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eG Foodblog: ChrisTaylor (2012) - On the south east side. Down south.

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#1 ChrisTaylor

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Posted 21 January 2012 - 03:05 AM

Welcome to the 2012 season of eGullet Foodblogs and welcome, too, I guess, to my corner of Melbourne.

Now, it's not Sunday. Not yet. Not even here. It will be soon--it's Saturday night--but I figured I'd post my prep for Sunday's dinner now, given early on Sunday I'll be spending most of the day at the Australian Open. I must apologise in advance, too, for the quality of some of the photographs. When I'm in a store somewhere I tend to prefer using my iPhone to my hulking SLR, a decision that often results in shitty photo.

Some context. I live and have always lived in Melbourne's south eastern suburbs. I've spent most of my life in suburbs with a very high population of migrants from all over the world. Australia's culinary scene is shaped by migrants. The Italians and Greeks and others from that part of the world, back in the second half of the 20th century, they brought pizza and pasta and capsicums and salami. In the later part of the 20th century, the Vietnamese, Chinese and Cambodians brought over a wide array of condiments, fruits and vegetables. Every batch of refugees and immigrants has brought their food with them--from boiled bagels to biltong, chorizo to bok choy. Entire suburbs became, and to some extent remain, 'enclaves' for various ethnic groups--Springvale, which I'll show you some time during the week, is home to a great many Vietnamese and Cambodian-Chinese. Clayton, where I am now, was once home to many Greeks and Italians--they're still here--but now has a very large population of Koreans and Indians. Dandenong, which you'll also see, has a lot of Sudanese, Sri Lankans, Indians, people from what used to be Yugoslavia and many others.

The nation's collective palate has matured, too. At some point, not too long ago, supermarkets started selling frozen packages of 'stir fry' vegetables and a selection of dried pastas that went beyond spaghetti and 'macaroni'. Products I once had to look for in specialist stores--one of the many local Indian grocers, for instance--I can now find in most supermarkets. Much of this change has been in my lifetime. In my family home the menu evolved from variations on bangers and mash to include an increasing selection of heavily Australianised Asian and Italian dishes. The South East Asian influence is very obvious in the menus of our fine dining scene.

I could show you many different parts of my city. If you visit here as a tourist, you're likely to visit Queen Victoria Market and maybe a couple of the big name restaurants in the CBD. I'll show you a little bit of that, but my focus will instead be on where I live and the surrounding suburbs.

The preview pictures

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Canned grubs from South Korea, as avaliable at the 'Hong Kong Supermarket' just down the road.

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Not a mango or orange tree. It's a lemon tree in my backyard. Many Australians own lemon trees and we tend to get a bit weird about paying for lemons in the supermarket, even tho'
they're typically only $3-4 per kilogram.

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Harry's Deli, a large Greek grocery store located at the end of my street. Reasonable selection of spices and dried goods, as well as olives, Greek cheeses and 'homemade' dips.

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A selection of umami boosters that, as a couple people pointed out, includes vegemite. I very much prefer savoury flavours to anything else.

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One of the local butcher shops.

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Australians might recognise these titles as coming from local chefs/authors.

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We also have reasonable-sized Indonesian population in Clayton. This is one of two Indonesian restaurants--very cheap and not bad, either. The food is very much like what you'd imagine getting in an Indonesian home in terms of presentation and menu options.

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A small part of the spice section in India at Home, one of the two larger Indian grocers (there are two big 'supermarkets' and a lot of smaller places, most of which also sell hot food items such as samosas) in Clayton. Also sells products from elsewhere in southern Asia, Fiji and South Africa.

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Some of the cheeses sold in one of the local Italian delis. Also sells a small selection of non-Italian products, including Spanish paprika and canned fish from Portugal.

Harry's Outlet -- Greek deli

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I ducked into Harry's in search of juniper (not Greek, sure, but their spice selection is decent)--no luck--but ended up stocking up on some of their 'homemade' dips.

Oasis Bakery -- Middle Eastern bakery, grocery store, etc

My search for juniper led me to Oasis, a Middle Eastern grocer five minutes from home. It's 'Middle Eastern' in its focus but also sells a lot of interesting foodstuffs--some modernist cuisine-type additives, canned snails imported from France, a variety of canned fish eggs, a decent selection of Mexican chillies, etc. The spice selection is easily the most extensive there is so close to home. It's a nice shop.

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Vine leaves, obviously.

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A selection of dips, including all of the usual suspects--hommus, ful, tzatziki, roasted capsicum, etc.

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A selection of duck and goose products including fat, confit and rillettes.

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Salmon roe, lumpfish caviar and a few other varieties of 'fish egg' priced between these two points. Actual caviar is not sold here, of course. We're not in the right area for that.

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A selection of olives, ranging from hulking kalamatas marinated in a variety of ways to pricey little ones from Italy.

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Part of the section dedicated to oils and vinegars. Avaliable are products such as raspberry finishing vinegar, organic sesame oil and a truly baffling variety of infused extra virgin olive oils and fruity/spiced vinegars. Opposing this shelf is a shelf dedicated to sauces, including a selection of peri peris from Portugal and southern Africa and some 'gourmet' chutney.

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A section of the (long) wall dedicated to nuts and dried fruit, running from macadamias to slices of pear.

