Tag Archives: Thai

Tok Tok ala Talk Talk

That is the name of the place. A catchy phrase, pop culture or just hip and trendy…probably all in one. It is an unassuming place in a standard block building in a suburb surrounded by other shop lots of food eating places in a residential neighbourhood in the southeast of Penang island. This trendy, rustic and arty place with a wine bar that looks something like a western movie set “saloon bar” would be more suited for the old part of George Town in the city amongst the boutique hotels, galleries and cafes.P1160325P1160305
The place started off as “Tok Tok”, a small single shop lot café of fusion style food with a Thai-Chinese crossed Nyonya local Penang fare. It was last year when I first stumbled upon this place with my partner, my mum and sister. We frequented that area for the food at a Chinese restaurant, “Wang Chao“. But it was shut and we decided to try “Tok Tok” which was a couple of shop lots from Wang Chao. I had good memory of the place, the food and the service.

This morning I caught up with my mum and sis for an early breakfast. After a local Penang all time street favourite, “Char Koay Teow”, I went for a walk around mum’s local wet market. It was a small market but each individual stalls was a delight to look at from fresh poultry to fishmongers, fresh flowers, vegetables and herbs, fruits, wet and dried spices, fresh grated coconuts, cream, milk, organic food, snacks, biscuits, Taoism religious and prayer matters. I was tempted to buy a few things. In my mind – fresh grated coconuts, coconut milk, ready mixed wet chilli and curry pastes, fresh turmeric, fresh tofu…the list goes on. But wait! I can’t take them home to Australia. I opted for something less to satisfy my urge – a packet of organic red rice and “sugar cane” sugar. I was thinking of the organic cold pressed coconut oil, but remembered that I am going home with only a hand carry bag. No check in luggage!

After a whirlwind of wet market, I told mum that I will take her and sis out for dinner tonight. It was her idea that we go back to Tok Tok, because she remembers that I enjoyed the food the last time. For a 78 years old lady, she has a better memory than me!

Tok Tok is the sound of “tok tok mee” or wanton mee. “mee” is “noodle” in the local Penang dialect, Hokkien. A memory flashed back to old Penang. There was a street vendor who pushed his cart in the neighbourhood selling his wanton noodle by making a distinctive “tok tok” noise by banging a pair of bamboo sticks on the surface of his cart. This was to let the people know that he is getting near to their home. I remember hearing this “tok tok” noise and will yell out to mum that the wanton man is here! How easy was that? The food came to your doorstep in the old days. Even a wondering Indian Barber with his high chair wooden stool!

The modern day “Tok Tok” at Bangunan Lip Sin at the Pekaka neighbourhood is nothing like the old “tok tok” days. There is a generous size ala carte menu with some Penang famous street food fare including as you would expect, “Tok Tok Mee”, Nasi Lemak, Siam Laksa, Lor Bak, Sang Mee and others. There is rice dishes which focus mostly on Thai and Nyonya dishes. We ordered dishes to accompany with rice – Loh Bak as entrée, a salted vegetable with tofu soup “Kiam Chai Tau Hu Teng”, deep fried Siam chicken, Pattaya fried rice and mixed vegetables. For drink we ordered a homemade warm beancurd drink.P1160274

After we have ordered, I looked around the place which has now been extended into 2 other shop lots next to each other. The immediate left shop is “Talk Talk” wine bar featuring a live jazz band on a weekend. Next to this is a more relax coffee lounge. All three are interconnected inside. There are opened atrium upper floor seatings. The place is hip, trendy and cool. I would love to come back next time to listen to some live music.P1160278

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The food…they were delicious! The only let down for me was the Loh Bak. It was better the first time I tried it last year. I don’t believed they were freshly made tonight. They were hard and overcooked. Probably been deep fried a few times. They were served on a bed of very old lettuces.P1160304 It was not a good start when it first came on the table. But I was very glad that the rest of the dishes were top notched! They were very good. The highlight was the finger licking good crispy and crunchy chicken and yet moist and tender inside. One of the best deep fried chicken I ever had for a long time.P1160312 Next was the nyonya style “Kiam Chai Tahu Teng” ie the salted preserved vegetable soup with silken tofu. It arrived in a steamy, bubbling hot claypot with heaps of fried garlic on top giving the soup a nice all round flavour. It was salty, sweet and tangy with slivers of fresh ginger in the broth.P1160308. The mixed vegetables and Pattaya fried rice were also very good. I must say I have ordered too much for 3 of us, but like most places they allowed us to take home what we couldn’t finished.P1160319

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P1160313 The food was a bit pricey in the area. The total bill came to $115 Malaysian Ringgit but still a very good value for what I couldn’t get in Australia, roughly $40 Australian dollar.

