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Torch ginger flower ice cream

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During my vacation in Bali I came across torch ginger flower in my food a couple of times. At one restaurant the waiter explained that this flower does not actually stem from what we know as ginger root. It is a big red flower, bigger than a human hand, that grows in South East Asia and is often used in savory dishes.

In a restaurant in Ubud called Spice, which is owned by the same chef as the highly established Mozaic, it came in a sweet form instead of savory. It was used to flavor some ice-cream that was served with a rather lovely crème brulee. The taste of the ice-cream. However, was a bit generic. It was a good ice-cream, but I would never have guess the magic ingredient. I think this one just needs a little more work.

Fear Factor – 0 / Taste Test – 6

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Wasabi Oreos

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Here’s something I never thought I’d see in my lifetime. Wasabi Oreos. Yet there it was, on the shelves of the supermarket. It was a limited edition, the same time as those chicken wing flavored ones, so I was lucky to buy a pack when I could. The actual cookies were just regular Oreo cookies, but the stuffing was extremely green almost as if it was pure wasabi paste. I’m thinking now that perhaps it actually was just plain wasabi, because as soon as I had a bite I got this massive whack in the face that only wasabi or horseradish can give you. I tell you, it was not pleasant.

Fear Factor – 6 / Taste Test – 1

Sea salt ice cream

 

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Putting salt into desserts is nothing new, of course. We’ve seen a whole slew of salted caramels and salted chocolate and yet I had never had salt – or salted – ice-cream before. I had heard about sea salt ice-cream being a hit in Japan, and even making it’s way down to Australia, but it wasn’t until Pizza Hut in China started offering the treat on its menu that I had the chance to try it for myself.

The ice-cream came out looking rather blue, which I just can’t imagine is natural. It did, however, remind me somewhat of the ocean which of course is where sea salt comes from. Tasting it was not at all unpleasant. It wasn’t salty in the sense that you were dying for a sip of water. Yet you could taste the salt in the ice-cream. It was as if you could taste salt without it being salty, if that makes any sense. Of course salt is hailed by chefs around the world as a way of enhancing the natural flavors of food, so perhaps it does make sense after all.

Fear Factor – 2 / Taste Test – 7

Braised wallaby tail

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When people think of Australia often the first thing they think about is the native animals such as kangaroos and koalas. Some people find it strange that Australians would eat kangaroo because they are so cute, but as always “you eat what you have” and for Australia that includes animals such as kangaroo, wallaby and emu. Having said that you might find it difficult to find any of these animals on a restaurant menu as most people have converted to the usual suspects of beef, pork, lamb and chicken. There are even less restaurants that put their entire focus on native.

One of the forerunners of cooking with native ingredients is Kylie Kwong whose award winning restaurant Billy Kwong is closing in a few months. I’ve known Kylie for years now through her appearances on Masterchef Australia and was eager to taste her fusion of Chinese cuisine and native Australian ingredients and booked seat at the bar. They were running a couple of specials that night of which I ordered the braised wallaby tail in a red pepper sauce.

Wallaby is a species of marsupials that look very similar to kangaroos. They are often seen as small versions of them. They use their massive tails just as much as they use their feet, which is why they are of a subspecies called macro pod. The best cuts of meat often come from parts of animals that have been used regularly which is definitely the case for the wallaby tail. It was braised for 8 hours and was presented on the bone much like an oxtail. To me it even tasted like beef with just a hint of sweetness. The meat was extremely succulent and I had no problem getting it off the bone using only chopsticks. It’s a shame the restaurant is closing but also exciting to see what the future holds for Kylie.

Fear Factor – 1 / Taste Test – 9

Beanboozled: Minions Edition

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I have written before about the special Jellybeans called “Beanboozled”. Each package will have some good flavors and some bad ones that are indistinguishable from each other. It’s a little like Russian roulette in that you never know what you’re going to get. Ok, maybe it’s more like a box of chocolates. When I played this before with my friends I found that the so-called bad flavors can actually be really enjoyable such as soap, grass and even dirt, but there are some bad eggs as well such as, well, bad eggs.

