Monday, October 15, 2012

Where does the time go? Berlin Thai Markets & friendly figs.

The daylight hours are vanishing like a thief in the night, Berlin's Autumnal colours are bursting into action, & with the shorter days, the window of opportunity for beautiful food photography is slamming shut & throwing on a deadbolt. So many brilliant dishes have I  prepared & consumed without so much as an attempt to document them, simply because the photographs in these dark hours look like bland, overexposed platters of grey matter. It's a work in progress to find time for this blog & change my cooking habits so the outcome falls within the daylight hours, but it will happen.

However, like a squirrel stashing nuts for the winter, I have a back catalogue of trips & experiments that I have long been meaning to share, here are just a few to make up for the record stint of silence.

Preußenpark Thai Markets

This market is something of an anomally - for one, it's not actually just a Thai market (as most people call it), rather a smorgasbord of South East Asian cuisine, including Vietnamese & Laotian. Secondly, this market evolved out of tradition, rather than a concretely organised happening. The score is that a large Asian population resides in Wilmersdorf, & for some years they gathered on weekends to socialise & picnic in Preußenpark; bringing chilly bins of freshly made treats & hotpots filled with salty, spicy herby deliciousness - what isn't pre packed, is cut up & made before your eyes. This started as personal gathering where the community came to share food, play games & enjoy the sun. Slowly this became an informal market where the food is offered for sale, with all dishes costing €3-6, & by far more authentic & better quality than many restaurants would serve. 

It's quite a sight emerging into a wide open park where families have set up picnic mats & colourful umbrellas, surrounded by tables of their freshly made goods: Sweet, sticky rice puddings wrapped in banana leaves, spring rolls, papaya salads, whole grilled fish, sugary fried plantains, glassy noodles buried in coriander, sprouts & basil, the choice intoxicates one's appetite, but there is no sense of urgency, the vendors are mostly old women sitting cross legged cleaning mushrooms with tiny brushes & smashing chillies & herbs in mortar & pestles. There's something about communicating with other people whose second language is "broken-German" that I quite enjoy, it's like a level playing field for both parties. 

The market is every Saturday & Sunday when the sun is shining, nestled within the park next to the metro station Fehrbelliner Platz, which also has its own flea market that's an absolute goldmine for soiled children's clothes & charmless kitsch (note sarcasm: it SUCKS). 

Vietnamese Pho in faux Chinese China 

Miss Saigon

Staying on the topic of quality South East Asian eats, I was recently introduced to Miss Saigon (the restaurant, not the musical...) which is already well known as a haven for travelers or Berliners on a budget, but this place doesn't sacrifice quality for economy. 
The menu here is south Vietnamese, I have only visited once so far, but the Pho I ordered was very good, I'll definitely return. Curiously, the friend sitting next to me ordered a steak, which wasn't what I expected from a Vietnamese restaurant, but it came out looking fairly attractive & tasting equally good. 

Miss Saigon is on Skalitzer Strasse 38, Kreuzberg.

Figs are Friends

Shopping on the fruit & vegetable markets has given me a new awareness of when produce is in season, it comes in waves & is incredibly cheap when abundant. One of the most recent fruits to boon have been figs, which apparently have a second wave of ripeness in Autumn. I never encountered figs living in New Zealand, actually that's a lie, we had a fig tree in my back yard in Lyttelton, but it yielded very pale, insipid little bulbs, that still excited the shit out of a friend who was the local baker - THAT is how rare figs were. Now I'm acquainted with the brilliant taste, colour & texture of REAL figs. They are such a beautiful fruit with this bell like form, slightly velvet purple skin, white rind & deep red, sweet flesh riddled with dainty little seeds. I've discovered the joy of throwing them into salads, or simply putting them onto bread & crackers - a new favourite is fig, feta, honey & mint on rye bread.

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