More Bao Buns Please

I really do enjoy a good bao bun and my first encounter with the Master Bao eatery at Westfield was back in December 2019 and  a return visit in January 2020. Restrictions have meant that January was my last visit to the Westfield shopping centre. However a recent return visit and needing lunch, meant I could revisit Master Bao once more.

I went with the meal deal of two bao buns and a side. I ordered the Prawn Bao and the Shiitake Mushroom Bao. The side I chose was fried chicken.

The Prawn Bao contained marinated king prawns, fried, pickled mooli, spiced spring onions.

Prawn Bao contained marinated king prawns, fried, pickled mooli, spiced spring onions

This was something I had not had before at Master Bao and it was rather good. The prawns tasted of prawn and the picked mooli added sharpness and bite to the softness of the bao bun and prawns. Really delicious.

Whilst the Shiitake Mushroom Bao had teriyaki shiitake mushrooms, pickled onions, miso.

Shiitake Mushroom Bao had teriyaki shiitake mushrooms, pickled onions, miso

I have had this a few times now, and it was nice, not as much mushroom as I have had on previous visits, but still delicious.

The fried chicken was nice.

fried chicken

Simple and served with some sliced spring onions.

I really enjoyed the food and it was nice to have it again.

We went out to eat

Our initial idea was to go to the cinema, though there was nothing at the cinema we could watch, so made the decision we would go out to eat at Bella Italia at the Mall. Virtually all the major chains in Weston have closed now, so wanting to ensure that the menu had gluten free options, we decided to head to the Mall. 

Well as we hit the M5 northbound it was chocked full and slow moving, we thought we made a mistake. But eventually it thinned out and we could go faster. We got to Bella Italia just in time.

We had a lovely warm welcome from the staff and they showed us to our table.

We had a good look over the menu. It looked like there was a lot more on there than when I last looked (which was probably last summer).

Though I like starters I usually don’t have a starter, but as others in the family were going for garlic bread, I looked over the possible choices. The calamari would have been an obvious choice for me. So I decided on the Calzonetti ‘Nduj, as I was thinking about pasta for my main course. However a last minute change of thought resulted in me actually ordering the Arancini al Granchio

There are crispy rice balls filled with crab, prawns and fennel with a side of lemon & cracked pepper mayonnaise.

They were very nice, not outstanding, but they were nice. You could taste the crab and the mayonnaise with the crunchy exterior.

For my main course I went with a pasta dish, Salsiccia Mezzaluna.

Fresh mezzaluna pasta filled with Luganica sausage & radiccio, cooked in a sage butter and finished with toasted hazelnuts and a beef dripping pangrattato crumb. 

This just sounded divine and to be honest it was totally delicious. The pasta was al dente, the filling had a nice flavour, I think it could have been stronger, but I loved the sage butter and the toasted hazelnuts and pangrattato crumb added real silkiness and crunch to the dish.

I loved it.

I wasn’t full, so went for a dessert, the raspberry and pistachio semifreddo with white chocolate and marshmallow sauce.

This was nice, but I felt it could do with more pistachio and more sauce. Having said that I really enjoyed it.

As for the rest of the family, my better half went with the  Funghi Crema made with chestnut mushrooms in a porcini, mascarpone & pecorino cheese sauce with fresh mafalde pasta ribbons.

She really enjoyed the dish and it looked great.

My youngest had a gluten free Marghaerita, whilst my son had the gluten free Pepperoni with tomato, mozzarella, salami piccante, red onion, garlic and rocket.

They both enjoyed their pizza.

My son also had the warm gluten free chocolate brownie with white chocolate chunks served with vegan vanilla gelato and a sprinkling of honeycomb.

He finished off the plate of food

This was probably one of the best meals I have ever had at Bella Italia, really enjoyed the experience, the food and the service.

Back in January…

So there I was going though some photographs from January when I saw some delicious looking dishes from Wahaca. I realised that I had this great meal and hadn’t written (well I had started but not finished) a blog post about it.

