Friday, September 21, 2012

TCJ Recipes: Chili Crab Sauce Pasta

It's been a long while since I've written anything on this blog... Seems like I really can't really commit to something wholeheartedly... Jack of all trades, master of none.

Anyway, on to the point of this post... i think my mom will be quite proud of me! I was craving for mantou plus chili crab sauce quite badly the other day, but refused to buy it because it's actually not worth buying... So i thought I would just make the sauce and toss it with some pasta. Obviously it is a tried and tested recipe in Singapore right? I'm pretty sure either Swensen's or Pastamania might have had it on their menu for a while back.

So I researched for the budget chili crab dip recipe and decided to omit some difficult to find items like galangal, and went with what I could rummage in the pantry and what i managed to remember to buy back from the market. I forgot shallots and garlic so this recipe doesn't have it...

Enough for 1 portion.

1 bird's eye chili (if you can take the heat, add more!)
1 thumb sized piece of ginger
About 2-3 teaspoons of corn starch mixed with 2-3 tablespoons of water.
4 tablespoons of sweet chili sauce ( i just poured it in so it might not be accurate)
6 tablespoons of tomato sauce
1/2 cup water
Dried chili flakes (optional if you add more bird's eye)
1 small egg
Salt and pepper to taste
Coriander to garnish

1. You will want to blend the shallots, garlic, ginger and chili together. Or finely chopped is good too if you don't have a blender.

2. Add 2-3 teaspoons of oil into a small pot on medium heat. When hot, add in the blended mixture and fry till fragrant.

3. Next, add in the sweet chili, tomato sauce and stir for a bit. Then add in water / chicken stock.

4. Wait for it to come to a boil, and simmer for 5-10 minutes. Add salt and pepper to season.

5. Bit by bit, add in the corn starch and water mixture until the sauce is thickened. If too sweet or sour, adjust accordingly by adding a bit more tomato or sweet chili.

6. On a small flame, add in the egg and stir to break it up. Voila! Add coriander to garnish.

You should get something like this:

And when tossed in pasta:


Saturday, July 21, 2012

TCJ Recipes: Puff Pastry Egg Tart

I am just going to pretend like the mini-hiatus since June never happened, because every single second spent thinking about the backlog of posts that I have just makes me dizzy all over again, and that is not something I want to feel on a regular basis.

So to make up for it, I'm going to give you another simple recipe that I adapted from various sources, of which the most notable consisting of my favourite celebrity chef, Jamie Oliver.

If you must know, I have upgraded from a rice-cooker life to an apartment which has its built-in oven, and I had been dying to test it out, but had no idea what was worthy to christen my first oven session. Then the other day I realised the local supermarket had a sale on puff pastry, and I immediately recalled the egg custard tarts that I had been dreaming of since watching it almost seven months ago.

However, having tried this once before back home in Singapore with my mom and aunt, it ended up a failure and somehow scarred me a little. So, in attempting this a second time, I went to do more research with regards to people who have tried out the same recipe, and also Googled for more egg tart recipes.

My references were mainly from Christine's Recipes and The Extraordinary Art of Cake. It was after making the tarts that I found The Art of Bing, which had a detailed explanation and visual presentation.

The egg tarts I made came out pretty awesome, if I should say so myself. They were cinnamon-y and zesty from the orange. Here's the recipe and directions I sort of adapted for my own convenience.

Makes 6 tarts


1 large egg
2 tablespoons raw sugar (caster sugar would be best)
4 tablespoons hot water
2 1/2 teaspoons condensed milk (most recipes called for evaporated, but I didn't have any)
Ground Cinnamon
Zest of orange
About 1 1/2 tablespoons of orange juice.
1 20x20 cm sheet of puff pastry
Flour for dusting

1. Preheat the oven to 200C.
2. Ensure your puff pastry is thawed and easily malleable, but not so soft that it becomes sticky.
3. Place it on a lightly floured surface and generously sprinkle the cinnamon on one side of the pastry sheet. I may have overdone it a little so show some restraint if you are a cinnamon lover haha!
4. Roll the pastry up and cut into 6 equal rolls. Then in your oiled / buttered muffin tins, press those rolls down (like Jamie Oliver did). It is easier to watch him do it at this point because I forgot to take pictures.
5. Gently shape it so that it looks like:

6. Toss that in the preheated oven for about 10 minutes.
7. Meanwhile, dissolve the sugar in the hot water. Add the orange zest and orange juice to the mixture.
8. Mix it in with the condensed milk and egg and whisk well.
9. Take the pastry out and with a teaspoon, gently press the puff pastry back against the tin to create wells in which to pour the egg mixture in. Do not worry if the mixture overflows into the tin, as the sugar in the mixture will ensure a caramelised exterior (that surprised me).
10. Bake it for another 10 to 15 minutes and voila!

