Monday, 1 September 2014

Grain Express

Hello Fellow Nom Seekers!

Grain Express is situated in the Centro Box Hill's food court and it straddles the divide between yum cha in a restaurant (sit down meal with waiters, trolleys and all) to food court (grab and go).  It is the busiest shop front in the Centro food court complex and I'm guessing it's popular because a) you get fairly decent yum cha offerings and made to order noodles without having to wait too long b) being very informal dining, it attracts the large groups which otherwise would be be split to fit onto standard tables in a restaurant.  Often you would see large gatherings of pensioners or families with young children rearranging the tables and seats in the food court dining area to suit.  

As mentioned there is the usual yum cha fare already steamed and ready to go eg: assorted dumplings, fried entrees, buns.  They also do a made to order noodles and rice dishes.  Here is an idea of what they have which we ordered over several occasions both as a take away and also to have there:  

Fried Kway Teow
This didn't really taste like an authentic fried kway teow one would get at a hawker stall - it's more of an Hong Kong style stir fried rice noodles but it tasted ok.

Curry Laksa
Like the Fried Kway Teow, this did not really taste like an authentic laksa but as a noodle dish, it had plenty of chicken and vegetables and tasted ok.  I wouldn't order this if you are after an original laksa experience.

Century old egg and pork congee with Chinese donut
This they do well.  The congee is a creamy texture with a fair amount of century old egg.  And who does not like a fried savoury donut to dunk in?

BBQ pork puff and custard egg tart
Their custard egg tarts are just as good as a restaurants.  Which is a dangerous thing because it is all too easy to order a plate or two, or three...

Fried calamari 
 The fried calamari are a bit of hit and miss.  Whilst anything deep fried is delicious in my book and calamari at that, the tentacles can sometimes be a bit chewy.  On the up side, you get a good jaw workout.

Fried prawn wantons
These fried prawn wantons along with the custard egg tarts are my pick of bunch.  The wantons are chock full of prawn mince and being deep fried, makes it even more moreish.

Grain Express - yes it's in a food court but if you can get over that fact, it does fairly good yum cha offerings for those in a rush or wanting very very informal dining.  I would not recommend their take on traditional hawker stall food eg laksas, fried kway teow, etc as there are plenty of other places which can do it better.  However Grain Express' congee, dumplings and custard egg tarts are pretty decent.

Grain Express on Urbanspoon

Until next time...

Friday, 29 August 2014

Slow Roasted Ham & Pea Soup

Hello Fellow Nom Seekers!

I have discovered pre made slow roasted hickory flavoured ham at my deli and it's a life changer.  It made knocking up a comforting pot of ham and pea soup a cinch and it taste waaaay better than any canned version.

To make enough for eight bowls, you will need:

  • 500g of slow roasted ham.  I bought the Tilbaldi brand and according to their label, it's been slow roasted for 10 hours.  That's good enough for me. 
  • 11 cups of stock
  • 1.5 cup of dried peas and/or beans
  • mixed herbs - I used fresh tarragon
  • 1 carrot
  • 2 sticks of celery
  • 1 onion
  • tablespoon of olive oil
  • tablespoon of chia seeds (optional)

  • I soaked the peas and bean mix overnight then rinse and drain
  • Chop carrot, onion and celery then fry in pot with the oil
  • Once veggies and tarragon are soft, add the peas/bean mix and the liquid
  • Bring to boil then reduce heat to simmer for 45 mins
  • At this stage I roughly blitzed the soup with a stick blender
  • Roughly shred, chop the ham and add to the soup
  • Throw in the chia seeds if using.  Stir to distribute
  • Serve with a big chunk of bread and butter!
With the chia seeds thrown in

Wednesday, 27 August 2014

Shizuku Ramen

Hello Fellow Nom Seekers!

I was the lucky plus one guest for lunch at Shizuku which is a modern take on a traditional ramen restaurant.  By modern take I mean, they had many creative spins on typical noodle house fare.  For instance, we ordered a cha su souvlaki which was all that you would expect of a Greek souvlaki (wrap, lettuce, salad elements like leek and cucumber) but with the Japanese roast pork interior and with an Asiatic bent of chilli mayo and sichimi sauce.  It was absolutely delicious and as an entree, a great starter to share.  It tasted very similar to a Peking duck pancake eg roasted meat, slightly sweet sauce, egg pancake....mmm....

Cha Su Souvlaki
To further demonstrate their creativity, the green tea came with a little nibble on the side.  These were savoury popcorn.  It tasted like they have been lightly sprayed with soy sauce or similar.

