Let's Get Fat Together http://fatboo.com Kinship, Food & Wanderlust Sat, 02 Aug 2014 05:22:10 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=3.9.1 Pho Hung Vuong Saigon – Footscray http://fatboo.com/2014/08/pho-hung-vuong-saigon-footscray.html http://fatboo.com/2014/08/pho-hung-vuong-saigon-footscray.html#comments Fri, 01 Aug 2014 22:50:05 +0000 http://fatboo.com/?p=18800 Pho Hung Vuong Saigon – Footscray

I've been neglecting this life-saving noodle soup dish for too long, so it's time to satisfy my hankering for it at Pho Hung Vuong Saigon in Footscray.

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Pho Hung Vuong Saigon – Footscray

128 Hopkins St
Footscray, VIC 3011
03 9689 6002
Facebook Page

Pho Hung Vuong Saigon   Footscray

I’ve been having my priorities in the wrong places. My concept of what I should blog about (circa 2012-2013) revolved a lot around many of Melbourne’s hotter and much-talked-about spots. Meanwhile, my love for Singapore Hawker Food and those comforting, affordable cheap eats that I’d be going for 80% of the time were left on the sidelines and unblogged.

So it’s time to rectify that! If anything else, let me just cheekily say that it’s WAAAAY easier to blog about a one-dish-meal for two as opposed to a 9-course degustation with the added slap of amuse bouches, palate cleansers and petit fours… hah!

Pho Hung Vuong Saigon   Footscray

When it comes to pho, I’d normally make a bee-line for I Love Pho 264 in Richmond (really good beef quality there) or its sister branch nearby Phoenix Phuong Hoang (just as good, plus the broth isn’t as crazy salty). But when it comes to Footscray, I actually don’t know which of the many joints along this stretch gives you good pho.

It so happened that Fatbee and I were in Footscray getting the ingredients to cook Sayur Lodeh (Malaysian Vegetable Curry). Being so chilly and all this winter, I had a hankering for pho, so we stopped by here for a quick feed. I definitely have been here before, but just never quite got around to blogging it!

Pho Hung Vuong Saigon   Footscray
Broken Rice with Grilled Pork Chop, Fried Egg & Shredded Pork $11.00

There’s a universal truth about most Vietnamese phos, and it’s how MSG is always present. Fatbee’s a bit sensitive with MSG, so he went with Com Tam (broken rice) instead. While it isn’t the best version of it around, he was pretty happy with it, aside for how the pork chop could afford more chargrilling action to it. I personally think it’s pretty good considering it’s a place that actually specialises in noodle soup.

Pho Hung Vuong Saigon   FootscrayPho Hung Vuong Saigon   Footscray
Special Beef Combination Noodle Soup – Small $9.00

I got my usual order of phở bò đặc biệt, which is beef pho with all the trappings such as meat loaf, tendons and tripe. I also went smart and had a small bowl, which is a perfect portion size for me these days. I liked how the broth was quite clean tasting with a bit of sweetness, the beef offerings were pretty good too, although not quite as fabulous as I Love Pho 264’s beef quality, but it’s quite close to it. I was happy.

Pho Hung Vuong Saigon   Footscray

It was a good and simple feed. Pictured here, you’ve got the beef tripe and tendons sitting happily on my spoon. I also added a few teaspoonsful of chilli oil (on top of having cut red chillies in the mix) to spice things up a bit. It’s how I enjoy eating my pho.

One caveat though… what I thought was sweetness in my broth was actually oodles of MSG. I left the place with a pretty dry back of the throat. But that’s a feature of most pho places anyway, so I shouldn’t hold it against them.

Pho Hung Vuong Saigon   Footscray

Pho Hung Vuong Saigon   Footscray
Sayur Lodeh… on the simmer

And here’s what we cooked that afternoon. It was pretty good and went very well with ayam goreng (Malay deep fried chicken) and beef rendang. If you’re keen, check out my Sayur Lodeh Recipe.

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Borek & Bratwurst Shop – Queen Victoria Market http://fatboo.com/2014/07/borek-bratwurst-queen-victoria-market.html http://fatboo.com/2014/07/borek-bratwurst-queen-victoria-market.html#comments Thu, 31 Jul 2014 07:40:24 +0000 http://fatboo.com/?p=18887 Borek & Bratwurst Shop – Queen Victoria Market

This post covers the cheap and tasty lunch snacks that you can grab at Queen Victoria Market, Melbourne - Boreks and Bratwurst!

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Borek & Bratwurst Shop – Queen Victoria Market

Before we start, I’ve got a mini announcement… this post marks my 500th blog post… Woohoo!!

I’d normally HAAAATE traffic & car parking on market days. Then a few weeks ago, I realised something… Queen Victoria Market is but a 10 minutes walk from Fatbee’s home… so why in the world am I not strolling over and doing my groceries there? Without the constraints of driving, it makes perfect sense.

Borek & Bratwurst Shop   Queen Victoria Market

Borek Stall

Shop 95-96, Deli Hall
Queen Victoria Market
Website
Borek & Bratwurst Shop   Queen Victoria Market

What started the ball rolling was an Instagram photo of this Borek stall that Winston took. I’d never heard nor eaten Boreks before, so on the same Sunday that Winston shared that pic, Fatbee and I decided to stroll down to QVM finally…

Borek & Bratwurst Shop   Queen Victoria Market

… for these amazingly cheap $3 lunch snacks!

I loved the throng of people clustered around the stall, manned by ladies with a positively upbeat mojo. Business was swift and brisk, and despite the crowd, we got our fresh-off-the-oven boreks pretty quickly.

Borek & Bratwurst Shop   Queen Victoria Market Spicy Lamb Borek $3

And here it is! They’re Turkish pastries filled with minced meat, or cheese and spinach.

Borek & Bratwurst Shop   Queen Victoria Market

These pastries were crispy, fresh, warm and just very lightly seasoned. In the centre, we discovered a light filling of minced lamb, a bit of spice, onions and bell peppers. They’re nice and big pastries for $3 too, although I hear they used to be $2.50 a pop!

Thanks, Winston for showing us the light… I’ll now make this place a lunch snack ritual whenever I’m shopping at QVM.

Borek & Bratwurst Shop   Queen Victoria Market

Bratwurst Shop & Co.

Shop 99-100, Deli Hall
Queen Victoria Market
03 9328 2076
Facebook Page

Borek & Bratwurst Shop   Queen Victoria Market

Of course just the one borek shared between Fatbee and I wasn’t enough, so we proceeded to another stall nearby for our second lunch snack… German snags!!

Borek & Bratwurst Shop   Queen Victoria Market

And no, I’m not talking about Sensitive New Age Guys here (although that could be just as yummy), I’m talking bratwursts! This stall is just as busy as Boreks, you just have to creep your way to the front and place your order.

Borek & Bratwurst Shop   Queen Victoria Market

And before long, you’ll have one of these in your hands. You get to choose whatever toppings you’d like on it and they’re priced at a standard $6.80, although you’ll have to pay a little extra if you want cheese and onion.

The classic accompaniments (if you don’t specify any) consists of tomato sauce, mustard and sauerkraut. I’ll have to comment that the sauerkraut is only very lightly pickled here, it’s almost like cooked shredded cabbage with a dash of vinegar.

Borek & Bratwurst Shop   Queen Victoria Market Mild Bratwurst | Chorizo $6.80ea

I snacked at this stall over two visits. We didn’t know which bratwurst would be the classic traditional version, so we opted for the mild brat the first time round. It was mild indeed and could’ve afforded more punch and flavour to it. The second time round, I tried chorizo, which was smokier and more enjoyable.

Overall, it isn’t quite as tasty and fabulous as the uh-maaa-ziiing brats that I’ve had in Vienna (take note though that I haven’t been to Germany). But on the up side, I liked the fluffy and stretchy old-school breads that they used here. Still, I’m quite likely to snack here as well when I’m doing my groceries.

Borek & Bratwurst Shop   Queen Victoria Market

Market Lane Coffee

Shop 73-76, Deli Hall
Queen Victoria Market
Website

Oh, and Market Lane Coffee now has a stall inside QVM’s Deli Hall where Boreks and Bratwursts resides. It’s crazy because Market Lane already has a brew bar on Thierry St just outside less than 100m away. And both venues are just as busy on market days. You may want to peek at a previous post where I’d proclaimed my love for Market Lane Coffee.

Borek & Bratwurst Shop   Queen Victoria Market Piccolo $4 (Seasonal Espresso Blend fr. Guatemala)

Here’s a piccolo that I got from there. Aside for the fact that it’s in a paper cup, it’s one very fine cup of coffee… I detected notes of vanilla, cherries and caramel. Delicious!!

Borek & Bratwurst Shop   Queen Victoria Market

And here’s what we came to the market for… to get the ingredients to make Bak Kut Teh at home. We also couldn’t resist some Asian snacks from Minh Phat… these peanut cookies (and any similar Asian sweets) are just so delightful to munch on. Fatbee is seriously making my (already Azn) palate even more and more Asian!

Borek & Bratwurst Shop   Queen Victoria Market

Sadly, the Bak Kut Teh spice packet that I got wasn’t any good. Despite following its instructions (and using less water than suggested) the soup turned out more like Bak Kut Water!! Ha ha ha… I had to swing by my place the next day to pile in more Traditional Chinese Herbs to simmer the soup in before it tasted less bleurgggghy. I should have just made it all from scratch instead of being lazy using spice packets!

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Guhng Korean Restaurant http://fatboo.com/2014/07/guhng-korean-bbq-melbourne.html http://fatboo.com/2014/07/guhng-korean-bbq-melbourne.html#comments Tue, 29 Jul 2014 09:45:25 +0000 http://fatboo.com/?p=18615 Guhng Korean Restaurant

Korean BBQ restaurant in Melbourne with good quality (albeit small-sized) dishes. The sliced pork belly is particularly good.

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Guhng Korean Restaurant

19 McKillop St
Melbourne, VIC 3000
03 9041 2192
Website

Guhng Korean Restaurant

Fun fact: “Guhng” is Korean for “Palace”.

This was the last place Fatbee and I took Mummybee to before she left for home, and the meal we had there was enjoyable. A number of Fatbee’s friends came along, so it was a pretty jovial Korean BBQ session… and a big success in our books because we wanted to show a worried Mummybee that Fatbee’s life in Melbourne is surrounded with a good circle of supportive friends.

Guhng Korean Restaurant

Guhng’s Melbourne ‘palace’ is located in a narrow, three storey tall Korean ‘dungeon’ on McKillop St, right next to Red Spice Road. We were seated in the basement, which was an excellent area to be in, because it meant that all the smoke rises to the top whilst our table remained pretty much free from a cloud of meat smoke.

Guhng Korean Restaurant

We decided to skip the banquet set menus and go a la carte instead, allowing us to pick exactly what we wanted. After ordering, we were presented with the usual delightful selection of complimentary accompaniments that comes with all Korean meals. From left: pickled daikon, marinated onion and kimchi.

Guhng Korean Restaurant
Kimchi Hotpot 14 | Black Rice 2
Korean traditional Kimchi soup with pork and vegetables

We started off with a serve of kimchi stew to share, which came medium spicy with a nice hearty brothiness to it. My only quibble was the serve was very small for its price point. Pictured right is the rice that they serve here, which comes as a mixture of black and Jasmine rice.

Guhng Korean Restaurant
Yuk-Hwei / light-seasoned beef sashimi, sliced raw tenderloin 200g with egg yolk, pear, cucumber, sesame oil and guhng’s signature gal-sal dressing 23

Next we had a traditional Korean entree of raw beef sashimi. The beef was good and it was interesting having crisp slivers of nashi pear in the mix, but the gal-dal dressing pushed it towards the cloyingly sweet territory.

Pictured right were the fresh veggies that came with our Korean BBQ dishes (see below). They top it up as you go through that bowl.

Guhng Korean RestaurantGuhng Korean Restaurant

We then embarked on the Korean BBQ half of the meal. First, a cauldron of hot coals was skilfully placed inside the hole in the middle of our table, and the accompany dipping sauces arrived. From top: soybean sauce, salt and sesame oil, honey plum sauce. We ended up enjoying the salt and sesame oil dip the best as it was the least sweet.

Guhng Korean RestaurantGuhng Korean RestaurantPremium Beef rib fillets / 180g / limited sale premium part of beef rib 26
Wagyu / 200g / Australian Wagyu beef is one of the most delicate meat among all and the cube roll fillet is the tenderest part of the beef 39

Things happened pretty quickly from here on. The meats arrived and our friendly waitress started cooking it for us. She’d tell us when the meats are ready to eat, suggesting we wait a bit longer if we prefer it well done (no way!).

Pictured on top, in longer strips, were the premium beef rib fillets… and the steak-like slab of nicely marbled meat below was Wagyu beef. Both were very tender and flavoursome and I could not really pinpoint which I preferred.

Guhng Korean Restaurant
Mix mushroom bbq platter / various mushrooms grilling on the charcoal fire 13

We also had a much enjoyed serve of mixed mushrooms.

Guhng Korean Restaurant
Pork belly / Dae-Pai / 200g / sliced plain pork belly 20

But interestingly, my favourite BBQ meat for the night had to be the plain pork belly. Once chargrilled on the BBQ, the caramelisation made it incredibly flavoursome. They used very good quality pork here, I’d even think it might be Kurobuta.

Guhng Korean RestaurantGuhng Korean Restaurant
Gal-bi / 200g / butterflied cut of beef rib meat, marinated and fermented in soy-sauce for 72 hours with garlic and ginger 23

Our final BBQ meat was marinated beef ribs, which we enjoyed the least (it was sweetish). I’m not a veteran with Korean BBQ, but I think the best things to BBQ are the plain unmarinated meats… where you can enjoy its flavour and quality without battling a curtain of seasoning. It was also the reason why we enjoyed the salt and sesame dipping sauce the best, because it augmented the BBQ meat’s flavour without overpowering things.

Guhng Korean Restaurant

Here’s the mess we left behind as we left the place… quite civilised, actually. It was a good meal, but I’ll have to say that the serving sizes here were on the smaller side, but of good quality. So I basically left just satisfied (ie. 80% full) rather than stuffed.

Guhng Korean Restaurant

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Stagger Lee’s http://fatboo.com/2014/07/stagger-lees-proud-mary-fitzroy.html http://fatboo.com/2014/07/stagger-lees-proud-mary-fitzroy.html#comments Sat, 26 Jul 2014 22:00:01 +0000 http://fatboo.com/?p=18909 Stagger Lee’s

Proud Mary's new cafe - Stagger Lee's (inspired from an American folk song) has opened on busy Brunswick St. It's pretty good.

