CBR

Best of Canberra – Halal Snack Packs (HSPs)

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hsp-yarralumla

This story originally appeared as an article in the RiotACT.

Canberra is without doubt the most progressive city in Australia. Our unique exposure to politics, national institutions, international embassies and the best public education system in Australia means we not only abhor bigotry and intolerance, but we know how to recognise and congratulate those taking the piss out of it as well. We quickly understood and embraced the poetic hilarity and irony of the Halal Snack Pack craze sweeping kebab shops across Australia, particularly in Sydney and Melbourne. Those of you who enjoy food and humour (who doesn’t) and have yet to join the Facebook Group “The Halal Snack Pack Appreciation Society” (HSPAP) need to sort yourselves out.

When I first joined the HSPAP around March I spent several hours admiring the THOUSANDS of posts of reviews and pictures of HSPs and halal-related cheekiness from around Australia, some of which were absolutely hilarious. The HSPAS quickly becomes a media phenomenon and has now grown to over 175,000 members. It is impossible to keep up with all the posts, let alone all the alerts every single time a friend likes or shares something HSP-related. I’ve learnt the best way to keep up with Canberra-specific HSP posts is to use the search field and look for anything that mentions Canberra. Which brings me to my next point. Upon sharing our HSPAS discoveries and joys my friend Dan and I decided to try and find one in Canberra. There had been a few suggestions thrown about and a few of Canberra’s more enterprising kebab shops had already jumped on the bandwagon. We decided though, like all aspiring HSP connoisseurs, that our local favourite kebab shop would have to be our first point of call. Now, Turkish Halal Pide House in Yarralumla already had a pretty awesome reputation for pide and kebabs – surely they would be serving HSPs now, along with what seemed to be most kebab shops in Australia? We were very pessimistic when we arrived one afternoon and saw clearly that it wasn’t on the menu. I asked them “excuse me, do you sell Halal Snack packs?” The response was a loud laugh “sure mate, have a seat and we’ll put one together for you”. So Dan and I both enjoyed our first Canberra HSP. And it was good. Very good.

elias-hsp  dan-hsp

For the purposes of this story, I have returned to what is, in my humble opinion, the best kebab shop in Canberra, to see how their HSP sales are progressing. I spoke with owner and chef Ugur Kocuk, seen below masterfully shaving off kebab meet from his lamb rotisserie.

Ugur explained HSPs sales were still growing since we first visited him in March and he was constantly amazed at how popular this particular meal had become. And now HSP’s are definitely listed on the menu in the shop!

 hsp-menu

Since it began trading in 2003 Ugur’s Turkish Restaurant prided itself on many aspects of the food they produced, and the same professional desire for excellence showed in the way he prepared the humble HSP. And the regular custom and word of mouth did the rest. The line into this shop is often out the door at lunchtime and during the evening dinner rush. They open seven days a week from 9am until about 8pm and there is a constant trade, including many people who do not live in the local area but know how good it is and make the journey for the food.

Apart from HSPs, Ugur’s business is growing to meet the increasing demand for offsite (i.e. delivered) catering. I asked him how far he would cater and he explained how he had provided all the food for two recent weddings in Bungendore! His online menu is here and you can order over the phone as well!

And you can see from the tweet below he has many fans in and out of Canberra!

I asked Ugur to explain some of the reasons why his HSPs tasted better than those at other kebab shops in Canberra. I was particularly impressed when he explained how he sometimes used TWO layers of cheese (one above the chips and another between the layers of meat). He also explained how he bought the best quality chips and meat for his rotisserie and that a few other establishments cut corners on this front to save a few dollars but the taste was very different. But the killer punch that makes his HSP far superior to so many others is the home-made (with a secret recipe) garlic sauce. All Ugur would reveal to me was that it contained mint, garlic and yoghurt! His team also constantly bake their own bread, including their own kebab bread, which they made by hand each day.

Anyway – no HSP review would be complete without following the standard explanation in accordance with the HSPAP rules, so here goes:

Greeting 10/10 – a loud and proud “hello brother, what can I get for you?”

Halal signage 10/10 – the place is called Turkish Halal Pide House!

Meat 10/10 Beautiful lamb and chicken, eaten together, like Allah (the word for God in Arabic) intended.

Sauce 10/10 – the holy trinity (bbq/chilli/garlic sauces) is even holier with home-made garlic sauce.

