Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Eating Adelaide (Part 2 of a billion)

More food photos and fun!

One thing I won’t complain about missing while I’m here is Asian food. My first weekend in Adelaide, Leena introduced me to the king of dumplings, aptly named Dumpling King, right around the corner from my place in Chinatown. You can’t beat a big plate of fried pork dumplings at $7.80. And they throw in free tea and their amazing caramelized onion relish for FREE. Free! Dumpling King helps Cari stay within her budget while getting her belly full.

Chinatown also has its fair share of yum cha places (we call it dim sum in the States, as in, last night Phil ate dog curry, I maydimsum and he liked it). The quality of the yum cha here is FAR superior to what I had in Boston’s “Chinatown.” There, you’re presented with a random variety of unidentified meats and you must chew and swallow on blind faith, hoping the woman wheeling around the dim sum cart is having a good day and has no motivation to poison you and/or feed you her husband whom she murdered the previous night for revenge because he slept with her sister. Here, the dishes are clearly identifiable as “beef” or “pork” or “prawn” or “broad bean.” My classmate Marion took me to a hidden spot and I tried chicken feet, tripe, shark fin dumplings, and taro fritters – all for the first time!

I actually really enjoyed the chicken feet. You first have to bite of their little toes (this little piggy went to the market, CRUNCH!, I guess it’s a bit more sadistic than the wiggly toe game my mom played with my feet as a child), chew them around and then spit out the bones. Then you can gracefully gnaw away the skin and tiny bit of meat from the rest of the bones. YUM! (cha) Here's me in action...

And the sad fleshless chicken bones after our attack.

My favorite dish of the day was the shark fin dumplings, although Meagan tried to make us all feel guilty by telling us that they cut off the fins and then throw the sharks back in the ocean to die a horribly slow and painful death. Well, you know what, it’s pretty painful when sharks bite off a hunk of surfer flesh and spit them back into the ocean to die (as just happened yesterday here in Australia), so I didn’t feel toooooo much guilt there. Too yummy to feel bad.

Chinese cuisine is well represented in Adelaide, but Japan also repre-SENTS. My friend Denise and I enjoyed Japanese food a few weeks ago. We started with takoyaki (fluffy dumplings filled with bits of octopus) and grilled oysters. We then had an entrée of crispy skinned salmon before the mac daddy sushi platter arrived. Sushi, sashimi, veg, chicken and seafood tempura, tamagoyaki (sweet egg omelette), beef and onion, seaweed salad, potato salad – OH MY!

I haven’t been kickin’ it totally Asia-style since I’ve been here. After the Le Cordon Bleu commencement ceremony, Amy insisted we try kava. What a sketchy experience!!! The menu at The Kava Hut warned that we must “use in moderation” and be a minimum of 18 years old to purchase the sandy sludge they sold us out of a coconut for 8 bucks a pop!

Kava is “a subtle social relaxant. Effects include euphoria” (sweet!) “ talkativeness” (um, do I need that?) “increased awareness and sensitivity to alcohol, noise, and light. While mental clarity is generally maintained, overindulgence can make walking difficult. It causes no ‘hangover’ and is reputed to reduce the effects of alcohol related hangovers.” Cheers to that.

Well, here I am, $8 poorer, and certainly not more “euphoric” than normal, less “talkative” since I was focusing hard to pinpoint the apparent effects of my investment, and still walking in a straight line as far as I can tell. I wouldn't be at all surprised to hear that the kava lady ran out of "kava" right before we visited so she grabbed a handful of dirt from the parking lot and mixed it with tap water, then sold it to us for $8.

Now a drink that I can reliably feel the effects of and know what to expect out of my investment is BEER. My class went on a fieldtrip to the Coopers Brewery. We learned about the production process and the hops and barley and bottling procedures, etc., but the best part was getting to taste all of their beers. Thumbs up to the sparkling ale.

Also high on the fun scale was Phil’s visit to Adelaide. One afternoon we biked around the parklands and had a lovely lunch of olives, bread, cheese and smoked meats in the Botanic Gardens.

We also had a night out at Sarah’s Café, a local vegetarian institution, with Leena and her hubby and friends. The quality of the ingredients was standout and I particularly enjoyed the crepes filled with roasted cauliflower….

But let’s face it, nothing can compare to Leena’s brownies!!!! HEL-LO

Except actually, maybe the one thing that can compare to Leena’s brownies are Jackie’s eggs. She pulls them straight out from under the chickens’ butts in her own backyard, and I have been fortunate to be on the receiving end of two dozen of these golden-yolked delights! I’ve cooked them every which way, fried, poached, sunny-side-up, and hard-boiled. Topped with some Murray River salt and served on crackers with tuna and olives, it’s my idea of the perfect lunch.

Lastly, I must brag about what a cheese whiz I am. I was looking for an effective and worthwhile means of procrastinating and decided, what the heck, I think I’ll make some cheese. So, I whipped up a batch of palak paneer. Cheese-making isn’t difficult, you just have to have a bit of patience and give your curdled milk a bit of TLC. Heat, curdle, separate, hang, drain, weigh, drain, refrigerate, eat, nap!

Palak Paneer

Adapted from Manjula's Kitchen

Serves 4.

1 gallon whole milk
4 tbsp lemon (or lime) juice
4 cups chopped spinach
1/3 lb paneer
2 medium tomatoes, pureed
1 teaspoon chopped ginger
1 teaspoon coriander powder
1/2 teaspoon turmeric powder
1/2 teaspoon (or more if you like it spicy) red chili powder
1 tablespoon oil
1/2 teaspoon cumin seed
Pinch of hing (asafetida)
1/2 teaspoon salt, or to taste
2 tablespoons of whole wheat flour
1/3 cup plain yoghurt
1/4 cup water

For Paneer:

Bring the gallon of milk to a boil. Add lemon juice and reduce heat to low, stirring gently until milk curdles. Turn off the heat and allow to sit until the curds separate from the whey (this took some time with Australian milk! Be patient!). Pour the milk through a cheesecloth-lined sieve, reserving a few cups of whey. Make a bundle out of the cheesecloth, tie a knot above the curds, and allow to hang over a sink or large bowl for an hour to drain. Squeeze as much liquid out of the cheese as possible, then, keeping it wrapped in the cheesecloth, place a heavy skillet or can of tomatoes on the cheese and allow to drain for another hour. Cut into cubes. If cheese is not firm enough to cut, refrigerate for a few hours first.

For Palak Paneer:
Mix ginger, coriander powder, turmeric, and red chili powder with tomato puree and set aside.

Shallow fry the paneer on medium high heat for few minutes until golden brown. Remove to paper towels to drain. In the same skillet, fry the spinach until it just wilts.

Heat the oil in a medium saucepan. When oil is quite hot add hing (asafetida) and cumin seeds. Once the seeds are fragrant, add the tomato puree mixture and allow to cook for a few minutes until the tomato puree begins to leave the oil. Now add spinach, and cook on medium heat for about 10 minutes, covered. Add yoghurt. Make a slurry out of the flour and some whey from the paneer, add to the palak, and let this cook another four to five minutes, covered. Add water and more whey to adjust the texture to a creamy consistency.

Add paneer and fold gently into palak. Allow to simmer another a few minutes, covered. Season with salt, to taste. Serve with basmati rice, tomato & onion relish, and naan.


Jackie Singh said...

Hey Cari, guess what a chook's butt is called! A freakin' CLOACA!!!!!!!!! Steaming hot eggs straight out of a chicken's cloaca. How cool is that. Glad the girls have a fan, bless them. Plenty more where they came from.

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