Sunday, 6 April 2014

white pasta sauce (also good for hot chips)

I've never been very good at white sauces: they're not a thing I ever ate as a child (unless they were part of a hor fun, which is a different kind of white sauce all together), and I considered white sauce a different, unusual, completely foreign thing. It was a special treat, and certainly not anything I had any experience with at home. 

Since I've been vegan I've failed at every recipe I've turned my hand to; so it was with great delight that last week I was feeling lazy and magically a white sauce appeared as my dinner. 

So I stole this from Emma in talk and texts, and turned it into a recipe. On Friday it was leftovers of pasta with this sauce plus hot chips + potato cakes from the local fish and chippery; tonight I fried thin strips of tempeh and thinly sliced mushrooms in some teriyaki sauce to top it all with. It's versatile and delicious, and next I think I'm going to try it as a béchamel on a lasagne. 

There are no pictures because you've seen an ugly brown/cream sauce before. 

So I present to you, a super delicious but relatively easy white pasta sauce. 

Dice half a brown onion, and brown it (ha!) in 2 tablespoons of nuttelex/margarine, before adding a minced clove of garlic and half a teaspoon of dried chilli flakes. Careful with the chilli, I basically killed my flattie Bella this evening by choosing to use about two tablespoons of chilli. I just like chilli, okay?

When it's all brown and delicious smelling, add a heaped tablespoon of (vegan, obvs) powdered chicken-flavoured stock (ILU, Massels), and 2 tablespoons of plain flour. Mix it all in, add a dash or three of milk, stir again, add some more milk and maybe some water and create a roux, then dash to the sink as you hurriedly drain and rinse a can of cannelleni beans. Add these to the pot, then stir and let simmer. Simmer simmer simmer, adding more water or milk as necessary, until you're happy with it. Mash some of those beans up, then simmer a bit longer. Hurrah, a sauce!

Tonight I also added teeny tiny diced carrots in the latter stages, simmering them until softened, and some frozen peas to the cooking pasta spirals, and of course the fried tempeh and mushies. Emma definitely had fresh spinach, basil and kale, all added after the sauce was taken off the heat, and also probably some other exciting things because I remember it being quite bulky. I would love to try this as a sauce over cauliflower and sweet potato. 

Thursday, 3 April 2014

tea adventures at travelling samovar

Last Saturday Emma and I took Puppeh for a walk down Rathdowne Street to Travelling Samovar, a tea house we've both been meaning to visit for about a year, since it first opened.

Travelling Samovar has a wide range of teas and tea sampling. The staff are super helpful, and knowledgeable, and are happy to provide hot water to give a second (or, in my case, with my pu-er, fifth and sixth) brew.

I was intrigued to learn that not many people know what pu-er is! But Travelling Samovar has an extensive pu-er range, so I totally went for a loose leaf that comes packed in a dried tangerine skin. It smelt amazing, like jaffas, and although I'm not sure the tangerine skin impacted the flavour of the tea it did enhance the overall experience, so I'm into it. I did the full gong fu with my pu-er, until I was tingling from being tea drunk.

Emma went the tea sample option (called a tea-ser), picking darjeeling because she loves it. This came in three pots: a Gielle 1st flush; an Oaks 2nd flush; and a Risheehat 2nd flush. This was a great way of knowing what one likes and trying it until the perfect one is found, which I appreciate.

Emma's tray of teas included timers, clear pots, and extra hot water. Combined with my gong fu, this was an excellent experience because I appreciate being given responsibility over my tea. There are other tea houses in Melbourne which are fun, but the thing I love the most about my tea (especially my Chinese tea) is the ability to experiment with it, to control the steeping and the pouring and also the drinking of it as I want.

This was a fun morning. Although at first I was offput by the cost - $10 for my pu-er - the fact that I could basically drink it until I was tea drunk means it was a price I was in the end content with.

