Thai style stir fry

Thai style stir fry

I do like Thai food, one of my favourite places to eat in Oxford was Sai’s Thai in the covered market. As I have never actually been to Thailand I couldn’t say whether what they cooked was authentic, or typical of the cuisine. What I can say, is I really liked their food and what they served. I have tried quite a few times to recreate the experience at home, sometimes with an element of success and sometimes it was just okay.

For this recipe I took some chicken thighs and cut them into strips, I prefer using chicken thighs over chicken breast, as the flavour is much better and it cooks better in a stir fry, staying moist and tender, whilst breast can dry out.

The chicken is mixed with soy sauce and I used some rice flour (one of the family is on a wheat-free diet). I mixed the chicken until it was all evenly coated.

This was then cooked in a some sunflower oil in my trusty wok. The chicken is stir fried until just cooked and removed from the wok. What happens next depends very much what is in the house and in the fridge.


First goes some garlic and usually a combination of onions, pak choi, green beans (or mange tout), sliced mushrooms, baby sweetcorn, broccolli, basil and spinach. I had fish sauce and more soy sauce. You can add some chopped red chilli for heat if you want. I do like to get Thai Basil if I can, but I have found normal Basil an okay replacement. This is all stir fried, and when this is nearly cooked, the spinach has wilted, I add back the chicken and some cashew nuts. A little more stir frying before serving on a dish (and sometimes topping with more cashew nuts).

I find this quite a simple, yet very tasty dish, serve with plain steamed rice or noodles.

So what’s close by?

I have really enjoyed my previous visits to Wahaca, visiting central London and looking for somewhere to eat, I did wonder if there was a Wahaca close by, a quick search and 0.2 miles away on Charlotte Street.

This is a very different establishment to the one on the South Bank, more traditional in appearance from the outside. Inside it felt more like the one on the South Bank, the furniture was very similar. The staff were friendly and welcoming. Inside there were the similar tables and chairs, but as the place isn’t made from shipping containers, the walls were brick and the ceilings high.

Looking over the menu, I decided to go with one of the specials as they were different from those at my last visit. There was a choice of two, so I went with the lamb taquito, this was slow-braised lamb shoulder marinated in ancho chilli and orange rolled in a crispy fried tortilla.

slow-braised lamb shoulder marinated in ancho chilli and orange rolled in a crispy fried tortilla

Unlike my previous experience with taquitos, these were very tasty, strong flavours. The fried tortilla was nice and crip and I enjoyed the accompanying slaw.

I also went with the Tostadas, two crispy corn tortillas topped with fresh, light layers of Mexican flavour, served chilled.

Tostadas, two crispy corn tortillas topped with fresh, light layers of Mexican flavour, served chilled.

These were smoky chargrilled chicken, avocado, guacamole, chipotle mayo and fresh slaw. This was delicious and refreshing. A wonderful combination of tastes and textures.

I did also order a dish I had before, and went with the tacos, three toasted soft corn tortillas with flash grilled skirt steak with chipotle salsa.

three toasted soft corn tortillas with flash grilled skirt steak with chipotle salsa

They also came with raw diced onion and some guacamole. As before they were delicious. I was asked if I wanted grilled cheese with them, I said no, but they arrived with the grilled cheese. I felt this added very little to the dish and wasn’t really needed, pleased that I wasn’t charged for this extra.

Another enjoyable visit to Wahaca and some great food.

Did not meet expectations

paella

One of the regular stalls at the weekly Temple Quay meeting, but also the Wednesday street food market on Wine Street usually has a really large queue, so I often avoid it, due to time constraints. It usually serves beef chilli, stroganoff and paella. I have no idea of the stall name, as there isn’t one on the stall.

Having a little more time and quite liking the idea of the paella, I decided to join the queue. It did move quite quickly as the staff were quick and efficient at serving.

The paella was cooked on a large paella dish and contained chorizo, chicken, mussels, prawns and squid and was £6.00 a serving. The portion was provide in a plastic takeaway container and was given a garnish of fresh coriander and lemon.

I had quite high expectations about this dish, but alas I was to be somewhat disappointed.

