Friday, August 23, 2013

You say it's your birthday

It's my birthday too!  I'm having dinner in Sydney tonight while my  man cooks me a special Ramen-tic birthday dinner for tomorrow (and takes care of our special needs dog) We've recently developed a fanatical love of ramen, and with few options available to us, besides the excellent Asa Don on King St, we've been forced to do for ourselves.  

Ramen is simple in a complex way.  The tonkatsu ramen broth is basically boiled pork trotters, with a bit of veg and seaweed.  The complexity is in the treatment of the ingredients (you have to do quite a bit of work with the ingredients to ensure the broth is pure.  Even more so, the complexity is in the sensual experience of the finished product where the broth feels like soft-skinned cherubs rolling around with joy in your mouth.  Other flavours are added before serving, in the form of a concentrated chicken/bacon/soy paste called tare, or miso for an umami kick.

I should say, I didn't eat pork for about three  years after travelling in  SE Asia. The fact that I'm now ordering trotters on a regular basis speaks to how far my journey of culinary exploration has taken me. It also makes me want to revisit some of the places where I turned my nose up at the pork options.

We've yet to tackle the pinnacle of Ramen devotions, making our own ramen alkaline noodles. I can't say this will be the final stop on our pilgrimage in our own kitchen; the great thing about loving food is there's always something new to try.

Have you ever developed a cult-like, fanatical  food love that took you well out of your comfort zone?

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Winter Eating

A big southerly whoosh just reminded us all that our nearest souther neighbour is Antarctica and that was all the encouragement I needed to head down the street for a steaming bowl of Pho. In spite of my perception of Vietnam as a fairly warm place, there is nothing that hits the spot like a nice hot Pho with plenty of spicy salad and chilli to pep it up to my individual specifications. This is supported by the fact that Pho was a regular dinner option for us in the frozen wilds of Anchorage.  

I have heaps of theories on this, but I really think it comes down to the fact that good Pho is just so damn good in any season.  It's the kind of thing that seems really simple - how hard can beef broth be, right? But then you buy a cookbook or download a recipe and you realise there is so much finesse that goes into the final product that the subtle flavours will never be recreated in you own kitchen, no matter how many episodes of Luke Nguyen's Vietnam you watch. Believe me, I've tried and now I'm humbled every time a bowl of delicious pho
 is placed in front of me.  

So tell me - what food you think is best left to the professionals?

Friday, August 2, 2013

The Five Commandments of Tacos

I'll start by saying, I've never been to Mexico, nor have I consulted with any actual Mexican people in the writing of this post, so what I'm saying is completely uninformed by any actual...experience...or knowledge.  Bit like the Catholic Church, really.  

Nonetheless, I have serious opinions about tacos and now that Mexican is the flavour du jour in Australia, verily I say unto thee :

One: Thou shalt not request cheese or sour cream with thy taco
Cheese and sour cream are for losers who can't handle the magic carpet ride of heat and flavour that a good spicy taco brings.  if this is you, Enjoy your chiko rolls and potato scallops and go home. 

Two: Thou shalt not use beef mince and Old El Paso taco seasoning and call it spicy beef filling.

 In fact thou shalt not ever be in the presence of Old El Paso seasoning without washing thy mouth out with Cholula hot sauce.  Which would not be pleasant. 

Three: Thou shalt explain to me who thought up hard tacos.  

What a stupid idea.  Who wants to eat something that breaks apart and spills juicy yumminess all over you?  It's street food, dumbass.  It's meant to be held in your hand and gobbled down quickly. 

Really, who was that person? i'd like to give them a big smack in the face.

Four: Thou shalt use two corn tortillas per taco.  

Do not skimp unless you want to annoy your people by having tacos fall apart all over them.  See commandment number four, regarding street food and the whole point of tacos being not to get all over you when eating.

Five: Thou shalt not even try to open a place selling tacos and not have carnitas* tacos. 

Carnitas = braised pork and goes beautifully in a taco. And if you don't like/eat pork, you can do the same thing with lamb and it will still be yummy.  This is possibly just a personal preference, completely uninformed by having ever visited Mexico, rather than a commandment, per se, but if you're going to make commandments you might as well make them work in your favour. 

*sorry vegetarians - it's possible to make a passable tofu taco, but you're not going to pick one up on the streets of Oaxaca.  Or maybe you will.  As I mentioned, I've never been there.

What commandments do you feel should be issued about YOUR favourite food?