Lenny loves… C for Cambodian

5 weeks ago I turned the grand old age of 32! To celebrate me and my best friend headed off for a day of cocktails in Birmingham and then onto a meal at the Blue Piano, in Edgbaston.

The cocktails were great but the part we are all interested in is the food. I decided to use this trip as the ‘C’ in my   A-Z of food, as my main dish was Cambodian and my inspiration for going.

Blue Piano is located in Edgbaston, behind the big Morrison’s at Five Ways Island and also happens to be opposite the very popular tapas restaurant, El Borracho de Oro.

We had our table booked for 7.30pm and upon arrival were shown into the bar area. The reception area is like entering a bustling house and soon we were seated in the dining area with the menu in front of us.

It was a hard task deciding what to go for starters, with a selection of Malaysian, Singaporean and Cambodia cuisine, it all sounded so tempting, and then they went and brought out the specials menu!

In the end we decided to go for a selection of three starters to share between us; beef curry spring rolls, roast pork puffs and deep fried squid.

The beef curry spring rolls were off the specials board and came with a lovely curry flavoured dipping sauce. The rolls were piping hot, not too greasy and full of delicious tender beef filling.  Next up we had the roast pork puffs, which were yummy bundles of honey roast pork wrapped in golden puff pastry.  The pork filling was substantial and the puff pastry was nice and crispy with not a soggy bottom in sight.

The deep fried squid was cooked to perfection, not chewy in the slightest and a lovely delicate coating of batter, served with a zingy lime mayo dip which was a really refreshing accompaniment to the squid.

For mains, I had already decided what I was going to have as soon as I first discovered the menu at the Blue Piano, so for me it was the traditional Cambodian dish of Fish Amok Curry, and my friend went for the Malaysian dish of Beef Rendang.  We opted for two sides, one of jasmine rice and the other some roti bread.

My Fish Amok curry came served in a bamboo nest, again, quite traditional of how it is served in Cambodia. All I can say is WOW! It was just like being back there! The mild flavour and the creamy texture won me over instantly and the added rice complemented the dish well. There were big gorgeous pieces of fish in the curry and although I could’ve eaten more, it was probably the perfect size for a normal human being!

Fish Amok Curry

My friend’s Beef Rendang was where the spice was at! It was just a bit too spicy for my liking, but that aside, the beef, served on a banana leaf, was so tender and full of flavour, this was definitely a good choice if you like a bit of heat, but not too much that it blows your head off! The only thing that will blow you away will be the flavours in the dish.

Beef Rendang

Although we were both quite full, I opted to have a traditional Indonesian desert of Pandan pancakes, which were filled with palm sugar and coconut. The green colour is from the leaves of the Pandan plant, but it doesn’t give the pancakes a particular taste or flavour, although the consistency of these pancakes is a lot stickier and gummy in texture! The palm sugar and coconut filling is very sweet, but the portion size was perfect so as not to put you in a sugar coma!!

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The service at Blue Piano was very efficient, despite them having a massive group party in at the same time and I will definitely be going back to try more of their dishes.  Next on my list is the Singaporean Carrot Cake and the Khmer Chicken Curry.

I am also keen to try their sister venue in Kings Heath, Blue Ginger and would love to hear from you if you have been and what your favourite dishes on the menu were!

Lenny xx

 

Lenny loves…urm, IT issues???

Hey,

So its been a while since I last blogged. Unfortunately, I have been having a few IT issues in that my memory is full on my computer and I haven’t been able to transfer photos across to upload them on to here. I have now brought an external hard drive so hopefully I can be up and running again soon. Along with life just getting in the way and a few changes in my situation things have been tough!

I have so much to share with you, so initially it may be a bombardment of posts before I can get back to some sort of routine!

Since I last blogged I’ve visited one more place on my list for the A-Z food challenge, I’ve been to a few cocktail events, a lovely re-launch at a local pub and had a sneak look in a Private Members Club in my fair city of Birmingham. And to top that all off I’ve had a lovely break in Edinburgh! So there will be plenty to read once I am up and running again!

Please rest assured normal service will resume shortly!!

Lenny xx

Lenny loves…V for Vietnamese!

So I kicked off my A-Z Food Project (check out the full post here) with V for Vietnamese.

This was an impromptu visit to Pho in Grand Central station in Birmingham last Saturday, when I needed to get out of the house and do something, which inevitably led to me eating!

Having just travelled to Vietnam and tried Pho in its home country, it had a lot to live up to if my first experience was anything to go by, not so much my second, but my first bowl of Pho was good.

There was a bit of a wait for a table but soon I was seated at one of the high tables, overlooking the concourse and perusing the menu. The decor of Pho is quite rustic with a good attempt at creating a street food like environment. It certainly was very busy and portrayed the hustle and bustle of Vietnam streets quite well.

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Some parts of the service were slow, getting a table, getting the bill but for the most part the staff were friendly and helpful.

