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If You Had to Leave, What Would You Miss?

I'm from New England and will be going to Old England for a week with my family to help me move into university. I got to talking about the food from home that I'll miss while I'm at school (clam chowder, steamers, lobster, good burgers, good pizza) and decided that the best thing to do while we're in England is to seek out all of the foods that people from England miss when *they* leave home.

Taking a couple stabs in the dark I came up with chip shops, indian food, pasties, and good beer, but I thought I would ask here. I should specify that we'll be in London and Oxford, so haggis and welsh rarebit are probably out (unless they can be had in London/Oxford.)

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So, when you leave the country, whats the stuff that you miss? And where's the best place to get it?

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  1. You can find welsh rarebit all over England.

    What I miss when I go back to America is the great flavors of crisps (potato chips) we have in England. They are amazing. I also miss the much better chocolate goodies. Don't get me started on what I sometimes miss from the States.

    Good luck with your studies!

    1. I would miss the sheer range and diversity of foods available and amazing number of places/ dishes that have remain to be explored -- it's plenty raw material for chowhounding that may be unavailable anywhere else.

      (Although having lived much longer in Asia and America, and having been here for less than 3 years, I wouldn't qualify as a person from England).

      1. A lot depends on where you go. Moving to China from England for a year, I found the lack of palatable bread almost unbearable at times. Likewise cheese. These are obvious things that I'm sure you're not looking for, just making note of.

        Nevertheless in terms of things you can only really get properly in the UK I'm less sure. Well, apart from in South Asia, its hard to get better Indian food than in England. British beer? Yes. Scotch eggs (or is that just me?). Cheese and pickle sandwiches (or do other countries do that too?). Sausage rolls (see the Ginger Pig at Borough Market). Ginger beer (see Fentimans). Lea and Perrins (the saver of many a disastrous meal). HP sauce. Pickled onions (not for everybody). Most definitely Cream Teas.

        Actually, I think one of the biggest things would be all the English puddings. Call me unsophisticated if you will, but there's something comforting about crumble, trifles, bread and butter puddings etc. that I've never experienced abroad. I think I may have to declare us the Kings of desserts.

        Ah the comforts - if I wasn't so anti-monarchy I'd probably have burst into "God Save the Queen" by now.

        5 Replies
        1. re: chief1284

          a good english fry-up with decent bacon, sausages, egg, beans, black pudding etc... and a good cup of tea.. What i missed when i was away for over a year....

          1. re: foreignmuck

            Tea, definitely, with proper, fresh milk.

            1. re: greedygirl

              Depending on where I'm going, definitely breakfasts and tea. Tea almost anywhere else in the world is rubbish, mainly because of Lipton teabags and UHT milk. I found breakfast in SE Asia the hardest, as I like decent bread and eggs and butter in the mornings - though some of the patisserie in Vietnam and Laos gave me my Western breakfast fix.

              Would never miss an English breakfast in America though, as long as I remembered to order coffee not tea with my pancakes, french toast, eggs benedict, pastries, ooh.... though proper dairy seems harder to find in much of the US, and I do miss cheese and butter when I'm there.

              1. re: gembellina

                In SE Asia I just go with the flow and have noodle soup etc. I miss it when I come back to England!

                1. re: greedygirl

                  At first yes, but after a few weeks I was just desperate for poached eggs on toast! And now of course sometimes I get cravings for pho in the mornings which are not easily satisfied at 7.30am in suburban south London...

        2. - Good cheddar: Keen's, Montgomery etc. Hell, I even miss it when I go to France.

          - Similarly, proper wholemeal tin loaves - not the puffed-up supermarket stuff, just some good homemade bread that makes proper slices of toast. Found bread of that ilk in the States to have sugar in it.

          - Back bacon.

          I'm a cheese and bacon sandwich kind of guy, it seems.

          4 Replies
          1. re: bodessa

            Homemade wholemeal bread has sugar in it. I'm finding all these hits on the U.S. food a bit hard to understand, or maybe it's just that tourists don't know where to go to find the right things they miss. All big cities have bakeries with proper, homemade bread, plus good cheese shops with British and other varieties. gembellina above says she misses butter. There's no good butter in the States?!?!

            1. re: zuriga1

              Don't get me wrong - I love American food, for the most part! Not that there's no good butter, but where you could probably find decent butter and cheese in a Tesco here, it has always seemed to me that while there's a huge array of butter-like products in American supermarkets, there's very little that I would recognise as butter. Obviously there are famers markets and delis in both places where one can buy artisan butter from magic cows but I meant in the more everyday setting, without having to find specialist makers/importers.

