Waterfall Duck (Nam Tok Ped)

Nam tok literally means ‘waterfall’ in Thai, but in the context of this dish it refers to the juices released by the grilled duck. Nam tok is a lot like a larb, in the sense that it is a spicy, meaty salad. The big difference is that the duck is grilled rather than simmered or raw (as some larbs are made).

You could make this with grilled beef, pork or chicken, but it’s particularly good with duck as it gives you a lovely texture from crispy skin, and a little of the rendered duck fat mixes with the juices and dressing ingredients to create a delicious coating.



Serves 4, as part of a shared meal

2 duck breasts, around 225g each

1 tbsp uncooked brown rice, glutinous rice, or other raw rice

½ red onion, thinly sliced

2 spring onions, finely sliced

tbsp fish sauce

tbsp lime juice (about 1 lime)

1 tsp dried chilli powder

1/4 tsp caster sugar

½ cup roughly chopped mint and coriander leaves, plus extra sprigs to serve

cucumber, to serve

cherry tomatoes, to serve


Place the duck breasts skin-down in a dry frying pan and place the pan over medium heat. Cook for 6 minutes, then flip and cook for a further 4-5 minutes. Remove the duck to a warm plate to rest for about 5 minutes.

Add the rice to a separate dry saucepan and heat over medium heat, swirling constantly for about 5 minutes until the rice starts to pop and gives off a toasty aroma. Grind the rice with a mortar and pestle to a coarse powder.

Combine the onions, fish sauce, lime juice, chilli powder and sugar in a non-reactive bowl and mix well.

Slice the duck into ½ cm slices and combine with the onion mix, then add the rice powder and chopped herbs and toss well. Serve immediately with extra herbs and raw vegetables.

Key Points

  • The roasted rice adds a brilliant texture to the dish. It’s usually made with raw glutinous rice but any rice will be fine. It can be tempting to skip that step but the dish won’t be the same without it.
  • Many recipes don’t add sugar, but I prefer a touch of sweetness to balance the savoury fish sauce and sour lime.
  • Keep the duck medium rare and it will remain tender. The acid in the lime will cook it a little more after the salad is mixed so if it’s too well done then it will be overcooked, and won’t release the juices that are necessary for the dressing.
  • I use a mild Korean chilli powder as it’s big on chilli flavour, but mild in heat. Adjust the type of chilli powder and quantity to your taste.
How to Make an Authentic Prawn Laksa

This is a recipe for a simple but authentic prawn laksa lemak is a lot easier than it looks. You could easily add chicken or other seafood to this recipe if you preferred.



1 kg raw, unpeeled large prawns

4 tablespoons vegetable oil

½ cup dried shrimp, soaked in hot water

2 teaspoons salt

2 teaspoons sugar

1 teaspoon fish sauce

2 x 425 ml tins coconut milk

250 g fried tofu puffs, halved

1 kg fresh Hokkien noodles

200 g dried rice vermicelli noodles

200 g fried fish cakes, sliced

300 g bean sprouts

8 eggs

1 cup loosely packed Vietnamese mint leaves, finely shredded to serve

1 Lebanese cucumber, shredded, to serve

Prawn Oil

1/3 of the reserved prawn heads and shells

about 1/2 a cup of vegetable oil

a pinch of salt

1 tbsp tomato paste (optional)

Prawn Stock

2/3 of the reserved prawn heads and shells

Laksa paste (makes double)

15 dried chillies, seeded and soaked in hot water for around 20 minutes

4 large red chillies, seeded

1 tablespoon belacan (shrimp paste)

6 shallots, or 1 large brown onion, peeled and roughly chopped

10 garlic cloves, peeled

5 cm piece of fresh ginger, peeled

5 cm piece of fresh galangal, peeled

5 cm piece of fresh turmeric, peeled

3 lemongrass stems, white part only

2 tablespoons ground coriander

6 candlenuts, or macadamia nuts

Chilli sambal

5 dried chillies, soaked

3 large red chillies

2 eschallots, or 1/2 small onion, roughly chopped

1 teaspoon belacan (shrimp paste)

½ cup peanut oil

a pinch of sugar


Peel the prawns, leaving the tails on if you like. Add two-thirds of the shells to the a pot with 2.5L of water and simmer for about 20 minutes. Stand for at least 10 minutes, then strain, discarding the shells and reserving the stock. Devein and butterfly the prawns and refrigerate.

