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Asian street food has become increasingly popular recently, with a few local places popping up. We love it, so were more than excited to receive an invite to visit fairly new Chao Chao in West Bridgford to try some of their southeast Asian inspired dishes.
Chao Chao seems primarily a take-away and delivery place but there are a few tables to make up a small restaurant, so we sat down and chose a few menu items that caught our eye while the chef treated us to some dishes that he personally recommended.
The menu has a variety of dishes from larger main courses to small plates so you can choose depending on your mood or appetite. Each is served in a high quality, recyclable takeaway box (Chao Chao aim to be as eco-friendly as possible), with sauces separately so you can mix it when you like. First up from the small plates menu was the China Town salt & pepper squid, which tasted really fresh and was surprisingly well cooked – very lightly battered, not rubbery at all and tossed with tasty spring onions and fresh red chillis.
We always say a good test for any restaurant is calamari and Chao Chao did a nice job – we were off to a good start.
Next up, Korean fried chicken wings that were large, succulent super zingy.
You could really taste the authentic garlicky, spicy Gochujang (soy-based Korean chilli paste) and the creeping, tangy heat was really enjoyable. These went so well with a bottle of Asahi lager! They were crispy, not too greasy and we would definitely order them again.
Our final small plates were the hirati steamed buns – an order of fried chicken and an order of marinated pork belly.
We are definitely bao bun connoisseurs after eating about a million of them each, we seek these soft, steamed oriental sarnies out wherever we go. We’ve had amazing ones from top bao houses in London and some duffers (cough, Slug and Lettuce, cough). Thank the bao gods, we’re pleased to announce that these were up there on the scale. The buns were light and fluffy (clearly steamed fresh to order) while the pork and crispy chicken were both juicy and flavourful. We both agreed that some fresh garnish here would really lift each one, some pickled onion and/or coriander for freshness to cut through the rich sriracha mayo and meat would make these better. These were a really good effort and we’d order again as a starter or snack, but the Nottingham bao crown still belongs to heavyweights Homeboys at Nottingham Street Food Club!
From the main menu, we ordered the Malaysian street food curry and the chef also bought us a kastu chicken curry and Thai green curry.
After a recent trip to Malaysia, we had a taste of true authentic Malaysian cooking from the world-famous street food stalls of Penang, so were hoping to experience them all over again. Now, it can never match up to the foodie bliss of holidays, let’s be realistic, but this rich, creamy, aromatic sauce definitely sent us back to the snack spots of Kuala Lumpur (at least it wasn’t for breakfast this time!) It had a creamy yet light coconut base which was fragrant with a good kick of heat and layers of flavour from galangal and lemongrass. We went for chicken, but we would be keen to try the other options of beef, prawn or tofu, too. Anything in that beautiful gravy! The jasmine rice was also sticky and fragrant and did a great job of soaking up all that lovely curry flavour. We admit we’re not the biggest katsu curry connoisseurs, we’ve only eaten it before at Yo Sushi, Waga’s and in a poorly conceived Boots meal deal wrap so can’t really judge it that well, but it was really enjoyable, the chicken was crispy and cooked well and the sauce thick, unctuous and fruity, but it could be a little on the sweet side for some.
The chef also bought out a side order of Singapore noodles, which I wasn’t really looking forward to after a particularly ropey experience at Wok & Go, but honestly we found the rice noodles to be perfectly cooked al dente while the vegetables were fresh and crunchy with a really punchy Singapore curry sauce. Truth be told, a bit more of the sauce wouldn’t go a miss to stop them drying out on your way home, but a great plate/box of food nevertheless.
So, in summary a great meal and somewhere we will definitely be trying again at some point. It’s not fancy food, but it’s flavourful food that focusses on freshness, comforts the soul and is a huge step above what you would expect from an oriental takeaway. We’re not local to Westy B so knowing we can satisfy a Malaysian curry craving or get a Korean chicken wing fix in a few taps of the website is good to know. It’s also worth mentioning that they have a lunch menu that offers a main and soft drink for a crazy £5.99, which must be so good for the local businesses or a relaxed Saturday lunch with friends. As it is, we instead have their delivery menu stuck to our fridge ready to go for our next movie night! Try Chao Chao for a bit of those oriental favourites or try something completely new, the variety is great and there are some interesting flavours for everyone – a tasty addition to West Bridgford, we think.