Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Din Tai Fung - World Square

I got a message from my friend a while back saying Din Tai Fung is open and World Square, followed by a 15min conversation as to how much she loved the food when she was in Taiwan. My brother in law also tried to take me to Din Tai Fung when I was in Singapore, but the line was massive so we went somewhere else instead.

I decided to take my parents out for dinner last night, as its rare that I don't have volleyball on Mondays. I met up with them at World Square after work and quickly grabbed a table at Din Tai Fung. Even on a Monday night, the restaurant quickly filled up by about 6:30pm.

I love the feature wall of bamboo steamers

The thing you notice immediately when you walk in is the huge number of employees. We tried to count how many employees were actually working there, but there were so many we kept losing count. There were about 15 people making dumplings in one kitchen, easily another 10 people cooking in the other kitchen, countless number of waiter/waitresses roaming the floor and more people behind a service counter. We estimated anywhere between 40-60 people working there.

Super power steamers

Browsing the menu, my dad commented how the prices aren't too bad. In fact, he used the word "cheap".

Cold tofu with pork floss and century egg

Tofu, to me, comes in 2 kinds. Firm and rough, but strong soya bean taste. Or soft and silky, but lacking any taste of soya beans. This tofu however, had the best of both worlds. The tofu was firm but silky and tasted strongly of aromatic soya beans. It wouldn't surprise me if they made their own tofu? Anyone know?

This was easily our favourite dish of the night. In fact, my mum made this exact dish for dinner tonight. If only we could get the same type of tofu.

Crab roe dumplings

I've never had this before, so I don't know how it compares to other ones. The most impressive thing about the Din Tai Fung dumplings are the dumpling wrappers. If you look closely at the photos, the dark patches on the dumplings is actually the soup inside. The wrapper is so thin, that you can see the soup, but thick enough for it not to burst. I've been to other restaurants where the wrappers are almost twice the thickness but still burst when you pick them up.

Fried pork chop

I was shocked when this was brought out. For about $9, you expect more than ONE pork chop. It was lightly dusted in 5 spice powder before being fried. The pork chop was quite tender, but it was small and thin enough for just a few mouthfuls.

Xiao Long Bao - Pork Dumplings

These are the traditional steamed pork dumplings you find in all Shanghainese restaurants. They were noticeably smaller than those you get at Shanghai Nights. Again, the super thin translucent dumpling wrappers that show the pocket of soup inside. Whilst the dumpling wrapper was superb and out of this world, I much prefer the filling of Shanghai Nights.

Beef noodle soup

A lovely hearty Taiwanese beef noodle soup. The beef was so tender it practically fell apart, but it was the soup that made this dish.

Ja Jiang Mien

I could not believe the size of this when it came out. It was easily 1/2 the size of what we got at Shanghai Nights. I couldn't tell if I liked this dish or not since there was barely enough to go around, let alone taste the real flavours.

Seeing how small the portions were, I ordered 2 pork and vegetable steamed buns. This took about 15-20mins to arrive as they're steamed fresh to order. The waitress also kindly offered to cut it up for us as we were sharing the 2 buns between 3 people.

Pork and vegetable steamed bun

I don't know about you, I certainly can't see any pork in the filling let alone taste it. In fact, I found this quite bland. I ended up pouring dark vinegar all over the bun.

Taro dumplings

My mum loves taro, so I ordered a serve of the taro dumplings for dessert. These were really nice and a great way to finish the meal. I just wished there was more.

Overall, I found the food to be really expensive for the size of the portions. The total bill for 3 people came to $85 (Tea costs $2 per person). My Dad's jaw dropped when the saw the bill. He quickly retracted the "cheap" word he used earlier. Whilst the individual dishes seem "cheap", because of the size of the servings, you end up ordering twice as much as you normally would. Hence the $85 price tag.

