Christmas lunch debate: Vegans vs Carnivores

Originally published by Two Thousand in 2014
Illustration by Katrina Sum

For me, Christmas Day is just an excuse to eat as much ham as possible, while still leaving enough room to be able to eat leftover ham on toast for at least a week afterwards. This is a proud tradition passed down from generation to generation in our family (hamily?).

Last year my younger sister Kate made the decision to become vegan. She had been a vegetarian for about a year before that. We were pricks about it at first but gradually her vegan recipes improved and we all looked forward to the meat and dairy-free meals and treats Kate would spend hours cooking (or not cooking, as is the case with most raw vegan snacks). She even started a website for her recipes that explains why you should carefully avoid certain foods and try to seek out healthier ingredients. Where I once used to groan, I now proudly boast to my friends of my slightly healthier diet, thanks in no small part to my sister.

But Christmas is around the corner. That means we’ve gotta start thinking about Christmas Day lunch, and the proud ham eating family tradition that comes with it. In order to avoid an awkward confrontation at this year’s dinner table, I had a conversation with Kate about some potential vegan Christmas lunch dish alternatives that don’t suck.

Levins: Hey!

Kate: Haaai.

Levins: I was just thinking about Christmas lunch this year, should we cook three or four hams?

Kate: If by hams you mean salads, then four.

Levins: What, like a salad made up of different parts of ham?

Kate: No hams for me.

Levins: No hams? It’s Christmas! You can’t even spell Christmas without ham!

Kate: Lev, I was vegan last Christmas and I’m still vegan this Christmas. No ham, no bacon, no roast pork, no chicken, no duck, no turkey, no turducken.

Levins: What about presents? Do vegans still believe in presents?

Kate: YES. Remember last year you even got me a vegetarian cookbook?

Levins: I did? I’m the best! Were there any vegan substitutes for Christmas ham in there?

Kate: They suggest felafel!

Levins: As a replacement for ham? I don’t know if putting leftover felafel on toast for the fortnight following Christmas will be as life-changing as leftover Christmas ham.

Kate: How about a big roasted celeriac! You can still have it flavoured with herbs and salt, polka-dotted with cloves, layered with orange slices and glazed with syrup! I can even dye it pink with beetroot juice!

Levins: That actually sounds OK. The leftovers need to last us until at least Australia Day though. We’ll need a 15kg celeriac. Can we smoke it in the Weber? With pineapples and glacé cherries toothpicked to it?

Kate: Sure! Although no glacé cherries, they’re poisonous! They’re bleached in calcium chloride and sulfur dioxide.

Levins: I’m pretty sure calcium chloride and sulfur dioxide make up 50% of the spirit of Christmas. The other 50% is roast meat! How can we replace the roast chicken with stuffing? That’s a big one. I refuse to eat mock meat. This year I’m giving myself the same gift I give myself every year, and that’s the gift of never finding out what Quorn tastes like.

Kate: Uhhh, me too. All self-respecting vegans hate mock meat! What even is mycoprotein? If you like stuffing so much maybe we can make stuffed eggplant? With barley and herbs, garlic, lemons, pomegranate molasses?

Levins: Can we make the stuffing more Christmassy by throwing some sage in there?

Kate: Sage = Christmas.

Levins: OK cool! So roast celeriac, stuffed eggplants and… prawns! Vegans eat fish right? I’ll head to the fish markets now!

Kate. Woah, woah, wait, no. No we do not!

Levins: Not even if we dip them in our uncle’s famous cocktail sauce made out of mayonnaise, ketchup and bourbon?!

Kate: How about I make rice paper rolls instead?

Levins: I guess you put prawns in those sometimes.

Kate: Usually they’re filled with prawns, but we could make ours with summer fruitscucumber and avocado, mint and shiso leaves, pickled carrots with toasted sesame seeds.

Levins: Can we still dip them in cocktail sauce?

Kate: No mayo – although I actually have a cashew mayo recipe!

Levins: No thanks. We’ll just hold the mayo and dip them in ketchup and bourbon. That’s lunch sorted – now all we need is dessert! Let me guess – a raw fruit pudding? With a kale smoothie instead of custard?

Kate: We could make a whole tray of treats just like Grannie does each year. Bliss balls, chocolate slice, mini chia puddings, trufflesgingerbread men; all made vegan with thanks to non-dairy milk and chia seeds.

