Popping my Fancy-pants cherry: Momofuku Seiobo (Part 1)

Popping my Fancy-pants cherry: Momofuku Seiobo (Part 1)

Momofuku. Momofuku Seiobo.

When I first started planning my trip to Sydney, I decided that I wanted to go to a fancy-pants restaurant. We’ve been food lovers, eaters and enthusiasts for long enough that I like to think that we would actually appreciate the experience, rather than just ‘this is food.’

It was hard to pick which restaurant to go to. I wanted to go to Quay. I wanted to go to Tetsuya. I wanted to go to so many places that I just couldn’t pick. But in the end we decided to go with Momofuku, because I’ve heard so much about the darn steamed pork buns and really wanted to try it for myself.

I have to split the post into two parts as I really don’t want it to get overly heavy and hard to digest in one seating. So here’s Part 1!

Making a Booking

To eat at Momofuku, you need to make a booking. No walk-ins. Bookings are made via their online booking reservation system only. No phone bookings accepted. But to make things even harder, spaces are strictly limited with the restaurant only seating between 30-40 people, therefore the fight for tables can get quite heated. You are only allowed to book up to 10 days in advance, new table bookings are made available on the reservation system at 10am (AEST) in the morning.

The good news is that as long as you are there at the computer on time and have a fast connection, you shouldn’t have too many issues with obtaining a booking. (Remember, 10 days in advance, no more no less!) If you delay for even a minute, you will be forced to sit and stare at the screen forlornly at rows of red crosses. When I made my reservation, I noticed that all seats were snapped up within 3 minutes. So you gotta move fast!

14 courses.. starting now!

We were seated at the kitchen bar, which I was extremely delighted with. Not only was the lighting much better for photos, but you were also able to watch the action as it went down. I had a lot of fun ‘stealing ideas’ and trying to work out what was going onto the dish before it got to us!

Things to take note of to help your reading:

The Boy opted for the Vegetarian Course, while I went with the normal standard fare. You will see a V labelled on some of the photos to signify the vegetarian dish.

The Boy opted for the juice pairing ($55), while I went with the wine pairing ($95). I will only be showing photos of the wine pairing, but will also mention what the juice pairing was under each photo.

First Course

1. Nori Cracker topped with Roe / Vego version omitted the Roe)
2. Smoked Eel / Vego version: Smoked Potato
3. Pig’s Blood Chip / Vego version: 5
4. Shitake Mushroom Mochi
5. Kimchi Chip / Not available on the standard menu.

Juice Pairing: Apple and Fennel

This was described to us as snacks. I was really curious to see how the vegetarian course was match up to the standard fare and was quite amused to see that even though the ingredients differed, our items still look quite similar which is why I’ve only shown you 5 out of 8 of the items – they looked the same!

The smoked eel / potato was quite fun to eat. Beautifully delicate, it exploded in my mouth sending me to the heavens as I took in the beautiful depth of flavour the little tube contained.

The Kimchi Chip had to be the hero of both dishes as it was incredibly addictive and very moreish. If I could get a whole bagful of that, I’d be quite the happy girl!

The Sake went beautifully with this course, and I mused over the fact that I would never be able to drink cheap sake ever again. I’ve only ever had cheap sake and much like cheap wine, once you’ve had the good stuff, you never want to go back!

Second Course

Momofuku Pork Bun: Vego version had shitake mushrooms instead of pork; served with Siracha sauce.

Juice Pairing: Apple and Fennel

The Famous Momofuku Pork Bun. Finally I get to eat you. I have long heard of this famous pork bun but couldn’t help but wonder how good could it be? Well.. the bun was definitely beautifully made, fluffy and melt in your mouth; the meat was gorgeous and the siracha sauce just kicked things up a notch. Everything was gorgeous but I couldn’t help but feel that it didn’t really live up to the hype.

