Eating at the House of Ho

22 Jul

Soho is a brilliant hodgepodge of restaurants.  You are spoiled for choice when you head there for a meal.  There is a brilliant mixture of chain restaurants, small mom & pop establishments, specialist restaurants that feature European, traditional English, South American, Chinese, Japanese, South Asian and Middle Eastern cuisine.  There are a variety of bars, coffee shops and patisseries as well.  The question of what to eat becomes even more difficult to answer when faced with so much choice!

One of the newer kids on the block featuring Southeast Asian cuisine is Bobby Chinn’s House of Ho.  Found in the middle of Old Compton Street, the monotone gray facade of the restaurant contradicts the diverse flavours of the dishes that are on offer on the menu.  Bobby Chinn describes the food on offer at House of Ho as “modern Vietnamese food and flavours.”  I was mostly excited that it was Bobby Chinn’s restaurant.  I was a bit of a fan of his when I lived in Manila.  His cooking shows were an afternoon staple when I was at home and had access to TV.  Apart from that, I love Vietnamese food.  We had a Vietnamese lady stay with us once for a few weeks and she would cook us a proper Vietnamese meal once in a while.  My favourite was a chicken recipe with lemongrass.  I fell in love even more when I was introduced to pho and the fresh spring rolls (in Atlanta of all places!).  Vietnamese food is one of the lesser known Southeast Asian cuisines, although it is now becoming more and more recognised (thanks in part to very popular street food purveyors of banh mi and pho), and Philippine cuisine, being a Southeast Asian country, the flavour bases are typically the same with Chinese, Malay, Indonesian, and Indian influences.

We walked past House of Ho around lunchtime.  I recognised Bobby Chinn straightaway.  He was sitting at a table, having lunch, by one of the large open windows of the restaurant.  We crossed the street and looked at the menu and thought the prices were really good (I mean hey, it is a Bobby Chinn restaurant!).  There were lovely things like spring rolls, morning glory (we call it kang kong in the Philippines) and sautéed choyote (we call it sayote in the Philippines) on the menu.  It got me really excited!  But what made my day was when we walked past Bobby Chinn, we said hello and we said we’d be back and he smiled at us, said hi and said that that would be great.  It doesn’t take much to make me happy, but that made my day (insert fan girl wisecrack here!).

We decided on having dinner at the House of Ho.  We’d been walking around London and were still quite full up from all the small bits of eating that we’d done throughout the day, so a light but late supper (we’d been to see The Commitments before deciding on dinner) was in order.  As luck would have it, Mr Chinn was again in front, twiddling away on his mobile phone.  I’m not entirely sure that he recognised us, but we did say we’re back as promised and he ushered us in and told one of the staff “They came back!”  We were promptly seated into nice seats.

The interior of the restaurant at night has subdued lighting and the seating is efficiently spaced – it only seats about 90 people apparently and while it does use space well, the seating isn’t cramped and you don’t feel like they’ve squashed as many seats as they could in the space that they had.  There was breathing space.

We chose edamame for nibbles, our usual sodas (diet for me) a bottle of water, a bowl of steamed rice to share, chicken Imperial rolls, chicken curry and apple smoked pork belly.

Everything was great.  I was a little taken aback by the portion sizes.  Southeast Asian eating is mostly family eating size.  So you get a big bowl of rice and a big bowl of your main dish or dishes.  But that being said, even though the portions were smaller than expected, they were enough to share, so that you could get a taste of everything.  I understood what Bobby Chinn was trying to do.  He wanted to make the dishes look elegant (because let’s face it, family eating is about functionality and not elegance, not really) so that apart from the look, you could focus on the taste.  And boy, did you get a taste!

House of Ho table

The rice came late, which was a bit of a disappointment (and on our bill, we were billed twice for it, but that was quickly changed with a lot of apologies, so that was okay!).  Rice is ESSENTIAL in Southeast Asian dining.  It comes first.

The Imperial rolls were lovely.  They were petit spring rolls, not like what the British are used to.  In the Philippines we have a version that we call Lumpiang Shanghai (loom-pee-yang Shanghai).  I’m not ashamed to say my yardstick for really (really) good cooking is my mum’s cooking.  And the Imperial rolls pass muster.  It’s up there in terms of taste compared to my mum’s lumpiang Shanghai.  I was in spring roll heaven.

