Back at sunny Hurstville this week to see if I could find another treasure worth sharing with you all. Success!
After much research and fellow foodie advice I stumbled upon Miss Saigon on Forest road. It's a popular, simple and 'nothing flash' Vietnamese joint that is already half packed at 10.45 am when I enter it's sliding door. You just know it's going to be good.
You can sit outside if you want to people watch, but it was a tad windy for my liking and I didn't fancy my food being whisked away by gale force winds.
From the moment you sit down (window seat please) you are served a pot of tea and handed a menu. Ooh lala! It's massive and I am immediately overwhelmed with choices I can't even pronounce.
Next to me is a mix of condiments like hoisin, chilli, soy, fish sauce, salt and pepper for those that like 'extra kick' to anything....like me. Plus you grab your own spoon and knife or chopsticks. No forks here! You will see why in a sec...
Playing in the backround in some peculiar Vietnamese tunes that even my Shazam app could not decipher.
I order the 'Banh Xeo' (pronounced BAN SOW) for $10.90. This literally means sizzling cake. It's a savoury ,chewy, crispy fried pancake made with rice flour, water and tumeric powder...and NO eggs! This is filled with lots of delicious goodies like minced pork, boiled shrimp ( I think I got two), diced green onions, and bean sprouts. From what the waiter told me, the difference between a good banh xeo and a great one is the thinness and crispiness of the crepe. If that's the case then Miss Saigon hits the spot. (Even a not so crispy one would have been a hit for me)
My massive serve of Banh Xeo arrives with a side bowl of nuc cham ( dipping sauce) and a cane basket of fresh iceberg lettuce and a bunch of mint leaves. I realised that this meal requires you to go into 'construction mode'
I try and be discreet but what's the point? I am on my own and facing a window. No one is watching so I begin. First , the lettuce, then some mint , followed by a generous serve of the crepe. Now for condiment of choice...what the hell, lets drizzle it all on (ie hoisin, chilli and nuc cham too). What an explosion of flavours in my mouth. The crunch of the lettuce, the filling in the Banh Xeo, juicing streaming down my mouth and hands and just when you thought it was all over, Mr mint surprises you with her last minute attack ob your tastebuds! Get my point? I managed to make around eight I think all with various combos of chilli, hoisin and nuc cham. The chilli is extra hot and spicy. A winner.
To have this much fun with food should be against the law or at least R rated.
You should give this place a try if you are ever in the neighbourhood. It's fast , cheap and tasty!
QUOTE back cover - " Stepping onto the streets of Vietnam is like entering a big, bustling kitchen everywher, something is being rolled, boiled, steamed or fried; pots of hot, fragrant Pho sit over coal burners and balls of peanut srudded sticky rice are steamed and wrapped in newspaper..."
'Vietnamese Street Food' is one of those books that truly captures the essence of Vietnamese food and it's people. The recipes are fast, fresh and unpretentious.
In Vietnam, it is said that "life happens on the streets" and food is an integral part of the Vietnamese culture. Just my sort of place, people and food. I want to go there now. It has been added to my bucket list.
It seems that you can eat almost 24 hours a day here and it's cheap. Fast food that is healthy. Does that mean I can eat a larger portion and not feel any guilt? Bring it on. Even if I have to wait in the longest queue in Hanoi to get the best Pho or Bun cha, I will. Somehow I don't think my husband and son will be as enthusiastic as I will. They perhaps should stay at the hotel....or in Australia.
What's different about this book?
It's easy and idiot proof. YOU can cook these dishes and most of the ingredients can be found as any supermarket or Asian grocer. I think most Australians (where I am) have access to these places and so there is no excuses. If you do live somewhere remote, then it's time to leave or have a future visiting guest bring you a box of long life supplies.
The recipes are divided into seven chapters. Five on savoury, one on sweet and the last one on dipping sauces/condiments which are served with almost every Vietnamese meal. Make your own and stop buying the crappy tasteless bottled stuff on the supermarket shelves. You will notice the different and never go back.