The reason I’m posting about Beanboozled for a third time now is that I found a new special edition featuring everyone’s favorite yellow cartoon characters the Minions – no offense Simpsons fans. These boxes had two extra unusual jellybeans namely pencil shavings and minion farts. The names alone made me laugh. They were in fact not all that bad. The pencil shavings one tasted slightly woody – no offense Toy Story fans, and the Minion fart ones didn’t really disgust all that much. A fun edition to an already fun collection of candy.

Fear Factor – 3 / Taste Test – 8

Quandong

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It’s difficult to really tell what Australian food is. It’s mostly British food such as meat pies and fish ‘n chips or  food with an Asian influence. More and more however, restaurants around the country are starting to cook with native Australian ingredients like the Aboriginals have done for thousands of years. During my visit to Cairns I went to a restaurant called Ochre that tries to highlight local ingredients.

One of such ingredients is the quandong. A quandong is a fruit that is said to resemble a peach and has a brain-like nut hiding inside its fleshy exterior. This is a favorite food of emus and the aboriginals would go and pick out the nuts from the emu droppings. I didn’t get to try the nut, but the fruit itself. It was used as a base for a crème brulee with a few pieces of the fruit on the side.

Personally I thought the quandong fruit was much more like a plum. It was quite tart with a hint of sweetness. It was also a little chewy as if it had been dried a little, but not so much that it resembled a prune. The crème brulee itself was really smooth and the tartness of the quandong worked really well against the sweetness of the dessert.

Fear Factor – 0 / Taste Test  – 8

Hot pot pretzel sticks

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Every once and a while I try out a new flavor of pretzel sticks. They are usually sweet with flavors such as chocolate, green tea and strawberry, but are often also savory. In the past I’ve tried shark fin soup flavored ones for instance. The flavor of the month this time was hot pot. Hot pot is China’s favorite dish consisting of a large bowl of spice soup that you then cook your raw ingredients in. The pretzel sticks were not nearly as spicy as I had imagined with only a trace of spice to tingle your taste buds. It could have been a great flavor, but unfortunately this one was just too mild in taste.

Fear Factor – 0 / Taste Test – 5

Raspberry Pepsi Max

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I’ve only been in Australia for a couple of weeks, but I’m starting to believe that they must really love raspberries. I just wrote about raspberry Maltesers, their national pride the Lamington involves raspberry as well and now I found myself drinking Pepsi again as I found a raspberry flavored Pepsi Max.

I secretly don’t mind Pepsi Max. It tastes a lot better than regular Pepsi, that’s for sure. The raspberry variety however, not so much. The raspberry flavor was definitely there, but tasted really chemically induced like a can of Red Bull. That’s not a compliment by the way. The only drink worse than Pepsi is Red Bull.

Fear Factor – 1 / Taste Test – 4

Goat liver mousse

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A few entries ago I wrote about a visit to the amazing restaurant Locavore in Bali where I was served dried goats heart as part of a tasting menu. That dish actually had a few more twists up its sleeve. It consisted mostly of a goats liver mousse.

I love patés and liver mousse in general, but had never even heard of using goats liver. Goat can have a real barnyardy flavour which I don’t always enjoy. In this case there was still a small hint petting zoo, but it was perfectly countered by the richness of the liver mousse. It was really creamy and delicious with just enough barnyard flavour to remind you that you’re eating goat.

Fear Factor – 3 / Taste Test – 8

Rambutan

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I’ve been trying out all kinds of different tropical fruits ever since moving to China, but for some reason I had never gotten round to the Rambutan. It wasn’t until my recent trip to Indonesia, where the rambutan hails from anyway, that I decided to have a go.

Rambutans are in the same family as lychees and longans, but on the outside they look quite different. It is roughly the size of a golf ball and covered in soft red spines that make the fruit look hairy. Inside is a stone covered in soft translucent flesh. I found it so identical to lychee in taste and appearance that I would never be able to tell them apart after they’d been peeled.

Fear Factor – 0 / Taste Test – 7