Love them or hate them, chain restaurants are unavoidable in London. There’s now a Byron on every corner, a Pizza Express in every postcode and more Pret a Manger’s than i’ve had hot dinners!
But the thing is, they’re reliable. You know what you’re getting when you walk through into their generically decorated dining rooms; there’s a level of expectation that they always manage to live up to. The menu will rarely change, the food will maintain a level of uniformed flavour and the prices will always be affordable. Chain restaurants allow us to dine within a certain comfort zone – we know we’re never going to be blown away by the food, but we also know the risk of a dreadful meal is low. It’s low risk, OK reward, and sometimes that’s all you want.
One of the chain restaurants I enjoy going to (and probably go to most often) is Yo Sushi. The sushi is always fresh, it’s incredibly quick and in many respects, quite healthy. However, since I first moved to London 5 years ago, the price of a Blue Plate has gone by by 10 pence every year. What used to be £2.40 per plate is now £2.80 and rising. It seems pretty low (and maybe a petty point to be making), but once you’ve enjoyed 2 or 3 plates of a variety of colours (a yellow plate, while often delicious, will set you back £6.25!), you may have spent £15 on your lunch and still have room for more.
So what’s the solution? Obviously you can’t spend all day every day trying to recreate the numerous sushi plates on offer at each of these belt operated chains, but the odd dish is certainly within reach.
As you may or may not know, I am a Community Founder of Tabl, the home for pop-up kitchens, “secret” supper clubs and food adventures. At the moment their blog is a haven of alternative recipes for the nation’s favourite restaurant chain dishes, and they all have a healthy twist too. So, on the quest for No Chain, More Gain, i’ve decided to give a Yo! Sushi favourite of mine a bit of a home-made twist.
The Yo! Sushi Mochi balls are an acquired taste, but mochi is becoming so popular right now that we can’t really ignore it. Yo! have removed the colourful mochi balls from their dessert menu and replaced with a gorgeously gooey cheesecake mochi dessert, alongside a chocolate option too, but the recipe I have for you is a little healthier than that (and taught to me whilst out in Asia this Summer!)
You will need:
300 g of glutinous/sticky rice flour (you can get this from a local asian super market or online)
100 ml low fat coconut milk
3 tsp Matcha Green Tea Powder (I use this one)
50 g Coconut shavings
50 g Palm Sugar
Boiling water (in a pan, over a hob)
Start by mixing the flour, matcha powder and coconut milk together in a bowl, gently bringing it all together. It’ll start to feel a bit like stretchy bread dough. It’s oddly satisfying. You should have a nice green colour to this dough from your matcha powder. You can always add some green food colouring if you want it to be super green or more matcha if you like the taste. Matcha is a superfood with tons of health benefits so you can be liberal with it if you want. When I first learnt to make these, we added colouring so they looked truly luminous!
Once it’s all combined, it’s time to start creating your balls. They should be smaller than a golf ball; maybe aim for slightly bigger than a large marble. Then flatten them out (keeping them round) and add in a large pinch of palm sugar. Close the balls back up, making sure the palm sugar is sealed in. You can put any filling in you like. A dollop of nutella could be delicious, or even some fruit, but I think the palm sugar is particularly delicious, especially once it’s melted on the inside. Just don’t be afraid to pack it in. The more, the tastier!
Do this until all your dough has been used up, and then place into the boiling water. The balls will sink initially, and will bob to the surface when cooked, just like gnocchi!
Scoop them out carefully (they will be VERY hot) and let them drain on a plate. Whilst still hot, roll them in your grated coconut (or whatever topping you’d like! Coco powder would work well, as would icing sugar, but coconut shavings are certainly healthier!)
Allow them to cool for 10 or so minutes before taking a bite as the sugar on the inside will be hot and runny. Once they’re ready, take a bite… they’re chewy and gloopy, with a gorgeously sweet centre and an oddly addictive texture.
They take about 15 minutes tops to make (even if sourcing the ingredients is a little more complicated) and are certainly kinder to both the wallet and the waistline (thanks to the matcha which has metabolism boosting qualities!)
To make Yo’s chocolate mochi, substitute the Matcha powder for coco powder and place a small dollop of nutella in centre before sealing, boiling and rolling in more coco powder – not as healthy, but a great way to satisfy your chocolate cravings!