Packaging 10/10 – solid styrofoam. None of that hippy recyclable cardboard that is creeping into the HSP universe (just being cheeky here, cardboard is ok, bloody hippies).

Chips 10/10 – now that they make them regularly, they do it well.

Cheese 10/10 – it’s optional, so I optionally ordered extra. Two layers is best. Trust me.

Overall rating 10/10 – best in Canberra. And I should know. I’ve had a few!

I should also explain that much of the credit for fostering and promoting the HSP phenomenon across Australia (and now, increasingly, across the world) was the early adoption of Senator Sam Dastyari as the informal patron of HSPs, or “minister for HSPs” as he is occasionally referred to on the HSPAS pages. Sam not only famously spoke about HSPs in parliament but also appears in numerous videos explaining what they are and how they are made and how to avoid being called a “Haram Dingo“. Most recently, following a public controversy over a declared gift from a Chinese donor, Sam resigned from the front bench of the Labor Party and was immediately memorialised by his HSP fans, including this author with the now famous “Put Out Your <insert appropriate silly object>” meme all over social media.

Recently I was near Woden for a lunchtime appointment so decided to check out Black Rock Turkish in Weston Creek. Couldn’t resist jumping on the #PutOutYourHSPs bandwagon at the same time.

OK, I know not everyone will agree with my praise for Yarralumla and its Turkish food. Also, some people don’t like waiting in lines. You can reduce your waiting time for kebab orders by calling in your order before you arrive, or even using the clever “fill in your kebab order and name here” instructions to the right of the ordering counter.

yarralumla-ordering-kebabs-quickly

I also enjoy the Pide shop in Charnwood on a regular basis, as it’s much closer to home! In fact, Kebab shops are a bit like local grocers, butchers or local mechanics – people are so happy to have one that they always think their local one is better than all the others.  Now, you may think your local kebab shop does better HSPs? tell us why and show us a picture, and don’t be afraid to share it on the HSPAS facebook page as well!

Of course it is Jolene!

 

Where: Turkish Halal Pide House. 47 Novar Street yarralumla  Ph: 02 6281 1991
Opening hours: 9am-8pm 7 days
Website: http://www.turkishhalalpidehouse.com.au/
Social media: Find them on Facebook

Elias (aka CBRfoodie) Recommends: try to avoid the obvious lunch and dinner rushes and enjoy taking your time eating and watching the serious variety of people coming and going and sharing delicious Turkish food.

 

Elias Hallaj (aka CBRfoodie) is a part-time food blogger and full-time political staffer who has joined RiotACT as a regular contributor. All opinions are his own. If you have any tips or feedback you can find him on Twitter @CBRfoodie.

 

$14 Polish Dumpling Dinner at the Polish White Eagle Club in Turner, Canberra

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3 Canberra Beanies!

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I have to admit that most of my past reviews have been about lunchtime specials. I will try and include more affordable Canberra dinner options in future, starting with this one!

My new fave Wednesday night dinner is the $14 Pierogi special at “The Polo”, which is the restaurant inside the Polish White Eagle Club in Turner.

Locals would be aware that the club was destroyed in a fire in 2014 but has since been rebuilt through a big community fundraising effort and it’s well-regarded restaurant has re-opened.

The Polish Club has a Facebook page, which regularly reminds followers about specials and special events.

I dropped in and wandered up to the window between the restaurant and kitchen to place my order with the friendly staff.

polo ordering window to kitchen

I chose the pork dumplings from the menu of Wednesday night specials.

polo wednesday menu

When you order the special you get a small voucher to exchange for an authentic polish beer at the bar. You have three beers to choose from.

polo beer choice  polo bar

The service was quick and I had just enough time to take a few photos, scribble some notes about the menus on the wall and drink some wheatbeer before my buzzer started buzzing.

polo wheatbeer

The dumplings were cooked to perfection.

polo dumplings  polo dumplings close up

I will be back and intend to sample more from the extensive menu.

polo wall specials

AS well as great food the club also hosts regular community events and is a regular gig for the Canberra Musicians Club. More info on events at the Polish Club can be found on the website “events section”. 

Highly recommended for value and taste! – Three Canberra Beanies!