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Stagger Lee’s

276 Brunswick St
Fitzroy, VIC 3065
03 9419 5564
Website

Stagger Lees

Fatbee and I caught up with Fakegf over brunch one Thursday morning, it’s a bit of a monthly ritual when our off days do coincide. We aren’t that fastidious with where to brunch these days, so the options are either an oldie but goodie, or a newbie. This time round we picked a new spot – Stagger Lee’s.

Stagger Lees

The appeal here comes from the fact that it’s opened by the people behind Proud Mary nearby, a place that consistently serves up spectacular coffees with a hearty brunch menu to boot. The fitout at this sister branch leans towards a more warehousey motif with distressed bricks and naked lights hanging from the ceiling, it’s a bit cosier and less superbly busy than Proud Mary.

Stagger LeesStagger Lees
Soy Chai $4
Piccolo | Magic $3.8

Drinks-wise, Fatbee enjoyed a nice and spicy soy chai latte, while Fakegf and I went the necessary perk-me-up pathway of coffees. We learnt that Stagger Lee’s does it a little differently here by not having a House Blend coffee on offer. It’s only single origins and filters here. Awwww… that meant I couldn’t have another hit of the oh-so-delicious Angel Wings, a bright and fruity blend that transcends the imagination and always makes me smile.

We both went with the Single Origin that’s suited for milk coffees – from Brazil Serra Das Tres Barras. My piccolo came confident with a dark, red-fruit syrupy hug of caffeine which (to me) reminded me of a good cup of Axil Coffee. Fakegf had it as a magic (which is a double ristretto ¾ flat white) and she detected notes of melons and caramel. They were pretty good coffees, but I still miss the brighter tasting blends that Proud Mary tends to come up with.

Stagger LeesStagger Lees
Mama’s Stack 19
Shaved corned beef, pressed potato, black cabbage, soft poached egg, horseradish cream

The brunch menu looked very appealing (not to mention American Western cartoony), and I learnt that the head chef here (Chris Hamburger) used to be at St Ali North. My chosen dish of cubed corned beef with potato galette and Tuscan cabbage worked very nicely for me that Winters morning.

Stagger LeesShrooms ‘n’ Truffles 17.5
Pan roasted local pine mushrooms, truffled polenta, poached egg, pecorino pepato, farmhouse toast

Fakegf got the other dish that I was eyeing on the menu… I mean, pine mushrooms and truffles… how can one resist that? It was a beautiful and comforting offering which elicited a fabulous measure of food envy again! I liked how the aromatic truffled polenta came thick and porridge-y as opposed to cakey squares of ‘gnocchi-lenta’.

Stagger Lees
Coco Pop and Salted Caramel French Toast 15.5
Coco pop cream pat, vanilla ice cream, honeycomb and raspberry crumb

Fatbee picked a playful sweet dish of coco pops French toast with honeycomb and salted caramel. My little sampling of it tasted very sweet, but he really enjoyed this dish.

Stagger Lees

We left this place pretty satisfied. The menu’s great and the coffees were well made. I’ve already made a mental note to come back soon to have Fakegf’s shrooms and truffles dish. I also hear that Stagger Lee’s has a liquor license and will be opening for dinners a few nights a week, so that’s another delicious possibility to consider!

Stagger Lees

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ABC Chicken http://fatboo.com/2014/07/abc-chicken-korean-fried.html http://fatboo.com/2014/07/abc-chicken-korean-fried.html#comments Thu, 24 Jul 2014 21:42:33 +0000 http://fatboo.com/?p=18710 ABC Chicken

We continue our exploration of Korean Fried Chicken in this cosy little upstairs wooden den near Queen Victoria market.

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ABC Chicken

361 Queen St
Melbourne, VIC 3000
03 9670 8881
Facebook Page

I’ve got a bit of a push and pull relationship with Korean Fried Chicken, where my first encounter fell really short of my expectations at Gami Chicken & Beer, while my second encounter at Chimac turned out absolutely delightful. And my third attempt at Mook Ji Bar nearly killed me from its crazy spiciness. But of course that doesn’t stop me from trying it again, and the prospect have hot pieces of crisp fried chicken once again beckoned this Winter.

ABC Chicken

That’s how Fatbee and I caught up with Damo here one Sunday night. On arrival, we discovered that the downstairs section serves as a cafe and brunch spot during the daytime, with the name “Peek A Boo Espresso”… hah!

ABC Chicken

But we were seated in the comfy and convivial upstairs section, full of gatherings of friends having a good time. I really liked how Asian the vibe here was, as if I’m no longer in Melbourne. I’ll also have to say that the acoustics here (with lots of wood lining the walls) is a lot better than Gami Chicken & Beer where the noise levels reached annoying levels for me.

ABC Chicken
Korean Coconut Grape Juice $3.5 | Korean Rice Wine 350ml $5.5 | ABC Tap BEER 420ml $5.9

We all each picked our poison of choice, with Damo being the least naughty having something non-alcoholic. And a very unusual drink too, the coconut grape juice turned out tasting like Qoo grape drink with cubes of chewy nata de coco.

Meanwhile, I went boring with Asian beer (because that’s what you’re supposed to drink with fried chicken). And Fatbee had a rather delightful fizzy-milky Korean rice wine, cutely served in a can. I liked how mild it tasted… like a malty, fizzy, mild Japanese sake.

ABC Chicken
Fried Rice Cakes – Small $3.5 | Combination Spicy Soup $16

Here’s the accompanying dishes that we had with the chicken centrefolds (see later). First up, fried Korean rice cakes to satisfy our carb component for the meal… this is one Korean signature item that I have yet to like. It came sweet, sticky and dense…  but fried such that the outsides were a little bit crisp.

And for a bit of spice and moisture, we had a serve of army stew which came medium spicy with all the typical cheap (but yummy) tinned trappings like cocktail sausages and luncheon meats. It wasn’t too bad.

ABC ChickenFried Crispy Chicken – Original (Half Chicken 7~8 Piece) $16

Our first fried chicken was the original, which sadly came with lots of batter around it and with not much flavour. Blandness aside, the flesh itself was nice and succulent.

ABC ChickenSoy Garlic Chicken – (Boneless) $29

Next up, Fatbee and Damo vetoed my preference for chicken on-the-bone and we got a serve of boneless chicken pieces marinated in soy and garlic (young people these days are so lazy, they don’t even want to eat around bone, which is the tastiest part!).

All that said, don’t you love how they give you tongs to pick up the chicken pieces here? Verdict is – I found the soy garlic sauce on the sweet-sticky side and it coated the fried chicken like an unwanted sauce that I did not really like.

ABC Chicken

While I enjoyed the company here, my meal of Korean fried chicken once again did not quite hit the mark. I suppose I’m really picky with how I like my fried chicken… which is more Malay-style, with not too much batter and where the flavour’s actually infused into the batter rather than as a sticky sauce coating it. By the way that’s the way that Chimac does it, which is why I prefer it. I also found the menu of side dishes at ABC Chicken more limited compared to Chimac, where its side dishes support the delicious chicken dishes very nicely.

ABC Chicken

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Eggplant & Mushroom Moussaka http://fatboo.com/2014/07/eggplant-mushroom-moussaka-recipe.html http://fatboo.com/2014/07/eggplant-mushroom-moussaka-recipe.html#comments Tue, 22 Jul 2014 21:45:33 +0000 http://fatboo.com/?p=19181 Eggplant & Mushroom Moussaka

Recipe for a wholesome and heartwarming eggplant & mushroom moussaka, topped with creamy bechamel sauce.

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Eggplant & Mushroom Moussaka

Eggplant & Mushroom Moussaka

Funny how my tastebuds change over time… vegetarian food used to not excite me, but these days I’m liking it lots!

This dish came about from my vegetarian wish to create an eggplant lasagne, where the pasta sheets are completely replaced with sliced eggplant. Fatbee then suggested that I make a moussaka, which is a Middle-Eastern / Greek baked dish of eggplant with layers of minced meat topped with béchamel sauce.

Eggplant & Mushroom Moussaka

But we decided to swap the minced meat with mushrooms, seeing that I’d been generously gifted a box of shrooms (and a $100 Visa gift card) from the Mushroom Lovers Club as part of July’s Mushroom Mania 2014 festival. Look at that beautiful black box of goodness!

Eggplant & Mushroom Moussaka

The massive saucer-like Portabella mushrooms were enjoyed as a homecooked brunch, where I’d oven-baked it (upturned) with melted Stilton cheese on top. The King Oyster, Shimeji and Enoki mushrooms were enjoyed over a convivial Sichuan-style hot pot session the next day. And the rest ended up in this vegetarian Moussaka.

Eggplant & Mushroom Moussaka

The making of moussaka can be rather time consuming. The first step involves ‘sweating’ the sliced eggplants by sprinkling salt on both sides and leaving them for awhile. This step helps extract the moisture and bitter flavours from the vegetable.

Eggplant & Mushroom Moussaka

The eggplants are then baked in the oven (in a single layer) till tender. Alternatively, if you’re feeling up to it, you can grill them over a griddle pan to give nice lines of chargrilled caramelisation.

I made a mistake here… after baking, I stacked them into a bowl… that made the lower layers wet. I’d advise leaving them spread out on a cooling rack.

Eggplant & Mushroom Moussaka

The next step involves making the mushroom sauce, which involves a fair bit of slicing and dicing to start with.

Eggplant & Mushroom Moussaka

The vegetables are sautéed with onions and garlic, then add the tinned chopped tomatoes, parsley and spices. Cook until the excess liquid evaporates and the mixture thickens.

Eggplant & Mushroom Moussaka

Here’s how the mushroom sauce looks like when it’s ready. So vibrant and healthy!

Eggplant & Mushroom Moussaka

Then comes the unhealthy part… the creamy béchamel sauce that crowns all the layers of vegetable-y goodness.

Eggplant & Mushroom Moussaka

And good knob of butter is melted in a pan. Next, whisk in some flour , then add milk and grated cheese and stir till the mixture thickens. This hot mixture is then slowly stirred into a bowl of whisked egg yolks.

Eggplant & Mushroom Moussaka

Now comes the easy part… assembly! Layer everything up then spread the béchamel sauce and a sprinkle of cheese on top and you’re ready to bake. Hint: if you prefer your dish less rich, use less cheese. You can even make this a day in advance and leave it in the fridge covered before baking it for your party the next day.

Eggplant & Mushroom Moussaka

Eggplant Mushroom Moussaka Recipe

Adapted from Epicurious

Serves 6-8
Preparation Time: 2-3 hours
Cooking Time: 1 hour 

1.5kg Eggplant (cut into ½ inch slices)
Olive oil
1 Red Onion (sliced thinly)
1 cup Carrots (diced)
1 cup Celery (diced)
4 cloves of Garlic (minced)
350-400g Mushrooms (cut into ½ inch pieces)
1 tsp Oregano
1 tsp Cinnamon Powder
1 tsp All Spice
½ tsp Nutmeg Powder
800g tin of Chopped Tomatoes
1 cup Flat Leaf Parsley (chopped)
100g Parmesan Cheese (grated)
125g Butter
4 tbsp Plain Flour
500ml Milk
4 Egg Yolks

Preparation of Eggplants

Sprinkle salt over both sides of the Sliced Eggplant, arrange in a single layer atop paper towels, leave for 30 minutes
Pat dry, then brush eggplants with Olive Oil, arrange in a single layer on baking sheets.
In a preheated fan-forced oven, bake at 220ºC for 20-25 mins till tender, turning eggplants halfway.
Place on a cooling rack and leave aside.

Mushroom Sauce

Heat 60ml Olive Oil in pan, and sauté the Sliced Onions till translucent.
Add the Minced Garlic, Chopped Carrots and Celery and fry for 10mins till tender.
Add the Mushrooms and sauté for 10mins.
Stir in the Oregano, Cinnamon, Nutmeg and All Spice Powder.
Add Chopped Tomatoes and Parsley, and cook until mixture thickens.
Season with Salt and Black Pepper.

Bechamel Sauce

Melt Butter in a medium saucepan, whisk in the Plain Flour and stir continuously till it thickens.
Add the Milk slowly over low heat, stirring constantly until the sauce thickens.
Stir in 40g Parmesan Cheese and add a few turns of Black Pepper.
Whisk the Egg Yolks in a large bowl then slowly stir in the above hot sauce.

Baking

In a lightly oiled baking dish, line half of the Eggplants in a single layer.
Spoon half of the Mushroom Sauce over the eggplants and sprinkle 10g Parmesan Cheese over it.
Repeat the layering with the remaining Eggplant, Mushroom Sauce and another 10g of Cheese.
Cover with Bechamel Sauce and sprinkle 40g Parmesan Cheese over the sauce.
If making the moussaka in advance, can cover and chill it for a day.
Bake at 180ºC for 45-55 mins or until the sauce is nicely browned on top.

Eggplant & Mushroom Moussaka

By the way, you can still participate in this year’s Mushroom Mania event and win a $100 gift card. Just share photos of your mushroom dishes during the month of July (you have 8 days left!) and hashtag it appropriately. Details can be found on Mushroom Mania 2014’s website.

If you’re interested, more comforting home recipes can be found in my Recipe Index

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Pacific Seafood BBQ House, Richmond http://fatboo.com/2014/07/pacific-seafood-bbq-house-richmond.html http://fatboo.com/2014/07/pacific-seafood-bbq-house-richmond.html#comments Sun, 20 Jul 2014 21:40:20 +0000 http://fatboo.com/?p=18564 Pacific Seafood BBQ House, Richmond

Very popular Hong Kong roast meats and seafood place. This branch in Richmond makes exceptionally good roast duck.

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Pacific Seafood BBQ House, Richmond

8 / 240 Victoria St
Richmond, VIC 3121
03 9427 8225

Pacific Seafood BBQ House, Richmond

Talk about holding grudges for eons… I’ve actually been boycotting Pacific House and all of its branches because a waiter at the South Yarra branch spoke incredibly rudely towards my dad back in 2009. Even if Hong Kong restaurants do have a reputation for brusque service, what he said and the way he said it was unacceptable and boycott-worthy.

It was only around mid 2012 that I’d started eating at Pacific House again, although only at the Richmond branch (the CBD branch’s food is inferior and I’m still not stepping into South Yarra branch).

