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Monday, May 03, 2010

Recipe: Lychee pork ribs (and a food blogger Battle Royale Cook-Off)

Invitation designed by Billy

"You should be plating up now!"

The scene at Ellie's was all kinds of chaos. Eleven food bloggers - eleven dishes. The challenge? To incorporate fruits into main courses, and vegetables into desserts.

Concocted by Billy, Linda and Ellie, it was a Master Chef meets Iron Chef event amidst a frenzy of photos.

The rules:
  1. Each person was assigned one of two categories- Savoury or Dessert
  2. For Savoury, you MUST have used any form of “fruit” in your dish.
  3. For Dessert, you MUST have used any form of “vegetable” in your dish.
  4. Each person had to prepare their dish at home and bring it to the party. Only minimal preparation time would be allowed at the venue.


  1. Each person was given a scoring sheet, tasting and scoring all dishes, except his/her own.
  2. Each dish was scored on its presentation and flavours, with 1 being the lowest, and 10 the highest.
The contenders:
Minh - Eat, Show and Tell
Richard - Here Comes the Food
Simon - The Heart of Food
Ellie - Almost Bourdain
Helen - Grab Your Fork

Steph - Raspberri Cupcakes
Karen - Citrus and Candy
Shez - One Bite More
Suze - Chocolatesuze
Billy - A Table for Two
Linda - Eat, Show and Tell

It was interesting to see how people interpreted the challenge. Some went for classics - others went for wild and wacky. What was clear to everyone was how the pressure of the event seemed to get to everyone. Whilst the judging wasn't really taken seriously, it's amazing how quickly things can fall to pieces - and we were acutely aware we weren't even under the bright lights of a television studio.

Plating was an interesting conundrum, particularly as we all had to supply our own plates. As each person carefully plated their dish, there was a delicious sense of excitement and a proud little moment as, one by one, we each announced our dish for judging...

The dishes:

Pumpkin soup with port melon and vanilla creme fraiche
Minh - Eat, Show and Tell

A sweet pumpkin soup was served with wedges of port-soaked rockmelon and honeydew. A dollop of vanilla-bean creme fraiche added richness.

Melon triplets salmon tartare
Richard - Here Comes the Food

A trio of rockmelon, watermelon and honeydew was refreshed by a zingy citrus dressing. It was served with cubes of sashimi salmon and a quenelle of sour cream.

Korean fried chicken -
Twice fried chicken thigh pieces with a pineapple chili sauce
Simon - The Heart of Food

Tender chicken in a crunchy batter dunked in a chilli sauce sweetened with fresh pineapple.

Twice-cooked orange salt rub pork belly
with toffee-crisp crackling, caramelised cherry and brandy glaze
served with potato and apple mash
and savoy cabbage with smoky bacon
Ellie - Almost Bourdain

The pork belly was succulent with thin tiles of crisp crackling. Potato and apple mash was a huge hit and the combination of savoy cabbage with smoky bacon was a classic.

Pig Goes on a Holiday
Pork ribs marinated in lychee and soy served with lychee and green olives
Helen - Grab Your Fork (me!)

I decided to replace the honey and maltose in a traditional rib marinade with lychee syrup. Olives were added to create a salty contrast and red cabbage and mint were meant to refresh the palate. Read the end of this post for the recipe.


Steph and Karen proved their dedication to the cause by creating not just one dessert, but a tasting plate of vegetable-inspired desserts! Their plating station was a show in itself.

Trio of beetroot - Chocolate & beetroot macaron,
beetroot chocolate brownie with beetroot ice cream
and a beetroot lollipop with fizzy sherbert powder
Steph - Raspberri Cupcakes

Steph's macaron was perfectly formed, and I loved the texture of the beetroot chocolate brownie which wasn't too dense or sweet. The beetroot ice cream was enviably smooth given it was made by hand and the beetroot lollipop gave everyone hours of fun, especially with the homemade sherbet powder.

