Archive for July, 2008

The (Cauc)Asian Invasion

Posted in Food Reviews, Restaurants, Restaurants in Melbourne with tags , on July 31, 2008 by thepseudoepicurean

:: Disclaimer: The subject of this post, by no means, carries any derogatory weight nor intent. If anything, it pokes fun at my own Asian heritage. ::

Even though I work reasonably close to Chinatown (I walk past it every morning on my way to work), I don’t really walk into it all that much. It’s not my venue of choice when I consider restaurants to eat at when I am out; it’s a let’s-go-for-yum-cha or we’re-eating-with-a-group-of-10-poor-students kind of place, which doesn’t happen very often at all. But tonight, since I ended work late and was waiting for the Jman to finish up his stuff, and we were going to have dumplings at Camy’s, I took a walk down to the Asian grocers and ended up walking up and down the Chinatown belt.

Now we’re all too familiar with the notion of the Asian invasion. There’s a joke among us that there are probably more Asians than local, white Aussies in Melbourne. The student population in my undergraduate course was testament to this; throw a stone and you’ll have a 7 in 10 chance of hitting an Asian. Now the tables have turned.

Imagine my surprise when we walked into Camy’s and were greeted by HORDES, no, MULTITUDES, of Caucasian university students. Yes, the same Camy’s – the one that was a hit amongst us international Asian students during my undergrad days – had nary an Asian in sight. And there was a QUEUE! Of Caucasians! At 8PM!!! For once I really felt like I was in Melbourne, but at the same time it felt incredibly weird! What on earth was happening?

Shock and awe aside, it was a refreshing sight to see all the local students armed with their bottles of booze, lapping up those plump, juicy dumplings dipped into the bowl of vinegar, and with chopsticks no less! They did it with such finesse that if you covered their heads, you’d probably mistake them for the Shanghainese folk.

Rent must be really expensive these days“, I jokingly whispered to the Jman. Well, at $5.80 for a giant’s serving of 15 pork or beef dumplings, and $6 for a truckload of noodles, the $10 pub meals seem like MoVida to Maccas. Why pay $10 (or probably $15 by now at the rate inflation is going) for a deep-fried unhealthy parma when you could get a plate of boiled less-unhealthy dumplings for half the price?

We left Camy’s highly amused and incredibly satisfied by our $12 meal of dumplings AND noodles, although I have to add that the outlet at Boxhill is much better than this one. So much that our dumpling-and-noodle dinner there last night left us pining for more, which explains our second visit to the city outlet tonight. To give it a little more perspective, I’d give the Boxhill outlet an 8/10 rating, and the city one a 6.5/10.

Camy Shanghai Dumpling & Noodle Restaurant (Chinatown outlet)

25 Tattersalls Lane
Melbourne, 3000
Tel: 03 9663 8555

David & Camy’s Shanghainese Dumplings (Boxhill outlet)

605 Station street
Box Hill, VIC 3128
Tel: 03 9898 8398

Update: Looks like Cindy and Michael have reviewed it too! Gotta agree with their review of the vegetarian dumplings. Absolutely pukka!

How Do You Like Your Crumpets?

Posted in Recipes with tags , on July 30, 2008 by thepseudoepicurean

Some argue that the best way to eat crumpets is to smother it with lots of melted butter; I think the best way to have it is

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Risotto: A Virgin Attempt

Posted in Cooking, Recipes with tags , , on July 17, 2008 by thepseudoepicurean

Prawn and porcini risotto – my virgin attempt at a dish that everyone seems to fear making, but it really wasn’t as tricky as I imagined it to be. In fact, it was dead easy despite the constant stirring/shaking of pan required was a little cumbersome. But hey, all in the name of good food.

I’ll write more about my experience later, but for now, I’ll leave it to the pictures to paint the thousand words for me, while I head straight to bed now.

Goodnight, one and all!

Which became…

Sliced Fish Noodles

Posted in Asian Cooking, Recipes with tags , on July 16, 2008 by thepseudoepicurean

When the Jman IM-ed me on Monday, proudly announcing his loot of fish bones and cheap blue eye off-cuts from Richmond, I was ecstatic. Flashes of my favourite white, milky XO fish noodle soup filled my imagination…ooh, how perfect would fish noodle soup be in this bitingly cold weather!

I immediately dished out strict instructions for the Jman to follow: boil up the bones with crushed ginger. Take out the trevally fillets from the freezer. Season with soy, sesame oil, and pepper. Then off I went to the Asian grocers to pick up a packet of dried rice noodle sticks (the thicker version of the rice vermicelli – note: this is not the same as “hor fun” or flat rice noodles). I also purchased a tin of Carnation evaporated milk (it has to be the Carnation brand and none other) for the soup. Sounds weird? Wait till you try it!

When I got home from work, I put the soup to the boil again. I then added a dash of soy, oyster sauce, and salt (you don’t want the soup to be too brown, so use the soy and oyster sauces sparingly and season with salt instead). Add the Carnation milk until the soup is a thick, milky white colour.

I cooked up some Chinese mustard greens (“chye sim”), trevally slices, and noodles.

