Chicken karaage

So I’m nursing this annoying flu. I never get sick. Ever. Even in this freezing Canberra winter, I only remember being sick once before. Is it the lack of exercise? Is it a new strand of mutant flu germs? One thing is for sure – I hate being sick at home and feeling useless.

One thing is great though, I have a lot of time to think about what to make for dinner. Yes, dinner is cooked without fail in this household. Cooked by me that is. I had a sudden craving for fried chicken, and particularly chicken karaage. It’s such an easy dish to make but you really need to plan ahead. I say that because when I make chicken karaage, it involves an all-day defrosting marathon and marinating it for at least two hours. Anyway, I digress – here is the recipe that I use. The measurements are kinda not exact and therefore call for discretion and judgment…

Chicken karaage

  • 500 grams chicken breast – cut into bite sized pieces, but not too small
  • a chunk of ginger, crushed or finely chopped
  • 1 tablespoon mirin (sweet Japanese sake used for cooking, you can also use sake but I’d suggest adding a little bit sugar if you do)
  • 2 teaspoons soy sauce
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • vegetable or canola oil for frying
  • corn starch / corn flour

Combine chicken, ginger, mirin, soy sauce and salt. Marinate for at least two hours in the fridge or overnight.

Coat the chicken pieces in corn starch (it’s a fine white powder, not corn mill). Heat enough oil in a wok or cast iron pot to deep fry the chicken. Test the oil with a little piece of bread, the bread will brown easily if the oil is ready. Shake off excess corn starch, put the chicken pieces in the wok. Wait til they float to the top and take them out.

Return the chicken pieces to the oil and fry until golden and cooked. Why fry it twice? This will ensure that the chicken is crispy and remains crispy for longer.

Drain. Serve with Japanese mayo (this is absolutely essential) and a slice of lemon if you want. I don’t bother with the lemon but instead stuffs a piece that’s drenched in mayo into my mouth straight away.

Mmmmmmm yum.

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Make-your-own sushi

We love DIY or MYO food –  hotpot, charcoal BBQ, pho, bibimbap… Anything that requires the remotest hint of DIY is a big hit.

I got this MYO sushi idea from my friend Mary. It not only tastes great, but it’s a easy, last-minute throw-together with fresh and tasty ingredients.

Start with chopping up some fresh vegetables, into thin strips. Things such as carrots, capsicum, lettuce, cucumber, or even celery work beautifully.

Don’t forget the spanish onions!

Then get some eggs…

…mix it up and fry them up in the pan. Don’t touch the egg mixture whilst it’s in the pan. We want a perfect circle for some nice and thin egg strips. There’s no need to flip it over, I always find that the top will cook without burning the bottom.

Here we go, these are the cold fillings. Don’t mind my thick egg strips, sometimes one just can’t be bothered.

You will then need these essential ingredients: sushi seaweed (can be bought from any good grocery stores), sushi rice (imagine sushi rice in the picture), some beef mince and of course, a beer. Cook the rice now (or, rather, before you chop the vegetables).

Next, we brown the mince in an appropriately-sized frypan. Heat a little olive oil in the pan. Don’t you just love the colour of olive oil against the shiny pan? Add some garlic powder, or real garlic if you like. Some sweet paprika and cumin powder. Season with salt. Viola! Very tasty beef mince.

Oh, don’t forget to slice up some smoked salmon as well. Your sushi will thank you for it.

Last but not least, bring on the mayo, wasabi and soy sauce. They go amazingly well with sushi. I’m in love with the cute little dish (with mayo in it) we got from Vietnam, complete with its own tiny ceramic spoon.

When you have everything ready, here is a step-by-step instruction on how to roll your own sushi.

Come on, go ahead, you know you want some!

If you have any left over ingredients, they are perfect for salads, sandwiches, fried noodles, fried rice, omelette, anything you can think of!

Sono, Portside Wharf, Brissie

Sono has been operating in Brisbane for years and years. It was one of the first few Japanese restaurants in the city, and then there was Sono Portside Wharf, Hamilton. I have always wanted to try the food there, which is supposed to be extremely good.

