Monday, February 27, 2012

Joe can cook! Season 2 Episode 5: Chao Siew Yuk

I realised I might have jump the gun a little bit by not actually sharing with you guys my recipe for roast pork or siew yuk. Those who have been reading my blog or on my Facebook would know I have many experiences trying to perfect roast pork in my kitchen. From using vinegar to cutting the skin away to let it crackle by itself and not to mention using beer as well, I think I have found a compromise to a decent siew yuk. I won't say it is the best, I mean who am I kidding but it is pretty decent to say the least. 

So when I make my next batch of siew yuk, I better remind myself to snap a picture or two and post the recipe up. Meanwhile what do you do with a whole slab of siew yuk and you don't want to finish it all (note don't want, not can't (because who can't finish a slab of roast pork))?

You stir fry them with loads of garlic, dark soya sauce, ABC sauce (sweet soy) and sugar. 


The idea is to caramelise them to the point of being sticky and we love ours sweet. If you don't, take away the sugar and adjust accordingly with some soy sauce instead. 

I know this is meant to be a recipe of some sort but I usually do everything according to gut feel. 

1. Firstly, cut up your pork belly into strips (if you haven' done so) - around 300-400 grams
2. Stir fry lots of garlic till there are brown and slightly crispy (I say 4 big size cloves, however if you use the more fragant but exorbitant Australian garlic, use less)
3. Throw in the pork belly. At this point, keep it on high heat and toss it for a while.
4. Put in the following; dark soya sauce, just enough to coat it black, sweet soya sauce, a good round or two, some brown sugar and toss away till everything is nice, hot and sticky. 
5. Have a taste, if it's too sweet or not sweet enough, adjust accordingly. 

Serve with some noodles and you are good to go!


You know, I am always wondering why I am still fat. Still wondering but I think the plate says it all.

Friday, February 24, 2012

Gami @ Little Lonsdale Street, Melbourne

One of the first things we wanted to quickly find in Melbourne was for our Korean Fried Chicken joint. Most would have read about how we obsess over the version we get in Brisbane but since the owners has changed after the new year, we were disappointed. Hopefully, with the new owner settled in, the place is back to its full glory, still as memorable as the one in our mind. 

Our first try was at Hallah and our benchmark is not the original one which I know most would say is the version to have but the spicy one and the sweet soy version. Sad to say, the one at Hallah was a big fail. 

So it was left to Gami, so famous that it has one outlet on each end of Little Lonsdale Street. Will it pass our picky palate?

Like most good restaurants in Melbourne, if you don't eat early, make sure you have a reservation. We went in at 5.30 and took the last available table. Every other table was filled up or reserved.


It was a pretty hot day so a beer was a must. In any case, they sell the place as chicken and beer.


Some vegetable is provided to hide the fact that you will be stuffing yourself silly with high fat content chicken.


I presume it must have been the fact that the lady dropped a piece of chicken when serving the whole plate to us so she went back to the kitchen and gave us a complimentary plate of duk bokki which is like a hard rice roll. These were deep fried and served with a spicy sauce. I guess it was alright since it is free. 


What we were waiting for. Now at first sight, we were slightly disappointed. The version we loved had a very dry coating but this had a pool of sauce at the bottom of the plate. Thankfully the flavours were close enough to the chicken we frequently feast upon in Brisbane, especially the spicy one. Their sweet soy which was more like honey soy was one dimensional and quite sweet. Looking around, a lot of people were digging into the original version, so it looks like the next time we are back, we know what combination to junk on. 

After the excessive meal, the Wife suggested we walk back home and surprisingly we did the almost 5 km trot (hoping we would have burned off the calories but by my count, we would have barely scratched the surface of what we gorged upon). 

If you are into chicken and beer, this is the place (until I find a better one).

Address and contact details:

Gami on Urbanspoon

Verdict: 4 stars out of 5 stars. Korean Fried Chicken, nothing more, nothing less. Perfect for the meal when we feel like junking (a term for gorging junk food). 