 

 

The Canberra Food Blog List (79 so far, updated 10 March 2016)

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Absolutely Jas @absolutelyjas

Adventures in Winterland by Sharon Trauki @Sharon_inez

A Kitchen Cat Natasha (aka A Kitchen Cat) was a contestant on the 2014 Master Chef TV series! here’s a link to the story in the Canberra Times including the cheeky tweet from Rachi Perera which revealed the news 🙂

Andrew and Emelia’s Food Adventures @EVimalasiri

Anything But Toast

The Baking Bureaucrat

Bake Bike Blog @bakebikeblog

You Berra believe it @LindaSoo

Bizzy Lizzy’s Good Things @bizzylizzycooks

Blithe Moments @LisaRobey

Boy and Spoon https://www.instagram.com/p/BCxAKMyDNj8/

Brazen’s (mostly) gluten free adventures!

Café Cat @the_cafeCat

Canbearable

Canberra Gastronome @CanGastronome

Canberra Times Food and Wine (Choose your “location=Canberra”) Current and previous Editors: @NatashaRudraCT and @kirstenlawsonCT

Capital Food Journal @capfoodjournal

Capital Gourmand (Tom moved to London last year but his blog is still excellent) @FreeHugsTommy

Cara Phillips @_caraphillips_

CBR Foodie (me! :)) @CBRFoodie

Charinya’s Kitchen @CharinyaR

Dreaming of Almonds (and a nicer world) @Almond_Dreams

Eat Canberra  https://twitter.com/eatcanberra https://www.facebook.com/EatCanberra/

Emiko Davies @emikodavies

Exploring the taste of language

Feeding the Sonis https://www.facebook.com/pages/Feeding-The-Sonis/595780520501408

Fine Eating

Food Porn journal https://www.facebook.com/foodpornjournal

Food Wine Travel @ChristineSalins

Freak Biscuit “gluten-free vegequarian”

Good Food Week @GoodFoodWeek

Green Foodie @greenfoodie

Her Canberra @HerCanberra

In The Taratory @InTheTaratory

In Search of Golden Pudding @BeckGoldPudding

The Intolerant Chef (not active on Twitter)

Karin’s Recipes and Random Musings

Kate Freeman Nutrition @KFNutrition

Kiriels Kitchen Medieval and Renaissance cooking

Le Bon Vivant @Rachiperera

Lily and Ouk Eat Food

Love at Every Bite @loveateverybite

Makeitbakeitsnapit @kirsty__young (previously known as ‘In the Kitchen with Kirsty’)

Miss K Licious As Anna (@Eatnik) explained, MissKlicious is Sydney-based but reviews many CBR restaurants and deserves an honourable mention 🙂 she’s on twitter too @missklicious

mnfdblog – maybe about food, maybe not @neildoody

Mouthless Mutters @ezzbez

Mumchic @mum_n_chic

My Canberra Table @girl_who_cooks

My Nutritious Journey @KaseyBateup

Netherleigh @netherleighblog

Nilbarcodefood @nilbarcodefoodNilbarcode

Nutrition In Action @Eucale_Stanes

One Hungry Hen Heidi lives in Cooma, just south of Canberra but spends a lot of time here and blogs and tweets regularly about Canberra food and happenings @onehungryhen

Raving Recipes @ravingrecipes60

shenANNAgans @AnnaJ31

Short and Sweet

Shrinking Single @shrinkingsingle

Sir and M’Lady Dine Out mainly outside of Canberra but they have a Canberra section to their blog and they’re on Instagram http://instagram.com/restaurantfoodpictures#

Susan’s Sumptuous Suppers

Tales of a Confectionist

Taiwanxifu https://twitter.com/Weekendparent

The Bread and Butter Chef https://www.facebook.com/BreadandButterMum

The Canberran @TheCanberran

The Cinnamon Scrolls @cinnamonscribe https://www.facebook.com/thecinnamonscrolls

The Constance Search For Gluten Free https://www.facebook.com/theconstancesearch4glutenfree

The Food Avenue @thefoodavenue

The Food Marshall https://www.facebook.com/Thefoodmarshall

The Girl Has Sparke @girlhassparke

The Macadames @themacadames

The Martini Whisperer @martiniwhisper1

The Merrymaker sisters @fithealthymade

The Munch and Crunch

The Patient Cook https://www.facebook.com/thepatientcook

The Unicorn Mum

The Wooden Spoons https://www.facebook.com/thewoodenspoonsblog

Travel and beyond @TravelnBeyond

Vegeterannean Editor Charlotte is a well-known journalist, publisher and researcher in Canberra writing circles and active in social media on twitter via @vegeterranean and Editia

