16 Memorable Things I Ate in 2016

I ate a lot of good stuff in 2016. Here are a few things I ate this year.

  1. Rigatoni alla gricia at my brother’s house in Rome.

My little brother Ryan moved to Rome about 10 years ago and since then he’s become a great cook of Italian (and specifically Roman) food. This rigatoni alla gricia was the first thing he’s ever made for me, and also the best alla gricia I’ve ever had.

 

 

  1. Chicken wing with caviar and kombu butter at Eleven Bridge, Sydney

It’s refreshing to go a great restaurant where you can have a good old a la carte 3 or 4-course dinner and leave without feeling bloated and punished by a relentless degustation. This chicken wing at Eleven Bridge might have been the best thing I ate all year.

 

 

  1. “Too many Italians and not enough Asians.” at Nora, Melbourne.

Nora is one of the most underrated restaurants in Australia in my opinion. Truly creative, inspiring high-concept Thai food that is completely different from any other fine dining restaurant I ate at this year.

 

 

  1. Roasted botan ebi nigiri at Sushidokoro Mekumi, Nonoichi

High-end sushi can sometimes get a bit same-y in Tokyo these days, but the roasted botan ebi nigiri at Mekumi in Ishikawa was the best bite of sushi I had all year. It was one of three courses from the same prawn. This picture is actually from Kanesaka in Tokyo because Mekumi doesn’t allow photos. Both have two Michelin stars.

A lot of the etiquette of eating in Japan is way overblown, but with omakase (course) sushi there are 5 things you might want to know. 1. Don’t wear perfume, aftershave, strong deodorants etc. when going out to any restaurant, but especially sushi. 2. Don’t fill your soy sauce dish. Just a small puddle is all you need (see the picture), and at high-end places it’s really more ornamental than anything. The master will generally serve each piece just as it’s meant to be eaten, without needing any further seasoning. 3. The pickled ginger is for cleaning your palate between pieces. Don’t eat it together with the sushi. Feel free to finish it, as the master will just give you more. 4. Tell the master before you start if there’s anything you don’t eat. They’ll adjust the courses accordingly. 5. Drink whatever you like. I generally start with beer (I like beer) before switching to sake, then ending with hot tea. This is the fatty tuna from Kanesaka in Ginza. (2/2)

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  1. Snow crab steamed with bamboo leaves at Waku Ghin, Singapore.

It’s hard to imagine a better restaurant than Waku Ghin in Singapore’s Marina Bay Sands. That it only received one Michelin star at this year’s was not just silly, but worth an eyebrow raise considering Michelin’s Singapore partner is Sentosa, MBS’ main competitor in the local market.

 

 

  1. Bistecca Fiorentina at Cavallini, Milan.

Cavallini is my favourite restaurant in Milan. Sitting out the back in the “garden” is more like being at a (big!) family reunion than a restaurant, and the food is just spectactular. This bistecca was a great hunk of meat but the Tagliolini “Cavallini” with black truffle and anchovy is a knockout.

This Fiorentina though…

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  1. Smoked bone marrow, caviar and cauliflower puree at Iggy’s, Singapore.

This little homage to El Bulli was a great little snack from new chef Aitor Orive at Iggy’s. I never got to eat at El Bulli before it closed, but I wish I had.

 

 

  1. Roast meat noodles at Xiang Ji, Singapore.

Wantan mee is one of my favourite dishes and although you can order it at Xiang Ji, I think it’s better if you take matters into your own hands and order roast meat noodles (with extra siew yuk) and wantans separately. This is my favourite noodle in Singapore at the moment.

 

  1. Giant Yee Sang at my grandma’s house, Adelaide.

Yee sang is a celebratory dish eaten at Chinese New Year. My uncle put together this giant version for our big family reunion this year. You arrange all the ingredients for the salad separately and then everyone gathers around and tosses it high into the air for good luck. This was the biggest one we’ve ever made.

 

 

  1. Abalone schnitzel at Noma Australia, Sydney.

I’m not going to pretend that Noma Australia was my favourite meal of the year – to be honest, a lot of it wasn’t really to my taste. But it’s still an incredible experience and you have to appreciate the creativity and concept that goes into every mouthful. This abalone schnitzel was pretty great.

 

 

  1. Emu Margherita, Broome.

The guys at bush tukka pizzas make portable wood ovens that can be used by Indigenous communities as small businesses serving pizzas made from native ingredients. My son loved this emu margherita.

 

 

  1. Somen, Shodoshima, Japan.

One of my highlights of the year was visiting Shodoshima Island in Japan’s Seto Inland Sea and teaching a cooking class to the local residents as part of Asialink’s artist residency program during the Setouchi Triennale. Shodoshima is famous for it’s somen, and it’s delicious.

 

 

  1. Chicken Inasal at Island Chicken Inasal, Boracay

A lot of people are prediciting that Filipino food will be hitting the big time in 2017. If it does, these are the kind of dishes that are going to help it stick. Simple pinoy-style barbecue chicken with pickles. We ate this same dish about 4 times over two weeks.

 

 

  1. Chinese Toffee Apples, Beiwu, China.

These Chinese toffee apples were one of my favourite dishes growing up. The fried apples are tossed in caramel and served hot. You pick up a piece and dip it into cold water to set the toffee and then eat it. We had this at our big family Christmas in Beijing, at the same restaurant we’ve been going to for more than 20 years. I’ve included this in the list because of the overwhelming nostalgia.

 

 

  1. Antipasto plate at Roscioli, Rome

Away from the kids and with a rare day off in Rome I popped into one of my favourite trats and spent a long afternoon eating slowly, alone save for a few glasses of wine and a newspaper for company. It was heaven.

