March 30, 2011

@Bangkok Thai Restaurant

I never liked Thai food. Well at least I didn't think I did. Turns out what I didn't like was Thai food catered to western palates, I realised this after eating at authentic Thai restaurants - places like Chat Thai, Spice I am, House, Home etc etc. And what's even better, is having a Thai friend to take you to these places and letting them choose the dishes, cause they know what's good.

The latest Thai-guided dinner I've had was at @Bangkok located on the street level of Capital Square. There were three of us dining tonight which meant we could order three dishes to try. The first was Kha Na Moo Grob (stir fried crispy pork belly with chinese broccoli, $13.90), a very simple dish which has a nice homely feel to it. The pork has a bit of crunch and a bit of fat which makes it tasty, but the real star is the abundance of chinese broccoli. It's young and fresh, cooked perfectly so that it's still vividly green and crunchy. My biggest complaint about dishes that are a combination of meat and vegetable is that there is never enough vegetable. Not in this case, loads of vegetables.

Kha Na Moo Grob (stir fried crispy pork belly with chinese broccoli) - plenty of vegies to go round.

Dish number two is Panang Curry (choice of beef, pork or chicken in thick red curry with kaffir lime leaves, $13.90). We've chosen beef and when it arrives it's a generous pile of slices. The beef is very lean, and nearly borders on dry as a result, but the ample sauce prevents this and I actually like how lean the beef is. The sauce itself is a little middle-of-the-road. It had a nice flavour but it could have been more complex or have more oomph.

Panang Curry (choice of beef, pork or chicken in thick red curry with kaffir lime leaves) - lean but lacking a bit of oomph.

The third dish is Yum Hed Yang (grilled seasonal fresh mushroom salad, $13.90). It tastes as fresh as it looks, and it's got the flavour kick that the Panang Curry was lacking. There's sour and chilli and then flavour from the herbs and mushrooms. It's definitely the spiciest of the three, so keep this in mind if you don't eat much chilli.

By the end of this, there really wasn't much room left for dessert. "Yo dessert stomach! I need your help now!". And so it came to the rescue like it always does. One of the things that excited me most when reading the menu at @Bangkok was seeing that they've got roti! There's some savoury ones, but I only had eyes for the sweet kind today. We got the Pandanus Roti (Crispy Roti served with sweet creamy pandanus sauce, $5.90). It was thin and crispy. It also wasn't too oily which is a real plus, I am not a lover of oily food. The pandanus sauce was a little too sweet and the pandan flavour wasn't strong enough. A little less sugar and a little more pandan would have been perfect. Having said that, even just recalling the roti makes me want to eat another one. Maybe next time I'll try the Chocolate Roti (with chocolate topping) or perhaps Milo Roti (Milo powder and condensed milk). Mmm roti.....

Yum Hed Yang (grilled seasonal fresh mushroom salad) and the star of the night - Pandanus Roti.
What: @Bangkok Thai Restaurant
Where: Shop G11 Atrium Street Level, Capitol Square, 730-742 George St Sydney (near Campbell St entrance) 02 9211 5232
How much: All savoury dishes we ordered were $13.90 but the prices range upwards. Sweet Roti's start from $5.90

March 28, 2011

A Homemade Pasta Dish by Ottolenghi

One of the best gifts ever received was a pasta making course at Sandalyn Estate, a winery in the Hunter Valley, given to Dave for his birthday from our dear friends Ching, Tim and Carol. Through this fantastic course, we learnt that it really isn't so hard to make fresh pasta at home and once you've done it a few times, it is actually quite quick and simple. All it takes is an egg, some doppio zero (00) flour or semolina, and what you get is an incredibly light pasta that is heavenly to eat.

Although Dave is somewhat of a pasta master, that doesn't mean we only eat fresh pasta as it depends on the sauce (and personal taste) as to whether fresh, supermarket-fresh or dried pasta is best. For example, we find that spaghetti bolognaise is best with dried spaghetti as it is a better match for a strong, meaty bolognaise sauce.

