Frankly it was rather disappointing

On visits to the Leather Lane market well before the Covid lockdown I had seen the Argentalia market stall a few times, but had not bought lunch there, though I did quite fancy the concept.

So on a recent visit a couple of months back, I had the opportunity to try out the stall. I went with the Argentalia Barbeque Box, which comes with Asado (ribs), Vacio (flap meat), Chorizo (sausage), Morcilla (black pudding), Pollo (chicken), Pork with chimichurri and variety of salads or fries.

This had the potential to be outstanding box of food, but alas it wasn’t meant to be.

The salad was flat and insipid.

The fries were okay, but nothing special.

So what of the main attraction, the barbecued meat?

I think if the meat had actually been barbecued then this would have made the dish so much better than it was. The problem with the meat was that it was quite tough and chewy. It was almost braised, steamed rather than grilled.

I am not even sure I got everything on the list. 

Overall I was looking forward to a great box of barbecued meats, what I got was frankly rather disappointing.

Time to go back to Oxford for some Thai

Sasi’s Thai Food

As time passes I realise that many of the places I have written about in this blog have disappeared or have changed beyond recognition. Covid-19 has exacerbated and accelerated this process. I sometimes don’t want to search up for somewhere just in case they have closed. So one of my favourite places to eat Thai food was Sasi’s Thai in the covered market in Oxford. I now rarely get the chance to eat there, having stopped working in Oxford in 2015. I did manage a return visit there in 2019 and it was just as tasty as I remembered it. I had hoped to visit again, but with covid-19 and lockdown, those plans were scuppered. So on a recent quick visit to Oxford I decided I would grab lunch again at Sais’s Thai. I wasn’t actually sure if it would still be there, as with lockdown has resulted in many places closing (and walking through the covered market, many stalls and shops had closed). However I was pleased to see that it had survived and was open.

They had a really wide choice of dishes and it was difficult to decide what to have. In the end, despite wanting to try new stuff, I went with the familiar and had rice with two selections, choosing the crispy pork and the spicy squid.

I really like the crispy pork dish, so much so that I often try and recreate it at home. The combination of crispy flavoured pork, a variety of vegetables and a nice spicy sauce is delicious. Eating it I was reminded that though I enjoy my version, it still isn’t the same as the original. It was delicious.

I’ve always liked the squid dish from Sasi’s Thai and this time enjoyed it just as much as I did on my regular visits in 2014 and 2015. The squid was tender and the sauce was spicy but full of flavour.

Despite eating both dishes and feeling full, I was so tempted to order some more food, as it was so good.

I really enjoyed that lunch, it was a real blast from the past and it was nice to see they had maintained their quality and range of dishes. It was a little more expensive than I remember, but okay it was over six years ago when I went on a regular basis, so I can live with that.

Time to go back and visit Wagamama

The last place we went out to eat before the lockdown in March 2020 was Wagamama at Cribbs Causeway.

We had thought that places might close or be restricted, so took a final opportunity to go out and eat.

Though we have eaten out since that visit, wanting to go out and eat for Father’s Day my children decided that we would go to Wagamama. The fact that we couldn’t book a table didn’t seem to deter them…

We drove up to the Mall, and like on our recent visit a few days earlier the M5 was rather busy.

However we did mange to get their okay. We had decided to eat at 2pm, so we could miss the lunchtime rush. Despite that when we got into the Mall there was quite a long queue for Wagamama. Though I prefer not to queue, this time I knew there were very few alternatives around and my children had their heart set on going there, so we decided to wait. The queue actually moved quite fast and we took the time while we were waiting to peruse the menu.

I was really torn about what I was going to have. I did think about having the cod mokutan soba which I had back in 2019 and despite the initial dish being burnt the returned dish was much better. Interestingly back then I said

It was the kind of dish I enjoyed, but probably wouldn’t have it again on another visit.

I did quite like the idea of having it again this time, shows what do I know about what I like!