Well, so back in January I was in London for a morning meeting, so I had been up early and was feeling hungry so was looking somewhere for lunch. I know how much I had enjoyed the food at Wahaca I decided it was pretty much a no brainer to go there for lunch, especially as I had a special offer in my email inbox.

The nearest branch to me was the Covent Garden one. Each Wahaca branch has its own style and feel. The Covent Garde branch is downstairs in the basement, but does feel quite bright and open.

There was a lovely warm welcome from the staff and I sat at the table and viewed the menu.

I had a special offer which meant I could get a dish for a pound.

Pack your January with veg and treat yourself with our ultimate range of vegetarian street food dishes. From buttermilk cauliflower bites to our mushroom and grilled cheese tacos there’s plenty of delicious veggie dishes to add to your meal. Just show this email to your waiter to get your dish for £1 

For me that was an easy choice and I went with the crispy cauliflower bites, crispy buttermilk-battered florets, with roast serrano allioli.

crispy cauliflower bites, crispy buttermilk-battered florets, with roast serrano allioli.

These were delicious crunchy florets with a soft melt in the mouth centre, accompanied with a tasty allioli. I really like these and enjoyed these.

I had another dish, the prawn cocktail tostada. 

prawn cocktail tostada

This was sustainably sourced prawns with red chilli mayo, crisp lettuce & avocado on crispy tostada. This was the Wahaca version of the prawn cocktail. It was not as good as I hoped, the prawns lacked flavour, as did the avocado, but it was still fresh and tasty.

My third dish was grilled mushroom & cheese tacos.

grilled mushroom & cheese tacos

These were sweet ancho rubbed mushrooms with crispy grilled cheese. The mushrooms were delicious and I really enjoyed that strong flavour of funghi and spicy ancho. I do find that Wahaca often add crispy grilled cheese to dishes, which I don’t always see that it adds anything to that dish.

I was feeling hungry, so I went with another dish and went with the steak and cheese tacos.

steak & cheese tacos

This was chargrilled steak served with grilled cheese, chipotle salsa & avocado. Again more grilled cheese. This use to be an optional extra, but now was part of the dish. I’ve had this dish a fair few times, and this was not the best version I’ve had of this dish, but it was still quite tasty.

Overall I enjoyed my four dishes, the mushrooms and cauliflower were certainly the ones I enjoyed the most.

Cooking prawns

When eating prawns, either with salad, or on paella, I much prefer cooking them from raw, rather than heating up cooked prawns.

One thing I do which I learnt after eating prawns in a restaurant (which I don’t remember which one) is to reverse “butterfly” the prawns. I find this makes them quicker to cook, adds flavour and they look more attractive on the dish.

I take my raw prawns and then holding them down on the chopping board, slice through the back of the prawns, but not all the way through. As with the squid I discussed earlier, let the knife do the work and try not to press down otherwise you will find you are merely cutting the prawns in half.

I call this reverse butterfly, as I think you usually butterfly prawns from the front.

In a hot pan I add some olive oil and then quick flash fry the prawns. They can then be seasoned and served, though I also use this method when adding prawns to my paella dishes.

Time for Birthday Paella

Spanish inspired rice dish

When asked what was wanted for a birthday meal, the response was a seafood paella. Okay this is not paella, but is a dish inspired by paella. I have had authentic paella in Spain and from street food stalls in Bristol. I have been cooking this dish for a fair few years, but got told once by a Spanish person that what I was cooking wasn’t authentic paella, which is correct, so I normally describe this as a Spanish inspired rice dish.

In a large paella pan add a splash of olive oil. The add some pancetta (or chopped chorizo), a diced red onion, a diced onion, diced red pepper and diced yellow pepper. This is then cooked off slightly before I added some diced mushrooms and some sliced mushrooms.

