Recipe: Chilli Beef & Red Miso Udon

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Mondays have become de facto noodle-night in our house thanks to how easy it is to cram a load of chilli, ginger and garlic into a big bowl of ramen or udon and put the weekend behind us while catching up on Boardwalk Empire.   Due to the illegal/highly unethical nature of weekend workouts, Monday is the day to get back on the T25, so loads of noodles and vegetables provides good fuel for that.

If you’ve ever used one of those Stir Fry kits you get form the supermarket – a big bag of cabbage and beansprouts, egg noodles and a sachet of gloopy sauce for about four quid – you’ll know that they kind of suck – the vegetables are all filler no killer, the sauce is cloying, and the noodles end up leaving their impression on the base of your wok, and reducing to mush in the meal.

I went to Fuji Hero last week and noted that they overcome this problem dousing the dish in curry oil, which tasted brilliant but went against everything Noodle-night stands for.  Rather than lubing my udon with oil, I made a little bit of stock using Miso paste, mirin and soy to stop them sticking to the wok – as a bonus, it helped cook them through properly, something else which is difficult when cooking such thick noodles quickly on a high heat.

I used mange tout and baby corn this time because they were in the reduced aisle at the supermarket, but feel free to experiment with the vegetables – just be really careful not to overcook them, a couple of minutes is plenty.  The same goes for the beansprouts, you want them to provide nice bit of crunch and texture rather than going limp and sagging all over the place, so put them in when everything else is cooked, take it off the hob and let the residual heat bring it all home.

Any ingredients that don’t look familiar will be available in the world food section of any decent-sized supermarket, (including vacuum-sealed Udon which are much cheaper than name-brand versions or the bags from the vegetable section) or any nearby Chinese supermarkets which you should familiarise yourself with as soon as possible because they are a goldmine.

Serves 2.  Preparation 10 Minutes, Cooking 10 Minutes


Ingredients


For the beef:

  • 300g Shaved steak/Stir fry beef
  • 2 Tbsp Soy
  • 2 Tbsp Mirin (or Rice Wine Vinegar)
  • 2 tsp Brown Sugar
  • 1 Clove Garlic, crushed
  • Half a Red chilli, chopped

  • 1 Carrot, julienne
  • Handful of mange tout
  • Handful of baby corn
  • 1 thumb-sized piece of ginger, julienne
  • Half a tin of water chestnuts
For the noodles:

  • 1 tsp Red Miso paste
  • 1 tbsp Soy sauce
  • 1 tbsp Mirin
  • 1 tbsp Sesame oil
  • 4 tbsp Water
  • 2 portions of straight to wok Udon noodles
  • Big handful of Beansprouts
  • Spring onions, Red Chilli and Sesame Seeds to garnish
Method:

  1. Marinade the beef in a mixture of the Soy, Mirin, Brown Sugar, Garlic and Chilli – the longer the better.  If you can do this before work and leave it in the fridge all day then brilliant, but who’s that organised?  Worst case scenario, just leave it marinading for as long as it takes you to julienne the vegetables.
  2. Fry the beef in some sesame oil for about a minute, or until it’s seared.  Add the vegetables, ginger and water chestnuts and cook for another minute or so, remembering not to overcook it.  Transfer this into another pan.
  3. Add the miso paste, soy, Mirin, sesame oil and water to the wok you’ve just used for the beef and mix it all together while bringing it to a simmer.  Break up the noodles and cook them in the wok for a minute or two.
  4. Toss the beef and vegetables with the noodles for a minute to heat them up and disperse all the ingredients evenly.  Take off the heat and stir the beansprouts through.
  5. Dish it out and garnish with sesame seeds, red chilli for a bit of clean heat, and spring onions for freshness.

