Monday, 16 March 2015

Grill'd: Chips Ahoy

Last week, a work lunch took me to Grill'd for the first time in a long, long time. Their menu is getting ever better for veg*ns - there are still the three veggie burgers (the garden patty is excellent), but now there are three chip choices and all vegan friendly! As well as the herb-salted chunky fries, you now have the option of salted sweet potato chips or crumbed hunks of zucchini. They're all great choices. So good, in fact, I hit up my local for a round of chips a few days later.


snack size potato chips, $3.80; 'for one' sweet potato and zucchini chip servings, $4.80 each

All three of these are tasty. Grill'd do some of my favourite potato chips in Melb, the rosemary salt makes them a little more interesting than the standard chip. The zucchini fries are very well executed - not overly greasy, and the crumb coating is paper thin and super crunchy, with the zucchini still fresh and green inside. The only negative is they're pretty bland. Zucchini's pretty plain on its own, so some cajun seasoning or some fresh herbs would make these incredible. Get them with a dipping sauce, they need it.

The sweet potato, though, are by far the best commercial sweet potato fries I've tried. They look charred but they're definitely not - there's a slight crunch and the insides are tender without being mushy or dry, which is hard to do with sweet potato. Eaten out of a paper bag on a park bench watching the sunset, it was perfect. Well done to Grill'd for upping their vegan game - I'm hooked!

Wednesday, 28 January 2015

Fo Guang Yuan Gallery/Tea House, CBD

I can't believe I had never been to FGY before today! I'd set out to once or twice, but never made it in time and hadn't worried about it too much - online reviews say the food is delicious but takes ages to arrive, which put me off (especially when Divine Realm is around the corner). I visited today at 12 on the dot and had my food within ten minutes. Both dishes, and so did the table next to us. Everything is vegetarian, and vegan-friendly dishes are now marked with a V on the menu!

We grabbed a quick appetiser- the san choy bau, $8 (all appetisers are $8):
This was a bed of bean sprouts for crunch, topped with minced mock meat - I think the menu said chicken - sweet teriyaki-ish sauce, julienned veg and sesame seeds. The flavours in this were delicious, but I'd prefer it a little less sweet. But be warned: the sauce is a watery consistency and when I bit into it, it went everywhere - there was a lot of mopping up required. They were tasty, but I wouldn't order again because they were embarrassingly messy.

This was the noodle soup with pork mince and veg dumplings, $10.50:
I didn't order this, but I snuck a dumpling and a taste of the broth. This is a light clear veggie broth that feels very wholesome and light, but is totally addiciting. Toppings are Asian greens, big ol' sllices of fried tofu, beansprouts, five-spice scented pork 'mince' and the dumplings. The dumplings are a standard vegetable affair - filled with mostly greens and a nice compliment. My partner said "there was nothing about this dish I didn't like", which is a decent review!

I got the tossed udon with mock ham and spicy pork mince - also $10.50:


On first glance my dish looked dry, but underneath was a layer of broth to sauce the noodles. I got mock ham and pickly veg (mustard leaves?) instead of dumplings, and to me it was the perfect mix. My broth had a subtle chilli hit and was warm and comforting. The noodles themselves were perfectly cooked and my bowl was served with a cup of miso soup alongside, which was simple and tasty. This was a brilliant dish, but next time I'll get the soupy version so I get more of that broth.

FGY's art gallery is also worth a look: the pieces we saw today were beautiful. Overall, FGY makes for a great visit: eat some clean, tasty food, then take a peek at the art gallery. And the prices are fantastic with a bowl of ramen setting you back $10.50, and the bentos of the day hovering around $12. This is one of the best cheap city eats, with a calming atmosphere to boot. I can't wait to try some of the other noodles and soups.

Fo Guang Yuan Art Gallery
141 Queen Street, Melbourne 3000
open for lunch 12-2:30, Monday to Friday
Fo Guang Yuan Art Gallery on Urbanspoon

Saturday, 29 November 2014

Night Noodle Markets 2014

When I first heard about the night markets, I was pretty excited (largely because Overdosa was vending) but didn't expect to have many other options. I'm so glad I went: amongst all the meat on sticks and other bits it's quite the vegan heaven - there's a few really fun options. I've been twice and have been lucky enough to sample lots of amazing food.

Chilli-passionfruit sorbet from Serendipity, a Sydney company:

I wandered past Serendipity not expecting anything plant-based but I was very wrong. They had so many options - lemon, mango, chocolate sorbet, raspberry along the normal lines - and passionfruit/chili and coconut/kaffir lime, both of which I tried. This flavour was SO GOOD. Intense passionfruit flecked with red chili pieces, but not an unpleasant heat- it hit you gently in the back of the mouth/throat and lips. It worked beautifully and was really satisfying to eat.