Having said that, I would probably be quite happy to order more of that, I do think that it was a gorgeous bun, but I also felt that it wasn’t really as amazing as I had heard. The humble chinese steamed buns strike me as having more flavour than this version!

Third Course

Vego: Tomato Salad with Whipped Tofu and Yuzu Dressing.
Standard: Pink Snapper Sashimi with Celery and Green Mustard Dressing.

Juice Pairing: Cucumber

The whipped tofu had the most interesting texture. It was foamy and felt like it had come out from a siphon. (Maybe it did, who knows.) You could definitely taste the tofu though, and this just blew our minds – foamy tofu!?!?

I really enjoyed the pink snapper sashimi but being incredibly used to having strong wasabi with my sashimi, felt that the Green Mustard Dressing was rather lackluster.

Fourth Course

Vego: Onions with pieces of Rhubarb and Sea Lettuce.
Standard: Raw Kangaroo Island Scallop with Rhubarb dressing.

Juice Pairing: Cucumber

We were very intrigued by the vegetarian version of this dish. Definitely not similar in any way or form to the Scallop. Not just that, it had these plastic looking greens on it that were apparently sea lettuce. Hmmmm. It didn’t taste like plastic, which was a good thing. In fact, the whole dish was beautifully balanced and the textural elements made for a fun dish to eat. Out of both our dishes, I much preferred this one!

My scallop was fresh and juicy. However the rhubarb dressing was way too tart and sadly overpowered the scallop. I was left with an unpleasant taste in my mouth and tried quite hard to chase it away with my wine.

Fifth Course

Vego: Confit Potato in Olive Oil with Quandong and Watercress Emulsion.
Standard: Confit Potato in Beef Fat with Quandong, Bottarga, Beef Fat and Watercress Emulsion.

Juice Pairing: Watermelon

I loved this course so much!!!! All the exclamation marks in the world cannot express how in love I am with this dish. Confit potato in beef fat is the most genius cooking move ever! I had been feeling kinda deflated prior to this as the boy had won our little ‘Veg vs Standard’ competition so far in the taste test but the standard version of this dish blew his out of the water and shot his to pieces!

His dish did taste a lot cleaner, a lot healthier, so that’s a plus. But Confit potato in beef fat!!! Oh yeah baby. The flavour, the melt in your mouth potatoes, the salty bottarga…. I must try and cook this dish at some point!

Sixth Course

Vego: Grilled Watermelon, Radish and Fermented Black Beans.
Standard: Wagyu Beef, Radish and Fermented Black Beans.

Juice Pairing: Watermelon

Both dishes looks the same so only one photo for you. Where the difference lies is actually underneath all of that beautifully crisp Radish slices. We were skeptical about the grilled watermelon and as it turns out, it did seem to lack a certain heartiness to it as it was very clean and generally yummy but definitely lacking.

The Wagyu in my dish had been chopped up into small cubes, beautifully tender and both flavour and texture really lifted the dish up when contrasted with the fermented black beans and the crisp radishes. I really quite enjoyed this dish and cheered for another score on the ‘Vego vs Standard’ test!

I should also make a super big mention about the sake that accompanied this course. Firstly the pink appearance of the sake caught my eye, secondly it was incredibly sweet yet not cloyingly so. It was fragrant, smooth like silk and my gosh, I wanted to down an entire bottle down my throat that instant. I was so in love with it, I started asking the wait staff how much I could buy it for ($200++ if you are curious). Interesting facts I learnt about this Sake: it’s brewed by one of Japan’s few female brewers and is brewed from red rice. YUM!

Seventh Course

Vego: Slow Cooked Egg, Courgette, Zucchini Flower, and Black Garlic.
Standard: Roasted Quail, Courgette, Zucchini Flower, and Black Garlic.

Juice Pairing: Carrot

If you were keeping count of my little game, this is where I tell you that I managed to chalk up another win for my side. The quail (boneless!) was rich, tender and so beautifully flavoured that I felt like getting up and screaming my love for it. I don’t normally eat quail and after eating this, I question why not!

