Grazing Asia is a Pan Asian “supper club” currently in house at Jamie Oliver’s Fifteen in Shoreditch. Its purpose is charitable – to raise funds for Jamie Oliver’s Fifteen Foundation (more info here!) – and unique in its feature of a five-course meal prepared by non-chefs!
Don’t panick.. I didn’t.
I knew I was in safe hands given this brigade of esteemed bloggers/ recipe writers Uyen Luu of Fernandez and Leluu Supper Club, MiMi of Meemalee’s Kitchen, May of Slow Food Kitchen and Luiz of The London Foodie. Each brings with them their own Asian culinary heritage. Vietnamese, Burmese, Malaysian and Japanese, in that order. The way Grazing Asia works is – NO, I’m afraid you’re not getting a big Asian hot-pot – each “chef” will present a dish of their distinctive cuisine and together the dishes form a Pan Asian menu. Desserts are from the team at Fifteen.
The event kicked off at 2pm on a rainy Sunday – another reason to be in & loiter at Jamie’s test kitchen! Airy dining room. Warehouse conversion sort of place. Warming wooden touch. Mix ‘n match colours for napkins in the spirit of Mr Oliver. One long communal table and two others not as long. 30+ diners by invitation and we were asked to contribute a minimum of £35. Dishes were plated on show in the main dining room. .. look at them seared tuna waiting to be dressed by Luiz!!
2.30pm – ish. We were all seated. Danny of Fifteen was a marvellous host. The menu distracted me in its fabulousness. A parade of dishes clearly delineated in their origin for those not massively familiar with Asian specialties. Another thing these non-chefs could do is to tag their name next to the dish!
Started with an appetizer of Seared Tuna, Yuzu Ponzu & Sesame Dressing by Luiz. Fresh tuna with delectably citrus-y dressing. Sweetness and texture from sesame seeds. Set a particularly glowing Asian mood to this meal. Followed by Nga-pe Thoh aka Spicy Fishball Salad by MiMi. A Burmese dish that had this crossover of taste with Thai dry “Tom Yum” dish. Two kinds of bouncy fish balls sliced into mini coins with crispy noodle, prawns, red onion, coriander and deep-fried shallot garnish. Lime and chilli dressing with moderate heat. May I dare to suggest MiMi should leave a mini pot of that dressing so I can splash some more in ’cause it was Y-U-M-M-Y!!
Next up was Uyen’s Baked Crispy Pork Belly, Banh Cuon, Pickled and Fried Shallots, Many Hams. A dish served cold and deconstructed. Moist and tender belly (and a lot of them!). It had some great crackling effects. Banh Cuon on the side and with sweet chilli vinegar. A decent variation of Vietnamese “Spam” to contrast flavours and texture. The porky aroma was proportionately enhanced by deep fried shallots. The savoury dishes concluded with May’s Malaysian Curry Laksa. Light broth well infused with coconut milk. Coconut-y sweetness hit first and then mouth-watering heat from chilli oil and perfuming herbs. Quite a healthy curry as it featured a lot of vegetables – long beans, bean sprouts, tofu and aubergines(?) – and mixed meat – fish balls, prawns, sweet pork. Nicely cooked vermicelli. This was the most delicious according to my other bib (who as it happens doesn’t usually like noodle in soup).
The dessert was this vanilla pannacotta with red fruit coolie – not a green tea one as the menu had it. It sufficed and bloated me up. Great consistency of the pannacotta but overall it was a little too heavy an offering for such a light menu.
THIS was very different from the supper clubs I’d been. The Loft Project and Koffman’s were devised by professional chefs of international gastronomic decorations. Accordingly, the dishes served are rigidly constructed with the purpose of showcasing the chef’s ability and all was ceremoniously served. Grazing Asia is a lot more carefree and casual. The highlight is in the genuineness. Never a case of amateurs trying to play “chefs” or to be fine dining. BIG authentic flavours as if you stumble into the home kitchen of four different Asian neighbours in a course of 3-4 hours. It was rather interesting not having sees rice “the biggest stereotype of all Asian dining” make its appearance in any of the dishes. It was not a big deal, really. That said …
… my only criticism of the event is that the dishes, though working well in its own context, are yet to strikingly gel as a five-course menu. As the meal is currently served per course, it would have been lovely to have a flow of dishes – soup, salad, fish, meat – and to build up the diners’ experience and expectations. IF NOT? I could envision a banquet. Big casseroles, large pots and serving dishes at the table. One helps another out. A true sharing spirit! It would also be great to have dressings available at the table as it faciliates diners to tone down/up the flavourings and the heat. BUT GOSH!! My mouth is watering thinking of all this. Can’t wait to see these girls and boys’ next offerings!!
Until then, do sign up on Grazing Asia website here for meal updates!!
PS Well done , superstars! X