Monday, January 30, 2012

RECIPE: Soba Noodle Salad

I spied this post by Scandi Foodie and was reminded about how much I love soba noodles. Uncomplicated, refreshing, cooling, delicious. I love a small bowl of the noodles with a sprinkling of sesame seeds, sliced shallots and a drizzle of ponzu sauce.

So why not make some, ey?

I was also making some Vietnamese rice paper rolls, so it turned into a sorta of Japanese/Thai fusion dish because I used whatever I had on hand. I'd recommend you do the same and not bother sticking to the recipe.

Mix together:
- 100g of soba noodles, cooked as per packet instructions and rinsed with cold water
- 1 small carrot (I used purple because they're sexy) shaved with a vegetable/speed peeler
- Around 20 snow pea sprouts, torn in half
- A few coriander, mint and Thai basil leaves, torn roughly with your hands
- 2 T ponzu sauce
- 1 T sesame oil
- A small grating of garlic and ginger

Sunday, January 29, 2012

BEER: MIKKELLER Texas Ranger (Barrel Aged)

The regular Texas Ranger is a fairly middle of the road chipotle flavoured porter (well, as middle of the road as Mikkeller can get). Here, it gets thrown in a Speyside whiskey barrel for 3 months.

Small but thick head. Dissipates quickly and leaves and inky looking beverage.

Sweet malt dominates the nose. A little raw chilli heat, cocoa, chocolate milk, raspberries.

Low but appropriate carbonation in the mouth: you want this smooth.

There’s still a little chilli linger after spending time in the barrel, but the flavour is big on chocolate milk. Some raspberries and cocoa. It’s all quite nice, but doesn’t fill the palate like similarly big barrel-aged drops.

More chipotle heat on the end, with a little sweetness. Pleasant and linger-y.


Saturday, January 28, 2012


It’s actually got “black” on the label written in Japanese characters, which I can’t read or reproduce from my anglo/racist keyboard. At least... I think it says "black"...

Perhaps it’s best to say that it’s the beer that is a 16.5% imperial stout alcohol bomb.

I first had it on tap during the Mikkeller tap takeover at the Local Taphouse and found it quite perplexing. Would the bottle also perplex me?

Small, thick head that holds reasonably well.

It smells... weird. Alcohol, malt, pot.

It attacks the palate, puckering the mouth, without any sourness. Low, thick carbonation.

It tastes... strange. So much alcohol. Too much. It’s not hidden like in other drinks. Sweetness lingers in the background, but never makes it to the front. Aftertaste of Panadol and leather.

Another, much smaller sip. The sweetness is all over. Molasses all over. Chocolate sauce, port, caramelised figs. Delicious.

This is such a strange beer. It’s a beer for sipping slowly. Drink too much—or too fast—and your tastebuds get destroyed. Sip it and savour it, but don’t forget. It’s like a pet tiger: if you get too comfortable with it, it’s gonna maul your fucking eyes out and the media will report on the story and draw attention to the bizarre life you lead with your magic/lion show “partner”.


Wednesday, January 18, 2012

BEER: MIKKELLER Spontanredcurrant

This is more like it. The Spontanale series has been a bit of a hit and miss for me, but my final one proves to be my favourite. No prizes for guessing the flavour in Spontanredcurrant.

The sweetness from the currant is well contained—almost weak cordially—and is well balanced against the funk and the sour to deliver a very drinkable limbic.

Still not outstanding, but my favourite of the series and a very tasty beverage.


Sunday, January 15, 2012


While it might be a little played out in high-end restaurants these days, spherification at home is both extremely fun and full of possibilities.

I made a puree of strawberries with a little honey, sugar and balsamic vinegar. The rest, as they say, is algae.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

RESTAURANT: Lynn's Shanghai Cuisine

With all of the northern Chinese and Shanghainese food I eat/blog about, you might be thinking that I'd sick of it by now.

If so, you obviously haven't fallen into the embrace of said food like most of Sydney. The heady mix of ginger, vinegar, soy and chilli is the perfume that stirs us so. As ubiquitous as it is comforting as it is ever-mysterious.


Finally trying Lynn's Shanghai. Which is in a club, of all places. Normally clubs are terrible places, filled with terrible things and I avoid them like I normally avoid terrible things. But for soup dumplings I'm willing to cast off the shackles of my mortal hatred of terrible things. Once. FOR SCIENCE!

The place has a slightly "clubby" feel to it (FYI, if you tell them you're only going to the restaurant you, apparently, don't need to sign in) but it's only slight. You could just as easily be in any other Chinese restaurant that has tried to make the best of a slightly cold, "modern" room.

