Sunday, 30 May 2010

Where's My Pork Chop? Payback Time

A long, long time ago, a scamp that I barely knew by the name of the Food Urchin caught me at a vulnerable moment and used some kind of Derren Brown-style trickery to convince me not only to make his dinner for him, but also to package it up and bring it to him.

It turned out he had previous form, as a whole cavalcade of foodies had somehow been suckered one by one into providing sustenance for this miscreant under the auspices of something called Where's My Pork Chop?

What's worse is that, rather than be grateful for our offerings, he felt at liberty to criticise our food and he even began to court the MasterChef finalists, as apparently none of us were high-profile or sexy enough. The swine.

Eventually, we could take no more, and we rebelled and demanded some recompense.

Astonishingly, he more than rose to the challenge with his #WMPCIMU.

Crank up the sound, watch the video and then join me in applauding the Food Urchin, for he is indeed the Fire Pit King.

Incidentally, an imu is an underground oven used in the Hawaiian style of cookery called kālua. So now you know.

And if you're foolish enough to want to join the official Where's My Pork Chop Fanclub, you can do so here.

(music: "Lubbock Street", written by Tom Phillips, performed by Joe Pavos and the Grasshoppers, taken from the soundtrack to Pure Evil II)

Tuesday, 18 May 2010

Burmese Century Egg Salad (Recipe)

Century Egg Salad

Some people don't like century eggs. Those people are wrong.

Whenever I visit Burma, I try to consume five times my bodyweight in food - that’s just the way I roll (sometimes literally, on the way back from Heathrow). Give me a break, I only make it out there every couple of years, so I need to make it last. This means I eat out (and in) about 12 times a day and succeed in putting on at least two dress sizes.


I’m completely spoilt for choice when it comes to eating out - there are 135 ethnic groups in Burma each with varying cuisines. I’m a mixed bag myself - I worked out the other day that I’m 38% Shan, 32% Bamar, 13% Intha and 17% Chinese. I used a spreadsheet and everything.


I guess it’s the Chinese in me that drives me to visit Shway Bè in Mandalay (that and the magnificent mascot - see above), for Shway Bè is ostensibly a Chinese restaurant, though most of the food has a Burmese twist.

And when we’re there, we always order the roast duck (Shway Bè means “Golden Duck”) and we always order the Century Egg Salad.

For those who are unfamiliar with century eggs, I’ll let Wikipedia be your guide:

Century egg, also known as preserved egg, hundred-year egg, thousand-year egg, thousand-year-old egg, and millennium egg, is a Chinese cuisine ingredient made by preserving duck, chicken or quail eggs in a mixture of clay, ash, salt, lime, and rice hulls for several weeks to several months, depending on the method of processing. Through the process, the yolk becomes a dark green, cream-like substance with a strong odour of sulphur and ammonia, while the white becomes a dark brown, transparent jelly with little flavour.

Now, although century eggs aka pi dan are quintessential Chinese food, in Burma the century egg is a slightly different beast. Our eggs aren’t dark brown - they’re a beautiful golden amber. 

And the yolk isn’t grey or green, but instead a deep ochre (I’ve even brought these handsome treats back from Burma before - DEFRA said it’s ok). 

They taste more or less the same as the Chinese version, but without the hellish whiff - they’re altogether a more elegant egg.
Golden Century Egg Salad by Robert Steiner
Burmese Century Eggs (copyright Robert Steiner)
And this century egg salad is definitely a Burmese invention, using classic Burmese salad ingredients. You can eat it by itself, but it’s much better with a bowl of steaming rice and some roast duck on the side.

Yes, it’s a recipe. Remember those? I used to do them - I’ve just been lazy.

Really lazy. 


Burmese Style Century Egg Salad
  • 4 century eggs
  • 2 large, firm tomatoes or 8 firm cherry tomatoes
  • 1 large white onion or 6 shallots
  • 1 fresh red chilli
  • Handful of coriander leaves
  • 1 tbsp lemon juice/quarter of a squeezed lemon
  • 1 tsp fish sauce
  • 1 teeny pinch of MSG (if you can't eat MSG, use a smidge of Marigold Bouillon)
  • 1 tsp peanut oil or other flavourless vegetable oil
Peel the eggs and then scald them with boiling water to get rid of the sulphurous smell. Next immediately rinse them in cold water, slice into segments and place in a bowl to one side.

