One of my favourite places to eat Thai food is Sais’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 earlier this year and it was just as tasty as I remembered it.
Looking for somewhere to get some lunch when working in our London office I found GrabThai on Fleet Street. Looking at the menu it bought back memories of the delicious Thai food from Sais’s Thai.
There is quite a bit of choice, from stir fries to curries to pad thai.
So what of the food?
I went with the Pad Prik King Pork, this is pork and fine bean stir fry in red curry paste and kaffir lime leaves served on a choice of rice. I went with the brown rice and extra cashew nuts.
It didn’t look anything like the image on the website or on the menu, which was disappointing.
Well it was quite nice, but I had such high expectations that no wonder I was slightly disappointed. There was a nice spiciness to the dish, the pork belly was tender, though I think I would have preferred it meatier or even slightly chewy! The brown rice was tasty and added texture. I did ask for extra cashew nuts, these were scattered on top, so I needed to mix it into the stir fry. There was a good proportion of stir fry to rice, sometimes I have found places give you loads of rice and very little of the main dish.
Would I go again? Well I think I might, but with so much choice in and around Fetter Lane, it might be some time before I go back.
It’s being a while since I did any stir frying so last night I was inspired to get the wok out and cook some Asian inspired dishes. My first was Thai style stir fried pork with pal choi and cashew nuts.
This dish was my take on a meal I use to eat a lot when I worked in Oxford. In the covered market in Oxford there was a lovely little eatery called Sais’s Thai that cooked and served delicious Thai dishes. One of my favourite was the stir fried pork with pak choi, Thai basil, vegetables and cashew nuts. I have tried many times to recreate it and have got a reasonable facsimile of the dish now.
I took some pork belly and cut it into chunks before roasting it off in a hot oven. A long slow cooking might be better, but even with just twenty odd minutes in a hot oven, it still managed to render the fatty pieces of pork belly down into tasty chunks. This is set aside. I don’t mind preparing my own vegetables, however I did have a pack of rainbow stir fried vegetables from M&S that I had bought, which had been reduced, and included carrots ribbons, red cabbage, spring onions, baby sweetcorn and pak choi. I added some red pepper and mushrooms to the mix. I started by heating up a little oil in the wok on a high heat. To this I added the vegetables and tossed them around. I then added some soy sauce, fish sauce and a little vinegar. Turning the vegetables once more I then added the cooked pork. The dish was done, once the pak choi was limp. In the past I would add some spinach leaves and basis leaves, alas I had none in the fridge. I have tried to grow Thai Basil in the garden, but have not had much joy there. It’s quite challenging to find it in my local stores.
Alongside the pork stir fry I also made sweet and sour pork balls. For this I first cooked chunks of pork belly in the oven. These were done in a covered roasting pan, they were covered with foil. What I was trying to so was actually slow cook them, but this was challenging as I was short on time, but also the oven was quite hot, as at the same time I was roasting the other chunks of pork belly for the stir fry dish. This was cooked for about twenty minutes, the pork should look cooked, but not caramelised as if it had been roasted. The result is soft tender pork. This was cooled. I meant to coat the pork in flour, but didn’t, so they went straight into a batter mix of self-raising flour (I actually used gluten-free flour), egg and milk. The key is less about the quantities but getting the consistency right. It should coat the back of a spoon, if the batter is too thin then the pork doesn’t get coated enough, too thick and you get thick stodgy battered balls of pork. The pork was deep fried in small batches in hot sunflower oil. I was really pleased with the results, the batter was crunchy and crisp, with the pork tender and full of flavour. The pork balls were served with a homemade sweet and sour sauce which included baby sweetcorn and red pepper.
With those two dishes (and as I did have hot oil on the go) I served some crispy rice noodles, deep frying dried rice noodles, along with regular cooked rice noodles.
Overall the meal went down well and everything was eaten.
I do like Thai food, one of my favourite places to eat in Oxford was Sai’s Thai in the covered market. As I have never actually been to Thailand I couldn’t say whether what they cooked was authentic, or typical of the cuisine. What I can say, is I really liked their food and what they served. I have tried quite a few times to recreate the experience at home, sometimes with an element of success and sometimes it was just okay.
For this recipe I took some chicken thighs and cut them into strips, I prefer using chicken thighs over chicken breast, as the flavour is much better and it cooks better in a stir fry, staying moist and tender, whilst breast can dry out.
The chicken is mixed with soy sauce and I used some rice flour (one of the family is on a wheat-free diet). I mixed the chicken until it was all evenly coated.
This was then cooked in a some sunflower oil in my trusty wok. The chicken is stir fried until just cooked and removed from the wok. What happens next depends very much what is in the house and in the fridge.
First goes some garlic and usually a combination of onions, pak choi, green beans (or mange tout), sliced mushrooms, baby sweetcorn, broccolli, basil and spinach. I had fish sauce and more soy sauce. You can add some chopped red chilli for heat if you want. I do like to get Thai Basil if I can, but I have found normal Basil an okay replacement. This is all stir fried, and when this is nearly cooked, the spinach has wilted, I add back the chicken and some cashew nuts. A little more stir frying before serving on a dish (and sometimes topping with more cashew nuts).
I find this quite a simple, yet very tasty dish, serve with plain steamed rice or noodles.
Within the Oxford Covered Market are many places to grab lunch, either to eat there, or to take back to the office.
One place I like for lunch is Sasi’s Thai in the Oxford covered market. They serve a variety of Thai dishes, as well as salads, cakes and coffee.
They have a counter, the food is cooked in an upstairs kitchen, and a range of tables, chairs and soft chairs. It can get busy, so you can’t always get a seat. It’s quite a nice and busy environment, with a pleasant ambience. If it is too busy you can always do take away.
My usual choice is either a single selection from their range of dishes or two served with rice.
This time I chose the chicken with cashew nuts and the crispy pork with basil.
The chicken dish was fresh and tasty with good flavours and I always enjoy the crunch of the cashew nuts. The crispy pork consists of deep fried pork belly combined with Thai basil, peppers, onions and chilli. Tasty combination of flavours and textures long with a nice bit with the chilli.
If I was to make one criticism I do think that sometimes their portions are a little on the small side, but that is just a minor point. The day I took the photograph above, the dish was a good size.
Their range of dishes include green and red curries, egg and cinnamon soup, pad thai I have also had some quite nice fish dishes too.
I’ve not yet tried the salad or even the coffee, but the food is great and well worth checking out.