Working at Wonderbao @ Night Noodle Markets, Sydney

27 October 2014, 01:10

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So about a month ago I was on Gumtree selling some of my camera stuff (check it out here) and I happened to click on the jobs section where I saw an ad looking for staff for the Wonderbao stall that was coming to the Night Noodle Markets in Sydney. My brain freaked out cos I mean, WONDERBAO!!! Yep Melbourne’s famous tiny hole in the wall bao joint was coming to Sydney and I could finally get my bao fix. I applied immediately and caught up with Chamil, the ops manager in Melbourne and then met husband and wife team Andrew and Tina who are super down to earth and made me feel welcome and a part of the team they’d brought up from Melbourne.


Stack o’ steamers filled with baos! So for 2 weeks I lived and breathed all things Wonderbao and it was such an adrenalin rush! It’s been a while since I’ve worked the line at a certain pancake restaurant and while I hated the uh oh drowning feeling when you see the dockets lined up in a never ending queue, I relished the feeling of relief when you push yourself to work harder and faster until you catch up. I dunno, there’s just something about working in a kitchen and finding the flow and working as a team that’s always felt right with me. Am I rambling? Moving along then.


On offer at the markets were 3 types of Baos: Chicken (chicken & shiitake), Choi (shiitake mushroom, tofu & veggies) and Nai Wong Bao (egg custard).


And of course their famed Gua Baos! Before you ask, yes they are steamed in the bamboo steamers but they’re then transferred to this bain marie which is where I took the sneaky snap because didn’t really have time to go poking around in the steamers.

These Taiwanese-inspired Gua Baos were fiddly to make for this noobie but boy was it satisfying to fill them and see a customers face light up upon receiving them. If it sounds like I’m gushing I’m sorry I just had a really great time!


3 types of Gua Baos: Braised Pork Belly (w pickled mustard vegetables aka Kiam Chye, coriander and crushed peanuts), Twice Cooked Pork Belly (with pickled carrots & daikon, cucumber and hoisin sauce) and Fried Silky Tofu (with pickled mustard vegetables, coriander, crushed peanuts and sweet soy sauce).

The twice cooked pork belly (roasted then grilled) was pretty damn tasty and the tofu was also a winner for me, surprising as I’m not too big on tofu but each square of silken tofu was battered and fried to order so that each gua bao would have the perfect crunch to smooth innards ratio.


But my heart belonged to the super tender and fatty braised pork belly and I ended up eating at least 3 per shift and I may or may not have gained a kilo or two!


Powered by ALL the energy drinks! And maybe one or two gin & tonics (haha thanks Chamil!). So yeah! I will miss the lovely people at Wonderbao and my beloved braised pork gua bao and so have already started planning my next trip to Melbourne :P Thanks heaps Andrew and Tina, it was a blast and I had the best time! Please open a Wonderbao in Syd! Also, thanks heaps to everyone that visited, it was lovely to see you all!


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Miss Katie's Crab Shack, Belle's Hot Chicken, Gami Chicken & Beer, Bluebonnet BBQ, Le Bon Ton BBQ, Melbourne

20 October 2014, 01:43

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So Part 1 was all about Melbourne donuts, Part 2 will be about fried chicken and barbecue :D First up: Miss Katie’s Crab Shack (238 Victoria St, North Melbourne) which is across the road from the Queen Victoria Markets which is where they source all their produce so everything is super fresh.


There’s fishing nets hanging from the ceiling and a giant crab that beckons you to the counter where you order and pay before claiming a newspaper lined table.


We’d arrived during happy hour, the happiest of all hours and so drinks were $5/pint and fresh oysters were $1 each woot


Katie’s Low Country Boil ($25) comes with Australian blue swimmer crab, corn, smoked kransky, Old bay and garlic butter. Noods had a lot of fun smashing the daylights out of the crab, the bib I was wearing was solely to protect myself from him and his happy go lucky thwacks. But the crab! So perfect and surprisingly so meaty! Every bit was dunked into the butter sauce and woah baby was it rich but butter makes me so happy y’know? And the corn was just loving being rolled around in all that butter seriously, so good!


I couldn’t get the bucket of school prawns because a certain someone is deathly allergic so I ordered Katie’s Fried Chicken ($17) with ranch dressing and a side of Belgian waffles with maple syrup ($5). The waffles had already been drizzled with the maple syrup which I was saddened by because I like to control the amount of syrup. But they were tasty waffles, fluffy with crispy edges. The fried chicken looked too dark so I was worried it was burnt but nay they were awesome, the batter was thick and crunchy with super tender chicken within and who doesn’t love ranch dressing?


