Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Pulled pork, and Melbourne Part I

I feel like my posts for the next month or so are going to be very discombobulated: a food recipe + random photos from my Australia trip can't really be tied together eloquently. So instead of trying to force these 2 disparate things into a cohesive story, I'm going to embrace the madness of it all.

Recipe of the day: Mexican-inspired pulled pork--an incredibly simple yet flavorful meal that satisfies all your winter-time cravings. It's not your typical carnitas dish (with the slightly sweet mellow flavors) but instead has much more of a herbaclious and spicy kick.

I loved it, but the boy was a bit more on the fence about it, as he's more of a purist when it comes to his pulled pork apparently. But if you like tender meat that packs a punch of flavor, you'll love this dish! (Get the recipe below.)

What is it about thinly sliced jalapenos that just tie a dish together?

Pictures of the day: Our arrival and adventures in Melbourne (part I).

Although I posted pictures of our first full day in Australia on Phillip Island, I haven't talked about the actual flight or our first few days in Melbourne.

I have to admit, in many ways the trip didn't feel real until I had the chance to really feel it...

The bills are not only different colors, but different sizes. Genius!
... and feel it we did, as we literally traveled across the world to reach our final destination! 

ORD-->LAX: ~4 1/2 hours
LAX-->MEL: ~16 1/2 hours
Anti-anxiety medication while flying coach: priceless
Wednesday, December 18, 2013

After traveling for an entire day (and losing a good chunk of a day due to the weird time-zone changes), we arrived Wednesday morning into Melbourne. First thing we did was go straight to the apartment we were staying at, which we found through airbnb.

Giant door to the building that would open sooooo slllllooooowwwwwllllyyyyy
And daaaaaaaamn this place was sweet. Super modern, swanky place, with the most amazing view.

This is half of the 180 degree view from the living room!
Although we were pretty tired from our trip, we realized that the best thing to do would be to just GO GO GO GO GO (before the 17-hour jet lag knocked us out). And go we did. We basically spent the rest of the day walking around and exploring the hidden gems in this very busy and diverse city.

Angel, in Birrarung Marr (a park just north of the Yarra River)
Closeup of Angel--a giant mosaic sculpture

View of the skyline while crossing the Yarra River

Antiquity vs Modernity--the many faces of Melbourne architecture

Free chairs so you can comfortably lounge at Federation Square?!
Love the mentality and the culture. 
Looking up, at Federation Square

The sunlight was a welcome friend coming from the frigid midwest (Arts Centre Melbourne)

Unique skyline (and another view of the Angel sculpture)
After all this walking, the boy and I were famished, but were having a major case of the indecisiveness. And then, I saw it, amongst the swarms of people and the never-ending array of stores and restaurants and shops.

A man. In a window. Stretching long noodles. By hand.

SOLD! We popped in and had the most amazing noodles and steamed buns I've ever had.

Their texture was unmatched!
We came to find out later we were near the Chinatown part of downtown Melbourne, otherwise known as the CBD, or central business district. (More on Chinatown below...) So we went home, empty in energy but full in belly, excited to be on this adventure together for the next few weeks.

That night we managed to get a second wind and spent the evening with my friends (as we had flown all this way for their wedding), and the next day we spent on Phillip Island (you can read all about our day here).

Friday, December 20, 2013

That morning I left the boy to explore Melbourne on his own while I met up with my friend Laura and the other bridesmaids for a day of pampering. Laura was incredibly generous and treated us all to breakfast and then mani/pedis before her very big day. It was so nice to be able to relax and catch up with Laura and get to know the other ladies a bit more.

We spent the rest of the afternoon being typical tourists, which included walking through the mall and checking out souvenirs. But neither of those things were "typical," as the view looking up at Melbourne Central was breathtaking...

... and the souvenirs included shopping for bottle openers made from unmentionable kangaroo parts!

Before you ask, yes, I did buy one of these...for my dad.
And yes, it looked a lot like this, but a bit hairier.
After being pampered and relaxing for the morning, it was time to meet up with the boy, who on his adventures had found one of the most unique places in Melbourne: Hosier Lane.

