Finally jumping on the kale bandwagon

The refurbished cargo shed was overflowing with people when we arrived for lunch. Massive lines snaked haphazardly, everywhere, invading any space they could. You couldn’t tell whether someone was in line or simply gawking at a menu, trying to decide if the food would be worth the wait in a line that never seemed to move, peering over the silhouette of the person in front, with thoughts that changed from, it’s all part of the experience, to, this better be worth the wait!

This, was Street Eats, a food festival featuring popular, more high-end (no Chinese takeaways, here) restaurants and eateries setting up stalls and selling a selection of their menus. I couldn’t decide what I wanted so I chose the shortest line, which still meant a 10 to 15 minute wait. It was to Mexico, a Mexican restaurant (who would have guessed?) that does dangerously easy-to-drink sangria and incredible fried chicken. On this day, I chose a beef taco with avocado and kale chips. I’m sure there were other things on it too but I was too busy munching on that green stuff with the slightly blackened ends to really notice. It wasn’t that the taco was bad – in fact it was great – it was just the kale chips were that good. Up until this point, I had been unimpressed by the supervege so far but as the first crispy mouthful melted away, I thought, I could eat a whole bag of this. So, I decided to make it myself.

There’s nothing new or creative or fancy about this and I could care less about how it’s a healthier alternative to potato chips (which I love, by the way) but hopefully someone who hasn’t yet tried kale chips, or has cynically labelled them a pretentious fad, will see this and just give it a go.

I simply washed and thoroughly dried a bag of kale (about $2 from the local Asian grocers), coated every nook and cranny in olive oil, seasoned it and baked it in the oven at a low temperature. Instructions and 6 really handy tips can be found here.

As for the rest of lunch that day, I ended up waiting an hour in line for tasty but not an-hour-long-wait-tasty Wagyu burgers and duck fat chips. The things I do for food.

Crispy kale chips. Photo: Tao Lin

Crispy kale chips. Photo: Tao Lin

Which vegetable is king?

My mum’s watercress broth is one of my most favourite things to eat in the world. It’s really simple – water, stock, watercress, ginger, sesame oil and sometimes, very rarely, some chicken nibbles.

According to a new study, watercress beats out broccoli, spinach, pumpkin, even hyped-up trendy kale, to come out on top of a list compiled of 41 “powerhouse” fruits and vegetables.

Not only can you see where your favourite vegetables and fruit rank, but you may also be like me and learn about plants you’ve never even heard about before, like chicory…

Read the full article here.

Welcome to the 60s…with a touch of ‘Nam

Tease. Spray. Tease. Spray. Tease. Tease. Tease. That’s what I spent a good hour doing last Friday afternoon, trying to get my silky, black-that-looks-red-under-the-light hair into a bouffant. It wasn’t just for fun, although I wish I had the time to throw myself back to the 50s and 60s all the time; it was for my dance studio fundraiser, which was 60s themed.

That was after I spent three hours making, for the first time, Vietnamese rice paper rolls. I’m not really sure how many I made in the end – it was enough to fill up three medium plastic plates – but it felt like it took forever. It was fiddly, messy, wet and testing. Testing of how tightly I could roll everything up without ripping the paper; testing of how well I could judge the ratios of all the cucumber, carrots, vermicelli, mint, coriander, mung beans, hoisin + soy + sesame + garlic sauce mix so that I had enough of everything and not too much or too little of anything; and testing of my conviction to finish it all.

I often think to myself when I’m cooking, and in many other situations as well, and I asked myself constantly that day: is this really worth it? Will anyone¬†actually appreciate all the time I put into this?? I tasted the end product a number of times because quite a few of the rolls weren’t done tightly enough so the fillings were prone to falling out, or the paper ripped so the fillings actually did fall out. They needed a bit more flavour but they did taste really refreshing and light. I ended up dripping some sweet chilli sauce over the top in the hope that this would give the rolls more flavour. I assume people enjoyed them because there were none left at the end of the night. But then again, there wasn’t really much left of anything by the end of the night. Dancing makes for hungry play.

From this experience, I would not recommend making these rice paper rolls for an event unless you have a lot of time and delicate handwork. That’s not to say they’re not worth the effort – if made well, with care and good flavours, these can be spectacular – but just remember to be friendly with Time if you do make them.

I looked at two recipes for these rolls:
http://allrecipes.com.au/recipe/2472/vietnamese-rice-paper-rolls.aspx

http://au.tv.yahoo.com/my-kitchen-rules/recipes/article/-/9051095/vietnamese-prawn-rice-paper-rolls-with-asian-coleslaw-and-lemon-grass-chicken-wings/

Also, I didn’t make a dipping sauce. The lovely mums helping out in the kitchen on the night walked around with the food on platters, offering them to the guests, so I don’t think they would have appreciated sloshy dipping sauce spilling everywhere. However, if it’s appropriate definitely make a dipping sauce – it just adds so much more flavour and you don’t want to spend all that time making something bland and uninteresting.

Photo: Tao Lin

Photo: Tao Lin