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Finalists for Bar of the Year 2018
28.07.2017

Whether it's a late-night spot playing hip-hop at full volume, a throwback to the glamour of yesteryear or a bar-restaurant that slips the collar of definition, these three Bar of the Year finalists have all nailed one essential detail: good times.

Finalists for Regional Restaurant of the Year 2018
27.07.2017

These three restaurants - Fleet, Brae and Igni - might not be in capital cities, but the journey there is part of the unforgettable experience they offer.

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The life of a farmer revolves around the seasons. Come winter, a certain thriftiness is needed in the kitchen to make the most of meagre produce, writes Paulette Whitney.

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27.07.2017

Italy's claim to being the greatest of the world's cuisines has one key weakness: breakfast. But, argues John Irving, there's more to the story than first meets the eye.

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27.07.2017

The hottest spots to eat, drink, play and stay on your next trip to LA, rounded up into one perfect day.

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Your guide to a perfect stay in Canberra, from where to sleep to the exhibitions you need to check out.

Restaurants with rooms
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Some of Australia's best dining destinations take the hassle out of a weekend stay by offering their own on-site digs where you can hit the hay in style after your meal.

Finalists for Maitre D' of the Year 2018
26.07.2017

The maitre d' is your first introduction to a restaurant - they do as much to create a sense of ambience as lighting, tableware and music. And these three professionals are top of the class.

Chinese takeaway

Tony Tan speaks about the flavours of Beijing street food in our exclusive video interview

Ask a visitor to Beijing what northern Chinese cooking is and the likely response is simple and emphatic: "Peking duck!" It's a perfectly valid answer, too, but that wonderful dish is a relatively recent invention, while northern Chinese cooking, better known as Beijing cuisine, is one of the four great schools of Chinese culinary culture.

This cuisine embraces the distinctive cooking styles from the surrounding provinces of Hebei, Shandong, Shanxi, Henan and Inner Mongolia. It is shaped by the cooking of Chinese Muslims from parts of Inner Mongolia and Xinjiang, and lamb is their preferred meat. The cuisine has also been influenced by the imperial kitchens, as successive rulers have resided in Beijing since the 13th century's Yuan dynasty. Finally, as the national capital for close to a millennium, foods from all the provinces of China have come to be represented here.

Sadly, our knowledge of northern Chinese cooking in Australia is rather scant. Cantonese, the southern school of cooking, is dominant here, and while northern-style restaurants are on the increase, for now they're relatively marginal and aren't equipped to serve the cuisine's full repertoire faithfully.

Beijing's Sanyuanli food market displays the building blocks of northern-style cuisine. Local greens such as leeks, soy beans, ginger, spring onions and the huge variety of Chinese cabbages are key. Tian mian jiang, the sweet flour sauce, and a host of preserved vegetables also play a role, as does the distinctive flavour of roasted sesame paste.

If you're fortunate enough to stroll through the few remaining hutongs (neighbourhood alleys) with their courtyard homes, chances are you'll find a family enjoying a meal in the open courtyards. On the table could be staples such as wheat-based buns called mantou, cold dishes such as eggplant laced with roasted sesame paste, bean curd cooked in every way imaginable, or potatoes stirfried with soy and hints of green onions.

But to really experience the full intensity of Beijing's flavours, pay a visit to the capital's most happening food street, Donghuamen Dajie in Wangfujing. As you approach the Han and Uighur vendors, the delicious scent of grilled cumin-laden meats wafts through the night air, and the vast array of hawker foods is nothing like what you find back home. From skewered quail to calamari and crisp scorpion to savoury buns filled with pork, the snacks represent the multifaceted nature of this vast metropolis. Beijing's enormous gastronomic range is captivating. After all, I think it was the Chinese who invented the saying, 'you live to eat'.

Join Tony Tan on a 12-day gourmet tour through China, 12-23 September, 2008. For more information go to tonytan.com.au or call (03) 9827 7347.

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