Pacific Seafood BBQ House, Richmond

In retrospect… I certainly did a very good job of restraining myself from faceplanting against this window of plump, juicy roast ducks for three whole years!! You know those soft, rubbery children’s toys that sticks against glass and slowly slides/wobbles down? Yep… that SO could be me. :P

This meal was organised by Fatbee as he knew his mom (who’s visiting) would like it here. Fakegf, The Angmoh and FatPumpkin came along as a show of friendship and support. My post on Yim Yam Thai Laos in Yarraville will tell you the “coming-out” backstory.

Pacific Seafood BBQ House, RichmondSticky Bean Curd & Vegetables in Clay Pot $20.00

We started off with the Cantonese tradition of having soup first, which are complimentary for all diners. It’s a comforting not-too-salty pork bone broth with carrots and a bit of cooked peanuts. I’m not Cantonese, so I prefer to imbibe my bowl of soup slowly through the course of the meal. Fakegf, on the other hand, would finish the whole bowl first because that’s how her Cantonese family does it.

I’ll next cover the vegetable-y dishes before we embark on to the main event. First up, a heartwarming dish of tofu and mushrooms served in a claypot.

Pacific Seafood BBQ House, RichmondSpinach with Two Egg Sauce $21.00

Then came a staple dish that I’d always enjoy here. Spinach with egg whites, salted eggs and century eggs in a cleansing stock. It cuts through the oils from the later dishes that come…

Pacific Seafood BBQ House, Richmond
Whole Roast Duck $46.00

… one of them oily dishes being THIS!!!

The whole duck has been divided over two platters. I confess I’m a bit of a sucker for roast meats, but I personally think they do roast duck exceptionally well here.

Pacific Seafood BBQ House, Richmond

The skin is thin, crisp and fragrant…the flesh has a hint of spices… and the gentle, sweetish sauce that’s drizzled over it pulls the flavours together very nicely.

Pacific Seafood BBQ House, Richmond
Crispy Roast Pork $20.00

I’d also go weak at the knees for crispy skin pork, and it’s pretty good here too. Succulent, fresh and fatty with decent crackling.

Pacific Seafood BBQ House, Richmond
Steamed Whole Barramundi w Soy Sauce, Ginger & Spring Onion $55.00/kg

One can’t dine at a Seafood BBQ house without trying its seafood, so we ended our meal with a big platter of steamed whole barramundi (weighing 900g). The fish was flawlessly fresh, and the sauces and condiments spot-on good. But sadly, they left it on the steamer for too long and the flesh was quite firm. The fish was overcooked.

Pacific Seafood BBQ House, Richmond

Five-year-old grudge and overcooked fish aside, I still enjoyed my meal here, and every other time that I’d visited previously. It’s amazing the power of food… because I feel almost tempted to declare that “Roast Duck Heals All Wounds”…!

Pacific Seafood BBQ House, Richmond

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Loire Valley | Midi Pyrenees | Dordogne Valley http://fatboo.com/2014/07/loire-dordogne-valley-midi-pyrenees-france.html http://fatboo.com/2014/07/loire-dordogne-valley-midi-pyrenees-france.html#comments Sat, 19 Jul 2014 00:00:14 +0000 http://fatboo.com/?p=19099 Loire Valley | Midi Pyrenees | Dordogne Valley

2nd instalment of a 3-week trip in the countrysides of France. We explored the cheateaus in Loire Valley, and the beautiful sights and villages of the Dordogne Valley.

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Loire Valley | Midi Pyrenees | Dordogne Valley

This trip journal continues from my previous instalment – 3 Days in Paris. From here on, my parents and I will be exploring the countrysides of France.

With a wave of goodbye, we picked up the rental car in the middle of Paris and proceeded to scream our way out of the city. I say “scream” because it took a bit of getting used to driving from the ‘wrong’ side of the car and on the ‘wrong’ side of the road!

Loire Valley | Midi Pyrenees | Dordogne Valley

Chateau de Chambord (Loire Yalley)

But we got the hang of it eventually and managed to find our way into the Loire Valley, also known as ‘Chateau Country’. And our first stop was at Château de Chambord. A truly iconic sight, a splendid example of French Renaissance architecture, and also the largest chateau in the valley.

Loire Valley | Midi Pyrenees | Dordogne Valley

We turned this into just a photo stop as Tripadvisor advised that it’s nice from the outside but not worth exploring the (meaningless) gutted out interior. All the same, we ended up strolling around the whole grounds because it looked so majestic. Mum was so in awe with this place.

Loire Valley | Midi Pyrenees | Dordogne Valley

Chateau de Chenonceau (Loire Valley)

We only had 1 day in the Loire Valley, so this was the only other Chateau we visited. A smaller but much more personable visit, if I might add.

Loire Valley | Midi Pyrenees | Dordogne ValleyLoire Valley | Midi Pyrenees | Dordogne Valley
Château de Chenonceau

What’s beautiful about this particular Chateau is how it’s built gracefully over the River Cher. Here’s an evening view of the building as reflected in the river’s waters.

Loire Valley | Midi Pyrenees | Dordogne Valley

We decided to spend the rest of our afternoon exploring the inside of the Chateau and its surrounding gardens.

Loire Valley | Midi Pyrenees | Dordogne Valley

It was a very good visit, the interior was not ‘overdone’ into a tacky museum the way many tourist attractions can be made into. Instead, the place told a story and the interior was refurbished modestly to suggest the sensibilities of its occupants and its turbulent past. This resplendent gallery here is the part of the chateau that stretches across the river.

Loire Valley | Midi Pyrenees | Dordogne Valley

And here’s the view of the gardens from the upper floors of Chateau Chenonceaux. I wished we had more time to spend here as there was something bewitchingly historical about the place, and I wanted to just stand there and gaze across its grounds, conjuring scenes of how life would’ve been centuries ago.

Loire Valley | Midi Pyrenees | Dordogne ValleyLoire Valley | Midi Pyrenees | Dordogne Valley
Dinner in Cour-Cheverny

There’s one thing you should know about me, my travel habits aren’t food-oriented for the most part. So here’s our very simple dinner in a *cough*…. pizzeria, one of only three places that were open for business in the township near where we stayed for the night. Incidentally, the pastas and pizzas there were awful, but the chargrilled steak was sensational.

Loire Valley | Midi Pyrenees | Dordogne Valley

la Closerie de l’Aventure

L’Aventure
41700 Cheverny
+33 (0)2 54 78 88 57
Website

With a budget of EUR150-200/night for three, I’ll have to say that finding nice places to stay posed a bit of a challenge for this trip. At that price point, we’re often looking at not-that-great three star hotels.

But during my browsings, I’d eventually stumbled upon this B&B close to the Chateaus we’d visited. It’s run by Pascaline, a lovely lady who used to live in Paris but has since moved to this area to run this B&B and a hobby farm to boot!

Loire Valley | Midi Pyrenees | Dordogne Valley

While the location was pretty remote (you definitely need a car), the rooms were pretty boutique. It reminded me of a farm stay with your own self-contained rooms, and there was an apple tree in the front driveway that excited us (dumbo-dilly) city slickers so much!

Loire Valley | Midi Pyrenees | Dordogne Valley

Breakfast the next morning was gorgeous, with a lovely spread of home baked breads and homemade jams with house churned butter. Honey from bees in the region, and fresh milk from the farm!

Loire Valley | Midi Pyrenees | Dordogne Valley

After breakfast, we visited the farm animals and played with them before departing on our onward journey. I must say donkeys are soooo ADORABLE!! Funny how they’d eat freshly plucked grass from your hand when the same grass is everywhere around them for them to eat.

Loire Valley | Midi Pyrenees | Dordogne Valley

We enjoyed our ‘farm stay’ at la Closerie de l’Aventure and I’d like to thank Pascaline for taking care of us so well.

Loire Valley | Midi Pyrenees | Dordogne Valley

Rocamadour (Midi Pyrenees)

We left Pascaline’s beautiful farm and proceeded to drive a few hundred kilometres down south to explore a few villages in the Midi Pyrénées. It was a very long day of driving, but I’ll have to say that I’m so glad we got to see these picturesque off-the-beaten-track villages. Dad researched this part of the trip marvellously.

Loire Valley | Midi Pyrenees | Dordogne Valley

The village of Rocamadour contains medieval monastic buildings set against a sheer cliff face that faces a tributary of the River Dordogne.

Loire Valley | Midi Pyrenees | Dordogne ValleyLoire Valley | Midi Pyrenees | Dordogne Valley

Once again, we spent more time here than we planned for… exploring the village, its twisting terraces and passages, and the untold stories hidden within its age-old walls.

Loire Valley | Midi Pyrenees | Dordogne Valley

A parting view of Rocamadour before we moved on. Sometimes, I wished we had the facility to spend months and months exploring these wonderful places.

Loire Valley | Midi Pyrenees | Dordogne Valley

Saint-Cirq-Lapopie (Midi Pyrenees)

After even more driving down narrow twisty roads (and we got lost a few times), we managed to reach this second village just before sundown.

Loire Valley | Midi Pyrenees | Dordogne Valley

It was spectacular, and we understood why Saint-Cirq-Lapopie is a member of the Les Plus Beaux Villages de France (“The most beautiful villages of France”) association.

Loire Valley | Midi Pyrenees | Dordogne ValleyLoire Valley | Midi Pyrenees | Dordogne Valley

This quiet commune is perched on a 100m cliff above River Lot in the Midi Pyrénées.

Loire Valley | Midi Pyrenees | Dordogne Valley

There are times when I’m on holiday (like when I’d visited Machu Picchu) where I’d just want to take a piece of the breathtaking sight before me and keep it close to my heart… so that I’ll remember it forever and become a better person for it.

This photo doesn’t quite capture how awesome it was being there. Still, my heart skips a beat whenever I look at it.

Loire Valley | Midi Pyrenees | Dordogne ValleyLoire Valley | Midi Pyrenees | Dordogne Valley

L’Ombrière

Montfort 24200
Vitrac, France
+33 (0)5 53 28 11 38
Website

After sunset, we drove for a few more hours in the dark (and nearly ran out of petrol!) to our accommodations in The Dordogne Valley. That was one of the most harrowing drives that we had out of the whole trip because the roads were so dark, twisty and narrow and we got quite lost.

By the time we’d arrived, it was past 8.30pm. Since Montford is such a quiet township, we faced the prospects of going to bed hungry with no restaurants open for a late dinner…

Loire Valley | Midi Pyrenees | Dordogne Valley

That’s when Andre and Barbara, the hosts of this inviting little B&B, did a very touching thing. Despite it being so late at night and without any prior notice, they proceeded to whip up a simple but splendid meal for the three of us.

We feasted on heirloom pumpkin soup (I saw Barbara picking the pumpkin from the fruit basket outside), wine from Bordeaux, local cheeses and cold cuts with organic bread (baked by a friend). Even dessert came as thoughtful scoops of homemade chocolate sorbet with poached pear. We were literally ‘tasting the terroir’. Because of the extraordinary circumstances that occurred which made this meal happen, it was one of the most memorable meals we had out of this whole trip.

Loire Valley | Midi Pyrenees | Dordogne Valley

Morning at L’Ombriere… I’m still so taken by Andre’s and Barbara’s wonderful hospitality. We spent two nights here whilst exploring the Dordogne Valley, speaking of which…

Loire Valley | Midi Pyrenees | Dordogne Valley
Morning in the Dordogne (view from my window)

… isn’t this just the most beauteous sight ever?

Loire Valley | Midi Pyrenees | Dordogne ValleyLoire Valley | Midi Pyrenees | Dordogne Valley

Beynac et Cazenac (Dordogne)

Andre sent us off with tips on where and what to visit, and we spent the whole day exploring the Dordogne Valley.

Loire Valley | Midi Pyrenees | Dordogne Valley

The villages and sights weren’t that far from each other, so we had a much nicer time driving around and exploring this region. Here’s the old fortified castle at Beynac et Cazenac, Andre recommended we visit this because they’ve kept its interior like how it was like during Medieval times.

Loire Valley | Midi Pyrenees | Dordogne ValleyLoire Valley | Midi Pyrenees | Dordogne Valley

It’s certainly better than visiting some of the other castles that (I hear) have been pimped up into bling bling museums with security guards et. al.

And look at this view of River Dordogne from its defensive ramparts!

Loire Valley | Midi Pyrenees | Dordogne Valley

Our precious few days exploring this region turned out to be the highlight of this whole trip, there was just something soo tranquil and magical about this area.

Loire Valley | Midi Pyrenees | Dordogne Valley

Sarlat-la-Canéda (Dordogne)

Lunch happened in the town of Sarlat, where we discovered many many shops selling foie gras. And that’s the other thing about The Dordogne, the Perigord Noir region where it’s in is also known as the land of foie gras and truffles.

Loire Valley | Midi Pyrenees | Dordogne ValleyLoire Valley | Midi Pyrenees | Dordogne Valley
Chez Le Gaulois, Sarlat

But we had a simpler (but satisfying) lunch of local cold cuts with salads and breads.

Loire Valley | Midi Pyrenees | Dordogne Valley

After lunch we walked around Sarlat some more, it’s historical centre was remarkably charming.

Loire Valley | Midi Pyrenees | Dordogne ValleyLoire Valley | Midi Pyrenees | Dordogne Valley

Les Jardins de Marquessac (Dordogne)

Our next stop was a little afternoon stroll in the hanging gardens of Marqueyssac.

Loire Valley | Midi Pyrenees | Dordogne Valley

It’s set on top of a hill, so there were places where you could get quite a nice view of the Dordogne Valley. In the background against the river, you can see the riverside village of La Roque-Gageac.

Loire Valley | Midi Pyrenees | Dordogne ValleyLoire Valley | Midi Pyrenees | Dordogne Valley

And some distance away in the horizon, lit up with beams of sunlight cutting through the grey autumn clouds, we could also see the medieval hilltop castle in Beynac et Cazenac.

Loire Valley | Midi Pyrenees | Dordogne Valley

La Roque-Gageac (Dordogne)

We then took an hour long boat ride from the township of La Roque-Gageac in the late afternoon. Not the loveliest of rides because it was cold, windy and there was a brief and sudden rain mid-ride.

Loire Valley | Midi Pyrenees | Dordogne ValleyLoire Valley | Midi Pyrenees | Dordogne Valley

But just as we returned, the sun came back. It’s a pity this village was going through some refurbishment, but even so, I thought it was very picturesque set against the river next to the steep vertical cliffs.

Loire Valley | Midi Pyrenees | Dordogne ValleyLoire Valley | Midi Pyrenees | Dordogne Valley

Domme (Dordogne)

And we spent the evening watching the sunset from the quiet hilltop village of Domme.

Loire Valley | Midi Pyrenees | Dordogne Valley

This sight of the Dordogne Valley is one that will remain in my heart forever.