Another dish which caught my eye was the grilled duck donburi. 

tender, shredded duck in a spicy teriyaki sauce. mixed with carrots, mangetout, sweet potato and red onion on a bed of sticky white rice and topped with a crispy fried egg, cucumber and spring onions. served with a side of kimchee

Or the teriyaki sirloin steak soba.

grilled sirloin steak with soba noodles cooked in curry oil with mangetout, bok choi, red and spring onions, chilli and beansprouts in a teriyaki sauce. garnished with coriander and sesame seeds

In the end after much consideration and flip flopping I went with the  shirodashi ramen

slow-cooked, seasoned pork belly on top of noodles in a rich chicken broth with dashi and miso, topped with pea shoots, menma, spring onions, wakame and half a tea-stained egg

The rest of the family went with their choices, yaki soba, chicken raisukaree, gluten free chicken ramen and chicken and rice noodles.

As is typical at Wagamama for me, everyone else’s dish arrived well before mine, and I was waiting for while for my food. The others trying to be polite wanted to wait, but I didn’t want their food to go cold. Anyhow I can eat quite fast, so was okay with them eating.

This serving as food as soon as it is ready, does mean that you get your food fresh, reality is that unless you don’t mind eating your dish whilst others have none, it strikes me more as lazy planning than “serving food as soon as it’s ready”.

Finally my food arrived and though not quite as good as the pictures on the website it did look nice.

shirodashi ramen  slow-cooked, seasoned pork belly on top of noodles in a rich chicken broth with dashi and miso, topped with pea shoots, menma, spring onions, wakame and half a tea-stained egg

I had anticipated the slow cooked pork belly to be tender and soft, but actually was crispy, which I wasn’t expecting.

I did enjoy the ramen and it was very tasty and delicious.

I did think about having a beer with my ramen, but in the end went with a  jasmine flowering tea – flowering lily and jasmine green tea.

asmine flowering tea - flowering lily and jasmine green tea

It looked great and tasted nice, it reminded me of the flowering tea I had at Tea Monkey in Bath back in 2012.

I wasn’t going to have desert, but was persuaded to by everyone at the table, and it was Father’s Day. Though I did think about cheesecake, I went with the smoked chocolate caramel cake.

For some reason I wasn’t expecting to get a slice of cake! But I did, the cake was layers of smoked chocolate mousse, salted caramel crushed biscuits, chocolate fudge brownie and chocolate ganache, served with a scoop of vanilla ice cream.

smoked chocolate caramel cake

Not as rich as it sounds and the ice cream added freshness and balance.

Overall we all enjoyed the meal, and the service was excellent.

Nice to be back.

Time for some Portuguese Tastes

Over the last year I have missed going to street food markets, so have been reflecting on nice meals I have had in the past. Whilst going through photographs of my food I realised I had never mentioned Portuguese Taste in all my blog posts on food from St Nicholas Market.

This was quite interesting as I realised that I had eaten there many times over the years I have been working in Bristol. It is one of my favourite stalls in the market. They have a real mix of dishes and every day there are different choices.

I had a delicious Portuguese Chicken meal back in December 2017 which consisted of chicken in a cream sauce served with rice, potatoes and salad.

It is a weird thing I find to have rice and potatoes, but that’s how they serve a fair few of their dishes. The menu has some quite inspiring choices and fish makes a regular appearance as does lamb and pork.

One dish I have had a few times is Portuguese Pork Steaks with Egg.

This was the plate I had in April 2016.

Whilst here is the same dish from a visit in July 2017.

The pork can be a little chewy, but the slow cooked onions and egg really add to the dish.

In May 2016 I had this dish.

I think this was also pork and egg dish, but came with a spicy tomato sauce and no salad!

Though the stall is somewhat small, they do have tables and chairs and I would usually eat my lunch inside the stall. Mainly as it was hot, and it came on a proper plate, but was a nice change from eating in the office out of a cardboard box!

That time I had a Smoke Catering BBQ Box

Over the last year I have missed going to street food markets, so have been reflecting on nice meals I have had in the past.