Soup dumplings. Xiao Long Bao. The XLBs. The place claims to have the best in Sydney--better than Din Tai Fung--and they're admittedly pretty good. They're missing the big herbal, salty notes that I like, but, for a more subtley flavoured, well-textured, porky, ultra-soupy XLB you could do a lot worse than Lynn's version.

The fried pork buns are also bursting at the seams, just aching for a chance to spray you with scalding, porcine stock. They have a nice crunch and, while missing the same herbal notes as the XLBs, are damn agreeable.

The cold starters are solid and a good option, since the hot stuff can take a while to arrive. Drunken chicken is a nicely flavoured, slow-poached chicken. The silken tofu slices with century egg are also a solid choice.

As with many Chinese restaurants, the fried beans are a great, salty, delicious choice. Here they'd similarly great, but hopelessly misadvertised. The menu says green beans and bamboo shoots, but what arrived was green beans and pork mince. Other blogs show green beans, bamboo shoots and pork mince. I get that it's sometimes hard to put up bamboo shoots, but you need to communicate it. A bamboo shoot fiend (*cough*me*cough*) or a non-pork eater isn't going to be happy with the alternative turning up.

Every wrong in the world is forgotten when a plate of crispy duck and steamed buns hits the table. It's like Peking duck, but on steroids. Split a bun, slather on some hoisin, stuff it generously with crispy duck and shallots, forget about everything. Maybe dip it into your leftover ginger/vinegar/chilli/soy mix from the soup dumplings or maybe even chase it with some sips of Tsingtao from a chilled glass. Such a good dish.

Service is good and occasionally enthusiastic, but slightly slow. I'd imagine that if you order all hot dishes that you'll be in for a wait for your food. Also, if you want something (more Tsingtaos) then make sure you don't delay. It can be hard to get attention of staff in some parts of the U-shaped restaurant.

That said, the food is good. And that's what you want, really. There are small details that stop it from becoming great--small holes in the soup dumplings, no bamboo shoots in the bamboo shoot and bean dish, etc--but it's damn solid. I rate Taste of Shanghai as a slightly (but noticeably) better CBD Shanghainese place in terms of food and maybe service and maybe ambiance, but Lynn's is a rock-solid alternative with slightly better prices and a slightly better chance of getting in during peak times. I'll definitely be back for more.

RATING: Will return to [?]

Lynn Shanghai Cuisine on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, January 10, 2012


A stunningly good grower champagne produced using the solera system. Honey, red and green apples, almond and dried apricots, but also a savoury quality to it as well.


Saturday, January 07, 2012

RECIPE: Thai Grilled Chicken (Gai Yang)

Over the Christmas and New Year break there have been quite a few barbeques going on near my place that are within nose range but depressingly out of reach. You might be tucking into an awesome meal when you smell it, but there is nothing that will beat the perfume of grilling meat. I had to have it.

I've been eating a lot of Vietnamese and Thai food lately (the best food for a Sydney summer--after barbeques, of course--for mine), so wanted some of that flavour in my grilled meat. The answer was an obvious one: gai yang.

It's not the most traditional recipe (which would probably use a whole or broken down chicken and would omit soy) but it's pretty easy and it's bloody tasty.

- 1 kg of chicken thigh fillets, cut in half
- 2 T of Thai fish sauce
- 2 T light soy
- 2 T dark soy
- Pinch of salt
- Generous pinch of palm sugar (or brown)

And the following blended up to a rough paste:
- 2 lemongrass stalks, outer leaves removed
- 5 cloves of garlic
- 2 thumbs of ginger
- 2 red chillis, deseeded if you want it mild like I do

Mix everything together well so all parts of the chicken are covered. Cover well in a container or in a bowl tightly covered with plastic wrap and marinate overnight (minimum 2 hours).

It's not rocket science. Cook until you start seeing some lovely charred edges either on the barbeque, under the grill or in an oven as hot as it goes. Once done, a little squeeze of lemon or lime will go a long way.

Serve on it's own or even in rice paper wraps (or lettuce leaves) with a Viet herb mix, bean sprouts and vermicelli.

However you serve it, it tastes nice dipped into some nouc cham, the Vietnamese dipping sauce.

