Damn fine BBQ

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Tex-Oz Smokehouse, 12 Synnot Street, Werribee

At what passes for a dining room at Tex-Oz Smokehouse, you’ll feel gravel underfoot.

You’ll sit on plastic chairs while eating at tables apparently made of something like packing case wood.

You’ll eat from cardboard containers while using plastic cutlery.

You’ll order from a food truck parked on an otherwise empty lot.

We think all that’s absolutely grand.

Because in being what and how it is, Tex-Oz give Melbourne life to a great no-frills BBQ tradition that has previously gained little or no traction here.

Sure, in Memphis, Virginia and Texas, BBQ of many kinds can be enjoyed in grand and/or chic and/or hipster settings – and you’ll often pay a high price for doing so.

But just as important – arguably even MORE important – are the cheapo roadside stands and shacks found throughout the land that cater to the quick-fix needs of regular folks not seeking a big night, but instead simply a good feed – at the right price.

And, yes, Tex-Oz Smokehouse does right in the money stakes, too.

Equally appropriately, the menu (see below) is compact.

A CTS team of three – myself, Bennie and Nat Stockley – enjoy a very nice, post-heatwave Saturday lunch.

 

 

The smoked brisket and pulled pork – sold at $6 for 100 grams and seen here in 200-gram quantities – are excellent.

The brisket, in particular, shines.

There’s not a lot of smoke going on, but the meat is more tender and juicy than it photographs and more-or-less completely fat-free.

And it goes fine with a house-made sauce that has a bit of a spice kick.

The stranded pig meat is fine, too, enough to have me recanting my oft-expressed judgment that pulled pork is largely a tasteless, over-hyped con.

 

 

Bennie opts for the hybrid dish that is the Tex-Oz snack pack ($16), adorned in his case with more of that pulled pork.

He likes it a bunch, though I’m guessing that while he’s enjoying his lunch he’s also reminding himself that, as previously expressed, he’s done with snack packs.

 

 

For sides, we get coleslaw and potato salad – big serves for $4 each.

The slaw is fresh and crunchy and very rough cut, making it a little unwieldy in terms of the plastic implements we are using.

The spud concoction is heavily mayo-ised and doesn’t really hit the spot with us.

Nat – who also goes the pulled pork and brisket route – gets fries, which he tells me are overdone in terms of the salt.

I am reminded of legendary story I was told about a very famous Texas BBQ joint at which I dined several decades ago.

Apparently, when the management decided to introduce some non-meat items to the menu – you know, stridently non-carnivore fare such as white sliced bread, raw onion and pickles – the locals damn near caused a riot.

So if the Tex-Oz accessories don’t quite hit the bullseye with us, we’re happy to embrace the “It’s All About The Meat” ethos and say simply: So what?

And in the meat sphere, this place produces the goods in an admirably no-frills manner.

Tex-Oz Smokehouse is open from noon Thursdays through to Sundays.

Check out their website here.

 

Pub ribs rock

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Commercial Hotel, 111 Watton Street, Werribee. Phone: 9741 2322

Tootling down Watton Street looking for a carpark, I am bemused.

But not nearly as bemused as Bennie and Deb, his mum.

At issue is the nature of our destination – seemingly the sort of pub that would normally struggle, and fail, to gain the attention of CTS.

A confession: I have been seduced by the nice Facebook pictures of the Commercial Hotel’s food, these featuring occasionally in my feed because of the joint’s links with the Werribee Bears rugby league outfit.

I’m not diehard fan of the club, but did venture down there for a couple of games last season.

Even if the pub at hand would normally fall out side CTS paramters, we are – as ever – upbeat and hopeful.

Truth is, had I twigged the Commercial is a pokies venue, this adventure almost certainly would have been stillborn.

Happily, the pokies are well away from the dining room – out of sight, out of earshot and out of mind.

That leaves us to happily enjoy the old-school ambiance.

The Commercial’s dining room feels – from the carpet up – just like a country pub.

As we expect, the menu (see below) is studded with the sorts of dishes routinely found in such places.

But there’s a few nice wrinkles in there, too.

 

 

Deb goes the roast pork dinner ($13).

It’s a beauty, with a heap of good vegetables and more than enough highly porky and nicely cooked meat.

She loves it; the plate is clean when she’s done.

Not just a fine roast dinner, but a bargain as well.

 

 

For Bennie, it’s the pulled pork burger ($20), which tastes a lot better than it photographs.

Oddly (perhaps even weirdly), the pulled meat appears to have been formed into a pattie.

It tastes good to me and he enjoys it.

But it’s fair to say Bennie has just about had it with pulled meat of any kind in burgers; me, I’ve had it with pulled pork period.

So often so mediocre!

 

 

It’s a subjective judgment, but for me the stars of our collective choosing are my BBQ baby back ribs ($33).

