Sunday, December 22, 2013

Operator 25, Melbourne CBD

A few months ago, I got an email form the owners of Operator 25 asking if I wanted to come by and try their brunch menu sometime. I do enjoy getting invites like these because they always give me an opportunity to really chat with the owners or visionaries behind these establishments. Always a joy to hear their stories. It was quite generous of them to let me take 3 other friends to dine for free. Together with my good friends Kel, Sarah and Devon, the 4 of us stopped by Operator 25 one pleasant Sunday afternoon.

Located at a nice, quiet street in the CBD... Like

When we arrived, we were greeted by one of the partners, Val, who showed us to the table they had reserved for us. The fitout was pleasant. Obviously newly renovated but still had its charm.

I enjoyed the coffee we had and felt like we were off to a good start.

I like seeing nice flower arrangements at cafe tables...

Baked Eggs with Great Northern Beans, Chorizito, Goats Curd and House- made Corn Bread - $18.00

House Benedict with Cold Smoked Salmon, Potato Rosti, Poached Eggs and Chives Hollandaise - $18.00

Heirloom Tomatoes, Pan Fried Potato Gnocchi, Black Olive Tapenade, Goats Curd and Parmesan Crisps - $16.00

House Suckling Pig Burger - $ 19.50
with Savoy Cabbage, Balinese Marinated Pork, Chilli Mayo, Coriander on Brioche Bun with Sweet Potato Fries and Pork Crackling

As soon as I saw the menu, I knew immediately that we HAD to order the Balinese suckling pig burger. Everything sounded good but this dish really jumped out of the page. It was the only item in the menu with an oriental twist. One of the owner who was chatting with us explained that this was because one of the chefs was from Bali and wanted to share a dish inspired by his hometown. I like this personal connection that the chef had with this dish, which he wanted to share with the rest of us.

Pork crackling...!! Such a cheeky addition

I think every successful restaurant needs to have at least a signature dish and I believe this Balinese pulled pork burger is it. The burger was seriously delicious. Every mouthful was a delight with strong Indonesian flavours, which we enjoyed. The sweet potato fries on the side was perfectly crunchy and sweet. So good especially when dipped in that aioli. Plus, I found the tiny piece of pork crackling that they placed on the plate to be so cheeky and fun. 

The only other comment I will make was that I kind of preferred for the bun to be grilled or toasted slightly. The reason was because the pulled pork was soft, blanched lettuce was soft and was overall quite a soft burger to eat. Having that crunch from a toasted bun would've added a completely different element to the dish, which I believe would've complemented the other ingredients well. But hey, that's just my personal preference.

Coconut and Tonka Bean Sago, Mango Curd, Mango Cubes and Pistachio Crumbs - $9.00

That aside, the other dishes were tasty too. Baked eggs had a number of dimension of flavours, which worked well together and was great to have with the corn bread. The pan fried gnocchi with tapenade reminded me of a similar dish I made a few months ago. Very fresh and colourful. Good vegetarian dish. We enjoyed the house benedict but did find the hollandaise to be rather salty that day. The dessert had all our favourite things in one (mango, coconut milk, sago) and was just a great finish to our meal.

To sum up, my friends and I definitely enjoyed our meal at Operator 25. Even though, there were some minor items that I felt could've been improved, it was still a delicious meal overall. Melbourne has been notorious for not having enough brunch places in the CBD so I'm very glad to see Operator 25 fill that hole in the market. Good menu, food and location. Personally, I actually enjoyed the food here a lot more than The Grain Store (which I found to be a little too complex for my liking). The team at Operator 25 are doing a great job and I hope they keep up the good work. Definitely look forward to coming back again soon.

Disclaimer: Winston and friends dined as guests at Operator 25. All opinions are honest and based on own personal experience at the time.

Operator25 on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Dad's Grilled Chicken Wings (with Chinese Rose Wine & Five Spice Powder)

I live alone in Melbourne so I actually do think about my family a lot, especially when I'm cooking for some reason. I often think, "Oooh, I think Mum & Dad would enjoy this" or "Oh man, what's that dish that Mum used to make and how do I make it again?"