We were in Brisbane recently. Due to the lack of private transport, I decided to catch public transport to Portside Wharf from my parents’ house. Public transport is fantastic in Brisbane – we caught a bus to the city and then took the Citycat from South Bank. Citycat is like a supercharged ferry, but it still took us 40 minutes from the city to Hamilton (it probably takes 15 minutes by car if the traffic is good).

But all the travel was well worth it. Sono is decorated beautifully, in simple Japanese setting, spacious and elegant. We were seated next to the window (I knew this already, as I was told this when I made a booking). The seating area is a level down from the table, which means you had to take off your shoes and climb into your seat. I must, at this point, marvel at the amazing bathroom. You enter the bathroom by pressing a button on the wall, and the dark tinted glass automatically slides back, revealing doors to the bathrooms. How cool is that!

Our beautifully set table:

For starters, we ordered a large plate of assorted sashimi, which consisted of different cuts of salmon, king fish, tuna, and scallops. I really enjoyed the sashimi, because I could actually taste the difference between the different cuts, and we polished off 24 pieces of raw fish in no time.

For mains, we shared Sono’s signature dish of South Queensland Kobe Cuisine wagyu steak, medium rare, in a garlic soy jus, served with butter sautéed seasonal vegetables. The steak was perfectly charred on the outside, but the inside was cooked absolutely spot on to medium rare. The meat did not taste fatty or sinewy, top grade beef!

I chose the black cod saikyo yaki – grilled NZ black cod, which, according to the menu, was pre-marinated with a traditional saikyo miso sauce for at least 2 days. The fish had a semi-crispy skin, which was tantalisingly sticky with marinade. It was cooked just right, and a very substantial serving. Simply orgasmic.

Well, we loved Sono, and would definitely go back. Everything was perfect, down to the quick and polite service.

A shot of Brisbane city on our way back home:

Eating our way around Sydney

IMG_2006Macarons from Adriano Zumbo Patisserie

It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out that the best places to satisfy your tummy are concentrated in Sydney and Melbourne, and since I live in neither of these two cities, it is highly unsatisfying to learn about wonderful places to eat and not being able to visit them.

Thus, a dinner booking in Aria at Circular Quay to celebrate our 18 months spiralled into a culinary journey (ok, it was more like a pigging out expedition) to experience what the rest of Sydney had to offer. Aria and Matt Moran, were, of course, the reason that we were in Sydney in the first place, but I took the opportunity to satiate my thirst for Adriano Zumbo’s baked goods at Balmain, taste the delicious ramen from Gumshara in Haymarket, and revisit the wonderfully authentic crispy-skinned chicken at Cabramatta. I don’t know how we managed to fit all those food in, and I am pretty sure that I have packed on a couple more kilos from this trip.

So here goes, loads of pictures and my reviews to make you drool!

Aria

The availability of a booking on the weekends is almost non-existent. We managed to secure a booking at 9pm (yes, 9pm!) for dinner.  We obviously lacked some foresight in making plans, and wondered aimlessly around Sydney CBD and the Rocks area for what seemed like forever in order to kill time. The anticipation and hunger were truly built up as we walked towards Aria at 8:50pm, not wanting to waste any more time.

Aria is very much like a small hotel reception as you walk through its heavy doors. A waiter stood behind a very simple counter and asked for our booking. A short corridor on our right leads to the main dining areas, which are divided into what I call the ‘important people area’ and the ‘newbie area’. The former would have had sweeping harbour views and easy sighting of the Opera House. The latter had glimpses of the harbour, but more like an upper deck area of those alfresco cafes dotted along Circular Quay. In case you were wondering, we were seated at the newbie area.

Seating aside, the food was truly amazing, and the service was near-meticulous. We started with an amuse-bouche, which I think was a carrot soup of some kind. This was both sweet and sour, which acted as a great appetite starter. Oh, I should mention at this point that the restaurant was very naughty with its lighting, so my pictures all had to be photoshoped, but they were done to the best of my ability and as close to the true colours of the dishes as possible.

