Sunday, March 27, 2011

Melbourne 2010 - Woo Ga Korean BBQ

Melbourne has always been a friendly city to immigrants, and over the years have seen many waves of people from foreign lands settling down in the city - which is the source of its metropolitan character. The latest wave of immigrants seem to be coming from Korea, which could be ironically due to the emergence of South Korea as an economic powerhouse. South Koreans are becoming more wealthy, and some are venturing out to get a taste of life outside. There are so many Korean mom & pop stores opening all over Melbourne, it is changing the character of some of the neighbourhoods.

Korean food is also becoming very popular in Melbourne. A Korean restaurant used to be seen as a novelty here, now it has become almost like your typical Chinese noodle shop.

Woo Ga Korean BBQ is a restaurant at Victoria Street in North Melbourne, just above the Queen Victoria Market. The decor is quite simple. Raw timber boards cover the floor, walls and even ceiling. The dining areas are divided into 2 sections separated by a small doorway. In the middle of each table is the BBQ stove with a hanging smoke exhaust. The heat from the BBQs make this a nice and cosy place for dining in Winter or the colder months, but I am not so sure about Summer.

At a Korean BBQ, you cook the food yourself, so it is all about the ingredients. We had mostly beef and some side dishes. Most of the cuts of beef are nicely marbled with fat and great for grilling. Eaten with the kimchi and Korean sauces, they were delicious.

We also had a number of other dishes - like this Korean omelette filled with vegies.

Vegetables and mung bean noodles with kimchi sauce.

Stewed Pork Belly. Very tender and juicy.

Seafood Hotpot with prawns, squid and vegies. a nice and light soup which complements the heavy meat dishes well.

Korean BBQ is a very enjoyable way to spend an evening with family or friends. You can cook the meat to the doneness that you like, and have only yourself to blame if you mess up. But I must say the quality of the meat is usually pretty good, and it is not difficult to have a great meal especially with good accompanying dishes.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Melbourne 2010 - Pho Part II

Another good Pho shop in Melbourne is just a few doors down from Chu The in Richmond – Yung Kee. The interior looks very similar to Chu The, maybe a little bit fresher as they seemed to have renovated recently. Otherwise you could easily mistake one for the other. I've also heard stories that the owners of Yung Kee are related to Chu The - perhaps an ex-spouse or two ?

The broth here is a bit lighter then Chu The’s, but otherwise very similar. For some people this may be their preference.

There is a large Vietnamese community in Melbourne, and Richmond is one of the earliest places where they settled down in Melbourne. Here you will still find lots of Vietnamese groceries shops and eateries. The groceries here are also great for seeking out hard to find Chinese ingredients, so this was a regular marketing stops during my student days in Melbourne.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Melbourne 2010 - Pho Part I

Since I had my first taste of Pho in Melbourne many years ago – the simple yet addictive delicacy from Vietnam, I’ve been hooked. After that first experience, whenever I see a shop selling Pho, I always have to try it no matter how dodgy it may look.

Having tried Pho both in Ho Chi Minh City and Hanoi, I can boldly declare that the Pho in Melbourne easily trumps its original cousin in Vietnam. I think this can be boiled down to the quality of the beef used in the dish – as Australia produces some of the best beef in the World. In Vietnam they sometimes use buffalo meat which is tougher and gamier then regular beef.

There is a Pho shop which I must visit when in Melbourne – Chu The in Richmond. This is where I had my first taste of Pho, and still the best. The secret is in the broth – it is so tasty and beefy that you want to drink up the whole bowl and ask for more. You can also add some of their special chili sauce, which perks up the soup a little and give it a different taste dimension.

The interior of the shop is very simple and basic.

The Pho Bo. They also have Pho Ga (Chicken Noodle Soup).

Generous serving of garnish for your Pho - bean sprouts and fresh basil.

Their special chili sauce. Only add this after you have had a taste of the original broth.

Chu The also serves their version of French beef stew - it is quite nice.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Melbourne 2010 - Degraves Street

Degraves Street is a little laneway which runs between Flinders Street and Flinders Lane. It is sometimes called the Little Paris of Melbourne, with its alfresco dining area in the middle of the street and the endless string of food and drinks outlets.

At Degraves street, most of the eateries are hole-in-the-wall venues which sell convenient food at down-to-earth prices. Melbourne food prices can really bust your wallet, and it is good to know there are still places where you don't need to be a millionaire to feed yourself. You can grab a sandwich, have a cup of coffee, order some pasta, or a hot bowl of soup. It is very popular with the Bohemian crowd, students and travelers.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Melbourne 2010 - Around Melbourne City

Melbourne is a great city to explore on foot, as the CBD and city centre is very compact and can be easily covered in a few hours. The rectangular grid layout also makes it easy to find your way around. Here are some random shots from my last trip to Melbourne. I was too lazy to carry my normal Nikon SLR, so was test-driving my new Panasonic TZ-10. It's not bad, except a tendency to blow highlights.

One of the most famous landmarks in Melbourne - the Flinders Street Station.

The Yarra River.

Typical view in a backlane. Melburnians are pretty serious about taking care of their garbage.

A familiar sight in Melbourne. Chinese is very popular with the locals.

If you are craving for something from home, chances are you can find it in Melbourne.

On a typical weekend, you can find many street performers around the city.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Shenzhen & Dongguang 2010 - Dinner at Haoweiguan Theme Restaurant Dongguang

Haoweiguan is one of the new generation of "Theme Restaurants" which have popped up all over China - some good and some very bad. They are essentially chain restaurants specializing usually in cuisine from a particular region of China. I am glad to say that Haoweiguan is one of the better restaurants we tried.

"Hao" means oyster in Chinese, so oyster is one of their specialties in this restaurant. These fresh oysters with a garlic sauce were pretty good.

If there is one thing a Cantonese chef is good at, it is making soup. A big bowl of nutritious and delicious soup is an important part of any Chinese meal. This soup was really tasty.

You can see they are not stingy with the ingredients - chunks of chicken, pork ribs, pork bones and herbs used to make the soup. You can eat these, but most of the flavour has been extracted and the meat is usually quite bland and dry.

White cooked chicken - the meat was very tender and juicy, but a bit too salty to my taste.

Oven-baked eggplants with fish paste - this was a very good dish with lots of flavour.

Needle mushrooms wrapped with pork and cooked in a broth. Another very good dish. The broth was very sweet, and the meat was tender with the needle mushrooms providing a nice crunch.

Stir-fried vegies with garlic - very well executed.

Stir-fried squid with peppers and onions. The sauce is slightly spicy and peppery - very similar to what chefs would do in Malaysia.

This is a very interesting dish - tofu sprinkled with fish roe. The silky smooth tofu paired very well with the salty fish roe, and the pop-in-the-mouth sensation is great.

This is my last post on Shenzhen and Dongguang, and I am happy to finish off on a high note. Haoweiguan was a good surprise find as we literally walked into it off the street - simply based on the number of patrons there. Though Shenzhen and Dongguang are definitely not for the traveler - you would not be disappointed with the food.