Tag Archives: curry

Thai Spice – Chorlton

7 Jun

Thai Spice – photo courtesy of toms-travel.net

Up front with this post I feel compelled to point out that I  hadn’t eaten much before we went out to dinner so by the time our meals arrived I was starving. Therefore my attention was off for this one and I may be missing some details, but I will try my best.

Different cuisines have differing levels of ‘public consciousness’. By this I mean if you stop the average man or woman on the street and ask you to tell them what they know about a type of food, they will be able to rattle of some standard items. If you were to do this with Thai food, there are a few standards: Phad Thai, Thai Fishcakes, Thai Green Curry. The recurring theme here is the fact that you rarely come across a cuisine which self references in the way that popular Thai dishes do. Despite this, there still isn’t really a great deal of public consciness around Thai food and certainly not of the great quality and variety of flavours it can offer. I have to be honest and say that I got a bit of a reminder of this myself recently at a restaurant called Thai Spice.

Thai Spice is a little restaurant on the end of the uber-trendy Beech Road in Chorlton. Home to some interesting little eateries and cafes, this is one place I’ve never set foot in despite having been intrigued by it. The small space creates a cozy atmosphere and a warm welcome at the door always helps. After being seated, we were straight down to the food and drinks (as I stated earlier, I was quite hungry). Being with friends who were willing to operate a share and share alike policy, we all ordered and shared. I picked out the Phad Prik Khing, which has a Thai Red Curry base.

Years ago I went on a Thai cookery course when I was in Chaing Mai and while I forgot most of it, I do remember the difference between Green curry paste and red curry paste. Its the chillies; Red uses dried red chillies and green uses fresh green chillies. So this dish had some kick to it. The kick was well offset by the sweetness from the sauce.Another little piece of retained knowledge I kept from that cookery course was the use of sugar. Unlike in parts of India where creams are more commonly used to balance the spice in dishes, Thai cooking commonly uses sugar as the key ingredient to do this, with cream added for flavour. The downside of this can be syrupy sweet Thai curries, a trap that was well avoided here, The green beans were fresh and crunchy and while the beef was too thin and flimsy for my liking, this dish was well-balanced and delicious.

Beef Phad Prik Khing – If you considered laughing at this name, you may not be as mature as you think… which is not necessarily a bad thing

Having done a number on my own dish, I prowled the table for my next target. I came upon a a cod dish which I have since been unable to identify on the  menu and would appreciate some assistance in identifying. As a sidenote, one of the reasons that I’m not really cut out for the food reviewing game is that I’m just there for the food. The idea of sitting and taking notes, takes the fun out of the moment. The downside is that I forget some of the details… I may have to start stealing menus.

The unidentified cod dish

Anyway, back to the dish. This seemingly luminous sauce hides some excellently cooked cod fillets. Flaky, beautiful cod and a light batter which has resisted the urge to become floppy and soggy under the pressure of that sauce. The sauce is almost too much for this excellent piece of fish but it stays just on the right side of sweet and spice offering up a sharp tang with the fish. (Descriptions like that are why I really need to start remembering the names of dishes. If I go back now, all I have to work off is this photo.)

Now add into the mix the substance of the meal. Sticky rice is something I usually don’t go for as I have a massive boiled rice addiction (I just bloody love the stuff), but on this occasion someone ordered some for the table, Presented in a small wicker basket and still wrapped in its steam bag, it was a great example of the side dish. Flavoursome, glutenous to the right degree and well bonded enough to required a spoon to scoop up a chewy clump of lightly flavoured rice pillow.

After the polishing off of the mains, the dessert menu came to us. Normally most South-East Asian restaurants don’t have interesting dessert menus, in the same way you wouldn’t really expect to peruse the burger menu at a Belgian patisserie. It’s just not really its key selling point, but today something caught my eye. The Chilli ice-cream had to be tried.

Chilli ice-cream in large amounts – cause and cure of ice-cream headaches all-in-one.