The boy’s dish wasn’t quite as exciting however. Still, beautifully clean, the textures were in perfect harmony with each other and it was definitely good to see him eat an egg yolk. He normally gives them to me. I was also very pleased to see the Zucchini flowers on our plates. I had noticed them earlier on the stove and had wondered which dish they’d appear in. Another point for not being a typical stuffed zucchini flower!

Stay tune for Part 2!! What do you think of the dishes so far? I can tell you that I’m in love, drooling, wanting more! However my wallet doesn’t quite agree and my physical location is a bit of a hindrance so I shall just have to rely on these photos and my memory to relive the moment over and over again.

Till next time!

Travelling Taiwan: Eating out – Hotpot in the winter is BEST! 火鍋世家

Western winters seem to be all about casseroles and stews. While tasty, they never quite hit the spot like a good hot pot does. Upon meeting up with my sister’s friend in Taipei, we decided to visit Shida Nightmarket and the nearby hotpot restaurant: Huo Guo Shi Jia (火鍋世家). Since that’s a fairly long name to type, I’m going to refer to it by HGSJ from now on.

HGSJ is located about 5 minutes from the Taipower Building MRT Station (Exit 3). Just head towards Shida nightmarket and you will be able to find HGSJ easily.

Travelling Taipei Tip #8:

Make sure you note down which exits you need to get out from a MRT station. Taking different exits will sometimes lead you to completely different places. There are maps all around the station for you to work out the exits needed as well.

In HGSJ, hotpots are individual hotpots. They are sunken into the table and everybody gets their own. On a nearby table, there is an assortment of different condiments and dips you can pick to go with your hotpot ingredients. If you can’t figure out what some of the dips are, there is a helpful sign that tells you what each one of them is, even in English. Perfect! You don’t have to stick to just one dip either, you can mix and match to your liking! The dip I made up for myself was a combination of 4 items from the selection. Yum.

Everybody gets a plate of vegs for the hotpot. My friend cheekily mentioned that technically you could come in and only have vegs and not pay anything since they only charge for the meats you have, but don’t get any funny ideas!! We did order meat since, what’s a hotpot without meat? (Sorry vegetarians)

Gorgeous. This meal really hit the spot and as I remember it, it came up to less than 40 aud for 3 people. If ever you are in Taipei and near the area, do try this place out. Simple, straightforward and no nonsense hotpot goodness.

HGSJ is a chain. It’s low prices means that it is very popular with students from the nearby universities. Free flowing drinks are available though I did find their milk tea to be a tad too sweet. The service is good with the waitresses diligent in adding in your soup base. You are able to pick different soup bases ranging from clear to spicy ones. As per usual, soup bases gets sweeter as you add more things into the soup. Quality of the meat was standard, nothing too extravagant which is expected for the price. Value for money, definitely.



See all other chain locations here:

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Travelling Taiwan: Eating out at Din Tai Fung 鼎泰豐

I came to Taiwan with the intention of eating myself silly. I definitely did that and more during my trip as you will have seen and will continue to see for the rest of the week. Evenso, I very nearly skipped past eating at Din Tai Fung as there are Din Tai Fung outlets in Singapore and Sydney, so did I really want to waste my time and tummy real estate on this?

I was told, Yes, yes I did, as Din Tai Fung hailed from Taiwan and the quality of their dumplings there are way better than the ones found elsewhere. With that in mind, one early morning saw my sister and I walking towards Din Tai Fung from the MRT station.

The glass window, the line of dumpling makers, the intense concentration from the mask-clad workers… these are all Din Tai Fung’s signature. Be it Singapore, Sydney, or Taiwan, it seems at least that the branding is consistent with Din Tai Fung eager to draw folks in with their pre-meal show. (Din Tai Fung does have outlets in other parts of the world, but as I’ve never been to them, I cannot say for sure.)

Though a queue was forming outside the restaurant as we approached it, we were allowed to waltz right in thanks to the power of a booking.

