Let's Get Fat Together http://fatboo.com behind every meal, lies a story Mon, 21 Apr 2014 01:35:04 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=3.9 Melbourne’s Mega Cheap Eats http://fatboo.com/2014/04/norsiahs-kitchen-minang-don-don-tojo-embassy-cafe.html http://fatboo.com/2014/04/norsiahs-kitchen-minang-don-don-tojo-embassy-cafe.html#comments Mon, 21 Apr 2014 00:30:32 +0000 http://fatboo.com/?p=13560 Melbourne’s Mega Cheap Eats

Join Fatbee and I as we explore some of the cheapest meals that you can find in Melbourne. Norsiah's Kitchen, Minang, Don Don & Don Tojo.

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Melbourne’s Mega Cheap Eats

Now that I’m with ‘the bee’, coordinating our meals has become a little trickier. And it doesn’t help that we’ve been vegetating a lot in front of the TV after a long day at work. For a person who used to hardly ever watch TV at all, my lifestyle has certainly changed. I find myself quite easily hooked to shows like Four Corners, Aircrash Investigations, QI, Travels with Simon Reeve and just last night… Ninja Warriors!

Melbournes Mega Cheap Eats
Minang Nasi Padang, Carlton

Me… cook a meal? Nooo… too leh cheh… got TV shows to watch!! So more often than not, we’ve opted to have cheap eats in and around the city instead. After all, it’s but a very short drive from Fatbee’s place (yes… we’re THAT lazy that we won’t even walk into town). This is probably why I’ve recently had to give away half of my work pants… too tight!! Oh dear…

But today’s post will cover what I’d affectionately term as Melbourne’s MEGA Cheap Eats, where most of the dishes are below $8.

Melbournes Mega Cheap Eats

Norsiah’s Kitchen

604 Swanston St
Carlton, VIC 3053
03 9347 7079
Melbournes Mega Cheap Eats

Let us begin with a Malaysian spot that I’d last been to more than a decade ago… as a student. It’s still the same-looking place now, except that heaps of student apartments have sprung up around it over the years. Perfect location… no?

Melbournes Mega Cheap Eats

Driving into the city can be pricey with parking unless you get in exactly at 7.30pm to nab one of the few Loading Zone spots that have gone off the grid. So Carlton comes up as a good alternative for our nightly cheap eats hunt.

It’s completely self-serve here… order and collect your food at the counter, then grab your own cutlery, napkins and water.

Melbournes Mega Cheap Eats

Norsiah’s Kitchen offers a platter of rice with a choice of two meats plus one veg for $7. For an extra dollar you can choose an extra item. The quality of the selections is pretty good as well, the turmeric dusted ayam goreng (deep fried chicken) was especially good for that price point.

Melbournes Mega Cheap Eats

This satisfying meal happened one night when we’d worked late and were just too lazy to cook… and at $14 for two persons, it almost makes the effort of cooking a meal and washing up after just not worth it. I’m sure another lazy night will happen in the near future and we’d be back here!

Melbournes Mega Cheap Eats

Minang Nasi Padang

104 Pelham St
Carlton, VIC 3053
03 9639 5977
Melbournes Mega Cheap Eats

A week or so later, we found ourselves just around the corner from Norsiah’s. But instead of Malaysian fare, Minang serves up Indonesian Nasi Padang.

Melbournes Mega Cheap Eats

But the concept is similar. Rice is heaped on a plate, and then pick three accompanying dishes and pay $7. If you want beef rendang, it’ll be $8.

Melbournes Mega Cheap Eats

I know Indonesian Nasi Padang isn’t exactly the same thing as Malaysian fare, but Fatbee and I both prefer the dish selections at Norsiah’s, where the dishes somehow seemed to suit a bain marie situation better. Also, Minang doesn’t offer deep fried chicken.

Melbournes Mega Cheap Eats

Don Tojo

164 Cardigan St
Carlton, VIC 3053
03 9347 5041
Melbournes Mega Cheap Eats

Still in Carlton, our next cheap feed had me finally exploring one of Don Don’s sister branches: Don Tojo.

Melbournes Mega Cheap Eats

For such an affordable place, the interior’s actually very comfy, with high ceilings and an intimate bricky-woody fitout. Order at the counter, then wait and collect your food (it comes very quickly), and help yourself to water at the self serve station next to the coffee machine.

Melbournes Mega Cheap Eats
donjon box 8.7
teriyaki, sukiyaki, salad and rice box

This bento box is one of the pricier dish on the menu, yet it still comes in at below $10. It’s a generous sized meal complete with fruit. The teriyaki chicken is especially wonderful here, succulent with an excellent chargrilled flavour.

Melbournes Mega Cheap Eats
chicken curry don 6.9
curry with teriyaki chicken on rice

My taste palate has changed lately and I’ve found myself enjoying Japanese style curries. Don Tojo’s version is pretty awesome, with good depth of flavour and more of the oh-so-lovely chargrilled teriyaki chicken! At such a good price tag too!!

Melbournes Mega Cheap Eats

Don Don

198 Little Lonsdale St
Melbourne, VIC 3000
03 9670 7113
Melbournes Mega Cheap Eats

Of course our nightly hunt for cheap eats also extends into the CBD. And this time, we visited DonDon’s original shop in the CBD.

Melbournes Mega Cheap Eats

It’s a busier place than the Carlton branch and the interior isn’t quite as comfy. But the menu and pricing in both places is exactly the same. And I swear to you, the food comes out in less than a minute. Makes me think of this as the McDonald’s equivalent of the Japanese bento world, except it’s yummier.

Melbournes Mega Cheap Eats
Sukiyaki Don 6.3
Slice beef cooked in sake sauce on rice

This time I tried out the cheapest item on the menu, beef cooked in soy sauce, sake and sugar with rice. While not the best version of sukiyaki don (the beef slices were a bit clumped together), I was satisfied enough.

Melbournes Mega Cheap Eats
Sashi don 9.0
Salmon/ocean trout sashimi on rice

And here is Don Don’s priciest menu item – salmon sashimi on rice. This particular dish I’m not that big a fan of… the salad seasoning was quite Westernised and the lack of gravy/sauce made the dish quite dry.

Overall, I prefer Don Tojo in Carlton because of its quieter ambience. And if I’m visiting any of Don Don’s branches again, I’ll definitely be having the teriyaki chicken again and again!

Melbournes Mega Cheap Eats

Embassy Cafe

547 Spencer St
West Melbourne, VIC 3003
03 9328 1830
Melbournes Mega Cheap Eats

Now that autumn has well and truly settled in like an insistent but affectionate stray cat, Fatbee and I spent one of our laziest Friday evenings ever… walking down the road to the nearest burger joint we could find (it was a windy & wet kind of evening, perfect for burgers).

Melbournes Mega Cheap Eats

It’s definitely one of those joints that us foodies are less likely to venture into… it’s open 24 hours and so frequented by cab drivers that Urbanspoon calls it “Embassy Taxi Cafe”. However, I noticed that The Burger Adventure actually gave this place high accolades. So it’s worth a shot… no?

Melbournes Mega Cheap Eats
Bag of Chips $6.00 | Hamburger With The Lot $7.80

Lazy and hungry, we ordered two burgers with the lot and a massive box of hot chips and ran home in the rain. Fatbee then proceeded to orchestrate the cutest food-styling exercise ever… plonking the burger into a deep clay dish meant for oven baking tapas-style and then scattering a few chips on the side. It was absolutely impractical to eat out of that, but still looked delicious!

Unfortunately, as good as it looked, the burger didn’t quite hit the mark for me as the patty was firm, salty with quite a gamy beefiness to it. I devoured it all the same though. =D

Melbournes Mega Cheap Eats

Gone are those student days more than a decade ago where I could grab a mountainous plate of Roast Duck on Rice at Rose Garden BBQ Shop for $5.50 (it’s now $9). But I’m glad that cheap eats in the region of $6-$9 still exists in Melbourne.

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Townhouse http://fatboo.com/2014/04/townhouse.html http://fatboo.com/2014/04/townhouse.html#comments Thu, 17 Apr 2014 23:30:52 +0000 http://fatboo.com/?p=13512 Townhouse

Cafe in Toorak by the people behind Prospect Espresso in Camberwell. Good menu, beautiful space.

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Townhouse

466 Toorak Rd
Toorak, VIC 3142
03 9973 8721
Facebook Page

Townhouse

This visit happened during a week of agonising contract reading and crazy administrative errands. Part of my errand running involved being near Toorak, hence this brunch visit with Fatbee. My car was also being serviced that day (a whopping $940 service fee!), so I also got to drive Fatbee’s car for the day (he hates driving).

TownhouseTownhouse

Townhouse in Toorak is a beautiful, bright, white and minimalistic cafe that’s brought to you by the same people behind the delicious Prospect Espresso in Camberwell. With such high accolades, our expectations were high.

Townhouse
Soy Latte $4.50 | Piccolo $4.00

The coffee beans here comes from Melbourne-based Rosso Coffee, and my piccolo latte came well made with a good punch of caffeine. Even though it did not hold hints of fruit or berries, it was still a nice cup.

TownhouseTownhouse
Breakfast Salad $16.5
Poached eggs, parmesan panna cotta, prosciutto, pear, walnuts & bergamot dressed leaves

Fatbee went healthy with a breakfast salad consisting of excellent ingredients, in particular the lovely mousse-like parmesan pannacotta which tasted fluffy, light with a push of chives. The prosciutto also had good flavour.

Townhouse

It was a good dish and had the thumbs up from both of us.

Townhouse
The Townhouse Big Breakfast $21
2 eggs, bacon, mushrooms, braised kale, roast tomato & beetroot chutney on sourdough

I went traditional with Townhouse’s version of the big breaky.

Townhouse

The perfectly poached eggs and delicious thick slabs of good sourdough made me sigh with happiness. The dish was nicely balanced with cubes of beetroot chutney that gave it sweet counterpoint.

Townhouse

I personally think it’s great that no matter which suburb our day’s errands takes us, there’s a nice cafe waiting for you to come visit. Thank you, Townhouse, for giving us such a pleasurable brunch on our hectic errand-filled day.

Townhouse

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High Tea at Om Nom http://fatboo.com/2014/04/sunday-high-tea-om-nom.html http://fatboo.com/2014/04/sunday-high-tea-om-nom.html#comments Tue, 15 Apr 2014 09:20:40 +0000 http://fatboo.com/?p=13623 High Tea at Om Nom

Experienced an understated and unique Sunday High Tea at Om Nom, situated inside boutique hotel - The Adelphi on Flinders Ln.

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High Tea at Om Nom

Adelphi Hotel
187 Flinders Lane
Melbourne, VIC 3000
03 8080 8827
Website

Disclosure: Fatbee & I dined here courtesy of Om Nom

High Tea at Om Nom

Zoe from Soda Communications invited me to experience Sunday High Tea at Adelphi Hotel. It took me a week or so to realise that the place in question is actually Om Nom dessert bar, somewhere that Fatbee was really keen on trying. I very quickly said ‘yes!’.

High Tea at Om Nom

That’s how we found ourselves in Flinders Lane one Sunday in front of this quiet little boutique hotel. Look at that see-through swimming pool on the rooftop!

High Tea at Om Nom

Om Nom is situated right next to The Adelphi’s lobby, we loved how quirky-yet-plush the interior looked. Very eclectic.

High Tea at Om NomHigh Tea at Om Nom

Sunday High Tea at Om Nom is priced at $65 per person, requiring a minimum of two guests to experience it. And it starts off with a very agreeable glass of Veuve Cliquot. Fatbee and I are not keen on champagne in general, but this one was actually very nice… tasty and well-rounded.

High Tea at Om Nom
View from our window

I’ll be frank with you and confess that I’ve hardly ever experienced high tea much at all, Fatbee is more familiar with this affair than myself. So when I saw the number of different courses we were about to experience, I sort of thought it’d be a course-by-course type of thing.

High Tea at Om Nom

And then five minutes later… *KABOOM*!! Everything arrived tiered up in this tower of goodies.

Ahhh… so that’s how high tea is like, it all comes at one go. I’m such a country bumpkin sometimes… ha ha!

High Tea at Om Nom
Poached Bug Tail with Sweet & Sour Sauce
Vol au Vent with Mushroom and Asparagus
Foie gras macaron 

So we embarked on a rather pleasant journey of flavours in neat little nibbles, which was collaboratively created by head chef Christy Tania and Pierrick Boyer from Le Petit Gateau. We started off with poached bug tails which came with a citrusy sauce, then a mushroom and asparagus pastry. Both nibbles were okay.

We were quite fond of the foie gras macaron though, they used pieces of foie gras escalope and it was paired with figs, sour cream and chives. It was significantly better than the (chewy and meh) foie gras macaron that we had at The Estelle the night before.

High Tea at Om Nom
Vegetable Tempura, Soba Noodles, Dashi Broth
Pineapple Verrine

Our final savoury offering was a rather delicious minicup of Japanese buckwheat noodles in bonito-kelp sauce served with crunchy pieces of vegetable tempura. On this front, Fatbee explained to me that the savoury offerings at Om Nom are actually quite different to other High Teas, where the savouries normally revolve around toothpicked triangles of sandwiches.

Pictured left was a dainty little glass of fruit ‘trifle’ which we actually had as the last item. It was light, nice and not too sweet with lots of perfumed floral fragrance to it. A perfect palate cleansing finish for the sweeter cakes that we had below.

High Tea at Om Nom
Mango and Shiso Profiterole
Peanut Butter, Chocolate & Raspberry Gateau
Monsieur Green Tea Gateaux

Before we embarked on our sweets, our waitress Sinead came with our choice of drink. Fatbee picked China Green Tea while I went for Peppermint Tea.

My personal favourite cake(s) were the peanut butter, chocolate & raspberry gateau (of course), and I thought the green tea gateau and a good level of matcha flavour in it too.

High Tea at Om Nom

I was less excited by the frosting-topped mango and shiso profiterole but Fatbee actually liked it a lot.

High Tea at Om Nom
Salted Caramel Macaron

After we finished the three tiers of goodies, our petit fours came served on a black platter… salted caramel macarons!

High Tea at Om Nom

While I’m not all that familiar with high teas, I enjoyed this experience. The atmosphere in this hotel was quiet and peaceful and we enjoyed how different yet understated the High Tea food offerings were.

