Monday, 7 March 2016

5 Vietnamese food must haves

Having decided to do a little detour through more of SE Asia before our big hop to the other side world, I was absolutely over the moon that this diversion enabled me to sample some real Vietnamese food.

The closest I've ever come to chowing down on some proper Vietnamese grub is on the Kingsland Road, and in all honesty, none of those restaurants really compare.

So after trying out many of the classics from North, Central and South Vietnam, here's my top 5 must haves:

1. Bun cha
By far my favourite dish is the guiltily indulgent, bun cha. This sweet meets savoury dish can leave you feeling that you've eaten a healthy 5 a day meal with the mountainous herbs and salad served alongside, whilst also feeling that the pounds will pile on with the sugary sauce cum soup, BBQ pork belly and pork patties.

This northern Vietnam dish, bun (meaning rice noodle) cha (meaning BBQ pork) requires some DIY food prep. Traditionally you will be served a bowl of rice vinegar, honey and fish sauce with pieces of root veg and meat held within (in some cases you add in yourself). On a separate dish comes your mountain of rice noodles and greens (purple basil, mint, coriander, lettuce...) You simply add it altogether in the sauce and dig in! Delish!

2. Bahn mi
We British love a sarnie, and thanks to the French, the Vietnamese do too! Wonder down any street in Vietnam, particularly in the South, and you'll find little glass vending stalls with "bahn mi" written in yellow or red writing. Within the windows of this mobile stall are crispy baguettes, sausages, sauces, veg and pate(!)

With the added ingredient of rice flour, these make for crispier breads than a typical French stick, but still with the fluffy insides. For a typical bahn mi, your vendor will slice the bread almost in half, butter with mayo, layer on the pate, throw on a couple of slithers of pork sausage, veg, chilli sauce (if you like!) and fingers crossed a tonne of coriander!!

It's a great on-the-go snack, costing around 50p and eaten anytime of day.

3. Egg coffee
I'm not sure whether I should count this as a drink or dessert, but egg coffee should be on any coffee lovers list. Vietnam has a fantastic coffee rep, and rightly so. Often strong, punchy and sometimes from an animal's arse (wiki weasel coffee), it's a great way to perk yourself up after devouring a hefty amount of Vietnamese street food.

Egg coffee is thick and creamy, made with in fact the yolk, and best consumed (eaten/drank) with a spoon. Thanks to Vietnamese coffee's aromatically strong taste, it doesn't get overburdened from the creamy yolk. Also, FYI, I'm told chicken egg is better than duck...

4. Bahn xeo
Another DIY Vietnamese foodie treat, requiring you to well and truly get your hands dirty. The bahn xeo varies between regions in Vietnam, but the basics are a crispy pancake with pork and shrimp and bean sprouts placed inside, and served to you folded in half. You then take your pancake, unfold add a load of greens, fold again and wrap in rice paper and dip into a rice vinegar, fish sauce and sugar / honey sauce, whilst the contents drips down your fingers, hands, arm...

Depending on where you are in Vietnam, your pancake could be large or small, wrapped in rice paper or lettuce (or both!), or served with chunky BBQ satay pork. The main thing is dive in and pack as much greens in as you possibly can!

5. Pho
Most of you will be no stranger to the often mispronounced famous Vietnamese dish pho. This popular dish leaves many a local either confused or amused, following a strangely confident order of a road - "fo" - rather than a noodle soup - "fuh", which even when knowing the correct pronunciation I still struggle with.

As with many dishes in south east Asia, pho can be eaten at any time of day, and is a preferred breakfast choice for many Vietnamese owing to the easily digestible slim ribbon noodles. Many are hit and miss, but when you hit one with a strong meaty broth, the flavour is awesome!

Yelly-fi-felly-food-belly x

Wednesday, 3 February 2016

Investigating the Filipino food rep

So here it is, my post on my experiences of Filipino food. The long awaited, bound-to-suck blog post.