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A section dedicated to pre-packaged Turkish delight, running from cheap bulk packs to expensive organic stuff.

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A line of tajines they're pushing.

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Part of the spice, herb and powders section--you can pre-made blends, a variety of different chillies (in powder or whole form) and chilli blends, vegetable and fruit powders, natural food colourings and essences, whole and powdered spices and additives.

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A selection of salts, ranging from the usual--table salt, rock salt, etc--to some flavoured salts (wild garlic, etc), expensive Maldon sea salt and a few interesting ones, such as black salt and hickory smoked salt. Selection is actually superior to that of the ultra expensive gourmet shops such as Simon Johnson and Jones the Grocer.

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Part of the pickles section--runs, again, from industrial-sized cans of pickled onions to little jars of chillies.

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Freeze dried fruits and vegetables, sitting atop a freezer that holds icecreams, pastry, savoury and sweet-filled pastires, dough, ready meals such as their housemade Lebanese pizzas (avaliable hot in the restaurant), desserts of various kinds and a huge selection of frozen fruits and berries (want 3 different kinds of cherry, by any chance?) Just near here, too, is a whole wall of cheeses and a counter that sells a variety of pastries, ranging from baklava to macarons (insanely popular in Australia at the moment, thanks to Masterchef).

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Some honey--again, the range includes expensive local stuff (Manuka, organic, etc) and some imported ones from Greece and other places. Still cheaper than Simon Johnson, Essential Ingredient and other places aimed at wealthy inner suburbanites. If I find the time I'll show you one of those stores as a nice bit of contrast.

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A section dedicated to dried beans and grains, ranging from farro and organic quinoa to chickpeas and navy beans.

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Some dessert-type products, including Persian fairy floss, orange blossom water and rose water. Around the corner is a selection of chocolates, mostly imported or good quality local ones.

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Some beverages. There is also a large selection of teas and coffees for sale at Oasis.

Oasis also has a restaurant, which sells--both for takeaway and sit-in customers--Middle Eastern dishes such as Lebanese pizza, doner kebabs, salads, desserts and a wide selection of stuffed bread/pastry-type products. The food is reasonably priced and, in my experience, very good. I don't eat there often--my shopping tends not to coincide with lunchtime, as Oasis is insanely popular and it's difficult to get in/out of the carpark, as it's on a busy main road--but I've never struck a dud dish.

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The haul. I went in looking for juniper--I need it for Sunday night's dinner--and came out with smoked sea salt (I'd been on the look out for this stuff since buying the Hawksmoor at Home book, so it was hardly an impulse purchase), goose rillettes and some wild Australian olives.

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The olives, which I ate with some of the imported brie I bought the other day. Very nice olives.

Dan Murphy's

I'm cooking kangaroo on Sunday night so I figured I'd want some beer to go with it. Luckily, Dan Murphy's is just down the road from Oasis. Dan's is a chain of booze outlets owned by one of the two big supermarket chains. It has very good prices and a very good selection of some of the finer things in life--craft beer from Australia, wine from Australia and elsewhere, spirits and, of course, single malt whiskies. I have enough wine, whisky and spirits at home, so I was only in search of beer.

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Part of the liqueur/spirit section.

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Looking out over the wine section. This store, by the way, seems smaller than the other near near my house.

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Cider has become popular in Australia in the past couple of years. In addition to the shitty overly sweet 'apple, strawberry and bullshit'-type stuff, there's also some good quality imported French and British (as well as a few local) ciders. At some point this week I'll try and track down some of the better Australian ones--they're not sold at Dan Murphy's yet.

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Part of the beer section. The selection runs from the mass produced locals and imports (VB, Carlton, etc, as well as Stella, Corona, etc) to locally made craft beers, a few that straddle the line between mass produced and crafty (James Squire, the Matilda Bay range) and some nice imports (Duvel, Chimay, Leffe, Sapporo) from Belgium, mostly, but also France, Germany, India, Japan, Mexico, Vietnam, South Africa and other places. A wider selection of, say, Indian beers (Kingfisher, Haywards 5000, etc) can be had at some of the smaller bottle-os in Clayton, which service a large Indian clientelle.

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The haul. Note the Sierra Nevadas--I've heard very good things. All of the others (aside from the minis) are local beers.

Spiced and smoked kangroo -- prep

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Why did I head out in search of juniper and ale? On Sunday night I'm cooking kangaroo, working from a recipe in 32 Inspiration Chefs -- South Africa, Zimbabwe, Namibia [and some other places] for springbok. In the original recipe, some springbok loin is marinated in a spice mix, tea-smoked and then seared in a pan. It's accompanied by, among other things, a verjuice reduction, an apple chutney, parsnip puree and braised radicchio. It's a little more involved than what I'd normally make for dinner, but it's the weekend, school holidays (I'm a teacher) and the moment I saw some of the springbok/kudu/etc recipes in that book I was really keen to try all of them with 'roo fillets. Kangaroo, incidentally, is the most widely avaliable game in Australia--most supermarkets will sell the 'Macro Meats' brand fillets, steaks, 'kanga bangers', hamburgers, mince, mini-roasts and a variety of pre-marinted products, including sis kebabs and spiced steaks. Through a decent butcher, you can also order in--or sometimes even find, if you're lucky--kangaroo meat from other companies and in other cuts, including tail. In Queen ViC Market you'll maybe find 'roo biltong or salami. It's very lean and a bit like venison in terms of flavour--a bit sweet, a bit of iron, a meat for people who like meat. It's disgusting if over- or under-cooked, too. A lot of people don't like it because their one experience was negative--it's so easy to ruin. An increasing number of fine dining restaurants, including Vue de Monde, The Point and Jacques Reymond, are starting to include 'roo on their menus.

