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A Travelling Foodie Down Under- Chapter 2

Yes the burgers worked out. After locating buns that were like the ones we use back in Canada and also finding “Gourmet” patties that were 65% off and also not the size of a post-it note (thus not needing to make my own) things went great. The only real change was the bacon. More on that n a sec.

The differences that this simple meal could have had are small but I’m still happy to have been able to a create comfort food that was nearly identical to what I’d have made back home. As I said I was looking for and found buns like you can buy in Canada. Not that there is anything wrong with Aussie burger rolls as they call them. On the contrary, we both have enjoyed using these thin, fluffy and great tasting rollsbuns in the past, I just wanted the feel of home. As for the patties, while I was going to simply make my own I happened on a freezer that held some higher priced seafood and other items and noticed the red sticker on the normally $21 pack of 6 high-end burgers. This was a no-brainer and so bought 2 packs. I love that Aussie burger patties are sold fresh and in different flavours but they are very small and shrink even further when cooked. This is not good when the buns are the size of a kaiser (messes with the ratio).

In the last post I mentioned that I’d explain the quotes around the word bacon. I should say that what is served here is in fact bacon but it’s in a different guise to what we’re accustomed to in North America. There are a few different bacon types Baconthat I can pick up in the local markets. The first is the Rasher style (bottom right) that anyone who travels has likely seen before in places like Britain. This bacon consists of the loin which is very similar to Back or Canadian Bacon as well as the fat strip it attaches to. In Aussie the loin alone is known as “Short Cut” bacon and can be bought separately (this is what I often buy). Third is “Middle Bacon”, consisting of rashers with the loin removed. This looks rather like what we would call bacon in North America and when I first traveled to Britain many years ago I found it amusing to think upon seeing the rashers that English bacon was a combination of American and Canadian bacon (okay, it was amusing only to me) but I was wrong about it.

The wondrous and at the same time horrible thing we refer to as Bacon in Canada is actually cured and sliced pork belly. (I can still get it if I look here, they refer to it in the markets as “Streaky” Bacon but it’s less common) Rashers and Canadian bacon come from the shoulder and back areas of the pig respectively. So, what we have is bacon from three different areas of the animal and each with it’s own characteristics. Canadian bacon for example is very lean. Rashers while they contain some fat are still slightly leaner than the pork belly bacon that we are so very addicted too.

I don’t want to offend those who love their Rashers, personally I like them a great deal as well.  They are however not a superior item. It could be argued that the cut of meat is better but the end product is what counts here. When I read or hear from Aussies that it’s superior to what they often call “mostly fat” all I can do is smile, they’re loss. Pork Belly has been used as a form of currency and the market even today is an active futures exchange. As for the notion that there is too much fat on it… I’ll concede that often the lower quality brands of bacon can be mostly fat but “lower quality” anything is just that. A good quality bacon which is smoked and thick cut is truly a beautiful thing and is for those who love food to pork products as highly marbled Wagyu is to beef. Often times in cooking with meat “The Fat Is Were It’s At”. It may not be healthy, but its addictive in both taste & smell and can truly make a dish once added. Everything’s better with bacon.

Yes, I’m aware the internet photo of the bacon shows what appears to be ham and not actual Canadian Bacon. 

A Travelling Foodie Down Under- Chapter 1 :)

It’s been a very long time since I last posted and while the creative flame may have flickered it never goes out.

What made me decide to begin adding to this site again was the fact that we’ve been living in Australia now for nearly 5 months and I’ve yet to really comment on the food we’ve eaten. Given that in the time here we’ve seen a great deal of the country and eaten hundreds of meals I figured it was certainly a good opportunity to write a little about them. Combine this with the fact that Nancy is working and my company back in Canada decided to wait until I was 14,000 KM from home to inform me I’d not be working for them while here. Basically, I have time on my hands.

