Spatula, Spoon and Saturday

Food Fabulous Food: Recipes + Restaurant Reviews + Travelling + Melbourne

The Docklands Food Guide #DocklandsEats

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Someone has to do it, and it might as well be me.

About a year ago, I accepted a new job in Docklands. Never having really been to the area, I wasn’t quite prepared just how terrible the lunch situation in Docklands would be.

So you may have heard about how Docklands is a soulless stretch of city extension – where not a shred of culture had quite reached it. Food is awful and expensive, coffee terrible.

Yes. And no.

Yes, when I started here, I was absolutely flabberghasted that hot lunches are $15 and, well, quality and taste a bit left to be desired.  The good news is that Docklands has gone through a bit of a transformation. The past thirteen months have brought on a few pleasing developments in terms of quality food and coffee. Yes, there actually are good coffees in Docklands. The bad news remains though, Docklands is still a soulless stretch of city extension and lunches are still heavily overpriced (forget cheap eats, ain’t no such thing) and it’s still not, well, cool. But really, it’s full of office workers and people who live here are basically expat workers. It’s not getting cooler anytime soon.


But having said that, there are some good eats to be found. I will be posting a Docklands food place review on a weekly basis for the next few months. Meanwhile, for a more real-time eating, try #DocklandsEats hashtag on my Instagram account @katspat.

Stay tune for the Docklands Food Guide series where I go through a few, okay, a lot of the Docklands cafes and restaurants. This series has been thirteen months in coming.

Written by katspat

March 16th, 2014 at 8:52 pm

Australian Onion Soup

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 Australian Onion Soup

You have heard of French Onion Soup and you may have heard of Jamie Oliver’s English Onion Soup (if you’re a fan or a cookbook-buying fanatic) but I would like to introduce you to the Australian Onion Soup.

So how did this come about? Josh’s wind band was organising a sausage sizzle fund raising one day and he brought home the leftovers – supermarket sausages and onions. What am I to do with them?

Ah ha! Sausage-onion-soup of course. If the French can top off their onion soup with cheesy toast, we can top it off with barbecued snags, can’t we?

browned onion

Recipe serves 3-4 people.

Ingredients – Soup

  • 5-6 medium-sized onions, thinly sliced (about 1.5kg)
  • A chunk of butter, about 40g
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 4 fresh sage leaves
  • 1 sprig fresh thyme
  • 1 fresh bay leaf
  • 3 cups meat stock of your choice (I use Continental beef Stock Pot this time)
  • 2 tbsp port (you can also use wine or brandy or both)
  • salt, pepper, sugar to taste

Ingredient – Grilled Sausages

  • 3 to 8 generic supermarket beef sausages (depends how many sausages you would like to serve per person, sometimes I do one, sometimes two)


slowly brown the onions

Heat oil and butter in a non-stick frying pan. Fry sliced onions on low heat and keep stirring. You have to be fairly patient unfortunately.

add herbs to the onions

Wait until it goes all soft and browned and begins to fall apart – around 20-30 minutes, add sage, thyme and bay leaf. This does also depend if you like a bit of texture in your onion soup. I do like mine to not completely fall apart so I don’t wait until it goes all mushy like many recipes do. See what you like.

Pyrex sucks!

Add stock and port (or wine or brandy) – at this point I added the stock paste into my onion mixture and followed by attempting to pour hot water into my brand new Pyrex measuring cup whose bottom immediately fell out on upon contact with hot water. And naturally I had to start over. Boy was I pissed off! Luckily I didn’t have the cup over my feet or near my child and I just lost of a pot of cooked onions rather than getting scalded by hot water and cut by broken glass.

Target (retailer) didn’t bother to respond to my email enquiry and the guy who answered the phone at Pyrex basically pissed me off too much so I decided to let it go and never buy another Pyrex product again. Replaced it by a cheap no-brand tempered glass measuring cup and it has worked a treat since. Bye Pyrex. Nice knowing you. Not.

Anyway! Back to the recipe. Gently simmer the soup for another twenty minutes or so and season to taste with salt, pepper and sugar. A pinch at a time, especially sugar.

grilled beef sausages

Meanwhile, place the sausages under the grill on low heat and grill for about 10 minutes or until juicy and browned all over. Don’t forget to keep turning every few minutes. Serve the grilled snags with your onion soup.

Yum yum.


Written by katspat

March 8th, 2014 at 2:58 pm

Japanese Potato Salad {Speedy Recipe}

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Japanese Potato Salad

Introducing Spatula, Spoon and Saturday Speedy Recipe. Because I kinda have less time but I am trying to meet the one-new-blog-post a week commitment. So I will be brief. The recipe will be fairly quick and to the point. If you are new to cooking, please feel free to leave questions below.