Review: Bone Daddies, London

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You’d be forgiven for missing Bone Daddies as you turn off Brewer Street, as I almost did even with Google Maps in my hand; casting light on my perturbed expression which effectively doubled as a projection of “TOURIST” right across my forehead.
Its incongruous presence entirely at odds with Soho’s ultra-sensory barrage – the all black exterior and hairdressers’ typeface offer no clues to what awaits inside, and if you tried to be clever and use your powers of observation to look through the window at what was going on inside, you’d still not get the whole picture.  Serves you right for trying to be clever.
You’d deduce that it’s a ramen bar from the telltale signs – big mismatched bowls, communal seating, trendy young beautiful people, and those big spoons which evoke memories of your wacky mate at sixth form, drinking out of unconventional apparatus at house parties (“A pyrex jug! I’m mad, me“) – but the moment you step inside and get punched in the ear by Black Sabbath’s War Pigs, you realise you’re a long way from Little Tokyo.
Bone Daddies is a Rock & Roll Ramen bar, and with all of the adrenaline and OTT stylisation I’d be tempted to describe it as a Tarantino-esque restaurant; except it’s so cartoonish it makes Kill Bill look like Rashomon.  It’s a lot of fun, and serves almost as a caveat to the dining experience; if you’re not into this, then you won’t enjoy what’s about to happen in your mouth.

The one modest thing we ate was Tenderstem Broccoli (£4.5) steamed and served naked, with a Yuzu Kosho Mayo on the side for dipping.  The waiter informed us that Yuzu is a Japanese citrus, and along with some other unidentifiable flavours gave the dipping sauce a unique flavour.  Making light work of the broccoli, I dipped the stalks in floret-first to try and collect as much sauce as possible – daubing our table in the process, like Bob Ross painting a masterpiece in mayonnaise.
Seeing the mess I made of the broccoli, I decided to take up Bone Daddies on their generous offer of a plastic bib, provided on each table.  My reason for doing this was two-fold: 
1. I’m a grown-ass man, and I don’t care who sees me wearing a plastic bib in a restaurant, and 
2. I’m a grown-ass man, and I don’t want to be walking around with Yuzu mayo all down my shirt.

Mrs. Cous Cous Bang Bang helped herself to one of the hair-ties that are thoughtfully provided to prevent hair falling in your soup/flick at your dining partner.

The other starter was at the other end of the spectrum; Pork and Corn Croquettes (£5) – the impossibly moist filling tumbling out of a satisfyingly thick, seasoned panko casing.  Each one about twice the size of my thumb, which is only a useful way of gauging their scale if you’re familiar with the dimensions of my thumb.
The Sweet 3 Miso Ramen (£10) appeared in front of me resembling a delicious swamp, complete with a “clarence-court egg” (stained with tea and soy sauce, and boiled just past runny), great morsels of chicken, charred corn, and with additional Cock Scratchings (Because I’m a grown-ass man, remember, and ordering cock scratchings is hilarious B).  These scratchings were small, chewy/crispy shavings of cooked chicken skin which lent incredible richness and exciting texture to anything they came near.
There were noodles in there as well but unfortunately they were hardly noticeable in the mélange.  If Bone Daddies prided itself on the art of soba, then this would be a huge disappointment, but the real star of the show was always going to be the broth, and it far surpassed anything I’d tasted before.
My dining partner’s Soy Ramen (£9) almost looked like a diet meal in comparison.  A far more simple looking dish with its components instantly distinguishable from one another.  The broth in this meal seemed like a distant cousin to what formed the base of mine; very light and clear, not having been given the butter and cock scratching-treatment.
Occupying the first position on the mains menu, you imagine it might have been put there as an entry-level dish to wean people onto Bone Daddies way of cooking, and it serves the purpose well, while being a delicious bowl of ramen in its own right.  In the surroundings though, and when compared to the exuberance of my Sweet 3 Miso dish, it did fall a bit flat.
It’s testament to London’s embarrassment of riches that they have to further sub-categorise restaurants which would elsewhere be considered niche or speciality, and I’m extremely jealous.  You wouldn’t get a Rock & Roll Ramen bar anywhere other than the capital, and you won’t get ramen like this anywhere other than Bone Daddies.

