Oodles of noodles

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Noodle Queen, 240 Swanston Street, CBD. Phone: 0435 869 777

After a gap of several years, Bennie and I have once again taken up wing chun.

We stopped, after quite a few happy years at Wing Chun Bing Fa Academy in the CBD, for various reasons, most of which I cannot now recall.

We looked at finding a school and teacher in the west, but in the end the depth of the family connection already forged with Sifu Julian and his family and their school won out.

So it’s back to Swanston Street we are heading.

Actually, that’s not true.

The whole shebang is moving from its Curtain House home of many years to new digs on the corner of Victoria and Lygon streets.



Team CTS with Sifu Julian. For more information on Wing Chun Bing Fa Academy, go here.


In the meantime, we have really enjoyed getting back into the kung fu drill, including getting on top of the logistics of making two classes a week.

And checking out all the new, funky Asian eateries – including several interesting outfits on Swanston Street around our temporary martial arts destination.

So after a Saturday class, we hungrily hit Noodle Queen.

It’s a long room, nicely done out.

It’s busy, the prices are cheap and the wait times are appropriate for the food involved.

Ordering and paying is done at the cash register, with customers then provided a number.

The food here is from Sichuan – but not in a generic manner.

Instead, at least some of the dishes come from specific areas within Sichuan – regionalism we can applaud!




Yibin burning noodles ($11.80), for instance come from the city of Yibin, in the south-eastern part of Sichuan.

They are fantastic – and Bennie talks about them for days after.


Not really, not by our standards anyway – and the dish is given a mere single chilli in the place’s heat grading system.

But the blend of oily noodles, chopped pickles, smashed peanuts and pork mince is full-on delicious.

It gets better as it goes, with the liquids and chopped ingredients gravitating towards the bottom of the bowl, ensuring the last few mouthfuls excel.




From the neighbouring city of Luzhou comes fried diced duck and ginger topping on spicy noodles ($11.80).

Overall, this is good but not as impressive as the Yibin dish.

Mind you, my impressions are coloured by the fact Bennie has first crack at this offering and he scarfs the meatiest, juiciest pieces of duck.

The more bony pieces left for his dad, however, do taste lovely.

But I detect little – nothing, actually – of the advertised ginger topping.




Deep-fried wontons ($5.80 for six) are perfectly cooked and tasty, but largely excess to our requirements.

This is the sort of ordering we fall prey to, not in the interests of immediate gratification, but with a view to making a better CTS story!

Another wing chun class and another meal at the same joint … starts with a smaller, appetiser dish called shredded chicken topping on spicy cold noodles ($4.80, top photo).

This is great!

The same sort of oiled noodles are the base, room temperature rather than cold, with plenty of peanuts and the nice chook pieces making for a winner.




We are seduced by the menu photo of spicy stewed beef with noodle/wonton soup ($13.80).

What we get looks very different – and is simply the Noodle Queen take on the beef brisket/wonton noodle soup we have enjoyed many, many times elsewhere.

Still, it’s a good version, with the beef in strips rather than the more familiar chunks.




Pork and cabbage dumplings with “sceret spicy sauce” ($10.80 for 10) are fab.

They look like they’ll be dry and doughy.

Not so!

They’re, in fact, tender, slippery and quite delicate.

They have less meaty fillings than we might’ve expected, but we feel no sense of deprivation.

They’re super, especially with the sweetish sauce that starts out benign in terms of chilli heat but builds cumulatively as we work our happy way through the parcels.

Bennie loves Noodle Queen so much, I’m going to have to dig my heels when it comes to trying new places for our post-wing chun dining.




Wonderfully silky eggplant & more



Dumplings & More, 96 Hopkins St, Footscray. Phone: 9689 2165

After five years and more than 1000 posts, it might be presumed that Consider The Sauce has explored every noodle nook and curry cranny in Footscray Central.

And maybe even Sunshine, St Albans and various other foodie hot-spots, as well.


Hasn’t happened.

Not even close.

Nor will it ever.

How fabulous is that?

For example: Dumplings & More is by now a Hopkins Street veteran yet it is only very recently that we have ventured through its doorway to eat and enjoy.

And enjoy we did.

Woks are used here but this is food – from the north-eastern province of Liaoning – that is quite a long way removed from your regular Cantonese tucker.

There is ample scope in the menu (see below) to accept all sort of challenges, although quite a few of the dishes involve Chinese pickles of the sort I already know through experience are not really my “thing”.




This place is about hardcore Asian dining – the service is fine and smiling but there is not much English spoken here, so pointing at the required dishes is the go.

Ambiance is bare-bones cheap eats cafe style.

There are even a handful dishes on the menu that have no English translations. Yes, I asked as to their nature – I didn’t take precise notes on the answers, but the gist of it seemed to be that they aren’t any more weird and wonderful than the rest of the menu!

And the prices at Dumplings & More are very low.

Cucumber salad ($7, top photograph) is a beaut and refreshing starter.

It’s a little sweet, vinegary, a little spicy, garlicky and delicious.




Bennie and I are of split minds about the exceptionally cheap seaweed salad ($2).

After a couple of mouthfuls, I call it quits.

Maybe I’m too familiar with the slippery, vividly green Japanese equivalent …  but this strikes me as dull and unappetising.

