Laksa with fried chicken and tofu puffs

Laksa is traditionally made using candlenuts in the paste, but there are macadamias lining the streets up here so I’ve oft subbed them in very successfully.

Also, in another development in the world of substitutions, the paste section of the recipe could be subbed out for a store bought paste if you are time-poor. Please note though; the store bought paste will not come off the bench to a standing applause like the macadamias would. Don’t get me wrong, Mr store paste will still get a couple of cheers from a few drunkards down the front, it’s just not going to be the full John Farnham coming onto stage at his third “final goodbyes” tour standing ovation.

Anything you can’t find at a supermarket is no doubt at your local asian grocery store. While you’re there you should grab yourself something else you have never seen before and work out how to use it.

One thing I love about Asian cooking is the big ol’ pile of colour that you start with
Look at those tofu puffs just waiting to soak up so much flavour
Just bloody delicious

LAKSA WITH FRIED CHICKEN & TOFU PUFFS

(serves 4 – 6)

PASTE

1 onion, diced
6 garlic cloves, peeled
8 dried long red chilli, rehydrated in enough hot water to cover
1 thumb sized knob tumeric, roughly chopped
1 thumb sized knob galangal, roughly chopped
1 teaspoon shrimp paste
2 teaspoon ground coriander
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon sweet paprika
5 coriander root, roughly chopped
4 stalks lemon grass, white part only, roughly chopped
¼ cup candle nuts or macadamias, lightly toasted
¼ cup oil to blitz

TO COOK

Paste above
8 kaffir lime leaves
1 tablespoon dried shrimp
3x 400 ml tins coconut milk
750 ml chook stock
1 tablespoon castor sugar
1 tablespoon fish sauce, plus extra if necessary
2 tablespoon lime juice

TO SERVE

500 g fresh rice noodles or dried rice noodle equivalent, cooked as per instructions of chef packet
300 g chicken thigh fillet, poached or fried, kept warm in low oven
100 g fried tofu puffs, cut in half
200 g bean shoots
Extra lime and chilli
Coriander, sliced fresh shallots and crisp eshallots
A chilli condiment of your choosing

Blitz all paste ingredients in a food processor or pound with mortar and pestle until coarse pasty consistency.
The paste goes into a pot over medium heat. Cook out for 5 minutes or until it’s starting to smell delicious.
Add all “to cook” ingredients except lime juice and simmer on low heat for 30 minutes.
Add lime juice and curry puffs and simmer for another 5 minutes.
Check seasoning and adjust if necessary. Fish sauce for more salt, sugar for more sweet.
Chop chicken into bite sized pieces.
Now it’s time to assemble.
Noodles go into a bowl, soup and tofu get ladled over them, add the chopped chicken and then garnish with bean shoots, coriander, sliced shallots, crisp shallots, fresh chilli and chilli condiment, with extra lime on the side.
You know you will be patting yourself on the back for this one.

And here is an almost-instructional video to help you too

Still banging on about Vietnam… and a recipe for Pho

vietnamese pho noodle soup
One thing that is very noticeable in Vietnam is the hawkers… every densely populated area (which is in fact every square meter of ground in this country) has it’s hawkers and those hawkers will hit the streets in force and advance on the populace, both local and foreign, and will all try and convince you that they are selling exactly what you need; a book, CDs, donuts and other sweet coated fried bread products, cigarettes, cigarette lighters, wallets, hats, trinkets (I don’t even know what a trinket is, but it seems like something these people would sell), watches and other bits and pieces.

For the most part they are in fact selling nothing that you need, but they will not believe you when you tell them this, so you need to walk on (see “the cardinal rule when dealing with hawkers”).

The only hawkers that truly have something that you might want are the ones who are selling the donuts. Sweetened little balls and fingers (not actual body parts) of tasty fried bread goodness, these guys are doing you a favour. But, if you do in fact make a purchase from one of these vendors you are faced with another set of problems because you have in fact communicated and, dare I say, looked the hawker in the eye and in doing so, you have broken the cardinal rule when dealing with hawkers – if I may bring it to your attention – DO NOT ACKNOWLEDGE OR LOOK AT HAWKERS.

As much as you are a nice and decent human being and they are people too and you have your obligation to be kind to your fellow man and blah blah blah. Well you need to realise that these people are the lion and you are the antelope, and if you falter, even for a second, they will pounce on you, drag you to the ground and rip you to shreds, then more of their kind will come and squabble over your remains.

