Saturday, November 28, 2009


We had the joy of celebrating my mum's birthday (who happened to be in town this week for a visit with her closest friends) last night at probably one of my favourite places to eat in Perth - Ha Lu - a Japanese izakaya style restaurant. As usual, I over-ordered and over-indulged. But everything was so perfectly executed that what seemed like a constant flow of beautifully presented clean tasting dishes was a true joy. Highlights included the kakuni pictured above (uber tender stewed pork belly) and the warm japanese salad with roasted vegetables.

We also ordered an interesting twist on the very homely dish of nikujaga (typically a hot pot of sliced beef onion and potatoes). Instead of the traditional simmered dish, Ha Lu has a revamped version that takes the form of a crispy creamy potato dumpling stuffed with sliced beef and topped with sliced onions and a soy dashi broth that is poured at the table.

The tuna and poached onsen style egg was a delicious combination of flavours and textures with tender sashimi tuna, crispy wanton crisps and and a creamy poached egg.

The wagyu beef tataki here is brilliant - melt in your mouth slivers of wagyu fillet served with seasonal root vegetables and an addictive ponzu sauce. The other beef dish ordered however was the only disappointment of the night. Diced wagyu beef steak with yuzu kosho pepper whilst sounding unbelievable on the menu, was overcooked and dry - probably due to the cubes being diced too small and a real letdown to an otherwise flawless meal.

Nevertheless - Ha Lu continues to be probably the best Japanese restaurant to eat in town. I left the restaurant content, very full, and looking forward to my next visit to sample new dishes introduced to the menu (given I had pretty much ordered everything in one seating).

Ha Lu
Shop4 / 401 Oxford Street, Mt Hawthorn

Ha-Lu on Urbanspoon

Sunday, November 22, 2009

First attempts: Daily bread

Keeping in theme with satisfying food cravings from dishes I grew up with in Singapore, I attempted to whip up some roti chanai over the weekend. These were surprisingly easy to make from scratch - although my version probably needed alot more grease and also the very coordinating flipping of the dough to get it paper thin (something which I attempted to do but failed miserably in) for it to taste truly authentic

Roti Chanai
1) Mix 500g plain flour with 2 tablespoons ghee, 1 teaspoon salt, 1 teaspoon of sugar, approx 1/2 cup of lukewarm water and 1/4 cup lukewarm milk in a large bowl. Knead gently for 10 minutes until you end up with a smooth, elastic dough.
2) Form approx 12 balls of dough from the dough, coat in ghee and cover with clingfilm wrap. Leave to rest in a cool place for an hour.
3) Roll out each ball as thinly as possibly and fold each end into the centre to form a parcel. Sprinkle with olive oil and fry in a hot pan for approx 3 minutes on each side until golden brown.
4) Just before serving, clap your hands together around the roti to fluff it up. Serve with a spicy coconut curry and remember to use your hands!

Pumpkin risotto with chargrilled prawns and prosciutto wafer

Alright, before I start with this recipe - I do realise that it has a strangely high proportion of its ingredients starting with the letter "P". Yes - that's right, pumpkin, prawns, prosciutto, baby peas... and the all important parmesan cheese... it wasn't till I started plating up that I was tickled by the natural pairing of ingredients beginning with the same alphabet (yes I am a geek).

Anyways - here's a simple recipe for this smashing pumpkin dish.

Pumpkin risotto
1) Roast half a pumpkin roughly chopped with shallots and garlic tossed in sea salt in extra virgin olive oil. Add to approx 4 cups chicken stock, simmer briefly and blend with a food processor.
2) Use pumpkin stock to cook risotto in the usual way (ie. fry up arborio rice in olive oil with chopped onion, garlic and a glass of white wine and add stock one ladle at a time for approx 20 mins until rice just gives on the bite).
3) Throw in a knob of butter and a handful of parmesan cheese - mix through and cover for 5 minutes for the rice to rest before serving.

Prosciutto wafer
1) Sandwich prosciutto between two sheets of baking paper and place a weight on top (e.g baking dish). Bake in a hot oven (approx 180 degrees) for approx 20 minutes.
2) Remove tray and remove baking paper.

