Wednesday, 29 April 2009

Chilled Monkey Brains at Raiders of the Lost Ark: The Adaptation

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Primate Parfait, anyone?

Hailed as the greatest fan film ever made, Raiders of the Lost Ark: the Adaptation is a shot-for-shot remake of the first Indiana Jones movie, made in the eighties by two teenagers and their friends for $5,000 in their backyards.

Forgotten for ages, thankfully it was rediscovered 15 years later and became a hit in the US, featuring in Vanity Fair and the Today Show.

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The poster

Fans include Eli Roth, Quentin Tarantino and even Steven Spielberg himself and it is with his (and George Lucas's) blessing that last night I was lucky enough to see the UK premiere of this labour of love, held in aid of Medicinema, a wonderful charity that provides cinema screenings in hospitals.

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Special entrance and everything

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The organisers had gone all out to get us into the spirit. We were greeted with "poisoned" margaritas and ushered into a bar surrounded with displays of original storyboards and props from all of the Indiana Jones series.

I spotted Indy's whip, the Sankara Stones, the sword of the Grail Knight and more.

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The bar

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Whip crack-away

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Last Crusade storyboard

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Smiling waitresses brought us trays of canape after canape, all inspired by the Indy films.

There was snake surprise draped on rocks (vegetarian sushi), steaming sheep's eyeballs (lychees stuffed with blueberries on dry ice) and chilled monkey brains (thick raspberry compote).

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It had to be snakes

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Sheep's eyeballs?

There was also a stand manned by Wested Leather who made the original Indy jacket.

My husband moseyed over and was mildly embarrassed that Peter Botwright, the owner, recognised that he was wearing one of their jackets.

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The original Indy Jacket(s)!

Hubby then bought an authentic gun-belt and holster to make himself feel better (no, he does not and will never own a gun).

He wasn't as bad as some though - I spotted at least three guys in full Indy cosplay.

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Two Indys

We also bought raffle tickets for a draw to win a(nother) jacket, a storyboard, a replica Holy Grail or a year's VIP Vue pass.

Finally we were ushered into the theatre, but not before they offered us vials of blue antidote to negate the effects of the poisoned margarita - and no, we didn't have to scrabble on the floor for them.

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Grab that antidote!

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After the IGN/Vue/Medicinema official welcome and intro, the film began. And what a film!

Never had I realised quite how dangerous the original ROLA is nor how many flames are involved - every other scene had our plucky young stars setting fire to each other and to the set.

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They recreated pretty much the whole darn movie, except the bit where a villain gets mushed by the plane's propeller - but hey, they did get hold of a plane and they even got hold of a submarine!

The attention to detail is astounding and the three leads are fabulous - Chris Strompolos as Indy, Eric Zala as Belloq and Angela Rodriguez as Marion Ravenwood.

I also adored the lack of continuity insofar as the actors visibly aged throughout the film - the boy who plays Sallah grows about a foot by the end.

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Li'l Indy and Li'l Marion

The best, most technically brilliant scene (and the one of which the makers are proudest) is the car chase - Indiana genuinely falls under a moving truck, gets dragged behind it, climbs over, punches out the driver, throws everyone out and takes control - there are some truly amazing buckles.

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That's gotta hurt

At the end there was a Q&A session with Chris and Eric who came across as genuinely lovely people.

I got hold of a mic and asked them if they were still in the film industry and apparently due to the revived interest in the Adaptation, they were inspired to jack in their corporate jobs.

They set up a production company called Rolling Boulder Films and their next project is a "Southern gothic action adventure" film set in Mississipi called What the River Takes.

Fingers crossed for their success, because if they can make Raiders of the Lost Ark at the age of 12, who knows what they're capable of now?

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Chris and Eric also drew the raffle and I was gutted that I was only one number off winning the Holy Grail. Hilariously, later on, one of the raffle organisers accosted the hubby thinking he was the guy who won the jacket and then fretted "Oh, but there's so many of you, we'll never find him".

