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In close proximity to the area and feeling peckish after our steamed egg custard buns and pandan chiffon cake baking efforts, we decided to head to Springvale for their annual Lunar New Year celebrations. Thoughts of nem nuong instantly came to mind and had me salivating.
However after spending a good 10 minutes looking for a parking spot and another 15 weaving through and being pushed by what felt like the entire Asian population of Melbourne, we decided to throw in the towel and dine at a nearby restaurant instead. Choosing to do so before others had caught on, we managed to secure a table for four at Pho Hoang. We had arrived at a good time because the restaurant was completely full within 20 minutes.
The interior looked very similar to other Vietnamese restaurants I have previously visited and had I not known where we were, I could’ve sworn up and down that we were in Footscray or Richmond…
Aside from the occasional picture depicting some sort of landscape or scenery, the interior was quite basic. Minus the frills, we had high hopes for the food.
It’s safe to assume that when the word ‘pho’ features in the name of the restaurant, the Vietnamese rice noodle dish is a must-order. And that we did, with the other three ladies ordering variations of the pho dish. Going by the nonexistent complaints and the satisfaction of pho cravings, they were happy with their dishes.
Egg noodles with wontons.
And me? I’m not the biggest pho fan to begin with, so I decided to go in a different direction (but not really) and order the wonton noodles. The MSG-laden soup was quite sweet and salty, and while the familiar taste was pleasant at first, it soon became too much for my taste buds.
Like the serving portions at this restaurant, the wontons themselves were also quite generously-sized. The silky and soft wonton skins were a plus but the mince and mushroom filling tasted too ‘sweet’ for my liking. Together with the soup, the dish was one big MSG overdose. After flicking off much of the soup, the egg noodles, lettuce and bean shoots were fortunately alright to eat.
While this encounter has not deterred me from ordering wonton noodles again if I were to revisit this restaurant in future, I may just opt for the pho option to be safe.
36 Buckingham Ave,
Springvale, Victoria, 3171.
(03) 9558 4064
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!
In the course of my life to date, the appeal of a buffet spread has changed over time. As a child, a dining experience at ANY all-you-can-eat restaurant was practically like Christmas come early. Nowadays, not so much. Many of the very same restaurants that had me jumping for joy during my childhood days now have me running in the opposite direction, away from the far-from-fresh, oil-laden foods. However there remains some decent buffet restaurants out there and one of them is China Bar Signature Asian Buffet. Touted as Melbourne’s largest Asian buffet, their selection of food is quite extensive indeed. Selection, check. Quantity, check (it’s a buffet!) As for quality, very decent and more so than most of the other buffet restaurants. Admittedly, the price tag is a little heftier but worth it if you’re after both quantity and quality.
Rather than write a ridiculously and seemingly endless post reviewing EVERY single item I touched, I thought I’d just post the photos. Besides, a photo is worth a 1000 words right? Enjoy.
Views of the interior.
The salad/cold selections.
Yum cha selections - dumplings, egg tarts and all things prawn!
Japanese selections - Japanese salads and sushi. (Sashimi available during dinner time)
More yum cha and Malaysian hawker foods.
A sweet, sweet ending: dessert! Oh, and fruits too for the healthy-conscious.
The desserts were quite petite-sized, which means stomach space to sample more goods.
Cheese, bread and olive selections.
BRIE. AND BLUE CHEESE. I’m not a fan of blue cheese but the capital letters were used to emphasize how amazed I was to see such good-quality cheese up for grabs.
China Bar Signature Asian Buffet (CBD)
222 Exhibition St,
Melbourne CBD, Victoria, 3000.
(03) 9988 7778
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
It’s official. Congratulations to thehouseofem on taking her first steps into the world of adulthood: moving into her own BOUGHT property! On another note, with new territory comes new food adventures and there’s definitely plenty around the Carnegie area!
Our first of what I expect to be many meals in the Carnegie area took place at Auntie’s Dumpling Restaurant. We (thehouseofem, Wfred, myself and later on, pamoola) came at a great time, swooping in on the last table available.
The interior of the restaurant looked like something out of China and conveys an emphasis of the food rather than the surroundings.
Some tea to warm ourselves up on a more winter-than-autumn cold night.
Thehouseofem’s Hot & sour soup.
THOE’s verdit: it hits the spot after being in the cold but it could be more spicy and more sour.
Spring onion pancake.
At first glance, the pancake didn’t look too appetising with its thickness and “dull colouring”. My initial impression was knocked out of the window and into the cold as soon as I had my first taste. Compared to other spring onion pancakes, Auntie’s version was thicker but also more crisp and this resulted in a perfect thickness to crispness ratio. The thickness does come from the use of extra flour and so the flavours were a little on the blander side. But along came the soy sauce and we had ourselves one fantastic-tasting spring onion pancake.