The other thing that impressed me was the commercial kitchen. It is enclosed in glass wall as you walked to the toilet. It is like a showroom which you can watch the kitchen in action – well organised and clean.P1160307 I gave the “Auntie” who cooked our meal two thumbs up for her food.

“Tok Tok” and “Talk Talk” is certainly the talk of the town in Pekaka and the surrounding suburbs. If you haven’t been there yet, I suggest you better go for “Auntie” homecooked meal. There is nothing pretentious and she was a bit shy if you try and snap a photo of her through the glass wall.P1160322

A Simple Home Cooked Dinner

I felt like a simple home cooked dinner when I got home from work this evening. So I started preparing the ingredients. One thing led to another. I was going to make a Thai style chill basil chicken, but ended with 2 other dishes – a Chinese stir fried “Kailan” (Chinese broccoli) and a Chinese chive omelette.P1160214P1160217Enjoy the recipe below. It is simple to prepare and make and takes less than an hour from preparation to plating on the table. 🙂
P1160215Thai Style Chili Basil Chicken
Ingredients:
2 chicken thigh – slice to bite size
5 strings of snake bean – cut into 3 inches section
3 garlic cloves – finely chop
2 inch ginger – finely slice
2 bird eye chilies – finely slice
1 bunch of Thai basil – leaves only
3 tablespoons fish sauce
2 tablespoons oyster sauce
1 teaspoon palm sugar

Cooking
1. Heat some vegetable oil in a hot wok
2. Toss in the chicken. Stir fry until almost cooked. Remove and set aside
3. In the same wok, add a bit more oil until warm
4. Toss in the garlic, then chilies and ginger. Stir fry until fragrant
5. Add the snake beans. Toss a few times then add the almost cooked chicken. Continue to stir fry for a few minutes before adding the sauces and sugar
6. Add the basil leaves and cashew nuts (I didn’t have any at the time)
7. Dish out and serve either in a bowl or plate
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Chinese Chive OmeletteP1160221
Ingredients
3 chicken eggs
10 strips Chinese chives (garlic chives) – finely chop
1 bird eye chili – finely chop
4 shallots – finely slice
2 teaspoon light soy sauce
1 teaspoon sesame oil
1/2 teaspoon ground white pepper
Cooking
1. Break the eggs into a bowl and mix all the ingredients together
2. Heat a frying pan with a bit of oil. When oil is nice and warm, pour in the egg mixture. Cooked one side for a few minutes, then turn over the other side and cooked for a few more minutes
3. Remove and plate on a round plateP1160219Chinese Stir Fry Kailan
Ingredients
1 bunch of Kailan – separate the stems from the leaves
4 cloves garlic – chop finely
1 tablespoon oyster sauce
1 tablespoon light soy sauce
1 tablespoon Chinese cooking wine
1 teaspoon sesame oil
Cooking
1. Heat some vegetable oil in a hot wok
2. Toss in the garlic. Fry until fragrant
3. Add the stem part of the kailan. Fry for a few minutes then add the leaves and sauces. Continue to stir fry until the vegetable are soft and tender, but not overcooked
4. Remove and garnish with dried shallots

“Makan time” 🙂

Bangkok Floating Market

There were two things that I wanted to do on my last trip to Bangkok. One is “Wat Arun” or Temple of the Dawn in English. The other is the Floating Market. Bangkok is a fascinating city with a population exceeding $10 million people. It is massive and sprawling like no other city in Southeast Asia countries, except probably Jakarta and Manila.

The last time I have been to a Bangkok floating market was in 1989. I was seconded to Bangkok to work for IBM Thailand by a Malaysian IBM Business Partner, Sunway Computer Services. That was a long time ago. But the memory is still with me because it was a good few months experience living and working in Bangkok until I had a viral infection due to food poisoning. It left me sick for several weeks unable to work and almost had to be hospitalised. That was a frightening experience. Bangkok at that time was nothing like today. The public transport system is dependent either on the bus, “tuk-tuk” or the motorcyles. The road traffic jam was like a carpark and the air pollution quality was very poor. The food hygiene was not regulated and the drinking water quality was not recommended to drink off the tap.

