Friday, April 15, 2011

Ding Hao

Every couple must go through the good times and the bad before they can truly say that they have passed every test given unto them and are ready for whatever may come. For testing times prepare two people for the long, exciting journey of their lives together, safe in the knowledge that they are an inseparable one of mind, yet two of strength. Some couples go overseas together before getting married, some get a dog before trying out those nurturing skills on a child.

We have travelled around the world, gotten married, worked together and had a baby.

These were but tests of our mettle. We are now ready for The Real World and its challenges.

We are ready for:

The Gouger Street Restaurant Epic(urean) Adventure.

The rules are thus (so far)(they may be added to):

1. Every food-serving establishment must be visited for dinner.

2. The restaurant must have its door on the Gouger Street footpath. No laneways, side alleys, upstairs, downstairs or Central Market food stalls. That’s just getting ridiculous.

3. Each restaurant must be sampled in order. No skipping. Nothing is too boring or too zany. We can eat at other places during that time, but that dinner will not be included in The Epicurean Adventure.

4. If a restaurant is open at dinner time and serves something that can be considered dinner, we must attend. Subway is on the list. Gellatisimo is not. Dessert-for-Dinner advocates can complain in the comments. If Coffee Bean can raise a filling club sandwich, they will get a guernsey.

5. We must order a) what the restaurant considers to be its “best” dish and b) what appears to be the wackiest, weirdest most entertaining thing on the menu.

6. If the recommended dish is too bloody expensive for it to be fun, we reserve the right to veto said dish and bitch about how bloody stingy the place is. Not us. Them.

7. Everyone is invited. Everyone else does not have to eat the wacky stuff.

8. We pay for our own meals, therefore, we write our own reviews.

9. We are not obliged to do research, be well-informed or have balanced opinions.

10. We will each write a review and you can read them RIGHT HERE!

Ding Hao - 15th July, 2011

Attendance: Sam, Mel, Triton, Tess, Dougie, Cristi.

Sam - I’ll cut right to the chase. It’s a traditional Chinese restaurant, you want to know how we dealt with rule 5b. The weirdest thing on the menu was … Chicken and Jellyfish. And there were some strong contenders, which eventually got voted down by our supporters for this first restaurant of many. Kangaroo is not traditional Chinese, but was too sane as a stir-fry. Crocodile had a look-in, but I remembered that it is basically chicken. Braised trotter also got itself a support-base, but I had to be honest and confess that I would be gleefully face-first in little piggy’s tootsies before it hit the lazy susan and this didn’t really qualify it for weird, nor wacky. I did try to wriggle out of Chicken and Jellyfish for a few rounds, but there was enthusiastic nodding and so I wasn’t getting out of it without looking like a total wimp.

It arrived first.

Holy yum yum!

It was cold. The jellyfish took up most of the plate and, if you closed your eyes, had the texture of firm sauerkraut. I hate to disappoint, but … it wasn’t half bad. I’ve had worse. I can tell there’s some tendons and chitlins a’waitin’ for me up G-Street, but this was like mildly salty cabbage. The undercooked chicken strips took a little bit of mental stomach tightening, but the jellyfish was, in semi-cured death, much as it was in floaty, stingy life: salty, a little flaccid, terrifying at first aspect and then disregarded in favour of larger flavours. It struck me as one of the things that really, really starving people took up with so many years ago because it was literally that or rocks. But in the interceding years, everyone’s grandparents have forgotten to say ‘Hey kids, we used to eat this crazy shit when it was a mouthful of wobbly, sea slime or starving to death, but now that we have industrialisation and farming and stuff, we don’t have to eat flavourless cartilage treated with salt! We can have ribs!’

Weirdo dish number two was Steamed, Salted Anchovies With Minced Pork and Prawn.

What the hell is that shit.

It looked like it had been served through a sphincter and sprinkled with lawn. I’ve seen better presentation in my grille after a country drive through a locust plague. But really, with the holy trinity of pork, prawns and anchovies, even the three-year-old they’ve got knocking this one together in the bathroom could do an all right job. We have a contender for ugliest meal.

