July 2, 2012

Eating Australia Part 2: Brisbane, The Gold Coast, and a Final Meal in Sydney

So after about 5 days exploring Sydney, we hopped on a plane and rode about an hour north up the seaboard to the Gold Coast.  This was where my brother was studying and where we would spend the next 5 days.  The Gold Coast is about an hour train ride south of Brisbane and despite being surrounded by beautiful beaches, my brother wanted to take us to Australia's 3rd most populated city.  First of all, the city was beautiful.  The architecture and infrastructural layout was marvelous.  Anyways, we were headed to the Brisbane Farmers Market that my brother had been to before, and after a few wrong turns we stumbled across a sea of canopies set up in the central business district.  This market had more fresh produce than prepared food, but there were still plenty of options for eating.  Check it all out after the jump.

Our first stop was the mushroom stall.  These people were making several dishes that all revolved around mushrooms as the main ingredient.  We opted for sauteed mushrooms with rosemary, green onions, and chili flakes.  If ever at the Brisbane Farmers Market, DO NOT PASS THESE UP!  They are jammed with intense mushroom flavor and they sit in a perfectly salty pond of their own juices from the pan.  Mushroom divinity.

Sauteed mushrooms at their finest

Next up was the dumpling station.  These guys were steaming up 3 separate kinds of dumplings, so we got one order of the pork, one of the beef, and logically skipped the vegetarian option.  The dumplings had a nice thin skin and were fill with juicy, well seasoned meat.  They also came drizzled in an Asian peppercorn sauce that had a bit of chili-oil like heat but the peppercorns themselves bursted in your mouth with somewhat of a savory sweetness.

Pork and beef dumplings with an Asian peppercorn sauce

We also grabbed a steamed pork bun from the dumpling stall.  While my bun experience is limited, and I am certainly no authority on the subject, this particular example was pretty good.  I thought that the bun itself was a little thick and chewy, but I'll have to eat a few more before I can finalize a firm opinion.

Steamed pork bun

After getting a taste of eastern Asia, we strolled over the middle-eastern cart where they were doing shawarma and hummus plates.  After filling up a bit, we decided that a hummus plate would be enough.  The hummus was serenely simple and had a luscious creamy texture.  It was topped with a deep red harissa hot sauce that burned long and dry - it was awesome.  We shoveled it down on pita bread until we ran out of the pita, and then just used our fingers.

Hummus with harissa hot sauce and falafel

We spent the next few days wandering around the touristy beach city that is the Gold Coast (and it is a beautiful city).  However, because of the tourist label, it's tough to find cultural identifying food without paying a hefty price.  So armed with that knowledge, I decided to try and make my own local cuisine.  Without any difficulty, we picked up some kangaroo steaks from the super market.  With a pantry that consisted of butter, chili oil, yams, salt, and pepper, I went to work in our hotel kitchen.  The evening's menu - pan seared kangaroo steak with a side of chili mashed yams.

I won't bore you with the yams - they were good, a little sweet, a little salty, a little spicy.  I didn't know much about kangaroo except for the fact that it was a very lean meat.  I was expecting something similar to venison, but what I got was something very different.  The 'roo, or Skippy as they can be lovingly referred to as, was incredibly tender for being so lean.  It was sweeter than beef but had a similar texture.  There's not a lot that you can compare it to, you just have to try it.

Home cooked kangaroo and chili mashed yams

On the final night of our trip, we were back in Sydney before the next day's long trek home.  We stayed in a hotel near Chinatown, and I figured this was the closest I had ever been to the Far East, so the Far Eastern food here must be legit.  Legit it was.  We searched out a bustling food court that I had researched and stepped into a low ceilinged space filled with crowded self-seated tables.  There were over a dozen eateries, representing various countries and regions, lined up wall to wall around the perimeter.  After changing my mind about 40 times, I settled on some Pad-Thai from the only Thai eatery in the joint.  I asked the kind lady behind the counter to make it as spicy as possible (which always seems to be met with a tame response in the NYC metro area) and she asked, a little, worried, "Are you sure?"

"Yes please!"

Oh, and spicy it was.  This rendition of Pad-Thai not only finally satisfied my scoville itch, but it was truly delicious.  There were plenty of peanuts to add a crunch and the noodles were fresh and just chewy enough.  The chicken was plentiful and well seasoned.  I had to go to the other side of the world, but to date, that was the best Pad-Thai I have ever had.

"Are you sure" Spicy Pad-Thai

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