In today’s Bangkok, modernisation has seen Bangkok quality of life improved significantly with a better public transport network system – the “Skytrain” monorail, underground subway train, elevated pedestrian bridges connecting several mega building complexes and hotel river boats transporting the tourists from a riverside hotel to the Skytrain station at Sapak Taksin Pier. It is much easier for the tourists to move around without getting stuck on the notorious peak hour traffic jam.

In 1989, one of my Thai IBM colleagues was showing me around Thailand. Thai people are very hospitable and gentle. They spoke eloquently in a soft melodies tone of voice. Their language is as enchanting as their culture and country. They are mesmerising. This is the beautiful and true side of Thailand. Not the other side – the sex industry – that many foreign male tourists are accustomed to – like “Patpong”, the Go-Go Bars and “Lady Boy”.

My Thai colleague took me to the ancient ruined kingdom of Ayutthaya and the floating market. It was one of the best experiences I had while living in Thailand. It was a living and breathing culture on the canals with boat vendors floating gently on the water selling their fresh produces and “make to order” cooked food. That was a true Thai floating market. There was hardly any tourist around except the locals.

Tourism is a big industry in Thailand. The floating market is no exception. It is touristy – the one nearest to Bangkok. It is easy to get to from the Chao Phraya River. There are canal tour services by the hours at the Sapak Taksin Pier. Before I left Bangkok and headed back to Penang for a few more days, I thought it was a nice idea to go on the canal riverboat tour to the floating market. I hired one of the longtail boat for 1½ hours trip to the floating market for 1, 600 Thai Baht for two of us. The weather was overcast and windy. The river was choppy and rough. There were intermittent stopped when the very dark and brown Chao Phraya river got too rough. It was thrilling and nerve racking at the same. I would hate to think what would happened if the boat got overturned into the brown river! After twenty minutes from Sapak Taksin Pier, we came to an opening leading to a narrow canal snaking through several brick walled houses and stilt wooden houses.P1130823P1130808There were other longtail boats along the way. Around a narrow bend, our driver yelled out to us, “floating market!” and pointed towards a tiny boat vendor in front of us. We laughed. I was astonished thinking that, “is that it?!”. Then our boat pulled alongside the tiny boat. The boat vendor smiled, the usual Thai charm, and said, “Buy Beer nah?…” “…only 100 Baht” “…buy for your driver nah.” “…he can drink after finish work.” I said no. Then, she took out a small canned coffee. “How about Ca-Fey?..” “…only 30 Baht.” “…buy for your driver nah.” I said no again. She was very persistent. Then she said something in Thai to our driver. Probably cursing us. We moved on. Thank god! That was an ordeal, but funny.P1130834We finally arrived at the real floating market. There were so many tourists and boats pulled alongside the wooden platform to let the tourist on and off. Our boat driver said twenty minutes. We hopped off the boat. It was like a Hollywood film set except this was real as it gets in Bangkok – with tourists and the odd numbers of boat vendors parked alongside the wooden structures platforms for people to sit and eat. There were boat vendors selling grilled seafood, satay, noodle soup and “Som Tam” (green papaya salad). The place felt authentic and rustic without making the place looked new or modern. The wooden platform was an extension of a solid ground where there are more stalls selling different kinds of Thai street food and drinks, fresh fruits, plants, kitchenware and souvenirs.P1130848P1130895P1130861 P1130859P1130911 P1130905 P1130897 P1130871 P1130869 P1130847I bought a block of ‘coconut sugar’ for 45 Baht, which I initially thought it was ‘palm sugar’ until the vendor corrected me. Hopefully I can take into Australia. I have never tried a coconut sugar in my drink or cooking. This will be interesting and a new food experiment when I get home to Melbourne.P1130875This Bangkok floating market is vastly different from my experience in 1989, which was truly an authentic Thai floating market with the boat vendors floating gently on the canal river selling their fresh vegetables and fruits or serving their boat food to early morning market goers and village homes along the canal. Nevertheless, the Bangkok version of the floating market is still a good experience for many tourists.

My Favourite Thai Curry Paste

20121112-192247.jpg Cooking tonight’s dinner under 1 hour. How do I do it? Simple. Use a ready made curry paste, and my favourite is the Mae Ploy Thai curry paste. Anything under 1 hour including preparation, cooking and eating is a winner to me.

