Wednesday, October 01, 2014

Nhu Lan

September 21, 2014

It's hard to go past a good vegetarian banh mi - we've had some luck with a seitan-based version at Tan Truc Giang in Footscray and the mock-pork variety at Fina's, and have incorporated a Vegan Dad-inspired version into our home cooking roster. Still, we're always on the lookout for more, so we were pretty excited when Olaf left us a comment recommending Nhu Lan in Richmond. We took advantage of a sunny Sunday afternoon to go and check it out (as an aside: we love it when people recommend place or recipes to us - please do leave a comment here or chase us up on Facebook or Twitter).

Nhu Lan is a classic Vietnamese bakery - no fuss, no chit chat, just speedy service, made to order sandwiches and a decent range of sweet stuff and pastries. It's all pretty pork heavy, but the $4.50 tofu roll is clearly marked on the menu. Vegans will need to be clear that they don't want butter or mayonnaise, but the rest of the fillings are pretty straightforward: grated carrot, slivers of cucumber, coriander, chilli and tofu.

Unlike our Fina's and Tan Truc Giang experiences, this isn't really trying to mimic the pork roll - the tofu is lightly battered rectangles with a slightly sweet marinade. The chilli provides the necessary bite and the fresh, crunchy roll is top notch. I think I still favour the seitan-based version, but this is a cheap, easy and delicious lunch in Richmond if you don't have time for a sit down meal at Fina's or Thanh Nga 9.


It seems as though the Footscray branch of Nhu Lan is popular with bloggers, but not many have reviewed the Richmond one - Ministry of Gluttony and teenagefoodie weren't wowed, while chasing a plate, krapow  and Swimming in Coffee were much more enthused.
Nhu Lan Bakery
152 Victoria Street, Richmond
9429 5545

Accessibility: There's a small step up as you enter and the interior is pretty crowded (at least when they're busy). There's not really anywhere to sit. You order and pay at a high counter.

Monday, September 29, 2014

Peanut butter & jelly icecream

September 20-21, 2014

I have temporary custody of  K's The Vegan Scoop cookbook, a nice motivator to clear some freezer space and churn some icecream. This book has all the American standards and extends itself towards the fruits and flavours of Asia and the Caribbean as well. Most of the creamy recipes start with a base of soy milk and soy creamer, which doesn't exactly appeal to me, but I'm happy to play around with other non-dairy milks.

I started out with the peanut butter and flaxseed recipe and a whole lot of curiosity, but it all went into the bin before even reaching the icecream churner. I was willing to go with the way the full cup of ground flaxseeds gelled up the texture but I couldn't countenance their bitterness.

Next I stuck with the peanut butter theme but tried a trustier pairing with American jelly (or berry and rhubarb jam, in my case). This 'custard' whipped to unprecedented heights in my churner, and my anticipation with it. This was a hint it'd freeze pillowy-soft. Strangely it ended up dense and rock-hard, and even given 40 minutes resting time on the bench it's firm and scoops flakily. (That flakiness seems to be the hallmark of coconut cream, which was not in the original recipe.)

This icecream is damn lucky that it tastes good. I'll contemplate a new, improved formulation as I hack my way through it.

Peanut butter & jelly icecream
(adapted from a recipe in Wheeler Del Torro's The Vegan Scoop)

400mL can coconut cream
3/4 cup almond milk
1/2 cup soy milk
3/4 cup peanut butter
3/4 cup brown sugar
1 tablespoon vanilla
1/2 cup berry jam
generous pinch of salt

In a medium-large saucepan, mix together the coconut cream, almond milk, soy milk, peanut butter and brown sugar over low-medium heat. Bring the mixture to the boil, stirring occasionally. When it's all smooth and well mixed and started boiling, take it off the heat to cool down a little. Stir in the vanilla and salt then refrigerate the mixture until very cold, at least 4 hours.

Churn the peanut butter mixture in an icecream maker according to the manufacturer's instructions. Drop generous spatulas-full of the churned icecream into a plastic storage container and drop teaspoons-full of jam in among the icecream. Freeze the icecream for at least two hours before scooping and serving.

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Mighty Boy

August 29, September 16 & 19, 2014

I was quite excited when Mighty Boy opened across the road from work - it was replacing a fairly standard sandwich-and-salad place (whose salads all seemed to have chicken in them) and promised something a bit more interesting for lunch. I headed over with a gang of colleagues on the day they opened only to experience the definitive first day teething problems: most of us got the wrong dish, the salads came out minus key ingredients, everything took an age - it wasn't a great success. On the upside, the food seemed solid and the prices were reasonable, so I figured I'd give them a few weeks and then go back for a blogging trip. I'm glad I did. They've got everything working now - the food arrives corectly  and quickly, and the staff all seem to know what's going on. Most of these photos are phone pics - apologies for the quality.

It's a breakfast and lunch place - the brekkies are pretty standard Fitzroy dishes (baked eggs $14, smashed avo $11, etc), while the lunch menu is Thai inspired and a bit more interesting. On my first visit I sampled the pad thai noodles with tofu, spring onions, bean sprouts, lime, chilli, coriander and egg ($12).

This was just okay - they're generous with the tofu, and the noodles are cooked nicely, but the whole dish is a little on the bland side. Luckily they offer up a quintet of chilli-based condiments to kick things up a notch (sambal, chilli flakes, plus two kinds of pickled chillies and sriracha).

On my second visit I grabbed takeaway - a $6 serve of two rice paper wraps with crispy tofu and vermicelli noodles, cucumber, house-pickled carrot and cabbage.

