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Sourdough – a work in progress update

June 8, 2012

Mr Potato Bread
Mr Potato Bread II

If you follow me at all on the Twitters or Instagram, you may have an inkling of my current bread baking obsession. Ever since attending the Brasserie Bread Art of Sourdough baking class back in April, I’ve been baking sourdough bread pretty much every week! I’ve found that once you get the starter going, and maintain a feeding schedule – it almost seems like a waste not to bake – since so much flour and effort goes into keeping that thing alive!

Sourdough Starter
My starter, Mr Stay Puft

Sourdough does take a long time to make from start to finish. It requires a much longer proofing time than yeasted doughs – yeasted doughs typically take 1-2 hours to prove, whereas sourdough needs to sleep overnight in the fridge for 8-24 hours! It does mean that if I want a fresh loaf of sourdough for Saturday brunch for instance, I have to start planning for it on Thursday! But with the super crackly crust, chewy crumb and awesome flavour, it is so worth it. And fresh hot bread out of the oven is just amazing (my friend Zay and I have dubbed the feeling of accomplishment as “home-baked smugness”)

Here’s a photo of my very first sourdough loaf baked from Mr Stay Puft! Even after the confidence boosting Brasserie Bread class, part of me was still so sceptical that my dinky little fermented mixture of flour and water could create bread.




What I really love about baking right now, is that every loaf turns out different!

Maybe proper bakers learn proper consistency, but at the moment it’s kind of exciting waiting by the oven, seeing what results will turn out!

There’s so many variables that can affect the end result – from hydration of the dough, final proofing time, oven temperature and the amount of steam in the oven. I’ve tried a few different methods to create steam… first with a spray bottle – a bit inefficient I thought. I’ve also tried a tray full of icecubes. But the best results I’ve gotten is filling a preheated tray on the lowest rack with boiling water just before I put the dough in (and then misting on top just for luck!).

I like documenting my funny little loaves so I can see what worked and what didn’t in terms of shaping and slashing. There are so many different ways to slash bread! And there’s no real right or wrong answers. At the moment I’m trying really angled cuts, so that I can get the cool “ears” on the bread.

Here’s some photos of the different loaves I’ve baked over the past few months, in chronological order:


I like to call this one Frankenbread

You can see the first few ones I baked look a little anaemic and dry. The later loaves have much better colour and shine, plus the pretty blistering on the surface of the crust. I think this is because I’m better at leaving the loaves in the oven for a bit longer to brown (not as paranoid about burning them, like I was my first few loaves) – plus the added steam. I’ve found that steam in the oven not only improves the appearance of the crust, it helps make your dough surface more flexible… so that it can grow in the oven nice and uniformly (rather than cracking and busting out like my Frankenbread!).

A really shallow angled slash…

… creates a really cool lifted “ear”

This deep vertical slash on the other hand creates a really flat effect

Big air bubbles!

Mr Potato Bread:
Mr Potato Bread
Trying out Bourke St Bakery’s sourdough variation, Mr Potato Bread – roast potato chunks with rosemary (with poppy seeds instead of the suggested nigella seeds because that’s all I had in the cupboard) – I added the extra ingredients after mixing my dough, just before the bulk prove.

Mr Potato Bread
In a boule shape this time

Mr Potato Bread
I like the star pattern!

Mr Potato Bread

Mr Potato Bread
Another Mr Potato Bread

Mr Potato Bread
I think he’s the prettiest bread I’ve baked so far!

Mr Potato Bread
Steaming innards

Back to the batard with shallow angled slashes. I just baked this one on Tuesday!

Got a bit of lift on the “ears” but next time aiming for more!

Anyway, it’s a learning process, and I’m still beginning!! But it sure is fun (and delicious) learning!


Chophouse – “How to Treat Your Bird”

May 24, 2012

Mel attended the “How To Treat Your Bird” masterclass as a guest of Chophouse and Pacific Restaurants

It’s definitely true that I cook more sweet things than savoury. I actually find cooking meat a bit intimidating, especially chicken. Such a fine line between salmonella and a totally dry and tasteless bird (in my unskilled hands anyway!!).  So when Sarah from Pacific Restaurant Group asked if I’d be interested in participating in a poultry cooking masterclass at Chophouse with head chef Eric Tan, I couldn’t say yes fast enough.

