Time for a Thai blast from the past

When I was working in Oxford, five years ago, one of my favourite places for lunch was Sais’s Thai in the wonderful covered market. Back in 2014 I wrote about one of my lunches there. Since I left Oxford, I’ve not really had the chance to go back, or certainly no time for lunch. So it was with a little trepidation and anticipation that with time for lunch I found myself venturing into the covered market to see, if firstly Sais’s Thai was still there and if there was room for me for lunch.

Sais’s Thai

It was still there and though just before midday, it was quite crowded, but there was room for me. I could see it was still a popular place.

The menu was as interesting and tempting as I remembered, and I was particularly pleased to see two of my favourite dishes were available that day. So I went with the two dishes and rice. You queue up at the counter, expect to be shouted at a little, and you place your order, which is then plated in front of you. There are some extras, and you can also get a range of drinks. There are also bottles of chilled water (probably tap water) and glasses to have if you don’t want to buy a drink. It’s then a matter of finding a free place to sit, prepare to share your table with others.

The crispy belly pork takes deep fried pork and combines with a range of stir fried vegetables in quite a spicy sauce and Thai Basil. This is quite a hot and spicy dish, but was just as good as I remembered it.

Crispy Pork Belly

I really like this 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.

I was also pleased to see that they had a squid dish, this was a special and it was stir fried squid with vegetables in a spicy sauce.

Spicy Squid

I was really impressed with the squid, it was so tender, almost melt in the mouth. Squid in a lot of places is overcooked, so is tough and rubbery, this squid though was really soft and tasty. Full of flavour as well.

I really enjoyed my lunch, it was a real blast from the pasta 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 I can live with that.

Asian inspired

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.

Thai style stir fry

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.

Sasi’s Thai

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.

Thai #photo365

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.