Levins: I’m kinda on board but good luck convincing Grannie.

Kate: It doesn’t all have to be vegan, we can have a mix of both. I just don’t want to be stuck eating just lettuce, tomatoes and cucumber slices.

Levins: Variety is the spice of life, that’s why I made Christmas crackers that are half vegan, half omnivore. Some have a raw mushroom inside and the others have a cold party pie.

Kate: Mum already bought christmas crackers filled with cheap plastic toys, paper hats and bad jokes. Don’t worry, plastic is vegan. Delicious plastic…

Levins: OK one last question. What do you want for christmas this year?

Kate: A dehydrator! Next year we’ll have an entirely RAW vegan Christmas.

Levins: As long as I can use it to make jerky for New Years, you’ve got a deal.

And with that, Christmas was saved. God bless us, everyone.

Xmas Breakfast Baloney Sandwich recipe, by ACME’s Mitch Orr

Originally published by Two Thousand in 2014
Illustration by Kat Sum

ACME is probably our favourite new restaurant that opened this year, so we were stoked when head chef Mitch Orr made us an extra festive version of one the greatest (and most photographed) dishes on his menu, the baloney sandwich.

Mitch told us that this is a breakfast sandwich, but we think it’s perfect for eating at any point on Christmas Day. In fact, we plan to eat one at breakfast, one at brunch, one on the way to Christmas lunch before serving a platter of them during lunch, then – well, you get the idea. These are monumentally good and we’re going to eat a shitload of them. Thanks Father Mitchmas!

Mitch Orr’s Xmas Breakfast Baloney Sandwich

For the glazed mortadella:

50g per person mortadella
wholes cloves to stud
100g brown sugar
80ml maple syrup
80ml honey
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
60ml whiskey

Mix the honey, maple syrup, sugar, mustard and whiskey together.

Stud the mortadella with the whole cloves as you would a leg of ham.

In a pan over medium heat fry the mortadella in a small amount of butter, add the honey mix and lower the heat. Keep spooning the glaze over the mortadella until it’s reduced and sticky. Remove the mortadella from the pan and portion.

For the Potato Bread:

6g dry yeast
55g sugar
185g milk
1 whole egg
1 egg yolk
6g salt
120g potato puree
500g bread flour
75g butter

Bring all ingredients out to room temp.

Heat the milk and potato puree in a pot until it reaches blood temperature. Whisk a little to break up the potato puree.

Place the sugar and yeast in a large kitchen aid bowl. Add the milk and potato. Whisk lightly and leave until the yeast activates and the mix becomes “spongy”.

Whisk in the eggs.

Add all the flour and salt to the kitchen aid bowl.

Using the fold/knead sitting work the dough until the sides of the bowl become “clean” (you may need to remove the dough and need it by hand if the kitchen aid becomes over worked).

Add the butter and repeat the same process (again, you may need to work the dough by hand).

Keep kneading the dough until it is smooth and shiny, about 10-15 minutes. The dough should feel like someone shoulder. Allow the dough to rest for 10 mins covered.

Portion the dough into 30g pieces. Roll into balls, keep your hands lubricated with olive oil. This prevents the dough drying out.

Place the balls onto a baking tray lined with baking paper. Allow the dough to prove. When pressed the dough should spring back about 25% of the way.

Bake at 175 for 15 minutes (we do this in a fan forced combi oven, it may take longer in a home oven). The buns should be soft, fluffy and golden.

For the Tomato Ketchup:

1 clove garlic
1 bayleaf
pinch of coriander seeds
cinnamon quill
85ml malt vinegar
40g brown sugar
500g tinned san marzano tomatoes
Tabasco sauce to taste
Salt to taste

Put everything except salt and Tabasco in a heavy based pot and bring up to boil. 
Turn heat right down and let the sauce reduce for a few hours, stir occasionally.

Remove the cinnamon quill and bay leaf. Blend the sauce until smooth. 
Check the consistency and reduce more if needed.

Once reduced to a nice thick consistency season the ketchup with Tabasco and salt.

To serve:

Fry one egg per person. Keep the yolk runny. Trim the edges of the eggs so they will fit inside the potato bread.

