Fabulous authentic Thai food at Erawan in Cape Town

I love Thai food…regular readers will know this. I’ve been to Thailand several times and cook Thai food frequently, too. So I was excited about visiting Erawan in Chelsea Village in the Southern Suburb of Wynberg in Cape Town for the first time.

Chef Noom graduated from the prestigious Dusit Thani Thai School of Cooking, so that’s a good start. And the name has an intriguing Thai connection. Erawan is the Elephant God and the name refers to the rain clouds and lightning that result in rain sent down by the god Indra as he rides the elephant god Erawan across the heavens. According to Aryan legends, Erawan is huge, white and has 33 heads. Each head bears seven tusks and for each tusk there are seven lotus ponds. Each pond has seven lotus pads, each pad has seven lotus blossoms and each blossom has seven petals. On each petal dance seven angels and each angel has seven ladies-in-waiting. So there’s a lot going on there then!

A bit like there is on the comprehensive menu. There’s a wide range of sushi, a dim sum section, a good salad selection, chef’s specials and stir fries. Luckily you’re promptly presented with the prettiest bowl of prawn crackers I’ve seen in a long time to munch on while you carefully make your decisions.

crackers

Prawn crackers in pastel shades served with a selection of dipping sauces

We started off with a couple of dim sum delights. The Goong Tod – deep fried prawns with spring onion in a crispy wonton pastry came with a sweet chilly sauce. Jam packed with tasty minced prawns and beautifully crunchy.

Plump and crispy prawn dumplings

Plump and crispy prawn dumplings

Steamed spicy beef dumplings were stuffed with mushrooms, coriander, ginger and garlic and served with soya and chilli sauce.

More plump dumplings, this time filled with spicy beef

More plump dumplings, this time filled with spicy beef

All mains can be ordered mild, medium, hot or Thai style (beware!). As it was my first visit I cautiously went for mild just in case of disaster, next time I’ll confidently ramp it up to medium

There’s a lovely chef’s special choice from which we had the prawns cashew. Six sweet and juicy queen prawns were stir fried out of their shells in a light curry sauce with garlic, coriander, roasted cashew nuts and fresh vegetables.

prawns

A vibrant plate of prawns and veg in a delicious sauce

The stir fry section has a list of sauces to which you can add your choice of fish or meat. I went for the stir fried fresh basil sauce – fresh vegetables stir fried with garlic and infused with fragrant basil and added pan-fried crispy pork. This is one of the nicest Thai dishes I’ve had, genius idea to offer crispy pork, so good I may well have to order it again on my next visit, oh yes, there will definitely be a next visit.

I'm going to be dreaming about crispy pork until my next visit

The crispy pork adds another dimension to this traditional dish

We ordered egg fried rice to complete our feast – it was perfectly done, glossy, light and flavoursome.

Light and tasty egg fried rice to savour

Light and tasty egg fried rice to savour

There’s also a main course stir fried rice and noodle dish section that we didn’t venture into this time.

Portions are substantial (you could easily share a main between two) and it’s really good value with starters mostly under R50 and my delicious pork dish R125 (around £2.15 and £5.40 in English money for any fellow UK dwellers lucky enough to be in Cape Town at the moment).

It’s a popular place with a steady stream of customers refilling tables as they’re vacated. All run with a gentle efficiency – you don’t feel rushed – and smooth service with a smile. Just what you’d expect from anything that’s a part of Thailand. Gotta love a new Thai eatery to add to the list.

Erawan is at 15 Wolfe Street, Wynberg, Cape Town.

 

 

Recipe: Deliciously simple Thai beef

When we were in Thailand recently we had the most wonderful beef mince dish at one of the restaurants in Kata Beach, Phuket. So of course I had to take up the challenge and try to recreate it myself – purely from taste as I didn’t know quite what the ingredients were.

I have to admit to being pleased with my effort, although it wasn’t exactly the same as the other dish, it was certainly good enough in its own right. And so easy to make…you have to give it a try.

I served the mince scooped into lettuce leaves, it would also obviously also work well with rice.

thaibeef1

Succulent mince with crispy lettuce and basil

Serves 2

400g beef mince

3 tbsp vegetable oil

2 tbsps sweet soya sauce

2 tsps fish sauce

1 small red chilli, chopped

200ml beef stock

3 large handfuls of fresh Thai sweet basil, sliced

Heat the oil in a pan and add the mince. Fry for about 5 mins until browned.

Add the soya sauce, fish sauce and chopped chilli. Stir through.

Add a handful of the fresh Thai basil and stir through.

Add the beef stock and simmer, covered, on low for about 30 minutes for the flavours to infuse.

Your mince is now ready to serve, but my advice would be to make it a few hours before and let it sit as it becomes more and more flavoursome the longer you leave it. Then simply heat through when you are ready to eat.

