Monday, February 23, 2009

Jindalee Oriental

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Jindalee Oriental
34 Goggs Rd, Jindalee

I think the names of Asian restaurants in the West side very confusing. Charlie and I had already gone to or passed 2 that we thought were 'Jindalee Oriental' before finding a third (and correct) one by chance.

This restaurant is located next to the McDonald in the homemaker center. It is slightly more 'restaurant' than 'eatery' but the prices are reasonably cheap.
When we went there, it was a weeknight but the restaurant was more than 1/2 filled. Someone had booked out a large table for a function so the atmosphere was decently chatty and vibrant. This is something I like when eating Chinese-style food. Sitting in a deathly quiet restaurant with staff peering at me really freaks me out so I always take note if a place still manages to pull customers during the week.
The menu was written all in English. I have no hesitation in saying that this Chinese/Malaysian restaurant is targeting a Western clientele. That's fine by me because I don't have a problem with dishes like 'sweet and sour pork' and I can't read Chinese. I understand what Authentic Chinese is but that doesn't stop me from enjoying pan-Asian cuisine with a bit of Aussie in there.

Looking through the menu, it was predominantly Chinese with a page of Malaysian dishes. I was a bit miffed because 2 things I ordered were sold out/out of stock and we had to reconsider. One was this awsome-sounding Malaysian taro dessert. The other was the coconut prawns but at the waitress's recommendations, I chose curry puffs instead.

Besides the puffs, we also ordered a hot and sour tofu soup, a beef brisket dish and a Malaysian lamb curry. Dessert was a banana fritter to share.
Curry puffs

The curry puffs exceeded expectation. Having just come back from Shanghai, my perceived standard of Australian 'yum cha style' food amounted to supermarket/frozen.

I can't vouche for how these puffs were made but they tasted different and fresher than the supermarket variety and were very nice to eat.
Hot and sour soup

Charlie loved the hot and sour soup but I thought it was 'OK' and started thinking about how I could make it myself. My mother makes the BEST hot and sour soup so to me, everything else pales.
Braised beef brisket with Chinese 5 spice

The beef brisket came out next. We were both very pleased at how large the serving was (being bargain hunters that we are). The flavors were good and more complex than the food court variety. I thought the meat was a 'little' too dry. The lobok in the dish was watery and not so great but I finished off all the green vegetables just fine.Kari Kambing, lamb pieces in a creamy coconut curry

Our lamb curry was different to what I expected. The description included the term 'coconut' so I would have liked something creamier and saucier with more coconut. The potato was unfortunately, uncooked. When I told Charlie, he didn't believe me but took a bite for himself and instantly decided to send the dish back. Our waitress was lovely about it - extremely apologetic and had no hesitations returning the dish to the kitchen.

When it came back, some pieces were good and some were still on the stiff side but we were full so couldn't be bothered to pursue it. Instead, the remainder of the lamb was packed in a takeaway container which (when reheated) made a perfect meal for the next day.Banana fritter with vanilla ice-cream and chocolate sauce

There's not too much to say about the banana fritter. It was delicious and hit the spot but wasn't innovative or superior to any other such dessert I've tried in the past.

Waiting times were a bit longer than I would like. One thing I had problems with was the temperature of the hot dishes. I'm a bit fanatical about dishes being piping hot when they come out. If the dishes feel cooled at all, I start being skeptical about the cooking method (reheating, anyone?) and management (dishes sitting on bench for too long).

Charlie argues that he 'can't eat' hot dishes and prefers them to be at a more palatable temperature. Each to their own I guess but I'm very firm on my preference here.

The waitress who served us was extremely courteous and empathetical when we told her the potatoes were undercooked. She also chatted with us at the checkout and recommended their lunch time specials. Even though I'm let down that the dishes weren't hot, I'm open to trying Jindalee Orientals' lunch specials. The prices are VERY becoming (especially for dine-in) and simply because the girl bothered to be friendly! These things make a difference.

Vietnamese Grilled Pork Ball Rice Paper Rolls

Vietnamese Grilled Pork Ball Rice Paper Rolls
Home Cooking

I hate pre-made rice paper rolls but love the DIY versions you can order in Vietnamese eateries. Unfortunately there is a pronounced price gap between the 2 - with premade rolls being approximately $2 per roll and the DIY rolls are $14ish.

