Tag Archives: Malaysian

China Bar signature

19 Jul

Remember that episode of 30 Rock when Jenna comes back from a season break 30 pounds heavier after eating a whole summer of Pizza during her run on Broadway in ‘Mystic Pizza: The Musical.’?  Well, DDO didn’t just do a musical tv series.  Or anything to do with Pizza!  But this family dinner WAS most certainly inspired by something on TV (an extremely overplayed, over glamourised tvc on the Chinese cable channel TVB Jade), and left me  bellowing “ME WANT FOOOOOOD!!”

China Bar Signature

Said commercial was for China Bar Signature, an Asian food buffet emporium, offering every possible type of stereotypically eaten asian delight!   It’s a combination of clever marketing, hiring an amazing photographer and offering this “Eat As Much As You Like” haven of food that seems to have made this place EXTREMELY successful, and the whole experience – from booking our table, to the morning of our reservation, to before we arrived, to when we were 3 minutes late, and finally being shoo-ed out once our ‘allocated eating time’ was up – left us speechless… or was that the food coma…?

China Bar Signature is HUGE!  As you drive down Burwood Highway it’s hard to miss this giant food cube of a restaurant as it glistens on the corner lit up by the token red neons that China Bar is so famously known for.  You walk in to find a grand dining hall packed with people, packed with staff, and most of all PACKED with food.  As we are hurriedly seated (much to the distress of the maitre’d we are 4 minutes late, well not late but 4 minutes into our booking time range of 6:15 – 6:30) at our round table for 5 near the entrance.  In case you haven’t picked up already, there’s a reason this place is so damn big.  It’s because when you offer people too much food, with endless food varieties (…they even offered dim sum!  Ummm! Its 7:30pm…. ) people come in HOARDS!!

So in order to deal with the masses of hungry humans needing to stuff their face with limitless amounts of Asian themed fare (present company included…), the establishment has 2 seatings, 5:30pm and 8:00pm.  With our booking for 6:30 we are warned almost every 4 minutes leading up to 6:30 that we HAVE to leave at 7:45 and asked “are you sure that is enough time to finish eating…?”

Dim Sum assortments

Given the pressure from the restaurant to eat and leave, DDO and the Fam had devised some what of an eating plan of attack… which was almost immediately VITTO-ed by JP and I.  You see, N along with Mumsy and Dadsy thought it a good idea to tackle one station per person, to ensure we got to try as much as humanly possible without wasting time.  Clever idea.  But I was only interested in eating an hour and a half worth of unauthentic sushi and sashimi… and maybe a dumpling or 2 (coz eating Sui Mai at dinner times … like eating chocolate for breakfast…!!).  And JP was pretty much all over that Oystar bar (2 rounds worth) faster then we could pour our first cups of tea.

Seafood bar

So aside from the usual fried rice, noodle bar, steamed dumplings -which include xiao long bao and assortment of dim sum dumplings… which I think is PRETTY WEIRD but then again, so is the whole concept of this place! SO sparing judgment.

…there are stir fries,  a Japanese section, an Indian/Malaysian offering, a salad bar (uh… AS IF!!  needless to say that area was untouched on my part… ) Chinese roast meats – which were roast pork, pork belly and peking duck, and of course seafood bar.

Maki assortment

It didn’t take me long to beeline for the sushi bar (which was my favourite part of the TVC) with it’s brightly coloured maki rolls all lined up.  The flavours were pretty standard, but tasted acceptable considering the environment we were in…

