Monday, August 24, 2015
I've been craving this simple enoki mushroom soup that I had at my favorite Japanese restaurant back home so I've been on this crusade to make my own. While not quite the same, I like the version that I've managed to come up with. It's a simple recipe and although not quite a lunch time bento I've brought it in a thermos for breakfast after a brisk walk to work in the Sydney "winter" (I put that in quotes, it's so far been more like a chilly rainy fall than any winter I've experienced in Texas).
I digress. After a bit of hunting and improvising this is what I ended up with. Let's start with the ingredients. As you can see it's a pretty simple soup: I have 100g of fresh shitake mushroom, 250g enoki mushroom, Dashi broth package, Soy Sauce, Chinese Mi Jiu 米酒 (Since I didn't have Sake or Mirin, but I like this better, less of a sweetness), and salt to taste. Yup that's it!
First I remove the stems from the shiitake caps and slice them thin. I also cut off the end of the enoki mushroom bunch and separate them into small 1/2 inch bunches. I know the conventional wisdom is not to wash mushrooms, but Alton Brown did a good enough job convincing me otherwise besides, they were going into the stock pot for soup so what's the harm.
Next I heat two quarts of water and I disolved 1 packet (6 grams) of dashi granules.
Add 2 tbsp of soy sauce and 2 tbsp of Mi Jiu and bring the broth to a boil.
Once there I lower the heat to a simmer and drop in the mushrooms and cook for about 20 mins. If you like some heat I would suggest adding some white pepper.
Done! Delicious and very simple. Also most stores also carry a Kombu dashi which would be a fine substitution for regular dashi if you want this to be a vegetarian/vegan soup.
Shiitake and Enoki Mushroom soup
100g Fresh Shiitake Mushroom
250g Enoki Mushroom
2 Tbsp Soy Sauce
2 Tbsp Mi Jiu (Chinese cooking wine)
6g Dashi granules (Kombu Dashi for vegan)
64 oz of water
Salt and white pepper to taste
Clean mushrooms, remove stem from Shiitake mushrooms and slice thinly. Cut off base of Enoki Mushroom bunch and pick off small "bunches" about 1/2 inch thick.
Heat water and add Dashi granules. Once disolved add Soy Sauce and Mi Jiu and bring to a slow boil
Turn down to simmer and add Mushrooms. Simmer for 20 mins. Add salt and white pepper to taste.
Monday, August 17, 2015
Not In A Box: So it's taken some time but we have steadily been making our way through Sydney's various suburbs (think neighborhoods, not the big expansive suburbs we know of in Texas) and have discovered some neat places to eat along the way. I figure for posterity (and if anyone actually comes to visit) I should keep track of some of these places. I posted about the ramen place but I'll start collecting putting them up here in batches. So this is part one of hopefully many.
Movida, we first visited this place (rather the sister location "Movida next door") on our trip to Melbourne. We were delighted to find out that they had a location in Sydney a short 30 minute walk away from our place. As with most places the restaurant was completely booked (we arrived just as they opened) and we ended up seated quickly at the bar. We had the Sardina (Sardine fillet with Cod Roe and Avruga Caviar), Cecina (air cured wagyu with truffle foam and poached egg), Lengua a la Plancha (Grilled Ox Tongue), and the Pintxo de Pulpo (grilled Galician Style octopus). We shared exactly what you saw and left perfectly satisfied. It was great being able to look in the kitchen and watch everything being prepared. We'll be bringing visitors to check this place out it's a great casual meet up place.
My wife managed to ferret out a few places while I was back in the US for work. Baccomatto Osteria is a great little Italian restaurant, very open and cleanly decorated. Like many places here in Sydney it's easy to miss, it was situated next to a boutique hotel in the quiet neighborhood of Surry Hills, I would have mistaken it for another townhouse had she not been leading the way. We had wagyu beef cheeks, carpaccio, fennel grilled pork neck, bufala mozzarella (made from buffalo milk), a tiramisu. This place was booked solid, they were able to seat us at the bar since we didn't have reservations, ultimately we were lucky enough to be transferred to a table later on, super friendly, nice staff and great food with a lot of attention to detail.
