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Sunday, May 17, 2015

Peranakan Place, Auburn

Ayam buah keluak Nonya dish at Peranakan Place, Auburn

Relax, there’s no hydrogen cyanide left in the buah keluak seed by the time it ends up in your meal here. The seed is found inside the "football fruit" of the keluak tree native to the swamps of southeast Asia – and thanks to that volatile acid, is highly poisonous. So why is it on the menu at this Auburn eatery?

Buah keluak seeds at Peranakan Place, Auburn
Buah keluak seeds

Here's why: they first boil down the seeds before burying them in ash for forty days. This allows them to ferment, and converts the flesh from a pale creamy colour to a midnight shade of black. Those seeds are the centrepiece of ayam buah keluak, a dark and spicy chicken stew fragrant with tamarind, turmeric and galangal.

Ayam buah keluak ($29.90) is a mainstay of Peranakan cuisine. And those seeds are unlike anything you will ever taste. You’ll get a crab picker to scrape out the meat from within the partially cracked seed. The flesh is ominously black, nutty and medicinal – with an unmistakeable bitterness.

Peranakan traditional metal tiffin at Peranakan Place, Auburn
Peranakan mortar and pestle and traditional metal tiffin

You can try it for yourself at Peranakan Place, Sydney’s only restaurant dedicated to Peranakan cuisine. There’s not much signage out the front but the interiors are new and sparkling, filled with Peranakan trinkets and a smiling host who’s eager to explain everything.

Like, for instance, what is Peranakan food? It’s the distinct strain of Malay Chinese cuisine which evolved in the 15th and 16th centuries in Malaysia and Singapore when Chinese immigrants integrated their food with that of the locals. Also known as Nonya food – nonya means aunty in Peranakan – the cuisine fuses Chinese ingredients with Malaysian spices. That means a little coconut milk here, a feisty wad of shrimp paste there.

Shrimp paste fried chicken wings at Peranakan Place, Auburn
Shrimp paste fried chicken wings $6.90 for four

There are plenty of less intimidating dishes on the menu, too. The shrimp paste fried chicken wings are boosted by a salty prawn intensity that makes you lust after more.

Nonya pie tee top hats at Peranakan Place, Auburn
Pie tee top hats $9.90 for four

Pie tee is another classic Peranakan dish. Little top hats of deep-fried pastry get turned upside and filled with cooked turnip shreds, prawn and coriander.

Babi ponteh pork belly and trotters at Peranakan Place, Auburn
Babi pongteh pork belly and trotters $16.90
with coconut rice $3

Splurge on the coconut rice and have it with babi pongteh, a comforting stew of gelatinous pork trotters cooked with chestnuts and shiitake mushrooms.

Kang kong water spinach with belacan at Peranakan Place, Auburn
Kang kong water spinach with belacan $13.90

Achar pickled vegetables at Peranakan Place, Auburn
Achar pickled vegetables $4

Durian with sticky rice and coconut cream at Peranakan Place, Auburn
Durian with sticky rice and coconut cream $8.80

Durian with sticky rice and coconut cream at Peranakan Place, Auburn
Durian and sticky rice

Go hard on the durian custard for desserts, either served in a choux pastry puff or drizzled over sticky rice.

Pulot hitam black sticky rice and coconut cream at Peranakan Place, Auburn
Pulot hitam black sticky rice with coconut cream $6.90

It’s also worth checking out the pulot hitam, a rice pudding made with chewy black rice sweetened with palm sugar and decorated with coconut cream.

Teh terik and lime soda drinks at Peranakan Place, Auburn
Teh tarik pulled tea and lime soda drinks

Original Peranakan hand-painted tiles at Peranakan Place, Auburn
Original Peranakan hand-painted tiles

Nonya cuisine at Peranakan Place, Auburn
Nonya cuisine at Peranakan Place

Peranakan Place, Auburn


Peranakan Place Nonya Cuisine on Urbanspoon

Peranakan Place
139 Parramatta Road, Auburn, Sydney
Tel: +61 (02) 9737 8989

Opening hours:
Wednesday to Sunday 11.30am-2.30pm; 5.30pm-10pm


This article appeared in the May 2015 issue of Time Out Sydney in my monthly Food & Drink column Eat This! [Read online

Read more of my Time Out Sydney reviews

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posted by Helen (Grab Your Fork) on 5/17/2015 12:00:00 a.m.