Seared Salmon & Eel Sushi

My favourite was the seared Salmon and Eel Sushi, which I’m pretty sure I cleaned out at least a whole platter of each!  They were really fresh and surprisingly, the bed of rice it nestled on was far from being dry and rock solid like many other places that offer this type of sushi.  Although I did manage to try some of the other things, like satay, and peking duck, after about 3 rounds of sushi my stomach was so full of rice I could almost explode.  Thats the thing with “all you can eat”… there really is only so much you can eat, before you feel ill.  And I was certainly well on my way…

mums tailor made fishball noodle soup

Mumsy was probably the smartest with her eating choices and opted to head straight for the noodle man where she was able to tailor make her bowl with choice of noodles as well as assorted dumplings, balls and vegetable accompaniments.   Thankfully for us, her relatively un-overstuffed belly meant she still had room for dessert…

Coconut pudding

Mixed cakes

The dessert spread was just as impressive as the savory food.  So impressive in fact, there was a massive line that wrapped all the way around the dessert run and around the bend towards to restrooms. It may also have been something to do with the fact that it was getting close to that 7:45 cut off.

Offering everything from pastries and tarts, cheese and bread to sponge cakes, cheese cakes and puddings… Most impressively being the retail sized

Pastries & more sweets

freezer full of ice cream sticks!! (You know those one’s you always see at asian grocers that you never quite know if they are icey poles or ice creams… icey creams…?)  By this stage, JP had to excuse himself from being so full.  He literally got up and had to walk around the restaurant. Mum, N and I did a round of desserts for the table, and Dadsy stayed by the table … smart move Dadsy!!

Although we only returned with 2 small plates of an assortment of little cakes and something red beany, we all struggled to finish them, and even the mere hand to mouth action was too difficult.

Freezer full of ice cream poles (?)

We started as a troop bellowing “Me want FOooood!” with eye’s for food being bigger then our actual stomachs, and walked out (to a line of hopefuls outside, awaiting their glorious hour and a half of excess consumption) feeling completely defeated by the Food Monster that drew us in!

NOTE TO SELF: its much funnier experiencing the effects of over consumption through Jenna on TV Land than in real life… should also probably stop eating sundae’s whilst working out on the treadmill….

China Bar Signature

380 Burwood Highway, Burwood East  (03) 9887 8011

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Straits Cafe

6 Jul

It takes a rare occassion to find the DDO team without eat/drink/be merry plans on a Friday evening!  So on this glorious night off from society, the 2 of us jumped at the chance to have a simple night in.  Take out.  DVD.  Eating our emotions!  (I didn’t actually realise how literal that phrase would be until the end of the SADDEST movie.  It literally left me wailing….)  AMAZING!!

Given  N has quite possibly every movie title in her and JP’s DVD collection, we headed to lovely Balwyn for our night in.  The best thing about being in that area is the plethora of Asian take out places that are in near by suburbs (which would normally seem 10 minutes TOO FAR for consideration.)  It was a toss up between Laksa or Taiwanese… umm… no brainer!  LAKSA TIMES!

Neatly stacked laksa for 2

N had recently been introduced to Straits Cafe, serving simple hawker style Malaysian food in Doncaster.  And I do NOT use the term simple lightly.  The whole place is basically a big room, with nothing but an open kitchen and the hustle and bustle of busy chefs/staff and hungry customers.  We call ahead to order and are advised to pick up in 10 minutes.  This night in is fast (pun intended) proving to be a winner!!

Although the takeaway menu offers all your usual suspects: Hawker style Har Mee, Rendang Beef, Belachan Kang Kong and Hainanese Chicken Rice, I couldn’t help but indulge my ‘creature of comfort’ cravings and go with the Curry Laksa.  (Although having a quick perve at what people were eating on their cramped, lively table tops, I’m pretty keen to get back and try myself some Char Kueh Teow and Chicken Rice).

Anyway, the fragrant smell of those neatly boxed up Curry Laksa’s were enough to make me plough through the roads like a maniac… I had Laksa Blinkers! As we unpacked the noodle and soup boxes, opening the lid of the soup box was like being hit in the face with a Food Bomb!   The steam and smell of that thick coconutty soup was thick and hearty… although opening the box housing the noodle/chicken/etc, I did feel minor anxiety as I poured the ingredients out waiting for that glorious ‘plonk’ from the usually present eggplant… No Plonk!  No Eggplant?!

