Monday, April 18, 2011

In praise of simple pleasures: Food Alley Review

I don't keep food at home.
There are a number of reasons for that.
Principally: buying uncooked food comes with responsibility.
You have to cook it.
I am OK with pot noodles.
But the subtlety of anything more complex eludes me.
In pragmatic terms I also have to deal with the small matter of having the right equipment to prepare the raw ingredients for consumption. Have you seen the prices of Le Creuset pans or a decent set of knives from Henckels?
Then there is the simple fact that my cooking talent could fit on the head of a pin with room left for a million angels.
So, once I have spent my small fortune (and believe me my fortune is small) on grocery items and the obligatory impulse purchases - have you seen the price of fresh vege and meat?! (...It is criminal. Our prisons are crammed full with lesser offenders.) …I don't seem to be able to get out of a market without dropping forty bucks. Minimum.
I could be cooking peanut butter and jam sandwiches and they would cost me forty bucks.
Then I would set out make my warm salad of toasted walnuts and blue cheese (or PB&J) and it will taste like shit.
Because, like telling jokes the trick is.........timing.
I just don't have it.
So.
Expensive produce only produces a miserable effect and self loathing.
So.
Pointless.
That's why I like to eat out.
It's cheaper.
And I don't have to do the cleaning up.
I live in a hotel in Auckland city.
There is no shortage of choice of eateries in the neighborhood.
Not all of them good.
But for reliability it is hard to go past Food Alley in Albert Street - opposite the Stamford Plaza Hotel, and down a little.
As a creature of habit (usually bad ones) I find myself drawn to the Malaysian stall asking for a Chicken Laksa.
I know the stall owners know what I am going to ask for. But I pause for a moment and scan the menu anyway. It's good to have rituals in your life.
But a Laska it is.
The servings are huge.
I once asked for a half portion.
But it didn't compute.
I might as well have asked for a Magic Unicorn Laksa.
If you don't know the dish-it is the ultimate in Asian comfort food.
Combine 2 piles of noodles - thick ones and vermicelli.
Add a spicy coconut broth.
Top with chicken (or fishy things), deep fried tofu, half a boiled egg, some dried onion (or whatever that crunchy brown stuff is)...
Mung bean sprouts make you feel less bad about the rest of the ingredients.
The confection is a powerfully robust, warming confection that I have a love/hate relationship with.
Hearty. But probably not good for my heart.
It costs nine bucks and, for me, is two meals - I can't complete the task in one sitting. So a dodgy doggy bag is always required.
As for Food Alley. I love the ambiance, the vibe and eclecticism of the crowd. I like that, if my daughter wants an Indian curry or Japanese - then she can have what pleases her and I the international dish that makes me happy.
It is the most family friendly dining experience.
I can't award any stars for decor; or feeling posh.
But as an everyday utility, the equivalent of a street market in Singapore or a hairbrush, if performs its function with elan.
I recommend you try it.
There has to be room for simple pleasure in our dining experiences.

2 comments:

  1. Simple pleasure around eating is in cooking and eating together - offering an open table. Somehow the consumerism approach of food halls doesn't quite cut it..

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  2. I agree. But have to laugh that 'consumerism' is exactly the definition of food. Do you know how much I want to join in the KFC bunless burger hype?! (actually not enough to actually join in).

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