Category Archives : Chinese


Grain Asian, Hong Kong Cafe in Box Hill Round 2 {Melbourne Review}

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I previously wrote about Grain Asian in the Box Hill Central shopping centre. Not much has changed rather than the updated funky dining room with vintage Chinese theme and a very minor price increase on some of the menu items.

For those who haven’t read my old post about Grain Asian, it is a Hong Kong style cafe that serves the typical drinks associated with Hong Kong cafes: Hong Kong tea and coffee, lemon tea, soy milk and their all-day dishes which include fried rice, noodles, Hong Kong style roast meats (duck, char siu, crispy pork belly, soy sauce chickens), won tons and yong tau fu.

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(Tables outside in the food court area)

Be warned that most of the staff speak very little or no English at all (when I try to order something complicated, I usually flag one of the guys there whom I know speaks English well) so you will need to be pointing to the Chinese version of the menu. If I’m there with lots of people, I always make sure that they repeat the menu back to me.

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(Newly-ish renovated dining room)

I will concentrate on their breakfast menu in this post as I wrote about their all-day menu in my last post. Grain Asian has ‘breakfast sets’ – usually a selection of congee with a breakfast dim sum side dish.

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(Dried shrimp rice vermicelli rolls – around $5.XX)

My favourite breakfast dish at Grain Asian is their freshly made rice noodle rolls with fillings of choice. This is only available during breakfast hours (until 10:30am everyday except Sunday 11:00am) – they call this ‘vermicelli rolls’ even though there is nothing vermicelli like about it. The filling choices include prawns, shrimp (dried shrimps), beef, barbecued pork (char siu), vegetarian, and more.

Pictured above are dried shrimp vermicelli rolls as a result of ordering a vegetarian vermicelli rolls (!) But they were delicious nonetheless. Luckily, I’m not a vegetarian.

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(Combination congee – $5)

Their congees are alright. To be perfectly honest, it’s nothing like the beautiful, thick congee with quality meats that you get in Hong Kong. They even tasted burnt a couple of times. But as they work really well as a part of the set breakfast, I always end up ordering them. In fact, if you really want congee, Mr Kitchen up a bit does better congee (though still not great.)

My favourite congee is the combination congee which has fish cake strips, tiny beef meat balls, preserved squid and peanuts. This is also known as sampan congee. I am going to guess that it’s the Chinese sailor’s version of  pantry dishes like pasta alla puttanesca. Their pork and century egg congee seriously could do with more eggs.

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(Braised beef brisket $5)

One of the highlights I mentioned in the previous post was the beef brisket noodles. I am happy to say that they do a side dish version of this for $5. So I have been getting this as an additional side. I never finish it all at the same time, of course, but the leftover makes a great take away to have with rice and greens for lunch later. It’s a gift that keeps on giving!

instagram-grain-asian(See my Instagram feed)

A few other things that I have ordered and enjoyed: sticky rice wrapped in lotus leaf (lo mai gai), barbecued pork buns, Spam & egg sandwich (Mini’s favourite), iced Ovaltine, corned beef and egg sandwich and their whole fish dishes which gives you a whole fish with rice and soup for $13. Ridiculously cheap feed!

As I’ve visited a few times, my Instagram feed has a bigger collection of photos from there.

Grain Asian (in Box Hill Central)
Address: Cnr Main & Market Streets, Box Hill VIC 3128 (opposite to Platform 3 cafe)
Phone: 03 9899 6533
Getting there by Public Transport: Train to Box Hill Station (Belgrave/Lilydale line). The cafe is in the same building as the train station.

 
Grain Asian Cafe Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato


Moon Diem Hen, Springvale {Melbourne Review}

Special Combination Vermicell (Bun) at Moon Diem Hen

I am going to pretend that I never mentioned anything about writing a Food Guide on Docklands. Because you know, that was more than a year ago (insert excuses after excuses here.)

Due to a new commitment, I have been going to Springvale a lot recently. For those of you who aren’t from this side of town (or ever from this town at all) Springvale is an awesome enclave of the cheap eats to end all cheap eats in the south east of Melbourne. Vietnamese, Cambodian and Chinese feature heavily in the food landscape and more importantly (to me anyway) there is a small section that caters to all the Thai food needs including restaurants catering to the local Thai population, Thai groceries and Thai DVDs (beats me why you still buy these illegal DVDs when you can illegally watch them on YouTube for free and for much better quality.) But let’s talk about Springvale another day. Let’s talk about this great new restaurant I found called Moon Diem Hen.