The drinks section of the menu was quite small, and I was disappointed to see that all their juices had apple in them, and I have an allergy to raw apple, and they weren’t able to offer something without apple in, so it was just a plain old diet coke for me.

I was more successful with the food, and it took a while for me to figure out what to have. In the end I opted for Nem hải sản (a large crispy spring roll with tiger prawn, crab & pork with nước chấm dipping sauce) for starters and a bowl of house special Pho – Phở bò nấm trúng  (beef brisket, enoki & button mushrooms, creamy egg yolk, in beef broth).

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The Nem hải sả came out fairly quickly and unlike most spring rolls it wasn’t circular in shape, it was a bit flatter. That said, it wasn’t greasy in the way some spring rolls were and was jam-packed full of filling and flavour. The tiger prawn was kept whole and ran throughout with the crab, pork and vegetable filling packed in around the tiger prawn, there was a nice hint of chilli, without being too spicy. The dipping sauce was also very good, quite vinegary but really complemented the spring roll.

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Next up was the main attraction the Beef Brisket, mushroom and egg Pho. Pho is essentially a noodle soup served with a side of herbs that you add to the dish yourself and usually comes with either chicken or beef. The beef in this dish was really juicy, however, it could’ve done with being pulled apart a bit more as the pieces were quite big and not really suitable for chopsticks, especially for a learner like me!

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There were two types of mushrooms in the dish, enoki and button mushrooms. Again, the enoki mushrooms could’ve done with being separated a bit more, but they gave the broth a very earthy flavour.

The broth was full of flavour, but I decided to up the heat and add some chilli oil to it to give it the kick I felt it needed. I never used to like spice, but my travels have somehow upped my spice threshold and I now quite like a bit of heat to certain food. The chilli oil really added to the depth of flavours in this dish and I really enjoyed my Pho experience in my hometown.

I debated on whether to go for a dessert or even an iced coffee with condensed milk, but the liquid in the broth had filled me up good and proper so I will have to save that for a more hungrier day.

I will definitely be paying Pho another visit very soon and work my way through the menu to find my favourite, but if my first visit is anything to go by it will be a tough challenge, but I am so up for it!

Lenny xx

 

 

 

 

 

Lenny loves…My new project!

In my last post I mentioned a new project of mine which is very much food related, with a bit of travel thrown in.

I am embarking on an A-Z Food challenge!! I’m not going to give myself a timeline to do this as there are quite a few restaurants on the list, but I am looking at possibly over the next 18 months – 2 years.

This has come about from my travels and the amazing food I got to try and my desire to a) eat this food again!!! and b) try more foods from around the world.

I want to aim for less obvious choices for letters, so if you have any ideas then please feel free to shout them at me.

This is what I have so far…

A – Austrian/Argentinian/African/Afghanistan            N – Nepalese

B – Brazilian/Baltic                                                               O – 

C – Cambodian/Chinese/Caribbean                                 P – Persian/Polish/Portuguese/Palestine 

D – Danish                                                                              Q – 

E – Egyptian/Ethiopian                                                       R – Russian

F – French                                                                               S – Singaporean/Spanish/Syrian 

G – German/Greek                                                               T – Thai/Turkish

H – Hungarian                                                                      U – USA 

I  – Italian/Indian                                                                 V – Vietnamese/Vegan

J – Japanese/Jamaican                                                       W – 

K – Korean                                                                              X –

L – Lebanese                                                                         Y –

M – Malaysian/Moroccan/Mexican                                Z –

I also don’t plan to do them in any particular order, just as and when I fancy and I want to concentrate this to the midlands area, more so Birmingham if I can, but if it gets too difficult then I may branch out a bit.

If there are any bloggers out there that would like to collaborate on this exciting project then get in touch!

I am so excited to try some different restaurants in the Birmingham area, and to see if they can do some of my favourite dishes just like they tasted from my travels.

Lenny xx

Lenny loves…An update!!!

So… its been about 7 weeks since I got back from my travels and I haven’t blogged once!

I also stopped blogging about my travels and that has really niggled at me, as I know when I was looking at other blogs about these trips, it really annoyed me that most of them finished part way through. I can understand now why this happened.

Whilst your out there you are so busy enjoying everything and for me, like many others, this was a trip of a lifetime so I wanted to make the most of every single moment. Being back home has also thrown some challenges my way. Settling back into normality has been a struggle, the pull of doing more travelling vs wanting that routine of a 9-5 job has been a tough one, but I decided to go back to normality and get myself a permanent job.

My original plan was to temp for around a year and do more travelling, but temp work wasn’t that easily available and the more I was looking at what trips I wanted to do, the more I felt that I didn’t want to do big group travel again.

So, I started in my new role just over two weeks ago, and have been thrown back in to being a grown-up! I will still definitely be doing more travel, but just on a more normal scale! And yes, I will be finishing my travel journals off, but I may do more of an overview of the second two trips rather than a day-by-day blow account, as I am sure you are all bored of those by now!

