I think I might have an unhealthy obsession with dumplings.
So when I was invited to a blogger event at Leeds’ Bar Soba to learn how to make AND eat these little gems, I think you know what my response was.
Upstairs, Bar Soba is stunning – a white conservatory-like structure with modern furniture and edgy graffiti. Bloggers were milling around, comparing cameras and drinking champers whilst they waited for the man of the moment, Nik, to arrive.
Nik Biok is Bar Soba’s executive chef and when he introduced himself, I spotted the Sydney accent straight away. He explained to us that he also spent a lot of time living in Bali and Hong Kong, which is where the inspiration for his fusion food menu comes from.
Bar Soba itself launched in 1999 in Glasgow where it has three restaurants. There’s also a restaurant in Edinburgh, but the Leeds outlet is the only one in England. There certainly seems to be a trend for restaurant chains choosing Leeds as their first North of England opening – something I’m very happy about.
“This was fusion food in its most stunning form – France, Thailand and Bali all in one bowl.”
First on the menu was pork dumplings, which Nik demonstrated how to make. As he was making them I asked him about the funky little dumpling moulder he was using (because I desperately wanted one) and he said they can be ordered online from a site called Banggood.com for just £1. Needless say I’ll be quite keen to find one in my stocking this Christmas.
The dumplings were stuffed with pork and coriander and drizzled with my very favourite sauce, Sriracha. The casing was soft, velvety and melted in my mouth, whilst the flavours of the pork were savoury and zesty. Juicy and succulent, I can safely say that I haven’t eaten dumplings as good as this for a while.
Next up was the main course, which featured one of my favourite meats, duck. Nik explained that this was duck confit, meaning it was slow cooked in fat for several hours. This twist on the French classic involved lemongrass, lime leaf, star anise and kecap manis, an Indonesian version of soy sauce that is much sweeter and lighter.
We tucked into this deliciously soft duck which was served with a red curry sauce and delicious crispy little rice cakes which Nik said were inspired by a Balinese recipe. This was fusion food in its most stunning form; France, Thailand and Bali all in one bowl.
Dessert was a gently deep fried banana in a crispy coconut batter, with coconut ice cream. Although all of this tasted like heaven, I was really quite full from my first two courses, so was unable to finish it. Good excuse to come back…
I must mention the cocktails that were demonstrated by Bar Soba’s Drinks Development Director, Scott. These were equally memorable and also, unsurprisingly, had a fusion theme. I loved the Japanese plum sour with its plum sake, apple juice, spiced rum and egg white, but my favourite was the blow-my-head-off coconut daiquiri with its rim of chilli powder.
Before I conclude, I must mention my rather wistful chat with Nik about Sydney and how popular sunday yum cha is there. We both clearly miss the fusion food the city has to offer… but the good news is that this fare is now available in Leeds!
On that note, I must begin a quest for Leeds’ best yum cha and write a blog post on that… watch this space. Do you have any suggestions of where I should try?