Fish sauce, lime juice and palm sugar and chillies may have been "forbidden" words in the 20th century but these days they are a staple in my pantry. Go and get them.
The first chapter is dedicated to spring rolls. Not just your boring pork and prawn ones though. It includes beef, tofu, omelette, Chinese sausage, jicama (pronounced heecama), and crab. Fresh rolls with home made dipping sauce..Happy.
The next chapter is about grilling/roasting. This includes pork, duck, squid, chicken, beef and fish.
Folowed by boiling and steaming. Of course here you will find the famous Pho, wonton soup and sticky rice with peanuts. Allergies? what allergies? I don't think South East Asia knows what a peanut allergy is? Maybe it hasnt spread there yet...and never will.
Continuing on we get to the 'fry' section. I can see you drooling right about now. Prawn cakes, salt and pepper squid and stir fried lemongrass beef with noodles.
The last section is for baguettes and salads. (and often one in the other). Here you will findthe classic French influence again with cold cuts and pate. These baguettes are filled with delicious goodies like beef, fish patties, omelette, coriander, chilli, mint, papaya and salad. They are worth a try if you make nothing else in the book.
YOU CAN MAKE THESE AND NEVER GO BACK TO A BORING TASTELESS SANDWICH AGAIN. ( or are there some of you out there still eating vegemite or ham, cheese and tomato?)
The final chapter is on sweets. Not one with a sweet tooth, except when I comfort eat, but it's worth trying the Banana and Coconut soup. This can be eaten hot in Winter and over ice in Summer.
The book and the whole experience is enhanced with some great stories, photos and anecdotes from the authors/expats Tracey Lister, Andreas Pohl and photographer Michael Fountoulakis.
If you love looking at crumbled masonry, crackling facades, crooked doorways, plastic stools, bags and cheap enamel plates plus fresh tasty food then buy, borrow or steal the book.(just kidding on the last one).
HARDIE GRANT BOOKS
Again, I greet you with a Greek dessert as I think of my mother basking in the 40 degree heat of Greece right now while she is on holdays. Am I jealous? Absolutely.
This one is called Boogatsa.
Any family meal is not complete without this flaky sweet treet. I first discovered it around 20 years ago while backpacking through Europe and the motherland as we all do...
Boogatsa is a Greek Pastry which is usually eated for breakfast, brunch, dessert or ant time of the day for a tasty snack. If you are Greek, you don't need a reason. Just as an interesting and useless piece of information, the Greeks in Greece truly believe that coffee and a cigarette is a perfectly acceptable daily breakfast. Your thoughts?
Back to the Boogatsa. What is it? It is constructed of phyllo pastry sheets which have been smothered in melted butter. These are then filled with an eggy, sugary, vanilla custard style filling, baked and then sprinkled generously with a cinnamon and icing sugar topping. Can you feel your jeans go up a notch? You bet. Stop reading if you think I am going to supply you with a low fat, healthy version. There is no such thing.
This one is from my mother , Stella who still, to this day cooks the best Greek food on earth.
Packet filo pastry
200 g butter
4 to 5 eggs
1 cup white sugar
1.5 cups warm milk
1 tsp vanilla essence
1 tsp baking powder
icing sugar and cinnamon for sprinkling
1) Preheat oven to 180 degrees fan forced
2) place phyllo sheets (2) flat and use pastry brush to butter them. Place in ceramic dish. Just as if you were making a pie.
3) Repeat above step.
4) Butter an extra sheet and this time, place it roughly in the middle of dish.
5) Place dish in oven until lightly browned and remove. A few minutes only
6) Meanwhile beat all other ingredients ( ie eggs, sugar, vanilla, baking powder and warm milk) in bowl. Pour over pastry making sure it gets to all the grooves.
