A WEEK OF QUESTIONS

It has been a big week of eating, but it has been one that has left me asking questions:

1. Why isn’t more pate used in sandwiches here? For example, a mortadella sandwich but with pate in it.
2. Why isn’t the Vietnamese mayonnaise on banh mi sold at the supermarket, like Kewpie? I feel like we are missing out on a world of possibility.
3. Why isn’t there more collaborative dinners between Indian and Burmese chefs? They truly work well together.
4. Why isn’t pavlova rolled more often? The best thing about Swiss roll can be applied to meringue too.
5. Why is it so good to go to a place where they know your name? We all know the answer to being a local with the chef serving up your favourite dish as soon as you walk in the door (roast pork noodles are a case in point).
6. Why isn’t there more spiced rolls? I understand the pleasures of cinnamon, but why not allspice, nutmeg, saffron, or some combination of all of them.
7. Why isn’t cheese included in the default setting of bacon and egg rolls? They add moisture, and, the best kind of mouth feel.


And that is my week in eating and questioning with thanks to K and SD.
























PASTA VS NOODLES?


A little while ago I read Colin Ho and Nicholas Jordan’s article ‘Australians love Asian food, so why doesn’t it win as many awards as Italian?’ I found the article insightful and thought provoking. Not only do I agree with their line of questioning that unmasks the racial economics of food in Australia, but I thought their tone and approach were welcome. And so, I wanted to be in dialogue with them; to complement their writing with my own brief set of thoughts. From this, one could think about whether Asian food is a better fit for Australia than European or whether that simply re-inscribes a new power relation that continues to eras Indigenous presences. We could also ask ask whether money and awards are the best barometers of quality. Of course, they go part of the way to explaining good taste. But, the other aspect that matters is to think about popularity and whether this can be a way to have a good life. As an analogue, other arts, including literature, often try to boost the work of certain individuals through prizes and best-seller status. And yet, these might not be the books that linger longest, connect more truly with readers, or are spiritually meaningful for the authors who wrote them. In that way, we can carve out a space that is built on different foundations rather than simply arguing for the assimilation of Asian flavours into European standards of taste and hierarchy on a continent that is truly Aboriginal. This does not mean we should close our selves, and our palates and terroir, off to the Michelin guide. Rather, it is that we can create forms of criticism and understanding that engage the faculties in new and distinct ways and that connect to our individual traditions in a way that matters beyond ourselves. That is why pasta vs. noodles is the wrong question as is lamb ragu vs roast duck vs kangaroo. We must keep talking and tasting to find a true way forward rather than arguing for one side against another in a food fight that no-one can possibly win.

SOURDOUGH


As some of you may have also noticed, fermentation has become more and more popular of late. For example, the book that kept coming up on my social media feeds over Christmas was The Noma Guide to Fermentation. It is a wonderful and beautiful book. It was also a welcome present for me. But, it is K that is the fermenter in our household. At the moment, she has a big jar of kombucha on the go, and, is about to preserve some lemons. But, it is her sourdough starter – called ‘Diego’ – that has been providing us with deliciousness over the festive period. She has been making bread on a daily basis, and, from a standing start has produced wonderful loaves of white or rye or both. The photos below are in order of what she has made, and, as you can see there is the hand of an artist at play. It should encourage others to give it a go. K recommends you check out the Larousse Book of Bread. 







XMAS HAM + CHICKEN

Here, it is the time of year for salads and seafood. After my short trip north, I came home and craved fish and prawns. In the week afterwards, I ate a lot of sushi and even made a prawn cocktail, crunched up somewhat by the presence of Asian fried shallots. Those shallots, which you can buy in any good supermarket, are absolute winners in my eyes. They keep well, don’t go off, and add a certain something to all kinds of things from stir-fries to hotdogs to tacos. I love them to bits. Given it is summer, seafood and salad dominates the menu, but it is also a chance to roast meat if you have a house that can keep cool. Part of this is the festive season and getting together with friends, where you want something simple and delicious; part of it is determined by tradition. It has been tradition in my family for a little while now that I will bring a ham to Christmas lunch, where we gather at my father’s brother’s house. And, in the evening, for mum’s side of the family, we often have a roast chicken. What follows are some ideas for these two meats, nothing fancy, but something that might be easy to do a week out from the big day.