When it is heating through, heat the remaining 2 tbsps of oil in a frying pan. Add the rest of the Thai basil and fry until it is crispy.

Serve your beef in lettuce leaves or with rice, scattered with the crispy fried basil.

The tasty mince simmering on the stove top

The tasty mince simmering on the stove top

Do you have a favourite holiday dish? Have you tried to recreate it at home? I’d love to hear about it, so do get in touch.

Fabulous Thai food at SUDA in Covent Garden

Tonight it’s back to my blog’s birthplace and spiritual home (or one of them anyway), Covent Garden, for a taste of Thailand. I’ve visited the country several times (which you’ve no doubt read  here) and do really love Thai food, so the chance to try somewhere new is always a pleasure.

SUDA has been open nearly three years and is just off St Martin’s Lane, set in a stylish courtyard (gotta love a courtyard)! It’s in a wonderful position as you can explore the buzz and excitement of the packed pavements of Covent Garden and Leicester Square, as well as getting away from it pretty instantly for a bit of relief and laid-back relaxation.

There’s a lovely downstairs bar which serves a range of delicious cocktails. The restaurant is upstairs, it’s spacious and light-filled, overlooking the courtyard and shops below.

The menu offers flavours from across the whole country, so there’s lots to choose from, including some really different dishes I hadn’t had before.

Starters sounded intriguing with a mix of old favourites and some excitingly different dishes. The Pla Hor Bai Teoy or pandan-wrapped sea bass marinated with coriander root and sesame is totally fabulous. These little parcels of deliciousness reveal sweet and spicy pieces of plump sea bass, piping hot! Wow.

seabass

A beautifully flavoursome parcel of sweet sea bass

You can also tuck into lovely satays (a regular lunch favourite of  mine when in Thailand), chicken and crab firecrackers or Thai fish and prawn lollipops. How exotic does that sound? One of their Signature  starters is a fresh rice wrap filled with braised duck and Thai herbs. Abundant with freshness and crunchiness it’s served with the dipping sauce in the bottom of each little glass, the taste of summer in a wrap.

A delight of irresistible Thai starters

A delight of irresistible Thai starters

For mains you need to make a decision on what sort of dish you’re desiring, choosing from curries, noodles, stir-fries, soups and salads and then decide on your variant, ie what sort of meat …well that’s the best way I thought about doing it!

And it worked. I think we managed to choose one of the delights of the menu. Kai Soi Gai (Chiang Mai style yellow curry noodle soup with chicken) comes from the north of  Thailand (which I’ve never visited) and was quite a revelation with a unique flavour. Touches of aniseed and tamarind added a real depth to this wonderful broth and the chicken was beautifully tender and tasty.

soup

Stunning soup that transported us to northern Thailand

SUDA has a section on the menu dedicated to Som Tum, the classic Thai green papaya salad. Green papaya is grated, mixed with other salad ingredients like tomatoes and grated carrots and sprinkled with peanuts and a spicy dressing. A zesty, crunchy combo of amazing textures and flavours. It’s served with a range of grilled meat, and we opted for the Gae Yang Som Tum where it came with grilled lamp chops with lemongrass and chilli sauce. Tender meat, great sauce, amazing salad, the perfect combination. A beautifully colourful plate, too.

lamb

The zestiest and crunchiest of salads served with delectable lamb chops

The downstairs bar is the perfect place for a tasty post-work cocktail if you don’t have time for dinner.

The elegantly welcoming bar

The elegantly welcoming bar

Service is friendly and helpful and the food…well, let’s just say we eat a lot of Thai food and this is the best we’ve had for quite some time. And it’s great value, too.

The light-filled, spacious restaurant

The light-filled, spacious restaurant

Oh and a word of advice from a Covent Garden veteran. Avoid Covent Garden tube station, which has lifts rather than escalators, resulting in a lot of queuing and some pushing. Rather catch the tube to Leicester Square or Charing Cross, depending what part of Covent Garden you are visiting. SUDA is about five minutes walk from Leicester Square. And NEVER get the tube from Leicester Square to Covent Garden (something I did for years when I moved to London). It’s a very pleasant and short walk!

SUDA Thai is at St Martin’s Courtyard, Covent Garden.

Square Meal

Recipe: Asian-style chicken with noodles and a crunchy salad

I love Asian flavours and experiment a lot with different marinades. This one seems to have a lot of ingredients in it, but I have to say it’s one of the nicest I’ve come up with. The chicken was bursting with flavour and the sesame seeds made the perfect finishing touch.

A quick and easy weekday dinner (just remember to marinade the chicken overnight) that is totally delicious.