Many of you warned me before we arrived that the food in the Philippines was pretty poor, leaving me to wonder what the focus of my post would be. And I have to say, although Filipino food leaves little lasting impression and lacks, in my opinion, a strong identity, it isn't unpleasant. Well perhaps balút maybe, but I'm sorry I wasn't prepared to eat a duck egg with a partially formed embryo, so I'm unable to report back on that one...

We had a month to explore as many of the 7,000 plus islands as humanly possible, albeit at a slightly slower pace than the previous countries we visited - I'll use being on "Filipino time" as the excuse! Even after all that time, I found myself struggling to decide what Filipino cuisine is. On one hand it consists of a lot of meat - lechon (roasted suckling pig), inasal chicken (BBQ chicken), skewered BBQ pork belly - and then on the other, as you would expect from a nation made up of many islands, there is all the fish you could want and more.

And rice, a whole shit tonne of the stuff, thanks to the thousand of years old rice terraces that fill the countryside. Impressive and absolutely stunning.

I'll start with breakfast. You can almost without a doubt expect to be served rice (boiled or fried), a fried egg and a meat of some sort. And to make it super easy, most of the time they name them after the meat - hamsilog (ham), cornsilog (corned beef) and sausilog (sausage) - you get the gist. Two of the most typical however are tapa (salty beef strips) and the lovely tocino (honey cured pork) that we were served on Christmas morning - sweet and a right proper treat!

Christmas lunch didn't disappoint either. Whilst of course I missed those little pigs in blankets, it was a small price to pay for what we were treated to following a couple of hours snorkelling around the islands of El Nido, Palawan. A complete contrast, our festive feast consisted of chicken wings, whole crab, prawns, whole sea fish, mussels and squid - all cooked on the barbie at the back of our boat, surrounded by luscious blue lagoons. I needn't say much more, it was absolute bliss. Rice of course made an appearance.

So it would seem that so far, despite lacking my 5-a-day (which we made up for by consuming fresh mango shakes on a daily basis in Borocay), the Filipinos seem to be getting most things right. But BBQ meat and fish is no stranger to other countries and even a guy tanked on several beers in England would have a hard job making a pigs ear out of it. And I think this is where the poor rep comes in. Sure the Filipinos can BBQ, but when they start adding sauces, things become a little shakey.

Take their national dish Kare Kare. Recommended by our first taxi driver in the Philippines as a must try, we were bound to order it at some point. However the fact that he had also recommended balút should have been a red flag. Kare kare is a peanut based sauce, often served with succulent oxtail, and so on paper would seem quite nice for anyone who's a fan of a bit of satay. But the flavour doesn't come from the peanut sauce, it comes from the accompanying fish paste that you add to it. Imagine a bland soup, with no flavour whatsoever, which the only way to remedy is to add heaps of salt. That's kare kare.

Like Myanmar, the Philippines love a dish drowned in oil. Similarly to the Burmese, I suspect the oil is used to preserve the dishes that lay beneath, rather than to add any sort of flavour. On many long journeys we'd stumble off a bus to a roadside cafe, point at a few dishes for about 120 pesos (just under £2) and mop these up with a healthy portion of rice. You can have chicken, beef, pork, all served in a vinegary, garlicy sauce, alongside a portion of veg - usually we went for bitter gourd or "sour veg" as they called it, providing us with an array of salty and sour dishes leaving us dehydrated for the long journey ahead. 

Before travelling to the Philippines I read that the Filipinos can't see how their food falls short compared to its Asian neighbours. That their home cooked food is proper comfort food which they love to return home to. It's the same for most Brits I guess. Whilst I've been away I've thought about what I might cook when I get home - spag bol, jacket potato and chilli - along with of course what I've learnt along the way. And perhaps people may look at British food and think it awful that we smother our potatoes, meat and veg with gravy and dollop on the mint sauce. But we love the home comforts, and I think Filipinos are similar.

