Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Recipe: Bacon Brussel Sprouts

I recently discovered the reason I never ate brussel sprouts as a child - both my parents hated them! Well the days of limp boiled brussel sprouts are over, here's a way to get anyone to love them again.

Bacon Brussel Sprouts

1 lb brussel sprouts
Water to boil
1 pinch salt
3 rashers bacon
1 glove garlic
2 tbpsn grated Parmesan cheese


  • In a large pot boil water with salt and add the Brussel sprouts
  • Boil the sprouts until a fork goes through softly then drain and leave to cool
  • Dice the bacon and add to a large frying pan
  • While the bacon is rendering cut the cooled brussel sprouts in to halves
  • Add the garlic to the bacon and stir
  • Try to keep the flat cuts against the pan and caramelise the vegetables
  • The sprout should be done when they are browned on the outside
  • Move to a large bowl and sprinkle with Parmesan

Saturday, November 12, 2016

Review: Xi'an Famous Foods, East Village NYC

One surprise that hit us when we moved to  the Bay Area was how Americanised a lot of the Asian food was. After moving to NYC we found a heavenly array of very authentic and reasonably priced Asian foods. Xi'an Famous Foods offers one of the things I missed most about home - reasonably priced hand pulled noodles. 

Xi'an Famous Foods has several restaurants in Manhattan and Brooklyn but I tend to favour their restaurant in the East Village since it's close to a number of businesses I frequent and around the corner from a delightful Italian cake shop (more on that later).

The food is decidedly cheap and cheerful but delicious spicy Western Chinese food. The noodles are all made on site and if you're lucky you can catch glimpses of the cooks making them. 

Being Manhattan the restaurant is reasonably small and New Yorkers have no patience for those who lose them a New York Minute. Be prepared to order if you step in line, don't take a seat until you get your food, clean up your own station and be prepared to get up as soon as you've finished. Those who do not follow the unwritten rules will get passive aggressive interruptions by people waiting to eat. 

Spicy and Tingly Beef Hand Ripped Noodles $7.50USD

Chewy delicious hand ripped noodles are stir fried in a numbing chili spicy oil that is not for the feint hearted. Try the mild first before attempting hotter! The noodles are served with vegetables and fatty meat.

Spicy Cumin Lamb Hand Ripped Noodles $8.25USD
Spicy Cumin Lamb Burger $4

Both the lamb noodles and the lamb burger contain a cumin drenched dry lamb with vegetables. The burger is on a mantou style bun grilled on a flat top until crispy. The noodles are stir fried with more of the cumin, vegetables and chili oil. 

Mount Qi Pork Hand Pulled Noodles $7.00USD
Pork Zha Jiang Hand Ripped Noodles $7.00USD
Spicy and Sour Lamb Dumpings $7.00USD

The Mount Qi pork is cubes of pork belly grilled with noodles and a slightly less spicy sauce. The Zha Jiang noodles feature ground pork fried in an umame soy bean sauce, deeelicious! The spicy and sour lamb dumplings are stuffed with a ground lamb filling and served with vinegar and soy.

Close up of Pork Zha Jiang Hand Ripped Noodles $7.00USD

This is easily my favourite dish on their menu and reminds me of a dry tantanmen without the sesame. 

Go in expecting exactly what it is - a cheap limited menu of food made extraordinarily well. Not pictured are the noodle soup versions of each dish. Everything they make is excellent. Make sure to eat in, the delicate nature of the noodles does not survive delivery or a walk home. Cold drinks are available like Chinese teas and Coke products. 

I really rather wished they offered condiments,, I keep wanting black vinegar to cut through the oil. Also the chopsticks they use leave a lot to be desired and if you're willing to endure the odd looks of your fellow diners I would recommend bringing some of your own from another restaurant or home. Still this is one of my favourite cheap food desinations in NYC, try it out.

Xi’an Famous Foods

81 St Marks Pl
New York, NY 10003
Ph: (212) 786-2068

Cheap and cheerful artisan noodles, good for the spicy food lover

Wednesday, November 2, 2016

Review: Yakitori Glad, Honolulu Hawaii

If you've spent any serious time in Osaka you're bound to have ventured into a Torikizoku "Restaurant 280" a yakitori specialty restaurant where everything from the beer to the bar snacks are a flat rate 280Y. Their cheap and cheerful booze laden atmosphere house some of my favourite travel memories so when we found a clone in Hawaii we just had to go. 

