Monday, June 29, 2009

Shrimp Paste Fried Rice

I love shrimp paste.

I love shrimp paste.

I love shrimp paste.

And I think I've made my point. I'll get on with the rest of the post now.

Oh, and before I start:SHRIMP PASTE!

When I was young I used to hate shrimp paste. I blame it on the fact that my mother used it as liberally as any child would with Nutella.

Anyone who has ever come anywhere near shrimp paste would know that it was NEVER meant to be spread like Nutella. I think if it weren't for my rebellish side and my perchant to throw out anything I disliked in my lunchbox, my innards would have been well and truly cured by now.

Luckily I fell in love with shrimp paste fried rice, credits to the overabundance of Thai food around Sydney. Not that I'm complaining.

It's a wonderfully versatile dish, especially good if you're scratching your brains as to what to do with leftover rice. Or if you're like me, then you just deliberately cook to much rice the previous night so that you get an excuse to use the shrimp paste sitting in the fridge.

Apart from the day-old rice, the cast of characters involves eggs, spring onions and coriander.And any meat available (I sliced some braised pork belly that my father made, but could just use any sort of marinade meat).

And ginger. Just a little.And then some peas and corns.

And some diced pineapples. I love pineapples. If you have the fresh stuff, good for you. But I didn't, so I used canned. Forgive me.

Fry up the shrimp paste with a little oil and ginger until fragrant. Take a big whiff and enjoy the fishy goodness.

Some people would run a mile just to get away from this smell. Others would just get high off it. I think I belong in the latter category.

Add the rice and meat and give it a good toss around. Don't beat the rice up too much or you'll break the grains. If your meat is raw then cook the meat first before throwing it in.
Add the egg and peas, and give it a good toss around once again.

Don't start me on how real Asians don't add peas and corn in their fried rice. This is my cooking, I add what I like. Feel free to do it your own way. That's part of the joy of cooking!

Next add the pineapple. Feel free to caramelise it in another pan before adding it to the fried rice. I was in a rush so I skipped that part.

Please add pineapple. Shrimp paste and pineapples generate R rated results. Failproof.

Next, turn the heat down completely and throw in the coriander and spring onions and toss through. Turn off heat and serve.

Shoo! Now go make this and enjoy it!

Shrimp Paste Fried Rice
Serves: 1

2 Eggs
1/2 tsp Chicken Powder
5 sprigs Coriander, finely chopped
1/2 stalk Spring Onion, finely chopped
4 thin juliennes Ginger
1/4 cup frozen Peas and Corn
2 slices Pineapple, diced
1 tsp Shrimp Paste
1/4 cup Pork, chopped
1 bowl Leftover rice. (Just add however much you can eat)

  1. Beat eggs with chicken powder and fry in a pan until just cooked. Set aside.
  2. Grill or fry pineapple pieces until caramelised, set aside
  3. Add oil to pan and fry shrimp paste with ginger, until fragrant
  4. If you have raw pork, then add raw pork and fry until cooked. Otherwise add rice and cooked pork together and toss until rice is well coated with paste
  5. Add peas and corn and fried eggs and break up egg through the rice
  6. Add pineapple and toss through rice.
  7. Turn heat to low and add spring onions and coriander. Toss through and turn off heat.
  8. Serve in a bowl topped with more spring onions and coriander.
  9. Do yourself a favour and make yourself some pina colada while you're at it.
  10. Cheers.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Review: Tomato Cafe, Chatswood

If there ever was a place that really would have benefited from a shot of the front entrance, it would have been Tomato Cafe.


Well when I asked AW where this place was, she promptly replied that I should not judge this place by the entrance, because I may feel as if I was being led towards some seedy R-rated place hidden away in some strange corner of Chatswood.

By some strange corner, I really just mean some place I never would have thought of visiting on Victoria Ave. Mind you, this place was perfect for our occasion, as we had just finished our exams and just wanted to chill in some secluded corner on a rainy, rainy day with some good, cheap food. (And sofa chairs!)

And the choice of Korean? Well, let's just say AW is a huge fan of everything Korean, and I simply enjoy the perk of having a neverending supply of free Kimchi. (Shown in one of the small dishes above)

Teriyaki Chicken with Curry Rice

The Teriyaki Chicken with Curry Rice was LT's dish that night. Even though I didn't end up trying it myself, I have been told that the teriyaki chicken was disappointing because it resembled more like honey chicken than teriyaki. Judging by the colours of the dish, I don't doubt him.

Somehow I don't think they brought out the right dish?

