Healthy Eating

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Aløft

There's nothing new about Nordic interiors - blond timbers, concrete surfaces, warm, mid-century charm without the twee - and thank heavens for that. It's a style that augments the beauty of everything around it, in this case, gorgeous Hobart harbour, which makes up one whole wall. What is new here, however, is the food - by veterans of Garagistes, which once dazzled diners down the road, Vue de Monde in Melbourne and Gordon Ramsay worldwide. There's a strong Asian bent, but with Tasmanian ingredients. In fact, the kitchen's love of the local verges on obsessive - coconut milk in an aromatic fish curry is replaced with Tasmanian-grown fig leaf simmered in cream to mimic the flavour. Other standouts include a gutsy red-braised lamb with gai lan and chewy cassia spaetzle, pigs' ears zingy with Sichuan pepper and a fresh, springy berry dessert. While the food is sourced locally, the generous wine list spans the planet. 

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Brae

Prepare to enter a picture of the countryside framed by note-perfect Australiana but painted in bold, elegant and unsentimental strokes. Over 10 or more courses, Dan Hunter celebrates his region with dishes that are formally daring (Crunchy prawn heads! Creamy oyster soft-serve! Sea urchin and chicory bread pudding!), yet rich in flavour and substance. The menu could benefit from an edit, but the plates are tightly composed - and what could you cut? Certainly not the limpid broth bathing fronds of abalone and calamari, nor the clever arrangement of lobster played off against charred waxy fingerlings under a swatch of milk skin. The adventure is significantly the richer for the cool gloss of the dining room, some of the most engaging service in the nation and wine pairings that roam with an easy-going confidence. Maturing and relaxing without surrendering a drop of its ambition, Brae is more compelling than ever.

Watermelon with crisp fish


You'll need

200 gm flathead or snapper fillet, or other white firm-fleshed fish For deep-frying: vegetable oil 1.5 kg seedless watermelon, cut into 2cm squares 2 tbsp fried shallots To serve: Thai basil   Coconut dressing 40 gm (½ cup) desiccated coconut 1 tbsp dried prawns 110 gm (½ cup) white sugar 2 tbsp maltose (see note) 3-4 long red chillies, coarsely chopped 2 garlic cloves, bruised 2 coriander roots 2 tbsp fish sauce, or to taste 1 tbsp rice vinegar 2 tbsp ginger, finely chopped

Method

  • 01
  • Preheat oven to 200C. Rub fish with 3 tsp sea salt, place on a lightly oiled wire rack in a roasting pan. Roast until golden (30-40 minutes), cool, transfer to a food processor, pulse until fish resembles fine crumbs (don’t over-process or the fish won’t puff when fried).
  • 02
  • Meanwhile, for coconut dressing, spread coconut on an oven tray and roast, stirring occasionally, until golden (3-4 minutes), set aside. Dry-roast prawns until crisp (1-2 minutes), finely chop, set aside. Combine sugar, maltose, chilli, garlic, coriander root and 125ml water in a saucepan, bring to the boil over medium-high heat, reduce heat to medium and simmer until syrupy (15-20 minutes). Remove from heat, add fish sauce and vinegar, discard coriander root, cool to room temperature. Process in a food processor until smooth (1-2 minutes), add coconut, prawn and ginger, season to taste, set aside.
  • 03
  • Preheat oil in wok to 170C. Add a handful of fish (be careful as hot oil may spit). It will immediately form a raft or nest. Pull fish toward you with a slotted spoon, then, when oil stops bubbling, turn and fry until golden (3-4 minutes). Remove with a slotted spoon, drain on absorbent paper, repeat with remaining fish.
  • 04
  • Combine watermelon and coconut dressing to taste in a bowl, toss lightly to combine, arrange on serving plates, scatter with fried shallot, basil and crisp fish and serve.

Note Maltose (also known as malt syrup) is available from health food shops and select Asian supermarkets.


"This is what I call modern South-east Asian food. The recipe came about one hot afternoon in Thailand when I was eating a delicious traditional dish called yam pla fuu, crisp fish salad with green mango. In Malaysia, we tend to use dry-roasted coconut in many of our salads, including a lovely salad made with watermelon rind. The idea of combining these two cooking styles kept plaguing me and the following recipe was born. Thai flavours, Malaysian innovation and Singaporean modernity are all represented in this dish. It also works well as finger food."


At A Glance

  • Serves 4 people
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At A Glance

  • Serves 4 people

Featured in

Jan 2010

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