November 20, 2009

Chilli Beef Salad

Boy...that was a long break. It wasn't meant to be, but time just gets away from you sometimes. On the plus side, I've now finished uni forever and hopefully will have a little more time. Given the heatwave in Melbourne of late, I've been eating a lot of south-east Asian cold dishes. This is the most recent, a beef salad rather liberally adapted from Donna Hay's Off The Shelf (which might I add, is an awesome cookbook and one of my most used). This recipe uses Thai chilli paste, which is chilli in soybean oil (and sometimes named as such) with other ingredients like shrimp, ginger, tamarind etc. You can find this at Asian grocers - Great Eastern on Lonsdale St (near the corner of Little Bourke) is my favorite. Chilli Beef Salad Serves 4 Ingredients:
  • 1 tbls peanut oil
  • 600 g rump steak, sliced into bite-sized strips
  • 2-3 tbls Thai chilli paste
  • 6 kaffir lime leaves, shredded
  • 2 chillies, sliced (optional)
  • 2 tbls lime juice
  • 1 tbls brown sugar
  • half a cos lettuce (or more, as liked) leaves torn into pieces
  • small punnet cherry/grape tomatoes
  • red capsicum, sliced into thin strips
  • 1/2 cup coriander leaves
  • 1/4 cup mint leaves
  • 1/2 cup chopped (or not) roasted unsalted peanuts
  1. Heat oil in a fry pan/wok over high heat. Add beef, fry for a few minutes until browned. Add chilli paste, lime leaves chillies and sugar and cook while stirring for a minute or so until sauce combined. Remove from heat.
  2. Combine lettuce, tomatoes, capsicum and herbs in a bowl. Add beef and stir through so sauce coats the vegetables.
  3. Serve topped with peanuts.

June 6, 2009


Just a quick note to say I'm taking a short break from the blogging due to impending exams, job applications and all-round time shortage. I'll be back in the holidays with many delicious things to share. It's for the best really - all I've been eating is instant ramen and diet coke... hardly worth writing about!

April 25, 2009


Melbourne was blustery at the best of times tonight, and pretty miserable beyond that. As a result we were pretty eager to get inside and start dinner. We'd looked through the Cheap Eats Guide and made a shortlist, but wanted to stay in the CBD (due to aforementioned freezing-ness).  The general plan of attack was to peep in Shoya to check out the menu and prices, and if it was beyond our somewhat empty wallets (which we decided it was), head just down Bourke Street to Horoki.


Horoki was amazingly warm and smelt like home, if your home is a Japanese kitchen (I wish mine was). Unfortunately, we hadn't made a reservation and the next table was more than an hour off. Given that we were starving and that the idea of wandering around in the wind was unappealing, we decided to try Teppansan just a block back on Russell Street. Teppansan came with a pretty hearty recommendation from the Cheap Eats Guide and Matt Preston in Epicure.


The first thing we noticed is that the staff all speak Cantonese...and in the kind of way that makes you worry about the authenticity of the place. I'm not totally adverse to the idea of people cooking other culture's food (after all, I love Menya and there isn't one Japanese staff member there) but it always carries an element of risk.


We ordered the 'Winter Special Banquet', which was $40 for the two of us. On top of that, we ordered a pork okonomiyaki ($8) and a pot of genmaicha ($1.50 per person).


(My apologies for the crummy photos - my camera was low on batteries and thus the pictures were both rushed and flash-less)


The first component of the banquet was a plate of entrees. There was tatsuta-age (fried chicken), gyoza (pork dumplings), and spring rolls filled with mashed carrot and prawns. The spring rolls were a substitute for gyu maki which they'd run out of, and were probably the highlight of the course. The gyoza were nice, although distinctly Chinese in flavour - we noticed they'd been made using wonton wrappers. The tatsuta-age was again pretty yum, but nothing spectacular.



A bowl of miso soup accompanied our entree. The soup was quite generously filled with seaweed, tofu and spring onions, but was a bit weak in flavour and again nothing too exciting. Certainly warmed us up though, which was enough for me at that point!


A plate of tempura followed the entree and soup. We received a piece each of sweet potato, zucchini, taro and prawn. All pretty delicious, the prawn being both our favorites.



After the tempura, our okonomiyaki came out. Now up to this point, nothing had really jumped out but this was fantastic. It wasn't the most authentic okonomiyaki I'd ever tasted, but it was really delicious, and for $8 would make a very satisfying lunch. It was made in a somewhat unusual fashion, with a mixture of pork, onions and cabbage in the middle of a thin pancake folded almost in an omelet style. This was topped with the requisite okonomiyaki sauce, mayonnaise, bonito flakes and seaweed. It was such a mess to eat but well worth it.



