A food blogger barbecue? Always pack an extra stomach.
Happy Luck Restoran
I laugh when I arrive at Karen's house and spot the sign on the door. A random tweet by Billy about making signs for his satay stand had prompted a flurry of tongue-poking texta work all over Sydney.
But to start a party you must have drinks. Karen has jugs of Pimms and lemonade, Richard has more alcohol on standby, and then Suze enters, always the source of crazy deliciousness. Forget about a bowl and ladle - what better receptacle for punch than a watermelon keg!
Filling the watermelon keg
A whole watermelon was scooped free of flesh, a process that Suze says took half an hour. A plastic tap from the hardware shop was then screwed into the base, secured with a plastic washer on the inside.
Fill the watermelon with equal parts of watermelon juice, lemonade and moscato, pouring at the same time so it mixes well.
Frothy watermelon punch
Watermelon keg in action
Place glass under tap and release for tasty liquid refreshment. Instant party starter!
Lex, our resident apprentice chef, was keen to cook up a storm despite coming off a ten-day-straight work roster.
He hit the Sydney Fish Market and came out with Alaskan crab.
Seasoning the crab
Crab cooking in lemon butter
Alaskan crab in lemon butter with dill
We sit in glorious sunshine on a picnic rug in the backyard as we rip open crab legs and claws, lemon butter sauce dripping down our chins. Lex also used Japanese chilli powder, garlic, pepper and dill, and as we survey the bowl of leftover sauce we pine for bread to soak up the remaining juices.
In the meantime, Billy is busy tending to his satay stall - advertised with his impressive artwork as always.
Ah Peng's Best Satay and Rojak
- as featured on Grab Your Fork (well it has now! lol)
Satay skewers on the grill
A disposable barbecue works wonders and within minutes we are all feasting on skewers of chicken and beef that are tender and smoky, dipped in a thick and spicy homemade peanut sauce.
Beef and chicken satay
Karen's Fried Mee Hoon and Bak Kwa stall poster
Karen laughed when she compared her poster with everyone else's but she needn't have. Her stall may be low on fancy decor but it has bags of flavour.
Cooking the Bak Kwa on the barbecue
Bak Kwa is a Malaysian meat jerky that is salty and sweet. The jerky is usually made from pork mince that has been combined with fish sauce, soy sauce, rice wine, honey and sugar. The mixture is flattened into sheets and then sliced into rectangles before grilling over a barbecue.
Bak Kwa on the disposable charcoal barbecue
Karen whipped these up for the first time, after discovering a bag of pork mince in the freezer the night before.
They cooked up a treat. I always go for the extra burnt ones, relishing their sweet fattiness and caramelised edges.
Potato salad with broad beans
We also dig into Karen's delicious potato salad with broad beans, dill and a mustard dressing as well as Mee Hoon, a Malaysian dish of fried vermicelli noodles.
Mee Hoon fried rice vermicelli
Simon has brought along bulgogi saam, Korean barbecue beef that we wrap up in lettuce cup with rice, gochujang sance and his Mum's homemade kimchee chilli-pickled cabbage.
Toasting tofu puffs
Billy is still cooking, recreating a dish we first encountered in Jalan Alor, the street of open-air restaurants in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.
Stuffed tofu puffs
He grills tofu puffs on the barbecue and then stuffs them with a mixture of stir-fried kangkong water spinach and bean sprouts. They are like tofu burgers, crunchy on the outside and filled with a saucy spicy vegetable mix.
Billy has also made rojak, chunks of green mango, pineapple and cucumber mixed with cooked kangkung water spinach and bean sprouts that have been doused in a hot, salty and sour mix of tamarind paste, palm sugar and belacan shrimp paste. Crushed peanuts on top add crunch. It's one of my favourite dishes from Malaysia - a perfect snack to savour when humidity saps your appetite.
Lex is also back on the barbecue, grilling his ocean trout marinated with fennel and blood orange.
