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Wednesday, 8 April 2009

Bruce Lee and Emmanuelle order a beef curry

This is my 100th blog post and to celebrate I am going to write about my experience of the Chinese takeaways in my life. Not Chinese restaurants mind you, just the takeaway sector for now.

My first experience of eating Chinese takeaway food was in the mid to late 1970s when I lived on a large council housing estate near Derby with my Dad and Step-Mum and siblings. I would have been in my late teens, possibly even early twenties. I used to love going to the cinema and walking back home through the estate of an evening. En route, with my head full of Bruce Lee and Emmanuelle films, I got into the habit of calling into the new Chinese takeaway on the shopping precinct for some exotic food to go. Probably did a few high kicks at lamposts along the way too.

By this stage in my life I had been encouraged to cook a bit at home, mainly beans on toast and those dreadful Vesta Curry meals – which I actually liked at the time. I used to be a bit more adventurous when I went camping with the scouts and even got my Camp Cook badge! Yeah, yeah, very funny - Camp Cook – I can hear all the jokes lining up. I know you naughty readers out there. Anyway I digress. You need to know the big deal about me trying Chinese food for the first time. It wasn't easy.

My Dad was not a one for exotic foods in the house and would kick off if anything he would call ‘foreign muck’ came in our household. Try and bring anything spicy or curry based into the back kitchen of my parents’ home and woe betide you. So, here’s what I had to do to get my takeaway curry fix without incurring the wrath of Dad.

As I said, I loved my cinema visits as a working teenager and still lived at home until my mid-twenties. Of course I would get well fed at home but I was a growing lad and called in at the Golden Dragon Chinese takeaway in Chaddesden for my exotic treat. I was probably very predictable as a customer because every time I would order a beef curry and plain boiled rice and perhaps a banana fritter. The takeaway would provide me with a plastic spoon. On leaving the premises I would continue to walk home, about a mile, eating as I went. First I would eat all the rice in the silver tray then, carefully juggling the hot curry dish around I would enthusiastically scoff the beef curry. I remember it being far superior to the ‘Vesta Curry for one’ I would concoct at home! Avant? Yes, really. The beef was very tender and there would be lots of onions in the sauce and dish. The rice was fluffy and glow-in-the-dark white.

I expect some of the meal ended up sloshed on my clothes but I was in curry heaven. I would dispose of the containers on the way home in a rubbish bin on the street. Doubtless I would sound olfactory alarm bells in my Dad’s very hairy nostrils (out bad thought!) and be moaned at for bringing the curry ‘stench’ into our haven of culinary tolerance. Hey we are talking about the 1970s here. All I cared about was Bruce Lee, Sylvia Kristel, Marie Osmond, brooding in my bedroom and collecting film soundtracks.

I expect nowadays the takeaway menus are more sophisticated and have much more choice. I picked up a menu from the Happy Garden Cantonese and Chinese takeaway in my village for a birthday celebration I had with my friends Rick and Janette late February and there are over 160 dishes on offer plus extras. Back in the 1970s I am sure I would not have been offered Satay, Kung Po, Szechuan, Crispy seaweed, Char Siu, or Foo Yung dishes. What fun it would be to go back in time and ask for some straw mushrooms and baby young corn as an extra portion to my Beef Curry and plain boiled rice!

I have to say ‘sorry’ to all my readers based in France as I believe that you don’t have Chinese takeaways or Indian takeaways there. I expect that you are all salivating now. Do say if I’m wrong. On both counts.

To taunt you further, my current faves are chicken and sweet corn soup, beef with green peppers and black bean sauce (or ginger), egg fried rice and yes I still love those banana fritters. I am happy try most things actually. If I am cooking at home I really like Chinese vegetables in a stir fry and roast belly pork studded with cloves. Hmmm. Great.

So, that was my 100th posting and though straying slightly from the café/coffee shop general theme of my blog, it is great to share these food based experiences with you all and I will enjoy hearing about your own experiences and reactions through your comments. By the way, number 100 on the Happy Garden menu is Beef with Oyster sauce. Yummy!

Prawn cracker anyone?

PS: My dear old Dad passed away a few years ago but my step Mum now has a real taste for exotic foods like Chinese dishes and Thai food since my younger brother encouraged her to try some. How times and people change.

PPS: There are still some prawn crackers left – come on, I’m not throwing them all out.


Anonymous said...

My Nan is a convert to Chinese food. She doesn't like anything spicy, but she'll really enjoy having a Chinese takeaway with the family, as much as a good Sunday roast.