The vast majority of our travel tends to involve cultures and food which are very different from the ones we have in Canada. I viewed living here in Aussie as more akin to my time in California- different, but not THAT different. While this statement is fairly close to the truth I didn’t consider the fact that we’d actually be “living”  here for more than a year and not merely staying a month or travelling through. I didn’t think this distinction was large enough to warrant mention but it truly does.

There are the surface things that for all intents and purposes are what we’re used to. I can go to McDonald’s or KFC (if I really wanted to), or pick up Subway sub, but going shopping regularly and having to actually plan normal daily meals has made me realize the differences are quite noticeable. Some of this is due to living in regional Victoria but not as much as all that.

I can say without exaggeration that every meal I’ve planned and attempted has been a struggle to some degree. From the Worcestershire sauce that was so strong and odd tasting that it destroyed an entire batch of chili that I’d cooked all day to having to special order and wait a week for clams because they don’t even have canned ones and when they did arrive they were precooked and frozen, things are just different enough to be a problem.

All of this and what follows has been compounded by the fact that the kitchen in our house here has barely the tools to make anything. We’ve bought knives since there were none, borrowed pans from neighbors and had to think about if we in fact have what’s needed to make any meal we plan. Yes, we adapt. We’re smart and flexible, but until you’ve tried it you really don’t know what it’s like going back to the days when you had 1 sauce pan, no mixing bowls, only cookie sheets for baking etc. Frankly, I had more when I moved out of my folks place.

I’ll stop my whinge about the kitchen now and get back to the topic at hand.

Being in a culture where much of the foods are seemingly very similar to those we’re used to in North America or Europe one could be forgiven if they believe that they can easily make familiar dishes, but again it’s the living here that makes the differences so much larger. I’ve had to be careful when buying beef for example as the common names for the cuts are completely different and on more than one occasion we’ve had to chew through leathery meat because I bought what appeared to be what I wanted. Spices and vegetables are named differently as are many of the things you might want to pick up on a Saturday morning shop.

One example of something that is not named differently but is still completely foreign is Hollandaise sauce. Now, I’ve had this yummy item on meals in probably a dozen countries and other than slight differences in flavor it’s been quite consistent. We’ve discovered however that here it’s not the same at all. As a matter of fact it’s very often poured on from a shelf-stable foil or tetra pak. sauceHaving made Hollandaise for many years I know that it is fragile and consists of a good deal of dairy. Both of these would preclude a shelf-stable liquid. None the less, here it is and after sampling it in several places around Australia we requested my parents bring over a supply of the not too bad powdered version we sometimes use at home in Canada. Nuff Sed.

I’ll deviate from my description of things not good and different for a moment and place praise where it too is deserved. The Aussies really know how to make meat in tube form. This is so much a good thing that at a given moment there are 3-4 kinds of sausage in my freezer, right now there are 4. While the basic BBQ variety that looks alarmingly like a hot dog is the exception, all other versions I’ve tried have been great.

sausages

Another sausage by the way is far more likely to be “thrown on the barbie” for you by your host than a “shrimp”. Sorry to burst your bubble on this subject but “I’ll throw another shrimp on the Barbie” was an ’80’s marketing campaign aimed at North Americans and nothing more. An Aussie doesn’t even use the word “shrimp”, they call them “Prawns”. I’ll add another nail to that coffin by stating that “Prawns” are priced via a market that is akin to gold in this country and if they are being served to you then you must be very special indeed to your host.