For mains we both ordered the ramen...for how could we not as this was their specialty?  There were many creative versions of ramen.  Of note was the ramen burger.  But being a ramen traditionalist, I decided to try their kimchi ramen.  I loved the juicy slices of pork with just the right amount of fatty to lean meat ratio.  The egg was wonderfully boiled, just setting on being gooey.  The kimchi itself wasn't the fiery hot type so very enjoyable to eat.  The soup was hearty and comforting.  Apparently the broth has been boiled for at least 10 hours to get the concentrated flavours.  The noodles had a nice bite to them which was in a whole different league to 2 min noodles.

Kimchi ramen

My friend ordered the Shoyu ramen.  The broth for this one was mind blowing.  It was tasted very complex.  I suspect a variety of meats were used to create the broth.  The broth of the Shoyu tasted like a labour of love.
Shoyu ramen
The interior of Shizuku was all about glossy black walls and statement lighting.  It had great ambience.  It is situated on the same strip of Victoria St as the pho shops and offers an alternative to the usual noodle shops.  

Shizuku Ramen on Urbanspoon

Until next time...

Tuesday, 19 August 2014

Lucy's Divine Cafe

Hello Fellow Nom Seekers!

P has introduced me to Lucy's Divine Cafe for a fix of Mauritian cuisine.  The cafe part of Lucy's is an off shoot from their already well established bakery.  We would typically buy a selection of home style foods as a take away for Sunday lunch and have enough for leftovers at night.  Here is an idea of what they serve:

Gateau arouille and gateau piment

Interior of gateau arouille (taro fritter)

Interior of gateau piment

I love their gateau arouille which are taro root fritters.  They are super crunchy with a hint of ginger and sweetness.  Kiddo loves their gateau piment which are spicy chickpea fritters.

For mains, we order the usual suspects:  beef briyani which came with boiled eggs (love this way of serving), fried rice with chicken and a curry.


Fried rice

Beef curry and roti
To accompany the mains, we got mango and mixed vegetable achar which was more than plenty to keep for the remainder of the week.

Mango achar

Mixed vegetable achar
Most of the mains are less than $15 and the serving sizes are generous.  The briyani and the gateau arouille are definitely a drawcard.  If you are curious about Mauritian food, this is a good place to try.

Lucy's Divine Cafe on Urbanspoon

Until next time...

Tuesday, 12 August 2014

Food Travelogue - Malaysia, The Chicken Rice Shop

Hello Fellow Nom Seekers!

Not long ago we accompanied Kiddo on her pilgrimage to Legoland in Johor, Malaysia.  Our driver recommended we avoid the usual theme park food and opt for one of the restaurants in the Medina Complex next to Legoland.  He actually recommended The Chicken Rice Shop as it had a reputation of being a family restaurant and reasonably priced.  If I had to compare The Chicken Rice Shop to something familiar in Australia, I would say it is a chicken rice equivalent of the Grill'd burger joints.

We ordered two of their meal 'pax 'and an additional noodle for Kiddo.

I had the Healthy Meal  (RM 16.50 which roughly translated to $5-ish AUD, it was a bargain!).  Here's what I got, including a cup of tea (not pictured):

Steamed chicken breast with all the trimmings (dipping sauces and rice)

Chicken soup, soya egg and braised tofu

Pak choy
I very much enjoyed my Healthy Meal.  The chicken was silken and well cooked.  The veggies were steamed nicely and not over done.  Loved the soya egg and tofu and could have easily eaten more.  I didn't drink the soup as I feared it looked a bit greasy.  For under $6 AUD, it was a very decent meal and way better than fast food option.

P ordered the Hainanese Chicken Rice Meal (RM 15.50).  The following is what came with the pax (tea not pictured).  I just realised upon uploading the pictures, they forgot to give us the Ipoh bean sprouts which supposedly came with the pax.

This is the Hainanese curry chicken, rice, soup and the sweets

Nyonya Pai Tee
P reported he really enjoyed the curried chicken.  We didn't eat the Pai tee or the sweets as it looked really sugary.  Too bad we only realised the bean sprouts were MIA after we left the country.  But once again, for approximately $5 AUD, it was great value.

Kiddo had a bowl of laksa (RM 11.90).  It looked very fresh and plenty of veggies within.

For more details on The Chicken Shop(s) peppered throughout Asian, click here. When travelling through Malaysia and Singapore, I would definitely pick The Chicken Rice Shop over say, McDonalds or other fast food outlets purely because it offers fairly healthy fare at reasonable prices.

Until next time...

Thursday, 7 August 2014

Food Travelogue - Singapore Part 5 - Imperial Treasure

Hello Fellow Nom Seekers!