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Hung Vuong @ Footscray, Melbourne

Call me a snob but when my friend suggested that we should give Footscray market a go for groceries, in my mind I was like "Are you kidding me?" 

For those who don't live in Melbourne, Footscray is traditionally a Vietnamese area and in no better word for it, a dodgy suburb. Some bits of the town reminds me of Fortitude Valley in Brisbane, an area that my friend had asked me to avoid at all cost when it came to finding accommodation. I think you get the gist.

However, since the Wife hadn't started her job yet and we were on budget, we thought why not, just to save a couple of dollars.

Turns out it wasn't just a couple of dollars but much more! Look past the wet market and the amount of people walking back and forth, we realised prices were at least 30% cheaper for your chicken, pork and fish. So far, my peasant palate doesn't seem to note the difference but this week we bought some steak and I will report if there is any difference (since I am a bit iffy about my steak).

After shopping, we looked around for food and in a Vietnamese town, you can't look past Pho (I have been teased for pronouncing it as "Fo" instead of "Fer"). Hung Vuong was the first shop we saw and since it looked pretty clean and had a crowd in there, we thought how bad could it be?



Turns out be not too shabby and pretty good even though the stock was a little sweet but nothing that fish sauce can't fix. Portions were a bit small, although yes, I  did order a small but in my defence, a small portion in Brisbane is much more generous and filling.

 I am no Pho expert but if we find ourselves hungry after some grocery shopping, this seems like a logic spot to fill our tummies for AUD 8 a bowl (well maybe AUD 9 because I am going to size up).

Address and contact details:

Hung Vuong on Urbanspoon

Verdict: 3.5 stars out of 5 stars. Till I find a better place for Pho, this will be the place for a quick fix if I am in the area, dodgy or not.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Auction Rooms @ North Melbourne

On most weekends, the usual eating routine involves eating a substantial brunch and that usually fills me up till dinner. Last Saturday, we ate way too early and too little and by 2pm, we were feeling peckish so we decided to go for some food hunting (so typical of us).

Since we haven't had our caffeine for the day, I looked back at some of the blogger comments left in my previous coffee hunt post and decided we were going to head to "Auction Rooms". 


The weather was awesome, cooling enough to put on a sweater, yet enough sun for those who love the rays. It looked rather peaceful from outside but it was packed to the brim inside. Thankfully we wanted to take a table outside and there was no waiting list unlike for the indoor tables. 


We saw a few interesting items on the menu, right after we ordered, the Wife's cousin said the french toast was awesome. Oh well, next time.


The coffee was good as it should be since they pride themselves to be coffee specialists. 


So what did we order? An interesting deep fried pork belly wrapped with an asian crepe served alongside with two half poached / fried eggs and a coleslaw. The pork belly was fried to a sticky texture and if one was looking for sauce, the liquid egg yolk was there. All in all, something "different". 

Will we come back? I don't see why not, after all we still haven't tried the French Toast yet.

Address and contact details:

Auction Rooms on Urbanspoon

Verdict: 4 stars out of 5 stars. We like what we ate and what we saw. A good recommendation for coffee and food.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Dukes Coffee @ Chapel Street, Prahran

The quest for good coffee continues. 

I am glad to report that I have finally found a coffee place on the way to work that suits the taste buds and it helps when the service is warm and friendly. Will talk about that another time.

Meanwhile, Saturdays are all about finding breakfast spots with good coffee while Sundays are about looking for a place to have a quick coffee and a read of the newspaper. 

I am not sure if we are different from other couples but there is only so much you can talk with your other half and by now I think we have exhausted every single childhood story that comes to mind. That being said, we love the company of each other and there's nothing better than sitting next to each other and reading different sections of the Australian Financial Review (quite serious, we know). 

It looks like Dukes Coffee can sit either in our Saturday or Sunday category. It has quite a decent menu but they were happy to serve us just coffees and let us sit in a corner of the communal table. 

There's nothing more comforting to know that your coffee is made by serious people and by what means do I define serious? When they roast their own beans on site. While the place might be look to be where pretentious people meet, I don't really care unless there's a sign that says "uncool people not allowed". 