Review: Wasabi Sushi & Bento

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Wasabi has been teasing the people of Leeds with its impending presence for over a year now – baggsying one of the renovated Albion Street plots and plastering it in promotional material weeks before Trinity launched.  
Finally, last April – with much fanfare – Trinity launched but Wasabi wasn’t ready yet.  Not a problem, there was to be a staggered launch with some places opening at a later date.  Then a few months later, the second wave of Trinity shops opened!  But Wasabi wasn’t ready yet.  Perhaps – being an eaterie – Wasabi would launch at the same time as the much talked-about Trinity Kitchen.  Then a few months later still, Trinity Kitchen opened!  But Wasabi wasn’t ready yet.
And then almost a year later, Wasabi announced that it would be opening its doors at 12 noon on February 19th, with a generous giveaway of Free Sushi for a year for the first 50 customers.  I went down and got my place in the queue at just gone 11am to make sure I was one of the lucky 50, and I waited until noon came round…and then!!
Wasabi still wasn’t ready.

In the end, we ended up being let in at about 12:35, after being strategically left outside to play hype-man and make the place look popular, while their Social Media manager Tweeted photos of us, and people wandered past on their way to buy a Boots Meal Deal.
I’ve got no problem being used as a marketing tool – that’s essentially the purpose a food blogger serves – and I’ve queued for ages to get into enough empty nightclubs to understand this particular tactic, but we were stood on the other side of the store’s glass facade, and we could tell that there was nothing going on in the restaurant to warrant this cynical delay.
Upon entering the store we were greeted by a member of staff attempting to explain the queuing system, the blueprint for which was seemingly devised by M.C. Escher.  A large queue snaked around the fridges where sushi platters were kept, but you could skip that and go straight to the hot food counter if you wanted, which was sandwiched in between the fridges and the cashiers.  Once you’d been served, you then had to join another queue to go to one of the tills – certain tills for hot food and certain ones for sushi, but with no indication which was which.
We decided to go for hot food, and kind of awkwardly stood near the counter, unsure if we were in the right place, or if we’d unknowingly pushed in front of somebody.  My partner ordered the Chicken Katsu Curry (£4.95) and then joined one of the queues to go and pay.  I stood at the counter for a while longer while people were seemingly picked at random to order their food, eventually ordering the Salmon Teriyaki (£5.95) with a Chicken Yakitori (£1), Tempura Prawn (£1) and Two Fried Chicken Gyoza (£1.50) (Although I did only get the one Gyoza).
The meals at Wasabi are very large portions, served in tubs which require you to tackle your food top-down, with the rice at the bottom.  I attempted to eat mine side-on to get an even distribution of rice throughout the meal, but it defied gravity and stuck to the bottom of the tub, requiring excavation with the plastic fork.  
My Salmon wasn’t terrible, but it was very poor – it possessed a strong flavour suggesting that it was long past fresh, and was dry inside and out; the only moisture coming from the Teriyaki sauce which tasted like it was made almost entirely from Balsamic vinegar.
My partner’s main was similarly bad, the chicken was greasy, with the panko breadcrumb lost its crispiness and turned almost furry, having absorbed moisture from the meat.  The sauce was ok – I mentioned in my review of Yu Kyu that some attempts at Katsu curry sare nothing more than chip shop curry sauce, and this was a prime example of that.
The Yakitori, Tempura and Gyoza were of the standard you could expect from an Iceland Christmas buffet, and they were entirely cold.  One bite into the hard, fatty Yakitori and I immediately lost my appetite. 
Would the food have been this bad if it hadn’t been left in the hot-trays for half an hour longer than usual while the queue was left brewing outside?  Not quite, but it still wouldn’t have come close to being good.  This is exactly the same quality of food, if not worse, that you could receive at the most basic of All You Can Eat restaurants – at the current price point, Wasabi is placing itself in direct competition with Yo! Sushi, and it doesn’t begin to come close.
To put a positive spin on the place, the cold food that we saw in the fridges looked good and was proving very popular.  Nigiri, Maki, Sashimi and hand-rolls were all lined up in impressively uniform rows, sealed in cellophane to be bought Pick-n-Mix style, or in ready-made mixed sets.

The soups and salads looked very fresh; albeit a little expensive for the equivalent of something you could get from Pret.  The cost really become an issue when you consider that the brilliant Pho is upstairs, serving similar healthy salads and soups, made fresh, for around the same price.