Some of our favourite homemade pasta dishes include: Pappardelle with prawns, pernod, lemon, cream and dill; spinach and ricotta ravioli or roasted pumpkin ravioli, with burnt butter & sage sauce. Tagliatelle with morel mushrooms in a tomato, cayenne pepper and cream sauce is a favourite from our days in Switzerland where we discovered morel mushrooms (morille en francaise). And spinach and porcini mushrooms with truffle oil and parmesan is a very simple but delicious dish that also works well with supermarket fresh pasta if you're lazy mid-week.

Earlier this year we tried a new recipe by Yotam Ottolenghi which is now part of our fresh pasta repertoire. It is saffron pappardelle with spiced butter and is taken from Yotam's cookbook Plenty. For this dish we make our normal fresh pasta but with the addition of saffron infused water, turmeric and some olive oil.

The sauce is then made by cooking some banana shallots in butter then adding the spices: ground coriander, ground ginger, sweet paprika, ground cinnamon, cayenne, chilli flakes and some salt and pepper. This dish calls for some serious spice usage! Add to this some freshly chopped parsley and mint and some roughly chopped roasted pine nuts and you have an exotic, vegetarian delight. Hope this inspires you to cook!

March 25, 2011

Jack Snacks!... Awesome Lo Po Beng

As mentioned in my earlier post I wanted to write about my favourite Lo Po Beng (Sweet Heart Pastry). It's the best one I've had here in Sydney but I don't guarantee that it's the best there is (at the time of writing, my Auntie MM says that she thinks there's another shop which is nicer, I'll definitely try it out as well to see how it compares!).

But back to this Lo Po Beng. It comes from Bakery King Cake Shop (a.k.a 麥包皇饼店). They have a shop in Hurstville as well as Chatswood. I've eaten from both and they're made the same way, however Hurstville's is that tiny bit better in my opinion.

Bakery King's Lo Po Beng has a really nice soft pastry which is not dry. The winter melon filling is moist with a nice flavour but not too sweet. The proportions of melon and pastry are just right. The other thing that makes it right is the price. Cause at $3.20 for 5 (weighing 180gm) it's alot cheaper than the one at 85°C.

Oh there are 5 in a box, I may have eaten 2 right away cause I couldn't wait!

What: Lo Po Beng (Sweet Heart Pastry)
Where: Bakery King Cake Shop at 241 Forest Rd, Hurstville (02) 9579 6381 and Shop 4/376 Victoria Ave, Chatswood (02) 9904 7078
How much: $3.20 for 5 (180gm)

March 24, 2011

Jack Snacks!... Tangy Orange Slurpee

Another post jumping the chronological queue! Don't get too excited though, it's not a half-priced slurpee - sorry!

There are 7-Eleven posters saying that the Lemon Lime Bitters Slurpee is back! But I found myself at 7-Eleven staring at a "sold out" sticker. Drats! So instead I decided to try the other limited-time-flavour of Tangy Orange. It's really just a slurpee version of Sunkist or Fanta and it's definitely sweet. I am not sure what happened to the 'tangy' component, maybe it got drowned out by the sugar? But I must admit, I happen to like Sunkist (cause it's kissed by the sun) so I dig this new flavour! I'm definitely going to check out some more of the other flavours!

Ummm someone forgot to invite Tangy?!?

What: Tangy Orange Slurpee
Where: At 7-Eleven stores
How much: I got medium for $2.50

March 23, 2011

Jack Snacks!... 85°C Creme Brulee and Sweet Heart Pastry

The bakery chain. Back in the day, there were places like Helen's Cake Shop, Bakery King Cake Shop, Savoy and others. But more chains have since arrived - Breadtop, Barby's, Hello Happy and the subject of today's post - 85°C.

The Taiwanese chain arrived in Sydney in 2006 and are still going strong. I frequent their Kingsford store on a regular basis so I'm always looking at what's new and what I haven't tried yet.

