‘Mexican Monday’: around-the-world food in Cambridge

Best sushi in Cambridge? Hidden gems? Dani Cugini’s got you covered

Cambridge column food global international Italian Japanese lebanese Mexican moroccan Supermarkets sushi thai

I figured my first food exploration column should tie into the Monday menu of Wetherspoons, which, as we all know, is committed to diverse, authentic and freshly cooked food.

(I can neither confirm nor deny that they sometimes deep-fry the steaks.)

But just Mexican food would be no fun – from Lebanese to Vietnamese, our little city has a lot of food diversity. So, what’s the best on offer from around the world?

Starting off: supermarkets

(How to get weird looks in public places #574: stare at the curries in Sainsbury’s while furiously taking notes.)

International ready meals are often a bit dubious (I’m looking at you, Tomato and Mascarpone Pasta Bake) but there has been some recent efforts made by supermarkets to stock more authentic ingredients, particularly in relation to Asian cooking. You can find gochujang (Korean pepper paste), Shaoxing rice wine, Jamaican ackee (salt fish) and gungo peas, spice blends such as sumac, za’atar and baharat, and some high-end brands like Creative Cook offering flavoursome spice pastes.

If you want to liven up your cooking, spice blends and pastes are a great, simple place to start; novelties like Pocky are best bought at the international supermarkets (cheaper and way more options).

I am still convinced this was originally an April Fool’s joke, but nobody remembered to end it.

International supermarkets

Have I mentioned I love Mill Road? I’m mentioning it again. Place is a goddamn wonderland. There are about five international supermarkets on Mill Road; my favourite is the creatively named Mill Road International Supermarket (which has an insane variety of sodas and alcohol, including types of both you didn’t know exist). I went on a sojourn this afternoon and picked up this bunch for £4, excuse the crappy laptop camera:

In photo: mi goreng ramen, handmade Turkish cookies, seaweed snack, Kancho cookies, quinces. Also me. Please don’t eat me.

They’re amazing for staples like rice, noodles and various nuts, spices, fruits and vegetables, canned foods and delicious-as-fuck sugar fixes. So much cheap baklava. So much. Plus, you can also find dried cuttlefish crisps, sugar-coated multicoloured chickpeas, flavours of energy drink that sound like a parody, and interestingly-named chocolate bars (my favourite so far being ‘HYPER BLACK’). I…may be organising a date where my partner and I try to find the most suggestively named product. Watch this space.

Oh, and sometimes you’ll find ordinary branded stuff like cereal and coffee going cheap, as well. And the fruit stalls outside aren’t always the cheapest, but you can buy a 4kg watermelon to smite thine enemies with.

Market Square

Just strolling around Market Square today, stalls selling food from Hong Kong, South Korea, Chinese and Japanese teas and East African food were on offer, and they switch out day by day. Keep an eye out for the Brazilian dumpling stall – the pork ones are exquisite.

Market Square: where disposable income comes to die.

Restaurants

Here’s a few links to start off with – places I know are solid for Italian, Lebanese, Indian, Greek, Korean, Thai, VietnameseChinese, Moroccan and Turkish food.

I did promise you the best sushi in Cambridge, and good news: you don’t have to take up prostitution in order to afford an evening at Sticks ‘n’ Sushi! Instead, head for the affordable and skilfully made fare at Ohayo Sushiover the bridge in Mill Road (the walk is the only downside). U-Sushi in the Grafton is less well-rated, but does have a very alluring all-you-can-eat special.

I once heard a kid call sushi ‘dead fish art’ and it fucked me up a little.

Italian food is close to both my heart and my lineage, so new Italian deli Signorelli’s and the authentic offerings at Aromi and Tradizioni never fail to make me happy – pair your lunch with a coffee from Savino’s. Just a bit further down the Mediterranean, the Portuguese Norfolk Street Bakery is always worth a peek in.

And my pick for a fancy date night, or an ‘I’ve finished my exams and the parents are paying, fuck it’ dinner? The Senate, tucked in by Great St Mary’s. The charcuterie and cheese boards are to die for, as are the desserts – but, if you like, skip the latter and grab some Jack’s Gelato, down the road on Bene’t Street, to round off the perfect sunny afternoon.

Not to be confused with the actual Senate House, which is not nearly as delicious.

So, adding a little spice to our lives is becoming easier and easier in Cambridge, and I’m excited for what the future holds (namely that Korean bakery that’s supposedly opening soon in Petty Cury in a few months I AM MORE STOKED THAN A BONFIRE). My last advice? Trying small things is a great way to explore without breaking your budget, don’t go to bloody Chopstix for noodles (try Yippee Noodle Bar on King Street, instead) and for the rest of the month, Marks and Spencer has 20% off some of its new Mediterranean lunch items if you want to feel a bit fancy.

Next week: ‘Steak Tuesday’ and fine dining without the price tag.