Most people would already know that I would choose ANY homecooked meal (even if it's as simple as having a simple onion omelette with rice) over eating at a restaurant any day. I do honestly think my love for homecooked meals is stemmed from how I was raised. Almost every single day (even up until the time I finished high school), we would wake up to a nice, hot, cooked breakfast waiting for us in the kitchen. Our breakfast would often be accompanied by freshly made juices or soya bean milk every morning. Yes, soya bean milk from scratch. 

Then, we would have a small container of food to bring to eat at recess in the morning. After that, we also had freshly cooked food from home delivered to us during lunchtime. And finally, we would also come home to another great homecooked dinner at the end of the day. Dinner every night was always deliciously well balanced. There would always be at least one meat, one fish, one veg, one carb (rice, duh) and also a soup. 

To cope with all of this, we had helpers growing up. Mum has always been a great cook but she also had a very busy career so only cooked on special occasions and relied on the helpers we had to run the daily chores. She normally teaches our helpers how to cook the food and then leaves it up to them to do it.

I have always felt very fortunate about my childhood. But I definitely am not spoilt. I don't take for granted any of their hard work and appreciate it very much. It is also because of this that I too have been so inspired to have well balanced homecooked meals as much as I can (often even after a long day). And I too, want my kids to have the same upbringing as I did. Also, I really do enjoy cooking for others as well because I want to bless others with the same blessing I received growing up.

Whenever we're in Malaysia, Mum definitely looks after the cooking. On the other hand, Dad takes charge when he's in Melbourne. Mum and Dad absolutely loves going to the market every single morning to buy fresh food to cook for dinner that night. Dad gets so excited by all the sights (and prices) of the food at the market and cannot help but feel so inspired to cook. He never plans what he's making and it's different almost every day for breakfast, lunch and dinner. We only eat out on weekends whenever Mum and Dad are in town. Dad really does love cooking so much when he's in here that he can be in there for hours and I've caught him humming to himself while he does it. It's really cute.

Now you see why I really do take after my parents in many ways including their love for food (and nutrition) and also their enthusiasm towards homecooking.

Okay, enough about my life story. Dad created this dish one evening when he was in Melbourne when he was just being adventurous with things he could find in my pantry. It was so delicious that I requested for him to make it for me and my friends several times after that.

After my parents left Melbourne, I still couldn't help but crave these chicky wings that Dad made. It was such an interesting mix of flavours, like nothing I've ever tasted before but it was SO delicious. The key ingredient is the Chinese Rose Wine (玫瑰露酒), which I bought when I made Char Siu or Chinese BBQ Roast Pork from scratch for the Chinese New Year Dinner I prepared earlier this year (see the blog post: here!). 

I love Dad's recipe so much that I've started making it a lot whenever I have friends over for dinner.

This Chinese Rose Wine can be found at a well stocked Asian Grocery and is mainly used in Pork and Chicken dishes -- delicious!! 

This was taken when Bryan, Jo, Luke and I would have our occasional simple potluck catchup dinners. This was taken when it was my turn to host our potluck =)

2 months ago, I also decided to cook for my neighbours who all had exams every night for a week. This was one of the dinners I prepared. 

We had Dad's chicky wings, Chinese beetroot soup, steamed egg custard topped with pork mince, steamed pomfret, fried iceberg lettuce. 

Just over the weekend, I had a #chickenpotluck with my dear friends I-Hua and Aaron (who were the generous hosts!), Shellie, Bryan and Jo. It was a very fun night of food and laughs

As you can see, I really do love cooking Dad's chicky wings. It's very different, which makes it fun to share but still utterly delicious. I remember my Dad every time I make this and often can't help but share a little story about Dad to the people I'm making this for.

Besides that, it's seriously easy to make. Quick to cook and close to no effort required. I often make this as part of the meal when I am busy preparing other dishes when having people over for dinner.

Hope you give this a go too!


Dad's Grilled Chicken Wings (with Chinese Rose Wine and Five Spice Powder)

1kg chicken wings
1/2 tbsp five spice powder
2 tbsp sugar
1 1/2 tbsp dark soy sauce
2 tbsp Chinese rose wine *
1/2 tsp salt

* May be substituted with Chinese rice wine

1. Mix all the ingredients in a large bowl or tray. Cover with cling wrap and leave it to marinate in the fridge overnight. 