Creme Brulee is a single serve treat that is ohhh so delicious and satisfying. It's custard is smooth and silky and the right level of richness. The caramel layer on top is not that hard but the smoky and sweet taste more than makes up for it. I'm not going to say much more. The photo evidence says it all - yum.

No words need to be said!

Sweet Heart Pastry is a new addition. I like to call it by it's cantonese name Lo Po Beng though it's also known as Sweetheart cake, Wife cake, Wife biscuit it's an old classic that they've introduced. 85's version is a thin, flat pastry that's not too sweet. It's not bad at all and I'd eat it again. But in my opinion there is only one Lo Po Beng in Sydney which is truly awesome (blog post about this one coming soon!). 85's version loses out in taste and price - cause at $1.80 it's not really value for money even if it does taste good. It hasn't quite won my heart - I'm staying faithful to the Creme Brulee.

She's nice, but not quite marriage material.

What: Creme Brulee and Sweet Heart Pastry (lo po beng)
Where: 85°C Coffee, Cake and Bakery Specialist
How much: Creme Brulee costs $2.80 and Sweet Heart Pastry was $1.80

March 21, 2011

Princi Day & Night

Princi is probably the trendiest panetteria (bakery) I know; from the stylish modern design, to the all Italian staff and of course the food. It isn't surprising that it is busy all day long, even at 10:30pm on a Thursday night when we popped in to grab some takeaway cake.

Princi is successful because it does something very simple, very well and according to my wise husband, that is the secret to success. The Soho panetteria is the London post for the Italian bakeries in Milan, hence the style. But the food is equally good and with plenty of variety, it is a popular hangout for breakfast, lunch and dinner. In the few visits, we have already sampled:
  • Soft, doughy focaccia with Parma ham which was so simple yet tasty
  • Fresh pizza slices with spinach and cheese
  • Meat lasagne from the hot (more like warm) food selection, which was meaty and tasty
  • Passionfruit cheesecake which is a refreshing but satisfying dessert
  • Amaretti and chocolate trancio - a thick chocolately slice which wasn't too sweet
  • Crostata di Fragole - a simple strawberry tart
  • Lemon, chocolate and toffee slice - my favourite, a perfectly balanced sweet and citrus cake
Add to this good coffee (of course) and Princi is the perfect stop for a quick and simple snack or meal.

Princi isn't the cheapest bakery but it is tasty, filling and won't leave you feeling heavy. It's also very busy so it can be hard to get a seat but whether you eat in or takeaway, I guarantee you won't be disappointed.

What: Princi panetteria
Where: 135 Wardour St, Soho, London
How much: Average price for cakes, pizzas and focaccias £4.60, lasagne £6.50, coffee £2.30

New Shanghai Bondi Junction... and 1/2 price "Dumpling Happy Hour"!!!!!!!

Do you love Xiao Long Bao? Do you love them so much you could eat more than 1 steamer full on your own? Do you love them so much that your family referred to you as Xiao Long Girl back when you were a student? Oh wait, now I'm just talking about me!

Right, so I looooove Xiao Long Bao. And it's become a lot easier to get my Xiao Long Bao fix thanks to places like Din Tai Fung, New Shanghai, Taste of Shanghai - now I don't have to go all the way to Ashfield for these wonderful soup dumplings.

I was at Westfield Bondi Junction today and decided to try their recently opened stall at the Harbour Room foodcourt (David Jones end, yes - the expensive foodcourt). We got the "New Shanghai Xiao Long Bao" (pork) as well as boiled "Pork and Chinese cabbage dumpling".

Compared to the dumplings at their Ashfield restaurant, they were pretty much the same except that they were quite salty. Maybe the cook added a little too much salt today by accident? The Xiao Long Bao had a nice thin skin but could have held a little more soup. The soup that was there, could have been a little more flavoursome. Boiled dumplings are nice and have a good home made taste (although still too salty).

I'm willing to try it again to see if the salt levels go down, it makes for a good food court option, especially if you're not too hungry since you can get the smaller side dishes as well as get the dumplings in half-size portions.

