Friday, April 18, 2014

My favourite vegan dishes of Manchester

So Lent, and therefore my stint as a vegan, is coming to an end and I would be lying if I said I wasn't looking forward to tucking in to a big fat salmon steak with gorgeous crispy skin... However, I would also be lying if I said it had been as terrible and torturous as everyone expected - I haven't had to survive on tasteless leaves and berries, put it that way. In fact, I've been surprised at just how many places there are right here in Manchester serving up really tasty vegan food and also at just how accommodating people are when you ask them to adapt a dish for you. In the whole 40 days I've only been to one place where I couldn't find anything to eat. To show you just how many tasty treats I've managed to tuck into during Lent I thought I'd share with you my favourite dishes of the 40 days, and all consumed right here in sunny Manchester!

Vegetables Simple at Coriander
Chorlton's favourite Indian restaurant Coriander is a vegan-friendly haven, having dedicated a whole section of the food menu to dishes for dairy dodgers as well as boasting a decent selection of organic, eco-friendly wines. I thoroughly enjoyed my Vegetables Simple which was a clean, flavoursome curry featuring one of my all-time favourite vegetables, plantain. Teamed with a lovely, thick Dhal Tarka and a hot and crunchy village salad, this was a very memorable meal.

Vegan BBQ Plate from Fire & Salt BBQ 
The last place I'd go looking for a decent vegan feed would be a canal boat captained by The Liquorists during a bourbon 'n' BBQ event entitled "The Mississippi Booze Cruise", which is what made tucking into a fantastic Vegan BBQ Plate, created by the lovely Fire & Salt BBQ, such a pleasant surprise. The beans were so good that they prompted me to suggest to Bailey, in some seriousness, that we kidnap Mal and handcuff him to a bean lab, like Jessie in Breaking Bad. Oh and vegans, if you don't know what a jackfruit is, look it up. Look it up now.

Mushroom Pizza from Honest Crust
'Cheeseless pizza' sounds like one of the most joyless phrases in the English language, and it probably would be ordinarily. However, with Honest Crust's amazing, puffy sourdough bases and fresh, locally-sourced toppings, they actually pull it off. I've eaten one of these bad boys at every opportunity since Lent began (find them at BeatStreet, Vintage Village, Altrincham Market, etc) and, while I'm quite looking forward to going back for a cheesy one after Easter, this has always been just spot on with a simple drizzle of chilli oil and grind of black pepper.

Dal Makhani at Indian Tiffin Room
DO believe the hype surrounding Cheadle's not-so-hidden gem Indian Tiffin Room - it's brilliant. However, it's teeny-tinier than you could ever imagine and very popular so make sure you book a table to avoid disappointment. The brilliant staff are really helpful with the menu and told me that they could make pretty much anything vegan on request. The Dal Makhani was a tasty and robust no-nonsense affair and it's worth mentioning that the Idli were the lovliest and most perfectly formed I've had to date.

Kimchee Casserole at Koreana
We were very impressed with our first visit to Koreana thanks not only to the food but the enthusiastically friendly service also. As indicated by the menu, many of the dishes are easily veggiefied, providing a decent number of vegan options. I personally am always going to lean towards anything on a menu that involves two carbs, and the spicy Kimchee Casserole of tofu and transparent noodles served with rice was an excellent choice.

Vegetarian Chicken with Fresh Chillies and Garlic Sauce from The Miramar

My favourite Heaton Chapel Chinese takeaway The Miramar have a big bit on their menu stating that their "chefs are able to diversify ingredients to cater for your needs" and were excellent over the phone when I rang to ask about the vegan-friendliness of their food. Turns out all of their mock meats are made from soya and the Vegetarian Chicken and Sweetcorn Soup I always order from them is always cooked fresh to order and can be made without egg. Hurrah!

Tao Hoo Pad Kra Praw at Phetpailin
Phetpailin's menu describes its veggie dishes as "the nicest in town" and I would be inclined to agree. Then again, you're pretty much guaranteed to have your socks blown off by anything you order in this place, where they DO NOT mess about when it comes to flavour and spice. I adored every bite of this dish, especially the crispy basil leaves, spongy tofu and perfect sticky rice; it also had the additional advantage of relieving me of my flu symptoms for the duration of the meal, winner.

Sichuan Style Spicy Steamed Aubergine at Red N Hot
Anna from @mcrfoodies described the Sichuan Style Spicy Steamed Aubergine dish at Red N Hot as "the best thing I've ever eaten", before amending it to "the best vegetarian thing I've ever eaten in a Chinese restaurant". Tall praise either way but this melt-in-the-mouth aubergine TREAT is fully deserving. Top tip: don't waste a single drop of the oil it comes in - drizzle it onto your rice for flavour-tastic times.