One thing the Filipinos have got right is their hospitality. By luck we managed to stumble upon a guesthouse in Bohol whose turn it was to host Christmas - on 4th January (this continues until the end of January) - and no sooner had we dropped pur bags in our room were we invited into their home to feast all the Filipino food we could ask for.

There were the usual mix of vinegary dishes, pork, beef, chicken, whole crab and a huge suckling pig at the centre of it all, with an impressive semi-professional carol singing performance thrown in. As I token of our gratitude it was only fair that we then blessed them with our best brandy fuelled karaoke. The Filipinos love a good power ballad.

So that was it, my report back on what Filipino food is really like. Can't say I will be trying to recreate any of the dishes I had back home, and since leaving the Philippines I have to say that my diet is so much healthier. Shame. Great beaches though!

Yelly-fi-felly-food-belly x

Tuesday, 12 January 2016

Dining in HK

So it's been almost two months and we've travelled through India and Myanmar, seeking out roadside cafes, hole-in-the-wall style cheap eats and risky street food.

And now we arrive in Hong Kong, Asia's world city, which felt a lot more like home. It was an opportunity for us to feel a bit of comfort through our big city surroundings. We shopped, drank, and even indulged in a Christmas night out (and completely wrote off the next day...) It was a well needed break.

However this slice of home, complete with its spotlessly clean streets and functioning, well... everything, also came with a host of western style restaurants. You couldn't go anywhere without finding a McDonald's restaurant, McCafe or (Mc) ice cream shop.

The city in that respect was overwhelming. It felt difficult to find traditional Hong Kong food, which was nestled somewhere between Gucci and Prada... But where?

Sure we'd eaten at few obligatory dim sum restaurants, our favourite being Din Tai Fung, with spicy chicken dumplings and filthy battered and deep fried chicken with chilli, gulped down with unlimited jasmine tea. This chain restaurant was raved about so much we ended up trying two, one in Kowloon, the other near Connaught Bay on Hong Kong Island. Our favourite being the latter, with a queue out the door that swiftly moved along through the aid of a ticketing system. This fast turnaround of customers gave the restaurant a great buzzing atmosphere, without the feeling that the staff were eagerly waiting for you to finish up and vacate your table.

But dim sum is available in vast quantities in London and we didn't really feel that we were being bold enough. So after one attempt of trying local food - and that attempt ending in mixed feelings and uncertainty having spent 64 HKD (just over £6 - ridiculously cheap for Hong Kong prices) on two plates of cold rice, cold pork belly and a yellow chicken (or 'oil chicken' as we later found out) whilst sat next to a whole dead pig dangling from a chain - we decided to invest in a highly rated Hong Kong Foodie Tasting Tour.

In desperate need to go beyond the dazzling lights of Hong Kong island and discover what culinary delights lay hidden, we opted for a foodie walking tour around the Sham Shui Po area of Kowloon. The area was lined with markets upon markets of what resembled jumble sales, nestled in amongst herbal tea shops and BBQ stands, where you can buy just about anything from clothes to a spare remote control from a stall which claims to have a one for every model of TV out there.

I could give you a recital on everything we learnt on this tour, although if I'm honest not everything was worth noting, and having me rant on about a Hong Kong biscuit shop for 100 words or so would make for a pretty dull read. After all, they were to me, just biscuits. I will however give you my highlights, partly to give you something to salivate over, and partly to help me remember for future reference (Hong Kong has not seen the last of me!)

So we haul our weary heads out of bed and arrive in Sham Shui Po, late for our 9am start, and in need of food to help stifle a now three day hangover. After brief introduction, our knowledgeable local guide Fiona took us to our first stop for milk tea (not great hangover fluid) and pineapple buns (much needed carbs).

If you've been keeping up with my posts you will know that Asia has so far made its best attempt to expand my waistband. Not just the shear amount of food that we have consumed, with the main staple being rice, but for their apparent love to have ridiculously sweet tea. This time through the aid of evaporated milk, which tastes a bit like when you mistake cream for milk and obliviously and over-generously pour it into your tea.

