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Behold, the solution to dealing with the wintery cold hand we have been dealt: Oriental Teahouse’s ‘Fire in a Bowl’ experience. While the bowl itself isn’t actually lit on fire, nor will it set you alight, the heat in this spice-laden bowl will have you peeling off the winter knitted layers in no time. I was recently invited to attend a lunch to sample the dish, and I would like to thank Oriental Teahouse and Harvey Publicity for the invitation.
The ‘Fire in a Bowl’-dubbed Szechuan hot pot is a recent addition to the yumcha-based menu at the Melbourne Central Oriental Teahouse restaurant. *Note. the Szechuan hot pot is only available at the Melbourne Central location.
David Zhou’s Oriental Teahouse restaurant chain is not only renown for their yumcha (particularly because it’s the ONLY restaurant that continues to serve yumcha after the sun goes down) but also for their extensive selection of teas. And if anyone should know about tea, it’s the man behind the making of the restaurant and its menu. The very friendly and charismatic David Zhou joined us for lunch on the day, and I was given a brief lesson on teas whilst tossing up between a few different ones. Wow, free lunch AND a tea lesson. Going by his recommendation, I ended up with a very fragrant white tea.
Onto the most important aspect of this post: the Fire in the Bowl. The dish is available in three different levels. Well four, if you decide to leave out the spice altogether. All bowls are made up of pork and chive dumplings, sweet potato noodles, tofu skin, black fungus, cabbage, pieces of fish and chicken, and varying amounts of hua jiao Szechuan chilli peppers.
Exhibit A: Level 0.
No signs of red = no spice.
Exhibit B: Level 1.
Exhibit C: Level 2.
Possessing some tolerance for spice and feeling somewhat daring, I decided to go with the midrange amount of spice. My eyes almost popped out when I saw the amount of redness in my bowl!
It’s a shame that no one ordered the level 3 dish; I would have been interested in seeing both what the dish looked like and the consumer’s reaction to the spice…
It’s hard to avoid slurping when it comes to eating noodles, but I learnt the hard way that the move is a no-no with this dish. The chilli oil from the peppers swept through the soup, and slurping will lead to spice going up the wrong pipe… The szechuan spice was subtly numbing at first, resulting in a pleasant tingle, but continued to grow as more of the dish was consumed. Spice factor, tick. The best part of the dish easily came in the form of the pork and chive dumplings. The skin was perfectly gelatinous and yet delicate, and the sweet pork filling was well-flavoured from the ginger and chive additions. The lusciously tender pieces of fish were also quite enjoyable, and provided a welcome distraction from the fiery, spicy presence.
Some pointers I picked up in dealing with the spice:
1. Ask for the chilli peppers on the side, and then add the amount you wish to add.
2. If the chilli is already in your bowl, there’s no shame in conceding defeat and fishing out the chilli. I may or may not have resorted to this strategy…
3. Have a nice cold and refreshing drink on standby to douse out the fiery hotness. This raspberry cordial-like ice-cold tea was a godsend…
Whether you’re interested in playing ‘spicy chicken’, a fan of spice, or just after a tasty, CHEAP (a mere $12.50 for such a large serving) and hot bowl of soupy noodles to combat the cold, there’s something in every ‘Fire in the Bowl’ for everyone.
Disclosure: the opinions expressed in this post are based entirely on my experience and observations made during the time of my visit.
GD 068/69, Melbourne Central Shopping Centre
(Closest to the corner Elizabeth St, La Trobe St entrance)
Melbourne, Victoria, 3000.
(03) 9066 0208
Presented by David Zhou (Oriental Teahouse/David’s)
Saturday 16th February, 12-1pm
Every so often, the fashion capital of Victoria (otherwise more widely known as Chadstone Shopping Centre) temporarily takes on the title of fashion AND food capital when it hosts a series of hands-on cooking demonstrations. Taught by experts and renown chefs in the food industry, these classes teach you how to whip up a variety of dishes: from soft shell crab po’boys to shu mai dumplings. The cost of each class ranges from $10 to $20, with all proceeds supporting a wonderful charity called Streat.
Hailing from the westside and with my go-to major shopping centre being Highpoint, I was not aware of the masterclasses held at Chadstone until I received a email invite from the lovely folks at Chadstone. I would like to thank Chadstone - The Fashion Capital for the wonderful opportunity to observe and partake in a few of the masterclasses.