Minor cross road aside, I couldn’t wait to tuck in!!  As is tradition, this Curry Laksa had chicken, bean shoots, fish cakes, bean curd puffs, vermicelli and thick egg noodles… and THAT soup!!

Curry Laksa $9.90

Now i’m not going to lie.  There was a brief moment of ABSOLUTE soul destroying disappointment when I fished around in denial trying to find “that Eggplant” that is ever present in other commonly reviewed Laksa establishments.   Thankfully, the Straits Cafe Laksa made up for it with its super fresh chicken pieces and AMAZINGLY fragrant soup (this one is not as sweet or over creamy as many other places, and is a touch tangier due to its fresh ground herbs for the soup base).  What ever this family recipe is, it most certainly shits on it’s more frequented Laksa counterparts.

So for just under 10 bones, I got to eat in the comfort of my own home (…sort of…), blubber uncontrollably  while shamefully consuming as much food as I did Kleenex! …can I just say, ‘Marley and Me’ was NOT the best DVD choice.  Straits Cafe may have not given me Laksa with eggplant, but they filled my Laksa void nonetheless!!

Straits Cafe

694 Doncaster Rd, Doncaster

(03) 9848 1605

Red Hot Wok!

6 May

It’s not often I can convince Mumsy to for-go her weeknight TVBJ schedule… especially during prime time and mid week, when most of the drama unfolds just enough before leaving you (or at least my Mum and Dad) in a state of suspense before the weekend.  So when Mumsy approached me with an invitation to get some dinner (she’s recently discovered Teevo ) on Wednesday night, I accepted in a heart beat.

Dinner with Mum after work means going to one of two places.  Being the creature of habit she is, and a BIG lover of familiarity and her daily Canto-chat generally means dining at either Pacific House, or Red Hot Wok in South Yarra… Mumsy let me choose!

Red Hot Wok

Red Hot Wok

So it’s getting pretty cold out, and my body’s yearning for heat increased as the day turned to night.  That plus the fact that Tony (the owner) always gives us free Red Bean pancake for dessert… and service with a smile!!  Red Hot Wok is our go-to for a quick tasty meal with that Malaysian/Chinese flavour – Tony is famous for making fresh silken tofu which is the star of a dish called Fairy Tofu (doesn’t work quite as well in english):”Sun Sin Tofu”.  And YES! It’s THAT ridiculously silky smooth and light!

Red Hot Wok also offers traditional laska, curries and noodles and rice dishes for lunch as well as seafood and dishes for dinner which vary in spice level, but are ALL super satisfying, especially with the onset of the winter chills.

At the risk of sounding like a steak-n-laksa junkie, I’d pretty much had my heart set on a curry laksa.  But after looking over the menu and with mum having tried pretty much EVERYTHING – and every possible version of ANYTHING – she highly recommended a chef’s special dish of Ridged Gourge (like a long cucumber but with a spongier flesh) with silken tofu.

Ridged Gourge and Tofu

This was perfectly light, probably in large part due to that heavenly, freshly made Tofu, and the ridged gourge was cooked without fault.  Usually at home, we leave a little of the slightly thicker skin on the gourge and cook it to avoid the flesh becoming too soggy.  (It’s easy to over cook the gourge which isn’t great.  It’s basically a sponge, so timing is crucial to its taste outcome)!

It was nice to have a cleaner dish, to counter balance the flavour OVER LOAD from our entree (didn’t completely neglect my curry craving) which was just a simple Roti with curry dipping sauce.

Roti with Curry sauce

I rarely leave RHW without having this in my belly!! Carbs and Curry!  My favourite winter accessory!  So as mentioned before, after picking at some super cripsy on the outside, fluffy on the inside fried Roti dipped in fiery curry sauce, our ridged gourge and tofu arrived with our other main, Basil Fried Golden Prawns.

