Saturday, February 27, 2010

Hai Au - Canley Vale

I actually went to Hai Au a while ago, and never had a chance to blog about it. Why? Errrrrr......I didn't actually know where I was.... *cough* I mean, I did get a lift from a friend to another friend's house. Then we jumped into another car and went somewhere where there was a detour and then it got dark and then I just got lost! *LoL* Plus my friend had no idea what the restaurant was called. She just knew how to get there!

Anyway, thanks to Google Maps and Streetview, I finally figured it was Hai Au! I rarely EVER come to this part of town, especially on a week day, ESPECIALLY at night. So I was quite surprised how many people were actually in the restaurant, including a huge party of about 15-20 people. It took me 30mins to realise that party of 15-20 people was actually my friend and her family!! haha

Anyway, because of the detour and us getting lost, I was ravenous by the time we got to the restaurant. Even though there were 3 of us, we insisted on order 4 main meals! Never let me order when hungry!

Firstly, let me explain that I rarely, if EVER have Vietnamese main meals. 95% of the time I end up getting Pho considering how much I love it. The other 5% will either be noodle salads or other noodle soups. This is probably the first time I fully remember ordering mains.

So I had no idea what we were really ordering when we got the pork, prawn and lotus root salad. What came out was quite different to what I expected. Expecting the standard lotus roots, I was wondering what the heck those sticks of white stuff were.

The white stuff is actually pickled lotus roots. If you look at the ends very VERY carefully, you will see the same holes you find in the normal lotus roots. This salad was unbelievably refreshing! I absolutely loved the crunch of the lotus roots with the pickled daikon and carrots. The acidity cuts through the fatty pork and goes perfect with seafood. I enjoyed it so much I bought a jar of the lotus roots as well! I just need to know how to use it! hehe

Sour fish soup

This is one of my favourite dishes when I went to Vietnam. Its got the lovely sweetness of seafood, sour tang and loads of herbs giving the soup a perfect balance. I loved mixing the broth with plain boiled rice and eating it just like that.

Stewed pork belly and eggs with coconut juice

I was surprised how small this dish was compared to the others, especially the price they were charging. Its nice, but I reckon I make a much better version ;) With that said, the pork was melting in your mouth. Don't forget to cut the egg open and let the yolk soak up all the sauce.

Hot and sour beef

Another nice dish. Not sure how Viet this is. I didn't really eat much of this because by the time it came out, I was stuffed to the brim! This is the problem when you order 4 mains for 3 people! hehe

Hai Au Restaurant
48a Canley Vale Rd
Canley Vale NSW 2166
Phone (02) 9724 9156

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Thursday, February 25, 2010

St Patricks Tavern - King St

I used to walk up and down King St, thinking there are only dodgy pubs on the street. But since working around the corner, I've actually discovered that those "dodgy pubs" may look dodgy after 10 beers at night, but actually serve pretty good food during the day!

Having walked past St Patricks Tavern heaps of times, and noting they had signs outside that use the phrases "Duck", "Rump Steak" and "Seafood", I decided to go check it out with a friend.

St Patricks Tavern is actually below ground level, drowning out all the noisy traffic and people on King St. The decor is like a standard Irish pub with a bistro/dining area.

I was starving when we arrived, and promptly ordered a serve of Garlic Bread.

Garlic Bread - $4.50

Man.....these were huge! I was expecting 2 small slices of bread, not these huge garlic bread rolls! I limited myself to just 1 before the main came out in case I get full.

Beef and Guiness Stew - $16.95

I order the Beef and Guiness Stew. Rich hearty beef stew that melts in your mouth. I couldn't really taste the Guiness since they were a bit heavy on the tomato, but I don't like Guiness anyway! hehe They served it with creamy mashed potatoes! AWESOME! The Irish really know how to use potatoes.

Fish of the Day grilled and served with Lime Hollandaise, Salad and Wedges - Market Price

My friend ordered the fish of the day. A big slab of flakey and moist fish served with chunky home made wedges. Very different to the ones you get at a normal pub that are heavily spiced. This was good since you don't want anything overpowering the fish.

St Patrick's Tavern
66 King St
Sydney NSW 2000
Ph: (02) 9262 3277

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Monday, February 22, 2010

A hidden Hawker stall - Ashfield Cafe

The first time I heard of Ashfield cafe, my initial reaction was "There's no such place in Ashfield!!". I mean, I've only been a local for the last 20 odd years. However, after hearing about the cafe, I took a different route to the station and realised that OMG! There IS a Ashfield Cafe and OMG! They serve Malaysian/Singaporean food! WTH?!