The yellow of the dish came from turmeric, rather than the much more expensive saffron. I wasn’t too surprised by this, as this happens quite often. Even so I did like the flavour of the dish and felt it was very tasty. The dish though, I felt lacked enough of the core ingredients. It had one piece of chicken, two small prawns, a few pieces of squid, but plenty of mussels!

My main disappointment as a result is about value for money, was the dish worth the money I paid for it. I didn’t think it was worth the price and I don’t think I would try the dish or the stall again.

Barbecued Chicken

barbecuing over charcoal

I have done this method of barbecuing a whole chicken a few times now and each time, the end result has been delicious tender moist chicken full of smokey and chargrilled flavours.

The first part of the process is to spatchcock the chicken. I don’t have a pair of poultry shears so I usually use a big cook’s knife to cut out the backbone. I also don’t use skewers to secure the legs or keep it flat, but you just have to be more careful when turning the chicken.

I usually marinade the chicken, lemon and parsley (with some diced onion) I find works well. Adding some white wine adds more depth of flavour.

As for the barbecue, the key here is to avoid cooking the chicken over a direct heat. After lighting the charcoal, once the flames have died down, and they are covered in grey ash you can start to cook. However the first thing you need to do is to move the coals to the sides of the barbecue leaving the middle empty, the chicken will be placed over this empty zone. Moving the coals can be tricky as they will be really hot, but the aim is to create a circle of hot coals around a clear area. This will allow the chicken to be cooked via in-direct heat without overcooking or burning.

The chicken is placed down on the grill carcass side down. I then use a wok lid to cover the chicken. This creates an oven effect and helps to stop the chicken drying out. You could of course if you have one use the lid on your barbecue.

barbecuing over charcoal

Turn the chicken after 15-20 minutes and cook the skin side. Take care when turning the chicken, especially if you like me didn’t use skewers. Add any remaining marinade to baste the chicken. Re-cover with the wok lid.

Check the chicken is cooked and then remove from the barbecue.

We served it with salad and some crispy fried (well actually roasted) potatoes. No I don’t add any barbecue sauce!

Another time I am thinking of using a similar method to cook beef or pork.

A little Mexican market eating

The Wahaca Southbank Experiment

Walking over the bridge to the South Bank there is Wahaca , one of a chain of Mexican street food eating places that to be honest I had not heard of before. There are branches across London and England, there is even a branch in Bristol!

The restaurant on the South Bank, is built from eight recycled shipping containers arranged across two overhanging levels. These brightly coloured containers make for an interesting eating environment. The team were friendly and welcoming.

The Wahaca Southbank Experiment

We started with some home cooked tortilla chips served with freshly made guacamole. The guacamole is made with lime juice, coriander and ripe Hass avocados. The guacamole was lovely and fresh and I really enjoyed the tasty tortilla chips.

There is a wide choice of dishes, the menu is split into nibbles, bigger food and street food. The street food menu is a range of smaller dishes. I went with two dishes, which was perfect for lunch, but if you were hungry you might want to go with three. There are many different choices, including vegetarian. The street food menu is split across market treats, tacos, tostados, taquitos, quesadillas and baja tacos.

My first choice was from the market treats, the scallop and shrimp ceviche at £6.95. A classic Yucatecan ceviche, with fresh orange and lime cured fish, diced cucumber and fresh summer herbs, served with crisp tostadas. This was a wonderful fresh tasting dish of delicious flavours. I could taste the scallop and shrimp in the dish. The crisp tostadas added texture to the dish.

the scallop and shrimp ceviche

For my second choice I went with the Ancho chicken baja tacos at £4.25. These are two corn and flour tortillas inspired by the beaches of baja filled with grilled chicken thighs marinated with sweet and smoky ancho chilli marinade, topped with habanero mayo and jalapeño-pickled carrots.

Ancho chicken baja tacos

As with my other dish this was beautifully presented and tasted delicious. The grilled chicken was moist and full of flavour, not too spicy. I really enjoyed eating this dish.

The dishes we ordered came in a somewhat haphazard order, but that didn’t distract too much from the overall experience.

There is a technological solution to paying the bill via an app, which I guess is great if it works, but it wasn’t working for us, so we paid in the traditional manner.

I really enjoyed the fresh delicious food from Wahaca and would really like to go again.