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 for Thai Mussels and Beer

Now as we enter a second lockdown I have been reflecting on some meals I had out over the last few years which never made it to the blog. Sometimes I just run out of time to write up a review and sometimes I forget to write up the meal.

I had the meal reviewed here in June in 2019 at Belgo in London. I had spent a week off on holiday in Sussex and the week after I was back to work with three days in London. It was at the same time a certain American President was also visiting London during these same three days! I had written up the delicious pasta meal that I had during the same trip.

During my three days I was staying in a hotel that I actually wasn’t expecting to stay in, so I hadn’t had the time to do much research about places to eat nearby and I really didn’t want to end up at the hotel restaurant, as they can be terrible food and over-priced. After checking into the hotel I had a look around the area to see where I could get some food. I had been tempted by the Union Tavern gastropub, but it was rather busy. Around the corner was a branch of Belgo. I had always liked the concept of Belgo, but there wasn’t one in Bristol so I had never managed to get to a branch. I had thought about visiting the one in Kingsway when I was looking for lunch when I was working in our London office, but it was a little too far away (and too expensive) for lunch. So the opportunity of visiting the Islington branch was appealing.

I quite liked the interior, modern and somewhat abstract. Part of me thought that a more nostalgic Belgian environment might have worked. I was given a warm welcome from the waiting staff and was shown to my table.

There was quite a wide choice on the menu, but my main reason for going to Belgo was the mussels.

To drink, I went with a Beer Flight. This is three small 1/3 pints of different beers. A lovely idea if you have no idea on which beer to choose. I really enjoyed the different beers, each quite unique, all refreshing.

For my starter I went with the Calamari, crispy squid with aioli.

This was not as good as I was hoping, but even so it was okay.

For my main course I went with Green Thai Mussels. These were mussels cooked in a Thai Green sauce with coconut cream, fresh ginger, lemongrass, Kaffir lime, chilli and coriander. I did think about going with the traditional or mariniére bowls, but thought that was the way I would always order, so lets go with something different.

I really enjoyed the mussels, the Thai sauce was nice, spicy but not overpowering.

The service was excellent and I did not feel rushed or ignored.

Since I visited we’ve had the covid-19 pandemic. In July 2020 on the back of the pandemic and the parent chain, Causal Dining Group went into administration and it was announced that Belgo would permanently close three of its four sites. It looks like I will need to find a different place to have some mussels.

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 Sasi’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 Sasi’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 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 I can live with that.

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.

Siam Angel Cafe, Bristol

Siam Angel Cafe

Down on St George’s Road in Bristol, next to Brunel House is an old house containing an interesting fusion of a cafe, a coffee shop and a Thai restaurant. Is this a coffee shop or a Thai cafe? I’m not sure, and I wonder if even if the owners are sure.

The menu combines a range of coffee, all day breakfasts and some delicious sounding Thai food. So alongside the Pad Thai you can have fried eggs on toast with a bacon roll? The coffee, even with the regular choice of latte, espresso and so on, was not tempting at all, as it all appeared to come out of a vending style machine. On the counter was a wide selection of pre-packaged biscuits, chocolate and cakes. I didn’t notice any homemade or fresh cakes, but I may have missed them.

We were though coming for dinner, so we went for the Thai food and ordered a mixed platter starter. For our mains I went for the Prawn Pad Thai, my wife had the Prawn Kaeng Kari and my son went with the Sweet and Sour Chicken. My two youngest children decided they wanted sausages and chips!

The mixed platter consisted of prawn toast, filo wrapped prawns, spring rolls, sweetcorn fritter with a salad garnish. This wasn’t particularly inspiring. The food was deep fried and rather greasy, the individual parts lacked flavour.

The children’s food arrived first and looked really good, the sausages looked like proper sausages, the chips were properly cooked. Alas though I thought the sausages were fine, the children didn’t really enjoy their food, which was a pity.

My son’s Sweet and Sour Chicken looked very nice, he really enjoyed it, though I didn’t try it, I did think it looked a little too sugary and sticky. It was beautifully presented and was made using fresh ingredients, nicely cut up and presented.

My Pad Thai was also well presented with a good portion of prawns, I liked the touch of a slice of lime and chilli flakes on the side. It was cooked well, nice noodles, fresh prawns, crunchy carrot and beansprouts. It was full of flavour and was really nice.

The Prawn Kaeng Kari came in a bowl complete with jasmine rice on the side (in the shape of a star) and looked very nice. It was really fresh and tasty and full of flavour. The only downside was that I thought it was more soup than a curry, as it lacked substance.

The Thai chicken dishes are all priced at £4.99, whilst the prawn dishes are £5.99. I think this is really good value for freshly cooked and well presented food. There are vegetarian versions of some of the dishes, in the main using tofu.

If you are thinking about going there for dinner, you should note that it closes at 7pm and as for the weekends, it closes at 4pm on Saturdays and isn’t open on Sundays. There is no licence, so you can bring your own wine, or buy a beer from the pub next door!

Overall I liked the Siam Angel Cafe, the food was great, the decor was nice, it was a nice place to go out and eat Thai food. I am not so sure though if it works as a coffee place.

Noodles in a Thai Basil and Lemongrass Sauce

Okay hands up, I “cheated” by using the Blue Dragon Thai Basil and Lemongrass Sauce. Though the vegetables were all fresh. I took some onions, pepper, courgettes, green beans, broccolli, mushrooms and baby sweetcorn. I stir fried these in a hot pan for a few minutes,  before adding the sauce and a handful of cashew nuts. I then added the noodles that I had cooked earlier in boiling water for a couple of minutes.

I served the noodles alongside my spiced pork belly.

Thai Mussels

In December 2009 I went to a conference in Auckland in New Zealand. A friend took me out for a meal at a wonderful restaurant. Alas I don’t recall the name or the location…

I went with the mussels.

This was a wonderfully freshly cooked Thai curry with mussels.

It was delicious.