There’s two good-size rack pieces in there.

The meat is tasty and tender, and comes from the bones with ease.

I know there’s people out there, for whom gnaw is the desired and happy norm, who will think that no recommendation at all.

Still, for me this is a fine BBQ meal, the pricing of which can put some of the specialist BBQ joints in the shade.

The ribs are handily abetted by a fine slaw.

Really, the only disappointment of our Commercial outing is the chips Bennie and I are provided.

They’re OK – but also under-done and under-salted.

Check out the Commercial Hotel website here.

 

Tex-Mex sanctuary

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Muyrico, Sanctuary Lakes Shopping Centre, Point Cook. Phone: 0424 101 020

We’re in Point Cook for some Mexican food – or, more accurately – some Tex-Mex tucker.

Our most recent adventure along those lines – on the other side of the freeway, at another shopping centre – had hardly thrilled us, so why our upbeat mood?

Because Muyrico’s Rupantar Dey has approached us with a view to doing a review (see full disclosure below).

We like his style and honest approach so we are quietly hopeful.

That optimism turns out to be well founded.

Rupantar and partner Gaurav Verma have a nice little operation going at Sanctuary Lakes shopping centre.

The food is cheap and tasty.

Keep in mind this shopping centre food court fare and a nice time can be had.

 

 

We start with a range of the lads’ snacky items – flaky pastry beef empanada ($1.50 each), devilled chook leg ($1.80) and corn fritters ($2.50 for three).

These are all fine.

The fritters especially impress – they’re simple, light, moist, chewy and corny, and much better than the very similar spring onion pancakes we sometimes try in Chinese places.

 

 

Our quesadila ($10.90) is a messy treat.

The flour tortilla is toasted after being stuffed with pulled pork, cheese and beans, the whole lot then anointed with sour cream, guacamole, corn and tomato.

 

 

Our chimichanga ($10.90) has a chicken filling, but in most regards this deep-fried burrito shares much with our quesadila, only it’s a bit more stodgy.

Kinda like a cheerful Tex-Mex take on an old-school chiko roll – and I suspect there’s folks for whom that description will be a big, fat green light!

 

 

Desserts?

The chocolate mousse and cinnamon rice pudding ($6, but soon to be – I’m told – $4.50) are, as expected, sinfully rich – and with consistencies more like soup than pudding!

Gaurav and Rupantar tell me Muyrico is going good, though they’re still feeling their way to what works best for the demands of their location and customers.

They’re especially pleased with their bustling home delivery service.

Muyrico is open until 9.30pm seven nights a week.

Check out the Muyrico website here.

(Consider The Sauce dined at Muyrico as guests of management. No money changed hands. Our food was chosen by CTS. Muyrico management did not seek any editorial input into this story.)

 

Sweet Sri Lankan hits WeFo

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The White Elephant On Barkly, 561 Barkly Street, West Foostcray. Phone: 0423 515 728

The White Elephant brings a real point of difference to Indian-dominated West Footscray, and is doing so with style.

Whether its efforts will be sufficient to prosper in what is a fiercely competitive environment, only time will tell.

We certainly hope so after a three-member CTS team enjoys a fine evening meal there.

The former home of the cafe Jellybread has been fitted out in bright and breezy fashion.

We found the service very attentive and the wait times perfectly appropriate for the food at hand.

Our first glances at the menu (see below) are quite bracing, based on our long enjoyment of extremely affordable Sri Lankan food at a variety of places.

At the White Elephant, meat and seafood curries cost either side of $20.

But closer perusal of the food list reveals some outright gems.

Three rotis, one veg curry and one meat curry for $12, for instance.

Or a rice-and-curry combo of two veg curries and one meat curry for $15.

That latter deal will do us – or two of us anyway!

 

 

Justin is extremely happy with his curry combo deal.

Unlike many other Indian and Sri lankan eateries, here the curry deals can be customised according to customer wishes – rather than being a mix of whatever the staff choose back out in the kitchen.

The mild beef curry is some way short of tender, but not tough, either – perfectly normal and acceptable for this kind of food.

The eggplant moju disappears at pace.

But it is the potato curry that is the star – so simple and tasty!

 

 

It is a vegetable selection that shines brightest in Bennie’s line-up, as well.

The okra dish is as good as we’ve enjoyed.

The vegetable holds its vibrant greenness, is not in the least cooked down and shows not the slightest sign of sliminess.

It’s fabulous.

We’re all taken with the cashew curry, which is way more creamy and moist than the above photograph suggests.

It’s nice, with the nuts just on the tender side of al dente.

But, as Bennie later opines, there is a strong element of same-same about it that suggests it would be more enjoyed as a smaller side.

