Saturday, August 27, 2005

No risk, no creativity.

I'll remember this everytime things let me down.

Sunday, August 21, 2005

How do you eat mackerel?

The cooking page of The Sunday Times' Style magazine today has a point.

Don't cook mackerel if you want to extract maximum flavour.
I completely agree. And all Japanese people know this. We pickle mackerel fillets (called shime saba, where shime means pickled, and saba mackerel).

The last time I went to the Billingsgate Market, I bought a mackerel for 99p. I filleted it at home, spread a generous amount of salt on a large flat metal plate, placed the mackerel fillet on it, add more salt on top of it, and left it for an hour and a half. Then I washed the fillet with water, dried it with paper towels, soaked it into rice vinegar on a metal plate, placed paper towels over it as a lid, and left it for 20 minutes. That was it. Eating sliced pickled mackerel fillets with soy sauce (just like when you eat sashimi) was full of pleasure.

Everytime I talked about this, people here in London was like "You eat raw mackerel?" They don't understand. Heston Blumenthal, the guy quoted above, understands this. But he is still an amateur when he says, "When the fish is ready, wash it thoroughly to remove all the salt, then remove the skin from the fillets." Come on! The skin of a mackerel is an important part of appreciating the taste of a mackerel.

This is why Japanese people sometimes find it hard to live abroad: nobody but Japanese people seems to understand how to eat fish "properly". I'm always amazed by looking at how small the area for selling fish is in Britain's supermarkets and how unfresh and pricey the fish fillets they sell are. That's why I have to go to the Billingsgate Market from time to time. Japan's per capita fish consumption tops the world ranking, which sometimes troubles the rest of the world, including the whale conservation debate and the environmentally-unfriendly fish farming in Southeast Asia to export fish to Japan.

Saturday, August 20, 2005

Saturday afternoon at Hoxton Square

I had lunch at Macondo, a little cafe-restaurant facing Hoxton Square, East London. I had came here previously a couple of times (see, for example, 1st May 2005). Everytime I come here, my impression of this place improves. What's good about this place is three little nice dishes of my own choice from the menu of the day for "only" (by London standards) 6.95 quid. The basic thrust of the menu at this place is Spanish (including Latin Americans). The choices include tortillas (Spanish omelettes), nicely cooked vegetables, and other specialties of the day. Today I chose a broccoli tortilla (which is tasty unexpectedly as I'd never had broccolis inside an omelette), baked asparagus with cheese, and Bolivian prawn ceviche.

This thing called ceviche is a revelation. Prawn, chopped tomatoes and onions in lemon juice, olive oil, and coriander. Now I want to try proper Bolivian cuisine.

Macondo also boasts its fresh juice. Unfortunately, mixed berry juice (which was fantastic the last time I came here) ran out today. So I ordered banana smoothie (which was fantastic as well the last time I came here). But unfortunaly again ice cubes ran out. So mine was warm... (A few minutes later a guy carrying two large bags of ice cubes came to the cafe.)

But ceviche makes up for all this.


Then I visited Whitecube, a contemporary art gallery facing Hoxton Square. This month's featured artist is Anselm Kiefer, who, of course, I didn't know anything about.

You can learn what is in display by reading the Whitecube's description (Look for the paragraph beginning with "Part II opens on 2 August with ...").

The installations clearly indicate something couldn't be achieved: derelict concrete staircase stuck on the wall leading to nowhere, scattered pieces of shattered glass, a lead boat looking like running aground against rumps of concrete...

All the same, I simply felt they looked beautiful, very beautifully "organised".

I saw a few people having a five-second look and quickly leaving the place as if they didn't understand anything. I guess these people didn't go through severe setbacks in the past or everything for them currently is going well.

Saturday, August 13, 2005

Lesser-known "Good" Dictators - Part III

This post is a sequel to 17th June.

Marien Ngouabi (Republic of Congo, 1968-1977)

Under his 9-year rule, real GDP per capita in purchasing power parity terms increased by 50%. As he was said to have established the first Marxist-Leninist state in Africa (according to Wikipedia), it was probably the case that he managed the Soviet-style economic growth (ie. growth solely due to capital accumulation). Actually, the investment rate during his rule was staggering 30 percent on average.

Sunday, August 07, 2005

A jumbo power point

At the east end of Ganton Street (southside), Soho, W1 (off Carnaby Street)