See, one of the most unique things about Melbourne is how the CBD is laid out. Sure, like a lot of major cities you have a lot of normal busy streets in a very orderly grid-like pattern. But then, you have these laneways. These small, 1-2 block walkways that branch out from the major streets. Sometimes they connect to another major street, but more often than not they simply come to a dead end.

Most of these laneways are bustling with people/street artists and dotted with cafes, bars, and shops. In fact, I had brunch with the ladies at one of the laneways earlier in the day. And the boy and I had a delicious fried snack from a food kiosk.

The European feel of the dense laneways

But Hosier Lane is known for its ever-changing graffiti art. I felt like we could have spent hours along these short walkways, looking at and taking pictures of all the unique artwork.

While Hosier Lane isn't the only laneway to have artwork covering it's walls, it definitely was the most expansive. No spot was spared from the street artists!

All your walls!

Another laneway in Melbourne--not quite as grungy as Hosier Lane
Later that evening, while doing more walking (do you see a trend here), the boy and I came upon the gates to Chinatown. Melbourne is an incredibly diverse city, with a plethora of Asian restaurants throughout the CBD. But its nothing compared with streets of Chinatown, where you're surrounded with restaurant after restaurant of what appears to be insanely delicious food.

Again, we were ridiculously indecisive as we walked up/down the streets trying to figure out what to eat. I mean, how can one make a decision like that when everything looks so good?! And then, we stumbled upon an evening outdoor market with people cooking noodles and fish and poultry and rice and other delicious treats.

Although we probably could have gotten slightly better food for less money, it really was the perfect dinner for me the boy. A street-food market that takes place once a month--it's exactly the type of non-touristy meal that him and I love to experience.

After the sun set, we continued to walk up and down the streets and laneways of Melbourne for the next few hours. We didn't do anything in particular, mostly just people watching and taking in the Friday-night culture.

We came across a slew of street performers, saw quite a bit of slutty dresses on young women, watched drunken 20-year-olds stumbling around, walked in a bar and promptly walked out after seeing the $20-a-cocktail price tag, saw more street performers, passed by the oldest pub in Melbourne (which sadly ended up being packed with a total douch crowd), and came across one of the best signs I've ever seen at a bar.

We also came across one of the creepiest (and confusing) giant sculptures I've ever seen. Because nothing says "Welcome to Australia" quite like a bronze sculpture of a winged woman squeezing her breast with one hand and holding a skull in another, all while balancing on a ball.

Fortuna (on Queen Street)

And with that, we walked home, tired after our first few days in Australia, excited to see what else our trip had in store for us.


And now, for your recipe of the day: pulled pork!

An insanely quick recipe using a giant cut of meat will provide you with a ton of meals in no time!

Mexican-inspired pulled pork, adapted from Half Baked Harvest

We made tostadas/tacos and used pico de gallo, avocado, thinly sliced jalapeno, and fresh cilantro to top the pork. But feel free to customize the pork however you like. The next day I actually served the pork cold atop some spring lettuce with just a tiny drizzle of salad dressing for an insanely flavorful and filling lunch. It would also be great in a taco shell or burrito or pizza. Completely flexible to suit your taste buds and your imagination!

5-6 pounds pork shoulder roast (or butt)
1 tablespoons oil
1 whole onion, sliced
1 (12 ounce) mexican beer
1/2 cup orange juice
2 limes, juiced
1 large or 2 small chipotle chiles in adobo, minced

spice blend
1/2 teaspoons salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
1 tablespoons smoked or regular paprika
2 teaspoons cumin
3 teaspoons coriander
1 teaspoon onion powder
1 teaspoon chipotle chili powder, optinal
1 teaspoon oregano
1/4 teaspoon cayenne
2 teaspoons chili powder
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder

  1. Combine seasonings from "spice blend" together in a bowl and mix until combined. 
  2. Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat and add oil. Rub the pork all over with about 1/3 of the seasonings. Once hot, add pork and sear on all sides until golden brown (about 2 minutes per side).
  3. Sprinkle pork with remaining seasonings on all sides and add to the crockpot. Throw in the sliced onions. 
  4. Pour in beer, orange juice, lime juice and chipotle chilies, then cook on low for 10-12 hours. Check once or twice if possible. Before serving, use forks or kitchen tongs to shred pork in the crock pot. Mix to combine with the remaining liquid in the crockpot. Keep warm until ready to use.


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