Tear open the potato bread, lather with ketchup, stuff with glazed mortadella, add the fried egg, squirt more ketchup, close bun. Shove in face.

Serve with eggnog and a side of candy canes.

Boon Cafe at Jarern Chai Grocer

Originally published by Two Thousand in 2014

Like a gremlin doused with water, Chat Thai has been multiplying over the last few years – with locations popping up in shopping centres and food courts. While each new location has stayed true to the O.G.’s mantra of Thai classics done extremely fucking well, their latest venture breaks all the rules (and still does things extremely fucking well).

If you’ve ever eaten a Chat Thai curry and thought ‘this would be insanely good on a sandwich’, sing your praises to the Lord of Holy Basil, because Chat Thai has been reading your mind and has opened their take on a typical Australian cafe. It’s housed inside their brand new grocery store, Jarern Chai Grocer, itself worthy of a long review praising its colourful collection of produce, both local and imported. A stroll through the aisles is the perfect distraction as you wait for your bowl of crab pasta.

What’s that? Crab pasta? At a Thai joint? It’s all par for the course at Boon Cafe, nestled in the middle of the grocery store. By night the cafe offers a traditional Isaan Thai menu – beautiful soups, noodles and curries as good as you’ll find at the first Chat Thai around the corner – but breakfast and lunch is way more fun, when the mother/daughter team of Amy Chanta and Palisa Anderson present a selection of sandwiches, salads and pasta that feature Thai flavours while avoiding tacky fusion label.

Between thick slices of sourdough from Brickfields Bakery, you’ll find thai sausage, pork larb, fermented rice cakes, smoked eggplant relish and a shitload of chilli. These decadent sandwiches immediately stake their claim for the best in the city – and before you start uninviting your friend who pretends to have a gluten intolerance, don’t worry! The sandwiches can be served as rice bowls too!

Swing by for a sandwich at breakfast, then return for a few bowls of pasta at lunch. The pasta comes fresh from Porcorosso and provides a good chew, a nice contrast to the soft rice noodles typically used in Thai food. The kamut fusilli is a highlight, the yellow twists of pasta turning even yellower as they soak up the spicy oil from pork sausage and slide through raw egg yolks.

The level of heat in each dish is a welcome difference from your average cafe, and if you find it a bit much, suck down on one of the house made tisanes – a sweet herbal tea that changes flavour throughout the week. After trying one flavour, you’ll want to return a few times to make sure you get through them all. Add Boon Cafe to the top of the list of restaurants that we’d be perfectly happy eating at for breakfast, lunch and dinner – leaving with a bag of groceries to take home.

REVIEW: Belly Bao at Goodgod Small Club

Originally published by Two Thousand in 2015

The third restaurant to take up the kitchen space inside Goodgod Small Club might be the best yet. Stepping in hot on the heels of Jonkanoo’s short and sweet tenure and following three years of The Dip, whose head chef was about as good at cooking as he is at righting.

The opposite of Caribbean and cheeseburgers might be Taiwanese food, but Belly Bao are serving up one of the greatest Taiwanese creations, bao! The soft, pillowy fold-over bun things with delicious braised meats inside. Bao have appeared randomly on a few menus across Sydney over the last few years, most famously as Momofuku’s pork bun, but Belly Bao is Sydney’s first dedicated house of bao, with eight varieties on the menu.

All of the food groups are covered – pork, chicken, crab, beef, tofu and ice cream. I was expecting to love the slow braised pork belly bao the most, a classic bao available at a few Taiwanese restaurants around Sydney, however it was a little disappointing, the usually melt-in-your-mouth belly fat was on the thick and chewy side. Instead the king bao of the menu is the roast pork belly with crackling, pickled radish and mayo. It’s juicy, crunchy, salty, sweet and delicious. So are the other savoury baos, but the roast pork belly bao is the juiciest, crunchiest, saltiest, sweetest and most delicious. All hail king bao. The crispy tofu bao was my second favourite, which will be good news to vegetarians sick of eating fast food vastly inferior to the meaty options.

There’s (thankfully) no mock meat alternative to the other star of Belly Bao’s menu – fried chicken. Combining the best parts of Taiwanese salt & pepper chicken and sticky Korean fried chicken, this fried bird is immediately some of the best in town. Don’t go overboard ordering every single bao in one sitting – make sure you leave room for an entire fried chicken to yourself, best eaten while sitting in the middle of the Goodgod dancefloor with your eyes closed.

