Friday, September 30, 2011

Porteño, Surry Hills

Hey all,

Kickin' off the series of Sydney Restaurant reviews with this meal that we had on our first night in Sydney. One of the many great places recommended by a dear friend in the food blogging community (based in Sydney), this restaurant has really become one of our highlights of the ENTIRE trip! (It's so great to have foodie friends that you trust and whose opinions you really respect in different places around the world)

Next to our dinner at Marque, our meal at Porteño was HANDS DOWN our most cherished, highly missed and talked about meal of the entire trip. And we had a LOT of really great meals during the whole trip to choose from! Was it better? Debatable. But definitely most memorable.

Porteño is an Argentinian Grill restaurant. That's right, Argentinian Grill... We weren't sure what it was, never had anything like it before, but boy oh boy... Everything that night was PERFECT, alright! After the meal, just saying Argentinian Grill makes us go bonkers. Argentinian Grill... Argentinian Grill... Argentinian Grill... Alright, enough.

Though, please don't be silly like me and think that people in Argentina grill meat very differently from every other part of the world. It's just that this place serves Argentinian food and also has a grill. Heh ;p

The signature dish at this restaurant is definitely the roast suckling pig and lamb. This is something you HAVE to order and you can see it at almost every table in the restaurant. First thing every day at the restaurant, the pig and lamb are roasted on the open fire pit for at least 8hrs up until service time. Heavenly, is the word, by the way.

Amazing sight, no?

The interiors were very classic and welcoming with a strong Spanish Casa feel to it, which I loved.

I'm glad I went to dinner with these two buddies of mine. Because there were lots of exotic dishes that I REALLY wanted to try such as pate, blood sausage, sweetbread and so did they. Awesome. On to the food...

"Pan De Casa" -- House Baked Bread with Olive Oil & Pork Pate

Pate was very smooth but actually wished the taste of liver would be stronger for this one. Maybe it was cause it was almost 9pm (long wait for dinner lol), but our bread rolls were really solid and a bit too burnt. Though, I didn't mind because I'm pretty much used to this at most places? Would be much different if you ate at the start of the night.

Pate with Chimichurri and Salsa as condiments on bread

Enjoyed the chimichurri a lot, a classic Argentinian condiment. Very fresh and spicy too. Also eaten with the other meat dishes to come.

Salsa was really great as the acid really helped to "cut" through all the fats we ate so we wouldn't feel as bloated as we normally would.

"Repollitos de Brusela Frito" -- Crispy Fried Brussel Sprouts with Lentil and Mint

Another signature dish of the restaurant. Even if you're not a brussel sprouts lover (which I am), try it! You could taste the crunch from each layer of this tiny cabbage and the lentils tasted amazing too. Yummo~

"Mollejas De Corazon" -- Deep-fried Veal Sweetbread

As soon as I saw this item on the menu, I knew I HAD to order it! Thankfully my friends were up to try it too, phew! Correct me if I'm wrong, but sweetbread is a very loose term for many things including brain, glands and some other innards of the animal. The one we had was the pancreas.

I loooved the sweetbread!! It was so crispy on the outside but really creamy and chewy on the inside, with a lingering aftertaste too YUM! Tasted a bit like fried mackerel/sardine.

"Morcilla" -- Blood Sausage with Peppers in Garlic

This was also really nice, we loved it a lot. Though it was very rich (you can feel it from the first bite) but it had a deep and intense flavour, delicious!

For others, this was not as rich as the sweetbread but I guess it depends in which order you had the food. I had this later after 2 pieces of sweetbread, so I felt it more

Note: Please do not to take more than one piece per person for the sweetbread and blood sausage. Trust me or you might feel really bloated after

"Cordero A La Cruz" -- 8 hour Woodfired Free Range Lamb

Ahh.. As soon as "Hero Dish #1" hit the table, eyes were lit and jaws were dropped. And let me tell you, this lamb was craaazy good!!! The texture is just as soft and moist as rare meat but it had no blood at all! "The effect of slow cooking over an open fire for many hours", I thought. Slightly chewier than the pork, but still very, very good.

And the skin was sooo crazy thin and crispy and all the fats melted instantly in your mouth! RICH, but oh so gooood...

"Chanchito A La Cruz" -- 8 hour Woodfired Free Range Suckling Pig

Pork was another ripper of a dish. The meat was just sooo soft (just like the lamb) and full of the meaty flavour of the pork. Pink, but completely cooked through. I've never had pork that tasted this soft.