Blend all the laksa rempah ingredients into a smooth paste, adding a little of the dried shrimp steeping liquid if you need to help the blades catch. Any remaining steeping liquid can be combined with the prawn stock.

Heat a large saucepan over medium heat and add a little oil for the prawn oil. Fry the remaining prawn heads and shells until very fragrant, then add the salt and remaining oil and cook on low heat for about 10 minutes. Certain varieties of prawns have more red colour than others, so if your prawn shells are not very red and you prefer a more vibrant red oil you can add a little tomato paste when frying the prawn heads. Strain to remove remove the heads and shells, reserving the oil.

Heat 4 tablespoons of vegetable oil in a large pot (you can use the prawn oil for this if you like, or save it for adding later). Add half the laksa rempah (refrigerate or freeze the rest for another laksa) and fry for about 10-20 minutes, stirring frequently, until the oil separates from the paste. Add the prawn stock and bring to a simmer.

Stir in the salt, sugar, fish sauce and coconut milk and simmer for about 20 minutes. Add the tofu puffs and simmer for a further 10 minutes. Simmer the prawns in the soup for 3 minutes, or until just cooked, then remove and set aside. Taste the soup and adjust the seasoning as required.

While the soup is cooking, prepare the remaining ingredients. Bring a large pot of water to a boil and cook the noodles according to the packet directions. Boil the fish cake for about 2 minutes, or until puffed, then drain. Blanch the bean sprouts for 30 seconds. Boil the eggs for 7 minutes, then refresh in a basin of iced water and peel. Halve the eggs.

For the chilli sambal, blend all the chillies together with the shallot and belacan. Heat a small saucepan over medium heat and fry the paste in the peanut oil for about 10 minutes, or until very fragrant, stirring frequently. Stir in the sugar and set aside for serving.

To assemble each laksa, warm a noodle bowl. Add some hokkien noodles, vermicelli, bean sprouts, egg, and prawn to the bowl. Ladle in some soup, then garnish with Vietnamese mint, cucumber and a big spoon of chilli sambal. Serve immediately.


  • For a chicken and prawn laksa use a mixture of chicken stock and prawn stock, and add shredded chicken as a topping.
  • There are many variations of laksa pastes and you can feel free to experiment and make your own. Add the Vietnamese mint to the paste if you like, change the proportions of the spices etc. None of these recipes are set in stone.
Homemade Teriyaki Sauce

This homemade teriyaki sauce is a must-have in my kitchen. It takes just a minute to make, but is a shortcut to dozens of dishes – many of which aren’t even teriyaki dishes. Teriyaki in Japanese is made from the characters teri 照 (glazed/shiny) and yaki 焼 (grilled/fried), so teriyaki is essentially a glaze that is applied to something grilled or fried.

This base sauce contains less than a third of the sugar of many commercial sauces, and although it may look very watery it reduces to a shiny glaze in the pan, coating your ingredients.


250ml (8 oz) soy sauce

200ml (6 oz) mirin

200ml (6 oz) sake

60-90g (2-3 oz) white sugar


Combine the ingredients in a small saucepan and place the saucepan over medium heat. Stir for a few minutes until the sugar dissolves. Don’t boil the mixture. Transfer the sauce to a bottle and store in the pantry until ready to use.

For ideas on what to make with your homemade teriyaki sauce, check out my playlist on YouTube:

Or just check out these recipes:

Simple teriyaki salmon


  • You don’t need to refrigerate the sauce. It will keep out of the fridge for years, but you’ll use it long before that.
  • If you don’t have access to sake you can use a 50:50 mix of vodka and water.
  • If you don’t consume alcohol, I’d recommend a recipe of 250ml soy sauce and 100g of sugar with 250ml of the stock of your choice. It won’t be quite the same and you’ll need to keep it in the fridge, but this mixture can be applied in the same way as teriyaki sauce in the following recipes.
How to Make Authentic Char Siew (Cantonese Barbecue Pork)

If you’re anything like me, it’s almost impossible to walk past a Cantonese barbecue shop without picking up a pack of char siu (barbecue pork), siu yuk (roast pork belly) or any other of the sticky, crispy, shiny and delicious meats on offer. The thing is, they’re amazingly easy to make at home as well. This authentic char siu recipe will give you excellent results that are even better than buying them from the shop.