Fried pork dumplings.
Boiled chicken & prawn dumplings.
The seasoning and flavours in the chicken & prawn were quite light and comes across as bland after tasting the other dumplings (all of which had chives in them!). The chicken was finely minced and the prawn pieces were unevenly distributed throughout the mince ie. some dumplings had more prawn bits than others.
Chili oil dumplings in soup.
Dumplings, check. Soup, check. Oil, check. Oil, check again (so much oil…) Chilli? Nada. This was my least favourite dish on the night. The soup was too oily and any spiciness if present was virtually undetectable. The dumplings in dish were exactly the same as the fried pork dumplings, except not fried. The dumpling wrappers seemed much thicker in this dish thanks to the dumplings being soaked in the soup.
While it is a sit down, food comes, eat fast and get out sort of restaurant, given the queue that does accumulate, it can still be a bit of a wait. Towards the end of our meal, the queue had extended to outside of the restaurant (most definitely not fun in the freezing cold!). Aside from the spring onion pancakes and the fried pork dumplings, the rest of the food at Auntie’s seemed mediocre at best. Good if you’re needing a quick dumpling fix!
Congratulations again homeowner! Here’s to many more Carnegie eating adventures.
Auntie’s Dumpling Restaurant
68 Koornang Rd,
Carnegie, Victoria, 3163
(03) 9568 6641
One of the best dining experiences you can have are those that turn out to be unexpectedly delightful. Robarta was one of those instances. Admittedly, I jumped the gun when I saw the appearance of what looked a couple of tables thrown into a bar setting, as opposed to a proper restaurant setting. It was a classic situation of “don’t judge a book by its cover” or rather, don’t judge a restaurant by its appearance…
The interior. Definitely more bar than restaurant.
Our eating utensils. I think the last time I encountered chopsticks in a bar setting was overseas and was a little amused by this sight.
Much of Robarta’s menu is comprised of Asian tapas dishes that are perfect for sharing. Not to mention great-size accompaniments for a few drinks here and there.
Pork/prawn spring rolls - house made, a light Filo pastry filled with fresh ingredients and sweet chilli dipping sauce. (Vegetarian/chicken option also available)
As you can see here (and what I was surprised to see myself), there was no skimping on the prawns! And they were fresh to boot! Or at least they tasted quite fresh to me. The overall taste resulting from a perfect balance of flavour and prawn-to-pork-to-cabbage ratio was quite impressive for a “westernised” spring roll and probably just fell short of the authentic Vietnamese spring rolls.
Chicken & pork San Choi Bao - chicken and pork combined with shiitake mushrooms, Chinese wine, soy & oyster sauce, with lime zest, carrot, coriander and bean sprouts.
This dish was Mon’s choosing and I for one am glad that she picked it. I usually lose interest at the word San and don’t bother reading the rest. But after Mon voted to order it, I read the description and the list of ingredients wowed me. The actual product itself did not disappoint. While there were a lot of flavours floating around in the dish, they all complimented one another perfectly. Very Asian-flavoured and light.
Shanghai dumpling - minced pork, shiitake mushroom, Chinese cabbage, with soy & oyster sauce.
Yet another pleasant surprise. These dumplings were almost as delicious as the ones served at where I think serves Melbourne’s ultimate dumplings, Shanghai Village. The flavour and texture of the pork fillings were on par but the exterior wasn’t as crispy. Still enjoyable though!
Crispy skin chicken drummettes - chicken drummettes coated in [their] special spice mix and cooked to a crispy finish.
Four for four? Home run? Unfortunately no, the delicious streak ended here. The chicken was a bit too oily for our liking. And while the flavour wasn’t too bad, it also wasn’t anything to rave about. Given the extent of how much we had enjoyed the other dishes up until this point, we weren’t feeling to disappointed.
White chocolate panna cotta - a light, silky-smooth cream & white chocolate custard, with berries & sticky red wine syrup.
There’s no false advertising when they say light and silky smooth because its texture was what I’d picture a rich vanilla mousse to be. Think crème brûlée but a smidgen bit thicker and fluffier. The vanilla taste was very distinct but not too potent or too sweet. The sticky red wine syrup provided most of the sweetness for the dessert but the fresh fruits helped to balance it out.
Apple, mango and coconut crumble - stewed apple and mango topped with a golden coconut crumble, served with fresh cream.
This was definitely unlike any other crumble I had tried. Extra oomph was given to this dessert by the inclusion of mango and coconut. Fortunately for me, the coconut taste was quite subtle (I’m not the biggest fan of coconut) but still detectable. The crumble layer was very crisp and crunchy and provided a nice contrast to the very mooshy mix of fruits. The mango taste was often overpowered by the apple and only distinct in some bites.