These are incredibly good and incredibly good value - two fresh little tubes of goodness with flavour bursting out of them. It's a small lunch but it's just about the cheapest option on Gertrude Street.

On my final visit I settled in for a proper lunch, starting off with a freshly blended lychee, lime, mint and pineapple juice ($8). It's delicious, but it costs more than the rice paper wraps, so maybe save it up for a special occasion.

To accompany the drink, I went with the tofu roti wrap (tofu with cucumber, mint, tomatoes, onion, sweet chilli dressing and lime on a roti base, $10). When I first tried one of these it was an actual wrap (see Fitzroyalty's post for an example) but they seem to have shifted to a more open, deconstructed version. The fillings are great though - beautifully marinated and fried tofu strips, lots of fresh veggies and herbs and the same selection of condiments I enthused about earlier. And of course you get the added bonus of your wrap being made of roti.

I'm really enjoying what Mighty Boy brings to the western end of Gertrude Street - it probably won't take the place of Sonido in my heart, but almost nothing would. Still, it's an excellent addition to the neighbourhood and it's already snuck into my regular lunch rotation.


Mighty Boy has already been favourably reviewed by Fitzroyalty and A Melbournite.
Mighty Boy
59-61 Gertrude St, Fitzroy
9419 3686
menu: food, drinks
facebook page

Accessibility: Mighty Boy has a flat entryway and a reasonably spacious interior. You order at the table and pay at a high counter. I haven't visited the toilets.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Me and Art

September 15, 2014

On my Monday morning in Sydney I checked out of my hotel and set off towards the nearest Iku Wholefood for breakfast. Within little more than a block I encountered a terrace house with a painting of the Vegan Mary. Huh! The little coffee shop seemed worth a look. 

Inside I encountered a friendly barista who offered me a menu, said something about waffles, and suggested I might like to go and enjoy their back garden.

He was absolutely right - the back courtyard had a cute assemblage of tables, plants and knick knacks and was flooded with sunlight. And on a Monday morning I had it all to myself. I settled in with the menu and could barely believe what I saw - almost everything was vegan, with prices centred around a reasonable $10. There was porridge, chia seed porridge, scrambled tofu, smashed avocado four ways, waffles and pancakes (with a gluten-free option!), soup, pies, stews, quiche and salad.

And their house special was apparently a coconut chai latte ($5) - exactly my kind of beverage. In truth this was very light on the tea and spice, but the frothy warm coconut milk went down a treat anyway.

The waffle ($10) was a big 'un, and I ordered it doused in mixed red berries ($2.50). Based on buckwheat and coconut flours, it was nutty and filling yet so soft and cakey that I didn't need a knife to cut it. The berries were thawed from a frozen box, and this rendered them soft and juicy.

There are assorted benches and stools, more ornaments and a rotating selection of art throughout this cafe, which on leaving I figured out is called Me and Art. I found the staff, the menu and the setting utterly charming, not least because I'd discovered them entirely by accident.


Me & Art has had positive write-ups on Not Quite a Domestic Goddess, Fight the Craving, The 9am Mug and Khana. There's a more mixed reaction on fox and lee.

Me and Art
62 Mary St, Surry Hills Sydney NSW
0411 811 404
menu: one, two
facebook page

Accessibility: There are a couple of steps up on entry. The interior is flat with a clear corridor through the centre and a hodge-podge of tables and stools; a unisex toilet is located down a flat hall. Beyond the toilet, down a stair or two, lies the garden - it's crowded with knick knacks and the furniture is even more varied. I could have ordered at the table, and I paid at a high counter on my way out.

Saturday, September 20, 2014

A slice of Sydney

September 14-15, 2014

I found myself in Dubbo for work last weekend. This meant flying through Sydney, and gave me an excuse to spend sixteen sneaky hours there on my way home before getting back to my job. I arrived in time for a 9pm dinner on Sunday and had shrewdly stationed myself within walking distance of Yulli's. Though their website says they're open 'til late a waiter immediately informed me that they'd be closing at 10pm.  No biggie.

The menu at this vegetarian bar always looks good, and had me wishing for a veg*n crew to share with. As it was, I kept the beer battered haloumi skewers ($14.50) all to myself. Although typically salty, the cheese was unusually fluffy and a little sweet, like something from a fair. I liked the sourness of the accompanying pomegranate and apple salsa, but the pomegranate's dull colour hinted that it was well out of season.

I had my eye on the chocolate cheesecake for dessert, but no-one bothered to clear my plate away in the 20 minutes that I lingered. Having a vegetarian bar gave Sydney an edge for a while, but now with Smith & Daughters in Melbourne there's no more FOMO for me.

(You can read about our first visit to Yulli's here.)

On Monday I fit my art gallery visit around a sunny yum cha lunch at Bodhi in the Park. Yum cha is probably another meal better shared, but I did enjoy being beholden to no-one's tastes but my own. I made a mess of some tofu pockets stuffed with shredded vegetables, and later noticed someone sensibly tipping the curry satay sauce into the pockets, instead of clumsily dipping the pockets into the saucer.

My biggest achievement was polishing off three rolls stuffed with mock prawns and mashed potato, fried with a crackly toasted sesame top. There was no way I could take on the BBQ buns or Peking mock duck dumplings that circulated soon after. I finished up with some less than fresh pancakes filled with mango and Tofutti cream cheese, not an experience I need to repeat. With a pot of green tea, the bill came to $28 - a bit exorbitant, I thought, but a bloody gorgeous way to spend slack-off Monday.

(You can also read about one, two, three of our previous trips to Bodhi in the Park.)