Sesame Prawn Toast and Other Gastronomic Oddities from London’s Chinatown

I’m finally back from Chinatowns in London and Prato, Italy, and ready to catch up on some blogging. Since it’s Christmas season, the time of year for copious amounts of decadent food, and since it’s lunchtime as I write this, let’s start with the Chinese food that I found in London.

Now, I definitely had delicious Chinese meals in London (thanks to Dr. Cheng and the Association of Traditional Chinese Medicine), but that’s not the food I’m talking about here. I’m talking about popular Chinese-British creations that one can usually find at takeaways, like crispy seaweed and aromatic duck. Two Londoners, Gerald and Winky (who writes a fun blog at Winkypedia), introduced me to these local specialties recently in a restaurant on Gerrard Street.

For the Cheesy Poof Generation: Crispy Seaweed

This popular appetizer is a deep-fried concoction that is simultaneously sweet, salty, fried, and crunchy. Those little white specks in the photo? Sugar, lots and lots of sugar. The dark green color comes from food coloring, since crispy seaweed isn’t made from seaweed at all, but from cabbage. I am embarrassed to admit that my taste buds have placed crispy seaweed rather high in my pantheon of irresistible junk food, just below cheesy poofs. Amazing as a late night snack.

Why hasn’t anybody found a way to package this for the supermarket shelves?

crispy seaweed

0% Seaweed, 100% British


100% "Really Cheesy". Photo by Flickr member Yaili.

Complete Abomination: Sesame Prawn Toast

This one is just incomprehensible. Take shrimp and chicken bits, slap them on toast, batter and deep fry the whole thing. For a final touch, pour sesame seeds all over the toast. Slice neatly into four wedges and serve. I imagine this might be a hit in the South or anywhere deep fried Twinkies are on the menu.

sesame prawn toast

Please clog my arteries

Meh: Crispy Beef

Deep fried, shredded. Smothered in a sticky orange sauce. Sensing a pattern here?

By Flickr member Kake Pugh

Peking via the British Isles: Aromatic Crispy Duck

The English version of Peking Duck takes the iconic northern Chinese dish one step farther by — surprise! — deep frying the duck. The bird is brought to your table, at which point a waiter will proceed to shred the somewhat overcooked meat into smaller chunks. Wrap one up with scallions and hoisin sauce in a little steamed pancake. Not too shabby!

crispy duckcrispy duck

Can someone please explain the preponderance of deep frying in British-Chinese food?

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