No Harry Ramsden’s In Jeddah

The 2006 edition of Jeddah today listed Harry Ramsden as having an outlet in Jeddah. We went to the area, looked around and could not find it. We even interrogated the doorman at another restaurant in the general area who noted that it was there but had closed many months before.

Imagine then my pleasure at discovering in the 2007 edition of Jeddah today, Harry Ramsden’s listed again – and at a different address. Tonight it was to be Fish and Chips. Eighteen months in Mongolia, a few months in Thailand, China, Hong Kong and such and only brief visits to Australia had left me hanging out severely for a fried Haddock and chips and some mushy peas.

With mouth suitably salivating the phone number of the restaurant was dialled to check the address and to find out about their delivery service. “I’m sorry sir, there is no Harry Ramsden’s Fish and Chip Restaurant here.”

Noooooooooooooooooooooooooooo!

Thomo’s Rules of Eating and Cooking

OK, Thomo is an Aussie, which is why he was referred to in the past as the Lost Aussie. Being Aussie, of course, Thomo likes to barbecue food. Forget the Americans and the British – when it comes to BBQ, Aussies have it – it’s a lay down misère (well, there may be a little competition from the Koreans but hey, their cooking styles are not well enough known yet to count).

I will include recipes in Thomo’s Hole from time to time. In the meantime, Thomo believes three things in relation to cooking:

  1. BBQ rules
  2. If not BBQ, then maximum preparation and cooking time should be 30 minutes.
  3. If it is exotic, then two saucepans is OK to cook with otherwise, maximum one (Thomo does not like to clean up and wash up).

Of course, travelling the world, I have also been exposed to many and varied “interesting” dishes. At one stage in Korea, one of our favourite games was to order fried chicken from the local fried chicken shop, then sit in the apartment and play “guess the bit”.

All this travelling has led to Thomo’s Three Laws of Eating. Simply expressed, these can save you from a number of unpleasant meals when travelling and if presented to those in the country you are travelling in as religious beliefs, will generally be accepted as such and honoured.

Oh, and the Laws? Simple:

  1. Dead.
  2. Cooked.
  3. Should never have connected the mouth to the bottom on any animal (i.e., offal is off).

These rules will see you well in almost any environment. For example, When a Korean takes you out for live octopus, you can fall back on rules 1 and 2. Japanese take you out for sushi? Definitely a rule 2. Fresh Rock Oysters? Rule 1. Sea Cucumber with Chinese friends? Rule 3.

See how simple this can be?

Now, if you are a really finicky eater, then there are three supplementary rules that can also be bought into play, namely:

  1. It should have been warm blooded.
  2. It should have had four legs and walked the earth
  3. If it did not have four legs, then we should be talking two legs; and feathers should also be strongly involved in it’s lifestyle.

Now, I know that rules out seafood but hey, they are optional and it does allow you to tailor the inputs without offending a host.

Happy munching now!

Note: This was first published in Thomo’s Hole in April 2003 but has been used over the years as a way of avoiding food in a variety of countries. It has mostly been successful.

Marmot

Is illegal to hunt at the moment in Mongolia. It is also illegal to eat it I guess, and to cook it.

Today I had some. I’ll describe the preparation of the meat later. However the eating of it was interesting. The flesh is quite tender although the skin is fairly chewy, sort of like roast pork when the crackling has not gone hard properly.

In appearance the meat and skin (cooked) was quite dark but I guess that may have something to do with the cooking. My Mongolian friend described the taste of Marmot as special, a reminder of childhood days spent with grandparents in the countryside.

The taste itself? It was a little gamey in flavour – kind of a stronger taste than mutton although much more tender. The skin was similar in taste to pork. All the meat tasted of the wood used to cook the meal but as I mentioned, more on the cooking in a later blog entry.

Would I eat marmot again? Yes – especially if it was legal.

And my apologies to the Marmot Hole – sorry guys.

Er and will Marmot take over from Cheeseburgers as Thomo’s favourite food? No. Not unless someone invents a Marmotburger 🙂

Talking about Camel Milk

The Camel Milk I had is called Khoormog. It is produced by fermenting the camel milk. The khoormog has an alcoholic content of around 4%. It is considered a therapeutic drink, good for the digestive system amongst other things.

Whilst the Mongolians may feel that khoormog does not have a strong taste, the Australian certainly found the taste strong, and interesting.

Quote

Camel Milk
My favourite Mongolian Family cooked lunch for me today. Meat, potatoes, the usual. There was, however, the addition of something special – warmed Camel’s Milk.

<snip>

Perhaps we shall get some camel milk again – I’ll certainly drink it a second time.

Camel Milk

My favourite Mongolian Family cooked lunch for me today. Meat, potatoes, the usual. There was, however, the addition of something special – warmed Camel’s Milk.

I will freely admit that I have never drunk camel’s milk before. It was OK. It was a different taste to start with (actually, it was a different taste to finish with as well but by the end of the mug I was getting used to the flavour). It had a flavour similar to Airag (the fermented mare’s milk drunk in vast quantities over the summer). However it was smoother and had a creamier flavour than the horse’s milk.

Puujee was telling me (through Tseye – his english and my Mongolian are of a similar standard) that when he was young there was maybe 700,000 camels or so making it pretty easy to get the milk. Now there are many less, maybe around 250,000. The milk is therefore harder to come by. The reason for the drop in the camel herd size seems to be less care for the animals and folks stealing camels for food.

Perhaps we shall get some camel milk again – I’d certainly drink it a second time.

