December 28, 2011

Jack Snacks!... Mokomoko Mug Cake

What do you do when you've got a craving for cake but you don't want to spend a couple of hours beating, mixing, baking? Why of course the answer is simple - Mokomoko Mug Cake!

It costs around $3.50 for a box containing 2 packets of mug cake mix. The instructions on the back are in Japanese but the steps are so simple that I (think I) can make it out with with my limited Japanese.

Mokomoko Mug Cake - cute instructions but alas - only in Japanese!
All you have to do is get a mug, and in there combine the contents of one packet of cake mix with one egg. Once it's combined, microwave for for a couple of minutes (1.5min for a 600 watt microwave or 2min for a 500 watt microwave, do not wrap the mug or cover it). And ta-da!! Your very own mug cake.

It's not too bad for a microwave packet cake - soft and fluffy and not too dry. But don't fool yourselves, it's still a pretty basic cake and obviously not a true replacement for homebaked goodies or something from a nice cake shop. It's still good to keep in the pantry for those late night cake-mergencies (not to mention the high novelty factor!). It comes in 2 flavours - vanilla or moccha (there's also caramel but I've only ever seen that overseas). And the back of the box suggests adding banana which I think is a great combination and decided to try, yum!

Mug. Packet mix. Egg. Optional banana. Yep, that's all you need!

Mix, mix, mix.. when it's done, plop some chopped up banana in.

It's fun watching it puff up in the microwave, when it's done.. poof! It's deflated back down.

Ta-da!!! Mug cake with banana!
What happens if you decide to break the rules and turn mug-cake into bowl-cake? I sacrificed the last of my Lindt chocolate bunnies to make a choc-banana bowl-cake and decided to use a bowl out of curiousity. It was a little tougher, the larger surface area naturally makes the cake cook faster so in future I think I'll stick with the mug! Chocolate on the other hand, I'll add again next time!

Bowl-cake - not quite the same as mug cake, even with a sacrificed Lindt bunny. Stick to the mug kids, stick to the mug.

What: Mokomoko Mug Cake
Where: Most Japanese supermarkets (Maruyu, Conveni 8) and quite a few asian supermarkets (Miracle, Thai Kee etc)
How much: Around the $3.50 mark

December 26, 2011

Merry Xmas from the other sister!

From the other sister up north, Merry (belated) Xmas to everyone.  I hope you all made the most of the festive excuse to indulge! Like Jack, we also ate well including our roast leg of lamb with brussels sprouts straight from the stalk - a seasonal favourite. Dessert was Jamie Oliver's mini puddings and ice cream from Recipease - not shown here as we were busy eating to take a photo! We also bought a chocolate gold leaf cake from another one of our favourite local shops, Gail's, filled with rum and the odd bit of fruit and nut.  The chocolate cake served us well in between meals over the long weekend and lovely with a cup a tea as I get back into blogging after a hectic year.  Stay tuned for more posts from the sisters - till then, happy eating!

Roast lamb, fresh sprouts and chocolate cake - what a great way to celebrate Xmas!

Merry Christmas!!

Hi everyone! I just wanted to wish everybody a Merry Christmas! I hope you all had a fantastic day with your family and friends. And of course, I hope that you all ate well too! Here's a couple of quick snaps from my Christmas lunch... happy holiday feasting!

Christmas Feast course 1 - cheese and crackers, cooked prawns, marinated anchovies..
Christmas Feast course 2 - roast potatoes, lamb cutlets and mushrooms.
Christmas Feast dessert course - apple tart with vanilla bean ice cream.

Ok.. it was a lot of food.... but it was delicious!!!! Merry Christmas again! Sending you all lots of love and well wishes.

December 5, 2011

HaNa Ju-Rin

It's been a while (again) - I've been travelling with my family in Japan for the past 2 weeks. Jess and I certainly enjoyed all the food and we'll be posting about it as soon as we're back home! But in the meantime I'm in Singapore for a quick stopover which of course means more eating!

Meanwhile, a quick post from a meal back home, at HaNa Ju-Rin in Crows Nest. It was quite some time ago now so I can't remember all the details, apologies in advance! It was a last minute booking on a Saturday night but we were able to get a table. It's a quiet little restaurant, the upstairs level has a teppan grill and a sushi counter, both would be great seating options to watch the chefs while eating.

Teppan master at work while we enjoy our green tea, the teppan counter seating.