This is a huge difference compared to Shanghai Nights, were we usually spend a maximum of $35 and have leftovers to take home. The servings are significantly smaller than what I am used to from any of the Shanghainese restaurants in Ashfield. I guess they had to shrink the size and up the price to pay for the huge amounts of employees working there.

I must admit, the service was fantastic. Every waitress who walked by our table, had a quick check/glance at our order and chased up anything that hadn't arrived yet. And when our steamed buns took longer than usual to come out, they kept coming back to give us updates as to when they would be ready.

Leaving the restaurant, we stood outside watching them make the dumplings. This is when we noticed that they had two people dedicated to rolling the wrappers, two people dedicated to putting the filling on the wrappers and two people dedicated to wrapping the dumplings. This was just for the Xiao Long Bao. They had another 6-8 people making the other dumplings, dim sims and buns.

Din Tai Fung
Shop 11. 04 Lvl 1
World Square Shopping Centre
644 George St
Sydney 2000

Ph: 9264 6010

Shanghai Night revisited...many times

I've been living in Ashfield for 20 years this year. In the past 20 years, I would probably go out for Shanghainese food about 1-2 times a year, if even that. Usually its because friends would want to go, or we want to go out for a quick, cheap family dinner. In the last year, I've been going for Shanghai food a lot more as my friends want to go more often. This means I don't have to wait a whole year to go to Shanghai Night!

Before I go on, let me say this was eaten over a few meals, not all in one go!

San jin bao - Pan fried pork buns

One of my absolute favourites and guaranteed to satisfy the biggest appetite. The buns have a crispy, crunchy bottom that is golden brown. The top is soft and fluffy. Inside this magical creature is a pork filling swimming in a luscious rich soup.

To eat this, and any of their other dumplings, pick up with your chopsticks and rest in the soup spoon. Take a small bite to release the scorching hot steam and carefully suck out all the soup. Dip, or do what I do, pour vinegar into the cavity before trying to shovel the whole thing in your mouth. No need to be neat and dainty here!

Pan fried pork dumplings

These are a must order every time I go. Just like the pan fried pork buns, the bottoms are lovely and crunchy whilst the top is soft and chewy. The filling is the same as the buns, which means there is a steaming hot pocket of soup in these lovely darlings.

Hokkien Fried Rice

Yeah yeah, order hokkien fried rice in a Shanghainese place, but this is one of my favourite dishes. The toppings are a bit tight for what they charge, but every now and then, they will load it up with heaps of chicken, scallops, prawns and squid.

Green bean starch sheet with pork and cucumber

One of the many specials written on the wall. There is a vegetarian version in the menu which I have yet to try. This is a really nice refreshing summer dish. The noodles, or should I say starch sheets, are cold, slippery and chewy. This is topped with cold crunchy cucumber and carrots, stir fried pork, seasame with a light tangy soya sauce dressing.

Stir fried new year cakes Shanghai Style

Considering I always get the Stir fried Shanghai handmade noodles, I opted to try the new year cakes instead. This was a bit bland compared to the noodle version. The new year cakes are chewy and starchy, making it hard to absorb the sauce. I asked for a dish of chilli garlic sauce and mixed that in, which made it a wonderful dish.

Wonton soup

I always see people order their wonton soup, and wonton is one of my favourite things! (A lot of things are my favourite things) I've practically gone through and tried every type of wonton on their menu. All VERY VERY good. And cheap!

Shanghai vegetable fried rice

This was a bit of a disappointing dish. I was expecting a traditional dry fried rice with a strong "wok hei" (breath of the wok), but instead, this was wet and sloppy. Half of the dish consisted of chopped up shanghai bok choy, making the fried rice really wet. They were also really tight on the pork and chinese sausages. What you see in the photo, is literally what we got. If we were lucky, there might have been another 2-3 cubes of meat buried in that.