Loire Valley | Midi Pyrenees | Dordogne Valley
La Gabarre

We had a rustic dinner in La Gabarre, a small family owned restaurant near St Julien de Lampon. Fabulous foie gras there!

It’s interesting how many of the restaurants in France use moveable blackboards as their menus. While it’s stressful when there isn’t an English menu, it also means you’re probably going to get better food. So most of our meals involved me furiously checking what this and that French word means using Google Translate app on my phone, and then attempting to speak (very bad) French to the waiter only to discover that they can speak English… hah!

Loire Valley | Midi Pyrenees | Dordogne Valley

This ends our visit to the beautiful Dordogne Valley. It’s the one region of France that never crossed my path when I was researching where to go on this trip, and I’m so so glad that dad had discovered it on his own accord and insisted that we spend a few days here.

To be honest, I usually don’t like coming back to the same place when on vacation because there’s so many other places in the world I’ve not visited. But I do hope to return to the Dordogne Valley in the future and spend more days of tranquility there. It’s that memorable.

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The Grain Store Cafe & Dining http://fatboo.com/2014/07/grain-store-cafe-dining.html http://fatboo.com/2014/07/grain-store-cafe-dining.html#comments Wed, 16 Jul 2014 21:20:13 +0000 http://fatboo.com/?p=18750 The Grain Store Cafe & Dining

Cafe in the CBD that serves up pretty solid, restaurant quality brunch dishes. We visited on Queens Birthday and it was packed!

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The Grain Store Cafe & Dining

517 Flinders Lane
Melbourne, VIC 3000
03 9972 6993
Website

The Grain Store Cafe & Dining

I can be quite shy meeting new people at social events, that’s why I opted to sit out The Grain Store’s launch party. That evening, I watched on Instagram with envy as several of my fellow bloggers enjoyed their time there. Damn you… shyboooo!!

The Grain Store Cafe & Dining

But it took more than a year before I finally decided to visit this place… on Queens Birthday, if I might add. Fatbee had been here previously and liked it, and we thought that a public holiday would be a perfect day to brunch here as it won’t be crammed with the CBD office crowd.

We were so wrong… the place was packed, hah!

The Grain Store Cafe & Dining
PRANA CHAI – 4

There was a 20-30min wait for a table to free-up, but once seated, we got to order our drinks. Fatbee enjoyed a mellow and very nuanced soy chai latte, we both think that Prana Chai is one of the better chais out there, and they do it very well here.

The Grain Store Cafe & Dining
PICCOLO – 4
Seamless House Blend (by Sensory lab) 

And of course I went with a coffee which, despite its gorgeous latte artwork, tasted rather harsh with a bitter-metallic finish on the tongue. I couldn’t taste any of the promised notes of ‘super ripe fruits and fresh grape acidity followed by a sugary prune juice finish’. It was a bit of a let-down.

The Grain Store Cafe & Dining
GINGER BEER GAMMON STEAK, SMOKY BORLOTTI BEANS – 20
fried egg, nashi pear fritters, remoulade, salsa verde, apple vincotto

On the upside, the brunch menu had quite a number of very delicious sounding dishes. Gammon steak just sounded too good to pass up, so I decided to bite the bullet and try a dish that contains beans, which is something I’d normally wouldn’t order.

This brunch dish was great, with a nice slab of baconny steak and an excellent lightly seasoned salad with snow pea sprouts to go with it. The nashi pear fritters were a delightfully crunchy surprise that gave good sweet counterpoint to the dish, and my much-feared beans tasted wonderful too..

The Grain Store Cafe & DiningThe Grain Store Cafe & Dining
SMOKED SALMON OMELETTE & TRUFFLE CRÈME FRAICHE – 20
sweet winter fennel, chipotle romesco salsa, rye crostini, crispy quinoa

Fatbee had a smoked salmon omelette, which arrived alluringly with the heady aroma of truffles.

This dish was amazing. We discovered the omelette was actually hiding a whole fillet of exceptionally tasty smoked salmon. The flavoursome relish and truffled creme fraiche worked very well with it, and the crunchy sprinkle of quinoa gave nice textural contrast.

The Grain Store Cafe & DiningFROZEN PEANUT BUTTER PARFAIT – 11
brûlée banana, strawberry compote, lime, cucumber syrup 

We were so smitten with our brunch dishes that we decided to share a dessert here. And I picked this one because… cucumber syrup… oh my!

Fatbee really liked this dessert, while I found the strawberry compote a bit too sticky sweet and ‘jammy’. And the cucumber syrup, while playful and interesting, did not go all that nicely with the other components.

The Grain Store Cafe & Dining

It takes a lot to peel me away from the annoyance of a bad cup of coffee. But overall, The Grain Store served up one of the nicest brunches that I’ve had this year. It’s like good, restaurant quality cooking being served at brunch prices, and I’m keen on revisiting again… perhaps for dinner!

The Grain Store Cafe & Dining

The Grain Store Cafe & Dining

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Wayo Japanese Dining http://fatboo.com/2014/07/wayo-japanese-dining-flemington.html http://fatboo.com/2014/07/wayo-japanese-dining-flemington.html#comments Tue, 15 Jul 2014 07:45:42 +0000 http://fatboo.com/?p=18980 Wayo Japanese Dining

Wayo is a low-key Japanese eatery in Flemington with a succinct menu of beautifully cooked, good quality dishes.

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Wayo Japanese Dining

286 Racecourse Rd
Flemington, VIC 3031
03 9376 5484
Facebook Page

Wayo Japanese Dining

I confess I’m utterly hopeless with catching up with my friends, but the good thing is – if any of them asks me out, I’d still reply with an automatic ‘YES!’. Castletime messaged me one evening asking if I’d heard or been to Wayo, a new casual Japanese eatery on Racecourse Rd that’s pretty good.

I said ‘nope!’, and we promptly arranged to catch up over dinner there with Castletime’s partner, Beanstalk.

Wayo Japanese Dining

Wayo Japanese Dining has recently taken over what previously was a charcoal chicken joint on this busy stretch in Flemington. And they’ve done it up very nicely, creating a clean and modern interior with dark woods and minimalist tiles.

Having done no research about this place when Castletime recommended it, I told him to make a reservation. But on arrival at 7pm that Tuesday night, my heart bled a little to see this delightful gem of a place completely empty. We were the only diners! And no one entered this joint right through our meal, aside for this bogan who walked in asking if they served hot chips here. >.<”

Wayo Japanese DiningAssorted Grilled Japanese Mushrooms with Garlic Miso Butter $9

We went with a few shared entrees before embarking on our individual main dishes. First up, a wonderful offering of grilled fresh enoki, shimeji and shiitake mushrooms in a beautifully balanced garlic miso seasoning. It was a perfect start to the meal and I wished we could’ve had a lot more of it.

Wayo Japanese DiningTori Oden $8.50
Chicken with Daikon Radish, Japanese Mushrooms, Egg, Zucchini, Konnyaku
Nasu Dengaku $8
Grilled Eggplant with Sweet Miso Sauce

I decided to skip the usual gyozas and agedashi tofus here (which Castletime confirms are very good). Instead, we tried Tori Oden, a traditional Japanese winter stew with daikon, okra, meatball, mushrooms, egg and a konnyaku cake.

This dish was once again an excellent offering… it came bubbling hot and it tasted clean with a delightfully smoky dashi broth base. Good proper dashi makes such a big big difference with Japanese cooking. I also had no complaints with the eggplant dish, which we sectioned into four and devoured skin-and-all.

Wayo Japanese DiningTeriyaki Chicken Don $13
Charcoal Grilled  Chicken with Teriyaki Sauce on Rice Topped with Poached Egg 

Beanstalk had the Teriyaki chicken don as his main, and I must say it looked divine.

Wayo Japanese Dining

I had to stop myself from stealing his bowl when I saw him mixing that oozy soft boiled egg allover his rice! ROOOAR!!

Wayo Japanese Dining
Charcoal Grilled Chicken with Garlic Salt $13
Served with leafy green and potato salad

Castletime went with charcoal grilled chicken, and from the little sample that I stole from him, it had a nice chargrilled flavour whilst retaining its succulence. I’m so glad they did not put the chicken into boring skewers with teriyaki sauce (ie. turning it into yakitori). I think it tastes very nice this way as compressed pieces of chargrilled chicken with skin on. Clean and incredibly tasty.

Wayo Japanese Dining
Japanese Beef Hamburger Steak with Mushroom Demi-glace Sauce $13
Served with left green and potato salad 

Fatbee had what the Japanese would’ve called the Hambāgu (ハンバーグ), which is probably a dish inspired by Western hamburgers then fusionised into the Japanese culinary psyche. It’s something I wouldn’t order, but he enjoyed it, saying it’s like how it should taste like.

Wayo Japanese Dining
Tempura Udon $13
Prawn Tempura on Udon Noodles in Soup

And for myself, I decided to beat the Wintry cold with a hot bowl of tempura udon. The noodles had a wonderful springy bite to them, and the gentle soup once again boasted an excellent base of good dashi stock. The addition of a wobbly-soft poached egg turned it into the perfect dish for me that night. I had no complaints with the tempura either, the prawns were fresh and I liked how there wasn’t any overzealous batter action over it.

Wayo Japanese Dining
Dorayaki $6
Japanese Pancakes with Sweet Red Bean Paste, served with Vanilla Ice Cream 

To end this fabulous meal, we decided to sample all three desserts on the menu. This dorayaki ended up being our favourite… warm, fluffy and freshly cooked.

Wayo Japanese DiningWayo Japanese Dining
Creme Brûlée with Matcha Sauce $6
Matcha Ice Cream $3.5

Then there’s our usual matcha ice cream, and a rather unique brûlée that came with a confident drizzle of matcha sauce. Even though the brulee did not come warmed, we still liked it because the punchy bitterness of the matcha sauce cuts through the sweetness of the brûlée very nicely.

This was such a surprisingly good meal in a low-key setting, I’d like to thank Castletime and Beanstalk for introducing it to me. The flavours are gentle and you can taste the quality of the ingredients and cooking here. Better still, the friendly owners are Japanese (as verified by their accents!). Don’t be deceived by the takeaway-ish feel to this eatery, I think it’s actually a marvellous place for a good Japanese feed without any gimmicky fancied up culinary tricks.

Wayo Japanese Dining

Wayo Japanese Dining

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Sayur Lodeh Recipe (Malay Vegetable Curry) http://fatboo.com/2014/07/sayur-lodeh-recipe-malay-vegetable-curry.html http://fatboo.com/2014/07/sayur-lodeh-recipe-malay-vegetable-curry.html#comments Sun, 13 Jul 2014 01:20:26 +0000 http://fatboo.com/?p=18845 Sayur Lodeh Recipe (Malay Vegetable Curry)

Recipe for Sayur Lodeh, a wonderfully light & spicy Malay vegetable curry. An absolute must have dish with Malay rice meals.

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Sayur Lodeh Recipe (Malay Vegetable Curry)

Sayur Lodeh Recipe (Malay Vegetable Curry)

Sayur Lodeh is a Malay Vegetable Curry that goes very well with just about any Malay rice meal. It comes light and spicy, and isn’t as rich with coconut milk the way that other curries can be. There’s a variant of this dish (of the same name) in Indonesia, but it’s slightly different in that you see tempeh as an ingredient (of course!), and it also contains belinjo leaves and young jackfruit.

Sayur Lodeh Recipe (Malay Vegetable Curry)

In Singapore, I grew up eating Sayur Lodeh mainly at the Nasi Padang stalls in hawker centres. We’d never think about cooking it at home as it’s so cheap and nearby!

But come to Melbourne and the tables are turned. You can get this at a few select places, but taste-wise they don’t quite hit the mark. Hence my interest in cooking it at home.

Sayur Lodeh Recipe (Malay Vegetable Curry)

Now that you’ve seen two food-styled photos of Sayur Lodeh, with garnishing et. al… let me throw you back towards a more realistic view of how Sayur Lodeh is more likely to end up looking when you’re eating it. You could call the (ugly) photo above the “Harsh Realities of the Lodeh”… ha ha ha!

It’s basically a very yellow yellow watery vegetable curry slathered all over your rice. Yellow because of the liberal use of turmeric powder (and maybe the fresh root). But oh my goodness… so delicious! It goes very well with beef rendang, sambal telur (fried boiled eggs in chilli sambal) and ayam goreng (deep fried chicken).

Sayur Lodeh Recipe (Malay Vegetable Curry)
Curry Paste – Dry Ingredients
Candlenuts, Turmeric Powder, Hae Bee (dried shrimp), dried red chillies, belacan (shrimp paste) 

Here are the dry ingredients required to make the curry paste. Nothing beats making your curry pastes from scratch, I’d say. Take note that the use of hae bee and belacan makes this dish not exactly vegetarian. To make it vegetarian, I’d substitute the belacan with a bit of vegemite and omit the dried prawn.

Most of these dried ingredients needs to be softened by soaking in water (I’d even do that with the candlenuts to make them easier to grind). And the belacan (cut out a 1cm thick square from the block) needs to be toasted by dry frying in a pan.

Sayur Lodeh Recipe (Malay Vegetable Curry)
Curry Paste – Wet Ingredients
Lemongrass, Shallots, Garlic, Fresh Red Chillies, Ginger, Galangal 

And here’s the fresh ingredients that makes up the rest of the paste. Just peel and chop them up into smaller pieces to facilitate grinding in the food processor. Take note, you only need to use the softer, white fragrant base stem/root section of the lemongrass, the fibrous green tops can be discarded as they’re not as fragrant and they’re very hard to blend.

Sayur Lodeh Recipe (Malay Vegetable Curry)
Fried Firm Tofu, Kaffir Lime Leaves, Coconut Milk, Stock

Here are the other ingredients needed to make the curry. I used chicken stock (from leftover Hainanese Chicken Rice broth, ha ha!) because that’s what I had in my freezer. But you can use vegetable stock just as easily. And if you’re willing to spend just a bit more, use fresh kaffir lime leaves. As for the tofu, the original recipe I followed asked for taupok (tofu puffs), but mom and I personally prefer the texture of taukwa (deep fried firm tofu) with this dish.

Sayur Lodeh Recipe (Malay Vegetable Curry)
Cabbage, Carrot, Snake Beans (Eggplant – optional)

And finally, the vegetables! These four are the most classic ones that you’d find in Malay-style Lodeh. Personally, I found that the eggplants got too soft & squishy in the curry and omitted it from the final recipe. And I used snake beans instead of regular beans.

