Simple pleasures

Korea choices

I don’t drift gently into the morning when it comes to breakfast. I can’t bear sonnets and clouds on the plate, their rose petals gently easing me into the day. I want to be punched in the face and charged headlong by a rhinoceros of flavour.

Of course, if a gentle tinkling of the bell brings the opening of the curtains and a cup of spiced masala tea to my bedside by my valet I’m not against that, but I will soon be found powering up the creaking espresso machine and rootling around in the cupboard to select various spices to put on my eggs or easing open the weighty fridge drawer to dig out a red chilli that has possibly seen better days to slice and have with fresh mango and an uncoordinated squeeze of lime juice.

Not for me Roald Dahl’s breakfast cereal “made of all those little curly wooden shavings you find in pencil sharpeners”. It’s the time for food to excite you, wake you up, get you going. Not bore you back to sleep until lunchtime.

But perhaps I’ve developed a stronger stomach, working with and around food every day. If you are cooking a recipe at nine in the morning, you need to be able to taste it, even if it is liver paté. Ok. That does sound pretty gross first thing.

This has been an interesting week for food finds. I have been working with recipes from Korea, Japan and China and had to visit my now new favourite shop. A Korean one called H Mart. I now want to live there. There is something utterly fascinating about food shops from other countries. Tooting High Street or Southall’s is Aladin’s cave to me. I love Wing Yip in Croydon, but I fear now my loyalties have changed. Perhaps you could call it a Korea choice. On holiday, a trip to the local supermarket is a highlight. (Unless we’re on holiday in Devon near the Exmouth Tesco, in which case shoot me).

I feel a frisson of excitement when I see the strange looking Germanic produce in places like Lidl, or the Turkish neon sausages and vats of impenetrably labelled yoghurt (at least that’s what I assume it is) next to the goats’ hearts in the fridges of the Penge Food Centre. If there’s something with a funny name or a colourful paper package, it’s going in my basket. Small wonder one of the cupboards fell off the kitchen wall a few years ago.

For the first time, this week I ate okonomiyaki; delicious Japanese cabbage pancakes, a sort of battered cabbage rosti. They were slathered in three sauces, one spicy, one sweet and one rich. And that was not the first food of the day. I’d already had a small glass of black garlic juice and a plastic container full of garlic scapes in chilli sauce (one based around gochujang) so by this point I was ready for whatever you could throw at me.

The next morning I managed half a tub of dried deep fried crisp anchovies with peanuts and deep fried cauliflower in spicy batter with barbecue sauce before most people had tucked into their tea and toast. It has been a good week for food and one that makes me realise just how much there is to explore, taste and discover, even before Jeeves has ironed the Times for me.

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