American infestations, slimy noodles and the price of eggs in London

22 Jun

London is infested with Americans lately. I don’t know what it is — probably a combination of regular tourists, school groups, and study abroad students — but I can’t turn a corner without hearing an “Oh my god, dude, that’s awesome!” in a glorious American accent. I probably can’t complain, since I’m contributing to the “infestation,” but it’s weird. I walked by a cafe today and saw a guy hand over a New Jersey drivers license when ordering wine. When I took the Tube last night a group of American teenagers snickered when they announced “This train terminates at Cockfosters” (OK, I still laugh at that). This city is starting to feel like the nude beach in “EuroTrip,” except instead of a bunch of naked guys looking for nude girls, it’s a bunch of Americans looking for real live British people. You definitely won’t find them in Covent Garden this time of year.

But I’m getting sidetracked from what I sat down to write about way too many days ago — slimy noodles and the price of eggs in London. After my failed French pastry experiment, I couldn’t quite shake the cooking bug, but decided I should switch to dinner options. So while eating pad see ew at a Thai restaurant, I got a great idea — “I’m going to make pad see ew.” If you’re not familiar with the dish, it looks like this:

It’s basically wide rice noodles, meat, vegetables and an egg stir fried in a sweet soy sauce. It sounded much easier than beating egg whites. So I found an easy recipe and set out finding my ingredients. And, of course, immediately hit a road bump. No normal grocery store sells wide rice noodles. Just as I was about to give up, I googled “Thai supermarket London.” That’s what I love about living in a big city — things like Thai supermarkets exist. And, even better, there was one within walking distance. So one bright afternoon I set off to the Thai supermarket. It was a tiny store, but they had the noodles. I was the only person in the store and excitedly grabbed them… only to find they were slimy. That’s what you’d expect if you grabbed fresh noodles, but these were in a plastic package. I put the package back and grabbed another, but with the same result. I brought my slimy noodles to the cashier and kept rubbing my fingers together. I certainly didn’t want to wipe them on my shirt or bag because I’m pretty sure it was some kind of oil. Whatever it was, it got on my wallet when I pulled it out. The cashier saw me struggling and asked if I wanted a tissue. He then pushed a roll of toilet paper at me. It helped, but I still felt a residue as I continued my shopping along the high street. I needed eggs for my pad see ew. When I bought eggs for my macaroons I bought them at Tesco Express. It cost me £1.78 for half a dozen — six eggs. That’s almost $3. It’s been awhile since I’ve bought eggs in the US, but I’m pretty sure six don’t cost $3. I started using the eggs as an example to friends of the crazy cost of living in London. And then I stumbled upon Lidl (“Where quality is cheaper!”). I have no idea how to pronounce it (is it “liddle?”), but it was a small supermarket and they had eggs. Ten eggs for 85p (about $1.30). That seemed much more reasonable. They were even laid in Britain by British chickens, which is apparently important. I’m just happy that they were cheap. Unfortunately Lidl is over a mile away from my apartment, so I walked back carrying the carton like it was my child, for fear of breaking the eggs if I put them in my bag.

And in case you were wondering, my pad see ew turned out halfway decent. It wasn’t a disaster worthy of its own picture-post, but it wasn’t restaurant-quality. I’ve got one more package of noodles left to experiment with. Then I must decide if the noodles and cheap eggs are worth the walk again (which also depends on whether this rain ever stops! Seriously, I know it’s London, but it’s summer now, and summers in London are supposed to make up for the crappy rainy days the rest of the year).


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