And that’s where Wasabi really shows its flaws; Leeds has been spoilt for choice recently with various ventures popping up and providing brilliant, exciting, affordable food, made by people who actually give a shit, and this place stands out like a sore thumb.  Newton’s Third Law states that every action has an equal and opposite reaction; Wasabi is the antithesis of Trinity Kitchen and all of the other great food progress that’s currently being made, it is actively bad food, attempting to look like something more.
On top of this, when I Tweeted about my dissatisfaction with the food; knowing that fellow bloggers had attended, I received the following audacious DM from Wasabi:
Such is their blind arrogance and refusal to accept critique, that they assume the only reason anybody could fault them is if they didn’t win their promotional contest.
Actually, being one of the first 50 people in the store, I was given a card which entitles the holder to a free Wasabi meal up to the value of £10 every month for a year.  After eating there that prospect fills me with dread, so I’ve donated my card to a person living on the streets; at least some good will come of the experience.

Review: Pho Cafe, Trinity Kitchen

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Last week’s Trinity Kitchen round up focussed on the food vans which embrace us in a brief, adrenaline fuelled fling before leaving us again – exotic sailors on shore leave; rock stars swaggering into town for one night of their world tour; Danny Zucho at the beach at the start of Grease.

As exciting and brilliant as they are, and I must stress that the current crop are fantastic – to pretend Trinity Kitchen lives and dies by the appeal of these mysterious strangers would be unfair on the restaurants who are there all the time; consistent, reliable, and there for us when the cowboys ride their converted School-buses and Transit vans into the sunset, back to that London or wherever they’re from.
Today I’ll be reviewing Pho.
Likely to be the first thing you notice as you enter Trinity Kitchen is Pho – an island consisting of little more but a large, open plan kitchen where you can watch the chefs at work.  The menu specialises in Vietnamese street food such as soups, salads and noodles, and the fact that Pho’s de facto seating area consists of cantina-style long benches and bar stools suggests you’re here for a good time, not a long time.  We pitched up at one of the benches, and went to enquire about some of the menu items.
At the counter we got a briefing of the menu from Justina, who was very thorough, despite the jarring distraction of a DJ/Drummer ensemble not too far from the counter.  Being big fans of Thai food we had a pretty decent point of reference for most of the dishes, and went for a combination of the familiar, and things that we wouldn’t feel guilty about eating during our week of repenting for the weekends multitude of sins.

Noticing one of the workers throwing fruit into a juicing machine we decided to try a couple of fresh juices as well, to really trick ourselves into thinking we were detoxing: Super Green Juice (£2.95) containing Kale, Pineapple, Apple and (I think) Mint, and Apple, Beetroot & Carrot (£2.95) – No prizes for working out what went into them.  The super juice was the winner of the two, it somehow tasted really creamy, and not at all like cooked kale.

After just a few minutes our buzzer started jittering around the table and I went to retrieve them.  For starter we shared Vegetable Spring Rolls (£4.75) and Pork and Lemongrass Meatballs (£4.95).  The spring rolls were bigger than expected which seemed a bit daunting if you’re used to takeaway spring rolls filled with anonymous stodge, but these were really pleasantly light; wrapped in rice paper rather than pastry (So gluten free as well as lower in calories) they contained a mix of vegetables, glass noodles and herbs.

The meatballs were rich and well seasoned; each one a couple of mouthfuls in size, they were lightly crispy on the outside with a firm texture inside, similar to a Thai fish-cake.  Four spring rolls and five meatballs were 274 calories and 323 calories, respectively (Although these figures don’t include the incredible peanut dipping sauce that accompanied them)

For the main course I went for the Pho Xao, or Wok Fried Noodles with Tender Beef (£6.95).  The noodles were cooked perfectly with a nice bite to them, and the generous amount of beef which really was tender flavourful – it could have easily taken center stage in a roast dinner, never mind being hidden away among a forest of noodles.  I checked the nutritional info because I’m like that, and was impressed to see it just shy of 400 calories.

The other half had Ca-ri: Vietnamese Curry with Tiger Prawn (£8.95) which was similar to a Thai curry in the sense that it had a fragrant balance of herbs to compliment the heat of the chilli, but thicker and it seemed richer.  It was served with a dome of rice on the side so you could add as much or as little as you liked, with the whole dish amounting to just over 700 calories.