              1. re: zuriga1

                Sorry zuriga, I didn't really have the States in mind when answering this, so shouldn't have added the bread comment. Was more thinking of Europe (where the cheese counters tend to be very nationalistic!) and Africa.

                However, i still found American wholemeal bread too sweet... but I'll drop that now!

                But you're right, of course, about tourists missing the best bread shops/delis etc - part of the joy of moving to a new neighbourhood is finding those little aces in the pack that most people don't know about...

                1. re: bodessa

                  No offense taken. I'm in a particularly bad mood today. :-) Sadly, we all generalize way too much about most things in life. I was lucky to have family in all parts of the States most of my life, so I got to try and see maybe more than the average person.

                  I would also miss how inexpensive smoked salmon seems here vs the U.S. I love the choices of international goodies in the UK and peas and potatoes taste the way they're supposed to!

            2. I'm a non-native, been here just a few years. Maybe the best way to go at this is to offer a list of the things I have come to like very much, some of which are probably obvious and some of which surprised me a little:

              --Pubs. They're not just for drinking, but they are of course also fine for that and much of the beer is good. But get to know your local and it is the place to meet the people who live around and find out what is going on.
              --Samphire. Usually sold at fishmongers, it is a succulent coastal plant (there are three varieties, the ones you will most often find are rock samphire and marsh samphire) that is just fine boiled a short time. Fish places will give you a little pile of it with your fish, but I also like it mixed with boiled potatoes and a bit of olive oil as a salad.
              --Duck. Plentiful and cheap. Most supermarkets will have 2 leg and thigh pieces for under £3.
              --Turkish food. It was hard to find good Turkish food in the US, but at least in London there are loads of good places.
              --Some ordinary grocery items like potatoes, cabbage and butter are of surprisingly good quality.

              This is at least a start. But you will probably also notice that (I think) the average person has a lot less fascination with food and its variety than in the US. This is balanced by an insistence on things that are good, simple and fresh, which is fine as long as they actually are.

              2 Replies
              1. re: Gordito

                How on earth do you quantify your last statement? Given that we on these boards have a much-higher-than-average interest in food and probably seek out like-minded people?

                1. re: greedygirl

                  I wouldnt claim to be able to quantify it, it is more of an atmospheric impression. Being wrong on the point would be fine with me.

              2. Like Gordito, I've only been here a few years. Moved out here from San Francisco.
                If I had to move back to the U.S., I would miss:

                - Welsh rarebit and Scotch eggs. Yes, of course, you can get them in London. St. Johns does a particularly good Welsh rarebit.
                - Turkish food. The markets on Green Lanes are our primary source of Quince and Lamb.
                - Duck, Pheasant, Partridge, Rabbit etc. All these are niche foods in the US and hard to find. I would miss all these dearly.
                - Puddings. Yes, the British have some of the best desserts in the world. Again, St. Johns does this well.
                - Gelato. Hard to find in the US where they heavily favor ice cream.
                - Cheeses. Some, such as Caerphilly, are hard to find in the US.

                I wouldn't miss Asian or Indian food. The San Francisco Bay Area, thanks to its history of Asian immigration and its recent history of Indian immigration has great food in this regard.

                6 Replies
                1. re: r.vacapinta

                  I would miss the sheer variety of international cuisines, strawberries, ales, beer, bacon, chocolate, lamb, confectionery, diary products and condiments. I do have to say, I miss many of these items the most when in the U.S (especially good back bacon) - they just don't compare to what we have here!

                  1. re: Nii

                    I'd agree with the variety of international cuisines and particularly the availability of ingredients - Middle Eastern spices, Asian vegetables and herbs and odd cuts of meat is so readily available and cheap. I couldn't believe when I went home to New Zealand for a holiday and had to pay £10 for halloumi cheese when I was used to getting it at my local off license for £2!

                    Reversing things, when I first moved to the UK nine years ago, I desparately missed a good flat white - luckily now these are a lot more readily available.

                    1. re: Nii

                      Where on earth do you stay in the states? Frankly, I have encountered a wide array of international cuisines (far more than anywhere in the UK) during my time living in NYC. There are some excellent brews to be found throughout the states and frankly, I'd never miss the british beer, but that's because I prefer the Belgian stuff and it's the Americans who've been really do a nice job developing the Belgian techniques.

                      That said, I completely understand missing the dairy (especially the variety), the chocolate (commercial chocolate, that is) and the strawberries.

                      And good tea. Alsom the understanding that kettles are a necessity and part of decent and civil living.

