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Saturday, April 25, 2009

Dumpling World, it was a dumpling free Hobart for too long.

It's back. After a six week involuntary hiatus, Dumpling World is now open again, providing endless hot dumpling soups, tea eggs, pork buns and noodles.

Hobart's only dumpling specialty restaurant opened about 18 months ago, with mixed reviews, by Chinese migrants Helen Zhao and Matthew Ma.

However a recent spate of heavy rain caused the roof to cave in, causing extensive property damage. The owners of Dumpling World have been forced to pay for the building repairs, even though they rent the premises, and the repairs are the landlords responsibility. The owner tells me that the landlord refuses to answer her phone or return messages. There was an article in The Mercury about this. Not a lot happens in Hobart, so the weather is pretty big news.

Because of this selfish, shonky landlord (please step forward) poor Hobartians have gone without their weekly (and sometimes twice weekly) meal of superb house-made dumplings. I for one will gladly venture to Collins street for many a lunch break in the coming months. There goes all that money I had planed to save by packing my own lunch.

Dumpling World is also home to the original tea egg ($2 each), which prompted me to learn to cook my own.

Dumplings are available steamed and fried: pork, chicken, vegetable and seafood. I forgot to write down the price but I recall they were quite inexpensive.

There is a good selection of vegetarian options, both for noodle and dumplings.

There are also some new options on the menu, like a Japanese style chicken curry with rice ($8), Chinese buns ($3.50 each) and shaomai ($5, 3 pieces).

I almost always order the dumpling soup ($9) which comes with your choice of dumplings and either laksa or chicken soup. My soup today (top picture) was excellent, as always. Plenty of dumplings, crisp bean shoots, grated carrot, red onion and a spicy complex laksa, not too creamy or rich, just perfect.

The serves are large, and the ingredients are fresh. I would even go so far as to say that being closed for six weeks has fostered improvement. The owners work behind the counter and in the kitchen, I always like to see a family involvement in a business, it has a nice warm fuzzy feel.

On the downside, there are no toilets. Although the staff are very apologetic about it.

It would be great if the dumplings were available to buy uncooked to take home and freeze for later.

It is unfortunate that the owners of Dumpling World have the landlords they do, but I am grateful they have reopened, even if at their own expense. I hope they take their landlord to court and sue for damages, they deserve better.

Dumpling World

3/138 Collins st Hobart
Ph: 03 62241830
Dine in and take-away
Mon- Fri 11.30-10
Sat 12-late
Sun closed

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Question: Smith Street Noodle & Tea

On the corner of Smith and Letitia streets North Hobart is Smith Street Noodle & Tea, which seems to be re-opening after a long hiatus. Just wondering if anyone has any information about the kind of menu/opening hours etc.

I have decided I can't be bothered walking over there in the cold to ask. My housemate has just pointed out that I walk further to buy the paper in the mornings, and she is right, it is just around the corner.

Okay, tomorrow I will mission to Noodle & Tea and find out what is up. Order, eat, review. Mmmm noodle.


Sunday, April 19, 2009

Three strikes and you're out, Onba

I'm a firm believer in second chances. Even third chances are okay on the odd occasion, circumstances pending.

Onba however, has just run out of chances.

For those non Hobartians, Onba (corner of Elizabeth and Burnett streets North Hobart) should be a lovely wine bar / supper club, with an impressive cocktail list, and an amazing selection of tapas, served until the wee hours of the morning.

Onba is not any of these things, that we were so faithfully promised before it opened its doors to the public, about 12 months ago. I've had a few disastrous experiences here in the last few months, but due to lack of other options, I have had the misfortune of handing over my good money for services un-rendered, my own fault really.

Perhaps due to lack of patronage, the menu has shrunk to almost nothing, their opening hours are severely restricted, and they seem to have employed a bunch of muppets who wouldn't know fine service if it slapped them in the face.

This morning, my latte was delivered to me on such a severe angle half the coffee was consequently tipped onto the saucer. The waitress did not even notice. I sent it back. My second coffee (15 minutes later) arrived a bit on the cold side, with an uncanny resemblance to an instant coffee I might have made myself at home. I was so desperate for caffeine by this stage I drank it anyway.

Out of interest I had a quick look at the recently re-printed menus. The breakfast page was littered with type errors ("poaches" eggs anyone?) and seemed to have an almost random use of capitalisation. Why "Mushrooms" (in the middle of a sentence) would get a capital letter I have no idea. If a document was going to be read by potentially thousands of people, you think it would have been proof read by someone who has even a basic grasp of the written word. And on that note, I did proof this post, but I bet there is a type error or two to make me look stupid.

