The tempura crispy chicken is back…

One of my favourite dishes from the Bristol street food scene is the bento box from She Sells Sushi. Virtually all the time when getting lunch from the stall I get the bento box with a portion of beef donburi and a hirata bao bun. 

Over the many years I have been enjoying this food, the beef donburi hasn’t changed much, however there have been many variations of the hirata bao bun.

Back in 2017 I was enjoying the delicious tender pork belly hirata bao bun. In 2019 it was the Finzel Flapper bun; same soft charcoal infused bao bun, but inside was tempura battered chicken.

Over the last few years though, She Sells Sushi had replaced the crispy battered chicken, in the first instance with panko crumbed chicken strips, and recently crunchy chicken strips. They were nice, but I prefer the crispy chicken that came with the original Finzel Flapper.

So on a recent visit to the Finzel Reach street food market I had my regular bento box from She Sells Sushi, I was pleased to see that the crunchy chicken had been replaced with crispy chicken. 

I don’t know if this is a permanent change, or a temporary thing, but I really liked the crispy chicken hirata bun. The chicken had a nice crispy batter, and chicken was nice and moist. The softness of the bao bun contrasted well with the crispiness of the chicken.

The beef donburi was slow cooked teriyaki beef rib on a bed of rice, topped with crispy onions and pickles.

This a street food dish I have had many times from She Sells Sushi, and this was just as nice as I’ve had on previous visits. The beef was delicious and full of flavour and the garnishes just added to the dish.

Overall a lovely bento box, which I really enjoyed.

Time for scallops

Sometimes when staying away, I see a dish on a menu, and I think, oh that sounds nice, I want to try that. Regardless of what other starters are there, I find myself deciding to have that dish. This was certainly the experience I had when visiting Norfolk recently. I was in Norwich for a workshop and staying at The Georgian Townhouse on Unthank Road close to the city centre. I have no idea if I had been to Norwich before, I thought I had, possibly on a school trip, but if I had it was over forty years ago. I really don’t think I have been there. I did live in East Anglia in the 1970s and 1980s but moved to the South West in the early 1990s. 

The Georgian Townhouse is a really nice hotel, part of small chain of boutique hotels with three hotels in Norfolk, one in Mumbles, Wales, and one in London. The rooms are a real nice mix of modern and old. 

I went down to the restaurant, which has all the character of a lovely old pub, I had eaten a nice plate of food the day before, so was looking forward to my second visit to the restaurant.

I looked over the menu, for my starter I decided I would have the pan-fried scallop, crispy pork belly, sweetcorn salsa, burnt apple puree & samphire.  I was very tempted by the Pumpkin ravioli, sage butter, roasted pumpkins, sauteed wild mushroom, crispy shallot & pumpkin seeds, however I didn’t want to have pasta for my starter and my main course. I did think about asking if they would do it as a main, but I didn’t want to make a fuss.

The pan-fried scallop and crispy pork belly starter sounded an interesting dish. I wouldn’t expect to have this combination of ingredients in a dish, and I certainly wouldn’t expect to see this kind of dish on the menu of this kind of hotel. However I have had scallops and bacon before, so the combination of pork and scallop isn’t unknown. I’ve not had samphire before so was looking forward to that as well.

The dish arrived and it looked very pretty.

There were two good looking scallops, two pieces of pork belly, the plate was dressed with the sweetcorn salsa and the samphire. Under the scallops and the pork was the burnt apple puree.

The scallops were cooked perfectly, just the right amount of caramelisation, but still fresh and not overcooked. The pork belly was tender, but had some crisp edges. The salsa was nice, and the samphire added contrast to the dish, whilst the burnt apple puree complemented the pork beautifully.

This was delicious, I really enjoyed eating it, and I certainly finished and cleared the plate.

Homemade bean dish

I originally called this dish a cassoulet. However I didn’t think it was an authentic cassoulet, so checked for a definition of what a cassoulet is.

Cassoulet is a rich, slow-cooked stew originating in southern France. The food writer Elizabeth David described it as “that sumptuous amalgamation of haricot beans, sausage, pork, mutton and preserved goose, aromatically spiced with garlic and herbs”.

Yup, what I cooked wasn’t a cassoulet. I didn’t use haricot beans, mutton or goose, and didn’t slow cook it either. Maybe something to try at another time.

I did though make a dish with beans, pork belly, and Polish sausage. 

In a large deep frying pan, I have a lovely large pan I got at IKEA which is ideal for this.

I added a splash of olive oil to which I added some pancetta. After cooking this for a while I added chopped garlic, with diced red onion, peppers and mushrooms.

I cooked the pancetta, onions, peppers, and mushrooms until the onions and pepper were softened. I then added some flour, stock, and some tomato puree. I cooked this for a while (ten minutes) before adding some sliced Polish sausage and some cooked pork belly chunks. The pork belly I had slow roasted in the oven for an hour.