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The 'roo fillets, sitting in a marinade comprised of cumin, coriander seeds, chilli, mustard seeds, juniper, salt (I used some of the smoked salt), black pepper, soy sauce, treacle, olive oil and Worcester sauce.

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Verjuice reduction (water, sugar, verjuice).

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The apple chutney (Granny Smiths, red onion, sultanas, tomato paste, garlic, ginger, celery, brown sugar, red wine vinegar, water, cinnamon, nutmeg, bay, cardmom and cloves).

When I return home from the Open I'll set to work on the last minute elements of the dish--the parsnip puree, the radicchio and some polenta (corn meal seemed like a nod to the African origins of the dish, while ticking off the starch requirements nicely). Instead of smoking the fillets in the oven with rooibos tea, orange zest, star anise and cinnamon as in the original springbok recipe, I'll load up my smoker with some hickory chips. The dish shall be served with much beer.

Chris Taylor

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I've never met an animal I didn't enjoy with salt and pepper.

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Harare, Victoria Falls and some places in between


#2 rotuts

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Posted 21 January 2012 - 06:15 AM

many thanks for all the pics and hard work setting them up.

i very much enjoy 'tours' of other countries food-ie stores.

an enlighted series from your way were the early seasons of Food Safari where the host went into ethnic stores with a chef and pointed out what the stuff was.

very interesting.

one question: on the unami pic, there was a slim bottle of "ABC" but what was it? Soy sauce?

thanks again.

#3 C. sapidus

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Posted 21 January 2012 - 06:31 AM

Excellent and comprehensive start, Chris. I feel like I could fly to Melborne and know exactly where to go shopping!

I will be interested to hear how Sierra Nevada survived its trip to Australia (I like the Porter, FWIW). Beer that has traveled long distances sometimes disappoints.

I look forward to the ‘roo, and to the rest of your week.

#4 nikkib

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Posted 21 January 2012 - 08:49 AM

What a great start to the week - this is shaping up to be a wonderful blog, thanks Chris!
"Experience is something you gain just after you needed it" ....A Wise man

#5 LindaK

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Posted 21 January 2012 - 09:33 AM

Chris, thanks for blogging! I'm an admirer of your cooking, so am looking forward this.

I will forever be envious of anyone who has lemons growing in their back yard.


 


#6 Hassouni

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Posted 21 January 2012 - 10:05 AM

Your choice of shopping is quite enviable! I'm looking forward to this.

Would you say in Oz there's a greater mixing of food cultures? In the States I feel you can find most things in the bigger urban areas, but most people aren't that adventuresome. Or is it just a case of immigrants from X eat X food, and immigrants from Y will eat Y food, without much crossing over?

#7 heidih

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Posted 21 January 2012 - 12:15 PM

Brilliant start Chris! How did you familiarize yourself with the ingredients and foods from other countries? It was eating fantastic Thai food in Sydney in the early 90's that got me experimenting with SE Asian cuisines.

#8 Keith_W

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Posted 21 January 2012 - 02:49 PM

Great start, Chris! Given that i'm in Melbourne as well (but a different part of the city) it will be interesting to read about your experience.

Hassouni, Melbourne is a very multicultural city. There are Indians, Pakistanis, Chinese, Vietnamese, Japanese, Koreans, Thais, Philipinos, Greeks, Italians, French, Germans, Dutch, Spaniards, Portuguese, Russians, Yugoslavians, Africans (mostly from Somalia and South Africa), Lebanese, Israelis, Iranians, Iraqis, Afghans ... and the occasional Anglo ;) I know how to say good morning in 15 different languages. All these ethnic groups have their own enclaves, many have specialty shops for food and music, and many more have restaurants. I am lucky to live in a city like this.
There is no love more sincere than the love of food - George Bernard Shaw

#9 Hassouni

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Posted 21 January 2012 - 03:33 PM

Man, and Melbourne has the best music scene right now....jealous!

#10 SylviaLovegren

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Posted 21 January 2012 - 03:42 PM

So interesting!

I have no idea what kangaroo tastes like. Chicken? :)

Looking forward to exotic cookery from far away...

#11 Shalmanese

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Posted 21 January 2012 - 05:06 PM

I've visited and lived in many great food cities around the world and I'm still convinced Melbourne might be the best food city in the world. That first post was an excellent example of what I love so much about cooking in Melbourne.
PS: I am a guy.

#12 Darienne

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Posted 21 January 2012 - 06:04 PM

Questions for when you have time. How does the average kangaroo make its way from hopping around into the meat counter? Are they farmed? How old are they when killed? Do you eat the liver, kidneys, etc? Shot wild? Who dispatches them? Etc.
Darienne


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Cheers & Chocolates

#13 dcarch

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Posted 21 January 2012 - 06:55 PM

Looking forward very much to share your food experience. Thanks.

