15 Sep 2022 | Rushani Epa
In this issue of Food for Thought, Commissioning Editor Rushani Epa brings you her latest restaurant and recipe recommendations. With her ear to the ground, Rushani knows just what the Australian food scene has to offer. Read on to find out what amazing things she has eaten, noted and cooked recently.
If God exists then Sichuan cuisine is their gift to Earth. But I’m not here to question their existence, I’m here to tell you about the giant bowl of malatang I had at David’s Master Pot over the weekend. It’s a chain venue that specialises in the spicy, numbing soup and they offer you a variety of toppings and fillings to choose from. I armed myself with a glistening silver pot, a pair of tongs and loaded it up with rice noodles, a single fish ball, some spam, beef roll, cumin-spiced beef, Chinese cabbage, kang kung, enoki mushroom and lotus root and asked for the signature spicy broth at level three (with four being the highest). The server looked as if she feared for my life when I told her my desired spice level, but to be honest I probably could have done with the spiciest because it didn’t leave me drenched in sweat and a pool of my own tears. It was delicious and I kept inhaling big spoonfuls of soup dotted with mini pools of oil, between bites of noodle and chilli crisp. I also definitely did not need that much food but that’s what you get when you skip lunch and eat with your eyes first, so you can probably share one bowl between two.
I’ve heard of a panini joint in the north that sells out by midday. A place that only does panini, filter coffee and cold drinks. That place is Stefanino Panino, an Italian-inspired hole-in-the-wall that keeps it simple with a roster of seven rotating rolls with high quality bread sourced from Natural Tucker Bakery and cold cuts. The owner used to work at Carlton institution and butcher Donati’s and knows his way around everything from mortadella to capocollo.
For Father’s Day, we took my partner’s father out for an unforgettable meal at Cantonese favourite Chopstick Delight. There wasn’t just one dish that stood out as they were all so impressive and diverse. Winter melon soup came dished up in small bowls with a light sweetness and seafood throughout, lobster was fished out of the tank and arrived cooked at our table, white flesh glistening and coated in ginger and spring onion with soupy egg noodles hiding underneath, Pipa duck splayed out, its skin bronzed and crisped up and housemade silken tofu jiggled underneath preserved olive leaf and minced pork. I can see why people want to keep this gem hidden.
Lode Pies is a pie spot that has taken Sydney by storm and it’s helmed by two chefs from one of the world’s best Italian restaurants, LuMi. The venue’s signature LuMi pie takes inspiration from LuMi's two-hat degustation menu pithvier and is filled with wagyu brisket and filled with chicken jus, reduced cream and shiitake mushrooms (and the labour intensity explains the $20 price point). I also want to try the Mr Peanut, a croissant swirl flavoured with peanut butter frangipane, chocolate, toasted brown butter and caramelised banana, chocolate. These are some extraordinary pastries!
I adore Pasta Grannies by Vicky Bennison. It’s a book that features nonnas from across Italy and their signature pasta recipes. I recently tried my hand at Tonina's garganelli pasta with "gypsy" sauce. It was absolutely beautiful and so simple. I rendered the fat out from pancetta which imparted a strong, meaty flavour, Sicilian green olives lent their umami and the sweetness of passata all came together in perfect unison. You can find out more about the bestselling Pasta Grannies here, and don't miss their highly anticipated sequel, Pasta Grannies: Comfort Food
Rushani Epa is the commissioning editor in food and lifestyle at Hardie Grant Books. Outside of her role at Hardie Grant she's also a journalist and editor who specialises in food and culture that has written for publications like Time Out Melbourne, Melbourne Food and Wine Festival, SBS Food and Acclaim Magazine. She also runs Colournary, a digital and biannual print magazine that celebrates and amplifies the voices of First Nations, Black and People of Colour through the lens of food and culture.