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Tastes of Shanghai and Jogjakarta

"Dan dan noodles" I read, and that menu item caught my eye. I was initially wary of such noodles; in the past, my experience of them had been bland. Then I recalled that they can be freshly made, as an alternative to the packaged versions you find in Asian groceries all around the world. My group of six went for it. When the noodles arrived at our table in a piping hot bowl, the noodles proved al dente and the accompanying soup, ala Shanghai, was chili hot enough to refresh ,but not overwhelmingly so.

We were in A Taste of Shanghai, which has outlets in both Eastwood and Chatswood, northern suburbs of the greater Sydney area. The Eastwood joint was a busy place that evening, but poor engagement with customers by its staff members, who were not very well trained in handling queues of waiting and hungry diners, did not help. Nevertheless the food made up for this initial teething matter. I was satisfied with the key dishes chosen -
twice cooked pork belly; man tou buns served with a relish; and the deep fried barramundi, done in sweet and sour gravy. The place was, as expected, noisy, but not reflective of mainstream Australian society, in that most diners were of Chinese origin.

South of the Sydney Harbour Bridge, Hui's Mum, Mu Lan, had just arrived at the domestic airport, from Melbourne. I could not resist taking the opportunity for the three of us to try out Ayam Goreng 99, located along Anzac Parade in Kingsford, about fifteen minutes drive from the airport. Run by Indonesian Chinese from Java, its signature dishes are both grilled and roasted chicken (wings, breasts, thighs and so forth). I singled out the satay to taste, but the skewers came served with a peanut butter concoction, and not with the lemon grass flavoured peanuty sauce available in Malaysia. Also disappointing were the ice durian and coconut juice flavoured drinks, a far cry from what is served at the joints along Liang Seah Street in the Bugis precinct of Singapore.

The belacan kangkong is recommended. The spinach was sweet and lightly stir fried, with the chili and dried shrimp condiment not overpowering. I was eyeing the bakmie, equivalent to the egg noodles of south China garnished with meat slices and aromatic ingredients. Instead we ordered the fried rice special (nasi goreng in Indonesian), which was thoroughly made with the right amount of wok heat, intense sauce and a topping of an egg omelette.


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