Ingredients – Salad

  • 3 potatoes, peeled and cut into cubes
  • 1 medium carrot, peeled and grated
  • 1 cucumber, thinly sliced
  • 1 boiled egg

Ingredients – Dressing

  • 3 tbsp Japanese mayonaise
  • 1 tbsp rice vinegar
  • Salt & pepper to taste


  1.   Boil potatoes in salted water until cooked. Drain. Mash lightly.
  2.   While still hot, add grated carrot. The residual heat should be enough to semi-cook the carrot
  3.   Toss through mayo, rice, salt and pepper. Taste and season again if necessary.
  4.   Stir through boiled egg and cucumber.

Serve with

  1. Any Japanese-inspired bento
  2. Barbecued chicken wings (teriyaki glaze)
  3. Ham & cheese sandwich
  4. Beer!!!



Written by katspat

February 5th, 2014 at 8:56 pm

Pattaya Floating Market {Photo Essay}

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A couple of years back we went to Thailand to visit my folks. One of the coolest touristy places Mum took us to was the Pattaya Floating Market. Being a Thai market, by default, it was full of interesting Thai food. Being a tourist place, it was interestingly decorated and full of souvenir type shops (though I didn’t take too many photos of them) and being a ‘floating’ market, some of the vendors would be selling their wares from a boat. So there you have it. A small introduction to what a Thai floating market is.

As it’s probably been a little bit too long since to write a proper blog post about it, I put together a small photo essay about the place. Please head onto the Spatula, Spoon and Saturday Facebook Page (don’t forget to click Like):

Here are also a few photos to whet your appetite:

ขนมจีนน้ำเงี้ยว at Pattaya Flaoting Market


orchid love

Coconut ice cream Feeding kids at at Pattaya Floating Market


Feeding kids at deep fried bugs at Pattaya Floating Market

deep fried bugs at Pattaya Floating Market

Pattaya Floating Market


quail eggs at Pattaya Floating Market

  Boat noodles at Pattaya Floating Market

ขนมตาล Pattaya Floating Market

Sausage Vendor at Pattaya Floating Market

Deep fried duck's bills at Pattaya Floating Market


Seven Seeds Roastery & Cafe, Carlton {Melbourne Review}

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fried eggs with  n'duja sausage at seven seeds

First up, apologies in advance for the regression in photo quality. As you may remember that I refused to get an SLR, I have now actually altogether ditched my camera and have been taking photos exclusively with my phone camera for the past, well, two years. Anyway, I’m an amateur blogger. I try my best.

flat white coffee from Seven s

So, Seven Seeds. I could not believe it took me this long to get to get to this lovely coffee heaven (actually I could – I live in the Eastern suburbs and I don’t believe in crossing the river on the weekends – feels too much like going to work) but one fine day I did. It was close to Christmas and I had just picked up my mum who just arrived on a ridiculously early flight (I TOLD her not to fly this particular airline but does she listen? Oh no.)

The main purpose on the day was to look at a new road bike for me at a shop on Victoria St. so the criteria were a) somewhere near the bike shop; b) had to be opened by 8am due to our trip timing and c) goes without saying has to have good breakfast menu and good coffee.

Eggs Benedict from Seven Seeds

Eggs Benedict with prosciutto & rocket – $15.00

 Seven Seeds ticked all of those boxes and so we found ourselves running in through the rain – right after their opening time and were greeted in their lovely converted warehouse space by a smiling waiter and a mighty fine looking pastry case. We were shown to our table and while they had no high chair for Mini, the chairs were good enough. I’m glad she is finally big enough to sit on an adult chair or our lap without too much hassle. If you have a pram, the cafe is quite spacious and would be fairly pram friendly.

babycino from seven seeds

Best babycino ever

As usual, I order myself a flat white (house blend – generally not a big fan of single origin) and a babycino for Mini (yeah I raised one of those babycino kids – I’m allowed ONE.) Allow me to tell you right now, not all babycino are created equal and this one indeed made Mini squeal with delight. I suspect it was just the OTT foam and cocoa dusting. But a good babycino is a good babycino. My flat white was also excellent. I’m not a coffee connoisseur and only rate my coffee as ‘excellent’, ‘pretty good’, ‘decent’, ‘average’ and ‘awful’ and this one comes out as excellent. But don’t believe me about the coffee! Try, oh, any other Melbourne coffee blogs.

reuben sandwich from seven seeds

Toasted Reuben sandwich (pastrami, rye bread, cheese, sauerkraut) and a side of pickle – $13.00(?)