I do have an exciting project coming up soon – food related – so keep your eyes peeled for that.

I am also going to be making some changes to the layout and format of the blog in the next few weeks, so why not stop by again soon when you have 5.

Lenny xx

 

 

 

 

Lenny loves…Day 27 Chiang Khong to Chiang Mai

We had a 7 hour journey ahead of us, and much to my relief we had three mini buses between the group so we got to spread out.

On our way to Chiang Mai we stopped off at the famous Wat Rong Khun, or the White Temple, to have a look and take a few pictures. The temple was pretty impressive, different to many of the other Buddhist temples we had visited during our trip. It is a fairly recent addition to the list of temples in Thailand, opening in 1997 and was built by a Thai artist, Chalermchai Kositpipat, using his own money and is an ongoing project which has so far cost Chalermchai THB40 million (around £805,343.00).

The main building illustrates the cycle of rebirth (the bridge) and gate of heaven (the gates). We didn’t get to go into the main building so can’t comment on that, but the outside was pretty confusing. In between the message of getting to heaven were all these terrible haunting images of suffering and pain. It is definitely a must see if you are in the area, and I can only imagine what the finished structures will look like.

We carried on with our journey to Chiang Mai and arrived at a rather nice looking hotel. Once we’d settled in, we headed off in different directions to grab some food. I went to a small place just up the road from the hotel which I think was called the G’day bar. I had a lovely coconut curry soup dish, which had loads of flavour and was nice and warming as it was still on the cooler side of the thermometer.

For our afternoon activity, a group of us had organised to do a cookery class. We got picked up by the lovely Oay and taken to the local markets to collect some ingredients. We also got to choose what we wanted to cook from a select list of dishes, which was great. I chose Chicken Coconut Soup, Pad Thai, Green Thai Curry and Mango Sticky Rice.

After the markets, which was a lovely experience, it kinda reminded me of how the markets used to be in Birmingham before the redevelopment of the Bullring and Indoor Markets, we went to do some cooking at the cookery school Oay had opened at her house.

We all had our own little cooking stations, which meant that we would actually be doing the cooking, whereas with the cooking lesson in Hoi Ann we just made the food rather than cooked it. First up was the chicken coconut soup, which was in fact what I’d had for lunch that day, so I had an idea of what it should taste like. This one was lovely, but a bit on the spicer side for me so when I make it back home I may put less chilli in it.

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Next up was the Pad Thai. I love Pad Thai and I was really excited about making it myself so I could go home and make it for the bf who also loves it. There are quite a lot of ingredients that go into Pad Thai, so I was grateful for the little cookery book we got at the end of the class so I didn’t have to remember it all from photos. I felt that the Pad Thai was missing something, but I couldn’t, and still can’t quite put my finger on what it was. It was still tasty and so quick to make.

I made another of my favourite dishes, Thai Green Curry, and this one was possibly one of the best I’ve tasted, and that was with me cooking it. Although I don’t take the credit for it tasting good, it was obviously the ingredients and the recipe.

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Finally, although we didn’t get to actually make dessert, Oay showed us how to make it, I tried Mango Sticky Rice. It was so delicious, I can’t believe that I’d travelled through Asia without having already tried this amazing dessert! I was hooked.

We’d all had an amazing evening leaning new skills and Oay was a great teacher. Some people were then heading out to watch either Thai Kick Boxing or a Ladyboy show, but I was so tired, and it was still quiet cold, how I’m going to cope when I get home I don’t know, so I just headed back to the hotel to catch up on my sleep.

The next morning was our return to where we started, Bangkok.

Lenny xx

Lenny loves…Day 26 – Mekong River Day 2

Waking up early again, it was still pretty dark as we made our way through the village and back on to the boat for another 8 hours to the border crossing into Thailand.

It was still really cold and wet, and the boat was still uncomfortable. Many people took to drinking to get them through the journey, and had they had something other than beer on offer I think I may have joined them, but instead I tried to get some rest before lunch.

Lunch was simple, rice and noodles, but it was warm, which was the main thing. The thought of a hot shower and slightly warmer conditions in Chiang Kong was saving me from going crazy, and sparing the next person who said ‘enjoy the experience’ a slap!

However, arriving at the hotel did not turn out to be what we had hoped. There was so heating in the rooms, it was still pouring down with rain, and the shower was outside! Now I’m all for outside bathing, but this was ridiculous, and yes you’ve guessed it, no hot water!!

There were some tears, not from me but it was close, but we were served a nice hot buffet and I ate until I felt that I may fall into a food coma. Wrapping myself up in my layers, I headed to bed for an early night, as there was nothing around to entertain us.

Luckily, it was a brief stay at the hotel before we made our way to Chiang Mai.

Lenny xx

P.s make sure you check out #lennystripofalifetime on Twitter and Instagram to follow my adventures.