Bennie ploughs on, telling me the more heavily dressed (more garlic, more chilli) stuff is to be found further at the heart of the dish.

Each to his own!




The lamb skewers cost $2 each (minimum order of four) – and they are dynamite!

The meat is not tender cubes as you might get in a Mediterranean, Middle Eastern or Afghan eatery.

But it matters not, as eating these chewy morsels daubed in heaps cumin and quite a lot of chilli is a blast.




Spicy chicken with peanuts ($13.80) is another winner, though I am keener about it than my offsider.

It’s not as spicy as we expect from such a dish ordered in such an establishment.

But I really love the way all the ingredients are chopped to uniform size and that those ingredients include celery and cucumber.




An order of the pan-fried lamb dumplings ($9.80 for 15 pieces) is automatic on account of them being very intensely firm favourites of CTS pal Bazoo.

Very good they are, too, with the casings being alternatively crisp and a little doughy and the innards juicy and well seasoned.




Finally, here is the crowning glory of our visits – the potato, eggplant and chilli ($13.80).

Simply put: Wow!!!

Seriously, Bennie has been talking about this dish regularly since we devoured it.

It is very, very oily – but such goes with such a dish and its method of preparation.

The green peppers strips are of only minor interest.

But …

The potato segments are browned yet still quite firm.

They’re just like roast spuds – and unlike anything potato we’ve ever before had in any kind of Asian restaurant.


The eggplant is wonderously silky and luscious, and packed with aubergine flavour.

This is all the more impressive as all of it is skin-free – yet it is the skin with which we normally high degrees of flavour in eggplant cooking.

So much do we love this dish that we’ve even started talking about devising and publishing a western suburbs restaurant eggplant shoot-out!





Yumminess on Alfrieda

Phi Phi Vietnamese & Chinese Restaurant, 28 Alfrieda Street, St Albans. Phone: 9366 5686

We’ve been here before … 28 Alfrieda Street, that is.

First as Just Good Food, then as Phuong Thao – and there was another incarnation in there along the way as well.

Such is the ebb and flow, the come and go of our foodie precincts.

The latest establishment to grace 28 Alfrieda is Phi Phi – and based on a beaut Sunday dinner, we think that is a fine thing indeed.

There’s a new fit-out and the staff are trying really hard and with much graciousness.

Phi Phi is a Vietnamese/Chinese place with a wide-ranging menu that takes in all you’d expect – seafood-based banquets right through to the most humble noodles and rice dishes.

The big ovens are still out back, so you can count on the roast meats still being the goods.




When we visit, the place is fetchingly busy.

And we can think of no better testament to the place’s worthiness than the way complementary bowls of chicken soup are dispensed.

For two of our mains, we would have been very disappointed had we not got soup.

For another, it’s arrival was a pleasant surprise.

For the fourth, the chook soup addition was a shock and a big plus – now that’s class!

We don’t push any envelopes with what we order, but everything we have is good or much better.




Hot and sour soup ($5) is far from being the hottest or sourest I’ve enjoyed, but it IS among the very best, so chock-full of pork, baby prawns, tofu, mushrooms and other goodies is it.

It’s fantastic!




Soft-shell crab rice paper rolls ($7) and …




… sashimi salmon rice paper rolls ($7) are both lovely, high-quality treats.

The crab taste, the fried-and-fishy tang of which can be off-putting to some, is nicely muted by the other protagonists.

In both cases, the rolls deliver fresh takes on the usual but nevertheless fit right in to the rice paper roll tradition.




Fried won tons ($5) are just so good!

Obviously house-made, they are grease-free and plump with nicely seasoned minced pork.




Hainanese chicken claypot ($11.50) comes with heaps of bok choy.

Its recipient is delighted to find the bottom rice has the desired, browned crunchiness!




Of course, ordering Hainanese chicken rice in a non-Malaysian eatery is always a bit of punt – but can lead to nice twists.

In this case, the Phi Phi version ($10) comes with some non-Malay greenery.

The rice is good, too.

And as with the claypot rendition, the chicken is superb – beautifully cooked and tender, despite some of the pieces being quite dense, and expertly boned with not a deadly shard of nastiness in sight.

That I really, truly appreciate.




Bennie goes for the salt and pepper pork ribs on tomato rice ($11), mainly because the lad is currently in a place where fried = good.

It’s all very nice, though I’ve had versions – be they pork, chicken, tofu, whatever – that have had more arresting zing in the seasoning department.




One of our party goes real old-school by ordering beef with black bean sauce on rice ($12).

And why not?

We’re loving our dinner so much we confidently expect this, too, to be very good.

And so it is.

Like all the aforementioned mains, this comes with a bowl of chicken soup – not a usual move for a black bean-sauced dish and worthy of a “Bravo”!




As we muse on our wonderful dinner, we count ourselves lucky that the food we like most is so affordable.

Our meal – including a can of soft drink and a durian smoothie – clocks in at a stupendously good $74 for four.

And that, in turn, has us reflecting on the fact our newly refurbished Yarraville pub has on its menu Singapore noodles priced at $26.


We’ll take Phi Phi any day.


On an earlier reconnaissance visit, yours truly also went old-school with a serve of roast duck and soya chicken on rice.




This $12 outing was also most enjoyable.

The meats were tender and expertly chopped, and the presence of not just soup but also ginger/garlic/oil mash and pickles made the dish memorable.