By this stage we were pretty full, with mains and dessert still to come... Press on though, right?


We ordered the beef sukiyaki hot pot (the other choices were shabu-shabu or seafood), which came with bowls of rice. The hot pot came sizzlingly hot with beef, tofu, carrots, wombok cabbage and button mushrooms in a soup (no noodles or egg to dip into). Before you get too excited, it all comes pre-cooked so if you're looking for the true hot-pot cook-at-your-own-table business, this isn't it. The dish was alright, but the meat was a bit tough and again it was all just not quite amazing enough to make up for not being very authentic. 



To round things off, dessert was banana and coconut dumplings with green tea icecream. These were at first just unusual, but the more we ate the more they grew on us. The dumplings were again made from wonton skins, and were warm and crispy with the filling sweet and just a little bit sour. The icecream didn't taste very strongly of tea, which could be good or bad depending on how you prefer things. It was tasty though, and green tea icecream is definitely a nice way to finish off a meal. 



The decor was fairly typical of the cheaper Asian restaurants in the area, with the addition of a nice mural up the side of the wall. The kitchen is at the front of the restaurant and able to be viewed from any table, which I always enjoy. Service was great - our teapot was always refilled quickly and meals arrived piping hot and with good pace. 


All in all, the meal was good but not fabulous. It certainly wasn't disappointing, but I'd recommend the okonomiyaki over the banquet menu. They also do great lunch specials for around $6, so I'd hit Teppansan in the future for a cheap afternoon meal and save dinner for one of the many other great (and more authentic) Japanese restaurants in the area. I can't wait to try out Horoki and Shoya. 




Address: 179 Russell Street, Melbourne

Telephone: (03) 9663 1938

Licensed, BYO with no corkage

Price Guide: Entrees $4-8 /mains $5-20 / set lunches $6-10 / set dinners $15-30

Payment: Cash only

Hours: Daily 11am to 11pm

Rating: 3.5/5

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April 18, 2009

Strawberry Jam


Today my dear James bought a kilogram of strawberries at the Queen Victoria Market for the low low price of a dollar. They were in surprisingly good nick, but eating them all would have been a challenge so we decided to turn them into jam. Keep in mind I'm not much of a jam maker - I've helped my mum make jam a number of times but I generally am too lazy to make it for myself.


After a quick Google to check the proportions of ingredients, we used Martha Stewart's Strawberry Jam recipe, mostly because she's awesome but also because all James had was the strawberries and some sugar which is all Martha asked for. I've written our version below, which is basically the same with different quantities. After picking out all the scummy strawberries and cutting off the tops we went from a kilogram to 750 grams, so thats worth keeping in mind when buying your berries (depending on the quality of course).


There was a slight bump in the road when we failed to notice that the underside of our jar lids had rubber on them...don't put these type of lids in the oven to sterilize like we did! We were also a bit concerned about the jam setting (mostly due to the voicings of our nay-saying spectator, James's housemate), but things turned out pretty well in the end.



Strawberry Jam

Makes 2 medium jars (about a kilogram of jam)


  • 750 grams strawberries, tops picked off and halved/quartered depending on size
  • 2 cups white sugar


  1. Put a ceramic plate in the freezer. Sterilise jars by washing thoroughly and either placing in a 130 degree oven for 20 minutes or boiling in a pot of water for 10 minutes then drying in the oven.
  2. Place strawberries in a nice heavy pot over medium heat. Add 1/4 cup of sugar and mix. Cook, stirring, for about 5 minutes until sugar is dissolved and berries have released their juice. Gradually add the remaining sugar about half a cup at a time, stirring in between to allow sugar to fully dissolve before adding more.
  3. Bring mixture to a boil, stirring. Skim off froth if desired (this may or may not be important depending on which source you listen to, either way don't get too worried)  with a metal spoon. Continue at a low boil until mixture thickens and reduces, about 40 minutes to an hour. Stir regularly to prevent jam burning on the bottom.
  4. Once the jam begins to thicken, test for readiness using the 'gel test'. Drop a bit of jam on the pre-chilled plate then return it to the freezer for 2 minutes. After this time, gently poke the drop of jam with your finger. If it if gel-like and wrinkles slightly while staying fairly solid, it is ready. If not, keep cooking it.
  5. Once the jam is ready, transfer it into pre-sterilised jars. Seal, label and refridgerate once opened.


So here's the start of my food blog. Keep tuned for posts about cooking, restaurants, cookware and all things food related.

I'm currently a student in Melbourne, Australia so for the next six months most of the eating will be done on the cheap in this beautiful city. I love to travel though, so will post from wherever I'm finding my food. Plus next year I'll be a wage-earning, contributing member of society, so will be able to go out a bit more (and spend a bit more!)

Come back soon for the first proper installment...