Tasting plate of rhubarb - Rhubarb financier, rhubarb mousse gateau,
lemon shortbread with rhubarb jam and rhubarb crumble
Karen - Citrus and Candy

Getting. So. Full. I admired the complexity of the rhubarb mousse gateau but loved the lemon shortbread with rhubarb jam even more.

Rainbow Vegie Layer Cake
Beetroot & chocolate, carrot, and spinach cake with cream cheese frosting
Suze - Chocolatesuze

So Suze is getting quite the reputation for rainbow layer cakes. There wasn't an overwhelming flavour of beetroot or spinach in either layer, but it's certainly one way to get everyone to happily eat their vegetables. Cream cheese frosting is always a winner too!

Fennel flan with fennel cream,
beetroot sorbet and fennel brandy snap
Shez - One Bite More

Fennel is one of my favourite vegetables. The licorice flavour was fairly subtle but there was plenty of beetroot in the sorbet. The flan was soft and delicate against the shard of toffee-flavoured brandy snap.

Eggplant chocolate tart with candied carrot
served with purple carrot and citrus peel ice cream
Billy - A Table for Two

Billy used the Aria chocolate tart recipe, making a base of eggplant (a fruit, not a vegetable), which worked well with the chocolate. The carrot curls were made by boiling in sugar syrup, baked for 30 minutes to dry out, twirled around a wooden spoon, then placed back into the oven for another 30 minutes to crisp. The purple carrot ice cream was studded generously with citrus peel.

Caramelised onion pannacotta with burnt butter ice cream and olive macaron
Linda - Eat, Show and Tell

It's just as well we saved Linda's dish for last. Her caramelised onion pannacotta was made by infusing cream with caramelised red onions, and had such an intense onion flavour I was craving barbecued sausages blackened on the grill. The pannacotta had everyone talking!

Dessert carnage

Mental note: six rounds of desserts are an ambitious task for most stomachs.

The results:
Best Savoury - Ellie
Best Dessert - Steph
Most Outrageous - Linda

A fabulous night and a commendable effort by everyone! Thank you everyone for their generosity and creativity, and much gratitude to Linda and Billy for organising, and Ellie for hosting us all.

Here's the recipe for the lychee pork dish I specifically created for the Battle Royale Cook-Off...

Lychee pork ribs

1kg Chinese pork ribs (cut into small pieces by your butcher)
1 can lychees
1 tablespoon dark soy sauce
1 tablespoon light soy sauce
1 tablespoon Chinese rice wine
1 teaspoon lime juice
2 pinches white pepper
1/4 red cabbage
3 stalks of mint leaves
green olives to garnish

Drain the lychees, reserving the syrup. Gently boil the syrup in a saucepan until reduced to a thick honey-like consistency. Mix with the soy sauce, rice wine, lime juice and white pepper. Allow the mixture to cool before combining with the pork ribs in a ziplock bag and marinating overnight.

Transfer the ribs to a baking tray and bake at 150C for two hours, turning and basting often with the leftover marinade.

Serve on a bed of finely shredded cabbage. Dress with a chiffonade of mint leaves (make a neat pile of mint leaves, then roll up and finely slice into long thin strips). Garnish with lychees, slices of green olive and sprigs of mint.

For extra lychee flavour, serve with a sauce made from blended lychees.
16 comments - Add some comment love

posted by Helen (Grab Your Fork) on 5/03/2010 05:57:00 am


  • At 5/03/2010 7:14 am, Blogger foodwink said…

    You guys could kick the ass of some of the Masterchef contestants! *cough* kate *cough*

    The combination of lychee and pork ribs sounds lovely, and the invitation is hillariously appropriate!

  • At 5/03/2010 8:25 am, Blogger Stephcookie said…

    Yum, your dish was so pretty and colourful and I loved the flavour of the marinade :) Haha never doing a tasting plate again, to save my sanity and everyone's stomach space!

  • At 5/03/2010 9:36 am, Blogger Yas @ hungry.digital.elf. said…

    Awesomeness indeed!
    I'm very much intrigued how lychee works with pork ribs, will definitely try this!

  • At 5/03/2010 10:03 am, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    You dish was beautiful to look at and the and taste contrasting textures were a winner!

