Saturday, February 09, 2013

El Loco & Chinatown Friday Night Markets

El Loco at the House
I must say, I really do love festivals - regardless of what they are officially for, whether it be for food, writers, art, music, culture and etc. Why? Well because they always, ALWAYS! bring about some great food offerings. Without great food you can't have a great time, they pretty much go hand in hand. Thanx to the Sydney Festival 2013, I've finally had the opportunity to try out the infamous El Loco (that amazingly awesome taco shop that is probably turning us all into little fatties). I really have no excuse for not trying out the actually restaurant in Surry Hills, I go to work and uni just on the other side of Central Station, yet Surry Hills seems to be that shadowy place that must never be ventured too. This popup shop gave me the perfect opportunity to sample their menu + big bonus that it was at Sydney Harbour, the vibe you get from sitting against the Opera House, staring out at the bridge munching away on delicious little tacos, yum yum.   
El Loco at the House for the Sydney Festival 2013
And here is the shop front, it got extremely busy between lunch time, with all the workers coming out with the munchies, grabbing a couple of tacos and drinks with their workmates, also plenty of families and young children around, seeing as it is still the school holidays and there was a Dr. Seuss Cat in the Hat performance on, there was also some entertainment on for the children. I really wish I was there later at night, the fairy lights and the city lights would have been amazing (but I was watching The Hobbit that night, so no complaints there)   
El Loco Popup Shop Menu
A simple menu with a few different offerings, from beef to chicken to prawns and even tofu & don't forget the secret taco! All tacos were $6, there was also the El Loco Hot Dog for $10 and the El Loco Salad for $14. I really really! wanted to try (see, snap a photo of) the El Loco Hot Dog however I couldn't persuade my friend to eat one (after many many years, I think I can conclude that she is not a foodie) - I'm pescatarian so no hot dogs for me  
Carne Asada (Beef Taco, Salsa Verde, Fresca) $6

Camaron (Prawn Taco, Salsa Verde, Pico De Gallo) $6
An absolutely yummy prawn taco, something totally unheard of to me, seafood Mexican - how cool was that, for once I didn't have to get the black bean or eggplant option. Two minor complaints, the prawns were slightly salty (but that could just be me, I think I have a rather saltless palette - I'm a sweets sort of person) and the shells were rather bland and could I also say, slightly rubbery 
Corn Chips (Guacamole & Salsa) $6
This on the other hand was amazing, the corn chips were crispy and light, not overly salty or oily. They tasted almost homemade like and uncommerical. I could probably eat a whole bucket of these without my lips burning. The guacamole was also deliciously creamy - the salsa was just slightly grassy, just a bit too potent. So I stole all the guacamole whilst my friend suffered with the grassy salsa
Cocktail Menu
Pink Cuco (Tequila Slushy with Grapefruit, Lime & Ginger) $13.50
This was perfectly refreshing for the Australian summers, sweet, minty and totally uplifting with a slight ginger after taste
Tropicana Mocktail (Pineapple, Cloudy Apple & Passion fruit) $4
Served with a super sweet pineapple, perfect for the little ones or those of us who absolutely suck at holding our liquor. I cannot imagine myself having any sort of drink (even beer) for lunch and being able to go back to work in less than an hour. They would be able to detect it from a mile away. 

El Loco at the House on Urbanspoon 

Chinatown Friday Night Markets

Ah the Chinatown Friday Night Markets, this was an absolute blast after work or uni on a Friday afternoon, when sometimes you want to just grab a quick bite with your mates and not have to wait out for a restaurant and get all fancy schmancy. This would probably be the only reason I would ever go back to Asia - the night markets: Cheap, delicious street food with a vibe.
I'm kinda sad that I won't be able to visit this place as often any more. Being out of Sydney kinda makes it impossible aye.  