Serves 2

Luscious chicken sprinkled with sesame seeds

Luscious chicken sprinkled with sesame seeds

For the marinade

Juice of 1 lime
2 tbsps chopped ginger
3 tbsps soy sauce
2 tbsps sesame oil
2 tbsps runny honey
1 tbsp mirin
1 tsp fish sauce
1 tbsp sweet chilli sauce

2 chicken breasts, sliced into  strips

1 tbsp vegetable oil

2 tbsps sesame seeds, dry fried

 

200g rice noodles, soaked in boiling water, following packet instructions

 

For the salad

Half a small cucumber, peeled and chopped into chunks
8 radishes, sliced

For the dressing

2 tbsps olive oil
Juice of 1 lime
1 tsp fish sauce
1 tsp brown sugar
1 dried chilli, chopped
1 tbsp soy sauce

Mix together all the ingredients for the marinade and place the chicken strips into it, making sure everything is well coated. Leave for at least three hours, overnight ideally.

Make the salad by mixing together all the ingredients for the dressing and pouring over the cucumber and radishes.

Soak the noodles as per the instructions on the packet.

Fry the chicken strips in a hot frying pan for about 10 minutes until browned and cooked through.

Drain the noodles and divide between two bowls, spoon a few spoonfuls of the marinade over the noodles. Top with the chicken strips and sprinkle the sesame seeds over the chicken. Serve with the salad.

The crunchy salad with the zesty dressing

The crunchy salad with the zesty dressing

 

Recipe: Quick and easy Thai mince

So this week I got sent a parcel full of tins of spices. What happiness! Bart have come up with a new range of spices inspired by flavours from around the world. A brilliant way to transform the simplest of dishes into something bursting with flavour.

spices

This new range of spice blends certainly makes cooking easier

I have to admit to not having much cooking mojo this week (yes, it does happen), so kept dinner really simple. And I have to say the results were surprisingly good. We ate the mince for dinner served with cabbage and boiled potatoes, it would be just as good with rice or mash. The leftovers were fantastic on toast for lunch the next day.

Oh, and don’t you love my new tea towel – a gift from South Africa from my friend, Candy. It’s from one of her favourite shops in Cape Town called SkinnylaMinx, check it out at www.skinnylaminx.com

Mince

Serves 2 with leftovers for lunch

500g lamb mince

1 carrot, peeled and chopped into small dice

1 onion, peeled and chopped

3 tsps Barts Thai spice

300ml chicken stock

1 tbsp oil for frying

Heat the oil and cook the carrot and onion in it for 5 mins. Then add the lamb mince and brown. Add the spice mix and stir. Pour in the chicken stock and simmer on a low heat for about 30 mins until most of the liquid is absorbed. Keep an eye on the pan and add a bit more stock if it starts looking too dry.

Shopping for exotic ingredients

I love food shopping. There, I’ve said it again! Whether it’s in the local supermarket or a bustling market abroad, for me there’s something about choosing all your goodies, filling up your trolley and maybe even getting some inspiration along the way. My husband, on the other hand, hates food shopping and will avoid large supermarkets at all costs (though he can cope with a sunny market in Spain). But the good news is, we’ve found a food shop that we both want to visit!

Korea Foods is in New Malden or Korea Town as it’s known. The London suburb is home to over 30,000 Koreans and this treasure trove of a store offers the widest selection of Korean food and drink in the UK. They also sell plenty of Japanese, Chinese and Thai products.

Welcome to a whole new shopping experience

Welcome to a whole new shopping experience

It’s the sort of place where you need to meander up and down the aisles, taking your time – it’s all something of a voyage of discovery with mysterious jars and packets offering a doorway to something exotic. There’s a mind-boggling array of spices, sauces and pastes.

Packets and jars full of magical ingredients

Packets and jars full of magical ingredients

As you walk in the fridges are packed with fruit and vegetables to delight.

korean2

An array of exotic vegetables

There’s also an amazing fresh fish counter where we often buy tuna that we eat as sashimi it’s so fresh and tasty and the meat counter’s great, too. Love their pork loin steaks that are amazingly tender and flavoursome.

korea3

Fresh fish on ice

The kitchen also makes daily side dishes Korean-style using fresh ingredients – the place is a real hub of activity! Plus it’s really great value with friendly staff, lots of parking and plenty of space inside which all makes for an enjoyable shopping experience.

Some of our regular favourites include a selection of their amazing dumplings, prawns in Japanese breadcrumbs and frozen king prawns, spring rolls and crab claws which we stock our freezer up with.

Then a bundle of sauces and spices and well, pretty much anything we like the look of! Who knows what we’re going to come out of there with but one thing’s for sure, it’s going to be a trolleyful. Hooray for food shopping!

Korea Foods is at Unit 4-6 Wyvern Industrial Estate, Beverley Way, New Malden. It’s just off the A3 opposite Tesco.