Fatbee thought the portion sizing was good too. This means that you can actually have lunch somewhere else, and then adjourn here for a quiet afternoon of champagne, cakes and nibbles. I also spied the desserts on the a la carte menu and they look very interesting. I think I’m going to be popping back in pretty soon.

High Tea at Om Nom

High Tea at Om Nom

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Peko Peko, South Melbourne http://fatboo.com/2014/04/peko-peko.html http://fatboo.com/2014/04/peko-peko.html#comments Sat, 12 Apr 2014 03:00:59 +0000 http://fatboo.com/?p=13396 Peko Peko, South Melbourne

Taiwanese joint in South Melbourne with a pretty decent sharing menu.

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Peko Peko, South Melbourne

190 Wells St
South Melbourne, VIC 3205
03 9686 1109

Fatbee has a close knit group of friends here in Melbourne whom he’d affectionately term as his ‘family’. On this note, I think it’s a lovely concept, especially since most of us are living here in Melbourne as migrants with our nuclear families still overseas.

Peko Peko, South Melbourne

I was very happy to find out that Fatbee’s ‘family’ are big food lovers, plus they love snapping pics of food. I got accepted into this ‘modern family’ pretty readily and this meal at Pekopeko involved a whopping table for eleven of us! You could almost consider this as ‘dinner with the in-laws’.

Peko Peko, South Melbourne
Taiwan Gold $8.00

Pekopeko used to be more of a one dish meal type of place, but I believe they’ve changed concept recently and made it more of a sharing menu type of restaurant, dividing the dishes into small eats and big eats.

Dish decision-making can be tough with such a big group, but thankfully, everyone was pretty easy going and they left it to Fatbee and myself to choose. So we basically ordered 2-3 serves of each dish and shared it amongst us.

Peko Peko, South Melbourne
Peko Sausage $8.00
house made Taiwanese sausage

First up were these interesting Taiwanese style sausages. Sweetish with a slight honeyed flavour, they reminded me of a flavour meld between German kranskys and lap cheong (Chinese sausage).

Peko Peko, South Melbourne
Scallop & Sausage Skewer $9.50
seared scallop_taiwanese sausage_spicy mayo

Giving some variation, the same sausages were skewered, then served with scallops and spicy mayo. It was nice how the scallops weren’t overcooked, but the combination of scallops and sausages tasted quite unusual to me.

Peko Peko, South Melbourne
Devil Chicken Ribs $9

From the specials board, this turned out to be the dish of the night for me. Crisp chicken ribs with a delightful push of spice. 

Peko Peko, South Melbourne
Five Spice Calamari $13.00
lightly battered calamari_salt & pepper dusting_five spice sauce

We went slightly ‘Western’ ordering this dish, just one curiosity serve. It wasn’t too bad.

Peko Peko, South MelbournePeko Peko, South Melbourne
Pop Chicken $13.00
authentic flavour_taiwanese crispy chicken cubes_salt & pepper seasoning

On to the bigger dishes.

Any visit to a Taiwanese spot can’t happen without platters of Taiwanese popcorn chicken. I personally am not too fond of deep fried foods with too much batter action, so I didn’t warm up to it. But the rest of the table seemed to enjoy it.

Peko Peko, South Melbourne
Stir Fry Seasonal Veggie $13.00
mix veggies_stir fry tofu_aromatic sauce

To help give balance to the meal, we got serves of stir-fried veggies. No complaints there.

Peko Peko, South Melbourne
Ginger Beef $13.00
sliced beef_wok tossed_ginger_seasonal vegetables_light oyster sauce

The ginger beef had good flavour and I liked the presence of veggies. However, the use of cornstarch made the dish a touch gooey, perhaps that the Taiwanese way.

Peko Peko, South Melbourne
Steam Ginger Soy Fish $15.00
steam fish fillet _seasonal vegetables_ginger & soy sauce

On a similar line, I liked how healthy this dish was with veggies and a clean ginger soy sauce. At that price point, it was understandable that you won’t get super fresh fish, but it was good enough for me.

Taiwanese food is one cuisine that hasn’t excited me all that much. But I thought the food here was executed quite nicely and at a friendly price point. As a family, we spent about $25 each and left the restaurant satisfied.

Peko Peko, South Melbourne

Peko Peko, South Melbourne

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Lee Ho Fook http://fatboo.com/2014/04/lee-ho-fook.html http://fatboo.com/2014/04/lee-ho-fook.html#comments Wed, 09 Apr 2014 07:40:59 +0000 http://fatboo.com/?p=13439 Lee Ho Fook

Asian restaurant in Collingwood with a share menu that manages to retain good authenticity despite having a modern twist.

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Lee Ho Fook

92 Smith St
Collingwood, VIC 3066
03 9077 6261
Website

Lee Ho Fook

I first heard of this place during a reverse dinner with my blogmily at Luxbite (and Dainty Sichuan), Bern at Luxbite said it’s pretty awesome food. Instinct and cravings took over, and it didn’t take long before dinner was organised. I visited Lee Ho Fook with Fakegf, The Angmoh, Fatbee and Carolyn.

Lee Ho Fook

The name “Lee Ho Fook” sounded like one of those rather traditional Chinese restaurants, but on arrival, it became evident that this place is on the more upbeat and modern side… true to the character of so many Smith St eateries. While we noticed that the front of house staff were mostly non-Asians, the ones running the show in the kitchen were. Yaaay!

Fatbee even found one of the chefs very cute. Harrumph… so shallowbut then again, I am too. :D

Lee Ho Fook
MILK BUN, BRAISED PORK BELLY AND CUCUMBER $6

The succinct share menu is quite Chinese but with a modern twist. Most of the items looked very appealing and choosing what we wanted posed quite a challenge. Fatbee and I started with a serve of these mini pork belly sliders, which tasted quite unusual because of the use of a tangy chilli sauce similar to what you get with Hainanese chicken rice in Singapore. And we thought the pork belly was a touch salty.

Lee Ho FookLee Ho Fook
CHARGRILLED WAGYU, GREEN CHILI, WATERCRESS AND PANCAKES $19

The rest of the dishes from here on were shared amongst us. We enjoyed this peking duck-inspired dish… the wagyu beef was superbly succulent and the pancake skin was great.

Lee Ho Fook
CRISPY EGGPLANT, SPICED RED VINEGAR $14

This dish was also very good, with a beautiful caramelised crisp… balanced with a teasing push of Chinese vinegar and Sichuan peppers. It’s a  more nuanced version of Sichuan-style ‘fish fragrant’ eggplants.

Lee Ho Fook
SALTWATER DUCK, RED SALAD $18

Next-up was the dish of the night for me. Reading it on the menu, we couldn’t predict how it was going to turn out like, but it came as a cold dish of blushingly pink and tender (sous vide?) duck slices in a cleansing sauce with fragrant hints of Chinese tea. If it’s still on the menu, this is a must-have dish.

Lee Ho Fook
HOUSE MADE TOFU, HOT AND SOUR SAUCE $22

On the vegetarian side of things, we got a serve of silken tofu with mushrooms in a hot and sour sauce. It provided us with good gravy that we could pour over our rice.

Lee Ho Fook
YUNAN STYLE LAMB SHOULDER, HOISIN MUSTARD, SPICY PICKLES, COS LETTUCE (FOR TWO OR MORE) $52

Our final dish was this fall apart soft serve of slow roasted lamb shoulder marinated with cumin and its sister spices. The flavour profile leans towards the Western parts of China near the provinces of Yunnan and Xinjiang (ie. near the Middle East).

Lee Ho Fook

It came with chilli onion jam, hoisin mustard sauce and crudités. We sort of didn’t know how to eat this dish… as a san choi bao-like wrap perhaps? But it was pretty good, the lamb was insanely tender.

Lee Ho FookLee Ho Fook
VIOLET AND LYCHEE SORBET, SPARKLING ROSE $5

I liked how the desserts here were nicely priced and in small single serve portions. Some of us had this light and summery sorbet which was good, except that we’re lightweights with alcohol and found the sparkling rose quite strong!

Lee Ho Fook
JASMINE TEA CUSTARD, BURNT CARAMEL $5

Fatbee and Fakegf had this for dessert, served in a dainty little teacup. It was like a creme caramel served cold, but we couldn’t taste the jasmine tea in it.

Lee Ho Fook

We had an enjoyable meal here, the food’s quite modern yet it retains authenticity in its Chinese roots. I’m pretty keen on coming back to discover more of the menu!

But my main feedback would be for the front staff to familiarise themselves with when and how to serve rice… especially with Asian customers. Rice not coming at the same time as our dishes is a pet peeve of mine when dining at Asian spots because you have to wait and let your food go cold. After the bun and wraps (which don’t need rice) were finished… when the eggplant and saltwater duck arrived, rice didn’t come (even though we’d ordered a serve each right at the start). When we asked for our ordered rice, only 1 bowl of rice came instead of 5. Five diners can’t share 1 bowl of rice!

Lee Ho Fook

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CJ Lunch Bar | Seoul Metro | Mook Ji Bar http://fatboo.com/2014/04/cj-lunch-bar-seoul-metro-mook-ji-bar.html http://fatboo.com/2014/04/cj-lunch-bar-seoul-metro-mook-ji-bar.html#comments Sat, 05 Apr 2014 20:30:00 +0000 http://fatboo.com/?p=13420 CJ Lunch Bar | Seoul Metro | Mook Ji Bar

Compilation post covering a number of Korean cheap-eat joints in Melbourne's CBD: CJ Lunch Bar Seoul Metro & Mook Ji Bar.

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CJ Lunch Bar | Seoul Metro | Mook Ji Bar

I find that my lifestyle has changed a fair bit since I’ve been with Fatbee. Frequent alternating stay-overs, roster waltzing and synchronisation, plus the occasional fun homecooking project. We’re also exploring a fair segment of the CBD’s cheap eats. This post will cover some of the Korean spots along Lonsdale St and Little Lonsdale St.

CJ Lunch Bar | Seoul Metro | Mook Ji Bar

CJ Lunch Bar

2/391 Little Lonsdale St
Melbourne, VIC 3000
03 9602 1155
CJ Lunch Bar | Seoul Metro | Mook Ji Bar

This little nook residing right next to Gypsy & Pig (and opposite The Hardware Societe) is almost consistently busy, especially during work lunch hour. But thankfully, turnover’s very quick and if you haven’t got a big group, a table frees up pretty quick.

CJ Lunch Bar | Seoul Metro | Mook Ji BarCJ Lunch Bar | Seoul Metro | Mook Ji Bar

And the premise is simple, order at the counter. Point out where you’re sitting, then grab your water, cutlery and napkins from the self-serve station right next to the counter. With your meal, you’ll also automatically get a serve of kim chi side dishes and a few slices of fruit.

CJ Lunch Bar | Seoul Metro | Mook Ji Bar
Pork Bulgogi $15
Wok-fried Marinated Pork with Spicy Sauce on the sizzling plate

Don’t worry about the chaos and noise, within a few minutes nothing will matter anymore. First you’ll hear a delightful sizzle, then a chirpy “ess-kew meeee!!”… and **BAM**… your food’s in front of you.

This was a good dish… sizzling hot, spicy-sweet and flavoursome.

CJ Lunch Bar | Seoul Metro | Mook Ji Bar
Sundubu-jjigae $13
Silken Tofu with Calms, Egg and Enoki Mushroom served boiling hot in a stew

Looking at the menu, we wanted a non-spicy stew to go with spicy pork bulgogi. But of course, what we picked turned out to be another spicy number. This is what happens when you’re not familiar with Korean dish names. =)

CJ Lunch Bar | Seoul Metro | Mook Ji Bar

But it was still quite an enjoyable dish, almost reminiscent of a kimchi stew with a seafood slant. The silken tofu’s texture was lovely, but I thought the clams could’ve tasted less ‘clammy’ (ie. fresher).

CJ Lunch Bar | Seoul Metro | Mook Ji Bar

It’s an incredibly no-frills place with swift service and pretty good food. Fatbee loves the ambience here because it really reminds him of the messy, chaotic hole-in-the-wall eateries in Asia. Funnily, that’s the exact reason why I wasn’t as keen on this place, preferring someplace a touch more… civilised. Such a princess, me… ha ha ha!

CJ Lunch Bar | Seoul Metro | Mook Ji Bar

Seoul Metro

380 Lonsdale St
Melbourne, VIC 3000
03 9078 3778
CJ Lunch Bar | Seoul Metro | Mook Ji Bar

The next eatery ventures into the realm of quirky, with this Korean joint that’s situated INSIDE A CARPARK!

CJ Lunch Bar | Seoul Metro | Mook Ji Bar

This place was recommended by one of Fatbee’s friends and compared to CJ Lunch Bar, it was very quiet the weeknight that we’d visited. The fitout was simple, with one side of the eatery featuring a large map of the Metro system in Seoul, hence its name.

CJ Lunch Bar | Seoul Metro | Mook Ji Bar
Korean Galbi (beef ribs) hot pot stew $35
with carrot, potato, sweet potato noodles in a sweet soy sauce broth 

We were feeling adventurous… so rather than sticking with the usual suspects of bibimbaps / samgyetangs / bulgogis, since it was one of those cooler evenings this summer, we picked a hot pot stew to share.

CJ Lunch Bar | Seoul Metro | Mook Ji Bar

Fatbee really liked it…. fall-off-the-bone tender beef ribs, and a very comforting sweet broth.

Indonesian stews tend to have some presence of kecap manis (sweet black sauce), so I think there were familiar parallels here which made it more accessible for Fatbee. For me, the broth was too sweet for my liking, but I’ll concede that all the ingredients simmering in there were good.

CJ Lunch Bar | Seoul Metro | Mook Ji Bar

Hard to make a call with a place just from one dish. There are so many other dishes in this eatery, so there’s scope to explore more of the menu!

Mook Ji Bar

406 Lonsdale St
Melbourne, VIC 3000
03 9600 2661
CJ Lunch Bar | Seoul Metro | Mook Ji Bar

CJ Lunch Bar | Seoul Metro | Mook Ji Bar

The final place we’re covering is just a short stroll away from ‘Carpark Korean’. And for some reason, we’d continued on our adventurous eating pathway and ordered some rather unusual dishes here.

CJ Lunch Bar | Seoul Metro | Mook Ji Bar
Real Hot Chicken (Small Size – Very Spicy) $17

First up were these spicy fried chicken. They had different grades of spiciness that you can ask for… from Very Spicy to Little Spicy. Our waiter looked alarmed when we decided to challenge ourselves with ‘Very Spicy’, telling us how a group of girls the day before couldn’t go beyond one piece of before giving up. But we stood to our guns and said ‘bring it on!’.