If the name isn’t self-evident enough, most people know Chophouse for their steaks. You may even have seen some posts on their famous 1.5-1.8kg Black Angus Tomahawk steaks! But according to Chef Eric, some of their most popular dishes are their chopped salads. In fact there’s a member of staff and a whole section of the kitchen dedicated to making the 6 different salads on offer! Not bad for a steakhouse right?

Chophouse - How to Treat Your Bird
Chophouse - How to Treat Your Bird

Whether by coincidence or design, all six of us bloggers in our class “How To Treat Your Bird” (a pun that all the chefs loved) happened to be female, and our 3 chefs male (though we were introduced to a female chef later in the day). The class focused on how to cook quail, duck and chicken – really giving the chefs at Chophouse an opportunity to show their skills outside of cooking a perfect cut of steak.

Chophouse - How to Treat Your Bird
Very thematic light fixtures haha

It was a huge privilege to be welcomed into Chophouse’s kitchen – our teachers Head Chef Eric and his two sous chefs Elliot and Matt were so generous with their time and knowledge, answering all of our novice questions. And let’s face it, I love a good stickybeak. It was really cool being on this side of the pass for the first time.

Chophouse - How to Treat Your BirdChophouse - How to Treat Your Bird
Head Chef Eric and Sous Chef Elliot (with a wagyu steak primal cut!)

Read more…

Free Comic Book Day 2012

May 16, 2012

The first Saturday of May is International Free Comic Book Day. I can’t believe it’s already May! I feel like it really snuck up on me this year!

Every year, comic book stores all around the world get together on the first Saturday of May to offer a selection of limited edition comics for FREE to anyone who passes through their doors.

As is our tradition, a few of my fellow nerd-friends and I met up in the city to hit up Kinokuniya Bookstore and Kings Comics for our free comic books.

Free Comic Book Day 2012
Moomin comic! Just part of our stash. I also got: Avengers, DC New 52, Adventure Time and Mouse Guard 🙂

Gosh! I don’t know what happened since last year – but this year’s FCBD seems to have grown exponentially! Huge crowds, even LINES of people outside King’s Comics. I have never seen anything remotely close to a line at King’s Comics – let alone one that was over 100m long!

Free Comic Book Day 2012
Free Comic Book Day 2012

Actually I do know what’s changed since last year – The Avengers movie has made superheroes cool again! Marvel and DC costumes definitely dominated the scene. I saw plenty of Thors (and baby Thors!), and quite a few Captain Americas.

Free Comic Book Day 2012
One particularly ingenious costume 😉

Free Comic Book Day 2012
Super cute Supergirl, Batgirl and Loki!

Free Comic Book Day 2012
The awesome-as-usual Kinokuniya staff get in on the action too

Even my friend Chewie decided that he’d gone through enough DC villains (what about Catwoman Chewie??) and decided to jump ship to Marvel’s Avengers this year

Free Comic Book Day 2012
Captain Chewie!

It was definitely more crowded this year – but I kind of loved it. I love seeing nerd culture being embraced and celebrated. And I don’t think I’m alone; the mood remained chilled and fun despite the crowds.

A lot more people brought their kids this year (dressed in super cute costumes!) – which I think bodes well for future generations of comic book fans. Speaking briefly with Chewie (one of the organisers of events at Kinokuniya), I got the sense of how gratifying it must be to see a community-based event like this grow year-upon-year. Not only is it a great vehicle for introducing people to the bookstore… thanks to Chewie, FCBD has also become a venue for local artists to showcase their skills and wares in the Artist’s Alley.