 

 

  1. Simmered Alfonsino at Esaki, Tokyo.

As part of my job I get to eat at a lot of great restaurants around the world and the one thing that I often find disappointing is when you sit down to a meal and it barely speaks of the chef or the country you’re in. A lot of modern, high-end restaurants just seem to copy the style and technique of their peers with very little individuality. This isn’t the case at Esaki, where the centrepiece of a (very affordable) three Michelin-starred meal is a simple simmered whole fish. It’s more like getting a meal from your mum than from a chef at the very top of the global game (in a good way).

Esaki might be the most unaffected three-Michelin starred restaurant in the world. While most other top restaurants are at best keeping one eye what their peers are doing (and at worst, becoming derivative of them) you get the feeling that Esaki considers his peer as the udon place down the street rather than the guy on-stage in the big group media photo at a restaurant awards ceremony. There are no flowery explanations of origins, or complicated directions of "how best to enjoy” an otherwise inscrutable dish. There are no popular Nordic influences or throwbacks to childhood memories. The beer list contains 4 beers you can get at any convenience store and there are no matching wines with the courses. I used to come here often for lunch a long time ago (way before Michelin), but haven’t been back for maybe 8 years until last night. I’m happy to report that it’s exactly the same. Getting a reservation now isn’t the easiest thing in the world (especially if you live overseas), but if you can it's still a fantastic, completely Japanese, modern dining experience that is closer to actual home cooking than it is a fancy take on home cooking. And it's the same price it was before all the accolades, too (around $150 a head for 8 courses). I LOVED the simmered kinmedai (alfonsino) with burdock and tofu (pictured), followed by the rice, soup and pickles. The rice was mixed with tiny baby sardines and mountain ash, the soup was with balls of tofu and chicken and the pickles a mixture of beets, daikon, cucumber and torch ginger. That simple course was probably the best thing I’ve eaten all year.

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2015: My Year in Review

Well, it was a big ol’ year.

I travelled around the world. I spend a lot of time on the road but this year I took one of my best trips ever. I was away filming Destination Flavour Scandinavia across Denmark, Norway and Sweden. I herded reindeer on snowmobiles, went up to see wild polar bears in the Arctic circle, ate and some of the world’s best restaurants, and cooked some delicious Scandinavian food. The series will be on SBS in early 2016 so stay tuned. I think you’ll really enjoy it. I also spent a lot of time working in Malaysia and Singapore, and I hope to be spending a bit more time in Southeast Asia in the coming year.

Svalbard. Incredible. I'm only 1,000 kilometres from the North Pole. #theendoftheworld

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Hitting the late night Singapore talk shows!

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I released my fourth cookbook. It’s called “Adam Liaw’s Asian Cookery School” and I can say without a doubt it’s my best book yet. (And I even took some of the less important photos myself!) It’s gotten some fantastic reviews, and I couldn’t be more proud. The Age called it “a brilliant step-by-step guide in the tradition of Julia Child” and The West Australian said it was “a masterclass on technique and flavour”. *blushes*

I have to say, though, the biggest thrill is seeing all the thing’s you’ve all cooked from it!

I cooked and ate a lot. I think the best part of what I do is that even when I’m busy and travelling, I still have time to cook. Stay tuned to my Instagram for a taste of what I’m cooking each day. I headlined all of the Good Food and Wine Shows around Australia this year, too, and got to cook with and for a lot more of you all around Australia and the rest of the world. If you want to see a few memorable things I ate this year, just click here.

It's that time of year again! My list of 17 Memorable Things I Ate in 2015. Link in profile.

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I wrote even more than I cooked! This year I’ve continued on as a GoodFood food columnist alongside Neil Perry, Karen Martini and Dan Lepard, but now I’ve also taken over from Bill Granger as the weekly columnist for Sunday Life magazine, which is a real honour. I really love being able to share my recipes with you in the paper each week, as well as in my books. On top of all that, I’ve also started writing for The Guardian. You can catch a couple of my recipes and articles below:

Five Scientific Developments That Will Change The Way We Eat

Five Simple Dishes And The Mistakes You’re Making With Them

Okonomirosti

Lasagne Spaghetti

Singapore Chilli Crab

I started a YouTube channel. It’s only early days yet but it’s getting a really good response. This year I was ranked #1 for social media influence in the Australian food industry, which is nice. Buzzfeed wrote a couple of listicles about me (here, and here) too which is weird but also nice. It’s great to be able to chat, share and see what you’re all cooking on Instagram, Twitter and Facebook. I’m looking forward to sharing more videos with you on YouTube, too.

If you like these videos, just click here and subscribe to see more like these.

I spent quality time with my family. Sometimes when I’m at my busiest I really have to focus on what’s important. This year despite being rushed off my feet for a full twelve months, I’m happy that I was able to spend time with my family through it all, from my son’s first cherry blossoms, to my sister’s graduation from medical school and a big family Christmas lunch.

Father's Day would be nothing without these guys. I hope all the dads are having a great day!

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Thank you so much for all of your support. I really couldn’t do it without all of you reading my recipes, watching my TV shows and generally just being there for me. Sometimes I really do feel like the luckiest guy in the world.

 

Destination Flavour Japan – Contact List

I’ve had a lot of requests for contact details for the places I visited travelling around Japan for Destination Flavour Japan, so I thought I’d collect all the links here for easy reference. It’s not a complete list – it’s just the places I could remember off the top of my head, so if there’s anything I’ve missed just leave a comment below and I’ll add it in.

Some of the links are in Japanese but you get the idea.

Happy travels!