Another find from my wife: Edition coffee roasters, they did a brisk business turning out coffee but java isn't the only thing this place serves up. It's a Japanese Nordic fusion place serving brunch and breakfast. It's located in the Darlinghurst suburb. We shared the Wild boar meatball, Porco Rollo (braised pork with Tamago), and my wife's favorite "Mushroom Pond". The "Pond" was Udon noodle soup with a couple of types of mushroom, mushroom cream in a warm mushroom broth. She almost made me order my own since she was unwilling to share but I convinced her I only wanted a taste.
A coworker of my wife brought in some Chinese bbq pork buns and she declared that we had to go try this place Tim Ho Wan. I didn't know this at the time, but apparently this chain has earned One Michelin star and has earned the title "least expensive Michelin star restaurant". Located upstairs from the Chatswood train station in the food court, this location is pretty newly opened. There was already a line when we got there, but since it was only two of us we were almost immediately shown to a table. The dim sum was fresh and tasty but the call out was the baked bbq pork bun. Usually the pork buns at dim sum are a steamed bun with a sweet pork filling heavy on the bread side. This was very different. It had a crispy/flaky golden slightly sweet exterior with a delicious bbq pork mixture inside. You can see in the picture they came in orders of three and we ordered a second set to take home. (You can't order them to go, but you can order extra and take it home). For dessert I ordered the Taro sago, a lightly sweeten taro dish with tiny tapioca pearls, I surreptitiously ate the whole thing while my wife was distracted by the pork bun.
There's quite a few sushi restaurants here in Sydney most of them have the train that goes around the restaurants. It's efficient they put the sushi, nigri, sashimi, appetizers and desserts on the moving train and you just pick the plate as it drives past you. They color code the plates so the wait staff can quickly come over and tally up your meal. It's an efficient business. Umi is the first one of these places that I've actually enjoyed quite a bit. Their train features some more unique items even Uni/Sea Urchin (my favorite) which is a rarity. The sushi chefs are really friendly and you get a good show and they talk to you. The bottom picture was a picture of the chef making Tamago (Japanese omelette). I managed to snag a video of the process, the guy has definitely mastered the art of making Tamago, he whipped out 6 of them while we sat there and he made it look effortless. If I manage to figure out how to use the movie software I'll post it.
I'll confess when we first arrived I was not super impressed with any of the places we visited. I actually still have a ban on Vietnamese restaurants having tried five of them with complete disappointment. But things are picking up, there's just so many places it takes some looking to find the gems.
Monday, July 13, 2015
Nothing special. I had a hankering for some corned beef but I'm also trying to eat healthier so 4 oz of corned beef. Broccoli was a quick blanch and dry saute. I chopped up some King oyster mushrooms and stir fried it with garlic and soy sauce and Zucchini was like also quickly tossed until tender on a skillet.
If I trust the nutritional recipe calculator it's 298 calories.
Sunday, June 21, 2015
Many people ask what the most important cooking gadget I have in my arsenal. Most of the time I'll reply, my Chinese cleaver, as a universal tool used pretty much every time I work in the kitchen it is in fact my most important tool. But if we're talking about actual cooking device/gadget I have to say my slow cooker. I've talked a lot about it in the past and even labeled my them "Slo-mo bentos". It's a magical device that's great for all sorts of applications and you can't have enough of them (I personally have four back home).
So it's no surprise that the very first thing I purchased when I landed in Australia is a slow cooker. I was torn a bit, I like the simple off-low-high low tech version (great for a sous vide water bath when paired with a pid controller), but I opted for this multi function baby that has a removable non-stick insert that allows you to brown in the pot without taking up stove space.
What to make? Pulled pork obviously. I've done it in the past, whether it's a coffee rub, strawberry, or wrapped in a banana leaf. The slow cooker is a perfect portable oven, and although I prefer the smoke and bark produced in a smoker/grill I don't have that luxury in a small condo in the middle of the city. Usually I cheat and use a bit of liquid smoke to get that extra smoke flavor but apparently they don't sell that here (I have since fixed that by bringing in six bottles of the stuff from my last trip home). For the dry rub, I have a combo of brown sugar, black and white pepper, ground cumin, oregano, paprika, chili powder and some salt.
