Working at Wonderbao @ Night Noodle Markets, Sydney
Working at Wonderbao @ Night Noodle Markets, Sydney. 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).
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 😛 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!
Miss Katie’s Crab Shack, Belle’s Hot Chicken, Gami Chicken & Beer, Bluebonnet BBQ, Le Bon Ton BBQ, Melbourne
Miss Katie’s Crab Shack, Belle’s Hot Chicken, Gami Chicken & Beer, Bluebonnet BBQ, Le Bon Ton BBQ, Melbourne
So Part 1 was all about Melbourne donuts, Part 2 will be about fried chicken and barbecue 😀 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 😀
The Best Donuts in Melbourne
Eating all the donuts that Melbourne has to offer! From the gourmet Doughboys Doughnuts and Shortstop Coffee and Donuts to the old school American Doughnut Kitchen and all those in between.
I heart donuts. What’s not to love about donuts?! Cakey or fluffy, raised, filled or even the cruller, I love them all! The boy and I escaped to Melbourne for the weekend where I plotted to hit all the donut places that I’d seen so much about on Instagram. There were spreadsheets involved. Google maps too. It was epic. So below are all the donut places we hit, in the order that I liked. Ready? LET‘S GO!
Doughboys Doughnuts (535 Bourke St, Melbourne) is the winner and tops my list as the donuts are made with free range eggs from Gippsland and butter from Warrnambool, fried in batches and are hand dipped to order.
It’s kinda funny how they look like they’ve just set up shop randomly but they’ve got their donut making down to a science! Check out the display of what flavours are available for the day and pay at the register and salivate as they dip and top the donuts as you wait.
I’d chosen the Salted Caramel ($5.80), the Maple Bacon ($4.80) and the PBJ ($5.80) and they are all GLORIOUS. The salted caramel was my fave- rich, sweet with a hit of salt and a bit of crunch from the caramelised buckinis (google tells me it’s activated buckwheat hmm ohhkaay) followed ever so closely by the maple bacon with a light maple syrup icing and crunchy bacon pieces. Noods was enamoured by the PBJ with peanut butter and a boysenberry jam dip topped with roasted hazelnuts and walnuts. The boysenberry jam was sweet but the pb brought it down a notch.
It was a sunny day so we sat outside on the deck and the combination of fluffy donuts with a sneaky cider was just perfect and a memory I want to hold onto until someone opens a licensed donut store in Syd 😛 While paying more than $5 a donut did sting a little, they were pretty damn awesome donuts. Donuts that I will have dreams about.
Shortstop Coffee & Donuts (12 Sutherland St, Melbourne) is second only by a whisker, mainly because they sell out of donuts super early and it takes a LOT of effort to roll out of bed early enough to tram over and queue for donuts. Hey it’s the holidays! I value my sleep!
This is the sight that greeted us when we arrived just past 10am. THE SIGHT OF DISAPPOINTMENT AND BROKEN DREAMS. I mean yes, we could have pre ordered but the minimum order was 9 donuts and I wasn’t about to spend 45 smackeroonies on donuts when I had an epic donut list to get through.
Luckily they did have a couple left of the Banana and Chocolate Hazelnut ($4.50) and the Red Velvet ($4.50). I had my heart set on other flavours but wasn’t willing to leave without trying something and I’m glad we did because the banana & chocolate hazelnut was da bomb! I’m a sucker for hazelnuts and this combination just worked, the banana taste was exactly like fresh bananas and not the nasty lolly that I just can’t abide. The red velvet is definitely for the sweet tooths out there and probably not the best first thing in the morning lol oh and sidenote they only do two types of coffee: black or white.
