Review: Opium

When it comes to going out for dinner or getting a takeaway, Chinese or Oriental food is not my first choice. This is mainly because I’m always so underwhelmed by the food & feel I could make it just as well at home. It’s surprising given where we stay in the West End of Glasgow which has so many different Chinese/Oriental places on hand.

On my husband’s actual birthday, my parent’s present for him was a meal & all he had to do was pick a restaurant. He narrowed it down to Opium & an Italian restaurant & he gave me the task of choosing one. I opted for Opium since it had been on my list of places to go from recommendations from work colleagues.

When we arrived at Opium, it was relatively quiet for a Thursday evening but it worked in our favour as we had the choice of where we wanted to sit. We opted for a table near the back of the restaurant which gave me the perfect view of seeing what other diners were having!

On the table I was delighted to see the cutlery was a spoon & a pair of chopsticks with no fork in sight. This instantly reminded me of restaurants on our holiday last year in Hong Kong & Thailand. The menu in Opium is not Chinese but of Oriental fusion, which as you can imagine, leads to an extensive menu! It also boasts a large dim sum offering which got a big thumbs up from me!

dim sum

As we’d only really eaten breakfast that day, we decided to order 3 dim sum to share for our starter . The crab & chive dumplings were presented in a traditional Chinese steamer & accompanied by a vinegar dipping sauce. The dumplings were melt in the mouth, with the lovely tang of the vinegar accompanying it perfectly. Our second dim sum was chilli salt squid, which I was apprehensive about. This was partly due to having made squid at home a couple of weeks before & it put me off a bit as it didn’t turn out well at all. I had nothing to worry about with this beautiful pile of squid as it was tender & had such a moreish chilli & salt coating to it. I could have honestly eaten a big plate of this on its own! Our final dim sum was satay won ton – chicken & king prawn won ton dumpling covered in a satay sauce. This was probably my least favourite as the texture, for me, was a bit slimy. I’m not sure if this was maybe the different in wrapping compared with the dumplings as I’ve never had won ton before.

With the starters being so good, the mains had a hard act to follow! We shared a portion of thai chilli beef & malay spicy tiger prawn. The beef came with okra (my new favourite vegetable), pepper in a chilli & basil sauce. The meat was lovely & tender but the sauce was a bit disappointing as it lacked a strong chilli flavour. I was expecting more heat like the chilli & basil sauces I’ve eaten in Thai restaurants in both Thailand & here in the UK.

mains

The tiger prawn dish had a lovely fragrant curry sauce, which again was not too hot but neither too sweet. The accompanying vegetables in the dish were cooked perfectly, with a good crunch to them. Our eyes were bigger than our bellies with our side dishes. We opted for steamed jasmine rice & also fried egg noodles as the waitress asked both of us if we wanted a side so we threw caution to the wind! The rice was so fluffy & light, while the noodles had an almost chow mein like taste to them. Needless to say, we didn’t finish all of the sides as we focussed more on the main dishes!

sides

I will take my hat off to Opium as they have opened my eyes to the fact that not all Oriental restaurants are a disappointment. The ferrero rocher given with the bill may have also helped sway me!! I will definitely be back as soon as I can, even if it is only to sample more of the extensive dim sum on offer!!

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Product Review – Spice Kitchen

Spice Kitchen are a online company specialising in homegrown spice mixes. They recently sent out a request for bloggers to review their spices, which I put my hand up for.

I received a parcel from them containing a selection of their spice mixes. Before I even opened the package, there was a really strong aromatic smell coming from the package. This indicated to me that the spices used by Spice Kitchen must be of a high quality as you normally can never smell anything until you’ve opened the packet or jar!

Spice Kitchen sent me 8 of their spice mixes in small resealable pouches. The mixes I received were:

  • Mexican
  • Jerk
  • Garam Masala
  • Ras El Hanout
  • Chinese 5 Spice
  • Baharat
  • Panch Phoron
  • Sri Lankan Curry

I’ll admit some of these I had never came across such as Baharat & Panch Phoron but that just made me excited to try out something new! Once I’d had a good sniff of the mixes, I put my thinking cap on to figure out what I could make with a few of these mixes.