Travelling Samovar
412 Rathdowne Street
Carlton North

Sunday, 30 March 2014

the brunswick mess hall, brunswick

March is a swathe of birthdays for me, across the city, the country and the world, I feel like every day I am crying out "Happy Birthday!" or "生日快乐" or "I'm sorry I forgotttttttttt." So I can never make it to all birthday celebrations, but this year one celebration I made it to was Ash's 30th birthday dinner, at the Brunswick Mess Hall.

Arriving quite late, as this dinner was one of three events I needed to make it to this chilly Thursday evening, my ordering was a bit of a mess but I did seize quite shortly upon the Bramble Fairy cocktail, because a) it's a bramble fairy! and b) it contains jam. This was excellent, and the Mess Hall has a large array of very excellent cocktails for ordering and some lovely, helpful bar staff. Look at that adorable little pink thing! So pink. And a spotty paper straw.

Sadly, the enthusiasm I felt for the cocktails could not be continued over to the food menu. In the end I settled on the pad thai, which they cheerfully made vegan for me; and it was perfectly servicable, and when it took a million years to appear and only came out after Ash yelled at someone, they also refunded me so that was some excellent service.

The atmosphere is lovely, and I did enjoy my cocktail, so it's a shame that there's a second sadly. Let me recite some of the cocktail names for you: The Saigon Colonies Cocktail; The Ping Pong Special; Samurai's Mist. Good work, everybody! Good, racist work. With their food coming from the "Lucky Panda" kitchen and this frustrating, pan-asian and also appropriative (there's a pinata there somewhere) menu and packages, I'm probably not a return. How many appropriative and upsetting restaurants can Melbourne really support? Apparently like a poo-million (a word I stole from Hayley yesterday and do not plan to return).

The Brunswick Mess Hall
400 Sydney Road

Ordering at tables, eft/cc available, didn't check the toilets. Forgot about the entry. GF available.

Other Melbunnies: Cindy + Michael (ps there were DEFINITELY no 油条 on the menu; Melbourne Mademoiselle.

Tuesday, 25 March 2014

hungry birds, brunswick

A quick flyby post: spicy pinto beans with tortilla chips and rye bread and a side of avocado, for brunch with friends on a rainy Sunday morning. SO TASTY. Such a lovely morning, sitting in an art gallery. I wouldn't want to have sat outside, I bet it's lovely on a sunny day. $21.50 for beans + avo plus SFW.

Steps to enter, split bills. Didn't check the toilet. Down a little alley.

Hungry Birds
242 Victoria Street

Saturday, 25 January 2014

the bear cafe, fitzroy

Because what Fitzroy needs is more reasons for me to lament that I live a whole 1.5km away from it, yesterday Danni and I visited The Bear Cafe, on Brunswick Street.

The Bear Cafe is an all vegan cafe, aside from the dairy option they offer in their coffees and hot drinks. Their menu is classic cafe, with scrambled tofu, vegemite and cheese toasties, and a soup of the day, but who cares about those things when I can order a Big Breakfast?!

The Big Breakfast comes with scrambled tofu, mushrooms, spinach, chilli guacamole and beans on your choice of sourdough. The beans were out for the day (to be fair, we were having lunch at 1430), so I got extra fuscram, on a pumpkin sourdough. This was delicious and exactly what I wanted, but I wish there was a little more of the promised chilli - I couldn't taste it at all, though I could see it. Some of us are Malaysian and need our chilli every day!

Danni went with the Double Down, which is essentially the same as the Big Breakfast but encased in three slices of olive bread, and in her case also included the melty vegusto cheese, which she declared delicious. Despite its size Danni hoovered this straight down.

The Bear Cafe has a coffee delivery service within 1km, which is what first attracted us to the cafe; the coffee was indeed, as promised on their facebook page, pretty good (their sign says 'best coffee in the universe' but I take my signage with a grain of salt). Service is laid back and lovely and friendly. They also sell Neo Tokyo items, bamboo toothbrushes (panda friendly), and fresh fruit and vegies. Their photos lead me to believe sometimes there are puppies, but I didn't spot any on this visit.

We think it used to be a dry cleaners; agree?