Shark! Also side note: their book of faces say their moving to Rochester Castle Hotel in Fitzroy in 2015.


Belle’s Hot Chicken (150 Gertrude St, Fitzroy) was high up the eat list with word on the street that the fried chicken here would be Southern-style and amazing. It did not disappoint and I’ve had dreams about it ever since. First, pick your meat: wings, tenders, dark meat, fish ($16) or mushrooms ($13) and it comes with a choice of sides of old bay fries, mac and cheese, coleslaw, potato salad, Almost Arnold’s beans or mixed pickles. I’ve opted for dark meat, southern style with mac and cheese ($16) and Belle’s blue cheese sauce ($2). It was fan-fricken-tastic! The skin was amazing, almost like crackling! And the meat so ridiculously juicy and tender and just perfect! This fried chicken sits in my WANT AGAIN FOREVER category! Oh and the mac & cheese was pretty bang on, creamy and cheesy and gone in seconds.


Noods is always a sucker for pain and ordered the Wings with Really F**kin’ Hot sauce and Coleslaw ($16) with Belle’s Ranch Dressing ($2). I tried 1 tiny drop of the sauce and immediately regretted it, my mouth was on fire! Noods gamely struggled on, sweating profusely and alternating bites of the coleslaw and stuffing pieces of bread to stop the burning. He still liked it though he’ll prolly try a less hot sauce next time haha


Helen happened to arrive at the same time so I managed to nick some of her Chicken and Waffles ($18) purely for research purposes of course and it was ace. I heart waffles that are fat so that you can fill each hole with enough maple syrup to make your teeth sing!


And there was soft serve for dessert! Apple pie soft serve with salted caramel sauce ($6) oh baby oh baby!


So yeah, if you’re going to Melb this is one place that you HAVE to go to!


The next day after a crazy 5 course dessert degustation (I’ll post about it next), I managed to meet the lovely Daisy and Ricky for late night eats at Gami Fried Chicken (Shop G, 535 Lt Lonsdale St on Healeys Lane) because one can never have too much fried chicken. The Half half ($32), original and sweet soy garlic & spicy sauce was brilliant and right up there with the best korean fried chicken Sydney has to offer. I’m usually not a fan of soy because I’m a fail asian but trust me guys, it was the bomb!


We also ordered the Seafood & spring onion pancake ($13) for some nutrients. I avoided the chilli dipping sauce because I mean, LOOK AT IT. I so did not want a ring of fire!


Aaaand then there was Corn cheese ($9) which was all kinds of addictive, each kernel bound together in gooey stretchy cheese! I can definitely understand Daisy’s love for this!


Complimentary prawn chips and pickled radish! My god I have not eaten these prawn chips since I was but a child! /runs off to the asian supermarkets to buy a trillion packets


What’s the time? BBQ TIME! We rock up for lunch at Bluebonnet BBQ (187 Johnston St, Collingwood) for a PLATTER O’ MEAT. The House made sausage (½ pound $21) was beef stuffed with cheese and oh boy that was one tasty sausage! Noods had managed to eat almost the whole thing before I realised and snared an itty bitty piece (ok fine, it was more like a 1/4 of the sausage but I wanted more!). The Crispy Lamb Ribs (½ pound $19) were equally amazing, fatty and charred with the perfect layer of crisp skin. I really did not want to share this and battled for a bigger portion. The Pork Spare Ribs (½ pound $20) were gloriously smoky and I couldn’t help but pick up each rib and gnaw away at the juicy flesh. Sadly that day there wasn’t any brisket available but the dude on the next table ordered the Smoked Brisket Chilli, Cheese Grits, Coriander and Sour Cream ($18) and so I had to get it because I reeeally wanted to try the grits. They were good grits. The chilli was fine and all but I really wanted my brisket in fatty slices and not all chopped up so yeah. I wasn’t the biggest fan of the Guindilla, Cheddar & Confit Garlic Cornbread ($9) because I found it to be on the dry side but we loved the Apple and Kohlrabi Slaw ($8) which helped to cut through our meat sweats and power through the platter.


I loved that each table had its own bottle of house made barbecue sauce and a whole roll of towels because eating here is a hands on affair!


Chillax outside in the courtyard and stare at the beauty of this smoker <3


When I told Noods we were also having barbecue for dinner he thought I was joking. I never joke about my food itinerary! We set off for Le Bon Ton (51 Gipps St, Collingwood) which was within a walkable distance from the station fyi but at 8pm on a weekend the area is like a ghost town. Even though we followed google maps we thought we were lost and basically headed towards the only building that had lights which happened to be it hooray!

