Date Archives March 2014

Canley Heights Food Crawl, Part 1


I’m always envious when people talk about going on pub crawls, since I’m slightly allergic to alcohol – tasting is okay, drinking is apparently not. I always feel like I keep missing out on all the fun!! So when Thang from Noodlies organised a food crawl in Canley Heights with the Fairfield Council, I jumped at the chance!

6 restaurants in 3 hours, will we SURVIVE THE EATING????!!!! Well Thang, Jeroxie, Amy, Christine, Isaac, Kate and I were going to find out.
First stop was at VyVy Garden Cafe, to start the morning off with some Vietnamese drip coffee.
Coffee is different in Southeast Asia. From the roast to the grind to the brew to the sweeteners, there’s a certain richness and aroma to the coffee that I’ve yet to find from local baristas around Sydney.

Vy Vy Garden on UrbanspoonThe mere mention of Vietnamese coffee instantly conjures up images of the drip filter, passed down from the French colonial times. Coarsely ground dark roasted coffee is added to the top of the filter, which is placed on top of a glass that contains your condensed milk. Hot water is poured over the ground coffee, and the resulting brew drips through onto the condensed milk below. The drip filter process is long – there isn’t anything more than gravity to hurry it along – but the resulting coffee is thick and rich, and the condensed milk add a creamy sweetness to it.

When warm, the aromas hit you as you raise the glass to your lips, providing an instant wake-up call. When poured over ice, the coffee provides a refreshing pick-me-up, a great cure for the monday-itis!

Takeaway coffee cups in hand, we move on to our next stop – Bau Truong.

Clockwise from top left: Bun Bo Hue and Cha La, Bo Lui, Ngheu Cuon, the spread that greeted us, fresh vegetables to accompany our noodles, Pork parcels in banana leaves, Bun Suong 

The original Bau Truong started in Cabramatta when times were violent. The owner used to have drug addicts come into her restaurant, eat, shoot up at the table, and then leave without paying. There were even people passed out on the street in broad daylight.

But a belief in her food has held her through those dark days, and today, her daughter and son have joined her in opening up two other branches in Canley Heights and Marrickville.

Bau Truong on Urbanspoon
Beautiful vietnamese tiles adorned the walls in this recently-renovated restaurant, and a gorgeous graphic design stretched out across the ceiling.

But I had to tear my eyes away from the gorgeous decor because there was an epic spread laid out especially for us! It instantly reminded me of family and home – the spread was the homely feast my friends’ mothers would put out when we visited for a meal, but on a whole other level!

We were greeted by Michael, the son, who painstakingly explained every dish that we were about to eat. We started with Ngheu Cuon, which were fresh rice paper rolls filled with water chestnuts and pipis. Michael explained that in Vietnam, snail meat is often used instead of pipis, but they’ve changed it slightly for the Australian palate.

Bo Lui followed, which consisted of curried spiced beef cooked on skewers, and today we were having it with slices of unripe plum, enveloped in lettuce leaves and dipped in a sweet-salty chilli sauce. Apparently in Vietnam it sometimes is served with starfruit or raw banana instead, for a slight astringency to balance out to flavourful beef.

Of the three noodle dishes we got to try, I highly recommend the Bun Suong, vermicelli and prawn cakes are served in a sweet pork knuckle soup base that is heightened by fermented bean paste and chopped peanuts, and is oh-so-addictive. The slices of pork are tender, and the prawn cakes are bouncy and light, like an extremely premium fish ball. Michael informs us that the prawn cakes were made fresh the night before, and I could definitely taste the labour of love. With the addition of shredded fresh water spinach and thinly sliced banana flower, this bowl of noodle soup was almost reminiscent of a salad, and I wouldn’t have any qualms ordering this in the hottest of summers. Let’s put it this way: I knew we were going to be eating lots and had to pace myself, but I finished the bowl of soup anyway. It was that good.

No sooner did I have the last slurp of my noodles, we were off again, this time to Diem Hen, down the road.

From left: Sweet and Sour soup, Caramelised fish in clay pot 

Diem Hen, which means “meeting point” in Vietnamese, is an extremely traditional family-run restaurant serving meals found typically in Vietnamese homes.