Friendly dumpling lady in action (I said dumpling, not dumpy!), Xiao Long Bao, Pork and Chinese Cabbage Dumplings.

Another reason why I'm willing to try it is because they currently have "Dumpling Happy Hour". You'll see in the bottom photo the flyer that I picked up. All dumplings are 1/2 price 6pm-7pm Monday to Friday. For a limited time only. That's why I had to post this today, despite there being loads of other posts I haven't written up yet.

How cheap is that!

Dumpling Happy Hour leaflet, the dumpling lady in action.

What: Xiao Long Bao dumplings, and other assorted Shanghai dishes
Where: New Shanghai (the Dumpling Happy Hour is only at Westfield Bondi Junction)
How much: Xiao Long Bao is $7.00 for 8, Pork and Chinese Cabbage Dumpling is $8.80

March 19, 2011

Return to Central Baking Depot - Quiche and Cake

After my recent trip to Central Baking Depot, I was keen to go back. In particular, I was keen to try the Flourless Chocolate and Sour Cherry Slice. Well, I did go back. I went back at 4pm on a weekday when having a late lunch. I was hoping to sit in the cafe and relax a little but apparently it's only takeaway at this hour. So I took my treats to the park instead.

I was thinking of getting the Beef Brisket pie again but there weren't any left so I made a last minute decision to get the Pancetta and Gruyere Cheese Quiche. I don't know about others, but everytime I order a quiche I am instantly hit by a pang of regret. "What am I doing?!" is what I would usually think. Why you may ask? Because quiche usually has a disproportionate amount of egg which makes it a little bland and overly-eggy in a weird way. So I ordered this Pancetta and Gruyere Cheese Quiche and immediately started to question my judgement. To make matters worse I noticed on the way to the park that the paper bag was getting rather oily. Oh no! Was I to meet an eggy-oily fate? I took my first bite. Crunch!! Sure the pastry is a little on the oily side, but you barely notice it cause it's so crunchy and tasty. And then there's the pancetta - there is loads of it!!! The filling for the quiche is not at all over-eggy. I hardly remember the oil when I'm eating it, that's how good it is.

Enough pancetta to raise your cholesterol, in a most tasty way.

With savouries out of the way, it was time to finally taste the Flourless Chocolate and Sour Cherry Slice which I had oggled on previous occasions but never bought. It looked good in the shop but then after eating the quiche I worried if it was going to be too oily too. It's probably not that healthy - but dang it tastes good! It's so moist and soft and light you can practically inhale it. The chocolate flavour is nice, the only complaint is that there's not that many sour cherries. If there were a few more it would be even more awesome. One word - yum! Hmm.. what next to try from Central Baking Depot......

Have you sniffed this recently?

What: Pancetta and Gruyere Cheese Quiche, Flourless Chocolate and Sour Cherry Slice
Where: Central Baking Depot
How much: Quiche was $4.40 and Slice was $4.50

March 18, 2011

Jack Snacks!... Breadtop Banana in Pyjamas

Nevermind anything else, but I love the name of this cake! I'm sure most people are familiar with Breadtop's Banana in Pyjamas but I think it's worth writing up in case anybody hasn't tried it. Not only is the name cute but it also serves as a description of the cake. Y'see, it ain't just some regular banana cake, it is one half of a vertically bisected banana wearing pyjamas made of cake. I still remember the very first time I ate it, a friend introduced me to it as soon as they discovered that I had never eaten one. The surprise! Nothing beats fresh banana but dressed up in light cream and fluffy cake you get a really nice treat. Or should I say dressed down?

Pyjama party!

What: Breadtop's Banana in Pyjamas
Where: Breadtop
How much: It costs $3.00

March 14, 2011

Pho TK

Back when Market City first opened, there was a Hong Kong style eatery called Roxy which I loved eating at. So when Roxy closed and was replaced with another, there was not much appeal because the Roxy I had known and loved was gone. Fast forward many years and I find myself at one of the subsequent re-incarnations of the Roxy space - it's called Pho TK. Now I don't normally opt to eat pho in Chinatown as I prefer places out in the 'burbs but hey, it wasn't going to hurt to give this place a try.