2. Take it out from the fridge a few hours before cooking to turn the chicken wings before placing it back into the fridge until ready to use.

3. Preheat oven to 200°C. Remove the chicken wings from the fridge and place on a wire rack on a tray. 

4. Bake skin side up for 12 minutes. Turn the chicken wings. Bake for another 10 minutes. Leave to rest for 10 minutes before serving. 

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Matchamisu (Green Tea Tiramisu) Recipe


Or some may call, Green Tea Tiramisu. Since, "Matcha" is Japanese for "Green Tea".

I attended a "Matcha Party" a few months ago, which was a potluck with some really awesome blogger friends of mine. Yes. I know, another potluck. Hosted by the wonderful Shellie (the hostess with the mostess), it was a fantastic afternoon with Thanh, I-Hua, Agnes, Michelle, Winnie, Lianne, Daisy, Duy and Andy.

I knew immediately that I wanted to make Matchamisu as soon as I found out what the theme was. Recipe may look tedious because of all the components but I've actually simplified it significantly to make it much easier to do. Plus, you can actually make this a day in advance (which was what I did). Just make sure you put a cling wrap over the top before you place it in the fridge overnight. Oh, and I also decided not to flavour the cream cheese because I wanted it to remain white to help with overall appearance of the dish and distinction of layers.

Suffice to say the afternoon was a huge success. Everyone had such a good time (over)eating, talking and laughing away. Plus, the weather that day was warm and sunny -- beautiful.

Potlucks are really great. If you're not in the habit of hosting/attending one, I recommend that you suggest your next meetup with friends or family to be one. It's always a more relaxed setting (since it's at someone's home), hours go by because it's so comfortable and you can have as big of a group with no dramas (as restaurants can be quite a hassle to accommodate big parties). And, the best part is, eating food cooked by friends and family is ALWAYS way more satisfying than any dish at a restaurant. Plus, it gives you an opportunity to try and make new things. Which, I hope you may find some inspiration from this blog.

Anyway, you can tell how much I love potlucks. Which was also why I actually had potlucks 7 weeks in a row without fail from end of July to early September. No joke. With various different groups of friends as I always suggest having a potluck instead when friends and I are planning catchups =)

Hope you'll try this recipe out!

This can of azuki beans were $8.50! Very expensive because it was imported from Japan but it was worth it

Amazing, AMAZING Green Tea Spread by everyone!!

The savoury table. Also very delicious

Everyone really went all out and everything was exceptional! 

So delicious

Matchamisu (Green Tea Tiramisu) Recipe

(adapted from this recipe by Oh, How Civilised)


Matcha Sponge Cake
4 eggs (separated)
7 tbsp sugar
90g plain flour
30g corn flour
2 tbsp matcha powder

Matcha Syrup
3/4 cup water
1/2 cup sugar
1 1/2 tbsp matcha powder

Cream Cheese
500g mascarpone/Philadelphia cream cheese
2/3 cup cream
1/4 cup sugar
1 tsp vanilla essence

Azuki Beans
1 can (520g) Japanese Azuki beans

Matcha powder
1 fresh strawberry (sliced)


For the cake:
1. Preheat oven to 175°C. Scrunch up a large piece of baking paper thoroughly (helps retain shape and position). Line a sheet pan (flat rectangular baking tray) with the baking paper.

2. Whisk the egg whites in a cake mixer on low speed for 1 minutes. Gradually add the sugar. Increase the speed and continue to whisk until stiff peaks formed.

3. Fold the egg yolks into the egg white mixture until well combined.

4. Sift the flour and matcha powder into egg mixture. Pour into sheet pan and spread evenly.

5. Bake for 10 minutes. Set aside to cool.

For the syrup:
1. Bring the water and sugar to a boil.

2. Whisk in matcha powder. Set aside to cool.

For the cream:
1. Beat all ingredients together on high speed until well combined. Set aside. 

1. Using a knife, cut out a round piece of cake approximately the diameter of your glass bowl. 

2. Dip the piece of cake in the syrup on both sides. Place at the bottom of the bowl. Cut a few off cuts if you need to to fill in the gaps and make sure the cake touches the side of the bowl.