The Bear Cafe
439 Brunswick Street

Get there on the 112 (the stop is directly outside). Toilet wasn't working so no assessment. CC available. GF options (including GF bread) available.

Saturday, 7 December 2013

brazilian carrot cake of deliciousness (with orange and chocolate)

After a week of watching the Great British Bake Off S4 (I love Sue), it was time to bake Danni's birthday cake. It didn't rise super well and there are things I would change, but a friend said "I never liked carrot cake before, but I loved this!",* and I think that's a job well done.

This cake is moist, fragrant when cut into, and retains a beautiful flavour. The carrot, chocolate and orange all work very well together. I would have baked this again immediately but for a sugar, carrot and flour emergency in my kitchen.

This recipe came to me via Cindy, but I changed it up a bit.

Brazilian Carrot Cake (called such because the recipe's original progenitor is Brazilian)

cake ingredients:
2 cups plain flour
1 cup sr flour
1.5 tbl baking powder
pinch salt
1.5 cups sugar (I used a combo brown, coconut and castor due to a dire sugar emergency in my kitchen)
400g carrots, coarsely grated
5 tbl soy milk
3/4 cup vegetable oil
1 tsp vanilla extract
half an orange's juice + zest

chocolate deliciousness for the top:
2 tablespoons cocoa
4 tablespoons sugar
2 tablespoons nuttelex
2 tablespoons soy milk
10g dark chocolate couverture

for on top of the top:
some dark chocolate couverture
a handful of walnuts

to make it a cake:

set ovens to stun180C.
sift together flours, baking powder, salt and sugar. in a blender combine carrots, soy milk, vegetable oil, orange elements and vanilla extract. pulse together until a thick, rough, fluorescent orange goop appears. mix through the dry ingredients.

pour into a greased baking tin, and bake for about 40 minutes; at which point, bake at 170C for another ten minutes. allow to mostly cool.

over a low flame, mix together the elements of the chocolate deliciousness. when it's all melted and smooth, allow to boil for a minute and then take off the heat. put aside to cool for about 5-10 minutes, stirring occasionally.

chop up the walnuts, shave the chocolate. before the chocolate deliciousness can set, pour gently over the cake. top with walnuts and extra chocolate.

serve at your bestie's birthday dinner, and be annoyed when there's none left to eat later because everyone gobbled it up despite being full of burgers.

* where do we think this comma goes? '!",' seems awkward.

Tuesday, 3 December 2013

weekend waffles at mr nice guy

I think by now most Melbourne vegos are aware of the 100% vegan delights to be found at Mr Nice Guy. But what you might not know is that their expansion from sweet goods has moved into savoury and meal foods, which I highly recommend. On a recent visit to the Ascot Vale shop with K the Moody Noodle and Ms Fi, there were bagels and cornbreads (gf) consumed; and on an even more recent visit with both Moody Noodles (and Danni and her E) there were spinach and cheese scrolls, sausage inna bun, and even more bagels. But most important of all, on weekends they veer back into more sweetness, and make available a gluten-free, fructose-free, and corn-free waffle.

My friends, do not be that person with their skeptical face on. These waffles are so good. They come in three flavours (caramel + banana, original, and strawberry + chocolate), and they are all good, and the only thing that could make them more perfect would be if the icecream were made onsite and not that So Good vanilla stuff. There was the perfect amount of toppings to make it excellently covered and not too sweet. I finished my waffle and was perfect but could not move, could barely roll on out of the shop.

Of late I also recommend the chocolate babka and the blt bagel, which are available along with some cupcakes at the Prahran shopfront.

Nobody else has reviewed the waffles yet, get on it.

Mr Nice Guy
151 Union St Ascot Vale (get there on the 59 tram)
Prahran Markets, Commercial Rd Sth Yarra (get there on the 72 tram)

Friday, 29 November 2013

icecreams and sundaes out and about

Yesterday was 32C here in old Melbourne-town, and despite today's amazing and delightful rain and coat weather it truly is heading towards summer, so I've started meeting people out and about for fancy iced treats.