Authentic & Affordable Takoyaki
And to be honest with you, there are only really two places I ever visit when I come to the night markets, the main one is this shop right here. Its smack bang in the middle of the markets and you'll see it from a mile a way, thanx to the massive queues. This place is the only place I know in Sydney that sells authentic Japanese takoyaki. These balls are double to triple the size of the ones you get at sushi trains and Japanese restaurants, they also have nice chunky pieces of octopus not a mushed up purée mixed in with flour like the $2.50 sticks. It also comes with a range of different sauces you can lavish over the top (self serve of course) from takoyaki sauce to chilli to Japanese mayo and don't forget those fish flakes. (Much better than those occasional places that use BBQ sauce) 
Mixed Takoyaki (Two Octopus, One Crab & One Prawn) $6
Best part of all, its totally affordable and don't forget, they also have prawn and crab versions  which are equally as nice and addictive
Box of Octopus Takoyaki (Eight) $10
But of course, nothing quite beats the original! And don't forget to eat them straight away whilst they're still steaming hot and delicious
Potato Slinky & Korean Street Food
The other place that I visit (although occasionally only) is this shop, right opposite the takoyaki store. This place offers potato slinky and they're rather creative around it, you can now get it with a hot dog or sausage centre, with the potato slinky wrapped around it (apologises again, my non foodie friend is one for the boring standard stuff and proud of it), there is also a variety of different flavours including chicken salt, chilli powder, cheese just to name a couple (I forgot the rest)
This place also sells that famous Korean street food, which I vow to try some day, the day I learn how to eat chilli of course. I believe its Tteobokki (may be wrong) but its the glutinous white rice cakes floating around in what looks like a very red and chilli soupy sauce
Potato Slinky ($5) (Tornado Potato)
Apparently that is what they are called in Korea
I normally skip the remaining stores at the Night Markets, mainly because they either offer only meat (I've been told they are absolutely delicious), they do soley yum cha, which I can do at home or in the west for a fraction of the crazy Chinatown prices or they are Asia warm sweets. Actually I'm gonna conclude that its mainly the price that puts me off most of the places.
Besides the food stores, there are also plenty of stores of all sorts - from figurine USBs to quicky Asian decor to tea shops, fashion ware, accessories and makeup, colour and decorative contact lenses, Mario figurines to phone, tablet and computing accessories and the odd fake stuff here and there. 

Hazel Tea Shop
Recently noticed that this shop has re-branded itself, it was previously known as Sweetie and it sold Asian desserts much like Meet Fresh (but it offered sago - only reason we went here instead of Meet Fresh was because my friend wanted sago) the owner seems the same but they now specialise in bubble teas. Also the interior has gone under major refurbishment - new chairs, tables and decor, all decorated in that classical Asian style.

Hazel Tea Shop
We stopped by because they were having a buy one get one free promotion! I can never say no to $2.50 bubble tea, I even turned down half price Starbucks green tea frappuccino for this.  
Left to Right: Pomegranate Green Tea with Herbal Jelly, Blueberry Green Tea with Pearls,
Coconut Milk Tea with Sago & Brown Sugar Milk Tea with Pearls
~$4.50 - $5.50 (Promotion: Buy One Get One Free)
I ended up with two drinks since we had an odd amount of people and whos going to pay for one and not get the other one when its already free. The store had a really wide range of teas on offfer, much more than Easy Way and Chatime, they also had the full range of toppings. 
Drinks wise, anyone who enjoys bubble tea more for the tea than the crazy flavours and sweetness, will probably like this place very much, the green tea I had was very nice, not overly sweet and I actually tasted the tea, unlike Easy Way and it seemed a little stronger than Chatime. The herbal jelly was slightly different, it wasn't the smooth ones you get from Meet Fresh, rather it had some of that rough seaweed that you get with herbal desserts sometimes (never had this type of seaweed anywhere outside the house) 

Emperor's Puffs
Emperor's Custard Puffs (3 for $1, 8 for $2)
Who could visit Chinatown without grabbing a couple of these yummy custard puffs. Little cheap addictive things. The day I was there, the mother had her little girl helping out, she must have been about 8 to 10 and she was dressed in this yellow princess dress (yes I attempted to take a photo, I got told off because the mother thought I was trying to steal her technology - dam Asian stereotypes)
But! the ones in Cabramatta are nicer in my opinion. If you're ever down in the West, try and grab some, they are smaller and probably cheaper but they have a slight crunch and a thinner pastry casing, therefore the custard just oozes into your month, ahh so mouth watering, now I'm craving some after writing about it

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