Issue 254
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If you've been to Asia Asia Food Hall then collect five Brummie Points and announce loudly across your office that you are a better citizen than those around you. If you've not been, go and sit on the naughty step (it's this one here) and have a long hard think about your behaviour. Nestled between China Town and the John Lewis steps it is, for our money, the best foodie thing to happen to Birmingham in 2018. And in case you've not been going because you're a big cowardy custard about cocking it all up, here's what it is, how it works and what you could/should be ordering.      
Good question, thanks for asking. Well, it's a totally indoor food court arranged over two floors, where you order dishes from your choice of seven, independent Asian traders. The sublimely sublime chefs come from across the continent, including from Singapore, China and Thailand, with Vietnam and Korea getting representation later this year. The idea behind the mysterious "Mr Zhou's" enterprise is that chefs who could spend their lives working for other people start their own small businesses, with AAFH taking care of the big-ticket admin and keeping costs down by pooling overheads. Having started at the very bottom of the industry when he moved to the UK from China, Mr Zhou knows just how hard starting out solo, and in a foreign country, can be. This is the result.
Chef Surapong Nakowong, Bangkok Cafe
Another good question, you're on fire today. It's both very simple and oddly convoluted — which is half of the enjoyment. Enter at street level just after Dudley Street becomes Pershore Street, to the left of the David Bowie graffiti, opposite the Indoor Market. If you go past here, you've gone too far. Take the lift to level one and pay cash or use a card to load credit on to a top-up card. Get yourself something you've never heard of from the next door Drinks Bar (상일 수박소다 캔 — watermelon soda, ラムネ - Ramune carbonated yuzu or Hite Jinro's Korean Hite pale, anyone?), then pick a trader and a dish, or four. Order directly at the stalls using your top-up card, then you'll be handed a buzzer which will get all happy and animated when your food is ready for collection. Go with a crew and you can order food from multiple traders, then eat it together at the communal tables. Every dish on every menu is approved by AAFH, with plenty of ordering advice available but strictly no secret dishes reserved for the local crowd: we got the same menu choices as the otherwise exclusively Asian clientele when we visited.  
1. Papaya salad 2. Okonomiyaki 3. Dapanji Legman 4. A mere sample from the drinks bar.
Everything, you fool! But if 350 dishes is pushing it then Bangkok Cafe serves the best Thai food we've had in the West MADlands. Get the zing-filled, shredded papaya salad (£8.95), maybe followed by Surapong's pick, a pad krapao (£7.50) — a spicy wok dish with your choice of meat or fish, a fried egg and jasmine rice. Or go all in on the tom saep (£8.95), which is a super traditional hot and sour offal soup with mega herbs.

Chef Liu from 'Zoo Japanese Sushi' (pictured top) is actually from China but spent years in the kitchens of Japan, learning specialisms we just haven't seen in the region. Okonomiyaki is sort of all-in-one dense, savoury pancake, with "what you like grilled" — (a loose translation), topped with fish flakes that appear to dance over the top of the dish. It's an acquired taste but working out whether you like the dish, famous in Osaka, is a darned sight cheaper than shelling out for flights. Liu's also making proper good sushi and rich pork belly ramen — roasted not braised because, he tells us, that's the fashion with young Asians now.
Akpar, Afandim Uyghur Cuisine
You've ploughed through Thai, Japanese and probably tried some familiar teppanyaki. But have you heard of Uyghur cuisine? Akpar is from Xinjiang province in the North West of China, a predominantly Muslim area offering a totally different kind of Chinese spice. Akpar, who moved to the UK in 2008, learned his kitchen skills from his Mum and will totally make you fresh noodles if you order his pick from the menu, dapanji legman (£10.80) — get it with beef. Hugely popular with students from the region — who were previously travelling to Leicester to get their Uyghur food fix — Akpar's already got a bit of a cult following.

There are also incredible dumplings at Sakumen, a dish called black pork at 'Phat Duck' (which chef learnt from the hawker stalls of Singapore), a matcha-heavy dessert and tea bar, and essentially, a lifetime of must-try sort of dishes. So probably start now? 
Open 11am til 8.30pm, 7 days a week at 10 Pershore Street, B5 4RU. Free entry.