Notable eats so far:
Coconut + Sago Sundae - St Ali South (pictured)
At $13.50 this sundae is not cheap, but it's also giant, gluten free, filling, and totally shareable between two people, which I wish is how I'd eaten it. It's served with gluten-free muesli, pineapple, mango, and topped with freeze-dried fruit. I ordered it without the pineapple, and despite my scepticism re: the muesli I was totally into it. It was very, very rich though, which is surprising to me given it's on the breakfast menu. I would eat again, but only if I was feeling rich and could share it with someone. 12-18 Yarra Pl, South Melbourne

En-Thai-Sing - Gelato Messina
$9, still pretty exxy, but SO INTO IT. Pandan and coconut sorbet, mango, simple but delicious. Desperately want to make coconut and pandan sorbet this summer at home. I believe their menu also includes a huge range of delicious dried fruits including dragonfruit, and a ginger and five spice pudding. They also do a chocolate sorbet, which intrigues me. I would eat this again but probably not too often, and definitely not while their queue goes halfway down Smith Street. Also that NAME, geez. The owner had better be South East Asian is all I'm saying. 237 Smith St, Fitzroy

Passionfruit Sorbet with Chocolate Soya Icecream - Casa del Gelato
This is my standard, I will never part from it, it is the best combination so give it a go. Casa is the best because they have so many vegan options including baci, and also they are just down the road from my house. Cones start from $5. I just wish they'd engage in some queue management on beautiful days when you have to push five people deep. 163 Lygon St, Carlton

Blood Orange Sorbet - Spring St Grocer/Primavera Gelateria
Primavera Gelateria does a variety of rotating flavours, with at least two dairy free on each of my visits. I think it was $6 for a scoop, so it's exxy but it's good. 157 Spring St, Melbourne

Eats to which I'd like to extend:
Frozen Cheezecake - Merry Cupcakes
I miss ice cream cake a lot. I hope this will turn out to make up for that. 261 Brunswick St, Fitzroy

Any icy highlights come your way yet? Please share the icy love.

Thursday, 21 November 2013

totally not feeling the good food night noodle markets

Let's talk Pasar Malam. 

Pasar Malam (or night market) is a stalwart of my childhood: many evenings spent swinging my legs under my chair, eating my char kuay teow or my lontong and slurping on my freshly squeezed watermelon juice, served to me in a clear plastic bag. The noise and the clatter of two dozen stalls, woks hissing, and over it all the yelling and the chatter. The floors were always solid, the chairs plastic and uncomfortable. The food was fast, and cheap, and if I was feeling picky I'd stand with the lady at the front and add and remove things from my order until my char kuay teow was perfect (I've never liked prawns, or chinese sausage), and this was not an inconvenience, it was merely an expectation. 

There are other Night Markets, across the rest of Asia and indeed the rest of the world; but to Australians, the image of a night market most frequently conjures something like a pasar malam. 

This week, the Night Noodle Markets have come to Melbourne as part of Good Food Month, and it is nothing like this. 

If you were lucky enough to gain entry on Monday night (25 000 people attended, and some were turned away at the gates), you might have passed through a Shinto Arch, erected at the Western Entrance. That's funny, you might think. Shinto temples do indeed host festivals, and I've had some delicious noodles at festivals held on Shinto grounds, but they're nearly always religious and the Shinto Arch, religious as it is, seems an odd choice for a pan-asian food festival. 

To one side are the food trucks. If you're wondering where you're going, there's poorly planned signage: with streets like Lotus Avenue, Jasmin (sic) Way, Orchid Lane and Peppercorn Lawn, coupled with the Shinto Arch and the names of some of the vendors, perhaps you're thinking about losing your way. 

The Night Noodle Markets are nothing like what they're trying to evoke: they're trying to evoke something South East Asian. The Good Food Month webpage talks about SEAzn experiences, describing the market as hawker-style, and even quotes Teage Ezard (of Ezard), saying about his first pasar malam experience in KL: "I ate late at night with a local who took care of our ordering. We ate a huge amount for next to nothing!" 

