London SW: Good Vietnamese, where to buy short ribs of beef and gigantes beans
I'm a bit slow on the uptake, so it's taken us a year since we moved to the UK to figure out that this resource is here. Glad to have found you!
We've traveled across London to get Vietnamese food north of Liverpool St., but is there some to be recommended in SW London?
Two things we're having trouble buying here: Dried greek beans (known as gigantes, or the even more enticing, megalosperma) and short ribs of beef. The latter we've seen at Whole Foods but would love to find another source closer to home. Also, I'm feeling stupid and can't identify another UK cut of beef (other than oxtails, which my kids won't pick the meat out of) that is outstanding for braising.
Thanks in advance,
Sassafrass in Putney
Have walked by Saigon Saigon in Hammersmith on various trips, haven't eaten there, but might be worth trying (and reporting back so that we can all share info) at if it's within the area you're considering.
O'Shea's in Knightsbridge had short ribs the last time I went, but if Whole Foods in Kensington is no good, Knightsbridge won't be much better, will it? How about HG Walter in Barons Court? Great butcher, should have short ribs...call to be certain.
For braising, I use chuck (upper part of the breast of the cow) or chunks of brisket (lower breast). Both are great and are rewarding if cooked for a long time.
Also becoming more fashionable is ox cheek, which has a great flavour. Available in Waitrose now as part of their "forgotten cuts" bit.
Finally, shin is another cut I'm a fan of but don't use enough. You can either buy it on the bone or off the bone.
This helpful thread discusses different cuts in the UK:
I also would recommend making friends with a local butcher. On a side note, I find that a lot of the British "supermarket beef" is pretty terrible (compared to supermarket beef in the US). I'm lucky enough to get down to Borough Market often and the Ginger Pig guys are always happy to prep things for you, or find some 'bits' in the back. Also, there is a Wild Beef stall in the new Jubilee Market which sells great beef. All their meat is prepackaged, but they would probably do something for you if you pre-ordered.
I think you'll find that short ribs are known as Jacob's ladder in the UK. My butcher has to be reminded to leave the bones in.
The natural butcher on Marylebone high street will make them to order. I bet the ginger pig would as well.
There is a great butcher in Northcote Road by Clapham Junction, called Hennessy. (note the butcher across the road is more famous but also very expensive) - and they cut the beef off the carcass to order if you ask. So they will bring out a side of beef and you can show them exactly what you want. I asked the butcher there about short ribs and he said he can do them but if you want a lot it might be worth calling ahead (don't ring on a saturday when they're super busy!) to ask them to prep them for you. This will save you a trek into town!
If in doubt you can also print a photo of the cut you like and show it to them. I have no shame and have done this before!!
For Gigantes - I've seen jars of pulses (cooked) in larger Sainsburys in the special/world foods section - I think you should get them there.
Finally, you can get tasty, cheap vietnamese at Mien Tay on Lavender hill, also just near Clapham junction. I think their spring rolls are superb, the lamb dishes I've tried are good, the quail is supposed to be outstanding... dishes are quite sweet but a vietnamese friend explained that this is more typical of southern style cooking.
I'm very pleased to read a plug for Hennessy's, my local and favourite butcher. I asked them to get in some pigs cheeks recently and they carved them off the piggy's head in front of me. Maybe not what Sassafras's kids would fancy! Only cost £2 and made a braise for two.
Also pleased to hear about Mien Tay - will try it - that isn't the Thai restaurant is it?
re: Jenny Sheridan
Mien Tay is vietnamese. Great food. I can especially recommend the fried bream with mango and chilli. A truly amazing dish.
Pigs cheeks are good aren't they! I bought some at waitrose as they were so ridiculously cheap and made Gordon Ramsay's recipe (times online) - very tasty, and one I'll certainly do again.