Free Comic Book Day 2012
Local comic book artists and creators in Kinokuniya’s Artist Alley

Free Comic Book Day 2012Free Comic Book Day 2012
Free Comic Book Day 2012

However, my favourite part of Free Comic Book Day (besides the free comics) has got to be taking photos of people dressed as fantastic superheroes and cartoon characters while doing ordinary things:

Free Comic Book Day 2012
Capt America checking out the latest new releases

Free Comic Book Day 2012
Doc Manhattan doing some light shelving

Free Comic Book Day 2012
Poison Ivy answering queries at the comics desk

Free Comic Book Day 2012
Ash Ketchum buying some 2nd hand books

Free Comic Book Day 2012
Spidey running around generally being awesome

Heaps of fun! Can’t wait until next year 🙂

More photos from FCBD 2012 are in my Flickr set here: Free Comic Book Day

You can also check out my posts from FCBD in previous years:
Free Comic Book Day! 2010
Free Comic Book Day 2011 – Food Blogger Yumcha aka Epic Saturday

Free Comic Book Day is on the first Saturday of May every year
You can find out more about it here on their official website

Brasserie Bread – Art of Sourdough class

April 23, 2012


For my birthday earlier this year, my super awesome friends bought me a Brasserie Bread baking class gift voucher!

Possibly because a) they are super awesome friends who know exactly what to buy me, b) I talk wayy too much about how much I love bread (I REALLY LOVE BREAD) or c) this way I would be forever in their debt and would have to repay them with unlimited supplies of home-baked bread

Possibly a little from column a) b) and c)

Without even looking at the schedule I knew exactly which class I wanted to take…. Art of Sourdough!

I don’t think I mentioned it here before, but for the past few months I’ve been tending to my very own sourdough starter (aka Mr Stay Puft).

Here it is in all its glory:

Sourdough Starter
My sourdough starter – Mr Stay Puft

I got the starter from one of my highschool friends, whose dad is quite the proficient home baker. Mr Stay Puft originally started life as a rye starter, but as I fed him white flour he slowly became as white and puffy as his namesake. But despite feeding him for months, I still hadn’t worked up the courage to bake with him!

When I did the home baker class at Masterchef Live with Matt from Brasserie Bread, he joked that looking after a starter was like looking after another child. Not being a parent myself, I can’t completely vouch for the statement’s accuracy but GOSH if that’s what it’s like… the outlook for my future progeny is not favourable. I have to admit that Mr Stay Puft gave me a few death-scares here. Especially thanks to his tendency of getting lost in the back of the fridge. But I’m glad to report that he is still alive and bubbling.

So it was with great excitement that I and my friend Zay (who had quite enough listening to me rabbiting on about bread that she booked herself in as well!) took part in our Art of Sourdough Class earlier this month.

(Sorry I didn’t bring my DSLR to the class (too lazy!) – but I did have my phone. So iphone photos it is!)

Our class was on the Easter long weekend; even though it was a holiday for most people – a bakery never sleeps! According to our friendly instructor Matt, the only day the bakery is really closed is Christmas. In fact Easter is one of their busiest times of the year – with thousands and thousands of their delicious hot cross buns being ordered all over Sydney.

Brasserie Bread Art of Sourdough
Our bowls filled with flour

First Matt showed us how to mix a basic sourdough dough. Sourdough is different from regular yeasted bread because it uses a sour ferment called a starter to create rise, rather than yeast. The starter itself is made from just flour and water (with perhaps a simple sugar like figs or crushed grapes to help it along) – which means the ingredients for a basic sourdough loaf are simply flour, water and salt! It blows my mind that something so delicious and complex can come from so few ingredients.

Read more…

Jazz City Diner – Darlinghurst

March 28, 2012


Call it what you want, Americana has been one of the hottest food trends of recent times. And though I love our Aussie interpretations of American comfort food classics – sometimes it’s great to go to the source. So when I heard Jeroxie was organising a diner take-over – I did the sneaky thing and invited myself along! Luckily they were happy to have me – apparently the diner seats 24 people, and Jeroxie wanted to see if we could fill the whole place up!

Jazz City Diner just celebrated its 1 year birthday in December and has no doubt become a late night haunt of many a hungry Darlinghurstian. Owner/Chef Dan McGuirt serves up New Orlean’s style comfort food in his cosy Art-Deco style diner. According to this interview with him on SBS, McGuirt grew up “with folks from the South and a grandmother from New Orleans” – so you know his groundings are pretty solid.

It’s a super rainy night when we all rock up. Not quite 24, but still – we definitely take up the majority of the diner.

