Tuesday, 31 July 2012

Finally, Xiao Long Bao within lazy eating distance! - Spicy Barbie says I Love Dumplings!!

Ok ... so Spicy Barbie has decided to dip her char-grilled toes into the Dumpling bamboo basket, and its another culinary hat trick that we can slip up our sleeves. We finally have access to Xiao Long Bao almost within spitting distance ... ok there's a bit of poetic license, but its 10 mins up the road.

The Spicy Barbie part of the menu is still there, but I believe its not as expansive, understandably so, as the joint has now morphed into a dumpling/barbie hybrid called I love Dumplings.

So its not the best dumplings you are likely to have, but the atmosphere is convivial enough and the prices still reasonably cheap. There's really not much to complain about.

We had said Xiao Long Bao - or Shanghai Dumplings as per the menu. The dough was a little too pliable and the contents had too many high ginger notes and not enough salty oomph at the bottom - still yummy though.

M had his favourite tomato and egg soup which I actually also enjoyed only because it wasn't tomato-ey at all (yes I know this is a bit of a contradiction in terms ... but I'm not entirely a fan of tomato - we have a love/hate relationship).

We also had the lamb dumplings in spicy sichuan sauce. One plus One and Dumpling King have better versions. I Love Dumpling's offering was a tad insipid. I would much prefer a stronger lamby hit. Again, still yummy.

We also had some fried noodles for carbs. Nothing spesh, nicely soy sauced.

Bottom line is if they weren't close in proximity, I probably wouldn't be paying too many repeat visits. However, the next time I need a Xiao Long Bao fix (which can be reasonably often) I know where to go.

Have you heard ... its all happening in the West baby!!

Chinese Spicy and Barbie Kitchen on Urbanspoon

Sunday, 29 July 2012

Why I Love Melbourne - again

Ok ... lurking in the back streets behind Lygon Street, East Brunswick, there's always something to make me smile ....

Picking through the ashes of Trimapee - another Fashion post

Ok ... its been a long time coming, but here's another Fashion post for those sartorially minded amongst us.

I walk past the Trimapee store almost on a daily basis as its en route from the station to my work.

I've known this lable since it first open doors on Johnston Street, and have always been fascinated by (a) the monochromatic pallet, when everyone else was still into loud prints/slogans on T-shirts, and (b) the sheer Melbourn-ness of it all - black and drapey.

But this is fashion as high art, or art as high fashion ... totally a matter of opinion. All you need to know and/or fear is that the vast majority of their clothing is unisex, and consists of drapey hemlines that stretch beyond the waist and the knees on occasion. You need to be skinny and yes a bit of a peacock to be able to pull their looks off ... a pretty full wallet also helps ... as Trimapee outfits do not come cheap.

Sadly, as with most of the individualistic local fashion labels, Trimapee will soon be upstaking and moving to other opportunities in Paris and the retail arm of their business is set to close by the end of the year.

So its a good time at least to consider purchasing one or two items heavily reduced that perhaps you can work into your wardrobe as a bit of a special accent.

I found a crinkly crushed dyed T-shirt cut asymmetrically, and a bleach flecked scarf with a scrunch and tie in order for you to fix the drape around your neck. I was hoping for a jacket of sorts but could not find one that fitted, and I regret not purchasing the long shirt when I first saw it, as it had already been sold by the time of my second visit.

The T-shirt will have to wait for warmer weather for its debut, but the scarf has already had its first look-in.

Temasek on Safari in Ascot Vale - CBA Friday at Safari

Ok ... here's another post that has been sitting in draft for donkey's!! I've been meaning to crow about Safari for quite some time now, ever since reading about the restaurant on Lauren's still wonderful blog. This is apparently typical Somalian cuisine but I won't pretend to be a culinary expert on the Horn of Africa. What I can say is that this is simple yet complex fare served with generosity of spirit without pretension.

For $32 you can opt for the Mandy rice for Two (read for four more like) and you can pick and choose to your hearts content between Grilled Fish, Lamb Chop, Lamb Suqaar (diced lamb) or Grilled chicken served with Rice or Spaghetti, or you can split the diff and have a combination still at the same price!!