Exchange rates and inflation have had their way but at $3.90USD for all items it's still a total bargain. 

Other than the price it's almost identical to Torikizoku even down to the decor.

The menu is point and slur simple, perfect for too many beers. Various bits of chicken are skewered, grilled and topped with sticky BBQ sauces. Choose chicken skewers with salt shio, BBQ marinade tare or specialty kushi-yaki like wasabi beef, tongue or pork belly.

Beer $3.90USD

Imported Sapporo and Kirin were available off the keg plus a number of other domestic beer options. 


Lychee and Grape Calpis Chuhai $3.90USD

Chuhai are alcoholic high balls common in bars in Japan. Usually sweet and reasonably low alcohol they're a sometimes safe bet when drinking rounds with salarymen if you wish to survive Japan's bar culture. Fizzy water, flavouring and shochu (white grain alcohol) are mixed and served long over ice. Add Calpis fermented yoghurt cordial for a creamy delicious option.

Tsukune okonomi style  $3.90USD

Ground chicken meatballs are threaded on a skewer grilled then topped with okonomi sauce, mayonnaise, shaved katsuoboshi and scallions. 

Momotare yaki $3.90USD 

Chicken thigh and scallions slathered in a sweet BBQ sauce are grilled till crispy

Tsukune with cheese $3.90USD

Ground chicken meatballs are threaded on a skewer grilled then topped with cheese slices

Momo-mayo-tare $3.90USD

Grilled chicken thigh with BBQ marinade and mayonnaise. 

Gyu-kushi $3.90USD

Grilled beef skewer with scallions - delicious with beer!


Renkon nikizume $3.90USD

Slices of lotus root stuffed with ground chicken meat grilled to perfection. I love lotus root in everything, it's a very fancy looking root vegetable with a neutral taste that adds fiber and depth to many dishes. Fantastic with the super hot Japanese mustard provided.

Hiya-yakko $3.90USD

One of my favourite dishes particularly in warm weather. Cold silken tofu topped with ginger, soy sauce, katsuoboshi and scallions.

Vegetable salad $3.90USD

All that meat and booze deserves a little greenery to finish it off. Fresh salad topped with a classic Japanese onion dressing.

Onigiri-yaki $3.90USD

The Japanese like to end a meal with white rice and I think it's a great way to cleanse the palette. White rice is formed into triangular rice balls, brushed with a little soy and then grilled until crispy. Neutral and chewy!

Sesame balls $3.90USD

I like to end on a sweet note and these fried sesame balls are one of my favourite desserts - gluten, dairy free and vegan! Sticky rice dough is filled with red bean paste, rolled in toasted sesame and deep fried to perfection

Yakitori Glad is a great example of the skewers and too many drinks Osaka style eating. Great for groups and parties, you can order a little or a lot and have a great time. Service is fast casual bar style, don't expect a lot of niceties and if you're looking for sushi or large plates you came to the wrong place. If you, like I love a rowdy night out and a lot of small plates this is an excellent time for everyone. 

 Yakitori Glad


766 Kapahulu Ave
Honolulu, HI 96816

Authentic Japanese bar and small plates grill
Good for groups

Wednesday, October 5, 2016

Recipe: Bacon gochujangg tteok

Inspired by a similar dish served at Mok Bar in New York's Chelsea market this is an amazing fusion taste combination of smokey pork and sweet spicy gochujangg Korean chilli paste. This is an amazingly quick dish to prepare and absolutely wows.