Destination Flavour Japan Contacts (1 of 6)

 

Episode 1: Hokkaido

Kushiro fish markets: Washo-ichiba

Cooking sea urchin, crab and scallop: Orenchi izakaya

Choco-moo cheesecake: Farm designs

Onsen: Tsuruga Resort Lake Akan

Two Michelin-starred Restaurant: Kappo Okada

Destination Flavour Japan Contacts (2 of 6)

Episode 2: Hokuriku

Live squid fishing: Hakodate Morning Markets

World’s most expensive tuna: Omanzoku

Soy sauce: Yagisawa shoten soy sauce, Rikuzentakata

Wanko soba: Wanko soba Azumaya, Morioka

Onsen: Tsurunoyu

Destination Flavour Japan Contacts (3 of 6)

Episode 3: Kanazawa

Sushi: Otomezushi

Markets: Omicho Market

Ryotei restaurant: Tsuruko

Cake buying: Le Musee de H

Sake brewery: Shata brewery

 

Episode 4: Nagoya

Nagoya cochin chicken: Torishige

Iga wagyu beef: Okuda

Miso: Kakykyu

 

Episode 5: Tokyo

Izakaya: Shirube, Shimokitazawa

Small restaurant: Enoki, Nonbeiyokocho

Michelin-starred restaurant: Narisawa

Yakitori restaurant: Torishiki

 

Episode 6: Tokyo (Part 2) and Saitama

Depachika: Takashimiya department store, Shinjuku

Wagyu “donburi”: Two Rooms

Destination Flavour Japan Contacts (5 of 6)

Episode 7: Kyoto

Michelin-starred restaurant: Yonemura Gion

Tempura: Kawatatsu

Pickles: Uchida pickles, Nishiki Markets

Episode 8: Osaka

Soba: Sobakiri Masa

Knife-making: Mizuno tanrenjo

Sumo restaurant: Arata Chanko Nabe

Takoyaki: Noboridako

 

Episode 9: Kyushu

 

[TO COME]

Destination Flavour Japan Contacts (6 of 6)

Episode 10: Okinawa

Taco rice: King Tacos

Markets: Makishi Public Market, Naha

Island life: Izena island

 

 

 

 

What I Did in 2014 – The Highlights
Four hours outside Dubai, UAE.

Four hours outside Dubai, UAE. This shot was taken the day before shooting started on Star Wars: The Force Awakens, which was filmed right here!

2014 was another big year. Time always seems to fly by, but I think I’ve managed to pack more into this year than just about any other. I don’t want to bore you with EVERYTHING I did, so here are just a few of the highlights.

I joined Good Food as a food columnist. You can see my recipes in The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age every month or online anytime at www.goodfood.com.au. Here are a couple you might like from the past year:

Salmon oyakodon

Salmon oyakodon (and a bit of a primer on sashimi too)

Cinnamon and watermelon granita

Tonkatsu

American pancakes

I still write for Feast magazine and a bunch of other publications as well, so you’ll still be seeing my writing pop up all over the place. Here’s a piece on a dinner I went to in Tasmania that I wrote for The Wall Street Journal.

I released my third book.  I think Adam’s Big Pot is my best yet. Each of my books is generally just a collection of what I’ve been cooking that year, so they’re a bit autobiographical in that sense.

Now that my son is getting older and eats mostly what my wife and I eat, the book is focused on simple family recipes that are also authentic. It’s been getting a huge response and every week I get dozens of photos of all the dishes you’ve all been cooking from it. Thank you, and keep them coming! If you want to have a look at some sample recipes, check them out here.

Experiences2 (1 of 1)

I think travel is vital to good cooking, and this year I traveled an awful lot. With cooking more than most other things it’s easy to get stuck in a rut of buying the same ingredients and cooking the same dishes over and over. Travel forces you to experience new flavours, new techniques and whole new ways of eating.

This year I was away from home for nearly eight months all up. I visited England, France, Spain Portugal, The United Arab Emirates, Sweden, Italy, Greece, Japan, Malaysia, New Zealand, Indonesia, Myanmar and Thailand and had some incredible experiences – both in food and otherwise. You can follow my further travels on Instagram.

On the balcony. Oia, Santorini, Greece.

On the balcony. Oia, Santorini, Greece.

Matsuri in Hakui, Ishikawa Prefecture, Japan.

Matsuri in Hakui, Ishikawa Prefecture, Japan.

The Alhambra, Granada, Spain.

The Alhambra, Granada, Spain.

I ate a lot of great stuff too, and you can see a list of some of the food that floated my boat here.

Of course, I didn’t just go overseas. I travelled all around Australia as well, which brings me to…

Our third Destination Flavour season for SBS, Destination Flavour: Down Under, was our highest rating season yet! Our second episode was actually the sixth highest rating episode of a food program in Australia last year, and the highest on SBS. We put a lot of hard work into the show and it’s great to know you’re all enjoying it.

Edith Falls, NT, Australia.

Edith Falls, NT, Australia.

On an amphibious pearl boat in Cygnet Bay, Northern WA, Australia.

On an amphibious pearl boat in Cygnet Bay, Northern WA, Australia.

Cooking crayfish in Kaikoura, New Zealand.

Cooking crayfish in Kaikoura, New Zealand.

Here are a few recipes you might like from the series:

Yoghurt pikelets with kiwifruit jam

New Zealand Hunter’s pie

Salt and pepper Moreton Bay bugs

Ploughman’s lunch with salt-crust pork belly

I visited UNICEF’s operations in Myanmar. It was a life-changing trip in many ways and here’s a piece I wrote on it just to try and get my head around the experience. I’ve been involved with helping children through my mother’s work in China for more than 20 years, and a UNICEF Ambassador for 2 years now. Not everyone will have the chance to see first hand where the money they donate to good causes actually goes, but trust me it’s incredible. If you want to help UNICEF Australia, you can donate here.

Temples at dusk in Bagan, Myanmar.

Temples at dusk in Bagan, Myanmar.

