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All-time Top 10 Main Courses

totpIn the 72 hours that immediately followed my recent poisoning at the hands of Korea's cruellest condiment I didn't eat. However, my time wasn't entirely wasted. I fantasized about favourite foods. So much so that I rustled up my 'All-time Top 10 Main Courses' with accompanying drinks, no less. The results are in. After 72 hours of sickness, deliberation and laptop abuse, from bedridden to blog, I give you ten dishes I would break the law for.

shepherdspie10. Shepherd's Pie

In reverse order, in at number ten, but by no means scraping the bottom of the baking tin, this is an English minced beef and potato classic which I regularly cook with a few of noodlepie's very own twists thrown in - at least I think they're my own. Firstly, use equal parts potato and swede for the topping- in Asia I improvise with potato, sweet potato and carrot - Secondly, chuck in several healthy dollops of HP Sauce and a splash or two of Worcestershire Sauce in with the beef and onions. Top the pie with butter, grated cheese and pepper. I have never tried it with leeks as Delia Smith suggests in the link above. A quality Shepherd's pie needs mucho-crusto before taking it out of the oven and onto the table. Ideally served in a grotty, smoke-filled London pub with a roaring fire, but, equally tasty at pieman towers. Drinks: Youngs Bitter, Shiraz-Cabernet

sokcho-sashimi9. Sashimi

I like simple food and it doesn't get much simpler than sashimi (raw fish). South Korea's sashimi (Hoe) seaside restaurants are virtually deserted in winter and this is the best time, in my opinion, to go and huddle up in a tent at the shore or on a heated floor indoor restaurant, pick a fish, some shellfish and crustaceans and watch the waves lash the shore outside. Wait for the goods to arrive with a warming bottle of spicy Baek Seju and make sure you have 2-3 hours to really enjoy the whole experience from meongge (raw sea squirt) and haesam (raw sea cucumber) through the sashimi to the Maeun Tang (Firey Fish soup) and fruit plate. This guy and his girl had the right idea although they didn't eat raw in a tent. Drinks: Baek Seju, Soju

paella8. Paella

Like many a great dish I imagine Paella's origins have more do with chucking whatever is fresh and available into the pot and see what happens than any concern for taste. The dish has evolved into a hotly debated dish with wide regional differences. None of which are bad. So long as the mussels, prawns, clams are salty, sea-fresh, the rice is ever so slightly soft and juicy and a smidgen crusty at the bottom and there's rabbit thrown in with the chicken - simply scrum. Best enjoyed on Spanish sidewalks or in candlelit kitchens with a bunch of mates and bags of banter. Pieman's mother-in-law dishes up a blinder. Drinks: Cava, Vinho Verde, Rioja

bun-cha7. Bun Cha

Vietnam enters the fray at number 7 with the street barbie, charred pork balls in fish sauce classic served with cold vermicelli noodles and a bowl of leaves at a wooden pavement stall on Phung Hung Street in Hanoi. In the winter the fish sauce is slightly warm. Of all the Vietnamese dishes I've tried this is likely to remain the undisputed king of the street side gutter grub brigade in perpetuity. Drinks: Jasmine tea, Bia Hoi.

toad-in-the-hole6. Toad in the Hole

For this one, I will just let her holiness Delia Smith do the talking, "I can't give this high enough accolades – it's a simply wonderful creation from the humble origins of British cooking. If only you could order it in a restaurant, though. Can I persuade anyone? It is, after all, a sort of fusion food – a fusion of light, crispy, crunchy batter and plump, meaty pork sausages, all moistened with a generous amount of roasted-onion gravy. Here's hoping!" Use only the highest quality sausages from a local butcher. Drinks: Marstons Pedigree, Highland Park

bibimbap5. Insam Tolsot Bibimbap

This rice cooked in a stonepot (Tolsot) is only served authentically in Chollabuk-do province in the south west of South Korea. The best I ever had was in a small place tucked down a back alley not for from Iri/Iksan train station (the city has two names - long story). It's a piping hot mixture of rice, beans, veggies, nuts and ginseng (insam) served with sidedishes including Korea's best kimchi, a fresh, non-pickled Chinese cabbage rendition that, even after my recent experiences, I would find very hard to resist. This dish in this town is the best thing that ever happened to rice before, or since, Sake. BTW, if anybody has photos or a link for Insam Tolsot Bibimbap, please post a comment. Google came up with zilch. Drinks: Bori Cha

fresh-oysters4. Oysters, Steak tartare and dandelion salad

These three form something of a trilogy for me, enjoyable separately but only really satisfying when served consecutively. The last time I had all three together was after a Sunday morning shopping expedition to a covered market in Toulouse, France. Family scoff, loadsa mess, kitchen towel and debris. Marvellous. Drinks: Champagne, Gerwurtz, Sauvignon Blanc followed by a Rose.