For our dishes Mum ordered the Eggs Benedict which she seemed to enjoy (forgot to ask her how she found it – I think she was too distracted playing with her only grandchild that she hadn’t seen in 6 months and really couldn’t care that much. Though she did mention how much Australian rocket leaves are better than the Thai ones.) Josh ordered the Reuben sandwich. He took a bite and sighed, ‘this is a good sandwich.’ He did find it small though but luckily…

fried eggs with  n'duja sausage at seven seeds

Fried eggs with  n’duja sausage on toasts – $16.00(?)

I ordered the fried eggs with n’duja sausage (the waiter approved of the choice – I always feel chuffed when I order something and the waiter thinks that my choice is awesome – surely this has gone into waiter’s training manual by now? ‘You should agree with the customer’s order choice even though it’s decaf soy latte’*) because, well, when was the last time you ordered fried eggs at a cafe? Although I wasn’t quite sure what n’duja sausage was (it sure wasn’t what I expected) – they had me at the word sausage. N’duja sausage, as it turned out, is a sort of spicy spreadable sausage with an intensely strong sour flavour (like salami but, you know, soft.) It was awesome. I was very impressed with my choice but only managed to put away half the food so Josh kindly finished the rest.

rice pudding at seven seeds

Vanilla rice pudding with toasted coconut, almond and mango – $13.00?

Part of the reason why I couldn’t finish my dish was this: the rice pudding. Dessert for breakfast. Love it. As there was no kid’s menu, we ordered what we thought she might like the most. This rice pudding was seriously good. The toasted coconut and almonds really added to the texture and made this dish a wonderful comforting summer food (it was served cold.) And mango? Who doesn’t love mango? Mini ate as much as she could (which wasn’t much – let’s face it – she was three and it wasn’t not chocolate)  and I stole a few lots spoonfuls and we still couldn’t finish it. We got the rest to take away in a disposable coffee cup and I ate it for lunch. It was a dish that kept on giving.

All in all, it was one of the better breakfast experiences we have had in Melbourne. Coffee was superior and the food fantastic. We really enjoyed the lovely setting and the space. It isn’t the most kid-friendly cafe but it is definitely good enough for a 3-year-old. We would definitely be back here again given half a chance. I just wish this was in our neighbourhood.

Seven Seeds Roastery & Cafe [ Website ]
Address: 114 Berkeley Street Carlton VIC 3053
Phone: (03) 9347 8664
Hours: Monday – Saturday 7am – 5pm, Sunday 8am – 5pm

Seven Seeds on Urbanspoon

* I recently went to the cafe near work where I normally get my coffee from with a colleague who was having an extremely bad, jittery day and she ordered a decaf soy latte. Our barista said, ‘do you know what we call that? We call it ‘why bothered?’

Written by katspat

January 17th, 2014 at 9:45 pm

Miso & Vegetable Konjac Noodle Soup (and a note on the 5:2 diet)

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Miso and Vegetable Konjac Noodle Soup

Last year I went on a diet. I know. You gotta lose the baby weight sometimes. Since we’re not having another baby, I had decided that damnit, it was time. And so I jumped on this bandwagon called the 5:2 diet – which basically means for five days of the week you eat normally and for two days a week you limit yourself to 500 calories per day. I KNOW. It wasn’t as hard to do as I expected. And it worked. I was shedding around 0.5-1kg a week.

A day would go something like this:

  • Breakfast: boiled egg + a handful of strawberries +  a cup of plain tea
  • Morning tea: a cup of plain tea + a handful of strawberries
  • Lunch: plain tinned tuna (lowest calorie one I can find which is currently 57 calories, an achieve in itself) + mixed salad leaves + 1/2 tomato + 1 tbsp tinned corn + 1 tbsp grated carrot
  • Afternoon tea: a cup of plain tea + a small mandarin (or half an apple – when you’re on 500 calorie limit, an apple have A LOT of calories)
  • Dinner: a massive bowl of Japanese sukiyaki made from a few pieces of thinly sliced beed (no fat), a lot of Chinese cabbage, carrots, shittake mushrooms, sukiyaki stock (mirin, sake, soy sauce, sugar, dashi, etc.) and konjac noodles

