Sambal Kampung

Location: 234 Little Bourke St, Melbourne VIC 3000
Cost: $10-15 for noodles, $15-25 for made-to-order mains
Cost rating: 4/5
Taste rating: 5/10
Overall rating: 5/10
Would I come back? No

A small chinese-malaysian eatery, largely a student’s haunt for late dinner. On the day we saw surprisingly many young families, it must be family friendly too. We were seated upstairs. The stairs are narrow, the tables are small and packed in as tightly as they possibly allowed. You could elbow the person next table across if you wanted. The brick walls are decorated with christmas lights. That’s the sort of place it is.
NASI GORENG
Taste:4/10
Would I order it again? No.

Sweet kecap manis/ Emperor Nasi Goreng/ Remember that ad?*

Indonesian fried rice with chicken. If you cup your hands over your ears, you might be able to hear somebody’s throat have all its moisture sucked out from it. So much salt and MSG. The carrots are almost raw too. I have nothing against raw carrots, but they don’t belong in fried rice.

*: Youtube ‘bigpond nasi goreng ad’. Great ad, pity it was for Telstra.

LAKSA
Taste: 6/10
Would I order it again? Yes.

A helmet-sized bowl/ My preferred noodle vessel/ Not a real helmet

Watch out, it’s a basin of laksa.
It’s a different sort of spicy from the other laksas, not sweet-spicy but dry-spicy. The coconut milk adds creaminess and rounds out a lot of the dry-spiciness. Again, it’s very salty. We did arrive fairly late, so the laksa broth must have been boiled down into something saltier than usual. It was still edible, as long as you drank a fair amount of water and avoided most of the soup. In the laksa there is a boiled egg, some boyshoy, dried fried tofu puffs, two small crystal prawns, sliced fish cake, fish balls and plenty of fried shallots. There is also some chicken at the bottom. Its appearance isn’t as clean or neat as the other laksas, but I don’t mind the appearance. Apart from the salt, it would have been a satisfactory laksa.

 

LYCHEE DRINK
Taste: 3/10
Would I order it again? No.

lychee tapwater/ Not as tasty as you think/ Lychees were okay

Tap water with some syrup from canned lychees, and then some canned lychees. It could have been okay, but too watery. The tap water has a metallic, minerally, chalky taste too.

 

SANBOLIANG
Taste: 6/10
Would I order it again? No.

Sugar will fix it/ Fix my drink but not my teeth/ Trip to the dentist

 

San Bo Liang is a drink made of primarily three ingredients, all of which have ‘cooling’ properties according to chinese medicine philosophy. One of them is the longan fruit, which has always been a ‘heating’ food (or so I am told). That…. doesn’t seem right. Whatever the case may be, sanboliang has canned longan fruit, some grass jelly, and a brown palm sugar syrup. It’s much tastier than the lychee drink.
But, I wouldn’t come back with company just to have laksa and sanboliang.

 

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Laksa Bar

Name: Laksa Bar
Location: 108 Lt Lonsdale St.
Cost: $11-15 laksa
Cost rating: 3/5
Taste rating: 8/10
Overall rating: 8/10
Would I go again? Yes.

Laksa Bar (LB) opened around a year ago, in response for the need for more laksa in the inner city. It wins in term of location, and you will pay more for its location. (Roughly $2 more) It runs in a similar way to Laksa King, sharing the same 3-5pm break. But more expensive and dare I say it? Inferior? But then Laksa King has set some high standards. Laksa bar is still delicious and I’d come back if I am stuck in the inner city, and want to eat laksa or nasi lemak regardless.

While laksa (in all its regional variations) is LB’s specialty, LB also offers made-to-order rice and noodle dishes.

NASI LEMAK with BEEF RENDANG ($13.90)
Taste: 8/10
Would I order it again? Yes.

Lots of meat and sauce/ It is time to be hungry/ Nasi lemak time

Bowl of chilli paste/ What can I say about this?/Sambal is self-serve

Vinegary-sweet/ A simple vegie pickle/ Oh, the onions burn.

Favourite part of all/ Crispy crunchy salty fish/ Then more nutty crunch

Nasi lemak is something like Malaysia’s national dish. It’s a dome of coconut rice, with a main (in this case, beef rendang. But there are other options for the main at Laksa Bar), cucumber slices, crispy fried anchovies (ikan bilis), roasted peanuts, a fried egg and chilli paste (sambal) on the side. There’s also some sweet vegetable fast-pickles (acar) too.
The beef rendang here is a coconut beef stew, with plenty of sauce. It’s quite a large serve of beef rendang. It doesn’t have the same aromatic herby taste as the rendang at Red Spice Road, or the fat content. It’s lean, tender and focuses on the toasted coconut.
The fried anchovies and roasted peanuts are extremely crisp and crunchy. They’re the reason why I’d order a nasi lemak again at Laksa Bar. Nevermind the main dish.
Sambal is a sweet chilli paste. Not super-spicy. It’s less spicy than the chilli paste in MiGoreng.
The vegetable fast pickle is delicious. It has pineapple in it. It might seem odd to see pineapple used as a vegetable, but it delicious as a pickle.