Spicy Pork with Rice Cakes

To be honest I don't remember what that dish was called at all. I really just made the name up on the spot just then. The point is, it had pork, and rice cakes and was deliciously spicy in that yummy Korean way. I know I'm probably not making much sense in this paragraph, but it's because I salivate everytime I see this and I'm trying my best to keep my saliva IN my mouth.

So what is this dish? Well, we don't actually know because a funny thing had happened on the night.

Remember the part where I mentioned that AW liked everything Korean? Well she had been taking Korean lessons all semester and was keen to try out her new language skills on the cute waiter. In her attempt to read the Korean on the menu, she failed to notice that the Korean appeared ABOVE the English translation (she thought it was below), and ended up ordering the wrong dish.

All I can really say is that it tasted like beef. Marinated beef Korean style. And I'm just going to leave it there. (It was delicious though!)

Korean Broad Noodles in Seafood and Vegetable Broth

And lastly, this was my Korean Broad Noodles in Seafood and Vegetable Broth. My verdict was that it definitely hit the spot for me that night because there's nothing like a warm bowl of soup noodles on a cold night. The noodles were nice and chewy still (so not overcooked), and the soup was so delicate in flavour. The seafood itself was nothing spectacular, but I wasn't expecting it to be considering it was only $10. Yeah, you heard right! $10!

The night was good, despite the few let downs here and there. But the night had been made because we had a chance to just chill and enjoy some good food and wine in a nice warm place where the ambience just makes you want to stay there with your friends forever.

Tomato Cafe
Level 1
370 Victoria Avenue
Chatswood, NSW 2067
Tel: ?

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

When Penne and Italian Sausages Have Fun

I did two unthinkable things today...
*twiddles thumbs*

...I used bottled sauce...

...and I used pecorino!

Now please allow me to explain.

First, is that there is this wonderful Italian Deli up in Cox's Road in East Ryde and I've been wanting to buy out that store for quite some time now. I am also a regular feaster of their lasagna.

Today, I had a squiz at their selection of pasta sauces on the shelves, and picked out Siena Homestyle Mediterranean Sauce. The original plan was to do a Chorizo and black olives dish, so I thought the sauce to be just perfect for the occasion, but to my shock horror the store was out of chorizo and I ended up having to pick up a couple of Italian Sausages instead.

Now would it not be appropriate of me to end that paragraph with "FML"?

Above is the cast of this pasta. Wouldn't I would be terribly out of character if I remembered everything when I took the picture?

It's missing the garlic and these babies:

Slice up the sundried tomatoes into strips. I'm still torn as to whether I prefer semi-dried or sundried.

First I fried up the Italian Sausages so that I could cut them up into smaller pieces. The smell was really quite divine at this point.

Next the onions, garlic and bacon were sauteed in a saucepan until the onions turned transparent.

Don't you just love the smell of this? It makes me salivate everytime.

After the onions are transparent, I poured in the bottled sauce and black olives, along with sundried tomatoes and the chopped up bits of sausage.

Just let it simmer for a bit on the side while you prepare the prawns.

Use a grill for this if you have one, but panfrying will do just fine. Whatever you do, just don't overcook it. Flip it as soon as the prawn colours.

Next, I grated pecorino. I hate grating things, but I really can't bear to use pre-grated stuff.

Toss the prawns into the sauce and sprinkle with a little pecorino. There's about a tonne in that photo above, and the stuff is really quite strong (stinky). Seeing it was the first time I used the stuff, I sprinkled it quite cautiously.

Mmm cheeeeeeeese.

Forgive me, I love cheese. Just give me a moment here.

Ok, done.

Next, combine the sauce and the cooked pasta. I always like to cook the two together in a pan separately just before serving so that the sauce sticks to the pasta a little better. It also helps when your pasta is drying out because you mistimed the cooking process like I did today.

I also burnt my sauce today and had to change pots. But you don't know that.

Hopefully by the end you should get insanity in a pot. Feel free to demolish half the pan before it even makes it to the table. You will be forgiven.

Penne with Italian Sausages, Prawn and Sundried Tomatoes
Serves: the family

3 Italian Sausages
100g Black Kalamata Olives, pitted and sliced in half
10 slices of sundried tomatoes (feel free to use more/less)
1/2 cup Pecorino, grated
1 Onion, diced
2 cloves Garlic, crushed
12 Prawns, peeled (I don't measure prawns by weight. I don't think people would care how much prawn they were getting by weight)
840mL Siena Homestyle Mediterranean Pasta Sauce
2 rashers Short Cut Bacon, sliced
As much pasta as you think you can finish, depending on your pasta-to-sauce ratio
Olive Oil
Freshly cracked black pepper to taste

