Posts Tagged ‘gyoza’

“Wagamama, Gibraltar was faring the best across Europe!”  Rumoured the naughty child.

And after shifting 1 month’s worth of duck and beer in 3 days I can see why!

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When I first came across Wagamama in London in the late 90’s, I nostalgically remember it as the perfect antidote to a night of student revelling London-style (stylie).  We’d wake up and trundle down to the nearest Wagamamas and cluster around their long tables and immediately get a vitamin boost from their super green, super fresh, body cleansing, high antioxidant smoothies followed by a bowl of something spicy with plenty of carbs – if my mind goes that far back, I think my dish of choice was always a Pad Thai.  It would beat going to Maccy-Ds any day!

Flash-forward over 20 years and in June 2016, after a social media frenzy of freebie tickets, £5 sittings and press evenings, we are treated to our very own Wagamama here in Gibraltar.  With the stunning setting that Ocean Village provides, Wagamama, with its roots in Japanese-inspired cuisine, fits right in amongst the palm trees and ferns that line the promenade.

long tablesUpon arrival everything seems to be at one with nature –chairs are large wooden blocks with simple metal legs, rattan chairs out on the terrace; long wooden-topped tables (ideal for families) presented in a minimalist Japanese canteen style with spotlights aimed along the centre of these.   Fully opening glass doors bringing the sea into the room.  The 3 large mirrors at the back of the room creating  a sense of depth, reflecting images of staff whizzing from station to table.  And last but not least, its vast open kitchen and prep area with its denizen of chefs glancing from screens to chopping boards to woks to plates.

The menu is not organised as ‘starters and mains’ but as: Sides – to order with your main dish or to share; Gyoza – either steamed or fried dumplings filled with goodness; Ramen – a bowl of hot soup filled with noodles; toppings and garnishes; Curry – fresh curries served over rice; Teppanyaki – sizzling soft noodles with crunchy veg/meat/prawns; Omakase – 4 different Chef Specials; Donburi – a big bowl of steamed rice and stir fired meats/veg; Salads -2 stir fry salads and Extras – miso soup, Japanese pickles, ‘century’ egg, kimchee, chillies or rice/noodles.

I found the exemplary waiting staff to be very cheerful and friendly at all times.  Their knowledge of the menu evident as they would translate dish numbers into dish names; scribbling your order onto your placemat.  Before leaving our table, the waiter asked us if we’d been to Wagamama before so as to clarify how our food would arrive.

For the uninitiated: as your dish is created it is served – regardless of whether there are 2, 4 or 6 of you dining; there is no procession of courses.

Fried duck gyoza

fried duck gyoza


Steamed pulled pork gyoza

steamed pulled pork gyoza

We ordered some Gyoza to see how they fared against authentic Japanese gyoza, which are dry-fried on the base and then steamed to perfection.  As the menu advertised either fried or steamed gyoza we tried the fried duck gyoza (99) – delicious, deep decadent duck meat in a deep fried gyoza, however, not what we were expecting.  Preferring a steamed gyoza we ended up stopping the waiter to order some steamed pulled pork gyoza (105) which were much more authentic in flavour and texture and upon reading the menu a second time realising that the steamed gyoza are served grilled!

Omakase – entrust the chefteriyaki lamb

Trying to avoid my Pad Thai Wagamama staple, I decided to let the chef recommend me one of its four Omakase (Japanese for ‘to entrust the chef’).  The grilled Teriyaki lamb served on a bed of soba noodles in a pea and wasabi dressing with grilled asparagus, kale, mushrooms and mangetout – simply scrumptious; grilled teriyaki lamb, grilled veggies, soba noodles.

Since then I’ve been again and had the chilli squid (107) crispy fried squid dusted with shichimi, served with a chilli/coriander dipping sauce – tongue tantalisingly tingly and the pork ramen (30) which even though I slurped my way through, could have been hotter – both in temp and spice, and saltier; however, I suppose that’s why there is soy sauce and chilli oil on every table!

banana katsuAs part of the ‘harmony, balance and chilli’ mantra that Wagamama is legendary for, ending your spicy meal with Banana Katsu (142) – banana covered in panko bread crumbs and deep fried with salted caramel ice-cream equals perfection.  I’ve asked for the mochi balls (124) and the sweet onigiri (135) but unfortunately they still haven’t received them from the Uk.

I suppose that if we are dependent on Uk deliveries for the food to be franchise-exact we will, on occasion, have this wait-time on certain dishes when items expire.  Next time I go I know I’m going to try the prawn itame curry (39) and here’s hoping that they’ve got the pork ribs (97) in stock!

But all is good with the world when you end your meal with jasmine flower tea…

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Part 5: Osaka

Posted: September 15, 2015 in Japan
Tags: , , , , , ,

When I got back from my travels, I promised myself that I would try and complete the whole Japan food experience before the end of the summer so I could continue blogging about other things once everyone got back to work and our holidays were long forgotten.  However, It’s taking a bit longer than I had planned…

Looking back through my photos and trying to piece together a food journey through Japan is easier said than done considering the extensive travelling we embarked upon taking us from one point of the country to the other.