As well as our mains, we shared a Goi ngo sen, which I would never attempt to pronounce, preferring to pussy out and use the menu number “8”, or the informal Tangy Lotus Stem Salad (£4.95).

This was pure vegetables and protein, with shredded chicken and butterflied tiger prawns strewn over a bed of Green beans, carrots, and the titular lotus stems.  The salad provided a nice fresh palate-cleanser between chopstick-fuls of our mains, with a faint peppery taste similar to raw celery.  Being nothing but vegetables and white meat, the whole dish only added just under 200 calories to our grand total.

Overall we were both really impressed with the meal, we knew we would be as we’d been a few times before and loved it, but I had no idea that it was all so healthy.  Definitely a place I’ll be going back to.

Pho on Urbanspoon

Recipe: Sesame Peanut Noodles

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At the end of last Summer I got to visit New York with my Girlfriend Lucy, on a mission to see places from the telly and eat like food bloggers for 10 wonderful, but increasingly sluggish days.  We spent the first five days in Williamsburg; acting like a slightly more bearable version of the characters from Girls, and when we got that out of our system we decided to head more central so we’d have better access to tourist places.  We didn’t count on it being one of the hottest days of the year, and against all better judgement, we hauled all of our luggage from Brooklyn to Harlem on the Subway.  That was a lot to take for the kind of pale, hairy guy who gets flustered on a scorching 15°c day in England, so when we reached the new apartment I was ready to pass out.  LUCKILY this was a Sunday, and we wanted to watch the episode of Breaking Bad that was airing that night, so we decided to spend the night indoors, asked our host for some take-away recommendations, and took the opportunity cross “New York Chinese-food in those little cartons” off my food-bucket list.

The experience was everything I’d ever hoped for while watching Friends as a fat teenager, and the one dish that stood out was a cold salad with green noodles (I do not know why they were green, spinach maybe?) and a sesame peanut dressing.  Neither of us had tried anything like it before, and it was just a nice break after 5 days of eating Chicken & Waffles and Chicken & Waffle flavoured crisps.  We tried to find something like it when we got home, but after checking the menus of the more credible Chinese takeaways back home we soon lost all optimism.  After a bit of experimenting though, I managed to come up with a recipe which is pretty similar.

This recipe is enough to serve two, with another two decent portions left over for lunch-boxes.
Ingredients
  • Dried Egg Noodles
  • 1 Red Pepper
  • A slack handful of Mange Tout
  • A similarly slack handful of Beansprouts
  • 1 Bunch of Spring Onions
For the Dressing
  • 2 Tbsp Sesame Oil
  • 2 Tbsp Olive Oil
  • 2 Tbsp Soy Sauce
  • 1 Tbsp Sweet Chilli Sauce
  • 1 Tbsp Sriracha
  • 1 Tbsp Fish Sauce
  • 2 Tbsp Peanut Butter
  • Sesame Seeds
Method
  1. Julienne all of the vegetables in advance, because the rest of this really won’t take long at all.
  2. With the vegetables sufficiently julienned, boil your noodles in plenty of lightly salted water.  While they’re boiling, combine all of the dressing ingredients and mix until they’re emulsified.
  3. When you think your noodles are ready, YOU’RE ALREADY TOO LATE.  Take them out about a minute before you usually would.  Drain them in a colander immediately, drizzle with a little bit of olive oil so they don’t stick together,  and add all of your vegetables and beansprouts so they soften a little in the noodles’ residual heat.
  4. With your noodles still in the colander, add your dressing and mix well.  Don’t worry if a little bit of the dressing escapes through the colander’s holes, if there’s any more than we need to coast the noodles then it could just sit at the bottom of the bottom of your bowl when you serve it, and that’s not what this is.
  5. Plate up, and garnish with sesame seeds and spring onions.  Pro tip: Cut your spring onions lengthways rather than into little disks.  It looks fancier, and it spreads the flavour of them out rather than biting into a tiny capsule of concentrated spring onion flavour.
It’s as easy as that.  I usually serve this with steamed broccoli or something similar, which is easy because you can just steam the vegetables in a colander over the noodles while you cook them.
I’m no closer to finding those elusive green noodles though, any ideas?