London Street Foodie On Tour: Malaysian street food in Edinburgh
“How are you?” “I’m fine.”
That response doesn’t really mean anything, does it? It can be a quick way out of having to go into detail about how everyone is doing your head in at the moment or how things are going swimmingly; it can be a defense mechanism to cover up melancholy or anger. It can mean “I’m fine and dandy,” (as in “great!”) and it can also genuinely mean “I am just fine, thanks” – fine being, well, fine. Not amazing, not awful, just plain OK. So-so, if you like.
Sometimes my mum has a way of looking when she says that the food she’s eating is “fine,” and what that tends to mean is just that. It’s alright, nothing special – but it’s doing the trick, thanks. It’s similar to how my friend Ed, creator of the brilliant blog Rocket and Squash, described about a dinner he reviewed a while ago.
Last weekend two friends and I caught the final few days of the Edinburgh Festival – and, boy, we had fun. There was musical comedy of the finest (meaning “very good”) sort from Seiriol Davies; there was absurdity from Dugout Theatre; there was emotional, smart and witty comedy from Alice Fraser, and from Amelia Ryan (aka Lady Liberty); and there was a brilliant foodie shindig hosted by pop-up boys, Dram & Smoke in an old biscuit factory in Leith at which Scottish produce was given a starring role.
On the final night, just before the last few shows, we got hungry*. We weren’t looking for anything special, but we wanted to feel satisfied, and we wanted our money’s worth.
Then amidst all the activity – people handing out flyers, noise, applause, and so on – on George Square, we found Umami Spice Girl, a street food van whose promising-looking menu offered a wide-ranging selection from Thai Satay Kebabs to Chipotle Bean Chilli and Quesadilla.
And so on that Sunday night all three of us ordered Malaysian beef rendang in a takeaway box – and it did the trick. It wasn’t anything special, and I think the cooks were on their last legs after a month of trading, which wouldn’t have helped. The stew had a nice glow of spice running through it, and some coconut milkiness of course, but it lacked that deep intensity, that indulgent flavour you would normally hope to taste from beef that had been cooked for hours in a mixture of nutmeg, cinnamon, chillis, ginger and galangal. And sadly the rice tasted as if it had been boiled in a bag.
But it warmed us up as we sat on some steps eating it while the sun went down. It filled a hole. It carried us through the last shows and on until bedtime (possibly via a banana and chocolate crepe). It was fine.
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*Apologies for the crap pictures in this week’s post – eye off the ball 😉