The Mandy rice comes to the table in a 20" aluminium pan just full up of rice and your chosen meat, along with uncooked carrots and capsicum simply dressed and salad leaves garlanding the edges of the pan. Be warned, you will get full just looking at the dish, even without having taken your first bite.

Everything is sauced and flavoured just so. The best way for me to descibe this cuisine is probably going to upset some quarters, but its almost like a western take on a combination of Indian and Middle Eastern food. There's the merest hint of spices, the rice is close to Biryani and I suspect they all have the same source and there is a tinge of french salad dressing to the veg.

The chilli sauce is the real deal. Its pungent and tart and hits the light high chilli notes, but also heads straight down the gullet to the base tummy rumble notes. If I knew how to make this chilli sauce, I'd be opening a stand already.

In addition, you get a bowl of the yummiest Lamb broth this side of a Sup Kambing. They generally serve this to you at the start, although on a recent visit, the lamb broth was only ready by the end of our meal, and it was actually a great digestive finish.

For liquid libation, you can help yourself to water, but they also serve you a bottle of Vimto, which kind of tastes like Ribena cordial. Apparently this drink is made up of grapes, blackcurrants, raspberries and a host of herbs although the end result doesn't taste that complex. Its refreshing though and is something unusual which I like.

Although we no longer live up the road from Union Road, this is still close enough to becoming a regular lazy friday night dinner venue of choice. Its comforting, hearty food, and its a nice way to end a week, and a great way to start a weekend. And I think that is the best recommendation I can give.

Safari on Urbanspoon

Friday, 27 July 2012

This little piggy went to market ... and got its ears lobbed off!

Ok ... so we've been suitably inspired by some of the things we've seen on Masterchef (thank fuck thats over with ... it was a whole bunch of "meh" I can tell you ... Audra should have won btw ... we Singaporeans need to stick together) including Mindy's fish floss ... total fail! I think I burnt it. But despite the set backs we have been trying more adventurous fare including Pig's Ears Crackling ala Builder's Arms.

The incredulous looks and quizzical smirks we got trying to order just one Pig's ear was frankly not amusing in the least. Money is money peops.

Anyhow I think we made a pretty decent stab at it. We slow cooked the Pig's ears in some aromatics and stock for about 12 hours. Then we baked it in the oven between baking sheets flattened by a weight for about half an hour (could have been longer) to dry it out. Then we sliced the ears and deep fried the pieces in the wok.

And we literally (yes!) pigged out after that. Yum.

Remastering my Childhood - a recent Amazon Bonanza

Ok ... I'm back on the Codral slide ... so I guess its as good a time as any to catch up on some draft posts including this one about my recent Amazonian Bonanza, where in one fell swoop I covered off a major part of the soundtrack to my childood. And don't let them fool you with all that soldiering palaver, today has not been productive at all.

There's no better way to start this off then when Electronic music hit the big time with the release of The Human League's Dare. Punk rock and disco morphed into New Wave at the start of the 80s. Well it was called New Wave down our parts, a blanket term that covered any band with an assymetric haricut, eye liner and a two tone shirt - whether they jangled round the edges of post-punk funk or danced elbow to knee behind a bank of synthesisers  - it was alles der Neue Welle!

Dare was not the first purveyor of experimental electronic music obviously. Dusseldorf was happening several years back. Dare was however the first to hit it big in the world of Pop. And in many ways was my initiator in the world of electronic music ... a journey that has taken me round the world and round the decades from OMD, Soft Cell, Depeche Mode through to Kraftwerk, Stockhausen and beyond. In essence my love affair with cold teutonic beats never died, although we took a break to explore options once High NRG hit the airwaves and the dancefloors.

So Purchase No.1 - no brainer, especially since this version includes the Fascination EP (as opposed to Love and Dancing in a previous format) which has my favouritest Human League song - (Keep Feeling) Fascination. Nothing new in terms of sound quality on this remaster  ... I'm still more partial to the vinyl edition ... it sounds a little too pristine on CD ... needs a flatter edge somehow.

A couple of years down the track, with the onset of the AIDs epidemic, all that early androgyny became politicised and in stepped Jimmy Somerville and his Bronski Beats in chinos, polo shirts and loafers, all disco falsetto and earnest declarations set to a Hgh NRG beat.

