We’ve all heard of carrot cake, maybe even parmesan
IT WAS one of the more uncomfortable moments of the last Masterchef season when queen of the kitchen Nigella Lawson roundly dismissed my claim of the existence and validity of savoury doughnuts in pretty much the same way a medical specialist might dismiss the curative benefits of the latest food-blogger fad – whether that be coconut fat, milk thistle or shilajit.
Smarting from her put down, I’ve slowly built a dossier over the ensuing months, muttering to myself like Mulder with his X-files – “I know they’re out there” – about the existence of the savoury doughnut and its unquestioned deliciousness. Today, I open these files to you.
Over the past few years the savoury doughnut has become quite a thing here in Australia. Alongside the rise of dumpling shops we’ve seen the emergence of reimagined versions of dim sum such as the steamed kimichi and barbecue pork buns at Brisbane’s Little Valley from the team behind Rick Shores in Burleigh Heads and the steamed wallaby-tail buns served with Davidson’s plum sauce that have been on Kylie Kwong’s menu since the early days of Billy Kwong.
While these have some shared DNA with the new generation of savoury doughnuts, I think that to be truly part of the movement, they need to be fried or baked, like the fried pork belly-filled doughnuts with chilli sambal that Emma Mccaskill serves at The Pot in Adelaide, or the rotating selection of savoury-stuffed doughnuts (ham and cheese, smoked brisket) at Matt Moran’s rooftop bar Smoke at Sydney’s Barangaroo House.
Our Sydney reviewer, Anthony Huckstep, raves about the blood-sausage pie at Poly, the hot new wine bar in Surry Hills from the Ester team. Having tried it on his recommendation I can confirm that it’s suitably decadent and delicious, and should have honorary status as a savoury doughnut. Elsewhere in Sydney, the highly praised king prawn beignets have disappeared from the menu at Bistro Rex and Eastern suburbs fans are praying they return soon.
Down in Melbourne, our reviewer, Dan Stock, reckons the original meat doughnut appeared at Dexter in Preston, where sticky beef brisket fills a classic doughnut that’s dusted in sugar and smoked paprika and served with a capsicum relish. This trailblazer has been joined by some equally tasty chums such as the pork and gruyère beauty at Hell of the North in Fitzroy, and perhaps Melbourne’s meat doughnut of the moment, the bun filled with wagyu rendang and served with pickled radish and fermented sambal at hot new Sunda in the CBD.
Of course, I shouldn’t overlook the scallop and loukamades (the famed doughnuts of Greece) dish that George Calombaris used to have on the menu in the early days of the old Press Club. And one of the opening snacks right now at The Press Club’s more recent and smaller incarnation is the hot and very light salt and vinegar loukamades served to swipe through taramasalata and salmon pearls. At a recent food festival in Pretoria, meanwhile, George introduced South Africans to the joys of a savoury doughnut stuffed with wildebeest. It was apparently delicious.
And no survey of Melbourne’s savoury doughnut scene would be complete without mentioning Supernormal’s pan-fried spicy wagyu buns.
Then there was the lobster burger served in a doughnut instead of a bun at Melbourne’s Mammoth, an internet and brunch sensation and one of a number of places around the world trying to convince us that if Italian bomboloni or churros with chocolate sauce are doughnuts to break the day, then a savoury version was, if anything, more valid.
Kudos, then, to CREAM in the oceanside Adelaide suburb of Brighton, which serves a doughnut sandwich rammed with egg, bacon, cheese and a potato rösti (with optional extra fried chicken – respect). There might be some salad in there somewhere, but I’m not sure that’s all that relevant to most people who order it.
SAVOURY DOUGHNUT TRADITION
There is, of course, nothing new about the savoury doughnut. The Sicilians have had their anchovy-filled zeppole for generations; the Vietnamese call their well-stuffed savoury doughnuts banh ran man, and one of Korea’s great street-food dishes are hotteok filled with anything from spiced mince or leftover bibimbap to chilli-spiced glass noodles tossed with carrots, chives and onions.
Add to this list the deep-fried dumplings of Cantonese yum cha with their pork mince fillings and mochi-like chewy crusts related to those sesame-coated Chinese jian dui and the buchi of the Philippines.
The fried mantou bread served with chilli crab along East Coast Parkway in Singapore, the similarly golden and airy banh tieu sometimes served with pho in Hanoi or the crisp, puffy churros-like youtiao sticks eaten alone or with a savoury congee rice porridge in Hong Kong are more examples of types of doughnut served in savoury situations. Some of these international dumplings are traditionally served at breakfast or brunch, too. So there!