All that said, you’re quite free to choose whatever vegetables you’d prefer, some recipes even used squash. But whatever you do, please don’t leave out the cabbage. In my culinary worldview, Lodeh isn’t Lodeh without cabbage… Booyah!

Sayur Lodeh Recipe (Malay Vegetable Curry)Sayur Lodeh Recipe (Malay Vegetable Curry)

Once all the peeling, soaking and chopping prep work is done, cooking it is pretty easy. Make the paste, and fry!

I found that the food processor I had only managed to grind my paste into a semi-fine consistency even though I blended everything twice through. It made my curry a little bit thicker, which was fine except that the texture of the resultant broth (which tasted great) wasn’t as watery as I’d like it to be. A second thought is…  what if I replaced galangal and ginger root with the powdered version to make it less thick?

Also, the original recipe from 3 Hungry Tummies that I‘d followed seemed to ask for not enough liquid stock, so the final recipe here has had its quantities tweaked, where you use less cabbage and more stock / water.

Sayur Lodeh Recipe (Malay Vegetable Curry)

And here’s the mighty delicious Lodeh… on the simmer. I’m so happy that I now know how to make a good version of this dish in Melbourne.

On a final note, if you add squares of steamed rice cakes, hard boiled eggs and deep fried bergedil (potato and onion patties) to this brothy-watery curry dish, it becomes Lontong – another very yummy Singaporean dish that’s often eaten at breakfast!

Sayur Lodeh Recipe (Malay Vegetable Curry)

Sayur Lodeh Recipe

Adapted from 3 Hungry Tummies

Serves 8
Preparation Time: 1 hour
Cooking Time: 1 hour 

Curry Paste

10 Dried Chillies
3 Red Chillies
6 Buah Keras (Candlenuts)
4 Cloves of Garlic
150g Shallots, chopped
15g Turmeric Powder
20g Belacan (Shrimp Paste), toasted
30g Hae Bee (Dried Shrimp)
35g Ginger, peeled
35g Galangal, peeled
2 Lemongrass

Other Ingredients

300g Snake Beans, cut into 5 cm length
1 Large Carrot, peeled and cut into 5 cm strips
¼ Cabbage (approx 500g), cut into pieces
400g Fried Firm Tofu, cut into squares
300-400 ml Coconut Milk
500ml Vegetable Stock (or Chicken Stock)
3 Kaffir Lime Leaves

Curry Paste

Soak in hot water till softened:
Dried Chillies (remove seeds if you prefer a less spicy curry)

Soak in water till soft:
Hae Bee

Cut out the white fragrant base from the Lemongrass, discard the green tops.

Chop all the Curry Paste Ingredients coarsely, then blend in a food processor till you get a fine Curry Paste.

Method

Heat 6 tbsp of oil in a wok, then fry over medium heat till it darkens slightly and becomes fragrant:
Curry Paste

Add and bring to a boil:
300ml Coconut Milk
500ml Stock
Kaffir Lime Leaves

Add, top up with boiling water to just cover it, then simmer over low heat for 30mins:
Cabbage

Add and continue to simmer for 10 mins or until tender, top up with more hot water if needed:
Carrot
Tofu
Snake beans

Before serving, season to taste with:
Salt
Sugar

Up to 100ml Coconut Milk

More comforting home recipes can be found in my Recipe Index.

Sayur Lodeh Recipe (Malay Vegetable Curry)

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MiHUB Cafe http://fatboo.com/2014/07/mihub-cafe-werribee.html http://fatboo.com/2014/07/mihub-cafe-werribee.html#comments Thu, 10 Jul 2014 09:40:14 +0000 http://fatboo.com/?p=18869 MiHUB Cafe

MiHUB Cafe is a community initiative by The Migrant Hub helping new migrants settle into Melbourne. We had a great outdoor hawker-style Malaysian meal here.

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MiHUB Cafe

12 Synnot St
Werribee, VIC 3030
03 9731 7877
Facebook Page

MiHUB Cafe

Fakegf and I received a Facebook message from Lauren one Friday morning, saying that she’d discovered an (OMG!!!) Malaysian Hawker Centre in Werribee and if we’d like to join Dan and herself for dinner there. My eyes lit up like fireworks from that one sentence, I threw out all notions of having a quiet Friday night at home with a mug of hot chocolate, and we all made the trip down to Werribee (with partners in tow) that very night.

MiHUB Cafe

And what a hilariously crazy night we picked to visit too, right in the heart of winter on a cold and incredibly blustery windswept day. MiHUB is short for The Migrant Hub and it’s a community initiative helping new migrants settle into Australia. The location varies, but it seemed to have settled nicely into the courtyard of this Werribee brick house which also serves as The Migrant Hub’s HQ. I also hear that the food landscape changes over time, but for the past year it has been Malaysian food.

MiHUB CafeMiHUB Cafe
Otak Otak | Martabak
Popcorn Chicken

I must say between the seven of us, we just about ordered food from each and every stall that night (except for Ramly Burgers). It was such a feast, not to mention all the dishes stayed in the range of a very affordable $8. Here, we enjoyed otak otak (barbecued spiced fish chiffon wrapped in banana leaf), martabak (roti stuffed with onion and spiced meats) and popcorn chicken.

MiHUB CafeMiHUB Cafe
Lamb Satay
Curry Laksa | Chicken Satay

It was very funny in that once the food comes, by the time we were done with passing the dish around the table for photos to be snapped, it had already gone cold! Totally our fault, but that’s all in the spirit of being together as food bloggers united (and their poor disgruntled partners), and us having fun tasting a little bit of each and everything!

MiHUB Cafe

We even had cups of teh tarik (traditional Malaysian pulled tea) with our meal, which also went lukewarm pretty quickly. But was still a very welcome warm element to our very frozen bodies, I’d worn three thick thick layers, but my poor poor fingers..!! Can’t believe that guy serving us is wearing a T-shirt!

MiHUB CafeMiHUB Cafe
Roti Jala | Mee Rebus

These two were some of my favourite dishes that night. Interesting that I’ve not encountered roti jala (net bread) before, but I loved how stretchy the (soft and pliable) yellow roti was, and the tangy spiced curry it came with was just delightful. The mee rebus also went very well in the brisk weather, it’s thick egg noodles in a sweetish, peanutty spiced gravy.

MiHUB Cafe
Char Kway Teow

And of course we couldn’t dine here without serves of fried kway teow. It’s the saltier Malaysian-style, while the Singaporean version that I grew up eating is usually sweeter with chinese sausage and see hum (blood cockles).

MiHUB Cafe

Our final dish (another favourite) was lontong, a light Malaysian vegetable curry with eggs, tofu and steamed rice cakes. So good and comforting in this outdoor Wintry cold.

MiHUB Cafe

And here’s the beautiful aftermath of our table of feasting.

MiHUB Cafe

We ended with shared serves of various Malaysian kueh (cakes) for dessert. While nice, I think it would’ve been much nicer if we took these kuih home and steamed them or warmed them up before eating. This little dessert smorgasbord has given me the itch to attempt kueh sarlat (that green two layered glutinous rice pandan kueh).

MiHUB Cafe

Despite the freezing cold, this has been a very comical and fun expedition for most of us. We were soooo rugged up that we looked like human ketupats (palm leaf wrapped rice cakes). The tentages were pinned down by big drums of water, but there were moments we thought the whole tent sheltering us was going to fly off into the night sky as a huge gust of wind blew at us sending some of the emptied plates flying! What an adventure!

I also should mention that there’s a general feeling of goodwill when dining here, because you’re supporting Melbourne’s migrant community. I didn’t come here expecting a hawker centre experience the way Lauren described it, but the outdoor ambience and casual setting really does feel like a place that one could go to (on a warmer, less blustery night) and have satay and teh tariks whilst chatting the night away with your friends… just like the way we’d do it back in Singapore. And for that alone, I really like this place.

You can also read Lauren’s recount of that blast of an evening here.

MiHUB Cafe

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Cupcake Central | Rice Workshop (Emporium) http://fatboo.com/2014/07/cupcake-central-rice-workshop-emporium.html http://fatboo.com/2014/07/cupcake-central-rice-workshop-emporium.html#comments Mon, 07 Jul 2014 22:33:37 +0000 http://fatboo.com/?p=18764 Cupcake Central | Rice Workshop (Emporium)

A post revolving around my CBD movie watching habits with Fatbee, and the eating escapades that come about from it.

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Cupcake Central | Rice Workshop (Emporium)

Cupcake Central | Rice Workshop (Emporium)

Cupcake Central

Level 2, Dining Hall
Melbourne Central
Melbourne, VIC 3000
Website
Cupcake Central | Rice Workshop (Emporium)

So it appears cops no longer have doughnuts and coffee during their breaks. They have cupcakes!

Cupcake Central | Rice Workshop (Emporium)Cupcake Central | Rice Workshop (Emporium)

That’s what Fatbee and I surmised one afternoon after we devoured a bit of sweetness here. Our intended destination was a movie screening of X-Men: Days of Future Past, but rather than fork out oodles of cash for mediocre popcorn and coke, we went the daintier and more colourful route… ha!

Cupcake Central | Rice Workshop (Emporium)Cupcake Central | Rice Workshop (Emporium)

It has become a bit of a ritual now, catching up on our dating days… buying movie vouchers ($10 Optus voucher… because: #azn) and then us watching a matinee on our off days. After all, the city is but a 15 minute walk from Fatbee’s home, plus the newly opened Muji and Uniqlo (at last!!) are located so enticingly nearby at Emporium next door. All the things you could ever want wrapped in the comfort of the warm indoors away from the Winters cold.

so aunty!

Cupcake Central | Rice Workshop (Emporium)Peanut Butter & Jelly | Coco Pandan $4ea

And that’s how we ended up here that afternoon. I decided to mention this place because on my previous visit (also just before a movie: Spiderman), I was pretty blown away by the difference when you’re eating fresh cupcakes as opposed to end-of-the-day or refrigerated cupcakes.

The selections we picked today were also pretty good, with the coco pandan coming out as the winner with its light sweetness and subtle fragrance of pandan. It reminded me of Asian-style cakes and sweets, and the frosting reminded me of a creamy version of kaya (coconut jam). The peanut butter and jelly cupcake was rich and moist, but I’d enjoy it more if the cake itself had peanut butter in it rather than only on the frosting.

Cupcake Central | Rice Workshop (Emporium)

I’ve never been a fan of cupcakes as they’re normally too sweet. But eating the fresh cupcakes from this little stall in Melbourne Central has changed my mind.

Cupcake Central | Rice Workshop (Emporium)

After our movie, we strolled over to Emporium for a bit of retail therapy. I was a little bit shocked that the sweater size that fits me in Uniqlo (a Japanese brand) is… XS!! Is the whole world getting plumpy?

I also must say Emporium looks a lot like shopping malls in Singapore… incredibly bright, white, gleaming and full of glass. It can feel a bit sterile compared to our older, darker malls, lane ways and high streets in Melbourne, but I must say I like walking around in this refreshing brightness.

Rice Workshop (Emporium)

3-020 Emporium Foodcourt
321 Lonsdale St
Melbourne, VIC 3000
Website
Cupcake Central | Rice Workshop (Emporium)

It was around 7pm when the shops were about to close, and it made for a very good time to pop into Emporium’s third floor food court where everything’s pretty quiet and peaceful. A bit of a change from the bustly and frigid mayhem outside.

Cupcake Central | Rice Workshop (Emporium)
Pork Katsu Curry R7.9
Golden deep fried crumbed pork schnitzel, topped with our signature Japanese curry sauce
Ontama Teriyaki R7.9
Teriyaki Chicken topped with soft boiled egg 

We decided to check out Rice Workshop, where previously the queues in their Little Bourke St branch were a bit too busy for us to brave it. I liked the branding and the succinct little menu of one-dish-meals served in a bowl. And it reminded me of Don Don, where the price tag’s generally below $8.

Cupcake Central | Rice Workshop (Emporium)

Fatbee’s pork katsu curry don was pretty decent for what it is, but he commented that he preferred the Japanese curry sauce at Don Don. I personally thought the katsu could’ve been a little more succulent.

Cupcake Central | Rice Workshop (Emporium)

I had the classic Teriyaki don with the added touch of an oozy half boiled egg to top it off. Once again, it was a good offering, but I also preferred the Teriyaki chicken at Don Don simply because it’s so delightfully chargrilled there. All that said, I swooned a bit from the soft boiled egg spreading all over my rice.

There are heaps of other awesome vendors at this food court such as Charlie & Co. Burgers, I Love Pho, Jimmy Grants and EARL Canteen. So you can bet that I’ll be reopening another episode of ‘The Emporium Files’ in the near future!

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Popol Nah http://fatboo.com/2014/07/popol-nah-carlton-latin-american.html http://fatboo.com/2014/07/popol-nah-carlton-latin-american.html#comments Sat, 05 Jul 2014 22:10:37 +0000 http://fatboo.com/?p=18826 Popol Nah

Popol Nah's a Latin American-inspired restaurant along the touristy stretch of Lygon St in Carlton. We enjoyed a 7-course degustation deal here.

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Popol Nah

171 Lygon St
Carlton, VIC 3053
03 9347 3293
Website

Popol Nah

There aren’t that many gems along the touristy stretch that’s Lygon St… full of large, apronned, moustachioed waiters trying to lure you to dine at their (mostly crappy) Italian restaurants. A diamond in the rough is hard to find, although I find myself being quite partial towards Helados Jauja, Koko Black and maybe D.O.C. Espresso.

Popol Nah

All that said, Popol Nah popped up on this stretch earlier this year, and from the interior (and lack of doorway touts), you can already tell it’s different from the rest of the restaurants. Plus the focus is on Latin American food, as opposed to “Shitalian”… on it went onto my restaurant wishlist.

Months later, I pounced on a Groupon offer for a Seven Course Latin Degustation (including Sangria) priced at $95 for four persons. That’s how Fatbee and I ended up here a few weeks ago with Lorena and Jerri. A long overdue catchup with his friends, if I might add.

Popol Nah
Red Wine Sangria

I think that group social voucher meals can be a little hit and miss. Sure you’re getting a heckuva discount out of it, but quite often the restaurants participating in it tends to treat you like they’re herding cattle. On this front, I’ll have to say that Popol Nah did none of that. The staff were friendly, attentive, humorous and professional even though they knew right from the start we were embarking on a voucher deal. And they were this way right off the bat from the moment we entered, before my camera even appeared.

We started off with a glass of Sangria each, with a choice of red wine or white wine Sangria. All of us went with red, which came nice with rich and rounded flavours. In retrospect, I should’ve asked for the white wine Sangria just out of curiosity.