On hindsight, I realised that the sugar and water was unnecessary and more egg should have been used. So I will be using 1 1/2 to 2 eggs next time and omitting the sugar and hot water, instead, adding maybe a teaspoon more condensed milk. It would also be wise to add more zest, perhaps lemon might give it a more subtle kick. Since I have 9 more sheets of puff pastry left, I'm pretty certain this recipe will be honed and refined over and over again! :)

Have fun with these beauties! 

Saturday, June 2, 2012

TCJ Recipes: Rice Cooker Carrot Cake

Attempt - quite yum but a bit too sticky.
Attempt 2 - drier 

One does not need an oven to bake a cake, all it takes is a rice cooker. Yep! I always had the inkling that we could bake / steam cakes in rice cookers, but never had the urge or sense to actually google it until recently. Adapting a recipe from Memoirs of Aleisha, I found myself with all the ingredients I needed to make this easy-as-hell cake. Simple as mixing it all together and tossing it into the rice cooker, I have already made it twice, and played around with the amount of ingredients, so this is sort of how I made it.

- 3/4 cups self-raising flour
- 1 large carrot (I grated it the first time, and peeled it the next with a peeler) 
- 1/3 cup brown sugar (I didn't really put too much sugar because I didn't want it too sweet.)
- 1/4 cup honey (I used less honey the second time and it didn't come out as moist, but it wasn't as sticky, so this is really at your own discretion)
- 1 egg
- 1/4 cup oil (Don't stinge on the oil if you want your cake to come out nicely out of the cookpot!)
- 1 teaspoon cinnamon (optional)
- nuts (optional)
- icing sugar / cream cheese frosting (optional)

So this amount will get you at least a 4 cm cake, and you have to remember to coat the cooker will oil / melted butter before tossing your ingredients in.

First, mix the cinnamon and flour together (Component A). Then take the sugar, honey, oil and egg and mix them thoroughly so you won't get grains or lumps (Component B). Take Component A and mix it into Component B. After folding it in, throw in your nuts and grated/peeled carrot. That's really it! If you mix the ingredients in the cookpot itself, just start cooking it! Usually my testy cooker will turn itself from 'COOK' to 'WARM' in about 10 minutes, but just wait till it cools down enough for you to turn it back to 'COOK' again. I did it about 3 times on and off so I'd say about 30 minutes? But just poke a fork through the cake and see if any of the mixture sticks to the fork. If not, it's probably cooked!

I know the upper side would look pockmarked and quite ugly, but trust me, if done right the bottom will be a golden brown. Such an easy recipe and you can substitute it with so many other fruits - apples or bananas or maybe the odd pumpkin if you are a daredevil! It really is a convenient way to make yourself some dessert and have some leftover for the mornings, especially if you don't like the hassle of cleaning up after baking. :)

Let me know how it goes for you! 

Grigons & Orr

I have to admit, I'm never really good at keeping up to date with blogs, unless it is graded (for school). BUT! I have some spare time on hand so I better get cracking. This semester has been full of great surprises, in terms of food, and I'm so glad I've been able to get out and about to explore (whilst schooling too!), with some great company of course!

So this post is supposedly a month or two old, but I really got to say, this place ages well. Ha! Situated on the corner of Queensberry and Chetwynd Streets, it's very much a laid-back kind of place in a quiet part of North Melbourne. I actually came across Grigons & Orr Corner Store by accident while searching the interweb for brunch spots, and its cute, non-fussed website appealed to me. The fact that they had their menu available on the site was another plus! I mean, it's only right to tell your potential customers what you have to offer in the comforts of their home! Get their expectations up and running and THEN deliver when they visit! 

I remember I was meeting a good buddy of mine for a long awaited brunch session and I recommended trying out this place in an area less trodden by both of us. Relatively easy to find, we arrived and found ourselves a good spot. The interiors of G&O really reminds me of your local corner store, chockful of canned goods and sweet treats. The exception here is that they also make you some eggs and bennies. 

Menu online: Here

Not sure about their malt shakes, but seems like a good value!

Imagine that, strawberries in their water! +10000.
Tea in a cosy! 
After perusing the menu, we went up to the counter (self-service, not a big deal) to place our order. Got the Devonshire tea set ($7.00, comes with 2 lovely scones) to share, and I think we got Earl Grey or English Breakfast. My friend ordered the Uncle Bennies with bacon ($14.50; basically your well-known Eggs Benedict), while I opted for the simple pair of poached eggs on sourdough plus a side of potato rosti ($8.50 and $3.50 respectively). The tea came in a teapot with a cozy, which was one of the appeals for me. Cheap thrills!