A big, thick piece of meat that just breaks apart so easily in your mouth in just a few bites. What a memorable sensation of pork. Wow wow wooow.... Loved them both, not a single dry meat on the table.

If I had to pick, skin was better for the Lamb and meat was better for the Pork. Mmmmmm...

Ouuu yeahhhh~~~~

Big smiles from every one after a truly unforgettable meal =)

So, if you live in Sydney or are visiting this beautiful city and haven't been to Porteño yet, I suggest that you give this place a try!

I guarantee that you will find this meal just as enjoyable/unforgettable as we did. Though, the dishes can be very filling and rich so please order accordingly. We solved this problem by going straight for supper/dessert at Meetfresh in the city. Bright thinkers, we are.

Have fun, you guys!! =D

Note to diners:
(i) This place has got a very, very long waiting queue so please be prepared, but it really is worth the wait

(ii) I highly recommend going in groups of at least 5 to be able to taste the amazing variety of dishes that they offer without paying/eating too much, like we did

The quantity of food we ordered was just nice for 5 ppl, despite having only 3 eaters (other friend joined later but didn't eat). We were visiting Sydney so we didn't mind being excessive because we came all the way and wanted to sample as much as we could. If you can, try and avoid this so you can enjoy your meal a bit more =)

Porteño on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Brahim's Beef Rendang

Hello all,

Back with a recipe, as promised. But before I get into it, I'd like to take this chance to thank every one of you who has "Liked" The Hungry Excavator's Facebook Page. I really appreciate it and I truly hope I get to share a meal with each and every one of you one day.

Not many of you know this, but the reason why I'm so humbled is because this blog has actually been around for awhile, collecting dust, mainly. As much as I've always wanted to, I've never actually had the chance to blog recipes/reviews/pictures properly because I've constantly been too swamped by the amount of coursework I get as an Engineering student for many years.

It wasn't until recently about a month ago, that I finally made an active decision to change that and dedicate more time to do things here the way I've always envisioned to from the start =)

Thus, you can say that "The Hungry Excavator 2.0" was re-launched with my first "proper" post, beginning with the Carlton Community Cookbook Photoshoot about a month ago. And things could not have been better since then. I'm so happy that I'm finally doing this right and am enjoying every minute of it!

So, before I do anything else, I want to thank you all for your support through this journey and for growing with me as I try my best to improve in my ways of sharing Life* with people everywhere through Food. I hope you all come back and feel inspired in one way or another through this space.

Also, please feel free to leave a comment cause your words really do make my day =)


Anyway, back to the post. This Beef Rendang Recipe is really delightful. One of the many recipes that I've tried by Ellie of Gourmand Recipes. I love it so much because it's easy and I've always, always preferred my Rendangs dry, less saucy and not to have coconut milk. The softened kerisik (after cooking) is delicious and gives an additional texture to the dish, which I absolutely love.

When buying desiccated coconut, pick the finest one you can find in your local Asian grocery, they're so cheap. I think they've got two kinds: "shredded coconut" or "coconut paste", I used the latter because it's finer and easier to cook. I think the former is more for things like Lamingtons... I think.

Bought my paste and grated coconut from Yahweh Asian Grocery, near Melb Uni

And before you shun me for not making my rendang from scratch, let me explain. I know that I won't be making my own rempah paste anytime soon because of uni, but this is a very, very easy and equally satisfying alternative. I'll save that homemade stuff for the holidays.

But for now, don't beat yourself up for using store bought pastes. Because not everyone always has the time. My recipes are mostly targeted for quick, easy weeknight meals anyway (though I will share more fun, experimental recipes from time to time).

So when I actually DO use store-bought products, I make sure that they're good quality, such as these. For Rendang, I only use the brand, Brahim's, because I found it to give better flavour. Though if I were to do things differently, I would soak a few small dried chillies in hot water, pound them and add them to the paste. Only because I did find it a bit mild and I like my Rendang piping hot.

