Chan Cham’s Cafe- Town Centre, ReadingBy Kim Francis
July 08, 2009
It’s been there for years now but Chan Cham is a bit of a secret dining destination. Located in the town centre – Merchants Place to be precise – this popular café is the perfect dining destination for workers on their lunch break or weary shoppers looking for a fast re-fuel.
It specialises in honest, no-nonsense grub. You can choose everything from home-style sandwiches and salads to proper hot meals.
If you are eager to sample one of its special creations, put together using its very own sauces (which you can also buy bottled by the way), visit at the end of the working week to try its Saucy Fridays.
This is exactly what my colleague Phil and I did, only to be greeted by the owner, Chani Nanayakkara, enthusing about that day’s option.
We were kept largely in the dark about what we were about to be presented with, except for the revelation that it would be created using its Scotch Bonnet and Black Pepper cooking sauce and chicken.
I requested a vegetarian option and prepared myself for the surprise in store.
We adjourned to a comfy upstairs sofa in a chilled-out area (with a bar for later in the day when it becomes Afrobar) surrounded by mismatched furniture
and office types and it wasn’t long before our food came.
What a sight. This was festival-style food at its most rustic. Our plates were piled high; Phil’s with a bottom layer of rice and black beans, followed by a stratum of macaroni cheese, then the chicken and finally, a topping of coleslaw.
Mine looked exactly the same – a tower block hotchpotch of seemingly incompatible elements from other meals – except for the chicken which had been substituted for sliced peppers.
The macaroni cheese was far and away my favourite section of this four-tiered marvel. It was chewy and substantial with a home-made appeal.
Phil really enjoyed his chicken but it became clear that his meal tasted slightly different from mine and, upon investigation, it seems they had tailored my dish to suit both my tastes and the peppers that the sauce was there to dress.
My sauce was the Green Chilli and Red Onion variety, which was equally as piquant as Phil’s. It was just hot enough to give the dish a powerful kick without burning off the roof of my mouth, while Phil’s sauce was similar to jerk seasoning – again, fairly spicy but not overpowering.
The Saucy Friday option costs just £5.75 and it’s worth having simply to try out something a little different.
It’s also handy if you usually find yourself umming and ahhing over menus.
Each Friday, your lunch is chosen for you, should you so desire – and if you visit the website, you can even see the upcoming dishes two weeks in advance.
The website also has more information on the sauces – a key ingredient in Chan Cham’s food – with some tasty tips on how you can use them at home in your own cooking.
“We like our food and we like our food to be good. So that’s what we do – good food” is Chan Cham’s philosophy and it is certainly appealing.
On this evidence, you know you’re in for something a little off-the-wall and defiant of the rule book when you visit this laid-back hippy-vibed eatery