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Vitamin Q: the book!

~ Wednesday, December 17, 2003

10 particular cravings I get for food and drink far away in time or place:

1 Mixed Pakora (Kebab Mahal, Nicholson Square, Edinburgh) - pakora are Asian fritters which are sold at kebab houses in Scotland. Since most of these places are run by Pakistanis (as opposed to Turks in England), they sell a mixture of Middle Eastern and Asian fast food. The mixed pakora comprises spicy, bright red chicken wings, chunks of fish in a light spiced batter, deep fried mushrooms and onion pakoras. Served with a thick red chili sauce, yoghurt sauce and lots of salad.

2 Green Chili (somewhere in LA) - the LA equivalents of the British ‘greasy spoon’ (an inexpensive café) sell home-style Mexican food. Cheap, fast, tasty. You feel like your long lost Aunt Jacinta has cooked you supper. I don’t want bubble and squeak or a fry-up with a slice and sugary beans. I want carne verde.

3 Arctic Red (Western Canada) - this is a beer from the Yukon which is found in good bars in Alberta. It’s simply delicious, not unlike some of the better US microbrews such as Sierra Nevada. if they had it at my local pub here, I’d be even more of a lush.

4 Doner Kebab (Pamuk Kale, Church Street, Stoke Newington, London) - never has a food had its name(s) (doner, gyros, shawarma etc) taken so in vain. I love the way the Pamuk Kale (Turkish for Cotton Castle) do theirs. A circle of soft Turkish flat-bread, with added lamb or chicken doner or (shivers with excitement) both, sliced from a great wodge on a spit, plied with herby tomato salad, raw onions, hot peppers and lashed with chili and yoghurt sauces. Roll it up. Chew it down. The first time I ever ate a doner (Chalk Farm, April 14th 1981) I wept when it was finished. You can’t buy one round here, which is partly why I’ve lost 35 pounds this year.

5 Chicken in Soy Sauce (restaurant now demolished, Lauriston Place, Edinburgh) - chicken done ‘lemon chicken’ style ie sliced breast with a very light batter. The sauce was soy based, of course, but rich and delicious. Much missed - and never seen on another menu.

6 Meatball Sandwich (NYC) - as if I need another reason to love New York! The best one I had was in somewhere on, maybe, 8th Ave, somewhere in the mid 20s to mid 30s. It’s no good unless the whole thing collapses and you get messy. Needless to say, the UK has as many good meatball sandwiches as it does bald eagles. Possibly the only good dish containing ‘America’s Shame’ ie its terrible cheese. We have terrible teeth, they have terrible cheese. The other great NYC fast food are those sausages split and cooked under an iron, then served in a soft tortilla with hot tomato sauce.

7 Chicken in Batter - (St Andrews) fried chicken, one of the world’s most popular and least well done foods. Scottish chip shops used to do leg portions in the same batter used for fried fish. The trick is getting the cooking time right, so the batter isn’t brick-like and the chicken portion cooks through. But they used to be able to do it. Now, it’s just the same old KFC-alikes or the bald bits of ex-bird yawning on their hot trays.

8 Pork Curry - (Hung Lam, S Clerk Street, Edinburgh) - now I am Char Sui Boy. But when it comes to the wondrous tan goo that is Chinese curry sauce, I don’t want red roast pork. In fact, the man here turned his lip and refused to sell me such a thing many moons ago. Now it’s ubiquitous on takeaway menus, while everyday pork (probably the most common meat in real Chinese food) is not to be found. Except here. Gloopy, tangy, satisfying.

9 Stewart’s Key Lime Soda - I don’t have a sweet tooth, so I don’t know why I wake in the night craving this sugary American fizzy drink. It tastes like boiled citrus sweets liquefied. It’s oddly nice and comes in dinky bottles.

10 Pata - I spent a week or two in the Philippines on a literary conference, and as I’ve said before Pinoy food is fascinating. The one thing I’d like to taste again is this alternative to spare ribs, actually made from the pig’s lower leg. It is boiled up with seasoning and then deep-fried until crispy and served as a snack.

While on the earth-shattering subject of Edinburgh fast food, Big Mark adds:

North Indian Chilli Garlic Chicken from that Indian in Roseburn that changes name every 8 months or so. So spicy I could never finish one. But it tasted like licking God's back. And Honey Garlic Chicken from that Chinese at Haymarket. It's still a chinese but they don't do HGC anymore. The staff were always amazed that I didn't buy any rice to go with it, but it didn't need any. Tasted like the orgasmic head-spinning high that it was.
Source: by RcL (195 lb) This list is actually based on a poem you can see here.

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