Could there possibly be a better way to celebrate the start of this season’s MasterChef Australia than dinner with Poh?
…Yeah, I drew a blank as well. It doesn’t get much better.
The talented Poh Ling Yeow is on tour for her new book, Same Same But Different, and I was lucky enough to be invited to the media launch of the book in Sydney’s Shortgrain – the bar for the restaurant of Longrain in Surry Hills.
For those that aren’t familiar with the phrase of “Same same but different”, it’s commonly used in South-East Asian countries such as Indonesia and Thailand. While the four words may look like they contradict one another, it’s a phrase that perfectly sums up certain experiences; such as different countries using the same herbs in different ways, or to describe methods of bargaining that are similar, yet different.
For the Malaysian-Australian Poh, she selected this phrase as the title to her long-awaited follow-up to Poh’s Kitchen as “we are linked through the language of flavour even when there seems to be a gulf of differences between cultures.” Her method throughout the book, of having two recipes that share a common ingredient, is consistent with this. For example, Kaya and Blood Orange & Passionfruit Curd, are both curds that can be spread on toast in two different cultures. Another example is Creme Caramel sharing eggs with the Steamed Egg Tofu (which, funnily enough, are recipes reflected in my own household – I make creme caramel, while steamed egg is a regular dish made by my mother).
If it hasn’t clicked for you yet – this technique of linking the recipes together also means less wastage. There’s nothing more irritating to me than purchasing certain ingredients especially to try one recipe, and then having remainders which I then have to struggle to use up. It’s quite ingenious…. And speaking of ingenious, check out the glossary at the back of Asian grocery ingredients… its personally made my life easier already!
There’s a very homely-style of food and food photography all through the book. No deconstructed dishes, very few hipster-style glass jars, none of that small white plate layered upon larger white dinner plate with a white napkin business. It’s mismatched plates, stained serving spoons photographed with the bake it just dug into, and a colourful variety of plastic table mats, boards and tea towels. It’s 100% of the quirky, gregarious and warm foodie we came to love.
Anyway, onto the dinner, which I’m sure you’re all dying to hear about. The menu for the evening was a mix of Poh’s dishes and Longrain’s dishes, and after a brief introduction from the bright-eyed Poh with her classic trademark grin, she set the ball rolling with her entree, a Tuna and Nashi Carpaccio, Mandarin Ginger Dressing.
Tangy and textured, the tuna was deliciously tender and supple – the light mandarin juice from the dressing providing much less of the harsh bite that usually accompanies these cured fish dishes such as ceviche. The extremely finely sliced nashi pear was a very interesting addition to the dish, providing a quietly sweet little burst of juice when bit into. Its delicate crunch was easily discernible under the scatter of eschallots, Szechuan pepper and herbs.
Next was a Dry Beef Floss Rendang. What was presented was slightly different from the recipe that is provided in the cookbook, but if you’re a follower of Poh on Instagram (@pohlingyeow), you will recognise this amazingly intricate crepe immediately.
These were pandan roti jala/coconut lace repes, with coconut tumeric glutinous rice, the dry beef floss rendang and cucumber and chilli relish. Should you have an Asian-themed dinner party, it’s without any doubt that this would be the dish to knock the socks off of people who have pre-conceived notions of what Asian food stereotypically is. The dry beef floss rendang reminded me of a texture similar to that of pulled pork – tender yet very textured. Despite not being an epic fan of cucumber, I loved the accompanying relish, although it did set my nose to start watering a little with the chilli’s warming heat.
Our meal was then supplemented with a number of Longrain dishes, including their Salt & Pepper Tofu, Green Curry with Organic Chicken and the Caramelised Pork Hock with Five Spice. I was a little disappointed when I learned that the Green Curry was a Longrain dish and not one of Poh’s, as it was so delicious I wanted to try and make it at home myself!
Poh’s dessert was an intriguing plate of Kuih Koci – a shredded coconut mixture cooked in coconut cream and dark palm sugar, before being stuffed into a gorgeously chewy dough made from glutinous rice flour. The sweet dumplings are wrapped in fresh banana leaves, shaped into a pyramid and steamed. And they arrived to the table fresh, warm and we were perfectly ready for them.
The stuffing of coconut cream, gula melaka (dark palm sugar) and dried shredded coconut was divine. For something that had been cooked in cream and sugar, the sweetness was balanced with a natural savoury flavour that made it incredibly moreish and non-sickly-sweet.
And in case we weren’t already overwhelmingly full, Longrain brought out their dessert of Young Coconut Jelly, Vanilla Tapioca with Seasonal Fruits.
We kept poor Poh up until 11pm with chatting, signing our books and photographs, before we gradually trickled out of the venue and made our own respective ways home. It was on my late-night train ride home that I flipped through the book and saw her recipe for Totally Unicorn Beetroot Cake – a red velvet cake – and a recipe that begs to be cooked simply due to its amazing name.
And so I did.
I literally only just finished slapping on the ganache just now, but I will of course take proper photos tomorrow morning when the light is better and post up the recipe for all of you at the end of this week. I can barely wait for the taste test tomorrow… whoever said you can’t have cake for breakfast? 😉