With kids in a UNICEF-supported school, Thet Ke Kan Village, Myanmar.

With kids in a UNICEF-supported school, Thet Ke Kan Village, Myanmar.

I cycled around Hokkaido. Well, not the whole way around but we did more than 700 kilometres over 5 days. It was a fantastic trip with great food that made up for the EXTREMELY sore legs. The food and scenery were incredible but I honestly I think I enjoyed the cycling even more. I’m not a MAMIL yet but I am really liking being on the bike. If only I had more time.

At the top of the Bohor Pass, Hokkaido, Japan.

At the top of the Bohor Pass, Hokkaido, Japan.

Cycling Hokkaido

And finally, my son Christopher turned one! There’s not much more to say about that other than he’s growing into a great little guy and I love being his dad.

Christopher's First Birthday

Thank you all for supporting me this year in the various things I do. I love hearing from you too, so leave a comment below or try and catch up with me on social media on Instagram, Facebook or Twitter.

I hope you had a great 2014 too, and here’s to many more good times to come in 2015!

 

16 Memorable Things I Ate In 2014

The entrance to La Tupina (see No. 4).

I know I say it every year but this time it was almost impossible to narrow the list down. I did a stupid amount of travel this year and ate an even stupider amount of food, but I think I just managed to pick my favourites.

There are so many more dishes I wish I could have included but, without any further excuses and in no particular order, here are 16 memorable things I ate this year (that I didn’t cook myself).

Here are some links to last year’s list and the year before’s, if you’re interested.

And if you want to keep more regular tabs on what I’m eating and cooking you can throw me a follow on Instagram @liawadam.

1. Pastéis de Belém, A Chique de Belem, Lisbon, Portugal

The far-more-famous Pastéis de Belém down the road is accepted as the home of the Portuguese tart, but it can feel a bit like you’re on the conveyor belt of a tourist factory. At A Chique de Belem they’re still “fabrico próprio” (made on premises) and excellent quality, and you can even sit, have a coffee and actually enjoy yourself while eating tart or four (or six). I honestly thought the tarts were better here, too.

2. Foie gras and marmalade, Ganbara, San Sebastian, Spain

A pintxos crawl in San Sebastian is probably one of the best food experiences in the world, and doesn’t even matter that the food isn’t always that good. Don’t get me wrong – there are some exceptional pintxos around, but there’s as much boring/bad as there is interesting/great. This foie gras and marmalade from Ganbara was one of the greats.

3. Francesinha, Bufete Fase, Porto, Portugal

You could start a civil war in Porto on the question of where has the best Francesinha (“Little Frenchie” – it’s a Portuguese evolution of a Croque Monsieur) but after much wailing and gnashing of teeth I settled on Bufete Fase. The sound you hear when you eat it is your arteries weeping.

4. Confit goose wing and Salardaise potatoes, La Tupina, Bordeaux, France

Some say La Tupina has become an affectation of the rustic French cookery that made it famous but really, its only crime is aggressively staying the same while the food world evolved around it into something that can be overly critical, cynical and opinionated at times. If that’s an affectation, I don’t think that’s a bad thing.

5. Caffè freddo and pastries, Andreotti, Rome

My little brother lives around the corner from this place and brought me here on a searing hot Roman day. The caffè freddo is made with a base of espresso granita topped with more chilled espresso and a touch of milk. Now it’s the gold-standard for every hot summer’s day I’ve experienced since. A+ pastries, too FWIW.

6. Birthday cake, by Katherine Sabbath, Sydney

I’ve been a fan of Katherine’s on Instagram for ages and she so very, very kindly made this for my son’s first birthday. Often the trade-off for cakes that look this good is taste, but this was one of the best cakes I’ve ever eaten. Caramel mud cake with freeze-dried raspberries and toasted coconut plus cream cheese icing. The ice-cream cone is full of cupcake. Show-stopper.

7. Negitoro temaki, Sushi Shinnosuke, Kanazawa, Japan

Negitoro temaki (minced akami with Japanese leeks) is one of those salaryman sushi pieces that Japanese food snobs would never order in a fine-dining omakase. At Shinnosuke, though, the attention paid to the texture of meaty tuna and sharp leeks made it stand out, which is why it’s on the list instead of the more celebrated cuts like otoro nigiri. In fact, the whole meal at Shinnosuke was amazing. Completely different to somewhere like Sukibashi Jiro (which I guess since the doco has become the default benchmark for sushi restaurants everywhere) in the sense that the taisho’s style is some of the most contemporary stuff going around, but if this was in Tokyo you’d be paying three or four hundred dollars for it. In Kanazawa the whole meal was just a smidge over a hundred bucks.

8. Avgotaraho, capers and rakomelo, To Psarakis, Santorini, Greece

For such a tourist hotspot, the food on Santorini is incredible. Particularly in the somewhat-less-overrun towns of Vlychada and Ammoudi. This was my first time trying avgotaraho (semi-soft cured mullet roe) but it was like a more delicate, yolky version of karasumi or bottarga. These thick slabs were a perfect match with rakomelo (raki sweetened with honey).

9. Bacon and Prune Pave, Du Pain et Des Idées, Paris, France

This was just about the most perfect savoury snack I’ve ever eaten. I’m not kidding. Perfect smokiness of the farmer’s bacon, the right mix of crunchy, chewy and milky lactic fermentation in the dough, with a subtle sweetness of prune.

10. Native Australian ingredient tasting, Indian Pacific, somewhere on the Nullarbor Plain, Australia

For a long time native Australian ingredients have suffered from associations with gimmicky attempts to force “Australiana” into a modern Australian cuisine that has never really paid it much attention. I don’t really think much has changed. The gimmick has become the flavour of the month in fine-dining and chefs are now throwing native ingredients around with a shrug and wink, but I still haven’t really thought they’ve make much impact on how Australians really eat. Enter Mark Olive – and I say enter even though he’s being championing native foods for the best part of 30 years. His native ingredient tasting on board the Indian Pacific took place somewhere on the Nullarbor Plain during my 3-day journey crossing Australia from coast to coast and it has, at long last, opened my eyes to the possibilities of the incredible and unique flavours we have here.