I’m now going to light on a subject that is a bit touchy to Australians… Meat Pies or just “Pies” as they call them. Like meat in tube form I have a very strong attraction to these things and as such have sampled, well… let’s just say several across the country. I wouldn’t be caught dead putting tomato sauce (no, it’s not ketchup) on one like the locals do but hey, don’t judge me. Australia Day: Aussie IconsWhat’s odd is that unlike sausage, pies have so far been disappointing. This is odd since again like meat in tube form the pie is everywhere and eaten by everyone. Because of this you might expect that they too are perfected, oh, you’d be so very wrong. This having been said, every single one of the pies I’ve eaten that’s made at a bakery or  by someone in there home has been wonderful. Conversely, every single one I’ve bought in a supermarket in either fresh or frozen bake-at-home form has been… not so good. Part of the issue has been (and there’s no nice way to say this, so I’ll just put it out) the pastry used in every single frozen pie and many of those from a market deli is a form of biodegradable wheat-sourced cardboard. You could tile a floor with the stuff. Any pastry that has to be cut with a steak knife if you want to extricate what’s inside is not going to be good. Painfully, all 9 brands I’ve tried seem to use this same recipe.

Making things with the humble pie even more unfortunate is the fact that one would be hard pressed with some of them to actually find any meat inside or if you do to identify just what animal it might have come from. I won’t go into the gory details but when every shop. butchery, grocery, bakery, gas station and restaurant in the country serves them in large numbers there are bound to be shortcuts taken.

I’ll stop here as I’ll be picking Nancy up from work soon and seeing if the “Bacon-Mushroom-Swiss Burgers” I’ve planned with Aussie “Bacon” (I’ll elaborate next time) work out.

It’s Official!!

It’s taken a long time and several failed attempts by myself, friends of friends, booking agents, locals in Tokyo and our hotel concierge but I’ve finally received confirmation that we are booked for dinner at Sukiyabashi Jiro Ginza in Tokyo.

For those of you who are not familiar with this restaurant I’ll give you the lo-down.

Sukiyabashi Jiro and specificallythe Ginza location (there are two. One run by Jiro Ono’s son) is often considered to be the holy of holies when it comes to traditional sushi. The 89 year old Itamae (sushi chef) and owner Jiro Ono is recognised by the Japanese government as a national treasure and is considered to be the greatest sushi chef alive today. Even the snooty Michelin folks have awarded this little 10 seat store with 3 stars. I’ve wanted to dine here for years and being given the chance to visit Tokyo made trying to do so an imperative.

Not that deciding to TRY and book was in any way even close to a guarantee that we’d be able to do so, after all this is ranked as the second most difficult dinner reservation in the world to get. I’ve worked for more than 2 months at this and am still in awe at the effort required.

Anyway… we’ll be eating the best sushi of our lives and having it prepared by the living legend that is Jiro Ono in just over a week. I’ll let you all know our thoughts on this once in a lifetime experience when I post from Tokyo.

What can I say?…… SCORE!!!!!

New Look had too many problems

I recently changed the template I was using for ChowTown and while it looked nice it didn’t work well with the way we are set up. As a result I’ve moved back to our former look and this will remain unless we find something that both looks better and works as well.

The holidays are over

It’s a new year, a new decade and time to get back to adding new posts here at ChowTown. It was uncomfortably easy to get into the habit of doing nothing but now we’re going to be back in the groove.

I’ve just published the final post in our Australia recipe series and we need to move on to a new country whose most popular dishes are just waiting to be added to our growing collection of international favorites.

Rather than just throw a dart at the map(as fun as that is when we draw straws to see who has to hold it up) we would like to hear from you on what country we should showcase next. Just go to the “Contact Us” tab and send a note to let us know where to go next.

Maybe we’ll move on for now…

While doing research on African recipes I’m finding that many of the most popular dishes from several countries use ingredients that we will not likely be able to locate. Because of this I’ve made an executive decision to move on and perhaps revisit African cuisine later.

I’m going to head South and post some Australian & New Zealand recipes next, then go on from there. Many of these popular recipes are the same between the two countries and I will state they are one or the other merely for the sake of having balance, so please don’t tear me apart because of national pride.

For those not familiar with the debate, some famous recipes are claimed by both Australia and New Zealand.

Happy Thanksgiving!!

Wishing a happy turkey day to all our American readers. In spite of the recent downturn we all have much to be thankful for, remember and celebrate what you have.