We left our westernmost point, Hiroshima, and made our way back to Tokyo via Osaka.  

Osaka is described in tourist guides as “the belly of Japan.”  

Walking around Dotonbori, a very popular tourist area in Osaka, you quickly realise that this sentiment is not exaggerated.  Tripadvisor’s #1 thing to do in Osaka is to visit Dotonbori! 

“Osaka is known for its food, and Dotonbori is the main destination for food travel.”

A plethora of restaurants, stalls and bars that line the streets of Dotonbori.  I was clearly going to be a very happy man.

During the day, even under the intense summer sun, street vendors line the streets selling food items such as barbeque scallops, gyoza, roast chestnuts and the ubiquitous takoyaki (Octopus balls).

Takoyaki – described as Octopus Balls; think of these are the savoury version of a cake pop.  And can be found everywhere!  Cooked in what appear to be cake-pop pans over gas burners.  Whether at a restaurant or on the street, this is definitely worth a watch. These Takoyaki chefs half-fill  the ‘cake-pop’ pans with a very liquidy batter.  They then place an octopus piece into each and sprinkle with plenty of spring onions and red ginger, then pour over more batter.

Once the batter begins to set they go at it with metal chopsticks and make sure each ball is cooked all the way through, perfectly spherical and evenly browned.  Then all that’s left is for you to decide how many pieces you want – these are either smothered in Takoyaki sauce, drizzled with Japanese mayonnaise or sprinkled with nori pieces depending on the establishment.

We went to a few different stalls trying different takoyaki in boxes of 6 – some people happily walking away with boxes of 24 balls!

scallops

Scallops cooked over charcoal – Another absolute delight were the scallops cooked on a grill.  The man who ran the stall, would cook the scallops in a small wrought iron frying pan and as people ordered he would place the shell on the grill and place the scallop on the shell with a knob of butter and blowtorch it until the butter was frothy.  Sadly, he wouldn’t serve you the scallop in the shell but in a polystyrene tray. Admittedly, the shell would be so hot that there is no way you’d be able to hold it anyway!  Shell or no shell – lip smackingly delicious!

Gyoza – were also prevalent throughout Dotonbori.  We stumbled upon a chef who was making 100’s of these and placing them into crates ready for the lunchtime trade.  I can imagine he would have to undertake the same routine later on in the afternoon to have enough gyoza for the night time trade.

Crescent shaped, pork filled, fried and steamed dumplings – Oishi!

Gyoza are tasty and moreish – regardless of how full up you were from the takoyaki and scallop – there is always room for a gyoza… or three!

The streets around Dotonbori, resonate with the multitudes of people getting to and from work, popping out during their lunch break to grab a quick bite to eat or even take a box of 24 takoyaki back to the office.  However, at night time, Dotonbori takes on a whole new persona.

With its attractions like the Glico running man at the ‘pick-up bridge’ and giant food signs, loud music and even more people; many rushing to dinner reservations – the vibe is electric!

That evening we dined at Gyumabe M a specialist in Matsusaka Beef, IMO better than the very over-rated Kobe Beef! (Kobe is very near Osaka).

In the centre of our table was a hot plate heated by gas burners underneath.  The beef selection we chose was presented to us on a beautiful platter and the waiter identified a piece of fat that had been taken from one of the steaks.  We were subsequently shown how to render the fat on the hotplate and use this to stop the beef from sticking, instead of using oil or butter.  So tongs in hand, we went about cooking our beef to our liking – rare for me!

Once we had finished our meal, the manager, chef and waiters, with props in hand, posed with us for a few photos… this was a super fun place to come.

IMG_1631Great place, great food, great personalities!

The following morning, we descended for breakfast and in the exuberance of Dotonbori I piled my plate high with Japanese and Western items for breakfast.  Finishing with a corn dog!

Kore wa, amerikandoggudesu

This time round El Capote surprised us by holding its food and wine event on a Saturday! Children were sent to their grandparents’ houses and the old faithfuls treated their partners to a fantastic night at El Capote.

Not being allowed in before 9pm opening time, we congregated on Market Lane wondering what delicacies were to be sampled forthwith.

Everyone waited in anticipation…

good food, good wine, good company

We started off the evening with a beautiful Cappuccino de Foie. Having previously tasted this on a previous occasion I was very appreciative to see it on the menu again as it was one of my favourite dishes served on these evenings. So much so that I firmly believe that this dish could make its way onto their regular menu.

20131019-115059.jpgOur next treat was a lamb and grape meatball which was delicious but it was the presentation that did it for me. Like something out of a science Lab we were instructed to squeeze the soy sauce pipette into the lamb meatball. And without cutlery there was nothing to be done but pick up the meatball on the pipette and drop it into your mouth as you squeezed. The sweet succulent lamb and sweet juicy grape doused in salty soy sauce was delicious. I could have feasted on a bowl of these!!