But the people of Hong Kong can hardly feel such guilt for consuming this when sat next to the tea is a huuuuge pineapple bun or bor lo bao.

You'd be forgiven for thinking that this bun would contain pineapple, even after taking the first bite and trying to convince yourself that those notes of pineapple exist. They don't.

These sumptuously soft buns of Kowloon restaurant, a Hong Kong style cafe, are freshly baked every day and come out warm with a shiny butter and sugar glaze. They are also the size of a small child's head.

Saving some room I reluctantly left half. James however ate it all, an error he would later discover at the final stop when he barely touched his shrimp roe noodles.

By far the most interesting and favourite foodie pit stop, was to try a Chinese style breakfast of rice rolls (ju cheung fun) which looked like giant anaemic noodles coated in hoisin sauce, peanut dressing and sesame seeds.

These not necessarily the most appealing looking noodles, are made from a rice flour batter, with this particular eatery, Hop Tick Tai, making around 10 thousand of these gluttonous rolls every weekend. Most punters opt to filling a bag of these rolls (sauce and all) and eating them in the alleyway next to the restaurant. Had I ventured here on my own, I would have probably joined them, as the locals method of 'table grabbing' by leering over anyone who looks like they may have eaten more than two bites, was all too much for me!

Two meals down and wishing I hadn't eaten as much of the pineapple bun as I had, we continued onto our next stop: A1 Tofu Company. Here the lady owner stands behind a large vat of tofu facing out onto the street. A gentleman, I assume husband, was in the back making more tofu to be consumed later that day.

The lady carefully slices off thin layers of the tofu, so as not to bring the liquid that lies beneath to the top, and placing them into plastic bowls.

My only experience of tofu is as a savoury item, usually in miso soup or a tasty banh mi from a little cafe off Piccadilly. But no, this was a tofu dessert (dau fu fa), which you can add Bird's custard powder disguised as sugar and ginger syrup.

Our guide Fiona loved this, me, not so much. It wasn't unpleasant, just lacked any sort of substance and only tasted of whatever you flavoured it with. The slippery texture nonetheless went don't incredibly easily and so as not to offend, I ate half and proclaimed that I wasn't having anymore so as to save myself for the next few stops. It seemed to work.

The day continued on with an array of local tips from where to get snake soup (if you dare) to traditional Chinese medicine - including a questionable dead, dried lizard on a stick. Nice.

Towards the end of the tour we were led to one of the big draws for me - to order, and know what to order, to get our greedy pores on those crispy, succulent braised goose (lo shui ngor) we'd seen hanging in many restaurant windows, something of a familiar sight in China town back home where windows are filled with flavoursome duck waiting to be devoured.

The downside for some however, was that the braised goose was served alongside slices of pork knuckle (fun tai). Whilst not unpleasant, the pork was cold and came with a lot of jelly, and came a clear last place sat next to the goose. The rich meaty texture of the goose, eaten of course with the fat still intact, delightfully slipped down well, even after the pineapple bun, biscuits, rice rolls and tofu...

For anyone visiting Hong Kong and are not sure where to start foodwise, I would definitely recommend this tour or any of the other tours they offer - but maybe in hindsight, it would have been more beneficial for us to do this at the start of our trip so that we could take what we'd learnt and try it out. Although trial and error isn't always a bad thing!

Yelly-fi-felly-food-belly x

Monday, 4 January 2016

A Burns Night Supper... King's Cross style

I had never eaten out for Burns Night before, sure I'd had haggis, but that was accompanied by eggs, sausages, bacon, potato cakes and a hearty serving of baked beans. I kind of just assumed we'd just be served our Scottish themed food paired with an array of whiskys and that would be that.

I was so wrong.

Just to set the scene, I had won a competition last year on Twitter for a 4 course Burns Night meal at Plum + Spilt Milk for two. So jumping on the chance to truly celebrate Burns Night in style, I threw on my tartan dress and headed to the bustling Kings Cross station.