  • At 5/03/2010 10:38 am, Anonymous chocolatesuze said…

    mmm your ribs were finger lickin tasty!

  • At 5/03/2010 11:31 am, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Mmmmmm reading this brings bak good memories haha! Your ribs were awesommmess sweet and sticky yum! You guys probably saw me munching on them as I watched the others clean up hahah

  • At 5/03/2010 11:38 am, Anonymous Hannah said…

    You lot really are amazing. I'd SO much rather have watched this than the real Masterchef. I mean, assuming none of you broke down in tears about your grandmothers or drizzled sauce like it was a maze-inspired-by-your-children-eyes-aglow? :P

  • At 5/03/2010 12:32 pm, Blogger Karen | Citrus and Candy said…

    Yours were so beautifully plated and I loved the colours! One can never say no to ribs but adding lychees was genius.

  • At 5/03/2010 1:20 pm, Anonymous Emily (Pickos) said…

    LOVE this cook off idea.

    Must do!

  • At 5/03/2010 1:51 pm, Blogger Fouad @ The Food Blog said…

    it's great to see what you ended up cooking! awesome looking dishes by everyone. I think Billy should be commended for the use of eggplants, though they were disqualified as an ingredient. They are not easy to use as a sweet ingredient. Sounds like it was a lot of fun. I would have struggled to come up with something but you guys look like you did a great job!

  • At 5/03/2010 3:52 pm, Blogger Brenda said…

    You guys are all winners!! Looks like such a great fun day of eating and competing. Congrats to all of you for such an awesome job!

  • At 5/03/2010 4:50 pm, Anonymous penny aka jeroxie said…

    Just jealous. I just want to try it all!

  • At 5/03/2010 6:31 pm, Anonymous Mark @ Cafe Campana said…

    I love ribs and going by the comment by other food bloggers who ate them at the infamous event they taste great :) Gary, George and Matt watch out.

  • At 5/04/2010 5:24 am, Anonymous Nicole said…

    Beautiful, fun food - be-still my beating heart! Wish I could have been there, looks delicious. :-)

  • At 5/09/2010 11:22 pm, Anonymous Simon @ the heart of food said…

    Aren't these sorts of events a load of fun?

    I liked the take you had on this dish, using lychee. Admittedly, I didn't think that it'd work at first but it ended up being really nice.

  • At 6/02/2010 6:21 pm, Blogger Helen (Grab Your Fork) said…

    Hi foodwink - lol. I loved Billy's invitation. He's an awesome designer. And yes the combo of lychee and pork worked surprisingly well.

    Hi Stephcookie - The tasting plate was a very brave venture. I applaud your effort, and how were your beetroot macarons and ice cream!

    Hi Yas - I don't think my dish was a patch on your intended creation. A shame we didn't get to taste it!

    Hi Ellie - Aww mine wasn't as pretty as yours. Such professional plating :)

    Hi chocolatesuze - I think your stomach failed majorly that night. lol. But always room for beetroot lollipops eh? lol

    Hi FFichiban - Ha, waste not want not I say. I took the leftovers home for dinner the next night :)

    Hi Hannah - No tears but a lot of stress in the room. We were all wailing about our plating and did commiserate with the contestants who have to contend with cameras and three ominous-looking judges!

    Hi Karen - Aww thanks. It's amazing what a bit of red cabbage can do. lol.

    Hi Emily - I think you'd have quite a few dishes up your sleeve by now :)

    Hi Fouad - I had an eggplant and chocolate tart from a friend and omg, eggplant should definitely be used in more desserts. It was tough trying to come up with ideas but I think that sometimes when you have too long to think you strangely can't think of anything! lol

    Hi Brenda - It was a fanastic evening. Quite exciting to see what everyone came up with, although in the end, far too much food!

    Hi penny - You will have to run a similar event in Melbourne. Much fun!

    Hi Mark - Haha, I don't think I'll be appearing on Masterchef anytime soon :)

    Hi Nicole - It was a great evening. You should organise your own version :)

    Hi Simon - Why thanks, glad it met your final approval. lol.


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