The main thing was finding out an eating plan that worked for you. I did it with a group of friends. Some of us ate very very sparingly throughout the day and had a ‘big’ dinner and I, on the other hand, ate as much bulky low-calorie food (think a lot of Chinese cabbage!) all day long. The main thing was to find the right eating plan that suited you. I found not starving myself – i.e. eating all the time, all day long really helped and that was key to it being successful. Unfortunately, as all things, it required a lot of planning and I needed to have my meals for the day planned out before I leave for work. And as soon as I stopped it, the weight came back on – not instantly but as the old eating habits come back, so did the weight. I can’t help that if I had started with it for longer (I think I lasted 2 months), my eating habits would have been broken. C’est la vie.

strawberries and tea

Anyway, the one thing I got out of it was this really awesome lunch idea that is fairly healthy, very low in calorie and I really enjoyed. And it is also something you can easily whip up in the office using the microwave.


  • 100g konjac noodles (konjac noodles are noodles made from konjac – sold cheaply at some Asian grocers and more expensively at supermarkets in the health food aisle as ‘slim pasta’)
  • 1 packet of approx. 25g instant miso soup (instant miso soup is like a Japanese version of cup-a-soup, it is basically miso paste, stock powder and dried seaweed, buy them at Asian aisle in your local supermarket or Asian grocer)
  • 1/2 small zucchini, sliced
  • 3 floret of broccoli, cut into small pieces
  • 1 button mushroom, sliced
  • Or any other vegetables of choice (I always wanted to try packs of frozen veggies from the supermarket but never got around to it)


Rinse the konjac noodles well and drain. Steam the vegetables in the microwave with about 1 tbsp of water until tender (1-2 minutes). Make the miso soup according to packet instruction (which is generally add 1 packet of miso soup to 1 cup of hot water). Add everything together. Voila.

Written by katspat

January 11th, 2014 at 10:20 pm

Orient East, St. Kilda Rd., Melbourne { Melbourne Review }

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Flat white coffee @ Orient East

Happy new year 2014! I would like to start, like any another blog post nowadays, with an excuse on why I haven’t updated this blog. You see, 2013 marked the year where both of us were now back at work full time. Unfortunately, in our line of work, part-time work is almost non-existent. And so 2013 was a crazy year of adjustment. And of course the blog suffers. But I’ll try better and do what I can to update this little baby a bit more.

We started off our new year by waking up. This is what old age does to you. You have done absolutely nothing special on the day, were ready for bed at 11pm on new year’s eve and YOU WERE OKAY WITH THAT. Which was how we woke up on a Wednesday morning and thought they it was new year! Hooray! So a celebratory breakfast was in order. We had decided on Orient East because I had been craving their kaya toasts and I wanted to take Mini and my mum to the Shrine of Remembrance. Mum, because it was a lovely, touristy thing to do and Mini because the Shrine is one of the most beautiful space for toddlers to run around. Most importantly though, Orient East was opened on new year’s day.


Kaya Toast – Texan toast, pandan kaya, 62’c egg, sweet soy* – $12.00

Orient East is a unique restaurant/cafe which acts as the Seasons Botanic Gardens Hotel on St Kilda Rd. It does your usual hotel breakfast catering towards hotel guests but it also doubles as an interesting modernised Southeast Asian restaurant where most of the dishes are from the Malay Peninsula. I had previously tried breakfast at Orient East and really quite liked its unique breakfast menu and so was keen to go back. We were seated and I quickly ordered a few dishes mostly from ‘Shop House’ breakfast dishes which I found to be most interesting and have tried, and liked, previously.

My favourite, the one I looked forward to the most, was the kaya toasts. A sandwich of two thick-cut toasts buttered and spread with kaya (Malaysian-style thick coconut custard spread) and it was topped with what was called 62’c egg on the menu. Unfortunately in this instance, the egg was overcooked with the white jellied and the yolk set (I have previously had it runny and much preferred it then) but overall it was still a really nice and well thought out dish albeit not being perfectly executed.


Jian bing crepe – eggs, pork floss, Chinese doughnut, hoi sin sauce, sourdough toast* – $14.00

Another dish that I previously had and looked forward to was Orient East on the jian bing crepe. I have tried to traditional jian bing crepe and have not been that impressed by it but Orient East’s take on it was definitely an improvement. A rich combination of running egg, pork floss, hoisin sauce and scant sprinkling of Chinese doughnut  was perfect combination. My one concern about this particular visit was that there was too much hot chilli in it. Definitely too hot for my breakfast standard which probably meant it would have been more than way too hot for other people (and I’m known to eat leftover hot curry for breakfast.) But nevertheless being too stubborn to pick out the chillies (mum did,) I did enjoy the dish quite a lot. The crepe also came with a side of toast and Mini, upon seeing the toast, demanded that she wanted Vegemite on toast and nothing else. The cafe was kind enough to provide us with margarine and Vegemite and so she was happy munching on her Vegemite toast (crisis averted!) for the rest of meal. This excused me from having to share my kaya toast with her. Win win.