Slice the onions as finely as possible and then soak in cold water to let the slivers crisp up.

If using large tomatoes, slice thinly; if using cherry tomatoes, slice into segments.

Shred the chillies and the coriander, leaving some coriander sprigs whole for garnish.

Drain the onions (squeeze excess water out with kitchen towel if necessary) and add to the eggs.
Add the tomatoes, chillies and coriander; chuck in the oil, fish sauce, lemon juice and MSG and toss thoroughly. 

Garnish with reserved coriander leaves and serve immediately.

It's lovely, honest.

Thursday, 13 May 2010

The MasterChef Interview - Dhruv Baker (2010 Winner)

Dhruv Baker - meemalee's kitchen interview

"It is written that those who read or listen to the story of Dhruv will achieve devotion and their sorrows will be destroyed."

The Legend of Dhruv (no, seriously)

So - here's the one you've apparently all been waiting for, an interview with the winner of the 2010 series of MasterChef, Dhruv Baker.

The other day I had lunch with a friend of mine and his verdict on Dhruv was as follows:

"He's handsome and he can cook. Men want to be him. Women want to be with him. It's inspiring, but I think I kinda hate him".

Yes, yes, we all love (or in my friend's case, hate) Dhruv. But despite our love for this angelic creature, at the same time he's been directly responsible for some of the most unholy puns known to man eg "Dhruvy Kind of Love", "Dhruv is in the Heart" and even, slightly bizarrely, "Master Baker" (please don't go there).

Although I guess I have to give some kind of credit to the Torygraph for giving us the immortal phrase:

"Dhruv (it rhymes with groove)"

google analytics

Talking of which, his name has proved an alarmingly popular search term here on Meemalee's Kitchen, at one point coming in at a heady number 4 above "burmese egg curry".

Seriously people, I do write about things other than MasterChef. Occasionally.

My all-time favourite query however must be:
"How did Dhruv make his Indian duck balls?"

Dhruv's dessert in the Final (copyright BBC/SHINE LIMITED)

meemalee's kitchen - The MasterChef Interview


Former sales director Dhruv Baker won this year's series of MasterChef in a closely-fought battle. More familiar to us as "Dad of one Dhruv" or alternatively "New Dad Dhruv", he is currently based in south-west London with wife Aileen and wee son Arun, and has just completed stages at De Librije (in Zwolle, Holland where he cooked for Russell T Davies in the final) and Le Gavroche. He is allegedly in the process of setting up his own blog and is going to open a restaurant soon or someone's going to get a slap. Most importantly of all, he knows how to spell my name.

Has there ever been a kitchen mishap that's driven you to tears?

I left a lovely pork shoulder to braise in a beautiful mole (not the blind, burrowing creature but the Mexican chocolate and chilli-based dish) when I dropped my family off at Gatwick. I got stuck in traffic on the way back and when I turned into my road I could smell the smoke ...

I opened my front door and the hallway was so full of thick acrid smoke that I couldn't see my hand in front of my face. Pot has boiled dry, ruining it, and the house had to be aired for over a week. The stench was shocking and the gorgeous meat was wasted.

You're hosting your dream dinner party and you can invite 1 living person, 1 dead, and 1 fictional (no friends or family) - who would they be?

William Boyd, Keith Floyd, and (damn, James Bond was a cracker) Jessica Rabbit.

Which came first, the chicken or the egg?

Chicken. No, egg. Wait, chicken. Um, dunno.

Describe yourself in three words

Determined. Food-lover. Optimist.

What’s the worst thing you have ever cooked?

I honestly cannot thing of anything for this other than that failed pork mole.

What was the final push that made you enter MasterChef?

A lot of grief from my wife and a good friend of ours combined with a very dull day at the office made me Google the application.

What would you want as your epitaph?

