Sunday, 31 May 2009

Taste of Asia 2009 (London Festival)

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This weekend I had the choice of going to Taste of Spain in Regent Street and Taste of Asia in Potters Fields.

After dithering a bit, I plumped for the latter (fellow blogger bellaphon went to Taste of Spain).

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Taste of Asia is part of Celebrasian (don't laugh), a UK/India festival celebrating all the best of Asia through a series of events.

These include Taste of Asia, Face Of Asia, Business India Forum, The Celebrasian Cup, Masters Cricket and Asia Cup Polo.

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Obviously the only event I'd be interested in would be food-related, so yesterday hubby and I turned up to Taste of Asia in Potters Fields, London (next to Boris's house).

Apparently Cherie Blair had opened the show by cooking onstage with Anjum Anand, but I was heartbroken to find I'd missed this clash of the titans.

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We did see a rather peculiar fashion show where it took me a few minutes to realise that those were in fact models coming onstage one by one, since the male ones at least looked quite lost.

There were also a fab couple of musicians playing beautiful Indian music on drums and the sitar.

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I was tickled by the Asian Interactive Media people (showcasing Asian Bride, Asian Groom, Asian Home and Asian Woman) who handed me a sturdy branded carrier bag (Yes! I am an Asian Bride!) and Panjab Radio who for some reason were selling remote control cars.

That wasn't quite as weird as the yellow TARDIS though.

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As for food, there were a fair few stalls, but the Taste of Korea stand was the most colourful with charming, brightly-dressed stall holders handing out Korean rice punch (gorgeous and thirst-quenching), aloe vera juice and chunks of pajeon (Korean pancake) and bulgogi (barbecue beef).

I bought some funky crisps, a jar of kimchi and a ready-to-eat bowl of dolsot bibimbap - slightly underseasoned but comforting.

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The Vietnamese Cafe was also packed with customers (including us) wanting triple macchiatos with lotus green tea chaser, weasel coffee and cà phê sữa đá (Viet iced coffee).

They were also selling other Viet foodstuffs, so I picked up some shrimp paste, some seasoning packets (Bún bò Huế, thit nuong and canh chua) and some coconut nước màu (caramel sauce) from Bến Tre.

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The Shana Foods Paratha Stall was my hubby's favourite - he scoffed a plate of paratha with paneer and chana masala which was dirt-cheap at £1.50 and really tasty for a ready meal.

We watched them searing the paratha on enormous hotplates (I use a Breville Sandwich Press) before I picked up some of the paneer packs to take home.

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At one point, I spotted someone scoffing fried bits and bobs from a dinky little wicker basket - I'm a sucker for nice presentation, so I tracked down the source which was Thai Square.

This proved a stroke of luck as these mixed starters were fresh and tasty - tod man pla fishcake, prawn toast and crispy wontons with sweet chilli sauce.

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We wandered around the usual stands offering beautiful but overpriced Oriental pseudo-antiques, eg Buddhas and chinthés and wall carvings and singing bowls, and swatted away people offering guided tours through the whole of Asia.

I was also handed a couple of free magazines - one the type of PR-packed dross you get inflight and one more of a food fanzine by The East which was earnest but actually quite interesting, though I was mildly alarmed to see the article on Garlic had been reproduced "courtesy of Wikipedia".

There was also a rather glossy-looking affair for sale, but I baulked when I saw it referred to "recipies" on the front cover.

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Just as we were leaving, I noticed the Cookery Theatre was setting up and I was delighted to see Reza Mahammad appear through the curtains. I've had a soft spot for Reza ever since he did "Delhi Belly" with Sanjeev Bhaskar.

He popped in and out, busying himself by preparing the ingredients himself, which seemed very sweet - as Lou at knit one bake too tells me that most chefs swan on just before the demo, leaving the home economists to do all the prep.

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Ross Burden (Celebrity Chef MC of the whole affair) also materialised, but I totally didn't recognise him, as he's lost his pomadey quiff.

Anyway, though the festival as a whole seemed a bit muted, we had some pretty fab food and saw some cool performances, and hell, unlike every other festival these days (I'm looking at you Taste of London) entry to Taste of Asia was free, so I'd definitely go again.

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It was also a glorious day, with kids splashing around the More London Place fountains, and so I was almost sorry that we were off to the darkness of a cinema - although Drag Me To Hell turned out to be pretty awesome too, even if I felt the absence of Bruce Campbell keenly ...

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See Taste of Asia 2009 in action:

4 comments:

  1. This looks wonderful! Am so gutted I missed it. It's inspired me to make some parathas and chickpea cuzza tonight

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  2. The thing is, you don't have to look far for a food fest in London so another one will be along before you know it.

    Add the chickpea recipe to your blog please - houmous doesn't count :)

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  3. Great summary of the day, I really get a feel for it.

    PS LOVE LOVE LOVE your photo of wet footprints across the bluey tiles/ slate.

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  4. @Kavey

    It was a really nice day - the weather helped :)

    The footprints picture was just luck - and they were evaporating as I took it so I had to crop it to get rid of the crappy looking prints!

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Thanks for taking the time to comment!