In our current relatively "enlightened" age, its hard to put into words how songs like "Smalltown Boy" and "Why" touched closeted teenage hearts the world over. Locked in our bedrooms and shouting out "Run Away, Turn Away, Run Away" at the ceiling, dancing our gay little hearts out. And boy could we dance!! And strike a pose well before Madge told us to get to it. And didn't we all rush out and buy Polo shirts in every conceivable colour to wear with our straight cut Levi's and Topsiders ... ok maybe not everyone.

Inside that black sleeve with the bold type and pastel highlights we found acceptance and validation, so far removed from the reality of the world outside. And even though I no longer fabricate a life in order to navigate life's unchartered waters, there is an ever so slight tightening of the chest even now as I type these words on the screen. I guess the insecurity and shame (yes I am going to own this!) never really goes away.

The Remastered Age of Consent comes with the "Hundreds and Thousands" remix Ep ... which is probably one of the earliest Remix Eps ever put out. And its pretty darn good. Not just isolated breaks for DJs to sequence, but actually revisioning some of the tracks of the original album.

Bronski Beat morphed into the Communards, a sort of proto-type Arts collective. You know the kind ... poetry reading at a dingy pub with a big haired woman decked out all espanol playing the violin in the background ... possibly a piano player with a jaunty hat or a woman with a severe fringe emoting some english folksong with her eyebrows over the top. And I'm sure there would have been a pamphlet of some description ... there's always a pamphlet with a manifesto!

Anyhoo, still all very gay. But this time a little bit more grown up - singing about the heartache and joys of real relationships experienced. Particularly second album Red ... that is heartache in a box ... as my friend Safuan can attest to. In fact Red is a particular favourite of mine. You didn't have to see past the irony of covering old disco tracks as on their debut release, these were songs plainly felt and plainly sung.

Loads of amazing extras with these remasters and well worth the $15 spent for each including postage!

Then there was Everything But the Girl - the early incarnation of which was vastly different beast to the darlings of the dancefloor and chill out compilations they eventually became.

Forming the vanguard of the 80s infatuation with all things Jazz, promotional shots started appearing in all the right quarters of the music press ... and everyone was buzzing about their version of Night and Day (don't try too hard to hunt this down ... its a little meh) ... and they looked ever so cool ... flat topped Ben and his pork pie hat and cotton shirts, Tracy with the haircut I so desperately tried to emulate and her summer dresses. Draped in University chic, their jazz-lite tales of lovers lost and won spoke directly to my fey pseudo-literary heart.

I wanted a spotlight in a jazz dive somewhere with a jaded far-off look from under my fringe and a matter of fact tone to my voice. I still love Eden the best, and I had to get Idlewild for their other successful cover, "I don't want to talk about it" which is part of the extras on the remasters.

Out of all the purchases I made here, the EBTG remasters are easily the most beautiful. The packaging is outstanding. Each of the CDs comes in a sort of Booklet with amazingly produced photos and a mountain of extras.

Thank you to the Remastering gods for taking me on a trip down memory lane. I'm sitting tight for my Blur boxset which is going to be amaaazzziingg!!!

Friday, 20 July 2012

Thursday, 19 July 2012

Madam Kay's Platz - verwunderlich!!

Ok ... Selamat datang ke blog saya. Semuga anda terhibur membacanya. Sila tinggalkan kome sebelum anda beredar*. So I haven't suddenly gone dyslexic, nor have I managed to master my Father tongue in the seconds it took to type the 3 sentences above.

But as Kumah says "God is great. He has a reason for everything", there is indeed a reason for me lapsing into this Austronesian vernacular, and that is to wax lyrical about Madam Kay's Platz (yes you read that right ... there is an odd German inflection in the name!) Is Madam Kay's Platz that much catchier than Madam Kay's Place? It could just be Madam Kay's after all, the aprostrophe does render the "Place" slightly redundant.

Anyhoo, Madam Kay's, which is a hop skip and a jump from the office, is my occasional go-to place for a quick takeaway lunch. And I know that the good old bain-marie does the opposite to what a spray of oil and water does for dishes that have been styled for a glossy magazine photograph, in that everything starts to meld into one indiscernable mono-coloured mess. But I don't care. And I really don't care that any of it is even remotely recognizable as a typical "malaysian" dish, you wouldn't really understand unless you've grown up in a Malay household the amazing nostalgic hit that Madam Kay's "2 meat plus 1 veg crammed into a plastic container barely warm borderline cold" elicits.

