Wok This Way – Tasty Chinese at Bambusa, Manuka

  • Friendly and accommodating staff
  • Authentic Chinese food with lots of gluten free options
  • Awesome yuxiang eggplant

I have been lucky enough to have been able to live in a few different countries over the years. One of these is China. In addition to travel around the country I spent a year at University in Hangzhou where I met my husband, which was great, and three months in Changzhou teaching English, which wasn’t.

I miss a lot of things about China – my friends, my carefree lifestyle (no kids, no dog, no mortgage and a much higher alcohol tolerance) but what I miss the most is the food. Unfortunately it is incredibly hard to get good Chinese food that is gluten free.

Living in China, I really loved the variety and flavours of authentic home style cooking. Lanzhou la mian (pulled noodles), jiaozi (fried dumplings), Northern dishes like di san xian (Sautéed Potato Green Pepper and Eggplant) and spicy Sichuan dishes like lazi ji. I could go on and on about the foods I miss but I won’t because it would be boring for you and depressing for me! Instead I’ll tell you about Bambusa in Manuka.

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Outdoor seating

We headed to Manuka for dinner on Wednesday night. We were super early, looking for dinner at 5.15pm because we had to be in Queanbeyan for 6pm. When we entered Bambusa, the place was empty – there wasn’t even a staff member around so we waited uncomfortably for a minute and a waitress came out. She showed us to a table and gave us some menus to browse.

The Bambusa menu is extensive and well-marked with allergy items including gluten free. There is a good range of gluten free options, particularly among the vegetable dishes, as well as non-gluten free dumplings – which Michael really likes! After a few minutes, the wait staff came back over to take our orders and I began my usual coeliac explanation.

The staff member who served us was good. After explaining my needs, she said she’d check with the chef about cross contamination – specifically around the fried items on the menu – and took our order. We opted for non-gluten free xiao long bao (steamed soup dumplings) for Michael, gluten free honey king prawns, gluten free yuxiang eggplant, rice and jasmine tea to share.

Shortly after taking our order, the wait staff came back to say the chef would do his best to avoid cross contamination and would fry the prawns in new oil for us.

While we waited for our food, I had a look around the restaurant. The space is quite large, with a service counter on one side and plenty of tables and seating around. The kitchen is in the back, and we could faintly hear the sound of cooking – sizzling oil and pots banging.

The décor in the restaurant is nothing special, the walls are a grey/beige and the carpet is dark but along the walls there are some really big, interesting and strange art works including a huge circular mural and a really weird painting that I’m pretty sure included Freddie Krueger on the top left-hand side! It’s well-lit and large but still feels comfortable and quite cosy.

A few more people trickled in while we at Bambusa, only one other person took a table while everyone else collected take away. After a 10-minute wait, our food came out and I was really happy with it.

Obviously, I didn’t try any of Michael’s xiao long bao because they weren’t gluten free however they looked great. Michael said the soup inside (often the tastiest part of xiao long bao) was scoldingly hot and delicious.

The honey king prawns were nice and firm. They had been coated and fried in a thin rice flour which gave them a tiny crunch. A thicker batter might have been nice but I think that would have overcooked the prawn inside and effected the texture of the meat. They had been covered in a really nice honey sauce. Unlike usual honey sauces this one was not just sweet,  it had been well balanced with vinegar. They were nice and very moorish.

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Honey king prawns

One of my favourite dishes in China was yuxiang eggplant, and the dish at Bambusa took me back to my time in China. This led Michael and I to reminisce for ages, recalling our favourite restaurants, nights out, and spending about 30 minutes trying to remember the name of the hotel where we could buy decent (gluten filled) bread in Hangzhou (it was the Shangri-la if you’re interested)!

Bambusa’s yuxiang eggplant looked perfect, big chunks of eggplant and tiny bits of mince pork, all dangerously hot and in a thick layer of oil! I could smell the garlic in it, and there were thin slices of it throughout the bowl. The flavour was spot on too! It tasted authentic, as good as the eggplant I’d had in China. The eggplant was gooey and satisfying. Among the garlic and chilli, I’d get a burst of mushroom whenever I picked out a shitake. The flavour of the pork mince was strong and complemented the overall umami flavour of the dish. With a pile of rice to cut through the oil, the eggplant was great, and left my mouth tingling slightly from the spicy bite after each mouthful.

With the rice, the three dishes were slightly too much food for the two of us. It came to $67.20 including the tea, which I think is very reasonable for the amount and quality of the food. I am going to come back to Bambusa, ideally with a group of people, so that I can try lots more dishes and find out if they can match the quality of the yuxiang eggplant.

38 Franklin Street Manuka ACT 2603
02 6295 1036
http://www.bambusa-ac.com

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