Travelling Taiwan Tip #7:

If you know where you want to be dining for sure, make sure to call ahead and make a booking else you’d be stuck in queues for hours at the popular restaurants!

Din Tai Fung is known for their Xiao Long Bao (小籠包) which are little steamed bao/dumplings filled with meat and soup. Biting into one would release the flavourful soup and in that mouthful of tender bao skin, meat and soup, you will find the perfect balance of flavour and texture. Delicious! And since they were famous for it, how could I not order it?

Even so, I found the XLBs (NT95 for 5pcs) to be so-so. The skin was tender and smooth, but the flavouring was a little lacking. While tasty enough, there was no wow factor and I’ve actually had better XLBs before. Oh well.

Shrimp Noodle Soup with Vegetable and Bamboo Shoot (NT170) – what with the previous days of street food and greasy fried foods, the sister and I were keen to get something light to cleanse our systems. So we went with this noodle soup which was quite delightful. The noodles had a lovely bite to them, the soup was nice and clear and it was the perfect cleansing dish to refresh us once more for all the grease and oil out in the streets. (please note that the typical Australian palate will find this bland.)

Steamed Sticky Rice and Ground Pork Shiaomai (NT130 5pcs) were interesting as I’ve never seen them before. What a curious shape! Unfortunately this was bland with the ground pork not quite making up for the lack of flavour. Pity.

Pork Buns – forgot the price and didn’t take a pic of the menu, whoops! Skin was a little too thick, too much chewing involved. Still, the filling was tasty and while unmemorable, it definitely did its job of filling us up.

I’ve left the best for last: Spicy Shrimp and Pork Wonton (NT160 for 8pcs). The wontons had the softest skin possible that melt in your mouth, the fillings juicy and plump and the spicy sauce was to-die-for. Everything came together to make one hella of a dish and I would have licked the plate if I hadn’t been in polite company. (The other diners, not my sis). If there’s any reason to go back to Din Tai Fung, this would be it. YUM.

The total bill came up to a lot less than I had thought. It was actually extremely reasonable! I don’t remember the exact figures but it came up to less than 700 TWD (23 AUD) for the both of us. I don’t know how this compares with the local economy, but for me, this was an amazing price to pay for both of us at such a well known restaurant. I’d definitely come again.

Find Din Tai Fung in Taipei:

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Eating out: Ah Koong Fishball Restaurant in Johor Bahru – 亚坤纯正西刀鱼丸

Restaurant Ah Koong Sdn. Bhd.
No. 266, Jalan Sutera,Taman Sentosa,
80150 Johor Bahru. Johor. Malaysia.
Tel : +607-331 3621 (6.30am – 11.30pm)
Fax : +607-335 1728
Website: Ah Koong Online

Whenever I go home to see my parents, I don’t tend to eat out a lot. That sounds like blasphemy as Malaysia and Singapore are the best places to eat out in with its incredibly rich diversity in cultures and its never ending list of yummy food. But I don’t eat out because my parents have never been fond of eating at restaurants. Plus they cook better food. And of course, how to lose weight fast, if I’m constantly eating, eating, and eating?

So when my mother recommends a place to have dinner at, it’s usually something of a jaw-dropping occasion. Ah Koong Fishball Restaurant was one such place. During my last trip home, she casually brought up the idea of having dinner there one night.

“I haven’t been there before.” I replied, a tad confused as she had approached me as though I knew of the place.
“What? Surely we’ve brought you there before.” She goes.
“Nope, pretty sure you haven’t.”
“Well. You don’t come home enough.” came the lightning fast jab.

Ah, gotta love parents. First they say don’t come home, the air tickets are pricey, then next they are pointing out that I’m hardly ever home.

Ah Koong has quite a few outlets, and it claims to be famous in Singapore too. Not that I’ve ever heard, but then everybody’s famous somewhere, hey? I visited the Skudai outlet, and marvelled at how packed it was. Obviously it was popular, at least at this outlet!