Just saw a program here a day ago in NYC public TV channel about kangaroo problems there. They are moving into urban areas.

dcarch

#14 annachan

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Posted 21 January 2012 - 07:30 PM

This blog is just in time! Putting the house together this week and we should start venturing out to explore Melbourne soon. I'm taking notes!

#15 ChrisTaylor

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Posted 22 January 2012 - 12:50 AM

one question: on the unami pic, there was a slim bottle of "ABC" but what was it? Soy sauce?


Kecap Manis, an Indonesian variety of soy sauce.

Chris Taylor

Host, eG Forums - ctaylor@egstaff.org

 

I've never met an animal I didn't enjoy with salt and pepper.

Melbourne
Harare, Victoria Falls and some places in between


#16 ChrisTaylor

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Posted 22 January 2012 - 01:15 AM

Your choice of shopping is quite enviable! I'm looking forward to this.

Would you say in Oz there's a greater mixing of food cultures? In the States I feel you can find most things in the bigger urban areas, but most people aren't that adventuresome. Or is it just a case of immigrants from X eat X food, and immigrants from Y will eat Y food, without much crossing over?


Yes and no. There are still plenty of people who are conservative. We are Indian/Italian/Chinese and eat accordingly, save maybe the odd meal at Nando's or McDonald's. Plenty of Anglo-Australians are like that, too. And yet India at Home has a lot of white customers. And you see people of every background in restaurants. A lot of people take advantage of the sheer variety of groceries, restaurants, etc available to them, especially if they live around migrants, like MasterChef or a trendy restaurant or chef is involved. The low prices at many Asian-run grocers, butchers, fishmongers and restaurants doesn't hurt, either.

As I said, in recent years a huge selection of 'ethnic' goods--pastas, cheeses, meats, fruits, vegetables, condiments, grains, seasonings, cured and preserved goods, etc--have appeared in supermarkets. Plenty of us make, eat and order risotto, red curry, moussaka and butter chicken.

Chris Taylor

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I've never met an animal I didn't enjoy with salt and pepper.

Melbourne
Harare, Victoria Falls and some places in between


#17 ChrisTaylor

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Posted 22 January 2012 - 03:48 AM

Questions for when you have time. How does the average kangaroo make its way from hopping around into the meat counter? Are they farmed? How old are they when killed? Do you eat the liver, kidneys, etc? Shot wild? Who dispatches them? Etc.


I had to do a bit of research on this, as to be honest I didn't know a lot--other than that they don't farm 'roo, they shoot in the wild. And that, too, owning a rifle and having the permit to use it doesn't mean you can go out and shotgun Skippy's mum--you need to have a special permit to shoot 'roos on top of the standard and very involved documentation for owning a firerm.

The government gets people to cull 'roos, as yes, there are a lot of them and they don't really have any natural predators other than us. Every year x percentage of the 'roo population is shot, often by people riding in helicopters. The carcasses are inspected (to check for disease, etc), before and after being dressed, then trucked off and butchered, with a couple more inspections by officially important people along the way. It is then packaged for sale. Most supermarkets sell the Macro Meats brand 'roo, but I've seen 'roo distributed by other companies--Yarra Valley Game, Wangara Game--through butchers.

To the best of my knowledge, the offal isn't avaliable for human consumption. Franck Foods sells kangaroo pate, but the liver component of their river comes from venison (and that'd be farmed venison).

Kangaroo meat is, I guess, inexpensive in comparison to decent quality beef--and certainly in comparison to most game (farmed or wild-shot). It's the most readily avaliable game meat by far, too.

Cumulus Inc -- restaurant in Melbourne CBD

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For breakfast this morning we hit Cumulus Inc. Cumulus Inc, located in the city of Melbourne itself, is a very popular bar/restaurant helmed by Andrew McConnell--the guy behind, too, the equally successful Cutler & Co. and Golden Fields, as well as a couple of other (now-closed) establishments. He has a book and, if you have it, he's mentioned in the tome Coco (nominated, iirc, by Shannon Bennett of Vue de Monde, another highly regarded Melbourne restaurant). This place--and Cutler and Vue, by the way--are highly recommended if you're ever down my way. To this list I'll also add (and I'm talking purely the CBD and inner 'burbs, here) Embrasse, La Luna (which you'll see later in the week), Attica, Kenzan (only if you go for sushi and sashimi, mind you), Libertine, Mamasita (probably not a big deal for those in the southern half of the US--serious and decent Mexican is a very rare thing in Australia), MoVida (in all its variants), Rumi and The Press Club. All of these are good, great or excellent. If you can hire a car, make a trip out to Daylesford to visit The Lake House.

Anyway.

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The breakfast menu. The regular menu, if you're interested, can be found on the restaurant's website. I highly recommend the foie gras parfait and, when avaliable, the Fergus Henderson-inspired dish of pig's tail, snails and watercress. The latter is one of my favourite dishes in the history of ever (and worth lining up at Cumulus for, even if you order nothing else).

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The ham and cheese sandwich. Very rich. Good. The coffee (taken black and unsweetened) was decent enough--not amazing, but very drinkable. I'll try and show you a couple of my favourite coffee spots during this week, actually--Melbournites tend to think they're the greatest coffee/cafe (and, too, bar) city in Australia.

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My girlfriend's order, based on my recommendation from last time I breakfasted at Cumulus Inc--a sous vide egg, some sausage and beans. A very serious start to the morning, accompanied by the very gentle pick-me-up that is Earl Grey tea.

