When I was larking about in Bristol the other week I stumbled across a rather fabulous little shop. Run by Koreans, their produce was natch mainly Korean, but they sensibly made a little nod to some other gear from way out East. I bought some fermented chilli bean paste, which is not remotely Korean but Chinese and specifically Sichuan.
Occasionally, when I’m not pretending to set up my own business, playing Angry Birds on my phone, or checking out the crumpet at the new opticians next door to Harp Lane, I’ll read a book. I’ve just finished Shark’s Fin & Sichuan Pepper by Fuchsia Dunlop. A great read, but can you get any specialist Sichuan ingredients round here? Quite. I got my wife Fifty Shades of Grey recently, hopefully the feedback of that particular tome will be unpublishable.
So I’ve gone to Bristol and got all the kit and I knock up one of the best meals I’ve made in a very long time. I’m not one to extol my own culinary virtues, but bloody hell – Fuchsia’s ‘Fish-fragrant aubergines’ turned out pretty tidily. Strange name for a dish that contains not a jot of fish, but the depth and pure savouriness that came from this particular concoction was extraordinary.
The cooking of the Sichuan Province leans on ‘umami’ (the yummy taste you get from stuff like Parmesan cheese, Worcester sauce, and wild mushrooms) and mad, intense heat. This is man-food in extremis but never wishing to be too blokey I made it for my dear chum and business partner Lydia, and she had seconds.
I’ll give you the recipe if you like, but you’d do well buying Fuchsia’s book
Back from Chengdu, I touch down in little ol’ Ludlow. Turns out my former employers, Ludlow Food Centre are taking on a shop in the centre of Ludlow as a café-deli. Ice cream, fancy sarnies, bags of personality, that sort of thing. It sounds super. Rumour has it they were after our site at Harp Lane but I’m far too discreet and professional to comment on that particular issue. No idea Your Honour. Ludlow’s a funny town in that many people have tried coercing me into slamming LFC. I wish them well, truly I do. The more the merrier. My only advice - for what it’s worth – make some mates round here. Being aloof doesn’t get you very far round here.
Competition aside, I need to find me a supplier of Sichuan stuff. Tasty times ahead. Watch this space.