Popol Nah
Empanada vegetarian – chickpea, sweet potato and silverbeet in baked pastry with crema fresca

And so our meal began… it has certainly taken me more than a year to get over my phobia of South American fare from my trip to Peru, Chile and Argentina. Peruvian food, in particular, is damn scary (and gassy)… where a meal can consist of rice, corn AND potatoes all on the one plate, served alongside with quinoa, beans and other grains. Yeeks!

The first course consisted of vegetarian empanadas with a mild push of paprika inside. It was pretty interesting that the accompanying dipping ‘sauce’ was a dollop of fresh cream!

Popol Nah
Anafre de chorizo – cheese fondue, chorizo and corn chips

Next came cheese fondue scattered with deep fried chorizo crumbs and a serve of housemade corn chips. Please take note that all of the serves you’re seeing in this blog post are shared between two persons.

Popol Nah

It was a fun and stretchy dish. I liked how milky the cheese was, and it stayed that way because of the really hot cast iron dish it sat in. My only gripe was how the scatter of chorizo crumbs pushed the salt levels a bit too high for my liking.

Popol Nah
Albondigas – lamb and beef meatballs in a tomato sofrito

The third dish consisted of firm, peppery meatballs with blushingly pink insides. I really enjoyed the comforting red sauce that it sat in, and the tangy pieces of pineapple salsa on top gave it a nice lift.

Popol NahPollo con adobo – fresh baked chicken breast in adobo with vegetables

Our mains came as baked chicken breast in adobo sauce. I’d always thought that adobo was a Filipino stew, but Wikipedia tells me that as a sauce, it’s a different thing that’s of Spanish origin. This adobo sauce tasted like it had briefly cooked peppers, jalapeños and paprika in it and I enjoyed how light it tasted.

The roasted pumpkin and zucchini had a nice chargrilled caramelisation to it, but sadly, the chicken breast itself was on the firm and dry overcooked side.

Popol NahPatatas bravas – potatoes with tomato sauce and aioli
Ensalada de vegetables – shredded zucchini, kale, cucumber and pickled vegetables

By this point, we were pretty stuffed, but here’s the sides that came with our mains. A serve of twice cooked potatoes that could’ve been a bit less salty and less soggy… nice tomato sauce on top of it though. And a vegetable salad of lightly marinated kale with zucchini, accompanied with pickled beans, carrots and cauliflower.

I liked the kale and zucchini component of the salad because it wasn’t overdressed. However, we left that pile of sour sour pickles alone, as we’d all grown accustomed to the spicy-fragrant Malaysian variant (with chillies, sesame seeds et. al.) that’s called achar.

Popol NahPopol NahPrana Chai Lattes
Arroz en leche – rice pudding, caramel, banana

For sweets, we had rice pudding along with our choice of coffee, teas or chai. We all went with the same thing – soy chai, and they served it with a little bowl of agave syrup to sweeten it with. The rice pudding was a good dessert, although I found it odd how the actual rice in it was a bit crunchy.

Popol Nah

A few of the dishes here could be improved on, but overall this teaser degustation at Popol Nah had many highlights and it was a delightful spread of Latin American-inspired dishes. The ambience and service was excellent too.

I think this place is a good example of a group social voucher deal done correctly. Treat your customers well, tease us with good food and give us a good overall experience. Do that we’ll end up wanting to come back to sample more of the menu. On this front, Fatbee wants to come back to try the beef short ribs in broth and the slow cooked lamb shanks, while I’m keen on having a South American brunch of huevos rancheros or bocadillos here.

Popol Nah

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Hainanese Beef Noodles http://fatboo.com/2014/07/hainanese-beef-noodles-hwa-heng-toa-payoh.html http://fatboo.com/2014/07/hainanese-beef-noodles-hwa-heng-toa-payoh.html#comments Thu, 03 Jul 2014 09:55:13 +0000 http://fatboo.com/?p=18628 Hainanese Beef Noodles

Good Hainanese Beef Noodles in Singapore (Toa Payoh Hwa Heng). From the legacy of Odeon Beef Noodle stalls (Odeon Theatre / Scotts Picnic) since the 70's.

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Hainanese Beef Noodles

It has been a few years since I’d spoken about Singaporean hawker fare, but I think it’s high time that I reopen this chapter! For those of you who’re following me for Melbourne eats, just bear with me while I indulge in this joyous post.

Back in Singapore, I used to love eating at Odeon Beef Noodles inside Scotts Picnic Food Court near Orchard Road circa the 1990’s. That was way back when I was a dorky Secondary school kid… Yeeks! In fact, that’s not where this hawker began, I hear that the Odeon legacy began in Odeon Theatre in the 1970’s, before I was born…

Hainanese Beef Noodles
Stall in Bendemeer Rd Food Centre |  Mixed beef soup

Toa Payoh – Hwa Heng Beef Noodle

Blk 29 Bendemeer Rd, #01-01
Bendemeer Road Market Food Centre
Singapore 330029
(alight at Boon Keng MRT Station)
GoogleMap

Wed-Fri: 10am – 5.30pm
Sat-Sun: 10am – 2.30pm
Closed on Mon & Tues

Details up to date as of June 2014

But this very stall that’s now in Bendemeer Rd Food Centre is actually part of that family legacy of said beef noodle vendors. I hear it’s run by the younger of the two brothers who own the business. I love that there are hawkers out there that keep the age-old heritage and recipes alive.

Hainanese Beef Noodles
The stall’s old location, in Maude Road

As you know, hawkers move from place to place over the decades, so this was Hwa Heng’s old premises (circa 2010) before they moved to Bendemeer Road. Yes, I’d continued to follow the trail of Odeon Yummyness right through the years. And regardless of location, the quality of the beef noodles have remained consistent. They’re awesome.

Hainanese Beef Noodles
S$4 Medium

Our family (and most Singaporeans) prefer the dry version of this beef noodles when we eat here. Dad just simply calls it ‘gu bak’ which is Hokkien for ‘beef’. And when we’re talking about the soup version, dad would call it gu bak kway teow (which translates to beef with flat rice noodles).

The classic version of this dish comes in a beautiful, dark and thickish sauce that hides a slippery tangle of perfectly cooked thick rice noodles (the type that you’d get with Singapore Laksa). A bed of lightly cooked rare beef sits above the noodles… and to top it all off, there’s a sprinkle of coriander, bean sprouts, salted vegetables and a dash of white pepper. The noodles boasts a firm bite without stretchy resilience and the gently herbed, hearty sauce coats the slippery noodles very nicely.

Hainanese Beef Noodles
Top: chea bak (rare beef)
Bottom: Sek bak (cooked beef) 

There are various types of beef that you can have with this noodle, but my family prefers rare beef (chea bak). Looking at the collagen-streaked sek bak (cooked beef), you can already tell that it isn’t as great a cut of meat. And when mum or dad orders, they’d make sure that the hawker serves our chea bak nice and rare.

Hainanese Beef Noodles

And this is how I like to eat my beef noodles… with the chea bak, noodles and a bit of the tangy fresh-made chilli sauce all on the one spoon. You can also squeeze a piece of calamansi lime over the noodles to help lift its flavour.

To be honest, it’s such a yummy offering that the whole bowl is gone within three minutes. I find it almost impossible to act civilised when eating this.

Note to self: next time I eat this when I’m back in Singapore, I need to control myself and enjoy every bite…!

Hainanese Beef Noodles

To supplant our bowls of dry noodles, dad would normally order a cleansing, piping-hot bowl of mixed beef soup, once again specifying that the rare beef be just briefly blanched before serving. The nuanced, brothy soup here is as wonderful as the dry noodles. They compliment each other very well.

Hainanese Beef Noodles
From left: beef stomach | tendon

The mixed beef soup also includes beef tripe, tendons and beef stomach (but dad would specify that they don’t include beef balls).

Hainanese Beef Noodles

Dammit… just writing this post up makes me want to jump on a plane and slam into this gorgeous bowl of gu bak again. It’s funny how overseas Singaporeans can’t stop loving the food that we grew up eating.

By the way, if you’re looking for the elder brother’s stall (who used to be in Scotts Picnic), he’s now located in Ion Orchard. It’s just as good, but pricier simply because of its premium CBD location.

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Yim Yam Thai Laos (Yarraville) http://fatboo.com/2014/07/yim-yam-thai-laos-yarraville.html http://fatboo.com/2014/07/yim-yam-thai-laos-yarraville.html#comments Tue, 01 Jul 2014 07:15:34 +0000 http://fatboo.com/?p=18548 Yim Yam Thai Laos (Yarraville)

Yim Yam specialises in Thai and Laos food, with four branches in Melbourne. But I found the flavours to be on the sweet, mild and toned-down side.

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Yim Yam Thai Laos (Yarraville)

40 Ballarat St
Yarraville, VIC 3013
03 9687 8585
Website

I remember one of the first few meals I had with Fatbee was Yim Yam (Yarraville branch), packed into takeaway boxes, that he brought over to my place after I’d finished late at work one night. It was quite a delicious (albeit mild and sweet) meal.

Yim Yam Thai Laos (Yarraville)

Fast forward more than half a year later and we found ourselves back at Yim Yam, this time with Fatbee’s visiting mum. I’ll have to say it was a bit of an awkward week for us, because Mummybee hasn’t quite accepted his ‘alternative’ lifestyle quite yet and probably will take a few years if not longer to come to terms with him being gay.

On this front, I think it’s such a pain, because you don’t see the average straight boy sitting his parents down and having to choke out the words “Mom… dad… I like chicks. Please don’t hate me.”. But for people like Fatbee and myself, it’s a long drawn-out process before what’s absolutely natural for us gets accepted by our very own parents whom we love.

Thankfully, I’ve gone through that process more than a decade ago and my folks are absolutely cool with my ‘fabulousness’ now.

Yim Yam Thai Laos (Yarraville)

So part of the strategy for that week involved picking his mom’s favourite food places for dinner, and having friends and colleagues at the table as a form of buffer and show of support. For this meal, I’d like to thank Fatbee’s colleague Narelle (and her partner) for being there with us for this meal.

Yim Yam Thai Laos (Yarraville)
Expanded section of restaurant

Yim Yam in Yarraville used to be a hole-in-the-wall eatery that seats at most 15 people, and it’s always full. But they’ve now extended to the shop next door. The interior is quite nicely done up with textured wooden tables and chairs, and a central buddha-like statue with one arm up that reminds me of those big-smile wavy-hands Chinese greeting cats.

The menu is dauntingly huge and it covers dishes from both Thailand and its neighbour Laos. I got a little lost, so left the ordering to Fatbee who’s been here pretty often when he used to live in Yarraville.

Yim Yam Thai Laos (Yarraville)Thai Pancakes (2) $8.90
Sweet shredded dried pork with coriander and mild chilli sauce wrapped in our special light pancakes
Tom Yum Prawn $8.90
Our home-style version of the famous Thai soup with prawns 

We started of with a serve of fluffy pancakes stuffed with pork floss and veggies. The use of mayo pushed it towards the sweet and fusiony side, reminding me of a Westernised wrap, but I did not mind it.

The Thai tom yum soup came sweet and milky with low to medium sourness and spice levels. It’s definitely different to the incredibly fragrant, spicy and coconut milk-free tom yums that I’m normally used to. All that said, it was pretty agreeable in its own right. But if you’re a stickler for authenticity, don’t order this.

Yim Yam Thai Laos (Yarraville)
Toasted Rice & Coconut Salad $13.90
A popular Lao dish of crunchy toasted rice, shredded coconut flakes, herbs, vegetables and ground peanuts, Matt Preston’s favourite!

Because Narelle was a budding vegetarian, we went with more vegetarian selections from the menu. The first being a pretty unique serve of Laotian toasted rice with coconut. It reminded me of the crispy leaves of rice that you’d get when you scrape the edges of a coal-fired claypot, and the shredded coconut gave it a fragrant aroma.

Yim Yam Thai Laos (Yarraville)Tofu Larp $12.90
Fresh minced tofu mixed with Laos herbs and fresh mint

Next came minced tofu stir-fried with Laotian herbs. Mild flavours aside, it was quite different and pretty interesting especially with the gentle herb flavours mixed in.

Yim Yam Thai Laos (Yarraville)
Green Curry Vegetarian $14.50
The rich, authentic Thai classic, made with our home ground curry paste
Crispy Fish Khun Por $17.90
Father’s secret Thai seafood sauce coating delicious flavoursome fish pieces. What we can tell you is that it has a fragrant base of chilli with tamarind lemon and orange

We opted for vegetarian green curry instead of chicken. It was rich and sweet with only a slow creeping medium heat and a distinct lack of Thai eggplants. It’s a crowd-pleasing recipe that will suit most local tastebuds, but not mine.

Our final dish was deep fried fish fillets with sweet chilli sauce, which was Mummybee’s favourite dish here on a previous visit. Personally, I found it to have too much batter around it (a pet peeve of mine), and the sweet chilli sauce made it even more sickly.

Yim Yam Thai Laos (Yarraville)

One may query whether I was less enthusiastic about this meal partly because of the awkwardness from dining with Mummybee’s disapproving glare from across the table. But I’ll just set it straight that Mummybee was actually very nice towards me, and with the other meals that I’ve had with her for that week… I pretty much ate like the Tasmanian Devil in Looney Tunes, forgoing all sensibilities of table manners.

In a nutshell, I found the offerings at Yim Yam to be on the mild side and nowhere near as punchy as what Thai food really is. Fatbee, Narelle and partner seemed to think so too… I suspect the flavours have been toned down further to suit the local palate recently.

And one final thing was the speed of service. Even though we were asked if we’re happy if the food all came at once (we said yes!), the meal ended up stretching past one and a half hours, coming one-dish-at-a-time. This isn’t a fine-dining spot, so I’d much prefer if it was done street-eats style where they slam all the dishes at you in quick succession.

Yim Yam Thai Laos (Yarraville)

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Cherry & Twigs Specialty Coffee http://fatboo.com/2014/06/cherry-twigs-specialty-coffee.html http://fatboo.com/2014/06/cherry-twigs-specialty-coffee.html#comments Sat, 28 Jun 2014 22:00:59 +0000 http://fatboo.com/?p=18643 Cherry & Twigs Specialty Coffee

Small nook of a cafe in Melbourne's CBD with exceptionally good coffee using beans from The Maling Room.

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Cherry & Twigs Specialty Coffee

547-555 Flinders Ln
Melbourne, VIC 3000
03 9614 7096
Facebook Page

This will be a quick post, but before I start, let me make it known that Fatbee is friends with the owner of Cherry & Twigs. All that said, we paid for our meal when we visited.