Back in June 2017 I was working in Bristol and looking for a place to eat to have some lunch. I went to the Temple Quay Market which had a wide range of stalls from which to choose from.

In the end I chose the BBQ Box from Smoke Catering. I had really enjoyed the BBQ Box I had in March of that year. It was an easy choice to make as I liked the food.

The box contained homemade slaw, garlic mash and beans. On top of the box was some smoked beef brisket, pulled pork and a smoked pork and chilli sausage. 

Smoke Catering BBQ Box - smoked beef brisket, pulled pork and a smoked pork and chilli sausage

It was delicious. The mash was smooth and creamy with a hint of garlic, no bitterness or harshness. The slaw was fresh and crunchy. The beans spicy and full of flavour.  

The smoked beef brisket was tender and delicious, it was melt in the mouth. I like the tender beef and the crunch of the barbecued outside. I remember when I went to a barbecue restaurant in Glasgow and ordering smoked beef brisket and getting a little disappointed as that beef was dry and nothing like the beautifully flavoured and tender beef brisket from Smoke Catering.

The sausage was very meaty and tasty, the chilli enhanced the flavour and didn’t overpower.

I also enjoyed the smoked and pulled pork, which was tender and tasty, though I preferred the sausage and the beef.

Hopefully some time in the future I can get some more excellent food from Smoke Catering.

Quick lunch in Cardiff

Last November I was attending some meetings in Cardiff, after they were over I was walking back to the car park to get my car and drive home. I realised I was hungry and decided to get something to eat.

Cardiff has quite a bit of choice of places to eat, but I didn’t really have the time to look round find somewhere so in the end I chose Barburrito.

I’ve had Barburrito tacos before at Paddington and Bristol Airport, so it was something I knew I liked.

I had three Barburrito tacos with pork and chicken. You also get a handful of tortilla chips and salsa. I like how you have some choice over which salads and extras you get with your tacos.

Though I always think with Barburrito that the meat is generally overcooked, however I did enjoy my tacos and the salad and toppings tasted very fresh.

Barbecued Salt and Pepper Pork Belly

With the unusual lovely hot weather, my barbecue has been used a lot, and the barbecued meat served with a selection of salads.

One new recipe I have been doing has been going down well and involves using pork belly strips.

Barbecued Salt and Pepper Pork Belly

Take the pork belly and season with salt and pepper, I then sprinkle the pork with chopped fresh coriander, though I have also used dried coriander, along with some lemongrass. Add a little olive oil and leave to marinade. I either buy pork belly without rind, or if no choice remove the rind before marinading and cooking.

I find pork belly general works best with long slow cooking, but I also like it on the barbecue as well. So you could cook the pork slowly in a warm oven, or throw caution to the wind and grill it on the barbecue.

I try and cook it on the barbecue so that it takes it’s time, but doesn’t dry out. One method I have used with a whole chicken also works with the pork belly.

Though you can cook directly on the barbecue, it can be quite challenging to ensure that the pork is tender and cooked properly. A challenge is that it is difficult to control the temperature of the barbecue unlike a normal grill. The key process I use is to recreate some aspects of a “normal” oven as opposed to the usual way of using a barbecue as a grill. After the coals have reached cooking temperature, move them to the sides of the barbecue, so that when the pork belly is placed on the grill, it is not over direct heat. This needs to be done with caution as the charcoal will be really hot and I use a tool with a long handle to do this. The pork, after placing on the grill, was then covered, I used a wok lid, but this is where a kettle barbecue comes into its own. This works well with larger pork belly joints as well.

Tasty Bao Buns

I quite like Bao Buns. I don’t actually recall when I had my first Bao Bun, a filled steam bun, but I think it was from the SheSellsSushi stall at one of the Bristol Street Food markets. I’ve had some really nice ones, and some which were rather disappointing.