7) Place back in oven carefully and cook for 30 minutes or until it has risen and firm to touch on top. It should be fairly golden but not burnt.
8) Sprinkle with cinnamon and sifted icing sugar.
9) Serve warm with coffee.
(Note- Many Boogatsa recipes have cornflour or semolina added but it's fine wothout it.)
Welcome to the buzz of Hurstville in Sydney's south! It's not as far as the Shire so have no fear...
I live fairly close to this place and have worked, shopped and eaten here for over 40 years! Prepare yourselves for countless reviews on this 'magacity' of Asian delights and mystery foods.
Here, there are literally dozens of great "hole in the wall" restaurants (my new favourite saying) including Chinese, Malaysian, Korean, Vietnamese and even more Chinese. My bet is that this is the biggest concentration of Chinese people in Sydney and competes with Campsie and the likes of Cabramatta for this trophy.
I go for lunch on a cold Wednesday with no set plan. I was going to order the famous Kampong Boy which I have heard so much about. But decided to leave that for another post and when I have company! Stay tuned.
I am greeted with a friendly young team of girls dressed casually in jeans, t shirt and runners. I was seated immediately (being the first one there didn't phase me) and given the menu. They waited patiently for me and were eager to answer and explain all me queries about the food. I felt like an 'ignorant westerner' once again....
A clever mix of tunes play in the backround while I contemplate the menu items. Dean Martin- mambo Italiano followed by the carpenters soothe the clanging and preparation going on it the kitchen before the lunchtime rush.
I told them I am a lover of Satay sauce and they recommended the "Rojak" for $8.90. The serve was massive! Good deal.
This colourful fruit and vegetable dish (yes fruit) is served throughout Malaysia , Singapore and Indonesia. It's name translates as 'mixture' It's Gado Gado with fruit and a few minor changes.
What's in it?
Cucumber, pineapple, an overdose of bean sprouts, hard boiled egg, tofu and potato smothered (and I mean smothered) in thick, nutty, spicy, rich SATAY sauce. Just the way I like it. I believe unripe mango and guava is sometimes included in the traditional version, but hey in the middle of Sydney winter, it's not the cheapest ingredient to add.
This is a common street food in Asia and I remember trying it in Penang over 10 years ago! (Yes a foodie back then you see). This was a whole new experience in taste and texture. Clearly still addicted.
I could not go past the temptation to try the Nanyang Kopi coffee here. It's a smooth rich full bodied aromatic Malaysian coffee with sweetened condensed milk. The orange plastic soup spoon on the side was interesting...used to stir the truckload of condensed milk that is sitting at the bottom of the cup. (as instructed by my friendly waitress!) Tastes very much like a 'Greek coffee' with milk added.
Give this place a try. It's at 370 Forest Rd Hurstville. 02 8094 8409.
Another great app discovery....food related of course! Urban Spoon
explores local flavours to bring users a great deal of information on restaurants, cafes and other eateries in your region. You can select from a list of popular cities or search by state. The Urban Spoon covers many popular cities in the United States as well as additional areas in the United Kingdom, Australia and Canada. Basically, you select your location and it does the rest to find you what you need.
Each restaurant is given a profile page that includes a user rating,contact and location information, hours of operation, price range and popular menu items with images (when available). The user can also view Google Maps for the
location and critic reviews from popular media resources on the web. Users are invited to write a review or share the restaurant profile with others. Visit
What are the differences to other apps?
Urban Spoon provides quick, up to date information on local restaurants.
Users can view lists for their area or search for a specific location. Each restaurant page is as detailed as possible and gives users a place to provide a rating or review and read those posted by other users. Urban Spoon provides users with just about everything they could want to know about local restaurants.
My son asked me if it has all the restaurants for Maccas in the "shire and sadly I had to say yes...
A great app for foodies!!!!
Greetings fellow foodies! Today I have no restaurant review , no recipe and no books but I do have an amazing iphone app and website. If only I could scratch my phone and smell it...there's an idea...
