Sunday, May 23, 2010

Jenga at Brisbane's Hazel Tea Shop

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Brisbane's Hazel Tea Shop

This will in all likelihood be a short post because I've already covered the Gold Coast branch here. My friend Josh and I were wandering around the city on a shopping trip (or, rather I think I was shopping and he was a poor victim of circumstance) and we decided to get some tea.

I had a very upsetting experience earlier on in the day where I poured the very last of my change (handful of pathetic shrapnel) into purchasing myself a chocolate frappe. I got a paper and sat down to enjoy and being my uncoordinated self, knocked the whole cup over before I even took one sip.

I was about to cry!

Instead, recomposed and called the guy over to let him know about the mess I made. He looked at my table with a pitiful expression and said 'um...' and for a split second, I thought that I'd be getting a replacement as a charity case. Instead, he finishes with a 'could you please move so I can clean this table?'


This is why I thought I deserved some tea. We went into Hazel because I liked it when I was at the coast. We spotted that they had board games and the system is that you swap your driver's license for a game, as a deposit.

I chose Jenga on the grounds that Uno is multiplayer, Monopoly takes too long and because I haven't actually played Jenga before.

Since this is a food blog I should mention what we bought. I ummed and ahhed over a few options and changed my mind when I saw a sign on the wall for strawberry lagoon tea which is one of their scented iced teas. Odd description but it's quite representative of the tea. I'm not sure if it's because I asked for next to no sugar (you can customize the sugar level) but my tea tasted almost entirely of 'fragrance' with no flavor. Am I making any sense?

I can't even remember what Josh got... ironic since he asked me to choose for him. I think it was a mango milk tea? He said it was good in any case.

Top of tower precariously teetering over one block

Back to Jenga... don't borrow this game if you like to stay unnoticed whilst sipping your tea. Every time our tower came tumbling down, there would be a colossal bang of wooden blocks and a frantic/embarrassing fumble for pieces that scattered around the floor. Still good fun though!

This is our tallest tour

In case anyone cares, I lost.

Wok-tossed Sandcrab in Sate Sauce

Wok-tossed Sandcrab in Sate Sauce
Home Cooking

Another old post. Ah... at the rate that I'm blogging I'm probably never going to produce anything fresh. Sorry guys. I can endeavor to try harder? Possibly? These days I have an odd relationship with my laptop. I seem to always be on it but never doing anything productive. It's some kind of reverse efficiency?


Ok... *calm* back to my story.

Masterchef followers will recognize Luke Nguyen's crab recipe from a Masterclass way back. He made it with mud crab but well, we can't all be mud crab eaters, OK? Friday nights I tend to be at mum and dad's house so dad watched this episode and he was quite entranced by the sate sauce so proclaimed he would recreate this dish.

This dish is almost entirely about that sate sauce. The crab itself is just deep fried but the sauce is where all the flavor resides. It's compiled from a complex combination of ingredients that lends the right amount of savory, spicy, numbing and so on. The original recipe and a video can be seen here. As usual, we tinkered with the quantities.

Wok-tossed Sandcrab in Sate Sauce

Serves ~ 3

  • 2 x sandcrabs
  • vegetable oil for deep-frying
  • potato starch for dusting
  • 2 shallots, finely diced
  • 1 garlic cloves, finely diced
  • 2 long red chillies, thinly sliced on the diagonal
  • 4 tbsp sate sauce (see below)
For the sate sauce
  • 100 g crab meat (we left this out)
  • 50 g dried shrimp. Soaked in 1 cup water for 20 minutes & drained
  • 10 g dried chili flakes
  • 50 ml chili oil
  • 5 spring onions, sliced (white part only)
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/4 tbsp sugar
  • 1/2 tbsp oyster sauce
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tbsp fish sauce
  • 200 ml vegetable oil

For the sate sauce...

1. Pour the vegetable oil in a wok and bring to medium heat.
2. Fry the garlic and spring onion till fragrant.
3. Add crab meat (if using), shrimps, sugar, oyster sauce, salt and fish sauce. Stir then reduce heat to a low simmer for 30 minutes stirring every 5 minutes.4. Lastly add chili oil, stir and simmer for a further 5 minutes.
5. Refrigerate in an airtight container (if you don't use the crab meat, the sauce can keep for a month). This sate sauce can be used as a dipping sauce for noodle soups or add to stir fry’s. Or, use with the crab dish as in this post :D.
For the crab..