After the Q&A, we all went back to the bar where I snaffled a huge promo poster and managed to shake hands and get autographs from Chris, Eric and Rene Belloq himself aka Paul Freeman (who had also attended the screening, much to the intense, fanboy delight of Chris and Eric).

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L-R: Chris "Indy" Strompolos and Eric "Belloq" Zala

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All in all, it was a fantastic evening and a fantastic movie. Obviously, the film quality is a bit ropey (Betamax!) and the sound quality isn't great, but it is a testament to the skills of Chris, Eric and their friends that I'd be extremely proud to have it in my collection.

I really hope Spielberg, Lucas and Kasdan let Rolling Boulder Films release Raiders: the Adaptation on DVD; it is after all a loving homage to their own film and it would be a tragedy not to share its brilliance with a wider audience.

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Rolling Boulder Films are here.

Find out more about the charity Medicinema at

All screencaps from

Grossest party snacks ever:

The BBC reports:

Monday, 27 April 2009

Crazy Crisps, Peculiar Potato Chips


It's not too late to vote for your favourite wacky new crisp flavour in the Walker's "Do Us a Flavour" Crisp Election - the deadline is Friday 1 May. I voted for Crispy Duck & Hoisin (review here), Charlie Brooker hated pretty much all of them, but you might like to back Cajun Squirrel, Builder's Breakfast, Fish & Chips, Onion Bhaji or Chili & Chocolate.

Walker's aren't the only people to push my potato chip boundaries lately. I picked up these Blair's Death Rain crisps last time I was in Japan, though they're available in certain delis and shonky newsagents here.

Made by Blair's, the Home of Extreme Food, flavours are Habanero and BBQ - the BBQ was very salty and MSG-ey but at least edible, the Habanero like hitting myself in the face with a rusty stiletto (that's not a recommendation).


These next two came from Selfridges - Beer Chips were apparently invented by some cigar fan and come in "Hot Potatoes - Spicy Bloody Mary potato chips" and "Chip Shots - Margarita with salt potato chips".

These were an altogether more pleasant experience - the first was a bit like a spicy V8 but I like V8, the second was limey with little delicious crystals of salt. All good.


These last two packets I also got in Japan. These were made by Tohato, who make an amazing chillied Hula Hoop type crisp available over here.

However, I think (I hope) these were limited edition - they were Soda and Menthol flavours.


Soda was very strange - they tasted okay insofar as ramune flavoured crisps can be okay, but I'm really not used to savoury stuff fizzing in my mouth.

Menthol was foul though - like manky toothpaste-flavoured crisps. Bad bad bad bad, just thinking about it makes me shiver.


Nevertheless, I'm a sucker for strange flavours and clearly an optimist, so next time I find something odd in the world of potato chips, guaranteed I'll still buy it.

However, I'll offer my opinion here so I can at least pretend I'm providing a public service ...

Tuesday, 21 April 2009

Acacia Omelette - Cha Om Pom Pom (Recipe)


So last Sunday, I picked up a lovely bunch of acacia leaf from Tawana Thai supermarket for just one of your English pounds.

Proper name Acacia pennata, known as tsu boht in Burmese and cha om in Thai, acacia leaf tastes like heaven, but smells like absolute hell.

My husband calls it "poo weed".


In fact, the sulfurous vapours are so noxious that allegedly Thai people won't put it near mynah birds, lest the poor creatures become overwhelmed by fumes and drop dead.


The Burmese, Thai, Laotians and Cambodians all eat acacia leaf in pretty much the same way, either blanched and dipped into various sauces, or fried up in an omelette.

It needs to be prepared pretty carefully though - tsu boht literally means "rotten thorn" in Burmese - just look at these beauties to see why:


However, if you put on a (gas) mask and some gloves, you're ready to rock.