Seafood Banh Xeo - Vietnamese Crepe / Pancake

(Banh xeo – seafood Vietnamese pancake/crepe – $13?)

Moon Diem Hen has one of the most unfortunate locations in Springvale. It is right next door to the extremely popular Hoa Tran – another Chinese/Vietnamese restaurant. The location has turned over a new restaurant, oh about… every year since the first time I discovered Hoa Tran many years back. It seems like nothing beats the Hoa Train mojo. I am definitely guilty of ignoring all the restaurants that have come and gone in this location in these past years. But one day, just when the queue to get into the cramp, dark Hoa Tran was too long and I wasn’t in the mood to wait, I decided to step into spacious, brightly lit and clean new restaurant next door.

Red fried rice with salt and pepper calamari at Moon Diem Hen Springvale

(Salt & pepper calamari with red fried rice – $12?)

To be perfectly honest with you, I have no idea when Moon Diem Hen opened up (told you I only paid attention to getting into Hoa Tran like the rest of us) but the place seems quite brand new. Very brightly with a skylight, it has a, err, fairly interesting decor. I apologise in advance for not having a picture of the decor but I can vouch that it is indeed interesting. 

Red fried rice with salt and pepper prawns at Moon Diem Hen Springvale

(Salt & pepper prawnswith red fried rice – $12?)

Never mind the decor, we were there for the food. Moon Diem Hen has a big menu of all sorts of Chinese and Vietnamese dishes including favourite single-dishes such as stir-fries on rice, pho, Vietnamese, Chinese and Cambodian style noodles soups, stir-fried noodles, rice vermicelli salad (bun), it also has various large portioned meat and seafood dishes to share in a banquet type meal. I have been there a couple of times for lunch and another time with a big group where we had seafood dishes. Both times, I was treated to rather good food and especially the seafood was amazingly cheap. The first time Josh and I shared the salt & pepper calamari on rice and a special combination rice vermicelli salad (first picture, $13?) ‘Combination’ included spring rolls, fried pork, prawn cakes, beef in betel leaves and possibly something else I can’t remember) – we both found these two dishes to be really good. It lacked the usual greasiness that often accompanies these dishes and it had a more homemade taste to it. The second time I was there on my own, I ordered the salt & pepper prawns with red fried rice. I know. Call me boring. I also really liked the free soup that came with it too though I am a sucker for free soup everywhere, so this doesn’t mean much.

Salted egg yolk calamari at Moon Diem Hen in Springvale

(Fried calamari in salted egg yolk batter – $18)

Another time though, I took my mum and a few of her friends (hereby known as ‘the Aunties’) because I had notice on the previous trips that Moon Diem Hen sells lobster noodles for really good price ($25 S, $32 M, $60 L) so I thought we might give it a go with a big group of people so we went in one weekday lunch (I’m taking a career break) and while there were a few tables filled it, it was quite spacious (the opposite to next door, essentially.)

Lobster noodles with XO sauce at Moon Diem Hen in Springvale

(Lobster in XO sauce with noodles – Large – $60)

We ordered the lobster noodles – it was available in either XO sauce or ginger and spring onion sauce. Our waiter steered us towards the XO sauce so we went with that. I can’t say I expected much for lobster costing $60 but the portion was massive. I would guess there were two smallish lobster tails (say, about 2lb size – you can see the photo with cutlery to scale, you be the judge) but the noodles! Oh my god, there was a LOT of noodles. There must have been about five balls of egg noodles in this dish (most Chinese seafood restaurants would charge you about $6-$12 per ball of noodles.) Though the noodles/lobster proportion was quite unexpected, I am one of those noodle loving fiend and I have to say, I loved it. Now the lobster! How was the lobster? Sadly, I didn’t have any! I know! Lobster is great but honestly I don’t think it’s worth the money so I let Mum and the Aunties eat them since they seem to enjoy them a lot. Mum’s feedback was that the lobster was overcooked – which I suspect meant that this was frozen lobster and so suffers that slight toughening in the flesh. Of course, if you compare this to a live lobster dish (which would cost about $150++) – this wasn’t as good but it was definitely good enough for the Aunties had no complaint (my mum is fussy.) I think for what it was and how much it cost, it was a ridiculously good value. The noodles and sauce themselves weren’t bad either (I ate a lot of that, I can vouch for that.)