Once the onions are softened I add the paella rice and stir it into the onions and peppers. I added a paella mix from Waitrose, but you could, of course, use your own spices, herbs and saffron. I then added some stock, I used a Knorr fish stock. I then added some tinned cannellini beans.

Spanish inspired rice dish

With hindsight I should have added the cannellini beans later in the cooking process as they got slightly overcooked and some fell apart.

I then gave everything a thorough stir. Then leave it to cook, don’t stir it again. As the stock reduces, add more stock to ensure that the rice cooks evenly.

I cooked the whole prawns on a griddle and did the same with the squid. I usually score the squid to make it look nice, but was out of time, so it went it as is. I also cooked some plain prawns and added them.

I usually cook the cooking chorizo separately as they seem to “leak” a lot of oil when cooking. I always try and using cooking chorizo rather than the dried ready to eat version you can buy. It’s softer and tastier I think in a dish like this.

I added the cooked fish, cooked chorizo and quartered lemons to the top of the dish and then served.

Airside Small Plates

I am not a great fan of airport food, usually over priced, badly cooked and service can leave e a lot to be desired. I don’t know about you, but I try and avoid eating there if I can.

Having said all that I knew that for a variety of reasons that I would be eating at Glasgow Airport, so as you can imagine I had quite low expectations.

After waiting ages at one place and not getting served, I left and went to the Caledonia.

Not really wanting a sandwich and actually not really hungry decided to go with a couple of small plates and a side salad.

My first choice was the crab mayonnaise with flatbread soldiers. This was described as crab & chive mayonnaise with a stack of atbread soldiers & a lemon wedge.

crab & chive mayonnaise with a stack of atbread soldiers & a lemon wedge

The crab mayonnaise was nice, but only just about tasted of crab. The flat bread was toasted, but for some reason was covered in dry oregano.

My second choice was garlic prawns with flatbread. The menu describes this as king prawns roasted in garlic & herb sauce, olive oil & fresh lemon, served with flatbread.

king prawns roasted in garlic & herb sauce, olive oil & fresh lemon, served with flatbread

The prawns which I thought would be roasted came swimming in garlic butter, literally swimming, there was more melted butter than prawns. It came with flatbread too, and it was also covered in dry oregano.

The salad was small, consisting of salad leaves and tomatoes with a lemon and basil dressing.

salad leaves and tomatoes with a lemon and basil dressing

Overall it was something of a disappointment, and for the cost of each dish in excess of five pounds, I thought it was overpriced.

A little more Mexican street food

Those who read this on a regular basis will know that I have a fondness for the Wahaca restaurants after an introduction to their style of food on the South Bank in London.

Since discovering this delight of Mexican street food and realising they had a branch in Clifton in Bristol, I have been itching to try the food there.

Using a gift voucher I went there for a quick lunch. One of the quirks (or is just a nice feature) of the Wahaca chain is that every restaurant has their own unique style. I think what surprised me most about the Bristol branch was the TARDIS style dimension, it is very much bigger on the inside then it appears on the exterior.

It was quiet early and I think I was the only person the restaurant, which surprised me, I was expecting it to be busier. Certainly I have queued for the South Bank restaurant and down in the heart of Bristol the food places are very busy (even from mid day).

As is my usual lunch, I went for three items from the street food menu. These are small dishes and three is more than ample for lunch (in some cases with the larger ones you could get away with just eating two).

The menu had changed since my last visit with new market treats and of course the regularly changing specials menu.

I was tempted by the new hibiscus glazed wings, alas they must have been popular and were off the menu. Still there were two other things from the new market treats menu that sounded rather nice.

My first choice was the Huitlacoche empanadas. Crispy pastry parcels stuffed with mushrooms, truffley Mexican corn & melted cheese.

Huitlacoche empanadas

These were delicious. The filling though was, as might be expected when using mushrooms was a rather unappetising grey mush. Despite that, I did enjoy the parcels and really liked the presentation. One thing that I have started doing myself which was on this dish was adding thinly sliced radish as a garnish, for crunch and flavour.