The following post sums up the Shanghai Shu Mai masterclass and also includes a recipe for the dumplings.
The Masterclass arena, situated outside Zara and Diana Ferrari on the lower level.
Several classes were held over a period of three days.
A heads up for the next Masterclass series: be sure to make a booking early to avoid disappointment because these classes sell out fast!
I haven’t met many chefs, but David is definitely one of the most charismatic and friendly chefs I have had the privilege to meet yet! When I hear the words ‘Asian chef’, my mind conjures up an image of a cranky and always-in-a-rush chef who barks orders around the kitchen. But David was nothing like that… not even close! His smiley and humorous nature was infectious and his passion for dumplings and Asian cuisine clearly showed. He spent a good 2 minutes talking about rice and even managed to squeeze in a small lecture on the medicinal properties of ginger. We learnt more than just cooking!
(Makes 60 dumplings)
4 to 6 dried shiitake/black mushrooms
1 tablespoon soy sauce
2 tablespoon dark soy sauce
2 tablespoon sesame oil
1/2 teaspoon sugar
2 tablespoon vegetable oil
500g minced pork
3 chinese sausage
2 cups cooked glutinous rice (at room temperature)
100g small dried shrimps
1 pack siu mai wrappers
1/4 cup frozen edamame, thawed and with no shell
Optional: cabbage leaves to place under the shu mai
1. Cook the rice according to the instructions given on the packet.
2. Soak the dried mushrooms in a bowl filled with warm water, ensuring that the mushrooms are completely covered. Soak for approximately 20 minutes or until the mushrooms are soft. Drain the water.
3. Remove the mushroom stems and chop the mushrooms finely.
4. Do the same for the chinese sausages, dicing them into small pieces.
5. Heat a wok over high heat until hot. Add the oil and swirl around to coat the sides of the wok.
6. Add the minced pork, chinese sausage, dry shrimp and mushroom. Stir fry the ingredients until the pork is crumbly and cooked through (approximately 2 minutes).
7. Add the rice, soy sauces, sesame oil and sugar. Stir to combine and cook until heated through (approximately 1 minute). Remove the wok from the heat and set aside to cool.
*When preparing the dumplings, ensure that the dumpling wrappers are covered with a damp towel to prevent them from drying out.
8. Take a wrapper and place one tablespoon of the dumpling filling onto the centre of the wrapper.
9. Gather up the sides that surround the filling, squeeze the sides at the half way point, and gently twist to form a ‘waist’, leaving the dumpling open at the top.
10. Place an edamame bean onto the top of the dumpling.
*Note. keep the prepared dumplings covered with a damp cloth while preparing the remaining dumplings.
Steam the dumplings:
11. Add water to a wok, reaching a depth of approximately 2 inches, and bring to the boil.
12. Line the inside of a bamboo steamer with cabbage leaves or parchment paper. Place the dumplings into the steamer and then set this over the water (steamer should not touch water). For optimal results, leave enough space between the dumplings so that adjacent dumplings do not touch.
*A piece of wood can be used to prop the steamer up and away from the water.
13. Steam the dumplings until the wrapper is cooked and tender (approximately 3-4 minutes).
14. Serve with chilli paste and soy sauce to taste.
David Zhou with his finished product. He picked it up almost soon after it had come off the steamer, which next resulted in an “OUCH! HOT!”
I was quite surprised to find that the textures from the rice and mince combined together seamlessly. The blend of the aromatic and well-flavoured mince+rice (I was already salivating whilst the filling was being cooked on the wok) was given a further flavour boost by the chinese sausage, mushrooms and crunchy pieces of shrimp, making each bite (or mouthful if you can fit in a whole dumpling in one go) an explosion of the tasty Asian flavours. David’s version of the Shanghai Shu Mai takes the typical shu mai dumpling to the next level!
What do you get when you put together three avid bakers for an afternoon in the kitchen that falls exactly one week before Chinese New Year? A decision to make Asian desserts, a few too many mishaps but some decent steamed egg custard buns and a pandan sponge cake! The following post details our (with themacarondiaries and pamoola) custard bun adventure thanks to the folks at HKF Co. for their bao premix (instructions comes in Chinese, Vietnamese and English) and the custard filling recipe from a post by Jessica Gavin.