                      1. re: Lizard

                        I've encountered as much as (if not probably more) diversity in London than NYC, but in both (and many other) cities, one has to do a bit of hunting beyond the obvious.

                        As for tea, it really depends on what type of tea is being discussed.

                        1. re: limster

                          English breakfast tea! The worst (and some British places are guilty of this too) is bringing out a cup of hot water with a teabag on the side, by which time the water is far too cool to make a decent brew. Sigh.

                          1. re: limster

                            'one has to do a bit of hunting beyond the obvious.'
                            Yes. One does.

                    2. Interesting question.

                      I've never lived anywhere but the UK (and, in fact, apart from three years in the early 1970s, I've never lived outside the county I was born in). So, I'd be guessing - and it might have to depend of where I'd fetched up. I suspect that if ever we do leave here for an extended period, it would be for Spain. That means most "stuff" would be still generally available.

                      Leaves me thinking about local cheese, bacon and game (mainly pheasant and venison) as stuff that would be particularly hard to source.

                      1. Picalilly with ham, smoked haddock with spinach and poached egg, Cadbury Flake, Wensleydale cheese.

                        2 Replies
                        1. re: souhaite

                          -pubs in general, although I agree that good beer is much easier to find in the US.
                          -'indian' food
                          -good, affordable cheese!!!

                          good luck at the 'other place' :0)

                          1. re: kidtofu

                            Neal's Yard Dairy is the best place in London to try out really good English cheeses,. and they always give you a taste before you buy.

                            Game, if it's in season.

                            Strawberries and raspberries, if they're in season, or proper English apples if it's later in the year (Neal's Yard usually has an interesting selection of unusual varieties).

                            Good fish and chips is surprisingly hard to find - it's worth asking around.

                        2. I grew up in the UK, moved overseas, returned and now live overseas again. When I first moved from the UK I missed a lot of the obvious things (F&C, UK Indians etc) but on my return I found my memory had amplified the quality of many of these and the reality no longer lived up to the memory. There is a lot of hype about the quality and vigour of the UK food scene but I am sorry to say the reality doesn't live up to the hype. What do I miss now?

                          Good British beer that is well kept (it is a living product) and served in an idyllic pub with a pretty beer garden (and near a river if possible). You won't need to look far for these in Oxford.

                          Modern "gastropub" food; when it is good it is very very good. But when it is mediocre it is rubbish (my hype comment). In London try the Harwood Arms which is superb, or Limster's favourite The Bull & Last. Look for places doing British classics (freshly cooked scotch eggs) and avoid gastropubs that do Thai, or Moroccan or other world foods. They won't be good and usually demonstrate ambition rather than skill.

                          Really good game cooked in the English way, I say this because you get good game in Europe, but the British tradition is unique and worth searching out (alas the season won't start until late summer/early autumn). There is a renaissance of good game restaurants, with old "new" favourites like St John, or Corrigans, or Hix, or old, old favourites like Wilton's and Rules.

                          British cheese is seeing a renaissance as well, years ago a lot of the old dairies were bought by multi-nationals and cheese was in danger of being mass produced. Today there has been a revolution with lots of small independent dairies doing great traditional cheese and also developing new English cheese, other have mentioned Neal's Yard Dairy in London and this is the place to go (lot of other cheese shops but Neal's Yard is best for British). Sample the great hard cheeses, and don't just stick to Chedder (the stiltons and the like are also great).

                          The quality of fish has improved a lot, F&C are OK, but this isn't what I miss. I miss the small restaurants cooking very simple very fresh fish, or the smokers who are producing high quality traditional smoked fish (both cold and hot smoked). When you find good craft smoked fish it is truly world class.

                          Local seasonal fruit and vegetables; when they are good they are superb. The seasons are often very short, but fresh asparagus, jersey royals, strawberries, raspberries, winter greens etc are superb. These are products that grow best in the UK climate, the cool weather may result in lower yields but the slower growing means you get better flavour. However, you need to buy from a genuine farmers market.

                          British sausages, real British bangers, not the continetal ones that are 100% meat. The real British sausage needs some filler to soften the texture and give the right mouth feel, it obviously needs the best quality ingredients and high proportion of meat. When good it is superb, and a good consistent source is the Waitrose supermarket chain if you get them from the Butchers counter. I also love traditional dishes like Black Pudding and Haggis but oddly these are quite easy to get overseas so I don't miss them.

                          And finally I really miss a good Melton Mowbray pork pie, a smear of hot English mustard, and of course a few pints to wash it down.

                          1. Hi.

                            Real Back Bacon. I guess they do something else with that part of the animal in the US?