Chargrilled prawns
1) Skewer each prawn from head to tail to hold its shape when cooking. Season generously with sea salt and cracked pepper.
2) Pan fry prawns in a hot pan with olive oil - about a minute on each side.
3) Reserve oil.

To plate up
1) Plate risotto in a ring mould on one end of the plate. Top with chargrilled prawns. Drizzle reserved oil used to fry prawns over risotto. Sprinkle with parmesan cheese.
2) Lay prosciutto wafer on other side of plate and garnish with boiled peas refreshed in cold water.
3) Bon appetit!

Putting the Extra in Ordinary...

I recently blogged about a new ramen bar in Northbridge, Perth. And whilst I was not overly impressed with the broth that was served with their homemade noodles - I was more than addicted to the toppings that came with each bowl - most especially the roast pork or chashu. Literally melt in your mouth pork belly that has been braised to perfection in a very delicious concotion of what is most likely soy sauce, sake, mirin, sugar and ginger - really special stuff.

And so, in a stroke of genius (at least I like to think so), I visted Arigataya ramen again and ordered a bowl of japanese curry rice (kare raisu) - with... wait for it, the aforementioned roast pork as a topping.

The curry here on its own was very generic and unfortunately made from a packet roux that tasted all too familiar (we rely on this stuff at home when we're too lazy or time pressed to whip a dinner up). However, paired with the delightfully tasty roast pork - this was one very satisfying lunch - and cheap too!

Just goes to show... sometimes the ordinary just needs a dose of something extra to make it oh so special...

Arigataya Ramen
Roe Street
Northbridge, Perth

Arigataya on Urbanspoon

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Sweety and Savoury

I love the contrast of sweet and savoury flavours - when perfectly balanced, its an addictive combination that is strangely moreish. A pumpkin risotto with crispy salty prosciutto... a juicy ripe tomato with a sprinkling of sea salt... or in the case of a brilliant breakfast dish - crispy bacon on french toast drizzled with maple syrup.

We found ourselves at Deli Chicchi in Mount Claremont over the weekend for a lazy breakfast with friends we had not caught up for a while. A beautiful spot for a lazy weekend breakfast or brunch - it even has a section dedicated to cookbooks and produce you can purchase while you're waiting for your food.

This very cool breakfast spot perched on a street corner has simply but very tasty options for breakfast. From the zucchini and haloumi fritters to the roasted tomato, mozzarella and avocado bruschetta.

Oh - and of course the highlight of the day - the aforementioned french toast. Crispy bacon, fluffy french toast, warm maple syrup - yum!

Deli Chicchi
Strickland Street
Mount Claremont

Monday, November 16, 2009

First attempts: Nasi Briyani

I've recently had a longing for some dishes available in Singapore and Malaysia which are hard to find here in Perth. One such craving is for the Indian Muslim dish of Nasi Briyani - there are variations available here in Indian restaurants but these taste quite different from the versions found in Singapore which are less rich and characterised by fluffier, almost al-dente basmati rice grains.

And so - not wanting to deny myself of life's simple pleasures, I set out to find a recipe and attempt to recreate the flavours I miss so much. "Singapore Heritage Food" by Sylvia Tan is a fascinating part recipe book part history of Singapore's culinary heritage. Below is an adapted version from her book.

Nasi Briyani
4 tbs ghee
1 cup shallots, sliced
1 large onion, chopped
1 thumb sized length of ginger, chopped
4 cloves garlic, chopped
1 tsp chilli powder
1 tsp turmeric powder
1 tsp cumin powder
2 tomatoes, chopped
2 tbs chopped mint leaves
1 tbs salt
1.5kg chicken pieces
3 cardamoms
1 stick sinnamon
4 tbs yoghurt

4 cups Basmati rice washed and dried
1 tbs ghee
4 cloves garlic smashed
1 thumb sized length ginger, smashed
5 shallots, finely chopped
1 stick cinnamon
5 cardamoms
5 cloves
1 tsp saffron threads
sprinkling of rose essence (omit if not available)
1 tsp salt
4 cups chicken stock