Basically, what used to be a milk bar that sells BBQ chicken, chiko rolls and sandwiches got sold awhile back. The new owners didn't bother changing the exterior in any way. They sometimes still sell food in a hot box out the front to cater for all the school kids in the morning. However, if you actually go inside, the old fryers and grills are now gone. In its place are giant woks and jet flames to give the lovely breath of wok charred taste.

They've also used the old chalk boards to display their menu. From memory, they used to contain the price of various sandwich fillings and burgers. Now, sections of the boards contain differnet types of Laksas, noodle soups, stir fried noodles, rice and curries. Basically your typical Hawker food, in a VERY Australian Milk Bar setting.

Ashfield Cafe is also only open Monday to Saturdays. I NEVER walk past on a Saturday as its right next to the train station and I always drive on the weekends instead. After work, the shop is actually closed since they're not open for Dinner. I can't believe how many years its taken me to realise that there is a Malay/Singaporean cafe right on my door step!

I specially woke up earlier on Saturday and convinced a friend to go try out this place with me. Luckily we got there early, as the place only has limited seats and was completely packed out within 5mins of us arriving.

Chicken Laksa

First up, their Chicken Laksa.The bowl is deceptively small when it arrives. Its only when you start digging with your chopsticks that there is a heap of noodles and chicken all crammed into the small bowl. Aromatic and not too creamy, just the way I like it. I find the Ashfield Cafe Laksa a bit more "watery" compared to Malay Chinese, but considering how hot it was, I actually quite enjoyed it. I found the spiceiness just perfect for me, but my friend reckons what goes in hot is going to come out hot. *cough*

Less spicy bowl

Hokkien Mee

I was actually hoping for the Malaysian Black Hokkien Mee extra saucy version, but this was almost as good. Big juicy prawns, slippery charred noodles and heaps of other goodies.

Most of the meals average from $7-10. Definitely a good bargain for the quality of food coming out of a Milk Bar! hehe When we were there, big crowds of people ended up ordering take away since there were limited seats. From what I can see, the portions take away are as big if not bigger than eating in. Something to keep in mind when its packed!

Ashfield Cafe
2 Hercules St
Ashfield NSW 2131
Ph: (02) 9799 4539

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Friday, February 19, 2010

Kura 2

I've walked past Kura 2 many times. It was only recently that I realised why the Kura menu looked so familiar. Kura 2, is a branch of Kura the original, which is the little hole in the wall Japanese restaurant on the corner of Thomas St and Ultimo rd behind Market City. I used to frequent Kura the original, but never knew the name of the place. I just remembered cheap food and huge servings.

Since Kura the original is always quite packed, I decided to try Kura 2 for a bit of a nostalgic fix. Kura 2 has a fairly large variety of dishes, with the option to add in a side dish for a few extra dollars. However, this option is only available with certain dishes. I.e. not available with noodles!

I went for my all time favourite, Nabeyaki Udon.

Nabeyaki Udon

I forgot how big the serves were and had a bit of a fright when they put this pot down infront of me.

The soup is flavoursome and not overly rich for a hot summers night. Usually you only get 1 tempura prawn, so I was pleasantly surprised to see 2! Not to mention all the other goodies buried in the pot. I quickly fish out my tempura prawns and place it on a plate. I hate having soggy tempura, even though it does impart all the yummy fried goodness into the soup. Plus, I leave it til last so I can enjoy every last bite!

My friend ordered the Katsudon with a side dish of Karage Chicken that we both shared.

Karage Chicken

The Karage chicken was nice and crispy and not overly oily. My only complaint was that it should have been doused with kewpie mayo! Because like bacon, everything tastes just that little better with Kewpie Mayo!


Miso soup

My friend rated the Katsudon as good for Australian standards, but average by Japan standards. So I guess that's....good.....right? *shurgs*

The serves are quite big, regardless of the price you pay. And in this case, the prices are very decent as well. Certainly great value for a quick feed, especially when you're starving and low on cash!

Kura 2
Corner of Dixon St and Liverpool St
Sydney, NSW

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

New Season - Burwood

Burwood Rd has become an eat street in my eyes. Every few shops in another restaurant or cafe, all clambering for your business. Back in my "younger days", Burwood used to be ma hood. Now days, I tend to go to Burwood mainly for Chinese Roast. So when a new roast shop opened up, we went down to check it out.