Bacon gochujangg tteok

4 rashers of bacon
250g fresh Korean rice cakes (tteok)
2 sprigs of Spring onion
2 tbspns Gochujangg
1/2 cup cabbage Kim Chi
1 tspn sesame oil
1 clove garlic
1 tbspn grated ginger
2 eggs

1 tbspn black or balsamic vinegar
2 tbspn Mirin


  • I buy Jinmi Napa Cabbage Kim Chi if local fresh products are not available
  • One of the best things about this dish is the toothy al dente texture the rice cakes take on in the bacon fat. For best effect use the flat disk style garaetteok rather than the tube tteok so that a greater surface area is fried.
  • Use a large flat pan with as much surface area as possible for frying. Dice the bacon into small pieces and fry until the fat has rendered into the pan.
  • You must use room temperature tteok for the crispy chewy fried texture to work, if you buy frozen rice cakes make sure to defrost before cooking.
  • Pour the rice cakes into the pan, try to maintain a single cake depth with as many rice cakes as possible touching the bottom of the pan.
  • Leave the rice cakes to turn slightly transparent before turning. Use an egg flip to turn the rice cakes, resist the urge to 'stir' them as this will activate the gluten and you are just as likely to end up with one sticky ball of rice cakes!
  • Start to fry the eggs sunny side up at this stage, this should ensure that your eggs are fried at the same time the rest of the dish is complete.
  • In a small bowl mix the gochujang, ginger, garlic and sesame oil plus 1 sprig of the spring onions diced.
  • Add the gochujang mixture and kim chi to the pot then mix until the rice cakes are well covered. Taste 1 cake for texture and taste.
  • Depending on the brands of gochujang and bacon you use this can be a quite salty dish.  If desired add vinegar and Mirin until the dish is seasoned to your taste and cut through some of the salt and fat.
  • Turn the rice cakes off the heat and then serve in a flat bowls
  • Top with the fried eggs, remaining scallions (spring onions) and a sprinkling of sesame seeds.

Sunday, October 2, 2016

Bali Steak and Seafood, Waikiki Hawaii

Nothing says date night to me like a steak dinner and it was time to celebrate our wedding anniversary in style. Arriving in our holiday in Oahu we decided to spend the first night in our resort taking advantage of sunset views over Waikiki beach. 

The Bali Steak and Seafood Grill is part of the main beach resort and offers a decent high end steak house experience.  

 Being an American company you get the US dining experience meaning a host, sommelier and multiple wait staff who each have a single role. I find this rather jarring since it took several people to deliver my meal, none of whom had all the knowledge required for service. You cannot ask the water person about the wine and you cannot ask the person collecting your plates for a food request. Americans expect this behaviour though so the mixed origin tourist group have to make do.

Old World Wine Flight $25USD

We started with a wine flight of European wines. The price and size of the glasses was very decent making the cost very affordable when paced out over the course of a meal. Selections: Torres Pazo das Bruxas Albarino, Antinori Bramito del Cervo Chardonnay, Banfi Chianti Classico. You could definitely opt for higher price vintage wine but these were very drinkable with the food. 

Cheese and Charcuterie Board 5 selections for $40USD

One of my favourite ways to start a meal, perfect for low carb or gluten free diners. The real star of this board was actually the home made pickles which were so good we asked for extra. Otherwise featured Fennocchiona salami, Proscuitto di Parma, Point Reyes Blue, Cypress Grove Truffle Tremor and Morbier.

They did not include anything sweet with the board so we had to ask for Honey to be brought. They did so willingly but hopefully they took the hint, Truffle Tremor + Honey is one of those truly symbiotic flavour combinations.

Market Harvest Salad $16USD

You need a little greens to cut through all that richness! We shared a side salad of romaine, tomatoes, beets and walnuts in a buttermilk dressing. 

Petite filet ($52USD) with lobster tail ($24USD), clarified butter and Bearnaise sauce

Go on girl, get the lobster! This was our anniversary vacation and this is one of my all time favourite celebration meals. The Bearnaise was excellent and the clarified butter purely transparent. 

My only sadness was that none of the meal seemed to be locally sourced which felt like a missed opportunity given the Pacific location. I suspect the American audience expects well known East Coast favourites that require cold water. It would have been better if they had used a warm water seafood like slipper lobster or jumbo prawns.

Every Friday night the hotel puts on fireworks over Waikiki beach, the Bali grill offers VIP viewing from the terrace up close and personal with the fireworks cannons. For those on a more budget level holiday the fireworks can be seen from the public beach free of charge.