We started off with Mackerel Boxed Sushi ($19.80) which was beautifully presented. The rectangular pieces are actually pre-cut into halves which make them perfect for popping into your mouth. There's also a scant layer of something in the middle - it tastes like it was maybe some kind of pickled/preserved/marinated vegetable - although chances are I'm completely wrong. Whatever it was, it was so delicious. The mackerel was perfectly cooked and there was so much "mmmm-ing" from both C and myself it was like an Iron Chef judging.

Boxed mackerel sushi, mmmmm... And sushi chef at the counter.

Next up was Beef Tongue Fresh Spring Roll ($12.80). Served cold with a slice of lemon and some relish (?) which was sweet with a tiny bit of chilli, this was refreshing and light in taste but the chunks of beef tongue was substantial enough to make this a rather filling starter.

Beef Tongue Fresh Spring Rolls

Softshell Crab Roll ($13.80) was tasty too, there was less vegetable but the crab was meaty and there was enough spiciness to give it a kick. Udon Noodle with Duck in Hot Pot ($17.50) was great for the cold weather (like I said, it was a while ago hehe) - a simple and homely pot of noodles with some shiitake, naruto, seaweed, egg, spring onions and duck. The duck has a slight fowl taste which is not to everyone's liking but was fine for C and myself.

Seeing as they have their own teppan grill, we had to try some Okonmiyaki. We tried the Buta-Tama Pork ($15.00). There's a layer of egg on top which hides the pancake. There was quite a bit of cabbage in this which you could taste, though I'm not complaining cause I love my vegies!

Softshell Crab Roll, Okonomiyaki and the Udon Noodle with Duck in Hot Pot.

For dessert we just had to try some Ice Cream Tempura with Green Tea Sauce ($10.80) which was served with some fruits on the side. The batter wasn't too heavy or oily which I've found is sometimes the case with fried chinese fried icecream. The ubiquitious pairing of azuki (red beans) with the grean tea sauce gave the tempura vanilla icecream flavour. But most of all I enjoyed the Cherry Blossom Rice Cake (Sakura Mochi, $4.00). It was light and delicate in flavour and the perfect size for those who are full but don't want to miss out on dessert.

Icecream Tempura with Green Tea Sauce and lovely Sakura Mochi.

We enjoyed our meal thoroughly and I'd definitely return sometime to try out the other dishes. But of course we'd have to order the Boxed Mackerel Sushi again. Maybe 2 serves....

What: HaNa Ju-Rin
Where: Shop 1, 300 Pacific Highway, Crows Nest (02) 9966 5833. Website with menu here
How much: Check menu for prices

November 8, 2011

Seoul of Sydney's Koreaculum 103

With work the way it has been, SIFF 2011 was going to fly by and I doubted whether I'd make it to any of the events that I was interested in checking out. But I made a special effort to find time for Seoul of Sydney's Koreaculum 103 after having been intrigued by a fabulous write up of Koreaculum 101 by eatshowandtell's Minh. I love Korean food and am constantly trying to tell lesser-educated friends just how great a cuisine it is, totally undeserving of it's "all meat and chilli" misconception that many people have. And Seoul of Sydney is just what Sydney needs to show people the potential Korean cuisine has to be a stayer on the modern plate. So I excitedly booked tickets and counted down the days...

Firstly, apologies for the fuzzy photos - there just wasn't enough light!

Fast forward to now, two weeks after the event and I'm still buzzing. As soon as we walked into Berta (their venue for the night) there was a real buzz in the air - a mingling of excitement, nervousness and enthusiasm. We were seated at the bar which suited me just fine as I got to peek over and into the kitchen to see some of the action.

The action in the kitchen behind the bar.

While we waited for all the diners to arrive there was a snack of "tofu crackers with sesame seeds" which were crispy with a hint of sweetness, mmm.. a good start to the evening.

Tofu crackers with sesame seeds.... snacking on these while the team prepares the matching drinks.

The first dish was served, "buckwheat pancake filled with kimchi, with a mandarin dressing". Our host for the night Peter Jo (founder of Seoul of Sydney) explains that this is a dish that comes from the south island of Korea, eaten at the start of spring (could it be 메밀전?). It's fabulously fresh, the kimchi is not the usual kind that you get with banchan side dishes, it's lighter and contains capsicum and carrots as well. Together with the mandarin sauce, it has a bit of a spicy kick which is balanced nicely by the nutty, earthy taste of the buckwheat pancakes. We're duly impressed and eagerly await the next dish - the bar has been set high already!
Buckwheat pancake with kimchi and mandarin dressing.

