Review: Modern Thai Food at Yum Sa, Putney

I watched Yum Sa being put together every day for months, walking past it on my way to/from East Putney station twice a day. To say I was excited about it opening is perhaps an understatement – Thai food is one of my favourite treats, and not something I indulge in very often.

We visited one Friday evening and found the restaurant pleasantly full, but the layout meant it was fairly quiet and intimate for most tables – although unfortunately we felt rather squeezed into one corner, to the point the couple next to us had to move slightly so we could squeeze in. A point made repeatedly by my fiance was that his chair was decidedly uncomfortable (I had no problems), to the extreme that we actually left before ordering dessert and he’s still going on about it a few weeks later. His complaints aside, I loved the look and feel of the restaurant. It was modern without being stark, relaxing music played throughout and everything seemed well thought out. The bar area is utterly Instagrammable too, I’m just gutted it was too busy to take a decent photo!

Service was – ok. Nothing to write home about, a bit brisk and efficient for my liking, a bit lacking in character. One point to note was that despite our cutlery being placed on our starter plates, it was removed and left with us for our mains. The food was also a tad lack lustre, though I think I had very high expectations.

Hoisin Duck Gyoza were completely and utterly delicious. I really enjoyed them, with the rich and tender duck being perfectly balanced by the sweet and complex flavours of the hoisin. Likewise, the Crab & Chicken Roll was also good, with the sweet chilli style dipping sauce being particularly excellent. However the texture of the latter was a little rubbery, and the delicate flavour of the crab completely lost. My biggest issue was the price. The two starters came to just under £19 and yet the portion sizes were, frankly, disappointingly small. I’d have happily paid a bit less for the two dishes and probably raved about them, but as it was I felt a little short changed.

It turns out this theme continued with the mains. My Lamb Massaman was a fine example of a massaman (though could have arrived at the table slightly hotter, as it quickly become luke-warm). The sauce was creamy, aromatic and with a delicate hint of spice. The rice it came with was some of the nicest rice I’ve had at a Thai, sticky without being stodgy. However, and I don’t exaggerate here, my pot of curry contained only two pieces of lamb, and not particularly sizeable pieces either.

W went with the Yellow Curry, and our servers suggestion of King Prawns. He at least fared slightly better in terms of portion size, but still received only 5 or 6 prawns. Again, the sauce was wonderfully creamy and well-spiced, the flavours absolutely spot on.

And this is my issue with Yum Sa. Everything was delicious, the food nearly perfect. But we left still feeling slightly peckish. And at £80 for two courses, water and service charge, that has left a bad taste in my mouth. That said, I do have my eye on their Brunch deals (which sounds like a far more purse friendly way to indulge my love of Thai food) and I’m sure I will be back to visit on occasion. I’ll just maybe have a slice of toast before hand…

Do you have any recommendations for Thai food in London?

Recipe: Thai Coconut Noodle Soup

I love Thai food. Spicy, fragrant, fresh, it’s one of my favourites. I’ve made my own Thai curries from scratch, but I’m also a fan of ready-made pastes. And here a bought paste means I can create a bowl of steaming noodle soup in twenty minutes.

 photo Red Thai Curry Noodles 2_zpsvp4hwh77.jpgYep, twenty minutes before sitting on your fireplace taking photos as its the only damn place in the house with half-decent lighting at night…

 photo Red Thai Curry Noodles 3_zpsvuabo1qc.jpgcomforting, it’s got lip-tingly heat from the chilli, slurpiness from the noodles, crunch from the carrots and fragrant from the lime and ginger. The veg add enough nutrients that it feels healthy, but to me this is a hug in a bowl. Almost as good as a mac’n’cheese.

I’ve used leftover roast chicken here, but I’ve also made this with prawns – I almost prefer this as the sweetness of the prawns goes perfectly with the fiery heat of the red curry. Whatever you choose, it’s up to you!

 photo Red Thai Curry Noodles 1_zpsp2lwuycq.jpgIngredients

  • 1-2 teaspoons of red curry paste
  • 50g wide rice noodles
  • 1/2 an onion, sliced
  • 1/2 pepper, sliced
  • 1 small handful of leftover cooked chicken, or prawns, or any other meat you fancy
  • 1/2 carrot, cut into thin strips (hello julienne peeler!)
  • A handful of cabbage, sliced thinly
  • 1/2 carton of Alpro’s Coconut Cuisine*

Put a full kettle on to boil whilst you prep your veg. Place the noodles in a large saucepan before pouring over boiling water. Let them soak for 8 minutes.

Meanwhile fry the curry paste in a dry pan, befoe adding the onion slices. Stir-fry until softening, then add the pepper and meat and fry until warmed through. Add in the coconut cuisine (it’s slightly thinner than coconut milk, making it perfect in a soup) and lower the heat.