The hard part was actually finding the pork. One of the biggest changes for me since moving down to Australia is the little things that are different. It's kind of like the episode of old Star Trek where they end up in a parallel universe and they had a Spock but he had a goatee and was evil. So it is here, the bacon is "bacon" but not the bacon I love, more of a goatee sporting less good bacon (the bacon hear is made from the pork back). Pork butt and Pork shoulder are not terms that are used here, instead I figured out that "Scotch Roast" Pork (which is a shoulder cut) is the closest thing but it they keep the skin on. I also swear that pork here tastes different than the stuff we have at home.
I opted to rest the pork over a bed of onions to elevate the pork from touching the actual walls of the pot. I did remove the skin from the roast, after applying the dry rub I laid the skin (also dry rubbed) on top, I figured the fat still on the skin and the skin itself would help protect the pork from drying. I took it outside to our balcony and let it go for eight hours. (so the apartment wouldn't permanently smelling of pulled pork)
In the end neither really mattered. It's surprising how much liquid rendered out of the pork. basically leaving the meat floating. I'm sure the onion contributed to the liquid for flavor but I could have just tossed the skin. I like the idea of dry roasting the pork, a lot of recipes call for adding a braising liquid. For leaner meats I agree (like brisket from a corned beef) but pork has a ton of fat it'll tolerate a dry roast. The pulled pork was good, a touch spicy for my wife and friends. I still prefer the simplicity of the Kalua pulled pork and now that I have the liquid smoke and found a place that sells banana leaves I might have to do another Hawaiian bento.
Sunday, June 7, 2015
We had a long weekend and decided we needed to see more of Australia so we booked a flight and a inexpensive serviced apartment and landed in Melbourne. A portion of my coworkers were from our Melbourne office (we collapsed everyone into Sydney) and they had plenty of suggestions as to where to go. The way it has been explained to me, Sydney and Melbourne are very much like L.A. and San Francisco back home. Sydney, like LA, has beaches and warmer weather and people tend to hangout preferring more outdoor activities, Melbourne like SF is colder and it tends to rain so people tend to stay indoors and as a result there are better restaurants, arts, etc. From our short three day tour, I'm in agreement with generalized comparison. Here's what we did:
Our first day we spent a lot of time walking around. Where we were staying (near Chinatown area) there are lots of narrow lane one way streets. Our first restaurant was Il Bacaro Cucina and bar tucked away in one of those narrow streets. We walked past it twice while trying to look for it. The place was nice and cozy and service was very attentive and knew their food very well. We got the calamari, which was lightly breaded (looked like very fine panko or tapioca flour) with rocket and vinaigrette. Very tender and tasty. My wife had a small pasta course of pumpkin and foie gras agnolotti, (we should have ordered the large) and I had the braised goat with porcini. The hand made pasta was delicious, the goat was very tender, a bit too gamey for my wife, but I enjoyed it just fine definitely a good start to Melbourne cuisine.
More walking and we ended up at the Queen Victoria Market. It's part old style market with stalls of vendors sectioned into meats, cured goods, seafood and an open air section for veggies, fruits and various goods (souvenirs, leather goods, trinkets).
For Dinner we ended up at "Xi'an famous food Restaurant". Neat place, small menu, we especially like the Cold Noodles in sesame sauce. Spicy and a touch sour with bean sprouts and cucumber. My lamb soup was perfect for the windy cold evening, a simple soup of thinly cut lamb and vermicelli it was served with a pan fried bun (which I used to sop up the sesame sauce from the cold noodles). My wife had spicy pork noodle soup.
The next day we started off with an early lunch at Chin Chin restaurant and "Go Go bar". Chin Chin serves a modern southeast Asian cuisine very delicious. As you can see we ordered a lot. Our favorite was the King fish sashimi it was served in a coconut nahm jim sauce. The mains were a twice cooked beef short rib and a duck curry. Everything was super fresh tasting. I loved it so much I purchased their cookbook. I put this on definite try list if you visit Melbourne.