And we most certainly are not disappointed when the second dish arrives - it's a modern take on 육회 (yukhoe) which consists of beef tenderloin served with sesame oil, soy dressing and a dainty quail egg to mix through. There are pieces of pear and possibly mandarin along with some baby herbs and some thin slices of almond (or something similar). It's a pretty looking dish and I hesitate a moment before breaking the quail egg yolk to mix it all up. The meat was served in big slices as opposed to being diced - I'm initially worried that it will be hard to chew or overly raw-meaty in taste but it's an absolute revelation. The flavours are well balanced, hands down it's the best raw-meat dish I can ever remember eating. I get to the end and I want more.

Yukhoe - it's so fresh. Tastes as good as it looks.

But alas, dish number three is not another plate of Yukhoe. It's a modern take on Torangtang which translates as taro soup and is eaten during Chuseok which is a Korean harvest festival held around the Autumn Equinox. This version has an anchovy broth with daikon radish, braised octopus and taro chips. The presentation of this dish is simple yet striking with the octopus tentacles curled on top of the radish that sits in the centre of the broth. Upon cutting into the radish, there's a little surprise - a mix of diced mushrooms and something else I can't quite put my finger on. Each individual flavour in this dish is distinct and pronounced without overpowering the other components.


Next up is duck with Ssamjang (a spicy paste for Korean wrapped food), chilli and jellyfish salad. It's quite spicy with all the chilli but it's a good match for the duck which is perfectly cooked and so, so tasty. Did I mention the duck is perfectly cooked and absolutely delicious? Well, it is was. The jellyfish salad had a fresh tang to it and works well with the richness of the duck. The spicy ssamjang really gives it a kick too.

Perrrrrfectly cooked duck!

The last savoury dish - braised mackerel with chilli sauce and chilli powder on a bed of confit radish with kim (the Korean word for seaweed) and spinach. This is really simple and as C says, "really Korean". I love the simplicity, the fish is tasty and is cooked in a very Asian style - almost verging on dry, but not in a bad way at all. And eaten with the salad it tastes really fresh and healthy yet totally satisfying. I'm looking at the photo and I really want to eat it again now, I can taste the fish in my mind and I'm getting very hungry.

Braised mackerel with chilli sauce, chill powder, confit radish, kim and spinach.

Onto pre-dessert and I'm ecstatic to hear it's going to be an interpretation of Bingsoo (Korean shaved ice desserts). This version consists of a milk-based granita, which is hiding misutgaru (roasted rice powder) and fresh fruits (strawberries, blueberries, kiwifruit). It's is perfectly light and refreshing, one could probably eat this everyday in summer. None of the components are anything special on their own, but when mixed together it tastes fantastic. The fruit gives a sweetness and the misutgaru adds an earthy, nutty flavour.

Bingsoo with misutgaru and fresh fruit - perfect for summer.

Dessert is a real contrast to the pre-dessert which makes things interesting. It's also based off traditional Korean sweets. Presented on a wooden board, there's a plank of 'kanjang' (?) which is described as Korean praline - it includes many seeds and nuts including pumpkin seed, pine nuts and walnuts. It's sticky and nutty, best eaten by snapping segments off using your fingers, as one of the waiters tells me. I think he's right - it's much more satisfying to eat it with your fingers! On top is something that sounded like 'lun' - Peter describes it as a traditional tea snack where they take something like a fruit, desconstruct and sweeten it, then reconstruct it back again. The flavours tonight are raspberry with dried/dehydrated apricot, ginger with pine nuts, and lastly pumpkin rolled in red bean. It's a sweet dessert, although the ginger one gives some heat which might not be to everyone's taste, but I like it all and polish off my board without any problems.

The most sophisticated "fruit and nut" I've had.

And so the meal comes to an end. It hasn't just been a good dinner but it has been a great experience which I hope to take part in next time Koreaculum happens. It was a really good example of the variety in Korean cuisine, something I've always known and appreciated - hopefully more people feel the same after experiencing Koreaculum 103.