Warm until just below boiling point, before adding the carrot and cabbage. Drain the noodles and add them to the soup, ensure everything is piping hot and serve.

 photo Red Thai Curry Noodles 5_zpsufkawff2.jpgIf you fancy making this extra indulgent, a small spoon of peanut butter stirred through gives it a delicious satay twist! It’s also great at using up leftover veg – mushrooms, beansprouts, green beans and sweetcorn all work brilliantly. It’s fast becoming one of my favourite after-lecture dinners…

Be warned, it does get messy eating this! What’s your go-to quick meal?

Recipe: Thai Yellow Curry

I love a good curry, but summer has me craving something lighter than a Indian – especially as I tend to be limited with a creamy Korma. Thai Curries are a good antidote to this, fragrant and spicy, a little creamy, a lot lighter and often packed with veg.

This one has slightly less veg than I’d like as it was a bit of a dreary, drizzly evening, but it hits the right balance between comforting and light. It’s fragrant aromatics are reminiscent of Thai foods, yet the spicing definitely has its Indian influences. Almost as good as a Massaman!

 photo Curry Pastes 6_zpsan3dnnzw.jpgThe great thing about Thai curries is that they are relatively easy to make completely from scratch. There’s no need for an excessive spice cupboard, and my recipe certainly doesn’t require a trip to eight different supermarkets. Timewise it’s pretty quick too and, even better, it freezes fabulously.

 photo Curry Pastes 2_zpsahyq7nik.jpgVery Lazy sent me over a few ingredients to try out, which I’ve used here, but you could just as easily substitute fresh versions.

Ingredients (Paste)

  • 1 small onion
  • 1/2 bulb of garlic
  • 1 chilli (or more if you like it hot – I tend to just grate in more into my finish curry to adjust at the end)
  • 1 tablespoon Very Lazy Ginger in oil
  • 1 tablespoon Very Lazy Lemongrass
  • 1 tablespoon Very Lazy Coriander
  • 1 tablespoon curry powder – or teaspoons each of any or all of the following; ground coriander, cumin, tumeric

Ingredients (Curry, Two Servings)

  • 1 full quantity of paste
  • 250g chicken (or other meat)
  • 100g potatoes, cubed chunkily
  • 1 can coconut milk
  • Cashew nuts
  • Coriander, to garnish, if you like

To make the paste, first roast the onion and garlic. Don’t peel them, simply slice the top and bottom off the onion, throw onto some foil, drizzle with oil and create a ‘parcel’ – then bake at 180C for around 25 minutes. Let cool. photo Curry Pastes 4_zpsvcbnjfbz.jpg

Once the onion and garlic is cool enough to handle, peel and throw into a small blender. Add the rest of the paste ingredients and whizz until it looks like a curry paste – adding more or less of ingredients as you fancy. I’m not the biggest fan of lemongrass and I love ginger, so my go-to doubles the ginger here.

Either use immediately, store in the fridge for up to 24 hours, or freeze (I use ice cube trays – easier as they cubes can be cooked from frozen).

To make the curry, heat a little oil in a pan then fry the paste until fragrant. Add the meat, fry until sealed, then lower the heat and add the potatoes and coconut milk. Simmer gently for around 20 minutes, until the chicken is cooked and potatoes tender.

 photo d4c17f1f-2685-42ae-8737-c973c1b8d3d7_zps2nvdlxud.jpgStir through the cashew nuts and a little fresh coriander, and serve. It’s good with rice for a carb fest, though goes nicely with some lightly cooked green vegetables too. A lovely Yellow Curry, fragrant like a Thai yet as indulgent as an Indian. Lovely!

What’s your favourite curry? Do you make your own?

Recipe: Slow Cooker Beef Rendang

I’ve gotten hugely into Thai food lately. I blame Surrey. There’s a hugely disproportionate number of Thai restaurants here, with Reigate alone having three or four at last count. Being one of my favourite cuisines anyway, I challenged myself with trying them all out. And got hooked. And started cooking it myself. Now my fridge is a fragrant combination of coriander (though any ideas on how to keep it fresh for longer than a day?!), ginger, lemongrass and chillies. I always feel quite healthy after eating Thai, it’s a lot lighter than Indian, and a lot easier to load with fresh veg. It’s quicker too, I find the flavours don’t need as long to develop. It’s easy to whip up a Thai Green Curry completely from scratch after work, and I’m working on an amazing soup recipe to share with you all.

 photo 68ba1fe1-5d9f-4cca-ae44-7c62facf3588_zpsd5827237.jpgThis recipe is a bit different. It’s slightly more luxurious than your usual Thai, slightly heavier and richer, but still fragrant. And although it could be cooked quick, the beefy flavours definitely benefit from a day in the slow cooker. Not to mention that the cheap back of stewing steak turns melt-in-the-mouth tender. And my whole house smelt pretty damn amazing all day. There’s nothing better than coming in from the cold to the scent of something slow cooking, and this spicy twist was enough to have me wishing for dinner time at 2pm.

Ideally and authentically the pasta would have galangal in – but I can’t seem to find this anywhere. I’m not sure what it adds to the flavour, but if I find some I’ll let you know! My amounts below made two generous servings.