Overall, very tasty and happy with this nonetheless and I'm sure you'll love it too. I made this for a friend and we both enjoyed it a lot. Do try and take good care, y'all! =)

Brahim's Beef Rendang Recipe
(adapted from this recipe by the former Almost Bourdain)


1 packets Brahim's Rendang Paste
450g beef (brisket, gravy or chuck steak)
1 cup desiccated / grated coconut
2 cups hot boiling water
6-8 cloves garlic, cut into slivers
4 tbsp oil


To make kerisik: Fry the grated coconut in a non-stick frying pan (without oil) on low heat. Keep stirring so all the grated coconut are browned evenly. It will take about 5 minutes (depending on size) to turn it into deep golden brown and you can smell the aroma. Dish and set aside.

Cut the beef in 5 cm / 2" cubes. Heat oil in a wok, add garlic and fry until slightly browned. Add beef and fry until all sides are browned. Remove beef from wok.

Add rendang paste to the wok and cook until the paste is bubbling. Add the kerisik and hot boiling water. Bring to a boil and add the beef and continue cooking until it's boiling. Turn down the heat, cover with lid and let it simmer in low heat for 2 hours. Stir it occasionally. If liquid dries up, add a bit more water.

After 2 hours of simmering, the sauce should be thickened and the meat should be very tender. Now turn back to medium-high heat, lid off and continue to stir-fry it until the sauce is completely thickened and dried. Serve with steamed rice, roti or nasi kunyit.

2 long hours of patience graciously rewarded =)

My dinner that night -- Brahim's Rendang with Stir-fried Celery with Prawns =)

In Malay, we say "Sedaaaap~" which means, "deliciouuus~"… Nom nom nom… Ciao!

Friday, September 23, 2011

Snacking in Sydney!

Hello, everyone!

Just got back from our Sydney Food Trip and still a bit knackered, to be honest. But great fun was had, and there's so much to blog about so I'm excited!

This trip would've been my third time to Sydney in four years. After my first two trips, I felt like I was pretty much done for a while... But after seeing/reading/drooling over all the food that I've seen on TV/Internet since then, I felt like I really have to make another trip up there!

After all, my first trip was spent pretty much doing all the touristy things. Second, was for the Hillsong Conference. Now, my third, has to be all dedicated to FOOD! This time, being a Food Trip, we really did eat non-stop from morning till night. That's why I've got so many "in between meals" snacks to share about, which I've compiled into this post.

And when we weren't eating, we were just lazing around in the sun, what a bunch of fatties. So anyhoo, I'm going to start off my first series of Sydney posts with snippets of the snacks we ate in between our meals. This wasn't all of them, but just the ones I thought worth sharing. Will get back to posting recipes and reviews from the other amazing restaurants I ate in Sydney, including Australia's current No.1 Restaurant, MARQUE!

Lots of scheduled posts from hereon, so don't forget to keep coming back! Have fun, everybuddy! =D

Mick's Bakehouse, Westfield CBD Gourmet Food Hall

We had trouble finding the place at first, but the Gourmet Food Hall is at the top floor of the shopping centre, at the opposite side of Myers

Some of the most golden pies I've ever seen

Classic Beef Pie
(I'd like to say Stroganoff cause of the cream??)

Pastry was just okay but filling was really nice. Good flavours and liked the thickness of the sauce, nice consistency. I could have a whole bowl of just the filling themselves. Yum

Surf 'n' Turf Pie

We found the mince rather salty and wished there were more prawns. But really loved the soft creamy cheese you get occasionally from each bite when eating this

Pie by Mick's Bakehouse on Urbanspoon

Chatime, Westfield CBD Gourmet Food Hall

Passionfruit Green Tea

Refreshing. Totally quenched my thirst. Had this only cause according to them, was their number 1 drink. I had the Roasted Milk Tea with Pearls a few days later and thought they were fantastic. Do try

Website: here

Meet Fresh, Sydney Chinatown

Supreme Mango Crushed Ice

Huge portion and lots of mango, but I thought it was okay. Definitely makes for a refreshing dessert in Summer. I don't know, I still think that when it comes to Mango desserts, it really does come down to the Mango you use. And we all know that Mangoes aren't exactly cheap or in season in Australia all year round. Could do with a little less ice too. Just my humble opinion anyway, don't be hatin'

Taro Balls with Sweet Potato, Barley and Pearls

This, I enjoyed a bit more. Just like the glutinous rice balls or "tang yuan" you ate at home but with a faint taste of taro and sweet potato. I really enjoyed all the other ingredients and never had a dish with all of these together. Come to think of it, it probably would have been better to have this dessert warm instead of cold

Meet Fresh on Urbanspoon

Workshop Espresso, Sydney CBD

Quaint little cafe directly opposite of QVB on George Street. Immediately wanted to try it

Standard Latte and Hazelnut "Lobster Tail"

The beans tasted nice, but I couldn't help but find the coffee a bit thin and watery. But then again, I'm no coffee expert, no. My friends felt it too. But when we went back the next day, it was a different barrista, so.......

