Reading: Lizzie Collingham — Curry: A Tale of Cooks and Conquerors

This has been on my reading list for years. I read about it on a now long-departed blog and somehow imagined it was more cookbook-sized, despite being a history of rather than how to make tome on my favourite nosh. Being somewhat bereft of reading stuff on my return from Vienna, I ordered in a haphazard manner of things I thought could be entertaining, and Lizzie Collingham’s Curry: A Tale of Cooks and Conquerors which I’ve looked at on my list every time I wonder what to read next and the pass over this time I decided either I buy it or I delete it.

Mainly it first entered my list because I love curry, especially the northern Baltistan varieties (though an introduction to Afghan wok-style curries in Vienna has me off on another bender),and I also love the history of food. It also has – for a history book – recipes! So I am sincerely hoping it is some euros well-spent and I can cook new things.

this one’s for you, JD

When I first came to Guangzhou, I was introduced by the fearsome culinary vultures of the Symphony Orchestra to about the single best thing to eat in the world: Yalamian – duck noodle soup. What made it so very good was Noodle God, the guy out the front of the 5 kuai street shop who upon taking your order and small aluminium token would pull a chunk of milky white dough from under a tea towel, and beat and stretch and plait it into long fine strands before throwing it into his special broth with fresh lettuce leaves for all of 30 seconds then scoop it into a bowl, top it with roast duck, and slide it onto your table, all in less than 3 minutes. Both me and JD, my lighting designer who came with me that first time agreed it was worth gettting on a plane to Guangzhou just for a bowl of these oh-so-delectable noodles. It was an addiction.

And it came to and end. The shop is still there, but no Noodle God. The Yalamian is made from fresh noodles, but they come scooped from a big bowl, pre-prepared. I whined to the Orchestra guys about this loss, and they came to the rescue: Yangroulamian from the Xinjiang Muslim shop in Shui Yin Lu. The noodles are made on the spot, the broth is disturbingly good, and the yangrou – lamb is sliced so thin it’s translucent. All topped with corriander and spring onions. And all at the same wonderful price of 5 kuai, about 90 cents. So, JD, this one’s for you: Yangroulamian; it’s worth flying here for.