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The interior of the place (we were seated against the wall). It's small and, yes, it's usually this busy. Unless you're coming with, say, nine of your best friends, you can't book a table--you need to line up like the rest of us (same applies, incidentally, to the wildly popular Mamasit, which is located just around the corner, as well as a few other fairly new and trendy Melbourne eateries).

Australian Open

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A cup of Heineken (there was a choice between regular Heineken, Heineken draught and some unnamed light beer, as well as some cheap Australian plonk [wine]) at the Australian Open. Those tiny figures on court? Nadal and Lopez.

The food offerings at the Open were pretty miserable unless you wanted to fork over a lot of cash (not that the soggy, cold chips were a true budget option). The less said, the better.

Kangaroo pt. 2

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The fillets drained of the marinade. At this point I probably should've used some paper towel to get rid of the 'dry rub' component of the marinade.

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The fillets after 10 minutes in the smoker at 100C. I could've and should've given them a bit more time in there--maybe 15 or 20 minutes. I used hickory chips, by the way. Meanwhile, I prepared the braised radicchio, parsnip puree and polenta.

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The finished dish. The 'roo came out perfectly cooked, although the spice rub dominated the smoke flavour--it wasn't horrid, no, but I guess I really wanted the smoke to make its presence known and it just didn't. Even with smoked sea salt (which I admit I used sparingly, as I was more afraid of overdoing things than underdoing them). I mean, if you tasted it and I hadn't told you beforehand I was aimed for a smoked taste, you probably wouldn't pick that part of the process--you'd assume I'd just marinated the steaks in spices, dropped them into the grill pan and then rested them in a 50C oven.

Still, they went down alright with the Sierra Nevada IPA.

What's the plan for tomorrow? Still deciding, but I'm very tempted to head to Dandenong to show you my favourite Sri Lankan shop (which sells some nice curries and dahls in its little 'restaurant' [I use that term loosely]), the British butcher, Little India and maybe one of the gigantic halal butchers. Plus, too, maybe the Turkish shop. And, hey, maybe Springvale, the home of a very large Cambo-Chinese and Viet population (and lots of restaurants, grocers, supermarkets, fishmongers, butchers, etc). And, yeah, I'll tidy the place up at some point so I can get non-embarassing photos of my booze and book collections, as well as the kitchen.

Edited by ChrisTaylor, 22 January 2012 - 04:09 AM.

Chris Taylor

Host, eG Forums - ctaylor@egstaff.org

 

I've never met an animal I didn't enjoy with salt and pepper.

Melbourne
Harare, Victoria Falls and some places in between


#18 Darienne

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Posted 22 January 2012 - 08:50 AM

Thanks for the roo explanation. Didn't mean to send you off to do research...not in the middle of also writing and cooking a week's worth of blog. Thanks. :smile:

(I do understand about gun permits. We are Canadians.)
Darienne


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Cheers & Chocolates

#19 robirdstx

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Posted 22 January 2012 - 09:04 AM

Hi Chris, great start! And I am so jealous you got to see Rafa play.

#20 ChrisTaylor

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Posted 22 January 2012 - 09:25 PM

Early this morning I caught a train to Springvale. Springvale, as I mentioned earlier, is home to a lot of people who migrated here from Vietnam and Cambodia. It's Chinese New Year today, and I also visited just after 9AM, so a lot of places--including a couple of shops I really wanted to show you--are closed, but I figure you'll be able to get a feel for the place. Just imagine a lot of cheap, often grotty, sometimes delicious, family-run pho and dumplings places. A bowl of noodles, stir-fried chicken with whatever and rice or a platter of pork dumplings will set you back about $7-10, depending on where you eat. Picture, too, a couple of gigantic yum cha places that are obviously dead at 9AM on a Monday, but packed on Saturdays and Sundays. I don't spend a lot of time eating in Springvale: there's some nice food to be had, but there's also a lot of shit.

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This Chinese bakery is in Clayton, not Springvale, but there are many such establishments in both suburbs. Note that this isn't to be confused with the cheap Vietnamese bakery that sells pork rolls (banh mi) and maybe a couple of other 'Asian' things in addition to the standard Australian lineup of baked goods--jam tarts, loaves of bread (often significantly cheaper than the supermarket), rolls, eclairs, etc. No, BreadTop/Bread Kingdom/etc sell a mixture of sweet and savoury products, ranging from green tea-flavoured macarons to small loaves of garlic bread, from sweet buns filled with mini frankfurts ('little boys' in Australian parlance) to pork floss. There are three such stores in the Clayton shopping centre itself.

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Here's an example of one of the afore-mentioned Vietnamese bakeries. Sadly, it--along with pretty much all the others in Springvale, aside from BreadTop--was closed this morning. The banh mi at this bakery is slightly more expensive than what I used to get just down the road in the Springvale South shopping centre when I worked in the area last year. We tend to refer to a banh mi as a 'pork roll' (for obvious reasons, really, given the most popular variants come with either a smearing of pork liver pate and, depending on your preference, a selection of cured pork products or freshly roasted pork belly) ... altho' going back a while, some people used to call it a 'two dollar bread'. Inflation has taken its toll.