Wouldn't like to tempt fate by answering this!

What's your guilty food pleasure?

Ikea hot dogs, tortilla wraps with cheap breaded supermarket chicken, melted cheese and Encona sauce. The occasional trip to the Golden Arches.

[what is it with MasterChef finalists and hot dogs?]

Who would win in a fight between a baboon and a badger?

Clearly the baboon - badger has no fingers for eye gouging. Or as Harry Hill would say, "there's only one way to find out ..."

What would be your last meal on Earth?

Grilled lobster with garlic butter (bottle of Montrachet), steak, chips and bearnaise sauce (1982 Lafite) and a pear and almond tarte (bottle of d'Yquem). Mmmm.

Dhruv's main in the Final (copyright BBC/SHINE LIMITED)

If you were a superhero, what would you be called and what special powers would you have?

I would be called Kronos and I would be able to master time travel (forwards and backwards).

How many cardigans does John Torode own?

More than anyone will ever know.

Who do you most admire?

My wife for being the best mum, wife and friend in the world while being amazing at her job. And for her unquestioning faith in me which keeps me going.

What do you love cooking the most?

Meat. I love cooking meat - frying, braising, roasting.

Has Gregg Wallace ever actually put his face in a plate of food or swallowed the spoon by accident?

I have never witnessed it, but I have heard a rumour that he did one stick his face in a pudding. Probably a complete lie though.

[it's not a lie - we've had official confirmation from two separate sources]

What keeps you awake at night?

Worrying about what the future holds and foxes shagging loudly.

What's your favourite cuisine when eating out and what cuisine would you like to try that you haven't before?

Eating out would have to be Japanese and I can't think of one that I haven't tried (ooh, Burmese - hint hint).

[hmmmmm. I'll cook for him if he cooks for me first - that's fair, right?]

What's the stupidest/naughtiest thing you did as a child?

When I was about 10, I shot out a few of the streetlights in our road with an air rifle and a catapult. That was pretty stupid - there were lots of stupid things come to think of it ...

Do you have a nickname (childhood or current)?

I put on a hell of a lot of weight in my second year of uni and have been called "Pies" ever since.

What's your favourite TV programme (other than MasterChef) and favourite band?

University Challenge, Man vs Food, The Wire. I don't really have a single favourite band, but I do love Vampire Weekend (I'm a bit rubbish with music).

What's been your proudest moment so far?

Becoming a dad for the first time.

Who would you least like to be trapped in a lift with?

A fighting baboon and badger.

What's your favourite holiday destination and why?

Mexico - specifically Isla Mujeres. Relaxed, ramshackle buildings and lots of great seafood and margaritas. Amazing beaches too.

Tell us three more interesting things about yourself: two true, one a lie

  1. I am fluent in Spanish and Hindi
  2. I failed my first driving test for crashing
  3. I was in a boyband before university
When am I going to get to eat your food?

As soon as we get our pop-up going!

[yes folks, it seems the MasterChef Pop-up Restaurant may actually happen]

Dhruv Baker

Dhruv Baker - taken by Ali Moore for Shine TV

So there you have it - the last of the MasterChef 2010 Finalist interviews. It's been emotional for me - I hope you've enjoyed the show.

If you missed the others, here's Alex Rushmer and here's Tim Kinnaird.

You can also relive the MasterChef 2010 Final meemalee-style.

Special thanks to Dhruv Baker and Ali Moore for SHINE TV for the photos, and @FoodUrchin, @Suzler and Popb*tch for questions

Monday, 10 May 2010

The MasterChef Interview - Tim Kinnaird (2010 Finalist)

Tim Kinnaird - meemalee's kitchen interview

Next up in my series of MasterChef interrogations is everyone's favourite former doctor Tim Kinnaird. Tim is magical in many ways, not least because he is six foot three (for reals). All of us were rooting for him as he staggered up those stairs at the Tower of London, our hearts were in our mouths when his green tea sorbet didn't set, and we cheered when the Maharajah tried to adopt him. Let's face it, the man's adorable.