1. Clean the crab under running water and drain. Place the crab on its stomach and chop the crab in half with a heavy cleaver. Now chop each half into 4 pieces, chopping each piece after each leg. (I'm not really sure how dad cut the crab but these are the instructions from the original recipe).2. Heat the oil in a wok to 200°C (400°F), or until a cube of bread dropped into the oil browns in 5 seconds. Dust the crab pieces with potato starch, shaking off the excess.
3. Deep-fry the crab in batches for 3 minutes, turning over once, until golden brown. Remove from the wok and drain on kitchen paper. Remove the oil, reserving 2 tablespoons, and clean the wok.4. Heat the reserved oil in the wok, then add the shallots and garlic and fry until fragrant. Now add the sate sauce and stir for 1 minute. Add the crab and spring onions and toss, making sure to coat the crab well. Transfer to a serving bowl and garnish with chili.

The crab worked out pretty good in that it was fleshy, tender and delicious but we felt that much of that was credit to the crabs themselves. The sate sauce tasted good but didn't seem to go a long way in flavoring the crab. Perhaps we did something wrong?
Crab claws

We used the sate sauce to make noodles too and that was quite delicious. You can see that ours is quite chunky. I recommend you get busier with knife to make the sauce finer because I suspect that's one reason it didn't soak up well into the crab.

A Salt and Battery

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A Salt and Battery

Ahhh memories.

Sometimes, you don't realize how much time as passed until you spare a moment to reflect. I took my parents to A Salt and Battery recently because I promised them what many students view as the best fish and chips in Brisbane.

Even though I'm a UQ student, I don't have classes on St Lucia campus anymore. When I think back to 1st year, when I had science lectures there... it feels like a lifetime ago. So many things have changed.

My friends and I used to go to Hawken Drive for food because it's a reasonably close collection of food outlets. Since that period of my life, I've developed a kind of repulsion towards St Lucia because in the last couple of years, my only time spent there was for study and exams. It's enough to make anyway swap their good memories for an association of brain torture.

Having not visited A Salt and Battery in a while, my memory of the place was of crunchy chips, perfectly battered fish, large servings and lots of customers.

Fish, chips and bits

We went on a Saturday at lunch time. My parents and I ordered a piece of battered cod each plus some chips and a pumpkin salad to share.

I don't know if it's just that my palate for fish has improved over time (I used to hate the stuff; now I can appreciate good fish cooked well) but I thought the cod was a bit 'tough' and not that fresh.

Close-up of battered fish

The battered coating was lovely, golden and crunchy though. My mum agreed with me about the fish itself.

Chips were definitely up to scratch: crunchy outside, soft inside and well-seasoned. They tasted freshly fried, as opposed to soggy and old which is the worst thing you can get from a fish and chip store.

Dad also had a crab claw and some crumbed calamari which we decided was very uneventful.

Leafy pumpkin salad

The salad was quite fresh and it did well in being a welcome change from all the oiliness but it wasn't what I'd call a 'delicious salad'. It was just something healthy to have on the side. The dressing was overly tart for my liking and I normally love pumpkin but the pumpkin pieces here tasted bland and the skin was tough.

I wouldn't say that A Salt and Battery lived up to my memory. I suppose this shows that your impression of a restaurant and how much you enjoy it isn't just determined by the food. Sitting around a long table with a huge group of friends, chatting away and munching on the group package meal (mountains of fish, chips and salad) is something that extends beyond the taste of food itself.

A Salt & Battery on Urbanspoon

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Masterchef Pork Schnitzels

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Masterchef Pork Schnitzels
Home Cooking

Ever since the first episode aired ~ a month or so ago, I've been carrying on to friends and family about how I would be cooking Masterchef recipes at least 'n' times per week. This hasn't been the case at all and everytime I'm asked, I resort to any excuse from "it was Mother's day so my parents cooked instead" to "my boyfriend hates me being in the kitchen" and finally, the more honest reason of "I'm just too lazy".

Well... FINALLY I've managed to 'plate up' (in the words of our favorite TV judges). It's not heart-on-the-plate material but hey, after last week's pressure test, I found myself with an insatiable schnitzel craving so I e-mailed mum with a list of ingredients to be procured (hence eliminating my 2nd favorite excuse of "I couldn't afford ingredients").

I fried up the schnitzels on Saturday and even made the matching coleslaw but like Daniel, I used supermarket jarred mayo (it was what we had in the fridge) and he was subsequently eliminated for this fact so it's hardly worth mentioning.

