November 30, 2011

Suzuki Night Market

Date visited: 20th January 2010
Queen Victoria Market
Melbourne, VIC
(Enter via Queen, Therry or Peel Streets)
Food: Hawker style food stalls - European, Mediterranean, Caribbean, African, Asian and Australian

It's that time of year again. As summer approaches, the days become longer and warmer - perfect for immersing oneself in all the glory of food markets and festivals. One of these being the annual Suzuki Night Market, held at Queen Victoria Market in Melbourne. It runs every Wednesday night, 5:30pm-10pm, from late November through to the end of February.

Upon entering, expect to be greeted by the sound of live music and a great sea of people - sampling food from hawker stalls, browsing through locally designed and hand-made goods and even relaxing down at the end where massage therapists are.

A plethora of food and drinks are offered, from barbecued meat, wood-fired pizzas, steamed dumplings and hearty stews; to crepes, slushies, fresh juice and sweet desserts. A great inspiration of flavours can be experienced from countries like Mauritius, Africa, Acadia, Trinidad and Tobago, Turkey, Spain, Italy, Nepal and Malaysia.

This place is for you if you love the excitement and hubbub that comes with night markets and am not fussed with quality of food or value for money. The only time you won't be waiting for what seems like an eternity in line to order your dish will be if you arrive at 5:30pm - when the market opens its doors to the public. After that, hungry patrons swarm in by the hundreds (slight exaggeration) and it will be difficult to score a table, or any horizontal surface for that matter, to devour your food on.
Here is a snapshot of my previous visit:

BBQ skewered Persian style chicken with rice

Banjo's BBQ : Kangaroo patty (sweet, but was grilled to the point where it became tough and chewy), Emu sausage (a great idea to turn emu meat, naturally quite lean, into a sausage, resulting in a very juicy snag!) and Crocodile tail (similar texture and taste to pork)

Gozleme - savoury filled Turkish pastries

Salami Pizza

Spanish Seafood Cazuela

Northern Indian Aloo Mutter (potatoes and peas) and Butter Chicken

Spanish Sangria

Traditional Lemonade

The infamous Dutch pancakes - with lemon, butter and icing sugar

Churros - Spanish donuts

Honey dumplings - sickly sweet crisp doughnut-like pastries with a moist, chewy centre

November 29, 2011

Bar Lourinhã

Date visited: 23rd September 2010

37 Little Collins Street
Melbourne, VIC
(03) 9663 7890
Food: Tapas/Bar dining, Spanish, Latin American

Nestled in amongst boutique shops, lavish apartments and chic eateries is this funky little bar that dishes out the most amazing grub one could ever want while sipping away on a glass of Spanish Syrah or Italian lager beer. If you haven't been here before, Bar Lourinhã is the place to visit when you don't want the chance to be disappointed - it manages to deliver on food, service and atmosphere every single time. The place might be a little hard to recognise though, as there isn't a distinguished sign out the front - just a thin, fancy script along the window.  We were only able to spot it because there was a great big number "39" in front of the place next door.

Bonus points go to our waiter, a friendly, chirpy and cool fellow who was very knowledgeable about the menu items. On arrival, there wasn't a table free, but he managed to have us seated at one of the high share tables within a few minutes. I have a pet peeve with places, especially tapas-style restaurants, which fail to inform their customers that the kitchen is about to close and when it comes to trying to order more food, be told "Sorry, only dessert is available at the moment."  In this instance, we were grateful to be told that last orders for savoury food were being taken, and happily obliged for another serving of juicy, grilled lambs tongue. There's nothing worse than still feeling a little peckish, and not being able to order that one more dish to satisfy your cravings!

Upstairs - the entrance to the private dining room, aptly named "The Chapel"

Fresh rye bread

Yellow tail kingfish 'pancetta' & lemon oil - deliciously slippery and citrusy

Grilled Crystal Bay prawns 'a la pancha' - with a touch of chilli that lingers on the tongue. We used the rye bread to mop up all the tangy juices at the bottom

Grilled lambs tongue & pimenton sauce - the tongues had a bitey texture, but were still tender and very flavoursome. The slight gamey note paired well with the sweet capsicum and creamy potatoes.

Cabra Chanfana - Portugese style; Goat that is slow-braised with dry sherry, onion and sweet paprika. The meat pulls apart ever so easily and just melts in your mouth. All that slow cooking has broken down the tough parts and created some seriously delicious fat and intense juices.

Shredded cabbage and mint with labne - with bits of radish, red onion, parsley and fennel fronds. Raw, crisp and slightly sour (from the labne), this salad lent some freshness and cut through the richness of our accompanying dishes.

Iced chocolate & chestnut trifle - layers of what appeared to be a thick chocolate mousse and Chantilly cream, with chestnut cake pieces at bottom that had that freshly baked taste to them.

Pomegranate crema & pistachio praline - in a spoonful, you are first wooed by the smooth and creamy panacotta-like base, then are hit with crunchy bits of pistachio and bittersweet toffee and finally bursts of tart pomegranate come through.


September 28, 2011

Gyoza - Japanese Dumplings

As an ABC (Australian Born Chinese), as many like to call it, I have fond memories of helping mum out in the kitchen whenever it was dumpling night at home. She would have the minced filling and wrappers ready on the kitchen bench and we would bond over endless pleating and folding. Mum would then pan-fry the dumplings to make them all crunchy and golden at the base, then finish off with steaming by pouring in a cup of water.