So naturally I got the pho tai (beef noodle soup). The mandatory plate of bean sprouts, lemon and Vietnamese mint are placed on our table soon after ordering and it's a good sign as it looks fresh. Next is the bowl of noodle soup. There's a big clump of beef slices changing from pink to meaty-grey in the hot broth. It's alright, could be a little more tender and thinly sliced though. The soup is alright too - the flavour is decent though quite light but it's not too salty and doesn't leave you with msg-parched-ness (yes, I made that term up, it's called poetic license!). As for the noodles - they taste fine but as I ate them I started to get frustrated, they kept breaking up, making them difficult to eat. All in all, not a bad pho but not outstanding either, it's nice and I'd eat it again but I wouldn't go to Market City just to eat it.

If only them noodles would just stop breaking...

What: Pho TK
Where: Level 1, Market City, Haymarket Ph: 02 9211 8278
How much: Pho Tai costs $8.95

March 13, 2011

Yum Cha in London

One of the best things about living in London is that there are lots of yum cha options which was not so easy to find in Switzerland, or to a lesser extent, Southampton and the Netherlands where I used to live. I have already talked about Ping Pong as a more upmarket and modern choice in London but I'm going to take us through some of the more traditional Chinese Dim Sum/Yum Cha options.

There are 3 places I have tried and would recommend: Imperial China and Gerrard's Corner in Chinatown, and Royal China who have restaurants across London and overseas. All of these restaurants are different to the yum cha I am used to in Sydney where food comes by in trolleys, so the experience is a little different but the food is still pretty good. There is one restaurant in London, New World, which has the traditional service of the trolleys, but I was disappointed with the quality of the food so I would recommend sticking with the paper orders for the sake of better dim sum that is more fresh.

Imperial China was the first yum cha I had in London and was good in terms of the variety and quality of the food. The service is good and the restaurant has a nice feel to it. I have also had dinner here with a big group of friends to celebrate Chinese New Year which everyone enjoyed, but being Chinese, the restaurant meals were not as traditional as I had hoped. Nevertheless, I do recommend Imperial China for yum cha as it is easy to get a table (especially if you are in a large group) and the food is fresh and of good quality.

Gerrard's Corner is very similar to Imperial China although the restaurant has a more relaxed and casual feel to it and the menu is smaller than Imperial China or Royal China. The food is very good though and is extremely good value with most dishes costing less than £3 each. Gerrard's Corner was recommended to me by our fellow Asian-foodies Alastair and Patricia and they were right as always - we will definitely be making this a regular.

Finally there is the Royal China group, the biggest and most upmarket of them all. We have only eaten here once as it is not as convenient as Chinatown, plus it's extremely popular and busy on weekends, but the food was excellent. We went with Dave's colleague Jason who is a big fan of Royal China. Jas is a fellow Malaysian who was working in the UK but has now returned to Singapore where there is also an upmarket Royal China restaurant within Raffles Hotel. We had some very good dim sum with the highlight being the lobster noodles which was a real treat and not too expensive when shared between the four of us. I have yet to try it but based on the noodles, I would guess that Royal China is also a good option for a Chinese meal although being more upmarket, it is also the most expensive of the group.

Speaking of upmarket, it is worth mentioning Yauatcha as another option if you are looking for simple Chinese food but of very high quality, in a modern and cool setting. It is the restaurant version of Ping Pong and serves other dishes in addition to dim sum. Yauatcha is also the sister restaurant of the very trendy Hakkasan which Jack has tried as we were drawn to the Hakka aspect of the restaurant! Both places are excellent but you pay much more than normal Asian prices.

I think by now you should be able to find somewhere to go to satisfy your dim sum/yum cha cravings which is what I am going to do now...