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We were then served sourdough, and had a choice of either the roll or the slice. A very nice touch! The mains arrived quickly, I ordered the roasted trevalla with glazed witlof, chestnut mushrooms, white beans and a chicken jus, and Ben had the sirloin which was not on the menu, and I have totally forgotten how it was done. But suffices to say that the steak was cooked to perfection, and the sauce (what was that sauce?!) was most amazing. We also shared a side of truffled potato mash. The mash simply blew me away – it was extremely smooth, creamy, with a little bit of garlic, and tinged with a smokiness from the truffle oil. Granted, it was probably made with artificial truffle oil judging by the price, but the mash was excellent nonetheless.

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Although Aria is one of the top restaurants in the country, I did have a complaint to make about the trevalla. It was a beautiful piece of fish, but it was just a tad over cooked in an oven with the temperature set too high. This almost blackened the skin and left a bitter aftertaste. Together with the witloaf which was also a little bitter, the dish didn’t really go down that well. A little disappointing, especially after the crap that judges give to the contestants on Masterchef about overcooking fish, and they didn’t even burn the fish!

The desserts were good though. I’m not usually a chocolate slice/cake/tart fan, but just had to get the Valrhona chocolate delice with chocolate sorbet (because they made it on Masterchef!), and Ben ordered the mango cheese cake with ginger crumble, lime jelly and mango sorbet. The chocolate tart came out looking exactly the one I saw on TV, and was extremely satisfying. Ben’s cheesecake was more of a deconstructed cake, the ‘cheese’ bit sits on the plate, and the ‘base’ part is the ginger crumble, which are truly ‘crumbled’ around the ‘cheese’ part. It tasted quite refreshing after my rich chocolate tart. But for some reason Ben didn’t particularly like the mango cheese cake.

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Adriano Zumbo Patisserie

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Going to the patisserie was the result of a special request made by me. I was eager to experience the creations of this master of desserts. I think Ben was a bit unconvinced at first, but he walked away saying that it was the best cake he’s ever had. Point proven 🙂

So what was this ultimate cake for Ben? It’s called “Amanda Made the Cut” and consists of, ok wait for it….milk passion caramel mousse, lime creme, passionfruit marshmallow, coconut crunch and brownie! Sounds super delicious? You bet it was! (it also sounds super difficult to make)

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Amanda Made the Cut $7.90

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I managed to capture the remains of Amanda Made the Cut before it disappeared for good.

Unfortunatley, I didn’t take any pictures of our meals at Cabramatta, but here are more pictures of the other meals we in Sydney, including ramen at Gumshara Ramen (Haymarket).

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Monday misery

I am thinking about ramen after reading this. The more I think about it, the angrier I get.

Canberra is tragically deprived of good Japanese food, especially ramen. Sure, there are lots of bad Japanese food, such as Sizzling Bento in Kingston with its pseudo ramen in a less than palatable broth, Mee’s Sushi in Manuka which shamelessly adopts two-minute noodles as ramen and charges an inexcusable amount for it, and Wagamama in Civic that serves fast Japanese food made by English apprentices rather than the authentic fare. To think that Wagamama is as good as it gets in Canberra…

Japanese ramen has Chinese origins. The word ramen in Chinese is pronounced ‘la mien’, which translates into hand-pulled noodles. It’s not as big in China as it is in Japan, but I do remember eating curry beef la mien inside street stalls in Shanghai when I was little. The noodle was sold by weight (the measurement was ‘liang’ = 50 grams), and would come in a rich curry beef broth with lots of coriander. The beef was thinly sliced and goes amazingly well with the herb in the curried broth. This is probably very different to Japanese ramen versions.

Talking about ramen is making me hungry. I think I will go eat last night’s dinner now. As for ramen, I will have to wait until Sydney.

**ETA**: We went to Wagamama last night for ramen (because we just couldn’t hold it out any longer). It was terrible. I had a chilli chicken ramen which came really fast but the quantity was measly. Ben had a Wagamama ramen which came nearly 20 minutes after mine and was just as bad. The quantity and quality were so lacking, in fact we went to Nando’s afterwards for a second meal.