 

PRAWN CHAR KWAY TEOW ($12.90)
Taste: 6.5/10
Would I order it again? No.

I like char kway teow/ Enough to order it here/ But bad decision

Mediocre. I found 2 crystal prawns. It’s definately edible, but nothing special. No impressive ‘wok hei’ or kitchen specs (super hot flame and heat conduction), or noodle tossing skills. The noodles were all broken up from poor tossing skills, and didn’t obtain a strong umami profile you get with excellent kitchen specs. I wouldn’t order it again at LB because I can find something on par, and costing less.
Then again, why order a noodle dish at a place that specialises in laksa?

 
CHICKEN LAKSA ($11.90)
Taste: ?
Would I order it again? Looks okay to me.

The chicken laksa/ Surprise! It's fried, not boiled!/ Richer than ever

 

SEAFOOD LAKSA ($13.90)
Taste: ?
Would I order it again? I’d like to order it, but thwarted everytime!

Look, a huge mussel/ Mm, tender, not rubbery/ Tick of approval

 

TOMYUM/CURRY LAKSA HYBRID ($13.90)
Taste:?
Would I order it again? It has my attention.

Is that .... pineapple?/ Hybrid laksa looks tasty/ Curiosity

 

BARLEY TEA ($3.90)
Taste: 10/10
Would I order it again? Yes.

Summery beverage/ Ice clinking on glass vessel/ A warm lazy day

Barley tea is a summer drink made from boiling barley in water and adding brown sugar. I don’t see how it can go wrong. Perhaps I will order it again when summer comes around.

 
Laksa Bar on Urbanspoon

Lemon cheesecake

Recipe and cake from my baking extraordinaire friend, N. Things go into a bowl, into a cake tin, and an hour later, there’s something delicious to be had.

This recipe uses a biscuit-base, probably the easiest cheesecake base around. Unless it doesn’t have a base, in which your cheesecake is most likely a fluffy Japanese-style cheesecake. For most of the time, I stood around and took pictures. But the recipe looks straightforward, and forgiving (provided everything is measured out right, and directions are followed correctly).

BISCUIT BASE
1 cup crushed plain sweet biscuits (We used Marie.)
80 g butter

FILLING
250 g cream cheese
3 eggs, separated
65 g white sugar
65 mL double cream
zest of one lemon
3/4 tbsp lemon juice
1/2 tsp vanilla
20 g melted butter
2 tbsp plain flour

Before you bake cake/ Line and, or, grease a cake tin/

Make the biscuit base first.

Hey you, get smashing/ (But more a rolling motion)/ Smash them biscuits good

1. Crush biscuits. Put the biscuits into a clean bag, and use a rolling pin to crush them. Don’t tie the bag up as shown in the picture, if you smash too hard the biscuits puncture through the bag, and you will have a mess. Keep the bag untied, and keep the crumbs and biscuity bits in the bag.

Microwave beams, go!/ Vibrate, water molecules!/ Warm up my butter

Add butter to mix/ Here comes my favourite part/ Mix it ’round and ’round

2. Melt the 80g butter. Mix the biscuit crumbs and butter in a bowl. Press the base mix into a greased and/or lined cake tin. Use the base of a cup or spoon to press it down if you want a smooth and even biscuit layer.

Put the cake tin with the biscuit base in the fridge. Onwards to the cheesecake filling!

3. Preheat to 160 degrees Celcius. Arrange the racks so the cake tin can sit in the middle, and a baking pan of water can fit in the oven with the cheesecake (on a lower rack).

Magic stuff in bowl/ If I didn’t know better/ Sugar and cream cheese

Handy dandy tool/ My buddy the eggbeater/ Whip that cream cheese good

4. Cream the cream cheese, and half of the sugar first. Then slowly add cream and beat until thick. Add egg yolks, one at a time. Add lemon zest, lemon juice and vanilla.

Even more butter/ Add some flour to the mix/ Even more beating

5. Stirring/beating more slowly now, add the melted butter and flour. Stir to incorporate.

6. Making sure the egg beaters are clean, and free from any yolk, cream cheese mixture or water, beat the 3 whites (in a big bowl) until they are frothy. (This takes less than a minute.) Then add the other half of the sugar.