I can’t remember what the dishes were, tho most likely they were just different types of noodle soups. And obviously, I can’t tell you the price either. But if you are curious, you can take a gander at their menu. Most of them range between RM5.50 – RM6.00 per bowl which is somewhat on the pricier side for noodle soups but given the generous serve, I’m happy to pay for both the quality and quantity that Ah Koong provides.

So let’s talk fishballs. You can buy fishballs just about anywhere, but can you tell a good fishball from a bad one? A good fishball must have enough bounce to it, it must also have just enough resistance in it when you bite into it. A soft and mushy fishball is not a good fishball! A good fishball should also not taste fishy. I’m talking about the ones that are made from fresh fish. They taste oh so good.

The fishballs at Ah Koong were that. They had a good bite to them, the soup was tasty and the noodles had a good texture and bite to them. Unrelatedly, I keep wanting to type chinese in this review as my mind is coming up with all sorts of adjectives to describe it but it is all in chinese. Whoops.

My favourite from the selection at Ah Koong’s was most definitely the Spinach Noodles.

Yum! If you are in the area, definitely go check it out. Oh and they do steamboat too. Haven’t tried it, if you have, let me know! You can find other outlets here:

Restaurant Ah Koong Sdn. Bhd.

No. 266, Jalan Sutera,Taman Sentosa,
80150 Johor Bahru. Johor. Malaysia.
Tel : +607-331 3621 (6.30am – 11.30pm)
Fax : +607-335 1728

Kuala Lumpur Branch
Ground Floor No.172, Jln Changkat Tambi Dollah, Off Jalan Pudu, 55100 Kuala Lumpur.
Tel: 03-2143 3477 (9.00am – 9.00pm)

Subang Jaya Branch
Ground Floor No.47, Jalan USJ 9/5P, Subang Business Center, 47620 UEP Subang Jaya.
Tel: 03-8024 1554 (9.00am – 9.00pm)

Skudai, Johor Branch
No.42 & 44, Jalan Jati 1, Tmn Nusa Bestari Jaya, 81300 Johor Bahru, Johor.
Tel: 07-511 2200 (8.30am – 11.30pm)

Johor Bahru Branch
City Square Johor Bahru, Lot J2-12, Level2,
80000 Johor Bahru, Johor. Malaysia.
Tel /Fax : 07-221 1843

Eating out: Lok lok @ Pulau Tikus Market, Penang

What exactly is Lok lok? To me, lok lok is like steamboat – except your ingredients are all on skewers and your soup base is really just boiling water.

And that’s exactly what you see in the above picture. (Photo credit to Desmond). A table with a cooker fitted in the middle, a pot of boiling water and plates and plates of fresh ingredients on skewers surrounding the cooker.

On this particular day, we were having Lok lok at the evening hawker center at Pulau Tikus Market in Penang. This was a new experience for me as lok lok has always been a food truck affair for me. And one that mum would never let us try because of its questionable hygiene.

It’s not hard to see why it’d be unhygienic. While communal eating is not a foreign concept to us Asians, lok lok is a pot of water where every Tom, Dick and Harry will dip their skewer into. You don’t know who you’d be sharing that pot of boiling water with! Still, we like to argue that the boiling water will kill anything (not true) and that as long as people don’t double dip it’s okay? Maybe!

The eating process is easy, you pick a skewer with the ingredient you want and you pop it into the cooker. You let it cook for however long you’d like and then retrieve it. Dunk it in your choice of sauce (mine was Tom Yum) and chow down! Other sauces available were Satay and Sweet Chilli I think. Or I might be making that last one up. I don’t know, I stuck to my Tom Yum.

With a group of friends, this can be a really jovial affair. I love steamboats, and I love lok lok. Hell, I just love communal eating. There is nothing more heartwarming than sitting around a table with your friends, eating and laughing away.

Lok lok at Pulau Tikus Market. Hit it.