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Following this was a delicious light gazpacho which we felt was more like a salmorejo as it was so smooth and silky. Poured over the sea scented meat of some juicy muscles, gently sprinkled by some micro herbs for a crunchy, floral back note to the gazpacho. A delicate dish. The only thing that annoyed me was that the square bowls it was served in made it difficult to scoop any dregs of gazpacho left behind!

20131019-123318.jpgAnother gorgeous dish was the fillet of bass (ròbalo) served on a salad of soya beans, cubes of mojama, seasoned with yuzu (an Asian citrus fruit used to season dishes) and dressed with an infusion of baby prawns (camarones). The mojama adding intense saltiness to the otherwise bland fish broth created by the camarones. Each mouthful bursting with citrus notes cutting through the fish. Every mouthful was exquisite.

What would have complimented this dish well would have been some tortillitas de camarones – as served in El Faro, Cadiz.

The last of the savoury dishes was an oxtail and shiitake empanadilla served on a wave of creamed ras-el-hanout potatoes. The aromatic spices in the potatoes working beautifully with richness of the oxtail and shiitake mushrooms. The empanadillas had been steamed which is traditional when using this type of pastry for dim-sum, however, as the potatoes were creamed I felt the textures here were too similar; the dish needed an extra texture and perhaps either deep frying them or even cooking them as Japanese gyoza (first fried in a pan until the bottoms are golden and then steaming them) would have provided this something extra.

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I say all this having thoroughly enjoyed the dish and fully aware that having to fry something would have been time consuming and an extra task to have to be done in an already extremely busy kitchen and considering the amount of other jobs that had to be done to create this evening’s menu.

My favourite dish of the evening followed. And even though I’m not one to have to end a meal (or 6 course dinner!) with a sweet this one did it for me. Rice pudding, enticingly referred to as Risotto de Arroz con leche with a twist, was a seductively sublime dish. As it arrived at the table my immediate thoughts were that it was very pretty with its pink decorations and fruit – absolutely beautiful.

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Freeze dried raspberries crushed over to add colour, texture and flavour. And topped with a cloud of raspberry flavoured candy floss!  Each spoonful was a voluptuous sweet dream, everyone at my table was silent as we feasted; frequent sounds of instant gratification coming from all over the room…

…Mmmm…que bueno…ooooh….delicious…mmmmm…

I can imagine that had people been eating this in the comfort of their own homes they would have been licking the bowl with greedy abandon.  It was absolutely delicious.

Nothing more to add other than what a beautiful dish to end what was another great evening of good food, good wine and good company.

When I was in Hong Kong back in 2005, one of my first meals was a Dim Sum lunch washed down with warm jasmine tea (check my “Oriental” post).

Eating dim sum is known in Cantonese as “yum cha” (drinking tea 美味) as jasmine tea is traditionally drunk with this snack.

Able (Rick’s fiancée) ordered dim sum for us. She chose those which were sure to cater to our Western palates.

7 years later and my chance to experience dim sum returned whilst on holiday in Malaysia. We went to Pappa Rich for “Malaysian Treats” and lo and behold there was dim sum on the menu!!

Back at home – holidays over – I rediscovered my Asian Kitchen.

How difficult could it really be to create dim sum? A pastry case filled with a small amount of filling; steamed.

Admittedly the only reason why I was able to create these at home was thanks to the Mecca for Asian ingredients that is Ramsons!! I hit the jackpot when I found packets of frozen wonton wrappers in their freezer section.

Pork and Prawn Dim Sum

1st: Add the minced pork, shelled and uncooked prawns, spring onions, garlic, ginger, flour and soy sauce into a food processor and blitz until you form a smooth paste.

2nd: Line up the wonton squares on your work surface and using a pastry brush (my fingers did the job fine!) moisten the edges.

3rd: Place a teaspoonful of the pork and prawn mixture onto the centre of the square. Do not try and overfill as this will cause your dim sum to spill over in cooking.

4th: Pick all four corners of the wonton square and gently squeeze out any air still in the dim sum. The shape you choose to create is totally up to you.  I read somewhere that in Asian culture each shape has a different meaning or is created for a particular filling or occasion. I however am neither Asian nor deft at creating pastry shapes, hence my army of pork-prawn hobo sacks!

5th: Place the dim sum into a bamboo steamer for a few minutes.  I however, did not have a bamboo steamer so therefore chose to cook my dim sum gyoza-style.  I placed the dim sum into a frying pan with a little oil and fried the gyoza until the base was browned.  Then poured a glass of water into the pan to create steam and covered the pan for 3 mins.

I served my dim sum with sesame prawn toast and washed it down with warm, fragrant jasmine tea.

Delicious 美味