Incidentally, back in the late 90s, Springvale was famous for a number of things--nasty cases of food poisonings from the pork rolls being second only to being able to buy heroin before getting stabbed. Springvale (and, too, Dandenong) have been cleaned up a fair bit in recent years by the police and local council.

Nan Yang Supermarket

Luckily, what is maybe the area's best East Asian supermarket was open for business this morning. Nan Yang sells goods mostly from China and Vietnam, but also Cambodia, Thailand, India, Japan and South Korea. It's a very large store, with small sections dedicated to fresh meat, fruits and vegetables. I wanted to take more photos than I actually did, but I felt the need to get out of there quickly--the little old lady that runs the place was following me around, presumably figuring I was going to steal something.

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Some teas--both the kind you drink for the sake of drinking tea and the kind you drink if you're into quackery (teas with magical healing powers, etc). Most of the grocery stores around here dedicate considerable shelf space to dried goods, beverages and other products with widely-accepted-but-unproven healing properties.

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A freezer full of products including ducks, quail, meat/fish/vegetable/tofu/edible balls, fruits, vegetables, spring roll pastry and dumpling wrappers. The latter two have, in recent years, appeared in supermarkets.

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A selection of dried goods including fruits, vegetables, fungi and seafood.

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A selection of condiments.

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Some canned goods. Products range from the usual--fruits and vegetables--to the protein-heavy, such as seafood of various kinds (tuna, anchovies, mulched up prawns), liver pates, luncheon meats and roast goose.

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Nan Yang's meat section.

Some other Springvale retailers

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A couple of the smaller fishmongers. I was making a beeline for the largest of them but it, too, was closed (it's interesting not so much because of the massive range of shellfish and fish that you can buy at stupidly low prices, but because it has the largest range of live seafood in the area--on any one day you'll be able to get 3-4 kinds of fish, mussels, pipis, oysters, crayfish and large mud crabs, in addition to maybe yabbies [a kind of Australian freshwater crayfish], tiny crabs, abalone, sea urchin and maybe a couple other kinds of shellfish).

Most places in Springvale sell the fish whole, entirely untouched. If you want it scaled/gutted/etc, you need to ask. The prices are very low--I'll show you Queen Victoria Market and maybe Prahran Market later in the week so you can make a comparison--but the quality varies dramatically. You need to know what you're looking for and you need to be able to identify the good stuff from the shit.

Many fishmongers also sell a range of frozen goods. In fact, there's a store (one in Clayton, too--I'll go take some photos tomorrow morning, before it gets too hot) that focuses entirely on frozen seafood. The range runs from what you'd expect--soft shell crabs, lobster tails, whole fish of various kinds, dumplings and 'fish balls'--to some more interesting things, including crocodile tail fillets and sinister-looking bailer shells.

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Some grocery stores with a selection of fruits and vegetables on display out the front. My vegetable shop of choice, Saigon Fresh, was (again) closed. In addition to all the usual suspects--tomatoes, oranges, onions, potatoes, lettuce, whatever--it stocks a wide range of Asian vegetables, from durian to taro to snake beans to sugar cane to Vietnamese mint. All at very reasonable prices. The quality is generally good.

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A butchery. The place next door was closed, which is a shame--they sort of cater to the offal crowd nicely, selling the livers, hearts, kidneys, feet, intestines, heads, tongues, stomachs, livers and god-knows-what-else of a few species.

The species of bird--hard to make out, I know--include chickens (roosters, too) of various sizes and grades (the standard ones, boilers and little ones), quail, 'silkie' (Bantam or 'black' chickens) and ducks. You'll sometimes find pigeons, both little squabs and large 'boilers', in these butchers.

Oh, yeah, and those long, tail-like things? They're 'roo tails.

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A shop that sells a variety of roast, deep-fried and other cooked meats. You can buy pork (in various forms) and duck, of course, but also chicken and quail. You can also buy a big bag of duck heads, too.

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The same shop: a selection of buns, sweet and savoury.

Chris Taylor

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I've never met an animal I didn't enjoy with salt and pepper.

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#21 ChrisTaylor

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Posted 22 January 2012 - 10:01 PM

Little India

Sadly, Dandenong's Little India is under threat. Part of cleaning up Dandenong means redeveloping, er, some of the shadier areas near the train station. And that's where Little India is--right near the train station. Little India isn't shady, it's just that years ago these shops--restaurants, butchers, grocery stores, sweet shops, clothes shops, cosmetic shops, etc--happened to go where the rent was cheap. Some of these businesses have already closed down. Maybe for good. It's not as simple as saying oh, I guess they can move somewhere else, either, as the whole idea behind the Little India setup was that, hey, I (an Indian migrant) might not travel just to buy some coriander seeds, but I'll travel if my wife can buy clothes and we can get a nice meal and then take some sweets home for the kids. The businesses boost each other's sales figures through the power of proximity.

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One of many restaurants that specialises in Indian and Sri Lankan sweets. I didn't go in because, honestly, these products are far from my favourite thing in the world. The savoury side of Indian cooking is great but the sweets are far, far, far too sweet for my liking.

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One of the longest surviving Indian restaurants on the strip.

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A shop that caters to Fijian Indians.

MKS

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MKS, a Sri Lankan shop, isn't part of Little India--it's a couple of blocks down from that area--but it's a very large business that, unsurprisingly, attracts a lot of Indians (and, of course, the area's Sri Lankan location) with its wide selection of spices and other goods. The hot food, selection, is mostly Sri Lankan.