Basil fried Golden Prawns

This dish was phenomenal!  The genius of this dish is all in balance and timing.  The prawns are lightly battered and fried at the highest heat so they still have that naturally sweet taste that fresh prawns have.  Then they are wok-tossed with fragrant mix of basil, garlic, onion and chilli before being served on fresh lettuce.  The crispy outer, encrusted with the garlicy chilli basil mix, when put in the mouth is enough to cause hot flushes… of the best kind!  Of the Flavour-Texture-Bliss kind!! Good recommendations Mum!  It’s good to reap the benefits of these daily Canto-Chats you hold so high on your daily tasks…

Red bean pancake

And just as I retire my chopsticks and cradle my hot full belly in satisfaction Mrs Tony (his lovely wife, which Mum refers to as Mrs Boss ‘Lo Ban Lerng’) presents dessert –  ‘On the house la!’

I never go out of my way to order this Asian dessert.  But there’s something about habit and coming to Red Hot Wok that means we are not done, until Tony or ‘Mrs Boss’ brings us our Red Bean Pancake – deep fried roti- like dough stuffed with red bean paste and deep fried – with that wide friendly smile.

At the risk of sounding like an absolute cliche, Mumsy will always know best!  And although I may not share the same interest in her TVBJ programming schedule, or her charismatic Cantonese speaking flair, I’m  certainly enjoying reaping the benefits of her charming habits.  Especially if it means good meals and free dessert!!

Red Hot Wok

313 Toorak Road

South Yarra

(03) 9826 8163

My Laksa-less visit to Laksa King

27 Apr

Oh Laksa King!  We’ve all heard about the famous Laksa King and it’s success story, starting from it’s humble beginnings in a small Flemington arcade to evolve into it’s new bigger, better shinier new home and even bigger ego.  Tonight marks the final night of the super long Easter weekend, and my (non foodie) partner in crime, Jo Duck had organised a get together with our favourite shooting crew Grace, Darcy and George.  Her invitation read:  “Hi all.  Don’t you think it’s time we all had a big bowl of laksa?  I do!”.  How does one decline such a convincing offer!!

So as I’m sure we’re all aware, Laksa King is as famous for it’s thick, fragrant Laksa as it is for it’s big crowds, reputation and lines.  The ever organised Ms Duck had booked us a table (which is great, because I’m not the best company when made to wait…) so we got to bypass the foyer of Laksa hopefuls awaiting their tables.

I’ve been here a bunch of times now, and being the creature of habit that I am, have ordered the fiery red, smooth hug-in-a-bowl that is the Combination Laksa every time.  But given my excessive culinary weekend, the thought of that rich coconut-ty curry broth was all too much, so I opted for the Hainanese Chicken Rice.

Hainanese Chicken Rice $9.20

There is something about the fragrant chicken rice, all ginger and lemon grass infused that makes it good enough to bottle in a perfume.  The chicken was served deboned, and had sat in a small pool of sweetened soy (as is tradition).  Sadly I found the chicken to be a little lacklustre (could have been hugely due to the fact that Mumsy had made Hainanese chicken rice at home the night before… and nothing beats a home cooked Mumsy Meal…) the chicken seemed a touch on the bland side, and I found the chicken meat a little limp (unlike Mumsy’s plump, meaty version).  The chilli sauce however, was delicious.  Perfectly chilli, mellowed by a touch of sweet, sour and ginger flavouring.

Jo and Grace both ordered the Chicken Laksa, which looked as it always does.  If anything Laksa King is good at, its consistency.

Chicken Curry Laksa $9.20

There’s a mix of hokkien and vermicelli noodles and a healthy amount of shredded chicken, fried tofu squares, fishcake, and the amazing squidgy piece of eggplant all soaked in a bath of fiery red, lightly spicy curry broth that won’t blow your face off!

