Rikki Li is an official CAPA blogger for spring 2016, sharing her story in weekly posts on CAPA World. An English Writing and Psychology major at the University of Pittsburgh, she is studying abroad in London this semester.
This week, Rikki takes a look at some of her foodie finds in (and around) London so far.
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Here are some indisputable facts about me: my name is Rikki Li, I’m 5’4”, I’m right-handed, and I love food. When I’m stressed out, I cook. I study best in cafes. When I have trouble sleeping, I listen to ASMR videos of people chewing. I almost always take pictures of my meals, whether it’s something I get at a restaurant or something I cooked myself (the former of which will sometimes frustrate my friends, for good reason).
What I love most about food however is how global and pervasive the concept is. Despite the fact that there is only a finite assortment of ingredients on Earth, every culture has refined and established their own unique cuisine that fits their specific tastes, environments, and histories. You can probably imagine then that a huge source of my excitement for studying abroad was realizing that I would have four months to immerse myself in a new food culture. Thus far, I can confidently say that I have not been disappointed, and I’m sure I will never be. British food is so much more than just tea and crumpets, and I’m glad to have the chance to understand that.
Here are some highlights I’ve come across so far:
1. STEAK & KIDNEY PIE
(Eaten at: “Square Pie” in Old Spitalfields Market)
Admittedly, when I first heard about steak and kidney pie (from Harry Potter, if I remember correctly), I thought it meant steak with kidney beans, which seemed like a kind of odd, but nevertheless tasty, combination. However, I soon realized (as I put the first forkful of hot pie in my mouth) that the pie’s name referred to actual kidneys, combined with chunks of steak and smothered in a rich, brown gravy. Perhaps the thought of eating kidneys isn’t conventionally appetizing, but I found the pie to be delicious, especially with its flaky puff pastry. It’s the kind of food that warms you from the inside out, and leaves you full for the rest of the day.
Cost: Combined with a choice of two sides, my steak and kidney pie meal cost £7.99.
2. CHICKEN KORMA.
(Eaten at: “Ajanta” in Shepherd’s Bush)
I had my first brush with Indian food when I was 14-years-old. My family and I had taken a trip to New York during Christmas break, and after walking around all day, we were tired, cold, and hungry. Unfortunately, we found that most of the restaurants in the area were closed for the holidays, and it wasn’t until a good hour later that we finally came across an Indian restaurant that was still open. The restaurant smelled of incense and fragrant spices, and the service was quick and friendly. However, for the first half hour, I refused to eat anything. For some reason (that I can no longer fathom), I was sure that I wasn’t going to like Indian food, and stubbornly refused to try it. However, I eventually got hungry enough that I dipped a piece of naan into some chicken vindaloo…and I’ve loved Indian food ever since.
I still can’t forgive myself for my ignorance back then, but I’ve since developed into a far more adventurous eater, which I’m grateful for. The Indian food in London has reminded just how much I’ve been craving Indian cuisine. The chicken korma dish I got specifically was both sweet and savory from the amalgam of coconut, raisins, yogurt, and spiced chicken. The eating experience itself, as always, was also immensely enjoyable, with everyone’s hands constantly reaching for more curry or ripping off strips of naan. It was chaotic and familiar and cozy, like eating should be.
Cost: If you’re looking to eat Indian food on a budget, you can get takeaway curries from Ajanta for about £5 to £8 pounds—and the portions are pleasantly large (one curry lasted me about two meals).
3. ASSORTED FUDGE.
(Eaten at: “Fudge Kitchen” in Bath)
Now, technically, Fudge Kitchen’s website says that they specialize in selling “American-style fudge,” which may seem out of place in my exploration of British food, but then again, British food shouldn’t (and isn’t) restricted to just “foods that originated in the UK.” Additionally, I think a large part of what makes food great is the atmosphere in which it’s served. The Fudge Kitchen in the charming town of Bath is no exception. A large portion of the shop is dedicated to a long table, where an employee makes the fudge right in front of you, pushing and pulling at the velvety sugar-and-butter mixture while answering any questions you may have about the process. The employees also encourage you to come inside for a free sample, an almost irresistible request when faced with slices of sea salt caramel and white chocolate raspberry fudge. We even overheard a couple saying how they drive over two hours to Bath just to visit this fudge shop. They left with a stack of dark emerald boxes filled sweets, smiling to themselves.
Cost: Fudge Kitchen is a bit pricey (as each slice of fudge can range from £4 to £5), but if you buy in bulk, the price is more reasonable. Five other friends and I were able to buy six slices of fudge for £20 total.
There are certainly many more foods I have yet to try (scones! Full English breakfast! Bangers and mash!), but the semester is still young and I’m still hungry. How serendipitous, to live in a time where it only gets easier and easier to share and appreciate our cuisines with one another.
Rikki's journey continues every Tuesday so stay tuned.