Dish Deconstructed: Terre à Terre's Bangkok Broken Balls

By Hannah Thompson contact

- Last updated on GMT

National Vegetarian Week takes place this week (from 16 to 22 May), and how better to celebrate it that to check in with Terre à Terre in Brighton, one of the UK’s most well-known vegetarian sites?

Located on East Street just metres from the seafront, Terre à Terre was founded in 1993 by chefs Amanda Powley and Philip Taylor, who were inspired by their training and exotic travels around the world.

What began as a BYOB gathering for just 30 covers, has ‒ over two decades later ‒ been recognised in the Good Food Guide, celebrated by tough critics such as AA Gill, and become widely known for its innovative vegetarian approach. It has also since evolved to offer a wide delicatessen selection of pastes, oils, chutneys and sweet treats, and in 2009 published a book featuring some of its best-loved recipes.

As awareness and demand for vegetarian food has grown, the site’s approach to other dietary requirements has also increased, and its menu now features a wide range of vegan and gluten-free creations, with nearly all dishes or set menus - including brunch and sweet or savoury afternoon teas - available as alternative options.

Originally from New Zealand, chef Matty Bowling came to Terre à Terre in 2011 and became head chef in 2014, having trained at sites such as the three Michelin-starred Restaurant Gordon Ramsay in London's Chelsea, the two-star the Ledbury on Notting Hill, and at Ottolenghi – Yotam Ottolenghi’s eponymous group of Middle-Eastern restaurants and cafés, whose food is widely recognised as being “accidentally vegetarian”, with innovative, internationally-flavoured plates that just happen to be made without meat.

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Bangkok Broken Balls

For a dish with a comical name, this starter plate packs some serious flavours.

First, deep fried rice balls are made with a mixture of basmati and sushi rice, with a Thai curry paste of shallots, galangal, ginger, garlic, nutmeg, lemongrass, turmeric, coriander seeds, cumin seeds, lime leaves, chilli, coconut milk, and salt and pepper. They are then fried at 180⁰ with a little rice flour to make them crispy on the outside, but still soft on the inside.

The dish is then plated up with crunchy baby gem lettuce and baby spinach, plus pickled asparagus, fresh diced celery, cubed tofu, overnight dehydrated tomato, pomelo, and edible flowers. 

Its focus is freshness and texture, with the grapefruit-lime flavour of the pomelo cutting through the softness of the tofu, and the creaminess of the pistachio puree, intensified by the concentrated taste of the dehydrated tomato and the tang of the pickled vegetables and herbs.  

“This is a big-selling summer dish,” explains Bowling. “And when you don’t have meat, texture is a massive part of the cooking. For example, tofu is really underrated as a textural ingredient – here, people might not even notice it’s there, except for the creaminess it brings. It’s there in the background. Texture is a big part of what we do at Terre à Terre.”

Selling as a starter for £7.75, Bangkok Broken Balls also happens to be vegetarian, vegan, and gluten-free. 

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