Egg custard filling:
10g custard powder
50g butter, at room temperature
1 large egg
1 packet 400g steamed bun cake premix (we used ‘Rooster’)
1 cup milk
1/2 cup sugar
1 tablespoon cooking oil
2 tablespoons white vinegar (for steaming)
The custard filling.
*note. must get myself a set of kitchen scales… On another note, the measurements given on the side of the butter packaging is very accurate.
1. Add the dry ingredients for the custard filling to a saucepan followed by the milk.
2. Stir over low heat until the ingredients are fairly combined and gradually add the butter (a quarter to a third at a time) until completely melted. Remove the saucepan from heat.
3. Gently beat the egg. Whilst continuing to stir the mixture (off the heat), slowly add the beaten egg and mix until combined. (It helps when you have three people in the kitchen!)
Our mixture was still quite runny at this point but we figured that it would thicken after being set aside to cool. After 45 minutes and no such luck, we decided to put the mixture back onto the stove but this step can be done immediately after step 3.
4. (If your custard mix is runny) Continue to stir the custard filling over low heat for 5-10 minutes until the mixture has thickened to the consistency shown below. Set aside to cool.
*Note. Constant attention is required during this step whilst the custard is on the stove. Do not leave the mixture alone to avoid overcooking or lumps.
When the custard filling is done, get started on the bao. There are plenty of recipes to do this from scratch but being our first time making bao (without the supervision of our mamas who have long been making them since before we were born), we decided to go with a premix. No mucking around with yeast!
5. Follow the instructions on the packet. In a nutshell:
a. Remove two tablespoons of flour from the packet. *THIS IS IMPORTANT since you’ll need the flour during the kneading process and when the dough is being rolled out.
b. In a large mixing bowl, combine the remaining flour with the sugar and milk.
c. Thoroughly bring together the ingredients with a wooden spoon.
d. Get your hands dirty and knead the dough for 10 minutes.
The dough will get quite sticky at times and this is when the flour that has been put aside comes into use. Grab a pinch of the flour and rub the flour between your hands. In doing so, the sticky dough on your hands will come off in clumps and the dough mixture becomes less stick. Do this whenever necessary.
e. Add a tablespoon of cooking oil to the dough and knead until combined. Set aside to rest for 30 minutes.
Instead of playing the waiting game, we spent this 30 minutes prepping the pandan sponge cake mixture (post to come soon).
6. Roughly break the dough into four portions and for one portion at a time, roll the dough into a rope (about the size of a rolling pin) on a floured surface.
7. Break the rope into 6 equal portions by hand.
*Note. we used a knife and learnt the hard way that the ‘sharper edges’ created by the knife made it harder roll into a ball.
8. Roll the dough into a ball and flatten into a circle using your palm and the floured surface. Use your fingers to press the dough into a ‘cup’.
9. Add 1 to 1 1/2 teaspoon of the custard to the middle of the cupped dough. Working your way around the edges and in one direction, pinch the dough together to seal the custard filling inside.
WORK FAST. The dough is quite elastic-y and will start to retract as soon as you remove it from the floured surface in step 8. It continues to do so as you fill it with custard and pinch the dough together. Aside from being nimble, flattening out the dough into a larger-sized circle will also help.
10. Continue to pinch the dough together until a relatively smooth surface is attained. This side becomes the ‘bottom’ of the bun. Place the bun onto baking paper. Continue to fill the rest.
11. Once assembled, allow the buns to set for 10-15 minutes.
The first few were duds but we got better at putting the baos together as we went along. You can see a clear difference between our earlier and the later ones.
12. Bring water to boil in a steamer and add 2 tablespoons of white vinegar to the water (this will help whiten the buns). On high heat, steam the buns for approximately 10 minutes.
*Note. Despite the probable temptation of wanting to check on the progress of the buns during the steaming process, do not open the steamer whilst the buns are cooking!
The duds. I like to think that the imperfections give them a bit of character… We definitely meant for these ones to turn out like this…
I thought we’d end up with some cute mini custard buns but was surprised to see how much they had expanded in the steamer.
An egg tart version of the custard bun!
We ate the uglier ones first (they still tasted GREAT) to hide the evidence of our failed ones. So it makes complete sense that I’d be putting up photo evidence of them onto the internet for the whole world to see!
