Thursday, March 25, 2010

L'Atelier de Joel Robuchon - Hong Kong

A year of procrastination had to end some time and that time is now! Seeing how busy you bloggers have been (to the point of necessitating a cyber version of crowd control), I thought I'd grab my 3-4day posting window.

At the end of my 2008-2009 South American trip, I was heading back home via Hong Kong and decided to stop in and sample the cooking of Monsieur Robuchon. After years of educating friends and acquaintances of his place in the culinary pantheon, I was eager to sit down to a meal that was in some part, created by the acclaimed 'chef of the century'.

Entry to the restaurant did not give a great first impression as we made our way through a multi-story shopping mall, it felt more like I was walking towards a Westfield food court. However, once at our destination, the black and crimson interior, accented with bowls of brightly coloured fruits/vegetables made for a very sleek and sophisticated atmosphere.

Eyeing the menu made my hands tremble as I'd never seen the words truffle, foie gras appear so many times on a single menu. Deciding on what to eat what difficult given the choice of so many wonderful sounding dishes.

To start, we were presented with a basket of house baked breads which consisted of mini sourdough and brioche rolls (with a thick slab of butter of course!).

Next was a complimentary starter of white asparagus mousse with tomato gazpacho. Dotted with slivers of almonds and asparagus, the mousse was silken and melted in your mouth to reveal a subtle, but not overpowering taste of the slender vegetable. The gazpacho, was the yin to the asparagus' yang in every sense. An intense tomato flavour grabbed your taste buds and gave them a good throttle.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Slow Food - the campaign for Australian raw milk products

I moved to London for a few years and ended up eating way more cheese than I had thought possible. Having grown up with a mild lactose intolerance, I had mostly stayed away from all dairy products, and also in part because locally they just never interested me.

However, since sharing house with a Frenchman, who occasionally received care packages of French cheese, my exposure to cheese was greatly expanded and in a good way! I discovered that not all hard cheeses are made equal .. They don't all have to taste like Coon; my favourite being Beaufort ... Not an absolute favourite though since I also like Gruyere .. Like wine, the age of a cheese influences it's flavour; newer cheese being more mellow, older cheese being more flavoursome. I also learned that Brie and Camembert did not cover all types of soft cheese .. I even managed to find and eat Stinking Bishop cheese! (For those of you who are curious, it does stink - especially after your French flatmate decides to age it in a cupboard - but has a very delicate taste.)

So why the massive difference in cheese varieties? The answer lies in pasteurisation. Pasteurisation involves heating milk to a certain degree to eliminate all micro-organisms. This is to ensure that all milk and dairy products are safe for consumption.

In Australia it's mostly illegal to produce dairy products with unpasteurised milk. These rules are governed by a national body called Food Standards Australia New Zealand ("FSANZ") who is currently assessing the use of raw milk. FSANZ also govern the import of raw milk cheeses from overseas.

Slow Food Australia are trying to lobby for these rules to be loosened so that Australians can enjoy the benefits of being able to work with raw milk. I read about their campaign and signed their online petition, but have since been notified that the initial draft assessment issued by FSANZ seems to be in favour of further restricting the use of raw milk. To further their cause, they will need the support of many more people! So here is where you come in ...

You can read more about this campaign here.

You can sign an online petition here.

I am all for ensuring that products are made safe for consumption, but since there is a long tradition of unpasteurised cheeses overseas, surely we can be trusted to make our own judgements on what we choose to eat?

Sugar and spice and all things nice,
la chouquette sucrée

Friday, March 12, 2010

Mamak - for awesome roti!

This post has been a long time coming ... I first experienced Mamak with a good friend late October 2009 .. I had a great time and the roti (for which Mamak is famous) was awesome! Since much time has passed and suffering from a distinct lack of photos to go with this post, I decided I just had to go again!

This time I had Yaya and Bisycl in tow ... And we ordered up a storm!

First up, Roti canai
; soft and chewy, it was light and perfectly accompanied by the sambal and curry dips.

