So the title sounds like onomatopoeia, but they’re actually food!
The Fish Can
Thanks to Tales of a Confectionist for putting the word out about the opening of The Fish Can at Westside Acton Park. The Fish Can offers what you’d normally get from a fish and chip shop including salt and pepper squid, calamari rings and potato cakes. They also sell hand cut sweet potato chips which look fantastic from afar as I eyed other diners’ purchases. But the main reason I wanted to check them out is because they sell bao and a variety of them! Bao, aka guabao, is a Taiwanese snack food consisting of usually meat and other condiments all crammed into a steamed white bread-like bun. The bao is folded over to make a semi-circular shape that is able to sandwich the fillings, but has an opening so you can clearly see the yummyness inside. The bao is left steaming in large bamboo steamers before being stuffed with an assortment of fillings.
Starting from left to right, the porkster consists of braised free-range pork belly served with house relish, cilantro and Szechuan peanuts. The pork was deliciously tender, meaty with hardly any fat. That’s my kind of meat. It was also been braised in something wonderful and was still warm when I bit into it. The pickled cucumbers helped balance out the meatiness.
The crumbed fish bao came with a big portion of fish which was soft and flakey. It was also accompanied by lemon cabbage slaw, tartare, cilantro and crushed Szechuan peanuts. Apart from the condiments, I found that the fish hadn’t been seasoned which left it quite bland. I enjoyed the crushed peanuts and there was plenty of it. Happy to report that the bao itself is smooth, soft and fluffy! It also holds its shape and the fillings inside very well.
The soft shell crab bao consisted of tempura soft shell crab, lemon cabbage slaw, lime aioli, cilantro and crushed Szechuan peanuts. This was J’s favourite of the four. The tempura was light and crunchy with a small amount of crab meat. I would have liked more crab meat but I’m greedy like that.
The tiger prawn bao consisted of crumbed tiger prawns, lemon cabbage slaw, lime aioli, cilantro and crushed Szechuan peanuts. The prawn was more of a minced prawn pattie which was fine by me. It was seasoned and fried well and so very moreish. This was my favourite of the four.
I sought clarification on the Sweet Bao Fries ($3.50). I had assumed it was a fried gua bao with fries inside it – a sweet and savoury kinda item. But I was told it was a fried bao cut up into strips, so they looked like fries, and smothered in condensed milk. It still sounded interesting so I went ahead with ordering. There are two flavours of condensed milk to choose from – pandan and black sesame. I was also given the choice of both via some half and half action. I chose both since I couldn’t decide what to have. The deep fried bao were nice and crispy, like fries, and evenly cut so the width is about the same. I thought I would prefer the pandan sauce which had a very subtle pandan flavour to it. But I’m leaning towards the black sesame as my favourite which was richer, nuttier and tasted more complex. Different but still very sweet and satisfying.
Value for money 6.5/10
FPJ score 23/30
Now for the pao. I was kindly invited by husband and wife team Sanjay and Sunita at Daana to try out their authentic Indian street food. Both have worked as chefs in India who have had a love of food from a young age. When I arrived, I headed straight to the menu to see what was on offer. Sanjay came out of the shipping container to introduce himself and helped us out with the menu. He didn’t know who I was at that stage so it was great to see someone that was so welcoming and passionate about his food. After introducing myself, I asked what the favourite dish was to order.
We decided on one of the specials of the day, the pani poori (usually $8). These are round shaped fried poori (a type of bread) that are super thin and hollow with an opening on top, and filled with potato curry. There were two sauces that came with the pani poori. The first consisted of mint water and spices which is tangy and slightly spicy. Depending on how much heat you can take, Sunita can make this spicier but I had asked for mild heat. The second sauce was a tamarind and date chutney which was my favourite. It has jaggery in it to give extra sweetness and balanced out the mint water.
We couldn’t decide between the Pao Bhaji (usually $12) or the Kheema Pao (usually $15), so Sanjay suggested he provide half of both. What is pao? It is a soft buttered bread roll with a light glaze on top made to Sunita’s specifications. The team cannot make pao onsite and went to great lengths to find a suitable baker in Canberra to bake the pao according to Sunita’s recipe. The Saigon Southlands Bakery in Mawson now bake and supply these each day.
The Pao Bhaji is a mashed vegetable curry, using any vegetables currently in stock or in season. This is seasoned with spices with a dollop of butter (you can see the butter melting in the bottom corner in the photo) and had a wonderful aroma. It was slightly tart, probably from the tomatoes, but very enjoyable especially when spooned onto the super soft buttery pao. The Kheema is a stewed lamb mince mixed with fennel seeds and a range of other spices. Great for meat lovers, the lamb mince is so flavoursome and filled with a great balance of spices. Again, it tastes great with the pao.
Lastly, the cardamom kulfi (usually $8) for dessert. Kulfi is much denser and creamier than regular ice cream as it’s mostly made of semi-condensed milk. Great for a hot summer’s day, the cardamom is delicate and very subtle.
There are regularly changing specials at Daana, all at a decent price. The menu can be found at the Daana website. Everything is made on site apart from the pao and poori. The food is presented nicely and there’s so much flavour and great care taken to balance out the spices. Everything comes out on eco-friendly and biodegradable serving ware. Daana also offer catering for events and parties.
Daana means generosity in Sanskrit. Very fitting as the team at Daana wouldn’t take tips for themselves. All tips go into a donation box for the Communities@Work program allowing them to give back to the community. Go check them out!
Value for money 7.5/10
FPJ score 26.5/30
Both The Fish Can and Daana are open Thursday to Saturday for lunch and dinner, and Sunday for lunch at Westside Acton Park.
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