Friday, August 30, 2013

Shared Lunches (#1 and #2)

I've started making lunch for work.  Not just for myself, but for the people I work with.  Part I-love-cooking-and-cooking-for-people and part can-I-really-make-food-that-people-would-pay-for?, I'm both excited and nervous to put the money where my mouth is.

For my bosses, I've guaranteed minimal time out of my expected working hours to do this, meaning I have to be thoughtful in what I prepare.  Majority of prep time should be accomplished at home and simple final touches and/or assembly left for the office. I've also limited the number of serves available each week because I need to cart it all in...!

Shared Lunch #1 was: Vietnamese-style Banh Mi with combination roasted pork loin and Chinese BBQ pork with homemade daikon and carrot pickle, pate, cucumber, coriander leaves and Sriracha in an Acme baguette.  As with any good Vietnamese dish, there is a good balance of salty, sour, sweet and spicy (I posted something similar here) and in my mind, you can't beat it.

I bought the Chinese BBQ pork from the biggest local Asian supermarket, that also makes it's own in-house BBQ and pickles, and the pork loin from the butchery around the corner which I roasted in chicken fat (from the soy honey roast chicken I prepared for the previous night's dinner) to a perfect blushing pink. The daikon and carrot pickle was made to this recipe and the cracked pepper pate was store-bought.

(l-r, clockwise) Coriander, pate, homemade carrot and daikon pickle, Acme baguettes, roasted pork loin and char siu.

Saturday, August 24, 2013

Wellington on a Plate: 5 Burgers and a Dinner

Despite not winning the competition to become this year's Burger Bucket List Blogger (insert sad face), I have been making a beeline for the burgers on my list anyway.  Decidedly, after only eating five burgers over a two week period I am rather thankful that I didn't have to embark on the marathon burger mission as I suspect I would be feeling some burger-guilt, if not at least a few pounds heavier as well.

I've always been a great advocate for the burger: meat, three vege (maybe a stretch) and some carbs all designed to be enjoyed together in large unceremonious mouthfuls with the hope that it's so juicy that you'll need at least three napkins.  Bliss at it's most basic level.  And it's a food type that is so flexible that it can be as indulgent or fresh and healthy as you want (I'll admit I enjoy a vege burger, as much as a the traditional meaty type, when done well).

In a burger, I am usually looking for four things: an appropriate bun, juiciness (to be soaked up by said bun) and complimentary flavours and textures. If there's a side, I hope that it's meaningful and not mere filler.

That being said, the five burgers I have enjoyed over the last two weeks as part of the Wellington on a Plate Burger Wellington offerings have been hitting-and-missing in my burger criteria list but overall it has been pretty good.  And let's face it, any excuse to go out with friends to venture into unknown food territory is worthwhile for me.  Can't knock it until you've tried it!

Burger #1 - The Moolander @ Portlander Restaurant
Wagyu patty with mushroom sauce, gruyere, caramelised onions, roasted tomato and parmesan crisp on sweet brioche with truffle steak fries

Last year, 'The Wagyu Wonder' at The Tasting Room was one of my favourite entries into the Burger Wellington competition so I was delighted to see a wagyu patty on offer at Portlander. I'd never been to the Portlander but had heard promising things from this relatively new restaurant who prides themselves on their meat and seafood offerings.

The Moolander at Portlander Restaurant

'The Moolander' exceeded my expectations for it's size, presentation and juicy wagyu patty smothered in mushroom sauce (my favourite), gruyere and caramelised onions.  The parmesan crisp was a lovely touch and I was quick to add this into the burger itself.  It got messy, but that's a good sign. I did feel though that the roasted tomato was lost and the sweet brioche bun certainly didn't do anything for me.  I wondered, as I devoured the burger, if it would have made a difference if the bun had been grilled?  Or if it had been better as a freshly-baked white bread bun.

Friday, August 16, 2013

The pop-up Ramen Shop (ラメン店)

Today The Ramen Shop popped up, to my delight, at Hashigo Zake. Unfortunately, I couldn't grab a drink from the great menu at Hashigo due to the rest of my afternoon requiring me to actually do some work but...

$12 for a bowl of their own handmade noodles, pork and chicken broth, the most melt-y pork belly, bean sprouts, spring onion, nori (dried seaweed), pickled cucumber, cured egg yolk and some zingy pickled shiitake mushrooms - it gave the Wellington on a Plate burgers a run for their money for appealing lunchtime options.

Delish!  Thanks Tsubasa and Asher for a great lunch!  Until the next time you pop-up...

Update: Since April 2014, The Ramen Shop has opened at a permanent site on 191 Riddiford Street, Newtown, Wellington for lunch and dinner everyday. They have an expanded menu and serve drinks (alcoholic and non-) to accompany your ramen experience. On occasion, they still operate their pop-ups, including collaborations, in Wellington and occasionally Auckland too. Follow them on Facebook and Twitter!

Friday, August 2, 2013

Desktop lunch: Vietnamese-style vermicelli salad

Currently I'm in a phase of having Vietnamese-style vermicelli salads for my lunch.  Last week, I made traditional-style nuoc cham (dipping sauce) to use as my dressing (thanks to cheap limes) but yesterday I substituted fish sauce and lime for soy sauce and lemon and it worked alright too.

For the salad base:

Vermicelli, quantity depends on how hungry you are - for me, what fits loosely when dry within my thumb and forefinger making an 'o' works nicely.  (This is the only element that requires cooking so while you prepare the below, cover dry vermicelli in boiled water and drain well when it's become white/almost opaque. Alternatively, test for bite.)
Mesclun leaves, small handful of
Cucumber, as much as you like, sliced diagonally and then in half
Carrot, an inch and a 1/2 worth cut into matchsticks
Green onions, two inches worth sliced, I like a mix of white and green
Chinese BBQ pork, again, sliced (or any cooked meat you wish, leftovers are perfect, e.g. Shredded chicken, steak, roast pork, prawns, etc)

For the dressing (which should only be added just before eating)

The juice of 1 juicy lime (around 3 Tbsp)
2 Tbsp fish sauce
1 Tbsp sugar (or, to taste)
1 tsp rice vinegar
1 clove of garlic, minced (optional)
1 Thai chilli, finely chopped (optional and to taste)

There are many variations on nuoc cham but at its heart, it's all about balance.  I like to use the sugar element as the tipping scale so after adding one tablespoon, I'll test and add more if necessary.  I'm also a big fan of the garlic, but understandably maybe not all would be keen to eat this for an office workday lunch! Each to their own.


Pour dressing lovingly over salad and combine so the vermicelli manages to intertwine itself with the carrots, and the carrots with the leaves.

Eat and enjoy!