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18 Apr 2018
This piece is by Olivia Mak, one of our Stagecoach Student Ambassadors. Find out more about our student ambassadors.
Craving a delicious Japanese meal that won’t break the bank? Still exploring Manchester and not sure where to go for your next Korean food fix? Or maybe you’re hunting some authentic Thai cuisine to celebrate the end of exams?
Whatever the reason, you should never need an excuse to rock up at a place that offers your cuisine of choice and treat yourself. With that conveyor belt of assignments and exams that you have to put up with, you’ve earned it.
Here are 12 of the best Asian food places around town (why 12, you ask - because I’m that hopelessly indecisive I can’t even narrow it down by two):
One of the best restaurants in Chinatown, if not the whole of Manchester. As well as the thoughtfully-presented, Instagrammable food, which tastes just as good as it looks, this place also offers good-value Happy Hour deals, including 2-for-1 on selected Asian speciality drinks on Tuesdays and cocktails & mocktails on Wednesdays, served from a Thai-style canopy bar. Express lunches are £6.50 for a one-course meal and consist of a small selection of noodle and rice dishes. There are also 3-course express lunches, along with an extensive a la carte menu for those seeking something more exotic.
Blink and you would miss this quirky little Japanese cafe. A relative newcomer to the food scene in Manchester, having only opened late last year, you could easily walk past its inconspicuous exterior on Portland Street. It serves a variety of snacks, including gyoza (Japanese dumplings), curry fish balls and the brilliant tamagoyaki - fluffy Japanese egg omelette rolls with a choice of filling (such as sweetcorn, cheese etc.) and topped with mayo and seaweed. My favourites, though, are the egg puffs, spherical egg-based waffles, which actually come from Hong Kong and are glorious on their own but can also be topped with Oreos, ice cream, chocolate and matcha. They are so revered that we even have street stalls dedicated to this staple snack. It also offers more substantial items like chicken teriyaki noodles if you’re particularly peckish. A great place to come for a tasty snack or dessert.
This just about wins the battle with Seoul Kimchi for their tastier bibimbaps, more comfy seating and good-value takeaway boxes (though if you fancy complimentary small side dishes that traditionally accompany the bibimbap, such as miso soup, kimchi and soybeans - Seoul Kimchi’s your place). The bibimbaps consist of rice with seasoned vegetables and a choice of meat, topped with egg and served in a heated stoneware pot. The idea is that you add some mildly spicy but sweet sauce and mix the raw egg yolk in with all the other ingredients in the pot. The pot cooks the yolk and ensures that your food stays nice and hot throughout the meal. They also offer dishes such as Bulgogi, a Korean classic of marinated meat which is grilled on a barbeque, as well as takeaway boxes which start from £3.20 for a small rice box and £4.50 for a noodle box. Scenes from Korean culture adorn the walls of the restaurant and contribute to the relaxed atmosphere. Located just off Deansgate, this is the perfect place to come for a post-shopping meal.
Reminiscent of the delights you would find in a Hong Kong bakery, you’ll wonder if you’ve died and entered patisserie heaven. It is easy to overspend here due to the many tempting offerings, from an assortment of moreish buns (including honey & pineapple, taro and cheese & sausage) to enticing slices of cake layered with cream and fruit. You can even order specially-made birthday cakes. There are also specialities like egg tarts, walnut cookies, mango pudding and red bean balls (a crispy and chewy dessert, which consists of fried sesame balls made of glutinous rice flour and filled with red bean paste), along with packs of sweet flower cream bread and milky bread. Take away your bakery bundle or sit in their small dining area and enjoy a traditional iced red bean with your buns and cakes.
With a sign outside its doors which proudly boasts that it’s the ‘only Vietnamese restaurant in Chinatown’, you can’t really miss this charming basement place with its traditional decor and marble tables. The ‘Pho’ (pronounced ‘fuh’) in the name refers to the national broth-based dish of Vietnam: an aromatic soup with noodles, vegetables and sometimes meat, optionally garnished with fresh herbs, lime and chillies. It is warm, nutritious and wholesome.