This is home cooking at its default best in a town that despite its gastronomic pretensions has managed to overlook some of the culinary touchpoints (genuine Malay and South Indian) of my childhood.

Today's lunch consisted of fried chicken (turmeric flecked and so delicious), some spicy beef number with pieces of gelatinous fat and a mixed veg of green leafy and capiscum. Now if they can only manage a little splodge of sambal belachan ...

*Welcome to my blog. I hope you enjoy it. Please leave a comment before you go.

Madam Kay's Platz on Urbanspoon

Friday, 13 July 2012

The art of the Meal Set in Red and White - Lunch at Aka Siro

Ok ... I think we can safely posit that the trend of Japanese eateries has slowed down in Melbourne. There was a time when you couldn't throw a stick without hitting some kind of sushi train bar and indeed an Izikaya. Meanwhile the Korean Hot Pot/Chinese Dumpling Barbie/Taiwanese Dessert wave continues unabashed. So its nice to find a new hot spot serving this oft bastardised cuisine redolent of clean and clear flavours in the Fitzroy/Collingwood (you can split the difference yourself) environs no less.

I first stumbled onto Aka Siro while showing my overseas bffs round some of my usual stomping grounds of Melbourne. In fact, there are quite a few culinary treasures to be discovered on the Collingwood side of Fitzroy. (We were on our way to somewhere less salubrious - but thats a story for another time) Aka Siro is on the corner of Cambridge and Peel Streets, an area that may be familiar to some of a certain persuasion (*give knowing look*). Maybe its the decor (tokyo seen through the eyes of Fitzroy) or its corner location, but you invariably stumble on this cafe and are compelled to stop and take a look.

They specialise in Teishoku (or meal sets) which I like to think of as Bentos without the box. So with each main dish comes miso, rice and salad. Expect to pay an extra $2 for the location, but the flavours are amazing and presentation is spot on. The chef is right in the heart of the space so you can watch your meals lovingly prepared before they arrive at your table.

As it was nigh on lunchtime, we squeezed up at the side of the bar and hunkered down for what, we could already tell just from the menu alone, was going to be an amazing meal.

M was super starving so he ordered the Japanese sausage which was kind of a chorizo of sorts split into a laughing mouth at one corner and served with Kewpie mayo.

He opted for the San Sai Teishoku or 3 dishes which incidentally was the vegetarian option. It had a potato mash, beans, and an omelette with miso eggplant on the side.

The Omelette had been folded into multiple layers and cut like a slice of cake. It had an amazing flavour well beyond the taste of just egg. We're still trying to figure out what it was. The beans were sweet and not at all rich. The potato was ok, not amazing, but that eggplant miso is always a fav. If you haven't already tried it, make it at home. Grill a piece of eggplant and smear Miso paste on it. Delicious!

I had the Buta Kakuni which was the Slow Cooked Pork Belly in soy and sweet sake sauce. And that was exactly what it tasted like. Melt in your mouth pork in a sweet soy sauce cut by the clear rice flavour of sake. Wonderfully refreshing and rich at the same time.

As mentioned previously, all meals come with rice and miso soup. The miso here is not too salty which is just the way I like it.

The salad is shredded cabbage with finely grated carrot - the perfect light accompaniment.

You need to check this place out. Irasshaimase!!

Aka Siro on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, 11 July 2012

Oh Cruel Cruel World - the trials and tribulations of Puss

Ok ... This is the story of Puss, our erstwhile home invader, abandoned twice and an opportunistic survivor. Dear Puss, if we didn't have cats of our own, we would have taken you in. Be safe, wherever you are.

Hello, my name is Puss. I live on a quiet suburban street full of nooks and crannies to explore and the occasional vehicle to dodge. I once had a family that fed and cared for me. Those were happy days when my belly was full up with fishy treats and gentle rubs.

Then one day my world turned on its head and I came home from a happy day of wandering to the unfamiliar smell of an empty house. I stood in the driveway and cried out for hours on end, desperately yearning for the comforting sound of my name being called in for dinner, the familiar clink of spoon against metal can, the possessive scratch of fingers at the back of my ears. But after several days of pining, I had to admit defeat.