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A section dedicated to the wonders of chilli sauce.

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Spices.

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Hot food and sweets. For a fairly low price, you can sit in the 'restaurant' and have a plate of rice, curry and dahl. I bought a couple of samosas. They were pretty good given I paid a total of $2.

Middle Eastern shops

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Near the market, there are a couple of Middle Eastern shops (there are a few elsewhere, too, but these two have the best locations)--one used to specialise in Turkish goods, including freshly baked breads and sweets, and the other used to go for a sort of pan-Arab feel. Both, now, provide that. The Turkish shop has seemingly changed hands. The selection of baked goods was smaller and the grocery selection was missing a few obvious things--they didn't stock rose water, for instance.

Halal butchers

There are a lot of Muslims in Dandenong, so naturally there are a few halal butchers doing business in the area.

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Some tongues.

Restaurants

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In addition to some small, specialist grocery stores aimed at these markets, there are restaurants selling food from Africa and Central Asia. The Afghan place in the third photo, by the way, specialises in freshly baked naan. It is very, very, very good. There's other food, too, but it's really all about that awesome bread.

Rob's British Butchery

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Rob's Butchery has been operating in Dandenong since forever and has always been known for its excellent sausages. It also stocks a variety of goods that are hard to find elsewhere--both imported groceries (lollies, biscuits, condiments, cheeses) and their own black puddings, white puddings, fruit puddings, haggis, potted hough, savoury pies (both the kind you eat hot and cold pork pies) and gammon and British-style bacon and pork crackling and other cured pork products. They also stock aged steaks (these weren't in the display case today: I assume they're something you have to ask for). The service at Rob's is and always has been very good. Rob was happy for me to take photos and didn't mind individually bagging and labelling my order of sausages (I asked for one of everything). If you visit on Saturday morning, when they're at their busiest, you'll maybe be able to taste samples of each of the sausages, as well as some of their other products.

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Imported goods, ranging from chutneys to biscuits to soft drinks.

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Some imported British lollies.

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Cans of soft drink, cheeses and a few other odds and ends including pickled mussels (which also used to be a fixture of the counter at every Australian fish and chip shop--those sinister-looking jars have disappeared in recent years).

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Pork crackling.

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Eccles cake.

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Gammon and other ham-type products.

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Potted hough, pork ribs and pasties.

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Haggis and a couple of different varieties of black pudding (Irish and Scottish, thin and wide). Note that black pudding, like haggis, is avaliable in large pieces or individual portions (so if you want to sample haggis, you can simply buy a little 'puck' of the stuff and pan-fry it). I've seen some of Rob's offal-based products stocked, with a little bit of a mark-up, in David Jones' Food Hall (the grocery section of an up-market department store).

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Pies in various sizes and flavours.

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Today's selection of sausages. The menu seems to rotate. You'll find other sausages, including very good boerwors, avaliable here sometimes. They're mostly fairly traditional sausages made in accordance with fairly traditional recipes.

The morning's haul

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Pork pies.

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Sausages.

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Some products I purchased at Nan Yang (mostly because I felt weird about that lady following me around) and the two Middle Eastern stores. The latter I actually set out to find there, as I figured they could maybe be interesting additions to my cocktail-mixing kit.

Chris Taylor

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I've never met an animal I didn't enjoy with salt and pepper.

Melbourne
Harare, Victoria Falls and some places in between


#22 nickrey

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Posted 22 January 2012 - 10:19 PM

Great stuff Chris, looking forward to the rest of the week.

Nick Reynolds, aka "nickrey"

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Unless there are three other people." Orson Welles
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#23 ChrisTaylor

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Posted 22 January 2012 - 10:25 PM

The South African Shop

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A little shop in Caulfield South that caters to the area's sizable South African expat population. It also has a cafe ('The Shebeen') and growing competition down the road and online.

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Boerwors, a heavily spiced sausage (if you're curious about what the name means, 'boerwors' is Afrikaans for 'farmer's sausage'). Normally, you can buy a few varieties of wors here--the pork and beef combo is my favourite and, sometimes, a lamb one--but today they only had the 'traditional beef'.

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An assortment of preserved protein-rich goods--a few kinds of biltong (plain and chilli, stokkies [sticks] and large strips), droewors ('dried sausages') and a few seafood products, including kingklip. The South African Shop is the only place I've been to that will actually slice biltong for you--everywhere else claims (possibly correctly) that the stuff will ruin their slicer. The price for this 'homemade' biltong is, incidentally, damn near half that of the mediocre, mass-produced stuff that's readily avaliable at many Australian delis. That being said, the batch I bought today wasn't very good (the last time I went to the shop, the biltong was incredible), paling in comparison to the stuff I had in Zimbabwe.

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Part of the booze section. The wine is mostly cheap stuff, although there are a few more expensive bottles--$70 worth of '04 Rust en Vrede, for example--floating around. The South African Shop also sells a few South African beers and soft drinks.

In addition to meat products and alcohol, the South African Shop sells a variety of cereals, lollies and non-food products (i.e. hair care stuff). And, of course, it sells mealie meal (maie meal, more refined than both Zimbabwe's sadza and Italy's polenta).

