Eat here: Momofuku Noodle Bar & Milk Bar, Toronto, Canada

Momofuku Noodle Bar & Milk Bar
190 University Ave, Toronto
http://momofuku.com/

Yes it’s been around forever and already been blogged about by every man and his dog, but we don’t have this in Melbourne so it’s new for me! I’m also a big David Chang fan. And crack pie has been in my dreams for too long.

Anyway, we arrived into Toronto around 3pm this afternoon, picked up our hire car and found our way to our hotel. I’m finally getting over this damn flu that’s been kicking my ass for the past week, and my stomach problems have temporarily eased up; I was pretty excited to realise I was actually genuinely really hungry for the first time in two weeks! Yay! So husband was kind enough to treat me to dinner at Monofuku!

We got the pork buns to start because pork belly is my favourite thing and I’d be happy to drown in a vat of it. I’ve eaten a decent amount of pork belly in my time, and this was easily the best belly I’ve ever had; Momofuku may be old news in the foodie world, but holy wow that was some good bao..

We also had the ramen – probably doesn’t need to be said that this was incredible too. Easy to see what all the fuss is about now!

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After dinner, I dragged us upstairs to the Milk Bar… Oh my… I know I’m gonna have more variety in New York, but I figured I may as well get a head start 😉 compost cookie and crack pie. I have to be honest, the cookie was nice without being amazing (could be because it was cold rather than a more pleasant room temperature), but that crack pie… …. !!!! It was everything.. All buttery and sugary with that oaty crust.. Similar to a coconut-free ANZAC cookie taste, but even more buttery!

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My stomach has taken a rapid turn downhill now that we’re back in the hotel and relaxing, but it was totally worth it – the food was amazing! Wish they’d bring the empire to Melbourne next!

Momofuku Noodle Bar on Urbanspoon

Momofuku Milk Bar on Urbanspoon

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Eat here: Yummy Yummy Dim Sum, San Francisco, USA

Yummy Yummy
758 Pacific Ave, San Francisco, USA

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Our first day in San Francisco was a pretty big one; Alcatraz, Fisherman’s Wharf, Union Square, Ghiradelli, Lombard Street.. There was a lot going on. Except for food.

We’d had a bit of a situation the night before at the airport, flying to the city from LAX, which necessitated dinner being a bag of Bugles just before boarding. Breaky was provided by the hotel and eaten on the run in transit to Alcatraz, and lunch was a quick seafood cocktail at Fisherman’s Wharf. Come dinner time, it was decided that a proper sit down meal was needed, and we figured the best place to find something delicious and at a decent price would be Chinatown – that’s always the place to check first in these situations!

We took the same approach we usually take – if it looks super busy with heaps of locals, it’s probably good. This place seemed pretty popular, and not another backpack or tourist in sight. Looked a bit sketchy from the outside, sure, but the food…

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For around USD$30 (including tip) we feasted on BBQ pork, pot stickers and the most insanely oversized pile of house fried noodles I have EVER seen in my life! Having unwittingly yet comfortable ordered enough food for 3, we nommed our way through some of the best Chinese either of us have had in a very long time. Oh, and we got complimentary fortune cookies at the end of the meal, too! Not sure how accurate mine was though..

Looks can be deceiving; if you’re in San Francisco and looking for something other than burgers and fries, hit up Yummy Yummy!

Cook this: quick & healthy – cold soba noodle salad with ginger soy dressing

Totally overdue for a quick and healthy one, my bad! With the weather warming up here in Australia, this is a great, easy meal you can thrown together quickly for dinner, and enjoy left overs for lunch the next day. I love making this with simple, easy, canned tuna, but if I have a bit of extra time, grilled chicken or pork works perfectly, too.

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The salad itself pretty simple:
– soba noodles (allow them to cool before using in the salad)
– grated carrot
– sliced cucumber
– avocado
– roasted peanuts
– protein of choice

But that’s not the exciting part – it’s the dressing that makes this special. It’s a great salad dressing, pretty strong and full of punch, so it works best with plainer, simpler flavours and salads.

Ingredients (makes enough for two salads)
– ⅓ cup freshly squeezed lemon or lime juice
– 1 tbsp sesame oil
– 1 tbsp fresh ginger, finely grated
– 2 tsp caster sugar
– 1 tbsp soy sauce
– 1 tbsp cold water

If you enjoy your salads a little on the spicy side, add a little fresh chilli in, too. Then, whisk it all together, pour over your salad, mix and enjoy!