Barbecuing the ocean trout with blood orange and fennel
Eager food bloggers fighting for the salmon skin
The dish has barely been placed on the table before there's a riot over the salmon skin, crisped to a brittle parchment. The fish itself was amazing, sweet and succulent [Lex's recipe and stunning image of him in wet chef's whites here].
Shez's otak otak and kuih posters
Otak Otak is another Malaysian delicacy that is always best homemade. Shez's version is amazing. It's her first attempt at this dish, and the banana leaf parcel of fish mousse is light, fragrant and more-ish, rich with lime leaf, coconut and lemongrass.
Shez and her Kaya Kuih
Her Kaya Kuih disappears equally quickly. Presented in traditional diamond slices, a base of coconut-steamed sticky rice is topped with eggy and sweet pandan custard.
Kourambiedes Greek shortbread cookies by Phuoc
Phuoc has brought a plate of buttery kourambiedes Greek shortbread, studded with almonds and smothered in icing sugar [Phuoc's recipe here]. She also plies us with a bottle of her homemade limoncello, made by steeping lemon zest in vodka.
Making gula melaka syrup
Billy helps Minh and I make gula melaka palm sugar syrup for our ice kacang. Originally our plan had been to make cendol, but I failed a late-night attempt to make this at home, and we had no luck at buying cendol the next day despite trying five different Asian grocers (apparently the cendol man was late with his deliveries).
I still like the cendol stall poster Billy made for us.
Double Rainbows No. 1 Chendol
We switch to ice kacang instead, whirring two ice crushers into action to create a stockpile of shaved ice. Everyone then helps themselves to cubes of grass jelly, palm seeds, jackfruit, sweet corn kernels, cooked red beans and lychee before piling on a mountain of shaved ice that is drizzled with evaporated milk and a river of gula melaka palm sugar syrup.
Ice kacang with rosewater and without
The rosewater debate is the point where food bloggers divide. Karen, who is from Petaling Jaya near Kuala Lumpur, insists that it's an essential part of ice kacang. Billy, who is from Ipoh, won't have a bar of it. We take control of our syrups - I'm team palm sugar all the way.
Yas and his Portuguese custard tarts
Pasteis de nata Portuguese custard tarts
Yas has had no time to cook, but with a delivery of pasteis de nata Portuguese custard tarts from Sweet Belem in Petersham, we are more than happy. The pastry is as flaky as I remembered, shattering with an audible crunch with every bite. The custard is soft and eggy, dusted liberally with cinnamon.
Do not try this at home
"We should use a hair dryer to heat the barbecue," are, surprisingly enough, not Famous Last Words before a frantic call to the fire brigade. The boys abandon our makeshift fans and use a hairdryer to flame an uncooperative barbecue for a finale of wagyu steak.
The steaks are Mirragong Grass-fed wagyu beef, kindly donated by Tim from Urban Food Market. The steaks and thick and lusciously marbled, and I notice that the grass-fed beef does have a more pronounced flavour than grain-fed.
Linda and Howard are late to the party but Linda quickly sets to work with a pot of oil and a bucket of marinated chicken wings. These are patted lightly with flour and then deep-fried to a golden perfection. I'm over-the-moon that all four kilos are mid-wings - my favourite!
As dusk settles into night, Minh and I break open the sachets of Home's Cafe 3-in-1 coffee, adding water and ice to make jugs of iced coffee that are sweet and strong.
We'd started at 1.30pm and eaten for six hours straight. Thanks to Karen and The Captain for hosting - I can't think of a better way to spend a Saturday in spring!
FREEBIE FRIDAY WINNER
The winner of chotto and cocktails for two at Ocean Room Sydney is Kat - congratulations!
Don't forget to enter the Freebie Friday competitions still open:
> Win two new Smirnoff Vodka mixers
(entries close Sunday 26 September 2010)
> Win a $100 dining voucher at Signorelli Gastronomia
(entries close Sunday 10 October 2010)
32 comments - Add some comment love
9/20/2010 01:46:00 am