Their claimed flagship dish was the Tea Duck, but I would have filed that one under ‘best kept secret’ Nothing to blog about.


I’m used to Chinese restaurants bringing all the food at once so you can have to gorge yourself pantless and then leave, but the Ding Hao staff brought one little plate at a time. Maybe this was the tip of a new wave in the Chinese dining experience. Maybe they were just confused.

Mele - An informal vote was taken on weirdest dish by our fellow diners. Early contenders were ‘Pork Ribs with strawberry sauce’, ‘crocodile with snow peas’ and ‘chicken and jellyfish salad’.

The chicken and jellyfish salad was not a ‘wonder from the Sea Gods’. If tofu turns your stomach (in-the-what-the-hell -this texture- seems-to-be- dishwashing-sponges-soaked-in-Asian spices-kind-of-way) jellyfish is not for you.

Jellyfish has the texture of slowly decomposing rubber bands and cartilage. It has an impressive way of tasting like almost nothing but repeating on you constantly. Served with this was pink, raw chicken; this dish was a bath of cold, potentially lethal salmonella. Worst thing I’ve eaten in my life, and my nonna made me eat an entire boiled rooster crest once. Lost my appetite but was forced to eat at least one bowl. Reeeeeeeetch. Put me off for the rest of the night.

Sam said it was okay. Monkey’s nuts it was okay! It’s okay if you think Sellotape is a bitchin’ meal. I am wondering if jellyfish is digestible. I’m pretty convinced I’ve eaten ribbons that will line my colon like a tapeworm, undigested for all time.

Jellyfish was a shit idea.

Aniseed Tea Duck, which was the waiter’s best suggestion, was pretty standard. The surprise of the night was the Dry Roasted Pork Ribs, which came out wet, sticky and tasty (as Manuel from Fawlty Towers would say, Che?). It got five out of five votes for being better than the Red Vinegar Ribs at Ying Chow, always held as the gold standard of ribs on Gouger Street for the last five years. So head down to Ding Haio if you love ribs. Don’t order anything else, they were amazing.

Table service was slow and inconsistent. But who cares about the banal details; I wasn’t hungry after the jellyfish. I felt nauseous and only ate the other dishes I had to. So an excellent appetite suppressant; perhaps I should set up a shonky diet and make a million bucks before people realise that it doesn’t work.

On the way home we stopped off at Cibo’s for larks. Here’ s a photo of a fire hydrant that I managed to rip from the earth with my little lady hands. Franzway was disappointed at the lack of water blasting into the air. Can’t make miracles happen, wasn’t lifting the fire hydrant from the earth enough?

True love and jellyfish gave her the strength.

Stay tuned next time for: Subway.


  1. Jellyfish? Urk!
    Think I'll avoid Gouger Street altogether.

  2. I love this idea and I'd read your reviews of food (I'm including you in this Mele) over any ponce in the paper any time.

    You had me at "It looked like it had been served through a sphincter and sprinkled with lawn."

    I've actually had the chook-n-jellyfish a few times during Yum Cha events when I've felt there's been no escape and realise that my 'Mmm this is good, but no, you have the rest, I've got to go and visit the ladies..." approach is actually pretty successful.

    Oh LOVE Mele's reaction - that's a CV cover shot if ever there was one.

  3. River - I think you'll be safe next time in Subway! Unless they've realy started pumping the weight-saver menus ...

    Kath - Oh you, flattery will get you everywhere. If you're ever in Adelaide (perhaps via Geneva?) you lot will definitely have to join us for a chapter in the odyssey.

  4. You're ON. And you're also on for a gutload of fondue at our place too!

  5. Have you been to Subway before? I went there once, and it's not for the faint-hearted. You think you're just getting a sandwich made by an artist, but oh-my-god, it's just decision after decision. Did my head in, and I'm never going back. Though I'm looking forward to your visit.
    Tis a brilliant idea, your Gouger Street odyssey. Envious, I am.