Woodkitchen by Lucy feihua.cao@gmail.com

Yummy Lummy @garydlum

The Vietnamese Down Under (Magpies City Club Canberra)

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Three Canberra Beanies smaller-beanie  smaller-beanie  smaller-beanie

Tucked away downstairs under the Magpies City Club in Canberra is Vietnamese Down Under. This place has had a few different incarnations, most recently as “The Underground”. It’s easy to miss it unless you’re a Garema Place regular and/or you notice the bright red A-frames in Bunda Street (next to Gus’s cafe) or in Garema Place near the Magpies Club Entrance.

downunder vietnamese aframe IMG_6878

If like me you’re normally staring at your phone while you walk, you could be forgiven for walking straight past and not noticing the front door.

downunder vietnamese front door IMG_6879

Come on inside! Don’t be put of by the 70s-style club decor of the majestic stair case. Think how much easier it is to clean after a big Saturday night!

downunder vietnamese staircase IMG_6880

Personally I think there are more attractive community club venues in Civic (The City Labor Club in City Walk and Hellenic Club on Mort St for example, both of which also have awesome lunch specials) but variety is the spice of life! And how many other tasty and affordable Vietnamese restaurants in Canberra also serve schooners of beer at club prices? None!

downunder vietnamese beer IMG_6882

The menu on the wall reveals a large array of Vietnamese favourites at affordable prices.

downunder vietnamese menu IMG_6881

I have been here a few times and can attest that the $10 pho soup is quite good. Particularly on cold wintery Canberra days when you want a warmer and quieter lunch venue well away from the wind!

downunder vietnamese pho IMG_6884

The service is good and fast and I will be back for more. For taste and value the Vietnamese Down Under gets Three Canberra Beanies!

Cheers!

downunder vietnamese vista IMG_6883

Click to add a blog post for Underground on Zomato

Banh Mi at Little Saigon

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A few months ago observant food lovers in Civic noticed that the French-Morrocan restaurant Ardeche sadly closed its doors in Anislie Place (just near the Canberra Times fountain and main city-side entrance to the Canberra Centre. The mourning didn’t last long however when it was revealed that the replacement would be a re-incarnation of Little Saigon. Lovers of Vietnamese food would remember the earlier version of Little Saigon which once traded on Northbourne Avenue. The same family has regrouped and put their experience and love of Vietnamese food to good use with a new establishment. As well as the sit-down restaurant which serves Vietnamese favourites such as Pho Noodle Soup and Rice Paper Rolls they also operate a window for delicious Banh Mi (Pork rolls) which they sell for $6.

The Banh Mi is full of tasty ingredients.

banhmi1  banhmi2

The service is fast and friendly.

banhmiwindow

The Vietnamese menu is extensive.

Little Saigon2  Little Saigon

I’ll come back to this post and add more pictures of a couple of other meals I have enjoyed here, including the Vietnamese classic Pho Noodle Soup.

This place is great and a welcome addition to the Canberra City Restaurant scene. Three #Canberra Beanies! 

Click to add a blog post for Little Saigon on Zomato

Tasty soup spread at Tosung Firewood BBQ Manuka

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Three #Canberra Beanies smaller-beanie smaller-beanie smaller-beanie

I’ve been using a busy job and lots of noisy kids to rationalise my lack of blogging recently. I know what the uber bloggers are thinking, pretty lame right?

Well today was one of those days that all bloggers will understand, when I stumbled upon a find that was so far up my alley that I immediately made plans to share it (and did on twitter and facebook) and spent a few minutes in the afternoon wondering if I would have time to add it to the blog later tonight. Well I am now doing exactly that (ie the kids are finally in bed!)

Today felt like a particularly cold day (even by Canberra standards) and I had a craving for soup!

I had noticed a few times in Manuka the Tosung Firewood BBQ Restaurant on the corner diagonally opposite Coles.

Tosung facade

It’s a bit hard to miss the bright facade and the canvass banner advertising $10 lunch specials.

Tosung lunch special banner

I was warmly greeted by the staff and invited to take a seat. Although it appeared there were no soups on the $10 specials menu I was keen to try their soups. I like Korean soup!