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Cook this: quick & healthy – easy pork bun cha

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I decided to make a version of my favourite Vietnamese dish for dinner the other night – bun cha. I ate it all over Vietnam, with some of my favourites being this one and this one. I grabbed out my very trusty cook book that I got at the Morning Glory Cooking School for some inspiration from Ms Vy’s version, which calls for minced pork patties.

Because I’m giving this whole low FODMAPs thing a go, it sadly lacked the shallots and garlic I’d have usually used, otherwise I really didn’t change a lot! After glancing quickly at the picture in the cook book for a little inspiration, I made up a quick and easy version that will be super easy to re-create for dinner even on the nights I’m in a bit of a hurry.

To make this quick and healthy bun cha for 2, you’re going to need:
– 300g minced pork
– finely grated zest of 1 lemon
– 1 tbsp freshly grated ginger
– 1 tbsp chopped fresh coriander leaves
– 1 small shallot, finely diced, as well as 1 crushed clove of garlic (leave these out if you need it low FODMAPs!)

– rice noodles, as much as you want, cooked as per packet instructions
– 1 carrot, peeled and grated
– 1 cucumber, halved lengthways and thinly sliced
– fresh coriander and chives, to serve

To make the pork patties, combine all of the ingredients and mush them together with your hands. Roll them into balls and flatten slightly, cooking them for a few minutes on each side on a hot pan sprayed with cooking oil. Or, if your very Aussie husband is cooking them while you’re preparing the rest of the meal, cook them up on the BBQ. We are coming into BBQ weather, after all.

To serve, pop your noodles in a bowl. Add the carrot and cucumber, then the pork patties. Sprinkle some fresh coriander and chives over the top, and spoon some sweet and sour chilli sauce over it, too (recipe below). How easy is that?! It’s also highly advisable to double the quantities so you can have the leftovers for lunch the day after!

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SWEET CHILLI SAUCE – if you’re keen and want to make your own (which I’d recommend, it’s actually really easy!):
– 3 tbsp lemon juice
– 3 tbsp fish sauce
– 1 tbsp caster sugar
– 2 tbsp cold water
– 1 small shallot, diced and crushed a little
– 1 small red chilli, sliced

To make your chilli sauce, just combine everything in a bowl and stir until the sugar dissolves. To be perfectly honest, this is not a perfect science; the taste can easily vary depending on your lemon and type of fish sauce, so it is absolutely imperative that you taste it and just adjust accordingly! Once it’s all done, just set it aside – left over sauce also keeps really well in the fridge for a week or so in an air-proof container or jar.

Eat here: T’s Vietnamese Classics, Melbourne

T’s Vietnamese Classics, Preston, Melbourne
https://www.facebook.com/pages/Ts-Vietnamese-Classics/168867419856797

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It was with heavy hearts that husband and I recently discovered that our favourite local restaurant, Pho Toan, has shut down. Since moving house almost a year ago, we’ve eaten dinner there almost every Friday night. The food was bloody good, the prices were civilized, and it was just a great place. So, without our regular Friday night Vietnamese spot to eat at, we tried something new last night, and decided to have dinner at the Preston Market, which is where we do our weekly grocery shopping.

I picked out this place because it’s always busy when we walk past, the prices are cheap and the bowls of food looked pretty big. We took our seats at the counter and ordered – beef pho for husband ($9.00), pork bun cha for me ($10.00). While we waited (not very long!), we were served up a hot glass of green tea each, as well.

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I thought it’d be difficult to beat the Pho Toan bun, but this was fantastic! The pork was delicious, the noodles fresh and soft, the cucumber and lettuce cold and crisp. There were heaps of fresh herbs and crushed peanuts, which were much appreciated, and the accompanying sauce was the best I’ve ever had. It was very, very good. Husband really liked his pho too, said the broth was unreal. When we’d finished our enormous bowls, the lovely man working there came to clear our bowls and ask if we enjoyed our meal. Husband thanked him and shook his hand, I told him it was easily as good as the bun I ate in Vietnam last month. He was thrilled. We had a chat about where I’d visited, and where he was from, before he rushed off to help the couple who’d just taken the spare seats beside us. He was so friendly and happy, I want to go back just to have another chat with him – I feel like he’d be really interesting to talk to! But, I digress; $19.00 on 2 huge bowls, we were full and happy and have possibly found a new Friday night dinner spot. Doesn’t matter if it’s on the other side of the world in an exotic city, or a few suburbs away from home, the best food is ALWAYS at markets!

A quick guide to Vietnam’s street food!

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There is some ridiculously good street food going around in Vietnam – probably the best street food I’ve come across in any of the countries I’ve travelled through, to be honest! Everything is delicious and fresh, and ridiculously cheap! Here are some of the dishes I’d recommend getting your hands on when you visit Vietnam!