How many times have you been out and about or at home and you start dreaming about the next meal or visualising
some enticing dish....If you often drift into foodland trances like I do, then here is an app I discovered recently which is sure to satisfy your fix.
It's a "feast for your eyes" and is called foodgawker. There is a website version called foodgawker.com as well for those that have an affinity to the big screen.
The app is essentially a photo gallery that lets users discover new recipes or search for foods by tapping on keywords. After doing this you are taken to the blog post with the recipe and reviews. You can then share favourites with friends.
The editors here review images daily from thousands of submissions, so if you are a keen food photographer or are just looking to show off then all you need to do is create a free account and off you go. Don't panic if you get rejected though, you will receive feedback with specific comments with why you didn't make the cut. Beware as the images are spot on, that's why I am waiting to perfect mine before I submit anything! Thanks to social media, food photography has taken on a life of it's own. It's a satisfying daily fix for foodies like you and me everywhere and best of all it's
Developer - Chuck Lai and Kara Yorio
Warning- This is addictive. Don't use while driving! At work is OK as long as you don't get caught.
my favourite cookbook right now
This book will take you on a journey to the Far East!
Even though the book came out over 3 years ago, I still think it's one of the best books covering South East Asian food and now a popular BBC series. I have seen the series on FOXTEL over 3 times now and never tire of it.
The jam packed book is filled wth the vibrant food of Cambodia, Vietnam, Thailand, Malaysia, Bali, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh.The author, Rick Stein is the smiley faced chef on the cover and has many restaurants in the UK and one in NSW Australia! You can't help yourself warming up to his open, friendly and warm nature when you watch the series.
This latest journey takes him on an odyssey through the Far East, visiting seven countries and learning about the food cooked in each. He also adds heaps of interesting information about the history and politics of the place in the series. There is no way I would know so much about Vietnam and the war if it wasn't for Rick! He calls it the "Far East" because for the English, that's exactly how they associate the region. ie Europe and the UK are at the centre (yeah right) and South east Asia is considered Far East.
Throughout the book there is a huge emphasis on fish and seafood. However other ingredients are also prominent, such as chicken, beef and pork - including the fragrant Cambodian Khmer Pork, Coconut and Pineapple Curry and the aromatic Beef Rendang from Malaysia.
Rick Stein's Research in the Far East Stein accompanies each recipe with an explanation as to how he discovered it while on his travels. He researches every dish - talking to writers, restauranteurs, TV chefs and street vendors and watching them cook. He is quite amusing in his expanations and anecdotal mishaps throughout his journey.
There is also some amazing photography that accompanies recipes throughout the book and helps to bring about the atmosphere of the Far Eastern way of cooking. As you turn the pages, reading anecdotes of river voyages, street markets and factories, you can almost smell the smoky smell of the cooking and hear the clattering of heavy woks. If only pages could smell like the recipes.... I thought it was a little funny when he gets a huge gash on his forehhead after bumping his head on tour when filming the series. But the locals come to the rescue and patch him up!
From the beginning, Stein admits that if you want a simple fast south east asian recipe book then you have come to the wrong place. He confesses that this book is "not a meals in minutes sort of book". He has written it to assist the reader in making true and authentic dishes from the Far East. To cook with authenticity it is necessary to pound, bang, grind and marinate for hours and use lots of elbow grease in order to obtain the authentic flavours. He makes the point that "the cooking is quick, the preparation takes time". We have become too used to cooking food in under twenty minutes but the real magic is to cook a meal in your own kitchen and smell and taste for yourself the flavours eaten in Thailand, Bali or Malaysia.
I have made most of the recipes to date and all have turned out miraculously well. His recipe for Som tam (Green papaya salad), pad Thai, Fresh Vietnamese rolls and Chef Wan "prawn and rice noodle salad" have become a staple in my house. His Balinese satays are also a tasty and spicy treat. I could go on forever......