Pippies in XO sauce with Chinese doughnut at Moon Diem Hen in Springvale

(Pippies in XO sauce, served with Chinese doughnuts – $18)

Another dish we ordered was pippies in XO sauce. The pippies were really nice and plump in, I think, the same sauce as the lobster but managed to taste quite different to the lobster dish. The seafood pancake/crepe (banh xeo) was also very good. I noticed that many tables ordered this dish and so really wanted to try it. It didn’t disappoint. Again, it had that lovely, less harsh, home cooked flavours that I found to be the characteristics of the cooking here. The filling was seafood (you can get prawn & pork filling too) and with creamy mung beans and beansprouts. I really liked it. I think it’s better than Thanh Tam – the previous reigning favourite spot for banh xeo. The calamari in salted egg yolk on the other hand I found a bit bland as this is the one dish that I expected to be more oily and salty. While unwelcome in other dishes, this made this particular a bit too bland for my liking.

Stir fried mixed vegetables and tofu at Moon Diem Hen in Springvale

(Mixed vegetables with fried tofu – $12)

We also ordered a plate of mixed vegetables to tie everything together. Again this dish did not disappoint. The sauce was well flavoured and the veggies were fresh (they’re in Springvale, there really is no excuse for using bad products.) We also ordered special combination rice vermicelli salad again because I really liked it the first time and figured the Aunties would like it too. I was right, they really liked it. They found Vietnamese food in Melbourne quite different to the Vietnamese food they get in Thailand and really enjoyed trying all the different dishes I ordered.

Moon Diem Hen Vietnamese and Chinese restaurant in Sprinvale

So after a few good meals, this puts Moon Diem Hen firmly my favourite place for Vietnamese food in Springvale. The fact that it’s new and next to Hoa Tran, I haven’t seen it packed yet so it has always been easy to get in (though I am now hearing reports that they are packed out some nights – words must start to get around) but this means we would be back there in a heart beat for our next non-pho Vietnamese fix. We love the fresh, tasty food they serve at especially good price.

 

Moon Diem Hen Vietnamese and Chinese Restaurant
Address: 246A Springvale Road Springvale, VIC 3171 (no entrance from Springvale Rd but a lane at the back from Balmoral Ave)
Phone: (03) 9882 7359
Hours: N/A
Public Transport: Springvale Train Station (250m)

Moon Diem Hen Restaurant on Urbanspoon


Thai Style Braised Pork Knuckle on Rice – Khao Kaa Moo 1

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.
 
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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.
 
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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.

 

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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.
 
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Broth
  • 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 and season with soy sauce and dark soy sauce. 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.

 

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Optional Accompaniments
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Enjoy!
 

Imperial Chinese Seafood Restaurant, Glen waverley (Again) 3

Scollop dumplings at Imperial Chinese Seafood Restaurant

One of the rules I have in life is that when you find a good place to yum cha (or rather from my point of view, eat a bucket load of steamed dumplings) – you stick to it. And this is the case with Imperial Chinese Seafood Restaurant.

Spare ribs in black bean sauce at Imperial Chinese Seafood Restaurant

(Pork spare ribs in black bean sauce)

According to my blog, I first went to Imperial in 2009, and basically it has been our favourite yum cha haunt since due to a really good balance between food (excellent), price (not too expensive) and service (waiters are actually attentive and are not rude ever.)

Prawns in tofu skin at Imperial Chinese Seafood Restaurant

(Prawns in soy milk skin)

Since about a year ago, Imperial went through a transformation. It dropped Kingdom and added the word Seafood to its restaurant name (I’ve always wondered how you have an imperial kingdom – turns out I’m right, you really can’t.) It seems to now¬† focuses its dinner menu on live seafood. It was completely redocorated (posh much for a suburban Chinese restaurant) and had a change of management. More importantly though, the dim sum are still as good as ever. (more…)

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