Thang recounted how his mother would often serve similar dishes while he was growing up – she would buy a whole fresh fish, and use it to cook two dishes: a hot pot of sweet and sour soup filled with fresh vegetables and chunks of firm white fleshed fish, and a caramelised fish cooked in a clay pot, with its dark salty-sweet sauce that serve as an aromatic partner to soft white rice.

Diem Hen on UrbanspoonThe Sweet and Sour soup came in a unique looking pot that had a wide, flat rim around the top. The bottom held hot soup, and the rim was to hold the raw ingredients, to prevent the crisp vegetables from getting soggy and overcooked while the soup came to the boil.  The stock had a great depth of flavour, while the wide range of vegetables on the top added a freshness to the dish. Amongst these was something called the elephant ear stalk. When sliced, it resembled large celery stalks, except for its spongy interior, perfect for soaking up all the intense soup.

The accompanying caramelised fish was deep and dark in its flavour, which was a perfect use of the fatty belly of the fish. Apparently the flavour could get deeper and darker still, when the fish is braised for a longer period of time. The use of the clay pot is customary, and Thang recounted times when he’s had this fish dish at home with clay pot-cooked rice, with a brown rice crust at the bottom to add another dimension to the meal.

With three eateries down and three to go, we were starting to feel the effects of food coma starting to fog our brains. What will become of us by the time we reach the end? Stay tuned for Part 2 of our Canley Heights Food Crawl!

Note: Tammi of Insatiable Munchies and other bloggers mentioned in this post dined as guests of Fairfield Council and the restaurants listed. 

What I ate: Crab Salad Roll

You know that time of the week where you have spare cooked crab meat in your fridge? No? You don’t? You ate it all?

Well I usually do too, but I was convinced for long enough that I should try something new with the crab (rather than simply give my usual answer, “EAT IT”) that I came up with this speedy and crab salad roll recipe!

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Golden Fields, St Kilda

Kingfish, Avocado, Fresh Wasabi, Konbu, $8 (half portion)

“You’ll remember me when the west wind moves/ upon the fields of barley
You’ll forget the sun in his jealous sky/ when we walk in fields of gold”
Sumner, G., Bogdanovic, D. (1993) Fields of Gold [Recorded by Sting]. On Ten Summoner’s Tales [CD]. EMI Music Publishing

If you are into your food, you can’t go to St. Kilda without stopping by Golden Fields. This trendy eatery has been popping up on many an Instagram feed, accompanied by cries of, “Lobster roll! LOBSTER ROLL!”

What? Did you just name a tasty crustacean? Why, of course I would like to eat it!

Needless to say, when a restaurant is making such waves, there is bound to be more than one interesting thing on the menu. We are informed by the lovely waitress that the menu is designed to share – my favourite kind of menu! – and that some dishes even come in half portions.

First on the table was a half portion of Kingfish, Avocado, Fresh Wasabi and Konbu, $8. Fresh slices of kingfish was paired with delicate greens and creamy avocado puree, and while thoroughly enjoyable and balanced in its simplicity, didn’t hit any particular high notes for me.

Grilled Octopus, Kimchi Bean Sprouts, $12

Next on the table was the Grilled Octopus with Kimchi Bean Sprouts, $12. Being a huge fan of both kimchi and octopus, this dish of tender octopus tentacles, shaved cucumber and tangy, crunchy bean sprouts was a dish I could see eating as a main for a light lunch. I loved how the bean sprouts were just lightly pickled and had a much subtle flavour than cabbage kimchi – the traditional kimchi recipe calls for a period of fermentation for the cabbage, bringing forth a much stronger sour flavour that can be an acquired taste.

Rolled Pork Belly, White Kimchi, Yuxiang Sauce, $15

My aunt had actually visited Golden Fields ahead of me, and the Rolled Pork Belly with White Kimchi and Yuxiang Sauce, $15 came highly recommended. White kimchi is basically cabbage kimchi that has been picked without the kochukaru, or red pepper flakes, which contribute to its red appearance. It still retains all of its sour fermented glory, minus the spice. Yuxiang sauce (鱼香) is literally translated to “fragrant fish” sauce, and doesn’t actually contain fish! Instead, this salty, sour and peppery sauce with Sichuan origins is commonly used to flavour eggplant and pork. You know the eggplant dish in Chinese restaurants labelled as “fish flavoured eggplant”? Well this would be the sauce that they’re talking about.