One tip for one whites/ No oil, and no water/ Will not get stiff peaks

Egg white is protein/ Whipping makes a protein net/ Capture air bubbles

7.  Beat until stiff peaks form.

Add an egg white cloud/ Aeration comes from egg whites/ For fluffy cheesecake

8. Fold the egg whites into the lemon-cream cheese mixture.

gently mixed batter?/ Now plonk into your cake tin/ No ceremony

The less-tasty cake/ Magical transformation/ Ta-da! Tasty cake

9. Pour into cake tin. Hopefully the biscuit base will be a bit more solid by now. Doesn’t matter if it isn’t, but it helps the base stay together after baking.
10. Bake for an hour, or until a skewer comes out clean. It is very important that a baking tray of water is in the oven with the cheesecake. Otherwise it will dry out.

Baking does wonders/ Magical transformation/ actually science

Cool before serving. Chill if you can.

Just a little slice/ A proper serve for photos/ Larger serve for me

Minang Nasi Padang

Name: Minang Nasi Padang
Location: Pelham St/Swanstom St Carlton VIC 3053
Cost: $6.50 lunch/dinner
Cost rating: 5/5
Taste rating: 7/10
Overall rating: 8/10
Would I go again? Yes.

There’s another Minang further down Swanston St in the city block district. Minang Nasi Padang is closer to a university, making it a hot spot for students who live nearby. It’s particularly attractive as it is cheap, offers Indonesian/Malay homecooked-style food, has a balanced selection of meat and vegetables as well as plenty of vegetarian options. It’s a small shop, and feels like a school cafeteria. $6.50 will get you a plate of rice with 3 side dishes, lunch or dinner.

Six-fifty square meal/ Keep it real, nothing fancy/ Feels like school mess hall

It seems fairly authentic Indonesian food, or at least it is different from western-asian food. It’s not a fancy eatery, but it is fairly clean, cheap and tasty so I come back every now and then for a nutritious feed. (Better than cup noodles, or a fried chicken burger, or my workplace cafeteria.)

Don't know what it is?/ Just ask the nice young lady./ Sauce on everything.

The counter is simply bain maries filled with food, with cutlery and a cashier on the side.  There’s usually rice (a choice of plain or fried rice), some fried foods (fried battered fish, and a thick potato cake), vegetables (pumpkin curry, spicy eggplant, beanshoots), vegetarian protein options (chilli egg, stirfried fried tofu with a sauce) and meat options (fried chicken, soy chicken wings, beef rendang, chicken livers). You can also ask the lady to put sauce from either the soy chicken or chilli egg on your rice. They’ll understand your penchant for sauce.

Bah, meat and three vege?/ Two meats and vegie medley./ Take that! A square meal.

Beef Rendang: As far I am aware, beef rendang seems to be done in one of two ways. The wet coconut-heavy way, and the dry toasted coconut and salt way. Laksa Bar does it the wet way, with a thick coconut-rich stew around the chunks of beef. Minang does it the dry saltier way. It tastes pretty good, but you’ll need to eat it with rice. It’s very salty. But it isn’t tough at all, the meat is tender and comes apart with a gentle tug of your fork.

Soy chicken wings: Fried chicken wings, then braised in sweet Indonesian soy sauce. I like this a lot. So much I came back again within the week to have it again for lunch. Chicken wings should be eaten with your hands, there’s no ‘neat’ way of eating them.

Pumpkin, cabbage, eggplant: Just that, pumpkin, cabbage and eggplant. In a tasty stew of sorts. I’m glad they have a delicious vegetable option, because all too often student cafeterias place too much emphasis on meat-options.

Not lacking protein/ Eco-sustainable meal/ Huzzah! Good for you!

Sambal egg: Or chilli egg. It’s not very spicy, sort of sweet with a mild kick. Eggs are an excellent protein source. Ovo-vegetarian too!

Melty-soft eggplant/ Why are you so delicious?/ I like small diners.

Fried fish: A little bit of fried fish. Some days you feel like fried food. The batter is quite thick, but it’s well-drained. The fish inside is delicate, sweet and flakes easily. It won’t win any prizes for the Best Battered Fish, but it’s fresh fish in a small diner. I think that deserves a prize of its own.

Today there's fried rice/ A tomato-based fried rice/ Plus three sides of choice.

Tofu with green capsicum: I liked this. It wasn’t bland at all. There’s also another variation of tofu, in the picture with eggplant, which is sambal tofu (with carrots and beans). That is delicious too.
Minang Nasi Padang on Urbanspoon

Tutto

Name: Tutto
Location: 81 Grattan St, Carlton VIC 3053
Cost: Medium cup $5.50, 3 toppings for $2.50.
Cost rating: 3/5
Taste rating: 9/10
Overall rating: 9/10
Would I go again? Yes.