1.5kg pork neck or belly (skin and bone removed), cut in 5cm strips


30g (2 tbsp) sugar

40g (2 tbsp) Hoisin sauce

20g (1 tbsp) red fermented bean curd plus 40ml (2 tbsp) of its liquid

3g (1 tsp) five spice powder

15g garlic (4 cloves) crushed with ¼ tsp salt

20ml (1 tbsp) ginger juice

20g (1 tbsp) soy sauce

40g (2 tbsp) Shaoxing wine


30g 2 tbsp sugar

40ml 2 tbsp water

80g 4 tbsp maltose



  1. Combine all the ingredients for the marinade in a large bowl and add the pork. Coat the pork well the marinade (I do this by hand, wearing gloves). Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight (or for at least 8 hours).
  2. When ready to cook, combine the ingredients for the glaze and bring to a boil, stirring to dissolve the sugar.
  3. Heat your oven to as hot as it will go. I cook this at 230C (fan-forced). Cover a tray with foil (there will be a lot of caramel drips that will burn to black, so this just helps with the clean up) and place a tray on top. Brush the tray with oil and place the pork on top. Roast for 15 minutes.
  4. While the pork is roasting, bring the glaze to a boil again. When the pork has roasted for 15 minutes, brush with the hot glaze and roast for 5 minutes. Brush with the hot glaze again and roast for 5 more minutes. Remove from the oven and brush with the glaze again and allow to rest. After the pork has rested for about 10 minutes, brush with the glaze one last time.

(L to R) Maltose, red fermented tofu, and Hoisin sauce.

Red fermented tofu. This gives the char siu a delicious savoury flavour and also helps with the colour.

A video for this recipe is coming soon, but for now take a look at this one!

Additional Tips

  • The three ingredients you might find a little odd are the maltose, red fermented tofu and Hoisin sauce. All of these are common ingredients in Chinese cooking and will be available from any Asian grocery store.
  • The roasting process is really important for getting good colour on the meat. The vibrant red colour on the char siu is a little to do with the red fermented tofu but really it’s more a factor of good browning of the meat, and getting good caramelisation of the glaze. You don’t need to add food colouring (although some shops do – it’s up to you really).
  • The glaze should to be hot when brushing it on the pork in the oven so that it caramelises easily.
  • In a Chinese barbecue oven the meat will hang on a hook so that it browns well. In a domestic oven it’s difficult to try and hang meats so it’s better just to use a tray. You don’t need to flip the meat while it’s cooking as that will just damage the glaze. Better to have 3/4 of a piece of meat beautifully glazed with a base that isn’t quite perfect than to keep flipping it and end up with a bad glaze all over.

It’s best to marinade the pork at least overnight but you can leave it for 2 days if you prefer. If you’re in a rush you could cook it after an hour but it won’t be quite as tender or flavourful.

There will be lots of dripping glaze that will burn in the oven, so line your tray and oil the rack so that they’re easier to clean.

Good browning and charring on the meat in it’s initial cooking phase is essential both for flavour and colour in the final char siu.

Multiple layers of glaze build up to give a lovely shiny look to the final product.

Wok-fried Prawns and Broccoli in Ginger Sauce

Wok cooking doesn’t always mean throwing everything into the wok together. One of the most important parts of wok cooking that nobody ever seems to talk about is how easy a wok is to brush out so that multiple ingredients (or dishes) can be cooked separately and in quick succession. That is the true secret to a wok’s versatility and what makes it great for home cooking. Imagine cooking different 5 dishes in one pot and having nothing to wash at the end of it all other than a quick brush out under running water.


1 head of broccoli, separated into florets

¼ cup peanut oil

1 eschallot, finely minced

12 large raw prawns, peeled (tails intact) and deveined

1 cup chicken stock

2 tbsp Shaoxing wine

1 tbsp light soy sauce

½ tsp sugar

½ tsp salt, plus extra for seasoning

2 tbsp grated ginger

1 tsp cornflour mixed to a slurry with 2 tbsp chicken stock


Heat about 2 cups of water in your wok and add 1 tbsp of oil. Bring to a simmer and add the broccoli. Simmer the broccoli for about 2 minutes until tender, then remove and set aside. Drain the water and return the wok to the heat.