My second choice were the crispy prawn tacos. Corn tortillas stuffed with chopped prawn, chillies, spring onion & coriander, cooked until crispy, served with guacamole, tomato salsa & chipotle mayo.

crispy prawn tacos

The tacos had been filled and rolled and deep fried giving them a nice crunch. You could taste the prawn filling and it was still fresh and tasty. The accompaniments of salsa and guacamole worked, but I did feel I had slightly too much chipotle mayo.

For my third choice I went with one of the specials, Beef mole taco, this was unctuous, slow cooked beef shin, cooked in a rich Oaxacan mole. It was served in warm corn tortillas with sweet plantain puree and fiery chile de arbor salsa.

Beef mole taco

You got two beautifully presented open tacos, the beef was rich in flavour, tender and tasty.

Overall three delicious dishes and very tasty.

A taste of Peru

Temple Quay Market

So how often do you get a chance to sample some authentic looking and tasting Peruvian food?

One of my favourite features of Bristol is the weekly street food market that takes place every Thursday at the square in the newly redeveloped Temple Quay. It is open between 12 and 2, but I suggest you get there early, as there are large queues and many times dishes sell out (especially the vegetarian ones).

There are a range of regular and guest stalls, and when I went there was a real choice. I did like the idea of Greek, the halloumi pitta sounded and looked delicious. There was also a pulled lamb sub, that also looked very nice. After looking around, I went with Uchu Perú, as stall selling Peruvian food, my choice dictated slightly by the shortness of the queue and the interesting sounding menu.

Uchu Perú Menu

In the end looking over the menu I decided that I would go with the sample menu, so I could have a bit of everything. The sample plate has smaller portions of all the dishes from the menu.

If you stay at the market the stall provides a nice plate, but as it was starting to rain I got my meal to go and they split it between two boxes for me to take away.

Ceviche, which was sea bass cooked in lime with prawns, chilli, coriander, red onion, sweet potato and Peruvian corn. This was fresh and sharp and really tasty. I wasn’t so enamoured with the Peruvian corn, but it was something that I can see other people liking.

The Quinoa Salad was made from black and white quinoa with carrot, radish, coriander, broad beans, feta cheese and Peruvian yellow chilli sauce. I really liked how the team put this together, and was like the Ceviche was delicious. The ingredients were fresh, tasty and worked really well together.

The final dish in my trio was Causa, which was freshly piped potato puree with Peruvian yellow chilli paste, served cold with tomato, avocado puree, purple corn mayonnaise, sweet potato crisp, pulled chicken, topped with togaroshi mayonnaise. As I was eating I did wonder what the pink stuff was, but re-reading the menu, I realised this was the purple corn mayonnaise. Delicious components that worked really well together.

I really liked how the dishes were constructed to order and they looked beautiful. I’ve not eaten Peruvian dishes before, these were delicious and I would certainly go back to Uchu Perú.

Well that wasn’t too bad…

The original plan was to go somewhere else for lunch, but in the end we somehow found ourselves at Frankie and Benny’s. So despite many reservations about the place (and some pretty poor experiences) I was once more sitting down and looking at the menu in Frankie and Benny’s.

As it was a Saturday, there were no special menus or “cheap” lunch choices, so I had the whole menu to look over.

Fancying a starter to share, I chose the Bruschetta, a home made mix of fresh tomato, red onion, basil, olive oil and cracked black pepper served over toasted garlic ciabatta bread, finished with a balsamic glaze.

Bruschetta

We also got some Warm Dough Sticks with Garlic Butter. I didn’t get a look in with the dough sticks, but they looked a little overdone to my eyes, but without eating it I couldn’t be totally sure.

I had had the Bruschetta before and back then I said

“I was not that impressed with this, I found the red onion very harsh and astringent.”