  1. Boil pasta in salted water until al dente. Set aside
  2. Pan fry Italian sausages until cooked. Cut into 1.5cm pieces. Set aside
  3. In a saucepan, saute onions, garlic, and bacon until onions are transparent
  4. Pour bottled sauce and bring to simmer
  5. Add sundried tomatoes, black olives and Italian sausages. Cover and simmer for 10 mins.
  6. Meanwhile, panfry or grill prawns until just cooked
  7. Toss prawns into the pot with grated pecorino and stir gently until prawns are coated in sauce. Turn off heat (Optional: add black pepper to taste)
  8. Before serving, in a shallow pan, toss sauce with pasta over heat. Serve with extra grated pecorino on top

Monday, June 22, 2009

Review: Red Chilli Sichuan, Burwood

Be warned. My photos came out TERRIBLY. I shall refrain from fiddling with the camera settings next time. I promise. Please also excuse my description of the dishes. We ordered everything in Mandarin and I stupidly forgot to take note of the English translations

Last night was my dad's birthday. While his first choice was to head towards some Korean BBQ restaurant in Strathfield, if you know anything about this family, you'd realise that half the time it is my mother who calls the shots.

Nagging power wins. Lots.

Either way, my mother's tastebuds forever linger for the incredibly your-stomach-will-make-you-regret-it type of chilli flavours of Szechuan cuisine. Luckily for her, Red Chilli Sichuan decided to open store in Burwood, and for the past year or two, it's possibly the most frequently visited restaurant by this family.

Fu Qi Fei Pian - (夫妻肺片)

This was a really refreshing starter to the night. Sichuan cuisine is definitely not the place to take anyone who cannot take chilli flavours, but having said that, this dish, when compared to others, is quite tame in terms of heat. It has a well balanced flavour of vinegar, chilli, sugar, soy and garlic, and definitely what the Chinese would describe as kai wei, meaning "opens the stomach" or a good appetiser.

Suan La Liang Fen - 酸辣凉粉 - Sour and Chilli Vermicelli

I personally love this dish. The slipperness of the vermicelli and the tanginess of vinegar mixed with the aromatic spices is really a delight that lights up the tongue on a cold, wet evening.

Stewed Sliced Fish with Sichuan Chilli and Pickled Vegetables - 山椒酸菜鱼

Ladies and gentlemen, please allow me to present to you a dish that you would definitely find in heaven.

Do not doubt me, but just embrace this dish should you ever find yourself in a Sichuan restaurant.

The fish meat is SOOOOOOOOO delightfully tender and full of flavour. The pickled vegetables are really a highlight as well and complements the sweetness of fish as if a match made in heaven.

Seriously, just do yourself a favour and give this dish a go.Mud Crab fried in Salted Egg Yolks - 金黄蟹

To be completely honest I was really looking forward to this dish. I love salted egg yolks and crab, except while the dish was well executed, the quality of the crab itself was a really huge let down. The meat was dry in places, and there was really little of it. Overall I probably wouldn't be ordering it from this place again.

While we did have other dishes on the table, the quality of my photos simply did not do it justice, so I've decided to leave them out for next time. We'll definitely be returning as this place really does produce consistently good food at a great price.

Just word of advice, leave the non-chilli-eaters at home with a bowl of soup or something. They'd just wilt and die in this place.

Nom it like it's hot hot hot.

Red Chilli Sichuan - Burwood
35 Burwood Road
Burwood, NSW 2134
Tel: (02) 9745 2258

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Review: New Shanghai Restaurant, Chatswood

Shallot Pancakes

6 months ago my friend SK left Sydney for New York for a semester of exchange. 6 months without her company couldn't have gone slower, but she finally returned last week just as I was starting my first exam for this semester, so we hadn't had a chance to properly meet up and just hang out and share some gossip.

I was still in bed this morning when she messaged me to meet up for lunch. We quickly settle that we were both in DESPERATE (and I stress that) need of some new boots for the winter, and that considering the horrid weather conditions outside that the shelter of Chatswood Westfield was probably the safest option to go.

Little did we know - and much to our dismay - that half of Sydney probably had the very same idea, so that by the time we found a park, our stomachs were crying out for dear lord and it wasn't long before we found ourselves sitting inside New Shanghai.New Shanghai's original store is in Ashfield, and only recently opened the baby in Chatswood. Much to its credit, the new shop looks beautiful, especially compared to the old one, and judging by the line of eager patrons waiting for a seat outside, it's probably off to a good start.

Xiao Long Bao

True to our style we started off with a serve of Xiao Long Bao. These were purely delightful, and we weren't the slightest bit disappointed with anything (except maybe that we didn't order enough of them). The little buns were filled with soupy goodness, and the meat was absolutely delectable. I personally would rank these just behind Shanghai Nights in Ashfield as I prefer the sweeter tasting pork fillings they have there, but I would be more than happy to fill my stomach with these anyday, anytime, anywhere.