FOODS! The Riverina grain fed Angus beef brisket (½ pound $19) was pretty amazing, mesquite-smoked for 18 hours until the brisket is meltingly soft and intensely smoky. I was keen to get the Buttermilk Fried Chicken ($16) but was sweet talked into getting Le Bon Ton signature jalapeño and sharp cheddar bratwurst ($9.50 each) instead which was super juicy and surprisingly not as hot as I’d feared. Is it possible my chili tolerance has improved?! I had a mad craving for mash so had to order the Creamy mashed taters with chives and bacon bits ($8.50) because hey, bacon bits! Noods requested the Tangy coleslaw with cabbage, carrot and onions ($8.50) basically because he needed some vegetables and I wasn’t providing him with adequate all round nutrition. Heh. Amateur.


Mega bonus points for the Jalapeño and cheddar cornbread muffins (3 pieces $8.50), my goodness these cornbread muffins were deeeeelicious! They were freshly baked and super fluffy with semi spicy and cheesy pockets of happiness that increased 10-fold with a generous slather of the honey whipped butter. I would have totally ordered more for takeaway to snack on later had I not had several donuts waiting for me at home!


But instead I settled for Pecan Pie ($12) for dessert and when I say settled I mean I was determined to fit in dessert. Packed full of pecans and brown sugar happiness, the caramelisation on this baby was just so beautiful I could weep. The pastry was super short and buttery and a scoop of vanilla ice cream just made everything right with the world.


When we arrived at Le Bon Ton without a reservation we were told to grab a drink and wait at the bar or outside in the courtyard. The bar was packed so we made our way outside and it’s so purdy outside with all the fairy lights! While I didn’t get to see the absinthe room we were pretty glad we went outside because you could actually order and eat out there and I’ve become one of those people that prefer being able to converse vs shouting over loud music lol

And that’s part 2! Stay tuned for part 3 :D

Miss Katie's Crab Shack on Urbanspoon Belle's Hot Chicken on Urbanspoon Gami at Lt Lonsdale on Urbanspoon Bluebonnet Barbecue on Urbanspoon Le Bon Ton on Urbanspoon


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Pub Life Kitchen, Ultimo

13 October 2014, 02:13

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Pub Life Kitchen - Ultimo
BURGAHHHHHS! So two years ago I fell in love with Pub Life Kitchen back when they were located upstairs in the Schwartz Hotel (formerly The Macquarie Hotel). They pumped out a mean steak with crazy burger specials each Wednesday and I was pretty devastated when they shut up shop. They’ve done a couple of pop up stints since but have finally found a home at Lord Wolseley Hotel (265 Bulwara Rd, Ultimo)! Below is about 3 visits combined into 1 post so don’t worry my arteries are fine :P

Pub Life Kitchen - Ultimo
So there’s a blackboard with the day’s specials and I was intrigued by the House Smoked Barramundi Wings with Sexy Salada ($10) and while I had some inkling that the ‘wings’ would be the fins with part of the fish head, I had to ask and immediately felt like Jessica Simpson. Heh.

We were warned that they’d be super smokey and I was like, BRING ON THE SMOKEY. The heady smoky scent reached our table before the plate did and yep it was intense. I ended up picking the whole wing up and gnawing away at the flesh because I’m a bit uncoordinated with utensils and it was glorious with pockets of gelatinous fat and flesh and crispy charred edges on the fins. Oh and the salad was pretty sexy, put grilled corn in a salad and I will eat it. The corn that is. I heart corn.

Pub Life Kitchen - Ultimo
I couldn’t help but chortle when our table of hungry eaters ordered the Sticky Hot Wangs ($9) because I am forever 12 years old. The deep fried chicken wings were drenched in a lip smacking sauce that weren’t as spicy as I’d feared and I actually admitted that I could use a little more heat. Woah. I’ve changed. Or I’ve finally whipped my tastebuds into obeying.

Pub Life Kitchen - Ultimo
The Grilled Corn Cob with salty lime malt vinaigrette ($6) tastes like summer, each kernel bursting with juiciness. Corn is my favourite non digestible food product.

Pub Life Kitchen - Ultimo
Fries with bone marrow gravy ($8). I kinda wished there were globs of marrow in the gravy but hey golden fries with rich gravy is the perfect food with a cheeky beverage or two.

Pub Life Kitchen - Ultimo
The Cheesy Polenta Chips with Jalapeno Mayo ($8) are the bomb, the fat fingers had the perfect fluffy to crisp ratio and we hoarded the jalapeno mayo which was crazy addictive.

Pub Life Kitchen - Ultimo
The adults version of Fish Fingers ($12) kicks the stuff of my childhood to the kerb especially with the accompanying tub of zesty lime aioli. The fish is delicate and flaky and the crumb batter golden and crunchy.