I opted for Jamaican Jerk Chicken made with the Jerk seasoning. In my recipe for the Jerk chicken, I opted to be conservative & use 2 teaspoons of the Jerk seasoning for the marinade. In my opinion, this was enough to get the nice smoky flavour associated with Jerk cooking. The seasoning is also not relatively spicy which makes it family friendly with the option to add more spice (like I did) if you desire.

The Panch Phoron, which is like an Indian 5 spice blend, I’ll admit I was unsure what I could use it with as I always use garam masala for curries. After a quick search, I came across a few ideas for bombay potatoes which went well with my idea for a “fakeaway” Saturday night feast. When sprinkling the spice mix over the potatoes, I honestly wished I was able to capture the smell for you as it was so aromatic & as strange as this may sound, smells exactly like what you would expect from Indian food. The potatoes were a hit! You can find the recipe here.

As a keen cook, I would definitely recommend the Spice Kitchen boxes as a unique gift for someone who likes to experiment in the kitchen. They provide sets of the spices in small pouches similar to the picture above that I received or if you’re looking for a more refined gift, they also provide cute wooden boxes with small jars of the spice mixes. And as I noticed when I was writing this they also have recipes if you’re stuck for ideas!

Disclaimer: Spice Kitchen provided the spice mixes for free & the review, suggestions & recipes as of my own accord with no outside influence.

 

Recipe: Jamaican Jerk Chicken with Pineapple Rice

Jamiacan Jerk Chicken with Pineapple Rice

  • Servings: 2
  • Time: Preparation: Overnight marinade + 15 mins / Cooking: 25 mins
  • Difficulty: easy
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Ingredients (can be easily doubled)

Marinade

  • 2 tsp Jamaican Jerk Seasoning (you can make your own using this recipe
  • Red chilli – finely chopped (optional)
  • 2 tbsp dark soy Sauce (or any other soy if you don’t have dark)
  • 1 tbsp brown sugar
  • 2 chicken breasts, diced

Rice & Sauce

  • 150g brown rice (you can use white if preferred)
  • 1 Red Pepper – cut into small chunks
  • Small tin of pineapple chunks or rings – drained
  • 2 spring onions
  • Sweetcorn
  • 2 tbsp dark soy Sauce
  • 1 tsp Jerk Seasoning
  • tsp brown sugar
  • Red chilli – finely chopped
Macros Calories Carbs Fat Protein
Per serving, based on 2 servings 479 69 5 35

The night before or the morning of, you need to marinade the chicken. Put all of the marinade ingredients together & give it a good mix before adding in the chicken. Once the chicken is mixed with the sauce, put it in the fridge until you are ready to cook it. Tip: to really ensure the chicken is covered, I put my chicken in a tupperware tub & give the tub a good shake (or a shoogle as I call it) before putting in the fridge.

Marinading Jerk Chicken

For the rice, cook it as per the directions on the packet. You could also use some pre cooked rice like Uncle Ben’s for this to save time. While the rice is cooking, in a small pan, put in the soy sauce, brown sugar & jerk seasoning & bring to the boil. Take off the heat & put aside for later.

Jerk Sauce

Put the pepper & chilli into a frying pan & sautee for around 4 minutes. Next, add in the pineapple & cook until it starts to look slightly charred (brown around the edges).

Veg Prepped

Whilst the pineapple is cooking, heat a griddle or frying pan & add the chicken once hot. Using the sauce you created, baste the uncooked side of the chicken that you can see & turn after 2 minutes. Continue this basting & turning for another 2 times until the chicken is cooked through & you have a nice brown, charred look to the chicken.

Jerk Chicken

To your vegetables, add the spring onions & sweetcorn & cook for a minute before adding the rice & mixing it altogether.

Jerk Chicken with Pineapple Rice

Place the chicken on top of the rice & enjoy! We accompanied this with some salsa to add another kick to the dish.