Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Nando's...and Bonda?

Although we've been eating out a fair bunch, foolishly I've been not documenting everything we've been having so unfortunately, thusfar this will be a very sketchy account of what's been going on. Immense apologies for that. Admittedly quite a lot of the meals have also been eaten in (lots of fresh salads, halal chickens, pastas of sorts, that groceries are actually affordable again).

On a whole though, we've had lamb and chicken burgers (from a halal fast food joint down the street from our apartment - fabulous and cheap), Nando's (a hilarious Portuguese chain that's rather popular here and is championed by one of my New Zealand British friends), Persian (on the first night that we arrived and were too tired to cook or shop - we had skewers and rice), and perhaps a smattering of other things that I've simply forgotten. All in all, London's food is cheap, readily available, and fairly good.

Overall I've wondered heavily about the quality of food here, especially with the outbreak of news about people finding horse DNA in all of their meat (again, I don't care that it's horse meat, I just keep thinking 1) are horses really that cheap 2) where are all these horses coming from? and 3) really? horses and not something else like rats?) or finding out that famous meat things don't actually have any meat of any kind in them (horse or otherwise).

I have started to gain some much needed weight here, despite joining the fancy gym near my work and running, biking, rowing, and saunaing (doing more sauna here than I ever did in Finland - blasted clammy cold really gets to you), so that also makes me worry. It's like the food doesn't keep you filled. A few people have whispered to me about food conspiracy theories. But I'll not get into that here.

So, onto a food outing that I've actually properly documented. :) We went to Bonda a few blocks away, a Malaysian restaurant. It was very highly rated on Yelp, so, why not?

It didn't disappoint. In fact it definitely surprised - we'd never had food like this before and that's saying quite a lot. It reminded me of Thai food, but was definitely different. The flavors were certainly unusual.

Since there were several of us we ordered many dishes to share. The joys of having a group. :)

First off, drinks!

I had their rose syrup with milk (left) and my dad had the rose syrup with black jelly (right). We were curious to see if the black jelly was in fact just grass jelly (it was, as far as we could tell). The rose syrup? Weirdest stuff I've had in a long time. It was extremely sweet, and when mixed with milk (which tasted like sweetened condensed milk, similar to what they put in Thai iced tea), it sorted of tasted like milk candy - like what you'd get in a white rabbit candy. It was definitely an unusual but still pleasurable experience. It was still thin and liquidy though, not a thick drink by any means. Cut through the spiciness of the food really nicely.

This was our favorite dish by far and the one we thought would be the most like what we'd had back at home. We were wrong. It was listed on the menu as Cantonese noodles (more or less). My dad recognized the noodle type as the same that is served in chow fun back at home, but other than that it just listed some ingredients that we all liked and we kinda thought it would be a stir fry dish or something similar. No. Gravy, crazy veggies and seafood. We're talking shrimp, fish cakes, calamari. Veggies (like the long stem choy I'd seen in Thailand), bell peppers, chilies...tons of veggies. And the gravy was fantastic - clean, thin but still coating everything. And the noodles were fresh. This was the only dish that didn't really have any spice. We tried taking out the chilies since my mom isn't a huge fan and this one succeeded in not being spicy.

Fried rice with egg and lots of green onions. Pretty typical dish but fantastic. Flavorful and hit the spot. This was a great base to have despite it having tons of flavor on its own. If we had thought about it a little more we probably should have gone with plain rice instead (given how intense everything else was), but well, live and learn. This was not a disappointment.

Special beef dish (rendang daging). Again not what I thought it would be. Sort of like stewed shredded beef with tons of green onion. The sauce was thick and coated the meat fantastically, sort of like a mole sauce but thicker. Savory for sure, with hints of maybe five spice or some other spice I've had before but can't place. Good and earthy but not stewy. Not like anything I've had before.

And the weirdest dish of all. This was their weekend special and the waiter vaguely described it as "noodles." It was called something penang but it was like nothing I recognized. Nothing at all. Basically it was a thick, stewy fermented fish paste with udon-like noodles in it mixed with canned pineapple, onions, a hard boiled egg, and some other veggies (like shredded raw cabbage). Very unusual. And fairly spicy. Never seen anything like it. It was good but I would likely not order it again. A little too aggressive on the fermented fish paste and that's a lot of fish paste to eat in one sitting. We saw a pair of guys eat it and they got as far as we got (you don't eat all of the stewy stuff).

Overall it was a great meal, and not even very expensive, but it was crazy filling. Would definitely recommend this place to everyone who wants a cheap and delicious meal, but be willing to try unusual stuff otherwise you're in for a rough experience.

Definitely the most different food experience I've had in awhile. Opened my eyes. :)

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