Liv­ing up to its fa­mous name

Sunday Tasmanian - Tassie Living - - TASTE - Graeme Phillips

ON AN oc­ca­sion last year, I had rea­son to sam­ple quite a few of Ho­bart’s laksa of­fer­ings. Of the many very or­di­nary, “Western­ised” and overly sweet ones, that from Chat­ter­box, with its heady aro­mas of toasted, house- made blachan and lip- tin­gling co­conut creami­ness, won hands down.

Yet, such is life, it has taken me al­most a year to re­turn and try Vic­tor Ang’s other dishes.

Many read­ers will re­mem­ber Ang from his Sin­ga­pore Eat­ing House in Des­pard St and his eight years man­ag­ing the Asian Room, at Wrest Point, be­fore open­ing Chat­ter­box six years ago.

With a large win­dow fac­ing onto the street, a bright in­te­rior with black- lac­quered ta­bles and chairs, a cor­ner bain- marie and the name of one of Sin­ga­pore’s most fa­mous eater­ies em­bla­zoned in red, it’s easy to dis­miss Chat­ter­box as just an­other of the North Ho­bart strip’s cheap Asian take­aways, which it isn’t.

For, in ad­di­tion to the steam­ing, ready- togo food from the bain- marie, there’s a red wall menu of­fer­ing 12 cooked- to- or­der chef’s spe­cials, seven soups and 10 hawker dishes, the sorts of street- foods for which Sin­ga­pore is fa­mous and, sadly, in the coun­try’s mod­ern as­pi­ra­tional so­ci­ety, I’m told are now slowly dis­ap­pear­ing.

We stuck to the hawker se­lec­tion and started with one of Malaysia’s best- known dishes, Char Kway Teow, a de­li­cious stir fry of flat rice noo­dles, beef, Chi­nese sausage, egg and veg­eta­bles tossed with sweet dark soy. Then fol­lowed the ubiq­ui­tous Nasi Goreng, clas­si­cally re­plete with a fried egg on top, and a fra­grant and beau­ti­fully spiced serv­ing of Sin­ga­pore chilli prawns ( in place of the more fa­mous crab), the sauce a lit­tle more gluti­nous than I might have wished but the prawns still crisply ten­der, due pre­sum­ably to hav­ing been “vel­veted” – an Asian tech­nique to stop them tough­en­ing when cooked.

While the Char Kway Teow was my wife’s favourite, my pick was the ginger chicken and bean curd, which came to the ta­ble siz­zling in a clay pot, the sauce so flavour­some and mel­low you could drink it.

Ob­vi­ously pop­u­lar with a young Asian crowd in for take­aways or shared meals at the ta­ble, Chat­ter­box is also a favourite of one of Ho­bart’s bet­ter- known Sin­ga­pore- born chefs who is a reg­u­lar for Ang’s spe­cial Satur­day spe­cials. Th­ese dishes vary week to week – from the Chi­nese- de­rived soya duck and Hainan chicken rice to the fra­grant, co­conut milk- based Nasi Lemak, claimed by many as Malaysia’s national dish, and, best I’m told, is Ang’s bar­be­cued pork.

Then, of course, there’s that laksa, rea­son enough on its own for a visit.

Soups $ 12-$ 15; Hawker dishes $ 12-$ 15; Chef’s spe­cials $ 17-$ 25, boiled rice $ 2.50.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Australia

© PressReader. All rights reserved.