Bali Steak and Seafood


Hilton Hawaiian Village Waikiki Beach Resort
2005 Kalia Rd
Honolulu, HI 96815

High end grill and steakhouse
Date night experience less comfortable for children


Sunday, September 25, 2016

Review: Haleiwa Joe's, Oahu Hawaii

We took an amazing day trip away from Waikiki to the Valley of the Temples on Oahu, a multifaith place of serenity with a large cemetery and multiple places of worship. 

I was there primarily to see the Byodo-in Temple which is a replica of a Buddhist temple in Uji Japan. Set amidst the foggy rainforest mountains of Oahu this is a place of beauty and tranquility worth hiring a car to visit. 

After a morning visit to the temple we were fired up for a big lunch, some searches on Yelp and we found ourselves directed to Haleiwa Joe's a popular brunch eatery with locals. 

The gorgeous views continued at the restaurant showing off the postcard worthy forests and mountains of Oahu. The rainforest nature makes this part of the island foggy and prone to showers so be mindful when wandering their gardens. 

Despite coming at the end of the brunch shift the restaurant was still packed and the food regularly being replaced. The crowd is all locals and townies mostly celebrating birthdays and wedding anniversaries. 

Haleiwa Joe's brunch is a buffet offering multiple hot and cold dishes, a carvery, an egg station and a salad bar. At $26USD a head this is a total steal. At night the restaurant turns to a la carte seafood but with a deal this good and a view that beautiful, it's worth heading out for lunch. 

Grilled breakfast favourites abound like sausage, chorizo, eggs, bacon, eggs Benedict and more. 

Lunch food like this beef roast with horseradish cream and hand tossed salad with passionfruit (lilikoi) dressing were also available if eggs and bacon don't satisfy your midday meals. 

A huge range of breakfast pastries and desserts was on offer including mini muffins, danishes, tarts, scones, waffles and puddings. Cream, ice cream and some sauces was also available. 

For the coeliacs and non wheat eaters there were options as well like this delicious coconut jelly with cream and blueberry compote. 

The view alone is well worth a visit to Haleiwa Joe's as was the huge range of grilled meats and breakfast staples. For us this was a wonderful chance to get away from the other tourists and have a meal that felt a little more "normal". 

As well as the delicious food it looked like champagne toasts and tiki classic cocktails were in strong demand and bigger groups were getting very rambunctious... probably not the place if you like a quiet meal. 

Haleiwa Joe's 


46-336 Haiku Rd
Kaneohe, HI 96744

All you can eat brunch, family friendly with gorgeous views

Saturday, September 17, 2016

Review: Gazen Izakaya, Waikiki Hawaii

Well I know there's been a bit of a break in content but there's a good reason! I moved to New York City and life got in the way. Moving across a continent is a big deal! Well I'm back in a sensible routien and I have lots of catch up to do on content and a whole new city to explore full of every kind of food imaginable. 

For my first wedding anniversary we decided to go to Waikiki. I had spent some time in Hawaii on work trips but my husband was yet to savour in the delights. Neither of us had been to Waikiki since we were very young, when you used to refuel in Hawaii on flights from Australia across the Pacific. 

Waikiki is now the perfect Japanese holiday destination and is filled with a hearty mix of Americans, Japanese and Australians... which makes it feel a little like being back in Sydney. This means a great variety of Japanese specialty restaurants all over Honolulu. 

Gazen was a real find, a traditional and authentic Kansai style Izakaya in suburban Honolulu. Aimed mostly at local residents rather than tourists the restaurant had a vibrant homely feel with many regulars who stopped to speak to us. 

Tuna Sashimi $16.50USD

Fresh and delicious, it seemed unreasonable to holiday in the middle of the Pacific and not eat tuna!

Tofu sampler $12.80USD

This was the real stellar dish of the visit. Home made tofu in three different styles - kurogoma black sesame tofu, sukui tofu in soy milk broth, zaru cold fresh tofu with Hawaiian sea salt. Each was delicious though I liked the sukui with a little soy and wasabi, were I coming back again I would have altered how much I order. I was expecting half or less of each sample. 

Croquettes $7.75USD

A home made specialty croquette made with ground chicken scallions and tofu. Delicious!

