In Defense of English Food

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Recently I heard that London was named among the world’s top 5 food cities by Food & Wine Magazine. I have to admit I was suprised, as when I go back home to London, I don’t usually find this amazing food they talk about. For me, San Francisco wins hands down for the best food around.

In London’s defense, I will say that I spend most of my time in Hounslow/Southall, the Indian enclaves of London where I grew up — if you’ve seen the film Bend It Like Beckham, it was filmed round the corner from my house. There is some really good Indian/Pakistani food in Hounslow/Southall, but the rest is just fast food pizza, fried chicken and doner kebab shops. I usually don’t eat out much as I’m busy enjoying my Pinky Aunty’s Indian home cooking. (Most of Kasa’s recipes originated from Pinky Auntie.)

As a result, I’m not really in the know as to which restaurants to try in Central London for amazing food.

Having said that, English food can get a bad rap abroad, and I spend much of my time trying to defend it’s honour. I’ve spent the last two weeks in London visiting my cousin Amars who had a major operation and I took this opportunity to get through my list of ‘MUST EAT’ English food before I head back to San Francisco:

1) English Breakfast

There really isn’t anything as satisfying as this, especially after a hangover. Much as I like American breakfasts, nothing quite hits the spot like pork sausages (with absolutely no hint of apple or anything sweet in it), baked beans (again a lot less sweet), proper bacon (that is bacon with meat on it and not crispy fat), eggs, tomatoes and fried mushrooms. Admittedly the whole thing can be a little greasy and seriously filling, but it is utterly delicious and you don’t have to think about food for many many hours to come!

2) Chicken and Mushroom Pie

This pie is comfort food at it’s best. Shortcrust pastry soaked in the thick gravy of the chicken and mushroom filling… yum! Or even yummier is Steak and Kidney pie… wow! Pot pies in the US just don’t compare.

3) Savoury pastries

  • Sausage rolls – a delicious, basic English sausage covered in a very light flaky pastry… when it’s cold and raining outside and you need a snack, this totally lifts your spirits.
  • Cornish pasties – a thicker pastry filled with minced beef and vegetables.  I crave this from accross the continent constantly.

4) Treacle Pudding with Hot Custard

I might say that sometimes I miss this dessert more than my family in London. It’s a light sponge pudding that has been steamed with a thin layer of sweet treacle and covered with steaming hot custard. The endorphins released when you eat this are unparalleled. I really really wish that I could find this in SF. Has anyone seen it around?  I probably have gained quite a few pounds on this dessert alone.

5) English Roast

Roast Lamb, mint sauce, yorkshire pudding, basic boiled vegetables and roast potatoes (NO MASH) with really rich gravy (very different to American gravy) is divine. Eating this on a Sunday in the pub brings back great memories.

6) A visit to Nandos

No trip to London is complete for me without a trip to this popular South African chain of Chicken and Chips. They are super successful here and on their way to the US soon. Their peri peri marinated grilled chicken with peri peri sauce and wild herb sauce with chips (thick french fries) is superb. The sides are really good too. They have different levels of heat from lemon and herb all the way to xtra hot! I keep mine at the sensible medium heat.

I come back home to San Francisco tomorrow and will have to crave these foods until my next visit. It was funny to hear, though, that my cousin Amar was craving Kasa’s Chicken Tikka Masala Kati Roll from his recovery bed at Kings Hospital!

Get better quickly, Aams, so you can get to San Francisco for your kati roll fix!

Anamika