We all know that the Sydney Morning Herald Good Food Month has always been about the food – like the ever popular Night Noodle Markets, for example – but sometimes, in the midst of all the gorging, we forget that it’s also about the chefs!
And they were sure present at Asia Town – a celebration of Asian Street Food, seen through the eyes of amazing Australian chefs.
Set up on the sunny terrace of The Star, Asia Town stalls were laid out in the style of asian markets, but with luxurious lounges and tables reminiscent of a swanky Thai resort.
The star studded list of chefs – which included Chase Kojima of Sokyo, Dan Hong, from Mr Wong and Ms G’s, Neil Perry from Spice Temple and Rockpool, Chui Lee Luk from Chow Bar and Eating House, and Chef Haru Inukai from Ramen Ikkyu, to name a few.
It was a warm sunny afternoon, and the chefs seemed to get into the relaxed groove as they manned their stalls, chatted to food enthusiasts, demonstrated how they made the dishes that they were presenting, and even had book signings! It was great to see such a wealth of knowledge – from the technical method of rolling the dough for the ‘hollow’ bread produced by Chui Lee Luk, to what ‘Strange flavoured BBQ chicken’ is (which is actually quite delicious, as we found out later on), to how Chase Kojima’s mother makes her Okonomiyaki!
Which, conveniently, we got to taste. The Chase Kojima‘s version I mean, not his mother’s.
He talked us through the making of his okonomiyakis – filled with cabbage, seafood yamaimo, a starchy Japanese mountain potato, and other ingredients that they might have on hand. Originating from the Japanese region of Okinawa, these pancakes are also commonly thought of as student food, as it is a cheap way to use up ingredients in a delicious and filling pancake!
Conveniently, you can also find the recipe, complete with video, on how to make this yummy savoury pancake here. According to Chase, his mother makes hers with only seafood, not beef, but you pretty much can put whatever you want into it.
The Darling, The Star
Level G 80 Pyrmont St
Pyrmont, NSW 2009
Phone: 02 9657 9161
This is one of those dishes that show you sometimes, Asian cooking, is all about the condiment. At Benjamin Cooper‘s stall (Chin Chin and Kong) crispy school prawns are served up as a conduit for Nahm Prik Gupi (Kapi) – a strong, salty, Thai chilli sauce made with fermented fish/shrimp paste, chilli, dried shrimp, lime juice, and Thai eggplant. This made a condiment that packed so much punch, Mohammed Ali has got nuthin‘ on it.
125 Flinders Ln
Melbourne, VIC 3000
Phone: 03 8663 2000
Opening Hours: Mon-Sun, 11am-12mn
Dan Hong‘s team from Mr Wong and Ms. G’s served up their take on an old classic – prawn toast. No longer relegated to a deep fried piece of white sliced bread that’s been spread thinly with minced prawn, this creation features a chunky prawn mince on crusty bread, deep fried to a crisp and topped with citrusy and delicate yuzu mayo.
3 Bridge Lane
Sydney, NSW 2000
Phone: 02 9240 3000
Opening Hours: Mon-Wed, 12pm-11pm, Thurs-Sat, 12pm-12mn, Sun, 12pm-10pm
The famous David Thompson returns, bringing with him his team from Nahm and Long Chim in Thailand, to serve up a simple but amazingly comforting dish – mince beef is stir fried with holy basil and chillies, before being served onto rice and finished with a sunny side up egg. It transported me back to the heat and humidity of Thailand, and was absolutely bursting with aromatic spices. And the addition of the sunny side up egg? The creamy yolk added a touch of richness to the plate, and made for such a tasty dish.
The boys from Jonathan Barthelmess and Nic Wong‘s Cho Cho San served up sticks of Chicken Wing Yakitori – marinated chicken wings are trimmed, threaded onto skewers, barbecued over coal and finished with a dusting of shichimi (Japanese chilli pepper mix). Wedges of fresh lime balances the smokiness, and adds a juiciness to the barbecued meat.