My poached eggs and rosti

My friend's Uncle Bennies

I was quite envious of my friend's choice. The bacon looked crisp and the hollandaise sauce was so rich and golden, I felt sinful for her! No doubt it tasted good, but it was a little too rich and she couldn't finish the lot. I'm ordering that the next time! Looks like a hearty, honest meal, kind of like Uncle Benny (hahaha).

The poached eggs were very much perfection. Cutting into them, the orangey yolks came bursting out onto the brioche-like toast, it was simply heaven, even without the hollandaise sauce. The potato rosti was a little bit of a disappointment, it wasn't as crispy as I had thought, quite dense like a patty.

Look at that hollandaise!
Drinking tea like a sir! (The teaspoons were a nice touch).

So all in all, a pretty lovely brunch, and the people working there are quite friendly too. Just a little forgetful I would say, because they forgot to bring us our scones! Luckily we were too full anyway and went back in to get them to pack it up. To my delight, they placed the scones into those little chinese takeaway boxes with the metal handles for us to carry around! It really are those tiny details that make the experience such a good one. I will definitely be heading back to try their Uncle Bennies and coffee again.

The scones, on the other hand, held up well, even after a day in the fridge. I had it for tea the next afternoon and heated it up on the pan. You can't really see it in the photos, but there was a medium amount of cream and organic jam that just melded well together. The tartness of the jam was kept to a minimum from the creaminess. The scone was a delight to eat, crumbling and melting in my mouth. I have to go back just for the scones! :)

Grigons & Orr Corner Store are all about the tiny details. From the tea cosy to the teaspoon to the little takeaway boxes, you can tell that they really have thought the whole concept through. A corner store where you can get some eggs and eat it too? No doubt I'll be back! 

Grigons & Orr Corner Store

04 8760 8489
445 Queensberry St
North MelbourneVIC 3051

Grigons & Orr on Urbanspoon

Monday, April 30, 2012

Soda Rock Diner

Oreo Banana Thick Shake ($8.95)

Hankering for an American diner experience, but not wanting to travel a whole day's worth on a plane to New Orleans, we chanced upon this magnificent place at the corner of Toorak Road. A friend told us the burgers here were simply amazing, which had Kate convinced we had to go in for dinner, hours after our roast pork lunch. I for one have a principle of not eating burgers, so I can't tell you how the burgers are, but the point of this post is not to review the burgers, but to capture my amazement at how good Soda Rock Diner's thick shakes are.
The place was quite empty when we entered, just how I liked it. I'd say the diner experience was pretty spot on, mostly from my recollections of movies a la A Cinderella Story etc. These kind of places are pretty popular in Taiwan, where they have themed cafés located around the city.

I found myself marveling at the cool counters and booths, the eerily human sized Elvis with a guitar, the ol' school diner tunes and a mini jukebox on each counter and booth, which I am pretty sure works!

Looking at the menu, prices are pretty reasonable, and they do serve an all day typical American diner breakfast, grease included ha! Issie and I were too full so we decided to go with an Oreo banana thickshake (which consists of 3 scoops of vanilla ice cream blended with the oreos and banana milk) and a plate of cheesy fries.

The fries were not spectacular, soggy and the cheese was not nacho chees, just your usual mozzarella melted and baked. It wasn't even golden brown!

The thickshake however, was probably the best thing ever. Probably propelling further down the road to diabetes and heart disease, but who cares!

I was surprised they used banana milk instead of real bananas at first, but realised what is a thick shake without milk so the pairing felt right. Oreos and bananas = bliss. The concoction was rich, creamy and flavourful, everything you can imagine in a thickshake. Sometimes they skimp on the milk or ice cream substituting it with ice or water, which makes for a diluted drink. SRD does not, from what I can tell. Hell, they even provided a metal cup with whatever leftover shake they had that they couldn't put into the tall glass! Standard practice? I don't know but it made you feel like you got your money's worth!

We left pretty much satisfied, and I'm going to be back for that creamy goodness when I can!

Soda Rock Diner
03 9827 3500
257 Toorak Rd 
South Yarra, VIC 3141

Soda Rock Diner on Urbanspoon

Monday, April 16, 2012

TCJ: Cauliflower & Cabbage Soup

I've got to admit, I'm not much of a cook, but when I actually get something right in the kitchen, I'm always pleased as punch! I'm more of a all-in-one pot kinda person, so soup, pot rice, porridge and instant noodles are really the staples over at TCJ HQ. I think the best invention would be the rice cooker, because you can fry, steam, boil, stew, (bake?)... almost anything, with a trusty cooker.

