Friday, 21 January 2011

Getting to grips with the Wagamama cookbook

I remember when the first Wagamama opened in the UK in 1992. It was a bit of a cult place, to be found on a side street in the Tottenham Court Road end of Bloomsbury, in the shadow of Centrepoint. You descended to a large basement and sat at long refectory tables. The noodle-based food was novel for the time. It was a pleasingly communal experience and it was always busy. There was a definite buzz about the place.
Wagamama are now everywhere. There are two in Cardiff. The one in Mermaid Quay opened with the redevelopment of Cardiff Bay, while the one in Mill Lane opened last year. They are a little more expensive than I remember. The long communal tables are giving way to smaller tables, although at busy times you may still get seated next to strangers (Wagamama used to attract more interesting people than most eateries you could name). The quality of the food on offer is just as good as in those early London days when I “first discovered Wagamama.”
I have just gotten around to “The Wagamama Cookbook” by Hugo Arnold (2004). Tonight I cooked Chicken Ramen. In the book, this is a combination of grilled and sliced chicken breast, noodles, stock, pak choi, with canned bamboo shoots and spring onions to garnish.
I never have all the ingredients for dishes like this, and never expect it to look or taste like it does in the restaurant. So, I substitute things and adapt it to suit. Instead of the Ramen (or Soba), which are thin, wheat egg noodles, I used soft Chinese noodles. I made do without bamboo shoots. Wagamama chicken stock is made with some ginger root, so I boiled up my stock with a few slices of ginger, which was satisfactory, and so on.
However, a key thing with these dishes, which should be respected, is to assemble them just before serving. Cooked and drained noodles are put into individual deep bowls first, followed by chopped vegetables (Chinese leaves in my case), then the hot stock, and finally the grilled chicken and any garnishes you’re using (e.g., spring onions) on top.


  1. From Ian Upton on the Twitter link to this page:
    @sfnottingham Ah! Memories of queuing on the steps down to Wagamama swigging tinned Sapporo and wondering who you would be crushed against!

  2. @sfnottingham And the @Wagamama salad dressing secret ingredient is? You may be astonished...

  3. I would like to thank Ian for recommending some recipes from the Wagamama cookbook (Chicken Udon and raw salad). Would that 'secret' salad dressing ingredient be that famous Japanese garnish of choice: tomato ketchup?