Ja Jiang Mien

There is a lovely waitress there that always remember me and my brother even though we visit so infrequently. When I used to go with my brother and his girlfriend (now wife), we always order the Ja Jiang Mien. EXCEPT, we ALWAYS get it confused with the Dan Dan Mien. Dan Dan Mien is essentially the same thing, stir fried chilli mince on noodles. But instead of thin noodles, you get thick hand made noodles. So every time we went, we had to ask her which one had the thin noodles. Its taken a few years, but I'm slowly learning.

Ja Jiang Mien all mixed up

From memory, the Ja Jiang Mien used to come with shredded cucumber to add crunch, but that was missing the last time I went there.

The servings here are huge and the prices very decent. 2 serves of dumplings and 2 noodle/rice dishes can easily feed 2-3 REALLY hungry people with leftovers. Most times I've gone, 4 dishes will cost me around $25-$35. A bargain if you ask me.

Shanghai Night
(Directly opposite Ashfield Mall)
275 Liverpool Rd
Ashfield 2131

Ph: 9798 8437

Uighur Cuisine

Despite eating our way through the Good Food and Wine show, we didn't actually have a proper meal. I had congee for breakfast whilst my friend had nadda. After the show, we decided to find somewhere close to eat and rest. Remember that Uighur Cuisine was literally around the corner, we quickly ducked in and found one of the last free tables (and it was only 5:30pm!).

Uighur people are mainly a tribe of Turkic people living in Central Asia. They speak their own language with their own flag that is almost identical to the Turkish flag, except it is blue.

The menu was quite confusing since I've never had Uighur cuisine before, but looking at the pictures and what was ordered on other tables helped us decide on what to order.

Pork and vegetable dumplings

These dumplings were lightly pan fried so they were crispy on the bottom but still soft and chewy on the top. The filling was quite light and tasted of coriander and celery. Doused with black vinegar, these went down a treat.

Uighur handmade noodles with lamb and vegetables

The noodles were lovely and chewy, although my friend reckoned they were TOO chewy. My main gripe with this dish is that when I order a LAMB and vegetable noodle, I expect to see LAMB, VEGETABLES and NOODLES. In this entire dish, we found ONE piece of lamb, and about 3 bits of what we think was lamb that fell off the main piece. I also didn't really fancy the vegetables as I found them to be a bit too overcooked/over pickled. Probably not a dish I would order again.

Spicy lamb skewers

These would be the highlight of the meal. 5 skewers of chunky lamb, spiced with chilli and cumin. Fresh from the grill, they were deliciously tender. However, once they cooled down, they became a bit tough and chewy. I would recommend that you eat these ASAP once they arrive.

The food overall wasn't too bad. I've never had Uighur food before, so I can't really compare it with anything else. The dumplings and noodles closely resemble Chinese cuisine, whilst the lamb skewers remind me of the lovely shish kebabs you get in Turkey. A very interesting cuisine that I wouldn't mind trying again.

Uighur Cuisine
Shop 1, 8 Dixon St
(Corner of Liverpool & Dixon St)
Sydney, 2000

Ph: 9267 8555

Monday, June 23, 2008

Good Food & Wine Show starring Gordon Ramsay!

The last few years I've missed out on the Good Food and Wine show because I'm either overseas, or I've got something else on. This year, I was determined to go! And what better time to go than to see Gordon Ramsay!

I arrived at the show around midday, ready to taste test my way through the show. The moment we walked in, we were in the Wine area of the show. I picked up the free wine glasses that came with our tickets (Only $25!) and started hitting the wine and beer. After 20mins of wine tasting, we moved towards the food area and started hitting every stall, especially those that are steaming!

4 types of curry and rice

Ayam instant noodles

Peter Evans doing a demo

I saw the huge line of people waiting for the Gordon Ramsay book signing, and there was no way I would get anything signed. I decided to hit the food instead. After doing the rounds, we found front row seats at the Good Taste Theatre Kitchen. Initially we sat down because they were the only seats we could find in the whole exhibition centre, but we decided to stay for the next show. And what a great idea that was! Taste test!!