I had previously bought 4 pieces of chicken thigh fillets, diced them and marinated with some salt and turmeric powder and refrigerated overnight. I had a cucumber, a handful of beans, three carrots and a cup of bamboo shoots in the fridge. These vegetables were used in my curry dish. Other ingredients to give the curry a bit more seriousness in the flavour and authenticity, I added chopped garlic, shallots, lemongrass, chilli and kaffir lime leaves.

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Ingredients & Preparation

1. 4 chicken thigh fillets – diced and marinated with a pinch of salt and one teaspoon turmeric powder
2. 1 cucumber cut into chunky bite pieces
3. 3 carrots cut into chunky bite pieces
4. A handful of green beans with tips cut off
5. A cup of fresh packet bamboo shoots
6. 3 french shallots slice thinly
7. 2 garlic cloves chop finely
8. 1 fresh red chilli chop finely
9. 3 kaffir lime leaves slice finely
10. 1 lemongrass chop finely
11. A pinch of tamarind pulp soaked in water, then squash to extract the juice
12. 1 small packet coconut cream
13. A teaspoon palm sugar
14. A tablespoon fish sauce
15. 2 tablespoons Mae Ploy Green Curry Paste

Cooking

1. Heat 3 tablespoons cooking oil in a hot wok
2. Toss in the chopped garlic, shallots and lemongrass. Fry until fragrant
3. Add Mae Ploy curry paste. Mix through and continue to stir fry until fragrant
4. Add chicken and mix through until chicken is well coated in the paste
5. Add the tamarind juice. Bring to boil. Then reduce the heat to medium
6. Add carrots first. Cooked for 5 minutes. Then add the green beans. Continue to cook for another 5 minutes

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7. Next, add the chilli and kaffir lime leaves and cucumber, follow by a small packet of coconut cream. Reduce the heat to low simmer

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8. Continue to simmer for another 10 minutes. Then, add the fish sauce and palm sugar to taste. Mix through. It’s now ready to serve with some steamed jasmine rice.

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20121112-201141.jpg Yum! Enjoy your dinner with this simple and yet delicious curry meal. 🙂

The Sound of “Pok Pok”

“Pok Pok” that is a Thai word for the sound of a pestle pounding the different herbs and spices in a mortar into a nice, thick paste. A common sound that can be heard on the streets of Bangkok.  The sounds and smell of the spices have made its way to a local cafe in Docklands.

I came across this small cafe with an elevated polished concrete floor as I was walking towards a local supermarket. It is located at 801 – 803 Bourke Street in Docklands. Newly opened a few weeks ago their emphasis is on street food of Thailand.

Last Friday night, my partner and I went there for dinner which was a short 5 minutes walk from our place. There was an article in the local Docklands News featuring the cafe, which only increase my interest and curiosity of the food at Pok Pok.

We arrived there early about 6:30 PM. There were already a few tables of customers. One large table of office colleagues who have just finished work still in their office suits. We entered the cafe through the front door which has a glass front long counter with their espresso coffee machine. I guess this is where they serve takeaway coffees for the office workers in the day time. There is nothing spectacular about the front as we entered the cafe. But, once we make our way up a flight of polished concrete steps to an elevated dining area with a long open kitchen, it was a different ambiance altogether. It looks industrial with stainless steel long open kitchen and concrete polished floor, floor to ceiling black and white photo prints of Bangkok streets and food scenes, high stainless steel bench top with pink metal bar stools, a row of “S. trifasciata laurentii” or mother-in law’s tongue plants dividing the high long tables from the small tables for some privacy and space. The music was groovy and loud but the very high ceiling helps by softening the noise level.

It was a small menu, which can only mean one thing. That each of the dishes will be specialised. I was even surprised to see a Hainanese Chicken Rice – Khao Mun Gai in the menu, and a Chiang Mai Curry Noodle – Kao Soi which I have never come across in any Thai restaurant that I have ever been in Australia. The menu definitely sounds interesting, and most of the dishes come with rice. That means, the order will be for one person serve, like eating in the street of Bangkok seating on a small colourful plastic stool or  tiny wooden stool with a low table.

We ordered 3 dishes – a Massaman Lamb Curry with Roti for $14.50, Kao Soi for $13.50 and a Crisp Barramundi with Green Apple salad (because they didn’t have green mango) for $16.50.