Pub Life Kitchen - Ultimo
And now onto the burgers! The Cheeseburger ($17) is every bit as delicious as I remembered and has cemented its place in my top 5 burgers list. What’s on the list you ask? A round up coming shortly so you’ll just have to check back :P Anywhos this burger is the bomb diggity, 2 slices of melty Monterey Jack cheese (aka the American orange cheese) hugs both sides of the fat, juicy, house ground patty, just the way a cheeseburger should. There ain’t no salad here, just a pickle, a single slice of onion, tomato sauce and mustard and boom! Perfection.

Pub Life Kitchen - Ultimo
The Bird ($18) features a chicken fillet crusted in a batter made from Dorito chips and it is brilliant. I would totally order the fillets by itself if it was possible. Make it a bucket if it was the thigh piece… The burger had a pile of slaw which I liked because it was refreshing and I felt moderately healthier eating vegetables but I think I would’ve preferred it on the side instead of in the burger because it was crunchy enough already?

Pub Life Kitchen - Ultimo
The O.G ($18) is the Original Gangster yo! I usually have mad issues with iceberg lettuce but I appreciated that each lettuce leaf was crisp and fresh and while the onion jam was a hit with only half of the table, we were unanimous in our love for the roast garlic and lime aioli.

Pub Life Kitchen - Ultimo
I’d ordered the Vego Delight ($16) out of curiosity mainly because the menu had said the patty would be fried cheese and I was envisioning a patty that overflowed with cheese Juicy Lucy style. While there was no river of cheese, the burger itself was pretty tasty. Possibly made tastier with that slice of jack cheese to you know, make it even more cheesy. The swirl of cranberry jam automatically made me think I was eating turkey so my brain got all kinds of confused because I only really eat cranberry jam with turkey. But it paired well with the cheese, bringing the richness down a notch.

Pub Life Kitchen - Ultimo
I’d been stalking head chef Jovan Curic on Instagram knowing that the return of the crazy burgers on Wednesdays was inevitable and when I saw a pic of sheets of glorious crackle, Helen Karen Shaun and I made our way over faster than you can say CRACKLELACKLE! The Swiney Chook ($19) is: Sriracha gravy glazed fried chicken, grilled pineapple and corn, maple salsa, Jack cheese and pork crackle. You know when you’re with a group of friends chatting away and then there’s just silence because you’re eating something so incredible that there are no words to be uttered because you don’t want to stop this feeling of happiness that’s enveloping your body? That’s what happened. This chicken and pork hybrid was all kinds of amazing and pretty much ruined all future burgers for me. Thanks a lot Jovan.

Pub Life Kitchen - Ultimo
BUT THEN. The following Wednesday I happened to refresh Instagram and behold, The Skinny Bacon- double cheese beef burger with bacon jam, green sriracha and deep fried chicken skin. DEEP FRIED CHICKEN SKIN!!! Helen and I had a 30minute window before we were supposed to go to a dinner and debated if we could do it. YES WE COULD AND ABSOLUTELY NO REGRETS. The beef pattie was a perfect juicy medium rare as always, enough cheese to make my heart sing and crowning the whole shebang were shards of chicken skin deep fried to a glorious crisp. There were also slices of cucumber and radish in there buuuut you all know how I feel about salad.

Pub Life Kitchen - Ultimo
On another visit with Raff, this time for lunch, I opted to try a non burger item and went with the Wagyu Schnitty with fries, slaw and bone marrow gravy ($18). This was fricken massive and the schnitty hid a ginormous pile of fries that I had absolutely no way of finishing! I loved the crumb crust although I think I’m too used to a schnitzel being made of pork so found the meaty flavour of the Wagyu to be too strong, almost gamey? Does that make sense? I mean it was still tasty don’t get me wrong!

Pub Life Kitchen - Ultimo
Dessert has finally made it on the menu and will change every so often so get your butts there fast because the ice cream this week was: The Snickers Sundae ($12), snickers gelato with dulce de leche, salted peanuts AND A SPRINKLE OF PORK CRACKLE. Oh and a smashed snickers bar on top just in case that wasn’t epic enough for you. Mind blown. Sweet and salty combo for the effing win!

Pub Life Kitchen - Ultimo
You order and pay at the register, grab a number and either sit inside the bistro area or out at the bar/beer garden. And yes the burgers are a bit on the pricey side but they are massive and you will be defeated by the mountain of fries I promise you. Pub Life Kitchen is my new happy place with a chillaxed atmosphere, cheap drinks and awesome food, I’ll definitely be making this place my regular haunt!

Pub Life Kitchen on Urbanspoon


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