A quick glance at my Google Analytics shows me the question that appears to be on everybody's lips is:

"What did Tim do to his ribs on MasterChef?"
I don't know, people. I don't know. And I failed to ask him, so perhaps the answer will forever be beyond our reach.

Of course the other question on everybody's lips was "Why did the BBC call him a Children's Doctor?". Various media outlets sought to mock this choice of nomenclature, so here's the real story straight from the horse's mouth:
"Apologies for delayed response to the Paediatrician/Children's Dr thing. Thought it better to wait until it was all over. I've always introduced myself to children or young people as a children's Dr - I think it's a term they understand. Communicating clearly with children and families is something I always worked hard at. It was a joint decision with the TV company. It was a small decision. Sorry if it irritated anyone. Tim"
There you go. I hope you're all thoroughly ashamed of yourselves for being so bloody cynical about it. You b*stards.

Blueberry Macarons by Tim Kinnaird

meemalee's kitchen - The MasterChef Interview


Tim Kinnaird is a former consultant paediatrician in the imaginary town of Shipdham in the imaginary county of Norfolk. Other imaginary towns in Norfolk include Fakenham, Little Snoring and Pudding Norton. After reaching the MasterChef final this year, he may or may not be about to open a patisserie called Timminess, although personally I think he should call it TK Macs. He makes exceedingly good cakes.

Has there ever been a kitchen mishap that's driven you to tears?

It's only cooking and real men don't cry ... actually two burst cold water pipes in the kitchen in six months - second during the MasterChef finals - was a bit traumatic.

You're hosting your dream dinner party and you can invite 1 living person, 1 dead, and 1 fictional (no friends or family) - who would they be?

Brian Blessed, Joan of Arc (as an apology for being sick over her waxwork in Rouen in 1983), Omar Little.

Which came first, the chicken or the egg?

I don't know - egg (is that the right answer?).

Describe yourself in three words

Thinks too much

What’s the worst thing you have ever cooked?

Beef tacos - beef mince fried in margarine which dripped out of the taco and solidified on your arm as you ate them. First meal I cooked for med-school house mates.

What was the final push that made you enter MasterChef?

Wine and ridiculous work nonsense. It was a small decision, not a big announcement. The whole thing was a series of small decisions and choices.

What would you want as your epitaph?

"Thought too much"

What's your guilty food pleasure?

The children's fish fingers - one end in tomato ketchup - one end in brown sauce (actually, it's tinned frankfurters with salad cream squirted into the tin and a side of kabanos sausages - but I've given that answer too many times).

Who would win in a fight between a baboon and a badger?

Definitely the Apprentice woman - she was fierce.

Tim's dessert platter for the Maharajah (copyright SHINE TV/BBC)

What would be your last meal on Earth?

Cheese, wine, Pierre Herme macarons and lots of 'em.

If you were a superhero, what would you be called and what special powers would you have?

I am already. I have X-ray vision.

How many cardigans does John Torode own?

Lots - but I think some are reversible.

Who do you most admire?

My wife - because she cares and gets on with it.

What do you love cooking the most?

Something new - recipe, ingredient, situation - probably why I did okay on MasterChef. I like change. Change is good.

Has Gregg Wallace ever actually put his face in a plate of food or swallowed the spoon by accident?

Yes - mine, mine, mine. Didn't make the edit but he stuck his face in my gooseberry, elderflower and lemon syllabub - more because he couldn't get a good amount on his spoon.

[I bloody KNEW it!]

What keeps you awake at night?

Self-doubt and my children.

What's your favourite cuisine when eating out and what cuisine would you like to try that you haven't before?

I couldn't possibly choose one and tragically I rarely eat out. Up until now the combination of young children, rural Norfolk and busy doctor married to busy doctor didn't offer much opportunity. Maybe I will now - I really should.

What's the stupidest/naughtiest thing you did as a child?

Punched one of my younger brothers in the face on stage during the "Let's get the kids up on the stage" bit of a pantomime. He's still cross about it.

Do you have a nickname (childhood or current)?

There are a number - David Mellor (I used to have floppy hair!) - christened that by waiters in local curry house in Birmingham.