Tosung lunch specials   Tosung soup dishes

I ordered a bowl of spicy beef stock soup with potato noodles and waited patiently. A few minutes later I was surprised to be approached by a staff member carrying a very large tray. Not only did I get a piping hot freshly cooked soup but she also brought a bowl of rice, four small plates of condiments (including my favourite Korean side dish – kimchi!) as well as a large bottle of water.

Tosung sides

Tosung spread

The service is terrific for the price and beyond what I had expected. Safe to say my mind was blown by the value for money from a $15 order. the rice and condiments ensured I couldn’t finish the soup – a very unusual occurrence for me. The soup was hot and spicy and tasted divine.

I think I just found my new favourite cheap eat in Manuka and will definitely be back to try more of the menu, including the $10 lunch specials and some Korean BBQ!

Highly recommended – Three #Canberra Beanies!

Tosung address and hours

Tosung Charcoal BBQ on Urbanspoon

 

Meet a #Canberra Foodie – Paul Drake

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It’s been a while since I added to the list of awesome Canberra Foodies who have graced this website over the past 12 months. It was a great adventure meeting them all last year so I’m determined to start again and hope to share at least one interview a month.

Today’s entertaining interview is with a rare man who as well as being an amazing husband ((I’m told) and musician, also publicly and proudly embraces a very long-standing passion for food and wine. Sorry ladies he’s already taken! I first met Paul through his lovely better half but unlike her his professional passions lie away from public communications. Paul Drake is the part-owner and Manager of the hidden Gem Plumb on Tennant (which I checked out for lunch last year in this earlier post). I’m not the only one who thinks this place is a hidden gem – check out Tara’s review here.

Paul Drake Plumb on Tennant

So Paul, who are you? I’m a long time Canberra boy who arrived here as a ten pound pom in 1967. My passion has always been food really, and good wine, but I’m a trained carpenter/ builder and can do most things hospitality related. I never really wanted to be anywhere but Canberra but I guess the clincher was when I met my wife Angie and we decided to make our lives here together. We now have two teenage boys and a spotty dog and my first foray into business was finding my business partner Rob and buying our first cafe Plumb on Tennant in Fyshwick back in 2011. Owning a cafe has been an interesting experience. I can’t say that we’ve done everything perfect but we put love and passion into what we do. It’s hard work and I can say that we’ve only just begun in cafe world, with many more ventures ahead of us I’m sure.

Age?  48, but don’t feel a day over 47!

Where do you live?  Fadden

How long have you been blogging?  I don’t. Well perhaps if I did blog, more people would know about our cafe. <That’s OK Paul, we’ll try and let them know!>

Other hobbies?  I love ironing (my wife is editing this for me) I play bass in a band Kartel – probably my other serious passion, we have fun and play a few gigs every month or so.

Here is evidence of Paul’s musical talent!

Paul Drake guitar

Apple or Android?  Apple

Car/bus/bike?  Love to ride my bicycle but I’m petrified of magpies. It’s grown more irrational every year.

<You’re not alone on that front!>

magpie cyclist fear

Favourite TV show?   There are many – Peaky Blinders is prob my fav right now.

Favourite devices?  I’m old fashioned, still on an iPad but it’s the first ever edition so it’s kind of retro now (are they still trendy?)

Can we take a peek at your home screen?

Paul Drake screenshot

Most-used app?  the afl game score app, and Iview

Favourite social media?   Facebook <Paul runs a small business so he is extremely busy, without much time for social media, but you can find Plumb on Tennant on Facebook here>

What’s the first thing online you check each morning?  Facebook

What do you worry about at night?  There is a lot at the moment – have been working on getting mum secured in a new aged care facility so she can be properly looked after and will Hawks win the grand final.

Most exciting recent news?   We went on our first cruise at Christmas!

Paul Drake cruise ship

Ideal career? Something involving early retirement and travelling a lot

Here is a picture of Paul as he is about to dine at la jules vern restaurant in Paris

Paul Drake preferred picture

Recent book you recommend?  The adventures of Augie March by Saul Bellow

Recent online video you laughed at?  ALS ice bucket challenge by Les Claypool  http://youtu.be/Tjd_hLtaQxA

Favourite food 🙂   Bacon bits (from Pizza Hut of old are the best), grated cheese and thousand island dressing.

Do yourself a favour and try out Plumb on Tennant for breakfast or lunch (or brunch) next time you’re in Fyshwick – you won’t be disappointed!

Paul Drake smaller version of IMG_0983

You can find Plumb on Tennant via their website of via Urban Pantry.