Nouc Cham
1. In a medium-sized bowl, add 1 T of sugar (white or palm). Add 1 C of warm water and stir until sugar is dissolved.
- Add 2 T of rice wine vinegar, 1.5 T of thai fish sauce, the juice of 1 lime and mix.
- Finely chop 3 garlic cloves and 1 red chilli (leave the seeds in) and add to the bowl.
- Stir and check for seasoning. You may need to add more of something to balance out the dipping sauce to your taste. It should be sour, but also salty from the fish sauce, tart from the citrus and sweet from the sugar.

Thursday, January 05, 2012

RESTAURANT: Chinatown Noodle King

Chinatown Noodle King has been on my radar for quite a while. I'd often pass it when walking up Sussex St for a bit of lunch at work (which is occasionally on said Sussex St) and wonder how this king was anointed. I also saw it mentioned by the pony-tailed chef, Neil Perry, in an article on "where chefs go to eat" and a few times on the twitter.

The facts:
- Northern Chinese food
- Northern Chinese food prices
- More comfortable than the average Northern Chinese restaurant (which isn't saying a lot)

Oh, and ice-cold Tsingtaos, which immediately launch the restaurant into the upper echelon of dining experiences. It may have taken a reminder, and service may occasionally require a little prompting (the norm for Northern Chinese restaurants), but when it comes it's pretty damn good.

The menu throws up a few surprises to the normal Northern Chinese menus that are dumplings, stir fries, pork buns, noodles, salads. Here they also have some lesser cuts of meat and offal in dishes (can't help but laugh at the listing of "brochette of tripe") and some hot pots. Not being huge offal fans we give it a miss though.

Curiously, there is also a page for "traditional snacks", which is code for "sliced and fried pancakes". Served with your choice of meat and vegetables, it's closer to being a fried rice noodle stir fry and is worth trying.

And what of the noodles that the noodle king has been king'd for? They're pretty good! Soft and slippery, well cooked and well adorned with meat and vegetables. I would have liked a little more "bite" to the noodle, but it's still very good.

A Northern Chinese restaurant experience for a whitey like me wouldn't be complete without some white man's crack: dumplings. We go for the boiled dumplings in hot and spicy sauce. It's basically boiled dumplings that skip a step, since they're already covered in a mix of chilli, soy and vinegar. The ratio is good and it keeps the dumplings from drying out (and of course saves me from having to manually compose the mix myself).

We also go for a stir fry and the cumin lamb is one of my all time favourites so it gets the nod. This is an enjoyable version.

While I don't find the food better than some of my favourite Northern Chinese restaurants (ie Chinese Noodle Restaurant/House and Sea Bay), it's not far off. And with more comfortable/less-cramped seating and less chance of queues (AND ICE COLD TSINGTAOS), I can see Chinatown Noodle King becoming a regular haunt for me and my friends.

RATING: Will return to [?]

Chinatown Noodle King on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, January 04, 2012

ARTICLE: Age Verification for Alcohol Websites

If you're reading this (an article on a food and booze centric website) then there's a fairly good chance that you've found yourself on the website for an alcohol company at some point(s) in time. At said website you were probably presented with a splash page that required you to enter your birth date or confirm that you were "of legal drinking age in your country/region/province/house". If not, check for an example.

It's a phenomenon that is at best puzzling and at worst inconvenient. Why do you need to confirm you're of legal age to view promotional material relating to alcohol, when you can turn on the TV or walk down the street and face the same promotional material with no restriction? More importantly, does a drop-down box asking your birth date really act as a deterrent to someone under the legal drinking age wanting to view the site?

[note: I'm considering those sites which do NOT sell alcohol; just those that market. Age verification for selling of alcohol is far more tricky]

The answer to the latter is a resounding no, as it's completely useless to use a drop-down box as an accurate age verification method. So, in the interests of filling space on the blog, I tried to find out why alcohol companies do it.

Basically: is the age verification screen required by law?

I'm going to preface this by saying that my "findings" were "found" with nothing more than a cursory Google search. If you use this as a basis to make a legal decision then you're a dead-set goose. This post is--at best--an attempt to stimulate conversation on the subject.

First off, I tried to find out what the laws were in each country. It was bloody hard to find anything on the legal requirements for alcohol websites so this may not be 100% correct and up to date. More than happy to change this if you have any better information at hand.

Australia: No legal requirement for non-selling websites, but laws for the sale of alcohol online.
New Zealand: Advertising standards require age verification. I can't see if it's federal law or an industry body but all NZ sites I visited use age verification.
United States: No legal requirement. However, it is "recommended" by government bodies and there is an industry code which also strongly recommends it.
Canada: No legal requirement, but a voluntary code.
Europe/UK: No legal requirements, but bigger names are part of a voluntary industry body called the European Forum for Responsible Drinking which does appear to require age verification.