What's your favourite TV programme (other than MasterChef) and favourite band?

The Wire, West Wing, Spaced, Green Wing. Bloody hell, I like Arcade Fire a lot and Sigur Ros, Jonsi, Mumford & Sons, The National, Laura Marling, LCD Soundsystem and my uncle's recent work - check out Nick Wisbey vs The Beatles on Youtube (he's not that odd in real life) - "I haven't got a match" is classic post-modern pop.

What's been your proudest moment so far?

Birth of children, every single second of the MasterChef finals, selling my cakes for real money last week.

Who would you least like to be trapped in a lift with?

A paediatrician.

What's your favourite holiday destination and why?

Honestly - best holiday in ages was on a boat on the Norfolk Broads.

Tell us three more interesting things about yourself: two true, one a lie

  1. I played the trombone until my music teacher told me my mouth was too big and I should move on to the tuba.
  2. In 1995, Dhruv lived 6 doors down from me.
  3. I'm part of a burlesque dance group.
When am I going to get to eat your food?

Soon enough, poppet.

[I like to think I'm a tough cookie, but I'm actually five years old at heart - so being called a poppet by Tim is ACE]

Tim Kinnaird

Icelandic Volcano Cakes by Tim Kinnaird

Interview with the 2010 MasterChef Winner Dhruv Baker coming soon - I bet you can hardly contain yourselves ...

Interview with Alex Rushmer

Relive the 2010 MasterChef Final

Special thanks to Tim Kinnaird for the photos and @FoodUrchin, @Suzler and Popb*tch for questions

Thursday, 6 May 2010

The MasterChef Interview - Alex Rushmer (2010 Finalist)

Alex Rushmer by @photolotte

It's funny, you go through life throwing peanuts at the telly when occasionally you see something that knocks you for six. Regular readers will know that I quite like MasterChef, and it was whilst I was watching this year's show that I had my "WTF?" moment.

So there we were, my husband and I, sitting on the sofa watching the quarter-finals (confession - I don't watch the whole series - if I did, it would give me a stroke), when I poked him in the ribs and said "'Ere, I know that bloke. Kind of".

"That bloke" was a gentleman by the name of Dhruv Baker. And when I say "kind of", I'm referring to the fact that he was one of my followers on Twitter (though to be fair, he didn't say much). Hubby said "Yeah, whatever, lunatic woman", but I was spurred to ascertain if it was indeed him.

Long story short, it turned out that three of my Twitter chums were competing in MasterChef - @DhruvBaker1, @DrTimKinnaird and @justcookit.

And then all three ended up being in the final, which frankly left me rather nonplussed (and annoyed, because I couldn't be quite as rude about proceedings as I would have liked).

Anyway, thanks to the fact that Dhruv, Tim and Alex are my imaginary friends (Twitter is evil by the way), I was somehow able to bully convince them to submit to some probing interview questions, meemalee-style.

So here's the first interview from the lovely Alex Rushmer - rather apt for today's UK General Election, as it turns out he's a politics graduate ...


Just Cook It by @photolotte

meemalee's kitchen - The MasterChef Interview


Alex Rushmer is a freelance writer based in Cambridgeshire who specialises in all things edible. When he's not writing professionally or cooking, he writes an extremely popular food blog called Just Cook It, documenting his culinary adventures. His next mission is to write a book and (hurrah) open a restaurant. I like his beard.

Has there ever been a kitchen mishap that's driven you to tears?

When I was first experimenting with molecular gastronomy I managed to block our cottage’s drains by innocently pouring sodium alginate down the sink. For cooking purposes it can be made to react with calcium/sodium to form a clear, heat-proof edible jelly – so when I happily sluiced the alginate down the sink, our hard, calcium-rich Cambridgeshire water turned to a solid jellified mass, sealing our cottage’s drains.

Neither the sink nor the shower drained properly for a few days, and when the source of the problem was discovered my girlfriend (who normally has the patience of a saint when it comes to my culinary experiments) was considerably unimpressed. Half-heartedly fishing bits of jelly out of our drain while she supervised was quite a low point. Only after that did I read the following words in the accompanying instruction leaflet: 'Warning! Do NOT dispose of alginate solution in the sink'.