So on Sunday I wasn't feeling much of an elaborate meal, and the fridge was only stocked with cauliflower and cabbage, so I thought, hey, this would be good for a sweet autumn soup. I'm not a stickler for recipes, because I don't like how you have to follow all the measurements in creating a meal, so I can't really give you a set recipe. That said, I do know what I put in, so you'll have to be the judge of your own dish! Be creative, you know?


A bowl of cauliflower florets (diced)
1 onion (diced)
garlic (diced, one or two cloves is enough)
2 chillies (the small ones, and depending on how hot you want it)
Chinese cabbage (diced)
1 medium-sized potato (for thickening)
olive oil
water (from blanching the cabbage)

First I steamed the cauliflower florets and blanched the cabbage till soft so that I could dice them up easily. Unlike me, if you have a processor, I believe a rough chop of the vegetables are fine. I had to cut them finely so I could mash them up roughly later. I also boiled the potato and mashed it with some salt and pepper and kept it to one side.

Next, I used some olive oil to stir-fry the onion and garlic in the rice cooker, and added the chillies. Once the onions started to smell sweet (that's my gauge), I dumped the cauliflower and cabbage into the pot at intervals so that I could mash it up as I cooked it. Remember to keep the water used to blanch the cabbage in, because the sweetness is also retained in there (I think).

After adding the water, I let the mixture come to a boil and keep mashing it up. I'm alright with chunks in the soup, but if you don't, run it through a processor. Stir in the mashed potato next and then simmer the soup till you get a consistency you prefer. Also, season before you serve.

There you have it, a good bowl of soup to last you a couple of meals! Add some curry powder or greek yogurt for some kick if you are feeling adventurous!

Yummy and healthy lunch!

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Hills BBQ Noodle Shop

Saturday was the start of my week long gastronomic affair with eating out. As a student on a budget, I rarely get the chance to travel outside of the city, let alone have a meal out, so you should probably know I was helluva excited.

After a rousing game of lasertag on a caffiene and sleep deprived morning at Boxhill, I just followed the group into a Hong Kong style barbeque meat restaurant called Hills BBQ Noodle Shop. Nothing too fancy, but apparently we had come into a famous meat shop! Judging by the roast pork and char siew hanging by the hooks on display, I was anticipating the meal!

Took me long enough to decide I wanted the century egg and pork porridge which I would again share half of with Issie, who ordered the roast pork with rice. Prices were surprisingly reasonable for a student budget, although considered exhorbitant back home.

But hell, nobody expected such a huge mound of rice on the plate drizzled with gravy and such succulent roasted pork sitting prettily atop the rice. I think the magic of roast pork is in its roasting, and whether or not the chef is skillful enough to ensure the skin crackles beautifully and stays that way for hours afterwards. Usually when I get roast pork back home, the skin is either soft and rubbery, or hard and not even worth trying. So I was immensely surprised when I picked out the skin. It was crunchy. You should have seen my face. I rarely eat skin that is actually crunchy... so this was like heaven! I'm sure there are many places I've yet to uncover with crackly pig skin but let me just praise this roast pork to the heavens first.
Roast Pork with Rice ($8.50)

The pork itself was tender, flavourful with all that five spices and whatnot seasoning the pork. A little too salty for my taste, but it is normal by roast pork standards. I actually kind of miss it already. Just going to also put up a picture of the skin for your amusement.

Century Egg Porridge with Pork ($8)
The pork shreds in the porridge had a distinct swine-y taste to it, which was alright if eaten with the porridge but felt a bit stale to me. Maybe because it is supposed to be this way, but I would have liked seasoned minced pork better. Century egg slices were far and few between, and it didn't taste like the century egg was cooked into the bland porridge. The consistency of the porridge was good though, but it isn't for those who like strong flavours. Would have been lovely if it was raining and I had this bowl of hot porridge PLUS a couple of dough sticks (you tiao). Washing the meal down with a cup of Chinese tea was the perfect end to lunch!

Didn't have the chance to try it then but I heard that the egg noodles were very springy, so if you're passing by on a less crowded day, be sure to tackle the roast pork and egg noodles!

Hills BBQ Noodle Shop
03 9899 3382
586 Station St
Box Hill, VIC 3128

Hills BBQ Noodle Shop on Urbanspoon

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Taiwan Cafe

Thursday last, I remember offering up an alternative for dinner to my Nando's-loving friends before watching The Hunger Games: Taiwanese cuisine.

I had heard about a place through a friend of a friend's, who had enjoyed dinner there and said it was cheap. Mostly, it was the word 'cheap' that enticed me... Ha!