On the other hand, that "lobster tail" pastry was SO GOOD. It totally piqued my interest to try as soon as I saw it. I don't know what they used, but you could taste all the layers in each bite because it was so firm but insanely crunchy. The softened Nutella in the middle was such a joy. LOVED this! Nice, tiny snack with your coffee, too.

Workshop Espresso on Urbanspoon

Bondi Surf Seafoods, Bondi Beach

I came here for one reason only and nothing else: Fried Mars Bars. I had this last time I was in Sydney and was HOOKED. Not sure if it's true, but this place was believed to be the pioneer of Fried Mars Bars in Australia. Though you can get it at many places in Sydney and some in Melbourne now, I still really wanted to revisit this place for nostalgic reasons.

Fried Pineapple Rings, Fried Banana, Fried Mars Bars

I did not care for anything else, but the Fried Mars Bars, to be honest. And they were actually better than when I last had them! Huh. Mainly cause the batter was so much crispier. I don't eat Mars Bars at all, but this was an exception. The way you bite into the crunchy exterior dusted with icing sugar to get to the soft, melted chocolatey filling..... Heaven

Please try this if you've never had this in Sydney before

Website: here

Hurricane Express, Bondi Beach

For me, I've been to the restaurant twice before this and there wasn't anything much I'd like to eat at the restaurant besides the ribs, which makes for a great snack too. So, I actually prefer buying them from their takeaway restaurant just next door. Also, it's about $10 cheaper for a full rack. Score!

Though I must say that the Bondi branch was significantly better than the Darling Harbour branch. Or was it just a once off bad experience I had there that time. There were just too many people, they were rushing us in and out and in the end, our ribs came out SO dry. This time at Bondi, it was great

Half 'n' Half: Lamb and Pork ribs

Sauce was delicious and ribs were basted beautifully. Tasted like southern, smokey BBQ with a hint of Ketchup and much more. Lamb was slightly tough, but I actually really liked it that way. Ribs was as you say, falling off the bones. GREAT snack, just eating ribs with your hands by the beach

Hurricane's Grill on Urbanspoon

Gumshara Ramen, Sydney Chinatown

Garlic Tonkatsu Ramen

Finally, another place I really wanted to try and glad I did. I liked that the soup was thick (from fats and collagen?) and that they didn't use MSG. Unmistakable pork flavour from first sip. Though to be honest, a bit too "porky" because it did have a bit of the smell as most pork in Australia tend to have. Hmm...

Not to sound pompous or anything, I couldn't help but feel slightly turned off by the hygiene of the food court. Would have enjoyed it more if I were eating at somewhere cleaner =/. Overall, pretty good and natural flavours

Gumshara Ramen on Urbanspoon

Baskin Robbins Ice Cream, Circular Quay

Edit: Loooool sorry, everybody. I was a complete airhead earlier and have mistaken this place for Ben n Jerry's, when it's actually Baskin Robbins. Thanks to my friend who actually brought it to my attention *shy* ;p

Berries Cheesecake and Caramel Pecan (???)

Sorry, couldn't remember the exact names of the flavours. But you'll know which it is if you see it. I liked the cheesecake one a lot and the flavours were fun. The other, not so much. Too sandy for me.

Website: here

Overall, it was a great trip filled with fun, food, laughter and I'm glad I got to spend my time with these amazing people.

Looking forward to my next visit back! Because, Sydney, your food and weather has been really incredible.

As mentioned, there will be lots of scheduled posts coming up. Next one will be a recipe, and then back to posting food from restaurants in Sydney, so do stay tuned! Take care, everyone!

Hope it was a fun post for you as it was for me! =)

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Taste of Melbourne 2011

FINALLY. After hearing/reading about the Taste of Melbourne event for so long, this year was finally my turn to go! And if it weren't for the double-pass tickets I won from Penny@Jeroxie, I don't think I would've actually gone. So, thank you!