Big Boy BBQ

By this stage, I felt like lunch. The Shebeen, the South African Shop's cafe, has some shit reviews on Urbanspoon, so I decided to take a drive down to Glen Huntly Road and test the Urbanspoon app's 'nearby' feature. It pointed me in the direction of Big Boy BBQ, a place that specialises in American-style BBQ. The only place I've seen in Melbourne, actually, that specialises in American BBQ (I mean, sure, you might find BBQ pork ribs here and there, but that's where the selection begins and ends).

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The menu.

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The 'two meat' sandwich. It contains lamb and chicken. If you want, you can assemble two meat sandwiches based on other combinations of beasts (choosing from a selection of pork, beef, lamb and chicken). And, too, yeah, onion strings. The sandwich was good--I don't know if I'd make a special trip to Glen Huntly for it, not that Glen Huntly is especially far away, but I'd probably go back if I was in the area for some other purpose--but the onions were just okay. There weren't greasy or anything, it's just that all I really got from them was salty crunch and the taste of vegetable oil.

Vegetable shopping

Next door to Big Boy BBQ, I spotted a fruit and vegetable shop--mostly normal stuff, but some organic produce and assorted goods (such as pasta for people with weird diets, expensive balsamic vinegar, pre-packaged cured meats, olives) too. I figured I'd pick up the rest of the ingredients for the evening meal while I was in the area.

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The haul and, too, dinner plans

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Biltong, boerwors, corn, a couple kinds of tomatoes, red onion, basil and achacha.

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Afternoon snack of biltong and Sierra Nevada's pale ale (which, incidentally, was one of the two beers avaliable at Big Boy BBQ).

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Chicken 'drumettes' (the, er, 'upper-arm' part of the wing) sitting in store-bought peri peri marinade.

Tonight's dinner? I figured I'd better test out my new gas BBQ with a braai. 'Braai' is the Afrikaans word for BBQ and while Southern Africans prefer coal/timber-powered BBQs (as I do), being able to light the gas jets and start cooking whenever I want to is a really nice thing I've been living without for a while. The boerwors and corn are also going on the BBQ. The tomatoes, onion and basil will form a tomato salad.

Chris Taylor

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I've never met an animal I didn't enjoy with salt and pepper.

Melbourne
Harare, Victoria Falls and some places in between


#24 Broken English

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Posted 22 January 2012 - 10:42 PM

Amazing thread so far, thanks for all the photos and commentary reminding me of my homeland. I'm really envious of the Kangaroo dish, all the cooks at work have been asking me to get some 'Roo for them to taste, and I haven't had much luck so far.


The one place I've found that will order it for me said that they'll sell it to me for $60/pound. Back at home, I can buy four whole kangaroos for that.
James.

#25 Pierogi

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Posted 22 January 2012 - 10:50 PM

What the heck is "biltong"????? :unsure:
--Roberta--
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#26 ChrisTaylor

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Posted 22 January 2012 - 10:53 PM

A product akin to beef jerky. Name refers to strips of rump, basically, even tho' it's not necessarily made from that cut. Essentially, it's lean meat that is rubbed with spices (including coriander seeds) and then air-dried.

Chris Taylor

Host, eG Forums - ctaylor@egstaff.org

 

I've never met an animal I didn't enjoy with salt and pepper.

Melbourne
Harare, Victoria Falls and some places in between


#27 Hassouni

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Posted 22 January 2012 - 11:11 PM

Friends that have been to Australia tell me kangaroo is the best meat they've had, I'm amazed it's all wild-shot.

#28 haresfur

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Posted 23 January 2012 - 12:17 AM

Great blog, Chris. I'm going to have to refer back often. It's really great to hear what's out in the suburbs. So many choices!
It's almost never bad to feed someone.

#29 ChrisTaylor

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Posted 23 January 2012 - 01:25 AM

Tonight's dinner: braaied peri peri chicken, boerwors and corn and the tomato salad from Bourdain's Les Halles Cookbook.

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I sprinkled the tomatoes and red onion with salt (and, in the case of the tomatoes, black pepper too).

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The finished salad. The excess salt is washed off. Tomatoes and red onions tossed with basil leaves and a vinaigrette made with balsamic vinegar and extra virgin olive oil.

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The meat goes on the braai.

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The corn is added, after a ~30 minute soak in cold water. I've never bothered to soak corn before BBQing it, but I've been told it moistens the end result some.

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The cooked meat. Sorry about the shadows.

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Time for an Old Fashioned.

Tomorrow: Monsieur Truffe chocolates, Queen Victoria Market, lunch (I'm tossing up MoVida Aqui, Kenzan @ GPO and Bistro Vue) and good Australian steak.

Edited by ChrisTaylor, 23 January 2012 - 01:46 AM.

Chris Taylor

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I've never met an animal I didn't enjoy with salt and pepper.

Melbourne
Harare, Victoria Falls and some places in between


#30 Lior

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Posted 23 January 2012 - 06:53 AM

Enjoying the thread! Having lived in South Africa, (mieliepap and Boerewors and biltong- from wild animals)I found it cool to see the S.A. part! Braai vleis and all! We also visited Zimbabwe and Zambia- were you at the Boma Boma retaurant in Victoria falls area? Other than that, I feel dizzy by the huge and gigantic variety available shelves and shelves and then more-to the point of loss of senses.How on earth do you know what to pick up, to try and use? Trial and error? Experience from travels? Friends?





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