Needless to say, there are no more chances for Onba. Which is such a shame. It is a great location, and a beautiful venue, and honestly I expected more.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Why is Hobart over-run with teenage waitresses?

I have had a a few unfortunate experiences lately in the Hobart cafe scene, where I seem to be unable to attract the attention of a waiter of legal age.

Not that there is anything wrong with a 15-year-old waiting tables. I was a spring chicken waitress myself once. And they have to start somewhere. But entire cafes staffed entirely by inexperienced children is starting to irritate me beyond all belief.

It makes me wonder, is there a lack of experienced wait-staff in Hobart, or are the venues in question employing only young ones in an effort to save a few pennies?

My good friend, a hospitality veteran who may or may not remember far back enough to recall being a 15-year-old waiter himself, was telling me the other day about a staff training session he witnessed at Zum in Salamanca. The 16-year-old manager was instructing a
15 -year-old waitress on her first day of the job, and teaching her how to make coffee. Now, I don't know about you, but I have my doubts as to why a successful business like Zum would even contemplate putting someone with no experience what-so-ever behind a coffee machine.

I also had an unfortunate experience over my breakfast at Plum cafe (also in Salamanca) this weekend. The poor army of teenagers emplyed there were really struggling to keep it together, although they were obviously trying their best. At least their barista, Rowan, is an experienced and highly regarded professional.

Waitressing is not rocket science, but it still requires a little guidance and training. I remember when I was 16 (yes yes, all those many years ago) when I first started waiting tables. I was terrified. I was the only waitress at this particular venue under the age of 21, and I did what I was told every single time, although I had no idea why. I was not swanning around with a bunch of other teenagers, having a bit of a chat, forgetting peoples orders and making a great many service faux-pas, because I had supervision. Work was not "fun" (well, not all the time).

These irritating little munchkins are hopefully going to get a good talking to by their managers. But somehow, I have my doubts.

Monday, April 6, 2009

A Tasmanian shopping list.

Dear Sapuche,

This post is for you, in response to your comment on my last post. You've raised an interesting question. How much do groceries in Hobart really cost? Firstly, there are a few contributing factors to consider.

A lot of the things I buy are grown in Tasmania, or made in Tasmania. Somethings, like my favorite udon noodles, are from Japan, and will never be made in Tasmania, and if they were I wouldn't buy them anyway. So I understand there are some certain food shopping sacrifices to be made. What I hate, is when the supermarket is selling Californian lemons, when I know that there are an abundance of Tasmanian ones available. Actually, I don't really KNOW this, but I have my suspicions. It is always best to be suspicious of mega-market-multinational companies, while stopping short of biting the hand that feeds you.

Please keep in mind these are Australian dollars. I have no idea what the exchange rate is, I try not to look it makes me sad!

So, here is a brief run down of some of the things I bought in my shopping mission last weekend, and where applicable, an explanation of their purchase.

Fresh: I got lucky when I hit the Salamanca Market, my favorite veggie stall had just gone half price. There are risks in leaving it late, sometimes they've run out of what you are really after. I find an open mind is the way to go. These prices, they are so cheap even I can't believe it. Double or triple these prices for a major supermarket chain. Supermarket chains which don't stock everything anyway. Like okra. You can't buy that from the supermarket. And they never have any eggplants either. Darn it. I won't start on the kinds of food one simply cannot purchase on this island, it is depressing.

1 Avocado, $1.50. This is kind of expensive really, I found them at the supermarket for 99c later.
500g sweet potato $2
500g zucchini $1
500g Swiss brown mushrooms (the best kind ever) $2.50
450g bananas, $1
400g loose brown onions, $1
2 medium sized hot green chillies, 50c

Dairy: Mostly I buy dairy things from the supermarket, but I wish I didn't have to. On King Island (Google that one) they have a dairy, which not only makes world famous cheeses and yogurts, but produces it's own un-pasteurised, un-homogenised milk. This stuff never makes it off the island. And it is the best milk in the world. So if I had the choice...

2lt low fat milk (like it really makes any difference!) $2.77, which is pretty much average. Although I do buy the cheapest home brand, and I should probably at least buy Tasmanian milk.
500g natural yoghurt, $3.50
200g block of parmesan, decent brand, $5 approx. Cheese is not cheap. I eat lot of cheese, of course.