The food was good. Actually very good but all three dishes were a touched too sweet for both of us. I love the Kao Soi which was 100 % authentic and true to the flavour of Thailand. It was rich and creamy, salty, spicy and sweet with crisp, crunchy flat egg noodles garnishing on top, chunky chicken maryland meat with skin on, some mustard greens and fresh slices of red onions to finish the bowl of egg noodles. It was delicious and nothing I have ever tried in Australia. This is a must for anyone who really like to know if there is anything other than the traditional and more common “Pad Thai” and “Pad See Ewe”.

The massaman curry was different from other massaman curry I have ever eaten in a Thai restaurant in Australia. Most places will serve massaman beef curry, but at Pok Pok, they use a whole lamb shank. It was a great idea. The meal itself is large with potatoes and lots of roasted cashew nuts. The lamb was tender and falls off the bone. It was very good, but overly sweet at the same time. The accompanied roti was soft, fluffy and like a soft sponge soaking up the gravy of the massaman. This, I was told by Michael – our waiter, was the top seller of the restaurant. I can understand why. It looks good and tastes good.

Our least favourite among the 3 dishes was the barramundi salad. The deep fried barramundi fillet came in one big piece at the bottom of the dish and garnished on top with big leaves of aromatic mint herbs, a few pieces of baby spinach leaves, lots of sliced red onions and toasted cashew nuts. The fish itself was good, but the overall dish was very sweet and salty with too much sugar and fish sauce, and the chef forgot one key important ingredient for the salad which was in the description of the menu – green apples. I pointed out to the owner, Ethan as he walked past our table. He gave us a surprise look, was not apologetic and took the plate away to be brought back by our waiter with a few slices of green apples on top.

It was a shame that Ethan had a less than a caring or believing attitude when I told him that our barramundi green apple salad had missing green apple in the dish. It would otherwise had been a great experience eating at Pok Pok. The overall service was far from the top notch service at the Nine Elephants and Red Petite.

The other impression I got from Pok Pok was that they have a “no top up drinking water” policy. It was hard to get their attention to top up our little Thai aluminum cup. It was a small cup, probably one or two mouth full only. Rather than putting a bottle of drinking water on the table, they prefer you to ask for more water. We had a a bottle of beer for $7 , a glass of house red $8 and a fresh coconut juice for $3.80. The coconut juice was served in a glass. I would have preferred for the authenticity and experience of eating at a Thai street food cafe (which, Pok Pok promotes itself as a “street cafe”) that the fresh coconut juice comes as a whole coconut.

Comparing to the food at Nine Elephant, Pok Pok is more of a street cafe than a restaurant with rustic roadside food with individual serve. However, Red Petite is still our preferred and favourite local Thai restaurant for the personal, home cooked and comfort food.

Pok Pok is in an ideal location for office workers doing excellent lunch time business and night time takeaway business. They opened at the right time, as there is not many good and affordable Asian eating places in the south side of Docklands area.

36 Hours

In 36 hours over the last weekend, my food trail has taken me  to 67 Village Street in Docklands on Friday night to 155 Burwood Highway in Burwood East on Saturday afternoon to 20 Convention Centre Place in South Wharf on Sunday afternoon.

That was how far I have got writing the first paragraph on a Sunday night…., and it took me until today before I got around to continue writing and finish this post.

As I left my office last Friday night, it was a balmy sunny and hot Spring day at a soaring temperature of 29 degree celsius. I decided to walk back – a distance of 5 Km. The temperature dropped dramatically as I reached the last 500 metres from my apartment in South Wharf, Docklands. I checked the weather app on my iPhone. It read 15 degree! I thought that was quite remarkable with the sudden shift in temperature. I reached my apartment on the 25th Floor, with a sweeping view of the Port Philips Bay. In the horizon where the ocean seems to drop, the sky was changing. It was completely covered with a thick fog floating towards the city. It was like the movie, “The Fog”. It felt eerily cold. That was when I said to my partner that I like to go out to eat. I didn’t want to stay home like we always do on a Friday night watching the TV.

I suggested we go to the Thai place that was recommended by Ing from the Red Petite cafe. Ing told me that this place has a signature dish called “Yum Avocado” that is worth trying.

It was a short 5 minutes walk from our place. I suspect not many people know about this place. It is located in a side street, which is not a main thoroughfare road. And, being in Docklands, it is a quite place even though it is considered as an extension of the Melbourne CBD. The place I was talking about is “Nine Elephants”. Their website is under construction, but they have a Facebook Page here. The restaurant has been opened for 2 years. I would not have known of this place if not for Ing’s recommendation. So I guess most of their patrons are either word of mouth or people who work and / or live in the area.