I was always so excited because it was a change from the usual rice/meat/vegie combinations that we were used to eating for dinner every night. My brothers and I would have competitions, trying to out-dumpling each other by seeing who could eat the most. Being double my size, they always won, but it goes to say that I did not give up without a tough fight!

So, I have a soft spot in me for dumplings (but to come to think of it, who doesn't?). Learning to pleat one properly with even folds is much like riding a bike. Once you've mastered the basic skills, you will always be able to gain back the momentum no matter how long it is between each occasion. The trick is to get yourself into a rhythm, setting up a small bowl with plain water, to dampen the skins, next to the one with the filling, then a large plate to hold all the wrapped morsels. I also find using a blunt knife to transfer the teaspoon of filling onto the dumpling skin works better than with a spoon.

Here's a recipe, based on the basics of making Gyoza, which are Japanese dumplings that are traditionally filled with just pork mince, cabbage, chives, garlic and sesame oil. For a twist, add or substitute in other ingredients like fresh chopped prawns, beef mince, chicken, mushrooms, corn, garlic, ginger, leek or garlic chives - just don't forget to increase the seasoning to balance out the flavours!

Serves 4 (as main) or 10 (as starter):
- 300g good-quality minced pork
- 2 tbs light soy sauce
- 1 tbs sake
- 2 tsp sesame oil
- 1 tsp sugar
- ¼ tsp white pepper
- 1 egg, lightly beaten
- 4 green onions, finely chopped
- ½ coriander stems and leaves, finely chopped
- 325g Chinese cabbage (about 6½ cups, ¼ of a medium sized), finely chopped
- 50 gyoza wrappers
- Vegetable oil
- 1 cup water or stock, for steaming

Using your hands, combine the pork, soy sauce, sake, sesame oil, sugar, white pepper, egg, spring onion, coriander and cabbage in a large bowl. Really get your fingers into it to ensure an even distribution of ingredients throughout the filling. Refrigerate for 1 hour.

Set up a small bowl with plain water in it. Dip your finger into the water, take a Gyoza wrapper from the stack and wet the edge of one side with your finger. Then place a teaspoon of pork mixture in the centre of the wrapper.

Fold the wrapper over, encasing the filling, so that the edges meet to seal the dumpling together.

Use your thumbs and forefingers to press around the filling to ensure that all of the air has been removed from the dumpling and that nothing will seep out when you cook it.

Then proceed to crimp the edges of the dumpling to ensure a tight seal, working your way from one end to the other. Use one thumb to pleat, and the other to press down on each pleat to hold it in place.

If you are preparing a large batch of dumplings, cover the wrapped ones with a wet tea towel to prevent the skins from drying out while you are making more.

At this stage, you can freeze any extra dumplings to be consumed another day. Simply place them in a single layer, without touching each other, on a tray into the freezer. Once frozen, gather the dumplings together into a plastic bag or container. This method prevents the delicate skins from sticking together and tearing when trying to pull apart to cook.

Once frozen, the dumplings are best cooked straight from the freezer. This way, the base crisps up more and the ice particles that have formed on the skin help to moisten it and tenderise the dumpling while cooking!

To cook the dumplings, heat a dash of vegetable oil in a heavy-bottomed frying pan over medium-high heat. Place the dumplings down in a single layer and allow to cook without touching for 2-3 minutes. Then shuffle them around a little to ensure they aren't sticking to the pan.

When the bases are crusty and browned, pour in enough water or stock to come up about 5 millimetres from the bottom of the pan.

Cover with a tight lid, reduce the heat to a low-medium and cook for 5 minutes, or until all the liquid has evaporated and cooked the raw meat filling inside. Carefully remove the dumplings from the pan, and repeat the same process with the remaining dumplings.

It is best to serve the dumplings while they are still hot! Make a dipping sauce out of soy sauce, ChinKiang black vinegar, sugar, sesame oil, chopped fresh coriander (optional) and sliced fresh red chilli (optional)

Extra Crispy Gyoza

Check out this super old photo of my first ever batch of dumplings!


Date visited: July 27th 2009

187 Flinders Lane
Melbourne, VIC 3000
(03) 9639 6811
Food: Modern Australian with Asian influences

White and whole grain sourdough was served with a parmesan, garlic and rosemary infused olive oil and a trio of condiment dishes: seaweed and dashi salt (with sesame seeds and toasted fish flakes); dried chilli and yellow sugar mixture; and prickly ash (flavoured with sichuan pepper)

Amuse bouche - closer detail below

Japanese inspired oyster shooter with a soba noodle nori roll

Cube of daikon with lotus root and seafood broth

Seared scallops with spiced corn puree, chorizo and black vinegar dressing, topped with a hot and sour salad

Wild mushroom tortelli with wagyu salami, crispy lotus root and a soft herb salad

Fried polenta with sauteed mushrooms, crispy parmesan wafer, peas and a poached quail egg - finished off with a mellow veal jus, chervil and and dill

Pan-fried sea bream with a seared scallop, creamed jerusalem artichoke, caviar and chive oil

Seven score Wagyu beef with spinach and crispy taro chips

From left, going clockwise and into the centre: Caramel parfait with confit apple, salted popcorn and a rice paper tuile; creme brulee with jerusalem artichoke crisps; *cannot recall the next two items :(* ; cherry ripple ice-cream with rosewater turkish delight; bittersweet dark chocolate torte with strawberry sorbet

Petit four - chocolate truffles