The diner is a cute and cosy place. All the waitresses are dressed in 50s style diner outfits, and whether by coincidence or plan, wear nametags with old fashioned names like “Mary Ann”. So cute!

Jazz City Diner

Jazz City Diner Jazz City Diner
Love those uniforms!

Jazz City Diner
Art-deco style menus

Read more…

Travel Blog – Kyoto – Kokedera Moss Temple

March 22, 2012

Some exciting news to share! One of my photographs of Kyoto’s Moss Temple has been published in this month’s National Geographic Traveler magazine!

Moss temple in National Geographic Traveler

It is so exciting to see it in print! And doubly exciting because I’m going to use this opportunity to sneakily make a post I’ve been meaning to write about Moss Temple. This is going to be super photo-heavy so be warned.

I’ve blogged before about my obsession with moss: How to make a Moss Terrarium, Terrarium Two – but I never blogged about what started my obsession, a trip to Kyoto’s Moss Temple, Kokedera in 2010.


Kokedera literally translates to “Moss Temple” but its real name is Saihoji temple. Saihoji is a Zen Buddhist temple located in Matsuo, Nishikyō Ward, Kyoto. It’s most renowned for its garden – which, as you may have guessed, features a whole lot of moss – over 120 species in fact – all of which is meticulously maintained and protected. In fact the temple is recognised as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.


In fact, the monks of Saihoji are so mindful of the delicate moss that visitors to Moss Temple are extremely limited. Wary of being overrun by tourists – the monks of Saihoji put in place a series of strict regulations for visiting:

  • Visitors must apply in advance to visit – in writing
  • There is a high fee charged for entry (¥3000 per person, approx $35 AUD) – the highest entry fee for any temple in Kyoto
  • Before you are allowed into the garden, visitors must participate in the Buddhist religious rites of kito and shakyo – chanting and copying the Buddhist sutra (Buddhist scriptures)

Intense right?? But so worth it.

We started our day pretty early – since we had a booking at 10am at Kokedera and had read around that we should UNDER NO CIRCUMSTANCES be late.

We took a train from Kyoto to Matsuo:
Train to Matsuo


Matsuo is a town outside of Kyoto’s city centre – it’s incredibly gorgeous… like a storybook or the backdrop to a Ghibli film. Kokedera is only 10mins walk from Matsuo station, so luckily we get there with plenty of time to spare.

After presenting our permission slip, and paying our entry fees, we are ushered into a massive room filled with row upon row of short little desks on tatami mats. We’re instructed to sit in seiza (sitting on your knees) on top of flat little cushions (zabuton). Luckily, though the majority of people in the room were Saihoji’s Buddhist monks and other visiting monks, there are quite a few other bewildered looking tourists there too – and a very helpful monk is able to give us instructions in English.

The Buddhist rites take place in this building. PS. The tables and chairs you see in that photo are a LIE

All at once, the monks begin to chant. WOW what an amazing sound. It resonates through your body.

On top of the low tables in front of us are papers with the Buddhist sutra printed on it – both in romanji for us foreigners to follow, and in Japanese. The intention is for you to chant along, but the monks move at such a rate that it is no time before I am completely lost. There are also calligraphy brushes, sticks of ink and ink stones on each of our tables, but no one around us is using them, so I leave them alone. Only afterwards do I learn that we were meant to be copying out the characters onto paper, oops! No one seems to mind though.

Can I just tell you that sitting on your knees is REALLY HARD! Oh my goodness… after about 10 minutes my legs go completely numb and it’s all I can do to not tip over. Some of the other tourists seem to be having my same problem – I see a bit of wobbling in our ranks. After a while, we start sheepishly unfolding our legs, and instead sit crosslegged. At least we gave it a try!

After about 1/2 an hour – the chanting ends almost as suddenly as it began (how embarrassing would it be to be that monk who kept going?) – small wooden placards called ema are passed around, and we’re instructed to write our wishes on them with calligraphic brushes, as well as our name and address. These are collected, for the monks to pray over.

Now that the hard work is done, we’re given entry into the garden!


There is a brief talk in Japanese for the benefit of the visiting monks, who – much to my delight, take photos of the garden using their mobile phones! Even monks use keitai!