But ahem… let’s just say that we also couldn’t finish this dish. The sauce was CRAZY SPICY indeed, and it was that kind of instant, smack-in-yer-face type of chilli hotness rather than the slow-but-steady creeping hotness that you get with Thai dishes. Fatbee managed three pieces while I had to stop at five.

CJ Lunch Bar | Seoul Metro | Mook Ji Bar
Mul-naengmyeon – Cold Noodle Soup $12
Ice cold beef broth with steamed sliced beef, sliced vegetables on chewy noodles 

To accompany the spicy wings, we once again looked for something non-spicy. This time we got more than we’d bargained for, with a buckwheat noodle soup floating in… crushed ice!

This dish… was also a struggle to finish, probably because it was like eating an iced dessert that’s savoury and it messed with our brains entirely. Ice cold boiled eggs and refrigerated sliced beef, anyone? The broth and sliced vegetables came quite pickly / vinegary (that is the style of the dish), which also wasn’t appetising. And that acidity didn’t settle well in the stomach alongside with the incredibly spicy chicken wings.

CJ Lunch Bar | Seoul Metro | Mook Ji Bar

We walked out of this restaurant with with both dishes unfinished and our tummies rumbling in pain. But let me make it clear that this was entirely our fault for trying to be adventurous! This is the reason why I sometimes stick with old familiar dishes, and only venture out rarely, or only when I have a food guide who’s familiar with what’s good. Still, it makes for some pretty hilarious eating memories…!

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Little Tommy Tucker http://fatboo.com/2014/04/little-tommy-tucker.html http://fatboo.com/2014/04/little-tommy-tucker.html#comments Tue, 01 Apr 2014 20:31:13 +0000 http://fatboo.com/?p=13463 Little Tommy Tucker

Pretty little cafe in Bentleigh with a solid menu of brunch fare.

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Little Tommy Tucker

432 Centre Road
Bentleigh, VIC 3204
03 9576 5174
Facebook Page

Little Tommy Tucker

I’m amazed how quickly this year is passing by… not to mention how our lifestyles changes slowly but inevitably. Take for instance, a complete slowdown in home-cooking this year.

Little Tommy Tucker

My off day now falls on Thursdays ever so often, and even though it may not sync with Fakegf’s rostered day off, we’d still find ways to brunch together. That’s how we caught up in this pretty little cafe close to where she works one Thursday during her lunch break.

Little Tommy TuckerLittle Tommy Tucker
Soho Organic Sparkling Raspberry Tea $4 | Freshly Squeezed Orange Juice $7
Prana Chai Masala Blend $4.5

We collectively went on a non-coffee tangent with our drink choices, with Fakegf asking for a curious sparkling tea, and fresh OJ for Fatbee. I’ll have to say that $7 for an orange juice (even if freshly squeezed) was quite steep. I picked a huggably good Prana chai with a wonderful natural honeyed sweetness. Here’s one brand of chai that I’d be looking out for in the future.

Little Tommy Tucker
Tommy Tucker Wagyu Burger, Tasty Cheese, Lettuce, Pickles, Mustard, Tomato Relish & Wedges $19

Our catchup happened close to lunch time and we were quite ravenous, hence Fatbee’s unexpected and rather humongous choice of lunch dish (he normally eats less than myself). This burger met with his approval, the patty was juicy with hints of herbs.

Little Tommy Tucker
Heirloom Tomatoes, Whipped Goat’s Cheese, Pesto, Poached Eggs $17

Having just flown back from Singapore 5 days before, I had the worst time on my flight with 3.5 hours delay in Singapore and then a 45 min delay on Melbourne Airport’s tarmac before another 3 hour delay waiting for my luggage. On this note, I’m not keen on flying Emirates ever again, they are so damn slow with getting luggage out in Melbourne Airport compared to other airlines. I only exited customs at 3pm despite landing at 11.45am. Ridiculous.

Little Tommy Tucker

The whole Emirates kerfuffle brought me down with a nasty cold that lasted a fortnight, hence this very healthy brunch dish of heirloom tomatoes, poached eggs and micro herbs. It kept me pretty happy with good ingredients, balanced flavours uplifted with a nice leafy-nutty pesto.

Little Tommy Tucker
Dr Marty’s Toasted Crumpets w Maple Syrup, Honeyed Ricotta, Macadamia Nuts, Figs 15

Walking in, Fakegf spied a dish with fresh figs, which turned out to be the day’s special of toasted crumpets so teasingly displayed on the blackboard. Sold!

She found the dish ‘charmingly light with a hint of coconut‘ and it could’ve easily passed off as a breakfast or dessert. It looked very pretty and delicious indeed.

Little Tommy Tucker

This could well be the first of many places that I’m being introduced to so far down the Bayside area. It’s great to see local cafes so far afield serving up good service, a beautiful ambience and solid brunch fare. I’m looking forward to trying out more of these places recommended by Fakegf.

Little Tommy Tucker

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Kokoro Ramen http://fatboo.com/2014/03/kokoro-ramen.html http://fatboo.com/2014/03/kokoro-ramen.html#comments Sat, 29 Mar 2014 02:14:27 +0000 http://fatboo.com/?p=13498 Kokoro Ramen

Gave this place a second chance after finding their broth waaaay too salty years ago. Find out what has changed here.

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Kokoro Ramen

157 Lonsdale St
Melbourne, VIC 3000
03 9650 1215
Website

After a very eventful Sunday taking Fatbee’s friends to brunch, dessert wonderland and a draught concept store, we’d finally landed here for dinner.

Kokoro RamenKokoro Ramen

I first visited here with Fakegf a month or so after they’d first opened. Back then, we found the broth just waaaay too salty for our liking and never returned since. So this visit leant along the lines of giving them another chance, since Fatbee and his friends seemed to think it’s quite alright (and cheap too).

Kokoro Ramen

I noticed that you can now customise your dish to a certain extent by requesting for thick / thin, harder / softer noodles… and finally you also have the option of asking your broth to be less salty.

Order and pay at the counter, grab a number, and then help yourself to water and complimentary serves of kimchi. I went a bit “???” over why they’re serving Korean kimchi in a Japanese ramen spot… but this is Melbourne and I actually thought that the (good quality) kimchi worked as a great appetiser before our noodles arrived.

Kokoro Ramen
Kokoro’s Homemade Pork Gyoza (12pcs – fried) $8.50

Despite eating so much that afternoon, we still shared a serve of gyoza before the main event arrived. We weren’t a fan of these dumplings, the skin had on odd texture and the filling was strangely bitter.

Kokoro Ramen
E19 Tofu Salad w. veges & Sesame Dressing $5.50

Fatbee and myself shared a serve of tofu salad, which I must admit was also rather odd. It was like a tofu and corn salad topped with mayo and mashed potatoes, but we just wanted some vegetables in us.

Kokoro RamenKokoro Ramen
Tokyo Shoyu – Pork Belly $11.50
w. extra slice soft-cooked, long-marinated juicy pork belly

It was quite late that evening (around 8pm) and Kokoro had run out of tonkotsu (pork bone) broth, so our soup choices were limited. Fatbee and I decided to share a bowl of Shoyu ramen, which can be considered the original ramen broth containing both chicken and seafood in it. And when I ordered, I made sure I asked for Less Salt.

Kokoro Ramen

Verdict? The broth this time was actually alright in terms of saltiness, which surprised me because I assumed that Shoyu (soy sauce based) broths would’ve been quite salty. It tasted quite delicate but with a nice cartilaginous thickness to it. The pork belly was nice and succulent, the rest of the ingredients were okay, but I thought the egg noodles itself was on the soft side. Maybe next time I’ll ask for the harder (Katamen) noodles.

Kokoro Ramen
Tokyo Shoyu – Fried Soft Shell Crab $14.00
w. deep fried Soft Shell Crab

And here’s what the rest of our dining companions ordered. Jernel got shoyu ramen as well but with soft shell crab (and extra noodles for $1). Can’t believe he has such a big appetite!

Kokoro Ramen
Hakodate Shio Ramen $11.00
w. slice of pork belly

Andre and Agnes shared a basic bowl shio (salt based) ramen but with extra soup and noodles on the side for $1 each.

Kokoro Ramen
Hakodate Shio Ramen – Fried Chicken $12.50
w. deep fried Karaage chicken

And finally, Lorena had the same ramen but with deep fried Karaage chicken. I couldn’t really taste the difference between the shoyu and shio broths, but shio is supposed to have more pork in its stock. To be honest, because none of them asked for less salt in their soups, I couldn’t taste beyond the (still crazy) saltiness of their broths.

Kokoro Ramen
Extra Noodle $1.00 | Extra Soup $1.00

The bowls of ramen at Kokoro come really big already, and the extra noodles and soup come on the side in pretty mountainous quantities too. And while the soup is still very very salty, you can now enjoy it by asking for less salt. I think this place will be okay for those of us with big appetites, but for the picky amongst us, it probably won’t quite hit the mark for you.

Kokoro Ramen

Kokoro Ramen

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Adriano Zumbo Patissier | Tru Bru http://fatboo.com/2014/03/adriano-zumbo-patissier-tru-bru.html http://fatboo.com/2014/03/adriano-zumbo-patissier-tru-bru.html#comments Tue, 25 Mar 2014 10:11:24 +0000 http://fatboo.com/?p=13480 Adriano Zumbo Patissier | Tru Bru

Today we explore a Sydney-based wacky but beautiful dessert spot - Adriano Zumbo, and then a draught-to-go beer and cider concept store - Tru Bru.

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Adriano Zumbo Patissier | Tru Bru

Funny how your Melbourne explorations increases exponentially when there are visitors from overseas. Fatbee had friends visiting our fine city as part of their pre-honeymoon trip, and one fine Sunday we went out together and explored places that were new to both us locals and visitors alike. It was a bit of a ‘family outing’.

Adriano Zumbo Patissier | Tru Bru

Adriano Zumbo Pâtissier

14 Claremont St
South Yarra, VIC 3141
Website
Adriano Zumbo Patissier | Tru Bru

We first had a massive group brunch at Two Birds One Stone, and then we hopped next door to dessert wonderland. So much bling here, but it’s a pretty mesmerising sort of bling bling.

Adriano Zumbo Patissier | Tru Bru

Zumbo’s desserts have been plastered all over social media with his wacky colourful offerings and I admit that I’ve been viewing all that hype with a healthy amount of skepticism. Especially when I saw they’d started selling boxes Adriano Zumbo Macaron Mix in Coles and that he’d been collaborating with Tim Tam to create new flavours.

But I’ll have to say that the vibrant display of tongue-in-cheek named desserts such as Wassup-Bi (wasabi) made me smile and piqued my curiosity significantly once I finally stepped into his shiny domain.

Adriano Zumbo Patissier | Tru Bru
the annoying orange cake $9
flourless chocolate cake, orange caramel, olive sable, chocolate & clove mousse, orange & white chocolate jam

There were six of us visiting that day but tables were rare, so we squeezed ourselves into three chairs and shared three desserts like the little munchkins that we were.

First up, a beautifully made orange-themed cake that looked almost too pretty to eat…

Adriano Zumbo Patissier | Tru Bru
tarte aux fruits de la passion $6

… and next was a perky-red passionfruit tart that I’d accidentally ordered as “one Ladybird, please!”. It made the guy serving me laugh.

Adriano Zumbo Patissier | Tru Bru

Both desserts were pretty awesome, with the orange coming in as my favourite because it looked and tasted so unique and mousse-like with a hint of cloves. I’m normally not a fan jaffa flavours, but somehow it worked here, plus the orange jam in the centre had a nice counterpoint of bitterness of rind in it.

The passionfruit tart was enjoyably smooth and tangy too.

Adriano Zumbo Patissier | Tru Bru
secret carrot’s business $9
carrot cake, baked cheesecake, cream cheese mousse, semi dried carrots, caramelised pecans

Our final selection was themed around carrots. I loved how veggie patch-like the dessert looked.

Adriano Zumbo Patissier | Tru Bru

My companions enjoyed this dessert the most, it was once again experimental without being ‘too much’ and the base tasted a lot like well made gingerbread.

Adriano Zumbo Patissier | Tru Bru

I used to think that Adriano Zumbo is a lot of hype with potentially little substance, especially since my previous tastings of his wacky flavoured macarons did not rock my boat that much. However, his experimental desserts were actually very memorable, fun and balanced. I’ll be coming back.

Adriano Zumbo Patissier | Tru Bru

Tru Bru

3/9 Yarra St
South Yarra, VIC 3141
03 9826 6878
Website
Adriano Zumbo Patissier | Tru Bru

Reason why we only shared three desserts was because we’d actually visited Luxbite immediately after and shared another three sweets. After that, with bellies full of sweetness, we proceeded to explore another unique South Yarra spot that Jernel recommended – a beer and cider concept store that’s just a minute’s walk from Zumbo.

Adriano Zumbo Patissier | Tru Bru

Stepping in, the placed looked almost like an alchemy lab rather than a place for beers, with brilliant white machines that would suck the air out of the bottles before tapping in your choice of beer or cider. Creating that vacuum prevents oxidation of your drink, keeping its freshness and flavour for longer despite being a draught from a tap.

Tap beers tends to taste better, but normally draught needs to be drunk immediately as they’d lose their foam. But here, they’ve created the concept such that you can have ‘draught-to-go’, and the unopened bottle keeps for weeks.

Adriano Zumbo Patissier | Tru Bru

You first make an initial size purchase choice of a horse-themed amber bottle, varying from 450ml ‘whistlers’, 950ml ‘squealers’ and 1.89L ‘growlers’. You can keep that bottle and bring it back for future refills.

Adriano Zumbo Patissier | Tru Bru

You’re allowed to have tastings of what’s on offer, so we eagerly tried all three draught ciders on offer that day, and picked two types to take home with us.

The flavours were beautiful and priced nicely too, with the Bilpin Pear Cider coming at $12 for 950ml squealers, and Franks Pear & Cherry Cider going at $14.50 for 950ml. I’ll be coming back next time to check out their beer offerings.

Our day did not end here by the way. After enjoying these ciders at Fatbee’s comfy home, we ventured to Kokoro Ramen for dinner. Read about that visit here!