Dished out everything into a bowl, brought the soup to a rolling boil again, and just before serving, I added a couple of tablespoons of XO/Cognac/Brandy (however you may call it). Garnish with spring onion slices. Voila!

[Photos to follow, but if you can’t wait, you could get a pretty good one here.]

Recipe:

Stock

  • 1kg fish bones, preferrably white, non-oily fish (like snapper or snakehead)
  • 200g ginger, mercilessly bruised, or sliced
  • Water – enough to cover the bones
  • 1 tablespoon oyster sauce, 1 tablespoon soy sauce, salt to taste
  • Ground white pepper, to taste (I like mine extra peppery)
  • Carnation evaporated milk (the 185ml tin will be sufficient but you won’t end up using all)

Garnishing

  • Fish slices, preferrably white, non-oily fish (like snakehead, trevally, garoupa or snapper)
  • Marinade for fish: salt to taste, white pepper, a dash of sesame oil
  • Thick, rice vermicelli (you can purchase them fresh or dried)
  • Chinese mustard greens (also known as “chye sim”, “choy sum”, or “cai xin”)
  • Ginger slices for garnishing
  • Spring onions, cut into 3-inch lengths
  • 2-3 tablespoons of XO/Cognac

Method

  1. Put the fish bones, water, and ginger into a stock pot and bring to a boil, then simmer over the stove for about 1 hour.
  2. When the fish stock is done, season with soy, oyster sauce, salt and white pepper
  3. Pour in the Carnation milk until the soup is opaque and white.
  4. Cook the noodles according to the instructions on the packet.
  5. Strain the soup to ensure that all the bones are removed.
  6. Cook the fish slices in the stock on low heat until it is almost cooked. The residual heat from the soup will continue cooking the fish slices so it doesn’t matter if the fish is slightly undercooked. Blanch the vegetables very briefly.
  7. Bring the soup to a boil again, adding in the spring onions and ginger slices.
  8. Just before serving, add the XO into the soup and turn off the heat.
  9. Pour the soup over the noodles, fish slices and vegetables and serve immediately.
  10. Bon appétit!

Gânache Revisited

Posted in Cafes, Chocolate, Desserts with tags , on July 15, 2008 by thepseudoepicurean

Last Saturday evening while on our way to the Jman’s surprise party, I managed to convince him to stop by Gânache to stall for time, while the other guests were still streaming into the restaurant. This diversion was dead easy, and took no effort on my part to get him away from the incomplete party.

This time, unlike the last, we were there for the chocolate. No fancy-schmancy cakes or hot chocolate. We just wanted chocolate (of course, we didn’t have that much time on our hands either). We had a look at the display and were pleasantly surprised by a couple of new sightings on the shelf, despite most of them bearing an uncanny resemblance to the display at Koko Black. But I digress.

To cut the long story short, I was impressed. Most worthy of mention is the salted almond chocolate. The salt on the chocolate, as alien as it may sound, was most delicate and wonderful. The juxtapositioning of savoury and sweet was perfectly balanced, enhancing the flavour of chocolate in your mouth. Oooh, it was absolutely stunning and a clear winner in my books!

We also tried the figaro – fig, nuts and I-can’t-remember-what-else chopped roughly into a semi-pastey state, then wrapped under a ring of dark chocolate. The Jman thought it was quite interesting, but it didn’t sit too well with me. Then again, it was probably more of a personal preference than anything else.

The Jman’s favourite was the chocolate bar with cocoa nibs. That was my next favourite after the salty almond one. With a 60% cocoa content, it was sufficiently intense without being overpowering nor cloying. Even his grandma liked it!

I’ve got the feeling that Mr. Backes is starting to outdo himself, and I’m secretly pleased that he has just taken himself a notch higher. I’m also secretly hoping he doesn’t expand his business at all, as that almost always spells an absolute disaster in the making.

And by the way, has anyone gotten wind of Monsieur Truffe’s flagship store/cafe yet? The last time we spoke to him, he made mention of the possibility of a store/cafe in some place (I shan’t name it for his sake), but I’ve driven up and down the stretch of road and have yet to find it).

Tangible Tangelos

Posted in Food Shopping with tags , on July 2, 2008 by thepseudoepicurean

It’s winter, and ’tis the season for citrus fruit. Oranges, mandarins and grapefruit abound – the supermarket shelves are stocked with them, and I can’t help but notice how cheap the mandarins are (under $3 per kilo) compared to the Chinese New Year period in February (Safeway was selling them for $10 per kilo back then!).

I love all sorts of citrus fruit, but my latest craze has got to be the tangelo. They look like an exaggerated navel orange, but in reality they are more like mandarins with an extra OOMPH! to them. And if I may add, without sounding corny, they are more tangy. No, really.

The good news for me is that we’re only a-third way through winter, so that leaves me with 2 more months of enjoying the citrus fruit before spring takes over and stone fruit, which I absolutely adore, floods the markets. You really couldn’t get Australia. Australia gives great fruit, and I couldn’t be more fortunate that I needn’t fork out an arm or a leg for a bag of fruit that came straight from the orchard.