You're hosting your dream dinner party and you can invite 1 living person, 1 dead, and 1 fictional (no friends or family) - who would they be?

Anthony Bourdain (c. 2002), Ernest Hemingway, and James Bond (the Ian Fleming version rather than any celluloid re-creations). I don't think any explanations are needed.

Which came first, the chicken or the egg?

The chicken, the egg faked it.

Describe yourself in three words

Cook. Writer. Eater

What’s the worst thing you have ever cooked?

Not sure about cooked but I've eaten some fairly bizarre items: century egg was the worst.

[Fool! Century eggs are lush - recipe for a Burmese century egg salad here]

What was the final push that made you enter MasterChef?

A whole bottle of red wine on a dark Sunday evening in the deepest depths of winter, and the thoughts of Monday morning at my marketing job running through my miserable mind.

What would you want as your epitaph?

I'm too young to think of such things. Ask me in 60 years.

What's your guilty food pleasure?

I love hot dogs beyond all rationality. Topped with fried onions, ketchup, Swedish mustard, gherkins and jalapeno peppers.

Who would win in a fight between a baboon and a badger?

I have no idea but I would pay good money to see it happen.

What would be your last meal on Earth?

Rare roasted rib of beef with Yorkshire puddings and gravy. Probably with a hot dog on the side.

If you were a superhero, what would you be called and what special powers would you have?

Wonderf-Al? Either invisibility (for raiding the fridge late at night) or the power to remove people’s fear of food they think is going to be disgusting. 'Try it, you might like it!' would be my motto.

How many cardigans does John Torode own?

I'm not entirely sure, but if rumours are to be believed the collection has been bequeathed to the V & A Museum. They are building a new wing for them at present.

Duck hearts on toast - one of Alex's dishes in the MasterChef Final (copyright BBC/SHINE)

Who do you most admire?

My parents.

What do you love cooking the most?

The bits of an animal that need nurturing and teasing into tastiness. The cuts beyond the fillet.

Has Gregg Wallace ever actually put his face in a plate of food or swallowed the spoon by accident?

Tim - I'll leave this one to you.

What keeps you awake at night?

Insomnia. Intermittently.

What's your favourite cuisine when eating out and what cuisine would you like to try that you haven't before?

I love the food of South-East Asia and when we manage to go out for a meal, we tend to eat the same things at the same noodle place in Cambridge (gyoza and edamame beans followed by wok-fried noodles).

[he's talking about Dojo, a favourite of mine too]

There’s so much cuisine I haven't tried yet – from genuine deep south American barbecue to a traditional Japanese Kaiseki meal – and I look forward to discovering it.

What's the stupidest/naughtiest thing you did as a child?

Probably releasing the hand-brake of a car at the top of our, rather steep, drive. Only the quick thinking and strength of my friend's dad stopped us from rolling into the road.

Do you have a nickname (childhood or current)?

Rather unimaginatively, “Rush” (or variations thereof) although more recently I've become known as ‘A-Rod’ thanks to ‘Te-bow’ and ‘Dhruv-ster’.

What's your favourite TV programme (other than MasterChef) and favourite band?

I love American dramas: The Sopranos and The West Wing, in particular. Music-wise it is hard to choose although, again, I tend to look across the Atlantic: The National, Band of Horses, The Gaslight Anthem. Arcade Fire and Nick Cave also remain firm favourites. Behind cooking, music is my other great passion.

What's been your proudest moment so far?

Getting to the final of MasterChef was pretty special – however, I’ve got plans to surpass it soon. Watch this space!

Who would you least like to be trapped in a lift with?

Someone with chronic flatulence and objectionable politics.

What's your favourite holiday destination and why?