Vegetarian Curry Laksa $9.20

George went with the Vegetarian version of the classic, which I’d (obviously…) never really acknowledged even being on the menu ( … Laksa…anything sans meat… interesting concept ?)  But from what I saw, there were bountiful amounts of tofu, mushrooms, broccoli, bok choy and the redeeming factor, THAT eggplant!

Last but not least, Darcy got the Prawn dumpling noodle soup which I actually considered myself.    The dumplings, or what looked more like wontons looked fresh and sufficiently filled (nothing worse than a malnutritioned,  sad looking wonton)!

Prawn dumpling Noodle soup $10.20

After tonight’s experience, I have learned that sometimes, it is okay to be a creature of habit.  Having had the chicken rice at Raffle’s Place not so long ago (and it was very good), and then my Mother’s version just last night, I feel like Laksa King kind of failed me tonight!  So why mess with a good thing?  Laksa King will and forever will be from now on, nothing but business and Curry Laksa all the way!

Laksa King

6/10-12 Pin Oak Crescent

Flemington – (03) 9372 6383

Monday Malaymas

8 Apr

Monday nights are at times a tricky night to dine out.  A lot of chefs like to close Mondays, which means I’ll often choose an Asian establishment… because lets face it… Asians practically NEVER close … with the exception of maybe Chinese New Year – and even then that’s a MAYBE!

So when DDO decided to have our ritual sisters catch up with Little L and E (and honarary sister Z), Raffle’s Place was our chosen venue.  Good hearty food (I cannot get enough Laksa or roti into me at moment), close to home and  BYO.  We arrive to find Raffle’s Place windows dark and doors locked, with no sign of the usual shouting from the infamous Mr Han.  Lesson learned: Asians take breaks too!!

Despite this little hurdle, L was quick with a solution:  “We could go to Malaymas.”  Now, having caught up with Little L every Friday night for the past 3 weeks that suggestion has been thrown out there everytime without fail.  Turns out Little L – bless her cotton socks – has become somewhat OBSESSED with Malaymas ever since being introduced to it a couple of months ago, making weekly (sometimes daily) trips to get her chicken rice fix.  Being set on Laksa and happy to finally try this place, she so endearingly refers to as My-Lame-Ass, we settled in quickly upon arrival.

Roti Chanai

There’s a pretty extensive menu with everything from satays and chicken wings, rice dishes, noodles and rendang as well as a pretty AMAZING drinks list (3 colour, rose ice tea, milk tea).  We decided to go sharesys on a Roti Canai and got a dish each.  The Roti was the perfect pre taste bud tease, being cooked to crisp perfection.  The garish bright plastic plates, I think, also add to the authenticity of the cuisine and establishment.  These owners wasted no time on colour, decor and ambience.  It’s all about the food.

Hainanese Style Chicken

Shortly after, L’s much anticipated Hainanese Chicken fix arrived.  (sorry about the really bad photo).  Served with fragrant rice all perfectly bowl shaped, with the soup, and what looked like succulently cooked chicken, I can see why she frequents here more regularly then her own kitchen.

Fried Kueh Teow with XO Sauce

E got the Kuay Teow with XO sauce, which glistened beautifully atop an alternatively garish coloured plate.  This is a hard dish to do well, as the rice noodles can either stick together with not enough oil or become a complete slodgy mess due to too much oil.  This looked perfect and smelled even better.   XO sauce on ANYTHING pretty much guarantees a party in mouth.

Seafood Curry Laksa

The presentation and appearance of Z’s Seafood Laksa looked amazing.  Whole fresh pieces of prawns, squid, mussels and fishcake mixed with tofu and eggplant.

Curry Laksa

Mine kind of paled in comparison looks-wise, but flavour wise I was very satisfied! Although I didn’t really vibe on the pissy bits of shredded chicken, (girl likes her chunk-a-meat thanks!)  the heat and flavour of the soup well and truly made up for it.