Sunday, May 10, 2015

Crispy Cluckers, Newington

Korean fried chicken with soy at Crispy Cluckers, Newington

Have you ever been to Newington? The development that was once the Sydney Olympic Village is now a quaint suburban neighbourhood that seems to suddenly appear out of nowhere. There's a Korean grocery store, a Woolworths supermarket and a whole row of restaurants and cafes catering for locals. It feels like we're in a university town with its quiet cosiness. What brings us here? Korean fried chicken. Of course. But with a name like Crispy Cluckers, how could we resist?

Korean fried chicken diners at Crispy Cluckers, Newington
Young crowd at Crispy Cluckers

Newington is the second branch opening for Crispy Cluckers, expanding on its Lidcombe original. There's a small range of chicken burgers and salads (the deep fried prawns with garden salad sounds like my kinda health kick) but really, everyone is here for the fried chicken.

There's a huge group of uni students booked in when we arrive, decimating endless platters of fried chicken. Unfortunately they were yet to receive their liquor licence but are allowing BYO beers and ciders for the thirsty.

Korean fried chicken with soy at Crispy Cluckers, Newington
Deep fried chicken with soy Selection one on our half n half chicken for $30

There are only three of us tonight so we go for tactics, opting for the half n half chicken to maximise our research options. The chicken doesn't take long to arrive, served on rectangular platters that soon jostle for space on our table. The batter has a deep golden colour, with promising curls of crispy bits at the edges.

Our first half order is the soy fried chicken coated in a sweet soy marinade. It's a touch too sweet for me but the sauce does add extra juiciness to the flesh.

Korean fried chicken with spring onion at Crispy Cluckers, Newington
Deep fried chicken with shredded spring onion Selection two on our half n half chicken for $30
($5 surcharge for the spring onion)

The other half options are hot n spicy or sweet chilli but the kitchen is happy to provide our requested spring onion for a surcharge of $5. We're happy to pay it, and our fried chicken is draped in a mountain of finely shredded spring onion, soy and garlic. There's as not much of a wasabi kick as you find in similar dishes at Naruone or Sparrow's Mill.

Complimentary daikon pickled white radish at Crispy Cluckers, Newington
Complimentary pickled daikon (white radish)

We don't have beers to wash down our fried chicken but we do pounce on the refreshing cubes of pickled daikon. They're an essential palate cleanser and oil-overload reset. Staff will also provide you with free replenishments if you ask nicely.

Kkan Pung boneless fried chicken at Crispy Cluckers, Newington
Kkan Pung boneless chicken $27

We commit to a complete blowout with the the kkan pung boneless chicken too, a Beijing-style sauce that reminds me of sweet and sour. It's spicy, sweet and tangy with a medley of finely chopped shallots, carrots and red chillies thrown into the mix.

Korean fried chicken with soy at Crispy Cluckers, Newington
Deep fried chicken with soy

We'd heard people wax lyrical about the chicken here, but it must be an off night. The chicken is reasonably good but not, shall we say, groan-worthy. Yet between three females we still manage to finish almost everything. Only three lonely pieces defeat us. Staff cheerfully pack this in a takeaway box and insist on giving us some free pickled radish with it too. We'll strike that up as a win.

Crispy Cluckers, Newington


Crispy Cluckers on Urbanspoon

Crispy Cluckers
Shop C03/3 Avenue of Europe, Newington, Sydney
Tel: +61 (02) 9648 8282

Opening hours:
Monday to Saturday 11.30am-10pm
Closed Sundays


Also at:
20 Joseph Street, Lidcombe, Sydney
Tel: +61 (02) 9649 8282


Related Grab Your Fork posts:
Korean fried chicken - Arisun, Haymarket
Korean fried chicken - Beschico, Epping
Korean fried chicken - Kim, Potts Point
Korean fried chicken - Moon Park, Redfern
Korean fried chicken - Naruone, Sydney
Korean fried chicken - Red Pepper, Strathfield
Korean fried chicken - Seoul Orizin, Haymarket
Korean fried chicken - Sparrow's Mills, Sydney

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posted by Helen (Grab Your Fork) on 5/10/2015 12:00:00 a.m.