It was a fun day of seeing interesting stalls, tasting food from Top Restaurants and even attending a free demo! I gave one ticket to a friend, who I know have a high appreciation for food, and went together with my two other amazing friends, who actually scored free tix from the owners of LuxBite -- how cool! Glad to have experienced it with these peeps.

Here goes the recap:

View from inside the Royal Exhibition Building (REB)

Better enjoy this place before they turn it into my Exam Hall in two months time ;p

$30 worth of Crowns for the day

Sher Wagyu meatballs, Sicilian cous cous & salted Ricotta by Mezzo

LOVED the taste of the meatballs! Though to be honest, I wouldn't have been able to tell it was Wagyu. Meatballs are normally heavily seasoned, which might've masked the taste of the Wagyu. Still, good meatballs!

Enjoyed the cous cous a lot. Not too wet and full of flavour

Seared Scallops, green chilli Aioli & Celeriac remoulade by Stokehouse

One of my fav dishes of the day. Scallops were PERFECT. Slightly undercooked without being too rubbery and still juicy, just the way I like it. The crunchy celeriac was a good combination to the dish and gave a nice textural element to the dish. Paired with the aioli -- YUM.

Cheese Platter by That's Amore Cheese

LOVED this! My order of favourite (from most to least): Bocconcini, Ricotta, Smoked Mozzarella and "something else" which I forgot ;p

The bocconcini was really good. Super smooth on outside and chewy on inside with slight salty aftertaste. Ricotta was texturally amazing too, like whipped cream and tasted very plain and natural.

"Toulousse Cassoulet" - Confit duck, Garlic sausage & White beans, oven baked by Libertine

Immediately bought a bowl to try just cause it was named after Toulousse and remembering my sister describe it as her favourite town in France. SO GOOD -- my other favourite dish of the day.

Duck was moist but it was all in the sauce and beans. The sauce was packed with flavour from the duck fats and the beans went beautifully with this dish.

Moscato Sample

LOL. I've never heard of Moscato on tap before!! We were given a glass of Rosé which was delicious. They do this Moscato on tap at a bunch of places now including Little Creatures at Brunswick Street

Popcorn and Cookie flavoured "Mini Melts" Ice Cream by Mini Melts

Frozen ice cream pellets that melts when you put them in your mouth -- interesting!

Nespresso Coffee -- Free Demo

Fun taking a break from all the eating to attend a free demo. Was rather blown away by the quality of the coffee from the Nespresso machines, full body and good flavour. Except that you won't get that thick, creamy milk consistency from your usual cafes but still nice! So coffee was thinner and went down pretty smoothly. Guess that's why I ended up having almost 3 cups lol

Us enjoying ourselves by clicking the fancy buttons and seeing the coffees come out of the machine ;p

KFC -- "St Katherine's fried Lilydale Chicken" with BBQ Sauce by St Katherine's

Didn't realise St Katherine was yet another restaurant by Masterchef Judge, George Calombaris. Chicken wasn't as crispy as I'd hoped but still, I enjoyed it because it had a spicy "kick" from the batter and served with mayo.

I love anything deep-fried and served with mayo/Jap mayo. I could eat grass if it were deep-fried and served to me with mayo.

Slow-cooked suckling lamb, Pearl barley salad & truffled Peccorino by Sarti

Thing about slow-cooked meat is that I can't really enjoy it if it doesn't have enough fats or tendons at all, just like this. Didn't have a distinct lamb flavour and couldn't taste the truffle too. Meh.

Pecan & Caramel Ice Cream Sammies by Pat and Stick's

When was the last time you had ice cream sammies? Hehe. This was a REALLY good flavour combo and can taste the lovely roast from the nuts. My friend, Ming, was right to say that the cookie did taste a bit "doughy" but we still enjoyed it. And everything they made was homemade which was great =)

Us with "Pat and Stick" themselves! Two really funny and amazing people

Overall, the Taste of Melbourne event was a really enjoyable event to attend, especially if you're going with friends and can chip in to taste as many foods as possible. Would I go back again next year? Yes.

Thanks heaps again to Penny@Jeroxie for giving me these tickets. Without whom, I wouldn't have had the chance to spend an amazing afternoon with this lovely bunch of people.

Hope you all had fun reading this post as I did writing it!

Will be leaving for Sydney in 2 days for a 4-Day FOOD TRIP and I am absolutely stoked about it!! Have a good one wherever you are! ;D