Some of you may already know this, but my main ambition in life is to try ALL the puddings the world has to offer. Could be a tough one, I know, but by golly it’s worth a shot.
To my utter delight, my dreams of total domination received a massive boost last night, in the form of the CFAB International Fair. It was the preview – the public event is today – and I was fortunate enough to have an invite from one of my colleagues.
For those of you who don’t know what it is (like me, just a few days before), the fair is an annual event held in London, in order to raise money for CFAB (‘protecting Children and Families Across Borders’).
Bundles of embassies and diplomats get involved, with each country running a stall selling food, jewellery, clothes – and whatever else they can muster – from their homelands. Plenty were offering samples too, so naturally I spent a good deal of time snaffling around (all in the name of this blog, of course).
With approximately 75 countries represented – and an International Restaurant area selling home-cooked and restaurant quality cuisine from every corner of the globe – there were plenty of rich pickings to be had. I didn’t take photos of everything – most of the time I was too busy chomping. Still, for your pleasure and perusal, here is a rundown of the most memorable, weird and wonderful tasters on offer – everything sweet that I tried, in fact (plus a few of the ones I didn’t). We’ll call it Top of the Chops (and we’re moving towards Number One)…
13. Quality Street (Switzerland)
Last on the list – and for good reason. I mean, come on, Switzerland. You make some of the best chocolate in the world. Yet you cover the bulk of your stall with boxes of Nestle Quality Street? Nil points for originality (so boring). Actually, to be fair, the Swiss contingent weren’t sampling these chocolates at their stall, but they were selling them. For that they have been named and shamed (after all, everyone knows that Cadbury’s Roses are far superior).
12. Crispy Roll (Kuwait)
OK, I admit: I’m sure the Kuwaitis don’t call it a Crispy Roll, but I didn’t have time to find out all the names. Essentially it was a faintly sweetened pastry roll, comprised with dozens of wafer thin biscuity layers. Probably made to be had with coffee, on its own it was far too dry. A little on the boring side (as per my usual thinking, it really could have done with some goo)…
11. Mango Cupcakes with Lime Icing (Fiji)
These receive an honorary mention – they weren’t available to sample, but they looked so good that I thought it’d be wrong to miss them out. Not particularly revolutionary, but what an excellent-sounding flavour combo!
10. Praline Chocolates (Ukraine)
Who knew Ukraine would be so good at chocolate? A really tasty morsel from our friends in Eastern Europe. Switzerland, I say again, for shame! This could have been you, you know… Quality Street, indeed. Harumph.
9. Dried Dates (Iraq)
Juicy, healthy, YUM.
8. Aubergine Jam; Young Walnut Jam (Armenia)
As with the mango cupcakes, it pains me to say no samples were available. But don’t they both sound crazy? I imagine the Aubergine Jam might be a tasty addition to cheese on toast. But Young Walnut Jam? Cor. The mind boggles. Why can’t our own British Jamhounds be more inventive? I think I might have to visit Armenia soon…
7. Chocolate Bread (Macedonia)
There might well have been booze in this too – it tasted slightly naughty. A very fresh, very nice treat: bread with huge swirls of nuts and chocolate goo. Kind of reminded me of the Chocolate Panettone I had a couple of weeks ago. Except not freezing cold!
6. Rice Pudding with Cinnamon (Iraq)
Another entry from the land of dates – and not your typical rice pudding either. Bright yellow, lightly spiced, warm and milky, I could see this winning the (imaginary) prize for Best Comfort Food. Mmm.
5. Green Coconut/Brown Sugar Pancake (Indonesia)
Now here’s an eye-catching treat. The fleshy green ‘pancake’ was very soft and squidgy with a texture not dissimilar to fresh pasta. Inside, the coconut/brown sugar filling was lovely and juicy. Extremely satisfying.
4. Pineapple Rice Drink (Panama)
Again, I know this has a proper name, but I cannot for the life of me remember what it was. Anyway, it’s irrelevant. The fact is, this was the most gorgeous thing I’ve drunk for a really long time. Like liquid rice pudding with zingy fresh pineapple. Thick and dreamy (and surprisingly non-alcoholic).
3. Rassogamon (Bangladesh)
My favourite Indian sweet in all the world is Ras Malai (as you may remember from previous posts). These sweet balls were not dissimilar – no wonder I liked them so much. Warm, smooth and spongy, they tasted of cardamom and condensed milk. A pool of lukewarm syrup made them extra drippy and sweet to boot. AWESOME.
FINALLY, IN JOINT FIRST PLACE…
1. Chocolate Caramel (Peru) and Syrup Ball (Qatar)
I’d never have guessed that these countries would make great puddings, but they were hands down THE BEST I tried. I don’t suppose I can really do justice to either one, but I’ll give it a go.
The Chocolate Caramel was immense: a dense, almost fudge-like exterior, with a generous slick of super-smooth caramel. Available in white or milk chocolate, I only tried the latter (but the Man bought the former for a future night of indulgence). Again, Switzerland has been well and truly trounced.
As for the Qatari Syrup Ball… woah. A warm round of dough (with a texture halfway between choux pastry and a doughnut), absolutely saturated with golden syrup. The crowd around these was so massive, it took me three minutes to get one. Now I know why.
So there you have it, Ogglers: my International Rundown is now in your hands. What you choose to do with it is up to you (of course), but seeing as the Fair is on until tonight, if you can, I’d take it there and let the Pud-Hog be your guide.
Kensington and Chelsea Town Hall, £5 for adults, £1 for students – proceeds go to CFAB. Failing that, there’s a Round the World Ticket with your name on it. Just leave room for me in your suitcase.