Tuesday, 22 January 2013

Jap's Table, Darlington

Jap's Table is a small and cosy shop situated at a junction near Redfern Station. As soon as I heard the waitstaff who were dressed in their traditional Japanese costumes conversing among themselves in Japanese, I knew this would be one of the very few authentic Japanese restaurants you can find in this area - And authenticity usually means great food!

After ordering our food, we were surprised to be served with a complimentary appetiser each. From my amateur tastebuds, I am guessing this is chicken skin dressed in a Japanese vinaigrette. A complimentary starter is a rarity unless you are in a Korean restaurant or an expensive fine dining restaurant that serves you fresh bread rolls for starters. Jap's Table has definitely earned brownie points for their generosity!

Complimentary appetiser
We ordered Chicken Gizzards and Gyoza as our side dishes. The Chicken Gizzard Skewer was the best I have ever had. It was basted with a Teriyaki sauce. This was no ordinary sauce. It had the right balance of flavours, uncomparable to ready made ones in the supermarkets. The gizzards were cooked to perfection, as they were neither overcooked nor undercooked, which gave them the perfect texture. Gizzards are secondary stomachs used by birds to grind their food before digestion because they don't have teeth. They have a slightly springy texture. Just like calamari, overcook it and it will taste like rubber.

I thought that the Gyoza had good flavour as well. Other than that, there was nothing to rave about this dish. If only the Gyoza skin had a crispier texture, this would definitely be one of the best dishes in this restaurant.
Yakitori-Chicken gizzards $2.80/skewer

Gyoza $7
One of the main rice dishes that you can order from this restaurant is the Cyashu Don, which basically means rice with roast pork. This comes in a lovely bento box which brings the presentation of this dish a step higher. It makes you feel like you're Japanese and your beloved wife has just packed you a special bento box made with love for you to bring to work. The roast pork was flavourful and succulent. Topped with their special homemade soy-based sauce, finely chopped spring onions, and a sprinkle of toasted sesame seeds, this was heaven in a box.

Cyashu Don $11.50
I wasn't that hungry that night due to my heavy lunch, so I decided to order a half sized Yokohama Ramen. It came with seaweed, spinach, a few pieces of roast pork, and half an egg. This wasn't one of the best Ramen I have had but I would score this dish a 7/10. The soup wasn't tasty enough and I still prefer eggs with an oozy egg yolk :p

Yokohama (Half sized) Ramen $7
This place is quickly filled up by regulars that are residents at this area, as well as staff and students from Sydney Uni which is just down the corner. They also have a private Washitsu, a Japanese-style room, ideal for special occasions. I forgot to mention that after we paid for our bill, we were given a small packet of Inari sushi for free! Happy days!

Jap's Table on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, 21 November 2012

Slow Braised Pork with Preserved Mustard Greens

When I received the confirmation email of acceptance from The Recipe Redux team, I was quite ecstatic but at the same time worried when I found out what this month's Recipe Redux theme was.

"Vintage Side Dishes"! I have spent days and weeks scratching my head thinking about what recipe I could post. Mainly because the concept of side dishes is different between the Western and Asian cultures. In a typical Malaysian Chinese culture, we tend to have carbohydrate (mainly rice/noodles) as our 'main', accompanied by several other 'side dishes' of vegetables/meat/pork/curry/you name it, and a soup.

I was exposed to different type of cuisines and ingredients since young because Mum was an adventurous cook. Most of my favourites were the Western dishes that she cooks (which is why I find this theme challenging). When mum cooks, she would cook up a storm, sometimes a 3 course dinner, sometimes a simple but heart warming Spaghetti Marinara or a cheese baked rice, or sometimes an Asian/Western dessert (my favourite would be lemon cheesecake!).

So for the sake of this post, I had to think from my dad's point of view. Dad is more traditional when it comes to eating. He likes steaks but he prefers traditional Chinese dishes. One of dad's favourite 'Vintage side dishes' is 'Mui Choy Pork Belly'. This is a traditional Hakka dish that my dad loves as he is Hakka. I always hear my parents rave about the traditional dishes that my grandma prepares and this dish is one of them. 'Mui Choy' are mustard greens and they are preserved with either salt or sugar and can be found in Asian grocers. This dish is traditionally prepared using pork belly with visible overlapping layers of fat. I would always avoid eating the fat layers because of health concerns but dad would just gulp down the whole piece, convincing us that the fat is the tastiest part, which I sometimes agree. But that might also be the reason why dad has a raised blood cholesterol level.