I really enjoyed visiting Thailand last summer – the street food was incredible and almost endless in its variations – and my photographer girlfriend and I are planning a trip to Sweden this summer. My mother’s Swedish and my family holidayed there quite frequently when I was small. I have incredibly evocative food memories of eating wild raspberries with my Swedish grandparents and celebrating with huge, smorgasbord feasts of herring, hushållsost cheese on knackerbrod, crayfish, glazed hams, creamy Jansson's Temptation – even the names have my mouth watering! I’m really looking forward to exploring the cuisine properly and documenting our discoveries on my blog.

Tell us three more interesting things about yourself: two true, one a lie
  1. I've been writing my first novel for 7 years
  2. I never lie
  3. I have a degree in social and political sciences from Cambridge University
When am I going to get to eat your food?

This summer...

Alex Rushmer

fun with alphabetti spaghetti by @photolotte

Stay tuned for more MasterChef interviews with Tim Kinnaird and Dhruv Baker ...

Relive the 2010 MasterChef Final

Special thanks to @Photolotte for the photos and @FoodUrchin, @Suzler and Popb*tch for questions

Monday, 3 May 2010

Malaysian Feast at Kiasu, Bayswater

Chye Tow Kway - Radish Cake

I have a terrible confession to make. I only discovered Malaysian food about a year ago. I know, I know, I was obviously spending too much time eating sashimi (if in doubt, go for Japanese being my motto)

Turns out Malaysian food is a lot like Burmese food, insofar as there's an emphasis on rich curries and noodles with salads thrown in for luck. And it's bleeding gorgeous - so much so that it now ranks a close second after my beloved Nippon cuisine in the eating out stakes.

Kiasu is a Nyonya Malay place specialising in food from the Straits and surrounding areas. I've wanted to go for a good while, having heard great things about it. But when you consider it's in Bayswater, it's far too easy to pop into Royal China for dimsum instead.

Thankfully the lovely girls at Sauce invited me to an event at Kiasu to launch the Malaysian Dining Card - a free scheme (yes, free) which entitles you to special offers at a whole range of Malaysian restaurants.

I wasn't going to say no, was I?

Kueh Pai Tee - Pork, bamboo Shoot and Prawn Pastry Cups

Kiasu is a rather peculiar name - its website explains it thus:
"Kiasu is London's new restaurant on Queensway, with an owner afraid of being second best ... in the Chinese Hokkien dialect, the word Kiasu means, 'afraid to lose' ie 'afraid to be second best', this fear is alleviated by the spectacular food you'll find at Kiasu"
Said owner Elise is a lively, friendly lady, so full of joie de vivre it's hard to imagine her afraid of anything.

After a few drinks (freshly carrot juice for me) we started our feast with several small(ish) dishes. First up was Chye Tow Kway - steamed white radish and rice cake stir-fried with eggs, pickled radish and beansprouts. This was deliciously pungent and you could taste the hand-minced daikon. I was scooping it up long after everyone else had moved on.

Next was Kueh Pai Tee - crisp little pastry cups hand-made from three different types of flour, crammed to the brim with pork, bamboo shoot and prawn. These tiny "Top Hats" came with a special chilli sauce which you drizzled on top before cramming the whole thing in your mouth. Let's just say I ate far more of these than my fair share (look - you snooze, you lose).

Chicken Malay SatayNgoh Hiang - Pork and Prawn Beancurd Roll

After those two beautiful starters, the beef and chicken satay was a bit of a disappointment in comparison. The peanut sauce was good and gooey (and again home-made), but the meat was chewy and dry.

I appreciated the chunks of raw onion to crunch on the side though - and no Double Mint for anti-social little me. My husband understands.

The Ngoh Hiang (Pork and Prawn Beancurd Roll - a Hokkien/Teocheow dish) was a little flabby - I wanted the beancurd wrap to have more of a bite - but at least the minced meat inside was nicely savoury, very similar to the Vietnamese sausage giò lụa and I enjoyed the fried bouncy fish balls on the side even if no-one else seemed to.

Kiasu Calamari

The Kiasu Special Calamari was a real belter of a dish - gorgeous, thin and crunchy batter, tender squid and a delicious topping of deep-fried shallots and curry leaves.

