coconuts, queues and rolls

Peking duck pancakes and the most incredible, sweet, soft coconut flesh laden drinks, and Vietnamese rice paper rolls stuffed with silken prawns. Yes, this was lunch, found at a Miss Chu stall at the MasterChef Live event in Sydney.

A production line worked away scattering Vietnamese mint, coriander, and pretty bunches of marinated tofu, prawns or a satay minced chicken inside the rice paper rolls. Queues of people waited patiently to grab the event’s heathiest lunch. Larger bamboo steamers filled with dumplings sat over boiling water, stacked and billowing the scent of Asian ingredients. The prawn rolls contained almost sashimi prawn, cooked perhaps in a squeeze of acidic lime juice and wrapped with crunchy bean shoots and green paw paw. A peanut dipping sauce, spiked with chilli, is the dish’s crowning glory.

The Masterchef Live event, which is on for three days and finishes Sunday, was absolutely packed on Friday, more than 20,000 people shoulder rubbing to get a view of their favourite chef, learn new knife techniques, how to cook perfect calamari, and the secret to cooking perfect fish (don’t overdo it!). I was delighted to see Miss Chu’s healthy Vietnamese  rolls inspire a longer queue than one doing unhealthy pies and fried things.

Prawn toast, that greasy Chinese staple served in yum cha outlets across Australia, was taken to a new level at a cooking session held by Sydney chef Dan Hong, who reinvented the dish for the foodie crowd. Hong, of Lotus, Ms Gs and El Loco, demonstrated how to make the chopped-prawn and sesame on toast appetiser in one of a few hundred events taking place over the weekend.

Hong cooked a prawn and sesame toast with yuzu mayonnaise, a favourite on his Ms G’s menu in Potts Point. The dish involves finely chopping raw fresh, adding a drizzle of sesame oil and coriander, and then spreading that thickly over thinly-sliced toast. The open-sandwich is then sprinkled with sesame seeds and deep fried for several minutes, cut into fingers, and drizzled with yuzu mayonnaise.

“You want a thin crispy base, and heaps of prawns,” Hong told the crowd. “Prawns give it flavour, and who doesn’t love mayo?” Ms G’s does a combination of Chinese, Japanese and Vietnamese cuisines, said Hong. There’s a mixture of herbs like mint and coriander, “there are no rules, it’s all about lots of flavour”.

Also appearing over the weekend are chefs such as Tony Bilson, Greg Doyle, Peter Doyle, Peter Gilmore, Matt Kemp, Kylie Kwong, Spanish-born Miguel Maestre, Jaques Raymond the French chef based in Melbourne, and Junior Masterchef’s Anna Gare.

Dan Hong and his prawn and sesame toast. All pics by Kate Gibbs.

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