Unlike some of the other roasts shop in Burwood, New Seasons seem to cater more for the dinner crowd, with big family size tables available. The menu also offer a range of main meals rather than meat + rice, meat + noodle combos. They also had a few set menus available to the dinner crowd with offerings of fresh fish from the tank and other goodies. Being lunch time, we opted for the noodle and rice options.

First up, complimentary soup.

Sampan Congee

Oh yeah! This is one of my favourite congees, although not everyone likes it. Mainly because there's a combination of fried pork skin, cuttle fish and pork stomach in it. Meh, just means more congee for me.

Combination Stir Fried Noodles

Whenever I order congee, I always try to order a stir fried noodle of some sort. Most of the time its the dry fried beef rice noodles, this times its Combination stir fried noodles. Then I put some noodles in a bowl, then top the bowl with congee. Stir and eat. MmMMmm does anyone else do this?! haha I find the noodles "spread" their deliciousness to the congee, and the congee somehow mellows and spreads the taste all throughout your mouth. Hard to explain, easy to eat. ;)

Double stir fried noodles

We weren't too sure what this was when we ordered it. Turns out its 2 types of noodles stir fried together. In this case, its vermicelli and egg noodles stir fried with bean sprouts and various sliced meat. Its a simple dish, but very very tasty. Must be very bad for me...

Hokkien Fried Rice

If you've never had a Hokkie Fried Rice before (Sometimes called Fukkien fried rice, but I don't want to swear), its a plate of fried rice topped with a very saucey combination of diced meat, seafood and veggies. When I eat it, I stir everything together to make it into a clump of gooey goodness. I've converted many friends onto this dish! A must have.

New Season
Approx. 93 Burwood Rd
Burwood, NSW

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Monday, February 15, 2010

Habib's Charcoal Chicken - Bankstown

Gum? Check! Mints? Check! More Gum? CHECK! Ok. Now I'm ready to go Habibs. And if you don't have enough gum and mints on you, I would recommend only going to Habib's with friends who don't mind smelling your breath. Why? Because Habibs has the best Garlic sauce you'll ever taste!

Habib's is no Tetsuyas. There's no white linen cloth or 5 different wine glasses on your table. What you will get is plastic covers, plastic chairs and no nonsense service. But none of this matters. All that matters is the Garlic sauce.

I've only ever eaten in at Habib's. Never take away. Mainly because when you eat in, you get so much more value for food. (You do pay extra, but I think its worth it).

Habib's 1/2 chicken

If you're after a standard bbq chicken to go home and eat with mash and gravy, then you're at the wrong place. When you order chicken at Habib's you're first thought is that its quite expensive. But what you actually get is chicken...

Unlimited lebanese bread....

Unlimited pickles...

unlimited garlic sauce...

Ontop of the unlimited sides, you must order yourself a side of their super crispy french fries. If you ask for Chicken salt (Which I think is a must!), they'll give you the shaker so you can go nuts yourself! Oh yeahhhhh!!!

Tabouli, Hummus, Babaganoush

They also have different salads and dips you can order. Not pictured here is a delicious fried cauliflower which I sometimes order. And I hate cauliflower!

To eat:

1. Get a piece of lebanese bread
2. Slather with garlic sauce
3. Add a few shreds of chicken
4. Add a few salted fries
5. Add pickles to taste
6. Add other salads and dips to taste
7. Roll and take one bite
8. Top with more garlic sauce
9. Repeat steps 7 and 8 until you finish.
10. Start all over again

If you should run out of lebanese bread, pickles or god forbid, the garlic sauce, they will happily top it up for you! Becareful with what you order, because there is a lot of food! My friend who generally eats an entire BBQ chicken in one sitting, only managed 1/2 of a Habib's chicken.

Oh, don't forget to get a fizzy drink, it helps when you need to burp more garlic than your friends! hehe

Habib's Charcoal Chicken
24 Restwell st
Bankstown NSW 2200
Phone (02) 9708 2219

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Saturday, February 13, 2010

Happy year of the Tiger!

Finally Chinese New Year falls on a weekend this year! This means I'll be home for both CNY eve and CNY day! Usually my mum slaves for 2-3 days just to cook up a CNY meal, this time I'll be home to help!