We’re given free reign to wander along the garden’s track – which is a roped and paved walkway (you aren’t allowed to touch the moss of course)

I’d been looking forward to visiting Moss Temple for so long (it’d been my desktop wallpaper at work for for a few months beforehand as motivation) – and amazingly it’s even more beautiful that I imagined.



Moss up close

It was pretty overcast, but the sun came out halfway through our visit! How magical

The famous moss bridge


Me being a dork

You can check out more of my photos from Moss Temple (including more of me being a dork) here on Flickr.

I can honestly describe it as one of the most beautiful and amazing places I’ve ever been to – but I like I said, it takes a bit of effort to get to. Here’s my handy guide –

How to Visit Moss Temple/Kokedera/Saihoji:

Read more…

[Recipe] Potato, Rosemary and Caramelised Onion Schiacciata

March 19, 2012

Potato and Rosemary Schiacciata

Potato and Rosemary Schiacciata

I don’t know if any of you have the Bourke St Bakery cookbook – if you don’t know of it, it’s a crazy beautiful behemoth of a baking manual from one of Sydney’s most famous bakeries:

My friend bought it for me for my birthday one year and I totally recommend it. The recipes are gorgeously shot and the book is beautifully designed and astoundingly comprehensive. Do you like Bourke St Bakery’s pork & fennel sausage rolls? The recipe is in there. Ginger brulée tarts? Yup. In there too. Pretty much everything I can think of is in there. It’s quite generous of them to be so open about their recipes.

THE ONLY PROBLEM IS… as a baking novice, I find the recipes pretty daunting! I can see why giving away all their secret recipes does their bakeries no harm – I don’t know about you, but after learning how much effort and hours it takes to bake a humble loaf of soy & linseed sourdough bread, PHEW… I am definitely in need of some sort of delicious chocolate tart thingy to recover (and yes please… I’d like someone else to bake it for me).

The recipes sound so good though – and the photos so tempting. So, I will confess to you now – I’ve taken to cutting corners here or there. So here is my hodgepodge version of Bourke St Bakery’s Potato Schiacciata, which I made to take to a friend’s housewarming! The topping is adapted from the Bourke St Bakery recipe, but to make things easier for me – I reused the Brasserie Bread recipe for Schiacciata con L’uva that I posted about previously on my blog. If you’ve never made bread at home before – the Brasserie Bread Schiacciata dough is a dead easy beginner’s recipe – and I’ve posted a lot of tips if you’re just starting out!

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Folding your dough

Potato and Rosemary Schiacciata Potato and Rosemary Schiacciata
Schiacciata ready to go into the oven

Potato and Rosemary Schiacciata
I made a smaller vegetarian version for my vego friend (sans proscuitto)

Potato and Rosemary Schiacciata
The finished result!

Potato, Rosemary and Caramelised Onion Schiacciata

(adapted from Bourke St Bakery and Brasserie Bread recipes)


Schiacciata dough (instructions are at this blog post)
4 onions, sliced (the original recipe calls for 1.1kg of onions which I found a bit too much. 4 large onions worked fine with my bread dough.)
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 desiree potatoes (in my version, I used around 6 unpeeled baby chat potatoes and had some potato slices left over)
salt to taste
Prosciutto (optional)
Fresh rosemary sprigs


Start by following the recipe for Schiacciata dough. Once your dough is in the fridge to rise – you can start prepping the toppings.

To make the caramelised onion
Slice the onions into rings. Heat the olive oil in a pan, and cook the onions on a low heat. Add the tablespoon of balsamic vinegar, and a pinch of salt to taste. The onions should cook slowly for at least an hour – stir occasionally so they don’t burn or stick to your pan. The onions should go translucent, reduce in size dramatically, slowly caramelise and soften.

To prepare the potato
Slice the potato thinly using a mandolin (of if you are very patient – a sharp knife!) – to about a 2mm thickness. Give the slices a bit of a rinse. Then place them into another saucepan and cover with water, add a bit of salt – and simmer for 3-5 minutes, or until they are almost soft. Once they’re done, place the slices into a bowl full of cold water until you’re ready to use them.

By now your dough should have finished rising. Take your dough out of the fridge – and gently turn it out onto a tray lined with baking paper.