We took a walk across the south bank and stumbled across an exhibit at the National Gallery of Victoria about the Golden age of China (the rule of Emperor Qianlong). I heard many history stories about this period growing up so we stopped by and took a look. It was a fascinating exhibit full of really well preserved artifacts. Afterwards we stopped upstairs and had some tea, sandwiches and a broccoli chowder.
Here's a cool shot of some handmade kaleidoscopes we saw at one of the "Sunday markets" we walked by.
Ending day two we dropped by Movida but it had a two hour wait (we were warned most restaurants would have a ridiculous wait). We lucked out and got a quick seat at their sister restaurant next door aptly named "Movida Next Door". As if we didn't already have enough food for the day I promptly ordered seven dishes (mostly tapas), I would have done a Hobbit proud. The food was delicous, I especially enjoyed the Morcilla which was a Spanish blood sausage with a sous vide poached egg. The Oreja (fried pig ears) were melt in your mouth delicious. Also pictured, Oxtail, pork belly, Mussels, Duck, "Bomba". I highly recommend checking this place out also.
Day three was departure day, but we did book lunch at Nobu in the Crown Tower (the big casino). Lunch was a bit pricey but delightful. I enjoyed the mushroom soup with five different roasted mushrooms. The big hit was the Duck Breast fig teriyaki, confit duck leg and cabbage harumaki with Carrot Ginger Miso (bottom right picture), a hint of sweetness in the carrot puree and the confit "egg rolls" really were delicious together.
That was a lot of food, I'm glad we walked around. I would definitely love to come back and visit some more. There's just so much food and fun stuff to explore it was a whirlwind of a trip. I highly recommend a visit to Melbourne if you find yourself in Australia!
Saturday, June 6, 2015
Over the years, whenever I have a chance I order the dish and some variation has made it into this blog whether it's meatballs or eating on the cheap. This time I'm going to make it my main focus.
First the pasta. With my new Veggie Twister device I decided to go with a "zoodle" option. The pasta honestly is just a conveyance for the sauce and the beef. I figured using zoodles I could save a few hundred calories and guilt. Just using zoodles freshly cut there's just way too much moisture in the zucchini. I decided to salt the zoodles first and let them sit for 30 mins to draw out some excess moisture. As you can see I used about five zucchini that was intended for a double serving of the recipe, I think I actually needed ten. After rinsing and squeezing out the extra moisture I blotted them dry and the quickly pan fried them to get them to soften. Some people stop after the salt step I believe that's the "raw" version of the noodles. As I said in my previous post, you're not going to fool anyone into thinking that this is some funky green colored pasta but this certainly did work well in this application.
I took four different stroganoff recipes and fused them into my usual frankenstein monster. (yeah that's about $70 worth of beef this is kind of an expensive recipe, it's Australia I've come to expect nothing less)
I really liked the idea of using beef steak cooked to desired doneness rather than cooking strips of steak in the sauce, it makes for more tender meat. The rub had a bit of paprika, garlic, salt and pepper. I seared it quickly to about medium rare, there was plenty of fond at the bottom of the pan to start the basis of the sauce.
For the rest I modified the sauce base. I went with a combo of shallots as well as yellow onion. Pretty much all of the recipes had you cook the mushrooms and the onions together (mushrooms first and the onions to join later). I had to back out of that mid way since the mushrooms were going to overcook. (maybe I should have used lower heat). I ended up cooking the onions and shallots separately and then re-adding the cooked mushrooms.
For the liquids: a nice beef broth, add in some Worcestershire and soy as well as some thyme and ground mustard. I dropped the steaks back in to warm up and get some of the beef juices back into the sauce. Once everything was happy and cooking I thickened with some cornstarch. To finish usually you go with a healthy dose of sour cream but one of the recipes opted for greek yogurt. I liked the idea of using greek yogurt instead of sour cream it saves 60% of the calories and fat from even low fat sour cream.
To serve I sliced the steak and served it atop the sauce with a bit of flat leaf parsley for color. The end result was a beautifully cooked steak over my favorite flavors of beef stroganoff.
I still need to compile the recipe from my notes and alterations. I'll post it up when I'm done.
