So we’re back from London, and now I’m back to blogging after a few extra days to rest up (because everybody knows you don’t actually get any rest on vacation!).
To sum up: the trip was amazing! We walked around so many different neighborhoods in London, each with their own unique characteristics, and visited just about every tourist-y spot you can imagine. And of course we tried plenty of delicious new things! I want to point out, however, that we are not exactly foodie travelers, in the sense that we don’t plan our days around where we want to eat, and we can’t try all the local delicacies and hot restaurants because we’re limited by our budget. But luckily in a city like London, opportunities for new and interesting tastes abound, so allow me to get started!
I believe it was on our third day that we were walking around in SoHo, checking out funky shops and the street market, when we suddenly found ourselves at the beginning of Chinatown. We began to walk down the main avenue, and when a Chinese bakery caught my eye I immediately said, “Let’s go there” (I have learned from Robyn’s blog that Chinese bakeries are a source of good and inexpensive treats!). It turned out to be a very good call– the front corner of the bakery was lined with baskets of maybe 30 different kinds of sweet and savory products. We hardly knew where to begin. J got a curry chicken bun (I think that’s what it was called) and I picked a sesame seed ball with red bean paste and an egg custard tart. I didn’t eat mine right away, but J did, and it was so good that we actually returned to the same bakery a mere 10 minutes later to buy more treats to take home 😀 (and the price was right, I think most of them were from 80 pence to a pound. We were so excited to find such a novel and inexpensive lunchtime snack!). Here’s J’s chicken bun:
Apparently the sun was shining! Those moments were nice while they lasted…
It reminded me of the pirukad in Estonia, but the Chinese yeast dough was slightly sweeter, I think, and of course the curry filling was slightly sweet and spicy and delicious.
When my tummy began to growl a little later, I pulled out my sesame seed ball. I didn’t know what to expect. What I encountered was a squishy, chewy, mildly sweet center coated in sesame seeds and containing a heart of sweet red bean paste.
I initially kept saying “what IS this?” Not in a bad way, but the texture of that glutinous center is very, very odd if you aren’t used to it. I managed to figure out for myself that it was fried, since the outside was greasy, and that the pale mass of the centre must be made from some kind of rice (these guesses were confirmed by Wikipedia). I would definitely eat one of these again, although the squishy chewiness probably wouldn’t satisfy my craving for an actual baked good.
My egg custard tart got squished before I could take a picture of it… but I still ate it. The yellow custard was almost impossibly soft and silky, and like the sesame seed ball, it wasn’t too sweet. It was good, and luckily it was also quite small, because the custard is very rich.
This last thing I picked up on our return visit to the bakery on an impulse. I believe they called it a peanut roll. I didn’t get around to eating it until a few days later, which is never a good thing for a pastry. It was OK– a fairly plain, crumbly dough twisted up with some crushed peanut filling. Nothing too remarkable. I should’ve eaten it fresh :-(.
More London food to come!