Equally fantastic was the first of our main courses - the renowned Singapore Chilli Crab. This came with various implements which turned out to be unnecessary as they'd kindly cracked all the shell for us to enable easy access.

The sauce was spicily intense and thankfully they'd provided what can only be described as shiny-sweet deep-fried buns to mop it all up. These buns were like savoury doughnuts - this is a very good thing.

Singapore Chilli CrabHoney Spare Ribs

The Honey Glazed Ribs were a bit too saucy for me however - gloopy and over-sweet with claggy meat, I nibbled one and pushed the dish away.

To accompany our feast, we'd asked for some belacan and Elise had kindly obliged. Belacan is a shrimp paste dip which is very similar to the Burmese ngapi daung (pounded fish/shrimp paste) and I absolutely adore it.

The Kiasu version of Sambal Belacan was magnificent without being over-powering, and I dipped pretty much everything into it. In fact, Kiasu apparently makes all its own sauces apart from soy and hoisin sauce, which is incredible considering we were treated to at least five different types of chilli sauce alone.

God, I love chilli sauce.

Sambal Belachan

Next up we had Hainanese Chicken Rice, a seminal dish which I've heard much about but had never got round to sampling.

The poached chicken came with fragrant rice, a bowl of chicken consomme and three dipping sauces - a garlic, a soy and a sweet chilli. This was messy but fun to eat, and I would come back just for that chicken which was impressively moist for breast meat.

Hainanese Chicken Rice

I think by now Elise knew we were reaching our gustatory limits. I'm not sure she cared though, as out came bowl after bowl of Nonya Laksa.

Each bowl was about a third of the size of a normal portion and Elise pointed out that they were "only little", but as palate cleansers go, this was fairly robust.

The rice noodles were perfect in texture with just enough give, the prawns were plumptious and the garnishes of cucumber and coriander soothing. However, the broth itself felt one-dimensional - sanitised, with none of the fishy, spicy punch that I've come to expect from a good laksa.

Nonya Laksa

Last up was Char Kway Teow. Now this stir-fried dish of flat rice noodles is a classic in Malaysia, Singapore and Indonesia - some might even say iconic.

And this version looked the business with lots of veg, generous chunks of meat, seafood and prawns, and noodles that hadn't snapped into shreds.

Even more excitingly, there were cubes of crisped pork fat dotted all over the top like meaty croutons.

I wish I could say I wolfed it down, but my objecting waistband only allowed me a forkful or two. What I had was good though, if a little dry for my liking, but such is the way of char kway teow.

Char Kway Teow

But there was more. They weren't going to release us till we'd sampled their desserts.

First up we were each presented with a tall glass of Chendol - shaved ice with green chendol "droplets", coconut milk, azuki beans and coconut palm syrup.

As a whole it was surprisingly refreshing and not over-sweet due to the omission of dreaded condensed milk, but the droplets themselves were actively unpleasant - like wallpaper paste that had been left to set.

I like my chendol in its usual slippery, translucent jelly worm state and so sadly I had to give this a miss.

ChendolDurian Ice Cream

The straw that broke this camel's back was durian ice cream.

Don't get me wrong - I can't abide the fruit itself and agree wholeheartedly with Richard Sterling's verdict that:
"... its odor is best described as pig-shit, turpentine and onions, garnished with a gym sock. It can be smelled from yards away. Despite its great local popularity, the raw fruit is forbidden from some establishments such as hotels, subways and airports, including public transportation in Southeast Asia."
But for some unfathomable reason, I'm rather fond of durian in its ice cream incarnation and so I couldn't help myself gorging on Kiasu's home-made version.

It was creamy and luscious and had just the right amount of durian-ness to make me happy rather than desperately sad (a challenging tightrope to walk).

And so I stumbled out of Kiasu, defeated yet smiling. And I totally forgot to pick up my Malaysian Dining Card.

It's okay, I'm going to get one here - and you can too. It's free and it gets you 20% off at participating restaurants till December 2010, so why wouldn't you?

Inside Kiasu

48 Queensway
London W2 3RY
020 7727 8810

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Many thanks to Kiasu and Sauce PR