A lot has been mentioned on social media about the Sweet Mandarin restaurant in Manchester and when I had some spare time whilst in Manchester for work last month, I couldn’t resist organising a meal out with my some of my colleagues.
I already knew a little bit about Sweet Mandarin and their products as I’m a big fan of their sweet and sour sauce!
If you don’t know much about Sweet Mandarin’s recent history, here’s some information for you taken from their website:
It was a family trip to Hong Kong that made us talk about going into business together, and even though we had taken separate paths professionally – I’m a lawyer, Lisa a financier and Janet an engineer; it was always with a notion that we’d use that chance to learn skills we could use for our restaurant and sauce business.
We were sitting around the kitchen table in my parents’ house with Lisa cracking jokes about the old times in the takeaway, when it struck us that, well, we were ready. There was nothing stopping us from getting our dreams underway.
We were all able to cook our way through the entire menu at the takeaway by the time we were 11 and Lisa in particular was so into cooking that her home economic teacher told her off at school for making saucy sweet chilli stir-fries instead of apple pies.
Lisa is our head chef and chief sauce maker. She’s my twin sister, and two minutes older than me. That two minutes counts and we know who’s the boss. However, she’s done good for Sweet Mandarin – her mission was to create a product that paid homage to our culture and family heritage and she is determined to do it justice. Using our family recipes, Lisa has also substituted flour / gluten thickeners for a gluten free substitute which doesn’t compromise on taste. I’m pleased to announce that the sauces are amazing (even if I say so myself) and she’s so proud of the sauces, she’s even put her face on the packaging. Her favourite sauce is the Sweet Chilli and she even grows her own chillies.
Cooking is at the heart of the Chinese family and for a Chinese woman it is at the very core of her identity. For every bottle of sauce we make and sell, we dedicate it to my grandmother and mother. My strongest childhood memories are of the kitchen – the click-click of my mother’s heels on the tiled floor, the white clouds of steam billowing out as the wok lid lifted, the feel of ivory chopsticks, cold to the touch. School work and a thousand little frustrations and missed Friday night parties evaporated as we sat down to eat.
Our recipes, our sauces are our inheritance, the living part of our family tree, the traditional cooking that my grandmother brought from the home-land and passed down through the generations to me and my sisters. My mother taught us the basics as our birthright.
The launch of these sauces mark the beginning of our journey. I thank my grandmother for the courage that allowed her to hang on when a weaker person would have given up hope. In my heart, I know that she is a stronger woman than I. Thanks to her, our family is still here today, despite all the heartache and destitution they’ve known in their lives.
I booked a table for four at Sweet Mandarin and after the short taxi ride from our hotel we arrived at the restaurant. It felt like it was in a very secluded part of Manchester but that was obviously quite deceptive as the restaurant soon became very busy!
As always on my arrival I explained that I was gluten free, but this was a lot easier than at most venues as this family know a lot about gluten free and the restaurant has its own gluten free menu!
There were so many options compared to normal restaurants that I really didn’t know what to have, but after much deliberation I opted to have Lisa’s Barbecue Ribs for a starter and my standard option of Sweet and Sour Chicken in Cantonese gluten free batter for the main course.
Wow, check out the ribs……!
These ribs were absolutely divine! The sauce was immense and now I feel I have to try to source the Sweet Mandarin barbecue sauce as a result!
Their were a lot of ribs for a starter so I did offer them around to my colleagues, but with little uptake as they were saving themselves for their main courses, so I ended up having to eat the rest of them myself…. There was no way I was going to let them go to waste! 🙂
The meal certainly tasted a lot fresher than most Chinese takeaway versions, as again, it was quite simply gorgeous!
If it wasn’t 9am when I’m writing this review, I’d totally be ordering a takeaway right now, as this is making me very hungry! 🙂
I had a lovely evening at Sweet Mandarin and all of my colleagues commented that they really enjoyed their meals too! I think Wiki was particularly taken with her Sizzling Prawns! Check these out!
If you’re not aware, Sweet Mandarin also have their own cookbook, which I’m certainly very tempted to buy. Having eaten at their restaurant I expect their recipes to be equally as amazing!
I must say at this point a massive congratulations to Helen and Lisa Tse for being made MBEs in the New Years Honours List for their services to food and drink! Well done ladies! 🙂
If you’d like more information on Sweet Mandarin including where to find their restaurant, view their menus and where to buy their products, you can visit their website, follow them on Twitter and like them on Facebook!
Have you visited the restaurant or tried any of the Sweet Mandarin sauces? What did you think? I’d love to hear from you! Please leave a comment below 🙂