The flavour had to be tried and the result was interesting. The cream tends to hide the spice up front so at first it tastes like a strawberry ice cream. Once it’s passed the back of your mouth, the spice sneaks in and kicks your tonsils on the way down. It’s a pleasant tingle at the end of a cold hit and the ice cream quality itself was of a good standard. My only issue was the size as I was struggling to get anyone to share this thing with me, I once again had to declare defeat to this dessert (as with my last post, this is becoming a bit of a habit of mine).

I’ve never been that favourable to Thai curries in general, either here or in Thailand as the sweet and chilli flavours are a bit hit and miss with me. On this occasion, they hit and I’d certainly give this place another go, just to find out what the hell that cod dish was.

http://www.thai-spice.co.uk/

Thai Spice on Urbanspoon

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Pickly spice

14 Dec

The last few years I have been travelling to Birmingham from time to time. Not blessed with the exotic location status of Paris or Barcelona, or even the country charm of the south-west region it always has one card up its sleeve: the food.

Last week when I was helping my girlfriend move the last of her stuff out of ‘Brum’, we went out for dinner at the Indian restaurant, Pushkar. Based down on Broad Street, it feels like an equivalent to Deansgate but less rambunctious (yes, rambunctious) than Deansgate Locks ,although I was assured there are fights for taxis at 2am on a Saturday, so some things are the same everywhere.

Check out the swankiness - image courtesy of What's On Midlands

The restaurant immediately sets an intimidating mood for a man in a shiny bubble jacket and a scuffed-up old pair of trainers but not enough so that I didn’t go in. Inside the place oozed plush. If you ever wondered what happened for the love of white leather that was so prevalent in the 80’s and 90’s fear not, its spirit lives on through Pushkar’s furniture though surprisingly, it just works.

His and Her's menu boxes

After propping up the bar for ten minutes we were led to our seats. Our menus were contained in what I assume were faux crocodile skin presentation boxes with similar design for the menus all topped with gold embossed lettering. At this point I was expecting a menu containing Steak Diane and Black Forest gateaux aplenty. Alas, all I could find were a selection of South Indian classics and a few unique options.

We ordered and took the poppadoms in hand as they arrived. The plain and seeded poppadoms were good quality but the new comer for me was the spinach poppadum. With a much thicker and chewier texture, they were the true opposite to a traditional salted, crisp poppadum. Just to be sure of their quality, I ate 5 of them.

You can't hide in there spinach poppadom

After inhaling the poppadum’s we were more than ready for the arrival of the main. I love a little presentational flair to a meal and despite having been raised on Indian food, I can say I’ve never seen a biriyani brought to the table in the way this one was. Still topped with a thin pastry topping kept soft by the rice and meat baking underneath, our waiter sliced through the crust, peeling it back with a theatrical grace to reveal freshly baked goodness underneath.

The before..

... and after. Magic.

The Lamb Achari kicked arse. Picked and spicy, its had the same tangy, mouth-watering quality that you’d get from Sichuan pepper or a mouthful of gherkins. The intense flavour hangs around in your on the back of your tongue thanks to the semi-dry sauce.

I’ m a big curry-lover so even a mediocre curry would make the evening for me, but Pushkar’s is a great step out for high-end curry in palatial surroundings. Long live posh curry.

Pushkar Cocktail Bar & Dining on Urbanspoon

The Asian Express

29 Nov

Ready for the plate up. Five hundered salmon nigri please.Christmas is nearly hear and I was trekking through the Trafford Centre on an obligitory death march or ‘shopping trip’, whichever floats your boat. On the way, we decided to drop in to Selfridges for some Saturday shushi at Yo! Sushi. The sushi chain opened in 1997 in London to very favourable reviews, not only for good quality sushi but becasue who wouldn’t love a restaurant where your food moves round on a tiny conveyor belt. On a side note, I do sometimes wonder if they would have to close if that belt broke down. I’m not sure it would be the same to just have your sushi ‘handed’ to you.