After ten more minute I added two packs of beans, one cannellini, and one borlotti. As they are already cooked I was just warming the beans through.

I served this with some roasted potatoes and cooked vegetables.

Time for TânVân

There are lots of places from which to choose from when eating out in Ealing. Some would say too much choice. There are a number of Vietnamese restaurants in the area and they all look inviting and interesting. Looking around all the different places I did like the look of the menu at TânVân.

restaurant frontage on a street with a sign on the pavement

After walking around a couple of times I went back to TânVân.

We are a family-run Vietnamese eatery and Cocktail Bar based in the heart of Ealing Broadway. We serve the Vietnamese classics such as phỏ ̉ noodle soups, bún noodle salads and bánh mì as well as having lots of vegan options! 

We are more than just a place to eat. We are a place to share, not just food, but love, memories, laughter. A place for your first date, a place to celebrate, a place to catch up with an old friend, a place for after-work drinks with your co-workers. Whoever you are, wherever you’re from, we can assure that this is the place for you.

They have an intriguing menu, but the choice of starters or side dishes felt quite limited. However there were five dishes to choose from, maybe I am just being a little picky with that. Tempted by the chicken wings, in the end I wanted to try something new, so, I went with the beef wrapped in betel leaf topped with roasted peanuts.

plate of beef wrapped in betel leaf on noodles

This was not the most delicately presented dish of food, it did look a little thrown together. There was a plate of (cold) noodles, the beef wrapped in betel leaf, and it was topped with chopped peanuts. It was served with a chilli dipping sauce. This to me was quite a substantial starter, it probably didn’t need the noodles. The beef was tasty and I enjoyed eating all the food on the plate.

There are lots of choices on the menu for mains. As well as rice bowls, there is wide choice of Phở noodle soup, Bún bowls of noodle salad, and if you prefer you can have a bánh mi sandwich. For my main course I went with the Saigon pork belly stew.

This is on the specials on the menu, and is described as melt-in-your-mouth tender pork belly braised in a light and delicately sweet and sticky sauce. It came with a hard boiled egg, a side of rice and pickled vegetables.

pork belly stew with a hard boiled egg

The pork was melt-in-your-mouth tender and the sauce was not too sweet. It worked well with the rice and pickled vegetables.

a bowl of picked vegetables

a bowl of rice

I enjoyed this dish, it was delicious and tasty, and I was a little disappointed I had finished it, as I wanted more.

Alongside my meal I had a bottle of Bia Saigon beer, which was crisp and refreshing.

a bottle of beer on a table

The service was excellent, I was given a warm and friendly welcome.

This is certainly a place I would visit again.

Time for Tau Yew Bak 

I was in Bristol and popped down to the Finzel Reach street food market. Though I do visit other street food markets, the Bristol scene as one of my favourites. My personal challenge though when visiting is that I usually default to stalls I’ve been to before, and don’t necessarily try something new. So on this visit, I was going to go to King Fin, however they had sold out of their calamari, even so I was tempted by their soft shell crab burger. I then thought, there are lots of stalls that I’ve not tried before, so lets try something new. 

So I looked around and I decided to try out the Fat Rice stall which sells Malaysian comfort food.

Fat Rice stall

There were three choices on the menu, a beef rendang, kunyit chicken, and tau yew bak. I went with the tau yew bak. This was pork belly slow-cooked in soy sauce and spices. Served with basmati rice, fried onions and pickled salad.

pork belly slow-cooked in soy sauce and spices. Served with basmati rice, fried onions and pickled salad

This was a good sized meal and there was a decent portion of the main part of the dish, the pork belly. Sometimes I have found that you order a dish and the amount of the *star* of the dish makes you feel like you’ve been short-changed. 

The pork itself was nice and tender and full of flavour. I liked the chilli sauce that was served with the pork. The salad added zing to the dish and the rice was nice. Overall a delicious bowl of food.

The service was efficient and friendly. Thought it was interesting there was no vegetarian (or vegan) options. I certainly think I would visit the stall again and try out some of their other options.

Ramen

Ramen

I made this homemade ramen.

For the base stock, I cheated slightly, and used a carton of Itsu ramen broth.

In the bowl I added some cooked rice noodles, pak choi, spinach leaves, baby corn, and some spring onion.

I used the itsu brillant broth which I heated up in a pan before filling the bowls.

After adding the broth I added a slice of slow cooked pork belly.

My time at the Ginger Pig Kitchen

I was once asked where I go to eat out in Weston-super-Mare and I recognised that most times I go out to eat are in other places. When eating locally, as a family, we usually end up in Bristol, as part of doing something else. It doesn’t help that quite a few places that we use to frequent have closed down.