Rolled roti, egg, lap cheong sausage, chilli and coriander* – $9.00

I also ordered the rolled roti for Josh as he had had it on previous occasion. He ate most of it without complain (though I would like to complain that he is a terrible breakfast-out companion as he pretty much is not interested in cafe breakfast. I only get around this by taking him at brunching hours when he’d order lunch dishes and I, breakfast.)


Corn fritters, smoked salmon, avocado and sour cream* – $16.00

I also ordered the corn fritter and smoked salmon which I thought would go down well with Mum and Mini. I found this dish quite disappointingly bland but the group didn’t mind it and polished it off.

Overall, I had a really pleasant new year’s breakfast experience. I really enjoyed the ‘shop house’ breakfast dishes and found them to be an interesting, welcome break from the usual Melbourne cafe breakfast scene. Coffee was also decent. Unfortunately, the food and service were not faultless on the day but it was new year’s day and it seemed to be the only cafe opened for miles around and so was quite swamped. Having been there previously, I know it would definitely do better on better days and I wouldn’t hesitate to go back for its unique breakfast dishes.

* Please note I have used menu description here rather than my own

Orient East [ Website ]
Address: 348 St. Kilda Rd. Melbourne VIC
Phone: (03) 9685 2900
Hours: Lunch 12:00pm to 2:30pm, Dinner: 5:30pm to 10:00pm – Everyday

Orient East on Urbanspoon

Written by katspat

January 5th, 2014 at 8:44 pm

Franco Choo’s Italian, Prahran { Melbourne Food Review }

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Franco Choo's

It was Josh’s birthday last week. Unfortunately, Josh does not approach birthdays like I do. I like a little bit of birthday – not too much, mind. Not a big piss-up party or anything (okay, maybe, sometimes) but at least a nice dinner out to mark the occasion and a few nicely chosen presents from loved ones. That’s me. Josh? Nope. Don’t care. No, he didn’t want a party. No, he didn’t really care if I didn’t buy him a present*

But this is me, right? So I figured, it doesn’t really matter if he doesn’t think that highly of birthdays – he does like to eat. And I do like to eat. And we rarely get to go to a nice dinner with just the two of us anymore – so let’s just go out! And if there is a secret to Josh, it is that he is a little bit of a Italophile. And we live in Melbourne! How fortunate.


So after consulting a few blogs, Instagram and Twitter posts, I decided that Franco Choo’s it would be. It seemed like a nice little Italian place that Josh would like. I made the booking online (technology wins!) a week before hand, a phone confirmation on the day and everything was all sorted. Too easy.

We arrived at about 8pm on a Thursday night and took the last couple of seats. The place was already full and buzzing. Franco Choo’s is one of those tiny cosy restaurants – so tiny it must seat only around 20 people. It has that great small Italian hole-in-the-wall vibe that we both liked. Our lovely waiter (with his lovely Italian accent – let’s face it, we’re all suckers for Italian accent) went through the short menu on the blackboard (two choices of entree, two choices of main, two choices of side, two choices of dessert and a cheese platter). The menu, I’m told, changes often. The chef bases the menu on high quality produce that is readily available at the time.



Because there were only two choices of everything, of course, we ordered – well, everything. Because we were there on a week night and I had booked online, we were entitled to the fixed price set menu special ($35 for two courses and $45 for three.) We didn’t order any drinks because Josh doesn’t drink and I went on a complete bender the week before and swore off alcohol forever (at the time – you know how it goes) – we stuck to water. I always feel bad about not ordering drinks but our waiter was completely lovely about it (believe me the number of places that actually gives you attitude for not ordering drinks!)



Some fresh chewy bread and the fruitiest olive oil on the house were brought to us to whet our appetite. Followed by our entrees – I decided on the saffron risotto with asparagus and Josh on pork ragu and pasta (I think strozzapreti but I can’t remember that well.) My risotto was delicious – it was creamy while each grain of rice was still bitey and the asparagus was tender and sweet. Josh’s pasta was gorgeous with generous amount pork ragu (surprise factor being it wasn’t tomato-based) tossed through with radicchio and a few other bits and pieces.