Tofu and Jako salad with yuzu dressing $7.50

Had I realised how large the tofu sampler was I would have skipped this but I was hypnotised by the range of fresh tofu products (and this was the small salad!). It was delicious but we ate less than a third of it. The yuzu dressing was crisp fresh and delicious, I expect there is a local yuzu farm since this was no bottled dressing.

Beef tataki $8.50USD and cucumber salad $4.50USD

American beef sometimes leaves a little to be desired, I probably would have skipped this if I was returning. The Cucumber salad was nice and cut through some of the fattier dishes, I wish it had come with more of the yuzu dressing from the other salad. 

Grilled chicken with onion sauce $9.25USD

If you were coming for a healthy meal this would definitely be a great option. Skin removed grilled chicken is served on top of sprouts and scallions with a delicious savoury ground onion sauce. Yum.

Okonomiyaki (Japanese vegetable pancake) $4.75USD

This takes a little while to prepare so you want to order this first and have it appear a the end of the meal. Fried vegetables and served topped with sticky sweet sauce, mayonnaise, dried bonito and herbs. Delicious. If you like the look of this check out my simple recipe for okonomiyaki a great way to get kids to eat more vegies.

Somehow I managed to not even get a picture of the seasoned burdock root dish we ordered which was by far one of the best. I suspect that exhaustion from so much food was to blame. 

So my usual approach when going to a tapas or izakaya place is to order one dish from each section of the menu and then order again if the party is still hungry. In this case this turned out to be a mistake and we were unable to eat half the food. The key here seems to be that this was not actually "small plates" and that really this was izakaya style food but with American sized meal portions. Just a litle nod to Hawaii's blended culture. 

The food was wonderful and that tofu was to die for, definitely worth going back to. Doing it again, I probably would have ordered the okonomiyaki and the tofu and left it at that. Service was usual immaculate Japanese deference. 

My only tip? Drive yourself or make sure to have instructions on your phone for a taxi driver since this was a townie restaurant away from the resorts and the drivers both there and back commented they had not heard of it. 

Gazen Izakaya

Traditional Japanese gastropub in suburban Honolulu


2840 Kapiolani Blvd
Honolulu, HI 96826

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Recipe: Okonomiyaki

It looks super fancy but okonomiyaki is a simple dish that's easy to make during the week. Okonomiyaki is "grilled as you like it" so get creative with the vegetables and toppings - use up leftovers and smother in delicious sauces for a sure fire winner.


1/2 a head of cabbage
3 eggs
1 cup soy milk
1/2 cup water
2 cups flour
1 serve of hon dashi (bonito stock)
2 tbspn sesame
2 tbspn soy sauce


1/2 cup diced spring onion (scallion)
1 bottle of squeezable mayonnaise
1 bottle okonomi or tonkatsu sauce
1 tbspn sesame seeds


Dice the cabbage and scallions and set asside. If you are using leftover vegetables or meat in your dish now is the time to mix them in

Mix the flour and bonito stock together in a bowl. For a gluten free alternative use rice flour.

Bonito stock can be bought in powdered sachets at any good Asian supermarket. For a vegetarian alternative use Vegeta or add vegetable stock in place of water to the egg mixture.

Crack the liquid ingredients into a bown or jug - egg, soy milk, sesame oil, soy sauce and water. 

If using liquid stock add to this step. Whisk until well combined.

Mix the flour, vegetables and egg mixture into a loosely formed batter. You can add more water at this stage if you want a more pancake like consistency.

Oil a small non stick pan and fill 3/4 inch with vegetable batter. Fry until the vegetables are browned half way up the sides. 

Use a plate to flip the pancake and fry until golden brown.

Prepare your pancake for dressing. 

Drizzle okonomi or tonkatsu sauce on top of the pancake. 

Tonkatsu sauce is very similar to okonomi sauce but usually intended for fried pork, it is easier to find in the US. 

Drizzle mayonnaise in the same direction as the okonomi sauce using a small squeeze nozzle

Turn the plate and drag a chopstick across the sauces for a decorative touch.

Sprinkle with scallions

Top with sesame seeds and serve on its own or with your favourite grilled meat and Japanese croquettes.