1. Heat ghee in wok and fry shallots till golden - set aside.
2. In same oil, brown chopped onion, garlic, and ginger. Add 2 Tbs water to spice powders to form a paste and add to wok to fry over a low fire till fragrant.
3. Add tomatoes, mint and salt and cook till softened. Add chicken, cinnamon and cardamoms. Cook gently till meat is just cooked. Stir in yogurt and cook for 15 minutes more. Skim and reserve oil from sauce.
4. Fry ginger, garlic and shallots till golden brown. Add cinnamon, cloves and cardamoms. Add reserved oil and rice grains and fry till grains absorb oil. Transfer to a rice cooker.
5. Heat stock and add saffron and rose essence (if using). Add stock to rice cooker and cook until fully absorved.
6. Fluff rice with a fork and place chicken pieces in a well in the rice. Cover and cook for another 10 minutes.
7. Garnish with fried shallots and serve.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Arigato! Arigataya

I have had a soft spot for ramen ever since tasting greatness in the tonkotsu ramen of Ichiran in Fukuoka last year. Sadly, a rameniac would find it hard to satisfy his or her craving here in Perth as there are less than a handful of places where this is served.

So it was with great excitement when I heard about Arigataya ramen which had opened its doors to noodle lovers just this week. With a reputation of having noodles made fresh on the premises, I was keen to slurp out this joint to see if there was hope yet for satisfying a ramen craving right here in Western Australia.

The menu here is basic - you choose from either the standard ramen with a chicken/pork bone broth (with a choice of either shio or shoyu flavour) or tsukemen (ramen served with a dipping sauce on the side). For a few dollars extra, you get to "upsize" your condiments - with ni-tamago (a briliant way of cooking an egg with a fully cooked white but a slightly runny and creamy yolk centre) and extra slabs of the house made charsiu (roasted pork belly).

The verdict? The broth lacked the depth of flavour I love in a good ramen broth and tasted a little generic. The noodles had good texture but seemed to impart a slightly alkaline flavour to the broth which was a little overpowering.

But the stars here are clearly the condiments. The ni-tamago was cooked to perfection - beautifully set egg white and a creamy deep orange yolk. The charsiu was nothing short of brilliant - delightfully "melt in your mouth" pork belly char-grilled on the outside to achieve a fantastic combination of flavour and texture.

Ok - so maybe Arigataya wasn't the life changing noodle experience I had hoped for - but there's enough goodness in the bowl for me to come back for more. And let's be honest - another decent option to satisfy a frequent ramen craving is something I'm happy to say "arigato!" for.

Arigataya ramen
Roe St, Perth

Arigataya on Urbanspoon

Thursday, November 12, 2009

What every cloud has...

Justs stopped over in Melbourne for two days for work and was a little disappointed initially because:
(A) The short stay meant I had little opportunity to pig out like I normally do in this fantastic city.
(B) Accomodation options were scarce because Tiger Woods was in town and that brought with it crowds that took up my usual hotel options. (Britney Spears was also in town but I seriously doubt that would have been a reason for my predicament).

In any case, I remained optimistic and tried to make the best of my 48 hours in the mighty Melbourne. As it turned out, the little serviced apartment that I managed to secure, whilst on the fringes of the city centre at the end of Flinders Lane, meant that I was strategically placed right next to one of the city's hottest up and coming restaurants, Cumulus Inc.

Named after puffy looking clouds (look up wikipedia for a more meteor-logical explanation) and run by Andrew McConnell (the Age Food Guide chef of the year), this very cool spot is famed for inventive food but also fantastic breakfasts.

I popped in in the wee hours of the morning on my second day (it starts getting busy from 8am onwards) and was immediately drawn to the smoked salmon, 65/65 egg, sorrel, apple and dill dish on the inventive breakfast menu. I am unashamedly an eggnophile - and the intriguing description meant I just had to order it.

A 65/65 egg is essentially a super slow poached egg, with its description indicating that it is poached in its shell at a controlled temperature of 65 degrees celcius for 65 minutes. What results is a textural delight - perfectly poached white and a creamy, almost gelatinous yolk of eggy goodness. Paired with the subtle saltiness of the Tom Cooper's smoked salmon, the "it just makes sense" combination of dill and capers, plus the acid from the refreshing batons of green apple, all served on a crusty buttered ciabatta toast, and you get one delicious breakfast dish.