Meat: I really don't eat much meat, for health and financial reasons. There is a grocery store near me called Fresco, and while it doesn't have the cheapest everything, on Sunday and Monday it generally has really great meat specials. If I was buying steak, or sausages, I would spend a little more cash and get something decent, from a reputable butcher. Otherwise I tend to turn a blind eye, as I really don't have the extra money.

3 chemical and hormone free chicken breasts, $6.80, I don't need 3, but they came in a pack of 3. So into the freezer with one of them.

Once I bought an amazing lamb roast leg here for $11, but I have no idea where that lamb came from, or if it was even local. It tasted nice, probably shouldn't buy things like that though.

Later in the week, I might go to the fish shop on my way home. A 180g piece of fresh Tasmanian salmon is usually about $4-6. A half dozen Bruny Island Oysters are usually about $7 (although I can only ever dream about those). The fish shop usually has good specials too. A lot of Tasmania's seafood ends up overseas and on mainland Australia, but we still have our fair share here. This is one of the major benefits to living in a waterfront city. And to see supermarkets selling frozen seafood from Asia? Seems silly to me.

Dry goods: I love to shop for dry goods. I like things in cans and packets. I think it is the feeling that it will last, just in case I am hungry, and there is a massive storm, and I am housebound for weeks. That's okay, I have canned goods! I only buy certain things on certain visits. I have loads of polenta, because it was on special last week. This works out well if you can plan in advance, or eat a lot of polenta, like I do.

1kg home brand jasmine rice (on special), $2.39
Udon noodles (one serve per pack), $1.10
400g can tomatoes, 89c (I was naughty and bought a foreign brand because it was the cheapest)
400ml coconut milk, $ 1.31
16 Frozen dumplings (they were crappy, but the best of a bad lot), $3.29
Can of tuna 185g, $2.99 (for pasta emergencies)

Anyway, I think you have the picture. I hope this was interesting. I generally like to see what I can find, then adapt a recipe from inside my head, or from a book to suit my ingredients. Nice to meet someone who likes to forage for food like I do! Don't even get me started on specialty Asian food shops, there's hours of entertainment. We are lacking in ethnic restaurants and supplies here in Hobart, but considering our mostly white population, I think we do okay.

Oh and there is this amazing deli called Wursthaus, with these Italian white anchovies... Okay I'll stop now. But they do run cooking classes... And they are supposed to be excellent...

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Hunt and Gather

Above: Shoppers browse Salamanca Market in Hobart. Photo courtesy of The Mercury.

On the weekends I like to forage about for food. Not in a mid-week back of the pantry it-has-to-be-in-her-somewhere kind of way either.

I mostly spend my leisure time consuming, or planning what to consume next. I love cook books, cooking programs, recipes that come off the back of packets, and most of all, food magazines. Hunting around the local shops for the freshest vegetables, the cheapest this or that, my favorite sesame coated wholemeal Vienna loaf, this part is almost as enjoyable as the actual eating.

I adore wandering around fresh food markets, anywhere in the world. And I am delighted that my favorite veggie stall at the Saturday markets discounts all it's locally grown vegetables to half price later in the afternoon.

I even enjoy commercial supermarkets, although not so much the screaming children that frequent them.

Spending money on groceries is something that I've always been able to justify to myself, even back in my days of student poverty. If I only had $15 for a weeks worth of groceries, then the challenge was even more exciting, and required even more planning.

When you buy bread from the bakery, meat from the butcher and fruit and vegetables from the grocer it becomes quickly evident that shopping for locally produced ingredients can often be cheaper than buying everything from a major supermarket chain. This process is time consuming, and unappealing to the busy, but I really get a kick out of it. I often consider grocery shopping a great form of procrastination when something else must be done urgently. Like the 8000 word assignment which is resting comfortably in the back of my mind.

It is not always possible to buy locally, especially somewhere like Tasmania, where our climate is so cool we cannot grow some fruits and vegetables. But when you consider that the average bag of groceries has travelled the mileage equivalent of twice around the world before it gets to your house, maybe it is not such a bad idea to be more aware of where certain ingredients come from, especially when they are out of season. For both financial and environmental reasons.

This morning I had wholemeal toast (from by local bakery) with two poached eggs (Tasmanian free range) and Huon Valley mushrooms. This home grown meal was a complete fluke, or so I thought as I was eating my breakfast. But then, I had merely bought fresh and local. I think I might be on to something. A few more of those mushrooms are now in the oven, upside down an filled with feta, sun-dried tomatoes and herbs. The cheese is not Tasmanian, but that's okay, it was on special at Woolies for $1.77, and although I am a food purist, I'm also pretty broke. Who says you can't have the best of both worlds.

And on that note, what's for dinner?