Edit: (Sorry it took so long, I finally managed to compile my notes)
1 Tbsp Salt
1 Tsp Pepper
1 Tbsp Paprika
1 cu beef stock
12 oz button mushrooms quartered
4 (1.5-2 inch thick) of beef tenderloin steaks about 1.5 lbs
1 tbsp butter
1 shallot (thinly sliced)
1 small onion (sliced)
1 tsp soy sauce
2 tbsp worcestershire
2 tsp Dijon Mustard
1 tsp dried thyme
3 tsp corn starch
1 cu greek style yogurt
- Noodles/zoodles prepared to instruction
- Mix 1 tbsp salt, 1 tsp Pepper, 1 tbsp Paprika together and sprinkle over all sides of the steak. Turn stove on to high and heat skillet with a bit of oil. Sear steaks until Medium/Medium rare (touch method). Remove from heat and cover with foil
- In the same skillet turn to medium heat cook mushroom until liquid is released and the mushrooms began to brown about 8 mins. Remove from Skillet
- Melt butter in skillet and cook Shallots and onions until golden about 6 mins. Add mushroom and deglaze with Beef stock, scrape up the bits at the bottom of the skillet. Reduce 1/3.
- Add Soy sauce, worcestershire sauce, dijon, thyme and turn heat to medium low and bring to simmer.
- Mix Cornstarch with cold water. Slowly drizzle into the sauce while stirring to thicken the sauce.
- Whisk in yogurt bring sauce up to heat but do not let boil if you want a more tangy sauce add more yogurt. When simmering add whole steak, make sure to turn the steak and heat through.
- Remove steak and slice into 1/2 inch thick strips. Serve sauce over the noodles and top with steak slices.
- Beef Stroganoff
- Zucchini "noodles" or "Zoodles"
Saturday, May 16, 2015
I was able to make a trip back home. Like this baby koala hugging the tree there's a huge list of food that I would hug if not for the fact it would be better off in my belly... So I made a list and hit everything I could. I did miss a few pictures, like Pho at Pho saigon, Ramen at Michi and my very first meal off the plane BBQ at the salt lick.
Breakfast tacos from Taco deli with Dona sauce.... with BACON. The bacon in Australia is made from pork back which includes that circular bit that we call Canadian bacon. Anyhow, tortillas are hard to come by and I thought about bringing back a tortilla press but I didn't find a source for masa. The only place I found breakfast tacos in Sydney cost like $8.50 (in AUD but still it's outrageous).
Caldo de Res and Barbecoa taco at Vasquez. A favorite spot for my old team. This is what I get when I "want it all" and can't decide on barbecoa plate or the Caldo.
You can't go to Texas without having chicken fried steak... for breakfast.... that and biscuits and gravy and of course BACON (I had a lot of bacon here). It wasn't the best, but I had to hit the Jim's it's home to many a hangover meal and quick breakfast. I've got some curing salt and liquid smoke (I don't have a smoker in Sydney) in my bags so I plan on making my own American bacon.
Of course I had to hit my favorite sushi shops, we went to Soto (my north austin favorite) and my wife took me to Uchiko for my birthday dinner.
But nothing beats my ultimate favorite: Mom's home cooked food. To celebrate my birthday (which I will actually skip this year as I fly over the international date line) she whipped up this great meal of all my favorites: Peking duck (using lettuce leaves to save on carbs), Hsin Chu Mi Fun 新竹米粉 (Rice noodle dish from my mom's home town), Sauteed Chinese water spinach, soy pickled cucumber, thousand year old egg with Cha Shao and beef tendon and miso baked salmon. Thanks Mom!
I can't wait to come back home again there's so much I missed. At least I have these pictures to keep me warm as we enter winter down under.
Friday, May 1, 2015
So in Austin we have two dedicated Ramen shops. To most of us growing up ramen was a 10 - 50 cent (depending if you go with the good stuff or not) package of fried noodles with a delicious hypertension inducing soup base. It's the mainstay of surviving on a budget in college so you can still have fun on the weekends. I hadn't had "real" ramen before trying it at Freddy's truck Michi (now a restaurant). It was a life changing event. I recommend the meat lovers in stout broth, on a cold winter day (heck even in the heat of summer) it'll do you good.