This was a pretty good coffee and deserving of their reputation. I can't say its the best and as a matter of fact, I can't seem to differentiate which is the best. However I can say which I prefer though. 

In writing this, I remember hearing on the radio about how a famous barista did a blind tasting of instant coffee and thought it was some indonesian variant because of its acidity. So really, can you tell who serves the best coffee? 


They seem to have used a different blend for their iced coffee, a rather acidic and citrus one based on the lingering taste in the mouth. Rather refreshing I must say since it was pretty damn hot outside.

Chapel Street isn't exactly the most quiet of streets in Melbourne and Dukes Coffee isn't quiet too and is actually rather packed. However if you want give them a go, a lot of the side lanes offer 1 hour parking which is long enough to catch a coffee and read a couple of pages. 

Will give them a revisit soon enough.

Address and contact details:

Dukes Coffee on Urbanspoon

Verdict: I think the coffee deserves the 4 out of 5 stars. 

Monday, February 13, 2012

Garamerica @ South Melbourne, Melbourne

When we were lazy to cook in Brisbane, we would wait til 6.30pm when the traffic would be over and drive out to the neighboring suburbs for a meal. If we were game, we would even drive to Chinatown which was some 15km - 20km away. Once in a blue moon, there would be some heavy traffic on the highway but otherwise it was pretty convenient to go looking for food after work on a weekday. 

So imagine the look on our faces when the roads were still jammed up with cars when we were out looking for food at 6.30pm after work.

We ditched all plans about trying to drive to Chinatown and decided to try our luck at South Melbourne, being the neighbouring suburb. A quick search on Urbanspoon and we found Garmerica, a small cosy place that serves Indonesian cuisine. Something tells me that we will definitely be regulars here after having dined here twice in the one month we have been in Melbourne. 

The food is simple and non pretentious. The cuisine is somewhat similar to our Malay cuisine in terms of dishes and flavour profile. 


The tahu isi goreng got me confused with the version that has lots of vegetables and a sweet sauce drizzled over it. This was like the name suggests, deep fried tofu with a filling. Nothing special and I guess no harm ignoring this. 


The tempeh is a ferment soy product which has an unique bite to it is served with a chili dressing, perfect alongside a meat and rice.


I was up for something light and had the oxtail soup.  A clear soup that is supposedly flavoured with nutmeg, parsley and spring onions; this was comforting to sip on a chilly evening.


On another occasion, I decided to go for the hearty beef rendang. The sauce didn't have too much heat but by no means were the flavours watered down in any aspect. I had it with lontong which is compressed rice pieces instead of white rice. As I dunked the piece of rice cubes into the sauce, it made me miss the Malaysian version which we serve in a laksa soup base. I must ask the waitress if they serve anything like that off the menu next time.    



The ayam percik is pretty good and comes in a few variations, one is grilled and the other is fried and then grilled. Choose your pick and you would not be disappointed with the sweet black marinade and the char you get from the grill. If you choose the later, the meat may seem a bit tough after going through two rounds of cooking so if succulent meat is a must, I say take the grilled version.

From what I read on the menu, the deep fried fish dishes sounds like a treat so we see ourselves ordering it when we next drop by. 

Prices are around the AUD10-15 per pax, so pretty affordable for a weekday meal. 

Address and contact details:

Garamerica on Urbanspoon

Verdict: 3.5 stars out of 5 stars. A simple place for a simple meal and the benefit of being so near makes it so convenient for us.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Izakaya Chuji @ Lonsdale Street, Melbourne

Back in Brisbane, we have a list of places that serves simple meals that doesn't cost too much, isn't too far away and suit our palates. Under that list, one of the prominent cuisine is Japanese. There's just something about japanese cuisine; whether it is the perception of "healthy eating" or just the simple fact we love all things japanese. 

Obviously moving over to Melbourne, we need to start with a fresh piece of paper. 

While the Izakaya Chuji that we went to was in the city, I was glad to read that they have another outlet in South Melbourne. The "isn't too far away" requirement? Checked.