Other comments:
- I couldn't find any countries that had specific rules around how age verification must be done. ie should there be a double-confirmation? Should the use use text and not a drop-down box (because the extra effort of typing will inspire truthfulness)?
- There appears to be a lot of activity around regulation in this area from both governments and industry bodies in the past couple of years (more in the "advertising material that is harmful to minors" sense than the literal "alcohol websites"). It's fairly assured that this will be an area of change and debate in the coming years that will undoubtedly lead to many alcohol companies having to change their approach (or lack thereof) to age verification online. Certainly so as online selling becomes more common for alcohol companies (particularly the smaller companies).

The overwhelming "vibe" of all of this is that there is no clear legal requirements for alcohol companies to include an age verification splash screen. HOWEVER, the overwhelming majority of companies (particularly the larger ones) include it as a sort of faux "commitment to responsible drinking".

This is more likely a commitment to "showing that we do all we can to discourage underage drinking" and cover their arses from any legal action resulting from lax attitudes or/and exploitation of the "gray" nature of current legislation.

So, given that there aren't many "legal" barriers stopping alcohol companies from removing the annoying age verification from their websites, should they? Well, from a user perspective the answer is an absolutely resounding yes. Current age verification is easily fudged and offers no real deterrent other than the annoyance of having to enter a valid birth date. Even as someone of legal drinking age, I will enter whatever age is more convenient that will let me into the fucking site.

I see the ethical standpoint as a moot point. Given it is so easy to get around, there shouldn't be any ethical complaints about not having age verification splash screens on the off chance that an underage individual accidentally falls onto the site and doesn't want to view the material and will spontaneously combust upon viewing of said material.

But from a legal standpoint... I have no legal background other than the Legal Studies class I took in year 11 in high school (and it was a public high school so you know it was bad)... from a legal standpoint, given the litigious nature of our society, you'd be crazy to not include the splash screen if you were a major alcohol company. If you're a small one then chances are you aren't going to get sued for marketing to minors, but do you want to take the risk?

But is there a risk at all, if we're only talking about advertising? In Australia, if an advertisement is considered to cross the line by someone then they take their grievance to some sort of advertising standards board who will rule on the matter. I can't see this option available in many countries for alcohol companies marketing online. Does everyone really need to be babied for the sake of vague laws?

Given the utter uselessness of age verification screens, do we need this "softly, softly" approach by alcohol companies online? What will it take for them to be eliminated? Clearer regulations? Let's do it then. Stop this consolation to the lowest common denominator who MAY complain about the material being too accessible.

Some good sites/posts/articles that helped put this post together:

Monday, January 02, 2012

RESTAURANT: The Parramatta Round-up

It's been something stupid like 3 years that I've been working in Parramatta. In that time, I've had the (sometimes dubious) opportunity to try a lot of the local goods. I don't always write about them, but felt like it was time to summarise some of the options I haven't mentioned before that are on offer to the office worker in Parramatta (particularly those around Smith/George sts).

Benjamin's Bakery
Near the corner of Charles and George sts is your typical Vietnamese bakery. And that means pretty cheap banh mi for lunch. In addition to solid pork and chicken rolls are some boxes of vermicelli noodle salads and rice paper rolls. It's cheap, it's tasty and the flavours are clean.

Oriental Tucker Box
Mostly Malaysian but a bit of everything. Most people choose the laksa or the 2 choices from the bain marie with rice, but they're not that great for mine. Char kway teow is okay, as is the short soup. They also have a small bowl of soba noodles which isn't bad.
Oriental Tuckerbox on Urbanspoon

Coco Lane
Formerly a no-brainer for the choice of coffee when they were serving Campos, Coco Lane is now under new management and serving Toby's Estate. It's still probably one of the better coffees around Parra. I haven't had the food but it looks solid.
Coco Lane on Urbanspoon

The Artisan's Apprentice
Tucked away in a nothing-arcade in Church st mall is a stupidly good bakery. The sourdoughs and fruit loaves at this place are out of control. A few other nice options if you're looking for a bread-based snack or meal.
the Artisans Apprentice on Urbanspoon

El Jannah
An institution. Get here (Granville) early to avoid the rush and get some of the best charcoal chicken around. They also do some solid stuff with other meats, but it's the chicken that brings the people in. The chicken roll is amazing with delicious pickles and a crazy-good garlic sauce.
El Jannah on Urbanspoon