Hash browns with avocado mash and kumatoes

Italian garlic prawns with tomato and fettucine

Mocha brownie ice cream with hot latte sauce

The crowd

I was talking to one of the ladies who worked there, and apparently there were about 8,000 registrations for the show last year, this year there were 18,000! No wonder! Gordon Ramsay was here! ;)

I bought my bazooka of a DSLR with me to the show just so I could grab some good photos of him. Before he came out, they had a good 10mins of listing and promoting every sponsor of the show. They also had a game that got all the audience involved. I was actually left standing with a handful of people fighting for the prizes! Too bad they didn't managed to get to where I was seated! I got every question right!! GRRRRRRR!!

Finally, the star of the show arrived!


In true Gordon Ramsay style, he came running out and then proceeded to take the mickey out of all the celebrity chefs. Including Jamie Oliver who was called a fat twat and how they sent him a treadmill for his birthday that was never used. He's also recommended that Australia, as the fattest nation in the world, should stop cooking out of the Jamie Oliver cookbooks!

Matt Moran also copped a few comments from Ramsay (They had to pull the curtains after the 4th row to make Matt's show looked full). Danni Minogue also didn't escape when Ramsay commented on how they had a cook off and half of her face melted off. ;)

Not only was he poking fun at all the celebrities, but he also had a go at the audience. Retelling his story of having a French girlfriend, he asked one of the audience members if her bush was as big as this:

Ramsay accompanied by his right hand man, Sarge (Mark Sargeant)

Apparently, hers was bigger.......

Telling us where to *beep**Beep*

There were quite a few fans there who had made masks of Gordon Ramsay. They ran on stage and managed to get a hug and kiss from him.

Fans running on stage

Ramsay demonstrated a 3 course meal in under 40mins. A Chorizo and bean soup, Balsamic Glazed lamb with bean salad, and a french toast like recipe.

Half way through the cooking demo, Matt Moran came running onto the stage brandishing a fire extinguisher. Next thing you know, he had proceeded to spray Ramsay, Sarge and the entire kitchen with it and done a runner!

The aftermath

Apparently Ramsay had attacked Matt Moran during his show, by hiding in the deep shadows of the back stage and hurling bits of food randomly at Matt throughout his whole demo! I guess that was Matt's revenge.

Ramsay was hilariously funny and everyone had a fantastic time there. Well, except for those who were dragged along by their other half! And probably the poor guy sitting next to me who had to endure my non-stop photo taking, the shutter going constantly off and the lens in his face!

At the end of the show, Ramsay gave out a whole heap of prizes, including anything that wasn't bolted down in the kitchen! All the electrical appliances, pots, pans etc. The organisers came running out by the time half of the kitchen was empty!

I had a fantastic time watching Gordon Ramsay, and it was well worth the $25 I paid! (Apparently they put the prices of the tickets up to expand the theatre to accommodate 2500 people). After the show, I did my last rounds of food and wine tasting, purchased all the show bags I needed before being kicked out of the place. Who knew the show ended so early?

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

GPO Woodfired Pizza

Since our work xmas party last year at GPO Martin Place, I've been addicted to the GPO Woodfired Pizza. I took one of my workmates there for our "World Safari" lunches since she missed out on the xmas party. Since we've move into different departments now, our World Safari lunches are once a month now.

Caprese Salad - Tomato, Bocconcini, mixed lettuce and balsamic vinegar

This isn't your traditional Caprese salad of just Tomato, Mozerella and Basil. It was still nice and refreshing. We thought we would be good and order a salad cos we were going to pig out on pizza!

Spicy Pizza of some sort

Salsiccia - Italian sausage, mushroom and spinach

The pizzas are incredibly light and crispy. Even though the pizzas look huge, the bases are quite thin. One large pizza will easily satisfy most hungry people. My favourite would have to be the Salsiccia pizza as it is loaded with mushrooms, and I love anything with mushrooms. The spicy pizza (Can't remember what its called) was a bit too oily and salty for my liking. I know a lot of guys love this as its the equivalent of a meat lovers. I've also had their Proscuitto and Funghi pizza, Potato pizza and Boscaiola. All were fantastic.