Wading through the throng of Londoners returning to the city, heads bowed and full of Sunday night dread, we made our way up the escalators of the London underground. From the distance we hear the sound of bagpipes. "Must be something happening in the main station." Oh no, no those bagpipes were bellowing from the first floor of the Northern Hotel where Plum + Spilt Milk were getting ready to feed a crowd of about 40 a proper Scottish feast.

So with the knowledge from online reviews that the entrance may be somewhat difficult to find, we followed our ears up a dimly lit staircase, arriving at a small sign on the wall indicating that we had indeed arrived at our destination.

I always feel that going out for a meal should be more than just about the food. It's about the experience. And I'm a big fan of stretching that experience out for as long as possible (without obviously being considered slow). And Burns Night fits the bill.

After a short pit-stop in a small but comfortable and luxurious hotel bar, we were marched into the restaurant to the sound of bagpipes, and soon followed a sequence of events for a Burns Night supper.

Plum + Spilt Milk had it all: the Selkirk Grace, piping, addressing and stabbing of the haggis, poetry, toast to the lassies... All with brief intervals of whisky, tatties and napes.

To kick the night off we were served an Arbroath Smokie (Scottish smoked haddock), leek and whisky soup. It's the kind of Scottish warmer you'd expect. Thick, creamy, and begging to be mopped up with a wedge of crusty bread. 

With that came our first whisky. Not a big fan of whisky if I'm honest and so as expected, each sip came with a grimace, followed by a couple of large glugs of wine.

Having been paraded around the room to an upstanding audience and the belting sounds of the bagpipes, the haggis arrived at our table. Whilst the plate itself was not so pleasing on the eye, with splodges of mashed tatties and napes attempting to be delicately arranged, the flavour of the whisky sauce was pleasing on the taste buds, warming our insides and complimenting the richness of the haggis.

Onto whisky number 2: We're told that we should taste notes of Christmas pudding. Fools we were and having got into the spirit, we knocked it back.

Lies. No Christmas pudding.

Like most, one would assume the main event and therefore main course, would be the haggis, but swiftly after the scottish savoury pud, we were served a loin of venison, resembling something of a hearty winter main. The venison was served pink and seasoned well, and a perfect match for the accompanying roast beetroot. The shoulder stuffed cabbage in my opinion felt a little too much and I began to fear that the meat sweats may be about to kick in...

Whisky number 3: Another one with notes of Christmas pudding. Still tastes like whisky to me...

The final course was as expected and pretty much what it said on the tin. Cream, with raspberries and oats. It wasn't unpleasant but it didn't blow me away. The occasional oat that entered my mouth felt like it had fell in by accident and was drowning in the mountain of cream that resembled Everest. James seemed to like it though, and had I not been full of meat and whisky, perhaps I would have had a different opinion.

Whisky number 4: Nope, still no Christmas pudding. Only adding to to horrendous Monday morning hangover we both felt the next day. Bad plan, clearly.

For a competition, of course it was great value. To pay for it yourself, well I think it's a definite experience and perhaps worth the £60 per head, however, next time I'm in the country for Burns Night, I'd like to have a comparison and try somewhere else.

The venue itself is a draw, with its gloriously decorated and sophisticated bar and restaurant, creating an experience in itself, with not even a hint of the feeling of being rushed despite being located in a busy train station! For this reason, perhaps even the normal menu is worth a try.

Yelly-fi-felly-food-belly x

P.s. Interesting fact: the name Plum + Spilt milk reflects the colours of the Flying Scotsman dining cars - a train which has been running between Edinburgh and London since 1862.

Tuesday, 29 December 2015

Burmese days: noodles, tea & chicken gizzards

From the rice, sesame and chilli fields we saw during our three day trek from Kalaw to Inle Lake, to the wet markets of Yangon, it seemed abundantly clear that much of the Burmese cuisine revolves around the fresh ingredients the land offers.

