i was recently in England working on a TV show about real estate, and was pleasantly surprised at the quality ethnic food choices available in almost any neighbourhood in London. while the "best" ethnic eateries are still to be found on the East End (according to several locals), it's not as hard as it was even just 5 years ago to find something other than fish 'n chips or roast beef with Yorkshire pudding (although those dishes are still, and will always be ubiquitous). while in London, i enjoyed Japanese noodles, a Turkish lamb kofte, and an amazing pear-and-chevre fusion salad concoction.
however, the hands-down best meal i had was a home-cooked Thai feast ambitiously prepared by a couple in Manchester, England. my small crew of three had just met them that morning when we showed up at their house for our shoot, and part of the plan was to show them cooking in their kitchen. they mentioned casually they would make enough to feed us if we wanted to stay. now, we thought this meant they were going to just have a big pot of Tom Kah Kai soup, but we were mistaken. that was just the first course.
next was a mixed greens prawn (shrimp) salad with lemongrass and coriander. the shrimp were sauteed in garlic, black pepper, and a touch of soysauce. after that was a vodka lime risotto. then stirfried greenbeans, baby bokchoy, and spinach. and finally, a pesto stuffed green curry chicken with a mango reduction sauce. it was absolutely incredible -- the flavours were fresh and bold, and the combinations were exciting. Mark had just started taking "Thai Cookery Class" seriously and it was obvious how passionate he was about making it his own. he gladly put up with my photo-taking and grilling him about the dishes. i think he was happy someone cared enough to ask! his wife, Julie, pulled out a lovely Sicilian Pinot Grigio and then a really fascinating Chilean Chardonnay/Viognier/Riesling blend. both were great accompaniments to the meal.
Mark made the interesting observation that both Mexican and Thai "cookery" heavily feature cilantro (also called coriander), lime, chile, and rice in many dishes, but the results are hugely different. it was fun to think of how true that is -- and how lucky we are to live in a time where we can sample both at will!
thank you, Mark & Julie, for opening up your home to strangers and feeding us like royalty!