Cho Cho San
73 Macleay St
Potts Point, NSW 02011
Phone: 02 9331 6601
Opening Hours: Mon-Sun, 6pm-11pm
Luke Ngyuen‘s Fat Noodle, another resident of The Star, was also there to represent! They served up a summery Wok Tossed Lemongrass Angus Beef, served atop soft and springy rice noodles, to soak up all the sauce.
80 Pyrmont St Level 1
Sydney, NSW 2009
Phone: 1800 700 700
Golden Century – a favourite late night haunt of many a chef – brought out a dish that is straight from my childhood memories: XO pippies and prawns are ladled onto lightly fried rice vermicelli to soak up the sauce, and topped with a piece of crispy youtiao, a Chinese savoury doughnut. There was just something about the way the lightly crispy noodles were made soggy from the seafood-rich sauce that brought back memories of weekend dinners with my grandparents, where my mother would order for all of us. Not strictly street food, but just so SO good.
393 Sussex St Sydney, NSW
Phone: 02 9212 3901
Opening Hours: Mon-Sun, 12pm-4am
Chui Lee Luk – ex Chow Bar and Eating House – showcased her Malaysian Chinese heritage by demonstrating and serving up Shaobing – which is somewhat reminiscent of a doughnut – filled with house-made lapcheong – Chiense sausage – with a beetroot condiment and a sesame based sauce. Somewhat like a Chinese hot dog, there was something familiar about the way the lapcheong sat in the slightly oily bread, but was still not quite anything I’ve had before. I’m just really impressed that they made their own lapcheong – these sausages are usually cured and dried commercially, and Chinese families just buy them from the grocery stores to use as an ingredient in their cooking.
Chow Bar and Eating House (CLOSED)
320 Crown St
Surry Hills, NSW 2010
Neil Perry and his team from Spice Temple certainly caught everyone’s attention with their BBQ Strange Flavour Chicken with house made pickles. When asked why he named it “Strange Flavour Chicken”, Neil Perry – who was cheerfully manning his own stall – replied that it was because the mix of spices that flavours the chicken – which includes szechuan pepper, peanuts and sesame – was thought to be strangely delicious because they are a mix that shouldn’t taste good together, but do! The juicy chicken thighs are then barbecued over smoking coals, and served on crunchy pickled radish, cabbage and carrot. It was a fantastic choice to barbecue on such a hot afternoon, and this was a great example of Asian cuisine fusing with an Australian summer.
10 Bligh St
Sydney, NSW 2000
Phone: 02 8078 1888
Haru Innukai of Ramen Ikkyu was also happily manning his own stall, cheerfully shit-stirring customers – when we asked for one bowl of ramen he teased by pretending that he had misheard it as ten bowls, and other jokes of that nature. He was hilarious. The shoyu ramen, ever awesome, is a smaller version of what he serves up at his store in the Sussex St food court – complete with house made noodles – just without the snaking queues of hungry people!
Sussex Centre Food Court
Shop F1A 401 Sussex St
Haymarket, NSW 2000
Phone: 02 9281 0998
And as if all the gorgeous food wasn’t enough, there was a little popcorn machine full of self serve popcorn!
And finally, to help with the heat and to provide something sweet to finish off the day, Rivareno Gelato wheeled in a cart with 6 classic flavours of creamy gelato. The Leonardo was particularly interesting – toasted pine nuts was folded into a mascarpone cheese base, creating a creamy and luxurious mouthful, punctuated with the crunch of pine nuts.
280 Crown Street
Darlinghurst, NSW 02010
Phone: 02 9356 2669
Opening Hours: Mon-Wed, Sun, 1pm-11pm, Thurs-Sat, 1pm-12mn
It was such a fantastic way to spend a Saturday afternoon, even if it was a little on the hot side. Event organisers very cleverly provided sunscreen for guests, and had water readily available to prevent heat stroke and dehydration.
Short of hauling my butt to Asia to sample of the food, it was a great way to sample such a large variety of dishes presented by fantastic Australian chefs, all in one convenient spot! So hoping that this would happen again next year.
Insatiable Munchies attended Asia Town as guests of Sydney Morning Herald’s Good Food Month