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Dolan Uyghur Food Heaven http://fatboo.com/2014/03/dolan-uyghur-food-heaven.html http://fatboo.com/2014/03/dolan-uyghur-food-heaven.html#comments Thu, 20 Mar 2014 22:00:27 +0000 http://fatboo.com/?p=13331 Dolan Uyghur Food Heaven

Explored Uyghur cuisine from China's Xinjiang province. A fascinating melding of Chinese and Turkish flavours.

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Dolan Uyghur Food Heaven

166 Little Lonsdale St
Melbourne, VIC 3000
03 9041 8802

It’s probably partly age and me being with Fatbee… but these days I’m finding it harder to stay in touch with my friends. Swells had been trying to catch up with me since Christmas last year, and it wasn’t till February that we finally did meet up. Mr Frenchman came along and I must say that as a unit… the three of us, as unlikely a combination as it is, do create hilarious synergy and our outings are normally very fun.

Dolan Uyghur Food Heaven

We’d met up opposite the state library, and there I was… being the only Asian and the food blogger… pathetically suggesting places like Ajisen Ramen (boring) or any of the numerous Korean joints along Little Lonsdale (booooring!). Then Mr Frenchman asked “how about Xin Jiang cuisine?”.

*blink*… what’s that??

“It’s oui-gwooer food”, Mr Frenchman said.

…It’s what??!?

Dolan Uyghur Food Heaven

Needless to say, I was both intrigued and sold! Mr Frenchman became all happy and strutty, being the evening’s food tutor… and led us to Dan Murphy’s to grab a bottle of wine because “it’s BYO, they don’t have a liquor license”.

And that’s the wonderful irony here… even though I’m (Singaporean) Chinese, there I was being introduced to a subset of Chinese cuisine by a Frenchman who’d lived in China for several years.

Dolan Uyghur Food Heaven

I learnt that the Uyghur people live in Xinjiang province close to Central Asia. And while it’s part of China, the culture and cuisine has Turkish and Islamic influences because of its geographic proximity to the Middle East. Which was why I noticed on the menu that the food’s Halal… a rather fascinating melding of food styles.

Dolan Uyghur Food Heaven
Uyghur Salad $8.00
Cucumber, Tomato and Onion with Olive Oil and Vinegar Sauce

We gave Mr Frenchman full reign with the menu, which was great because I went a little cross-eyed looking at the dishes on offer.

First up, a simple and light salad of tomatoes and cucumber. It was lightly pickled with vinegar and a sprinkle of salt. This was meant to be our balance of vegetable for the other heavier dishes to come.

Dolan Uyghur Food Heaven
Kala Gosh Salad $12.00
Tasty Beef Salad

Next came a beautifully spiced cold beef salad that straddles the line between entrees and mains. I really liked this and it somehow reminded me of of the Sichuan dish 口水鸡 (koi shui ji – mouthwatering chicken). Very fragrant, lemony and moreish.

Dolan Uyghur Food HeavenDolan Uyghur Food Heaven
Quqimal Baranga $8.00
Stir Fried Spicy Shredded Potatoes

It was actually quiet a nicely balanced meal, Mr Frenchman chose well. This dish served as our ‘carb’ component… stir fried lashings of pickled potatoes in a chilli sauce with hints of tomato. The slight tanginess helped cut through the meat dishes quite nicely.

Dolan Uyghur Food Heaven
Alayida Tamlik Koy Korghisi $22.00
Special Tasty and Crispy Lamb Ribs

Our final dish were these crisp fried lamb ribs. They were very deep fried and firm to the teeth with a prominent push of cumin and its sister spices. It reminded me a lot of cumin lamb often served in China’s Northern provinces. They were dry and not the succulent type of lamb ribs, but strangely, they were still quite addictive.

Dolan Uyghur Food Heaven

I’d like to thank Mr Frenchman for introducing me to this meal, it’s always so much nicer when someone’s there to guide you through the flavours. From the dishes I had, Uyghur cuisine feels simple, tasty and somehow very moreish without making you feel sick. Even though I had a late lunch at 3.30pm that day, I managed to attack all the dishes with gusto!

Dolan Uyghur Food Heaven

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Easy Tiger http://fatboo.com/2014/03/easy-tiger.html http://fatboo.com/2014/03/easy-tiger.html#comments Mon, 17 Mar 2014 07:50:58 +0000 http://fatboo.com/?p=13216 Easy Tiger

Had a very memorable meal at this contemporary Asian-inspired restaurant. Also my first encounter with son-in-law eggs... can you believe it?

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Easy Tiger

96 Smith St
Collingwood, VIC 3066
03 9417 2373
Website

For some reason, the lure of fine dining has taken a step back recently. Fakegf and I used to go somewhere fancy and ‘degustationy’ for our combined birthdays, but last year, we kept it simple and had Sichuan food in Toorak. And these days, I find myself going for cheap eats and I cook at home more… maybe it’s a subconscious act of saving money for nice holidays!

Easy Tiger

But that’s not to say we won’t give ourselves a little treat once in awhile. I’ve walked past Easy Tiger several times in the past few years and have always liked its beautiful interior and the eco sofa seats in the front. Fatbee and I walked past this same window yet again around Christmas last year, and finally decided to cast our metaphorical lines and spend a special evening here.

Easy Tiger

So there we were… breezing in one quiet Sunday a few weeks later with Fakegf and The Angmoh. I hate to say it but… you could call this a double date… ha ha!

Easy Tiger

And guess what… we got that front table with the sofas! It was really comfy for us to lie back and relax with beautiful natural evening light spilling in from the large window.

Easy Tiger
sunset lily tea (green tea, orange, lily flower – complimentary)

Things work a little differently on Sunday nights at Easy Tiger. Instead of an a la carte menu, you’re offered a two or three course chef’s banquet. Just list any dietary requirements that you have, and leave everything else to the chef to decide. I’m kinda the lazy sort of diner who hates making dish choices, so this arrangement really appealed to me.

2 courses comes at $50… you get three street foods followed by two mains, eggs and rice. 3 courses goes for $75, and you get four street foods followed by three mains, eggs, rice and dessert.

Easy Tiger

We picked the two course banquet, with plans on scuttling elsewhere for dessert. We then ordered a delightfully incoherent spread of drinks. Fatbee and I chose white wines while Fakegf had a cocktail, and the Angmoh ironically became the most ‘Asian’ amongst us all by having Vietnamese iced coffee!

Easy Tiger
ma hor (palm sugar cooked prawn, pork & chicken, on pineapple)

And so began a food journey so memorable that Fakegf, despite being tipsy, upped and blogged it that very same night! An almost unheard phenomenon amongst us bloggers with our massive backlogs.

We started off with these unique balls of pork floss bound with chicken, prawn and aromatic palm sugar… served on a crisp slice of pineapple. From its appearance to its flavours, there was something very different-yet-coherent about this dish that made us go silent with curiosity as we bit into it… then we collectively smiled with appreciation.

Easy Tiger
betel leaf with tea smoked scallop, fresh coconut, lime, peanuts & fried shallots

Next came what I considered to be the dish of the night for me. This rarely happens to me, but as I sank my teeth in, I felt like I was being transported to faraway lands… flooded with Eastern memories of the Mekong. Juicy, crunchy, full of freshness and flavours that’s both new yet instinctively familiar… Wow.

Easy Tiger
traditional thai fishcake with house made chilli sauce

Our final street food came as Thai fishcakes made from red snapper and ocean trout.

Easy Tiger

They were crisp, fresh and fragrant with herbs.

It seems I’d really enjoyed all of the entrees served in the first course. And calling it ‘first course’ was a bit of a misnomer too… it’s more like a first wave of food!

Easy TigerEasy Tiger

A change of plates and the arrival of two tall bowls of rice signalled the coming of the second course, where the two mains and eggs all came at once.

Easy Tiger
nahm prik of duck with watermelon, green mango & chilli jam

First up, a very piquant green mango salad with duck, watermelon and crudités on the side. Fatbee quite liked this while I thought it was a touch too tangy even when eaten with the rice and crudités.

Easy Tiger
sour orange fish curry with daikon, winter melon & siamese watercress

Equally tangy was this red snapper fish curry. Fakegf loved the confident use of chillies and tamarind, and the veggies in it were very lightly cooked. I liked how this wasn’t those generic sweet and creamy rich Thai curries that you tend to see in Melbourne, and enjoyed how the daikon and wintermelon remained crunchy.

By the way, we found out that Siamese watercress was essentially kang kung (water spinach).

Easy Tiger
son in law eggs

Then came this nest of eggs that pretty much blew my mind again. Crisp on the outside, half-cooked and gooey on the inside, I was in heaven…! They came in a sweet palm sugar sauce with garlic, chilli and coriander which counterpointed very nicely with the other two mains’ sourness.

Easy Tiger

Can’t believe I’d never eaten son-in-law eggs before… how much have I been missing out? I’m tempted to suggest that faddy brunch spots serving crumbed poached eggs (which tend to be quite firm / overcooked) should just consider making these babies instead.

Easy Tiger

So our two course meal ended here, but we had the option of adding dessert to our meal. Once our waitress described to us what’s on offer, all our original intentions of going elsewhere for sweets flew out of the window. Sorry… Gelato Messina!

Easy Tiger
chocolate & pandanus dumplings with melon & salted coconut cream 19

We decided to share two desserts between the four of us. First came these beautiful pandan dumplings which were quite reminiscent of tang yuan (汤圆 – glutinous rice flour balls) except that you got dark and oozy Monsieur Truffe chocolate as its filling. They sat amongst fresh melon balls, basil seeds, a surprise sprinkle of coriander seedlings and a creamy-savoury coconut soup.

Easy Tiger
ice creams and sorbets 15

And our final dish was an ice cream ‘terrine’. From closest to you, the layers consist of Thai basil ice cream, a wafer of white sesame, pineapple sorbet and then mandarin ice cream. And surrounding everything is a layer of coconut sorbet… amazing.

Easy Tiger

Aside for the two somewhat tangy mains, I really enjoyed all the other dishes we had here. Our lovely waitress, Lucy, took care of us very well too. The flavours are unique, fresh and contemporary without losing touch of its Asian origins. Serving Asian-inspired dishes to Asians and impressing them is quite a challenging feat… but guess what? Easy Tiger did exactly that!

Easy Tiger

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Footscray Rickshaw Run 2014 http://fatboo.com/2014/03/footscray-rickshaw-run-2014.html http://fatboo.com/2014/03/footscray-rickshaw-run-2014.html#comments Thu, 13 Mar 2014 21:30:28 +0000 http://fatboo.com/?p=13372 Footscray Rickshaw Run 2014

Attended this incredibly fun MFWF event courtesy of its coordinator, Lauren. Funnier still, Fakegf volunteered as a rickshaw puller!

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Footscray Rickshaw Run 2014

Disclosure: I received complimentary tickets to this event

I’ll have to say this event was one of the more unique ‘catch-up’ sessions I’ve had. Friend and fellow blogger Lauren (of Footscray Food Blog) is this year’s Footscray Rickshaw Run coordinator and she extended complimentary tickets to me. You can read more about the event here.

Footscray Rickshaw Run 2014

Funnier still, I asked Fakegf if she’d like to be my plus one, and she replied saying she’d actually volunteered to be one of the rickshaw pullers. So my plus one ended up being Fakegf’s partner – The Angmoh (which from my point of view can be called ‘FakeOtherGuy’…).

This essentially meant that Fakegf ended up pulling both of her boyfriends (fake and real… OMG that sounds so wrong) that evening… ha ha ha! You can read more about her experiences as a volunteer rickshaw puller here.

Footscray Rickshaw Run 2014
D & K Live Seafood

After registration, the Angmoh and myself were directed to our first stop, which was a shop selling live seafood. We joined the rest of the group (8 in total) and met up with volunteer marshall and West-side blogger Kenny (of Consider The Sauce). All hopes of anonymity flew out the window as he introduced me to the group as a fellow food blogger, although my biggish camera was a dead giveaway anyway… ^.^

Footscray Rickshaw Run 2014

The first stop allowed us to enjoy freshly shucked oysters from Tasmania (foreground) and Sydney (background) sourced by D & K Live Seafood. I recall purchasing an affordably priced live barramundi from them a few years ago. They slaughtered and cleaned it on the spot, and it made a marvellous Chinese steamed fish dinner that night. I should keep this place in mind if I need fresh seafood in the future.

Footscray Rickshaw Run 2014Footscray Rickshaw Run 2014
Little Saigon Market

We next loaded ourselves up onto the cute cute rickshaws and were pulled just around the corner to Little Saigon market. I laughed a little inside as we strolled in because I visit this place for my Asian groceries very often!

Footscray Rickshaw Run 2014

It was around 7pm then and the vendors were starting to close up. I slipped away from the group briefly and did a bit of personal grocery shopping, buying fragrant mangoes for a breezily cheap $1.99/kg and a large bunch of kang kong (aka. rau muống / Siamese watercress).

Footscray Rickshaw Run 2014

Cô Thư Quán

Shop 22, Little Saigon market
63 Nicholson Street
Footscray, VIC 3011
Facebook Page
Footscray Rickshaw Run 2014

Once the market tour was finished, we were led to this little spot in the market itself for more nibbles.

Footscray Rickshaw Run 2014
Bắp Xào – Sauteed juicy sweet corn with dried shrimp, fresh spring onions and butter
Bánh Tráng Bơ – Creamy mini rice paper wrappers feature pork floss, whipped butter and fried shallots

I’m not going to pretend to know which part of Vietnam these dishes are from, but these snacks were very different from what I’ve eaten at other Vietnamese joints. They creep on you with steady moreishness. I’ve made a mental note of coming back here to explore more of the menu.

Footscray Rickshaw Run 2014Footscray Rickshaw Run 2014

Sen

74-76 Nicholson Street
Footscray, VIC 3011
03 9687 4450
Footscray Rickshaw Run 2014

We were next pulled a hilariously short 60m to our next stop.

Footscray Rickshaw Run 2014
Gỏi Cuốn (hand rolled by moi!)

Here, we got a hands on lesson on how to roll our own rice paper rolls, and then proceeded to eat our creations. They’re incredibly easy to make, and I’ll have to announce that nothing beats the texture and flavour of freshly rolled rice paper rolls. So good! Now I just have to learn how to make that tasty hoisin-ish sauce that comes with it!