Add a further 1 tbsp of oil in the wok and add the eschallot, frying for a few seconds until fragrant. Add the prawns, a pinch of salt and stir-fry until the prawns are cooked through. Transfer the broccoli and prawns to a warm serving plate.

Return the wok to the heat and add the stock, Shaoxing wine, soy sauce, sugar and salt and bring to a simmer. Squeeze the juice of the ginger only into the sauce. Add the cornflour slurry and stir until the sauce is thickened. Pour the sauce over the prawns and broccoli and serve.

Here’s a video to walk you through it:

Extra Hints

  • This dish works great with squid, too. Any seafood really. In Asian cooking, ginger is often used with seafood to counteract fishy aromas.
  • Butterflying the prawns is very important. It helps to create a lovely springy texture.
  • Woks – like all pans – are best cleaned directly after using them. I don’t wash my wok with soap, as it can impact on the natural seasoning of the metal that makes it non-stick. All a wok needs to clean it is a quick brush out under running water (do it while the wok is hot, but make sure you’re using a natural fibre brush – cheap plastic ones will melt on the hot wok) and then put it back on the heat to dry and sterilise. The ability to quickly clean a wok is what makes it such a useful tool for family cooking.

Korean Fire Chicken – Buldak

Be warned, this recipe is HOT – and in the best possible way. Buldak or “Fire Chicken” is a favourite Korean street food chicken dish known for its intense heat and rich, complex flavour.

It started from roaming street carts in Seoul that grilled the chicken covered in the spicy sauce over open flame fire pits, but these days you can find Fire Chicken in Korean restaurants all over the world. I’m not usually one to try to push chilli to the limits of tolerance. I usually think that chilli should be a gentle background heat rather than all-out flamethrower, but for this one dish I put that rule to one side. The hotter this dish is, the more the chilli brings out the complexity in the sauce. It honestly does taste better the more it hurts!

Give it a try once and you’ll be hooked. You’ll probably end up in a red, sweaty heap crumpled in your chair afterwards, but I guarantee you’ll have a smile on your face 🙂


1 whole free-range chicken (approx. 1.7kg)

1 tbsp soy sauce

1 tbsp sake

¼ tsp freshly ground black pepper

1 tbsp vegetable oil

2 spring onions, finely sliced

¼ head cabbage, finely shredded, to serve

2 tbsp Korean or Japanese mayonnaise, to serve

sesame leaves (Korean perilla), to serve (optional)

pickled daikon, to serve (optional)

Fire chicken sauce

1 tbsp sugar

2 tbsp Korean chilli powder (mild or hot, as you prefer)

1 tbsp sesame oil

1 tbsp gochujang (Korean chilli paste)

2 tbsp honey

2 tbsp soy sauce

2 tsp hot English mustard

1-3 red bird’s eye chillies (as you prefer)

3 cloves garlic, peeled

½ large onion (peeled and cut into chunks)

½ large nashi (Asian pear) (peeled and cut into chunks)



  1. With a cleaver, cut the chicken into 10-12 pieces, on the bone. If you prefer, you can use around 1.25kg boneless chicken thighs, cut into large chunks. Combine the chicken with the soy sauce, sake and black pepper and set aside.
  2. For the Fire chicken sauce, combine all the ingredients in a blender and process to a smooth paste. If you add the ingredients in the order in this recipe, you won’t need to wash your measuring spoon between measurements.
  3. Heat the oil in a large shallow casserole dish or frying pan over high heat and brown the chicken pieces on all sides. Reduce the heat to medium, add the fire chicken sauce and stir to combine. Cook for around 8 minutes, stirring frequently until the chicken pieces are cooked through. Scatter with the spring onion and serve with the shredded cabbage, mayonnaise, sesame leaves and pickled radish, if using.

Here’s a video of how to make it:

Additional Tips

  • Make sure you use proper Korean chilli powder instead of ordinary Western chilli powders, which often have more heat, less colour and less chilli flavour. Don’t be worried if your sauce looks a little more pale than mine after you’ve finished blending, the colour will come after it sits for a few minutes.
  • Korean chilli powders come in different heat strengths. If you prefer a more mild chicken dish use a more mild powder rather than using less volume of a hotter chilli powder.
  • If you’re not confident cutting up a chicken on the bone, it’s totally fine to make this dish with boneless chicken thigh pieces instead.
  • Another variation of this dish (particularly when using boneless chicken) is to include sliced Korean rice cakes (tteokgukyong-tteok) and bake it covered in cheese!
  • Don’t skip the accompaniments. The cabbage and pickles really do help to balance the heat.