Ingredients (paste)

  • 1″ piece of ginger, peeled
  • 2 red chillies
  • 3 garlic cloves (I love garlic)
  • 1 stick of lemongrass
  • 1/2 onion, or a couple of shallots
  • 1 teaspoon tumeric
  • stalks of 1/2 a bunch of coriander, and a few leaves too
  • 1 tablespoon of oil

Rest of Ingredients

  • 250g of stewing steak
  • 1/2 tin coconut milk
  • 100ml beef stock (I used 100ml water and half a stock cube)

Make the Paste

 photo 15c16f2b-b748-45f9-bc38-f7a96dde8243_zps62fd85a6.jpgPrepare all of the paste ingredients, through into a food chopped, and blitz until it is as paste like as you can get it. My chopper isn’t brilliant, and hence this is all I managed. But it still works well as you are cooking it long enough for any chunks to soften down.

Begin to fry the paste on a medium heat until very fragrant.

Prep for the Slow Cooker

 photo 338862c4-a515-4add-8295-0c476303a956_zps44a7e093.jpgOnce the paste is suitably fried, tip in your beef chunks. Continue to fry until sealed well. A good colour on the beef at this stage will ensure a richer coloured curry at the end.

Add in the coconut milk and stock, then transfer to your slow cooker pan.


 photo 960ee976-a0c7-4ac9-8264-23c97c68b726_zpsa73cf221.jpgCook on low for as long as possible, I think mine had six or seven hours. Stir every couple of hours, as I find coconut milk can stick slightly. Serve with rice and some green veg, garnishing with some coriander leaves. I also threw over a few peanuts for an added crunch.
 photo SlowCookerBeefRendang_zpsce9336e6.jpg

What’s your favourite cuisine? Do you like Thai? Ever made a slow cooker curry?

Recipe: Chicken Massaman Curry

I first came across this dish as a ready meal. I know, I know, I hate ready meals and think they are awful value, but this was (1) from Waitrose, (2) very nice and (3) reduced. Clearly it didn’t suit the tastes of regular ready meal consumers though, as I’ve never seen it since. I craved this dish for months, then ordered a beef version in a Thai Restaurant in Northampton (if you’re in the area, do give the Thai Emerald a go – one of the best meals I’ve had in the town!) and again loved it. I’m not sure why I waited so long before making my own!

One of the things I love most about this curry is that it tastes pretty Indian, so helps that craving (I really struggle to find a spicy and tomato free Indian curry that’s actually good), but still is fresh and fragrant like the more typical Thai curries. Its creamy, nutty, spicy, and full of interesting textures. Maybe not the healthiest dish in the world, but it is damn good and tasty. Just what I want from a Saturday night curry.

Note: I bought a Massaman curry paste. It is actually one of the most complex curry pastes to make, and the extensive ingredients list (most of which did not reside in my cupboards!) really put me off. So I bought in. I’d love to make up a paste at some point in the future, but spices are expensive, and although I’m slowly building up my collection I’m having to do it one spice at a time, spreading the cost out. Remember, if you are allergic to tomatoes, check the label of any paste you buy. Thai pastes are generally tomato-free, but always check!

2014-01-04 18.02.51

You will need:

  • Chicken breast – one per person
  • 1 onion
  • 1 potato (I’d maybe up this to 2 next time, as this was my favourite part)
  • Half a pot (3-4 tablespoons) of massaman curry paste
  • 4 cardamon pods
  • 1/2 teaspoon of cinnamon
  • 2 cans of coconut milk
  • To taste (I have added the amount I used as a guide) – 1 teaspoon of tamarind paste, 1 teaspoon of fish sauce, a squeeze of lime juice, and two handfuls of raw peanuts (ie not the salted snack version)

And to create a delicious curry:

Prepare: chop the chicken into chunks, peel and dice the potato (around 1cm cubes), slice the onion and crush the cardamom pods.

2014-01-04 18.17.58

2014-01-04 18.10.56

2014-01-04 18.17.44

2014-01-04 18.20.46Then fry the curry paste (with a little oil if it looks dry) along with the crushed cardamom and cinnamon for a minute.

2014-01-04 18.21.06Then fry the chicken in the pan until completely sealed, adding the onion and potato part-way through. When sealed, add the coconut milk (I only needed just over 1.5 cans, so add the second slowly).

2014-01-04 18.34.28Simmer on a very low heat (don’t boil or the coconut milk might split) for around 25-40 minutes until thickened, glossy and the chicken and potato are cooked through. Meanwhile cook any rice or other accompaniments you feel like.

2014-01-04 19.27.39

Stir in the seasonings – fish sauce, tamarind paste and lime juice. The fish sauce should serve as the salt in this recipe. I will warn you – these parts of vital towards the taste. The dish truly wouldn’t be the same without them.

2014-01-04 19.42.19

Serve into warmed bowls, spooning the sauce over the meat/potatoes. I took the last few photos before adding the sauce, hence it might look a little odd! When we ate this the bowls were almost full of the most deliciously thick and savoury sauce.

2014-01-04 19.42.56I really would urge you to try this curry, its a great introduction to Thai food, and is simply one of my favourites.

Whats your favourite curry recipe?