Our first impression as we reached the restaurant was a nice surprise. The restaurant looks good from outside. The lighting was soft and subdued with the hanging round basket lampshades with backlit panels of featured wall papers on soft coloured tone walls.

We were greeted by “Fon”. She was welcoming, warm and friendly. We didn’t have a booking. She offered us a table at a far corner towards the back, which was nice and private, away from the bigger tables.

The restaurant was well staffed. Service was top notched with great hospitality, even from the owner – a charming young Thai man, “Nat”. We got to know more of his restaurant in one night we were there. The menu was neither small nor big. It was just right with a good selection of the most well known Thai dishes. But, I came for one thing that I must try, the Yum Avocado Goong (“Goong” is prawn in Thai language). I later learnt from Nat that this was their restaurant signature dish. It i not customary for Thai dishes to serve with avocado. But, at Nine Elephants they have definitely nailed it. It was a delightful dish.

This was one of the best prawn salad dish I have ever had at a Thai restaurant. It has a nice balanced of flavours – sweet, salty and a bit spicy, which matched well with the soft and refreshing avocado base. The prawn was huge, firm, crunchy and sweet with a nice tint of spicy taste. The deep fried shredded sweet potato garnishes added a nice crunchiness to the overall texture of this dish. A perfect 10 out of 10 for this dish. $20.

The other 3 dishes we had was a coconut rice to go with Gang Dang Ped Yang (a roasted duck red curry) and Deep Fried Rockling in Tamarind Sauce.

Nine Elephants’ red duck curry was another delightful dish. Most Thai restaurant has this curry dish on their menu. Some of them can be overly sweet and creamy, and some duck meats are chewy and fatty with some bones than fleshy meat. But, at Nine Elephants, we were not disappointed. The duck meat was nice and tender. The curry was mildly sweet with lychees and pineapples. beans and cherry tomatoes. It was spicy to our liking, but not “Thai spicy”. The dish cost $22.50.

The deep fried rockling fillet fish with tamarind sauce – $25. Generous size portion. It was the least of our favourite, after the big flavours of both the avocado salad prawn and duck curry dishes. The batter should be light and thin which was not, which made the fillet more chewy than crunchy with tender flesh inside. There was not much flavour and texture to this dish. The tamarind sauce dressing was mild, which could have been a bit more sour, salty and sweet. But, the dish was nice and clean and not greasy which usually was the case at other Thai restaurants for a deep fried fish.

My partner and I left Nine Elephants feeling very satisfied with our dinner and glad to know there is a good Thai restaurant within walking distance from our place. Nat told us that they are introducing a new menu to celebrate their second year anniversary later this month. We will definitely go back to try their new menu, and hopefully they will keep their signature Yum Avocado Goong as our favourite dish of the night.

The next morning, 12 hours later from my memorable Thai dinner experience at Nine Elephants, my nephew rang me. I have previously arranged to meet him on Sunday night for dinner, possibly at Mamak Melbourne. But, after we discussed on the phone, we decided to catch up for a late lunch 5 hours later with his sister (my niece) who is attending her foundation school at Burwood East. It was a long drive to get there – almost 25 Km from Melbourne CBD. Long for my partner and I as we live in the city now and prefer to hang out only in the city. We have done our times in the past many years living in the suburbs and in the countryside that commuting was a norm for us then, but now we are just the opposite and loving every moment of our city lifestyle. We picked up my niece from her university, and went to the Gold Leaf Chinese restaurant at Burwood East for a late Yum-Cha. We arrived about 2:30 PM. We were told by the manager that they closed at 3 PM. I assumed he meant the kitchen is closed at 3 PM, not the restaurant. However, I was wrong. We had, four of us, 30 minutes to order what we wanted and to finish eating by 3 PM. It was the fastest, marathon Yum-Cha I ever had!

Gold Leaf is one of my favourite Yum-Cha place in Melbourne, but my partner and I usually go to the one in Docklands at Harbour Town. This was the first time we have tried the Burwood branch. My nephew told me that this is the first and original restaurant. It has a different ambiance to the one in Docklands – more “Chinese” look. The food tastes better with a larger serve. The service is typical of the rude Cantonese speaking staff who made little effort to accommodate those who speak English. This, unlike the Docklands branch which is more friendly towards the non native Chinese speaking crowd, with a more relax and friendly ambiance of a more westernised Chinese restaurant but maintaining the authentic Chinese yum-cha selections.