GPO Woodfired pizza is now open at night times. There's no bookings, but usually there are plenty of tables at lunch and dinner time.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Iron Chef - Cabramatta

I took a day off awhile ago as I was just so sick of work. I met up with a friend who also didn't have work and headed off to Cabramatta's Iron Chef for some Yum Cha. I rarely ever get to go yum cha now days as my dad goes every Monday or Tuesday with his buddies for yum cha. So come the weekend, yum cha is the last thing on his mind. Its such a shame though as I LOVE yum cha!!!

Work has given me an entertainment card giving me 20% off at the Iron Chef, which is even better!

Harm Sui Gok

The shells are made of glutinous rice flour which has been deep fried. This gives it a lovely golden crunchy but chewy texture. The filling is pork mince and dried shrimp which has been cooked in a lovely gravy. This was fresh out of the fryer when we got it! SO GOOD!

Siw Mai - Pork Dim Sims

This is a MUST HAVE when I go yum cha. If I go yum cha and don't get AT LEAST one steamer full of Siw Mai it feels like I haven't been yum cha at all. Its like going to a steak house and having a salad. I MUST HAVE SIW MAI!!! This was quite nice, but I prefer the filling to be much chunkier.

Har Gow - Prawn Dumplings

This is also a MUST HAVE when I go yum cha. Although I won't feel as unsatisfied if I don't have this compared to the siw mai. The wrapping is soft but chewy and its filled with chunky bursty prawns and bamboo shoots. I love to eat this smothered with chilli sauce.

Char Siu Bao - Steamed BBQ Pork Buns

We make our own Char Siu Bao at home with home made char siu. They're really really good, but we just can't get the lovely buns as light and fluffy as these. (Plus, my mum hates them fluffy!). These were so satifyingly soft and moreish with the rich BBQ Pork filling.

Fong Jow - Braised chicken feet in black bean sauce

Most people, including a lot of Asians are actually terrified of eating chicken feet. I don't know why, considering you're eating almost every other part of the chicken anyway. These were really nice. Good braised chicken feet is soft and gelatinous. You can put it into your mouth and they'll literally fall off the bones.

Char Siu - BBQ Pork

These were ok. Not as good as mine for sure ;) Plus they weren't ultra fresh out of the oven, which is the only way to eat it. The cart lady did tell me that she's going to go nuke it back up in the microwave before giving it to us. It looks like a lot of BBQ Pork there, but there is actually a layer of peanuts underneath that has been stewed in a soya sauce like broth.

Si Jup Pai Gwut - Steam pork ribs with black bean

I don't know why they keep calling these pork ribs, as most restaurants actually use pork chops or some other cut of pork to make this dish. Most of the time you won't even find a bone in there, and if you do, its a pork chop bone. This was ok, a bit bland for my liking. My mum (and me) definitely makes better ;)

Wu gok - Deep fried taro dumplings

These golden orbs of goodies are made with mashed taro, which is stuffed with pork mince, dried shrimp and other goodies. These are then dipped into beaten egg whites and deep fried to give it the lovely delicate texture.

Ngow Cheung - Steam beef rice noodle rolls

These are made with big sheets of rice noodles rolled around a soft beef mince mixture. A slightly sweet soya sauce mixture is poured ontop after they've been steamed. These are lovely and soft and silky. I always prefer the beef to the prawn or BBQ Pork filling.

Salt and pepper octopus

These were too bland for my liking. It tasted as if they had forgotten to season it. I love my salt and pepper to be salty and really nice and peppery/spicy. I probably wouldn't order this again. Wait, its deep fried, and they always say salt and pepper.....ok, maybe I WILL order it again. Hopefully I won't regret it next time.

We made complete pigs of ourselves, but it was worth it. And with the discount from my entertainment card, we paid about $55 for 2 people. A bargain.