Three (almost) In A Row
By Safiya Young
Queens Road is a bit like the pulmonary artery of the town centre, it leads to at least three of my favourite places: Priory Meadow, Lloyds Bank and Morrisons. It has also become something of a cultural scene (which in reality appeals to me more than its proximity to Morrisons). The Yi-Pin Oriental Food Express is newly open, so is still a Hastings fledgling as far as most restaurants are concerned. As the saying goes, ‘it’s always good to try something new’, and with that in mind, I decided to check it out.
PICTURE: Leanne Jones
For only £4.99 (or £3.99 if your appetite is smaller), you can sample a bit of everything from their buffet. And if buffets aren’t for you, no knicker twisting is necessary since there is also a menu where you can find all your favourite dishes and more. The buffet food is cooked that morning, though they’d nearly run out by the time we arrived, so our golden noodles, crisp spring rolls and sweet and sour vegetables were cooked on the spot. I was told by my meat-eating companions that the crispy beef was cooked to perfection and, judging by the rest of the meal, I trusted them wholeheartedly. The egg fried rice was particularly special, I did not know it was possible for rice to melt in the mouth, but this was light, fluffy and incredibly moreish.
We also tried their stir fry with rice noodles, which was freshly whipped up and smelled wonderful. Thanks to this quick style of cooking, neither my fussiness nor vegetarianess were obstacles for the staff, who made sure the food was all measured to my requests. It is a favourite venue of my vegan friend, who was very pleased with the effort made to fit his requirements.
The service was very good, even when we accidentally dropped a fizzy drink can (which was totally our fault), it was replaced free of charge. Wen, the owner, was very friendly and made sure we felt at home. I wish her the best of luck with her restaurant. If you’re looking for a speedy, delicious and cost-effective treat, she definitely has all the bases covered.
Next door to this, moving down Queens Road, we reach the Oriental Supermarket. A place where you can buy everything from instant noodles to an entire sheep’s heart. Fresh tofu, spiralling mushrooms, purple eggplants, runner beans as long as snakes and enough rice to last you a lifetime. You can even buy a bag of ready-prepared jellyfish, though I’ve never worked out what to do with it.
PICTURE: Nathan Joseph
This is not just frequented by fashionable hipsters (not that there’s anything wrong with fashionable hipsters). Many restaurants rely on the Oriental Supermarket for speciality products they cannot obtain from a general store. So, next time you order a Chinese takeaway, chances are this is where they bought their Pak choi. As a noodle enthusiast, it’s been my go-to since discovering it last august. Oh, how I pity my younger, naïve self.
For my friends and I, a trip to the Oriental Supermarket is not complete without some Taiwan bubble tea. This sweet beverage has recenatly gained quite a bit of popularity, it’s like trendy’s cool older sibling. In this shop, it’s mixed and shaken before your very eyes – talk about authentic. If you’re not familiar with bubble tea, or “Boba”, imagine the essence of syrup, enhanced by fruit, with a milky finish. If preferred, you can opt to skip the milk part
and just have fruit tea. And then, the most exciting bit, the addition of toppings (or ‘bottomings’ as they should be called due to whereabouts). Traditional ‘toppings’ include jelly sweets and popping balls, which, as promised by the name, burst in your mouth. You get an extra thick straw for the purpose of sucking them up. Warning! It can be quite a shock the first few times.
Hastings Fresh Fruit and Vegetables
About two shops down the road (though a sneaky third may have slipped my memory), is the Hastings Fresh Fruit and Vegetables shop. A place where all your hopes and desires can be fulfilled, if those hopes and desires are brimming with fruit. It’s near impossible to miss if you’re walking past, provided you’re on the right side of the road (opposite Priory Meadow).
In this shop, more is less. Customers agree that the quantity and quality of the produce is higher for sometimes half the price of the supermarket equivalent. Often, healthy foods are bypassed in exchange for unhealthy but cheap counterparts. However, The Hastings Fresh Fruit and vegetables shop has bargains to spare.
PICTURE: Nathan Joseph
It is the sort of place that you must either prepare for or enter in a state of hardcore self-control, I rarely leave without 4 kilos more of watermelon than I intended to get. There is always that extra punnet of strawberries that you feel you just cannot live without. And the staff are only too familiar with persuasion. They know that a free medjool date here and there will tempt me into buying a boxful. Though really, the fruit speaks for itself, with row upon stack upon crate of ripe nectarines, yellow melons, cottony cauliflowers nestled in their leaves. Fresh fruit and vegetables as far as the eye can see, or at least as far as the end of the shop.
The shop owner always finishes bagging my items with the same earnest question: “no cherries today?” As if it is my routine to purchase an extra punnet of cherries after my transaction, which it is now because I always oblige.
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