3. Spread a thin layer of the azuki beans mixture over the cake layer.

4. Spread a thin layer of cream cheese over the cake layer.

5. Repeat steps 1 to 4 until for two more times (or until you reach the top of the bowl). Make sure the top is a cream cheese layer.

Tip: Make sure you push each component to the side of the bowl with a spoon so that you can make each layer more visible

6. Place 1 row of chopsticks on the bowl horizontally at 2 cm spacings. Place another row of chopsticks vertically on the first layer of chopsticks at 2cm spacings.

7. Dust the matcha powder over the chopsticks to create a net or honeycomb design.

8. Remove chopsticks and place strawberry in the centre. May be kept overnight in the fridge.

Decorating trick I learned from Junior Masterchef LOL!

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Sizzling Pork Sisig Recipe

A few months ago, my dear friend Cherrie invited a bunch of us over to her place for a Filipino Fiesta to celebrate her birthday. Boy oh boy, was I excited or what. Everyone knows how I feel about potlucks (so much more fun than eating out). Besides that, everyone knows that Filipinos know how to throw one heck of a food party. 

I decided immediately that I wanted to make a Sizzling Pork Sisig for the fiesta. I've got very fond memories of this dish because of how my brother would use to take me out for supper at this awesome little Filipino joint we like when I'm back in my hometown of Kota Kinabalu. We'd order a plate of pork sisig and also a bowl of sinigang each time without fail and it was DELICIOUS. 

The Internet tells me that "Sisig" means to "snack on something sour" but my understanding of this dish is that it's pork parts (head, cheek, liver, belly, etc etc ) that's been braised in vinegar before being grilled, diced and served on a sizzling hot plate. Always served with chilli, calamansi and an egg in the middle. I love this because it tastes so addictive, especially after you break up the egg, gets slightly scrambled and it's mixed with the rest of the dish. Yum. 

I just used the cheek and belly this time cause it's easier for me. But yes, very common to make with pork head.

Thank goodness for Footscray
(photo taken from my Instagram: @winceeee)

Happy to report that all the ingredients I didn't initially have for this recipe could be bought at Footscray. I just went to the Asian grocery right next to the market. The coconut vinegar was new to me and was SO fragrant. Yay for pre-cooked crackling that I could just chop and garnish on the dish. No calamansi or lime so cumquats it was. And yes, I did buy a sizzling hot plate just for the occasion. Been meaning to get one for a while anyway =). Even then, the hot plate is not actually necessary as it's used for serving only and not required in the cooking process.

This was our amazing spread that night (not including desserts) and OMG we had a whole roasted pig too!!!!! AWESOME

Filipino cuisine is still relatively new to me but every experience that I've enjoyed every experience that I've had with it. 

Oh, and I also made a Leche Flan Cake for the fiesta. A bit of a quirky cake, easy to make and delicious to eat. You can check out the recipe in my older blog post: HERE

Anyway, I'm glad I could get the chance to make this Filipino dish that I've always loved. It's simpler than the recipe sounds and final product is rewarding. Sour, spicy, grilled, pork with crispy edges topped with crunchy crackling and egg. What's not to like? Oh, and I actually did the braising process the night before to save time on the day as I had the cake to bake too =)

So, I do hope you give this recipe a go! Happy last few weeks of work before the Christmas break, everybody!

Sizzling Pork Sisig Recipe

(adapted from this recipe by Ang Sarap)


6 pieces (or 400g) pork cheeks *
400g pork belly
1 cup coconut vinegar **
3 bay leaves
1/2 tsp salt 
1/2 tsp pepper
4 tbsp soy sauce
3 tbsp coconut vinegar **
2 tbsp butter
2 tbsp oil
1 thumb sized ginger (minced)
6 cloves of garlic
4 tbsp mayonnaise
1/2 red onion (diced)
2 cups pork crackling (chopped)
4 birds eye chillies (sliced)
1 egg
2 - 3 calamansi (halved) ***

* May be substituted with other pork parts with similar weight
** May be substituted with white vinegar
*** May be substituted with lime, lemon or cumquat


1. Place pork cheeks and belly in a small pot with the 1 cup vinegar, bay leaves, salt and pepper. Add enough water to just cover and boil for 20 minutes. Drain liquid and set pork aside to cool. You could do this step the night before too, if you want.

