A London Diary 2: Borough Market and the Butler's Steak

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Borough Market

I continue with my food journal from my recent trip in London. Read my other London posts here and here.

We made a visit to the highly recommended Borough Market ("Burrows"). It is somewhat similar to those I have been to in Perth, Sydney or Vancouver. They are generally dry and very clean (as opposed to our "wet" markets, though this is changing). The fresh food stalls are integrated with those offering cooked foods, unlike our local ones where there is a clear demarcation between them.

And so you get to see, smell and taste at the same time.

It is fun. Most stalls are generous with their tasting portions. You can have yourself 'cheesed' out with the whole impressive range of different textures and flavors, stinky to mild, hard to soft, British or French. In fact, I got a quick education on cheeses just with one of the stalls. You hear, you see and then, yes, you get to taste.

"Oh, this is lovely. Can I try this too? Brilliant. And this too..." Here a little cut. There a little slice. (Les Mis?)

Fresh Mushrooms Galore 
Legs on display: cured hams being delicately sliced off   
A cook's dream come true
The same goes for oils. There are bowls of bread crusts which you use to dip and try the olive oils and balsamic vinegars.

While you may think we were having free lunches, we usually end up buying something.

In Borough you get to learn so much about the local foods and culture. It may not be the cheapest market around but highly recommended if you are a London visitor.

Swiss goodness
In fact, there, I discovered Racclete. It was the smell of toasted cheese and then the queue which drew my attention. The way they made it was visually fascinating as well.

Drums of cheese are first grilled (above photo) and the melted part is scraped onto a plate of potatoes with some gherkins on the side.

Just cheese on potatoes, right? Take a bite. The toasted cheese and umami bursts will wow you as much as the first few slurps of a good bowl of Hokkien Prawn Mee. Come to think of it, it does smell like toasted belachan (dried shrimp paste) from a distance.

I was an instant convert.

Is there any good Racclete served here in S'pore? I heard there was one at Marche. It closed down few years ago as locally, potato dishes are always viewed as sides rather than mains.

Onglet or Hangar Steaks
Full of flavor -
We prefer this to the more expensive cuts
Then, I came across a butcher stall which was selling the Onglet cuts. It is also called the Hangar Steak or the Butcher's Steak. Both Anthony Bourdain and David Chang (Momofuku) gave attention to it in their cookbooks. I have eaten some in restaurants here. But I have never cooked it before.

Oh well, the cook in me could not resist the opportunity. I may not have any equipment to Sous Vide it (onglet is a great candidate for SV), but it is good too with just a simple pan sear. And it was not expensive relative to the other more popular cuts.

Onglet has a deep beefy flavor, 'gamey' or "kidneyish" if you want to describe it negatively. You can just do a medium rare grill and then add salt and pepper. Marinating it for a few hours will moderate the gamey taste, if you prefer that. It has a unique ropey texture. If you SV it (while marinating at the same time), it will change the texture to something closer to regular steaks while retaining its deep flavour.

Using our little pantry, we did a pan sear (good job, G!) and enjoyed our London steak fill.


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