Banh Xeo
Vietnamese pancakes/crepes that are made slightly differently in different regions – my favourites were the ones made in Hoi An, as they were a bit thicker. Generally make with pork and shrimp, filled with bean shoots, and served with fresh herbs and a dipping sauce. Amazing.
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Bun Cha
A pile of rice noodles, fresh herbs, freshly fried spring rolls and whatever meat they decide to serve you. You’ll also get some delicious sweet and sour sauce with a side of chilli so you can decide how hot you want it!20140707-153052-55852691.jpg
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Banh Cuon
Steamed rice rolls/crepes filled with usually pork and prawn, and topped with tasty deep fried shallots and garlic, accompanied by the standard pile of fresh herbs and dipping sauce.
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Banh Mi
Vietnam’s famous baguettes, usually filled with some sort of pork, fresh coriander, chilli and pickled cucumber, but they can take on other forms too, like the triangular one with Kewpie mayo I got at a market in Hoi An, below. I tried a few different versions over there, and regardless of the other variables, they were probably the best breads I’ve ever eaten.
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All-you-can-eat vendors
Places like Bale Well in Hoi An that provide basically a table spread of food for a tiny cost (around AUD$4 or $5 per person) are not only great value, but a fantastic way of trying out a heap of different things! Look out for tables full of food and happy people!

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Sticky rice
This is one of my absolute favourites to eat – generally available in both sweet and savoury (below we tried sticky rice with black beans, chickpeas and mung beans) varieties, there is no better way to end the night that a scoop of sweet sticky rice swimming in coconut milk and topped with a fresh mango!

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Donuts
Donuts seem to be quite popular in Vietnam! Whether on a stick and coated in soft sugar, or freshly fried and filled with coconut or banana, they’re all delicious. The ones I tried all had soft, tasty dough, with just enough “crunch” to bite into. Really lovely and cheap to pick up while walking through markets.

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Bakery cakes
Thanks to the French, there are a ton of gorgeous little bakeries with beautiful, delicate cakes and pastries in the windows. My favourites were these small coconut treats, that were basically a pastry crust with a cakey filling and topped with a little sprinkle of sesame seeds.

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Eat here: Bún Chà Dac Kim, Hanoi, Vietnam

Bún Chà Dac Kim
1 Hang Manh, Hanoi, Vietnam

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Hands down one of the coolest dining and travel experiences of my life! We were picked up from Hanoi’s airport by a lovely young lady and her driver, who took us to our hotel. On the drive over, we talked the whole way, asking each other question after question. Her English was fantastic, and we found out she had a good friend in Sydney, which gave her a good opportunity to practice. We asked her for her recommendations on the things she thought we should see and her favourite places to eat – she proceeded to write out a double-sided notebook page for us!

We told her our favourite Vietnamese dish was bun cha – a huge smile spread across her face and she started to furiously scribble onto the page again, telling us this was her favourite food too, and she’d give us the address of her pick for the best place to get it in the city. Once she dropped us off at the hotel and we got a few photos taken together and exchanged email addresses, we dumped our suitcases in our room and prepared to head back out and find us some bun cha.

It took a little while, but eventually we found the street name. The ridiculous amount of people massed out the front indicated we were in the right place. Once it was clear that we were interested, we were quickly ushered into the establishment without a word from the lady. It looked like a little shop front that was already full and couldn’t possibly accommodate us; we were then ushered up two flights of stairs and to the end of a communal table.

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Without a word being exchanged, we pointed to a nearby water bottle and held up two fingers (we were aiming for 2 bottles of water, and we had them within 60 seconds), then settled down to survey our surroundings. Shoulder to shoulder, sardine-tin dining with miniature street side plastic stools and a crazy, market-style atmosphere. It was perfect. We’d no sooner taken in the full 360 degree view than looked down at the pile of food that had materialised in front of us. Much like the fabulous experience we had at Bale Well in Hoi An, it appeared that AUD$5.00 got us a bottle of water each as well as all we could eat bun cha.

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Pickled vegetables, a veritable mountain of noodles, half a garden worth of fresh herbs, fresh spring rolls and god knows what kind of meat wrapped in leaves and swimming in undoubtedly the best broth either of us had ever had.

So there we sat, looking at each other over the small plastic trestle table, simultaneously bursting out into laughter. We could not believe it! From what started as a “I wish we could just go to Vietnam and eat our way around the country!” We had actually made it a reality! We were sitting in a little nondescript street side shanty, three stories above Hanoi, eating the most spectacularly delicious spread of food! If you’re in Hanoi, please take down this address and ask your hotel or hostel front desk for directions; it’s one hell of an experience!

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