Back in the early Nineties, Ice Cube terrified Bush Snr’s America with his records openly calling for cops to be killed. Next up, naturally, he co-wrote and starred in this easygoing stoner comedy that’s essentially a longer version of the skits you used to get on hip-hop albums – only actually good. Cube and a debuting Chris Tucker spend a day trying to get together $200 to pay off their dealer. Not the most compelling pitch, to be sure, but they have great chemistry, and the nostalgia factor is strong. The goofy sense of humour probably won’t please the few Woody Allen fans left out there – unless you find old ladies cursing inherently funny – but this movie, showing as part of Black History Month, did become an unlikely milestone in African American cinema, showing that mass audiences didn’t just want Boyz n the Hood knock-offs. Times & trailer


Part game show, part spelling-bee, part dance-off, the bizarrely brilliant team behind Rafiki's Cuisine and the resurgence of bingo in Brum is turning its general disdain towards most human beings into a new event, SPELL BMC, some sort of confused play on Run DMC. Spell words correctly under intense amounts of pressure, a theme tune of 90s bangers, and confetti cannons, to get a chance at prizes like a candlelit dinner at Pit Stop,  Broad Street — and yes, that's Pit Stop, not PINT Shop. Or maybe you're aiming at a Tamagotchi, the likes of which no one has seen since triple maths in 1996. Or the grand prize — coach travel to Skeggy with a caravan for four. Go forth and spell and drink and dance and probably get shouted at. Launch night's October 24 at Mama Roux's (and the spelling part actually isn't obligatory). Tickets from £5.


Want to get inside Fazenda — new kid on the Colmore block — a full week before it's open, and try its meaty ways without charge? Stick with us, and you can do just that. At the Brazillian rodizio restaurant, you'll get a sizeable range of beef cuts, pork, lamb and chicken carved at your table. Think pork belly with honey and cinnamon, Fazenda's signature picanha (rump cap) and a traditional bacon-wrapped chicken breast. There's also fish options, like Scottish salmon marinated in whiskey, and a massive game in sides. Plan out your evening in food with the full menu right here. Only the fifth Fazenda from the South American operation, you'll recognise elements of their Leeds spot (pictured) in their Brum biggie, which you enter via Barwick Street. And the really good news? On Friday, November 9 from 5pm, all pre-booked I Choose Birmingham subscribers get the full rodizio experience at no charge, as well as getting complimentary gourmet sides. You'll need to pay for drinksies and puds but the rest is on Fazenda. There's 225 spots available. Secure yours here — just click on Nov 9 to select a time. T&C applyGO!
Venue: Chung Ying Central, 126 Colmore Row, B3 3AP; website
Choice: Crispy duck with pancakes Chooser: Us

You don't win friends with salad, chimed
the Simpsons as they conga-ed effortlessly across their living room. Well, the same goes with turkey, folks. Even at Christmas. This year suggest to the boss that dried bird and limp spuds at some paint-by-numbers restaurant chain won't cut it for your work Chrimbo knees up. We've done a test run for you and everything. Substitute gravy drowned nothingness with lip-smacking hoisin duck gyoza, slippery little salt and chilli ribs, and a stir-fried venison with ginger and spring onion, which feels way lighter and fresher than any take on venison we've previously gobbled. The Chrimbo menu at Chung Ying Central is £30 for a minimum of four people and includes all that, plus eight other plates, rice and veggie Singapore noodles. There's also a platinum sort of add-on option — it's known as the deluxe package and being as you're not paying (hopefully), then upgrading is wiser than an owl that's just been appointed Professor of Wisdom at Oxford University. For an extra £10 each they'll add the crispiest of aromatic duck with all the cucumbery, hoisin, pancake-shaped extras you'd expect. You do win friends with aromatic crispy duck, guys. You really do. Full menu


Look at that wine. Just look. Swirling rhythmically around the glass. Enchanting, right? Come drink some at the annual Love Wine Festival that whirls its way into the Burlington Hotel, November 10. They're pouring more than 200 drops from 30 exhibitors while hosting wine walks and masterclasses. Look out for the Georgian Wine Club, bringing wines from the country where the whole vin thing began. You’ll also find artisanal producers and spirit makers like Sam Sake, (offering exactly what you'd expect) gin and whisky from Cotswolds Distillery, and Ginking — a glorious cross between gin and fizz. Tickets from £22 with 20% off using code “ichoose20".
The Early Bird Bakery is opening on Kings Heath high street later this year. The experienced team is looking for funding for additional equipment in exchange for cake.
Tickets are on sale for Taste & Liquor's BBQ & Meat Carnival on November 17. It's £7 and there'll be Turkish, Korean, Jamaican and British BBQ to fawn over.
If you're anywhere near Vic Square this Saturday, and wondering what the party is for, it's Diwali that's being celebrated. From 11am until 6pm, expect dancing, colour, food by Asha's. It's free to attend but register here.

A lot like Earth, Wind and Fire, except that it's a festival about wine, cheese and chocolate, the Wine, Cheese and Chocolate Festival is this Saturday from 5.30pm. Tickets (£14.50).

"You better check yourself before you wreck yourself."

Ice Cube

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WORDS: Katy Drohan, Robb Sheppard, Andrew Lowry
PICTURES: Thom Bartley (AAFH)

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