11. Crayfish and chips, Nin’s Bin, Kaikoura, New Zealand

The Clark family live and breathe crayfish, and there’s a reason theirs is the best crayfish in New Zealand. Johnny catches them and cooks them in an old copper washing machine and his brother Ricky makes the chips (fried in dripping, no less). The secret to preserving the crayfish flavour is cooking them sixty at a time so that the water doesn’t dilute the flavour. Something to bear in mind if you ever have sixty crayfish lying around.

12. Toast Skagen, Hotel Diplomat, Stockholm, Sweden

This is a fantastic spot for lunch in Stockholm. Well-heeled and impossibly attractive Swedes of all ages in crisp-pressed shirts dining on Swedish classics with a bit of swank. Toast Skagen is lightly grilled bread topped with fresh prawns, dill, crème fraiche and vendace roe. I don’t think I’ve ever felt more civilised while eating toast.

13. Bain moke, Sone Kone Village, Myanmar

I’d just visited a rural health centre on a trip to Myanmar with UNICEF, and in Myanmar “rural” means we’d been crossing rivers in four-wheel drives for about 4 hours to get here. It was one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever visited, and for a snack I bought a piece of this giant leavened pancake of peanut and coconut from a local seller. Ten cents a piece.

14. Ploughman’s lunch and a cloudy cider, The Mount Inn, Cotswolds, England

Anyone who still subscribes to the old trope that English food is terrible or boring is woefully out of touch. And it’s not that just magically got better a decade or so ago. It’s always been great.

15. Nasi campur, Warung Something Something, Bali

That’s not the name of the warung. I just can’t remember it. I’ve spent hours and hours in Bali on previous trips trying to track down some famous babi guling (usually great) or some new and popular fancy-casual restaurant (usually not-so-great) but this trip I just decided to eat from the local warung and sit by the pool. Maybe I just got lucky but the simple nasi campur from the place at the end of the street was different every day and as good as anything I’ve eaten in Bali, anywhere. Oh, and it cost a dollar a plate.

16. Pork jowl, abalone and fermented grains, Peter Gilmore, MONA, Hobart, Tasmania

Photo credit: Tourism Australia

This was one of the big fancy dishes at Tourism Australia’s big fancy dinner in Hobart. It was the best dinner I’ve ever been to. I wrote about it for The Wall Street Journal here.

Well, thanks for reading. That was a list of stuff I didn’t cook this year. If you want to have a look at some stuff I did, your best bet is here.

And if you want to see what else I got up to in 2014, try here.

2013 Was A Really, Really Big Year

I know I say it every year, but it just seems to fly by, doesn’t it? But as surely as 2012 followed 2011, we are now at the end of 2013 and what a year it’s been. Here’s a really quick snapshot of what I’ve been doing for the past 12 months.

AAW (1 of 1)

I wrote. And then I wrote some more.

I wrote so much this year I literally broke my keyboard. My Wall Street Journal – Scene Asia column, Around the Table, continued to get a great response. A few of my pieces were even in their top food stories for 2013. I wrote a bunch of stuff for The Sydney Morning Herald, Good Food, The Australian and Feast Magazine. I was published in an anthology of feminist literature by Penguin, which was quite unexpected but also very nice.

But the biggest thing I wrote this year was my second book, Asian After Work. I’m immensely proud of it, and thank you so much for all the photos and comments you’ve sent through to me this year. There’s really nothing better as an author seeing a dish go from an idea in your head to becoming a regular fixture on someone’s family dinner table. It’s humbling and I am grateful to you all for giving me that experience.

SocMed-Collage3

Asian After Work has only been in the shops for a couple of months but sales have been fantastic! We’ve sold tens of thousands of copies and my publisher has already ordered a reprint so there’ll be more to come! I’ve also agreed to write a third book, so look out for that later in 2014.

I travelled. A lot.

By my count I’ve stayed in more than 60 hotels this year. That’s more than one a week! There’s been a lot of traveling but it wasn’t without a purpose. I cooked a banquet as a guest of the Australian High Commission in Kuala Lumpur, a cooking class for 200 (yes, TWO HUNDRED) in Bali with Jonah Lomu and UB40 (I’m serious), took over from Stephanie Alexander designing the menu for this year’s Rymill Harvest Lunch, as well as going through Thailand, China, Australia and New Zealand. I fulfilled a dream of mine in writing, developing and presenting Destination Flavour: Japan. Travelling the entire length of that wonderful country over three months was an unforgettable experience and it has really affected the way I approach food.

What city am I in again?

What city am I in again?

That the series turned out to be such a success was really the icing on the cake. The response from all of you watching the show has been phenomenal and I really want to thank you for tuning in and supporting a show that we tried to make as intelligent, honest and entertaining as possible. The ratings were GREAT (our last episode of Japan DOUBLED the number of viewers that tuned in to the final episode of the first Destination Flavour season) and SBS has been kind enough to commission a third series. I’m right in the middle of filming that now so stay tuned for more Destination Flavour to come next year!

We connected.

Thank you so much for all the interaction on social media this year. There’s nearly 200,000 of you all across facebook and Twitter and I feel like I’ve heard from almost all of you! I held out for years but finally succumbed to the wiles of Instagram, and much to my surprise I actually love it! (I still don’t use those weird filters, though.) I look forward to sharing more with you and hearing more from you over 2014.

Instagram-Screenshot

I ate. More than I should have.