Stir Fried Rice Cakes with XO Sauce

We also ordered a serve of Stir Fried Rice Cakes with XO Sauce. The serve was actually bigger than what is shown in the picture above. Overwhelmed by a moment of extreme gluttony, both SK and I demolished half the plate before we realised that I had forgotten to take photos.

Overall the food we had here was great, except you could probably find better value and service going to Ashfield. The service we received here got a 2/10 as we had to wait for quite some time before the food arrived, and our waitress was incredibly inattentive and distracted. I understand it was a busy lunch, but I've seen many restaurants dealing with overflowing numbers but still managing to provide a fast and efficient service.

Nevertheless, knowing myself, my love of Xiao Long Bao will probably bring me back here time and time again. I just hope that as this restaurant settles into the bustle of Chatswood, it'll find its rhythm in the tune of its service.

New Shanghai
Lemon Grove Shopping Centre
427 Victoria Ave
Chatswood, NSW 2067

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Back from the dead: Sweet Soy Chicken Drumsticks

Exams are FINALLY drawing to a close - which means I can FINALLY resume blogging about the stuff I actually care about in my life.

Note the "drawing to a close" part - I'm not quite done.

Nevertheless, I made this delectable chicken dish for myself during my period of burying myself beneath mountains of textbooks. As time slowly passed by, and I was ever edging closer to my exam dates, I realised that time was indeed precious, and I could really not afford to spend hours preparing meals or watching over the stove just so I could feed myself.

Funny thing is (and to make things worse), come exam time, your stomach turns itself into this neverending pit perpetually starved of food.

That's when I resorted to learning how to use the oven.

The preparation of this dish seriously took less than 5 minutes. Seriously.

Honey, soy and a bit of garlic. Let it marinate anywhere between 30mins and overnight. I made mine a day ahead. I knew I'd be home the next day to make it anyway. My textbooks weren't going to let me out of my room anytime soon anyway.

Next, just pop it in the oven and go read a book or watch MasterChef or whatever for 40 minutes, and come back to to find yourself salivating at the sight of these babies:

Looking at the leftover marinade, I decided it was too good to waste and instead of pouring it down the sink. So I spooned a little out into a pot and decided to braise a bit of chinese cabbage while I rested the drumsticks.
I also happened to find a bit of coriander in my vegie tray, so I popped that in too. In retrospect, I thought that was a brilliant decision. *Self Hi-5*

Serve the chicken drumsticks on a bed of braised cabbage, and feel free to reduce the sauce a little more before drizzling it over the dish. I just skipped that part because the smell of the chicken was already driving me nuts.

Good food seems to have that straaange effect on me.

Sweet Soy Chicken Drumstick served on a bed of Braised Chinese Cabbage
Serves 2.5 people

5 Chicken Drumsticks
1/2 cup Mushroom Dark Soy
2 tblsp Regular Dark Soy
1 tblsp Honey
2 cloves Garlic, crushed
1 tsp Mirin
2 tsp Sesame Oil

1 small bunch Coriander, chopped finely
3 large leaves of Chinese Cabbage, chopped roughly
Coriander leaves, to garnish

  1. In a large bowl, combine dark soy, honey, garlic, mirin and sesame altogether to form a sauce. Honey should be well mixed in.
  2. Add chicken and coat thoroughly in sauce.
  3. Wrap with cling film and refridgerate for at least 20minutes.
  4. Preheat oven to 160 degrees.
  5. Line a shallow dish with foil, and place drumsticks neatly on dish. Keep leftover marinade
  6. Place dish in oven for 30 minutes. Baste the chicken with leftover marinade after 20minutes.
  7. After thirty minutes, grill chicken at 200 degrees for 7-10minutes. Remove and set aside to rest
  8. In a pot spoon out leftover marinade and bring to simmer.
  9. Add chinese cabbage and cook with lid on.
  10. Remove from heat once cabbage is wilted and stalk is soft and semi-transparent.
  11. Stir through chopped coriander
  12. Serve drumsticks on the bed of chinese cabbage. Reduce remaining sauce over heat if desired and spoon sauce over the chicken.
  13. Garnish with coriander leaves

Saturday, June 6, 2009

Review: Jaya Malaysian, Sydney

Beef Laksa - $8.50


For those of you who may be wondering how on earth I've been supporting my appetite (and tendency to roam around Sydney looking for the greatest noms), well... long story short... I work.

Shock horror isn't it?