The sauce, combined with the tangy kimchi and delicate slices of pork belly creates a mouthful that I truly enjoyed. I love how the different flavours – salty, spicy, sour – balance each other out, and yet maintain a certain sense of identity.

New England Lobster Roll, Hot Buttered Bun, Cold Poached Crayfish, Watercress & Kewpie, $15

Ahh and so we meet. When we order a portion of the New England Lobster Roll, $15 the waitress politely asks us if we’d like to have our roll cut in half, because the portion is just that: one roll. We decline, and she thoughtfully brings us out a knife with our order in case we’d like to split it anyway. This roll is somewhat smaller than I expected: the whole bun is about the size of my palm. A rich buttered roll sandwiches chunks of cold, poached crayfish that is lightly dressed is Kewpie mayonnaise and adorned with delicate sprigs of watercress. Tasty? Sure. But worth the hype and the $15 price tag? Well let’s just say that I would have been much more satisfied ordering another portion of the pork rolls (above).

Grilled Beef Intercoastal, Korean Chilli, Fried Shallot, $16

Cuts of beef that require long cooking times have become my absolute favourite – when a muscle works hard, thicker muscle fibres and more flavour is created. And you know what I say, bring on the beefiness! For the flavour, you’re paying the price in tenderness, so these cuts require a longer cooking time in order to break down connective tissue (collagen) into gelatine, which then coats the strands and provide you with a juicy mouthful.

Golden Fields’ Grilled Beef Intercoastal with Korean Chilli and Fried Shallot, $16, has brilliantly upped the ante on this cut’s natural beefy flavour – the salty spiciness of the chilli and light crunch of the shallots combine with the mildly charred pieces of meat to transform into a flavour-packed diet-busting mouthful. Total beer food.

Marinated Eggplant, Silken Tofu, Coriander, Chilli Vinegar, $14

I have a love-hate relationship with eggplant. This vegetable can take on so many different textures and flavours depending on how you prepare it, that you never quite know what you’re going to get. It also has the easy ability to become hideously oily, which means that you can end up with a mouthful of oil with not much flavour if you’re not careful.

This Marinated Eggplant with Silken Tofu, Coriander and Chilli Vinegar, $14 was no slack in the flavour department, that’s for sure, but the silken tofu was actually what stole the spotlight for me. While the eggplant was pleasant, and provided a certain heft to the overall dish, the tofu provided a delicate pillow of lightness which, when combined with the acidity and spice of the chilli vinegar, completely lifted the dish to a whole other level.

Pan Roasted Flathead, Clams, Spinach, Seaweed Butter, $36

In order to sample a dish from every section of their menu, we ordered the Pan Roasted flathead, with clams, Spinach and Seaweed Butter, $36. While there was nothing to fault – the fish wasn’t overcooked, and the clams were fresh and juicy – the dish was a touch lacklustre for me, especially when compared to the other items that they had on offer. I love the umami flavour of seaweed, but the butter component seemed to have provided no richness to the dish, so everything fell just on the bland side of things. I think I would have much rather ordered a few more small plates.

Buttermilk Sorbet, Yuzu Curd, Tapioca, Soft Meringue, $13

Sometimes, having a good dessert can be vital to ensuring that all the hard work a restaurant has put in to making a good impression, isn’t ruined in the last run. And this Buttermilk Sorbet, Yuzu Curd, Tapioca and Soft Meringue, $13, really hit it out of the park for me. There seemed to be varying degrees of tanginess – from the sharp freeze-dried raspberries to the soft tartness of the buttermilk sorbet – juxtaposed with comforting textures – silky yuzu curd and chewy tapioca pearls – to create a fantastic note to end the meal with. Light and somewhat palette-cleansing, this dessert convinced my already-full stomach that maybe we could do with more food.

And we can always do with more food.

On other notes, the service was attentive and the decor was trendy, but nothing spectacular to remark about. I really liked how we had our plates changed between the waves of food that were brought out, and how the waitress provided helpful bits of information about the food when we were ordering. That being said, we went on a weekday lunch where it seemed like it was just us and three other groups, so I can’t accurately comment on what the service would be like during a rush.