The fluffy white bao wrappers are deep fried until crunchy and brown and stuffed with ice cream for dessert, which is a sentence probably far more effective at getting you down to Belly Bao as soon as possible than this entire review. Hop to it.

McDonald’s ‘Create Your Taste’

Originally published by Two Thousand in 2015

I know, I know. Another McDonald’s review? We were just there last week! Why would I do this to myself again? Who cares about McDonald’s whacky schemes to appear to be less evil? Is TwoThousand just going to become a collection of smarmy McDonald’s reviews now?

Last week I was rather unkind about McDonald’s much hyped new attempt at a cafe, The Corner. But did you know that just a few weeks before the launch of The Corner, McDonald’s launched another, infinitely better new stupid thing at two of their suburban franchises? It’s called ‘Create Your Taste’ and it allows you to punch a machine until it gives you the stupidest burger you can think of. Welcome to the future.

McDonald’s in Waitara is the Macca’s I used to come to when I was in high school. I definitely ate an Oreo McFlurry in the boot of my mates car here once, and that is not a euphemism. Along with the Castle Hill outlet, Waitara McDonald’s is now the home of ‘Create Your Taste’, which is a huge touch screen computer to the side of the ordering counter. The computer gives you options for every step of making your own burger. You want a brioche bun? Punch it in. Two beef patties? Tell the computer. Beetroot, tomato and an egg? The computer can make it happen.

I decided to make two burgers. First, a classic cheeseburger, to see how it stacked up against some of Sydney’s best cheeseburgers. Brioche bun, beef patty, American cheese, crispy bacon, caramelised onions, pickles, ketchup, mustard. Easy. I also decided to make the stupidest burger I could think of, just because I could. Lettuce wrap bun, beef patty, crispy bacon, colby jack cheese, grilled pineapple, guacamole, jalapenos, tortilla strips, red onion, tomato, chipotle mayo, extra lettuce, mustard. Very complicated.

My guess as to why you use a computer to order instead of ordering at the counter is so the staff don’t cause themselves bodily harm by rolling their eyes too far into the back of their head when you order such dumb bullshit. The computer sends your order to the kitchen and after a short wait your burger gets brought to your table on a wooden paddle.

The list of things that wooden paddles should be used for begins and ends with ‘rowing boats’, but the cheeseburger on the paddle looks pretty good! It tastes pretty good too, the brioche bun is grilled to a buttery crunch, the cheese perfectly melted and the pickles are big enough to be tasted with every bite. The ‘100% angus’ beef patty is no better than your average Macca’s beef patty though and lets the burger down a little by being the only thing that doesn’t taste that fresh. But it’s still a really decent burger.

Then the stupidest burger I could think of comes to the table, a big green lump of idiot on a wooden paddle. Once I’ve stopped laughing at it, I take a bite and holy shit, it’s actually not even kind of terrible. Like eating some weird pineapple nacho burger. Crunchy lettuce, crunchy corn chips, even the meat tastes better because of the spice from the chipotle mayo and jalapenos. Hopefully Macca’s put this on the menu in the future as the McStupid.

Enjoyably silly, pretty tasty and not a top-knot in sight. You shouldn’t go out of your way for this experience, but if you ever find yourself at a McDonald’s with a ‘Create Your Taste’ computer set up, have a crack. It’s fresher than regular McDonald’s and presumably healthier, without stooping to the cringeworthy levels of The Corner cafe. ‘Create Your Taste’ is pretty good, but you know what’s fantastic? While McDonald’s are trying strange new ways to make their menu appeal to the more health conscious, KFC are applying for a liquor license. There’s a fast food outlet that knows what its audience wants.

The Corner by McCafé

Originally published by Two Thousand in 2015

“I’ll pay you more if you get a photo of the server with the top knot in front of the menu board” I say to our photographer, who accepts this challenge with the vigour you’d expect from a freelancer in his early 20’s who never gets paid on time. We’re at The Corner, the latest million dollar experiment by everyone’s favourite ginormous international corporation, McDonald’s. A spokesperson from McDonald’s will tell you that it’s a lab for them to experiment with exciting new and healthy food items, but The Corner has already been labelled by writers all over the internet who hate trying too hard as ‘the hipster McDonald’s cafe’.