2. Heat up a grill pan on the stove and grill the pork pieces on all sides until charred and crispy (approx. 20 minutes). Can do this step on an outdoor BBQ if you have one.

3. Remove pork from grill and dice finely. Mixed diced pork in a bowl with soy sauce, 3 tbsp vinegar and butter. 

4. Heat up a pan and add the oil. Saute the ginger and garlic until fragrant. Stir in the diced pork mixture. Allow pork to crisp up before stirring/turning to cook the other side till crisp too. Stir in the mayonnaise.

5. Heat up a hot plate, if using. Once hot, add the pork onto the plate. Sprinkle with onion, pork crackling and chillies. Make some room in the middle of the plate and add the egg. Serve with calamansi (or substitute). Complete this step directly in the pan if you're not using the hot plate. Eat immediately with steamed rice.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Easy Roast Pork in Milk with Crackling Recipe!

...With Buttery Mash, Orange & Pomegranate Rocket Salad too

As much as 2013 is for me about venturing into the working world, it is almost just as much about... Pork crackling.

I have been so obsessed with roasting pork with crackling this year that I've made it 7 times the past 7 months. Including one occasion where my friends and I made a huge, huge batch of it when we were cooking for a charity lunch to feed close to 100 people while raising funds for some non-profit organisations in Melbourne. 

Love crackling but so frustrated when you get crispy crackling but overcooked meat? Or moist meat but chewy crackling? Or good crackling on some parts only? I hear ya...

After so much experimentation, I feel like I've finally cracked it. Pun intended, hur hur... The thing is, I've tried so many methods that people swear by but for some reason, it just doesn't work for me. I then realised that no matter how much people say that they've got "the best roast pork with crackling recipe ever", it may not work for everyone. Everyone's got different ways of achieving the same result. Every method has its own logic and rationale. However, there's so many variables (from the oven, to the pork, to the person itself) that at the end of the day, it really is just about finding one that works best for you.

To date, I have officially made roast pork 12 times. I was ecstatic when my very first attempt 2 years ago turned out so successful. Then, for some reason, I just could not get it right the next 3 times for some damn reason so I stopped for a very long time. I have tried everything since from:
- leaving pork covered/uncovered in the fridge overnight
- taking pork out midway to stab the skin vigorously with fork
- brushing skin with vinegar
- salting the skin few hours before/overnight
- salting the skin just before roasting
- oil or no oil on the skin
- pouring hot water on the pork
- roasting it covered/uncovered in the oven
- scoring the skin/not scoring the skin
- high heat first, then low heat later
- low heat first, then high heat later

I've made so many mistakes and learned from every single one. And nothing annoyed me more than when people say to me, "maybe it's because you didn't leave it in the fridge uncovered overnight". PLEASE.

After reading this post by my good friend Sarah, I was inspired to try again. I think the biggest thing she's pointed out is that the pork really does need to spend enough time in the oven. This is where it gets tricky. You need to roast it long enough that it COMPLETELY crackles, but not so long that your meat dries out. Which is why I thought her method of roasting it covered first at a low temperature, before uncovering it at the end was so clever. It yielded a seriously moist meat while giving it the time it needed.

Most of those methods I've tried made very little difference and wasn't as helpful compared to roasting it longer in the oven. Sure, you could do the usual method of just cooking it at higher temperature, uncovered, shorter amount of time. But this method that Sarah suggested is way more fail proof and reliable for consistent results every time. There are people out there who don't struggle with having good results each time, but I did until I used this method.

And if you're wondering, the main difference between recipes like these and the Chinese Roasted Crispy Skin Pork (烧肉) is that the Chinese version is usually roasted with charcoal until skin is BLACK before scraping off all the burnt bits. This leaves extra smoky flavour in the meat but you get a much thinner but crispy skin as most of it has been removed. I prefer this normal roast pork version more because you get thick, crunchy crackling.