What: Koreaculum 103
Where: It was held at Berta Restaurant, by Seoul of Sydney as part of the Crave SIFF 2011
How much: $90 for meal only, $130 with matching drinks

November 7, 2011

Greece Part 2: Santorini

It's been a long time waiting for part 2 of my Greece series so I apologise for the delay - Jack and I are obviously too busy with work and other things such as organising our Japan trip that we haven't made enough time for the roof.  So back to Greece, and in particular Santorini, a beautiful island in the Cyclades, famous for it's caldera.  We had a relaxing four days here with a lovely meal each day in Oia where we stayed.

Illegal Kokoretsi!
The first restaurant we ate at was Anemomilos, which was recommended by the staff at our nearby hotel Ikies.  Anemomilos served true home cooked dishes in a very relaxed atmosphere.  As we had arrived at the restaurant quite late (although Greeks tend to eat dinner around 10pm) it was pretty quiet and they had run out of the traditional Easter lamb on the spit.  I was extremely disappointed but my spirits picked up when I was allowed to go to the food counter where they had many of the pre-prepared dishes available on show.  This was great as each dish was explained to me and when I couldn't decide, a selection was provided.  

Kofta, moussaka and orzo pasta
This was a good chance to sample kokoretsi - roasted lamb/goat intestines.  It is definitely not for everyone and is technically illegal to sell under EU regulations!  Nevertheless, Dave and I are always keen to try local "specialties" and were glad to have the chance at Anemomilos.  It wasn't too bad, especially the outside but it's definitely a dish you can't eat too much off.  Unlike the other dishes we had:  moussaka, kofta with orzo pasta and some lamb and potatoes.  Anemomilos is a great option if you want simple, home cooked Greek cuisine in a relaxed setting.

The next day, Dave and I had lunch down in Amoudi Bay, which is popular for it's fish taverns and for catching some sun or the famous Oia sunsets.  We went to Dimitris, recommended by our hotel.  You could pick your seafood by going inside to the kitchen which looked more like a fish shop with lots of fresh fish on ice.  They also served some frozen seafood but will inform you if it is not fresh.  We had a couple of red mullet which was lightly fried - the flesh was so soft and juicy and you could really tell it was fresh.  We also had a black bream which was grilled on the coals outside, along with some fresh eggplant and of course, some Greek salad.  It was very tasty although it is not a cheap meal as the seafood is fresh but a lovely lunch option. 
Fresh mullet and black bream and grilled eggplant

That evening we went to Kyprida which was recommended to me by Tess (who comes up with the goods time and time again).  Kyprida is a lovely terrace restaurant which is great for enjoying a glass of wine.  This was also the place where we had out first bottle of Katogi, probably one of the best Greek red wines at €20.  I had some haloumi to start which always satisfies, then moussaka which was delicious.  Dave had kebap which was simple but nice.  The best part of our meal was the fabulous service from Panos, a lovely waiter from Athens who had also become friends with Tess and her travel party.  Kyprida is a great spot for enjoying the lovely evenings.

Kebap - restaurant from outside - Moussaka
For something a little more special, I would recommend Nectar and Ambrosia, which is slightly more casual than it's sister restaurant Ambrosia.  Our meals here were excellent and also a little different, especially Dave's calamari cooked in a mushroom and ouzo sauce which was delicious.  I had Santorini feta in filo pastry as a starter then lamb for my mains which were satisfying. 
Calamari and Filo Pastry Starters - Lamb Main
Dave had moussaka for his main which went well with another bottle of our favourite Greek wine. Service was excellent here and it was lovely to see the changing colour of the sky from the restaurant.  

More moussaka - the sky from Nectar & Ambrosia - Another bottle of Katogi
This was a great way to finish our stay in Santorini.  

October 22, 2011

Se Jong

So I'm still drowning in tonnes of work - there's paper all around me on the floor as I spend another Saturday in front of the laptop. The pile of work is not going anywhere but to hell with it - this poor blog is feeling so neglected and sad, it's time to give it some love.

I've been working so much that there hasn't been much time for checking out new places, and sometimes when you're exhausted from work you just want to go somewhere familiar and comforting. Se Jong is just that. I still remember the first time I ate here, way back in November of 2006. Not much has changed since then, the menu and decor are still the same. I've eaten here so many times that it feels like I'm going to an Auntie's place for a homecooked meal. And that's exactly why, after a very long and tiring week at work, this was the perfect dinner to recharge my soul.

There's 2 rooms at Se Jong, the first is a standard room with wooden tables and chairs, each with the obligatory hot plate for Korean barbecue. There's a shoe case next to the doorway to the second room as this room is strictly floor seating - the tables still have the bbq hot plate but they're low to the ground with cushions for you to rest your posterior.