Go to Golden Fields if you feel like grazing – it’s small tasty bites aren’t built for people looking for serious comfort food – it would be great for Friday gatherings after work.

We ate at:
Golden Fields
03 9525 4488
2/157 Fitzroy Street
St Kilda, VIC

Golden Fields on Urbanspoon

Taste of Sydney, 2014

Clockwise from top left: Suckling pig on a spit from 4fourteen, Woodfired lamb from Porteño, Mussels in Apple Cider from 4fourteen, the most bad ass name card holder I’ve ever seen

Once a year, Sydney’s top restaurants gather to offer tasting sizes of their most creative, iconic, popular dishes. Where gourmands and gluttons alike can gather and partake in all the hedonistic delights that culinary giants can offer. This is…
Of course, it would have helped if you read the previous paragraph in an epic, movie trailer voice.

Taste of Sydney happens at the beginning of fall every year, and I pretty much start saving up money from Christmas. Between the growing number of restaurants represented to the crazy cool offerings from food producers, I inevitably end up one full, but broke girl.
But man, is it a tasty road to a zero bank balance. The idea behind the Taste of Sydney is simple: Sydney’s most popular restaurants each get stalls at one giant event, and offer tasting sizes of their most popular dishes. Some even create special dishes just for Taste. And because the portions are small, you also often get to sample these dishes at just a fraction of the price of what you would pay at the restaurant, not to mention the chance to try a little something across the huge variety of restaurants all in the one day.
You pay with Crowns, which is the currency of choice at the Taste of Sydney. Elegantly loaded onto spending cards, Crowns eliminate the need for different machines and having cash on hand, which to me makes for a smoother experience. One crown costs one dollar, so there’s no crazy conversions that need to be made. These crowns are non-refundable, but it helps that the food producers also accept them, meaning that you don’t have to worry about not spending everything that you put on your card.
So, now that we know how it works, on to the food!!


The first stop, 4fourteen/Four in Hand. I’d been to 4fourteen previously for Valentine’s, and the experience there left me absolutely excited to see what they have to offer. We got the Warmed Corned Beef with Bresaola, Buffalo Curd and Nashi Pear, 20 Crowns. This dish was a comforting amalgamation of beef on beef deliciousness. A moist, tender chunk of corned beef was sandwiched between two thin slices of juicy apple-like nashi pear, before being laid on top of a yoghurt-like buffalo curd and covered with wafer thin slices of salty, air dried beef that is bresaola. Every bite was melt-in-your-mouth scrumptious, with the creamy buffalo curd providing just enough tanginess to stop me from crawling under a warm blanket and descending straight into a food coma. A fantastic dish to start off the day, 4fourteen proves that they are as consistent in their vision as they are with their execution.


Next stop, Longrain. I do love it when seafood and other meat come together to make a delicious marriage, so the obvious choice for me was the Dry Red Curry with Cloudy Bay Clams, ginger, holy basil and pork crackling, 26 Crowns. To be honest, I did baulk at the $26 price tag, but when the dish came out I understood why. The portion was much larger than I had anticipated, and I’ve never been more glad to have someone to share it with. Spicy both in the sense that it had the heat of chillies and was full of, well, spices, this curry hit me like a two tonne flavour truck that is hallmark of good Southeast Asian cooking. The pork crackling was a great foil for the texture of the clams, but I just couldn’t bring myself to finish the portion on a 31C afternoon. If only we had met under different circumstances.


I cannot pass by an item like Efendy’s Panfried Lamb’s Testicles with Almond Tarator and Isot Chilli, 10 Crowns, so the decision was once again a clear one. I haven’t had lamb’s testicles before, so I’m not sure what I was expecting exactly, but I’m pretty sure that the burger patty-like texture wasn’t quite it. It wasn’t the most morish of dishes, but the pickled Isot chilli definitely helped things along. Not my favourite of the day since I wasn’t particularly keen on any of the elements, and makes me wonder whether I should have gone of the kebab instead.