This dish was much better than when I had it back then. The tomato and onion was much sweeter and contrasted well with the balsamic glaze. The bread was nice, not over toasted, and overall the dish was rather nice.

Though I like to think I try new things, too often when eating out I will go with what I like and am familiar with. I have decided this year to make a noticeable effort to try out new things when eating out. So looking over the menu I decided to go with a lighter option, I went with the Marinara Pizza, which had large prawns, anchovies and clams on a tomato base topped with fresh rocket.

Marinara Pizza

There was minimal cheese on the pizza (which is kind of what you expect with a lighter option), but there were generous toppings of prawns and clams, and for me just the right amount of anchovies. The scattering of rocket added some nice greenery and more spice.

I really did enjoy the pizza, there was a lot of flavour. Overall I was quite pleased with the meal, it was certainly one of the better meals I have had at Frankie and Benny’s and how it should be all the time. The service was excellent, not in your face, or so minimal that you are constantly looking around for waiting staff.

Seafood Platter

For New Year’s Eve we decided to have a fish and seafood platter. It was an opportunity to cook and eat some great food. However one problem, as you may recall New Year’s Eve is not only part of Christmas, it’s also a Monday. As a result it was virtually impossible to find any fresh fish or seafood. Generally the fishing fleets don’t go out at weekends and I suspect that they certainly wouldn’t go out over a weekend during the festive season. As a result we went with frozen seafood, not my first choice, but with what we wanted it was better than nothing.

We got some frozen king prawns, scallops and squid from Sainsbury’s as part of their Taste the Difference range. One of the key things to do when using frozen seafood is to defrost and defrost safely. If you cook frozen seafood from frozen, generally what happens is that you overcook it and it becomes very rubbery. You need to take care when defrosting to avoid food poisoning. The best way to defost is in the fridge, but this takes time. If you do defrost at room temperature, make sure you move the seafood to the fridge once it has defrosted.

The prawns I cooked on my griddle, whilst the scallops were cooked very quickly on a hot flat frying pan, as were the squid rings.

scallops, prawns and squid rings

The scallops were perfect and I was really pleased with how I cooked them. They were browned on each side, but were only just done on the inside. As a result they were melt in the mouth tender, and full of flavour. The prawns were very good, and served with some lemon were delicious. I was less impressed with the squid rings. In the past when I have cooked squid, I have bought frozen whole squid from Tesco and cut it into pieces of squid. I much prefer using this way of preparing squid, usually scoring one side to ensure even cooking and browing of the edges. The squid from Sainsbury’s comes ready sliced into rings. It cooked fine, but it lacked the depth of flavour I have had in the past with squid from Tesco. Why didn’t I get my squid from Tesco, well they’ve seemed to have stopped selling it.

Alongside this plate of seafood I also grilled some giant tiger prawns in their shells. These were placed under a really hot grill, after they were fully defrosted and brushed with some olive oil. The main reason for these prawns is twofold, one is the visual impact, secondly was flavour. They were delicious, though of course were quite messy to peel.

Taste the Difference Whole Giant King Tiger Prawns

We also had some dressed crab, these were small crab shells filled with a crab pate and white crab meat. They looked really nice, but lacked the depth of flavour I would liked to have. This was served with some fresh crusty bread.

Dressed Crab


Another successful dish was some clams. I got a pack of frozen Big and Juicy clams from the Big Prawn Company which I mananged to buy at Waitrose.

Big and Juicy clams from the Big Prawn Company

Again the key was to ensue they were properly defrosted before cooking, well they’re cooked already, all they really needed was heating up. I did this in a pan with some freshly chopped garlic and parsley. I thought they were delicious and very good value at £3.29. I think they would also work with linguine if wanted pasta and seafood.

We also cooked some salmon, this was roasted in the oven with a little olive oil.

Overall this was a delicious meal, we served it with some fresh salad and I also made a paella.