The banchan (side dishes) here are always tasty - today we get kimchi, odeng (fish cake), bean sprouts, eggplant and radish. My eyes always light up when I see the eggplant - it's soft and full of garlicky flavour. We're pretty hungry so we also order "Goonmandoo" (deep fried dumpling, $12.00) which are perfectly crispy half moons with a home-made tasting filling that includes noodles (not sure if it was mung bean or sweet potato). We also got "Tofu Chigae" (stew of soft beancurd, seafood, egg and chilli paste, $10.00). If you were feeling poor, you could get this stew and a bowl of rice and have a very satisfying meal. The tofu is silky and light, a good balance for the spiciness of the soup.

Goonmandu, complimentary (and super tasty) banchan, tofu chigae.

C's favourite dish at Se Jong is probably the "Hwedubbap" (rice with sashimi, vegetables and chilli paste, $13.00). I love it too - it's so fresh and tasty - everything but the rice is raw - the salmon, kingfish, carrots, cucumbers, radish, cabbage, perilla leaves and just one more ingredient that I can't think of right now. Turn out your bowl of hot rice on top, add as much Chogochujang sauce (vinegar red pepper paste) as you like and then mix! mix! mix! until it's all combined. What you get is a fresh and healthy all-in-one bowl meal which tastes fantastic.

Hwedubbap - all healthy food should taste this good!

As much as I love Hwedubbap, there's one dish that I can't resist - "Jebichuri" (thin skirt beef with sesame oil, $14.00). It's a great cut of beef for Korean barbecue because it's so tender. You get the dipping sauce of salt and pepper mixed with sesame oil and you also get fresh lettuce leaves and bean paste for wrapping too. That and a bowl of rice and I'm in food heaven. Oh, did I mention that they cook all the barbecue items for you? All you have to do is eat, what more could one ask for?

Jebichuri - it's my weakness.....mmm....Jebichuri..

And so finishes another homely meal at Se Jong - all thoughts of work have disappeared, my tummy full and satisfied.

What: Se Jong Korean Restaurant
Where: 68-72 Evaline St, Campsie (where Woolworths is) (02) 9718 4039
How much: Most 'single serve' dishes in the $10-$20 range

September 20, 2011

Rose Toast

Shame on me - I haven't written a post in such a long time. Even more shameful is that work is what's been getting in the way! I'm sorry to say that it's going to be like this for at least the next few weeks.

But, I managed to find another new item at the 85°C bakery in Kingsford - it's called Rose Toast. It's described as "soft chocolate cake with rose bun and cheese filling" and it costs $3.00 for a small half-loaf. It's a strange combination but it works, the addition of rose and cheese make the chocolate cake a lot more interesting. The flavours are distinct yet subtle enough that you can't stop at one slice... ok, I guess I'm talking about me! My only question? It doesn't seem like it's meant to be toasted, so why is it called a toast? Has anybody ever toasted cake?

This toast by any other name would taste as sweet. 

Hope all of you have been well... I will be back to posting regularly as soon as I can. Until then, happy eating!

What: Rose Toast
Where: 85°C bakery (I got mine from the Kingsford cafe)
How much: $3.00

September 5, 2011

Greece - Part 1: Introducing Mezés & Frappés

As summer is coming to a rapid end in the UK, I decided to take myself back to the lovely spring holiday to Greece in April.  In this series of posts, I will share some of the tastes of Greece and also recommend some great places to visit and eat based on our 10 day trip.

Fresh fruit and bread everywhere from street vendors and fresh coconut juice
To start I am going to do a quick intro of some of the flavours of Greece including Greek mezés (small dishes of food) normally eaten with a glass of ouzo (an 80 proof alcoholic drink, often served with ice) if you are in an ouzeria (a type of Greek tavern).