CNY setup

The men of the family decided to contribute by going to the Fish Markets to pick up a lobster. They also grabbed 2 dozen oysters, sashimi and sea urchin (uni) to bring back as a snack. I guess they were feeling guilty because they went and bought a mixed seafood platter and pigged out on it before coming home!! Like what the!? I mean, we're only having a 13 course feast in 3 hours time!


Uni - Sea Urchin

Salmon Sashimi

Our 3.7kg Lobster

This somehow reminds me of a scene in Aliens

Please don't eat me!

Cleaning the lobster

Luckily our family have all worked in a restaurant and was more then adequate in preparing the lobster. Firstly, you need to get the lobster to pee everything out. And the best way is to shove a chopstick up its hole. Doesn't look pleasant, but it happens every time you order lobster at a restaurant.

This baby was so huge our giant cleaver wasn't strong enough for it. So dad grabbed a hammer to help with the chopping.

Mystery stuff

We've only been chopping up lobsters for the last 15-20 years, but we've never seen so much yellow stuff in it. We were arguing what the hell it is. I'm saying its roe. Sister claims in brains. Cousin reckons its poo. Someone was saying hair. I've just never seen so much inside a lobster before! Anyone know what it is?

Dad basically scoped it up and put it aside. If its roe, we might steam it with some eggs tomorrow night. As dad was chopping up the lobster, it decided to fight back. The muscle reflex caused the leg to bend, which then caused one of the giant spikes to embed itself into my dad's finger. Blood comes gushing out when he pulls the spike out and my sister takes over whilst I clean him up.

Dad got revenge by cooking up the lobster in heaps of ginger and shallot sauce, which was then put on top of a bed of pan fried crispy vermicelli! No rice needed tonight since everyone was eating the lobster sauce soaked noodles on the bottom! YUMMM!!! Usually we get e-fu noodles, but every single grocery store around us was completely sold out! All 6 of them!

I decided to contribute by making gyoza / potstickers / dumplings for something different this year.

Pork, prawn and mushroom filling

Since you must have prawns during CNY, I half bashed, half chopped up a heap of king prawns. Then I added a little pork mince to help it bind, some chopped button mushrooms, wongabok and coriander. This was seasoned with fish sauce, sugar, pepper and sesame oil.

My babies cooking on the stove


The Gyozas look a little burnt, but it was actually the starch water going brown rather than the actual wrapper. Luckily it looks a bit burnt, but didn't taste it! In fact, the gyozas had a lovely sweet juice from the prawns, mushrooms and wongabok. This was the only dish that was gobbled up! But then we had so much food!

Pigs trotter, mushrooms and black hair moss

Must have dish during CNY. We usually take the leftovers and add it to a congee or soup.

This dish has fish maw, mushrooms, dried oysters and dried scallops. Again, another must have. We usually freeze this dish and use it in stir fries, soups and other stuff for the next month or two.

8 treasure duck

Mum decided to try a different duck this year. The 8 treasure duck is stuffed with glutinous rice, dried shrimp, dried scallops, preserved meat, peanuts and a heap of other chinese herbs. This is then slowly steamed for 2 hours until the rice absorbs all the ducky goodness and falls apart when prodded with a spoon.

Sea Snail / Conch of some sort

For some reason my cousin was obsessed with these when he saw them at the fishmarkets. No idea why as our family never eats this. I tried 2, but my cousin ended up eating 90% of this dish! The kids refused to touch it! hehe

Hong Kong chicken wings

Its been a few years since we made this. Usually we would make it for the Moon Festival, but for various reasons, we haven't made it for awhile. Basically you take a aw chicken wing, carefully pull out the bones. Then you stuff it with a mixture of pork mince, prawns, mushrooms, water chestnuts and a heap of other stuff. You then steam them until its mostly cooked. Then you batter and deep fry these babies! Dad's contribution!

Steamed whole baby barramundi!

Stir fried lettuce

Fish and lettuce is a must have for CNY. We kept it simple since there were so many other rich and complicated dishes already.

Roast pork

Tong Yuen

This is a MUST MUST have for CNY. The glutinous rice balls signify the togetherness of a family. I know a lot of families make a sweet version. But where my parents came from, we've always had a savoury version. The broth is made of chicken stock, heaps of dried shrimps, dried scallops, daikon, dried squid, wongabok and other goodies.

The spread!

2 days of preparation, 13 courses, 20mins of eating

Happy Chinese New Year people! May the year of the Tiger bring you good health, wealth, love and happiness. ROARRRRR!!!