Tampopo is the name of a 1985 Japanese film about a cook who tries to find the recipe for making the perfect bowl of noodles. But you don’t have to search because the restaurant named after the film have done it for you. They have travelled all over East Asia to bring back their favourite street food dishes, the aromas and flavours from the bustling markets of Bangkok, Singapore, Malaysia, Vietnam and Tokyo.
Their fresh and tasty plates of food are not only extremely accessible and varied but great value, too, with small plates starting at £2.95 and mains from £7.50. The emphasis is on fast, healthy food, perfect for a quick work lunch, shopping stop, or pre-cinema/theatre meal. Or if you are looking for a more relaxed and lengthy evening you could try one of their monthly supper clubs taking you on a culinary journey through the different countries and regions of East Asia.
There’s so much choice on the Tampopo menu, with all palates catered for. A handy spice level is included alongside each dish as a guide when you order. What’s also great are the number of vegetarian and vegan choices, meaning that no-one is left out. Here are some of our favourite dishes to get your taste buds going.
Sticky Wings Small Plate
These are some of the tastiest chicken wings we have come across in Manchester. Crispy fried wings are glazed with sweet soy and chilli and coated with sesame seeds. They are juicy and lip-smackingly good, the seeds adding a lovely little crunch. If you wouldn’t normally order wings in a restaurant, fearing the ‘do I eat them with my fingers in public?’ etiquette, we suggest you give these a go and just tuck in as you would on a street stall or at home. Don’t worry – you get a finger bowl.
Gyoza Small Plate
These lovely pork and vegetable dumplings are a taste sensation. They are eaten all year-round in Asia for breakfast, lunch or dinner, and can be steamed or fried. Tampopo pan fry theirs until golden brown on one side, then water is added and the pan sealed with a lid until the upper part of the gyoza is steamed. Served with soy and chilli dip, these are a delightful way to start your meal.
Coconut Prawns Small Plate
Big and juicy tiger prawns are generously coated in a sweet and golden coconut breadcrumb to produce this very moreish small plate. Dipped in the sweet chilli dip, they won’t stay on the table long. If there are a few of you order at least two of these or you will be fighting over who gets the last one.
Spring Rolls Small Plate (vegan)
These are completely different to your average Chinese fried spring roll. The Vietnamese influence is apparent in their use of rice paper to wrap the vegetables, mint, vermicelli, and Asian basil. They can be served fresh (cold), and in this style are possibly the healthiest spring roll you will ever eat, not to mention fresh tasting thanks to the fragrant herbs. Served on baby gem lettuce, wrap them up and give them a good dip in the hoisin and peanut sauce. Delicious.
Thai Rare Beef Salad
Another fresh and tasty option that doesn’t scrimp on the rare beef. Generous thick slices of beef are succulent and rich, with a fresh salad comprising cucumber, cherry tomatoes, fresh mint, red onion, chilli, lime and peanuts. A zingy little number.
Chicken Pho Soup
One of my personal favourites, and the dish I most often pop into Tampopo for, even on my own. (I rarely eat anywhere else by myself but this is the type of place where you don’t feel awkward). The clear broth is beautifully scented with fresh Asian herbs, anise and lime and the Ho fun noodles thick yet still surprisingly light. With chicken it makes a fantastic healthy lunch, full of protein and vegetables, and packed with flavour.
Sweet Potato Katsu Curry (vegetarian)
Apparently the chicken Katsu curry is one of the most popular dishes with students. We like the sweet potato version deep-fried in panko breadcrumb, as it adds more sweetness and depth to the mild curry sauce served with sticky rice.
Prawn Pad Thai
Probably the best known Thai dish and the number one best seller on the menu. We like ours with juicy prawns but you can order with chicken or vegetables (both vegetarian and vegan options are available on this dish). Sweet and sour rice noodles stir-fried with choi sum, egg, beansprouts, dried shrimp, peanuts and lime. A great noodle dish. If only the cook in the film had known about it.
This is just a small selection of what’s on the menu at Tampopo. They have three sites in Manchester – Albert Square, Corn Exchange, and Trafford Centre. You don’t always need a reservation, so just pop in and give their East Asian cuisine a taste.