Was "suit our palates" met? I think so from what we ordered that night.

The slight problem would be the "doesn't cost too much" factor. Our meal for 2 cost almost 60 dollars while our standard meal is usually in the region of 30-40 dollars. Although that being said, if I had omitted dishes like sashimi and sushi, the bill should be just right.  


The ox tongue pan fried in butter. The problem I have with ox tongue served at korean bbq is that they slice it too thin and you don't get that bite. Here it is sliced much thicker and there's a bit more chewing (not that its tough, its tender). Loved it.


Whats there not to love about deep fried chicken (tori karaage) except for the extra inch on your waist?  


The Nasu Dengaku is one dish that I can never get right at home. I have probably given up and with Izakaya Chuji I can always get my fix here. The only glitch about this is the generous slashing of sweet miso sauce.


The sushi was alright but I think the selections were a bit safe and there wasn't anything that would make you say "hey what's that?"


I think the same applied to the sashimi. Having sat at the sushi table, I was quite disappointed to see that all the sashimi had been pre sliced and all there was to be done was assembling. I don't know if the concept of juices running out / drying out if you did that for steak would apply here but I wished they slice according to order. 

So apart from being disappointed by the more expensive items (which I guess is a good thing), I think we have found a pretty good gem here for some basic japanese items (there's a lot more on the menu which we can't wait to try).

Address and contact details:

Izakaya Chuji on Urbanspoon

Verdict: 3.5 stars out of 5 stars. It is almost exactly what we were looking for, let's see if we can keep our next meal to AUD20 a person. 

Monday, February 6, 2012

The Estelle @ Northcote, Melbourne

The occasion was a friend's birthday and with any birthday dinner, it has to be (or at least be) the following: 

1. A fancy place 
2. A fancy place that is open for dinner since it was a public holiday 
3. A fancy place that won't require you to break the bank
4. A fancy plan that doesn't require you to book months in advance.

With so many restaurants in every nook and corner of at least 10 inner city suburbs to choose from; I was surprised that I could even come up with a single suggestion and was even happier that the birthday girl was game to try. 

The Estelle located in the middle of a long stretch of shoplots up at Northcote was to be where we would have dinner.   

If I had to summarise in a few words; the place is casual yet classy and the food was modern, playful and creative. The place is quite cosy with no more than 30 odd seats.

 A 3 course starts from AUD 50, 5 courses for AUD 70 and 7 courses for AUD 90. The menu has a list of dishes which the courses will comprise of and all you have to advise the waiter / waitress is what you don't eat and what you like. The exact dish and the sequence of the meal is determined by the chef. 

The Estelle is pretty generous when it comes to their amuse bouche which features a squid cracker with sour cream (similar to the chinese prawn cracker we eat during Chinese New Year), a chickpea fry and a rock melon cube that has been flavoured with basil and a see through wrapper. The dishes were all spectacular and set the right tone for the meal.




Apart from the complimentary items, we were impressed with how understanding these people were. When I called for a booking, I was told there were 2 slots; 6.15pm and 8.30pm. We took the earlier option and hoped that 2 hours would be a long enough time to catch up and eat up (if they attempted to kick us out). 

Thankfully, they did not mention to us at all about vacating the table because we were starting to sweat when one of the guests was stuck at a traffic jam and she eventually arrived 45 minutes late. 


Our first meal was a beet root salad with goats curd rolled in black sesame. Simple and matter of fact probably required very little cooking. However the key to the dish was the simplicity and it was a good start to eat the contrasting flavour of vegetable and curd together.


The smoked eel was next. Experiences with eating eel done in an asian style i.e. japanese unagi or chinese stir fry tells me that I should be expecting a succulent piece of meat. However this was half way to being jerky like and while it was interesting, the brain tells you that it isn't right based on past experience. The playfulness of the cuisine starts when you have celery pieces that have been marinated with apple juice with the end result of a piece of celery tasting like apple.  


