2014 was a great year in so many respects from making new friends and meeting new people to getting to spend time with my family and friends in the UK. I’ve travelled a lot too, both in South-East Asia and Europe; I attended the wedding of two of my great friend’s in France, I spent a great week in Portugal on my first holiday with my family in years and of course, I ate a lot of amazing food! Here, in no particular order are my favourite dishes of the past year.
Warm Burmese Tofu with Noodles – 999 Shan Noodles, Yangon.
Novembers trip to Yangon was interesting in so many ways and the food was a revelation. Unlike normal tofu, Burmese tofu is made from dried and ground chickpeas that are made in a beautiful rich, creamy, polenta-like paste which can then be served in a variety of ways. I absolutely loved this dish of rice noodles topped with warm tofu and minced pork in a spicy oil with added crunch from a handful of toasted chickpeas. Warm, comforting and absolutely delicious!
Duck Hearts with Sweetcorn & Hazelnuts – Lyles, London
Lyles was one of the restaurants that I was most excited about visiting in London and it did not disappoint. The combination of perfectly pink duck hearts with the sweet corn, salty cheese and toasted hazelnuts was just magic and I surprised myself by just how much I enjoyed it which is why I felt it deserved including here.
The “New Egg & Bacon” Korean Pigs Head with Sriacha and Devilled Duck Eggs – Duck & Waffle, London
Without a doubt, the highlight of an incredible meal at Duck and Waffle was this slow cooked pigs head. Infused with Korean flavours, drizzled wth tangy, spicy sriacha and served with rich devilled duck eggs, this pigs head was just melt in your mouth tender with little flavour explosions everytime you got a taste of sriacha dressing on the fatty rashers of pork.
Baby Octopus with Tomato and White Wine Sauce and Toppoki Rice Dumplings – Opposite Mess Hall, Bangkok.
I had so many great meals at Opposite Mess Hall but this was probably one of the dishes that stood out the most (narrowly beating out the Quail Ragu with Barley, coincidently another special it shared menu time with) The octopus was beautifully tender but retained enough chew to give it a great textural contrast with the rice dumplings that had also managed to soak up all the rich tomato sauce that the octopus had been cooked in. Trust me when I tell you that what it lacked in beauty, it more than made up for in flavour.
Goats Cheesecake with Wild Himalayan Honey – Seven Spoons, Bangkok.
I’ve never been a big fan of cheesecake but I really loved the slightly more savoury feel of this dessert – part of Seven Spoons’ Foraged Forest Foods dinner – through the use of soft goats cheese as opposed to a regular cream cheese. The wonderful floral wild honey also had such a purity of flavour, it was quite unlike any honey I have tried before or since.
Nduja, Honeycomb, Pecan and Pecorino on Toast – Eat Me, Bangkok.
I love the unusual flavour combinations used by Chef Tim Butler at Eat Me and this bitesized dish was one that I dreamt about for months until I was able to return for a second dinner later in the year. The spicy, sweet and salty combination of flavours was a real taste explosion and stood out as the best preparation of Nduja in a year where it cropped up on more menus than I ever remember seeing before.
Roasted Brussel Sprouts with Fish Sauce, Caramel, Chili, Lime and Fried Shallots – Little Bao, Hong Kong.
OK, Ok! I know that Caramelised Brussels Sprouts with Fish Sauce sounds more than a bit weird but this really worked! It had all the different textural components – crunchy sprouts, silky caramel, toasted shallots – necessary for a great dish as well as a great layering of flavours from earthy to sweet salty and spicy. I ended up trying to feed these to the couple sitting next to us so that they could understand just how good they were and Anna ended up licking someone elses chopsticks – it’s a long story that really only works if you were there – but suffice to say I have never laughed so much in my life.
Yam Pla Som Beap – Salad of Preserved Fish in Rice – Bolan, Bangkok.
Hopefully someone will correct me here but if I recall correctly, this was made with fish that had been coated in rice and left to ferment. I know it doesn’t sound wonderul but the textures and flavours here were just fantastic and the spicy chilli sauce served alongside it was good enough to drink on its own. Each meal at Bolan bought new and exciting flavour combinations like this, something I always love to discover.
Gaeng Heng Lay – Soul Food Mahanakorn, Bangkok
This Northern Thai/Burmese curry is made by slowly caramelising fatty pork belly in a spiced tamarind sauce. The spices used are not ones that I usually associate with Thai food and the end result is a curry that is rich & comforting and when served with tangy pickled watermelon and crunchy brown rice like it is here, it is guarenteed to put a smile on your face.
Sri Lankan Fish Curry (and Sambal) – Galle Fort, Sri Lanka.
I struggled to narrow it down to one dish and i suppose I have cheated by adding the onion, chilli and coconut sambal too but this really was a great breakfast and we ate so well on our Sri Lankan trip that I couldn’t leave it out. Curry for breakfast is most definitely the way forward!
All in all some surprising choices but this really was a year of eating extremely well indeed, especially when it came to exploring the cusine of new countries and cultures. What do you think of my list? What would you have on yours?