Cherry & Twigs Specialty Coffee

We decided to pop into this cute little nook of a CBD cafe for a quick brunch on our way to an afternoon screening of Jon Favreau’s CHEF (which by the way is a fabulous movie that all foodies should watch!). Fatbee had been here a number of times already, but he was keen on dragging his dSLR-toting boyfrang (ie. moi) here to document this cafe as part of his Melbourne food adventures.

Cherry & Twigs Specialty CoffeeCherry & Twigs Specialty Coffee

It’s a cute little space that seats at most 20 people inside. But the La Marzocco (Strada) coffee machine and the cold drip set-up in the middle of the communal table at the front piqued my curiosity the most… as it’s quite indicative of a cafe that knows its coffee.

Cherry & Twigs Specialty CoffeeSingle Origin Piccolo (Thalanar Estate, India) $3.50

Once I learnt that they use beans from The Maling Room here, I knew I had to have a cup, even if I’d already had a coffee earlier that morning. And just as well I did… my single origin piccolo came delicious and chocolatey with floral notes and a syrupy mouthfeel.

It’s rare that I gush about a good cup of coffee these days, but this cup pretty much blew me away. What I liked about it is how beautifully balanced it was… it’s neither too hot or too strong or too astringent. All the hints and notes comes at you evenly.

Cherry & Twigs Specialty CoffeeCherry & Twigs Specialty Coffee
Corn Fritters with smoked salmon, spinach, avocado, cherry tomatoes and honey lemon vinaigrette dressing $14.00

The brunch menu here is simple. Fatbee had corn fritters served on a bed of healthy spinach.

Cherry & Twigs Specialty Coffee

He enjoyed how the crisp fritters were cooked Indonesian-style with a gentle hint of spices.

Cherry & Twigs Specialty Coffee
Breakfast Roll with bacon, fried egg, avocado and homemade tomato relish $12.00

I enjoyed a simple breakfast roll with all the things that I love. The herbed tomato relish was particularly good and when I was eating into this with my hands… the runny yolk ran down my fingers. Messy eating is the best way of eating!

Cherry & Twigs Specialty Coffee

To be honest, I walked into this low key place without any expectations, only to discover that the coffee at Cherry & Twigs is exceptionally good. It should be part of any anyone’s coffee trail in Melbourne, alongside with the likes of Proud Mary, Patricia Coffee Brewers and Market Lane Coffee.

Cherry & Twigs Specialty Coffee

Cherry & Twigs Specialty Coffee

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3 Days in Paris http://fatboo.com/2014/06/paris-france-eiffel.html http://fatboo.com/2014/06/paris-france-eiffel.html#comments Thu, 26 Jun 2014 09:53:19 +0000 http://fatboo.com/?p=14019 3 Days in Paris

First instalment of a 3 week long holiday in France with my folks. This post covers our time in Paris, the City of Lights.

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3 Days in Paris

Time to share more holiday experiences, this time it’ll be a 3 week trip around France. But before you begin this post, you may be interested in how my parents and I arrived here in style… by flying first class on the A380.

Whoa-my-gosh I still get a kick outta saying that… =D

3 Days in Paris

Here’s the boutique hotel we stayed at in Paris. Clean, nicely appointed and expensive… but Paris hotels are all scarily pricey anyway.

3 Days in Paris

We landed early in the morning on Sunday… after putting our bags down, we started exploring the city right away.

The Louvre

3 Days in Paris3 Days in Paris

First up, the obligatory visit to The Louvre. Dad knew we had to come early to beat the crowds, and he even researched where to find the back entrance… where the queue’s much shorter.

3 Days in Paris

We didn’t stay long and the crowd got quite annoying. So it was a case of seeing (from a distance) the original painting of Mona Lisa (pictured right… a bit of an A4-sized joke), the statue of Venus de Milo, and a few more exhibits before we hightailed it outta there.

3 Days in Paris

Dad was our tour guide, and our explorations involved a lot of trips in the comprehensive Parisian Metro system… and lots of walking along its streets.

3 Days in Paris Place Des Voges

Ile Saint Louis

3 Days in Paris3 Days in Paris

On this note, I’ll have to say that this is quite a lovely city to just stroll around in… getting lost in its narrow, beautiful streets.

Ile De La Cite

3 Days in Paris3 Days in Paris

And the locals certainly know how to dine alfresco with style!

3 Days in Paris3 Days in Paris

Tour Eiffel

On day 2, we lined up at the entrance of Eiffel Tower one hour before it opened. Trying to visit the tower at any other time of the day would usually mean hours of waiting in the queue.

3 Days in Paris

By the time the monument opened for business, the queue literally stretched for a kilometre! Glad we did our research, we were the 12th in line. One can’t visit Paris without doing the Eiffel Tower!

3 Days in Paris

A series of small creaky lifts took us to the top deck.

3 Days in Paris

And up there in the sky, we got to drink in the sight of this historical city in the morning.

3 Days in Paris3 Days in Paris

I could’ve spent forever up there. But we had to move on… another lift took us down to the middle deck, where the view’s almost just as pretty.

3 Days in Paris Arc de Triomphe

3 Days in Paris

3 Days in Paris

Mum was very ‘wowed’ by this city.

3 Days in Paris3 Days in Paris

I confess I did not research where to eat, so we just randomly strolled into places for our meals. This lunch at a creperie in Ile Saint Louis was surprisingly good.

3 Days in Paris

Arc de Triomphe

We continue our tour of the city’s usual suspects tackling the climb up the Arc of Triumph.

3 Days in Paris3 Days in Paris

Loved the crazy winding stairs to the top. And the view’s once again quite breathtaking. That’s Montmartre in the background.

3 Days in Paris Champs Elysees

The Arc is located right at the nexus where many long avenues meet. You could literally see so much of the city from up here.

3 Days in Paris La Defense

3 Days in Paris

Trocadero

In the late afternoon, we made our way to Trocadero, once again to have a view of the iconic Eiffel Tower.

3 Days in Paris

It seems you can be walking anywhere in this city and this magnificent monument can be seen looming in the background.

3 Days in Paris

River Seine Cruise

3 Days in Paris3 Days in Paris

Haha… such tourists, but it was actually a very nice way to see more of Paris without walking your ass off.

3 Days in Paris

3 Days in Paris

We ended the night with dinner at a traditional brasserie in Bastille, recommended by Mr Frenchman. Sadly, this ended up being the priciest and worst meal out of the entire trip.

Day 3

3 Days in Paris Musee Rodin

3 Days in Paris Musee d’Orsay

Our final day was spent visiting more museums. We were also getting a bit worn out from jet lag, and relaxed in the hotel for a bit after lunch at Galleries Lafayette.

3 Days in Paris

Basilica Sacré Coeur

3 Days in Paris3 Days in Paris

Then we spent our final sunset in Paris up on a hill in Montmartre… visiting the Basilica of Sacre-Coeur.

3 Days in Paris

It was busy there, but still quite beautiful.

3 Days in Paris3 Days in Paris Le Petit Lyon

After being burnt at the awful dinner from the night before, we did better research and found a nice little Parisian eatery to dine at. The meal was simple, country-style and very enjoyable.

3 Days in Paris

This ends the Paris instalment of my trip in France. I’m normally not a fan of big cites (Hong Kong and New York included), but there’s something strangely charming about Paris. We definitely did a huge whirlwind tour of all its iconic sights, which was quite tiring. But if I were to revisit this city in the future, I’d spend my time just wandering around its lesser known districts and discovering its hidden secrets.

In the next instalment, we will start venturing into the picturesque countrysides of France, starting with the Loire Valley, Midi Pyrénées and Dordogne Valley.

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iSpicy | iSpicy 2 http://fatboo.com/2014/06/ispicy-thai-restaurant.html http://fatboo.com/2014/06/ispicy-thai-restaurant.html#comments Mon, 23 Jun 2014 20:20:11 +0000 http://fatboo.com/?p=18308 iSpicy | iSpicy 2

Thai food post covering two popular sister restaurants serving decent Thai. Guess which iSpicy branch I prefer?

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iSpicy | iSpicy 2

iSpicy

674-680 Glenferrie Rd
Hawthorn, VIC 3122
03 9818 4828
iSpicy | iSpicy 2

Time to continue my hunt for good Thai food in Melbourne! Today, I’ll be covering two sister branches from a reasonably well-known name in the Thai restaurant scene: iSpicy.

iSpicy | iSpicy 2
Iced coffee $3.00

First the Hawthorn branch. You could call this place The Angmoh’s (Fakegf’s partner) goto lunch spot for a good, spicy Thai feed. A number of my fellow blog buddies also like it here. It’s a hole-in-the-wall kinda stall inside a Hawthorn mall.

Fatbee and I lunched here after I picked him from work on a Thursday. He started off with a pick-me-up iced coffee (a much-needed hit for shift-workers), which came scarily knock-your-socks-off sweet. If the caffeine doesn’t wake you up, the sugar definitely will!

iSpicy | iSpicy 2
Chinese broccoli w pork on rice $10.00

While you probably could order things that are slightly more elaborate here (liked deep fried pork hock / whole barramundi), what’s most popular are their one-dish meals. The menu’s at the counter… walk up, make a quick decision and order. The girl would normally also ask how spicy you’d want it, and of course I’d tell her “Thai spicy!!” (which, by the way, is a very telling sign that I’m soooo not Thai… ha ha!).

My dish of Chinese broccoli stir-fried with pork did not disappoint. It was a generous serve and spicy enough to make me happy, my nose dribbled a bit and I could feel the chilli hotness reaching the depths of my ears a little. If I had a cold with a runny nose that day, it would’ve cleared!

iSpicy | iSpicy 2
Cashew nut sauce w tofu on rice $9.00

Fatbee once again went on a vegetarian slant with a tofu dish, which came less spicy in a sauce that’s sweeter. Flavoursome in its own right… but I preferred my punchier, spicier selection.

I’m a fan of this stall’s cheap and cheery one-dish-meals. If you do visit, you have to try the fried pork belly with Chinese broccoli on rice. For those of you who are scared of spiciness, remember you can always dictate how spicy you want the dishes to be.

iSpicy | iSpicy 2

iSpicy 2

80 Victoria St
Richmond, VIC 3121
03 9429 4559
Website
iSpicy | iSpicy 2

It didn’t take long before I organised a catch-up meal with friends at iSpicy’s bigger sister in Richmond.

iSpicy | iSpicy 2

The restaurant has two floors of seating and the menu is more restauranty shared-dishes style, perfect for bigger groups and quiet(ish) catchups. It’s also quite cute that many of iSpicy’s more popular dishes have been depicted as illustrations against one of it walls.

iSpicy | iSpicy 2iSpicy | iSpicy 2
Som Tum – Green Papaya smattered in the mortar and pestle with lime juice, dried shrimps, green beans, birdseye chilli and tomatoes 10
Thai Fish Cake – made from blended rich, red curry paste, kaffir lime leaves and sliced green beans 8

We started off with a few classic entrees of papaya salad (sans salted crab) and Thai fish cakes. While I enjoyed the fragrant fish cakes, the som tum only afforded a mild creeping spiciness on the tongue.

iSpicy | iSpicy 2iSpicy | iSpicy 2
Mixed Vegetables With Oyster Sauce 16
BBQ Stuffed Calamari – Marinated minced chicken stuffed in calamari grilled served with spicy lemon sauce 14

Next up, an obligatory mixed vegetable dish and a rather interesting dish of a whole calamari stuffed with minced chicken then lightly barbecued. Both dishes, while decent, felt a little more catered towards the Western palate.

iSpicy | iSpicy 2
Pork Shank – slowly three hours cooked in five spicy herbs then deep fried until crispy then serve with spicy sauce 25

We of course also got a serve of one of iSpicy’s signature dishes, deep fried pork shank. So very sinful, crispy and delicious.

iSpicy | iSpicy 2
Complimentary Thai Milk Tea (Comes with the Pork Shank)

The flesh and fat inside was still very soft and unctuous. And because this platter sat in front of me the whole night (plus I’m not afraid of fat), I ate more than the lion’s share!

iSpicy | iSpicy 2
Steamed Whole Fish and Spicy Lemon Sauce 28

To help assuage some of the calorific guilt from that giant hunk of shank, we got a whole steamed barramundi. I was initially skeptical about it… coming with a ‘spicy lemon sauce’. But it actually turned out pretty good, almost like it has been steamed in a light tom yum-style broth.

iSpicy | iSpicy 2iSpicy | iSpicy 2
Turmeric Fried Chicken – crispy fried chicken marinated in coriander roots and garlic. Served with sweet chilli sauce 18
Garlic Soft Crab – deep fried soft crab topping with crunchy garlic 23

And finally, a few more supporting dishes… both of which were not that great. The turmeric fried chicken was probably a lost-in-translation kind of dish. It contained no turmeric whatsoever and tasted more like it was marinated in cumin (or coriander seeds) then over fried into odd-tasting nuggets of dry and hard chicken. And both dishes came deep fried with too much flour and batter.

iSpicy | iSpicy 2iSpicy | iSpicy 2Thai Coconut Rice Pancake 8

On a more positive note, the desserts here were good. These petite, fresh-made coconut pancakes were a delight to teeth into. The rich coconut cream inside the still-hot coconut cakes had a nice savoury element to it. Everyone loved it.

iSpicy | iSpicy 2
Sticky Rice Durian 10

And here’s the dish of the night. Instead of the usual mango sticky rice motif, they offer durian with sticky rice here. Durian is a pretty awesome fruit with a pungent, creamy flesh… if you have not heard about it, I’ve written a whole post dedicated to Durian, The King of Fruit.

But why this dessert was so good here was because they’d actually used the flesh from fresh durians rather than from its essence. And the savouriness in the coconut milk-laced sticky rice help cut through the richness of the durian.

iSpicy | iSpicy 2

There were a few hits and misses with the food we ordered here, but I have to concede that maybe we didn’t pick the dishes sensibly (there were no soups or curries). Some of the dishes also felt a bit ‘toned down’, although serving durian in its own right suggests the opposite.

All that said, I personally think I’d just stick with visiting this place for its one-dish-meal lunches, assuming the quality and spice levels will be pretty similar to its little sister in Hawthorn.

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A Day in Yarra Valley http://fatboo.com/2014/06/rochford-winery-giant-steps-yarra-valley.html http://fatboo.com/2014/06/rochford-winery-giant-steps-yarra-valley.html#comments Sun, 22 Jun 2014 00:15:29 +0000 http://fatboo.com/?p=18459 A Day in Yarra Valley

Had a pleasant day trip in the Yarra Valley with lunch at Rochford Winery, dessert at Giant Steps and an autumn walk at Alfred Nicholas Memorial Gardens.

