I’m super chuffed to report that I’m in this month’s Waitrose Kitchen. They’ve run a rather splendid piece about food and nostalgia, which includes the story behind my not-so-secret family recipe for tandoori chicken. It’s also on the waitrose website here and the recipe’s here. My gran would be so proud…
“I want the bastards that tortured my grandmother to bleed” spits Susan, her face contorting and reddening to match the hue of our food. “I want them to feel just a fraction of her pain.”
We’re in a tiny izakaya in Saitama-ken, just around the corner from my flat and Susan is explaining her dark reasons for being here over a bowl of kimchi ramen. “So your grandmother was a…a comfort woman then?” asks Manola, who teaches in the town next door. Manola is dead cool. The other JETs we’ve met are an assortment of private school tossers and downright weirdos, so we’ve made a point of only befriending Japanese people and each other. We spend our weekdays teaching English and our weekends in throbbing clubs and bars in Tokyo, grabbing steaming 5am bowls of ramen and larking about in purikura booths before catching the train home to the suburbs… Her Kanji count is enviable and she’s definitely the sensible one. I, on the other hand manage to unwittingly get us into countless dodgy situations, like the time we find ourselves in the car of a minor yakuza who tries to press pills upon us and entice us to some warehouse party with his mafia pals.
We love it all, but Susan has made it clear she’s purely here for vengeance.
She’s a towering half Texan, half Korean model type, and she fascinates us with tales of growing up in a trailer with anorexic friends. She’s like something out of a JT Leroy novel. She confirms that yes, her grandmother was one of the comfort women Japanese soldiers famously took “refuge” in during the war. A group of young Japanese men nearby openly ogle her, one plucks up the Asahi-powered courage to saunter over and tell her how “sekusi” she is. She tosses her hair and casts out a murderous look before archly turning her back on them. “Wow this kimchi’s great” murmurs Manola. Susan scowls and tells us about the proper stuff her gran used to make in huge earthenware pots which she’d bury in the garden for months. Years later and faced with a superabundance of cabbage I come across the napkin with her recipe scrawled over it.
When did it all get so manic? I find myself with so little time on my hands these days that I rarely make it to foodie launches or parties anymore. In fact, I hate to admit it, but I’m rapidly becoming more of a bolted-salad-on-the-way-to-the-next- board-meeting kind of woman. Last night however, I decided to ditch the shoulder pads and found myself at the launch of Wahaca’s new summer menu. The thing I love about Thomasina’s food is the way in which the dishes are all so unpretentious, authentic and secretly quite good for you.
Highlights included a mouth popping ceviche tostada, a ridiculously intense hibiscus and passionfruit jelly and my favourite fryer-fresh, cinnamon-scented churros y chocolate. I do luff the fried dough.
I’d never tried cornbread before- our seemingly endless feast included warm buttercup yellow hunks of the stuff. The texture was lovely, like savoury Madeira cake which came replete with a fat slick of rich mole sauce. I also loved the new cactus taco with courgette and cheese – the cactus flesh was a revelation; subtle, savoury and yet simultaneously bursting with freshness. What’s more 20p of the cost of each of these beauties goes to the EDNICA Charity, supporting the street children of Mexico. Never before has doing it for the kids been quite so delicious…