Footscray Rickshaw Run 2014Footscray Rickshaw Run 2014
Hủ Tiếu

Phong Dinh

152 Hopkins Street
Footscray, VIC 3011
03 9077 9098
Facebook Page
Footscray Rickshaw Run 2014

After another hilariously short ride, we got to enjoy a bowl of hu tieu – a clear rice noodle soup from Southern Vietnam. Once again, despite eating Vietnamese food quite often, this was a dish I’d never tried before. The noodles had a good bite but I thought the soup leant towards the sweet side. I’m glad we got to discover aspects of Vietnamese food that’s different from the usual duopoly of pho and bun cha.

Footscray Rickshaw Run 2014

After another short ride, we got to sit on stationary rickshaws and were treated to a rather mesmerising (Japanese?) drumming performance.

Footscray Rickshaw Run 2014
Sugarcane Juice | Bánh Khọt

During the show, masseurs appeared and gave us a short shoulder massage session. We were also given a little cup of sugarcane juice and a little street snack of banh khot (mini coconut pancakes).

I must say this part of the event made me feel quite like a tourist… massages, snacks and cultural show!

Footscray Rickshaw Run 2014
Final stop – Sapa Hills

I was pretty full by this point, but there was still one more main course to come…

Footscray Rickshaw Run 2014
Bún Chả Hà Nội

Each pair got to share a serve of bun cha ha noi, a delightful Northern Vietnam dish of chargrilled pork (slices and mince) served with rice vermicelli and fresh herbs. You eat this dish by tipping the entire bowl of sweet-vinegary sauce over the grilled pork. And then combining small portions of vermicelli, herbs and pork (with sauce) into a separate bowl to eat.

Despite looking all snazzy and new, I’ll have to say that Sapa Hills serves the best version of this dish by far. I also think this is one of the tastiest (and most approachable) Vietnamese dishes I’ve had since I’ve started exploring the cuisine in Melbourne. Great as an introduction, Lauren chose well.

Footscray Rickshaw Run 2014
Go go goooo… Ang Moh!!

It’s now time for the home run! The final rickshaw journey was the longest pull by far, going around the block back to our start point. Fakegf happened to be assigned to our group once again, and… having the start of blisters on her hands, she coerced The Angmoh to swap places with her for that final leg. He ran swiftly during a segment of it, allowing Fakegf and I to enjoy the night breeze blowing against our faces.

Footscray Rickshaw Run 2014

The only Melbourne Food and Wine Festival event that I’d attended this year was this Rickshaw Run and it turned out to be more memorable than most of the events that I’d attended in previous years. The Angmoh really enjoyed the whole journey and I believe Fakegf also enjoyed her experiences as a volunteer rickshaw puller.

I’d like to thank Lauren for asking me along to this incredibly fun event. Under normal circumstances, I’d never pick this event since I’m already quite familiar with the suburb. However, there were quite a few surprise gems that I’d uncovered during this tour. Which reminds me how the discovery never ends!

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The Cornershop | Cobb Lane Bakery http://fatboo.com/2014/03/cornershop-cobb-lane-bakery.html http://fatboo.com/2014/03/cornershop-cobb-lane-bakery.html#comments Mon, 10 Mar 2014 03:00:44 +0000 http://fatboo.com/?p=13261 The Cornershop | Cobb Lane Bakery

Yarraville has burgeoned with a number of nice places. We first visit an old spot for brunch before exploring somewhere new for dessert!

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The Cornershop | Cobb Lane Bakery

The Cornershop

9 Ballarat St
Yarraville, VIC 3013
03 9689 0052
Facebook Page
The Cornershop | Cobb Lane Bakery

One problem with dating a shift worker is… BOY are they grumpy some mornings! But admittedly, the day we’d visited Cornershop I was partly to blame. I was so caught up preparing my dishes for Chinese New Year dinner that I lost track of time, and by the time I’d left home, Fatbee only had 20 mins to jump out of bed and be ready for pickup (he slept at 4am).

The Cornershop | Cobb Lane Bakery

So there I was… standing in front of this cafe’s windows with Ees, Littledeath and Mr Crankypants… trying to make light conversation to brush over the blaring fact that someone woke up on the wrong side of the bed that day. Hehe… and the fact that it was about to be a 40ºC day also did not help.

The Cornershop | Cobb Lane Bakery

Thankfully, a table freed up within 15 minutes and we could start working into brunch mode!

The Cornershop has lingered on the back of my mind for a number of years, having had a nice chocolatey cup of coffee there in the past. But the one thing that halted me from visiting sooner was this instinctive feeling that Yarraville cafes tend to be very crowded with long waits on weekends. Fortunately, that wasn’t really the case on the Sunday that we visited.

The Cornershop | Cobb Lane Bakery
Strong flat white 3.8 | Ice coffee 6.5 

First order of the day… a good infusion of caffeine for those amongst us who needed it. I love how Littledeath’s such a brunch creature of habit… 2 Strong FW’s in quick succession and the porridge/muesli dish please! He gave his drink a nod of approval. Fatbee finally settled down a little with his iced coffee which came nice, strong and chocolatey. He liked how the sweetness only came from the ice cream.

The Cornershop | Cobb Lane Bakery
Chilled coconut quinoa porridge with mango & palm sugar 12

No prizes for guessing whose dish this was… ha ha!

Littledeath enjoyed it, mentioning how it was texturally like a rice pudding, only much lighter because of the quinoa. It looked really good to me.

The Cornershop | Cobb Lane Bakery
Scrambled eggs with parmesan, cavolo nero & soft herbs 14

Ees went simple with a moist scramble. He was slightly crestfallen that the Tuscan cabbage was mixed in rather than served on the side, but liked his dish in the end, saying how the parmesan gave it good flavour.

The Cornershop | Cobb Lane Bakery
The Melbourne Pantry cold smoked salmon with corn & polenta fritters & a tomato dill salsa 17

I had corn fritters which were surprisingly filling, probably because the fritters contained cheese and there was sour cream on the side. The dish leant towards the salty side and I think the fritters could’ve afforded more corn to give it some sweetness. The tomato salsa could also have been more ‘salsa-ish’ (ie. have a confidently spicy kick) to help counterpoint things.

The Cornershop | Cobb Lane Bakery
Ricotta hotcakes with sweet basil, strawberries & cream 15

Fatbee struggled to find something appealing on the menu, but eventually picked a sweet dish. One of the hotcakes had a touch too much basil in it but the rest of the dish was alright. From the little sampling I had, I thought the hotcakes were nice and fluffy.

The Cornershop | Cobb Lane Bakery

It was a pretty decent brunch. But as we were about to leave, Ees reminded me that our plans to brunch in Yarraville had a hidden agenda… I’m so forgetful! Can you guess what it was?

The Cornershop | Cobb Lane Bakery

Cobb Lane Bakery

13 Anderson St
Yarraville, VIC 3013
03 9687 1538
Website
The Cornershop | Cobb Lane Bakery

Sweets at Matt Forbes’ dessert HQ!!

The Cornershop | Cobb Lane BakeryThe Cornershop | Cobb Lane Bakery

It was just a minute’s stroll away… entering the doors, we discovered that you can actually brunch here, or just sit and enjoy the pastries with a cup of coffee.

I quite often see desserts by Matt Forbes displayed at many cafes, but they tend to revolve around doughnuts, cookies, brownies and slices. But at his bakery here, there’s even more variety on offer.

The Cornershop | Cobb Lane Bakery
Butter Croissant 4.0 | Pain au Chocolat 4.5

Fatbee and I grabbed a couple of croissants to share for breakfast the next day. They’re baked to a dark crisp and were pretty decent.

The Cornershop | Cobb Lane Bakery
Berry, Lychee + Rose Eclair 7.0

But it was these two more exciting offerings that finally dispelled Fatbee’s cranky mood.

First up, a tangy-fragrant raspberry lychee eclair… he liked the bold and interesting flavour combinations, while I found the almost icing-like topping made it a bit too sweet for me.

The Cornershop | Cobb Lane Bakery
Salted Caramel + Cardamom Tart 7.5

This tart, however, won my heart. It was like a dark chocolate tart with a hint of liquor and filled with salted caramel. The gentle push of cardamon gave it a very unique uplift. Very nice.

The Cornershop | Cobb Lane Bakery

We all get our cranky days… I’m like that after a long and physical day at work, and Fatbee knows that my sour moods are quite easily rectified with food/snacks (of any kind, I’m not picky!) or a good cider. However, it looks like I have a steeper hill to climb when having to appease the… *ahem*… wrath of the princess! And looking at how bumbly I generally am, I suspect I’ll be visiting many many dessert places in the near future in desperate search for ‘appeasement offerings’… ha ha ha!

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China Red http://fatboo.com/2014/03/china-red.html http://fatboo.com/2014/03/china-red.html#comments Sun, 02 Mar 2014 08:00:24 +0000 http://fatboo.com/?p=13346 China Red

Cheap eating spot in Chinatown with a touchscreen menu ordering system. The food's surprisingly alright.

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China Red

Shop 6
206 Bourke St
Melbourne, VIC 3000
03 9662 3688
Website

As you know, I’ve recently gone quite frugal with my eating and spending. Fatbee is on with me on that pathway, and it seems that habit has expanded into special occasions. So Valentine’s Day came and went this year, and with our busy rosters, we did not plan anything (although he did secretly plan to make red velvet cupcakes but work made it impossible).

China Red

Anyway on the night itself, we braved the hordes of couples in the city and ate at somewhere simple… China Red. My hilarious rationale (in Singlish) being “this place so much chilli, same colour as roses… can lah!”.

This place has been around for years, and I often lauded it’s touchscreen ordering system, thinking how the food can’t possibly be good with a system that’s so gimmicky. However, I’d been there twice before and noticed that the food’s actually not bad. Fatbee also agreed with me, so we avoided Asian restaurants with much longer queues and managed to nab a table without waiting here.

China Red

The touchscreen system is pretty intuitive, with a few caveats. Once you place your order, there’s no going back – it can’t be cancelled. Also, the dishes aren’t repeated across categories, so I didn’t realise till later that my favourite dish (dry fried string beans with minced pork) was under the ‘Chef Special’ category rather than the ‘Vegetable’ category.

China Red
Won Ton in Spicy Sauce (8 pieces) $8.80

On to the food!

First came these succulent pork dumplings in chilli oil. The sauce was actually on the vinegary side with a nice push of Sichuan peppers. I liked how the wonton skins were nice and uniformly soft as opposed to having hardened edges.

China Red
Spicy Chicken Szechuan Style $11.80

Next came a Sichuan dish that I love – 口水鸡 (mouthwatering chicken). Usually served cold, this wasn’t the tastiest version that I’ve had, probably because of variations in style. But I eventually warmed to this dish because of the addictiveness of the chilli oil (which is quite similar to Lao Gan Ma chilli oil that you can buy at Asian grocers).

China Red
Spinach in Soup with Preserved Eggs $16.80

Our final dish was a deliciously cleansing soup with spinach and century eggs. I really liked how the soup wasn’t overly salted (unlike many other Asian places) and it was topped with pieces of roasted garlic, which I devoured. Oops… garlic breath!

China Red has maintained decent standards in its food quality and we actually enjoyed our meal here quite a bit. Just make sure you browse through the Chef Specials first to see if there’s a nice dish you want as it may not be listed in its primary category.

China Red

China Red
Dessert at Rice Workshop

To finish off our night, we walked down Little Bourke St to this little joint for dessert.

China Red
Green Tea Soft Serve $2

Matcha soft serves! I’d been eyeing it on Instagram for ages and was so happy to have finally tried it. To be honest, it could do with more Matcha strength in it and the texture was quite similar to Mc Donald’s soft serves. But at $2 a pop… I’m not complaining!

I often find making a big thing out of special occasions quite stressful. So the low-keyness of having dinner and dessert like this on a night that’s normally fraught with unread expectations felt quite comforting. I just hope that Fatbee feels similarly. If anything else, this was waaaay better than my Valentine’s Day night two years ago, when a friend I was supposed to meet cancelled last minute and I ate alone in a food court.

Ps: if you see me eating Weetbix for dinner on my birthday, please organise an intervention.

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Chiba Japanese Restaurant http://fatboo.com/2014/02/chiba-japanese-restaurant.html http://fatboo.com/2014/02/chiba-japanese-restaurant.html#comments Mon, 24 Feb 2014 09:35:47 +0000 http://fatboo.com/?p=13023 Chiba Japanese Restaurant

Affordable and good Japanese restaurant with a traditional menu of well executed dishes.

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Chiba Japanese Restaurant

41 Hall St
Moonee Ponds, VIC 3039
03 9326 0248
Website

I get my diva days… being all princessy in my aluminium unibody ivory tower, bemoaning about how I’m tired of blogging and blablabla. It reached the point where I’d actually cleared my backlog and had nowhere new to cover in the horizon. Fatbee saw the impending dry spell coming and organised dinner, picking a place from my wishlist.

Disaster averted.

Chiba Japanese Restaurant

I added Chiba on my to-visit list after reading a positive review of this place from Winston, his photos of the food looked delectable. Winston is my go-to man for nice, affordable hidden gems in Melbourne’s less travelled eating spots.

Chiba Japanese Restaurant

It’s a very busy restaurant so do book. I called a few days in advance and barely managed to find availability for four. On the up side, we scored seats (all-in-one-row) at the sushi counter. A bit awkward for sharing dishes, but nice to look at all the sushi-making action happening before us. We were just about the only Asian diners that evening, which made me a little skeptical about authenticity (yes, I’m terrible). But I think it’s merely a reflection of the suburb that the restaurant’s situated in.

And I’ll have to agree with Agnes, who, on a previous visit, announced that “more food needs to be served on bunny plates”. The cuteness does add to the flavour indeed!

Chiba Japanese Restaurant

What a beautiful sight!

The menu’s quite traditional Japanese without much fusion going on, which is how I like it. But it was quite interesting to find that chawanmushi (a favourite dish of mine) isn’t on the menu. The girls (Angela and Edina) gave Fatbee and myself full rein with the ordering, and we shared everything.

Chiba Japanese Restaurant
Gyu Tataki $10.00
Thin sliced raw beef with garlic and wine sauce topped with raw egg

On to the food! We started off with a crimson serve of raw beef, very briefly seared at its edges. While it wasn’t Wagyu (no way at that price), it was nice and fresh.

Chiba Japanese Restaurant
Agedashi Tofu $8.50
Fried bean curd served in light soya and ginger sauce topped with bonito flakes

I find it difficult to not order Agedashi Tofu in any Japanese restaurant. It was alright, I thought the tofu could’ve been softer and the sauce could be balanced a little lighter.