March 12, 2011

Jack Snacks!... Jack's Juice

I'm pretty much recovered from being sick but still barking like a dog coughing a lot. One thing that always makes me feel healthy though is a nice fresh juice, and my favourite is my very own combination that I always ask for and I call it "Jack's Juice". It's nothing fancy really, just a combination of watermelon, carrot and mint. When the proportions are right, it's a really nice balance of fruit and vegie tastes. The mint gives it a little kick too. Next time you're ordering a juice, give "Jack's Juice" a try and tell me if you like it!

Jack's Juice, yum! It's even got some nutritional value.

What: Jack's Juice - watermelon, carrot and mint
Where: Wherever you can order fresh juice

March 9, 2011

Central Baking Depot - Beef brisket, mushroom & red wine pie

For someone who's spent 5/6ths of their life living in Sydney, I've managed to not pick up some quintessential Sydney traits. I don't spend weekends at the beach, hardly drink beer and I don't watch the nrl religiously. Ok, I don't watch nrl at all. But one very Australian food that I've become very attached to over the years is the meat pie. So simple - a bit of pastry that holds some meat in sauce. It doesn't sound like much to get excited about but when done right a meat pie is heaven on earth to me.

This is where Central Baking Depot comes in. The 'little brother' of Bourke Street Bakery that's located in the CBD (CBD, Central Baking Depot.. co-incidence? I think not!), it has breads, cakes, pastries, sandwiches, coffee etc etc. There are a few small dine in tables but the large majority seem to line up for takeaway at this awesome bakery. The atmosphere reminds me alot of bakeries that you find in europe. And when I think of european bakeries I inevitably think of Bakken met Passie which is situated a few minutes walk from where Jess used to live in Amsterdam. I would go back to Amsterdam just to eat their amazing ham and cheese croissant which is hands down the best in the whole wide world. So ok, Central Baking Depot is not quiiite Bakken met Passie, but it's not far off and I think Sydney could definitely do with more places like this. I shall proceed to tell you why.

The pies and sausage rolls are supplied by Bourke Street Bakery and I know their sausage rolls are oh so famous but I'm a sucker for a pie and just have to try one. I choose the "beef brisket, mushroom and red wine pie". WOW. The pastry was light and flaky, with a smattering of poppyseeds on top. Inside you'll find REAL beef and NO gristle, surrounded by an abundance of thinly sliced mushrooms and a full flavoured red wine sauce. Beef brisket pie, where have you been all my life?? Everytime I think about this pie I want to eat it. Like.. right now...

Seriously, if you like meat pies half as much as I do, try it. I'm curious to know if anybody else is as impressed as me - so leave a comment if you do eat one and tell me what you think! Oh, I'm also super keen to try their 'flourless chocolate and sour cherry cake' as I remember oggling it the first time I visited Central Baking Depot and it's been waiting for me to try it ever since. In fact, I might have to get a piece during lunch tomorrow...

Flaky layers of pastry reveal a jumble of meat and mushrooms in a very tasty sauce. I kid you not, that is a chunk of real meat! And they don't skimp on the mushrooms either!

What: Central Baking Depot
Where: 37-39 Erskine St, Sydney. Check the website for opening hours and details of their new stores (Bondi Junction opens on 14 March and Neutral Bay in April 2011)
How much: A pie this good doesn't come cheap. It costs $5.30 - but it's worth every cent!

March 7, 2011

Jack Snacks!... Senjaku Petit Grape Candy

I love eating fruit. I especially love eating grapes. Actually, I eat grapes at work every day. That's right, 5 days a week! So naturally, this Senjaku Petit Grape Candy looked like something I ought to try. It's even got 5 flavours, each one a different variety of grape. The flavours are Cabernet Sauvignon, Muscat of Alexandria, Delaware, Chardonnay and Kyoho. Yum! They have a really nice grape flavour and there are subtle differences between the grape varieties. And the petit size is oh so cute! Yummy, I like them!

5 different varieties of grapes!

Yummy - I like them. Even Mr Pricklepants likes them!

What: Senjaku Petit Grape Candy
Where: Get it at asian shops that sell Japanese candy
How much: This one around the $5 mark - I lost the receipt as it was a while ago!