For main, I had opted for the crunchy crusted barramundi fillet which was served with  lemony potatoes and peas. The potatoes were gorgeous and the peas were sweet and poppingly fresh. It was amazing that the wow factor came from how well the simple vegetables were cooked and how amazingly fresh they were. Josh’s lamb was very tender and flavourful and the same can be said about the carrots and the mash – beautiful quality produce simply but perfectly cooked. Sure the meat and the fish were great but the veggies sneaked in and won the race.



The star of the show, unbelievably, was the sauteed broccolini with chilli and garlic that we ordered as an extra side. The broccolini were so fresh, tender and sweet. The fibrous stems were peeled back slightly to reveal the soft tender core. I was impressed by the care that went into this simple side dish. It was so delicious and well cooked that I actually ended up ordering two extra serves (3 serves in total.) – our waiter was very amused and I stopped feeling bad about not ordering drinks.


(Panna cotta)

When it was time to choose desserts, I notice our fellow diners on both sides only ordered desserts to share. Weak. By then I was getting rather full but this ain’t a birthday celebration for no reason! So we said yes to a dessert each. Josh ordered the vanilla panna cotta which was served with pieces of figs that had been marinated in marsala and poached rhubarb. It was creamy and satisfying but light and refreshing at the same time.



I went for the dark chocolate semi-freddo with black olive caramel sauce. The sauce was rich, sweet and salty. Love the salt in desserts and the grapefruit, blood orange and orange segments balance out of the richness of the chocolate.

The meal was a lovely relaxed one and the courses were spaced out in that relaxed manner (I suspect there is only one person cooking) – so it is not a good place if you are after a quick in-and-out dinner. However, if you want a long lingering dinner in a cosy setting, preferably with someone you can really have a conversation with,  and you want good simple Italian food then Franco Choo’s is definitely the place for you. We thoroughly enjoyed our visit and will definitely be back.

Franco Choo’s Italian [ Website ]
Address: 179A High St  Prahran VIC 3181
Phone: (03) 9529 7310
Hours: From 6pm – Tuesday to Saturday

Franco Choo's Italian Restaurant on Urbanspoon

Written by katspat

October 12th, 2013 at 8:49 pm

Thai Style Braised Pork Knuckle on Rice – Khao Kaa Moo

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braised pork knuckle on rice - khao kaa moo


Khao kaa moo, literally ‘pork leg rice,’ is one of the most popular lunch dishes in Thailand. A slow, warm braise dish, it uses various parts of a pig from trotters to leg. The pork on the bone is simmered in mild Chinese five spice broth and served with rice and various accompaniments.
It’s an all-in-one type of dish – a bit of pork, a bit of rice and a bit of veggies. You will find it on most street corners along with khao mun gai (chicken rice, the Thai take on the famous Hainanese chicken rice) and khao moo dang (Chinese style roast pork rice) and various other cousins that have their origins in the Chinese cuisines.


Admittedly, khao ka moo was never a personal favourite of mine. I spent a good few years living with my aunt who was one of those street food vendors who owned quite a few carts within the area. Naturally, I gave them all a go (hers and her competitors’) I have always found it too fatty and bland but now my more mature palate is able to appreciate the subtlety of the Chinese five spice powder and the fattiness of the pork shank. I decided I should try making this dish at home.


This dish has its origin in the Chinese five spice pork shank stew. The Thai version is slightly milder with less spices. It is normally accompanied by blanched Chinese broccoli (kanaa in Thai) or pickled mustard greens that has been stewed with the pork shank. Pig’s trotters are also used and seem to be a favourite and command higher price on the street. I omitted this because I simply don’t like them but have made them quite successfully for a party before. Other accompaniments include soft-boiled eggs where the yolks are bright and runny and a fiercy chilli, garlic and vinegar sauce. Some stalls serve this with raw cloves of garlic and bird’s eye chilli for the daring who chew on them when eating this dish.
I made this in the pressure cooker due to lack of patience and organisation skills to plan ahead (I know. It’s a fault I’m trying to correct) but I also find that it’s nicer to let it simmer for a while at the end as well. I have also added tofu puffs but other choices such as dried Chinese (shiitaki) mushrooms and firm cubes of tofu are also popular.




Braised Pork Knuckle


Pork Knuckle
  • 1 knuckle

Clean the knuckle well. Blanch with boiling water and scrape with sharp knife to remove any remaining hair (or is it fur? Do pigs have fur?) Grill the knuckle on all sides on browned and slightly smokey using either the grill or a grill pan. This is just to brown the outside rather than to actually cook the meat. This should take a few minutes. This step isn’t really strictly necessary but I enjoy the subtle smokiness in the broth. Alternatively, you can use a blow torch or hold it over your gas stove as they do in Thailand.