After the yum-cha, my partner and I felt we have over eaten in the past 18 hours. We can hardly moved. We stayed home. Watched the TV and skipped Saturday night dinner. Then went to bed, like two lazy couch potatoes.

36 hours later on Sunday, we had a slow and lazy morning, like any normal people. It was a daylight saving. Clock moving forward by 1 hour, which meant I had just lost one hour of my sleep! I saw the time ticked by quickly and soon it was lunch time. I suggested to my partner that we go to one of our most frequented Vietnamese cafe next door.

Signature Pho Viet was opened only a few months in April this year. Ever since it was opened, we have been there a few times, and see the place grows from strength to strength. It is located at South Wharf DFO (Direct Factory Outlet), which makes it an ideal stop for a snack before and after shopping at the DFO. The price is reasonable and cheap and the place is bright, neat and clean. It is a self service, over the counter pay as you order. I love this place. No fuss, good food and good price.

This time I ordered beef with lemongrass and chilies served in a bowl of rice vermicelli and shredded lettuces. Cost $10. The side dressing of sweet and salty chili sauce poured over this bowl of noodle and beef made this a wonderful lunch snack. The beef was very tender and juicy.

My partner went for the combination pho, small size for $8.50. It was once again, a beautiful pho. The best and closest to us. What more can we ask?

We decided we will share another dish, which cannot go wrong and we have ordered this each time we come here. The fried pork spring rolls for $8. They were non greasy and skin was crisp and crunchy. Great wrapped with a lettuce leaf and 2-3 mint leaves dipping into the sweet chili sauce. Refreshing.

This little pho cafe takes pride in what they do and it really shows in the quality of their food and freshness of the ingredients. I am so glad we have this choice next to us.

Once again, we felt that we ate too much and had to go for a walk. So, inside the DFO for some window shopping.

In my dream, I wish the shops here open until 10 am every night.

That Little Thai Place

Yes, that little Thai place…., is one of my favourite Thai joint in Melbourne.   It is cosy and casual. There is nothing pretentious about this place. It is personable and being so small, the Chef is usually out at the front after finished cooking for the night. The place is little known as it is in an obscure quiet street, away from the main drag. The cafe is almost hidden by a big tree at the front. It is difficult to spot unless you are walking along the pavement, with a few outdoor tables and chairs underneath the tree.

So, where is this secret little Thai gem?

It is located in South Melbourne. If you have not guess it yet, I am talking about “Red Petite” owned by “Wing” the chef, and “Ing” the beautiful and charming Maitre d’.

“Wing and Ing” partners (I hope I have spell their nicknames correctly) or if I remember correctly, Ing jokingly told me to call them “Wining”  ie Win+ing. I guess that was how I remember both their nicknames. And rightly so, as Red Petite is a “winning team”. There is something about this place that I really like, which I can narrow down to the freshness and quality of the food, intimacy of the dining room and the kitchen, the cleanliness of the place, and the hospitality of Win-Ing. Having said that, Red Petite is a quiet place and having been opened for two years, I am really surprise that there isn’t a long queue outside waiting for a table.

The only reason I knew about Red Petite is not that I have read about it in a food blogs or food critics in The Age newspaper. But, it was a Saturday night not long after I moved to Melbourne (before my partner joined me) that I went to see a cabaret show at The Butterfly Club. I was bored staying in my little 48 sqm one bedroom rented apartment that I had to go out and enjoy a good evening.

That was when I discovered the Red Petite. The staff at The Butterfly Club highly recommended that I tried the place as I hunger for a light snack before the show. I hurried over to the little cafe. I didn’t remember seeing Ing at the time. But, an equally charming young Maitre d recommended that I tried the tapas size “Crying Tiger”, which was grilled marinated beef served with a northeastern Thai “E-Sarn” dipping sauce for $10. I did not have any expectation when I first went to Red Petite since I knew nothing about the place.

When the grilled beef came, I could tell that it was going to be good. The dipping sauce with a light sprinkle of chili powder garnished with spring onion in a side sauce bowl, next to a stack of grilled beef and slices of cucumber made a perfect mouth watering first bite. And, it was delicious with a nice balance of saltiness, sweetness and spicyness.