Made this Roast Pork with Crackling and also my easy and delicious Beef Ribs Pasta (recipe: here) for the charity lunch

Yes, that's right... Pork in milk

After much tweaking, I find this recipe to be simplest and highest chance of success. Also, I've adjusted the flavour profile to completely suit my liking. Don't be alarmed when you see milk in the recipe, it actually is quite common to cook pork in milk (brings out the sweetness) and sitting it on a bed of garlic just does magic to the flavours. Plus, I think that the super buttery mash and zesty, fresh orange and pomegranate rocket salad really is my favourite combo to go with the roast pork by far. You'll see that I make it together all the time. Also, I still prefer making this with pork belly instead of other cuts like leg or shoulder simply because of the meat to skin ratio.

I host dinners at my place fairly often and the reason why I LOVE making this so often because it's incredibly delicious and takes minimal effort to cook. Plus, crackling gets EVERYBODY excited, which is why it's such a treat to share with your guests. 

Giving them the joy of seeing crackling on the table, before hearing the loud crunchy sounds it makes when they bite into it and followed by being pleasantly surprised that it's crunchier than they expected. Really is a gift worth sharing. This pork crackling recipe is just so easy that anyone can make it! Why? Because there honestly is close to no cooking involved. Just chuck the things together and whack it in the oven.

So, I hope you give this one a go. Not only because you will enjoy it, but you know that your friends and family will as well.

Good luck!

PERFECT for dinner parties!

Roast pork shoulder... But I still prefer belly

Don't need to score the skin but I just find that it makes it easier to carve

 Easy Roast Pork in Milk with Crackling

(inspired by this recipe by Sarah Cooks)


1 slab of pork belly (1.5kg - 2.5kg)
1 bulb of garlic
1/2 cup milk
1/2 cup dry white wine
1 tsp oil
Cracked sea salt
Fennel seeds (optional)

Note: You can just use 1 cup of milk and omit the wine, if you like


1. Leave the pork skin side up and uncovered in the fridge overnight. Remove from fridge just before cooking and score the meat with lines at 1cm apart.

2. Preheat the oven to 130°C. Place the garlic on its side and slice it directly in half. Place at the bottom of a baking tray. Place the pork belly (meat side down) on top of the garlic.

3. Pour the milk and white wine around the pork, making sure it doesn't touch the skin. 

4. Rub the oil on the skin (helps salt stick). Crack lots and lots of sea salt on the skin until you see a visible layer on top. Sprinkle with some fennel seeds, if using.

5. Wrap the baking tray with aluminium foil, making sure the tray is airtight but doesn't touch the skin of the pork. Otherwise, salt won't dissolve and will form a salt crust instead of crackling.

6. Bake in oven for 2.5 hours. After that, remove the foil and increase the heat to 240°C. Bake for a further 30 minutes or until skin has completely crackled.

7. Remove meat from tray and leave to rest for 15 minutes before carving to serve.

Yes! Moist meat, perfect crackling throughout. Win.

Buttery Mash Potato


5 medium to large potatoes
125g butter
Cracked salt and pepper 

To garnish: Cayenne pepper or paprika


1. Cut potatoes into cubes and boil in water until extremely fork tender. You don't have to peel the potatoes if you don't want to, I rarely do. Am that lazy.

2. Drain the potatoes in a colander and return back to the pot. While hot, add in the butter and mash with potato masher or wooden spoon until butter melted. Never actually owned a potato masher.

3. Add milk until desired consistency is reached. If you like your mash thin, add more milk.  
4. Add cracked salt and pepper to taste. Dish in bowl or individual plates. Garnish with paprika or cayenne pepper (for looks).

Orange and Pomegranate Rocket Salad


Rocket leaves
Extra virgin olive oil
Balsamic or wine vinegar
Cracked salt 


1. Rinse and drain rocket leaves. Remove the seeds from the pomegranate and cut the oranges into segments. Quantity is as you like.

2. Add in extra virgin olive oil and vinegar and mix until salad leaves are lightly coated. Crack a little bit of salt to taste.

3. Mix pomegranate seeds and sliced oranges.

Time to have a crackling party -- CHEERS!

EDIT: Photo above taken from when I made it again for my family for Christmas Day lunch 2013 as seen on my blog post: here

EDIT: Photo added on 23/03/15 from the time I prepared Chinese New Year dinner (full post: here)