scottish-fry-up3. Scottish Breakfast

The authentic heart stopper should consist of... deep breath here....bacon, lorne sausage, black pudding, fruit pudding (made of suet, dried fruits, herbs and spices), tattie scones (fried potato pancakes), fried eggs, fried bread, horse mushrooms fried in butter, Heinz baked beans and Toast with butter and marmalade on the side. Ideally served in a cheap and cheery B&B somewhere between Applecross and Scourie overlooking a loch, mountain range or white sandy bay with the prospect of day in the hills ahead, favourable weather conditions and good pub at the end. Drinks: Jasmine Tea, a nip of Caol Ila

moule2. Moule Marinieres

Pipped at the post at number 2 is this French seafood lipsmacker. Mussels in white wine served with pommes frites in the summer at a sidewalk restaurant with friends and family and mucho vino collapso in pretty much any southern French village or town. God made mussels for one reason only, to inspire humans to invent white wine to drown them in. Drinks: A good Alsace wine.

fish-n-chips1. Fish 'n' Chips

I tried not to make this number one, but this basic Brit-dish ambled its way to the top of the charts. Blogs are biased by nature after all. The combination of fresh fish, light crispy batter, chips, salt and vinegar offers the kind of simplicity I relish. There's a lot of bad chippies out there and, as I have mentioned before, for the real deal there is only one option for pieman. Oban Fish 'n' Chip restaurant on the harbour front in Oban, Scotland. It comes served in a small box, wrapped in brown paper and newspaper the way it should be. Nip over the road and sit on the iron rails in front of the sea and hog down. Drinks: Irn Bru - the world's greatest soft drink bar none. Only from a can and very cold.

I've shown you mine, now you show me yours. In the comment box below and keep it clean.


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How about a classic Dutch dish? I'm talking about a Dutch pancake (which should be at least 12 inches in diameter) with bacon and treacle. Fry the bacon (sliced thinly) first until it starts to go crispy, add the batter (the pancake should be quite thin, but thicker than a French crepe), flip, finish, serve bacon side up. Add treacle. Enjoy! I know the combination sounds slightly odd, and many don't dare to try, but I assure you it's delicious.

Oh I think I would dare Edwinek. That sounds intriguing. Is it known as simply a Dutch pancake? If I'm strolling through The Hague, is that what I ask for?

My choices are clearly very personal and I omitted any dish I had never tried in the country of origin as that is the only way to really gauge a feel for the food, I think. I love Indian, Thai and Lao food also and have eaten them in country, but I lack a connection on a personal level to those foods. I can't quite put my finger on why that's important, but it is.

Not quite, it's one of many Dutch pancakes. But it's one of the classics (along there with more 'normal' kinds like the cheese or apple pancake). It will be on the menu as 'spekpannekoek', where spek means bacon. The treacle will always be on the table for use with any pancake you like. Pancake restaurants that have no treacle for you are to be avoided at all cost. I once tried Dutch pancakes at 'My Old Dutch' in London ( But (at least then) they had no treacle. So it wasn't really real, although the pancakes were authentic enough.

Treacle + table = Good. Table + no treacle = Bad. Goddit.

Might be in London later in the year, will check it out if I'm in the vicinity. Cheers.

Thanks for sharing! Your post inspired me to make my first ever cottage pie tonight.

As for my personal favorites, they would include some Mexican dishes like fajitas, chimichangas, and fresh chips, salsa, and guacamole. So I'm Californian....

Baingan bhartha--with the eggplant truly fire-roasted, and cream in the sauce. Lots of puffy naan to scoop it up with. Indian lager to drink. Optional samosas to start things off.

Lei - How was the Cottage Pie? Is that the same as the shepherd variety? Jamie - don't talk dirty to me... That sounds wonderful.

According to Delia, cottage pie is made with minced beef while shepherd's pie is made with minced lamb. I found it easy to make and very filling. Being a minced beef fan, I'm sure to make it again.

And minced lamb on the markets of Saigon is rarer than something thta's very rare indeed.

So, according to Delia I made Cottage pie last night... Have always done it with minced beef myself. So, in reality, I have never had a Sheperd's pie. Whoops.

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