I'm sure most of you know that fats from meat consists mainly of saturated fats, what we call the 'nasty' fats, because it increases the risk of heart diseases and total cholesterol levels in our body. Hence for this recipe, I swapped pork belly with pork shoulder that has a much lower fat content. The slow braised pork shoulder is so tender you can pull the meat apart with a fork. I promise that swapping the pork belly would not be a compromise. With this healthier tweak, I think this old-fashioned side dish will soon be an all time favourite again.

Slow Braised Pork with Preserved Mustard Greens 

Ingredients (Serves 4):

  • 800g pork shoulder (visible fat trimmed), washed and cut into half
  • 200g salt preserved mustard greens
  • 200g sugar preserved mustard greens
  • 2 tbsp canola oil/ light olive oil
  • 1 clove of garlic, finely chopped
  • 1-inch sized ginger, sliced thinly

  • 1 star anise (optional)
  • 4-6 tbsp of light soy sauce (to taste)
  • 2 tbsp of dark soy sauce or kicap manis
  • 2 tbsp of sugar
  • 3 tbsp of Chinese cooking wine
  • Pepper to taste
  • 500mL water
  • *1 tablespoon cornstarch, mixed with water to form slurry

  • 3 tablespoons of light soy sauce
  • 1 tablespoon of dark soy sauce or kicap manis
  • 1/2 tsp of five spice powder
  • 1 tbsp of sugar
  • 2 tbsp of Chinese cooking wine


  1. Mix ingredients together for marinade. Marinade pork for at least 30 minutes.
  2. Rinse both salt and sugar preserved mustard greens in cold water several times and soak for at least 30 minutes.  Blanch washed mustard greens in boiling water for a few minutes to get rid of all the excess salt, sugar, and sand. Drain off excess water.
  3. Cut mustard greens into 1-2 cm pieces and set aside.
  4. Fry the marinated pork on medium high heat with 2 tbsp of oil in a pot until both sides are caramelised brown. Set aside on a clean plate and throw away excess marinade.
  5. Use the same pot to fry the ginger and garlic until fragrant. Next, put in both washed mustard greens and fry for 2-3 minutes.
  6. Place the pork into the pot, together with all the ingredients for the sauce except the cornstarch. When the sauce comes to a boil, turn the heat down and simmer under low heat for ~3 hours or until the pork begins to fall apart with a fork. 
  7. Pour the cornstarch slurry in if you prefer a thicker sauce. 
  8. Serve this side dish with rice, together with stir fried Asian vegetables or any other side dishes you prefer. You could also serve this with steamed wholemeal Chinese buns.

get the InLinkz code

Monday, 1 October 2012

Taipei Chef, Artarmon

Taipei Chef is a humble Taiwanese restaurant located a stone's throw away from the Artarmon train station. I came straight after work and was there before they opened their doors for dinner. Thank God it wasn't long before they flipped the door sign to 'OPEN' and welcomed us in with warm smiles and greetings. We were of course one of the first group of lucky customers that fed our growling tummies with yummy Asian tucker but the flow of customers came in less than half an hour later.

Along with its bright yellow signage and tourism wall posters of Taiwan, this place has its own unique vibe that brings back nostalgic memories of dining in cosy eateries in Asia.

We did not order the famous Taiwanese style smoked chicken as I wanted to try other dishes that were not reviewed by other fellow bloggers. The smoked chicken did look good though, and I'm sure it tasted  like how it looked. JC ordered rice with a minced meat topping instead of plain white rice. This bowl of rice was tasty on its own, almost too tasty to be eaten with the other dishes that we ordered. The spicy chicken dumplings were one of the best dumplings I have ever tasted. The skin of the dumplings were slippery smooth and the fillings were juicy with an almost bouncy texture. It had a right amount of spiciness and left a tingling spicy sensation on my tongue. The staff were very considerate to ask us how spicy we wanted our dumplings to be when we ordered them.