Caramel-braised Beef Short Ribs

Beef short ribs are a truly fantastic cut of meat. You can eat them like a steak, or stew them until their falling apart, and either way they won’t let you down. On the bone, they add mountains of flavour to a stew. This simple recipe is one of those where you just throw everything into the pot and let it go. Give it a try.

Serves 6-8



1 cup sugar

1 tbsp sesame oil

2kg beef short ribs

¼ cup Shaoxing wine

½ cup light soy sauce

¼ cup dark soy sauce

2 star anise

2 cinnamon sticks

2 tbsp toban jian (Sichuan chilli-bean sauce)

1 tsp fennel seeds

1 small bulb garlic, unpeeled, split in half crossways

1 onion, unpeeled, halved

5 slices ginger

4 thin spring onions, thinly sliced, to serve

1 bird’s eye chilli, thinly sliced, to serve

½ cup coriander leaves, to serve

steamed rice, to serve



  1. Place a heavy casserole over medium-high heat and add ½ cup of sugar and ¼ cup of water. Bring to a golden caramel and then add the sesame oil and short ribs, rolling to coat in the caramel. Add the Shaoxing wine, the soy sauces, spices, toban jian, garlic, ginger, onion, remaining sugar, and top up with water. Cover and simmer for 2-3 hours until the short ribs are tender, stirring occasionally. Adjust for seasoning as required.
  2. Transfer the ribs to a serving plate and spoon over a little of the braising liquid. Scatter with the coriander, spring onions, and chilli to serve.

You can watch a video of this being made here:


Additional Tips

  • Instead of short rib you could also use chuck steak, shin, osso bucco, ox tail, or any other slow-cooking cut.
  • You could also cook this in the oven if you preferred. Cook everything on the stove until you get to the long-simmering part, then transfer it to a 170C oven for about 3 hours.

Hulk Spaghetti

Our kids usually just eat the same things that we adults eat, which is a great way to feed them as they learn to appreciate new foods and it makes life a lot easier when you only have to cook once. That said, I don’t think it’s great for kids to eat the same as adults all the time as it can very quickly lead to the adults just cooking and eating slightly boring food all the time. I still make the curries and other strong, spicy  or challenging dishes I grew up with that my kids just aren’t ready for, but that I don’t want to lose as part of their (and my) culinary heritage. Part of learning about food as a kid is watching what your parents eat, even if you might not want to eat it yourself.

On those occasions I need to make something separate for the kids, and right now this vegetarian Hulk Spaghetti is a real favourite of our superhero obsessed son, Christopher. It’s not just for kids either.


Serves 4-8 kids, depending on their ages (or in our case, 2 kids 4 times)

500g dried spaghetti

1/2 head broccoli, in florets and including stalk cut into large chunks

5-6 leaves of kale, or 2 cups baby spinach

1/4 cup cream (optional)

2 tbsp butter or 2 tbsp olive oil

1/4 cup freshly grated parmesan

1 sheet nori, cut into 5cm strips and very finely shredded



  1. Bring a large pot of water to the boil and salt it for cooking the pasta. Add the broccoli and kale to the water and boil for about a minute. Remove with tongs and transfer to a blender. Add the pasta to the water and cook according to the packet directions.
  2. After about half of the cooking time of the pasta has elapsed, add about 1/4 cup of the pasta water to the blender and blend the vegetables to a puree. Add the cream and butter (or olive oil) and allow the butter to melt a little before blending to a smooth sauce. Taste the sauce and adjust for seasoning.
  3. When the pasta is al dente, drain it well and return it back to the pot on low heat (or a separate frying pan, if that is easier). Add the sauce and parmesan and stir briskly to combine. Divide the spaghetti between bowls and top with the shredded nori for the Hulk’s hair.