In any case, I had no clue about what the name of the place was, except that it was along Swanston St, and there was a perpetual queue outside the outlet every time, but Google was pretty helpful in letting me know the place was called Taiwan Cafe and it was beside the Maccas.

Pretty much a no-frills cafe, judging by its name alone, but nonetheless we had to wait for 15 minutes before we could get a table right next to the entrance at round 6.15pm.

Four of us, Issie, Kate, SM and I, were taken by the variety of Taiwanese dishes on offer. Issie and I were undecided about the specialty beef noodles, 炸酱面 (zha jiang mian) and the XL Fried Chicken bento set, but finally settled on the last two options. Kate got the Popcorn Chicken bento set and SM, the 炸酱面 as well. Also got a set of pan-fried dumplings to share and a glass of 鸳鸯 (yuan yang), which is coffee mixed with tea and milk!

Can't remember exactly what came first, but in our excitement and haste, we realised that we had ordered one extra beef noodles dish!!! Panicky, we called over a waitress and explained in rusty Mandarin that we wanted to cancel one of the orders. She told us she would check with the kitchen and get back to us. All in all, problem solved and we had the beef noodles striked out thanks to an understanding waitress!

The panfried dumplings (~$9.90 for 12) had a lovely amount of meat and chives in the filling, with about a teaspoon or two of soup inside as well, which was quite flavourful. It would have been perfect if the dumplings were crispier on the bottom. Skin was also a little thicker than I would have liked but it was a normal thickness. Just individual preferences I suppose.

炸酱面 (zha jiang mian) (~$8.90)
The 炸酱面, was decent. Good amount of noodles to cucumber and beansprout ratio, but could have done with more peanut sauce and minced meat. The noodles were of a smooth texture and the sauce stuck to them well, which is always a good sign because you don't want to taste only flour. I gladly lapped up half of the noodles before moving on to the XL chicken bento set.

Taiwanese XL Fried Chicken Rice Set (~$10.50)

Quite a huge piece of chicken I'd say, fried till crispy in a flour batter and then sprinkled with a salt pepper and spice seasoning, a mound of rice and gravy, some cabbage and corn and peas, with a carefully fried egg. The star of the dish was the chicken, which is usually something you can get as a street snack in night markets in Taiwan. (see Hao Da Chicken, Shihlin Night Market)

On the salty side, the chicken was nonetheless a comfort for me, reminding me of the time I spent in Taiwan on a school trip... Yummy times. I thought the batter could be improved though. I could taste the flour that had coagulated on the underside, which got a little icky after a while.

I was ultimately surprised by the mixed coffee and milk tea combo, or yuanyang ($3). Not much of a tea flavour, but the strong coffee taste was bliss! Possessing a distinct kopitiam (local coffee shops in Singapore) flavour, the coffee was a reprieve from the usual Western versions. Traditional Chinese coffee! Will go back just for the 鸳鸯 because it was that good! I'd however suggest not drinking it during dinner, because it was so strong I couldn't sleep the whole night later. (And no, they don't offer decaf...)

While I am positive there are better Taiwanese eateries out there, for convenience and value, I'd say Taiwan Cafe comes pretty close to being a top favourite joint for the days when I feel like Taiwanese cuisine, similar to that I can have at Xin Wang Taiwan Cafe back in Singapore.

Taiwan Cafe
03 9663 6663
273 Swanston St (beside the McDonalds, or where you see a long queue...)
Melbourne, VIC 3000

Taiwan Cafe on Urbanspoon

A note from the author...

Voila! This blog has finally been conceived. I suppose a short description as to why and how this blog came to be is essential in the first post, no?

I'm an avid fan of food review blogs, and have always dreamed of creating my own in the wunderweb, to dispense my opinions onto nobody in particular. But I'm not one who goes out a lot to try different foods, or take food pornographic photos, even though I really want to do it. So, I don't know how long I can keep this up, being the perfectionist, yet short-attention-spanned writer I am.... but in any case, I have to start somewhere!

This past week has been a major factor in pushing me to creating this blog. I have been to more places than I've been EVER in Melbourne, exploring new places and food (obviously)... so I thought I'd have to write it down, just to capture the experience.

Really, this is just a humble blog about an international student from Singapore living in Melbourne, trying to toughen it out on a budget... so there might be an occasional home-made post from time to time! Not a food connoisseur, but one can dream of being a food writer, can't we? :)

The name, The Carlton Joint, is nothing extraordinary... just the suburb area I'm living in, and hopefully this "joint" becomes someone's source of food entertainment, resource, information, whatever!

Okay, let's bring on the food posts then!