Here's what I ate on Monday night:
Mint, ginger and lemon iced tea: $5
Serving of sweet potato fries (not that large) and one single spring onion pancake from Ghost Kitchen: $10.50 
Pandan, coconut and mango sundae (called the En-Thai-Sing, which, ew but also lol): $9

Originally I joined the Wonderbao queue, because I've never tried Wonderbao and I've heard many a good thing. However after standing in the queue for ten minutes and not moving a single step, I ditched it and wandered over to the food trucks, where at least the queues were faster, though dumplings were still $2.50 each. 

Street food across Asia is a success because it's ordinary, cheap, accessible and fast. Vendors often do only two or three things but they do those two or three things well, and fast, and to order, which none of the vendors were doing. As a vegan, when I'm hanging in the pasar malams of Penang with my sceptical extended family I never have any problems modifying my dish to get exactly what I want. Asian street food gets a bad rap amongst vegos, which is totally unfair - I so rarely have problems, particularly in SEA, due to the fact it is literally put together in front of me. It is always convenient, cheap, fast, and exactly what I want. The food available at the Night Noodle Markets is none of these things, and is the antithesis of a pasar malam in every way. 

In part, this is due to the participating vendors. To get a more accurate night market we should be staring down the face of Camy's Dumpling House, a Dessert Story or two, and the Noodle Kingdom. Some of the vendors come from outside the CBD (Footscray and Burwood), and some are lower range, but for the most part the vendors were all inner-city, catering to toned-down Asian (ie, for white people) mid-range to high-range dining. The Good Food website describes the vendors as "Top-notch eateries." If I wanted to eat at a top-notch eatery at higher than usual prices, I'd go to those eateries and book a table. That's not what a night market is for.  

This is different from the specific cultural events like the Melbourne Malaysia Festival, which are usually run in partnership and aimed at both those whose culture is being eaten, and those who just want to share in our deliciousness. This superficial pan-Asian (but not even really) event appeals to us, but ultimately cannot meet our expectations, because they're not designed for us, the Asian-Australians (or Asian Expats) who long for these things familiar to us. This event is not that event. This is exotification and appropriation, dressed to be Good Food. Good Food is special, by this definition. Hawker food is not Good Food, and there will never be a real pasar malam if this is all we can aim for: an event for those who love us for a specifically modified image of our food, rather than its reality. 

Even the setting was like nothing out of a pasar malam. When I arrived, everything was wide and spread out, necessitating a five minute trek between sections. When I was leaving, there were queues at each entrance, with people being turned away or choosing to turn themselves away and venture into the CBD for their dinner. 25 000 people visited on that first evening, and that is a fucking nightmare by any standards, in a space the size of Alexandria Gardens. The queues at each vendor were ridiculous, and often poorly managed, and a commenter on the Good Food webpage mentioned that it closed at 9pm, which is hardly late at all given sunset is currently 20:16.

The punters were heavily on the asian-side, which isn't a surprise: we love our night markets (a generalisation by which I will stand). The servers at a number of the venues were not-Asian, though, and this is not an article on authenticity (which is why I haven't really talked about the food) but it does serve to support the idea that this is a Night Noodle Market that doesn't really meet Our Asian Needs: it's got some familiar elements, but it's not exactly what we want, the cheapness, the accessibility, the speediness, the convenience. 

This failure and disappointment was inevitable, given the lack of a real pasar malam. A part of a night market is, in its way, its accessibility and familiarity. A pasar malam should not be an Event - it should just be a thing. Perhaps the real answer is not a Good Food Month night market which runs (poorly) for two weeks out of the year, but a year-round (or summer round) under cover pasar malam, with actual prices (not show prices - Hayley, my companion in this adventure, noted that Wonderbao had increased its prices approximately $1 per item for the market). It leads to the question, then: at whom is Good Food Month aimed, if the Good Food Month Night Noodle Market met none of the assumed criteria. What defines good food? Surely the very definition of good food as presented here, with Chin-Chin and Longrain right here before us, cannot include hawker food. Perhaps the actual real answer is not a year-round pasar malam: perhaps the answer is that Melbourne can't support a real pasar malam, because costs are too high and there's no established history of it and who is going to establish it and keep it running? I'd like to say it'll be me, but it really won't. 