Herb Paste

  • 3 fresh coriander roots (or 10 long stems, leaves removed and 1/2 tsp ground coriander), sliced finely
  • 3 large cloves garlic, peeled
  • 1/2 tsp white pepper corn (substitute with black if unavailable)
  • a pinch of salt
  • 1 tablet palm sugar (approx. 2-3 tbsp)
  • 1 tbsp cooking oil
Pound the tablet of palm sugar into fine powder. Set aside. Clean the coriander roots well to remove any dirt. Pound the pepper corn, coriander roots, garlic and salt together into a fine paste. In a pressure cooker, or a pot, heat oil until warm. Fry off the herb paste on low heat until fragrant, about a few minutes, add the palm sugar, turn the heat up to medium and stir vigorously until all the sugar is melted. Keep stirring until the sugar begins to caramelise and starts to turn brown.


  • 2 tbsp Chinese five-spice powder
  • 2 star anise
  • 1 stick cinnamon
  • 2 tbsp dark soy sauce
  • 2 tbsp soy sauce
  • 1.5 litres chicken or pork stock (or water and stock cube)
Add the five-spice power, star anise and cinnamon to the caramel mixture and stir until well mixed. Add the prepared pork knuckle and turn over to coat the caramel mixture on the knuckle. Add the stock. If you are using the pressure cooker, leave to cook under pressure cooker for about 30 minutes or if you are using a normal pot, bring to boil and then simmer on low heat for 2 hours.




Optional Accompaniments



Written by katspat

September 11th, 2013 at 8:55 pm

Jamie’s Italian, Pitt St., Sydney CBD { Sydney Food Review }

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Jamie's Italian, Sydney - Crispy Calamari

Note: this post is about the visit I made to Sydney last April – I wrote it a year ago and never got around to finishing it. Until now.

Let’s get this out of the way. I am one of the biggest Jamie Oliver’s fangirls out there. And while I’m well aware that Jamie’s Italian is a chain restaurant that’s not even owned by him, I simply had to eat my words (‘I don’t queue for anything other than toilet’) and waited almost an hour on a Friday night to get into the restaurant.

Jamie's Italian, Pitt Street, Sydney

I landed in Sydney quite late and we didn’t get to the restaurant until about 10pm. Somehow, miraculously, I managed to convince the Auntie Brigade (which comprised my mother and her two besties who were in town from Thailand for a long weekend – yes just for the long weekend. These ladies are crazy.) that we should get a cab to Jamie’s Italian and we may perhaps have to wait up to an hour before we are seated. Luckily, my Mum and her easy-going friends knew how crazy I was about Jamie Oliver and were okay with the wait (honestly, if it were me in their position, I would have cracked it.) I think the fact that they have already been to a Jamie’s Italian in London helped a bit as they had enjoyed their previous visit and knew what to expect.

Meat antipasti plank $13.00 at Jamie's Italian

(Antipasto plank – meat $13.0)

Once we got there, we were told  that the wait would be about an hour an a half – biting my tongue, I said yes we’d wait (at this point for those of you know who me would understand how entirely uncharacteristic of me this would be) and so we duly put my name and wandered off (yes me + three aunties) to a bar nearby. Luckily, the bar had Australian Open live on to the keep the aunties amused and about 40 minutes later, they rang and said our table was ready. Hallelujah.

Complimentary house bread

(Complimentary house bread served with fruity olive oil and aged balsamic vinegar)

We were led upstairs to share a tiny cafe table which I knew would present a space problem when all the food arrived. Starving, we decided on a serving of complimentary bread (I do believe you have to ask for it), a serving of meat antipasti plank and crispy calamari to start. My order of Bellini came a little on the warm side but it didn’t bother me so much as the food started arriving.

Crispy calamari with garlicky mayo at Jamie's Italian, Sydney

(Crispy calamari with garlicky mayo $12.00)

The calamari arrived slightly on the not-so-hot side (or was it that I spent too much time fiddling with my aunt’s SLR that I had no freaking idea how to use?) but it had a really good crunch and fastastic flavours with lots of crunchy garlic. The Auntie Brigade couldn’t get enough of them and lamented that I should have ordered two servings.

Mozarella and shaved root vegetables

(Mozarella with herb dressing and shaved root vegetables)

The antipasto plank also arrived and placed on top of two tins of tomatoes (cheap stand, I see, rather awkard to try to not tip the whole thing over.) The cured meats (prociutto, bresaola and other things I couldn’t name) were lovely but I wasn’t blown away. The pickles (olives, caper berry, chilli) however, were fantastic. And so was the mozarrella (the Aunties couldn’t get into them upon finding out it was made from buffalo’s milk, score me).