But you can’t blame them. The Corner is almost a parody of the Australian cafe in 2015. It feels like McDonald’s have used one of Miranda Devine’s annual rants about what a hipster is as a checklist for what The Corner needed. I wanted to check if the whole cafe was powered by a fleet of skinny men on unicycles, but instead I had to use all of my brain power to figure out how to order before running to the hospital next door so they could remove the other half of my appendix.

You order your drinks, pastries and breakfast items from one counter and your actual lunch items from another. Drinks include random words thrown together and carbonated, like the balsamic strawberry soda and the mango coconut iced tea, one of which was sold out and the other of which I wish was sold out so I didn’t drink it. They take a lot of pride in their coffee at The Corner, which is cold drip, and the cafe is emblazoned with the slogan “EAT GOOD FOOD, DRINK GREAT COFFEE”. So their coffee is great, but their food is just good? Let’s find out.

Once you’ve ordered your drinks, you make your way over to the lunch counter where you begin the fun voyage of choosing what protein you want and whether you want it with salad, with rice or on a bun. At The Corner, meats are referred to as proteins, which I assumed was because there were proteins you could choose that were not meats, however the only proteins available are meats. Why didn’t they call just call them meats? It gets especially confusing at the end of the counter when you are given the option of ordering a ‘protein ball’, which is not a meatball, rather a dry-textured nut-sphere, perfect for throwing at a photographer or complaining about in a review.

The meats and salads themselves aren’t bad. McDonald’s have used all their trillions of dollars to make a one-of-a-kind food lab, capable of serving food that you’d be pleasantly surprised to eat at an airport. I’m sure at least a million dollars was spent coming up with the genius idea of removing “Mc” from the front of all their menu options (McProtein does have a nice ring to it though).

As you leave The Corner, smiling back at the 30 staff members that just seem to walk around smiling for their entire shift, you’ll think about the salad you just ate, happy that you’ve saved a few calories and been a part of a fun experiment. Then you’ll realise that you’ve never felt like eating a Big Mac more in your life.

REVIEW: ‘The Double Down Diner’ by Porteno x Messina

Originally published by Two Thousand in 2015

One of the cooler announcements for Sydney Festival this year was that Porteno and Gelato Messina would be teaming up to create a pop-up diner truck in the Festival Village. A four year old restaurant that’s still hard to get a table at joining forces with an gelato company whose name is almost more well known than the word gelato? This could be the best pop-up of all time!

The Double Down Diner looks fantastic, a wooden black and white rectangle in the middle of the colourful Festival Village. Porteno’s Good Eats is on the left and Messina’s Tasty Treats is on the right. They’ve both got fun and extensive carnival menus, and amazingly, they’re both selling a take on chicken and waffles.

Porteno are also selling corn dogs, reubens, Philly cheese steaks and fries with dorito salt. At 3pm there’s no line at all, and the food is prepared with lightning speed as all the elements of each dish are sitting already cooked, being kept lukewarm in a bain marie or under a heat lamp. Lukewarm is an understatement – on a 35 degree day, my fries taste cold. The waffle with fried chicken, coleslaw and maple syrup is tasty but almost ruined by a stiff piece of bacon which had been sitting there for so long it was able to give us a review of the highlights at Sydney Festival the night before. Obviously when the Village is busier, more food is being cooked and is therefore fresher, however it’s a bummer that people who come in the quieter hours are rewarded with limp food.

Gelato Messina’s Tasty Treats fair a little better – ice cream is supposed to be cold right? Their take on chicken and waffles features a waffle topped with a piece of deep fried ice cream, made to look like fried chicken, covered in a maple caramel sauce. It’s fun, a little bland by Messina’s standards, but the sauce kicks in some richness. Also fun is Messina’s Royale With Cheese, a burger consisting of a crunchy chocolate gelato patty, white chocolate cheese, passionfruit mustard and strawberry ketchup, served in a warm brioche bun. It’s nowhere near as good as the gelato burger that used to be served at the Gelato Messina Lab a few years ago, but it’s sweet, cute and, like every part of The Double Down Diner, very fun. I’d be very impressed if anyone could eat a whole burger to themselves though, that thing is dense.