Actual Night Market food, it seems, and an actual night market, is not good enough for Good Food Month. 

And there was a detestable lack of noodles. 

The Night Noodle Markets are held at Alexandria Gardens from now until November 30th. Entry is free. Don't go. 

Monday, 18 November 2013

lunching and music at little king

Today I ventured in to Little King twice: once, to see my friends play at 9am, as part of Melbourne Music Week; and the second time, to meet Hayley for lunch before we ventured off for an afternoon of art and criticism (and later, crowds and a severe lack of noodles - review to follow probably Wednesday).

Little King is a tiny little cafe just off Flinders Lane, behind St Paul's Cathedral, situated in the alley that links the Westin with Fed Square (across several roads). And before this weekend when my friends told me I needed to go, I'd never heard of it (despite its regularly vego menu and its adorableness). It's a beautiful spot, when it's not filled with chefs from the Westin smoking, and at 9am on a lovely warm day it was a great place to listen to Prudence Rees-Lee play (my friends are her harpist and her percussionist).

After the lunch rush (and racing home to do some work), I zoomed back down on my bike, which I locked to the gate (a serious lack of parking on Flinders Lane on the east side of Swanston! Totally outrageous), and settled down to wait for a delayed Hayley with my book and my notebook and a coffee served in a totally adorable cup and saucer.

Little King's menu changes daily, based on what they feel like making. It's mostly vegetarian. There's some vegan baked goods and a soup (today: vegan pumpkin and leek), but today despite the simplicity of it all I elected for the avocado on toast with a bit of tomato. Topped with some lemon and pepper and a bit of herbs and things, and served on some sour dough, this was actually really lovely and I had no regrets.

I bought a berry friand to snack on later. Total costs came to about $20 for the lot. Seating is some excellently hipster boxes and tables at the same height, and the venue is awfully inaccessible with misc steps all over the place. Credit card facilities are available. 

Little King
4/209 Flinders Lane
(just behind St Paul's Cathedral)
Melbourne CBD

Sunday, 20 October 2013

vegie mum, doncaster

When I first went vego Lotus, the Chinese-Malaysian restaurant in Northbridge, was my life saver, giving me all the delicious comfort foods that I required without schlepping out to my parental house or cooking it myself. The biggest problem with Malaysian food is all the secretly animal stuff, the cockles in your laksa and the lard in your CKT, which requires intense questioning deng deng boring lah, so I usually just have to make it myself.

So I've always wanted to go to Vegie Mum in Doncaster, because I'd heard it was Chinese-Malaysian vego but whenever I tried to go I was prevented by things like Chinese New Year and failing to book, or the lack of PT out there and my lack of car ownership (no regrets).

Anyway now I have been twice in the last three months, and it is all Fiona's fault as she lives in the dreaded Eastern Suburbs and can't travel very far because baby. We even went there this week, which Fi has already blogged! Plus added park.

Because we are not heathens Chinese-Malaysian food is, like regular Chinese food, a sharing kind of thing, except when you are selfish like me and insist that it's very important you get char siu noodle soup because it's one of your favourite things to eat ever and you never get to eat it because you're not gonna make your own vegan char siu.

I did this, and then Fi ordered the laksa because she had never had it before quite recently and now like all good people loves it, and then I tasted her soup and I have never before experienced such regrets. Next time I am gonna eat that laksa for sure. Look at that mock prawn! The only downside of the laksa is that it contains eggplant, which is a crime against laksa. There is no downside to the char siu noodles, except a) it's not laksa and b) you have to remember to specify not wonton noodles, because wonton noodles contain secret egg.

I have previously eaten their CKT (which is excellent); their kari kapitan and roti (good); and their spring rolls (nothing special).