Sunday, May 03, 2015

La Cocina de la Abuela, Marrickville



Hearts of palm salad, cactus salad, ceviche and tortilla soup at La Cocina de la Abuela, Marrickville

There’s something you need to know about the huaraches gigantes here. It’s not gigantic – it’s colossal. The 40cm long torpedo of homemade fried tortilla dough laden with chicken, chorizo, capsicum, lettuce and fresh cheese is called a huaraches because it looks like a sandal of the same name.

Huaraches gigantes homemade tortilla at La Cocina de la Abuela, Marrickville
Huaraches gigantes $22
40cm long homemade tortilla with refried beans and your choice of chicken, beef or chorizo

Maybe that explains why it can be a little chewy in parts, but its density means there’s no chance of sogginess from the avalanche of fillings on top. In addition to the enormous huaraches, there’s a whole range of South American dishes to explore from this grandma’s kitchen (La Cocina De la Abuela in Spanish) in Marrickville.

Huaraches gigantes homemade tortilla at La Cocina de la Abuela, Marrickville
Huaraches gigantes on the table

Tables and decor at La Cocina de la Abuela, Marrickville
Tables and decor at La Cocina de la Abuela

The owner’s Uruguayan heritage makes an appearance in the chivito al plato, a thin piece of steak with pancetta, ham, cheese, fried egg and chips, as well as Grandma’s Milanesas beef schnitzel. The walls are resplendent with embroidered sombreros and colourful piñatas and fresh flowers on every table are a thoughtful touch. It’s quiet when we visit for a Sunday dinner but we expect things to pick up once word gets out about their tortilla soup.

Tortilla soup sopa Azteca at La Cocina de la Abuela, Marrickville
Sopa Azteca $11.50
Traditional tortilla soup in Guajillo broth

The tortilla soup is thick and deep red in colour, piled with a mountain of deep-fried tortilla shards. There’s a complexity of heat and spice in every spoonful of this textural soup that combines soup-swollen tortilla bits at the bottom and still-crunchy tortilla straws at the top. Strewn across the top is a cool scoop of guacamole and crumbled fresh white cheese (queso fresco).

Cactus salad ensalada de nopales at La Cocina de la Abuela, Marrickville
Ensalada de nopales $12.50
Cactus salad with tomato, Spanish onion, avocado and queso fresco

Cactus salad is a rare treat that’s worth ordering. The cactus pieces come tossed through with red onion, tomato wedges, guacamole and more queso fresco.

Hearts of palm salad esalada de palmitos at La Cocina de la Abuela, Marrickville
Ensalada de palmitos $11.50
Traditional hearts of palm salad

We dig the hearts of palm salad too, mixed with green capsicum in a creamy dressing.

Ceviche with tortilla chips at La Cocina de la Abuela, Marrickville
Ceviche $12
Fresh fish marinated in lime juice 

Continue the Mexican fiesta with tamales steamed in banana leaves and slow-cooked chicken with mole sauce. Don’t forget the ceviche either, bright and zingy with lime and surrounded by crunchy tortilla chips.

Dining room with lanterns at La Cocina de la Abuela, Marrickville
Dining room with lanterns

Hearts of palm salad, tortilla soup, cactus salad and ceviche at La Cocina de la Abuela, Marrickville
Hearts of palm salad, tortilla soup, cactus salad and ceviche

She might not be your maternal grandmother, but drop in on this Marrickville matriarch and she’ll treat you to a South American feast without any surly questions about what you’re doing with your life.