The ingredients in the book can be readily found in supermarkets or Asian grocers. 20 years ago you would have had strange looks if you went into Coles and asked for kecap manis or fish sauce. These days it's the norm, so there is no excuse!
A copy would become an invaluable addition to your South East Asian cookbook collection. In fact, you will probably stop using your old ones like I have.
What the? I can hear you now. How is Greek salad in any way related to South East Asian food? Clearly , it's not and I won't be adding anything odd to the recipe like fish sauce, palm sugar or lime juice. Relax.
If you go back to my home page, I did mention my Greek heritage and love for Greek food. So I am using this as my "disclaimer" to allow me to share this recipe. It's delicious, so give it a try.
There are literally hundreds of of different variations of Greek salad but one thing is certain. The real deal has NO LETTUCE PLEASE!
My recipe today is an adaptation of what most of you know as a Greek salad. I have left out the feta (wait..) but have replaced it with "SANDHURST" bell peppers stuffed with cheese. They are tiny round bell peppers stuffed with the most oily, lardy, cheesy creamy filling you will find. get my point?
You don't have to stick to the amounts either as the Greeks generally don't do this for making salad. We just add as we go along and if it looks good , then it's done. Note - Greeks rarely make dishes to serve 2, we are more likely to make it up so that it serves 222.
1) 5 to 10 kalamata olives (pitted preferably)
2) 1/2 a red capscicum (sliced)
3) 1/2 a red onion (sliced thinly)
4) 2-3 ripe tomatoes
5) 10 -15 slices lebanese cucumber
6)Sandhurst bell peppers with cheese
1) 1/2 cup olive oil
2)1/2 cup red wine vinegar
3)1/4 cup chopped dill or 1 TBP mixed herbs
4) salt and pepper to taste
1) Mix all chopped ingredients in a large bowl
2) Mix dressing in jar with screw lid
4) Any leftover juices can be soaked up with some chunky crusty bread. Nothing needs to go to waste.
Today's post was meant to be the last in my trilogy of "Little Vietnam" but due
to weather and more importantly, Cityrail's decision to have trackwork all
wekend somehow set the "pause" button to this.
Plan B. There is always a plan B when it comes to food choices.
I decided to venture out to one of my favourite Thai joints in Newtown. DOYTAO. We (hubby and I) first heard about this placeover 10 years ago and tested it out as you do.
You NEVER forget the first time! It remains seared in my soul forever. The rest
is history as we continue to go back for our fix at least every couple of
months. Lunch is good time to go as you will always get a table and don't need
to pre book . Dinner is always packed so book early.
Doy Tao is located at 543 King street Newtown. Tempe end. It has a casual and informal setting yet with a buzzy atmosphere. Come dressed in smart casual clothes. If
you are just plain lazy, Trackies and runners will still get you through the door with a few raised eyebrows. Sadly my family thinks that this attire is considered making an effort.
Now down to business.
We are promptly seated. The smiling waiter arrives in minutes ready to take our
order. Sadly, we already know what we want without even opening the lunch
1) Chicken Phat Thai - $8.90 includes rice.
This is the most famous Thai dish in the world and understandably so. Spicy , goey noodles, tangy chicken, roasted peanuts, fresh crispy vegetables, tart lime, prawn (just the one) and a wedge of lime on the side. A unique and satisfying taste. Clearly derived from the sauce used. Traditionally made from tamarind, dried shrimp, slated radish and fish sauce. A must try.
2) Plik Kling stir fry with chicken- $8.90 includes rice.
This one is under the stir fries heading in the lunch special menu. Although I think it is really a curry. You choose the protein ie chicken, lamb or beef. This is then cooked in what I call a "mystery" sauce of coconut cream, lemongrass, , ginger, garlic, chilli and possibly a hint of kaffir lime leaf. Whenever I ask for what's in it, my sweet smiling Thai waitress would respond with "Doytao special secret sauce" and walk away with a sinister evil laugh. I gave up asking a few years ago....
