Sunday, 20 August 2017

Banana Trees - in a London park

Banana trees in London

It was a lovely sunny day but still, the sight of banana trees in the Embankment Gardens just a few steps from the Thames in London made me do a double take.

A quick Google search reveals that apparently there are hardy varieties you can grow even in our climate so if you want to give your garden a tropical feel, why not plant some banana trees?

They are apparently actually herbaceous plants not actual trees and can grow quite big even in the UK. I can't promise you will get any bananas though and almost certainly there will be no edible ones so there's no point popping down to the park in the hope of some free fruit.


Saturday, 19 August 2017

Socialise over Asian style Hotpot - nothing like the English dish of the same name!

When my Malaysian friend May invited me to share a hotpot with her, I immediately had visions of the stodgy Lancashire dish beloved by Coronation Street's Betty. Let me tell you now, the meal she had in mind is very different to that!

Asian hotpot at Hot Pot Chinatown London

In a nutshell, Asian hotpot (also known as Huo Guo or steamboat) works a bit like like a fondue. The base is a broth which you add ingredients to, cooking and eating as you go, all adding flavour so you end up with a gorgeous soup you can spoon up, with or without noodles - delicious!

It's an ancient dish, thought to be 1000 years old with regional variations in Malaysia, Korea, Thailand, China and Vietnam. It's a lovely communal way of sharing food which is very sociable.

May (a London food and travel blogger who writes at EatCookExplore)  told me to meet her at the new eponymous restaurant Hot Pot in Wardour Street situated in the lively location of London's famous Chinatown. It's right next to the new Chinese gate opposite the W Hotel.

I tried Asian hotpot at Hot Pot Chinatown London

At Hot Pot each table has a built in hotplate so broth temperature can be adjusted - you obviously want it bubbling to cook meat and fish. The hotplate has a child lock so little fingers can't fiddle and the waiters will help if you are unsure about how to operate it or what temperature it should be set at.

table service for Asian hotpot at Hot Pot Chinatown London

Hot plate cooking Asian hotpot at Hot Pot Chinatown London

There's an extensive sauce bar with a variety of tasty sauces with enough spice for those who love it, plus less mouth-burning options for cowards like me. There are also ingredients like chopped garlic and coriander you can help yourself to to flavour your broth or to create your own unique sauce for dipping.