All in all, Mon and myself walked out of Robarta with full stomachs and smiles on our faces. We were pleasantly wowed by how enjoyable our meals turned out and it really just goes to show how a restaurant’s decor is no reflection on how tasty their food is.
109 Fitzroy St,
St Kilda, Victoria, 3182
(03) 9534 9041
Following a delicious brunch for thehouseofem’s birthday, there was still more food to come! We were chatting when the conversation suddenly took a turn at the mention of yum cha. Which triggered a chorus of “yum cha?”, “did someone say yum cha?”, “oooooh yum cha…”, “I can do with yum cha…”, “mmmmmmmmm…” and finally, “let’s go to yum cha.” However at 6pm, yum cha becomes virtually non-existent, with all the usual go-to yum cha places in Chinatown switching to a banquet-style menu for dinner. Fortunately, there was Oriental Tea House, which serves yum cha at all hours of the day until closing time.
Oriental Tea House @ Melbourne Central.
Oriental Tea House, as the name suggests, is a teahouse that sells a large assortment of teas and tea merchandise (teapots etc.) It’s also a restaurant that serves up quite an extensive yum cha menu and a few other dishes here and there. Think T2 meets yum cha, rolled into one, and you get Oriental Tea House.
So many teas. Complimentary tastings.
Illusion “Pot tail” (cocktail in a teapot) - Bicardi, Malibu, Midori, Triple sec and Pineapple juice.
I thought it was a very interesting and funky take on cocktails. Taste-wise, it was no different to an actual Midori Illusion drink.
Our yum cha and non-yum cha selections.
Peking Duck - roast duck served in a pancake with cucumber and plum sauce.
Not the best Peking duck I’ve tried but it will certainly hit the spot if you’re sporting some serious duck and pancake cravings.
Spring rolls - Rolled with minced pork and shredded vegetables.
The skin was quite fluffy and crisp. The filling was decent and definitely better than the western take on spring rolls but it tasted as though there was something mixing. As for the sauce that accompanied the spring rolls? Asian mayonnaise = delicious. It can’t be good for you…
BBQ pork buns - slightly sweet white flour bun filled with marinated pork
I did some serious bun overdosing during my childhood so nowadays I will rarely eat them. And even when I do, they usually are ones that have come from our kitchen at home. No complaints were heard from the others so I’m guessing they weren’t bad.
Prawn dumplings - prawn mixed with bamboo strips in a translucent wrapper.
Same as usual.
Chive dumplings - chopped chives and prawn in a translucent flour wrapper.
Surprisingly tasty. The amount of prawns used was quite generous and was proportionally complimentary to the amount of chives used. The dumpling skin possessed the right amount of thickness and doughy consistency.
Pork Shu Mai - minced pork and prawn wrapped dumplings.
Ginger prawn dumplings - pork and prawn dumplings deep fried then steamed with ginger sauce.
I’m not the biggest fan of ginger but the inclusion of ginger in this dish was actually quite tasty. Given that we had ordered so many dishes, I had no idea what was in this dumpling and only realised there was ginger in it when I had tasted it. The deep fried and steamed combination resulted in a damp sort of crispy and chewy texture. The tender meats used for the filling further accentuated the outside texture.
Chilli Wagyu beef dumplings - Wagyu beef, finely chopped and marinated with kaffir lime leaves, wrapped and steamed in a thin wonton wrap and served with specially prepared chilli sauce.
I’ve only tried the beef and dumpling combination once before and I have steered clear of it since. With chilli and Wagyu beef used in this dish, I decided to give it a second go. Perhaps lost in the dumpling, the taste of the Wagyu was no different to normal beef. Additionally, the beef stench was quite overpowering and could hardly be masked by the chilli sauce.
Custard buns - bread bun with sweet custard filling
While Oriental Tea House serves up much of the classic dishes you find at yum cha, it also provides a different take on yum cha dining through its modern and spacious interior. Not to mention the tea merchandise surrounding the tables. With the tables more spaced out then say, a yum cha venue in Chinatown, conversing during meal times can be achieved without shouting and straining your ears. In regards to taste, with the exception of a few dishes, most were a bit of a miss. As for the prices? Practically robbery. BUT when it’s 6pm at night and you’re craving yum cha… you’re craving yum cha. When you gotta go, you gotta go and Oriental Tea House will go as far as providing that much-needed, albeit fleeting, dose of satisfaction.
Oriental Tea House
GD 068/69 Melbourne Central Shopping Centre
(Closest to the Elizabeth St. entrance)
Melbourne, Victoria, 3000.
(03) 9066 0208