Vegie Mum is pretty standard suburban Chinese except for its vegetarianness; the tables are plastic and so are the chairs, it's all bright white tiles and a little dingy. There's a small step in to the restaurant, can order and pay at the table; CC is taken. There are always people in there, and the menu is in Chinese and English. The Chinese Malaysian owner doesn't seem to believe that I'm Malaysian, so one day I'm gonna take my mother in there and really pointedly talk in Hokkien or Manglish or something.

Vegie Mum
27 Village Ave
Not open Mondays

Sunday, 13 October 2013


how i spent my sunday night, by stephanie a penguinface (aged 31 and a bit)

a) cooking japchae
b) watching and writing about Serangoon Road (new blog posts on this show occur every Monday morning on my blog No Award; I live tweet my rage at @yiduiqie on Sunday nights)
c) scones (sweet scones are the best okay)

scones are easy and delicious

to make them you need: 2.5 cups of SR flour
one third of a cup of sugar (pref white)
30g marg/nuttelex/etc
half cup milk
half cup water
1tsp apple cider vinegar
half cup sultanas (optional)

extra sugar and flour

add milk + vinegar; set aside.

rub together sugar, flour and marg; add sultanas if you're adding them. make a well, pour in all liquids, mix with a knife or something but don't over mix i learnt this the hard way. flatten out to 2cm (i just pat them with my hands) on a floured surface. cut out (i use a tumbler), sprinkle with the extra sugar, bake at 220C for 15 mins or until golden brown. eat straight away plain or i guess you could use jam or something but why wait.

i've taken to taking out a cup of the flour+sugar+nuttelex mixture so i can make a non-sultana batch of about five for non sultana people eating; so this batch made in total 13.

i'm not saying i accidentally used plain flour this evening and had to desperately try and save it with baking powder but uuhhh see pt d below

d) dancing around the house to Laure Shang (visit that song, you won't regret it).

Sunday, 6 October 2013

shu restaurant [collingwood]

蜀 is a short form for Sichuan, and Shu is all about the Sichuanese food and flavours, though a little toned down for the Collingwood palate.

The dishes at Shu are seasonal and organic where possible. There is no menu, the food you're served is dependent on what's available and what the chef wishes to prepare. And every Wednesday is Vegan Wednesday at Shu, where you can get a 12 dish vegan banquet for $40; and so, having only found out of its existence less than 48 hours earlier, this is what Cindy and Michael, Hayley and myself decided to do this Wednesday past.

We started with four individual portion dishes: house made tofu with cinnamon-infused soy sauce and a rocket flower (cold); purple carrots with house made pickled chilli and borage (the purple carrot was raw and thinly sliced so it became a sort of plate) (cold); daikon roll with enoki, zucchini flower and cucumber (cold); tofu, soybean and sesame dumplings.

I was especially taken with the cinnamon-infused soy sauce and the house made tofu: the flavours were mild enough to really appreciate the loveliness of the tofu, but I loved the delicate cinnamon-ness of the soy sauce.

It's good that three of these dishes were cold and therefore we didn't have to eat them in a hurry; four bloggers at a table meant it took approximately a million years to photograph and take notes.

This was followed by a mizuna, pickled cucumber and trumpet mushroom salad, and a cashew, kale, broccoli tops and garlic shoot salad. Later in the evening, when yet another greens dish came out (broccoli and cauliflower, this time), this started becoming all a bit overwhelming, but at this point I loved the broccoli top and garlic shoot salad, it had a beautiful light flavour and the garlic shoots were excellent.

We also saw dishes with eggplant with broad beans, chilli (lots), calendula and onion; fried tofu with bean shoots and nasturtiums (not spicy at all); and tofu with wild coriander (kind of mapo doufu-y but sad lack of mala).

We ended with unanimously the greatest dishes of the evening. Dish number 11 was individual portions of fresh noodles, served with asparagus, preserved gailan and a walnut infused oil. This had a lovely flavour, maybe there was sichuan chilli in it (but if so only mildly), and I could definitely have kept on eating these noodles and I'm glad it's not a seasonal dish because I want to eat it again.