Roti telur (roti with plain egg filling); denser than the plain roti, but lovely mouth-feel as the egg was cooked just right and not too tough.

Chicken murtabak (roti filled with chicken, cabbage, eggs and onions); again was cooked just right with the meat still tender.

Beef satay; a little bit disappointing as the meat was dry and kind of tough. It had good flavour though and the satay was not as nut heavy as Thai satay.

Kari sayur (vegetable curry); flavoursome and not too spicy.

Nasi goreng; rice was nice and al dente. It smelt great when they brought it out and it didn't disappoint the tastebuds either!

Rojak (Malaysian style salad) was a nice refreshing dish in our mains line up. The shredded yam bean and cucumber fresh and juicy, the prawn/coconut fritters adding crunch, the fried tofu adding something chewy and peanut sauce something sweet.

Once we'd chowed down all that we could, we packed up the leftovers to savour the next day moving straight onto dessert!

Cendol (pandan noodles in syrup and coconut milk over ice shavings) .. This was a bit disappointing. I have to admit I'd never had this before, but noodles were a bit mushy and bland. We also suspect it had been siting for a tad too long before they brought it to us, because instead of a flavoured mini-mountain of ice shavings it was a puddle of noodles/syrup/coconut milk, with some ice floating around in it.

Roti kaya (roti filled with pandan/coconut spread); arrived piping hot and super-sweet - the vanilla ice cream a perfect accompaniment.

If I were to be perfectly honest, as good as the other dishes were, they all came a distant second to the roti. Soft but chewy, savoury and sweet, what else can I say but YUM?

A word of warning, if you are more inclined toward instant gratification, do not plan on getting a meal at the peak service hours at Mamak. Mamak is notorious for its queues which sometimes go a good way down the street! Having said that, the queues do move due to quick turn-around on tables, and you're provided with plenty of entertainment, as the roti is made in the windows facing the street - mesmerising stuff!

Sugar and spice and all things nice,

la chouquette sucrée

15 Goulburn Street
Haymarket Sydney 2000
Tel: +612 9211 1668

Open 7 days
Lunch: 11:30am to 2:30pm
Dinner: 5:30pm to 9:30pm
Supper: Open till 2am Friday & Saturday

Mamak on Urbanspoon

Sunday, March 7, 2010

I Heart U Cooking

Yu Sang Salad

Chinese New Year (CNY) = Valentine's Day = the W's Birthday = I Heart U Cooking!!

Year 2010, a year where the moon (CNY), sun (the heart of the universe) and the stars (my wife and shining star) align to form the perfect day. To celebrate, we planned to have CNY on New Year's Eve with the tribe and a combined birthday for the W and belated birthday for momma bear the following day. Stupid or not I put my hand up to make some dishes for CNY as well as cater for the b'days. Throw in a tight schedule, the general hustle and bustle of CNY, plus a busy inquisitive MiniB wanting to help with the cooking, and the challenge was set. It was either going to be the perfect day or the perfect storm.

The theme for the menu was a no brainer ... Asian dishes to go along with the CNY theme. I originally had other ideas in mind to merge the Valentines Day theme with CNY but on this occasion perfect timing was essential, so I kept it simple (which I seldom do). It was to be a simple Asian CNY themed lunch that came from the heart - that's the plan anyway!!

Having missed out on Billy's (A Table for Two) Momofuku Bo Ssam at the Food Bloggers Christmas Party, then drooling over his blog about it, the little black book in my head pencilled in "Must try Pork!!". The recipe seemed simple enough with only 3 ingredients: Pork, sugar and salt (seriously that's all that's in it!!) but the 5-6hr roasting time was a bit daunting on my tight schedule. I decided to do a large chunk of the roasting the day before and finish it off with a couple more hours on the day.

4kg of meaty goodness!!