My computer tells me I’ve created more than 300 new recipes this year, but rather than just the food I made, one of the perks of hosting a food and travel show is that you get to eat a lot of nice stuff that other people make. Here’s a selection of the most memorable things I ate this year.

Family came first.

I feel like I’ve spent a whole year in hospitals. I don’t really need to go into the gory details of it but at one point my grandmother, mother and wife were all in three different hospitals across three different countries and I was flying between them all! It’s been really difficult at times but amazingly, MIRACULOUSLY, not only has everyone pulled through but they’re all in better health than they were before it all went pear-shaped. It’s amazing how these kinds of things can really put things into perspective for you. Beijing-(3-of-6)

It hasn’t all been bad, though. The biggest and best hospital news of the year was the happiest of my life. We welcomed little Christopher Wren Liaw into the world! I know I’m gushing like every new dad does, but he’s probably (easily) the best thing to ever happen to me.

We helped.

This year I was appointed UNICEF Australia’s National Ambassador for Nutrition. Through the Bread for Good campaign and other initiatives from UNICEF, we’ve made a impact on the lives of children around Australia and the world. There’s still more work to be done. If you’d like to help UNICEF and the great work they do, you can donate here.

I hosted Christmas lunch.

I don’t normally mention specific meals, but this year there was a point where it looked like our family was going to be a few people smaller this Christmas. It all turned out for the best and gathering my whole family across 4 generations and 5 continents together at my dining table for a big family Christmas lunch was one of happiest days I’ve ever had. I don’t mind telling you that a few tears were shed, but I am very glad to say they were all tears of joy.

Christmas Lunch 2013 - At home, Sydney

Christmas Lunch 2013 – At home, Sydney

Well, that’s a lot to fit into one little year! Thanks again for all the good times, laughs and support. I really do feel like the luckiest guy on Earth.

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16 Memorable Things I Ate in 2013
Hot orange-glazed turkey with Scarborough Fair stuffing - Christmas Lunch 2013

Hot orange-glazed turkey with Scarborough fair stuffing – Christmas Lunch 2013

It’s time again for my list of memorable dishes from the past year and I must admit this year has been the hardest ever. I try to limit myself to calling out ten dishes a year (with a cheeky extra one to indulge myself – after all it is the holiday season) but this time I’ve upped it to 15 (plus one) for no other reason than that I’ve eaten so much good stuff there was no other option. If you’re interested, last year’s list is here.

This isn’t a list of the best dishes in the world, nor really is it a list of the best things I ate all year (although most of them certainly are). They are just the dishes that stuck in my mind.

There was a dish created specifically for me and my wife by two-Michelin-starred chef Yasunori Okada using ingredients sourced from our respective home towns. There was Hida beef rump rolled in ash, made by grilling Japanese leeks over oak charcoal for two days by Asia’s No. 1 chef, Yoshihiro Narisawa. There was a family Christmas feast hastily thrown together after a series of serious medical emergencies almost crushed us (don’t worry, everyone’s fine now *phew*), and even frog leg porridge cooked with Marmite and loads of fiery chillies (seriously) from Kuala Lumpur.

Eating each one of these dishes was a special moment for me this year. Thanks so much for letting me share them with you.

So here they are, in no particular order:

  1. Grilled Nagoya cochin chicken with yuzu kosho – Toriyoshi, Nagoya
  2. Pumpkin cooked in mead with white rice ice cream – Sixpenny, Sydney
  3. Babi guling – Pak Malen, Bali
  4. Sumi 2009 – Narisawa, Tokyo
  5. 25-year aged kombu stock – Takashi Okuda, Fukui
  6. Cheeseburger and root beer float – Gordie’s, Okinawa
  7. Marmite spicy frog porridge – Jalan Alor, Kuala Lumpur
  8. Daiginjo sake soufflé and salt soft serve – Ryugin, Tokyo
  9. Hairy crab and sea urchin nori roll with orange ankake – Kappo Okada, Sapporo
  10. Yang rou chuan – Roadside stall, Beijing
  11. Noto beef jibuni – Tsuruko, Ishikawa
  12. Kumara scones – Mavis Suckling, Dargaville, New Zealand
  13. Tea ceremony (Azaleas with their roots in a stone) – Kimura Soshin, Kyoto
  14. XO Sea – Quay, Sydney
  15. Eel spine kara-age – Kawatatsu, Kyoto
  16. 2013 Christmas lunch – At home, Sydney
Babi Guling - Pak Malen (Jimbaran), Bali

Babi Guling – Pak Malen (Jimbaran), Bali

Hairy crab and sea urchin nori roll with orange ankake - Kappo Okada, Hokkaido

Hairy crab and sea urchin nori roll with orange ankake – Kappo Okada, Hokkaido

(L to R) Sumi 2009, Sake souffle, Binchotan-grilled Nagoya cochin with yuzu kosho, White chocolate and strawberry pavlova (Christmas Lunch), Yang rou chuan, 25-year aged kombu stock, XO Sea, Candied pumpkin and rice ice cream.

(L to R) Narisawa’s Sumi 2009, Ryugin’s Daiginjo sake souffle with salt soft serve, Binchotan-grilled Nagoya cochin with yuzu kosho, White chocolate and strawberry pavlova (Christmas Lunch), Yang rou chuan, 25-year aged kombu stock, Quay’s XO Sea, Sixpenny’s  pumpkin in mead and rice ice cream.