Satisfied from a great first meal to the day, I decided that my initial reasons for disappointment were actually a blessing in disguise. Cumulus is a sophisticated and very smart dining experience, and as far as clouds go - this is one that has reminded me that every situation has a silver lining.

Cumulus Inc
45 Flinders Lane
Melbourne 3000

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Julie & Julia - Boeuf Bourguignon

As any self respecting food geek can attest to - Julie and Julia (starring the phenomenal Meryl Streep and the very impressive Amy Adams) is a unique film that portrays a fascinating story of how food can have a pivotal role in transforming everyday lives. Another thing that this movie brings to life is the idea that French food doesn't have to be daunting and can be accessible to everyday cooks.

Perhaps the best example of this is the classic dish of boeuf bourguignon - basically an extremely robust, earthy, rich red wine beef stew. The large quantity of red wine used in the recipe may seem overwhelming at first but transforms the humble beef stew into something beautifully rich yet subtle at the same time. There are of course multiple variations to this classic dish - from Julia Child's version to that found in the numerous French cookbooks in the market. I have adapted snippets from a few respectable French cookbooks into this version - try it - you'll love it.


1.5kg beef shin (cut into quite large chunks)
10 red shallots peeled and left whole
4 rashers bacon roughly chopped
2 brown onions chopped
4 cloves garlic
2 cloves
1 bottle red wine (something delicious enough for you to sneak a glass while cooking)
bouquet garni (1 bunch thyme and parsley tied in kitchen string)
2 carrots cut into large wedges
10 button mushrooms cleaned and left whole
1 can tomatoes (drained)
2 tablespoons butter
1/4 cup flour

1. Marinate beef shin in the red wine for an hour. Drain (reserving wine) and season with sea salt, freshly ground black pepper and coat lightly in plain flour.
2. Pan fry bacon until crispy and fat has been rendered. In the same fat, brown onions, shallots and garlic cloves. Remove and set aside.
3. In the same pan, brown beef pieces in batches (do not crowd the pan to prevent beef from stewing).
4. Return browned bacon, onions, shallots and garlic cloves to pan. Slowly add reserved wine marinade to pan to deglaze pan. Add tomatoes and cloves and simmer. Cover pan with baking paper and foil and secure with a tight fitting lid.
5. Pop the pan into a pre-heated oven at 150 degrees celcius. Cook gently for 3.5 hours (cooking the beef gently this way yields a melt in your mouth texture). Remove foil and baking paper. Pan fry button mushrooms and carrots until slightly caramelised - add to pan and return to oven for another hour.
6. Using clean hands, bind flour and butter to form a roux. Fry roux in a hot pan until slightly brown and add sauce from pan - whisk until sauce thickens and return to rest of the ingredients. Cook for another 2 minutes until sauce coats the back of a spoon.
7. Serve with a garnish of fresh parsley, a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil (ok - maybe this is an Italian touch but I love it) and serve with warm crusty bread.

Bon appetit!

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Flippin Good

I'll just come out and say it - I love Flipside burgers. Ever since having discovered the tiny gourmet burger joint in Fremantle over 3 years ago, M and I have visited this brilliant spot over and over again for their uber tasty burgers and their to die for chunky chips.

It actually is quite surprising that I haven't blogged about this not so secret gem of a place given that its one thing that I always seem to have a craving for and one that always hits the spot.

Since then - Flipside has expanded and started a new spot in yet another leafy Perth suburb of Wembley. Same burgers (although I must admit the Freo joint constructs their burgers better), same char grilled goodness and the same happiness that it brings me everytime I visit. To top things off, both locations are now strategically situated beside very cool bars (Mrs Brown in Freo and the Stanley in Wembley) where you can order a drink and have your burger delivered to you to enjoy in very cool digs.

My personal favourite is the Blue Train (char grilled 95% fat free beef patty topped with lettuce, tomato and garnished a generous crumbling of blue cheese sandwiched between fantastic homemade buns) with the addition of crispy bacon. Be sure to order a side of generously cut crunchy on the outside, fluffy on the inside, chunky chips. Wash it down with an ice cold beer from the bar next door - and you're in burger heaven... flippin fantastic.

Flipside Burger Bar

Flipside Burger Bar on Urbanspoon

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