We had time to kill whilst waiting for our flight back home at Changi Airport and decided to check ourselves in at the Crowne Plaza Hotel next to Changi for a lie-down and a freshen up.  That was when we stumbled upon Imperial Treasure which was located within Crowne Plaza Hotel.  Even though it was neither lunch nor dinner time, we decided anytime was yum cha time.

The yum cha was an 'order off the menu' affair rather than a 'pick off the trolley' type.  This was perhaps because we were eating around 3pm.  The service was very attentive and we were offered a plate of honeyed cashews upon arrival.  Thinking it was a gratis amuse bouche, we quickly scoffed down said unsolicited nuts but got a bit irked when the billed came and we discovered we were charged for them. It was only $3.70 or thereabouts but it was more the principle of the matter.

But having said that, the yum cha itself was a delight.  We ordered the cholesterol laden fried octopus coated with salted duck egg yolk.  OMG, anything coated in duck egg yolk is a winner, never mind the angioplasty I require later.

Octopus coated with salted duck egg yolk
Kiddo being the only person on this planet who dislikes dumplings and yum cha stubbornly ordered a beef brisket noodle soup.  It was very flavoursome with the five spiced broth and the melt in your  mouth brisket.
Beef brisket noodle soup
It would not be yum cha without prawn dumplings.  These were ok.  Not vile but nothing to rave about.  

Prawn dumplings
Feeling like I should eat at least some vegetative matter, we ordered the turnip cake as our concessionary vegetable.  This was very tasty with loads of Chinese sausage within.  

Pan fried turnip cake
Whilst the prawn dumplings were underwhelming, the siu mai was fantastic!  They were chock filled with seafood.
Siu Mai
Last but not least, another yum cha staple, the prawn rice noodle rolls.  These were very moreish.

Prawn rice noodle rolls
Imperial Treasure - a very pleasant way to while away the hours during a layover at Changi Airport.  Please see here for Imperial Treasure's contact details and website.

Until next time...

Tuesday, 5 August 2014


Hello Fellow Nom Seekers!

My dear friends V & A were joined in holy matrimony a few weekends ago.  The ceremony was touching and humorously reflected their personalities and the food at the reception was ah-may-zing!  I count myself blessed to have friends who love their food because it guarantees good eating in their company.

The reception dinner was held at Matteo's in North Fitzroy which dabbles in a bit of Italian-Asian fusion.  I am generally wary of fusion cuisines but the folks at Matteo's somehow marry these diametrically opposite food cultures up and create exquisite plates to remember.

To prove my point, here is what we had:

Soft boiled duck egg coated with yuzu curd, organic quinoa salad with avocado, hazelnuts, Myrtleford ricotta and preserved lemon
We got to pick out our own entree and main from a selection.  For entree I could not resist the duck egg.  In general, I love a good boiled egg - it's simple but perfect at the same time.  The accompanying quinoa was complex and interesting with crunchy nuts and creamy avocado and the zing of the preserved lemon.  Yum!

Japanese seafood plate
P ordered the Japanese seafood plate which looked like works of art.  My photography does not do this justice (the room was romantically lit = dim,  which did made it difficult for a hack like me to take a decent shot).  The trio consisted of:  Hiramasa kingfish sashimi, shrimp remoulade with kaffir lime and lemongrass;  tempura Balmain bug tail, wakame seaweed salad and teriyaki glazed smoked eel, coddled egg and potato salad with kewpie mayo.

Crisp skin Cone Bay barramundi, jasmine rice congee with scallop & freekah, finger fennel & mustard green
Being Asian, I am partial to a bit of congee so this was my selection of mains.  The congee tasted of the sea. with chunks of scallops throughout.  I would go so far to say that the congee rivalled my mum's.   The barramundi was nicely cooked ie the flesh still held together.  Sometimes when barras are badly cooked (eg when I cook it) the flesh tends to fall apart.

Seared wagyu beef skirt steak, tamarind beef sauce, panko-crumbed tomato-sambal eggplant, braised snake beans, bell pepper piperade

This was P's mains choice.  He was still reminiscing about the wagyu a week later.  The mains came with sides.  If veggies tasted this good all the time, I would happily be a vegetarian.

tatsoi salad with nashi pear and daikon, dried wasabi peas, wasabi mayonnaise

Fried royal blue potatoes, sesame and furikake salt
The dessert was our own tasting plate with three small tastes:

Five spiced quince & pistachio frangipane tartlet

Coconut milk panna-cotta with plum wine jelly

Warm, dark chocolate fondant pudding
It was a beautiful evening celebrating a beautiful couple *sniff*

After such a lovely experience, I have decided to have my birthday dinner at Matteo's! So hopefully  more pics to come later on this year.

Matteo's Restaurant on Urbanspoon

Until next time...

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