Noto beef - Tsuruko, Ishikawa

Noto beef – Tsuruko, Ishikawa

Noto beef jibuni - Tsuruko, Ishikawa

Noto beef jibuni – Tsuruko, Ishikawa

Tempura (including eel spine kara-age) - Kawatatsu, Kyoto

Tempura (including eel spine kara-age) – Kawatatsu, Kyoto

Gin and tonic oysters (Christmas lunch) - At home, Sydney

Gin and tonic oysters (Christmas lunch) – At home, Sydney

Kumura scones - made by Mavis Suckling, Dargaville, North Island of New Zealand

Kumara scones – made by Mavis Suckling, Dargaville, North Island of New Zealand

 

Marmite spicy frog porridge - Jalan Alor, Kuala Lumpur

Marmite spicy frog porridge – Jalan Alor, Kuala Lumpur

Azaleas with their roots in a stone - Juko, Kyoto (served at tea ceremony)

Azaleas with their roots in a stone – Juko, Kyoto (served at tea ceremony)

 

Cheeseburger and root beer float - Gordies', Okinawa

Cheeseburger and root beer float – Gordies’, Okinawa

 

Christmas Lunch 2013 - At home, Sydney

Christmas Lunch 2013 – At home, Sydney

 

 

 

Destination Flavour Japan

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It’s finally here! Tonight is the official launch of Destination Flavour Japan on SBS ONE at 8pm. I can’t tell you how excited and proud I am of this.

Making this series has been a real labour of love for me. I lived in Japan for 7 years and since them I’ve wanted to show what I love about the country and its food to the rest of the world. For Destination Flavour Japan, I wrote and developed the series together with our amazing director, Scott Tompson and Destination Flavour’s creator and Executive Producer, Erik Dwyer from SBS. My wife, Asami, was the senior researcher for the show and found all of the fantastic stories, so many of which are really close to my heart.

There’s episodes with my family, my friends, my favourite restaurants and so many extraordinary people who are part of Japan’s food scene. It’s a series I hope will give you an insight into Japanese food and culture, but also Japanese people and how life rolls by in this magnificent country.

You can watch full episodes online here, and there’s also the extended cut video recipes, written recipes and my weekly Behind-The-Scenes blog. (Sorry, the full episodes are only available in Australia, but if you’re overseas you can catch a sneak peek on Youtube.)

I’ll also be live tweeting most episodes so you can follow me on Twitter @adamliaw, or just use the #DestinationFlavour hashtag while you’re watching.

I really REALLY hope you enjoy the show!

UPDATE (11 October 2013): If you want to download the show from iTunes, you can do that here!

MREs: Anatomy of a Military Meal
Outside US Army base Camp Hansen in Kin Town, Okinawa, the long defunct Club Robin now operates as a military surplus store.

Outside US Army base Camp Hansen in Kin Town, Okinawa, the long defunct Club Robin is now a surplus store.

The huge US military presence in the Japanese islands of Okinawa is accompanied by a cottage industry where locals trade in used or surplus military equipment. In Kin Town, outside the Camp Hansen military base on the main island of Naha, there is a small nightlife district that caters to the personnel from the base. It’s suffered since its heyday of the 1960s and ’70s, and today more than half of the businesses in the area have closed down.

I was in Kin Town to eat Okinawa’s famed taco rice from the popular local eatery, King Tacos. You can read more about that here. The street King Tacos is on is a long strip of mostly abandoned buildings, but in one establishment that was formerly a bar called Club Robin, an Okinawan man operates a military surplus store selling everything from fatigues and camelbacks to medals and military rations, also known as MREs (Meal Ready-to-Eat).

I picked up one of the packs for 500-yen (about US$5) and asked the man if he’d ever tried one. He replied that he ate one for lunch every day. Only later would I discover how terrible an existence that must be.

In choosing an MRE, I wanted something identifiably American, and so among the many options including fajitas, ravioli and noodles, I settled on Menu 17 – the great American Sloppy Joe.

If you’ve never had a Sloppy Joe, it’s essentially a hamburger with low self-esteem. Minced beef is stewed in a tomato-based sauce and served in a toasted hamburger bun. With something so simple, it would be interesting to put the MRE through its paces.

MRE: Sloppy Joe

MRE: Sloppy Joe

Inside the MRE there are all the elements of a full meal. A few snacks, a main course, dessert and both cold and hot beverages. There are also condiments, utensils and even two pieces of after-dinner chewing gum.

Glorious, all-important, after-dinner chewing gum.

MRE (2 of 4)

MRE-Detail-Web-Outline

1. Sloppy Joe filling – Barbecue sauce with beef (320 Calories, 17g fat)
2. MRE Heater
3. Spoon
4. Cheese spread with Jalapenos (180 Calories, 17g fat)
5. Tabasco
6. Iodised salt
7. Wheat snack bread (180 Calories, 6g fat)
8. Nut raisin mix (310 Calories, 25g fat)
9. Fudge brownie (320 Calories, 17g fat)
10. Nescafé Taster’s Choice instant coffee
11. Non-dairy creamer (for coffee)
12. Chewing gum
13. Splenda artificial sweetener
14. Matches
15. Moist towelette
16. Napkins/toilet paper
17. Carbohydrate electrolyte beverage powder, Orange flavour (90 Calories, 0g fat)
18. Hot beverage bag

Total: 1400 Calories, 82g fat.

Main Course: Sloppy Joe with jalapeno cheese spread and orange carbohydrate electrolyte beverage

Main Course: Sloppy Joe with jalapeno cheese spread and orange carbohydrate electrolyte beverage (Not pictured: shame)

Preparing the MRE was a straightforward process. Following the instructions on the packet, I poured a little water into the MRE heater – an iron/magnesium pad that produces flameless heat through an exothermic chemical reaction – and packed it into the cardboard box containing the Sloppy Joe filling.

I’m told that the MRE heaters can be quite effective, but after waiting the recommended 10 minutes there was very little in the way of warmth, and substantially more in the way of unpleasant chemical smells and disappointment.