Steamed rice with minced meat

Spicy chicken dumplings
Next was the stir fried century egg with dried chillies or some may know this as the 'Gong Bao' style. It is usually stir fried with cashew nuts but they used peanuts instead. Personally, I prefer cashew nuts over peanuts. Century egg is one of the many weird but delicious Chinese delicacies that should be in your bucket list if you haven't tried one yet. I remember watching it on Fear Factor once where the host told the contestants that century eggs were eggs that were a century old! I'm not sure how it got its name (perhaps of its taste), but those eggs are definitely not a hundred years old. So don't worry, these eggs are basically eggs preserved in alkali clay and taste a bit like ammonia because of its preservation method. If you like century eggs, you will definitely love this dish.

Stir fried century egg with dried chillies
We also ordered stir fried scallops and vegetables as I absolutely lurveee scallops. I was happily surprised with how generous they were with the scallops. This dish was a playground of textures with its springy well-cooked scallops and crisp vegetables.

Stir fried scallops with vegetables
This place is definitely worth a try if you want good Taiwanese food. Make sure you are there early to avoid the crowd. This is definitely a hidden gem of Artarmon.

So tell me dear foodies, have you ever had century eggs? What do they taste like to you?

Taipei Chef Restaurant on Urbanspoon

Saturday, 21 July 2012

Toast Cafe, Surry Hills & Gelato Messina, Darlinghurst

After failing to have breakfast at Cafe Ish (now I know that its closed :( ), we walked pass this cafe and was tempted by its interior and the crowd of customers.

Toast Cafe has a garden-like decor, with twirls of plants and wooden dining tables and chairs. Service was good, but the cappuccino that I had wasn't too great. 
Spanish chorizo omelette w caramelised onion,
oven roasted tomatoes, grana padano & parsley w toast  $16.90? 
This was on their Specials Menu. A thousand apologies for forgetting what the exact price of the dish was. I thought the chorizo was on the burnt side so it was slightly tough and wasn't that pleasant to eat. But on the bright side, all the other components of the dish was good. The omelette was incredibly fluffy, with fillings in it that were tasty and well-cooked.

Sweet corn and kaffir lime fritters $16.90 
The name of this dish caught my eye from the long list of items on their menu because adding kaffir lime leaves into corn fritters is such a brilliant idea! If only the fritters had more seasoning (as I thought it tasted rather bland and had to add some salt myself), it would be the perfect corn fritter dish. It's served with a perfectly cooked poached egg with an oozing egg yolk, grilled haloumi cheese, tomato salsa, and a good handful of rocket on top of corn fritters with a hint of kaffir lime. This dish is gluten free, which explains why the fritters were more dense than the normal corn fritters. But hey, this breakfast dish would make any coeliac (and perhaps most non-coeliacs) happy!

Pistachio and Honey, apple and ginger cake Ice Cream  
After breakfast, we strolled down to Gelato Messina for a cold and melting, sweet and creamy, treat! There's nothing wrong with having an awesome ice cream like this....once (or twice) a week. I did try to share this with JC, but I think I gobbled down most of it :p The pistachio ice cream I believe is an all time favourite. Honey, apple and ginger cake ice cream was on the Specials board that day. It had real chunks of cake in it, talking about texture. My only dislike was that it was slightly too sweet for my liking. So far, Ice and Slice in Newtown and Gelato Messina are my go to places for ice cream. Tell me what's your favourite place for ice cream and I might give it a try! :)

Messina's signature wall. Where's Wally?

I Scream Heaven

Toast Cafe on Urbanspoon Gelato Messina Darlinghurst on Urbanspoon

Saturday, 14 July 2012

Reuben Hills, Surry Hills

Reuben Hills, the not-so-ordinary cafe in Surry. Forget about bacon and eggs or Eggs Benedict for breakfast or brunch, Reuben serves cafe food with a Latin American twist. While I was reading the blog reviews for Reuben which were mostly positive, I noticed that the price of some dishes had increased by a dollar or two since their opening not too long ago. I assume this means that their food should be pretty good. 