Considering the fact that none of us had ever made bao before, we were quite pleased with how they turned out. The dough was consistent in texture, fluffy and light, and the egg custard filling was delicate and velvety smooth. We weren’t the only ones who thought they were tasty… I came home from uni after nine hours to find my share of buns completely devoured.
Enjoy and happy Chinese new year!
When J-Dog (sorry, the name has stuck) and his missus mentioned that they had NEVER been to yum cha before and was keen to experience the bombardment of practically all things prawn, we made plans to go one Saturday. Penciled into my schedule before the weather forecast came out, we landed with one scorcher of a Saturday. The 37 degree weather was enough to keep away some of the weekend patrons that usually fill the venue to the brim, and scoring a table was noticeably easier than usual.
With less people and less tables to attend to, the service was much more efficient and the trolleys kept coming past our table at more frequent intervals.
We had our eyes on our dessert from the very beginning (the vibrant colours of the jelly cubes are particularly eye-catching) and the lady with the trolley was quite amused by our eagerness for dessert despite us not being done with our savouries.
We soon found our table covered in plates and bamboo steamer baskets.
The steamed staples of every yum cha session: prawn dumplings, rice rolls with prawns, pork dumplings (siu mai) and shark’s fin dumplings.
Many times however I’ll skip the siu mai due to the amount of meat present but since it was an induction to yum cha session for the other two, it had to be ordered.
Steamed BBQ pork buns. This is another dish that I usually avoid due to how filling it is but it’s not so bad if shared between two or more people.
Some tea to help wash down the oiliness of the fried goodies: Deep fried taro dumplings (another of my favourite orders), spring rolls and BBQ ribs. Never have I ordered the ribs before but they caught the attention of J-Dog. The ribs aren’t bad if you enjoy your ribs and sweet BBQ flavour.
Deep fried prawn bean curd roll.
The incredibly crispy skin on this roll has me ordering this dish every time we go out to yum cha. Enjoy with heaps of tea on the side to help break up the oil and leave out the mayo to lessen the fat load. Again since it was the other two’s first time, the mayo was kept.
And finally, we were ready for dessert.
Mango pudding, served with milk.
The mango flavour was plentiful but the texture was a little perplexing at first. Instead of the smooth and firm custard texture my palate was expecting, a somewhat chalky feel was instead encountered and was likely due to the stringy mango used (as opposed to using completely-processed mango).
After my 10-year hiatus from egg tarts due to one bad experience, they’re finally back on my eating list again. Huzzah! Plume’s version is one of the best I’ve encountered. Although this is only my third egg tart eaten in recent times so I may be wrong.. The pastry is flaky and delicate, the egg portion is quite light and custard-like. It’s not too sweet and is the perfect end to any yum cha meal.
From my many yum cha experiences over the years, I’ve learnt that there are two types of yum cha restaurants: ones that you keep revisiting or ones that are a no-no after one visit. Plume definitely falls into the former category and J-Dog + his missus enjoyed their first yum cha adventure at Plume. The customer service is relatively good, the quality of the food is quite consistent in its great taste, and the prices are not over the roof. Oh, and the restaurant is located right outside one of the car park areas for Highpoint Shopping Centre, which means you can go
shopping afterwards walk around to burn off the yum cha meal.
200 Rosamond Rd,
Maribyrnong, Victoria, 3032.
(03) 9318 6833
I thought it’d be best to write up my food adventures encountered whilst travelling as separate posts because:
1. if I included the food aspects with the travel details, the post would become ridiculously long to write/read.
2. this blog is primarily about food.
So here’s to the first Vietnam food adventure post. There’s more to come!
As I’ve mentioned in the travel post, the goose and I stumbled across a decent-looking establishment near Ben Thanh Market and decided to have lunch there.
Mon Hue Restaurant
98 Nguyen Trai St,
District 1, Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam
+84 8 6240 5323
With an interior like this, the restaurant could easily pass for one back at home in say, Footscray. Based on decor and appearance, there seemed to be a reduced chance of giving us an upset stomach.
Their menu, in the shape of a traditional Vietnam hat (non la).
Iced coffee with milk. Ca phe sua da.
I’ve learnt the Vietnamese word for this drink because the goose orders it practically once a day! Sometimes even twice… I also ordered one but because I’m not a coffee fan, this really wasn’t my cup of tea. Or should I say cup of coffee??
Our order. For the low low price of less than 200000 VND ($10 AUD).
