Thursday, March 31, 2011


The great Mexi-Con. Why must all Mexican food in Sydney be so god-awful? In the midst of unbridled culinary discovery, why is the height of Mexican exploration the cooking of a meat with an Old El Paso simmer sauce instead of the normal taco sauce?

You can do better, Sydney, you fuck.


Slow roasted pork belly
Julienne of green apple
Red onion, sliced
Sour cream
Pork crackling, cut up
Salt and pepper
Chipotle chilli sauce.

Chicken thighs, cumin, paprika, garlic, coriander seeds, coriander stalk, grilled tomatoes, red onion, a cup of water. Slow cooked until the liquid evaporates.
Oil, black beans, cumin, paprika, garlic, weak vegetable stock. Blend. It's a bean dip.
Avocado, red onion, garlic, lime, coriander, olive oil, salt, pepper. Blend. Guac.
Sour cream.
Chipotle chilli sauce.

Bean dip
Sour cream

I don't have any photos because I ate them too fast because they were too good. A good taco is immediate gratification.

Come on. Fucking think.

Good quality food, cooked with care. Fuck off stale corn chips and processed cheese. Embrace spice. Above everything, embrace freshness.

Cross the border of decency (hint: to decency).

This is just the beginning.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

RESTAURANT: Flavour of Ceylon

Sri Lankan cuisine is severely underrated in Sydney. While cuisine from their like-minded brethren India and Malaysia is well regarded, the poor Sri Lankans don't get the same love. Granted, a lot of it is because of the severe lack of Sri Lankan restaurants in Sydney, BUT STILL!!!!!

How can you not love it? Take the almost undefeatable Indian foods that every human on the Earth loves and inject some flair from the likes of Malaysia and other South-East Asian countries and you have amazing, spicy food with spectacular depth and freshness. It's food that is both lively and deep at the same time.

And so I find myself at a place called Flavour of Ceylon in Parramatta on my lunch break.

Let's be honest, the decor is so far outdated I'd feel like a dirty old man for giving Betty White a kiss on the cheek (is she even alive?) if I took her there on a date when the paint was last dried.

But the food. Fuck me, the food.

The lamb vindaloo is a great vindaloo. The black pepper curry was as close to a revelation as I was going to get on that day. Until I came to the EPIC spring hopper biryiani--a mix of spring hoppers (Google them), meat, vegetables, sauce, spice, nuts, fried dried anchovies, and more. The egg kohtuu was dry on that day, but still quite good.

Service was friendly, but all that matters here is the food. How do you beat massive portions of excellent food? And my massive portions, I mean MASSIVE. For three starving guys we got 4 dishes with rice, and we had at least a dishes worth left over. If you only got a main you'd feel full. And they also have a cheaper lunch menu which looks like good value. Though, if I'm being honest, not as pretty as the menu offerings.

So don't come here for decor or service or any of that rubbish. Come here, order off the menu, resist the temptation to order something Indian-sounding and order something you haven't had before, eat it, wash it down with a bottle of their Sri Lankan ginger beer or BYO some light red wine (pinot noir says hi) and, by all means, enjoy the hell out of it.

I just wish it wasn't in Parramatta. Food this good shouldn't be hidden so far away.

RATING: Will return to [?]

Flavour of Ceylon on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, March 09, 2011

RECIPE: Mangalore Rasam

(Clockwise, from right: mangalore rasam, mint rasam, the rasam)

Rasam is a hot and sour soup that (as far as Wikipedia tells me) is big in Southern India and the Tamil areas of India and Sri Lanka. There are dozens of regional variations, which all seam to feature ingredients that are found in that area.

Typically, from the recipes I've seen, the hot part comes from mustard seeds and dried chillis, and the sour part comes from tamarind. In areas where tamarind isn't widely available, they seem to favourite the sourness of lime juice or fermented milk (mmmm).

The other day someone gave me Pushpesh Pant's epic "India: The Cookbook" to take a look at. I browsed through the 1000 recipes inside, but it was rasam that jumped out at me. I've never had it before, but the combination of flavours spoke to me. On an... ingredient... level...

I made three versions from Pant's book: the rasam (the more traditional Tamil Nadu version, as far as I could see), a mint rasam (which substituted tamarind for lime) and a version of rasam from Mangalore, a South-Western coastal city in India. The latter version, with it's use of fried coconut and tomato would prove to be my favourite.

Thusly, I have made a few tweaks to Pant's recipe and I present it for your approval:

Stage One:
- Put 1 tablespoon of ghee or oil into a pan.
- Add 1 tablespoon of cumin seeds, a pinch of fenugreek seeds, 1 teaspoon of black peppercorns, 1 tablespoon of mash/urad dal (if you can't find that (you won't if you don't go to an Indian grocer) just use any dal), a dozen dried curry leaves and 1 tablespoon of coconut.
- Cook, stirring often, until everything is toasted and golden.
- Take off the heat and set the mix aside to cool.
- Your alternative there is to put everything in the oven (minus the ghee/oil) and roast it for a couple of minutes.
- Wrap a few cloves of garlic in foil and put into a moderate over. No need to peel yet.

Stage Two:
- Dice 2 medium sized tomatoes. If you want, you could also dice a capsicum.
- Remove garlic from the oven and remove skin.
- In a pot, add 4 cups (about a litre) of water, a tablespoon of tamarind paste, a generous pinch of salt and stir well.
- While that cooks (stir it every now and then) blend up your toasted spices and dals in a hand blender or spice mix. Blend it to a powder.
- Add the garlic and spice mix to the pot. Stir it, obviously. It should be a soupy consistency. Add more water if needed.