 I remember this dish well. However, at our most recent visit, which was last Saturday night, we took 2 of our friends visiting from Sydney to Red Petite. I recommended to them that they should try the “Crying Tiger”. It was the first dish that arrived being a tapas entree size. The dish looked exactly the same as the previous couple of times my partner and I had eaten there. It tasted the same with the same amount of saltiness, sweetness and spicyness from the marinated beef and the E-sarn dipping sauce. That is what I like most about this place – the consistency in the food, quality and presentation. The beef, however, was a bit tough and chewy. They were probably cooked a bit too long.

Our friends left it with me to order the dishes, and trusted that I knew what I was doing. The next dish that came was the prawn salad, “Pla Goong” for $16.

It was, once again, a very beautiful dish with the prawn nicely poached in coconut milk (I believed) served on top of a bed of fresh bean sprouts and iceberg cabbage cup and dressed in a creamy coconut sauce with chilies, mints and kaffir lime leaves. This dish was very good. The prawns were poached perfectly, firm and sweet. The creamy sauce was just right, not overly spicy or rich, with a nice fragrant and tangy flavour. The crunch of fresh bean sprout made this salad refreshing and light.

The third entree that I ordered was a Chicken Satay which comes in 4 skewers for $10.

The Thai style chicken satay is quite different from a Malaysian style chicken satay. Chicken breast is mostly used in the Thai version, whereas a Malaysian version will use the thigh meat, and in a Thai satay sauce it is mostly thick and creamy, whereas the Malaysian version adopted a spicier version with more chili paste in the sauce. Hence, a richer red colour, than a brownie creamy version of a Thai satay sauce. I have recently posted here on the best Malaysian chicken satay I have eaten at Mamak Melbourne.

The chicken satay at Red Petite was very good. The meat was chunky, sweet, tender and juicy. The sauce was nice, creamy, and sweet at the same time. The side roti was good for wiping up the remaining sauce. It was a wonderful dish.

Next up was the coconut rice, massaman beef curry and “sen mee moo yang” which is grilled pork with rice vermicelli and fresh salad.

The massaman beef curry was my partner’s all time favourite each time he eats at a Thai restaurant. I would have prefer either a Thai red or green curry. A massaman curry is a central Thai dish of Muslim origin. Each restaurant has their own version and interpretation. Win’s version is thick, rich and creamy with chunky beef, potatoes and carrots topped with dried shallots. The beef were tender and falls apart when pierced with a fork. The curry was accompanied well with the rich, fragrant coconut rice. Massaman beef for $15 and coconut rice was $4 a bowl.

“Sen Mee Moo Yang” is a rice vermicelli dish for $15. I have never had this type of noodle dish before in Thai cooking. It sounded interesting on the menu. Typically, I would have ordered either a “Pad Thai” or “Pad See Ewe”. I have tried Win’s Pad Thai on one of other visit, and Win’s Pad Thai was one of the best Pad Thai I had for a long time.

When Ing placed the Sen Mee Moo Yang on our table, I wasn’t sure what to think about the dish. I guess it was quite unexpected. So, I asked Ing how we should be eating this dish and whether I was meant to pour the bowl of sauce over the green salad and / or the noodle with pork.

Ing explained I should pour the sauce over the salad and noodle. She also explained that there was sweet chili at the bottom of the sauce. I was meant to stir the bowl with the mixture of sweet chili at the bottom. I later found out that this type of salad or seafood dressing is known as Nam-Jin, which was meant to be sweet, sour and spicy.

The sauce was mixed through. I then scooped a few spoonful of the dressing over the salad and noodle. I may have put too much dressing. It had an unusual flavour and taste which probably will take some time for me to take a liking towards this dish. The strong flavour of the Nam Jin dressing was garlicky and overly sweet. The sweet, sour and spicy flavour may suits some people, but the Nam Jin dressing was too strong for my liking.

Wing and Ing definitely has a win-ing formula at Red Petite. It only needs to be discovered by more people, not just those who lives around South Melbourne. This little cafe deserves to be noticed,  and a perfect place to eat before a show at the wonderful, eclectic cabaret club next door.

After our dinner, we headed over to The Butterfly Club for some cocktails and wine. There was a cabaret show on, but we were too late for the show. So we sat in the main lounge room cluttered with unusual figurines, dollhouse, pictures from all sort of walk life. It was dimmed and moody inside and the fireplace roaring away to keep the cold night warm and cosy.