#Singh’sRoadTrip – Eating the World Without Leaving Edinburgh!
“Have the omelette!” he said.
Who am I to argue with the irrepressible and loveable character that is chef, Tony Singh!?
#SinghsRoadTrip is an around the world food explosion of different cultures that have influenced one of Edinburgh’s colourful and charismatic chefs. Leith born Tony Singh has hit our telly for several years; from the Great British Menu, The Incredible Spice Men to A Cook Abroad. Eschewing a restaurant, he has become a nomad, dedicated to taste and flavour but never stepping far from his roots.
He is a master at balancing so many diverse traditions using Scottish ingredients and giving them the Singh zing.
I love his food, always have done and I guess, always will. Anyway, I digress.
Tony’s latest venture is all about street food (this year’s culinary trend); we’re not talking burger vans or even converted campervans, he has set up residence in the Apex International on Grassmarket. The glass-fronted restaurant doesn’t look like your typical street food location, but with amazing views up to the castle, who cares as long as the grub is good. And, oh my, is it!
The tables have bottles of chippy sauce, hot sauce, chilli vinegar and soy, elephant bog roll (kitchen roll), popcorn tubs of plastic cutlery, all adding to the street food vibe.
It was recommended that we chose five or six dishes between us, a difficult task, considering I wanted to eat everything from the menu, and that our choices would be brought to our table as and when they were ready, which that did in a prompt and timely fashion.
As instructed, we ordered the Kai Jeow Goong – a paper-thin omelette punching out flavour like a Thai kick boxer. Prawns pinned down under a veil of peppers, spring onion, coriander and the thinnest slices of red onion in a delicately ethereal batter. Fresh and light, each mouthful never losing interest.
BOGG (Big Ol’ Grumpy Git) wanted to try the chicken tikka pie, while I hankered after the sea bass ceviche.
The pie was sheer genius – recognisable chunks of chicken that were sweet, sticky and spiky, enclosed in crisp pastry. Be warned, the plastic cutlery (adding to the street food feel) started to bend from the heat. This is bound to be one of the big sellers here. I wanted to take a couple home for lunch!
The cured fish wasn’t to his liking, too much coriander (BOGG’s not a fan). Gloriously sea-fresh bass marinated in chicha, a Peruvian fermented drink normally made from maize; this was a refined dish – subtle, unsullied, dainty, the complete opposite to the pie!
We both love steak so the gaucho flat iron steak and chimmichurri sauce (the South American version of salsa verde) received a tick. What arrived were slabs of bleedingly rare beef doused in a healthy mix of garlic, parsley, oregano and olive oil. This steak wasn’t going to be the most tender but it was meaty, juicy and tasty. Those gauchos obviously taught Tony well. It came with a very unusual and startlingly odd salad of carrot and boiled egg. Weird? Yes. Revolting? No! It was a bloody good addition to the meat and sauce.
We needed a vegetable accompaniment for all this protein so we added Bhelpuri to our list. It was a sort of jazzed up Bombay mix with puffed rice, potato noodles, fresh salad veggies and a zippy, herby dressing. Again, fab flavours and textures, with coriander adding a clean finish.
We’ve had the McSingh haggis pakora many times and, yes there they were, third down on the menu. So after we polished off every last scrap of food, we ordered a portion. These little blighters are addictive. Fat with haggis and spud, the misshapen balls just about fitted into the small pots of dipping sauce, one being mint, the other tamarind.
We eyed wantonly at the plates of food heading to other tables. The curry of the day looked and smelt tantalisingly good and, while in the kitchen blethering to the man himself, I was thrust a spoonful of homemade kimchi to try. It certainly got my taste buds jangling and another dish to add to my to eat hit list.
There were no gulab jamun, kheer or kulfi for pudding but childhood memories of the icy! The slider is one of Tony’s favourites – his version of an ice cream sandwich. This isn’t for the faint hearted and stifled the sweet cravings of two greedy people. Gooey brownie stuffed with Mr Singh’s homemade whippy ice cream and slathered in monkey blood sauce. He will admit that this is bought in, and in his words, “I cannae make monkey blood, it has to be the proper stuff you get from the van!” Good choice, methinks.
We also tried the flooda, an Indian ice cream drink made his way with jelly, ice cream and, suspended in the thick shake, black basil seeds. It’s colourfully pretty and chance to try a different Indian sweet, but I wasn’t convinced. The jelly kept getting stuck in the straw as I sooked it up.
There were a couple of niggles (mainly personal preferences and tastes), but nothing major.
If you fancy trying this gastronomic journey around the continents with Tony Singh, the pop-up is open all through the Festival from midday to midnight until the 31st August.
We were invited guests of Tony and if we weren’t happy with our meal, you wouldn’t be reading about it, as we would have given Tony direct feedback, which is what we do for any complimentary invitations.
Apex International, Grassmarket, Edinburgh
(c) Lea Harris, Off the Eaten Track, 2015.