One of the main things Bennie enjoys about Sri Lankan food is the ability to order pork.

His pork curry here is similar to those he’s enjoyed elsewhere – dry, charry, enjoyable.

But beware – this is very, very fatty.

The $15 meal deals my companions enjoy involve excellent food and represent superb value.

 

 

My lampraise ($17) is something entirely different.

I’ve enjoyed other versions of this very traditional Sri Lankan meal – cooked in a banana leaf – but never quite this hearty or rustic.

The cooked-in-stock rice is a fine foundation.

The stars are a couple of fat charred, juicy and supremely delicious prawns.

There’s an orb of tuna cutlet and a heap of chicken and the same pork, very fatty, as in Bennie’s curry.

The chicken is overcooked by Western, charcoal grill standards, but that is – I strongly suspect – entirely normal for this dish.

My meal is so meaty, so macho that the phrase “meat lovers” comes to mind – something more usually associated with dodgy pizzas.

As well, the fried egg – very good – lends the dish something of the aspect of an old-school English fry-up.

So … not everyone’s cup of tea.

But, no doubt, just precisely the ticket for some!

 

 

At the top of the meal, we’d started out with a serve of spicy chicken ribs ($8).

Our handful were fine – not so spicy and quite oily, but lip-smackingly juicy and tender.

The White Elephant is doing breakfasts!

The menu ranges from western-style dishes such as eggs, toast and pancakes through to string hoppers and roti with curry.

Meanwhile, we wish the White Elephant crew well – and, on the basis of those awesome spud and okra dishes, we’ll be back for more veg.

 

 

South Sudanese cookbook – a gorgeous world first

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Jibrine Akima Magdaline Jok wears a number of hats.

She’s a Caroline Springs mother of four children.

She’s a successful career woman in the finance sector.

She’s a proud member of the South Sudanese community in Melbourne and Australia.

And now she’s the author and publisher of a fabulous South Sudanese cookbook.

So far as she and I can ascertain, it’s the first South Sudanese cookbook – ever.

The book was born of her love of cooking and, more specifically, through a visit to her mother in Africa that came after more than a decade of separation.

She has been inspired, too, by the thought that food traditions can be a profound community glue in fraught times of war, refugees and families scattered to the four winds around the globe.

“When I visited my mum, we cooked every day and I heard all the stories,” Jibrine says.

“I spent most of my time jotting down notes and practising the dishes that she made on a daily basis.

“This advice she shared stays with me: ‘The more time, patience, love and passion you have for cooking meals, the greater the taste’.”

I am in awe of Jibrine’s efforts in scrambling up an Everest-like learning curve to bring this project to life.

She’s obviously a very capable human – but until now she had zero experience with writing, editing, publishing, cookbooks, translation and more.

On top of all that, she has successfully created a book of more than 100 recipes directly from the maternal source – bringing to life in the written word recipes previously transmitted only by the verbal/visual folk methods of “a handful of this, and a pinch of that”.

 

 

Like all great cookbooks, Jibrine’s effort can be seen as an end in itself – it’s beautiful to handle and read, and the photographs are simple, honest and not inappropriately styled in terms of glam.

There’a strong accent on a wide variety of stews – meat, poultry, fish, pulses.

The recipes appear to be straightforward and well presented, and most of the ingredients of the easily obtainable variety.

 

 

In some ways, Jibrine’s cookbook journey is just beginning.

The challenge now is to get that book and those recipes into the kitchens of foodies everywhere.

To buy a copy of South Sudanese Family Cookbook, try Lueth Variety Shop, 10B Paisley Street, Footscray, phone 9687 4097. It costs $30. Or email Jibrine on jibrinem@yahoo.com

 

Greek groove in Yarraville

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Eleni’s Kitchen + Bar, 28 Anderson Street, Yarraville. Phone: 9943 4233

There’s a lot of family history tied up in Yarraville’s new Greek eatery.

Locals who know just how long the fit-out of the former Anderson Street boutique took will be gratified to know that a fine space has been carved out here, upstairs and down, full kitchen and all.

Surely this is the most radical makeover of a village business property for more than a decade?

The place is being managed by Eleftheria (“Thierry”) Amanatidis.

At her side around the place is her uncle, Tony.

The restaurant is named after Tony’s mother, Eleni Amanatidis.

Eleni’s husband is Dimitrios Amanatidis, the father of whom was Antonios Amanatidis, one of the first Greek Orthodox priests to arrive in Australia.

 

 

So, yes, a lot of family vibes and inner-west Greek traditions going on here.

Unsurprisingly, and very happily from our perspective, the food being delivered (see menu below) is old-school, straight-up Greek tucker.

We wouldn’t have it any other way!

 

 

Still, within that framework we find some nice ‘n’ lovely twists and tweaks when we partake of a fine dinner as guests of Thierry and her crew (see full disclosure below).