Purely out of necessity I resigned myself to the life of a stray and took to stealing food wherever and whenever I could, drinking out of puddles after a shower of rain. Friendly pats now turned into stomping feet and the occasional kick of a heel. I've lost a bit of weight and my once proud coat of fur is dull and straggly. But I've managed to survive ... so far.

I miss the warmth of a cosy fire when its cold and the dull breeze of an open window when its hot, but most of all I miss the sense of belonging I was lucky enough to enjoy not so very long ago. I try not to ask why, but I often wonder what I did wrong. But thats my lot and I think its time to give up now.

Ah Mi Dios - the Padre backlash

Ok ... do we blame the Carbon Tax? Everything seems to have gone up post July 1st - its all rather insidious and sordid. I've been wondering about the Padre backlash in the blogosphere. I really have no beef with its blends, but perhaps my caffeine tastes are not as refined. But I now have a very big beef with their pricing policy. My regular cup of Strong Flat White has now gone up by 50cents!!! Outrageous! Its an absolute killer considering the number of cups I consume on a daily basis. So I'm sticking to my Cafenatics over at QV or walking the extra distance to the Twins round the corner. Shame Padre Shame!!

Say Goodbye to the Union Building Greasy Cafe! - Lunch at the Reading Room

Ok ... isn't university all about greasy cafes and slops at the Halls of Residence ... well kiss those salad days goodbye! Forego that bucket of chips and the instant noodles cooked in a billy kettle, VU has thrown its hand in the Hipster stakes with its resident cafe - The Reading Room - aptly named and situated just inside the Library's main doors.

Already causing a stir amongst Footscray's latest ubercool demographic, it has quietly been drawing the brunch crowds, and while it doesn't quite pack the wow punch that Footscray Milking Station delivers, it is still wonderfully quaint and not a bad way to spend a quiet coffee with friends.

On a recent work at home day and after a meeting at the Australian Red Cross Blood Service at their amazing offices over in West Melbourne, M and I took a rare opportunity of having a weekday lunch together and decided to check out the joint.

M opted for the Thai Chicken pie with salad. This wouldn't have been my first choice as anything Thai combined with Pie generally means some kind of creamy sweet concoction far removed from the spicy promise of its origins. But M enjoyed it although the pie had done its dash in the microwave which can only mean one thing - soggy pastry.

I fared better with my Chicken roll, with its generous sludgy mix of chicken pieces in a dill inflected mayonnaise (I think). Scrumptious.

As for coffee, we either had the Chompy from Sensory Labs or the Candyman from Small Batch roasters. I'm inclined to think it was the latter as DJ's in the city is mine and P's coffee catch up venue of choice.

So are you jealous that you're not living out in the West yet?

Reading Room Cafe (Victoria University) on Urbanspoon

Did Maggie Beer take over a kitchen in Footscray?

Ok ... I doubt it! But when I read Lamb and Jelly on the menu, I immediately thought of her and her "PT Cruiser" vibe. I admit that its probably something to do with the way my Asian palate is wired, but I like my savouries to be savouries and my sweets to be sweet, and never the twain peops ... never the twain!

So I don't really know what to make of finding sweet winter berries scattered on top of a barely cooked piece of meat, or sweet glace fruits in a sugary sauce all over my piece of grilled swordfish, and don't get me started on the preponderance of raisins/sultanas (whats the definitive difference) like sweetened rabbit poo causing all manner of confusion, traditional or otherwise.

Anyhoo, I wasn't really expecting actual pieces of jelly in my lamby broth. I was so sure it was something lost in translation - perhaps some gristly knuckle or gelatinous cartilage ... but when it arrived a-table over at the newly spruced 1 + 1 Dumpling in Hopkins Street, Footscray, the bowl contained actual pieces of jelly. Oddly delicious.

Friday, 6 July 2012

Losing my Blo-jo!!

Ok ... lets fuck with the timeline and pretend that I have been away in Wellington all this time hence the lack of blog posts. But the truth is I think I may be losing my Blo-Jo!! Is that a bit wrong? I tried to come up with something clever but my mind remains irretrievably in the gutter.

So while I sift through the debris of a dozen drafts left unfinished over the last couple of months, have a listen to one of the new bands I am challenging this week.

I promise I will be back to form ... soon ... ish!!

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