An uncomplicated guide to complicated menus

By
Shauny Talbot
Added
30 August, 2016

Food-loving thrill-seekers look no further: we at Cooked have compiled a list of exotic and exciting, albeit sometimes confusing, foods that are popping up on Australia’s top menus.

This list is dedicated to those items that may leave you scratching your head and hungry for more. According to a survey conducted by Harris Poll almost one third of diners find menus difficult to decipher, and 74% fear not enjoying their meal! Well, fear no more, because we’ve got all your obscure food desires covered.

Manti
Let’s start with a crowd favourite: dumplings. You can’t go wrong with dumplings, and these delicate little morsels are native to the Middle East, particularly Turkish cuisines. Similar in etymology to Chinese mantou, or Korean mandu, the distinctive feature of manti is that they are often drizzled with, or surrounded by, yoghurt to cool down the palate. We recommend Greg and Lucy Malouf’s manti in yoghurt with sizzling paprika butter.

Albondigas
An exotic name for the humble meatball, these babies are done Spanish or South American style. Spiced with cumin, smoked paprika, chilli and oregano, they make for fabulous canapés, skewered and roasted until tender, or in a hearty bowl of lamb and tomatillo soup with ancient grains, as done by Paul Wilson.

Umeshu
Often sold as “plum wine”, this Japanese liqueur is actually made when unripe Japanese ume (similar to an apricot) are steeped in a mixture of alcohol and sugar. Its unique sweet and sour flavour can only be derived from unripe fruits, and can be served on the rocks, carbonated, or even as a “Flaming Plum” cocktail. It also makes an aromatic addition to your kitchen. Try this Japanese-style poached Nashi pears recipe.

Tonkotsu
Perhaps this is one that you are more familiar with, as ramen seems to be rapidly rising to hangover-cure fame. Tonkotsu is the type of ramen made with pork bones, cooked down into a cloudy, fatty broth that’s packed with flavour and texture. It is particularly popular in Kyushu and Fukuoka. Here is a shortcut miso ramen recipe from Ben O’Donoghue, which features lean pork loin and a miso soup base. It’s not to be confused with the equally delicious Japanese tonkatsu (golden-fried pork cutlets with sweet barbecue sauce).

Saltimbocca
Traditionally made with veal, this Italian specialty literally means ‘jump in the mouth’. Tender veal steaks are flavoured with salty prosciutto and sage, plus wine, olive oil or even salt water. You can roll up your veal, prosciutto and sage into little cigars, or try this classic version by Rachael Lane. Thinly sliced chicken and pork also works a treat.

Moh Hin Gah
Praised by Luke Nguyen as the Burmese equivalent of Japanese ramen or Vietnamese pho, moh hin gah translates roughly to “soup snack”. An unctuous soup stock, filled with vermicelli noodles, hard-boiled eggs, it’s a deeply satisfying meal. The base of the soup is made from boiled banana trunk heart, but if you can’t find this difficult-to-source ingredient, then Luke’s recipe provides you with some easier alternatives. He does warn us that it’s time consuming, but oh so worth it as you dive into a bowl of the warming soup!

Patatas Bravas
Spanish chips. Basically. Okay, that might be an oversimplification, but these potato gems are first boiled in salted water to soften them, before they are rubbed dry and deep-fried until golden. They are then smothered in a rich, thick sauce of tomatoes, vinegar, capsicum and various spices, drizzled with garlicky aioli. Our favourite way to eat this dish is to add copious amounts of spicy sausage, like Rohan Anderson does in his recipe for patatas bravas with unnecessary chorizo.

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