3) Hot chilli and basil stir fry. Phat Kaphrao- $8.90 includes rice.
This is my husband's all time favourite. He always chooses the lamb version as we rarely eat lam at home due to it's ridiculous pricein the supermarket and butchers. This dish may not have the same recognition as phat thai, but if you are looking for "blow your head off hot and spicy, look no further.
What makes it more-ish and edible is the basil that cuts through the heat and spice. The whole dish includes plenty of fresh vegetables, like snow peas, capsicum, baby corn, broccoli, caulifllower and sprouts. Highly recommended. You can't go wrong with this one. Always a happy ending.
4) Chicken satay - $4.95 for a serving of 2.
This has got to be the best satay sauce on skewered chicken ever.. Spicy sweet, nutty and creamy. The skewers are smothered in the stuff. This is no stingy serve. We order two serves anyway because we know that a plastic takewaway dish is not far away...
Currently there are 7 branches of DOYTAO.around Sydney. These include Sutherland ,Newtown ,Glebe, Croydon, Waterloo, Padstow, Boronia Park and Drummoyne. Sutherland is a great one set in an old refurbished residenttial home. Smart thinking.
At the Newtown branch, the walls are filled with art, the mood is enlightened with music and your taste buds start to tingle the moment you walk through the door. As you can see from the picture here, there is an open kitchen where chefs show off their skills and prepare meals "to order" . Go up and have a sticky beak at the fresh food and cooking area. Good fun.
Note - this blog piece is not sponsored or endorsed by the restaurant and is purely based on personal opinion.
A week later , I ventured back out to Cabramatta in Sydney's west to complete what I had set out to do last time. ie visit Tan Viet Noodle House and try those green pandan waffles I saw from across the bakery selling the custard cakes.
My second trip was a little less daunting than the first . By now , I felt like getting off the train was greeted with a sense of familiarity and adventure. Hey after all, I'd been here once already which should make me the expert right?
I headed straight down to Tan Viet with more focus and speed than an Olympic athlete. Got there at 11.15 am to a semi full house already. The waitresses greeted me with open arms and a welcoming smile. A good start. I was smitten. I was seated at a clean formica style table with all the usual condiments in place already at the table. Others stared as I ws on my own. I didn't know what the big deal was but later found out that Vietnamese do not generally eat on their own. Ignorance is bliss. That did'nt stop me.
I ordered the famous "crispy chicken with tomato rice" plus a white iced coffee, Vietnamse style. It was rushed to me within minutes, and was exactly what I has imagined. Crispy fried chicken with a soft delicate flesh served with a side mountain of tomato flavoured rice. All for $12.00. Super crunchy skin that was surely deep fried more than once.
The coffee was also a treat. It's the sweetened condensed milk that really takes it up a level. The Vietnamese like all things sweet and their coffee is no exception. Served in a tall glass with ice, it was perfect for the warm day beaming through the glass windows.
Next stop was back to my custard cake bakery (still in John st) where I can get my Banh kep (pandan waffle pancake) from across the vendor. I spotted these babies on my first trip here but didn't quite find the room in my stomach on the day. My eyes said yes but my body said no...as usual.
I ordered one for $1.50 and shovelled it down before the steam was barely out of the bag! The pandan waffle is not as crispy as your conventional western waffle, it's a little softer ,sweeter and with a hint of aroma from the pandan leaf. This leaf also gives it the colour green. Rumour has it that green food colouring also plays a role here. Who can say. POST a comment if you know the truth please.
Keep posted for for next instalment which will be a special one. A guest appearance and tour with resident Vietnamese foodie and blogger , Kimmie, who will take me around Little Vietnam for some serious authentic Vietnamese food, shopping and drinking that only a local would know.