The original recipe can be found here. I followed it quite faithfully albeit making less. Also, I wasn't very careful with my measurements (ahem, laziness again) though in this kind of dish, I doubt it really matters. When I made up my crumb mixture, I felt sure that it would be too much for the amount of schnitzels I was making... but somehow it all adhered onto the surfaces of the pork so if you find yourself similarly self-doubting, just don't underestimate how much breadcrumb pork can soak.

Masterchef Pork Schnitzels
Serves 3-4


  • 4 x pork steaks
  • 300g sourdough, crust removed, roughly chopped
  • 1 tbsp chopped flat leaf parsley
  • 1 and 1/2 tbsp chopped sage
  • 1 and 1/2 tbsp chopped thyme
  • 1/4 cup finely grated parmesan cheese
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 1/2 cup plain flour
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1 tbsp unsalted butter

1. Flatten your pork steaks to ~ 5mm thickness with a meat mallet (dad used the back of his cleaver...) and set aside.
2. Process the sourdough until crumb-like in texture.

3. Mix the fresh breadcrumbs with the parsley, sage, thyme and parmesan cheese.
4. Season the flour with salt and pepper.
5. Arrange the flour, breadcrumb mixture and egg in plates so it is all reasonably close together. This makes it easier for you to follow through the next step.6. Coat a pork steak in the seasoned flour. Dust off excess.7. Dip in the egg mixture and then in the breadcrumbs. Use your fingers to press the breadcrumbs onto the surface evenly. Coat both sides. Repeat with all pieces of pork.
8. In a large fryng pan, heat the oil. Add the butter and fry the crumbed pork steaks for ~ 2min per side until golden and crunchy. You might have to do it in batches.9. Serve immediately with a side of coleslaw and if required, fresh lemon or sauce (we used plain old tomato sauce).


My side of coleslaw

The pork itself was very tender and I like how easy it was to cook due to the thinness.

Like with any fried thing though, the real win was in the crunch. The cheese gave it a richness and the herbs made it taste fresh and zingy.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Tan Thanh

Tan Thanh
57 Corsair Ave, Inala

Just bought a car recently. Well, not that recently but in scale with how infrequently I've been uploading this blog, it's quite recent. It was a bit of a fiasco picking up the beast because I actually don't have my license (pause for scoffing and snide laughter) so I had to recruit two friends to act as drivers.

One of them was my uni friend Ellen who I hardly ever see now that we're all split up on placement. We planned to catch up over lunch after I got my car sorted out. As for where to eat, it was an easy decision because Ellen wanted to prove where she thought the best pho in Brisbane was.

I left my new acquisition at home and Ellen drove us to Inala (Byron bailed due to nerdy uni commitments). Despite having lived out West, I had only been to Inala shops maybe once before. For those who haven't visited, there's the standard shopping center building and behind it, a courtyard market area that doesn't even feel like it's within Australia. I get a genuine Asian vibe walking through there.

Tan Thanh is off to the side (vague directions I know but honestly, I have no idea) and my first impression was that it was PACKED. The entrance is small and easy to miss but there were tonnes of tables inside and it seemed completely full. We were very lucky to be squeezed into a table for two.

The clientele seems mostly Vietnamese, if that's any indication of authenticity. The menu is extensive. We ordered a couple of drinks and a meal item each.


Ellen had chosen a lemon tea drink which was quite nice, strong and refreshing. My iced white coffee was also very strong and I'm not sure if it contained real espresso but it did taste as though it wasn't just coffee syrup. I don't think Ellen liked it much (her feedback was "it's 'different'") but I thought it was a nice drink.

Beef pho

Having been promised Brisbane's best pho, I wasn't going to order anything else. I chose the most standard pho item - beef noodle soup without any trimmings. The serving was huge and there was a lot of meat floating on the top. Since I'm not a pho connoisseur, those are the only things I can really comment on... I mean, the flavor seemed good to me (they all taste the same?) and there was a lot of content. The beef slices were nice and tender. Thumbs up.

Hu tieu

Ellen ordered the hu tieu which seems to be her usual pick (judging from the limited occasions we've had Vietnamese food together) and her reasoning is that it has a better soup base flavor. I think the noodles are different too.

I actually thought Tan Thanh was great. It's really everything you'd want from an eatery: extensive menu, fast service, large servings, good flavor and cheap. I wish it was closer to me because it's one of those places I'd definitely visit on a regular basis.

Tan Thanh Vietnamese on Urbanspoon