Porteño had me tossing up between the Woodfired Lamb with Potato Salad and Chimmichurri, 20 Crowns, and the Charcoal Grilled Lamb Rib, with Marinated Eggplant, Anchovy and Rosemary Pound, 12 Crowns. In the end we went for the lamb rib because how can we say no to luscious, fatty meat on the bone??? The rib itself was smoky, unctuous and delicious, but the eggplants weren’t quite as big a hit. I could see the intention of the eggplant – it provided a much-needed acidity to cut through the fattiness of the lamb rib – but it didn’t quite hit the spot as I suspected it was meant to.


I was really looking forward to Jonah’s Fruit de Mer, 40 Crowns. Literally translated as ‘fruit of the sea’, Fruit de Mer refers to seafood that is plucked at its peak, like ripe fruit from a tree. Unfortunately, a lady with a big roll of masking tape was approaching the menu as I was approaching the restaurant, which could only mean one thing: they were sold out. This disappointing conclusion was confirmed when I tried to place my order and a look of sympathy crossed the nice lady’s face. She consoled me by asking if I would rather the Confit Huon Salmon with Wasabi, Radish and a Soy and Ginger Dressing, 10 Crowns, so we ended up going down that route instead.
The salmon was nicely cooked, as you expect confit anything to be, but lacked a bit of oomph. Some might say that we were meant to appreciate the light delicate flavour of the salmon itself, but it was just a touch too light and delicate for me. It was delicious salmon though, as Huon salmon is wont to be, but not quite the feast from the sea that I was hoping for.



Chur Burger – one of the more wickedly cool burger joints in Sydney – had plenty to offer, and we went for two of their burgers: the Kinkawooka Mussel Fritter with Spiced Remoulade and Dill Pickled Cucumber, 6 Crowns, and the Wagyu Rossini with Shaved Foie Gras, Truffle and Madeira Jus, 18 Crowns. The master of all things sandwiched between buttery brioche buns, Chur burger did not disappoint.
The mussel fritters were quite delicious and moreish on their own, and were just slightly overpowered by the richness of the other ingredients. Personally, I enjoyed it much more after I took the top bun off – I have a thing about bun to filling ratios when I eat a burger – but each element was delicious and balanced on its own, as well as with the other bits that made up the burger.
The Wagyu burger was an absolute powerhouse of flavour with a creamy truffle sauce and rich burger patty, and once again, the lady-like sizes of the burgers completely belied their ability to fill you up. These satisfying and rich burgers hammered in that final-nail-in-the-full-belly-coffin, and the only thing that kept it from absolute perfection was that the beef patty was slightly more medium-well-done than medium rare, making it a touch drier than what I know they can produce.
I still think that creamy truffle sauce deserves to be on the regular menu, though.


As close as we were to calling it a day and rolling ourselves on home, I still insisted that we had to stop by IconPark and sample their range of eateries. 
IconPark is basically like the Kickstarter of food – instead of restaurant founders having to talk to some administration person at a bank to try and get funding for their big dream, the power is put into the hands of the eaters, and you get to choose which concept you’d like to support by making a donation of your choosing. It’s a win-win for everyone, you get to help out the concept you believe in the most, and allow small establishments that might not have made it, a shot at the food scene. 
We only had space for one dish – I wanted to try them all, but I’m not sure that death by overeating would’ve been the most glamourous way to go – and we ended up with Sedgewick Ave’s De-boned Free Range Chicken Wings, with Grilled Watermelon and Light Blue Cheese Sauce, 10 Crowns. Crispy spiced pieces of chicken wings were covered in a creamy sauce, and grilling brought out a different, addictive texture to the sweet watermelon. It wasn’t overly moreish for me – I’m sure due to the fact that I was already stuffed to the brim – but it was good enough that I wish I left room to try some of the others, like I had planned. 
As usual, we leave the Taste of Sydney thoroughly satisfied and filled to the absolute brim with good food. And if the abundance of fabulous restaurant dishes didn’t get to me, I’m sure that the free samples at the many food producers tipped me over the edge and straight into a food coma…


What I ate: Cheat’s Chilli Crab Pasta

Whenever I mention that I’m from Singapore, the first thing I get asked is, “Do you make Singapore Chilli Crab?” Well, the answer is that I don’t yet, but in the meantime, I totally have a cheat’s method of enjoying all the shiok-ness of Singapore chilli crab without all of that work!

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