Went there on a Sunday noon, and there was a queue as expected. We had to put our names on the waiting list, but surprisingly we were seated after only 5 minutes of waiting. The place had a slight contemporary pub feel to it, with some bar stools and Kanye West's music playing in the background. The service was friendly and efficient. 
The NOT reuben $16
wagyu salt brisket, pickled slaw, melted manchego & horseradish cream 

A classic Reuben sandwich is a sandwich made with corned beef, Swiss cheese, Sauerkraut, and Russian dressing on rye bread. This, however was the NOT Reuben sandwich, because of the different ingredients used. The meat is tender, flavour well balanced, and it keeps you wanting for more! If I'm not wrong, the pickled slaw had fennel seeds in it which gives it an interesting twist to the normal old coleslaw.

Baleada $11
free range eggs,queso fresco, black beans 
The combination of spice in this Baleada is indescribable. The mashed black beans had flavours similar to a chilli con carne, and I think I tasted kaffir lime zest in it as well. Queso fresco, a type of Mexican cheese, was finely grated in the Balaeda and it was slightly melted when served.  

Skim Cappuccino $4
I'm not a coffee expert, but this is the best coffee that I've had in Sydney and I'm not exaggerating. Reuben Hills uses their very own seasonal coffee blend and Udder Farm unhomogenized pure milk for their coffee. Although it was skim, the milk was still very milky and frothy. As you may have noticed, I took a sip of the coffee before I took a photo of it. Sorry, it was too tempting :p

Reuben Hills also offers a range of desserts and other mains that cause my mouth to water just by reading the descriptions on their menu. Can't wait for our next visit. 

Reuben Hills on Urbanspoon

Saturday, 30 June 2012

Rice Paper Rolls

Ever wondered how to make your own Vietnamese rice paper rolls? I wouldn't say mine would be the most authentic and 'visually appealing' method, but here is how I made my rice paper rolls. If you want or NEED a light meal that's healthy and low in fat (e.g. when I'm having too much fried or fatty foods for too many days), this would be the perfect meal to have. It's also great for when you have friends or family over at your place. Try to demonstrate the assembling process to them once or twice, and I'm sure your guests will have one of the most fun and interactive dinners! I would imagine this would be perfect for kids as well :p 

Ingredients (serves 15 rolls) 

  • 250-300 g chicken tenderloins, sliced and cooked in boiling water
  • 1 carrot, sliced into long thin strips (Julienne)
  • 1 packet of beansprouts, washed and dried
  • 1 oak leaf lettuce, washed and dried
  • 6 spring onions (green part), washed and dried
  • 1 packet of large round rice paper wrappers

Dipping sauce

  • 2 tbs sugar
  • 2 tbs fish sauce
  • 2 tbs lime juice
  • 3 small clove garlic, finely chopped
  • 1 finely chopped red chilli
  • 2 tbs water



1. While boiling the chicken tenderloin pieces, prepare all the ingredients. Slice carrots and spring onions evenly into the length of the rice paper rolls (3-4 inches). Roughly tear lettuce leaves into smaller pieces. 

2. To make the dipping sauce, place all the ingredients in a bowl and stir until combined.

Assembling the rolls

1. Quickly soak one piece of rice paper in a pot of warm water (1:1 ratio of hot boiling water and room temperature water) for 2 to 3 seconds. Place it on a clean plate. Don't worry if it's slightly hard in the middle, it will continue to soften as you wrap the ingredients. The hotter the water is, the less time you need to soak the rice paper to soften it.

 2. Place the lettuce leaves, spring onion, carrots, beansprouts, and chicken 1 inch from the top end of the rice paper. Fold the top end of the rice paper tightly over the fillings.

3. Fold both sides of the rice paper towards the centre.

4. Roll it down all the way , making sure that the fillings are tightly wrapped in the rice paper.

5. It's done! Repeat the process until your tummy feels satisfied :p


  • You could use any other type of protein to substitute the chicken. Prawns, eggs, pork, beef, even tofu if you're vegan.
  • You could add rice vermicelli in the fillings. I omitted this to have a lower carb rice paper roll. Which also means I can fit more vegetables into my rice paper rolls.
  • You can use any of your favourite vegetable E.g. cucumbers, capsicum, etc. Use your creativity!
  • Herbs add great flavour to the rice paper rolls. E.g. Coriander, mint, basil leaves. I omitted them purely because of cost.