                            Proper cream and milk. Where else in the world can I get this?

                            A proper curry. Try Gaylord just north of Oxford street, or Veeraswamy just off Regent St.

                            Trying to find things manufactured without zillions of additives and preservatives is trickier in the US (unless you remortgage and go to Whole Paycheck - love that place, btw).

                            Coming the other way,.. Corn is great in the US, and all the stuff those guys make with it. The salmon (they call it lox maybe?) in Seattle is amazing and the lobster in Maine is unbeatable.

                            Nearly forgot,.. salt and vinegar crisps!!!

                            5 Replies
                            1. re: Fumet

                              FWIW - I think the back bacon is used to make 'Canadian bacon,' in the States. Same meat, just a different name. I used to use it for eggs benedict and so do most restaurants.

                              Lox is smoked salmon - like the smoked Scottish salmon in the UK - just more expensive! The salmon in the NW U.S. is far superior to the Atlantic type.. in Alaska, even better when fresh!

                              1. re: Fumet

                                Isnt back bacon the same cut of meat that, if uncured, would be a pork chop?

                                (I base this comment purely on the basis that they look the same, rather than any specialist knowledge of porcine anatomy)

                                1. re: Harters

                                  Mr. Z. says you are correct, John.

                                  1. re: zuriga1

                                    I have heard of Canadian Bacon.. shame there's not more of that in US restaurants. . it's the good stuff!

                                    1. re: Fumet

                                      I think it's easily found in most large cities, and in the supermarkets. It's a BIG country and desireable items vary from place to place, although people move around a lot and things become available almost everywhere. I've seen it on the menu in lots of breakfast places.

                              2. Common British chocolate, available in all newsagents. Try minstrels, a bar of dairy milk chocolate, and a flake. Not the same as sophisticated belgian-style chocolate. There was a great NYT article about this a few years back:
                                http://www.nytimes.com/2007/07/11/din...

                                Also, marmite on soldiers with a boiled egg. WARNING: marmite is an acquired taste, that is not widely shared by anyone not born in the UK. But worth trying a VERY THIN scrape on a small piece of toast while you're over here.

                                And finally, the British TV. Although currently by far the best dramas are from the US (The Wire, Sopranos, etc), I massively miss our Channel 4 7 o'clock news and Newsnight when I'm abroad, particularly if something important has happened that I want an in-depth analysis of.

                                2 Replies
                                1. re: Shivaun

                                  Marmite divides people brought up in the UK as well. I think it's vile stuff that I won't even have in the house. Bleugh!

                                  Love the article, btw. Hersheys does indeed taste like ear wax.

                                  1. When I go to visit my poor deprived relatives living in the US, I bring:

                                    cheese from Neal's Yard (Stichelton, Montgomery Cheddar etc)
                                    Lemon curd, oatcakes
                                    smoked mackerel (Borough Market)
                                    horseradish
                                    ginger biscuits
                                    Scotch (okay I'm sticking to "British")

                                    There are great vegetables in England that are not available in the US (or not the same). Ditto, Gordito, on samphire, but also basics like Brussel sprouts and tops, mustards, beets, parsnips and radishes. The fruit, the fruit, mmmm, like apples, pears and strawberries... The sheer variety of potatoes is fantastic.These are all impossible to get in the US... I wish I could bring them...

                                    1 Reply
                                    1. re: MonkeyC

                                      That reminds me -- the Britannia Pub in Borough/Southwark has over a hundred single malts and worth a visit if that's one's interest.

                                      One consistent theme that many chowhounds seem to touch on is the high quality of raw meat and vegetables, which is something that lifts all boats. I think it was r.vacapinta who mentioned elsewhere on this board that gelati here (e.g. Scoop) can be superior to that in Italy, simply because the dairy is better.

                                    2. oh yeah, chocolate! American chocolate is not good at all. Tried a Hersheys once - tasted like "cooking chocolate". Most sweets I tried in the US were quite bad compared to the ones here. What's the deal here?

                                      Also, can't get good strawberries over there, or sharp tasty apples like Cox Pippin. Well, I couldn't find them anyway.

                                      One thing... it's a lot easier to get a good meal at a restaurant in the US,.. the basic standard is higher,. if you know what I mean? I never had anything inedible and it was always fairly priced and tasty. Over here, the low-medium priced restaurants are a mine field and you can be easily disappointed. On the other hand, in my opinion, the mid-high end restaurants are marginally better over here now- serving more interesting food with fresher, tastier ingredients. Not something I would have said 5-10 years ago at all!

