I love to cook, although this seems to be at odds with my desire to try new restaurants and in general the easy pattern of going out constantly (and being in denial at how much London costs!). So once in a while, I indulge in the fantasy that I’m a real chef and whip up something serious. This usually takes the form of copycatting a top class chef’s dish and this time it was Heston Blumenthal’s 5-Spice duck breast from Heston at Home. You have to appreciate just how far above a normal home cook this guy is when even the “simplified” version takes a considerable amount of time, effort, and skill. But that’s a different post as we’re going to go in order of activities which means we need to tackle something else first: sourcing ingredients.
The duck I picked up from Waitrose, but everything else seemed more appropriately sourced from an Asian supermarket. In this case, I ventured into Loon Fung in Chinatown. How I’ve never gone through this before is beyond me, as it’s friggin’ brilliant! The quantity, quality, and price can’t be beat by any supermarket. Hell even the price alone smashes Tesco’s “low prices” by a mile. For example, a small bag of birds eye chillies costs a couple of quid at Tesco whereas I got roughly 10x that many for under a pound. I have no idea what I’ll do with them but I imagine some homemade chilli oil and sauce is in order.
So back to Loon Fung. Grab a basket on your way in as you’ll definitely be buying more than you can carry alone. You start off in the abundant veggies section – we’re talking floor to ceiling racks of various greens that always make an appearance in Chinese cooking. I picked up a giant bag of pak choi (the leafy green veggies you often see) barely more than a pound and some beautiful fresh ginger root for just a bit more. After that, I got lost roaming the various sauce aisles and before I knew what had happened some soy sauce, chilli in oil with peanuts, and mirin had quickly jumped into the basket. In an effort to get out before I bought the whole shop, I got in line yet still managed to snag some red bean mocha (all 8 pieces were devoured before I got home – and as a price check its £3 here compared to £6 at Japan Centre) and POPPING CANDY! You get it here for £2 for 20 packs whereas Cyber Candy charges £3 for one bag of Pop Rocks. For that alone, Loon Fung, you win.
So yeah, I like it.