It is like opening your door to a gypsy; you only see one initially and think that’s going to be fine, next minute your house is over-run and you find yourself renting your own Toyota Camry from a small man with a decisive limp and an uncanny way with goats…

Legit as heck - pho getting served in the streets of Hanoi
Legit as heck – pho getting served in the streets of Hanoi

Another thing that is very easily noticeable is the love of pho.

Everywhere you go in this place there are piles of the freshest, tastiest rice noodles you have ever had the pleasure of placing in your face, just laying there, quietly dormant, patiently waiting for their ovation once swimming in the clear, mothers-milk of a stocky broth that will finally allow this dish to be known as pho.

Breakfast, lunch, dinner, summer, winter, special occasion, regular midweek dinner or lonely Friday night in for one, this noodle soup is anytime food, comfort food, party food and food to be consumed from your girl friend’s body all in one.

If you are smart you will make this, or something very similar. If you are not smart you are probably sitting at the dinner table trying to eat soup with a knife and fork.

Carry on.

Charring the onions and ginger. A cake rack over a flame works a treat
Charring the onions and ginger. A cake rack over a flame works a treat

Spices about to get slapped around a bit
Spices about to get slapped around a bit

Clear and scum-free is the result you are looking for
Clear and scum-free is the result you are looking for

Herbs. Heaps of herbs
Herbs. Heaps of herbs

The beef version
The beef version

Herbs and sprouts and other shit that goes in your pho
Herbs and sprouts and other shit that goes in your pho

The chicken version
The chicken version

PHO –BEEF or CHICKEN. YOU CHOOSE (serves 6-8)

I feel that before you embark on this mission you should know that eating pho is a life style choice. Other things that, say, the Australian Prime Minister says are a lifestyle choice, may in fact not be a lifestyle choice at all and are indeed just more words that seem to fall effortlessly from his lips with the express purpose of embarrassing the Australian people.

FOR THE BROTH
2kg beef bones (or 4-5 chicken frames)
1kg brisket (or ½ chicken. You can freeze the other half for later, eat it for dinner tomorrow, or even make a double recipe of pho so you can feed the neighbourhood… I can’t believe I need to tell you this)
500g onions
1 thumbsized piece ginger (approx. 50g)
1 cinnamon stick
3 black cardamon pods
1 star anise
2 cloves
10 black peppercorns
1 stalk lemongrass, light part only, roughly chopped
2 tablespoons fish sauce
1 tablespoon salt
1 teaspoon sugar
Water

TO SERVE
500g dried rice noodles
1 bunch garlic chives, chopped
250g bean sprouts
4-5 spring onions, chopped
A large pile of picked fresh herbs (I used mint, basil, coriander and purple shiso)
Lime quarters
Some kind of fresh chilli or chilli condiment
Sweetened fish sauce

• Put the bones and meat in a large pot with enough water to cover. Bring to the boil and simmer for 5 minutes. Strain and discard water
• Grill onions and ginger over an open flame for 5-10 minutes until nicely charred. Chop roughly
• Combine all broth ingredients in a clean pot (you could probably just clean the other pot out and use that…) and cover with approx. 4lt water
• Simmer broth for 2 hours or so, skimming a few times to remove scum from surface
• Strain through a fine sieve or muslin or even a clean chux, and return to heat. Remove meat and chop to serve (pick chicken from bones first if using)
• Check seasoning and adjust if necessary
• Soak rice noodles in hot (but not boiling) water for 2 minutes or until starting to soften. Drain
• In a wire basket/sieve, blanch bean sprouts in broth for 20 seconds
• Put it all on the table for people to help themselves to whatever
• Put “go to Vietnam” on your bucket list

The Round Eye Review… Hu Tieu Thanh Liem Vietnamese Restaurant, Mirrabooka

It’s kind of apt that our friend G-Money should be reviewing a Vietnamese restaurant today, as I myself am currently in that land of the small table settings in person. So let this be an introduction to what will surely be a month of talk about Vietnamese cuisine… – Grazza McFilthy Mouth

Hu Tieu Thanh Liem
73 Honeywell Blvd, Mirrabooka, WA 6061

Ok. Let’s address the elephant in the room.

Yes. This is the closest restaurant to my house.

Yes. I love this place. If it were legal, I would marry this place quicker than an insane Japanese man could marry his manga pillow.

Therefore…

(SPOILER ALERT : THIS REVIEW IS GETTING A HIGH SCORE.)

So by now you should of pieced together that I live in Mirrabooka, if you haven’t then I recommend more protein for lunch and less paint chips. Mirrabooka. That word can conjure many reactions in people, and rightly so as this area has a chequered past, but it is a lot better area nowadays and where there are cons, there are awesome pros too.