So it was a nice to go out to eat at a local bistro in Weston-super-Mare. I and others visited the Ginger Pig Kitchen recently (as in January) for a “Christmas” dinner.

“At the Ginger Pig Kitchen we’re proud to be serving Modern British bistro food, made from fresh, with passion, using local suppliers and produce. We trust that with every visit you make you will get great service in a great environment.”

The environment is certainly interesting with pipework and wooden tables and what felt liked random chairs.

The menu looked inspiring and interesting, and it was quite difficult to make a choice, but as this was a booked meal I had to make my choice the week before! I also prefer not to do this, as what I felt like eating last week, may not be what I feel like eating now. However I did think I made the right choices.

For my starter I had the Cauliflower Bhaji, which was served with mango yoghurt chilli jam and crispy onion.

I got two bhaji, made from onion and cauliflower. They were crunchy and crisp outside and soft inside. I couldn’t really taste the cauliflower, but they were nice and spicy. I liked the crispy onion, but I do feel that it needed more yoghurt. Overall I did enjoy the bhaji and they were really tasty.

We then had a watermelon gazpacho in a spoon, which was quite nice and zingy. 

Forgot to take photograph of the spoon before drinking the soup.

My main course was I think the house speciality, which was Woodbarn Farm pork belly. It was served with a GPK black pudding bon bon, mashed potato and a braised carrot. On the plate was also a scattering of green leaves, crispy onions and something else.

It was quite a small piece of pork belly, but was well cooked. The cracking was crisp and crunchy, but wasn’t going to be teeth breaking. The pork was tender and tasty.

The GPK bon bon was nice and meaty, I think it could have had a deeper flavour. I did like the use of crackling as the bon bon stick. The mashed potato was nice and creamy, but I would liked to have had a gravy with a deeper flavour, the same could be said for the braised carrot. 

On the plate was also a scattering of green leaves, crispy onions and something else. I am not sure what this was and what it added to the dish. It did add texture, but I was a little underwhelmed by this addition to the dish. Overall I did enjoy this plate of food and it was delicious.

I had a choice of desserts, in the end I went with the cheese and biscuits. I had three pieces of cheese, crackers, chutney, fruit, and celery.

I did not eat the celery. Overall it was okay, nice cheese and nice accompaniments.

It certainly was a popular establishment and was full all evening. Took a photo of the restaurant (at the top of this post) as we were leaving and was now nearly empty, but that’s because it was late. The service was excellent, warm and friendly. I really enjoyed the food, it was delicious and it is certainly a place I would visit again.

Porchetta Bianca Pizza




I was staying in Wimbledon at the Hotel du Vin and had dinner a couple of times in their Italian themed restaurant. I had a nice starter of Ministrone Soup. I even surprised myself and went for a pizza for my main course, the Porchetta Bianca Pizza.

This was a white pizza topped with slow roasted pork belly with rosemary, mozzarella, mascarpone, white truffle oil and pecorino.

The base was really nice, as this was a white pizza there was no tomato on the base. There was ample toppings, and I did like the flavour of the pork belly, which contrasted well with the mascarpone cheese.

This was an excellent pizza, I would have liked more truffle oil though.

Alongside my Pizza I went with the Zucchini Fritti, which was thin strips (or shoestrings) of courgette deep fried. They were rather moreish.

Well I wasn’t impressed

At the Finzels Reach Market I decided to add a pork belly bao bun from the Ah-Ma’s Dumplings stall to my lunch.

I have had their dumplings before and had enjoyed them. So I had quite high expectations about the bao bun.

However it was awful, dry and little or no flavour. I’ve had much better bao buns from other places, this was a real disappointment. Also the accompaniments were not very nice either, the cabbage was not very pleasant and the cucumber was just okay.

I won’t be repeating the experience.

Roasted Pork Belly

M&S sell a pork belly joint seasoned with salt and pepper. We have this quite often, and I use the same technique each time. In a roasting pan I add a bed of cut vegetables. The actual composition does depend on what’s in the fridge. This time I used apple, onion, carrots, a garlic bulb cut in half, and some mushrooms. I drizzled some garlic olive oil as well over the joint.

I start off with a hot (fan) oven, about 200℃ and roast the pork belly for about ten minutes before turning the heat down to 160℃. I usually cook the join for about ninety minutes. The plan is to slow roast the joint to make it tender. A hot fast roast will result in a shorter cooking time, but the meat will be tough and chewy (and probably a little fatty).

I leave the joint to rest for about twenty to thirty minutes, which gives me time to increase the heat in the oven to finish off the roast potatoes and roasted vegetables. I will usually use the roasting pan juices to make some gravy.

I slice the joint into thin slices and serve with roast potatoes and vegetables.