Ham glazes:
1.     Maple, smoky paprika, whiskey – use the proportions of each that taste good to you. Simmer it a little to thicken it up before you baste your meat and stud with cloves.
2.     Apricot jam, sherry, preserved lemon – a little sweet and sour tang in this one because of the preserved lemon. This one is better if you mix it straight rather than simmer to thickness. If you are so inclined you can place slices of fresh apricot on top afterwards
3.     Orange, miso, ginger – for this you need the zest and the juice of an orange or two. Boil it up with ginger that is a paste (even a little tube from the veggie section at the supermarket) and maybe a tablespoon of brown sugar. I do love this one, for a bit of different flavour.

Chicken Ideas:
1.     Paprika, cumin, coriander powders, salt – all in equal proportions and a dry rub on top.
2.     Yoghurt, turmeric, paste of ginger and garlic, chilli, salt – a wet mix that you rub into the bird and leave for an hour.
3.     Anchovy, lemon zest, green olives, capers, salt – blitz this, stuff it under the skin, drizzle in olive oil. Just beautiful. Also goes well with lamb.


As for stuffing, brown rice, cashews, mint, parsley, dried fruit. Have a good one, stay safe, and see you on the other side.


ON THE ROAD

This is a photo essay of my last week, which I spent on the road. The trip took me from Perth to Port Headland then back again with significant time spent in Roebourne.  Along the way, my brother-in-law and I stopped and ate some local delicacies. This included a Hawaiian Quiche (a first for me) with chunks of pineapple mixed in with the ham, a Maxibon at a roadhouse, then a chicken and kale salad the night we camped. After this, we put away a bain marie breakfast at a roadhouse then bumped into friends who had just been out hunting. We also managed to have some bagels and native berries before finding a true delicacy in 'culinary cream' at the supermarket. It was a gastronomic delight. We cooked at home a lot too, and, were even hosted by JC for dinner as well. All in all it was a good trip, and, I am a little chilly now that I have returned to Perth. Enjoy the pics and more soon!









KIMCHI TOASTIE

To date, this blog has focused on restaurant reviews. There have been a couple of exceptions to that, including posts about Thanksgiving and chicken curry. But for the most part, I have been interested in meals I have eaten outside of home. It has been about the joys of going out, of finding hidden gems, of discovering new things in old neighbourhoods, or simply embracing the suburbs with all that it has to offer, from New York to Margaret River. This is going to change. Now, I am also going to include dishes I like to make at home if only because my readers are spread all over the place. You all though have kitchens that you can cook in, and, it might be easier than coming to Western Australia for a gelato.

I was also prompted to do this after seeing friends’ reactions to an article I shared about what makes breakfast in Kerala so great. A couple of them recalled the putu I used to make when we were students in Canberra. And, I thought of the joy I get from cooking for other people. It also did not hurt that I watched Julie and Julia for the first time the other night, which features a blogger making the full complement of dishes from Julia Child’s Mastering the Art of French Cooking. I will continue to write about restaurants, but I will also pepper this with dishes that I make at home, which might be fun for other people to try as well, no matter where they happen to be.

This brings me to a lunchtime classic that I recently shared with M. (a friend of mine who I met through a trade union). M is a beekeeper and a barbeque master who comes from California. He has spent time in Texas and Japan, which makes his palate and sensibility unique. M. likes to pickle and jam, and, he really knows his way around the kitchen. We were talking, as you do, and he mentioned he had recently made a batch of kimchi at home. And so, I asked him what he does with it? Noodles, rice, meat, by itself, and all the other usual assortment of ways to eat it.


And this was when I confessed that I had been through a kimchi phase where I was eating a lot of it. My favourite way to eat it though is in a toasted cheese sandwich – two slices of sourdough bread, a vintage cheddar, and kimchi in their with it. Butter it up, put it in a sandwich press, and you have a funky, salty, sweet, yummy delicious sandwich. It goes well with beer and can easily be vegan. Nothing is better when you want to mix up the sandwich option. And M. seems to agree, from what I gather, he is hooked on this way of eating kimchi. And I for one, think that this is a great way to mix and match the best of different cultures.

* I also don't mind an apricot jam, walnut, blue cheese toastie; or, a black olive, pickled Japanese ginger, and gruyere number.