Imperial rolls

The chicken curry was probably one of the best chicken curries I’ve ever tasted.  Everything was delicate and yet the flavour hit you.  You knew you were eating chicken curry but you weren’t walloped into realising it.  All the flavours just melded.  I wanted to ask if the delicate green leaves on top were the paddy leaves because they were yummy.  There was an amazing explosion of aniseedy flavour in your mouth when you included on of the sprigs.  I would probably, very willingly, dive into a vat of that chicken curry.  It was GOOD!

Chicken curry

But the showstopper was the apple smoked pork belly.  Oh.  My.  God.  Wait.  Let me gather my thoughts…That was the most amazing thing I’d ever tasted.  Ever.  Really.

My mum has a pork dish that she calls Lutong Intsik (loo-tong in-chick) which translated means “cooked the Chinese way.”  I think my mum used a pork shoulder joint and then braised the pork until it was meltingly soft.  House of Ho’s belly pork dish was like.  Only a thousand times better (sorry Mum!!!)!  It was just too good.  I know there was soy, there was probably some sort of sugar, there were spices.  I can’t put into words how good it was.  It was just an explosion of flavours in your mouth!  I mean there was a party in my mouth and it was hosted by that beautiful belly pork.  I think about the pork and I sigh.  I don’t think I’m exaggerating when I say that it is probably the best thing I’ve ever had.  It was really that good.

Apple smoked belly pork

If you go to House of Ho, if you order just one thing on the menu (rice doesn’t count because you have to have rice) you MUST order the belly pork!  It is an experience in itself.  But you must go, at least once, to House of Ho.  The staff are great, the food is glorious and Bobby Chinn is a genius!

Am already looking forward to my next trip!  And yes, you can bet that I’m ordering that pork!

House of Ho outside

Chocolate Guinness cupcakes!

21 Jul

Finally!!!

I was feeling a bit stressed out because the days were rushing past me and I hadn’t started on the Cake Book Challenge yet.  I had only 25 weeks to accomplish this goal to begin with!  But finally, the Cake Book challenge has officially begun!

1 recipe down, 49 more to go!  23.5 weeks left!

I chose to start with the Chocolate Guinness cupcakes recipe (page 44 of the book) because I love Chocolate Guinness cake.  The recipe was similar to my favourite choccie Guinness cake recipe (the Hummingbird Bakery recipe is ace and is a great go-to cake) so it wasn’t going to stress me out.  Plus, I get to drink the left over Guinness (which I did!)!

Chocolate Guiness cupcake recipe

One thing I did realise is that my hands are horrible and I have no icing talent!  The hands were wobbly and I couldn’t control the piping bag as well as I would’ve wanted to.  Also, attempting to ice anything with cream cheese frosting in this heat is generally a silly idea.  The minute I’d finished icing the cupcake, I could see the frosting softening ever so slightly!  I think the necessary tweak would be to add more icing sugar.  Maybe!  I may scrape off all the icing and start over again!

Maybe.

Chocolate Guinness cupcakes

I will be making Carly’s holiday cake today as well (I am hoping to accomplish this with all the good will and positive thinking in the world!).  Today’s baking mantra: I will manage my time properly!

So what happened to that Tefal issue?

21 Jul

Nothing.

Tefal called me and I missed the call.  Tefal left me a message but I don’t think I’m going to call them.  I know that leaving a message was the only thing that they could do on that day.  But I never received anything else.  You’d think they’d try a different avenue to contact me.  But they didn’t.

The steam generator iron has gone to the bin and I am going to not pursue this whole thing with Tefal.  I wish that apart from the phone call, they had written to me to arrange a time to call again.  I realise that the onus to prove the fault is probably with me.  I really wished they tried a little harder to get in touch.  Maybe a second phone call.  That would have been ace.  Or even an email to say they’d tried to call but obviously missed me.  But as it is, telling me that I have to call number if I want to discuss things isn’t really helping me and my issue with the £150 steam generator iron that started burning my blouses and trousers after barely 6 months from date purchase.

Thanks Tefal.  But no thanks.  I’m moving on from this but I won’t stop telling people to stop investing in your steam generator irons.  They are just bad news.