Inari pocket is a sweet little treat

Regardless, we plowed through a mix of sushi and sashimi and other bits and pieces. The Inami Pockets were a great little start with rice and pickled radish surrounded by a fried soya bean roll (inami) which was sweet and sour in the right amounts. A spicy seafood udon soup had a great spicy tinge to the king prawns and squid cushioned on top of the thick udon noodles. The prawn katsu curry had the reliable comforting katsu curry sauce with fried prawn topped with tangy japanese pickle. From the sashimi menu we went with the classic salmon, which was a little on the bland side but more than made up for by the beef nigiri we had next. The crispy salmon skin ISO (inside out) roll was saltily good and a strong case for more use of salmon skin in dishes other than sushi. Before sushi fatigue set in, we made it to just one last dish of a crab hand roll and what a way to end. Tempura fried crab, rocket, more japanese pickle and a sweet chilli mayo wich proceeded to leak out onto my hand.

The higher end of noodle soup - Spicy Seafood Udon soup

The food is delicious and its one of the few restaurants where the food rotates more often than the customers your sat next to at the counter…

We didn’t stop there however as my sisters called and said they were coming down to do some shopping and would we like to get something to eat with them. ‘Could it be’ I thought. ‘Could I really be about to sample the forbidden delight of Double Dinner?’

So that happened a few hours later. This time we were in Tampopo sampling pan-asian cuisine. I hate that phrase ‘Pan-asian cuisine’ as it sounds strange in my brain, like the sound of a cat clearing its throat or listening to Enya. Its not wrong, just weird. Given that we’d already eaten, we went for a Tampopo Platter to Share. To cut down on the explination time, here’s what’s on the platter Goi Cuon (Vietnamese spring rolls), Gyoza (Dumplings), Bulgogi (mmm…beef), Coconut Prawns, Satay Chicken & Tod Man Khao Pod (sweetcorn cakes. The mix was amazing, six mixed starters and six sauces. I loved this dish more than I thought I would. The up-market, street restaurant style has a strange mix of trendy and traditional; the plush cushions on wooden benches is the best example of this. The decor was secondry though as this platter disappeared in about four minutes flat. Not bad from two people having their second dinner of the night.

The Tampopo Sharing platter - drink it in

 

Double dinner took us across the Asian continent. Now all I need is a balti and I’ve got a full house. Next time: Triple Dinner?!?

 

 

Manchester Food and Drink – Round up

24 Oct


The Manchester Food and Drink Festival has been and gone for another year. For those of you who made the most of it, visited events, ate a lot drank even more and hopefully learned something, this post is a warm reminder of a well spent week and a half. For those that didn’t get the chance or just didn’t have the time to get out and taste it, take heed, as this is a quick round up of some of the restaurants and general purveyors of good grub you need to be keeping your eyes peeled for. Here is my quick round up of some of the best food at the festival hub

Round 1

The Festival hub at Albert Square was filled with food stall and caravans as you may have noticed, a lot of them changed during the week. This was all part of the plan as the food stalls were planned in two ‘stages’. The highlights of Round 1 include:

Almost Famous – From the guys at Home Sweet Home comes Almost Famous. First up for two reasons; 1. They were the first stall I went to and 2. Their chilli dog was so good it’s still making my mouth water right now. Thick, rich chilli (US style not UK style), a splash of good mustard, a well toasted bun and a good quality juicy hot dog combined to bring me back here a second time. As a side note, the burgers were excellent quality and easily on par with the dog, but I couldn’t bring myself to attempt their Double Double burger. Mega.

Chilli Dog of Delight

Slow/Fast– Masterchef finalist Tom Whittaker was on fantastic form throughout the festival, and being directly next door to Almost Famous meant it was a short trip to more amazing food. The Black pudding and fennel sausage roll was deliciously salty, surrounded by light crispy pastry. Being asked whether I wanted gravy on it was just the icing on the cake (and also the gravy on the sausage roll).