Knock the dough back by flattening it gently to let the air escape. Pick up the right edge of your dough, and fold the dough into thirds so that the seams overlap (see photos above). Repeat with the top and bottom edges. Flip your dough over so the seams are on the bottom. This creates layers in your bread and gives it a bit of structure and strength.

Press the dough down flat with your fingers to make it about 1cm thick (or you can gently use an oiled rolling pin if you like). Let your dough rest and recover for 10 minutes.

Preheat your oven to 220˚C.

Now for the toppings!

Spread your caramelised onions onto your dough (leaving a border around the edge). Now place your potato slices onto your bread in a scale pattern, so they overlap each other a little bit. Add the prosciutto slices (optional) and scatter with some rosemary sprigs, season with a bit of salt & pepper and drizzle with a bit of olive oil. Let your dough rest and recover for another 10 minutes.

Reduce the temperature on your oven to 200˚C and place your tray inside. Bake for 25 minutes (turn the tray around halfway through so it bakes evenly)

To make it extra crispy, keep baking until your bread goes a nice caramel brown. (You can see the schiacciata I made in my previous blog post was not as thin, and not baked for as long. As a result it was much paler in colour and much less crispy!)


SBS Featured Foodie

February 28, 2012

Hey guess what, I’m this month’s Featured Foodie on SBS! I am not worthyyy…! Such a cool honour!

Check out my interview if you’ve ever been curious about:

a) where ‘crunchytiger’ came from
b) my preferred KFC menu option
c) my addiction to twitter


(Hopefully I don’t sound like too much of a dingbat!)

Here’s some links to some of the posts I mentioned in my lil interview:
Low Light Photography (These are my tips, but please feel free to add your own! The more the merrier!)
Eat Drink Blog
My first macarons (part 1) (part 2)

Do you like my profile pic? It’s from Tokyo Disneyland! Pretty devo that my Minnie Mouse ears didn’t make the cut haha (not gonna lie, when I found out they needed a photo – I went back to the RAW file to bring out those ears!)

As I promised on Twitter, here’s the full photo in its (mostly) complete-eared glory:
Mini Mouse!

Bonus trivia – I’m eating a Mike Wazowski (from Monster’s Inc) melon-pan from Disneyland Tokyo! It was very tasty, though it was pretty hard to take a bite out of his massive eyeball at first!


Bonus bonus trivia –  the glasses I’m wearing in that photo, and the camera that took the photo were both casualties of that treacherous wave at Sculpture By the Sea 2010!

Thanks so much for reading, whoever you are! All your views, tweets, comments and likes mean so much to me. GROUP HUG!!

Hai Au Lang Nuong

February 23, 2012

I was pretty spoiled for my birthday this year! Not only did I organise a beach birthday party, and a fancy dinner at Orto Trading Co (more on that later), on my actual birthday day – my family and I went out to Canley Vale to one of our favourite Vietnamese restaurants, Hai Au Lang Nuong.

Hai Au Lang Nuong

We mainly go here for the charcoal-cooked meats that you cook at your table. I love all sorts of cook-your-own restaurants. They’re so communal and fun, with the bonus of someone doing all the prep and cleaning up! Win!

Hai Au has two levels: a bustling, rough & ready downstairs level, and a much more spacious upstairs. On weekends they turn on the big charcoal grill in the open window, and tempt people in with the smell of chicken grilled in banana leaves. (A definite must order if you visit on a weekend!)

Hai Au Lang Nuong
Chicken being grilled in banana leaves

Hai Au Lang Nuong - Chicken

The menu is pretty massive, and it takes us a while to decide on a few different meat dishes and a few vegetarian ones. But as my mum begins to order, the waitress interrupts to tell us that the tofu dish we plan on ordering is “no good”! She says that Hai Au doesn’t do a very good version of that dish and we’re better off ordering something else. I find it so rare for someone to be so candid, but it’s also kind of nice right? My mum must have thought so too because we end up ordering far more than we intended, thanks to our waitress’ suggestions!! Perhaps that was her plan all along 😉

First up is the Goi bo chanh (Beef salad with lemon) one of our waitress’ suggestions:
Hai Au Lang Nuong
Goi Bo Tai Chanh – $15

Pretty glad we listened, because it’s delicious! The tender beef has been marinated in lemon and fish sauce and walks the balance between salty and sweet. It’s mixed with crunchy shredded cucumber and spanish onion. And you can eat it all piled on top of the prawn crackers it’s served on.