Unlike the previous Cacao Green and Tutti frutti post , this post will not have nutritional contents or consumer psychology. I can’t find any nutritional information on the Tutto website, but according the owner Tutto frozen yogurt has a third of the sugar of gelati. That seems to be 5-8% sugar (by volume, or weight?)

Tutto works in the same way as Cacao Green, but with the added option of choosing multiple flavours instead of just one. (I have been able to consistently get two flavours.) Tutto also lets you taste the flavours before choosing. On the day, there was original, lemon & ginger, pomegranate and red bull. Sometimes the flavours will change. The week after had mandarine instead of pomegranate. They were all natural tasting, and the fruity flavours weren’t too sweet. Lemon and ginger had a clean gingery taste, which I enjoyed. Pomegranate flavour tasted of pomegranate too. Red bull is a strange flavour, it’s the same flavour as Red Bull (an energy drink) but contains no actual Red Bull. Compared to the rest of flavours, Red Bull is quite strong. But it wasn’t unpleasant. If you’re one of those strange people who like taste of cough medicine, Red Bull frozen yogurt is up your alley.

As for toppings, I have tried the mango compote, strawberries, rockmelon, green tea mochi, gummi bears, coconut and peanut mix, biscuit crumble and brownies. There are also nuts, Pocky, chocolate chips, chocolate flakes, froot loops, raspberry compote and waffle biscuits.

All the little snacks/ House-made brownies and compote/ Fruit, chocolate, and nuts

Cinnamon biscuit/ Sweet syrupy mango sauce/ Gingery froyo

Mango compote: I thought this would have a really good mango flavour because the fruit flavours of the frozen yoghurt was good. But it was too sweet and didn’t have a lot of mango flavour I had hoped it’d have. But then, it is winter here and mangoes are now hard to come by. It’d be unreasonable to expect compote to made from fresh mangoes (sounds delicious….) so canned mango it is! Canning does some sad things to fruit.

Biscuit crumble: Tastes like crushed cinnamon biscuits. I wish the crumble had larger chunks in it so it would be crunchy instead of a fine biscuit powder.

Strawberries, rockmelon: Diced fresh fruit. Good stuff.

Mochi and gummi/Pomegranate underneath/It would be bright pink

Gummi bears: Gummi bears become hard and chewy when they’re cold. Then get stuck in your teeth. Definately not something I’ll have with frozen yoghurt again. (But I like both frozen yoghurt and gummi bears, mind you.)

Green tea mochi: Soft mochi, but floury. Possibly the wrong rice flour? I prefer the Cacao Green chewy mochi instead of this floury mochi.

Look! It's pink froyo./ Red sauce and red fruit./ Boo, white coconut.

Coconut and peanut mix: Dessicated coconut and crushed roasted peanuts. Toasty and crunchy, just the way it should be.

Rockmelon tastes good/ with lemon-ginger froyo/ I'll keep that in mind.

Brownies: A bit ‘overcooked’ for a brownie. I like them soft and chocolatey on the inside. The texture is consistent throughout these brownies. They’re kinda rubbery and aren’t chocolatey enough.



Nevermind coffee/ Just the shortbread biscuit, thanks./ Sweet crumbly goodness.

Apparently the coffee isn’t fantastic. Unfortunate. However, the biscuit that accompanies the coffee is really good though.  Crunchy shortbread with a nutty mix (coconut, peanut and sesame?) and dried cranberries studded throughout. I wonder if they’d share their recipe with me.

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Kenzan 02

Name: Kenzan GPO
Location: 350 Bourke St, Melbourne, VIC 3000. In a little laneway wedged between GPO and Myer.
Cost: $13-18
Cost rating: 3/5
Taste rating: 8/10
Overall rating:8/10
Would I come back? Yes

 

PRAWN TEMPURA SOBA
Taste: 8.5/10
Would I order it again? Yes.

Plastic replicas/ My strange plastic-food hobby/ Look like this soba

It’s simple. Hot broth with rinsed soba noodles (buckwheat noodles), topped off with prawn and vegetable tempura and a portion of finely chopped spring onions. But so good.

 

SOBA ANKAKE
Taste: 8/10
Would I order it again? Yes.

Mushroom egg gravy/ Mixed with hot buckwheat noodles/ Topped with more mushrooms

This is soba is a thick eggy broth, with mushrooms. It’s a hearty vegetarian dish. It gets cold more quickly than the soba in more liquid broth, so consume quickly.
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