Adversity, like food, brings people together, says Adam Liaw in a promotion for his new series Roadtrip for Good.
After a year crippled by bushfires and then the pandemic, this celebration of regional Australia might be just the series we need to fill us with hope as we go into 2021.
Premiering on SBS on December 2, the series follows Liaw as he visits the bushfire-affected regions as they spring back to life. Over four episodes, he unearths some of the best food Australia has to offer, making mouth-watering Asian-inspired dishes with the produce he collects along the way. He meets with locals and discovers that these resilient communities are rebuilding and ready to welcome visitors back with open arms.
"2020 has been a tough year for everyone, but few places have been more affected than regional Australia," he says.
"This show is about telling their stories and reminding people what's great about regional Australia. Their resilience in the face of so much is truly inspiring, and if we can help them by safely getting out to these areas and helping our domestic economy in the process it's a triple win. A win for the regions, a win for those of us who get a great holiday, and a win for Australia as a whole."
The roadtrip begins on South Australia's Kangaroo Island. When the bushfires hit, half the island went up in flames. Volunteer firefighter and garlic farmer, Shane Leahy, lost everything except his one shed of garlic. There Liaw also meets organic honey producer, Peter Davis, who lost more than 500 hives in one day. After collecting some of Leahy's garlic cloves and Davis' honey gold, Liaw makes two Chinese classics - sizzling garlic butter prawns and honey chicken.
The journey continues to the Adelaide Hills, where Liaw grew up, and he visits his old friend and cheesemaker Sheree Sullivan, who lost nearly $2million worth of her award-winning cheeses in the bushfires. He also pays a visit to local vintner David Bowley who lost his entire vineyard. There he collects some pinot noir to cook an Australian Chinese dish few people know about, Billy Kee pork.
Next to Victoria's East Gippsland, an area that has struggled not only with bushfires but drought. He visits the family-run farm, Forge Creek Free Range, to collect eggs to make an elegant Japanese chawanmushi. He also stops at the coastal town of Mallacoota to source Australia's best abalone and then onto Tallangatta in Victorian high country to visit Mandy Crispin's bakery, which provided refuge to those evacuated during the fires. Liaw collects some crusty bread rolls from Crispin to make a Vietnamese roast pork banh mi. Then it's off to the Victorian town of Beechworth, home to award-winning chef Michael Ryan's two-hatted restaurant Provenance. There he makes Japanese cabbage rolls with some of Michael's roasted tomato sugo.
He then journeys to NSW to visit the historic village of Berrima in the Southern Highlands, Gary Rodeley's famous South Coast oyster farm in Tathra and the coastal town of Ulladulla, home to Cupitt's Estate, a vineyard that avoided the blaze but lost all its grapes to smoke taint. With their locally sourced ingredients, he whips up Peking pork ribs, Sichuan beer duck and a hawker-style oyster omelette.
The last stop is Australia's apple capital, the NSW town of Batlow, which was considered undefendable in the face of the devastating fires before the local Rural Fire Service took it upon themselves to defend their town. Adam meets grower Ralph Wilson's roadside stall to buy some apples for his Chinese toffee apple fritters.
"Batlow was a town that was considered undefendable from the fires and residents were told to evacuate," Liaw says.
"The local RFS stayed behind to fight the fires and miraculously managed to save the town. If you go there you can see that the fires came right to the edge of town. It's truly an incredible story and I can't help but think about it every time I have a Batlow apple now."
Liaw says the easiest thing we can do to help is to buy Australian, buy local.
"But if you want to go a little further think about a roadtrip. Roadtripforgood.org.au has some fantastic itineraries where we can explore our country, put money directly into our regional economies, and have a great time doing it."
Garlic butter prawns
600g large whole green prawns
2 tbsp cornflour, plus 1 tsp extra for thickening
1.5l vegetable oil, for deep frying
10 garlic cloves, roughly chopped
1 tsp fish sauce
1 tbsp Shaoxing wine
a good pinch of sugar
1. Peel the prawns and reserve the shells. Butterfly the prawns by cutting a deep slit along the back of the prawns. Remove the intestine and flattening the prawn meat gently.
2. Place the reserved prawn shells in a saucepan with 1.5 litres of water and bring to a simmer. Simmer for 15 minutes, then strain and discard the shells.
3. Place the prawn meat in a bowl with 2 tbsp of cornflour and 125 ml (1/2 cup) of cold tap water. Stir to combine, then rub the prawns in the cornflour mixture and set the prawns aside for at least 15 minutes.
4. Place the oil into a large saucepan and heat to 175C. Remove the prawns from the cornflour mixture and add to the hot oil. Deep-fry the prawns for about 2 minutes or until nearly cooked through, then remove and drain on a wire rack placed over a tray.
5. Heat a large wok over medium heat, then add the butter and the garlic. Fry the garlic for 1 minute until fragrant but not yet browned. Add 2 tbsp of the prawn stock, the fish sauce, Shaoxing wine and a generous pinch of sugar. Add the prawns and toss through the garlic butter sauce. Mix the extra cornflour with 1 tablespoon cold water and add to the prawn mixture. Stir until the sauce has thickened slightly, then serve immediately.
Serves 4-6 as part of a shared meal.
Peking-style pork ribs
1 kg short-cut pork ribs, divided into individual ribs
2 tbsp cornflour, plus extra, for dusting
2 tbsp Shaoxing wine
1 egg white
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp ground white pepper
1-2l canola oil, for deep-frying, plus 1 tbsp for wok frying
3 garlic cloves, finely chopped
60ml tomato sauce
1 tbsp white vinegar or rice vinegar
1 tbsp soy sauce
2 tsp sugar
60ml stock or water
1. Combine the pork ribs with the cornflour, Shaoxing wine, egg white, salt and pepper and marinate for at least 1 hour.
2. Heat the oil for deep-frying in a large saucepan or wok to 170C. Transfer half the ribs to a clean bowl and scatter with extra cornflour, tossing to coat. Deep-fry the ribs for 5-8 minutes depending on the thickness of your ribs. If just using the bone portion of the ribs 5 minutes should be enough, but if the ribs contain more of the belly, fry them for 8 minutes. Remove from the oil and set aside, then repeat with the remaining ribs.
3. Combine the sauce ingredients in a small bowl and stir to dissolve the sugar. Heat a wok over medium heat. Add a drizzle of oil and the garlic and fry until the garlic is fragrant and lightly browned. Add the sauce and bring to a simmer. Add the ribs and toss to coat until the sauce is thickened, then serve.
- Adam Liaw's Roadtrip for Good premieres on SBS Food Wednesday December 2 at 8:30pm. The series is available after broadcast on SBS On Demand.