Some of most popular mezés we tried include:

  • Fava - a puree/dip made from yellow split peas, served with salty food or bread.  It's especially lovely with a drizzle of olive oil and/or lemon.
  • Dolmathes - stuffed vine leaves with rice and sometimes meat; also commonly found outside of Greece but tastes much lighter and fresher in Greece 
  • Greek salad - again, so much better in Greece where the feta is light and smooth and the tomatoes are full of flavour
  • Spanakopita - spinach pie (in filo pastry); can be served in small triangles or as a slice of a big pie
  • Saganaki - a saganaki is a small fry pan and cheese or prawn saganaki are commonly served as mezés.  Cheese saganaki is like pan fried halloumi served with lemon - those who know my love of halloumi will appreciate how exciting this was for me.
  • Soutzoukakia - spicy little sausages in tomato sauce

Mezes - the perfect accompaniment for Greece' climate and lifestyle

I was also introduced to carrot dip which I had a couple of times - the dip has strips of fresh carrot in it which gives it a smooth and crunchy taste sensation.  Yum.  Along with the fresh fruit and veg, there is also plenty of fresh seafood in Greece given the coastline and the hundreds of islands that make up Greece.  Grilled or marinated octopus is popular, as are fried calamari.  Sardines and anchovies are also commonly eaten and can be found on many menus as a starter.  And of course there is loads of fresh fish.

Now a quick word on Greek frappé coffee - iced coffees with a sweet but strong coffee flavour, served chilled.  I wasn't expecting Greece to be the land of iced coffees but Dave and I pretty much had one everyday as they were sooo good, especially in warm weather.  Fresh coconut and orange juice is always available also but the iced coffees were so consistently good we couldn't pass them up.  Apart from that, the other well known drink of Greece is Retsina, a white wine with resin added to it.  We weren't game enough and instead stuck to our favourite local beer of Mythos, in between the frappés. 

Outdoor cafe in Parikia - Another refreshing frappe - Outdoor bar in Naoussa

In my next post, I will give a tour of the best eats from Santorini which was the second Cyclades island we visited.  Our first stop was Paros, a relatively large but quiet island.  As it was the Easter weekend when we arrived, a lot of restaurants in Parikia (where we stayed) were closed and whilst we had some nice meals, there was nothing blog-worthy.  I would like to however, mention the bars of Naoussa (on the other side of the island) which are the typical white washed buildings right on the water - very chilled out with great views, perfect for a frappe or a glass of your favourite drink and some mezés.  What a great way to live!

August 31, 2011

Checking in at Hotel Chocolate

I'm a little late with my weekly post after going away to Granada, Spain for the long weekend (more on that in a future post hopefully....) so I thought I'd write a short post on what is probably my favourite British chocolate store, Hotel Chocolate.  The first time I learnt of Hotel Chocolate was when a store opened in West Quay shopping Centre in Southampton where Dave and I used to live.  The name of the store intrigued me and I had to check it out....

It was such a cool looking chocolate shop where you could always find a nice gift for someone or a treat for yourself.  One such gift idea is the Sleekster Everything Selection, a box of 30 lovely looking chocolates which all taste great (unlike some boxes where you always end up with some flavour that no one wants!).  My mum bought a box for Dave for his birthday and he wasn't disappointed, taking only a short time to finish the box pretty much on his own!

So many choices....
When Jack was in the UK on her previous visit, she also managed to find a few goodies to take back to Oz and our friends are never disappointed when we front up with Hotel Chocolate gifts - we know as they tend to be opened and finished within the same hour.  Whilst the chocolates are not as cheap as some mainstream or supermarket brands, they are definitely not as expensive as some of the posh European brands.  Highly recommended for a gift or just a nice treat for yourself - almost like a stay in a fancy hotel!

What:  Hotel Chocolate 
Where:  various UK stores and in some John Lewis stores, plus a handful of International locations
How much:  various from £2 a small bar to £85 gift boxes (you can go wild!)

August 29, 2011

Wrap & Roll

"It's only WRAP & ROLL but I like it!" is the tag line for the Vietnamese offering called Wrap & Roll at Westfield Sydney.

I was definitely keen to check out this place as there were many interesting dishes that you don't normally see at Vietnamese restaurants in Sydney, let alone in the cbd. As it's tag line suggests, it's largely wraps and rolls - you won't find beef noodle soup or pork chop rice. I was immediately drawn to the Bánh cuốn which is on the starters section of the menu. It's described as "Mushrooms and minced pork rolled with transparent freshly steamed rice paper, topped with fried shallots. Served with bean sprouts and fresh herbs and a Northern style sauce. A signature dish and a classic from the north."