The W had an interesting time picking up the pork. A pork forequarter (or Boston butt) is what the recipe ordered. The W had no idea what that was or what it looked like. She asked the butcher who kindly said he'd show her the cut. Out of the freezer room this head-shaven tattoo-covered burley butcher came out with half a pig (legs and all) on his shoulder and pointed to the front shoulder and thigh of the beast. He band-sawed the correct cut and whipped out his razor sharp katana, scoring the rind with ease. It was quite an experience for the W and as scary as it was for her she really appreciated his efforts. Lets give it up for our local butchers!!

4hrs of roasting, 1.5hrs to go.....

Five and half hours of roasting later, the 4kg beast was transformed into sweet porky bliss. The 1 inch layer of fat had melted away and the pork just fell of the bone with ease. The meat was very moist and flavoursome. I was suprised that the flavours penetrated the entire roast and that such simple ingredients would produce such a unique flavour. The rind had a glistening sugary glaze which was crispy on the top and chewy in the centre. I didn't serve the pork with all the sides following the recipe, but served them with pancakes used for Peking duck and lettuce leaves similar to Sang Choi Bau. Even though it took so long, and the intense heat cracked my roasting dish it was surely well worth the wait and sacrifice.

Bo Saam in all it's glory!!

I've never had Yu Sang before. It must be more of a Malaysian/Singapore dish, but after seeing this dish on other blogs it looked like such a fun dish with interesting flavours. My Yu Sang came with a twist. One, I wasn't exactly sure of the traditional ingredients and two, not all of our tribe eat sashimi. So I Aussie-fied the salad replacing the sashimi with smoked salmon, turning it into a Yu Sook maybe (Sang = raw, Sook = cooked).

Sprinkling of sesame seed and 5-spice powder

It was a wonderfully refreshing salad, with many textures and flavours. Crunchy, soft, smooth, spicy, salty, sweet, and zingy were all included in this salad to tantalize anyone's taste buds. Next time I may tone down the dressing a bit as I think I added a tad too much plum sauce.

Customary Yu Sang salad toss

These main dishes were accompanied with Red Thai Chili and lime chicken wings and Char Siu and Snow pea Hokkien noodle stir fry followed by Rocky Road Mouse Cake and petit fours. In customary style I have once again cooked too much!!

Red Thai Chili and Lime Chicken Wings & Rocky Road Mousse Cake by Zest Patisserie

Char Siu Stir Fry & Petit Fours by Zest Patisserie

All turned out as planned and it was a busy but very enjoyable weekend of celebrations. Now I can file this one away under the successful dishes, and post my two-headed subject title up with pride. I heart cooking, and a secret message for my wife - luv ya babe!!

Aussie-fied Yu Sook (alternate Yu Sang with smoked salmon)


  • 1/2 Chinese cabbage (Wonga Bok), finely chopped
  • 2 Carrots, finely grated
  • 1/2 bunch of enoki mushrooms
  • 8 slices of Japanese pickled daikon radish, finely sliced
  • 1/4 cup Japanese pickled ginger
  • 300 grams Smoked salmon, finely sliced (traditionally raw sashimi salmon is used)
  • 2 shallots, finely chopped
  • handful of bean shoots
  • 1 tspn roasted sesame seeds (packaged in red CNY envelope)
  • 1/2 tspn Asian 5-spice powder (packeaged in red CNY envelope)
  • 3/4 cup Plum sauce
  • 1/4 cup lime juice
  • 1/4 cup grape seed or mild flavoured oil
  • Dash of soy sauce
  • Roast sesame seeds in the oven for 5 minutes or until golden
  • Combine dressing ingredients and mix well, refrigerate
  • Finely slice Chinese cabbage, carrots, daikon radish, ginger and smoked salmon roughly all the same size and arrange on a plate (this salad is better served on a plate for ease of the communal "tossing" of the salad)
  • Add bean shoots and enoki mushrooms
  • Place 5 spice powder in one red envelope and sesame seeds in the other
  • Dress the salad and have the guests of honour sprinkle the ingredients from the red envelopes over the salad
  • Have all guest toss the salad with chopsticks

Till next time ... we eat!!