Friday, August 28, 2009

the top 10 influential cooking books in australia

Good living had an article on "the top 10 influential cooking books in australia" , and I have three of them. This is my odometerage ...

The Cook's Companion , by Stephanie Alexander.

Probably my first proper recipe book purchase, about a year after it was first published I have had a few recipies not quite work out of this one. E.g. pancakes, and a friend didn't have much luck with the peach pie. However, I have had some success and 'favourites', crop out of this book, like pesto, bbq chicken wings and lamb roast marinade (the lamb roast itself was terribly undercooked according to the weight/time/heat ratio that she offers).

Thai Food , by David Thompson I bought this for myself a few years ago, coveting the pretty pink silk cover, and the fact that it came with TWO inbuilt ribbon bookmarks, not just one. I tried to read this cover to cover, and only made it through the introduction and lengthy descriptions in the first half of the book. However, after having owned this one for a year, and not really having cooked from it, I made the resolution not to buy any more cookbooks. Generally I use this one more as a reference, to look up the composition of dishes that I have enjoyed at thai restaurants. E.g, "Nam dtok", after I sampled this at the Jindabyne thai restaurant. Dishes that I have tried to cook from this with varying degrees of success have been: tom yum (much better if you don't substitute everything out of it), vietnamese dipping sauce, and green papaya salad.

The Complete Asian Cookbook , by Charmaine Solomon. A friend of mine was given a copy of this almost ten years ago, and I have coveted it ever since. I read it cover to cover whilst sitting in her couch! I later received it as a gift one Christmas. I use this as a handy reference for some Asian ingredients, looking up undecipherable ingredients that I have found on the back of some packets. I haven't actually cooked a dish from it. A handy tool is the index in the back which has lists of alternative names for ingredients. My one gripe is that it needs more illustrations. Having accidently bought warrigal greens once, it took a while to identify it from this book.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Food Cravings: Kaiso Salad

One of my favourite food cravings is the Kaiso salad from Sushisuma< in Surry Hills. I love the crunchy texture of the cabbage and the vinegar/sharp citrus flavours of the ponzu salad mixed with Japanese mayonnaise. Ramen Kan in Bondi Junction has something similar in their "Seaweed" Salad, but it isn't as moreish.

I have tried to find the equivalent ponzu salad dressing from Tokyo mart in Northbridge, but without much success.

Last time I got takeaway from Sushisuma, I got extra salad dressing, which I promptly decanted into a spare bottle.

Just had my first homemade salad, but with the leftover kaiso salad dressing. The cabbage isn't sliced as finely (I don't have a mandolin), and I have no seaweed (subsitituted with coriander, parsley and snow peas), but YUM. oh! and I forgot the mayo! Next time.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Review: Red Lantern Vietnamese, Surry Hills (Closed)

A last minute decision to eat out for dinner instead of cooking at home on the last day of a holiday, I ended up playing phone tag with the staff from Red Lantern. I wouldn't have guessed it, but they were almost fully booked on a Sunday night, and they could only fit in a table for two between 6pm and 8pm. I saw three couples turn up to try and get a table as a "walk in", and they were refused, so we were quite lucky to have grabbed a table.
The mains were $25-$35; the entrees were all just under $20. There was a 10% Sunday surcharge, and quite a few specials on the menu.
The food was really tasty ... I got to try :
1. soft shell crab with a tomato, cucumber, grapefruit (little yellow citrus wedges) and vietnamese herb salad (the dressing was quite sweet, but you needed a little bit more so you could dip the crab into more sauce. Also maybe a touch more salt;
2. beef lemongrass wrapped in betel leaves and on a bed of vermicilli. Very tasty, but with the smells of this dish and the crab one, I found this one almost offensive. When you smelled it on its own, it was okay, and smelled quite nice.
3. Shallow fried snapper with a sweet sour sauce (also a bit of green papaya salad). Yummo. I felt like I ate a lot of crunchy stuff. The sauce was nice, the fish was delicious and I crunched the smaller bones (and fins), the flesh was really tasty and still had some give.
We had a similar dish at our local thai restaurant and it was terrible!! the fish then had been deep fried for too long, and the whole thing was tough (deepfried), and rubbery.
4. Organic choy sum with a preserved (fermented) beencurd sauce. L liked this one and suggested that we buy a jar of the fermented bean curd to try and make it! That's the stuff in the jar that looks like cheese and smells ferocious
5. Green tea.
and yes... I did take a few pictures. I felt like I ate a lot of crunchy stuff - I wish the waiter had commented on that so that I could've had a rethink of the menu choices.

Post post note: Red Lantern Surry Hills has closed. However there is an alternative location in Darlinghurst 
street: 60 Riley Street, Darlinghurst NSW 2010. 
phone: +61-2-9698-4355