Creme caramel flan at La Cocina de la Abuela, Marrickville
Flan $9
Creme caramel

Latin American restaurant La Cocina de la Abuela, Marrickville


La Cocina de la Abuela on Urbanspoon

La Cocina de la Abuela
208 Marrickville Road, Marrickville, Sydney
Tel: +61 (02) 9569 3331

Opening hours:
Lunch Wednesday to Sunday 12pm-3pm
Dinner Tuesday 6pm-9pm, Wednesday to Saturday 6pm-9.30pm, Sunday 6pm-8.30pm

This article appeared in the April 2015 issue of Time Out Sydney in my monthly Food & Drink column Eat This! [Read online

Read more of my Time Out Sydney reviews

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posted by Helen (Grab Your Fork) on 5/03/2015 12:00:00 a.m.


Saturday, April 25, 2015

Surly's, Surry Hills

Smoked bbq pork spare rib at Surly's BBQ, Surry Hills

American bbq? Sydney still can't get enough. The newly opened Surly's combines a laidback American bar - complete with neon beer signs, bar stools and widescreen TVs - with a hearty rib-sticking bbq menu of smoked brisket, cornbread and fried chicken.

Surly's is the latest venture by the Parlour Group, the same group behind Riley Street Garage and The Stuffed Beaver. In the kitchen is Brendhan Bennison, a bonafide Southerner who's keen to serve up the best barbecue from across the USA.

Fried chicken with potato salad at Surly's BBQ, Surry Hills
Fried chicken with potato salad $14
Three pieces with choice of side

The menu is huge. We're talking bacon cheese fries, buffalo wings, a whole deep-fried battered onion and tortilla chips with chilli con carne - and that's just the starters. A philly cheesesteak is a welcome sight and there's a nod too to fusion food with a smoked pork shoulder banh mi. The Surly beef burger is a modest $13 and there's also a veggie burger, "for all you whining hippies" the menu says.

It's no surprise that we order the fried chicken, three pieces of on-the-bone chicken that sadly comes with a thick - and somewhat undercooked - batter. We get the potato salad as our included side, reminiscent of Japanese potato salads with its slightly smashed cubes mixed with carrots and peas.

Smoked beef brisket bbq plate with cornbread at Surly's BBQ, Surry Hills
Beef brisket bbq plate $19 
(your choice of two sides with homemade cornbread)

The American barbecue plates don't kick off until dinner time, somewhere between 5pm and 6pm. There's pulled pork and chicken thighs available but we zero in the beef brisket. We score four thick slices of meat piled into a basket with onions, pickles and cornbread. The brisket isn't as fatty as we're secretly hoping but there's some good smokiness in the skin. It's a DIY job with the barbecue sauce bottles on each table. I prefer smoky barbecue sauce over the chipotle variation, dunking the brisket generously into great big puddles it.

Green beans and bbq beans at Surly's BBQ, Surry Hills
Green beans and BBQ beans

We go with the two different beans as sides to our brisket. The barbecue beans have a hearty meatiness, and the green beans are the palate-cleansing veggie quota you need between mouthfuls of meat.

Smoked bbq pork spare rib at Surly's BBQ, Surry Hills
Pork spare rib bbq plate with coleslaw and mac 'n' cheese $20
(your choice of two sides with homemade cornbread)

Pork spare ribs win out over beef ribs when we place our order. It's a well-rewarded decision, scoring two ribs that are the picture of juicy pink. Our side of coleslaw is a zingy combo of red cabbage and carrot; the mac 'n' cheese brings back memories of the Kraft blue box from our childhood. The macaroni elbows are drenched in a thick and salty cheese sauce.

But the pork rib. Oh boy. The meat comes clean away from the bone, there's a generous layer fat between the meat and the skin, and the smokiness is mellow and lingering.

The vibe is relaxed and casual, and they have a load of craft beers on tap. All that's missing is a pecan pie for dessert. Then we'd totally be set.

Surly's BBQ, Surry Hills


Surly's on Urbanspoon

Surly's
182 Campbell Street, Surry Hills, Sydney
Tel: +61 (02) 9331 3705

Opening hours:
Tuesday to Sunday 12 midday to 12 midnight


Related Grab Your Fork posts:
American BBQ - Papi Chulo, Manly
American BBQ - Oxford Tavern, Petersham

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posted by Helen (Grab Your Fork) on 4/25/2015 12:59:00 a.m.



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