Lunch Can be a Trial in Ulaanbaatar

Turkish Restaurant Menu - Click to see it largerIndeed, the lunch menu can be a daunting prospect. Not only is it sometimes in a language difficult for us foreigner’s to understand, but sometimes the ingredients leave a little to be desired. See the picture for what I mean. 😕

Ulaanbaatar Then and Now – Part 2

Scott Notes in 2000: When I 1st arrived at UB I checked into the UB Hotel, supposedly the “best” hotel in UB. From all accounts in talking with different people, both local & expatriates, it is the best! However it would be lucky to get a 2 star rating. I had a double room which consisted of a bathroom & a bedroom (tariff AUD 140).  After checking in I went to my room to unpack & then have a shower before meeting the client for dinner. Having finished my unpacking, which was easy as there wasn’t much cupboard or drawer space to unpack to, and hardly any hangers in the wardrobe, I went to have a shave & shower. Turning on the water taps I was horrified to see dark murky water coming through. Standing there in a daze wondering what the hell had I let myself into the water eventually cleared however no hot water, not even after 5 minutes. I subsequently learnt that you have to let the water run for almost 10 to 15 minutes before any hot water will start to come through. The bath & shower taps are as per Europe where you have to pull a plug up to allow the water to come through the shower head. When I first pulled it up it came off, so after fixing it, it came up but then slipped halfway down again so that you only had a small amount of water coming through the shower head.  The cable TV only had 7 channels,  3 of which were in English, CNN, BBC & ESPStar sports.  Apparently there is a 4th English channel that shows movies etc but it wasn’t tuned in on the Hotel set. The rooms do not have any air conditioning, and as a consequence my room was very stuffy & hot, and remained that way, as I couldn’t open the double glazed windows.

Thomo Notes in 2005: I have to mention that I also stayed in a hotel, at the time, reportedly the best in Ulaanbaatar (and not the UB Hotel). It also suffered from water pressure, especially when switching between bath and shower. The cable TV was much better now with many channels. There are, I think, two basic cable supply companies in Mongolia, Sansar and Supervision. Between them they carry the usual suspects, CNN, BBC World, Star TV, Star Movies, ESPN, Star Sports, MTV, ABC Asia Pacific, lots of Russian, NHK, Arirang etc etc. They are split between the two companies and there are probably 20 or so channels on each network, with a few of them common to both networks. I am now in an apartment and access to these channels is cheap, in the order of $4.00 per month.

Airconditioning is still a rarity here as in summer, whilst the temperature may reach 30 or so, the humidity is really low. Opening the window tends to work and at nighttime the temperature falls to a pleasant level. Eating outside in the sunshine is almost mandatory over the short summer and any restaurant that wants to maintain clientele in the summer must have an outside eating area.

Scott Notes in 2000: The hotel didn’t have a regular hotel bar. There was a small one but I never saw it open for business. It did have a nightclub bar which opened at 9pm, however when I checked it out late one night for a nightcap it was totally empty. The hotel restaurant, in fact all of the “western” styled restaurants I have been to so far, lack any menu variety, the food is low quality and often lacks taste. In a lot of cases the stench of cooked mutton hangs in the air. I now know & appreciate how Rose feels with regards to the smell of lamb. Went to the up-market El Torado Steakhouse the other night and ordered the fillet steak (AUD 18). The waiter didn’t ask anyone how they might want their steaks cooked.  It was served cooked well & truly through, with a large serving of mayonnaise on top, the steak was stringy & tough, tasted like horse meat and had obviously been well marinated, the taste of which was not particularly appealing. I ended up only eating half of it. The side vegetables were minimal and almost inedible. Fortunately the beer was cold. The local brewery makes quite a good draught beer called Chingis. A ½ liter will cost approx. AUD 3.50.

Thomo Notes in 2005: Well, beer is certainly cheaper now, a 1/2 litre of Chinggish costing about AUD $2.50 from most places. And there is certainly no shortage of places to eat and drink with many pubs, restaurants and clubs all over town. There are some that have been here for a long time such as Millies, the UB Deli and such, whilst others have only been open for a year or two – Dave’s Place, Budweiser Pub and so on. As for the steak being tough and tasting like horsemeat, well, horsemeat has a different flavour. I’ve not tried the El Torado but in one respect, some things do not change. I have never been asked how I wanted my steak cooked – it is just ordered and delivered.

Ulaanbaatar has become a much more interesting place to eat over the years. There are now many Chinese restaurants, Korean restaurants, a couple of French, German, English/Irish style as well as Russian, Ukrainian and Thai. There are traditional Mongolian restaurants as well as modern fusion Mongolian (the three Nomad’s restaurants in particular). Whilst Khuurshuur and Buuz can become a little boring when travelling through the countryside, in Ulaanbaatar in particular, there is so much eating variety now that it is difficult to get bored with food here.

It’s a Scone

Scones in Ulaanbaatar - click for closer lookWalking around the supermarket here in UB the other day and I chanced upon a counter called “Fresh Bake”. Found a second one here tonight at the Sky Shopping Centre Supermarket. Apart from baking there at the supermarket a really nice baguette, they also bake some other interesting items.   It is a scone! A fruit scone here in Ulaanbaatar (see the picture if you don’t believe me). So we have lamingtons at a fast food joint, and scones in the supermarket (er, the Americans call “scones” “biscuits”, and “biscuits” “cookies” 🙂 ).   And Joel, if you are reading this, they also do a beef pie and a pastry (which really should be spelled “pastie”). Oh, and a Chelsea Bun.   Thomo’s figure will get more and more fulsome at this rate.