March 5, 2011

Entree Restaurant & Bar

Entree is definitely one of my local favourites for so many reasons:
  • the excellent modern cuisine
  • the excellent modern cuisine at great value prices
  • the friendly and efficient service
  • the relaxed but initmate feel to the restaurant
  • the cosy piano cocktail bar downstairs and the piano playing and singing on Friday and Saturday nights
Add to that, we only live 10 minutes away by foot and it's no wonder Entree is in my top 3 local picks. This visit was our second trip, again with Matt and Tom who were with us last time for dinner followed by singing or should I say, screaming, in the cocktail bar until the staff were ready to turn off the lights (still with a smile).

This time we were there to celebrate Dave and Tom's birthdays, starting with some bubbly served by Jayke, the awesome owner/manager of Entree. The food was just as good as we remembered it - Dave and I put this to the test by ordering the scallop and crab lasagne with chive beurre blanc which we had last time but was equally good second time around. Matt and Tom had the duck ballotine (sausage) with duck jelly and purple seed mustard. Both entrees were fab.

The mains were impressive again with the perfectly cooked free-range pork belly the pick of the bunch, nicely served with parsnip puree, sage jus and Chanteney carrots. The main was only beaten by Tom's dessert choice: the sticky fig and ginger pudding with brandy caramel and ice-cream. The pudding was so warm and moist with the right hint of ginger, making it a perfect finish for a winter meal. 10 out of 10 again for Entree....I'm already looking forward to the next visit.

Where: 2 Battersea Rise, London SW11 1ED

How much (average): Entrees £7, Mains £16.50, Desserts £5.50. Sunday lunch £24 for 3 courses!

Twisted Noodle Bar

I wanted to try Twisted Noodle Bar ever since it had opened, despite not having much of an idea about what the food was like. All I knew was that it looked interesting, promising. Then I read a description about them online which made me think I really needed to try this place out. And when I finally did, I regretted not making the time to go sooner.

Twisted Noodle Bar serves Yunnan food which an smh article described as "a complex mix of the fresh lightness of Guangdong and the powerhouse heat of Sichuan, with a good dose of spice and tang". It's an accurate description (I think) and if Twisted Noodle Bar is anything to go by, then I think I like Yunnan food!

My first visit was for lunch and having read through the menu a few times we saw that there were lots of small side dishes, noodle and rice dishes on offer. We decided to try the lunchtime special which gets you any two side dishes with a bowl of rice or Yunnan noodle for only $8.50. Bargain! So we ordered two sets of the lunchtime special and were therefore able to choose four of the side dishes - settling on Marinated Beef (normally $4.20), Baby Octopus (normally $4.80), Pig Blood with Chives (normally $4.20) and Sausages (normally $4.20). I'd had a craving for sausages so just couldn't help myself! They tasted like, well, regular sausages. Which is exactly what I wanted. Call if comfort food I guess. The pigs blood with chives was nice and pretty much what you'd expect if you're a regular consumer of pigs blood jelly. Baby octopus had a teeny bit of spice and was served cold. It was also super tender, probably from marinating, which made it easy to eat. But the best side dish of all was the marinated beef which was also served cold and had loads of flavour. I can definitely see myself ordering it again, I could see myself eating this while drinking chinese wine, cup in one hand, fan in the other, composing quatrains about the moon...

...but I digress. Back to 2011 and back to Sydney. The Yunnan Rice Noodles are served plain which makes them a good match with the side dishes. They've got a good bitey texture too which is an important aspect of noodle assessment in my opinion. All washed down with a glass of Grapefruit Juice with Honey ($3.80) which is served in one of those currently fashionable drinking jars, the flavour was so light that it bordered on absent but I actually liked it as it was refreshing to drink after eating the more heavily flavoured side dishes.

Grapefruit juice with Honey, Yunnan rice noodles, side dishes.

Sausages, Marinated Beef (and possibly the worst food photo EVER taken by my phone), Baby Octopus, Pig blood with Chives.