Acacia Leaf Omelette
(Burmese: tsu boht jet-u khaot jor)
(Thai: Kai jeaw Cha-om)
Serves 2

  • A bunch of acacia leaf (sold as cha om in Oriental supermarkets)
  • 4 eggs
  • 50 ml milk (optional)
  • 1 tbsp vegetable oil
  • Pinch of salt
  • Teeny pinch of MSG (optional)

Prepare the acacia leaf first. Wash and rinse the acacia in a colander, then pluck the fronds off carefully and discard the branches.

You should end up with a little pile of tender leaves like so:


Next whisk the eggs with the milk, salt and MSG until light and frothy.

Heat the oil in a frying pan and pour in the egg mixture. As soon as the egg begins to set, strew the acacia leaf evenly over the top of the omelette.


When the omelette is cooked through but not brown, flip it so the acacia-covered side cooks properly.

Finally slice the cha om omelette into sections and serve on steaming rice.

In Burma, this dish would be served with ngapi yayjo (a type of fish sauce similar to the italian bagna cauda) or ngapi jor (aka balachaung).

In Thailand, it's eaten with the shrimp paste and chilli dip nam prik.

You can however substitute Japanese pickles or achar as they're easier to find in the UK.


Oh and if you're wondering, the vile stench totally disappears when it's cooked ...

Saturday, 18 April 2009

Polish Meat Stops Zombie Apocalypse


There's a really big part of me that's a paranoid survivalist. In my cupboard under the stairs, there are wind-up torches and radios, sacks of rice, candles, the works, all to help me stave off the zombie apocalypse. I once even tried to buy a box of Army ration packs off eBay.

I have a particular fondness for canned meats. How can I not? - in the news, there was even a couple who'd got a canned chicken for their wedding and they opened it 50 years later for their golden anniversary and it was still edible. Pek is a favourite, as is corned beef, though I never really liked Spam.

Anyway, I struck meaty gold when I found this selection of beauties in a supermarket on the Cut in Waterloo.


I love getting Polish meat from the deli counter anyway, especially sopocka, boczek, wiejska, and kabanos, so I figured the canned stuff was worth a punt.

Clockwise from top right, I bought a jar of bigos, a pack of boczek, a tin of debicka, a pack of golonka and a jar of gulasz. In the middle is a pack of smalec.

So far I've tried the golonka, the boczek and the smalec. The first two are nice and porky but the texture is too spammy for my liking. The smalec however is in a class of its own.

Picturesquely described on the label as "sandwich fat" and apparently Poland's favourite starter, smalec is basically seasoned fat or lard with a few strands of bacony pork quivering in amongst it.

It's bloody beautiful, but will end up killing me, especially as I've been spooning it straight from the tub into my mouth ...

Tuesday, 14 April 2009

Happy Thingyan! Burmese New Year


So Monday marked the start of Thingyan - the Burmese New Year Festival, which this year runs from 13 to 16 April.

Related to
Songkran, the New Year Festival in Thailand, Thingyan is a wonderful festival where young and old alike give alms to monks, pay respects to elders, hold great feasts, take part in dances, go to open-air shows, and most notably lob gallons of water at each other! Thankfully April is the hottest time of the year in Burma and so likelihood of hypothermia is fairly low.

However, actual Thingyan celebrations can be hard to come by in the UK. Therefore, my family and I decided on the next best option and went to the Songkran festival last Sunday at the
Buddhapadipa Temple in Wimbledon. The grounds are beautiful, the Wat (Thai temple) itself is spectacular, and we had a great time.

Here's a picspam to show you how fab it was:

Gilding the Buddha

Tawana Supermarket

Mini Thai Princess Contest

Chicken scratchings (these were really delicious)

Snake Beans for sale

Stir-fry Stall

Thai ice lolly machine - Vimto, Green Cream Soda and Pepsi Max flavours!

Fishcakes aka Tod Man

The evil acacia leaf aka Cha Om (recipe here)

Som Tam master at work

Best Som Tam ever with teeny blue crab!

For a proper review, visit - I'm even in one of his pictures ...