Food trends are temperamental beasts, they fill restaurants to the brim and feed the masses of eager diners. Melbournians love a food trend and are prepared to wait for hours on end for tacos at Mamasita or a table at Chin Chin. No bookings policies make entry into these trendy restaurants harder than a popular nightclub. Lining up for a meal is a Melbourne badge of honour, a symbol of your commitment to the cause. Melbourne isn’t about where you party, it’s about where you eat. Often it becomes about how long you wait.
What to do if you are not inclined to wait five hours for a table on a Friday night? Here are some easy recipes for ‘on trend’ street food below. You’ll have friends and family lining up for sure.
Spanner Crab RollWhen I arrived in Melbourne, the must-eat dish was the New England Lobster Roll at Golden Fields, and now every second restaurant seems to have a variation on the trend on their menu. Lobster is prohibitively expensive in Australia, and is reserved for special occasions only. Crab is a more purse friendly option. I chose Spanner crab which is a relatively meaty crab with a delicate flavour.
(Recipe adapted from the one I’ve eaten at Golden Fields)
· Eight Brioche rolls/soft white rolls – mine were from Noisette Bakery in Port Melbourne
· Six Cooked Spanner Crabs purchased from Aptus Seafood in South Melbourne Market
· Water Cress
· Kewpie Mayonnaise (Japanese Mayonnaise available from Asian supermarkets, or even Coles)
· One lemon
Remove meat from Spanner Crabs – see here for technique).
Mix Kewpie Mayonnaise with a squeeze of fresh lemon juice. Cut rolls in half, butter them, and grill in hot pan for a couple of minutes to warm through. Spread mayonnaise mix on the bottom of the rolls; add Spanner crab meat, some water cress and some spring onion.
Grilled Chicken Tacos with Salsa Verde
(Slightly adapted from Donna Hay magazine Issue 59, Oct/Nov 2011, subscribe here).
Homemade tortillas are a revelation, and truly make this dish something special. Tortillas are so easy to make, and are completely delicious. You will never buy pre-made tortillas again.
· 2 long green chillies, chopped
· 1 clove garlic, chopped
· 2 spring onions, chopped
· ¼ cup coriander leaves
· ¼ cup mint leaves
· 2 tablespoons of vegetable oil
Place all ingredients in a food processor and pulse until combined, chill in the refrigerator until required.
· 4 cups of plain flour
· 1 tablespoon of sea salt flakes
· 50 cold butter, chopped
· 2 ½ cups of boiling water
Place flour and salt in a bowl and combine. Mix in cold butter and rub the butter in with your fingers until the mixture resembles breadcrumbs. Add boiling water, and mix with a wooden spoon until dough comes together. Knead until a smooth dough forms, and divide into sixteen equal size pieces, and roll out each piece into a 20 cm or so round disc. Cook the tortillas in batches for 1 – 2 min in a hot pan with the vegetable oil.
· 4 x 200 g chicken thigh fillets (cut into strips or bite sized pieces)
· 1 teaspoon onion salt
· ½ teaspoon chilli powder
· 2 teaspoons paprika
Toss all ingredients into a bag or a bowl, and the coat the chicken with the mixture. Cook the chicken for 4 – 5 minutes in a hot pan, or until cooked through. (Note: if you like a lot of chicken in your taco, double the recipe).
Serve with coriander and sour cream.
CurrywurstA visit to Berlin is not complete without experiencing currywurst. After steins of beer, no dish will ever taste so delicious. I don’t even particularly like sausage, but after visiting Berlin, I was a currywurst-convert. There are many variations of the tomato based sauce, with varying strengths of ‘curry’ flavour.
Currywurst is said to originate in war-torn Berlin in 1949. An entrepreneurial housewife named Herta Heuwer traded wares with British soldiers, and in return received some curry powder. Using her new curry powder, she created a tomato based sauce and poured it over sausages and served it at a stall on the red-light district. Her currywurst became popular with local builders and labourers, and soon became a Berlin institution.
(Recipe adapted from Lonely Planet’s ‘The World’s Best Street Food’, available here)
· 2 tablespoons of vegetable oil
· 1 onion, finely diced
· 2 tablespoons of curry powder
· 1 tablespoon of hot paprika
· 2 teaspoons of Keen’s mustard powder
· 2 cups of canned tomatoes (break up the tomatoes if whole, or use tins of pre-chopped tomatoes)
· ½ cup of white sugar
· ¼ cup red wine vinegar
· 5 mild sausages
Heat oil in a pan and add onion, cooking until soft. Add curry powders and paprika and cook for a minute. Add tomatoes, stir in sugar, vinegar and add salt and pepper to taste. Bring the mixture to the boil, reduce it to a simmer and cook until thickened (20 – 25 minutes, depending on the pan and heat used).Remove the mixture from heat and blend the sauce in a food processor or use a stick blender. Strain the mixture to ensure it is smooth. Cook the sausages as per normal, slice into discs and pour the sauce over the sausage segments.
Duck fat chipsCurrywurst is not complete without chips. Mine are created by chopping a good roasting potato into finger-like strips, and roasting them in a baking tray with a couple of tablespoons of duck fat. Deliciously bad for you.
I served the currywurst in bamboo dishes purchased from the Chef’s Hat, in South Melbourne (buy online here).
Note: Food photographed on this lovely tablerunner from The Super Cool, they come in large and small, and you can even buy matching placemats. If you are in South Melbourne Markets, make sure you check out their store. They stock fantastic home wares and many other quirky items. If you are not in the area, they also sell online here.