It feels pointless criticising a pop-up diner that could never live up to the hype of the restaurants behind it, but both Porteno and Messina are known for their level of exceptional quality in everything that they do. Yes, The Double Down Diner is fun, and certainly not a bad experience, but it’s a shame this isn’t the mindblowing collaboration it should be. Maybe next year?

Pizza Hut’s new Vegemite stuffed crust pizza

Originally published by Two Thousand in 2015

Pizza Hut introduced their ‘stuffed crust pizza’ in the mid nineties and for a solid decade they kept their stuffed crusts simple, lining the edge of their pizzas with extra cheese and folding the dough over it, forming a cheesy tube. It was a fun new way to eat pizza! Crust first! There was no reason to change anything. Then in 2006 weird commercials from Japan and Korea started showing up, advertising a hot dog stuffed crust and Pizza Huts all over the world realised the true potential of stuffed crust pizzas: to only appeal to the most cooked bong-lords who take pride in eating the dumbest bullshit they can think of.

Pizza Hut invented a machine that every six months decides a completely random ingredient that should never be anywhere near a pizza and stuffs that in their crust for a limited time only, or until somebody dies from a stuffed crust that’s just way too hectic. After cursing humanity with the cheeseburger stuffed crust and more recently, the Dorito crunchy crust, the evil machine has decided to celebrate Australia Day by shitting on everything the Italians have ever blessed us with and creating the ‘Mitey stuffed crust’, a pizza stuffed with cheese and Vegemite.

I think Vegemite is a cool invention. Smeared on buttery toast, it’s one of my favourite breakfasts. Other things I enjoyed it smeared on are un-toasted toast (aka bread), Vita Weats and crumpets. I think anyone who doesn’t like Vegemite is a traitor, but I would punch literally any friend or family member in the face if they suggested I smear a little on my pizza. Lately I’ve been shortening my lifespan with new fast food experiments, so I thought I’d take another one for the team and order a couple of these abominations.

Pizza Hut’s website uses a picture of a Hawaiian pizza as its featured ‘Mitey Stuffed Crust Pizza’, which just sounds like the worst possible combo possible. So I ordered one. I got a plain cheese with the Vegemite crust too, which seemed to me like the least disgusting. After just 20 minutes of the predicted 30 minute delivery time had passed, Suresh P delivered me my pizzas, without judging me in any way at all.

Opening up a box of chain store pizza will always let out a gnarly smell of sweaty pizza. Add Vegemite to the mix and you’ll be asking everyone around you if ‘pungentest’ is a word, because this is the pungentest thing you’ve ever smelt.

How does it look? Like the standard sad, limp disc of pizza that thousands of people have delivered to their door every second. Except there’s the addition of a black ring of death, oozing from the swollen crust and threatening the very existence of every chunk of ham and pineapple that it surrounds. Fantastic. I couldn’t wait to put this in my mouth, like I do with everything that looks and smells like the worst thing ever.

If you’re careful enough, you can eat just the pizza part and avoid the crust completely. While recommended, that’s not why you’d order a pizza with a Vegemite crust. Pizza Hut has an entire range that is completely devoid of Vegemite. To really experience the ‘Mitey Stuffed Crust Pizza’, you have to actually take a bite of the Vegemite part.

We’re only three weeks into 2015, but I’ll be very surprised if I experience anything worse than taking a bite of the Vegemite-y part of this pizza. Vegemite is one of the strongest, most overwhelming tastes in the world. So is the tomato sauce that tops every pizza at Pizza Hut. These two things have an argument in your mouth. A loud, disgusting argument. As you chew, the only question that resonates louder than “why does this exist?” is “why is this in my mouth?”.

For this pizza to exist three insane things had to happen. For one, someone had to even think of the combination in the first place (unless the evil machine I was talking about in the second paragraph ACTUALLY EXISTS). That someone had to then convince their boss to even consider making this real, and finally, a team of professionals made it real and tasted it and decided to charge money for it. Maybe these three things don’t seem that insane to read about, but try to imagine these events taking place as you try to swallow a mouthful of black pizza.