Chiba Japanese RestaurantChiba Japanese Restaurant
Soft Shell Crab Rolls $15.00
Soft shell crab in light batter, sushi rice, avocado, soy bean sheet, chilli mayonnaise

While it’s hard to make soft shell crab rolls taste bad, Chiba’s version is quite stellar and was probably one of the meal’s highlights. Interesting how they used bean curd skin to wrap the roll. I thought the sushi rice was just a touch mushy, but it was still a great dish. Fresh with good flavour and crunch.

Chiba Japanese Restaurant
Nasu Dengaku $9.00
Fried eggplant with sweet miso paste

Okay, I also have a weak spot for eggplants. I started off thinking it was on the oily-sweet side, but after a few mouthfuls, I couldn’t stop myself from having more and more. Enjoyable.

Chiba Japanese RestaurantOsuimono $6.50
Fish and tofu clear soup with seaweed and shitake mushroom

To help cleanse our palates a little, how about a clear soup made from dashi stock and white fish? I thought this soup was lovely and appreciated the gentle oceanic flavours of konbu (sea kelp) and bonito in the stock.

Chiba Japanese RestaurantChiba Japanese Restaurant
Chiba Special for 2 $50.00
Combination of sushi, sashimi & seaweed rice rolls

After whetting our appetites with all those entrees, we shared this massive sushi boat for ‘mains’.

I understood that $50 won’t nab you premium cuts of sashimi and seafood, but I’ll concede that the selections offered were very fresh and the portion size very generous. It was a good value spread for that price point.

Chiba Japanese Restaurant
Tebasaki $8.50
Grilled marinated chicken wings

After chomping into Mensousai Mugen’s delicious tebasaki, I wanted more Japanese-style chicken wings. These were agreeably crisp and fragrant, I wanted to cordon off that whole plate just for myself.

Chiba Japanese Restaurant
Tofu Steak $14.00
Bean curd in teriyaki sauce with mushroom and vegetables

Seems like both tofu dishes in this restaurant were the only let-downs. The tofu used was softer and nicer than the agedashi tofu’s, but we found the teriyaki sauce just too sweet. Then again, it IS teriyaki sauce!

Chiba Japanese Restaurant
Tempura $20.00
Deep fried prawn, fish & mixed vegetables in a light batter

Our final savoury dish. I liked how light the tempura batter was and the dish was fluffy and crisp. The vegetables were good but I thought the prawns could be fresher.

Chiba Japanese RestaurantChiba Japanese Restaurant
Black Sesame Ice Cream $6.50 | Green Tea Ice Cream $6.50
Dorayaki $7.50
Sweet pancake filled with crushed red bean served with fresh fruits ice-cream

For dessert, the girls enjoyed generous serves of Japanese ice cream (which tasted pretty good) while Fatbee and I shared a dorayaki (I kept calling it doraemon!). I wished the dorayaki was served warm instead of room temperature.

Chiba Japanese Restaurant

The completely devoured sashimi boat is testament to how much we enjoyed this meal, the dishes were fresh and executed well. I liked the affordable pricing too, we spent $37.50 each and left the restaurant very full and satisfied (or maybe I ate more than the lion’s share…!).

Chiba Japanese Restaurant

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Crabapple Kitchen http://fatboo.com/2014/02/crabapple-kitchen.html http://fatboo.com/2014/02/crabapple-kitchen.html#comments Mon, 17 Feb 2014 23:00:32 +0000 http://fatboo.com/?p=13068 Crabapple Kitchen

Homely cafe in Hawthorn with a solid menu of good brunch fare.

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Crabapple Kitchen

659 Glenferrie Rd
Hawthorn, VIC 3122
03 9078 5492
Website

Unlike many of you who wind down and go all festive during the Christmas period, both Fatbee and myself work in industries where December-January are the busiest months. Work has been horrific for me in early January, and then the week after, it was Fatbee’s turn to face mayhem.

Crabapple Kitchen

But I’m glad now that we’ve passed mid-January, things are settling down. No more long shifts, extra days, and unexpected surprises. We got to sleep-in, wake up whenever, and then brunch at leisure. One fine Wednesday morning, our brunch adventures took us to a cosy little spot in Hawthorn…

Crabapple Kitchen

Crabapple Kitchen has gone a little different in terms of fitout and theme. It’s more homely / cottage-y rather than clean / minimalistic / warehousey. Even the music’s old-school… (they played Michael Jackson’s Billie Jean…!).

Crabapple KitchenCrabapple Kitchen
Piccolo | Banana Milkshake $6.5

They use Campos coffee beans here and while my piccolo came without latte art, it was strong and chocolatey enough to wake me up. Fatbee’s milkshake came in a cute jar, it tasted like banana milk and he enjoyed how it wasn’t overly creamy-sweet.

Crabapple Kitchen
‘Real Chai’ teas – Wet leaf chai $4.5

I was also curious about what wet leaf chais are. It came loose-leafed in-a-pot and I had soy milk on the side. Even though it wasn’t infused with milk, the chai still had good strength on its own as a tea… warming and mellow like a comforting hug. I won’t be surprised if you can also order this as a chai latte.

Crabapple KitchenCrabapple Kitchen
Smoked Petuna ocean trout with tahini yoghurt, pine nut, pistachio & pepita seed granola, mandarin, Spanish & spring onions $16.5

Fatbee’s preferred menu choices often revolves around lighter, more vegetarian / pescetarian options, so this savoury ‘granola’ with smoked trout and yoghurt fit into that category very well.

Crabapple Kitchen

As unusual as the ingredients sounded, they actually worked together really well as a surprisingly harmonious combination of textures and flavours. Fatbee really enjoyed it, and look… no carbs!! So Gossip Girl.

Crabapple Kitchen
Sweet corn & chilli fritters with grilled Cyprian haloumi, poached egg, avocado, tomato, cucumber, red onion and mint $20

But I of course needed something a little heftier, so these tasty fritters beckoned. Having asked for permission to take photos for this blog at the start of the meal, the chef even threw in a few punchy slices of chorizo as a bonus.

But I can tell you the dish was fabulous enough on its own as a vegetarian number, with the milky-delicious haloumi and zesty avocado salsa giving good balance to the crisp deep fried fritters. While the dish was inspired by Santorini in Greece, the flavours (avocado and tomato salsa) actually reminded me of Mexican fare.

Crabapple Kitchen

It’s a homely, comfortable little space here with friendly staff, and the kitchen dishes out some pretty solid fare. To me, I see this place as less like a cafe and more like a bistro with good food.

Crabapple Kitchen

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PappaRich QV http://fatboo.com/2014/02/papparich-qv.html http://fatboo.com/2014/02/papparich-qv.html#comments Thu, 13 Feb 2014 21:07:41 +0000 http://fatboo.com/?p=13170 PappaRich QV

Fast food-like hawker food chain from Malaysia that has now settled into Australian shores.

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PappaRich QV

Level 2
Shop 11, QV Square
QV Building
Melbourne, Victoria 3000
Website

Today is the ‘chap goh mei‘, the 15th day of the first month in the Lunar calendar. So I thought it’d be fitting to share this CNY related post.

PappaRich QV

This visit to PappaRich came about as a faux Tuan Yuan Fan (团圆饭 – eve of Chinese New Year reunion dinner) with Fakegf, her Angmoh, Fatbee and Angela. It’s traditionally a family dinner gathering back in our home countries… a simple meal at home before we go visiting on the first day of Chinese New Year (a very busy and festive day!).

Sadly, we’d all been incredibly busy at work all of January and could not organise a cosier homecooked dinner, so visiting a Malaysian spot late after work was the next best thing we could do. But the fact that we, as friends, got together still meant a lot to us…

PappaRich QV
MF09 Organic Soya Milk $4.50
PD06 Tropical Lime (Ice blended lychee and lime with vanilla ice cream) $7.50
MF08 Barley Grass Jelly $4.50 | MF19 Teh (Milk Tea) $3.90

I enjoyed this meal probably due to the significance of us just getting together. Loved my tannic-and-rich iced teh tarik (shiok but it gave me insomnia…!) and Angela’s creamy iced blended soya milk drink.

PappaRich QVPappaRich QV
C01 Roti Canai $6.50
A fluffy and slighty crispy hand tossed bread. This is a vegetarian dish.
C04 Roti Telur $7.50
Roti Canai with egg throughout the bread 

Fakegf had a late finish at work and arrived slightly after 8pm. Whilst waiting, we had these rotis as entrees. They were crisp, freshly cooked and came with a selection of curries and sauces. Quite enjoyable, although it’s interesting to note that there’s a slight sweetness to the rotis even when they’re a savoury dish.

PappaRich QV
ST05 Satay Mixed (6pcs) $13.90
3 sticks of chicken satay and 3 sticks of beef satay

We each picked a main dish, but shared a serve of satay amongst us. The chicken satay was nice and succulent, but the beef leant towards the dry and tough side. And we thought the satay sauce could be less sweet.

PappaRich QV
R05 Special Nasi Lemak with Curry Chicken & Sambal Prawns $13.90
Our Pappa special Nasi Lemak comes with aromatic coconut milk infused steamed rice served with curry chicken, sambal prawns, fried anchovies, fried peanuts, hard boiled egg, our delicious daily made spicy sambal and cucumber slices

Fatbee had this version of nasi lemak, which he enjoyed.

PappaRich QVR16 Nasi Lemak with Beef Rendang $13.90
Our Nasi Lemak comes with aromatic coconut milk infused with steamed rice served with 5 pieces of beef rendang, fried anchovies, fried peanuts, hard boiled egg, our delicious daily made spicy sambal and cucumber slices

The Ang Moh also had nasi lemak, which… hilariously… he did not enjoy because he did not know when he ordered that it’s essentially coconut rice, which he doesn’t like. Ha ha!

In this respect, The Ang Moh and myself are quite similar, we make silly dish choices on occasion simply because we’d forget to read the menu properly! Aside for the rice, the ingredients were alright, although the table collectively thought that the ‘spicy sambal’ was a touch too sweet and unspicy. (The same sambal was used with the rotis)

PappaRich QV
N08 Pappa Prawn Mee $11.90
Yellow noodles served in our special Pappa prawn broth, served with fresh prawns, hard boiled egg, chicken slices, bean sprouts and water spinach

This dish was one of the meal’s highlights… Fakegf’s rich-and-prawny har mee soup. She was satisfied!

PappaRich QV
N05 Pappa Fried Maggi Mee $11.90
Wok-fried instant noodles with prawn, tomatoes, potatoes, egg and bean sprouts

Angela also enjoyed her “sour like my face” maggie mee goreng. She made that statement because she had a pretty tough day at work.

PappaRich QV
N13 Pappa Wat Tan Hor $11.90
Wok-fried combination flat noodles with egg gravy, prawns, fish cake, chicken slices and fried shallots

My wat tan hor did have a hint of wok hei (charcoal ‘breath of the wok’ fragrance) but didn’t quite hit the mark for me. More wok hei and less salt was needed.

I know we sound quite fussy. I find that Singaporeans and Malaysians tend to be quite strict about their own cuisine, so I tend to give these restaurants a little more leeway these days. My meal here was decent, the food came really fast (within 2 minutes!), and most importantly the company was good.

Pps: I told Fakegf that this restaurant could also be called 爸爸有钱 (Dad has lots of money). She didn’t laugh… hmmph!

Happy Chap Goh Mei everyone!

PappaRich QV

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Ceres Cafe http://fatboo.com/2014/02/ceres-cafe.html http://fatboo.com/2014/02/ceres-cafe.html#comments Sun, 09 Feb 2014 20:55:29 +0000 http://fatboo.com/?p=12934 Ceres Cafe

Pleasant and peaceful organic cafe inside Ceres Community Environment Park in Brunswick.

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Ceres Cafe

Ceres Community Environment Park
Stewart St
Brunswick, VIC 3057
03 9389 0155
Website

Ceres Cafe

Having heard from Fakegf about their chai with native Australian bush spices, I added Ceres into my wishlist, but sadly, it stayed on the sidelines for years without a visit.

But it so happened that Fatbee and myself are in a bit of a home decorating phase currently, and we’d just started looking for plants & pots to buy for our balconies (I wanted a balcony top veggie garden!). So a much-belated brunch visit to the organic cafe in this community park (which has a nursery) felt perfect!

Ceres Cafe

On first approach, we beheld an effortless spread of tables and umbrellas scattered across an open space. Abit of an outdoor cafe feel… with a calm, tree-hugging family atmosphere, and not too busy on a Saturday.

Ceres Cafe

Grab a menu and claim a table, you’ll have to order at the counter and take a number. Incidentally, we’d discovered there’s a sheltered section behind the cafe with even more comfy seating for rainy days.

Ceres Cafe
Soy Latte $3.80 | Ceres Organic Chai $4.50
Regular chai spices mixed with Australian bush-foods of aniseed myrtle, lemon myrtle, pepper berry & fresh ginger, with honey on the side

Fatbee had a rather unexciting soy latte (by Coffee Supreme), while I went with the native bush chai. Sadly, my drink was also quite disappointing. Mild with bitter tones, I even added sugar to help make it a bit tastier (they hadn’t provided me with enough honey).

Ceres Cafe
Hot Indonesian Eggs $15.60
Fried eggs on steamed brown rice served with chilli sambal, spring onions, mint, coriander, greens and roasted peanuts with a fragrant tamari dressing (available with smoked tofu instead of eggs)

Fatbee chose to live dangerously and got an Asian number in this non-Asian cafe…

Ceres Cafe

Looking at the ingredients, tamari dressing is Japanese in origin and not Indonesian. So these ‘Indonesian Eggs’ weren’t very Indonesian at all. It was more like a strangely dressed salad (with mint) with undercooked brown rice at the bottom and topped with fried eggs. Fatbee picked half-heartedly at his dish… hilariously with the provided knife and fork.

Ceres Cafe
Dukkha Eggs w. Bacon $18
Poached eggs on pumpkin sourdough with hummus, roast spinach and house made dukkha. Served with our spicy tomato kassundi.

I went safer by choosing a more Western dish with a Middle-Eastern slant.

Ceres Cafe

It was quite alright. Perfectly poached eggs, decent bacon and a generous spread of hummus on soft bread lifted by a fragrant sprinkle of toasted dukkha. For a chap who’s somewhat frightened of cumin and it sister spices, I didn’t mind this dish at all.

