spicy food fixes

We’ve come a long way since we moved to Istria, in being able to satisfy our spice cravings. There’s still nothing – quite – on our doorstep, as we used to have on Burton Road in West Didsbury, but compared to the early days, we’re practically living on Spice Island now!

We now place regular post-Brexit orders with British Cornershop, who now have a Netherlands distribution centre, meaning we’re not subject to UK taxes, and that means we can easily stock up on store cupboard spices that we can’t easily get here. However, even the spice search has become easier as we extend our shopping trips to Italy – and recently, even France. So making curries at home has been a regular thing, and we are becoming a bit of a dab hand at them, so we can satisfy our cravings much more easily. We’ve also started to discover restaurants where we can get our takeaways from – when we’re in Trieste, we have a good few options for Indian/Nepalese food and every time we visit Ljubljana we bring a takeaway back from Namaste, our favourite Nepalese restaurant. But just recently, we’ve made two FANTASTIC discoveries, very close to home – one which we can only do over the summer months, the other – a real game changer – we can do ALL YEAR ROUND.

artegnana 1798 : grožnjan : istria

This refurbished boutique hotel in the pretty town of Grožnjan, about 8kms away, took us by surprise over the summer. We visited the town to go the antiques market and decided to have a bite to eat on the terrace of the little hotel. As well as Istrian and Italian inspired charcuterie and pasta dishes, we spotted a few Thai influenced dishes, including Chicken Satay. Which we’ve not had for a very long time. The waiter explained that he and his colleagues are from Indonesia, working for the season, across the hotel – and bringing with them Indonesian inspired dishes. We were sold and immediately ordered the satay skewers. The kitchen, for non-diners is only to 5pm, which was a bit gutting as we had friends arriving from Manchester the following week and we knew they would love the additions to the new. However, we were told we could order the food as takeaways and heat up at home – which is exactly what we did when our guests came to stay.

The lovely staff have returned to Indonesia for the winter, and the hotel has closed – and they will all be back in the spring, so we are told. But we were gutted, having only just found this, to realise we wouldn’t have this over the winter.

chada thai restaurant : koper

Until I discovered Chada Thai restaurant in Koper. The town, in Slovenia, we go to at least two or three times a months, had a Thai restaurant, which obviously we had to investigate! And, having done so, on a couple of occasions now, we feel that another piece of the jigsaw has been added and our lives are becoming more and more normal…

Even before eating the food, we were impressed, as nearly all of the packaging was recyclable – a big plus point. Only the lids for the curries were plastic, and we could forgive this as otherwise, they’d have been a bit of a mess by the time we got them home. So, the taste test…

Very fresh, very tasty and very spicy. Unfortunately, I can’t recall the name of my dish, but it was packed full of the leanest chicken, with crunchy vegetables and a very fragrant, coconut broth. The other dish was a Green Thai Curry, with extra spice – and yes. It was very spicy! Definitely blew away the cobwebs. The starters were all delicious – vegetable spring rolls, fish cakes and chicken satay skewers.

With Thai/Slovenian owners, this restaurant is the real deal, making authentic dishes – not dishes which are a bit westernised. Utterly gorgeous – and I think we’ll be revisiting Chada quite a lot, especially over the winter.

Published on 17th November 2023