Saturday, September 17, 2011

Fashionable Fried Foods

I eat far too many chips, glorious hot chips.  Also known as fries, they are one of those delights I can't (or refuse to) make at home. I don't want to indulge myself too often, and well, deep frying just gets messy, quite frankly.  I mean, what are you supposed to do with all that spent oil? Much better to leave it as someone else's problem, I say.

You can get a whole raft of other fried delicacies at restaurants these days too. The deep-fried icecream balls I enjoyed at as a child in the older (Westernised) Chinese restaurants don't seem to be around much anymore, but I keep getting excited about something new, only to find that it's suddenly available in multiple places.  Is this simply because I start paying more attention to the existence of this novelty, or do fried foods come in fads?

It's still possible to order deep fried ice cream at Sam Woo Vietnamese Cafe in Otahuhu, among other places
Jazzed up Potato Chips

Ever since Burgerfuel brought chips with aioli into the mainstream, it doesn't seem quite right anymore to eat them simply on their own.  Other places make their chips more interesting by covering them in beer batter or seasoning, but I'm fnding that you can buy them in all shapes and sizes too.

If you argue over whether thick or thin chips are better, what about the ones which are rectangular in cross section, short on one side and longer on the other?  I've had super-chunky chips at Finc in Wellington, measuring maybe 3cm on two sides and deliciously crispy and golden; our capital also offers fried potato in cubes, as in the Wagyu Fat Potatoes with Habanero Mayonnaise available at Logan Brown.

You can choose between fatties or skinnies chips (as well as wedges) at Velvet Burger
Then there are the chips you would need special implements to cut, like curly fries and crisscut fries. I've only seen these sold in seasoned and battered form.

Curly fries at Vinyl Coffee Shop
Crisscut fries at Carl's Jr. in Takanini
Of course, wedges are made of deep-fried potato too.  For some reason, we never call them "chips", maybe because most places will serve both at the same time.

Wedges served with bacon, cheese and sour cream

I won't go into the various ways you can serve chips, though I have to say that I was surprised to see a "French Fries Sandwich" on offer at Holy Land, a new restaurant (347 Karangahape Road) for Arabic and Western cuisine. From the picture on the menu, it looked like a pita pocket filled with chips.

Exotic Chips

Remember when kumara chips were exciting and new? They never seem to attain the same level of crunchiness that chips made from potato do, but I am often tempted to order them just for variety.  I've already shared my non-potato chip discoveries in previous posts, involving pumpkin chips coated in salty egg yolk at Fung, and polenta chips at Coco's Cantina (I also saw some polenta chips for sale at La Zeppa and 1885, but never got around to trying them and they don't seem to be on the menu anymore).

Pumpkin chips coated in salty egg yolk from Fung

Today, I came across a little mobile vendor selling "South American Street Food" on Queen's Wharf.  Top of the list on Maldito Mendez Cantina Latina's menu was "mandioca chips with smoked garlic aioli", which on further questioning are made from cassava.  They tasted good, but were relatively dry and hard compared to potato chips.  I'm keen to try the cassava chips at Bellota too.

Cassava (a.k.a. mandioca or yuca) chips with smoked garlic aioli from Maldito Mendez


My first experience of churros in Auckland was at the Teed St Larder in Newmarket. Unlike the straight dough sticks I had dipped into hot chocolate in Spain, the ones at the Larder were twisted into a knot.  They were reheated rather than freshly made, but still managed to remain crispy and ready for dipping into chocolate sauce or dulce de leche.

Churros from the Teed St Larder
Beautifully delicate churros can be had at Serafin, and they even added a bit of alcohol to our chocolate the last couple of times we were there.

Fortunately, you can also have churros without going to a cafe or restaurant.  Toro Churro sells these delicious sticks from mobile carts, which can be found by AUT on weekdays, as well as at various places like the Auckland Night Market at Pakuranga at other times. They even have caramel-filled ones!

Churros from Toro Churro


Recently, I came across beignets (pronounced "ben-YAY"), which basically seem to be doughnut balls.  I've seen the term applied to both sweet and savoury ones, shaped as big spheres or little pillows, but for me, the definition of beignets will always be the sweet morsels I first sampled at Sweet Mother's Kitchen.

Delicious beignets from Sweet Mother's Kitchen,Wellington
Corn beignets from Okra in Kingsland
Beignets with passionfruit curd, only available for breakfast at Depot, opposite the Auckland Sky Tower
Just the other day, a friend told me about deep-fried poached eggs, coated in breadcrumbs.  I'd hardly say that it is a dish sweeping through restaurants around Auckland, but it does sound worth a try.  What other new offerings have you come across, and did you suddenly start noticing it at other restaurants?


  1. Great topic!

    I completely agree with you. I don't deep fry either. Too messy and I like being in denial when I eat deep fried foods. If I make it myself, I can't help but think about all the oil it's fried in.

    When I make wedges and chips at home, I bake them in a very hot oven. A bit of practice and you can get a wicked crunch.

    When we were in the islands a few years ago, I couldn't get enough of "Island fries". A bowl of thick cut beauties made from taro, kumara and tapioca (cassava). It's surprising that we don't have island fries here in NZ.

    I've never tried beignets before but have wanted them ever since I watched the TV series Treme. They seem to eat beignets for every occasion. I didn't realise Al Brown was making them at Depot, or I would have got them this week. Might have have to make a special beignet trip there.

    One treat that is yet to reach NZ is deep fried fish skins. Last time I was in Hong Kong you buy a plate of this to dip into your noodle soup. It's awesome. Do you think NZ is ready for fish skins?

    I've also heard funnelcakes are cheap, easy and heartstoppingly good. I think there could be a market for funnelcakes here in New Zealand. Maybe it's time to set up a shop. I couldn't work there though!

  2. Thanks for the enlightening comments! Island fries sound like something right up my alley. I wonder why no one sells them here?

    I've never heard of deep fried fish skins or funnelcakes either. Just checked them out and they look amazing (though also incredibly bad for you).

    I think any of these things would sell like hot cakes at a market, if for nothing else other than the novelty factor. If they are as tasty as they sound, then even more so!

  3. Ooooh, I just had the best onion rings ever at Ragu in Point Chev. They were giant rings, about 1.5cm wide, with beautifully crisp crumbs on the outside, but soft onion inside. The chilli aioli it was served with was great too - there just wasn't enough of it!

  4. Guess what, I saw deep fried fish skins today! They were offered at Crown Chinese Restaurant with their excellent congee, which also came with spring onion slices and pieces of fried bread sticks.


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