Hai Au Lang Nuong

There are a few types of Goi on the menu, not all of which I noticed are translated into English! In the menu there’s the “Bo Tai Khe” – Marinated sliced beef mixed with star fruit and herbs – but left untranslated is the “Bo Tai Chanh” (Beef salad with lemon) and “Bo Tai Me” (Beef salad with tamarind). So keep them in mind if you decide to order Goi.

Next up are the BBQ meats! We order the marinated venison and beef ($25 each):

Hai Au Lang Nuong

And in the middle of our table is placed a big heavy charcoal grill filled with embers.

Hai Au Lang Nuong
Hai Au Lang Nuong
Grillin timeeee

One of the things I love about Vietnamese cuisine is the abundance of fresh salads and herbs served with each dish. Hai Au is no different – each of the grill-your-own meat dishes come with plates of salad and rice paper…
Hai Au Lang Nuong

…so you can roll your own goi cuon! (rice paper rolls)

Hai Au Lang Nuong
Dipping rice paper

Hai Au Lang NuongHai Au Lang Nuong
Goi cuon before and after!

To go with my meal, I make sure to order a Ca phe sua da (Vietnamese ice coffee)… sooo good.

Hai Au Lang Nuong

Next is the grilled chicken from outside! We order half a chicken with sticky rice
Hai Au Lang Nuong
Chicken grilled in banana leaf

The chicken is so tender and just falls off the bone. And I really love the fragrance of the banana leaf. Make sure you order it with the plain sticky rice too!

Hai Au Lang Nuong
Veggies with oyster mushrooms was a nice respite from all the meat!

and the Seafood hotpot was ok but nothing to write home about:
Hai Au Lang Nuong

(See what I mean by overordering haha)

Lucky last was the Ca kho (caramelised braised fish) – and definitely one of the highlights of the night.

Hai Au Lang Nuong

The fish is caramelised and slow cooked in the clay pot…. and is brought to the table bubbling away. It is sweet and salty and completely tender. So nice! It’s really good to eat with rice with spoonfuls of the sauce mixed in.

By now I am totally completely full, and we actually have to take away most of the Ca kho! (no problem… food like that is always good to eat as leftovers anyway! And it just made the next day’s dinner extra delicious!)

All in all, a mighty satisfying feed, for less than $30 per person!

Hai Au Lang Nuong
48 Canley Vale Rd
Canley Vale, NSW

Hai Au on Urbanspoon

Beach Birthday 2012

February 13, 2012


Gosh, how is it already halfway through February!!

I have to admit I still sometimes write 2011 in the date fields of forms… even though it’s been 2012 for… a while now. Whoops.

The beginning of the year always has a bright spot for me, my birthday is at the end of January! Every year I organise a birthday picnic at the beach. Every second year it has rained out. This was to be the second year in the cycle. Plus… add to that the coolest, wettest summer Sydney has ever experienced, and the prospect wasn’t favourable.



The weather was actually pretty great!! Slightly overcast but warm (the water itself was very warm), with patches of sun… and only a very brief drizzle of light rain.

I decided to make this year’s picnic at Clovelly Beach – which I’d visited before, but never swam at. Thanks to my friends Beanie & Bretto I’ve been getting into snorkelling lately – and everyone’s told me that Clovelly is such a good beach for it, since it is so sheltered and shallow. Plus there is always the chance of meeting the famous blue groper fish! (aka… the fun, socially acceptable kind of groper)

Since we can’t snorkel on an empty stomach… and since there’s not much in Clovelly’s environs for a cheapie lunch (besides the one kiosk there, which looked a little bit too fancy for my shindig) – I took the liberty of ordering everyone some food.

First up I got some boxes of banh mi thit from Hong Ha in Mascot.