Pork, Black pudding and fennel Sausage roll

Home Sweet Home– For the sweet toothed segment of the evening, we went across to Home Sweet Home, while I loved the look of the place and had a chat with the guys serving, my friend was less than impressed with them. Not because of the food, but because when I said I’d agreed to come over to ‘hold his hand’, he may have possibly said that my he only looked about seven years old… and I may have gone along with this statement for comic effect. Anyway, putting that aside, the chocolate brownie was dense, moist and the right sugar to chocolate ratiomade it tasty but not sickly.

The scene of the crime for shockingly good brownies

Memsahib Eastern Eatery– Towards the end of our evening, after several ales had gone down nicely me and my friends were sat our under the big gazebo as the rain lashed down watching it all go off at the silent desk, naturally I wanted a Lamb Karahi with a freshly made naan bread. Oh look, Memsahib Eastern Eatery are serving them! Fancy that. The Karahi ticked all the right boxes with a thick sauce, well spiced with a dry heat to it that is not that commonly found in take away curries and the fresh hot naan soaked up the sauce perfectly I didn’t even have to lick the bottom of the box.

Tikka and Karahi, together in harmony

So that was round 1, but what about the next wave of gastro-street food. Ding Ding,

Round 2

Mauritian Street Food – I know so little about Mauritius that I had to look it up on a map before writing this article. It’s east of Madagascar by the way. There is however one thing I know about Mauritius; if there street food is this good, I’d happily go tomorrow. The two snacks on offer were a Du Pan Frier which was a fried chickpea roti (I think, I didn’t write it down at the time) served with spicy sauce and chopped chillies and a cocktail umbrella to top it off. As the spicy sauce also seemed to be tomato based it added a fresh taste to the fried snack which meant there was no risk of this being too greasy or crisp. The Chaud Roti was a tasty wrap with a butter bean and spicy sauce. Both were delicious and both would warrant a trip. The Mauritian Street Food ‘van’ tours the country so if you want to see where they are next, check out their website at www.mauritianstreetfood.co.uk

Southern 11 – Since going to their street food stall, I have also eaten at their restaurant and the quality of their street food made the transfer pretty well from the restaurant. The choice was good between the brisket, pulled pork and burger. We went for the brisket. Having been lucky enough to have eaten in one of the best BBQ shacks in Texas, I’m a hard man to impress when it comes to smoked brisket. This one was not world class, only being smoked for 4 hours but it was a well-cooked piece of meat., Having tried their menu in full, there are plenty of great options, with the pulled pork being some of the best I’ve ever tasted.

Manchester Egg– Every great city needs its signature dishes. To quote comedian Stewart Lee, not every town needs a cake named after it, but I would argue that having an egg named after it should be a bloody necessity. Manchester egg takes a normal pickled egg and coats it in black pudding and sausage with breadcrumbs. What a flavour sensation. The salt and vinegary taste of the pickled egg alone made my taste buds sing, though possibly also my arteries harden a little. Add in a little chutney and you’re onto the perfect bar snack. Trying to take one of these in hand, the crumbliness of the coating meant I was taking massive bites, to stop bits of it falling away. You almost couldn’t imagine a snack like this coming from anywhere else other than Manchester.

The Great Manchester Egg

Woodburns Espresso Pizza Bar – Towards the end of another Saturday evening at the festival hub, we wanted one last tasty treat to keep us going for the tram ride home, queue Woodburns. Operating out of a classic Citroën van serving espresso and Italian style pizzas as first seen in London espresso bars in the 1950’s. The pizza was made in front of you and offered up with a selection of toppings. The wood burning cookers give the thin base that great crisp flavour. This was all we needed to end the day and the festival right. Fresh ham and mushroom pizza, the buzz of the festival and fading light left us leaving the hub with plenty to talk about and burn off on the walk back.Wood fired pizza