On the second visit I resist the urge to order marinated beef again as I wanted to try more of the menu. This time I chose a side dish of Soft Pork Bone ($4.80). Oh, what can I say - tender, juicy, melt in your mouth pork with a good dose of flavour. It's a decent sized serve for a side dish and I think I could just eat this with a bowl of plain rice and be more than satisfied.

But there's more tastiness to come as we wanted to try the Yunnan Noodles to see how the spicy/sour soup measured up. Sheung Wan Noodle ($10.80 I think) is described as beef and radish with soup noodle. You can choose the level of sour and spice and we opted for normal. It had a good kick and was delicious, the radish sponges up lots of flavour and the beef is tender (but not _as_ tender as the Soft Pork Bone). One thing to note, it's a BIG serving so if you're ordering one of the noodle soups make sure you're hungry! The only other item we ordered was a glass of Mango Ice Tea ($3.50) served once again in a drinking jar (I think I'm going to need some of these cute drinking jars for my own home one day). This drink had a lot more flavour that the grapefruit one, it wasn't too sweet so again made for a good accompaniment to the food. By the end we were so full but very satisfied. So full that I won't be coming back for a short while as I'm still digesting all those dishes, but when I do I'll be sure to try some more items on the menu.

Soft Pork Bone and Mango Ice Tea in a drinking jar.

Sheung Wan noodles - check out all the flavour and check out the tasty twisted noodles!

I happened to walk through the area on Valentines Day last month, and saw quite a few couples having dinner inside. One couple looked particularly sweet and seemed to be enjoying the food almost as much as each other's company - a match made in heaven, just like Yunnan rice noodles and side dishes!

What: Twisted Noodle Bar
Where: Shop 44/1 Dixon St, Sydney ph: (02) 9267 2327, open Monday to Sunday 11am to 10pm
How much: Side dishes range from $3.80 to $4.80, noodles around the $11 mark. The $8.50 lunch special is available 11am - 3pm daily and definitely worth trying.
Need to know: They do takeaway. And more interestingly, they do gift vouchers!!!

March 4, 2011

Sick days 3... Cheung Sing BBQ House

Another day and I'm still sick. It's the weekend and I find myself at Cheung Sing BBQ House in Maroubra. There's an endless number of items on the menu but feeling the way I do I really don't have an appetite (rare, I know). I find "rice noodle soup" the most appealing option. Plain rice noodles in plain soup with plain vegetables. It's the kind of thing a sick person eats. And even better is the fact that it was cheap at just $4. And since I'd made a cost saving on the noodles I also ordered an iced lemon tea, the justification that lemon is good for a sore throat!

Soothe your throat with iced lemon tea, and your sick soul with plain rice noodle soup.

What: Cheung Sing BBQ House
Where: 695 Anzac Parade, Maroubra Junction ph: (02) 9349 3362
How much: Plain noodles only cost $4, one can still be frugal when under the weather. Iced lemon tea was around the $3 mark (?).

March 2, 2011

Sick days 2... Pho from Vermicelli

It's another day at work feeling sick and even so I don't really want to have soup every day. So instead, there's noodle soup :) I decided to try the beef noodle soup from Vermicelli on King St as I remember liking their rice paper rolls a long time ago. Since I'm still sick I opt for the regular size, it's pretty small and probably would only be filling enough for a healthy person with a very small appetite. The takeaway container is quite small too, so it's hard to manoeuvre the contents around and I can't get to the bean sprouts til I get to the very bottom of the container. Asides the bean sprouts logistics, the taste is nice - it's flavoursome and doesn't have the msg taste that leaves you feeling so thirsty you want to down a litre of water. And they've got the all important herbs too. Sickly me gives it a thumbs up for taste and quality, healthy me thinks it could be a bigger serving.

Beansprouts nowhere to be seen, they're waaaaay down the bottom.

What: Beef noodle soup
Where: Vermicelli on King Street
How much: $7.50 for a regular ($9 for large)