I don't like pre-made rolls because they put mint/lemongrass/rice noodle etc. Probably all very authentic but I just don't like it.

When I thought about making my own at home, the most important component to get right was the meat. Vietnamese grilled pork is super yummy so I set about doing that to wrap in my rolls.

After a few days of contemplation and online research, I opted for meatballs instead... why is because I had mince and didn't have pork chops. Simple.

Vietnamese Grilled Pork Ball Rice Paper Rolls
Makes approx 12 rolls

  • 250g pork mince
  • 1/2 cup minced scallions (the white of shallots)
  • 3 cloves minced garlic cloves
  • 1 tsp palm sugar
  • 2-3 tbsp fish sauce (depends on strength of sauce and how you like it)
  • salt to season
  • 1 tbsp cornstarch
  • to serve: iceberg lettuce, rice paper, rice noodles, sauces

1. Mix together pork mince, scallions and garlic.
2. Add sugar, fish sauce and salt. Add cornstarch to bind.
3. Fry a tiny bit of mince and taste. Adjust seasoning if required.
4. Roll mince into small meatballs (I kept them very small so that it was easy to cook and easy to roll).5. Get everything ready to serve! Your rice paper and rice noodles may need hot water to soften. Soften the noodles first and have them ready to go. Soften your rice paper as you eat. I used a peanut dipping sauce and a pre-bought rice paper roll sauce. Garnish with fried onion!

I'm really happy and proud of the final result. It was a bit of a dash getting everything sorted and ready to go at the end (for DIY rolling at the table) and there are also lots of dishes to be done after... aside from that, the meat balls were super tasty and were perfectly suited for rolling.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Shitake Mushroom Risotto

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Shitake Mushroom Risotto
Home Cooking

The first time I had to wake up early this year (aside from catching my plane to Shanghai) was for a compulsory CPR refresher course at Red Cross, Milton. I was dreading it so much (due to not being able to sleep in, not because I hate CPR that much) that I started thinking about it before I even got back from China.

Anyhow, the morning came and I made it there on time and managed not to zombie through the entire course. During that time, I was brainstorming what I would eat for lunch once the course was finished.

Cooking for me is sometimes like a game. I have a bunch of fresh ingredients that 'need' to be used up so I try and envision dishes that include as many as possible. I HATE the idea of left-over bits of ingredients sitting in my fridge waiting to rott. Conversely, if I manage to think up some dish that includes everything left-over, I see it as a huge victory.

This time, I had bought some tofu and fresh shitake mushroom. At first, I just assumed I'd be cooking the tofu and mushroom together (both Asian ingredients) but this challenged me because I never used tofu before.

Suddenly, I came to the realization that I could actually use the mushroom SEPARATELY and figure out the tofu later on (which is OK because the tofu has a late expiration date). In the end, I went for a mushroom risotto (inspired by an episode of Jamie at Home that I watched on the plane).
Shitake Mushroom Risotto
Makes 2-3 servings

  • 1/2 cup arborio rice
  • stock (amount varies); I used the left-over chicken and bean soup (after fishing out the larger chunks of chicken and vegetable) and some Chinese chicken stock
  • 1 med-sized onion, chopped
  • 100g fresh shitake mushrooms (about 6-7 heads)
  • 50g grated parmesan
  • butter

1. In a large saucepan/pot, heat some oil and brown the onion
2. Add the rice and stir it dry with the onion until it is coated with the moisture from the oil and onion3. Add enough stock to JUST cover the rice and lower the heat to a very gentle simmer
4. Once the stock is absorbed by the rice, add another ladle. Once that is absorbed, add another ladle. Make sure you're constantly stirring to prevent the bottom from burning. Keep going until the risotto is tender without being mushy. It should still have some bite in the center of each grain. This will take about 20-30min. In the meantime, you can prepare the mushroom.
5. Cut 1/2 the mushroom into thick shreds and pan fry with a generous amount of butter. Once this is tender, add it to your risotto and stir in.6. Just before your risotto is ready, pan fry a the remaining mushroom with butter. Leave them whole.7. When your risotto is ready, add a small knob of butter and stir it through.8. Add your parmesan cheese and stir it through.
9. Season with salt and black pepper.
10. To serve, dish out the risotto and top with a bit more cheese if desired. Serve with the shitake mushroom steaks and some vegetables.