To my delight Australia is apparently full of ramen shops, granted quantity doesn't mean quality but just like most things I've encountered "down under" things are just a little bit different. One of the things I learned is that a lot of the shops here serve "thick" style broth. Now, being a fan of Michi's stout I figured "ok thick that's the stuff I want". Thick doesn't quite cover the description, I'd venture to say any thicker this stuff would be very close to the consistency of gravy. That was a more extreme example of thick, but in general the thick broth here is another level thicker than I'm use to.
We did find this great shop down the street from our flat, Yasaka Ramen. Honestly the fact that they had a ramen noodle maker in the front window really drew me into the store (that and their mantra "no ramen no life"). I didn't get to see the machine in full action, but it looks to be a multi step machine that takes flour and other ingredients and ultimately cuts them into noodles. They were in the "flattening and rolling sheets into large spools" stage when this picture was taken.
All of the broth selections were tonkotsu (pork) broth, you could select the black garlic, soy sauce, or miso with a variety of toppings. The broth was made in what looked to be the largest pressure cooker ever made. They had Charsiu braising in another pot. The operation was pretty impressive, two guys on ramen one person operating frying type stuff for Karraga and Katsu.
And the ramen? Delicious! Definitely go visit if you're in Sydney. We still have a small list of must try Ramen shops, so much ramen so little time!
Tuesday, April 28, 2015
dinner I made with zucchini ribbons as part of the dish and later a bento using the ribbons. Zoodles (ribbons or spaghetti strings) have come into some popularity over recent years because of the low carb trend. Certainly a small plate of zoodles from one zucchini will save you quite a few carbs and calories than a similar plate of pasta. I figured with all the cutting calories and low carb-ing I've been doing it's high time I incorporated zoodles as a pasta replacement into a bento. Since I don't have my full kitchen here I had to find a way to cut my zucchini into noodles (or zoodle-ize them) enter "The Veggie Twister"
There are many forms of this device, in the US there's plenty of infomercials that sell the "Veggetti", I personally went with a Paderno spiralizer (it was on sale on Amazon once) back home, you can even use a vegetable peeler with a julienne blade. For the dinner I made I used a simple peeler to get the ribbons of zucchini. In the case of the twister, veggetti, and the spirooli/zpiralizer it's simply a spiral slicer. You place the vegetable in a holding device and turn or screw the vegetable in question and there's a blade at the end that cuts it into ribbons, thin spaghetti etc.
You can even pre cut your vegetables to get other effects. For instance if you cut the zucchini in half it's a quick way to get thin half moon slices. And you're not limited to zucchini (although they make the best "pasta") you can use carrots, radishes, cucumber, really anything you can wedge into the cylinder.
In the Veggie Twister, there are two cutter "ends" one that cuts long flat ribbons and the second that cuts zoodles. The zoodle end has a julliene blade followed by a flat ribbon blade to acheive the desired shape, the ribbon version has two flat ribbon blades. There's a vegetable "holder" that screws into each cutter end as the vegtable gets too short to continue twisting by hand. On my spiralizer when you're done you get a cylindrical "plug" which is the core of the zucchini and most of the soft seeds. The Veggie twister uses the whole of the zucchini up until the end where you get a flat coin about half an inch thick. I think the big downside here is that cutting noodles that include the seed make the strands more fragile and the less capable of holding together when they cook.
Here is a shot from processing our "4th" zucchini (it looks like a lot, but it cooks down). From here you can choose how to cook them. You can eat them raw, blanch, microwave (2 mins), or saute. It really depends on how crunchy you want your noodles to be (more on prep in the next post). I find that microwaving gets the "softest" results. You just have to be careful not to over cook the noodles or they will simply fall apart. For a quick snack I'll zoodle a zucchini and pop it in the microwave with some marinara from the jar and have something yummy in 3 total mins.
I think it's a great idea, eating isn't only what we taste but what we see and smell and if a visual and textural trick can help you make missing real pasta a little less I see no harm, especially if you're counting calories. Are you going to eat these and say "wow, I can't believe that's not