I didn't love the coconut/kaffir lime, but if you love lime and coconut you may well. It was pretty standard coconut milk with lime, but with an almost herbal finish - interesting, but not really my thing. Also, I found these melted faster than I like - on the short walk from the Serendipity stall up to the hill to sit and eat, the top of my tub was already melty.

These beautiful vegetarian dumplings from New Shanghai:

These were mostly filling, steamed and soft with a typical mix of veggies, a little tofu and rice noodles. But they were lovely and fresh and exactly the kind of dumpling I like.

After some questioning I discovered this spiralized potato fritter at a nearby stall was indeed vegan:

Definitely fair-esque food. It was tasty but what elevated it from the realm of Regular Deep Fried Things was the spice mix sprinkled over post-frying. The sign called it "garlic spice" and it made it far more interesting and well worth $6.

Vegan (labeled as such on the sign!) black bean dumplings from Zagyoza:

I was incredibly excited for these: anything that says 'vegan' on the sign and sounds a little more interesting than the usual offerings has me sold. But they were a bit of a disappointment - the soy-black bean sauce over the top was lovely, but the innards were just mashed black beans, somewhat like red bean paste. A vegetable mix would have been a lot better with the sauce.

Spring rolls from Let's Do Yum Cha, exactly how I like them - fresh veg-only rolls with five-spice. Not overly unique, but tasty.

I couldn't go past a Bombay Burger! Pre-squish, they look quite terrifying - but it was incredibly delicious. Overdosa didn't offer their avocado at the markets, but it will be back in future and I can't wait!

And their elephant is amazing:

The Noodle Markets are crowded, but they made for a couple of great nights out. The food is diverse and offers plenty for vegos and omnis alike - I even saw dairy-free sago puddings, so dessert is covered. It ends tomorrow and I will be sad to see it go - but there's always next year!

Monday, 17 November 2014

Shandong MaMa 2

I've been back to Shandong Mama many times over the past year since I blogged it, but I finally remembered to document a visit! They've expanded the menu and now opened up a second location (with booze!), Shandong Mama Mini, and it's great to see they're having so much success. Still only the one vegan dumpling option but now you have the option of having them fried too - and the scallion pancakes are now marked with a V! We always order the same, one order of boiled zucchini dumplings, one fried, and some scallion pancakes:
The dumplings are still the best ones I've had. They're lovely and fresh with amazingly thin tender skins, bursting with zucchini, tofu and coriander. These dumplings are fat - popping one into your mouth whole would be a challenge. But they're perfectly proportioned, and with vinegar, chili and soy sauce on every table, you can mix up your perfect dipping sauce and hoe in. The scallion pancakes, though, are an awesome side - crunchy outsides and doughy insides, although with very little scallion flavour (and almost no visible green). I was curious about how they make these until I glanced at the receipt - they're baked, which explains the thick crunch and the non-greasy outsides. For a quick, easy and delicious CBD lunch, you really can't beat Shandong Mama. The service is fast and friendly, the food is incredible and more innovative than the other dumpling places around Bourke St. I can't wait for my next excuse to go there!
Shandong MaMa
Shop 7, 200 Bourke St, Melbourne
open 11:00-9:00 Monday-Saturday, closed Sundays
Shandong Mama on Urbanspoon

Saturday, 15 November 2014

Tofu Misozuke

This post has been two months in the making! I've been fascinated by the idea of tofu misozuke (miso cured tofu) for a while: miso is one of my favourite flavours in just about anything, so I sat down during the late winter and knocked it together. After smearing my tofu with the miso mix and curing for two months approx, this is what came out: 

I really enjoy this stuff. It has a definite miso hit and the tang of a cheesy, fermented product, but is quite smooth and mild. Google suggests it's best enjoyed in the style of a nice cheese, and that's the way I've been having it - gently smeared on a water cracker or toasts. I suspect it has other uses too  -maybe smeared on a banh mi as the pate, or seared like a block of foie gras? With a block of Vegusto or A Vegan Smiles cheese, some fruit and some crackers, you'd have a perfect vegan cheese plate. The flavours can be tweaked by using different miso pastes so the idea has plenty of room for experimentation - I know I'll be making more with darker misos, as well as playing with extending the curing time.
Tofu Misozuke (very slight adaptation from Rau Om's open source recipe)

300g block tofu. Anywhere from soft to hard can work - firmer tofus will take longer but have a more interesting flavour. I chose this Momen Tofu from Woolworths and found it worked well - I wouldn't go a very spongy, dry tofu, but other than that, whatever you have.
Cure it with:
1 cup miso (I used white)
2 tbsp sugar
2 tbsp mirin (I didn't have sake)

Mix marinade together in a bowl until well combined.

