Friday, November 25, 2011

An Asian themed post: Wagamama and bok choi

A few weeks ago I mentioned that I went to Wagamama's for the first time, and that I would return to that topic another day.

Today is that day.

Unfortunately, though, my Wagamama experiences really don't require a whole post. Especially as I don't have a single photo from the lunch. (Clearly, I am not a real food blogger.)

Given this, I am combining Wagamama discussion with bok choi discussion. They are related, I promise!

Wagamama For The First Time

I was starting to feel a little odd for never having visited this Asian inspired noodle restaurant, which now has over 90 stores worldwide. The company describes their food philosophy as combining "great, fresh and nutritious food in a sleek yet simple setting with helpful, friendly service and value for money" (Wagamana website) - which sounds quite good. Also, I am generally sucked into food trends that start overseas, particularly England, and so the opening of Wagamama in Perth in 2006 should really have prompted me to try it sooner.

I was thus rather pleased to have the opportunity to visit for a workday lunch, especially as there are comparatively few restaurants I'm happy to visit at lunchtime during the week (I don't, generally, want a dinner-sized plate of hot food, at dinner prices, in the middle of my work day).

I was a little surprised to discover that almost all of the vegetarian menu options involved egg. Even when I used eggs in baking, I wasn't a big fan of egg dishes - and so egg in stir fries is not really my thing.

There were, though, a few egg-free dishes to ponder. The vegetarian Spicy Itame ($17.30) was one such example, involving "fried tofu marinated in ginger, garlic and lemongrass with stir fried broccoli, zucchini, red chilli, red onion, mint, basil, corander, garlic, ginger and chilli oil, served on steamed jasmine rice and garnished with a wedge of lime".

I very nearly ordered this. On re-reading the menu description now I kind of wish I had. The reason I didn't? Fried tofu is my least favourite type of tofu, mostly because it varies so much between restaurants. Slightly fried so that the tofu is still detectable - that is just fine. Fried so that the tofu is more batter than tofu - that is not good at all. I didn't know how to ask about the Wagamama preparation without sounding, well, odd (and probably not making sense!) so I skipped this option.

The people I was with ordered Cha Han ($18.50) ("stir-fried jasmine rice with egg, chicken, prawns, snow peas, spring onions, sweetcorn and mushrooms, served with a bowl of miso soup and pickle"), Thai Style Stir-Fried Noodles ($19.90) ("stir-fried rice noodles with chicken, prawns, egg, spring onions and beansprouts cooked in a spicy tamarind sauce. garnished with crushed roasted peanuts, fresh coriander and a wedge of lime"), Ginger Chicken Udon ($19.90) ("teppan-fried udon noodles with chicken marinated in ginger, garlic and lemongrass. served with snow peas, egg, red and spring onions, beansprouts and chillies") and a Vegetarian Bento Box ($15.00) (fried tofu + 1 selected side dish + some standard sides).

The Vegetarian Bento Box inspired me to make my own combination meal, minus fried tofu, and in the end I settled on Chilli and Garlic Edamame Beans ($5.80) (" freshly steamed green soya beans, stir-fried in chilli and garlic") and Wok Tossed Asian Greens ($8.40) ("seasonal asian greens wok tossed in soy and ginger"), complemented by some Sweet Potato Kusabi ($7.20) ("hand-cut sweet potato chips") that the table shared.

The side dish portions were surprisingly generous. The Asian greens were served on a main-meal sized plate, and the bowl of edamame was larger than seemed typical. I found the 'chilli and garlic' seasoning to be more garlic than chilli, which wasn't quite the balance I was hoping for (I would probably order the lightly salted edamame in future), but the edamame themselves were fresh and perfectly cooked. The Wok Tossed Asian Greens were similarly delightful. I could have eaten two plates worth - stir fried to just the right level, seasoned enough to enhance the vegetables rather than disguise them, and quite addictive. The mix included (as far as I could detect) bok choi, gai larn, and choy sum.

All in all, I found my choices worked well for lunch, but I am not sure that there would be many options to keep me happy at dinner - unless the fried tofu is lightly fried rather than battered. I wonder if anyone can comment on this, if they've tried it? Irrespective, I am pleased I have finally visited the Wagamama empire, and those wok tossed greens have been playing on my mind ever since.

Which brings me to my second point...

Bok Choi

Bok choi (also known as Chinese cabbage) is one of my favourite Asian vegetables, but I do go through stages with how often I eat it - sometimes multiple times per week, but other times more like once per month. My Wagamama experience sparked off a persistent and unquenchable craving, and so the last few weeks have been more like the former than the latter!

Given that this vegetable is high in Vitamin C, Vitamin A and Calcium, this is a craving I am more than happy to indulge. As it has been on my mind, I also thought I would share my favourite, super quick method of preparation. Four ingredients and five minutes don't exactly make a recipe, but the result is extremely rewarding.

Bok choi with ginger and soy

Take 2 bunches of bok choi, well washed and torn or roughly chopped
~2 cm piece of fresh ginger, finely chopped
~1 tsp soy sauce
Oil to taste

Heat the ginger, soy sauce and oil in a non-stick pan or wok
Add the bok choi
Stir fry for 4 - 5 minutes, until just cooked

Serve as a side dish

Or eat on its own

And enjoy

What are your thoughts on Wagamama, if you've been? How about bok choi?


  1. My experience with wagamamas has been mixed. Sometimes it has been wonderful - other times....not so much.....

  2. I generally think of wagamama as expensive although relatively healthy fast food. Somehow I find everything there a bit bland in the way a fast food restaurant hamburger if bland next to the real thing. But it is a great, healthy option when others aren't available.
    Bok Choi however I love! It is delicious and so easy to cook. I've been eating it recently just wilted in a wok with a little terriaki sauce. So quick and delicious.

  3. Hmm, that's not encouraging me to try it again!

  4. I was a little surprised by the prices, after thinking it was meant to be cheap. It seemed more expensive than most 'real' Asian restaurants.

    Glad I'm not alone in the bok choi loving department :)

  5. I went to Wagamama in Bristol, UK recently and asked them to remove the egg from their yasai yakisoba noodle dish. The waitress asked if it was because I dislike egg or if I was vegan. I replied vegan, and she kindly said she'd also swap out the wheat noodles for rice noodles as their wheat noodles also contain a small amount of egg.

    I was pleasantly surprised by her asking if I was vegan, as most places won't and I have to end up telling them specifically to make sure they don't leave any unwanted ingredients in my food! I loved Wagamama before but I love them more now for being so considerate to the needs of vegans!

    And bok choi is awesome - as is choi sum!

    1. Thanks so much for letting me know about your experience. That is a lovely story and good to know to choose rice noodles!


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