Thankfully, I was not in the field and so I was able to heat the package in a pot of water on the stove. Minutes later, I was cooking with the fiery latin heat of a young Jimmy Smits.

Waiting for the filling to heat, I opened the package of “wheat snack bread” to discover it had both the appearance and texture of cardboard. If it had once intended to break apart into some kind of bun, it had long since lost the motivation to do so.

The Sloppy Joe filling was one of the most terrifying things I have ever encountered. As I opened the warmed packet and experienced what was inside, I could have sworn I heard a distant scream. The meat that had been touted as minced beef was clearly a kind of paste that had been reconstituted into a uniform, beef mince-like shape (for what ungodly reason is anyone’s guess). The sauce that tried so earnestly to hide the beef’s shame was a cheerful cherry red, with an aroma reminiscent of ‘new car smell’.

Topping the dispirited snack bread with the now-ironic Sloppy Joe “filling”, I prayed that the Cheese spread with Jalapenos would offer some hope, or at the very least a distraction. But as I read the helpful instructions to “knead well before opening” I knew all was lost.

The contents of the well-kneaded packet were an odd yellow-grey paste that resembled a dead man’s tongue, and owed about as much to cheese as it did jalapenos. Which is to say, nothing.

I had naively assumed that the cheese was a topping for the Sloppy Joe (as pictured above), but further reading (Lucky Peach, Issue 6) now informs me that it is in fact intended as a separate element in the meal. Adding it to the Sloppy Joe is a hack developed by soldiers in the field.

Now that’s all well and good, but let’s just pause for a moment to wonder at how the creator of this MRE must live if they consider that eating 42.5g of cheese paste without any accompaniments is a reasonable thing for a person to do. I can only imagine they once observed a tramp rifle through some garbage, emerging to eat a lump of soft cheese straight out of his hand, and it was at that point they had their “lightbulb moment”.

The flavour of the Sloppy Joe was in itself a hate-crime. Notes of canned spaghetti and low-sodium ketchup were confused by the texture of bread that was somehow both mushy and dry-brittle at the same time. Even doused in Tabasco I could only stomach a few mouthfuls before I started to feel a deep sorrow. The artificial-orange electrolyte drink powder that defied dissolution did little to wash away the taste.

Dessert: Fudge brownie, instant coffee, nuts and chewing gum

Dessert: Fudge brownie, instant coffee, nuts and sweet, sweet chewing gum

Moving on to dessert, I took a brief detour to the packet of mixed nuts and fruit. Egged on by a few unsavoury raisins, a gang of peanuts surrounded a clearly terrified almond. I don’t know how you spoil a nut, but they too had a strange chemical taste and were devoid of any nut flavour. The raisins themselves I can only describe as belligerent.

In a small coup for the folks back at MRE headquarters, the fudge brownie had some moisture to it, and its texture of clay was at least ‘wet clay’. A strong-if-artificial chocolate flavour upgraded that to ‘chocolatey wet clay’.

Inevitably, the instant coffee with non-dairy creamer and Splenda was not so much coffee as a beverage designed specifically to mock coffee.

Ending the meal came the sweet release of chewing gum. It wasn’t good chewing gum by any stretch, but it was clean and minty, with a hint of an apology. With each chew I tried to forget what I had just eaten, and after a while I stopped weeping.

Let us never forget what transpired here today, friends, for surely I have experienced the horrors of war.

Japan Travel Diary – North to South
Ice fishing for wakasagi on Lake Akan, Hokkaido.

Ice fishing for wakasagi on Lake Akan, Hokkaido.

Over the past 3 months I’ve been traveling the entire length of Japan, exploring its cuisine from north to south – from the ice and snow in Hokkaido in February, through the riot of the cherry blossom season, and on to the sun and sand (and rain) of Okinawa in May.

It was an amazing trip exploring food and culture, and of course huge thanks must go to the entire support team that saw it through months of pre-production and a lot of travel on just about every form of transport possible.

There are a number of BIG projects coming out of this trip (one of which may be obvious from the photo above), but the first is a weekly Japan Travel Diary I wrote along the way as part of my regular “Around the Table” column for The Wall Street Journal’s Scene Asia.

Tsurunoyu Onsen

Tsurunoyu Onsen, Akita prefecture

I’ve collected all of the articles together here for you, so if you want to follow my trip from start to finish, just read on!

Hokkaido, Week 1: Off Script in Hokkaido

Tohoku, Week 2: Onsen Dining: Come for the Hot Springs, Stay for the Food

Ishikawa, Week 3: The Secrets of Perfect Sushi

Fukui, Week 4: Understanding Umami Part 1: The Kombu Code and Part 2: Bringing Balance to the MSG Debate

Tokyo, Week 5: Back to School with Ramen

Tokyo II, Week 6: Yakitori and Negative Space

Kyoto, Week 7: Sweet Treats, and Tea, in Kyoto

Osaka, Week 8: When the B-List is Best

Fukuoka, Week 9: Saving Fukuoka’s Street Food

Okinawa, Week 10: Okinawa’s Gourmet Revival

You can stay tuned with the rest of my Around the Table columns for Scene Asia here. And of course, keep in touch for the SBS TV series and much more coming out of my trip over the next few months.

Wagashi traditional sweets. This one's called "Azaleas growning out of a stone".

Wagashi traditional sweets in Kyoto. This one’s called “Azaleas growning out of a stone”.

Hand made Japanese knives in Osaka

Hand made Japanese knives in Osaka

Maiko (apprentice geisha) in Kyoto

Maiko (apprentice geisha) in Kyoto

A Fukuoka yatai stall selling Hakata-style ramen.

A Fukuoka yatai stall selling Hakata-style ramen.

Taco rice from King Tacos, Okinawa.

Taco rice from King Tacos, Okinawa.