These rice paper rolls are very easy to make as you don't need much cooking. Let your (or your kid's) creative juices flow and you'll be ready to rock and roll with these rice paper rolls!

Monday, 18 June 2012

Guinness Lamb Shank

Guinness Lamb Shank 
Guinness stew was one of the items in my 'Cooking Wish List', just because it sounds whacky and I've never tasted anything with Guinness Stout as an ingredient. Plus, my sister cooked Guinness Beef Stew a few months ago and she was bragging about it, so I assume it must taste pretty good.

Came across a Guinness Lamb Shank recipe in one of Jamie Oliver's facebook post and I thought I might give this a try. I like reading through recipes and giving my own tweak to it according to the ingredients I have in my fridge and pantry, because most of the times I could save some money and time out of it and what better way to clean up my pantry! Most of the times my inventions work, other times my combination of ingredients are just ...... appalling :(

But don't worry! This meal turned up pretty yummy! The lamb shanks were so tender that you could use a fork to pull the meat apart, and the gravy had an interesting depth of flavour, although mine wasn't as thick and sticky as Jamie's because I didn't have a stick blender to whiz up the onions that was in the gravy. 

This is a great dinner meal, especially for cold winter nights where you need a warm hearty meal to warm you up. I had this with two handfuls of salad veg, which will wilt when you pour the hot gravy on top of it. The gravy had a layer of oil , which you can scoop it out with a ladle/spoon. This oil is from the fats of the lamb that has melted over the hours of simmering. You should have as little of these as possible because these fats (saturated fats), are bad for your health as they can clog your arteries and cause high cholesterol and a wide range of heart problems. Saying that, red meat such as lamb and beef are good sources of iron and zinc, and it is recommended that you eat 3-4 serves (150g raw weight per serve) per week (1 lamb shank is about 1.5 serve). So just remember to choose the lean cuts of meat and trim off any visible fats and you'll be fine :)

Here's my version of the recipe. Try this out and let me know how it goes. :p

Ingredients (serves 2)

  • 1 brown onion
  • 3 cloves of garlic
  • 2 medium sized washed potatoes
  • 2 carrots
  • 2-3 sprigs of fresh rosemary
  • 1 heaped tablespoon tomato sauce
  • 2 tablespoons Jack Daniel's spicy barbecue sauce (or Worcestershire sauce)
  • 4 tablespoons mint sauce
  • 1 litre chicken stock (preferably salt reduced)
  • 300 mL of Guinness stout
  • 2 lamb shanks, cleaned and pat dried, with visible fat trimmed off
  • olive oil
  • ground pepper
  • 1 teaspoon smoked paprika
  • salt (optional)

 1. Crush garlic cloves with the back of your knife and dice the onions finely.

2. Roughly chop the carrots and potatoes into cubes.

3. Heat up 3 tablespoons of olive oil over medium-high heat. Pan fry lamb shanks until all sides are slightly brown in colour. When the lamb shanks are done, leave them on a separate plate. 
(I rubbed the shanks with paprika before frying it. Not a good idea as it will burn in the oil)

4. In a separate pot (use a Casserole dish if you have one), fry the rosemary sprigs in 1 tablespoon of oil for a few seconds under medium-high heat, then quickly pour in the onions and garlic. Once the onions and garlic are caramelised, pour in the carrots and potatoes and move it around for around 5 minutes under high heat.

5. Pour in around 300 mL of Guinness stout (You'll hear a sizzling sound). Let it boil for a few minutes.

6. Arrange the lamb shanks in the pot.

7. Add in the mint sauce, Worcestershire sauce (I used Jack Daniel's barbecue sauce), 1 teaspoon of ground smoked paprika and a few turns of ground black pepper. Top it up with chicken stock (or more Guinness if you like) until the lamb shanks are submerged in liquid. Be careful of the amount of chicken stock you use as it might be too salty (I suggest that you use a salt reduced stock so that you can add more salt to it if it isn't tasty enough. I used around 600 mL of Maggie Beer's stock and no salt was needed.)

8. Let it boil for a few minutes. Turn the stove to low heat, cover the pot and let it simmer gently for 3 hours.