  6. Kath - Fondue? No, Kath. It is YOU who are on.

    TC - Don't worry. We have a plan to deal with Subway decisions. It will follow our formula, and will result in sandwich eating, but ... well ... you'll see ...

  7. In Singapore I tried Seczuan (Spelling) Frog. That was a rather painful experience, it tasted good, but the splintery bones that gouged into my gums was rediculous.

    I've also been lucky enough to chew on a chicken foot, and also half a chicken (I think it was chicken) head and brain while in Malaysia. I couldn't eat them, I felt the foot and how there was no nutrients on it and ever so politely put it back on my plate so as not to offend my guests, and the skull/brain wasn't much different - both were hiding in curries with this orange/red sauces.

  8. Franzy and tc; Subway is easy, I go in there and say no meat, no chilli, no beetroot. Choose my bread and I'm done. Easy.


An explanation of The Joy Division Litmus Test

Although it may now be lost in the mysts of thyme, the poll below is still relevant to this blog. In the winter of 2008, Mele and I went to live in Queensland. In order to survive, I bluffed my way into a job at a Coffee Club.
It was quite a reasonable place to work: the hours were regular, the staff were quite nice, it wasn't particularly taxing on my brain.
There were a few downsides: In the six weeks or so that I worked there, there was about a 90% staff turnover (contributed to by my leaving). This wasn't seen as a result of the low pay, the laughability of staff prices or the practice of not distributing tips to staff, rather it was blamed on the lack of work ethic among Bribie Island's youth.
However, one of the stranger aspects of the cultural isolation that touched our lives during our time "up there" was the fact that nobody at my work had heard of the band Joy Division.
The full explanation is available here.
But please, interact a little further and vote in my ongoing poll. The results are slowly mounting up, proving one thing: people read this blog are more well-informed about Joy Division than anyone who works at the Coffee Club on Bribie Island.

Have you heard of the band Joy Division?

Chinese food, not Chinese Internet!

Champions of Guess The Header

  • What is Guess The Header about? Let’s ask regular “Writing” reader, Shippy: "Anyway, after Franzy's stunning September, and having a crack at 'Guess The Header' for the first time - without truly knowing what I was doing mind you - I think I finally understand what 'GTH' is all about. At first I thought you needed to actually know what it was. Don't get me wrong — if you know what it is, it may help you. I now realise that it's more Franzy's way of invoking thought around an image or, more often than not, part of an image. If you dissect slightly the GTH explanatory sentence at the bottom of his blog you come up with this: “The photo is always taken by me and always connects in some way to the topic of the blog entry it heads up.” When the header is put up, the blog below it will in some obscure way have something to do with it. “Interesting comments are judged and scored arbitrarily and the process is open to corruption and bribery with all correspondence being entered into after the fact and on into eternity, ad infinitum amen.” Franzy judges it, but it's not always the GTH that describes the place perfectly that gets it. “The frequent commenters, the wits, the wags and the outright smartarses who, each entry, engage to both guess the origin and relevance of the strip of photo at the top (or “head”) of each new blog and also who leave what I deem the most interesting comment.” It generally helps if you're a complete smartarse and can twist things to mean whatever you feel they should mean - exactly the way Franzy would like things to be twisted." - Shippy Blogger and GTH point scorer.
  • Nai - 1
  • Lion Kinsman - 2
  • Will - 2
  • Brocky - 2
  • Andy Pants - 2
  • The 327th Male - 3
  • Mad Cat Lady - 3
  • Miles McClagen - 4
  • Myninjacockle - 4
  • Asheligh - 5
  • Neil - 5
  • Third Cat - 5
  • Adam Y - 6
  • Squib - 6
  • Mele - 6
  • Moifey - 7
  • Jono - 8
  • The Other, other Sam - 14
  • Kath Lockett - 15
  • Shippy - 19
  • River - 32