I have written before about how food can provide a deep sensory and emotional connection to a distant home. For me, nothing (except perhaps a Gregg’s sausage roll) tastes as much of my British home as a traditional fried breakfast: the “full English”. This plate of fatty, salty joy, a mid-morning boost to the working man, a weekend brunch restorative for the partygoer, is usually contrasted with what used to be called a “continental” breakfast, to the detriment of the latter. Croissants and hot chocolate might be all right for the fancy French, the thought runs, but only a pile of fried pork fuels up a Brit in the morning.
My attempts to recreate this experience in Beijing have met with mixed success. Chinese sausages bear little resemblance to the British foodstuff of the same name, and even German and American sausages are a disappointment.
“The British are my number one customers,” said Andy Horowitz when we met him at his new venture, a bar called Three Little Pigs on Xiezuo Hutong, Dongcheng District. “Then Americans, then Europeans.”
Perhaps no brand in Beijing is as synonymous with British bangers as “Andy’s Craft Sausages,” so it’s something of a surprise to discover that Horowitz is American. Originally he was in the jewelry business, but the sausages he made as a sideline became hugely popular.
“People went nuts,” he told us. “It quickly went from a hobby to a business that pays the bills.”
His bar sells beer and other beverages alongside his famous bangers, burgers, and bacon.
“It’s not an extensive menu, but it represents what the brand is supposed to be about,” he said. “I had a space near Yashow, but it got bricked. When this opportunity came up, I jumped on it, as a home base for the business.”
Horowitz also produces pork rind, or pork scratchings as they’re known in the UK. The Cajun flavor are perhaps a little too spicy for most kids, but my wife and I enjoyed as a Friday night treat, along with a cheeky Bloody Mary enlivened by Andy’s Ghost Chili Sauce.
We sampled two styles of bacon, English back bacon and streaky, and two styles of sausage, the Lincolnshire which was his very first product, and Cumberland. I grew up on our local butcher’s award-winning Cumberlands, so I kept those for the fried breakfast test. The Lincolnshire sausages I put into a “Toad in the Hole”. When we lived in England we often hosted French schoolkids, and this traditional dish was my secret weapon to convince them that British food is not entirely without merit. Sausages are roasted in a Yorkshire-pudding style batter and served with onion gravy, and not one of our visitors ever turned their nose up at it. Andy’s meaty Lincolnshire sausages would have pleased the fussiest French teen (see main picture above).
No English gentleman would use streaky bacon as part of his breakfast. Instead, I added it to a spinach and avocado salad, with spring onions and cherry tomatoes. Andy’s bacon crisped up beautifully, becoming salty and crunchy without shriveling to nothing. As an extra treat, I topped the salad with quail eggs; in the UK, an expensive indulgence, but here quite affordable at RMB 15 for a big bag. (Be careful bringing them back from the shop though – I managed to break a few on the journey.) The final result proved that fried bacon doesn’t have to be part of an artery-clogging fat fest.
The proper bacon for the full English is “back bacon”, a “rasher” of which is a slice of both loin and belly, providing the perfect combination of juicy and crunchy. Andy’s back bacon did the job admirably, served with his Cumberland sausages, fried egg, mushrooms, sliced tomato, buttered toast, and of course “brown sauce”. This came from a bottle I salvaged from the much-missed Beijing Marks and Spencer, though you can buy the expensive but sumptuously fruity Wilkin and Sons version at Jenny Wang’s.
“So how are the sausages, boys?” I asked my resident food critics. There was no answer except the sounds of guzzling and some curt nods. “That’s no good for the article,” I protested. “I need words. Give me words!”
“Binoculars! Obsequious!” yelled my hilarious offspring. “Zebra! Floccinaucinihilipilification!”
When they’d finished falling off their chairs in glee at their own wit, I explained through gritted teeth that I wanted words describing the sausages.
“It did taste a bit like zebra,” said Joseph (9), who has never eaten zebra in his life.
“When I came to the end of my sausages, I was disappointed,” said Noah (12). Really? Why? “Because I wanted another one, and there wasn’t one.”
Perhaps his rapidly cleared plate was the best tribute to Andy’s Craft Sausages. Whether they are really as good as the fondly remembered Cumberland bangers of my childhood is impossible to say. But they’re the closest to Bowness you’ll get in Beijing.
Andy’s Craft Sausages deliver to various locations in Beijing, including several schools in Shunyi. Scan the QR code for more information:
Photos: Andrew Killeen, except (3) courtesy of Andy Horowitz