So there you go! And as you can see not a single one of these was a specific vegan or veggie place, although V Revolution is still high on my hit-list. I'm certain there are loads of other great dishes vegan dishes out there just waiting to be tried in some of the places you'd least expect them.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Nasi Lemak at Frienship Inn

For indecisive diners with a huge hit-list like me and Bailey, deciding where to eat out is already difficult enough as it is without throwing "must be showing the football" onto the list of criteria - a position we found ourselves in last Sunday when meeting up with our friends Kate and Chris for a lunch/footie-based catch up. 'Good food and football' sounded like an oxymoron to me, but we eventually whittled the suggestions down to Fallowfield's Friendship Inn - pretty much equidistant to us and our mates.

The good news for football lovers is that Friendship Inn is a really good pub for watching football in (so I'm told, I wouldn't know as I never do this). The good news for food lovers is that Nasi Lemak are in charge of serving up Malaysian "street cuisine" which comes recommended by the excellent Bobby's Bangers family who know a thing or two when it comes to tasty scran.

I have to say Nasi Lemak's website isn't the most professional I've ever seen, with large chunks of randomly placed Lorem Ipsum appearing on the mobile site. Also, what the dickens is a YouTube Rendang?! According to the menu description "everyone's cooking it these days", yet I was stumped by a simple Google search...

First impressions of the pub itself on arrival were good - friendly atmosphere pre-match with Manchester City and Liverpool fans coexisting harmoniously and a nice buzz in the air. First impressions of the menu were less good - why would you have an extensive list of delicious authentic Malaysian cuisine then also offer crap pub classics on the reverse side? One look around the pub at the tables and tables of people tucking into burgers and chips answered my question immediately, and that was before two members of our party also ordered from this side of the menu.

Kate, who was keeping it Malaysian with me, ordered the Satay Ayam chicken and Ikan Bakar cod which were both delicious and not shy with the spice. These were visually so appealing that they attracted a great deal of attention from a neighbouring table of football fans who then also ordered some.

I was delighted that many of the dishes on the menu could be converted to a vegetarian alternative of mock chicken - my favourite vegetarian chicken no less, also used by my most beloved Heaton Chapel takeaway The Miramar. I went for the Devil's Chicken Curry which had a really tasty sauce and the perfect level of heat. The fake chicken was nice but I would have liked a bit of veg in the curry or on the plate - something for a bit of colour and crunch. The Jasmine Rice I chose to go on the side was great.

Bailey and Chris both seemed happy enough with their burgers...

...but what really impressed them were the mammoth portions of Salt & Pepper Chips they ordered on the side. The chips themselves were OK with a good crunch-to-fluff ratio but it was the sweet and fragrant five spice coating and the addition of veg strips that we loved. 

Turns out I was also pleasantly surprised to quite enjoy the football, although this could be due to the fact that our sofa was facing the rest of the pub so watching the faces of the fans was enough to provide me and Kate with 90 minutes of entertainment in itself. While I'm not suggesting you need to rush to the Friendship Inn immediately, you could do a lot worse than ordering yourself a Nasi Lemak takeaway and rocking up there to eat Salt & Pepper Chips while watching the match.

Oh... and I tweeted Nasi Lemak to find out what a YouTube Rendang is... Turns out it's like ordinary Rendang, but they wanted people to YouTube the name (like an instruction?!) and also wanted to 'cheekily' suggest that they might have gotten the recipe off YouTube... I'm still fairly confused but intrigued so will probably order the mock chicken version of it next time...
NasiLemak on Urbanspoon

Friday, April 11, 2014


Since I went on that Twitter saying that Phetpailin is ace and that it blows Chaophraya out of the water, I've had quite a few people ask me about what makes it so great. Firstly I'd like to point out that I can't take credit for discovering this little gem; like most good things it was those Manchester Foodies who sniffed it out years ago, and I am so pleased that they did because I LOVE IT. Anyway, without further ado I'm going to share five reasons why I love a visit to Phetpailin and why I think you will too...

Reason 1: There's no messing when it comes to flavour
No, whatever you have to say about the food at Phetpailin, you will never be served anything that could be described as 'bland'. During our visits so far we've had our tongues most tantalised by the Tom Yam soups, both tilapia dishes off the seafood menu (I'm drooling thinking about them) and a red curry so packed with flavour and spice you find yourself exclaiming "Hoochie Mama!" in the middle of a crowded restaurant. The coconut rice is also coconutty enough to blow your entire head clean off.

Reason 2: It's BYOB
People love a good BYOB and in my experience are often willing to put up with slightly more sub-par food if it means being able to bring a bottle. Well, Phetpailin's food is amazing AND you can bring your own which makes it doubly brilliant.

Reason 3: It's a bargain
When compared to overpriced purveyors of "Thai Fine Dining" Chaophraya, the food at Phetpailin is an absolute steal. Yes, in Chaophraya you're paying to eat in considerably more elegant environs, but I'd much sooner go for substance over style, i.e. THE FOOD IS LOADS BETTER. You'll also save a fortune by bringing your own bottle.

