The Return Of Food Gold: Australia Edition

Posted on Sep 24th, 2009 in Food Gold by Elliot Aronow

Hello and welcome to the second debut edition of Food Gold. Before I get going I wanted to give props to the OG FG columnist Mr Sammy Bananas, and the label fam for passing the mantle on to me. Hopefully I can continue the excellent work that the homies have started.

We’re going to improv on these first few posts but expect to get a grip of recipes, videos, travelogues and reviews each and every Tuesday from now until food doesn’t taste good any more. For this first post, I decided to put my best food forward and highlight a few of my favorite tastes from a recent trip to Australia. Dig in!

The first thing I will say about Australia is that the food there is remarkably good at every level. This is probably because the country is in the middle of nowhere and importing foodstuffs costs a lot of money. While down under I learned about and ate some wonderful things. But before I tell you about them let me be the annoying dude from New York and ask two questions to our Australian foodie readership.

First, why do y’all chefs down there make every risotto with a tomato base?! I’m not mad at tomato as a vehicle for the flavors of a seafood risotto (photo below) but when I order a “plain” risotto I want it to be on some creamy, parmesan and pearly white arborio ish. Just saying. Second, why are appetizers called entrees and entrees called mains? I found this to be very confusing. Anyways, on with the hits!

And look how big that prawn is!

SYDNEY: EATING WORLD & ASIAN STREET FOOD FAIR

My first truly remarkable culinary experience down in Sydney with with our main man about town, Heaps Decent honcho/DJ/promoter/foodie par excellence Levins. Lev and his lady B are epic people and were cool enough to get me stuffed at the Asian Food Fair, which happens on the first Friday of every month in the city’s Chinatown.

Before we hit the streets for the Food Fair, we hit Eating World, which is exactly what it sounds like, a mall-style food court featuring all sorts of ethnic foods from the city’s rather sizable Asian communities. The most talked about of these establishments is Gumshara Ramen, which is famous for its pork bone noodle soup. I read that the chef simmers 70 lbs pounds of bones, cartilege and pork skin for 17 straight hours to make his daily batch of stock.

Unfortunately we did not get to sample this legendary soup for fear of spoiling our appetites or perhaps admitting that we were going to be gnarly gluttons for the next hour but we did get a lovely order of MEAT ON A STICK. I believe the ones pictured here are pork, though chicken and beef are also offered.

This Chinese hot dog from the Asian fair was by far the best thing I ate during the entire trip. The chef works over a really hot wok and dumps in what appears to be a crepe-like batter, he then drops in an egg and let’s those two guys get to know each other for about 20 seconds. Then the heavy hitters enter the scene. A column of what I thought was a ball of fried tofu but was actually just FRIED DOUGH hits the mixture and is followed by a Chinese sausage split in half. Before it gets folded the mixture is finished with some tamarind-style purple sauce and a handful of fresh green onions.

I could try to be all food critic and explain how the sweetness of the crepe and tamarind combined with the saltiness of the hot dog and the earthiness of the fried egg made for lovely “mouth feel” but instead I will say that THIS UNLOCKED CHEMICALS IN OUR BRAINS AND WE WERE PREPARED TO DO BAD THINGS FOR ANOTHER HIT. We debated getting another but the wait was too long (each dog is prepared fresh to order), so we decided to move along like a pack of fiends thinking the next fix would be better. Nothing would top the dog, but we still got into some good shit.

Despite the somewhat unappealing name (way to sell it food stand dudes!) we also went in on a BBQ Squid Body. I didn’t have high hopes for this one to be honest but I was surprised to find the squid was pleasantly chewy, adequately salty and not too tough or overcooked. I guess if you are going to have something called SQUID BODY on your menu and keep it there for the whities and tourists to eat, you have to be able to reward the curious with something good.

Next up was the TakoYaki aka OCTOPUS BALLS, which you may have seen on any travel show that filmed in Japan because they are apparently very popular over there. So popular that someone made this little music video showing how to make them. I’m going to play that right now so I can listen to the song as I type out the rest of this paragraph.

OK—Now before you think I’m getting all Zimmern on you and eating octo testes I should explain that they are basically just balls of dough filled with various fish parts, pan fried in these cut little cast iron molds and garnished with a healthy dollop of mayo and green onions. If you can imagine someone making you a fresh, savory version of a Dunkin’ Donuts munchkin, that’s sorta what these bad boys were like. We decided to go with a variety pack and get the crab claw, scallop and shrimp varieties. Lev and I were both big fans of the crab claws.

MELBOURNE: RUMI AND THE BEST DAMN SQUAB IN THE WORLD

My camera ran out of batteries during my last night in Melbourne, but I was lucky enough to get a few snaps of my dinner at Rumi, a Bourdain-approved Middle Eastern joint I was really excited to check out (Props to Ms. Emily York for securing a reservation for us!) Rumi was on my must eat list for this trip, mostly because I was sold on the idea of a classically trained chef going back to his family roots and serving up Middle Eastern dishes sourced from local ingredients. Also, I knew they had nasty stuff like pan friend lamb’s brains on the menu in the past and were not on some polite shit when it came to offal and uncommon proteins.

They had just changed the seasonal menu when we went for dinner but we were lucky enough to get an order of sauteed chicken livers, which were served with a really punchy topping of onions marinated in red wine vinegar.

Those were really good but the true star was this squab they served with a Romesco style sauce. I might be hacking out with the Romesco reference but like that sauce, it had ground up almonds (or some comparable nut), garlic and red pepper, with a chunky, paste-link consistency. Combined with the fatty, tender meat from the squab, a bird I had never eaten before, it was a game changer and made the rest of the meal seem even better. Get two orders if you ever wind up going there.

HONORABLE MENTIONS: MARQUE AND APERITIF

That does it for my can’t miss Australian food pics. To be fair, honorable mentions also go out two higher-end restaurants in Sydney. One is called Marque, which offers fancy foods like “lettuce soup with mustard ice cream and blue swimmer crab”, and the other is Aperitif, which as the name suggests offers very good wine bar fare. I had a “duck neck confit pate with onion marmalade” that was exceptionally rich and tasty. Don’t sleep on the Chorizo with goat cheese and fried egg if you go there—not like you needed me to tell you that something with sausage and a fried egg in it will be bad.

Both of these spots were introduced to me by esteemed cook/blogger Thomas Lim. He does a really cool site called the Duxford that y’all should check out if you can figure out recipes given in metric measurements.

Thanks for making it down this far. To reward you, here’s a photo of a very fat man in a lemon.

FORK THE WORLD!

Elliot

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