Either that, or she's very good at pretending she does... personally I can't get enough of it, and am a regular visitor to my local Chinese takeaway as well as cooking in that style in my own kitchen. It's great, and my cupboards are provided with a variety of suitable bottles of tasty liquids and packets and tins of ingredients - noodles, rice, bamboo shoots, water chestnuts, soy sauce, mirin, rice vinegar, sesame oil...

Okay so I like Japanese food as well :)

French Fancy said...

Have you exhausted all the tea shops and cafés then, you taunter, you?

Actually because we don't have Chinese takeaways round here I've developed my own (not bad if I say so myself) home-cooked Chinese and Indian dishes - and not with sauce jars either - all from scratch. The only drawback is the lingering smell that seems to last about four days - even with the windows open - it's those spices - they just permeate everything.

(I also loved Vesta beef curry when I was younger - remember those final noodles that had to be fried - the curly ones for placing on top?)

StGeorgeOfEngland said...

Blimey Phil! That brought back some memories.
Vesta curries and YES those curly fried noodles on the top were the best bit. Well remembered French Fancy.

Chinese takeaway is a treat for me due to the cost. For the price of a portion of sweet and sour chicken balls and a spicy vermicelli chow mein I can provide half a weeks total shopping. When a bit of overtime money comes in I usually treat myself to the above but it lasts me two days.

Phil, I got my camp cooks badge too. I remember entering a scouts cooking competition in an old chicken shed near Farnsfield. My team came third. Yay!

Looking back to my own youth I remember the 'bloody foreign muck' attitude that my grandparents had. Never adventurous unless we went abroad on family holidays. Spain usually saw my grandfather trying Paella washed down with a San Miguel. The rest of his food would be as English as he could get it. He mastered speaking Spanish though by adding the letters 'io' on the end of English words. 'Two beerio por favor'. 'Uno chicken sandwichio por favor', that sort of thing. Needless to say we never starved while grandad was about.

Mum would make a chicken curry sometimes using the leftover bits from sundays raost bird. It was tasty and I remeber lots of raisins which I still don't mind in a curry today. We either had plain white rice or homemade chips cooked in good old lard. Bugger the cholesterol! Enjoy the taste.
We ventured into the land of Chili Con Carne too but that was always served with spaghetti. I have no clue as to why this was and I didn't really enjoy them together, though the chili was good.
For a weekend treat dad would drive down to the Birds Garden chinese takeaway in Arnold (still there today, still good and with the same owners I think)and get us a selection of foods to try. They got to know him well and always gave a bottle of wine with our order. Prawn crackers were always free if you spent enough, which we did.

Indian food was something I never got into until I was in my 20's. Sure we did have the Vesta meals but come on, you can hardly say it was Indian food can you? My faves are usually using lamb and are either a Rogan Josh or Dopiaza. Rice is usually a vegetable pilau. Of course the good old nan bread is a must. My usual haunt for this is Woodthorpe Tandoori on the Vale but again, it is a rare treat. I prefer the Chinese anyway.

For spicy foods that I cook at home I usually go for a meat gumbo cooked in the slow cooker which will last me 3 days. I got the recipe from my girlfriend over in the States. Her kids know it as 'poo stew'. I gotta say that after my three days of it, it certainly lives up to it's name. Sorry, TMI.

Congratulations Phil on the 100th blog and I shall raise a small glass of red tonight to your next 100, nay 1000.

Anonymous said...

The first thing I eat when I go back to the UK is an Indian curry.

The French do make a curry powder but it's aromatic rather than spicy...I bulk buy curry spices from Sainsbury's.

Smashing read today!


StGeorgeOfEngland said...

When my girl comes over from Minnesota I have to take her for a very special meal every time. Doner kebab and chips!
She gets Indian, Chinese etc there but no greasy Doner's.
They do spicy very well over there with the Cajun and West Indian influences.

StGeorgeOfEngland said...

A man phones up a takeaway;

'Hello, do you deliver?'

'Sorry sir, we only do chicken and beef'.

Phil Lowe said...

Guy: You make me howl! I don't thnk my parents even managed 'uno sandwicho' back the early heady days of Spanish hols in the 70s and 80s but at least they weren't customers of the British Fry Ups places on the Spanish coast.

French Fancy: Oh no, I haven't run out of cafes, just like to ring the foodie changes sometimes, keep things interesting for you lovely readers and for me to write. I am currently writing up a visit to the cafe at Nottingham Castle and another post soon on food wasting in UK households.

Not waving: I do like an Indian curry too but as St GeorgeOf England (Guy) says, they can become costly to buy and you can often make them yourself for a fraction of the price.

MattW: Great that your Nan likes Chinese Food. Do you tend to order different things on your regular visits or do you stick to tried and tested items?