Not as swanky as Chaophraya... who cares?
Reason 4: The staff are badass
The staff at Phetpailin are very good. Some of the most helpful and efficient staff I've ever come across in fact - they're great at helping you choose your dishes and have a rare talent of knowing what you want before you even ask for it. However, be warned, they don't take any shit: they were having none of it when my teetotal friend tried to bring her own Tetra Pak of juice in and they had no qualms about kicking us out when we tried to stay past closing time. Strangely, I quite liked them for it...

Reason 5: It's lots of fun
The fact that it's BYOB obviously helps. They've got the atmosphere spot on though - Phetpailin is perfect for a rip-roaring night out or a quiet meal with family.

You can see the giddiness in their eyes
So there you go, my five reasons I think Phetpailin is ace and blows Chaophraya out of the water. The crux of what I'm saying here is that if you haven't already, you really should go and eat at Phetpailin - I'm sure you will love it just as much as I do!

Phetpailin on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Rama's Bridge Restaurant

Ahhh Mother's Day. For most families, this seems to mean eating a crappy set menu always featuring prawn cocktails and a dry roast dinner in an overcrowded country pub. Can't think of anything worse. Fortunately for me, one of the many advantages of having a Colombian mum is that we generally don't do what other families do on occasions like this, I can't even remember the last time I saw my mum tuck into a roast anyway. As it was up to her to choose the venue for her day out, she went for her new favourite restaurant - Rama's Bridge in Crookes.

South Indian food appears to be growing in popularity over on this side of the Pennines and according to 
local blogger @FeastandGlory, this is also the case in sunny Sheffield. My parents are delighted about this seeing as they've been dosa-mad since that time we showed them the wonders of Sindhoor.

Predictably, me and mum couldn't resist starting our meal with some portions of Idli and what was unrealistically referred to by the menu as a "Mini" Masala Dosa to share. The dosa was tasty, although there was nothing mini about it. The Idli were just light and moist enough to get away with not being soaked in a bowl of sambar but not soggy either. Bailey's Chicken Samosas were crispy and generous on the filling, although he wasn't too keen on the chilli sauce and preferred dipping them into our lovely chutnies.

This would be a good time to mention how genuine and friendly the service was throughout the meal. One example of this was that, when I couldn't decide between the Dal & Spinach Curry and the Channa Massala, the waiter said that because they were both so delicious he would give me two side portions of each and only charge me for one. How brilliant. Even better when they arrived and both appeared to be the exact same size as everyone else's curries, AND they were too delicious to leave, resulting in me almost having to be carried out of the restaurant due to a carb/legume induced coma.

We were also impressed that when Steve's Kumrakom Fish Curry was a few moments late in arriving, the lady actually RAN out of the kitchen to deliver it to him. Oh and this was also delicious. In fact, everyone's was delicious, suffice to say we were collectively very impressed with the fresh, hearty food we were served at Rama's Bridge.

I do have to say that this was a particularly joyous Mother's Day as it was the first one in yonks where we've all been together as a family - my brother is recently back from his travels and I get the impression that mums are at their happiest when they've got all their wandering children back in one place. Truth is I hadn't even really thought about the food and we were going to have a great time whatever was put in front of us so this is what made it such a lovely surprise when everything was so tasty and the service was so spot on.

While I have to admit to knowing very little about the South Yorkshire dining scene, it would appear to me that Rama's Bridge is an excellent addition to Crookes' high street and Sheffield's repertoire of restaurants. Definitely worth bobbing into if you're round that way.

Rama's Bridge on Urbanspoon

Sunday, April 6, 2014

Black Soya Milk Rice Pudding

Like most of my vegan cooking adventures, this story begins with yet another visit to the mystical world of WH Lung.

On this occasion I was looking out for a little something to satisfy a Sunday afternoon sweet tooth, especially seeing as being a Lenten vegan I've been quite short of options when it comes to desserts. I spotted some exciting looking pudding rice but it was the even more intriguing BLACK soya milk that really caught my eye.

Despite the aforementioned intrigue, I was also a bit scared. I started imagining some kind of terrifying squid ink-esque beverage that tasted really weird... In reality, it wasn't squid ink-esque. It wasn't even black, it looked like normal soya milk and was gorgeous and sweet, one of the nicest soya milks I've ever had!

The rice pudding it produced was delicious. And so easy to make - mix it up, bung in the oven, go off and watch film then eat! I did in fact eat almost the whole dish of it then regretted it the next day when I fancied some more. I'll definitely make it again!

250g pudding rice
1 litre of black soya milk
10g stevia
2 tsp vanilla extract
1 tsp cinnamon

Preheat the oven to gas mark 2. Combine all the ingredients in an oven tray and stir well.

Cover the tray with a lid or foil and bake in the oven for around 2 hours (stirring once or twice during this time) until the pudding is starting to look creamy but still fairly milky - it does seem to thicken up as soon as it comes out of the oven.

Serve with fruit or jam - a sweet vegan treat!


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