This is my third time making risotto and I got the consistency of the rice just right. I guess it's third time lucky! I've actually never had fresh shitake mushroom before but the pan fried steaks were so juicy and tender and perfectly complimented the risotto. The risotto was creamy and cheesy with a mushroomy aroma. You can do this risotto with any combination of mushrooms but Jamie Oliver advises against using standard button mushrooms.


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Taringa Circle Complex 168, Moggil Road

One day, long long ago, Charlie declared on a whim that he wanted to take me to a Japanese restaurant and bravely proclaimed that 'you'd love it!'

Due to unfortunate circumstances, we didn't end up going and he never again suggested it because some friends told him it was too expensive.

It just so happens that driving past, I noticed a cute little Japanese restaurant shop-front and when I found out that this was the place he was talking about, I decided I wanted to try it after all.

Last night when we couldn't find a place in Brisbane that did all day yum cha, I suggested we try Azabu.
As soon as I walked in, I was in love. The small placed is decked out in tasty Japanese-style furnishings and you feel like you stepped into a boutique eatery on a side street in Japan.
We were early and arrived just after they opened but I noticed many of the tables had 'reserved' signs so I was grateful to have a seat. We were each given 3 menus: 2 with daily specials and a book menu (that also had a loose sheet with the chef's recommendations).

After much umming and ahhing, we ordered a roast duck with plum sauce, the crab croquettes, a small platter of sushi and a bowl of rice to have with the duck.
Small sushi platter, $20

The sushi came first - 1 of each type. Charlie disliked the fact that each sushi had a tiny bit of wasabi already inside. I didn't mind. The seafood on the sushi was super fresh and I took note of this despite being inexperienced with seafood.
Roast duck with plum sauce, $18

Our roast duck wasn't what we expected. It was a cold dish with slices of duck. Rather than a hearty main option to have with rice, it's more of a starter. I thought it was very tasty all the same. The duck was super tender and it's nice to have a familiar meat in a new way.

The crab croquettes come in servings of 5 and I think they were Charlie's favorite item. The outside was golden and crisp without excess oil and the crab filling was piping hot (dangerously so if you're hasty, like me) and very creamy. The crab flavor wasn't that intense but we both really liked this dish.
Crab croquettes, $12
Look at my insides...

Finally, we racked up a $55 bill which exceeded expectations. I think we would have been better off getting the $40 couple set menu. I wouldn't have minded the price-tag since the standard of food at Azabu is on par with fine Japanese restaurants BUT Charlie's feedback was that he was 'still hungry'.

I think this has a lot to do with the fact that the duck turned out to be an entree. We were looking for other dishes to order that would go well with rice but they seemed to have a lack. There were other rice dishes but we didn't want MORE rice. $55 is alright if you're satisfied at the end but judging from our experience, if you want enough to leave with your stomach filled, expect to pay $80 upwards.

Azabu on Urbanspoon

Yum Cha gone WILD

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Bi Feng Tang, WuJiaoChang (Shanghai, China)

This is the first of my China-trip restaurant entries and I chose Bi Feng Tang to start with because a) that's what I happened to upload onto this computer and b) it's a franchise (i.e. slightly more relevant to you readers in Australia).
I went to Bi Feng Tang on my last day in Shanghai with a huge group of family and extended family. We ordered a lot of food so I'm not going to run through a personal review of each and every dish.
Overall, the menu selection was pleasing, the food was good quality and tasty. Service was prompt and efficient and the restaurant layout was clean and open. The place was super packed and when we left, I noticed a line of people waiting for a table. In China, the popularity of a restaurant is a key indicator of how good it is. In this case, I'd say Bi Feng Tang is right up there.

Sweet treats

Sesame balls with red bean filling
Square custard bunsPink mochi
Mango pudding
Osmanthus and red bean jelly
Portuguese-style egg tarts

Savoury Choices

Crystal shrimp dumplings
Flaky beef puffsSpring rollsBlack bean pork ribs with sweet potatoCombination platter of barbequed meats
Beef meat ballsFish crusted with dried shrimp
Deep fried sea crustacean
Deep fried duck chins
Crispy quailLobok strips with jellyfishVegetable with fermented bean-curd sauceSteamed vegetable with hoisin sauce

This meal had us all stuffed to the neck and there was still food left over! Yum cha in Brisbane hardly compares with the generic supermarket varieties.

Bi Feng Tang has built an international reputation for good yum cha and it's well deserved.