Exploring Jianghan Road, Wuhan

cof

cof

When I booked a flight from Tokyo to Madrid, I didn’t imagine I’d be dragging my suitcase round a night market in central China. But that’s exactly how things played out.

A layover of 8 hours in Wuhan forced my hand; there was absolutely no way I was going to sit in an airport that long when a 24-hour transit visa exists. An adventure beckoned.

Continue reading

Chinese New Year in Tokyo!

20150219_172953

So this post is a little late, but it’s full of amazing, yummy and pretty things so… Happy Chinese New Year!

Having been woefully unaware it was approaching, I couldn’t help notice the buzz and murmurings around me at Japanese school as there are many Chinese and Taiwanese students. I decided I would celebrate in style, because I am unashamedly a wannabe Asian. This started from an early age, when I refused to eat potatoes or white bread so my mother had to feed me fried rice and noodles. I grew up on stir fries! My best friend is Taiwanese and complains about the number of food photos I take. “Why are you more Asian than me?” she moans, whilst longing to live in Europe. I, on the other hand, have spent nearly two years of my life living in or travelling Asia, and I dream of where I’ll get to visit next.

Even though I live in Japan, not China, I had an awesome Chinese New Year… by eating a wonderfully spicy dish called mapo doufu! Continue reading

Lakwatsa Review – Brand New Bubble Tea Lounge!

Lakwatsa

Last weekend, I was lucky enough to attend a sneaky preview of Lakwatsa, a brand new bubble tea lounge in Ladbroke Grove.

For those of you who are a little confused as to what this bubble tea is all about, I should tell you that it’s not fizzy – and no, it doesn’t contain champagne. It’s milk- or fruit-flavoured tea with balls of chewy tapioca, which are sucked up through a giant straw. It’s a popular drink in Asia, but it hails originally from Taiwan.

Bringing this phenomenon to West London, Lakwatsa adds a Filipino twist. Indeed, the term lakwatsa means to ‘chill’ in Filipino, and that’s exactly the kind of place founder Claire Buyson has created.

Inside is cosy yet modern. Crisp lines, simple decoration, wooden surfaces.  Swing seats, low cushioned stools. A menu made from wooden Scrabble tiles. It does cool in an inclusive way. In short, it’s perfect for chilling.

My inner word-game geek got SO excited...

My inner word-game geek got SO excited…

‘Chilling’ needs to be accompanied with appropriate drinks, but the bubble tea was almost a winner just on sight. This is because it’s served in jars. I don’t know why this is so exciting, but it takes me back to my childhood where empty jars were not seen as something to be recycled, but they were grasped like an adventure. For dipping dirty paintbrushes. Hoarding coins. Collecting insects. Empty jars are irrevocably linked with fun.

As for the contents of Lakwatsa jars, fortunately no dirty paint water or grasshoppers were found. There was just simple, delicious bubble tea (£3.40/jar).

Taro

Taro

I tried the ‘Asian favourite’, taro. I find that milk-based bubble tea can be heavy and overwhelming, so the earthiness of taro was a smart choice. The flavours were perfectly balanced and thankfully it wasn’t too heavy on the sugar. It was liquid love at first taste.

But would the other teas be too sweet without taro? I sampled the classic milk tea and it was also spot on. Banished were my memories of the sickly versions served at festivals in Japan.

Milk tea

Milk tea

Of course, no bubble tea place would be complete without fruit flavours. These range from green apple – a little too perfumed for my liking – to passion fruit, which is cool, refreshing and dangerously addictive.

Passion fruit

A little too green apple

A-little-too-green apple

To make these flavours even more tempting, a variety of popping boba (fruit juice balls) and jellies can be added for £0.50 extra. Get experimental and sample aloe vera, aiyu or even grass. I recommend the lychee.

In case you’re worrying about a sloshing stomach, Lakwatsa also serves merienda (light meals). There is a variety of pan-Asian snacks, including tempura prawns, sesame toast and spring rolls. The sauces served with these are lovely – home-made and fresh. The prawn toast comes with a sauce that balances chilli and garlic perfectly, although it’s unlikely to please your friends.

Sesame prawn toast

Lumpia Shanghai - pork and prawn srping rolls

Lumpia Shanghai – pork and prawn spring rolls

Prawn tempura

Claire Buyson has got creative in the kitchen to create a finger-food version of a Filipino classic, adobo. This innovative version has put chicken in a rice ball, allowing hungry customers to dip it into a garlic and vinegar sauce. Tasty, but be warned – the rice balls collapse easily!

Adobo rice balls - marinated chicken in sticky rice balls

Adobo rice balls – marinated chicken in sticky rice balls

Lakwatsa has great bubble tea and a relaxing setting. I’ll definitely be heading back to try some more flavours. Anyone care to join me?

Address: 7 Blenheim Crescent, London, W11 2EE
Nearest Tube: Ladbroke Grove
Opening Hours: 11am – 11pm