Before you commit to an entire ‘Mitey Stuffed Crust Pizza’ (who the hell even calls Vegemite ‘Mitey’ btw), order a regular pizza and smear some Vegemite on the crust of one piece. If you enjoy the taste, punch yourself in the face. Happy Australia Day.

2019 UPDATE: I don’t remember doing this, but apparently after eating a few slices, I flipped the pizza off and fed it to some dogs? Wildly irresponsible stuff, but this is a wonderful photo essay. Photos by Al Kalyk!

REVIEW: Boom Chicken and Bing Master

Originally published by Two Thousand in 2014

Last week we made a bunch of dated Friends jokes and brought to your attention the new Chippendale takeaway spot Mr Bing Gourmet Wrapz. Since the start of the year, Mr Bing has been serving piping hot jian bings, which are a Chinese / Taiwanese answer to the question “what would happen if an omelette and a burrito had a baby?”.

Over on the basement level of Westfield in Parramatta, a hotspot has been doing roughly the same thing for roughly the same amount of time. And if you thought the possible Chandler -referencing Mr Bing was a good name? This Parramatta joint has the most incredible name ever: Boom Chicken and Bing Master. It’s a kind of name that makes you wanna immediately get Terry Durack on the line and ask if you can borrow three hats, because you’ve found the best restaurant of the year.

Boom Chicken and Bing Master is one of the many fast food options in the underground strip that connects Westfield to Parramatta station. They offer two things: Taiwanese fried chicken (aka Boom Chicken) and jian bings, which their name states they are the masters of. Where Mr Bing’s menu inspires you to sample as much of it as possible, here your eyes are drawn to one thing only: The Boom Chicken Bing. Taiwanese fried chicken wrapped in an eggy crepe. Have Good Food Guide ever given somewhere four stars?

Hot, messy and collapsing out of the foil bag it’s served in, the Boom Chicken Bing delivers. A greasy tube of heart attack with a good kick from various chilli pastes and sauces. As heavy as it is, I can’t see myself ever ordering anything else from the Bing Master.

Losers allergic to the joys that Parramatta can bring will be unfairly rewarded by a Boom Chicken and Bing Master opening in the city soon. The jian bing revolution has begun! Get ready to eat all your meals wrapped in eggs!

REVIEW: Mr Bing Gourmet Wrapz

Originally published by Two Thousand in 2014

Friends fans rejoice! They finally named a food franchise after Chandler. Ever wondered what he did after the series finale? He spent almost two decades in Asia, devouring snacks and honing his catering skills and late last year moved to Sydney to open a franchise in Chippendale called Mr Bing.

Ignore the last paragraph, especially if you were more of a Frasier fan. A jian bing is an incredible snack from China, a great big pancake that’s equal parts omelette and equal parts crepe, wrapped around various fillings, most popular of which is fried bread and pork floss. It’s also really popular in Taiwan, and probably would be popular everywhere if it were easier to find. You used to be able to get a jian bing at the Dixon St Markets of a Friday night in Chinatown, although it was called a ‘Chinese hot dog’. I featured one in my guide to the best hot dogs in Sydney video that I made a few years back. It was delicious, but merely the tip of the egg wrapped iceberg when it came to the variety of jian bing.

In the last few months, Sydney has gained two dedicated Jian Bing joints. First the incredibly named Boom Chicken & Bing Master opened in Parramatta (we’ll be heading there next week!), and more recently Mr Bing popped up on City Rd in Chippendale. It’s a hole in the wall takeaway spot. It’s super cute and the menu is impressive, taking the humble little bing on a little holiday for each option, filling some with Korean BBQ pork and others with a weird take on an Aussie beef burger. These options are a little over the top, packed with unnecessary mayo (eggs on eggs on eggs) and odd flavours.

The namesake Mr Bing is a classic Chinese jian bing and absolutely what you should be ordering, filled with a stick of fried bread, sweet bean sauce and sesame seeds. For a couple bucks you can add an extra egg and some pork floss. It’s sweet, moreish, soft, crunchy, eggy and filling, but I still wanted two. I opted for a smaller Taiwanese style jian bings with ham and cheese. A good choice!

If you like kebabs and burritos please make some room in your diet for another cylinder you eat out of a paper bag. These jian bings are legit. It’s just a shame Mr Bing isn’t open an night, although Jian Bings are typically breakfast food, they’d go down nice with a few too many beers.