Chao Hen - baby clam congee.
Banh uot tom chay - savory rice rolls, served with ground shrimp
Ram Hue - Hue imperial egg rolls.
Served with lettuce and various mint leaves.
Assembling the ram hue into what looked like mini lettuce parcels.
Our first meal in Vietnam at Mon Hue left a very good impression and if it could be used as an indicator of our remaining meals in Vietnam, then we’d leave Vietnam with full and happy tummies!
A packet of skittles that we had purchased back in Melbourne before our flight. I’m surprised they made it all the way to Vietnam without Susper demolishing them!
Any guesses as to what flavour the goose DOESN’T like?
Mr. B kindly and generously took us out for a chinese banquet-style dinner at the Windsor Plaza Hotel. It’s one of Vietnam’s top 100 restaurants according to the gourmet-asia website.
Ngan Dinh Restaurant
5th floor, Windsor Plaza Hotel
18 An Duong Vuong St,
District 5, Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam
+84 8 3830 8888
*Note. the chinese breeding inside of me automatically thinks wow, so many 8’s. Lucky number!
We had no idea what we were in for and were thoroughly impressed by the grand and opulent surroundings and decor.
Pu-erh tea (po lei cha).
Complimentary starter dishes.
Needless to say, I didn’t touch the chilli.
We were in Mr. B’s hands and allowed him to choose the dishes.
Any guesses? I though it was duck from afar. Turns out it was…
It was mostly likely prepared and cooked in a similar fashion to roast duck because there wasn’t much difference in terms of taste.
A very tender cut of beef. I don’t usually love beef but found this to be quite delicious. The pillowy and tender pieces seemed to melt away leaving behind the flavours of the grill and marinade.
Excellent with rice and not too spicy for those who can’t handle strong amounts of spice.
What’s in the soup? In the soup? What’s in the soup today? (Oh great, now I have that stupid what’s in the box theme playing over and over in my mind)
Beef, chicken feet and sea cucumber (sea SLUG).
The soup was very rich and the beef was very stringy to an extent that it appeared to fall off the bones. I couldn’t bring myself to eat the feet or the slug.
Asian green of some sort (I really should learn all the names some time soon).
It was nice to have a plate of greens to balance out all the other dishes. Not too salty and the flavours weren’t overpowering.
If you like your asian banquet-style dinners, Ngan Dinh restaurant is a must. The quality was no worse than the best we have back in Melbourne.
SURPRISE! I thought it’d be fitting to start off the post with that word because:
1. This is where J took me out to dinner as part of his surprise for the big number five.
2. I had no idea that there was ANOTHER Gold Leaf situated within walking distance from the one at Harbour Town and that,
3. Unlike their other establishments that are associated with yumcha and Asian-style banquet dining, this additional Docklands venue branches into the world of HOT POT and lastly,
4. J copped a surprise when he learnt that I wasn’t the biggest fan of hot pot (followed by disappointment)
Gone is the giant red wall with the gold “double happiness” character (this seems to be a prominent theme in many Asian restaurants, including those in the Gold Leaf empire) and the interior is instead replaced with one that is a little more modern-esque through its creamy, golden and brown hues.
The tables were huge, featuring one large hot plate in the middle and four smaller side ones. You could either opt to share or go for individual pots.
Given the different soup options, we decided to pick individual pots. We BOTH ended up choosing the tom yum option and probably should have just gone with the shared pot in the centre.
Tom yum soup.
$40 AUD per person for the all-you-can-eat option.
Our large table began to look less spacious.
Even more so as dinner progressed…
An abundance of sauces to choose from.
Chinese cabbage and egg noodles.
Shanghai wontons and chicken & prawn dumplings.
Vegetables & pork dumplings.
Dried bean curd, bok choy, egg noodles and sweet corn.
Minced prawn ball.
Although I’m not the biggest fan of hot pot (thanks to a 2008 China trip that saw me eating hot pot practically once every second day), it ain’t so bad when eaten with a tom yum soup base and ESPECIALLY when there’s no pieces of chicken liver floating in the soup. The ingredients were fresh and when you throw in the dumplings with the tasty fillings and the balls of the minced seafood variety into the mix, it was a surprisingly good dinner. Imagine J’s relief… Thanks again doofus <3
427 Docklands Drive,
Waterfront City, Docklands, Victoria, 3008.
(03) 9642 4288