And because DW and I both work on Fridays during the semester, we have made it a weekly routine to eat around work. Last week (yes, I've been lagging behind with my posts recently. I'll explain after I'm done talking about food), we decided to have laksa again.

Why? Because DW loves to have laksa at Jaya Malaysian, which is a tiny outlet tucked away in a courtyard at the Maritime Trade Tower down in Wynyard/Millers Point. If you weren't working nearby, I seriously don't think you'd find it.

Chicken Laksa - $8.50

Personally, I quite like the laksa here too. It's not too creamy and on most days the flavouring is pretty much spot on. The tofu is plenty squishy, full of creamy goodness from the soup, and goes wonderfully with both the chicken or the beef. (I've had both.)

The place isn't anything fancy, but I must say that the courtyard is beautifully covered by the greenery during the summer months, and filled with sunlight during the winter months. It really is a quiet, secluded haven amidst a bustling city during the day, perfect for a quiet lunch with a friend.

Jaya Malaysian at Maritime Trade Tower
Level 3 Retail Courtyard
201 Kent Street
Sydney, NSW 2000

P.S. My posts will be only just trickling through in the next two weeks as I'm in the middle of my final exams. This is where I start kicking myself for nomming away too much during the semester and ignoring my beloved textbooks for a good 12 weeks.

Pray to God that I'll live to tell the tale.

Monday, June 1, 2009

Cream of Cauliflower Soup: The Love of Winter

The humble cauliflower.

Gosh. Where do I even begin?

Doesn't it just look beautiful? It's such a pretty little thing, and yet it is often either hated by kids with a vengeance or people simply cook it to its death and simply won't give it justice.

It's the first day of Winter, and I thought that there would be no better way to celebrate than the good ol' Cream of Cauliflower Soup. Dip a warm buttered piece of bread/toast - whatever you fancy, and it is an instant crowd pleaser in the current dreary dampness Sydney is in at the moment.

This is a recipe that is SERIOUSLY easier than crawling out of bed in the Winter mornings. Seriously. No jokes. It's just that simple. By all means you don't have to stick to this recipe like it's the Bible, feel free to adapt it to your own liking. My Cream of XYZ recipes generally contain lower milk and cream content because I'm lactose-intolerant, so feel free to bump up the quantities for the extra MMM factor.

All you have to do is saute your onions and minced garlic. MAKE SURE they don't burn. Or your soup will be ugly. Nobody likes ugly soup. A soup with brown burnt onion bits in it is like a beautiful face tainted by blackheads. Yes. You get my drift right?

And for those who remember my Camera + Saute Onion = Burnt Onion dilemma two posts ago, well... I've learnt my lesson. I didn't take any photos of that process. I'm sure you all know how to saute onions by now.

Next, toss your cauliflower in with a bit of chicken stock.

News flash. I actually bothered making my own stock this time! Woohoo! It was just a simple one made by bubbling water for 3 hours with chicken carcass, salt and some spring onions. I didn't want overly complex flavours because I wanted the sweetness of the cauliflower to come through.

Afterwards, just buzz it through a blender. Do it in small batches. Please.
Oh. And remember to take the vent-lid thing off. You know that small middle section? You don't want your soup to explode on you. Trust me. I've done it before and my mother was NOT impressed.

Transfer it to another pot after you've finished, and add butter, milk and cream and heat it through again. All the buzzing would've cooled the soup down, and it's Winter. We have enough cold as it is - we don't want cold soup.

If I were following Tetsuya's cookbook I would've whipped up a little cream and plonked it in the middle of the bowl before serving. However, all the cream would just go straight to my hips and stay there, so I held off the cream.

Serve with a few slices of buttered toast and voila!

Cream of Cauliflower Soup
Serves: 4

50g Butter, portioned into 2 even parts
1 Medium Cauliflower, broken into florets
1/2 Onion, diced
2 Garlic, minced
2 cups Chicken Stock
1/2 cup Milk
1/2 cup Cream

(Note of honesty: I used Spring Onions to garnish purely for photo purposes. I pulled them out straight after I finished shooting)

  1. Sweat onions and garlic with butter until onions are translucent
  2. Add cauliflower with stock, bring to boil, then simmer with lid on
  3. After 15mins (more or less depending on what type of pot you use and how big the cauliflower is), turn the heat off. The cauliflower should be quite tender.
  4. Cream using blender in small batches, then transfer into another pot
  5. After creaming all of the soup, turn heat on low and add milk, cream and the remaining butter. Stir gently
  6. Turn off heat once butter is melted through.
  7. Serve with warm buttered toast/bread roll/crusty sourdough.
Nom it while it's hot