Press your block of tofu gently for a couple of hours to remove excess moisture. Wrap it in one layer of muslin, then smear your marinade on thickly until it is completely covering the fabric. I found that I needed to pat it on rather than smear. For ease of handling, if you like, wrap another light layer of muslin around the outside, Line a Tupperware container with paper towels and pop in your tofu block. Cover it with more paper towels, seal and let sit in the fridge for 2 months, changing the paper towels when they become wet. To read more of the science about it, head to Rau Om's blog.

Friday, 10 October 2014

OVERDOSA 2: The Burger-ning

Recently I've had the privilege of showing the awesome Lish around Melbourne. She's not veg but an equal opportunity eater: if it's delicious, it's all good, which is the best kind of person to hang out with! So we hit all of my favourite places: Sweetwater Inn, Shandong Mama (twice), we even made time for vegan cupcakes. It was awesome and such fun to wander around my city like I was seeing it for the first time.
The last place on our must-go list was Overdosa for the incredible avocado. We walked in, said hi, ordered our avocado and then the lovely guy goes OH HEY I'LL MAKE YOU ONE OF OUR NEW MENU ITEM. Oh yes please. A few minutes later, we were delivered this glorious thing:
It's called the Bombay Burger (vada pav in India - vada means fried thingy, pav means bread)! Soft, soft white roll (made in a local Brunswick bakery - awesome) smeared with tamarind-date chutney and kolapuri, a chutney of chili, garlic and coconut. Blistered green chilis (though you can have them fresh too), carrot salad and a vada of potato masala deep fried in a chili, tumeric and chickpea flour batter until crunchy. You smash it down and get a very serviceable patty:
I don't think I really need to qualify it but yep, it's amazing. If you've tried the Guru Burger at Lord of the Fries - this kicks its butt a thousand times over. So much flavour, and not too spicy! I'm a spice wuss and this was very manageable. It's also very easy to eat - no dripping on your clothes, and you could totally do it one-handed. Genius fast food. Lish loved both the burger and the avocado - her views will appear in part 5 of her travel blog on her livejournal. We left very, very happy.

And of course there was avocado (blurry pics - I think I fingerprinted my lens, too busy stuffing face:)
The best part about the burger, though? It officially launches today at Batman Market. Hope you didn't have plans, because you probably do now. Get this in your face.

OVERDOSA

spinning at the Emerald Peacock Weds thru. Friday (4 pm onwards), Batman Market on the weekends (from 9 am)!
www.facebook.com/OVERDOSA

Overdosa on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, 7 October 2014

Takeout Chow Mein


When I was an omni (shit, that was a good nine years ago now - where does time go?!), I used to love going for Chinese food. Simple picky-eater fare like chicken with cashews, BBQ pork and - my favourite - chow mein. Meat, crisp veg and a warm thick brothy sauce over crispy fried noodles. I've tried to recreate it a thousand times and finally tonight's dinner was a success. If you miss simple Chinese takeout dinners, try this. It'll bring back memories.

Simple Junky Chow Mein
1 x large carrot, sliced roughly
1 x pack fresh baby corn, rinsed, cut in half
1 x small head of broccoli, cut into generous florets
a cup of bean sprouts, rinsed
2 tbsp. frying oil of choice, divided

Optional: mushrooms, mock chicken, peanuts, cashews.. whatever you have on hand! I used mock chicken, but smoked tofu would also be lovely.

250g chow mein noodles. Found in the refrigerated section of most Asian grocers. Read the ingredients - some have egg but some don't - the ones I buy look a bit like these but are vegan suitable and Aussie made (link).
Sauce
1.5c veggie beef stock (I used Massel)
1.5 tbsp vegetarian oyster sauce
1 tsp dark soy sauce
1 tsp. sugar
1/2 tsp salt
2 tbsp cornflour

Method

Preheat a large frying pan to high and add a tbsp of oil. Remove noodles from packet. Do not soak, parboil, etc. Just chuck them in. Separate gently with a fork or chopsticks, and gently fry until you get a few crispy bits - watch it carefully, they will burn if you let them. This will only take 3-5 minutes. Once done, remove from pan and set aside.
Next, mix sauce ingredients and pour into a pot. Bring to the boil, then immediately reduce to a very low simmer. Simmer for ten minutes, or until sauce coats the back of a spoon. Remove from heat and set aside.

Re-heat your original frypan to high with the other tbsp. of oil in it. Stirfry (or steam-fry if that's your jam) until your veg are tender-crisp. Pour in your sauce and stir to coat. You should have more sauce than you think you need.

Serve by layering your crunchy noodles on a plate, then ladling your veggies and sauce over to soften the noodles up. Let everything soak in for a couple of minutes while you grab utensils and a drink and dig in!