Ceres Cafe

In a nutshell, our brunch here did not quite hit the mark, but the casual friendly ambience and organic food philosophy was quite a nice change from the trendier, fancier places in Melbourne.

Ceres Cafe

Besides checking out the cafe, nursery, and community gardens, we also visited the Organic Food Market in this community park.

Ceres Cafe

What took my fancy was how you can buy free range eggs from chickens roaming oh-so-freely and happily in that park (nearly tripped over a rooster!). I was tempted to grab a carton, but already had plenty eggs in my fridge at home.

Ceres Cafe

And here’s our spoils from the market. I got a jar of honey from the bees foraging in Brunswick itself, how cool! And Fatbee… being a tea drinker, got a herbal tisane for a good night’s sleep. So yes, don’t be too quick to laugh at his choice of (meh) soy lattes, at least he knows his teas!

Ceres Cafe

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Banoi http://fatboo.com/2014/02/banoi.html http://fatboo.com/2014/02/banoi.html#comments Thu, 06 Feb 2014 21:03:50 +0000 http://fatboo.com/?p=13089 Banoi

Contemporary Vietnamese joint in the Docklands with fresh flavours and reasonable prices. I liked the bun cha and rice paper rolls there.

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Banoi

807 Bourke St
Docklands, VIC 3008
03 8080 9699
Website

I’m probably one of the laziest buggers on earth when it comes to exercise. About the only incentive to get me up and going is the activity’s fun factor. I’ve been an absolute pomme de terre (potato) since my trip to France last October. But now that the we’re back in January and I’m no longer swamped and exhausted by extra shifts at work, I have no more excuses to not go back to dance classes.

Banoi

The day that I lunched here, I’d gone for my second class for the year, and I’ll have to say that exercise and dance does lift the spirits significantly. I suddenly became more cheerful and bubbly at work! And OMG have I got a fun-loving (and hilariously camp) teacher for my class. Today after we did a short movement phrase, he said to us “I’m starving, and it isn’t helping that you guys are looking so DELICIOUS!”.

Banoi

Which brings me to this lunch scene that happened after that Saturday’s dance class… see the beautiful mess that we’d made on our table!

I’ve been finding it difficult to stay in touch with my friends these days now that I’m seeing Fatbee. So when Damo suggested a catch-up, I was more than happy to do that. It turned out to be a triple date… Fatbee and myself, Fakegf and her Ang Moh, Damo and his date.

Banoi
VN Iced Coffee 3.8

All of the gay boys were a touch late, so Fakegf and The Angmoh started first with a serve of rice paper rolls (not pictured, devoured by the time we arrived) and a cuppa Vietnamese ice coffee. The little sip that I had of the coffee revealed a rich and deeply aromatic drink, very similar to great Singapore ice kopi. Very nice.

Banoi
Kakuni Pork Belly w/ pumpkin puree, candied chillis & roasted sesame rice paper rolls 6.8
Lychee Crush 4.0

Here’s Damo and his date’s choice of rolls, paired with a rather delightful looking lychee crush drink. They seemed to have enjoyed both items.

Banoi
Custard Apple Smoothie 4.0 | Prawn & taro fritter rice paper rolls 6.8

And here’s what Fatbee and I picked as starters. The rolls were lovely and very freshly made with beautifully crisp prawn-taro fritters inside. The rolls were fat and could’ve afforded having a tiny bit more prawn in it. It came with sweet chilli dipping sauce, but I found myself stealing the lighter nuoc cham-like dipping sauce that came with Damo’s rolls.

The smoothie was alright but it was blunted slightly with milk powder (I believe). I prefer the equivalent smoothies in many of Footscray’s eateries where the fresh custard apple is more prevalent.

BanoiBanoi
Lemongrass Beef bun cha w/ imperial spring rolls 12.0
Soft Shell Crab bun cha w/ imperial spring rolls 13.0

Our lunch choices revolved around bún chả (rice vermicelli with salad & grilled items) or phở (noodle soup) for mains. Bánh xèo is only available at dinner time. Funnily, each couple picked one bun cha dish, and a pho!

All of the bun cha came with pickled carrot, daikon, shredded lettuce, bean sprouts and mixed Asian herbs. Damo had lemongrass while Fakegf enjoyed soft shell crab bun cha. I must say Fakegf’s bowl looked amazing, with crunchy filo-like (taro?) spring rolls and delectably crisp crabs. I was jealous.

Banoi
Wok tossed fried silken tofu bun cha & veg spring rolls 11.0

Fatbee had a more vegetarian version of bun cha. While the sauce’s flavour profile was quite different to the bun cha that we’re used to having, the ingredients were very fresh and the fried silken tofu was excellent. I could grow to like this version… again, I was jealous!

BanoiBanoi
Rare wagyu beef pho w/ extra beef brisket & meat ball 13.0
Rare wagyu beef pho 11.0 

And here’s the reason why I had food envy twice! As delicious as both bowls of pho looked, the broth somehow pulled an unusual sourish aftertaste (Fakegf said it was floral) that none of us appreciated. The broth could also have been richer and meatier.

As you know, a lot of the enjoyment in a bowl of Vietnamese beef noodle soup depends on good broth. Whether Wagyu beef was used or not makes no difference if the broth doesn’t deliver.

Banoi

While brisket and meat balls were available options as ‘extras’, I still missed having beef tripe and other beef cuts in my bowl, something you’d find in phở bò đặc biệt (beef noodle soup special combination) at more old school Vietnamese pho joints. I ended up pumping in ‘flavour’ into the soup by adding heaped spoonfuls of chilli oil…

Banoi

Don’t know about you, but I do love a messy scene of demolished food and empty plates. Aside for the beef pho, I thought that many of the dishes we had here were great. The ingredients used tasted very fresh and the flavours are well-balanced and quite contemporary. But thankfully… the prices aren’t contemporary!

Banoi

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Ayam Buah Keluak Recipe http://fatboo.com/2014/02/ayam-buah-keluak-recipe-shell-free.html http://fatboo.com/2014/02/ayam-buah-keluak-recipe-shell-free.html#comments Mon, 03 Feb 2014 10:00:09 +0000 http://fatboo.com/?p=13135 Ayam Buah Keluak Recipe

Delicious & innovative home recipe for shell-free Ayam Buah Keluak that's adapted for Peranakans living in countries where the whole nut can't be acquired.

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Ayam Buah Keluak Recipe

It has been awhile since I’ve last blogged a home recipe, so here’s one for you. It’s a rather unique Peranakan (Straits Chinese) dish that many Nyonyas and Babas would cross continents and move mountains for. As a half-Peranakan myself, it’s a dish that I’d always look forward to eating when visiting Singapore and Meleka. The anchor ingredient is an Indonesian black nut called Buah Keluak that’s almost impossible to find in Melbourne.

Ayam Buah Keluak Recipe
My first attempt making Ayam Buah Keluak, one month ago
(NB: the coriander’s wholly decorative, it normally doesn’t go with the dish!)

Buah keluak is a rather mysterious fruit. The whole plant is poisonous, and yet the seeds are painstakingly prepared and eaten as a Nyonya delicacy. The buah keluak tree is native to Indonesia and the fruit is about the size of a volleyball. Inside, embedded in yellow flesh, lies large clam-shaped buah keluak seeds. Detoxifying the seeds (I heard it contains cyanide…!!) involve burying the fruit for weeks and boiling them for hours to leach out the poison. Thankfully, I think they are already detoxified when they’re sold in markets. For more information on this curious nut (with photos of how it looks like, shells and all), you may want to read my post about Nyonya Food.

I consider buah keluak the ’truffles’ of the Eastern culinary world. It’s black and unpretty… and it’s an acquired taste. But once you learn to like it, you’d just want to have more and more and more of it!! The nut paste holds a rich, earthy, botanically bitter-yet-nutty flavour that’s almost reminiscent of a good single origin dark chocolate. And they’re cooked in a tangy-spicy gravy made with tamarind juice and fresh pounded spices. Indonesians also eat this nut, they call it ‘kluwak’ and it’s often cooked as a black soupy dish called Rawon – something that I’d very much like to taste (and cook) in the near future!

Ayam Buah Keluak Recipe
Buah keluak nut kernels

I think Peranakans in Melbourne (and probably those living in countries outside of the Straits of Malaya) face added challenges with the preparation of this dish. Many of us grew up eating buah keluak as a curry-like dish with the whole nuts in the stew. Part of the enjoyment involves picking the nut with your fingers, and with a small fork, digging out its delicious black flesh from a painstakingly pre-chiselled hole in the shell. But quarantine laws in Australia disallows the importation of whole nuts, so I’m only capable of acquiring just the nut kernels.

Ayam Buah Keluak Recipe
Packet of Buah Keluak kernels bought from an Indonesian grocery | Kernels pounded into a powder before making the paste

Once the kernels are pounded and made into a paste, they need to be in a vessel (like its shell) to prevent the nut paste from dissolving into the gravy. I’ve spent the past six years in Melbourne homesick for this Peranakan dish, but never got around to cooking it because of that tiny-but-huge detail! No nut shells then how to cook this yummy dish?

But the puzzle has finally been solved this year, and I’ll walk you through the failed projects that Fatbee and I went through before we came up with a more satisfactory (albeit hilarious) solution. Read on to find out!

Ayam Buah Keluak Recipe
Left: Lemongrass, Candlenuts, Galangal, Turmeric, Dried Red Chillies
Right: Fresh Red Chillies, Prawn Paste, Shallots

I’ll first touch on how the dish is made.

It’s quite a difficult dish, step one involves making the fresh rempah (spice paste). You can already imagine how fragrant the gravy will turn out with all these ingredients! The dried red chillies imparts the deep red colour to the gravy, and the buah keras (candlenuts) works as a thickener. If you like the gravy less thick, use less candlenuts than what the recipe calls for.

Ayam Buah Keluak Recipe

The dried red chillies needs to be softened first by soaking in hot water, and the belachan prawn paste is prepped by dry frying or toasting it till fragrant. Warning… toasting the pungent belachan paste tends to attract annoying flies into your home! I still can’t fathom why an ingredient so smelly can be part of such a delicious dish!

Ayam Buah Keluak Recipe

To make life easier, cut the rempah ingredients into small pieces before you start pounding or blitzing them into a paste, especially the lemongrass, galangal and dried red chillies (pictured left). I was also a little OCD and had kept the pre-toasted belachan wrapped in plastic to keep the smells to a minimum! But don’t worry, once it’s made into a paste, it loses its pungency.

Ayam Buah Keluak Recipe

And here’s another tip, fresh kunyit (turmeric) stains everything yellow! So watch your shirt and don’t leave turmeric stains on your kitchen counter for too long. Look at my yellow kunyit hands… ha ha!

Ayam Buah Keluak Recipe
Fatbee… pounding the lemongrass

As for making the rempah, you can either use the traditional method of using a mortar and pestle, which will take hours…

Ayam Buah Keluak Recipe

… or you can blitz it in a food processor! I prefer my paste to be finer and got quite impatient with tumbuk-ing (hand pounding). So I ended up going midway by first getting Fatbee to pound the harder ingredients a little to release their fragrance, and then blitzing everything twice through until I got a fine paste.

I found rempah-making the most time consuming part for this recipe, so you may even want to do this a few days in advance and refrigerate the paste. Here, I’d actually made double portions of rempah, one to cook with and the other half I froze for the future.

Ayam Buah Keluak Recipe
The pounded nut powder, after adding water, becomes a silky paste

Actually, the other incredibly arduous step involves the preparation of the whole buah keluak nuts (soaking overnight, scrubbing the shells, chiselling a hole, getting the kernels out, picking the good ones from bad)… a step that we’re skipping entirely here since we can only get the kernels! I hear that if one bad kernel gets mixed in with the good ones, it spoils the entire paste!

On this front, using the packet deshelled nut kernels has major advantages. All of the kernels are already guaranteed good and you don’t have to risk injury chiselling a hole in the shell. I find that the kernels are so firm that you risk overheating your food processor when blitzing, so what I did was break it up a bit in a mortar and pestle (thanks again, Fatbee!) before blitzing it into a powder. To turn the powder into a paste, I found that 1 tablespoon of water per 100g buah keluak powder gave it good consistency. If bitter, the paste can be seasoned with a dash of pepper, salt and sugar to taste.

Ayam Buah Keluak Recipe
Tamarind Paste

Another interesting step (for me anyway) was making the assam (tamarind) juice… I’d never done it before! A block of tamarind paste is mushied up in water, squeezing the pulp and seeds with your hands as much as you can. You strain the mixture but keep the leftover bits in case you need a second press of juice if the gravy becomes too thick. Tamarind imparts the delightful tanginess to this dish, and I find that as the dish ages, it gets less tangy.

Ayam Buah Keluak Recipe

You have the option of using chicken (ayam) or pork (babi), and some recipes even uses both meats. To be honest, this is one of the few dishes where the meats don’t take centre stage. Having the nut paste with the fragrant gravy is what makes us buah keluak fans swoon.

Ayam Buah Keluak Recipe

Once the rempah and nuts have been prepared, the cooking phase is incredibly simple. Fry the rempah till it’s fragrant, add the meats, and then sieve in the assam juice. Finally add the nuts and simmer till flavour is absorbed. Consider making this dish a few days in advance, as it tastes even better a few days later.

But here comes the funny part. I came up with a lot of harebrained ideas over how to cook this dish without actually having the nut shells. I needed an aesthetically pleasing nutshell-like alternative that would hold the buah keluak paste firmly without melting or imparting any changes in flavour to the dish.

Ayam Buah Keluak Recipe

Okay, you’re not allowed to laugh… but the first thing that came to mind was to use empty escargot shells that can be bought from a French deli. It cost me about A$8 for half a dozen of them, so not exactly the cheapest of options. I stuffed these shells with the paste and dropped them into the simmering gravy. If you want to know the verdict, read on!

Ayam Buah Keluak Recipe

My second idea involved trying to bind the paste with a thickener and rolling them into ‘buah keluak balls‘. The balls above were made by mixing in ¼ tsp of cornflour with a bit of water, and then pre-rolling them into balls before dropping it into the soup. Free-balling technique, anyone? Ha ha ha ha ha!

Other alternative binding agents that came to mind involved using eggs or mince meat. I have not tried either of these alternatives because I tend to like the nut paste to keep its paste-like texture. I also thought of coating the balls with a batter of sorts and pan frying it, but that also felt quite weird.