Despite being Vietnamese, I can’t profess to being a pork roll expert – so I enlisted my mum and brother as my tasting panel the weekend before. Mum proclaimed the chicken to be her preferred roll, and my brother gave his tick of approval – with the caveat that he wasn’t sure whether they were worth the $5 per roll ($1-1.50 more per roll than the ones he buys in Bankstown & Cabramatta. Being a uni student, he is super srs about a cheap lunch!)

Convenience won out over economy in the end, and I ordered 28 rolls for $140 (no discount, but with a bit of cajoling the lady threw a few extra ones in for free), 2/3rds of them were pork, and 1/3rd were chicken, and the pork still managed to go first!


Banh Mi Thit

Delish! My Banh Mi thit was pretty much awesome. The bread was of course baked on the premises that morning, and was super fresh – crispy on the outside, fluffy inside and still warm. Inside lay slatherings of pate and mayo, topped with thin slices of pork, pickled veggies, cucumber and spring onions. Is it just me or is this one of the perfect forms of food?

Clovelly Beach Birthday
Clovelly Beach Birthday
om nom nom!

For dessert – I visited Pat & Stick’s and Pepesaya’s factory in Tempe that morning to pick up a whole heap of one of my favourite foods… icecream sandwiches!

Clovelly Beach Birthday

Pat & Stick
This is what 25 icecream sandwiches… AKA MY DREAMS COME TRUE looks like

If you have a chance, you must visit the Tempe factory! Pat was there, and was super great in helping me pick out all the flavours (unfortunately, his and my favourite – Caramel Pecan – was completely sold out… noooo!), even rustling up some limited edition flavours from the back of the coolroom (like the Luke Mangan for Virgin Australia raspberry swirl flavour, which is usually only available in their airport lounge). 

(Extremely random but did you know Pat speaks fluent Mandarin?? Completely freaked my poor HK-born boyfriend out with his fluency hahaha.)

Pat was even nice enough to pack them all neatly with dry ice so the little sammiches would last until after lunch.

Once we got going they didn’t last long!
Clovelly Beach Birthday
Clovelly Beach Birthday
Chocolate lace icecream sandwich by Pat & Stick… perfection!

Last year for my birthday, my friends bought me a camera that can take photos underwater! Which means I can show you these…!

Clovelly Beach Birthday
Bretto the spearfisher being impressive as usual

Clovelly Beach Birthday
Got a bit choppy out there for a few mins!

Clovelly Beach Birthday
Female blue groper! It was so friendly! Swam right up close to you and let you pat her.

Clovelly Beach Birthday

Snorkelling at Clovelly was so great! The whole beach is so shallow, and the ocean floor so close, you can swim right amongst the fish. And so many fish! Completely unafraid of humans. They must know it’s a safe area. Will definitely be coming back here again.

The best surprise came afterwards though… guess what my amazing incredible friend and fellow Ace of Cakes fan, Beanie, made me??

Cheeseburger Birthday Cake!

So completely amazing! She made the whole thing herself. The bun is vanilla cake, the pattie is chocolate brownie, fondant cheese, jam sauce and peanut butter buttercream icing! So blown away.

Cheeseburger Birthday Cake!

Cheeseburger Birthday Cake!
Cheezburger Cake Cross-section

If that weren’t enough, I also received some very rad presents too! Including a UKULELE from Jason! (I am currently learning how to play it now), a Brasserie Bread baking class voucher (my friends must have been sick of me rabbiting on about bread-making hehe), a Tintin & Snowy figurine, Kate Beaton’s Hark a Vagrant book, a panda purse, camera cookie cutters, a tshirt about cats, a shopping bag with llamas on it… and THIS TOTE BAG:

Pugs not Drugs
Pugs not drugs. Completely amazing.

As a bonus for reading this far here is the Maru book making me smile like an imbecile:
Clovelly Beach Birthday

:’) friends are the best.

Clovelly Beach Birthday
Our crew all stretched out on the lawn

Clovelly Beach Birthday
Such a good day!

Hong Ha
1151 Botany Rd
Mascot NSW 2020
Ph: (02) 9667 2069

Pat and Stick’s Tempe factory
Unit 4, 3 Wood St,
Tempe, NSW 2044
Ph: (02) 9114 6377
Open Mon-Fri, 9-5pm and some weekends (call first to make sure)