Asian food in western countries usually draws flak for being misrepresented and exorbitantly priced.
But does that mean we should avoid it altogether?
In a YouTube video uploaded yesterday (Dec 20), Japanese YouTuber Ghib Ojisan and his Singaporean wife tried $50 worth of Singapore hawker food during their recent holiday in London, and their verdict might surprise you.
The Singapore-based YouTuber is no stranger to local hawker fare as he has lived here for a couple of years with his wife.
"It's our fourth day in London and we're kind of already missing Singapore," he shared in the video. He also explained that to satisfy their cravings, he had looked up some of the "best and most popular restaurants" in London that sell hawker food.
This led the couple to Mei Mei, which is a popular stall founded by Singapore-born chef Elizabeth Haigh, situated in London's Borough Market.
$16 chicken rice?
Upon reaching Mei Mei, Ghib Ojisan admitted that as Borough Market is generally a "very touristy" destination, he didn't expect the prices here to be very wallet-friendly.
And he was right. A quick look through Mei Mei's menu revealed that a serving of Hainanese chicken rice that usually costs $2 to $3 in Singapore is priced at a whopping £8.50 (S$16).
Other dishes like nasi lemak cost £11.50, while a simple kaya toast set was £8.50. Yikes.
"I think I'm going to faint," Ghib Ojisan said jokingly as he took in the hefty prices.
After much deliberation, the YouTuber finally settled on the Hainanese chicken rice, nasi lemak and Singapore chicken curry (£8.50), with the grand total amounting to £28.50.
The first dish that the couple dug into was the Hainanese chicken rice, which Ghib Ojisan said "looks quite authentic".
It came with the usual plump chicken slices, chilli sauce, ginger sauce, cucumber, white onion and coriander.
"That's actually pretty good," he confessed to the camera as he bit into a piece of chicken.
While the rice also ticked off all the right boxes in the flavour department, Ghib Ojisan said that it was a little on the mushy side and shared that he personally prefers his rice to be fluffier.
And despite the chilli tasting a little different from what we are used to in Singapore, the three accompanying sauces also passed the taste test.
"Overall, this is a really nice chicken rice. I cannot believe it," he concluded.
"It's quite nice lah, not bad. If I live here, I might come here to eat [sic]," his wife chimed in.
Next up was the nasi lemak. Right off the bat, Ghib Ojisan noticed that it looked a little different from our local nasi lemak.
For one, the provided boneless chicken was deep fried and came in the form of a cutlet. Additionally, the peanuts and the ikan bilis were a little bigger than usual.
He said that the fried chicken was done more Taiwanese-style, while his wife added that it was "lacking in spices like turmeric".
"This is good, but I think it's not something you want to order if you miss the authentic taste [of nasi lemak]," Ghib Ojisan concluded bluntly.
Lastly, the couple tried the curry chicken, which also looked a little different.
For one, while local chicken curry usually features peeled and cubed potatoes, Mei Mei uses unpeeled, whole potatoes in their dish.
Additionally, the curry came with tomatoes and cilantro, which are not usually added to Singapore-style curry chicken.
The couple also noted that overall, the dish is on the sweeter side.
Despite these, they were still impressed to find that the chicken was fall-off-the-bone tender and the curry was "comparable to even some of the hawker stalls in Singapore".
"It tastes like home," quips his wife.
To conclude their meal at Mei Mei, Ghib Ojisan declared that the "verdict is delicious".
However, he also reiterated that the prices here are "very steep".
But besides the price, some commenters also brought up the fact that just a few months back, Elizabeth was accused of plagiarising another celebrity chef's cookbook, adding that they "would not recommend" Mei Mei for that reason.
Nevertheless, if you're planning on travelling to London via the Vaccinated Travel Lane and find yourself missing local food, seems like there's no harm in trying some of the Asian offerings there. Just be prepared to spend a bit more than usual on your chicken rice and nasi lemak.