Showing posts from May, 2013

More than Congee - Comfort Foods

Congee - the word, all at once,  brings up visions of fast food, socio-economic battlers, quick but piping hot breakfasts and warmth on cool weather nights. It is an efficient creation, for hard-earned rice is boiled until it amplifies to a more voluminous mix that is soft and gentle on the palates of the very young and elderly. Ubiquitous in East Asia, but surprisingly not at all in the Indian sub-continent, the history of the congee speaks of thrift, patience, sparing conservatism and caution. The congee is a dish that also calls up creativity and economy in use of scarce ingredients - be they bits of green shallot rings, ground pepper, slivers of tender chicken or thinly cut ginger. Yet, at the same time, the congee is also food that emphasises on freshness, quality and aroma. These days the congee feels right at home whether being served at yum cha sessions, food courts or in midnight cafes. Above photo shows a set of congee-filled bowls ready for consumption, together with a lem…

Chefs Gallery, Metcentre, Wynyard - Sydney CBD

Fresh, transparent and so Shanghai - from the origins of Din Tai Fung at World Square and the open kitchen concept at the Bathurst Street/ George Street outlet, this business model has now been transplanted to an area with heavy commuter traffic in Sydney  CBD - the MetCentre, which adjoins the busy Wynyard Station.  So I reckon the staff has to work even more faster and be more responsive in a location that has office workers, tourists and families coming out of the train system.  At lunchtime, I have already witnessed queues reminiscent of Mamak's in Sydney's Chinatown and Chatswood.

The food is now familiar to the Sydney market - steamed dumplings, noodles in soup, spring rolls, relatively dainty servings served on small plates and petite bamboo baskets.  The menu can be seen as a combination of yum cha, Shanghai snacks and drinks based on soy and the usual mainstream Aussie soft drinks.  What makes this business work? Fast turnover, practical pricing and  not too confront…

The Fringe Cafe & Restuarant, Newtown - inner Sydney

A lazy Sunday morning in May - and one that was particularly hard to jump out of bed! There are clumps of cafes already open near the Dendy Cinema and the Newtown High School of the Performing Arts along the main thorough fare of King Street in Sydney's answer to Melbourne's Chapel Street - Newtown, accessible by both train and bus, down the road from Sydney University and a hub for a smooth and easy weekend start. Weather was rather perfect for the month of May - so far - and people like me were crawling out of the woodwork of a late Saturday night.

So we needed a wake me up call - and we found this in a corner cafe at the junction of Egan and King Streets.  We were initially attracted to the mural graffitis along Egan, but I have always walked past the Fringe and wanted to check it out. Service was quick and informal. Seated near the kitchen may have got the food out fast but the young staff approached in a friendly manner. You could choose between bar styled benches inside…

Reflections 24

24 years in Australia and what this has taught me.

1. There can be empowerment in all this relative silence and remoteness. The genesis for an idea can arise when there is no artificial distraction.  When some parts of the world buckle under congestion and pollution, never under estimate the uniqueness and advantage of relatively untainted spaces and capabilities. Always look for the differentiators and delights that the rest of the world hunger for.

2. What has not been used or encountered at all in one whole year does say some thing. It means either you never needed them, or that you have not been active enough to appreciate and utilise them.

3. What I have been paying for all this time? Expensive prices when compared to nations with larger populations? Late arrival of the latest product designs or the trendy movies or shows? Are big businesses milking us extra as Australian consumers just because they can?  Is it because we have pricey costs to dish out in running a business here? …

Char Koay Teow


At All & Sundry, Woonona - Wollongong Coast NSW

Shane alerted me on SMS about this newly opened cafe one Saturday morning (the first one of May) when Scott and I were at Diggies, North Gong Beach for an early brunch.  On my way up to the north-western suburbs of Sydney , I reckoned I should give it  a try in the early afternoon. Initially I could not find the place, but the Woonona newsagent opposite Macker's had a friendly chap at the counter who knew about this cafe.

So as the clouds gathered above the Illawarra, and when the winds whipped up, I hurriedly went down slope along the Princes Highway and spotted a lane beside a butcher's, as advised.  And there it was.  All & Sundry. My first impressions were that it was so Melbourne and yet so Sutherland Shire.  Next opportunity it may be better to park the car in a parking area just outside the cafe but away from the main road.

At late lunch hour on a Saturday, there were several people seated at tables or waiting for their takeaways.  The pace felt casual, people seem…

Ipoh on York - Sydney CBD

Jimmy is an affable person who hailed from Ipoh and now runs two restaurants in Sydney CBD through his two sons. His outlet at World Square is smaller than his York Street joint, located between the Grace Hotel and the Queen Victoria Building. Ipoh on York is located in a large basement level and one navigates the stairs to reach the order counter, which looks more like a ticketing office in previous reincarnations than one offering the spectrum of street food from south-east Asia, particularly the Malaysian Peninsular.  Ipoh itself denotes definitive good food, specifically of Chinese origin - dishes like Ipoh hor fun are held in high esteem.

Andre and I ducked in to this larger of Jimmy's joints one working lunchtime.  The place becomes chock-a-block with customers significantly from 1215pm onwards. Whilst waiting for Andre, I chatted up a Welsh chap having a stint in Sydney and who had got addicted to what Jimmy had  to offer in food. Apparently he is such a regular that the f…

Il Buon Gusto, Picton Mall - Greater Sydney

Opened only a few months ago, Gusto is located on the right hand side as one enters the Picton Mall in south-western portion of the greater Sydney area. The mall itself is compact, with several retailers,the inevitable supermarket (Coles), a rather fancy butcher (which stands out with its produce and variety of offerings, especially various types of beef and pork sausages) and a coffee place. Occasionally, someone rents out a spot in the spacious lobby and offers products like accessories and handicrafts.
Down towards the main road and vehicle parking spaces is a rather delightful IGA, particularly for those who shun the bigger grocery players.

Picton is more of a place you live in rather than anything else. Visitors may pass by on their way somewhere, or regulars may stream in from their bush hideaways and lifestyle abodes. Residents in this corner of so-called Sydney may be more attracted to MacArthur Square and the urban hub of Campbelltown rather than congregate here. To get to P…

My Selection Cafe, Hunter Connection - Wynyard, Sydney CBD

Kim beams with a welcoming smile every time she approaches customers.  I notice the ingredients used are fresh and the cafe interior has a modern and clean feel and look about it. The cafe's location may not be easy to locate, but any one who transverses the Sydney CBD tunnel between Wynyard rail station and the Hunter Connection arcade and food court would have definitely and inevitably walked past, if not come in for a tucker.  The place is located opposite a watch repairer and jeweller outlet and there is a carvery nearby from the Wynyard station side.

I had not known that Kim prepares homemade, iced preserved  kumquat and pickled lemon drinks.  These items are however subject to seasonal availability and the time it requires to make a good pickle.
I had asked for a kumquat pickled iced drink, even so late into the Sydney autumn and the wait staff lad was kind enough to let Kim know.  Kim came in an instant to have a chat about these drink items - this set the tone for the car…