The final dish was potatoes in a whole lot of spices. Not necessarily hot spicy but my word was it delicious, and I happily ate the last remaining potato in the bowl.

The repetition of the green-ness is obviously a restriction of the seasonal element of Shu's menu - though I do not at all criticise them for it - Rebecca and Shu go out to a farm to pick the ingredients every Wednesday and it's all a bit fun. I love the variety of it and the surprise as well, the flavours were lovely (though I could have used some more spiciness, and we'd been warned it was spicy and this was a lie~).

I wasn't stuffed full by the end, which was a little disappointment (we walked to Berrissimo for desserts), since I'm used to having too much to eat at a Chinese banquet.

I will very cheerfully visit again. I hope there are more adventures in delicious carbs.

The service was lovely though disclaimer: Rebecca knew who we all were. The lighting was dim and there was a step going in. I didn't check out the toilets, but Michael broke them so look out for that.

Shu Restaurant
147 Johnston Street

Sunday, 29 September 2013

bush tomato marinade

Bush tomato is not really tomato, it is more closely related to eggplants but it looks a bit tomato-y in its fruit form and colonialism and English, ugh, yo. They're found in various species and forms across Australia and are super delicious but also occasionally poisonous! Which is a great punchline for a joke about Australia, I guess. Because it's so widely spread it has a lot of indigenous names, commonly akudjura (when crushed or powdered) or kutjera.

Anyway in my quest to use more indigenous spices that have been pushed aside by racism and the euro-centricity of Australian cooking, I am currently playing with bush tomato, and at the recent vegmel 4th birthday picnic I made a bush tomato salad where I marinated basically everything in bush tomato. This is the GREATEST MARINADE ever. If I ate meat I would put it on all of them, but I don't so TOFU and maybe I have yet to try tempeh with it but I'm sure it'll work.

Bush tomato tastes smokey and kind of like amazingness.


2 tbl ground bush tomato (I get mine from Gewurzhaus on Lygon Street where they love me)
2 tbl sunflower or macadamia oil
2 tbl olive oil
1 tblish of minced garlic

Mix it all together, slather it on some tofu and leave it to sit. This amount goes across about 400g of tofu (firm! as always with marinading).

I served it with shaved carrot and zucchini and some cherry tomatoes, in a bush tomato-based dressing.

BTW if anyone in the Melbournes knows where I can buy not-ground bush tomato, please let me know, I want to try turning these into scones.

Tuesday, 3 September 2013

lemon myrtle and macadamia nut biscuits

Last night I used some newly purchased ground lemon myrtle to make lemon myrtle and macadamia biscuits. They were so amazing they were immediately eaten all up, not all by me fiona is also to blame! So sadly there is no photo to share. Lamentably, this means I will simply have to make them again immediately. Maybe gluten-free.

Lemon myrtle is my favourite indigenous Australian spice, and a little bit goes such a very long way. Macadamia is a nut I always forget about, even though it tastes amazing with all sorts of things, and I only ever remember it when I'm passing through the airport and it's filled with macadamia products (because macadamias are Australian and apparently really expensive overseas).

lemon myrtle and macadamia biscuits

you will need:
240g plain white flour
100g sugar (i used raw)
200g margarine + sunflower oil (i used about 150g nuttelex and 50g sunflower oil)
1 tsp baking powder (FLAT)
1 tbl lemon myrtle (FLAT)
comfortable handful of macadamias

oven: 200C

Cream together the sugar with the oily things until looking good and fluffy. Add the flour, baking powder and lemon myrtle, and combine until lovely and smooth. I ended up having to rub it all together with my hands, but that brought it together beautifully. Crush or chop the macadamias and mix into the rest of it. Roll into circles and squash down on baking tray. Bake for 10-13 minutes, depending on how chewy or firm you like your biscuits. I forgot about mine and so they ended up beautiful and brown and fragrant and firm like a rock (though still edible).

I promise to photograph mine next time, but really the most important thing about them is the smell. Baking lemon myrtle is the best.