Stage Three;
- In a pan, put a little ghee or oil and get it warm. Add a few dried chillis with their seeds removed, torn up a little, a generous pinch of mustard seeds, a generous pinch of cumin seeds, another dozen or so dried curry leaves and, if you have it, a pinch of asafoetida/hing (which stops the bloated feeling you get after eating lentils).
- As soon as the mustard seeds start popping, add the contents of the pan into your pot of rasam.

Serve over basmati rice with a bit of naan. You'll be a hero. If you aren't already.

Sunday, March 06, 2011

RECIPE: Ginger and Shallot Beef

Shallots cut into batons, a finger of ginger sliced, 2 cloves of garlic, diced.

Beef, sliced thinly, dusted with cornflour and seasoned with salt and pepper.

Fry the beef in hot oil. Once brown add the shallots, ginger and garlic.

Once cooked, add a few tablespoons of light soy sauce and mix.

A variation: Ginger and Shallot Prawns

Same as above, but replace beef with prawns and use half the amount of soy sauce.

Saturday, March 05, 2011

RESTAURANT: Jazz City Diner

Opened a few months ago, this small American diner style thing is as unassuming as it is good. It's just... there... on the street (not literally, of course). And you go in, and everyone's laid back, and you sit down and you eat good, reasonably priced food.

I fail to see a problem with this scenario.

The burgers are good. Juicy, flavoursome, good balance in ingredients. The onion rings they come with are addictive and probably took 2 years off my life. If you wash it down with something like a chocolate milkshake or a root beer float then you're doing well for yourself.

The main course style dishes also punch above their weight. I'm in what looks and feels like a diner, but I'm eating excellent pork belly with a smart combination of flavours, and stupidly rich coca cola braise short ribs. For dishes priced in the mid $20s mark, they do damn well. The portions seem on the smaller side, but the food is extremely rich and quite filling.

We finish with pie (pecan or banana on this particular night) and it was a stupid decision after the other food eaten. It's a nice pie, but I don't know what is hurting me more: the sugar rush or the body struggling to process the rich food.

While I wouldn't repeat that amount of eating again, I would come back to this place. For a lighter lunch or dinner I couldn't think of many things better that a nice burger, those onion rings and a nice milkshake. Except for maybe one of the main dishes and a milkshake.

RATING: Will return to [?]

Jazz City Diner on Urbanspoon

Thursday, March 03, 2011

RESTAURANT: Il Vicoletto

It seems a bit strange to call a restaurant "The Alley" when your address says Crown St, Darlinghurst. Last time I checked, that was a fairly decent "road" (or "street". Is there a difference?).

Normally I would have been a bit "okay, whatever" but I think it's an accurate name for this place, since it seems to exist in a parallel universe where main roads are alleys and restaurants from the 70s are still relevant in 2011.

It almost feels like a mistake walking into this place with it's ancient decor. Like you meant to go to a prototypical Darlinghurst restaurant but accidentally went back in time (which happens SO OFTEN to me).

It reminds me of my childhood in the suburbs. Or something. And they weren't particularly glamorous occasions (all of childhood was an unglamorous occasion, really).

The menu is standard old school Italian food, with a tinge of "people that live in Darlinghurst want to create their own dish so it's versatile". We start with pasta and it's solid. It's not great, but it's certainly not bad. For around $10/11 for the entree size (around $15 for the main) it punches well for it's weight.

The wine list isn't the best. For reds we have the choice of Lindeman's or Wolf Blass. Opting for BYO seems to be a better option next time.

Pizzas next and (again) it's solid. Not great, but not bad. The pasta is probably better.

The are meat dishes on the menu, but we prefer to keep it simple with pizza and pasta.

To finish, tiramisu. One of the yardsticks of an Italian restaurant. And it's good. A cube on the plate of decent tiramisu. What more could you want.

The key to this place is value for money. Nothing is great about this place, but nothing is bad. Hell, even the 70s decor is somewhat charming in the way it reminds me of my youth. But for 3 full courses and a bottle of wine we paid under $50 a head.

And that's pretty good value. Especially in a CBD starved of acceptable, cheap Italian food.

RATING: Will return to [?]

Il Vicoletto on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, March 02, 2011

RECIPE: Xin Jiang Lamb Spring Rolls

This will probably come across as arrogant or foolish, but these spring rolls are probably one of the best things I've ever made. I don't even want to know how many of these things I'd be able to eat.

And best of all, they're pretty easy.

First, you need to make a big pot of filling for the spring rolls. Grab everything in my Xin Jiang lamb skewer recipe and put it into a pot. But this time, use only 500g of meat and double the amount of soy. This will give you enough filling for around 12 large spring rolls.

Brown off the lamb, then add 4 cups of water. Bring to the boil, then cover and reduce to a low/medium heat.

Cook the lamb like this until the meat falls apart. It should take 1-2 hours, but check it every now and then to see how it's going and if any more water is needed. The end result will be a wet mixture of soft, shredded lamb.

Set that aside to cool in the fridge.

Once cool, you're ready to assemble. On a large spring roll sheet (of adjust if you're using smaller), add a heaped tablespoon of the mixture and some pieces of finely sliced shallot (sliced on the diagonal). Roll like a spring roll/burrito, making sure the ends have been completely sealed.

Then fry them off in some hot oil until golden brown.

Dust with some ground cumin and szechuan pepper to finish.