The bonus here is that they offer bánh mì, a soft Vietnamese baguette with a crunchy crust that’s stuffed with vegetables and meat (if desired). I can recommend the tofu bánh mì; the mix of flavours from the vegetables and tofu work wonderfully well together. Every single bite is like an explosion of flavour in your mouth. Service is quick, even when busy, and the prices are reasonable (around £7.50 for pho dishes and £4 for a bánh mì). The food here is surely what they had in mind when they coined the term ‘mindful eating’.
No prizes for guessing what this restaurant specialises in - the umami sensation that is ramen, a seasoned broth with noodles and a variety of toppings. This place has the feel of an authentic Japanese dining experience, from the moment you step through the doors to a beating of the drum and the greeting of ‘Irasshaimase’ (‘welcome’ in Japanese), to the lantern decorations and shouts in Japanese between staff as they shuffle from one end of the restaurant to the other. Located in Piccadilly Gardens, this is a place for casual dining.
To help you decide what to order, there is a fact card describing the origins of their signature ramen dish, Shoryu Ganso Tonkotsu. This is a flavoursome mix of a 12-hour pork broth ramen with char siu belly, nitamago egg, spring onions, kikurage mushrooms, sesame, ginger and seaweed. You can get it for just £7 on Tuesdays with a valid student card. They also offer a 20% student discount on Mondays to Thursdays and you can take advantage of their specials deals: 2 for 1 matcha sundaes on Sundays and 2 for 1 buns with any ramen on Mondays. With all these offers, I'm shoryu will be coming back for more.
The worst-kept secret among the students of Manchester, if the average queue at this place is anything to go by, despite its apparent attempts to deter the masses. The entrance to this unassuming place, next to a bike repair shop and via some steps that you go up, more resembles that to a secret nightclub of sorts. There is a breakfast bar-style area on the same level and a larger but somewhat darker eat-in area in the basement, albeit brightened with Korean pop videos and music playing on something resembling an abandoned karaoke area, while wooden benches give the place the feel of a school canteen.
Another gem of a place just off Oxford Road, this place serves up its speciality of yakitori skewers and warm bowls of nourishment in the form of donburi dishes (Japanese rice bowls). I can highly recommend the salmon teriyaki donburi, which comes with asparagus and a boiled egg. Healthy, fresh and tasty; this is the sort of place you come for a comfort meal. With only a few long wooden tables along with seats facing the windows, this is a place for solo diners as well as for informal lunches with friends. The modern Japanese-style decor contributes to the laid-back atmosphere. They have an open-plan kitchen, which is only covered partially by Japanese noren, so depending on where you’re sat, you can watch and salivate like Pavlov’s dog at the sight of the chefs preparing your food. Avoid coming when you’re in a rush though as food is cooked to order. Not the cheapest but certainly cheerful.
THE place to go in Manchester for dim sum. Like Spanish tapas, dim sum (meaning to touch the heart in Cantonese) is made for sharing with family and friends and is usually washed down with a pot of Chinese tea to cleanse the palate. With its scarlet-themed decorations and large size, this aptly-named restaurant offers the authentic dim sum experience. It is one of the few to stick with the traditional trolley system, with ladies wheeling trolleys around tables shouting out the various dim sum they offer, which are typically served in bamboo steamers. This system gives you and friends the chance to sample a variety of different dishes by picking and mixing according to your tastes. However, be aware that it only takes place on certain days of the week (Saturday, Sunday, Monday and Tuesday).
Dim sum is usually £3 - £4 per dish. Among the most popular are steamed custard buns, cheung fun (rice noodle rolls), sticky rice in lotus leaves and prawn dumplings. There is also an a la carte menu for those after traditional Chinese dishes. For all your Chinese cooking needs, the Wing Yip supermarket is conveniently located downstairs
Located in some seedy-looking alleyway in the Northern Quarter, with an almost appropriate matching name to boot, this Indian curry house – with its healthy and filling home-made curries – is a case in point for the old adage of not judging a book by its cover. Expect generous portions at reasonable prices. Its name nevertheless aligns with its simple menu, which changes daily; have a look at their website and go when they’re serving what you prefer. You can opt for a single curry or try different combinations of vegetarian and/ or meat curries. The ‘rice and 3 veg’ for £3.90 is a popular option.