Mee Rebus

Out of everyone’s choices, I think N’s gave me the most food envy.  Its not all that much to look at, but this little bowl of noodles was like eating a pot of gold.  Perfect noodle to veg/meat ratio  and the soup.  Oh that soup!  It was kind of brothy, kind of stocky-tasting, with heat and a little gravy-like… without the gross!  A generous mouthful of slippery thick egg noodles, accompanied by the fresh cucumber slithers and chicken in a small pool of that soup, and then the occasional mouthful with a slice of green pepper.  Mee Rebus – kickin’ goals!!

Malaymas turned out to be our Monday night saving grace!  With it’s simple satisfying offering of Malaysian cuisine and laid back surrounds I can see how it has become such a hit with the locals…not to mention L’s permanent dining room.  Not so My-Lame-Ass at all.  Thanks for sharing the obsession Little L.

Malaymas

320 St Georges Road

Fitzroy North

Chef Lagenda. No wait Laksa!

24 Mar

It’s starting to get cold out!  Which means I switch back to wines instead of cider, wear thicker socks and eat warm porridge instead of cold weetbix in the morning.   It’s inevitable that on first onset of a slight breeze, my brain goes into craving overdrive and YES! It’s for all those hearty, carby, creamy culinary delights that warm the soul and melt away the cold (until of course spring comes around again and your body curses you for giving in to a whole winter of such cravings!)

Lucky for me, it’s only the beginning of Autumn, so I have a whole 6 months of cravings to fulfill.  First one being LAKSA! Now, much like everyone else, I’d been an avid consumer of the Laksa King (pre and post its venue upgrade) and yes it was (still is) THE BEST (in Melbourne).  Always fast (once you were eventually seated), delicious, and cheap.  But given the queuing situation (and the onset of the skinny jeans brigade), it does at times test my patience.  And so, for this particular Laksa night, I decided to throw my craving to the wind, and try Chef Lagenda (on the recommendation of a friend who lives locally).

Chef Lagenda is right next door to Laksa King, taking up a much smaller window space.  As we walked in (Z and I) it was almost instant satisfaction!  No Line!  Already winning. We are seated, tea-ed, and have our orders taken within 3 minutes of sitting down (it’s pretty much the same menu as Laksa King – probably due to the fact that Chef Legenda’s chef is from the original Laksa King).

Lobak (Crispy mince pork roll) $5.80

It comes as no surprise, I’m pretty hungry and that smell of fragrant coconut spices and wok cooking is making my stomach want to eat itself!  So we get the Lobak to start.  Normally I love the chicken roti roll, but I thought we should try something different.  The Bean Curd skin casing was freshly fried and deliciously crisp, while the mince inside had a nice firm consistency (its not the most appetizing looking entree, but it was delicious!!)

And finally the reason we are here!! Z got the seafood curry laksa which was full of fresh seafood.  Whole fillets of fish, prawns, calamari and scallops and of course, the eggplant and tofu cubes.

Seafood Curry Laksa $11.90

I always go with the classic Curry Laksa which comes with chicken, shrimp and fish cake as well as the eggplant and tofu cubes.  The mere arrival of our heavy, fragrant bowls of laksa goodness made me pretty Happy in Pants!

Curry Laksa $9.20

The soup was perfectly balanced – hot and spicy, but still creamy enough without being too rich.  Mixed noodles cooked al-dente (nothing worse than over cooked, soggy noodles ) and of course that chunky slab of tender eggplant!  Devouring that bowl was easily the BEST 4 and a half minutes of my day (Yeh!  Girl was hungry)!   That ‘no wait’, ‘but still taste so good’ Laksa I never thought possible has officially been found at Chef Lagenda.

So yes.  Craving satisified! (…for now…  just wait until you see the page long offering of Bubble Cup…. But I’ll save that for the next craving update!)

Chef Lagenda  16 Pin Oak Cres. Flemington, 3031

03) 9376 2668