Check out the steamy action!
It's worth checking out how they make the freshly steamed rice paper as the roll making counter is visible through glass. They pour the milky looking batter onto the steamer, cover it with a lid and in no time at all you have a delicate sheet of rice paper. It's a light dish, the pork mince and mushrooms make for a simple and homely taste, made complete by the fried shallots which adds a crunchy contrast to the rolls as well as giving the taste a stronger accent. The sauce is also light and fresh so that it doesn't overpower the dish. It's a light and fresh dish and I really enjoyed it. So much so, I've had it 3 times already and still can't bring myself to try the other dishes on the menu - that will have to wait til next time, assuming I can stop myself ordering the Bánh cuốn again!

Bánh cuốn

What: Wrap & Roll
Where: Shop 5004, Retail Level 5, Westfield Sydney (188 Pitt St Sydney) 0280727050
How much: Bánh cuốn will cost you $8.90 - dishes range from $8.90 to $15.00

August 22, 2011

four o nine - for Matt and Tom

This weekend was a big celebration for Matt and Tom so I thought it would be fitting to dedicate a blog post to them.  Situated above The Clapham North hotel, four o nine is Matt and Tom's local version of my Entree:  both are local restaurants serving fantastic food at great prices in very nice surrounds.  We went to four o nine with the guys recently for a pre-movie meal on a Sunday evening.  The place was really nicely decked out in a stylish but chilled way which was matched by the professional but chilled service.

We didn't have much time for dinner as we were in a bit of a rush but we still managed to squeeze in two or three courses each plus a couple of bottles of wine!  The boys all had a starter which were a bit different but tasty and well presented.  Dave had the Cornish white crab and brown shrimp tian with capers, cornichons, egg and crostini. This was probably the best starter although Matt's smoked aubergine soup served chilled was also interesting; as was Tom's salad with beetroot chips.

Mains were all very good also.  I especially liked my sea bass which was cooked perfectly with crispy skin and served with a lovely blend of mushrooms, beans, peas and kale.  Tom's beef was delicious and slightly better than Dave's veal.  Matt's mushroom, asparagus and ricotta stuffed round courgette with beetroot and marjoram looked interesting although a bit too much veg for my liking.  I'd say the mains would give Entree a good run for it's money, especially with the triple cooked chips (served with aioli). 

Desserts were somewhat rushed but three of us still managed to squeeze in a lovely chocolate brownie with ice-cream, some sorbet and a raspberry panacotta which was a bit too solid for my liking (when it comes to pannacotta it should be wobbly liked Jonah's famous boob-like vanilla panacotta).  Is it appropriate to write boob in a blog???  I digress.

four o nine was a hit and a great find for Matt and Tom as it is just a stone's throw away from their place.  The food is a little different but not overdone and very good value.  I have to say that although four o nine is a little bit cheaper, the quality is slightly higher at Entree with more consistency across the dishes/courses.  Having said that, I know we will definitely be heading back to four o nine as it is great for a casual meal or something more special.  There is even a private room for functions which leads to a small terrace for drinks/smokes.  I'm already looking forward to the next meal there with Matt and Tom.  

What:  four o nine
Where:  409 Clapham Road, London SW9 9BT
How much:  Entrees ave. £7.50, Mains ave. £17, Desserts £6

August 19, 2011

Jack Snacks!... Pataks ready to eat Mini Pappadums

It's been one of those weeks - the bad kind! But it's the little things that can make it all better. In this case, it's the joy of stumbling across something that you've eaten overseas that cannot be found back at home (Sydney in my case). Oh the excitement!

Jess introduced me to pre-cooked mini pappadums the first time I visited her in the UK. They sold them in the "crisps" section of Waitrose and she was quite excited when she gave me some to try as she knew I'd like them just as much as she does. I mean, who doesn't like pappadums? And who wouldn't mind having a bag in the cupboard, ready whenever you've got a pappadum craving? Yum, I'm going to be eating lots more!

So I was checking out the 7-Eleven near my office and saw the "Pataks ready to eat mini pappadums" and my eyes nearly popped out of my head. So I rushed straight to Coles (hehe yes, for the cost saving) to buy a packet. There's plain and there's also an assorted flavours option which has a mix of plain, black peper and mildly spiced. The 2 flavours are distinct and really good matches for the pappadums.

Thanks Jess for introducing me to these in the UK. And thanks Pataks for making my mini pappadum dreams come true here in Sydney!

What: Pataks ready to eat mini pappadums. Comes in plain or assorted (plain, black pepper, mildly spiced)
Where: Get it in the curry section of the supermarket, along with all the other Pataks products
How much: I paid $3.99 for a pack at Coles Express (75gm)