Until now, I knew very little about Myanmar cuisine, and when trying the dishes I often struggled to work out what ingredients and flavours they were made up of. Unfortunately having not attended a cookery class, I am still none the wiser, however these flavours are something I am definitely keen to learn more of and experiment with when I get back to London. Perhaps the Burmese cookery book James bought me a while ago may get a bit of use!

Why am I so keen?

For one, they have oodles of noodles, which I absolutely love, and as through most of India my options were rice or bread, I was happy to be able to consume an alternative carb! My particular favourite were the Shan style noodle soups, with either minced pork or chicken sprinkled over the top, along with crushed peanuts, coriander, shallots and sesame. Having watched a few locals, the key thing is to get your chop sticks right in there and mix all of the ingredients together beforehand.

Usually at most 1,500 kyat (about 75p) these soups offer a lighter alternative to the Burmese curry feasts and their many accompaniments. The noodles are often sticky and salty, with an added bite of the peanuts (and until this trip I'd never knew how peanuts, or sesame seeds grew - see pics!). On some occasions our soups were served with a side dish of pickled chilli and garlic, or mustard greens, adding extra flavour to our dishes.

Noodles in Myanmar don't just have to be at lunch or dinner, but you can also stop by a teahouse for mohinga(a Burmese breakfast fish noodle soup) or even have a bowl of Shan noodles at 5am in a bus station among locals doing the same and feel completely normal... (And tired and delirious...) 

Our breakfast dish of mohinga wasn't particularly pretty to look at, but I was intrigued to discover what we'd find in the dish. After a sprinkling of the accompanying coriander, we delved in to find crunchy fried bean crackers, bites of what seemed to be lightly battered fish, and sticky noodles. The vermicelli noodle soup had flavours of garlic, chilli and lemongrass, creating a spicy but refreshingly delicious dish. A whole bowl of this for breakfast was more than enough, if not a little too much.

This was all washed down by a cup of tea, a Burmese cup of tea... I assumed this would be just a refreshing, healthy green tea.

Oh no.

And I thought India was bad for their love of sweet tea... Nope, Burmese tea is a whole new level. Condensed milk in your tea anyone? I say no more.

Luckily as with most teahouses and small roadside restaurants, cafes and beer stations, each table has a thermos of free green tea (I learnt after ordering my sweet tea), so I chased it all down with several cups of that! Local tip - before you use the cups that sit in a bit of water in the centre of the table, swill them out with a little tea first. Not only are they just sat there all day in a pool of water, many places do not wash these between customers - they just throw the dregs out onto the street and sit them back in the water!

Along with the condensed milk tea, and even an iced green tea I had which contained condensed milk, it seems the Burmese like their sweets - although you'd do well to find a authentic restaurant offering a dessert menu. Instead you'll be offered lumps of jaggery at the end of a meal or tamarind palm sugar discs wrapped in paper. Actual desserts do exist and are eaten as snacks purchased from stalls in the street, such as "pudding" - basically set custard, served in extra-large portions only, which even an ill James couldn't resist!

It's not all salt and sugar, most of the colourful culinary delights we encountered were the salads, including avocado, onion and tomato salad made from the humongous locally grown avocados, to the tea leaf salad, crunchy and bitter.

Being so close to India, Thailand and China, the culinary influences can be seen in most places we visited in Myanmar. From the steamed coriander dumplings in Yangon and the Thai basil chicken in Bagan, to the biryani in a small Muslim cafe in Mawlamyine. It gave the much needed variety, as the saltiness of the Burmese soups and curries flavoured by the pungent ngâpí (fermented fish paste - see previous post), became too much at times, and coupled with the bottles of Myanmar beer, can be very dehydrating too!