Additional Tips

  • Tasting the sauce in step 2 is the most important part. If the sauce doesn’t taste good on its own, it won’t taste good with the pasta. Taste and adjust it to the seasoning and texture you prefer.
  • Always finishing cooking pasta together with the sauce rather than just ladling or pouring it on top. This allows the al dente pasta to absorb the flavours of the sauce and with make your pasta much, much tastier every time.
  • As a variation to this you could add a bit of chopped ham, or some peas (or both) but don’t overdo the ingredients. Pasta should be about the pasta, not the stuff you put in it.
  • If you can’t be bothered slicing the nori for the Hulk’s hair (it can be a bit difficult if your knife isn’t very sharp), you can just wave it over a gas flame for a few seconds until the nori becomes brittle and then crumble it over the top.

Beef Short-Rib Rendang

To make a great rendang you need to first understand what a rendang is. It’s a fragrant stew more than a curry, and the aromas of the galangal, ginger and turmeric should be more prominent than the hard spices. Turmeric leaves are more traditional than makrut (kaffir) lime but they are very hard to find in Australia.



2 medium onions or 8 eschallots, peeled and roughly chopped

4 cloves garlic, peeled

2-6 bird’s eye chillies, stalks removed (as you prefer)

5cm each fresh turmeric, galangal and ginger, peeled and roughly chopped

¼ cup vegetable oil or coconut oil

2kg beef short ribs

400ml coconut cream

3 stalks lemongrass, fat stalks only, bruised

6 makrut lime (kaffir lime) leaves

1 piece cassia bark

2 star anise

1 tbsp caster sugar

2 tsp salt

1 cup dessicated coconut



  1. Combine the onion, garlic, chilli, turmeric, galangal and ginger in a blender and blend to a puree, adding a little water if necessary to help it blend. Heat the oil in a large, heavy casserole dish over medium heat and fry the paste for 15-30 minutes (the more water you add to the paste, the longer you will need to cook it to evaporate the water before it starts to fry), stirring occasionally at the beginning and constantly as it thickens so that it doesn’t splatter or catch on the base of the pan. This paste, known as a rempah, is ready when it is browned, fragrant and thick.
  2. Add the beef ribs and toss to coat in the rempah. Then add the coconut cream and enough water to barely cover the ribs. Add the lemongrass, 3 of the makrut lime leaves, cassia, star anise, sugar and salt. Bring to a simmer and cover and simmer for about 2-2.5 hours, stirring occasionally until the beef starts to become tender. Remove the lid and simmer for about 1 hour more, stirring occasionally again until the stewing liquid is reduced to a thick, very oily sauce.
  3. Heat a dry frying pan over low-medium heat and add the coconut. Fry the coconut, stirring constantly until it is a deep golden brown and add the coconut to the rendang, stirring to combine. This caramelised coconut is known as kerisik. Cook for a further 30 minutes or so at simmering heat until deep brown, oily and thick. The rendang can be eaten straight away but will benefit from being covered and left overnight to develop. Finely shred the remaining makrut lime leaves and scatter over the rendang to serve.


Some Extra Tips

Don’t overdo the spices. A rendang should take the fragrances of galangal, turmeric, lemongrass, makrut lime and ginger before being overwhelmed with spices. I put a bit of whole cassia and star anise in mine but I’ve seen recipes that use cumin, coriander etc. There’s nothing wrong with that, but I just don’t think it’s necessary.

Cook everything for a looooong time. Both the rempah and the rendang itself. Like a Spanish soffrito, a rempah takes time to develop flavour. Mine is just blended onion (or shallot), garlic, ginger, galangal, chilli and fresh turmeric. The rendang, too, needs to cook for long enough to crack the coconut cream and reduce down so that beef is essentially frying in the coconut oil.

It’s up to you how wet or dry you want your rendang to be. Some can be as wet as a very thick soup, and others completely dry, almost like jerky. It all depends on how long you reduce the stew for (i.e. how long you cook it uncovered vs. covered), and how long you let if fry in the separated coconut oil.

The kerisik is the key the rendang’s texture. Some recipes don’t include this but it’s mandatory in my opinion. Kerisik is caramelised coconut (toasted dessicated is fine, but historically it’s caramelised coconut meat). It deepens the flavour of the rendang and thickens it as well.

Rendang needs time to mature. Make it a day or two before you want to eat it if you can.

You can make this with other stewing cuts of beef like chuck, or even with lamb shanks.


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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