We were almost done eating when we saw a guy pick up his pre ordered boxes of donuts. That’s right, boxes. The dude had at least 6 boxes! Anyways one of the boxes was incorrect so the staff put the contents of the box back on display and my brain freaked out because behold, the Peanut Butter and Jam ($5) and the Apple, Bacon, Honey & Thyme ($5)!!! That bacon one? INSANE. I loved that the icing was apple instead of the usual maple so it wasn’t mega sweet and the bacon bits were super crunchy. Couldn’t detect much thyme flavour which was good for me because I have issues with thyme. And the pb&j was cray cray, the donut was fluffy and light, filled with house made jam and dunked into a chunky peanut butter glaze.
Tivoli Road Bakery (3 Tivoli Rd, South Yarra), formerly MoVida Bakery was pretty incredible. The bakery had a gorgeous fitout with freshly baked bread lining the shelves and all manner of delicious treats under the glass cabinets. But I was here for one thing: DONUTS! We’d visited on the first day of our Melb trip but got there too late but I was determined to visit and managed to convince our cabbie to swing by on the way to the airport 😀
One of each please! Salted Caramel, Lemon Curd, and Roché ($5 each). The donuts here are worthy of the hype, fried dough pillows of happiness they were! The salted caramel was amazing as expected (because really how can you go wrong with salted caramel) but it was the lemon curd donut that blew my mind. It was zingy and zesty and set the tastebuds alive and wanting more. The roché was good, chocolatey and tasty but not really as amazing as the other two.
Candied Bakery (81A Hudsons Rd, Spotswood) is dubbed the Australian bakery with an American twist. There’s lamingtons aplenty, stacks of giant cookies and of course donuts! On offer that day was a jam donut but I only had eyes for the special- THE S’MORE DONUT!
This S’more Donut ($3.80) was everything I’d hoped for and more! The donut itself was light and fluffy with pockets of rich chocolate, smothered in toasted marshmallow and topped with crunchy graham crumbs. Yes it was sweet and bordering on cloying but well, it’s a s’more!
Next stop: Cobb Lane Bakery (13 Anderson St, Yarraville), a tiny 16 seater cafe in a suburban area out west. There’s giant loaves of fresh bread and baguettes, coffee a-brewing and a dine in menu buuut we’re here for the donuts! The Salted Caramel ($4.50) is a must order, the caramel is darker with an incredible richness and leaves me beaming through the sugar crystals all over my face.
The Peanut Butter and Blackcurrent Jelly ($4.50) isn’t as epic as the Salted Caramel and feels a tad on the oily side possibly because of the uber creamy peanut butter filling. The blackcurrent jelly does help to cut the richness but yeah the salted caramel donut wins.
The American Doughnut Kitchen (Queen St, Queen Victoria Market Melbourne) is a bit of an institution, pumping out hot jam doughnuts since 1950. After wandering through the markets picking up cheeses and cured meats to snack on we always end up here to ogle the glorious donut making process right before our eyes.
Jam Donuts (80c each) are always piping hot with a generous coating of sugar and filling of sweet jam. Normally we would buy 5 for $5.50 but Noods was suffering from donut overload and refused to let me buy more. Party pooper.
Walker’s Doughnuts (26/2 Elizabeth St, Melbourne) is another place I always visit whenever I’m in Melbs, not so much for their donuts but for their half pound chocolate eclair stuffed with whipped cream. One for the attack of the late night munchies with a side of Lord of the Fries 😛
Olympic Doughnuts (51 Irving St, Footscray) is a bit out of the way in the burbs and gone are the days of their iconic ramshackle caravan and instead is a boring grey box. But the iconic dolphin pumping jam into the donuts is still there!
The Jam Donuts (80c each) are a little misshapen but are fresh from the fryer. The sugar coating on the donuts were a bit sparse and I wasn’t really a fan of the jam filling as I found it a bit too runny and with a weird artificial taste. But eh it’s a donut.
Aaaaand that’s all folks! The end of my epic donut eats. I hope Sydney follows suit and opens up some donut stores soon! If you guys know of any more donut places to hit in Melb or know of any good ones in Syd hit me up in the comments!