So many posts…

21 Jul

I’ve had quite the active weekend and I’ve got about a gazillion blog post ideas as a result (mostly food related, but hey!)!!!

I need to make time to write these posts!  I need to make time…or find time…or something!  Can someone find me a real-life working time turner?  Like the one that Hermione Granger in Prisoner of Azkaban had pretty please?

While I can always download the app for WordPress my experience with it hasn’t been very positive.  When I used it, the posts don’t necessarily come out with the same margin settings and I seem to have these horribly LOOOOOOOOONG settings that stretch on forever — making me look like I don’t know how to make paragraphs!  I’m sure there’s a simple explanation and there are probably basic app-related settings which I may have missed, but I’m not necessarily encouraged to use it again!

Here’s to hoping that I can somehow find a magic spell to allow me to “make” time!

Fingers and toesies crossed!

The problem with the hand

13 Jul

I haven’t baked anything because of my stupid hand.

My left hand is swollen and I can’t close it to make a fist without pain shooting up my arm and down to my fingers.  Carpal tunnel syndrome strikes again!

Bummer.

***

In other news, after sending my contact details as they requested, no, Tefal still hasn’t gotten in touch.  Typical.

Tefal update

9 Jul

My last entry was about my Tefal steam generator iron and how it just wasn’t worth the money I paid for it.  You’d expect something that was worth over £150 to last more than 6 months right?

I sent a tweet about how disappointed I was about my iron and @TefalUK has asked me to write them an email so that they can “look into it.”  I’m fairly jaded about things like this so I’m waiting with a cynical view that nothing is going to happen.

Watch this space because I will write about it!

TefalUK tweet

Tefal let down

6 Jul

On the 8th of January, I excitedly purchased the Tefal Gv8431 Pro Express Auto Clean Steam Generator iron.  I was really excited.  When I bought it it was over £150.  It wasn’t an impulse purchase, £150 for an iron is a lot of money for an iron, steam or otherwise.  But there were so many positive reviews, that I thought that all these people couldn’t be wrong about an investment iron, could they?

Tefal Gv8431 Pro Express Steam Generator

For the first three months, it worked like a dream.  It cut my ironing time by about 40%!  I was ironing like an ironing fiend.  I was the Jenson Button of ironing.  The iron itself was light and easy to maneuver which was a bonus for me and my carpal tunnelly hands.  Then around about the fourth month, it started making a strange clicky sound.  I thought it was because I’d let the reservoir go empty (I hadn’t!).  But I thought maybe it was just because it was refilling the steam reservoir, or cleaning itself, or regulating the temperature.  Because, surely, it wasn’t going to conk out on me!

Then about a month ago, the non-stick sole plate started sticking.  It started burning shirts and trousers.  What was worse was that it was transferring the burnt bits onto clothing that I was ironing.   I found myself having to painstakingly remove the burnt on bits from the sole plates EACH time I had to use the iron.  I had to even pause in between ironing sessions, have an ironing intermission if you will, so that I could let the sole plate cool so that I could make sure there weren’t burnt on bits and I could remove any burnt on bits.  And before you ask, I was ironing clothes at the right temperature setting.  I pride myself on knowing how to use a steam iron.

I thought that buying an expensive iron meant I was protecting my clothes, that I was making sure I was using a good product that  would ensure that the ironing experience wouldn’t be such a chore, because, let’s face it, it is a chore.  Six months into using this expensive piece of ironing kit, I am beginning to believe I was duped into parting with my money.  Tefal claims it to be a top spec steam generator iron.  It claims that you are able to glide through stubborn creases.  And it’s true, you do glide through stubborn creases, like a dream, I might add.  For about 6 months.  Then gliding stops, the burnings starts, the ruining of the clothes begin and the nightmare is never-ending.

I don’t have the box to return the iron.  I only have the manual and, of course, the iron.  I’d like to return it, but I’m not sure I’m going to be able to.

To say that I am annoyed it an understatement.  I am unable to iron my work clothes for tomorrow.  I have wrinkly clothes.  I have this expensive clunky thing in my house that should solve my wrinkly clothes problem.  But instead I am afraid to use it because it will burn my clothes.  For all its wonderful promises, Tefal has over-promised and under-delivered and has majorly disappointed.

I am very, very, very disappointed.

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