but not a fan of Chinese take-away, you will probably enjoy this restaurant. Don't be put off even if the menu is not shown on the window. Price is reasonable and the menu is bilingual (simplified Chinese & Enlgish).

Return to the main topic: the new entries this week.

**Birmingham Restaurant Review**

Golden Pond: my seventh visit and 5th review!

**Birmingham Guide**

Birmingham Art Gallery & Museum

I know that the Brummies hardly need this, but it is rather for tourists and short-time visitors.

**England for Food Lovers**

Gwillams' Farmshop in Worcestershire

Saturday, 8 March 2008

How to eat Japanese fermented soy beans (Nattō)

If you have Japanese friends, probably you have heard about Nattō.

It is fermented soy beans that one part of the Japanese people love so much that they cannot live without. And the other part, however, hates it. It is popular food in eastern part of Japan, but less so in the western part.

The reason of this deep divide is mainly the small of Nattō. As all the fermented foods, Nattō has a very particular and strong smell which is, if you are not used to it, a bad odour. Some say that the Chinese black beans are smelly, but there is no comparison with Nattō.

Also the non-Japanese people find this food disgusting. For foreigners, the problem is not only the smell, but also its sliminess. The Japanese people in general love slimy foods, but it is not the case for other nations. I have met only a couple of non-Japanese who said they like these fermented soy beans.

I heard that the Indonesians have something similar called "tempe", but they cook in a way that it does not smell as much as its Japanese cousin.

As I belong to the group that love Nattō, I enjoy enjoy eating it. Fortunately in Birmingham, we can find frozen Nattō in Chinese or Korean grocery stores. It costs three times more expensive than in Japan, but, I won't complain as it is probably brought frozen by air cargo (but it makes me feel guilty of carbon foot printing).

This is a packet of Nattō. I paid £1.40.

This packet contains 4 small containers of Nattō, as you see below. In a container, there are also a small packet of soy sauce based sauce and another of mustard.

I eat Nattō with raw egg. I put also some Japanese seven flavour chili. The white thing beneath is steamed rice.

And mix mix mix. Then I get this.

It is almost soupy because I did not put much rice, but usually people put more rice. The mixture of Nattō odour and raw egg smell is almost obscene. It is sooooo good.

I would not recommend this to anybody, as it is not for feint hearted, but if you happen to be lover of smelly food, this is the one for you. ha ha ha.

You can always find it in H-mart in Selly Oak, and sometimes also in Day-In in Arcadian Centre. This page will help you to find it, too.

Thursday, 6 March 2008

Frozen Okra

I love Okra, but it is time consuming to clean them.

I am not speaking about washing them, but removed the hard part of okra one by one. Especially when I have to cook dinner after having return from the job, I don't have energy to do it.

So, a very convenient alternative to fresh okra is this frozen okra.

frozen okra

I can buy it from Asian grocers in vicinity. This packet costs me 89p for 400g, which is more or less the same price as for fresh ones. They are already washed and the hard part is removed, so all you have to do is to open the packet and start to cook.

Another advantage of the frozen version is that the okras used for it are very small and tender. I like large, crunchy okras, but my Greek husband prefers these small tender ones that are more common in Greece.

When I lived in Japan, I could not eat okra as many as I wanted, as they were expensive. Another reason for me to feel happy in Birmingham. :)

Wednesday, 5 March 2008

Japnees Car

In front of a garage in Balti Triangle, I found this board and thought it was funny.

I can almost hear how the person who wrote this pronounces "Japanese". ha ha ha.

Monday, 3 March 2008

Hello Good-Bye @ Bullring

When I went to the town this Saturday, I noticed there was 1 opening and 1 closure at & near Bullring.

First, a new comer.

Do you recognise this building?

It is situated between Bullring and St. Martin's church, and used to be occupied by Costa Coffee.

As I noticed some activity inside, I got closer and found this poster.

Gloria Jean's Coffee

It will soon be reopened as Gloria Jean's Coffee. I have never heard this name, but it seems to be a pretty large international franchise. It is good that we will have more choice.

And one good-bye.


Pret of Bullring is closing. Actually it was closing Saturday, so should already be closed. It has  always looked strange; closed on Sundays and recently I found it somehow derelict, so the closure is not a surprise.

Evidently this particular lot is specially difficult (Birmingham is difficult, and Bullring is difficult if not as much as the Pavilion). The Tiffin Box, the former occupant, could not last long, and I don't think the former former occupant, which I don't remember, did last long. Before Pret got the place, there was a long interval, so I don't expect someone comes to get it quickly.

Sunday, 2 March 2008

What's become of Imagine Cafe in Harborne?

Have you ever heard about Imagine Cafe in Harborne?

Imagine Cafe in Harborne

It was pretty famous among those who love Japanese food. It is a traditional English cafe, but in the evening it used to serve Japanese food.

I have never been here in person, but I have heard about it from many Japanese friends, including those who worked there. According to what I heard, it is owned by a Japanese husband and English wife team, and before the opening of Mt. Fuji in Bullring, it was the only place in Birmingham where you could eat authentic Japanese food, cooked by Japanese cooks.

At certain point in last year, however, it increased the price of evening Japanese menu, and not long after that, I heard that they stopped opening for the evening as Japanese restaurant.

When I happened to pass in front of it, I tried to see what happened.

I saw, first of all, that the opening hours are reduced to from 9-4, short even for a traditional cafe. I would guess they want to open only the hours the staff does not need change of shifts.

Then the menu. It still serves some Japanese-ish stuff, but it contains only, Yaki-soba, Shio-Yakisoba, Yaki-udon (these are all varieties of stir-fried noodles), with meat/pranws (£5) or with vebetable (£4.50), Kimchi Yaki udon for £5.50, Miso-ramen (Japanese-Chinese style noodle in soup dish) for £5.50, and Kara-age (Japanese style fried chicken) for £3.50.

That's it.

They all can be served from 9 to 3 o'clock. But who order these dishes for lunch? Students? Possibly, but they are usually not in Harborne for lunch time. I am genuinely curious.

It seemed to me a rather sad demise of this once renowned place.

Related Links on WonderBirmingham
Japanese Food in Birmingham

New entries from 24 Feb. to 2 March 2008

These are newly uploaded pages between 24 February to 2 March, 2008.

Birmingham Restaurant Reviews

  • Blue Mango : 2nd visit. I really like the curries of this restaurant.

  • Lahore Kebab House : We ate in the fastfood area, not in the restaurant inside.

Masala Fish on Naan

And I decided to make this directory for those who look for foreign foodstuff in Birmingham.

Birmingham International Grocers Directory

Food Lovers' England

Saturday, 1 March 2008

Labour Conference @ ICC, Birmingham

This week there was Labour Conference in Birmingham. Today, Gordon Brown was coming to Birmingham to make a speech.

Because of it, the traffic around the ICC, where the conference was being held, was strictly controlled.

This is Broad Street closed by the Police.

Broad Street, Birmingham during the Labour Conference

Part of the Canal side walk was also closed/

And Hyatt Hotel. It was completely surrounded by the blockade. Probably either part of the conference was held in the hotel, or many important people were staying there.

Hyatt Hotel, Birmingham

And this is the ICC itself.

Labour Conference at ICC

Also completely enclosed.

The conference seems to have finished in peace, but, later, I saw this between Bullring and Pavilion.

Fire at Waterstone's

It looked there was a fire in Waterstone's, and some firefighters were entering into the building. It did not seem anything serious, though.