Cons: drug deals on the corner and occasional murders in the neighbouring suburbs. No biggy.

Pros: get a whole block of land for two goats and a hard boiled egg, and the multiculturalism.

Lets focus on the multiculturalism. Any evening around dinner time you can stick your head out the front door, and smell the amazing aroma of 2 or 3 different continents cooking up some delicious shit. Just in my cul-de-sac alone we have Filipinos, Vietnamese, Eastern European, Middle Eastern and Western folk all cooking up a storm. I really would like to push for a food fair down at the park, if it weren’t for the terrible, terrible risk of being sold weed at a food fair. This multiculturalism is responsible for a local mecca called Honeywell Shops. Oh my god Honeywell Shops. A dodgy roller shuttered hole of a shopping centre at night becomes a vibrant display of fresh produce, meat, seafood, spices and food during the day. For me it’s food prep heaven, but I’m not a shopping centre reviewer and no doubt by now a few of you are thinking “When is this nut job getting on about the food?” Right about now i say.

Hu Tieu Thanh Liem, or as the wife and I call it – Vietnamizzle (we don’t know how you pronounce it), and yes I am about to say it, is the best suburban Vietnamese in Perth. I can here some of you gasp as there is some good competition, especially around the corner at Marangaroo shops, which is great and I will get to them in later reviews. Vietnamizzle encompasses everything I think Vietnamese food should be. Spicy, sour, sweet, salty, bitter flavours that are bold but well balanced and smack bang full of uber fresh produce. Always some of the freshest produce you’ll ever be served. Lets face it, the Vietnamese are hard working bastards and churn out some amazing stuff. At Vietnamizzle most dishes will be served with a mountain of fresh basil, mint, chilli and bean sprouts. And if you get takeaway expect to have a shopping bag full of these accompanying your order. Have I mentioned I love this place?

The wife, like she regularly does went for The Pho. Not A pho. This is THE pho. The award winning pho. Now I know saying this is “The pho” that steam is coming out of a few of my friends and readers ears. “But my place does the best pho” just blasted through their lips. Like dim sum, pho is different for everyone, but for me, some Sunday Times award, a food website I can’t recall award, and most definitely for my wife, this is the best. A bowl of Raw Beef Hofan Soup (Pho Tai) will set you back a whopping $10. That’s right $10 for a bowl of heaven. Thinly sliced raw beef that just gets that rare steak look as it swims above a bed of thick, plump rice noodles and in a broth that is too far along the mind blowing scale to even start comparing to something. A hell of a lot goes into pho broth, and my brain can’t even fathom breaking it down into what I think is in there. I prefer to just eat it and be amazed. Served with a side of fresh cut chilli, lemon, bean sprouts, and mint, this is a dish that’s more of an experience than a meal.

I have pretty much eaten this whole menu, but also pictured here is another favourite the Bánh xèo ($12) or as we order it “Vietnamese Pancake.” A perfect blend of rice flour, pork, prawns, bean sprouts and chives that are all fried in a coconut oil. This is a great starter and will serve four people as an entrée. Served with another mountain of herbs and fresh vegetables, it is a dish that is best eaten served up in a lettuce leaf with the herbs (similar to san choy bau) and topped with a drizzle of the sweet, spicy & sour sauce that accompanies it. I must warn that the prawns do come with the shell still on but they are perfectly cooked and the shell adds a nice crunch to the dish. A must have if you come here.

I went for the Bun Bi Cha Gio Thit Nuong ($13), which equates to in english as rice vermicelli with shredded pork, grilled pork and a fried spring roll. I love my pork, Vietnamizzle love their pork, so no surprise here – I love this dish. Have I mentioned I love this place? The noodles here are always done so well, they are no match for Noodle Forum, but still very good. Always loose, never stuck together and perfectly cooked. The seasoned pork has that crispy texture you expect of some grilled pig, but is also packed with this immensely satisfying smokey flavour. Cover all this with the accompanying sauce and you have a fantastic feed. This is a tasty simple dish, and is especially good for those who are a bit cautious with asian food.

Other favourite dishes here are: salt and pepper squid, spicy beef salad, stuffed chicken wings, lemongrass & chilli beef, Vietnamese rolls, rice net paste dishes, wontons,….i could go on and on.

By now you definitely think I am biased, possibly endorsed, but it really is a suburban gem and incredible value for money. Our total dinner bill was $35, add $1 corkage per person, yes it is BYO anything alcoholic, and BINGO….winner winner tasty, cheap Vietnamese dinner.

I love this place.

4.5 mispronounced dishes out of 5

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