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A Day in Yarra Valley

I’ve been quite a homebody with Fatbee for sometime now… cooking at home, saving money for our next holiday. If you already read it, our last (short but memorable) luxury trip to Bali cost us quite a packet. But it’s a bit ironic that it took a restaurant’s invite to visit a winery in The Yarra Valley to drag us out of our comfy couches this autumn and breathe a bit of country air…!

Isabella’s at Rochford

Rochford Winery
878-880 Maroondah Hwy
Coldstream, VIC 3770
03 5962 2119
Website
A Day in Yarra Valley

Disclosure: Fatbee and I lunched here courtesy of Rochford Winery.

A Day in Yarra Valley
A Day in Yarra Valley

This is my first out-of-town blog invite, so to speak. The morning drive was pleasant that Wednesday… coasting down the Eastern Freeway, then down Maroondah Hwy past Lilydale and beyond. Our destination was one of the many lush vineyards in the Yarra Valley.

A Day in Yarra Valley
Restaurant section

We opted for lunch on a weekday where it’d be quieter (oh dear… like pensioners), plus we could spend the rest of the day exploring the region.

A Day in Yarra Valley
Cafe section

But sadly, on arrival we learnt that the restaurant isn’t open during lunch on weekdays, so we could only sit in and experience the cafe menu (ie. the less plush section within the same building).

A Day in Yarra Valley
Assiette de Charcuterie $22 Northern Italian Sopressa salami, Spanish Jamon Serrano, Tasmanian pastrami, Southern Italy nduja, Tasmanian spice pork loin, cornichons, caperberries, mustards, horseradish & crisp sourdough ciabatta

We started off with a selection of cured meats from the kitchen. I liked the Jamon Serrano best, and the accompanying cornichons and caperberries were good.

A Day in Yarra Valley
Panko Crusted Calamari $19 Fried Calamari with citrus & garlic aioli

Next came a rather generous platter of crisp fried calamari, no complaints here.

A Day in Yarra Valley
Truffle Infused Fettuccini $27
Marinated local mushrooms with confit garlic al ‘olio, baby spinach, parmesan & truffle oil

Fatbee went vegetarian with a very enticing platter of mushroom pasta drizzled with truffle oil. It was good, but we wished there was even more truffle action in the dish as the truffle fragrance was very fleeting only.

A Day in Yarra Valley
Wagyu, Foie Gras & Truffle Burger $34
Wagyu steak burger pan fried foie gras, truffle oil, Swiss gruyere cheese, tomato chutney, piccalilli, brioche burger bun & shoestring fries

But I went for what looked like the star of the cafe menu, with a triple heart-bypass kind of burger containing Wagyu, foie gras and brioche! It looked like an amazing offering, but I was a bit crestfallen that it was more a Wagyu patty than a Wagyu steak despite the menu description. Also, the brioche bun could’ve been softer, and I could not really detect the aroma of truffles in this offering.

A Day in Yarra Valley
A Day in Yarra Valley
Complimentary bottles of wine with our visit

Our visit to Isabella’s cafe section, while pleasant,  did not quite hit the mark completely. Perhaps it might’ve been a case of us not experiencing the restaurant menu which, from other blog posts about this place, looked very exciting. All the same, I’d like to thank Rochford Winery for inviting us in and all the best with Isabella’s!

A Day in Yarra Valley

Giant Steps – Innocent Bystander

336 Maroondah Hwy
Healesville, VIC 3777
03 5962 6111
Website
A Day in Yarra Valley

We next drove down to nearby Healesville for dessert.
NB: from here on we paid for everything and it isn’t invite-related.

A Day in Yarra Valley

It’s quite interesting how our minds remember things… Fatbee asked ‘have you been to Giant Steps in Healesville?’ and I replied ‘Nope, but hey… does Innocent Bystander have a restaurant?’. So my subconscious actually did remember Giant Steps… if only by word association.

A Day in Yarra Valley
goats curd cheese cake with strawberry & pistachio 11

We indulged by sharing a slice of goats curd cheesecake, accompanied with cleansing cups of hot tea. It was a pretty awesome dessert… I liked how the cake’s base was made up of crushed pistachios and they drizzled the slice with rose-scented syrup.

A Day in Yarra Valley

I also noticed that White Rabbit brewery is located right opposite Giant Steps, and the eatery section looked very casual yet inviting. Worth a visit in the future?

A Day in Yarra Valley

Alfred Nicholas Memorial Gardens

Sherbrooke Road
Sherbrooke, VIC 3789

The rest of the afternoon was spent getting lost in the country roads, and we ended up here in the Dandenong Ranges.

A Day in Yarra Valley

I’ll have to say autumn can be such a pretty and evocative season of the year. The colour palette of leaves turning into yellow, red, magenta and gold… fragmenting in the breeze, carpeting the earth and enveloping the still lake’s waters… breathtaking. I am so glad I live in a country that experiences four seasons.

A Day in Yarra Valley

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Operator 25 http://fatboo.com/2014/06/operator-25-cafe-melbourne.html http://fatboo.com/2014/06/operator-25-cafe-melbourne.html#comments Wed, 18 Jun 2014 21:45:02 +0000 http://fatboo.com/?p=18475 Operator 25

A pretty decent cafe in Melbourne's CBD with interesting dishes such as Balinese pulled pork sandwich with sweet potato wedges.

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Operator 25

25 Wills Street
Melbourne, VIC 3000
03 9670 3278
Website

Alright, I’m starting to get a little overwhelmed by my post backlog…! Prior to my bali trip with Fatbee, I was completely up to date… but now I’m lagging behind by nearly two months.

Operator 25

Our visit to Operator 25 happened right after we’d returned from Bali back in April. It was my last catch up with my good friend, Ees, before he embarked on a work assignment in Brisbane. On a side note, I heard that the road rules and driving skills of Queenslanders can be quite hilarious (they can’t switch lanes… ha ha!).

Ees originally wanted to brunch at Silo By Joost, but we arrived there that Sunday morning only to discover that it was shut (so much for Urbanspoon being accurate). Plan B popped up swiftly… and we made a snap decision to head for this cafe as a good alternative.

Operator 25Piccolo $3.8

In the caffeine department, Operator25 uses Summer Blend (by Code Black Coffee) for their milk-based drinks, and Cartel Roasters for their black coffees. My piccolo came dark and punchy… it was okay, not the best I’ve had, but I’m not keen on Code Black beans anyway.

Operator 25
Breakfast Tortilla filled with Scrambled Egg, Bacon, Aged Cheddar, Herb Oil, Sweet Corn and Black Eyed Beans Salsa $15

Ees feasted on an egg and bacon breakfast wrap that came with lots of pesto and beans, I think he didn’t mind it.

Operator 25
Ricotta and Vanilla Hot Cakes, Poached Pear, Hazelnut, Maple Syrup, “Strudel” Mascarpone $16

Meanwhile, Little Death (Ees’s partner) surprised me when he ordered the hot cakes. I’m so used to him going for the porridge / mueslis when brunching. He enjoyed this offering, and looking at it.. I probably would’ve enjoyed it too!

Operator 25
Balinese marinated Pulled Pork, Coleslaw, Chilli Mayo, Coriander, Fried Shallot on Brioche Roll with Sweet Potato Wedges $20

Fatbee decided to reminisce our days of seaside luxury in Bali by having a pulled pork sandwich that’s marinated Balinese-style. He quite liked it… especially the crisp wedges of sweet potato.

Operator 25
French Omelette on Toast, filled with Smoked Salmon $15

I decided on a moist omelette with sourdough toast and smoked salmon, it was one of those days (especially after a holiday) where you’d just want the comforting basics.

Operator 25

I’ll just be frank and say that this cafe served up an okay brunch experience. But to be fair, you can’t expect each and every spot to nail it exactly like how I like it in the coffee, food and ambience department.

All that said, I think Operator25 stands its ground quite well with the office crowd in the CBD, which looks like the demographic they’re catering for. And speaking of work and offices… I’d like to wish Ees all the best for his job and adventures in Queensland!

Operator 25

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Hungarian Goulash Recipe http://fatboo.com/2014/06/hungarian-goulash-recipe-hearty-chunky.html http://fatboo.com/2014/06/hungarian-goulash-recipe-hearty-chunky.html#comments Sun, 15 Jun 2014 20:08:57 +0000 http://fatboo.com/?p=18664 Hungarian Goulash Recipe

Recipe for a hearty and wholesome Hungarian Goulash. A perfect dish for a cold winters night. This recipe tries to follow how the peasants would cook it.

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Hungarian Goulash Recipe

After a number of freezing weeks this winter, the prospect of a nice, warming Hungarian Goulash really appealed to me. It’s a hearty stew that’s popular amongst the herdsmen in Hungary (even today), they’d cook it out in the fields in an iron kettle over an open fire. In fact, gulyás in Hungarian means ‘herdsman’.

Hungarian Goulash Recipe

My curiosity around cooking it increased threefold after watching Jonathan Phang’s Gourmet Express last week (that guy’s a riot, by the way). He was in a traditional home in Budapest learning how to cook the dish and the Hungarian lady teaching him her legacy told him that a proper Hungarian Goulash does not contain four key attributes:

no tomatoes, no flour, no butter, no Spanish paprika.

Memories of the best Goulash I’d ever had (while on holiday in Budapest circa 2006) flooded in, and I really really wanted to make this dish.

That’s how this project came about, I scoured the internet for authentic recipes, immediately dismissing any that contained flour / butter / tomatoes / Spanish paprika. And here’s the (adapted) recipe that I eventually put together. I initially did not want to publish it as it’s unfamiliar territory and I’m a lot more confident with my Asian recipes, but Fatbee loved this goulash so much that he convinced me to share it with you.

Hungarian Goulash RecipeHungarian Goulash Recipe
Chillies, peppers or capsicums?

Right from the get go, I already faced pitfalls with the sourcing of the ingredients. First up, I didn’t know what type of peppers to buy… and each country calls peppers by different names. Can Hungarian wax peppers even be found in Australia? I eventually settled on a variety of non-spicy baby capsicums for the recipe, they were pretty fragrant and sweet.

Hungarian Goulash Recipe
Hungarian (sweet) paprika, bay leaves, caraway seeds

Fortunately, Hungarian paprika was easy enough to find. On this front, I am stepping out of my cooking comfort zone here… the Asian in me was kinda curious (and tempted) to use turmeric powder instead of paprika, and curry leaves instead of bay leaves… hah!

Hungarian Goulash RecipeHungarian Goulash Recipe
Carrots, potatoes, parsnip, onions, garlic, beef stock
Bacon, casserole beef

Goulash becomes thick and stewy from the breaking down of the onions and the root vegetables during the long cooking process. I think recipes using flour as thickeners are probably seeking to speed up the cooking time. Meanwhile, I substituted pork fat (which is what the peasants would use) with bacon to get the oil for cooking. As for the beef, any cheap cut (shin, shoulder) would probably do because the lovingly slow cooking time will make it very soft and tender.

Hungarian Goulash Recipe
Hungarian Goulash RecipeChopped onions, carrots and parsnip | Continental parsley
Caraway seeds | Bacon, garlic 

The preparation stage can be a bit fiddly, with lots of peeling, chopping, dicing and slicing. And the caraway seeds are lightly toasted then ground to a powder.

Hungarian Goulash Recipe

But once the prep work is finished, cooking it is a pretty breezy, leisurely affair. First up, the fat is rendered off from the bacon, you then brown the beef in batches using the bacon fat.

Hungarian Goulash Recipe

Remove the beef from the pot then cook the chopped onions till it softens and turns brown.

And now, the next step is important. You have to remove the pot from heat for a minute or so before adding the paprika. This prevents the paprika from turning bitter.

Hungarian Goulash RecipeHungarian Goulash Recipe

Next, add the beef and garlic (I also added the cooked bacon for flavour) and stir over low heat to combine the flavours. Cover with beef stock, then add the bay leaves and caraway seeds. It is then simmered for two hours.

Hungarian Goulash Recipe

After two hours, add the rest of the vegetables except for the capsicum. Simmer for another two hours.

Hungarian Goulash Recipe

The peppers are added 10-15 minutes before serving and the goulash is seasoned to taste with salt and pepper. Serve with a dollop of sour cream.

Hungarian Goulash Recipe

The end result was a wholesome, chunky stew with fall apart soft beef and lots of natural sweetness from the onions, root vegetables and peppers. And amazingly, even though this goulash does not contain any tomatoes, it somehow tastes like it does!

Personally, the Asian in me wants more spiciness and less sweetness in this stew. So the next time I cook it, I’ll probably bastardise it by adding some Cayenne pepper to the mix and perhaps use oxtails instead of casserole beef. I’d also omit the parsnip (I don’t like its fragrance) and source spicier capsicums. Believe it or not, I found the baby capsicums too sweet… what’s wrong with me??

Hungarian Goulash Recipe

Hungarian Goulash

Serves 6-8
Preparation Time: 1hr
Cooking Time: 4hrs 

Ingredients

1.2kg casserole beef (cubed)
2-3 pieces of bacon (diced)
5 yellow onions (finely chopped)
3 carrots (diced)
1 parsnip (diced)
½ cup continental parsley (finely chopped)
8-12 baby capsicums (cored & coarsely chopped)
3 large red potatoes (sliced)
2 cloves of fresh garlic (crushed)
1 tbsp Hungarian paprika
2 tsp caraway seeds
2 bay leaves
Beef stock
½ cup red wine
Salt, black pepper
Sour cream

Method:

In a non-stick pan, dry fry the Caraway seeds till fragrant, then grind till fine

Cook the bacon in a heavy-bottomed pot over medium heat till fat is rendered off, then remove bacon, leaving the oil
Increase to high heat and sear the cubed beef in batches, removing beef from the pot once browned
Over medium heat, add and cook the chopped onions till softened and browned
Remove pot from heat, wait for 1-2 mins for pot to cool, then stir in the Hungarian paprika
Return pot to the stove & over low heat, add the seared beef, cooked bacon and crushed garlic, stir for a few minutes
Add enough beef stock to cover, then stir in the bay leaves and ground caraway seeds
Cover and simmer over low heat for 2 hours

Next, add the carrots, parsnips, potatoes, parsley and red wine
Stir to mix, then cover and simmer over low heat for another 2 hours

15 mins before serving, add the chopped capsicum and cook uncovered over medium heat
Season to taste with salt and black pepper
Serve with a dollop of sour cream

For more comforting home recipes, check out my Recipe Index.

Hungarian Goulash Recipe

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