Would you like fries with that? Only if I’m eat­ing at the source, writes Matt Pre­ston as he de­liv­ers some take-home tips on what you should or shouldn’t or­der in.

Sunday Herald Sun - Stellar - - On Sunday - To find out Matt’s best dishes for take­away head to de­li­cious.com.au.

@mattscra­vat CHIPS PIZZA @Mattscra­vat

COM­BINE con­ve­nience with mar­ket­ing and you can un­der­stand why we’re or­der­ing more take­away these days. The trou­ble is that some of the food on menus just isn’t suit­able for a jour­ney on the back of a moped. So what are the fatal take­away traps to avoid and what dishes should we or­der in? The first four in the list are no-nos, while the rest can work if han­dled with care.

The beauty of a chip is the con­trast of its fluffy in­te­rior with the brûlée-like crunch on the out­side. En­tomb your fries for de­liv­ery in a box and the steam will de­stroy that crunch quicker than you can say ‘crin­kle-cut or shoe­string’. Also, fries are way bet­ter if they’re pip­ing-hot straight from the fryer, not luke­warm af­ter rid­ing pil­lion to your place. It’s even worse if they’re loaded fries – the damp top­pings will ac­cel­er­ate the de­te­ri­o­ra­tion. And there are few things worse than cold loaded fries. Well, apart from cold na­chos, the con­gealed lamb fat of a cold sou­vlaki or be­ing forced to lis­ten to The Chainsmok­ers’ ‘Selfie’ for 15 min­utes. Eat­ing in is bet­ter.

Sure, in Naples pizza was de­signed equally to be eaten in a restau­rant or col­lected by car­riage driv­ers of the rich as they clip-clopped down the ar­row-straight Via Toledo to the royal palace. The Neapoli­tans even in­vented road­side pizza warm­ers to en­sure the crust stayed hot and crisp. But the slice was eaten there and then; it wasn’t de­signed to be trans­ported across town. While the su­pe­rior heat of the pizze­ria in­dus­trial oven far eclipses most home pizza-cook­ing op­tions, the is­sue for take­away pizza is that for ev­ery mo­ment it’s en­closed in a box, the steam­ing in­te­rior of the crust at­tacks its ex­te­rior crisp­ness. And as the pie cools, top­pings like cheaper moz­zarella risk a rub­bery con­gealed fate. Eat­ing in the pizze­ria is so much bet­ter, or col­lect your­self so your or­der comes di­rectly home im­me­di­ately.


As above, there are the same is­sues with sog­gi­fi­ca­tion of the chips and the con­ge­la­tion of the cheese un­less these are re­ally cheap na­chos that come with that weird chem­i­cally ren­dered fluid cheese. I should note that ‘sog­gi­fi­ca­tion’ is a word I just in­vented to de­scribe this pre­vi­ously in­de­scrib­able take­away prob­lem. ‘Sog­gi­fi­ca­tion’ re­places the clas­si­fi­ca­tion by sog­gi­ness scores for chips and pizza slices mea­sured on the flac­cid­ity me­tre. As in, “Oh, Kevin’s pizza slice mea­sures a limp 2.5FM and his top­pings are at dire risk of slip­ping off.”


There’s a lit­tle lee­way with your toastie or jaf­fle when it comes to travel (well, un­less it’s an egg jaf­fle where the yolk risks over­cook­ing) be­cause for per­fect re­sults it needs a mo­ment or two for the scald­ing fill­ing of cheese, baked beans or last night’s Bolog­nese to cool down to sub-molten-lava tem­per­a­tures. But, re­ally, it’s best to make them your­self, you lazy bug­ger. If you don’t have a sand­wich press or a jaf­fle maker use a fry­ing pan or make an Amer­i­canstyle open melt un­der the grill. Toast the bread on one side first then flip, top and grill it un­til what­ever is on top – grated tasty, savoury mince – is bub­bly and nicely tanned-up in places.


The best dumplings take the short­est route from the pan to your mouth. Steamed dumplings or won­tons to go in a broth are the bet­ter choice, but avoid or­der­ing those soup-filled dumplings take­away as the soup can dis­ap­pear into the wrap­pers, the meat or the bot­tom of the con­tain­ers. The fried ones, mean­while, will lose the al­lure of their golden crust when locked in a plas­tic box with all the steam com­ing off a dozen of them.


Pasta and noo­dle dough loves suck­ing up liq­uid. This is what makes them pli­able and ten­der; how­ever, overdo it and you’ll have a gluggy dis­as­ter on your hands. That’s why you should al­ways en­sure pasta dishes come with the sauce sep­a­rate and that Asian noo­dle dishes are one of the drier styles or come with a sep­a­rate sauce to douse them with af­ter they land in your kitchen. Lasagne and can­nel­loni, how­ever, are good if they’re still hot af­ter the jour­ney. The same goes for Greek pasta dishes like pastit­sio which, back on the Cy­clades is­land where I used to live, is of­ten served closer to room tem­per­a­ture than 160 de­grees.


A slab of mous­saka is per­fect take­away fare, as are Greek sal­ads and home-style dishes such as egg and lemon soup, dol­mades or the de­li­cious bean dish gi­gantes plaki.


Rice-paper rolls, soups like pho and even their more ro­bust crunchy spring rolls make ex­cel­lent take­away op­tions (es­pe­cially if fresh el­e­ments like bean shoots or the let­tuce or fresh herbs are packed sep­a­rately). Fried dishes like salt and pep­per squid won’t be as crunchy but are usu­ally still pre­sentable.

Do you re­ally want take­aways, though? It’s barely cheaper than eat­ing at the source where the food is bet­ter, it saves all the pack­ag­ing and you get to eat off real plates with­out hav­ing to do the wash­ing-up. And it’s an ad­ven­ture.

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