In the serve of super fresh dips ($14), for instance, the melitzanosalata eggplant number tastes not in the least of the garlic and smokiness we are expecting, but instead of zingy mint.

Just as good is the tirokafteri of feta, capsicum and the tiniest tingle of chilli.

These two are finely abetted by a tzatziki with dill and a very mild-flavoured tarama.

 

 

The dips are served with very good house-made bread, though we resort to grilled pita to mop up the remainders.

 

 

Bennie and I split two mains between the more ritzy grill line-up and the “Eleni’s home favourites” list that includes moussaka and pastitisio.

The cabbage rolls ($24) are every bit the home-style classics for which we’ve been hoping.

If I rather wish we’d gone for something a little more rich and hearty, Bennie has no such problem.

 

 

The meat in our lamb gyros plate ($25) is very fine indeed – salty and herby and heaps of it.

This meat, BTW, is also available in pita-wrapped takeaway form for $12.

In some ways, though, the top test of both our mains – and a handy gauge of the freshness and general excellence of the food at Eleni’s – comes in the form of the salads that accompany both.

Differing slightly, they are superb – dressed well, juicy and delicious in every way, and displaying no sign at all of even a single tired or brown-edged leaf.

 

 

Bennie and I are keen to go both the available desserts – so we do!

The baklava ($8.50) – made by Thierry herself – is a tender take on another Greek classic.

 

 

Even better, or so I think, is the rizogalo (rice pudding, $8.50).

This is some kind of fancy trick – that something so homespun and plain can simultaneously be so suave, smooth and sexy.

Coffee?

Spot on Greek for him and Italian for me end a great New Year’s Eve outing.

There’s no doubt in our minds that Eleni’s will be widely regarded as a very welcome arrival to the inner west.

(Consider The Sauce dined at Eleni’s as guests of management. No money changed hands. Our food was chosen by CTS. Eleni’s management did not seek any editorial input into this story.)

 

Pumped up for the South Sudan wrestling

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South Sudanese Wrestling All-Stars at Chaplin Reserve, Sunshine: Inner states (Victoria, NSW and ACT ) v Outback states (SA, WA and Queensland)

Even after talking top several people, I remain – as an utter newbie should – largely ignorant about the finer points of South Sudanese traditional wrestling.

In this all-star tournament, the wrestlers and their camp followers are situated at opposing ends of the Chaplin Reserve soccer ground.

 

 

The wrestling itself – many bouts – is serious, though doesn’t appear to my untutored eye to be as tricky or technical as that practised at the Olympic Games, for example.

But it ain’t Mexican wrestling, either! Duh!

 

 

I’m told the young women self-create the beautiful chants in Dinkan dialect and that they’re all about supporting their teams.

A South Sudan take on We Are The Champions?

 

 

Hmmm, dunno about that!

But work of these singing queens is certainly more soulful, beautiful, stirring – and just plain better – than anything ever dreamed up by Freddie Mercury and Co; IMO!

 

 

While the athletes and their retinues were loud and proud in their finery, it is also notable that very many spectators among the big, happy crowd also are dressed to the nines and 10s.

What’s it all about?

Community!

I love it!

 

 

New pal Emily Yuille, who is very active in Melbourne’s South Sudanese community, provided the following appreciation!

Thanks!

“Wrestling is a contest traditionally between young men of the Dinka and Mundri tribes in South Sudan.

 

 

“Sport plays an important role in the lives of young South Sudanese people with wrestling being one of the greatest and most popular. People love it.

“While largely unheard of in Australia, the past several years has seen the sport grow across the country, with teams in most states: Queensland – Maroons
Canberra (ACT) – Powerhouse, Melbourne – Lions, Adelaide (SA) – Cobras, NSW – Blue Warriors, Perth (WA) – Western Empire.

 

 

“The contest is all about showing strength. The contestants don’t hit each other. Using their strength they force someone to the ground and if you’re still standing, that means you win. There is no harm to done each other.

“Wrestling matches happen in three-minute bouts, with a draw declared if neither competitor can force their rival to the ground.

 

 

“For many, competing is often a rite of passage. In some families, people’s grandfather or uncle could also be a wrestler, so it goes down the generations.

“When you start wrestling for a championship, it means that they are a young man growing up and get to leave your family and your youth life.

 

 

“While only men compete in South Sudanese wrestling, the women play a valuable role during competitions, often providing encouragement and songs of support in their native languages.

“They make songs for their champions to give them morale and energy, they sing in Dinkan dialect, which also teaches the younger kids how to sing and communicate in their language and get connected with their culture.”

 

 

The South Sudanese Australian Traditional Wrestling Association Facebook page is here.

Go here for a short SBS story and film about South Sudan wrestling.