Reaching our last stop, the old British capital of Mawlamyine, offered us a new dining experience. Every evening from 5pm, a night market pops up along the water, with each stall offering similar things - barbeque and noodles. We focussed on the barbeque options, all presented on wooden skewers laid out in the evening heat and praying insects (just turn a blind eye), you select your choices and they barbeque it for you. At first we played it safe and tried what we knew (or thought we knew), including various parts of the chicken, a whole river fish, potatoes and okra. I say what we thought we knew, as one of the chicken parts turned out to be chicken gizzards... We think. There are not hoards of tourists here and not everyone speaks English, so the gizzard part may have been lost in translation!

After polishing all of that off, we start to get a bit more comfortable and cocky, and head up for seconds. I return to our table from ordering, grinning to James, exclaiming that I have no idea what I just ordered!

Food arrives and I appear to have ordered various forms off barbecued chicken and pork sausage, some stuffed with ingredients such as rice, and actually quite enjoyable. If I'm honest, they all tasted slightly of the barbeque chicken having been cooked on the unwashed grill - but still nice nonetheless.

I was sad to leave this country and I feel that there is so much more to discover, not just the food, but the people and places too. But onto new foodie experiences and I look forward to learning how to recreate some of these Burmese dishes (watch this space) and to revisiting the country again in the future.

Yelly-fi-felly-food-belly x

Wednesday, 9 December 2015

Our first taste of Myanmar

With such an easy flight over from India, it was hard to believe we were actually in another country. But here we are in Myanmar, with at first literally no idea what to expect. We'd been so focussed on planning our first month around India, that we hadn't really thought about what Myanmar would present us with.

Bags dropped at the hostel in Yangon, we headed to the nearest pagoda, the beautiful Sule Pagoda, and after wetting the Buddha's head, we wondered out for our first Burmese meal.

We chose Danuphyu Daw Saw Yi in downtown Yangon. A fairly plain white wash cafe, completely open out to the street, with banterous men serving out front, and women with yellow thanakha painted faces in the kitchen (sandalwood-like paste used as suncream for women and young boys).

There was no menu, only a lovely Burmese man (everyone here seems to be so nice and very apologetic!), who pointed at each of the dishes behind a glass counter with a brief explanation of what they were. "Pork... Chicken... Beef" (at last!) "... Vegetables".

We opted for the pork belly, a fish and veg mix, and sides of buttered (hello extra large waist band) cauliflower, carrot and green beans. You are automatically served a plate of rice, a bowl of chinyay hin (sour veg soup) and on the table are various forms of condiments including a super strong, grey coloured, fermented fish paste called ngâpí, herbs and an array of par boiled veg. All of this was washed down with a large bottle of Myanmar beer, a refreshing, average percent lager.

From my research, it seems that Myanmar offers the mildest curries of Asia, and our pork belly curry was a clear example of this. The pork itself was tender and easily tore apart after hours of slow cooking. The sauce was salty and flavoursome, and begged to be mopped up with the abundance of rice they serve you. Although one word of warning, most Burmese curries can be seen with a layer of oil sitting on the top - true locals skim this off before mopping up - I unfortunately didn't act the pro... Usually this oil is just down to the amount they use to cook, but sometimes it is added to help the food keep whilst it sits on food counters for hours waiting to be served!

Since arriving in Myanmar, pork has been a big fav of ours, partly because we had been deprived of it in India, but partly because on the second occasion of ordering pork belly, the fat was actually crackling (cue longing for a Sunday roast)!

Our other main dish, the fish and veg mix, didn't have a clear fish taste, and resembled a pile of chewed up this and that, but offered a different texture to supplement the pork.

The soup, like many of the soups we've had since being in Myanmar, was very salty, but served hot (more so than the curry) with a strong sour taste, so a few spoonfuls pleasantly warmed the belly alongside the curries.

Needless to say, the buttered veg went down well...

Of course with no menu, means no obvious prices and the rookies that we were, we forgot to ask before devouring our feast. However there were no nasty surprises on this occasion, just a pleasant 8000 kyat (around 4 quid), for two mains, two sides, rice and soup, plus a large beer. Not bad eh?

Yelly-fi-felly-food-belly x