The tuna, red cabbage and horseradish came out as a tuna sashimi cubes rolled in quinoa topped with horseradish cream and a red cabbage cold soup next to it. We were advised to eat it like a gazpacho. While the contrasting colours were not appetising, think purple, white, green and red with curdling cream, the flavours worked very well. 

We always leave the best for last but in this case, I miss the best by not snapping a shot of the sher-wagyu rump which was served with mushrooms and black garlic. Even though it could not have been more than 100 grams, it was the best of the meals. Slightly traditional flavours; the grilled beef, jus and mushrooms (the asian variant), I could have another plate easily.


I could be wrong because I don't remember the dessert being called sour cream, pumpkin and salted caramel but it sounds the closest to what we got that night. Basically we had a mix of ice cream, chunks of rather dry sponge, pumpkin seeds and a lot of ingredients that I can't remember. It almost felt like eating ice-cream cake but in that artistic form that you see above. The Wife being the Wife commented that this wasn't the dessert she was expecting. Whether the waitress eavesdropped or not, we were served a complimentary dessert after that. 


No award for being the most appetising of dessert but we had the strawberry, vanilla and basil. Basil granita with a bottom of cream and strawberries. Never knew basil worked with strawberries so definitely going to give this combination a go when I make a fruit salad next time. 

If I had categories to put restaurants into, I put the Estelle in a category that represents small portions, interesting concept, slightly artsy fartsy without blowing your wallet apart but might still leave you feeling hungry. 

It also reminded me of Esquire, a place in Brisbane that has a similar concept in terms of food but in a more formal dining environment. 

In any case, the birthday girl was happy and so were we.

Definitely will return when the menu changes or we will just have to make sure they don't repeat any of the dishes we ate that night. 

Address and contact details:

The Estelle on Urbanspoon

Verdict: 4 stars out of 5 stars. Love the concept and the unorthodox dishes but beware of the small portions, it might leave you feeling hungry if you are a big eater. 

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

St Ali @ South Melbourne

The previous post was all about the search for good coffee on the way to work. 

This post is the start of my adventure in finding a good coffee for the weekend. I mean there is nothing better than a good cup of coffee on a Sunday morning to calm yourself down before dreading to go back to work the next day.

Unlike the weekdays where I have been cafe hopping, the weekends have been slightly more relaxing.

The first stop was St Ali, a place that  most in Melbourne would have heard about. Those who read my blog would know back in my first round of Melbourne life, I had actually popped by here for a light breakfast but the crowd scared us away and we ordered some takeaway coffees instead.

This time around, the queue was much more civilised. However be warned that you will only be seated when everyone has arrived. In our case, we asked for a table for 3 and when the other member of the crew arrived half an hour later, we just asked for another chair.

On the coffee front, St Ali's coffee is exactly what I look for. Order the "magic" which is a double ristretto topped with milk (size is in between a piccolo and a latte). 

However I thought breakfast was a bit of a mix bag.


So magic, I had two cups.


My mexican cousin; corn fritters, haloumi, poached eggs, baby spinach and kasundi (tomato relish). On paper, this sounded like the bomb and I almost wanted to order the same as the Wife. However as the food blogger rule declares, thou shall not order same Sadly, the fritters was slightly on the stodgy side. I understand that this is one of the permanent items on the menu.


The deconstructed bagel is as the name suggests a glorified DIY smoked salmon bagel. Credit though to the colour of the salmon, it looked very vibrant, almost like sashimi. Tastewise, I had no idea because it wasn't my order.


My order was a mix of beans and chorizo along with a poached egg. I didn't think it really worked, the beans could have done with a longer cooking time and the sauce was too acidic for my liking. However upon checking the menu this morning, it looks like its gone from the menu. 

It looks like regardless of the food, the crowd is still as crazy as ever. The noise level can get slightly uncomfortable inside so if you can, so grab one of the outer tables (but be prepared for the chilly weather). 

However it just looks too busy to pop in for a coffee and a light bite on the weekends unless I go at an obscure time.

Address and contact details:

St Ali on Urbanspoon

Verdict: 3.5 stars out of 5 stars but for the coffee alone, one of the better  ones I had ranging in the 4 stars region.