La Mono
Don't want to brave the crowds at El Jannah or can't get to Granville for some reason (leprosy?)? Then maybe La Mono in Merrylands is the go. It's almost as good as El Jannah, but makes up for it with usually smaller queues. Solid food all round: tasty, tasty wraps, lighty, crispy falafel and tasty, tasty toum.
La Mono on Urbanspoon

Bavarian Bier Cafe
Chances are you've visited one of these places before. Bucketloads of German beer served in big glasses alongside plenty of schnitzels, sausages, pork things and whatever else it is that German's eat (people?). If you're not like me and you like German beer and want a decent schnitzel then give this one a go.
Bavarian Bier Cafe Parramatta on Urbanspoon

I've never been as wild about Temasek as a lot of other people, but I'd still recommend giving it a go. Good, authentic Singaporean/Malaysian food like Hainan chicken rice and nasi lemak. Recommended that you order ahead if you're getting take-away as this place gets PACKED at lunch.
Temasek on Urbanspoon

Hyderabad House
While they do serve a normal menu that's your standard Hyderabadi fair, their lunch buffet is pretty great. For around $13 you get as much as you want from whatever 3-4 dishes they put out that day. It's usually a vegetable curry, a dalh and a chicken curry. It won't blow you away but it's a very solid option, especially if you're starving.
Hyderabad House on Urbanspoon

Kings Indian
Food on par with the above, but a bit nicer looking if you go for the full menu.
Kings Indian on Urbanspoon

The Collector Hotel
Collector offers up an alternative to standard pub fare by serving a mostly Thai menu, with a few of the more popular pub choices (burgers, fish and chips, etc) thrown in. It's your standard suburban Thai that leans to western palates, but is enjoyable enough if you make the right choice. The noodle dishes are usually solid, as is the massaman curry.
Collector Hotel on Urbanspoon

The Albion Hotel
Further down George st is the Albion. At night and on weekends it's a good place to go if you enjoy house music and being a horrible human being. At lunchtimes it's more laid back and is one of the few options at that end of town to get "normal pub grub", albeit "normal pub grub" that is done a bit better. They have pizzas, burgers, fish and chips, pasta dishes, salads, etc, etc, etc. It won't blow you away but it usually isn't terrible. Outdoor seating is nice when the weather is good.
Albion Hotel on Urbanspoon

In the Mood for Thai
A better option for Thai would be this nearby spot. Standard Thai but some good decent dishes on the menu. Nice place to go in good weather when all of the windows are open.
In the mood for thai on Urbanspoon

Ma'leisia Cafe
Nearby is this relatively new Malaysian joint. Actually a fairly solid place, though a slightly limitied menu that is heavy on the nasi lemak-esque dishes. Last time I was there they had some really good lunch specials on. Ais kecang to takeaway is awesome/dangerous.
Ma'leisia Cafe on Urbanspoon

Hong Fu
While Hong Fu is pretty well known and regarded in the west, I've always felt that it's a bit overrated when you compare it to some of the joints in Chinatown. There are even a couple of places on George st (opposite the Aldi) that I favour. Still, you can get a good meal there. The stir fries are solid and some of the Szechuan dishes like tofu with century egg are quite nice.
Hong Fu Northern East Chinese on Urbanspoon

Port Bar
It's on the river, near the ferry stop. Which is good. I found the food fairly middle of the road Italian fare at river-view prices.
Port Bar Restaurant Cafe' & Pizzeria on Urbanspoon

Similar but more expensive is Criniti's on Church st.
Criniti’s Parramatta on Urbanspoon

A small Japanese-of-all-trades place on the George st strip. Okay place to stop for some soba, mixed dishes or sushi. Sashimi is just okay.
Kanzo on Urbanspoon

Manaeesh Bakery & Pizza
Like manoush, that awesome Lebanese pizza topped with zaatar? Well it finally came to Parra a few months ago. In addition to the zaatar there are also plenty of other options like meat and cheese or labne and vegetable. It's not the best manoush I've ever had (or the cheapest) but it's really good value and really tasty. Pro tip: don't be like me and over order. Any more than one and you will become obese.
Manaeesh Bakery & Pizza on Urbanspoon

Sunday, January 01, 2012

CIDER: FAMILLE DUPONT Cidre Bouche Fermier 2008

A proper cider. That is, it doesn't taste like fairy floss. Unpasteurised, bottle conditioned and (I think) unfiltered. Superfine bead. Intense and lively yet smooth. Like eating an apple, core and all. Sharp, round fruit with a little hint of musk. Smooth finish that is totally "apple".