Having enjoyed the buns from Master Bao the last time I was there, and needing lunch I decided to visit Master Bao again. As this is a shopping centre, there are a range of outlets all with a common eating area. You order at the counter, take a electronic gizmo and when it buzzes you collect your food. Not the best way I think of having a nice lunch, a bit too fast food for me, but it works. I ordered the lunch deal of two bao buns and a side dish

I had this before, but did enjoy it, the Shiitake Mushroom Bao – teriyaki shiitake mushrooms, pickled onions and miso.

Shiitake Mushroom Bao - teriyaki shiitake mushrooms, pickled onions and miso

This was mushrooms cooked in a teriyaki sauce and served in a hot fluffy bao. The bun was warm and fluffy, and the mushrooms very tasty. It was a bit messy to eat, but I got there in the end.

My second Bao was the Mr Bao – slow braised pork with house pickles, roasted peanut and coriander.

Mr Bao - slow braised pork with house pickles, roasted peanut and coriander

The pork was very tender, and the peanut added a nice crunchy texture to the Bao. I would have liked a little more coriander, but otherwise it was delicious.

Both Bao buns were soft and fluffy and full of tasty fillings.

I had enjoyed the pork dumplings last time, but this time I went with the fried chicken.

fried chicken

This was not as good as I thought it could be, but the chicken was nice and crispy with a tasty sauce.

Overall I really did enjoy the meal,

 

 

Nice Bao Buns

I don’t actually recall when I had my first Bao Bun, a filled steam bun, but I think it was from the SheSellsSushi stall at one of the Bristol Street Food markets.

I’ve had some really nice ones, and some which were rather disappointing. I have also made them at home as well, well made is a strong word, I bought some ready prepared, steamed them, and added my own filling. That’s almost “made”, but I am keen to try and make some properly one day.

Needing lunch quickly and having parked at the Westfield Centre in West London, there was a wide choice of places to eat but in the end I did quite fancy giving Master Bao a try.

As this is a shopping centre, there are a range of outlets all with a common eating area. You order at the counter, take a electronic gizmo and when it buzzes you collect your food. Not the best way I think of having a nice lunch, a bit too fast food for me, but it works.

I ordered the lunch deal of two bao buns and a side dish. My first choice of bao was the shiitake mushroom bao.

shiitake mushroom bao

This was mushrooms cooked in a teriyaki sauce and served in a hot fluffy bao. It was rather nice, I wouldn’t say I was blown away, but I did enjoy it. The bun was warm and fluffy, and the mushrooms very tasty. It was a bit messy to eat, but I got there in the end.

My second choice of bao, was the chicken bao made with 24 hour marinated fried chicken, fried wasabi, kimchi and coriander.

chicken bao made with 24 hour marinated fried chicken, fried wasabi, kimchi and coriander

I enjoyed the crispy chicken and the accompaniments added a nice spicy extra to the dish. The combination of textures, soft vegetables, crispy chicken and soft bao, was a delight.

As I had chosen the chicken bao, I chose a side dish and went with the pork dumplings.

pork dumplings

These were nice and tasty, steamed and then finished off in the frying pan.

Overall I really did enjoy the dish and would certainly go again.

Homecooked Thai style stir fry

Thai Stir Fry

This is a recipe I cook quite often, it was inspired by visits to Sais’ Thai in the Oxford Covered Market. Though it has similarities to the dish I had at Sais’ Thai, it’s not quite the same, actually it’s quite different, but I don’t usually use the ingredients they do.

I cook some cubed pork belly in the oven, for about twenty minutes I then remove from the oven and stir fry in a wok with some soy sauce and fish sauce, along with finely chopped garlic and ginger. You could add chilli as well, if you like a bit of heat in your stir fry. I then take a range of vegetables, including but not always limited to: ribbons of carrot, pak choi, red cabbage, courgette, mushrooms (shitake and brown), baby corn, and onions. These are added to the wok. And cooked for a couple of minutes. I then add spinach and basil. I would prefer to use Thai Basil, but I have had trouble either finding it locally or growing it in the garden.

The dish is then served with a sprinkling of cashew nuts. It works well with rice, but I have also served it with noodles as well.