Crab and Squid Ink Risotto

(Crab and Squid Ink Risotto $15.50 – photo from lunch)

For mains, we decided on a few mains to share. By this time, I had given up on using my aunt’s camera in such low light. We started with mussels linguine, which were beautifully made. The linguine was perfectly cooked and the mussels fresh and sweet. Simple and beautifully done. The lamb spiedini was absolutely massive but well presented. The lamb seemed to lack of the lovely lamb flavour (but I suspect it must be a NSW lamb thing as I ran into exactly the same problem at Momofuku) but the bed of smashed potato with minted yoghurt and chilli dressing ($25.00) was great and I normally am not at all a potato girl. My mum opted for her usual steak – their rib eye ($38.00) was perfectly grilled and mum loved the peppery leafy salad on the side. Our final main was the crab and squid ink risotto was absolutely gorgeous. Salty, creamy, seafoody rice with crunchy garlicky crumbs and fresh crab meat. A little squeeze of lemon really lifted the whole dish.

We also had a couple of side salads to share and they were both very good. Desserts were absolutely fantastic: our choice of creamy panna cotta ($8.50) was indeed creamy and delicious and not too sweet. Our second dessert was the ‘ultimate brownie’ was rich and chocolatey but unfortunately we were very, very full. A fantastic first meal in Sydney.

bread counter at Jamie's Italian, Sydney

(The bread counter at Jamie’s Italian)

So good, in fact, that two days later, the Aunties wanted to go there for lunch again (‘Also, you can get better photos at lunch!’ – how can you not love them?). This time though, we decided that we would go there for an early lunch and right on the 11.30am mark, we got there and were promptly seated. No queuing. Hallelujah Number Two.

Jamie's Italian dining room, Sydney

(Almost empty dining at 11.40am on a Monday)

To my dismay, the Aunties had insisted on ordering some of the same dishes again. It was looking to be a repeat of the Friday night meal until I had to intervene to order one of the daily specials:

Monkfish with tapenade and radish, fennel and rocket salad at Jamie's Italian, Sydney

(Monkfish with tapenade and radish, fennel and rocket salad at Jamie’s Italian, Sydney)

The monkfish was fresh and lovely but I was slightly disappointed with the overall flavour. The tepanade didn’t compliment the fish. We also ordered the calamari, risotto and the antipasto plank again as the Aunties loved them so much. They were good the second time around. Especially the crispy calamari that was served hot this time.

Monachelle puttanesca at Jamie's Italian Sydney

(Monachelle puttanesca – $12.00)

The puttanesca, on the other hand, was spot on with its lovely dots of capers and crunchy, garlicky breadcrumbs to liven up the pasta.

Travise and gorgonzola salad

(Travise and gorgonzola salad – $9.00)

My mum had also ordered the rocket salad again but our waiter made a mistake and put through the travis and gorgonzola salad. She realised her mistake and offered to bring us the correct salad. Frankly, I was quite happy she made this mistake because I never want to order the same dish twice at a restaurant. I was pretty happy with this salad. Mum, on the other hand, had her first taste of blue cheese. Suffice to say, it’s not an experience she cared to repeat.


We finished off with a really good tiramisu – which everyone enjoyed. Mum, who generally doesn’t like strong coffee taste, still thinks it was one of the best tiramisu ever. I was quite pleased with it too. The lemon zest really added the fresh zing to the dish which I loved – it also combat the richness of the tiramisu and made it somehow lighter.


The other dessert – gelato con brioche,  brioche ice cream sandwich, wasn’t as good. I found the brioche slightly dry and didn’t really work with the gelato. Overall though, we absolutely adored the food and it was surprisingly good for the amount of money you pay for it. So basically it ticks the good and cheap box. I just wish there wasn’t a long wait for it.


(I clearly didn’t take this photo because that’s me punching my PIN into the EFTPOS machine in the corner)

And then it was time to bid the lovely Sydney good bye and we packed the Auntie Brigade off to the airport and I walked myself around town for a bit and then took myself back to Melbourne, where rain and wind chill greeted me.

I’ll be back soon, Sydney. I love you.

Jamie’s Italian, Sydney [ Website ]
Address: 107 Pitt Street, Sydney NSW 2000
Phone: 02 8240 9000
Hours: Open 7 days, 11.30 AM. – Late

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Written by katspat

April 26th, 2013 at 10:53 pm