Ayam Buah Keluak Recipe
Free-balling vs escargot shells

And here’s the verdict.

The cornstarch-bound balls were a fail. Just like how mum warned me, they disintegrated in the gravy even with the lightest of stirring. You probably need to use minced meat in order for the balls to bind better. However, I’m not convinced how delicious these hypothetical buah-keluak-meatballs will taste like, mainly because I personally don’t like meat mixed into my buah keluak paste.

The escargot shells worked fine actually, the paste stayed in securely even with confident stirring. But two things made the escargot shells a less attractive option. Firstly, you can only stuff at most 10-12g of paste into the average escargot shell and the shell has to be biggish. Add any more than that and the paste will reach past the shell’s natural curve and become unreachable. It means you can’t dig the paste out when eating and that’s a lot of wastage. It also means with 300g of paste, you will have nearly thirty escargot shells floating and clinking away in the pot!

Which brings me to the second reason. I actually found the look of snail shells in the dish quite unappetising and it made me a bit queasy. And while reusing the shells (at more than $1 each, you probably would want to) is an option, getting the leftover paste out when cleaning was quite difficult. I found leaving the shells in a briskly boiling pot of water for an hour the most effective way of getting remnant paste out. Too much work!

Ayam Buah Keluak Recipe

Fatbee finally came up with an innovative solution that worked satisfactorily. Can you guess….?

Ayam Buah Keluak Recipe

SINGLE-USE TEABAGS!

Ha ha ha ha ha!!

Ayam Buah Keluak Recipe

It’s quite a marvellous idea… almost the same concept as using a bouquet garni, except you eat its contents when served! The bags are cheap, flavourless, inert and they don’t break apart during cooking. The nut paste isn’t fine enough to seep out of the bags, yet some of the good buah keluak flavours will still be able to infuse into the gravy during cooking.

It’s optional, but we used cooking twine to make the biggish bags look a little neater by parcelling them up. But to be honest, the next time I’m making this I’ll try to find and use smaller teabags so that I won’t have to tie them up. Tied-up teabags with loose string dangling reminds me a bit too much of tampons… ha ha ha! But thankfully, once it’s dropped into the gravy and gets wet, the bags turn almost transparent and become less strange-looking. In fact, from afar, they kinda look quite similar to whole buah keluak nuts!

Ayam Buah Keluak Recipe
Fakegf’s Homemade Yee Sang | My Chap Chye 

Interestingly, even though it’s a Peranakan dish, many Chinese families in Singapore like to enjoy Ayam Buah Keluak during Chinese New Year. So I basically did just that and served it last night as part of a Chinese New Year (3rd Day) homecooked dinner get-together with Fatbee, Fakegf and The Angmoh.

We started off with a delightful yee sang ‘prosperity’ salad made by Fakegf, where the convivial and ritualistic high-toss ‘lo-hei’ mixing of the sweet-and-savoury salad plays an integral part to the enjoyment of the dish. And I made my usual chap chye vegetable dish (rife with mushrooms) to go with the ayam buah keluak.

Ayam Buah Keluak Recipe

And that’s the buah keluak paste, freshly removed from a teabag… glistening like black gold and fully intact!

I hereby coin this method as the ‘tea-bagging’ technique. Some of my friends tell me it sounds rather naughty, but I have absolutely no clue what they’re talking about… really! :p

Ayam Buah Keluak Recipe

And this is how I like to eat buah keluak. Mix a bit of the paste into your rice and pour generous amounts of the fragrant tangy-spicy gravy… and enjoy!

Granted, using teabags doesn’t give the same nostalgic feeling as holding the clam-shaped whole nut with your fingers and digging out the beautiful flesh from its gaping maw with a little fork. But for those of us who live away from Southeast Asia, this is probably just about as close to the real thing as we can get!

And I’m glad to announce that despite its unconventional presentation, Fatbee and Fakegf loved loved loved this dish! And even The Ang Moh really liked it too despite the fact that this dish definitely isn’t the prettiest thing to look at. The flavours really spoke true to the heart.

Ayam Buah Keluak Recipe

So here you go… Ayam Buah Keluak (tea-bagged shell-free version for my fellow homesick Peranakans)… ha ha ha! And before I publish the home recipe below, let me throw down the gauntlet to all of you. This is the best solution that Fatbee and I can currently come up with, and I think if we can find and use smaller teabags in future, it’ll look even better. But I’m more than happy to hear more ideas on how the aesthetic problem of not having the shells can be solved. Let us all solve this culinary puzzle together!

Ayam Buah Keluak

(Adapted from Mum’s Recipe: shell-free)
Preparation Time: Very long
Cooking Time: Not so bad
Serves 6-8

Best to cook this a few days in advance as it tastes better when it is kept for a longer period

Ingredients

250-300g buah keluak nut kernels (aka ‘Kluwak’ at Indonesian grocers)
White pepper powder
Salt to taste
Sugar to taste
15-20 disposable loose tea filter bags
Cooking twine (optional)

1.2kg total of chicken and/or pork
2-3 kaffir lime leaves
100g tamarind paste
1 litre of water
6 buah keras (candlenuts)
2 stalks lemongrass (cut into thick rings)
50g piece of galangal
35g piece of turmeric
20 dried red chillies (soaked in hot water, remove stalks when soft)
2 big fresh red chillies
20g belachan (shrimp paste – toasted)
250g shallots
Cooking oil

Preparation:

Rempah

Cut ingredients into smaller pieces then grind in a food processor till fine:

6 buah keras (candlenuts)
2 stalks lemongrass (cut into thick rings)
50g piece of galangal
35g piece of turmeric
20 stalks dried red chillies (softened in hot water)
2 big fresh red chillies
20g belachan (shrimp paste – toasted)
250g shallots

Cover and set aside
Can be stored in fridge for a few days until the day of cooking, or frozen for a few months

Buah Keluak Paste

Grind the buah keluak nut kernels in a chopper till you get a semi-fine powder

Remove from chopper & add gradually, mix well & taste till you get the desired taste:

Salt to taste (approx ⅛ tsp)
Sugar to taste (use only if it’s bitter)
A few dashes of white pepper powder

Add 1tbsp water to each 100g of buah keluak powder and mix well until it becomes a paste
Roll the buah keluak paste into compact balls of approx 20g
Place the balls into disposable tea filter bags
Tie them into parcels with cooking twine (optional)

Assam Juice

Put together, knead & soak for about 10 mins:
100g tamarind paste
1 litre of water

Cooking:

Heat up in a large pot:
6-8 tbsp cooking oil

Add and stir fry over medium heat till it’s fragrant & a little darker in colour:
Ground rempah

Add and stir fry for awhile:
Chicken/pork

Sift in a little at a time till you get the desired consistency:
Assam Juice

Finally add & leave to simmer for a while till flavour is absorbed then switch off the fire:
Parcels of buah keluak paste
Kaffir lime leaves

Before serving, season according to taste with:
Salt
Sugar

It is okay to leave the pot of cooked ayam buah keluak on your kitchen stove overnight (without heat) to age and become more flavoursome, but any longer than that I’d probably refrigerate it

Ayam Buah Keluak goes very well with Nyonya Chap Chye, the recipe is published here. And for more comforting recipes from my Singaporean home, feel free to check out my Recipes Index.

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The Little Man Cafe http://fatboo.com/2014/01/little-man-cafe.html http://fatboo.com/2014/01/little-man-cafe.html#comments Wed, 29 Jan 2014 21:20:22 +0000 http://fatboo.com/?p=13043 The Little Man Cafe

Smart-looking cafe in Seddon with a pretty decent menu of brunch dishes.

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The Little Man Cafe

158 Victoria St
Seddon, VIC 3011
03 9687 8881
Website

You could call this an incidental discovery. After introducing Fatbee to one of my favourite brunch spots - Common Galaxia, we strolled down the street towards Sourdough Kitchen for sourdough croissants and stumbled past this place. The smart fitout really appealed to us and a proper brunch visit had to be organised.

The Little Man CafeThe Little Man Cafe

That’s how we found ourselves back here (with Castletime) a few weeks later. Back then, the cafe was only slightly more than a month old and the place was already pumpingly busy at noon on a Sunday.

Still, seats freed up within fifteen minutes and we found ourselves relaxing at the share table next to the front window. I enjoyed the clean minimalistic colours in this space and loved how bright the interior was.

The Little Man Cafe
Piccolo 3.8 | Prana Chai 5.0

They use 5 Senses beans here and my piccolo came punchy and slightly astringent, almost like a macchiato. Fatbee’s (Prana) soy chai latte was a smooth and gentle offering with a fleeting kiss of spice.

The Little Man Cafe
Chilli and Herb scrambled eggs on toast 12

At the time of visit, the menu leant towards simpler, safer dishes like Eggs Benedict / Florentine et. al. But I hear from local residents that the kitchen’s slowly evolving its dishes as the cafe catches its rhythm.

I picked a winsome looking red-and-green dotted scramble, which was cooked nicely and served with good sourdough bread toast.

The Little Man Cafe
Sweet corn fritters with Smoked salmon, avocado salsa and poached egg 18.5

Fatbee’s dish sounded and looked fantastic. However, the anchor ingredient – the fritters – was more like fluffy pancakes scattered with sweet corn rather than actual corn fritters.

The Little Man Cafe

Fatbee was slightly disappointed with the fritters, but did comment that all the other components in the dish were of good quality. Personally, I enjoyed my little sample of the pancakes and the avocado salsa tasted great.

The Little Man Cafe
The Little Man Burger with hand cut chips or salad 16

Castletime grabbed yet another dish that I would’ve gone for… BOIGERS! After bribing him with a small sample of my humble scramble, I scored myself a nibble off that delectable hunk of bread and meat. It was good… moist, juicy and moreish.

The Little Man Cafe

The reason why I went with a smaller brunch dish was so that I had space for dessert! They had two dishes that really appealed to me. First, was a Mocha brioche French toast with nectarines, candied hazelnuts and mascarpone…

The Little Man Cafe
Espresso ricotta crepes served with berry medley 14

… and then there’s this frolicsome plate of Summery berries. The crepes were nice and delicate, and they were filled with espresso-infused ricotta. But I’ll have to mention that the use of espresso was more ornamental (I couldn’t taste it) than obvious on my palate. A decent sweet brunch dish nevertheless.

The Little Man Cafe

I think this new cafe is off to a good start and while the drinks and brunch fare is currently not groundbreaking, they’re done quite nicely. The setting’s very pretty and the ambience feels low-key yet bright. I’m curious to watch this space and see how they evolve, as I can already see from the menu that some playfulness and creativity is waiting to spring out from hiding.

The Little Man Cafe

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Chimac http://fatboo.com/2014/01/chimac.html http://fatboo.com/2014/01/chimac.html#comments Sun, 26 Jan 2014 00:40:22 +0000 http://fatboo.com/?p=12919 Chimac

Korean 'Chicken & Beer' den with a delightful menu of moreish upporting dishes.

Let's Get Fat Together - behind every meal, lies a story

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Chimac

Shop 1, 39-47 Peel St
West Melbourne, VIC 3003
03 9959 5916
Facebook Page

Chimac

So I’ve been seeing Fatbee for quite a few months, aaaand… it has reached that time where I oughta meet his friends. That happened in this simple Korean Fried Chicken (KFC) joint opposite Queen Vic Market and we had a pretty good dinner there. The place was recommended by one of Fatbee’s foodie friends. Casual, uncomplicated and yummy.

Being my first time meeting the lot, I started off incredibly shy about snapping photos, so my camera stayed in my bag. But once the first dish arrived, everyone’s phones suddenly materialised… AHA! So out came my big guns and… none of them even blinked in surprise!

Chimac
Tofu on Kimchi field 22
Tofu, cheese and caramelised kim chi

The menu was small but tasteful. I initially wondered why this vegetarian dish was one of the pricier dishes on the menu. And kim chi with cheese… really?

However, this turned out to be one of the nicest dishes that we had that day. The caramelised kimchi was… to quote one of Fatbee’s friends “smokin’… like Beyonce!”. It sizzled on that hot plate and just tasted wonderfully smoky and moreish. And the topping of cheese actually worked because they used a mild mozzarella-like type of cheese, giving a nice textural chewiness to the dish.

Chimac
Spicy pork belly (sizzling on iron) 15

Next came another sizzling number… this time spicy pork belly. I’d normally find that spicy Korean sizzling dishes tend to be on the sweet side, but it had good balance here. Enjoyable.

Chimac
Chimac Chicken w salad & pickled daikon
Mix & Match (Ultra crispy | Wonder soy) 32 

And of course we had a whole serve of KFC. My previous foray into eating Korean Fried Chicken was at Gami two years ago. Back then, I found it very meh, so I was initially skeptical about whether I’d like it here.

However, the chicken here tasted a lot nicer, with crisp outsides, juicy tender insides and good flavour. The whole table preferred wonder soy more than ultra crispy, it had a gentle combination of honey and soy in the marinade.

Chimac

I also couldn’t help but snap the cute little metal bin for us to toss the chicken bones in!

Chimac
Ta-Kor (Korean style taco) 3pc
Spicy pork 15 | Bulgogi 15 

I’m not sure whether there’s such a thing as Korean tacos in Korea, but I chuckled a little at the name Ta-Kor!

Chimac

These Korean tacos were rather fusiony to my palate, I wasn’t too sure about munching into tangy jalapeño-like chillies and cabbage-y coleslaws only to suddenly be flooded with delicious Korean-style spicy pork or bulgogi beef right as I reached the centre.

Chimac
Aged Kim chi pancake 13
Napa cabbage, kim chi and scallion

Finally, we had our customary carb component in the form of a kim chi pancake. My companions thought this was a pretty good pancake, it was crispy on the outside and gooey inside.

By the way, I was glad we chose kimchi over seafood pancake, which tends to have too many bitty-bits of overcooked sea denizens (think rubbery clams and squid) in the mix.

Chimac

What an enjoyable evening! I was so busy attacking the food that I’d forgotten to snap the jug(s) of beer that we shared, a necessary ritual when you’re having Korean Fried Chicken. Chimac has changed my opinion towards Korean-style FC and I’m keen on trying more of these casual-social places again. Also, I’m keen on discovering more places recommended by Fatbee’s friends!

Chimac

Let's Get Fat Together - behind every meal, lies a story

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