                                      4 Replies
                                      1. re: Fumet

                                        I agree with you on apples - bought some from a farmer's market in Savannah, I think it was. They were huge, and looked great, but had absolutely no flavour compared to the apples I'm used to.

                                        1. re: greedygirl

                                          Yes, something about ugly, gnarly apples that smell and taste great...

                                          1. re: MonkeyC

                                            My friend lived in manhattan for a couple of years and used to bring potatoes back with her as she missed them so much and reckoned the US ones had no flavour.....
                                            Was told a wonderful story about another friend's mum who brought back two portions of fish and chips wrapped in newspaper - from Birminghan to Brooklyn. I'd love to believe it.....it must have been was a few years ago!

                                          2. re: greedygirl

                                            In reference to strawberries, you can find good ones, but the season is short and not many states really grow them. NC where I am, usually has good ones, but the season is VERY short, and sensitive to frost, too much water, too much sun...etc.

                                        2. 1. I rarely ate chips (i.e. crisps in Brit speak) in the US, but here I eat them all the time. Kettle chips and the basic Walkers types are my favorite.

                                          2. Though everyone raves about French cheese being better and I will champion it as being good too, I love all the variety of cheddar one finds here.

                                          3. Rocket and parmesan shaved salads. Arugula in the US when I have found it, just isn't the same + it's often in a mixed field greens sort of salad there, I like the pure peppery rocket parmesan combo that one often finds here on the menu.

                                          4. Kedgeree. Though a Scottish favorite, it can be found around the British Isles esp on breakfast/brunch menus.

                                          10 Replies
                                          1. re: YummaYum

                                            Have to say, I can't recall ever seeing kedgeree on a breakfast menu.

                                            1. re: Harters

                                              My local pub does it on its brunch menu, along with a full English et al.

                                              1. re: greedygirl

                                                fyi - 'kedgeree' is a bastardisation, sorry anglicized, version of the indian 'khitchdi', which is basically rice cooked with dal + potatoes etc. its eaten at any meal in india, but notably when coming off a fast.

                                                i've had people tell me it was brought to india by the scots. now really. thats like saying chicken tikka masala was invented in the uk. (grin)

                                                1. re: howler

                                                  Yes, it's an Anglo-Indian dish, isn't it, from the time of the Raj? I love it, personally.

                                                  1. re: howler

                                                    I know the chicken tikka thing was a joke, but at least part of the dish would have to have been brought over by the brits (or at least western Europeans): Potatoes are a new world food.

                                                    1. re: CptBuck

                                                      no, no i wrote it badly. basic khitchdi is rice boiled in dal. you can then add potatoes, or chopped beans or whatever you feel like. for instance, the parsis add minced meat and call it khitchri kheema. the basic recipe has nothing do with western europeans.

                                                    2. re: howler

                                                      "thats like saying chicken tikka masala was invented in the uk. (grin)"

                                                      And there was me thinking that you'd be first to say that chicken tikka masala was invented here (Shish Mahal restaurant in Glasgow). I'd have been sure you'd have been first - what with it being horribly inauthentic. LOL.
                                                      http://www.shishmahal.co.uk/restauran...

                                                      1. re: Harters

                                                        stop laughing and listen up (grin).

                                                        butter chicken is traditionally made with the slightly burnt scraps of chicken that fall into the tandoor when making tandoori chicken. as its such a popular dish and there aren't chicken scraps lying around, indians started using the butter chicken sauce along with pieces of chicken tikkas instead - i distinctly remember eating that in delhi darbar and nataraj in bombay in the early '70's. wolla - chicken tikka masala.

                                                        whats called chicken tikka masala in uk is some poor bangla trying to imitate the genuine article. god bless him, but its like the south (usa) trying to claim they invented macaroni.

                                                        puhleeze.

                                                        1. re: howler

                                                          "whats called chicken tikka masala in uk is some poor bangla trying to imitate the genuine article.

                                                          We agree, mon ami. 'Tis not authentic Indian but a Bangla curryhouse poor imitation. Therefore, an invention in the UK. We rest our case, m'lud.

                                                          LOL.

                                                          John

                                                          (On a similar, and not very serious, point similar applies to the "Birmingham Balti". The restaurants in the Balti Triangle would only claim that it's an authentic Birmingham creation )

                                                          1. re: Harters

                                                            there's a difference.

                                                            there is actually a dish called chicken tikka masala in india - calling the bangla version the same name is akin to calling a random sparkling wine champagne.

                                                            and as for 'balti' - yes, thats indeed a brit invention. no such thing exists in india (thank god).