Chu the Phat: Behind the menu with Brendon Barker
Strip back the trendy new venue, the beautiful décor, the cocktail list you’re working your way through and what have we got? Food.
What we live for and sometimes what we’d die for (hand over the duck buns and we don’t have a problem).
So what’s a chef to do when he’s opening a brand new venue in the heart of Brisbane’s trendiest new foodie precinct? Eat a whole damn lot of it in preparation – that’s what.
We sat down with Executive Chef, Brendon Barker as he told us about his three and a bit week holiday to Taiwan, South Korea and Hong Kong on the ultimate foodie adventure.
All in the name of gathering some seriously delicious inspo for the new hawker style banquet at Chu the Phat.
What started out as an investigatory journey across Asia quickly became any food lovers dream, with Brendon downing three different lunches and dinners most days and hitting the soju pretty hard in the process (cheers to that, we say!).
It was nights like this where Brendon and the team stumbled across dishes that began to form the beginnings of Chu’s signature dishes, in a journey that produced what was referred to as ‘the best dumplings ever’. (Only second to yours of course, Brendon).
So, we delved a little deeper into what of his trip made the cut, so the next time those delightful little morsels from the menu touch your lips – you’ll know exactly why they ended up there. Boiled Pork Dumplings | Chicken and Mushroom Dumplings | Smoked Trout Fritters
Brendon’s motto for the trip was ‘do like the locals do’, and while this often meant on-the-fly hotel bookings, stressful train trips and a whole lot left up in the air, it also meant stumbling across some of the country’s best foodie finds.
First stop? Tainan, where the hawker style markets in Dadong were the inspiration for Chu’s tasty dumplings, where a Taiwanese chef showed them the process of stuffing those bad boys like a well oiled machine (except handmade and oh so delish). With stall after stall packed with fresh fish, squid, chicken, duck and Asian greens, there’s no shortage of stimulus for foodies in this three acre market paradise, as Brendon walked past birds with their heads still on, fish stacked atop each other, and massive woks of diamond shell clams.
A marketplace with not much refrigeration means everything is sourced that day, sold that day, and usually eaten that day. And man, is it fresh. One stall in particular was hocking beautiful hand made swordfish fritters for the equivalent of 75 Aussie cents – so next time you hit Chu the Phat and order the smoked trout fritters, close your eyes and imagine the bustling Dadong Market where this delicious brain child of Asian flavour and freshness was born (um yes, one ticket to food wonderland, please).
While it got ditched from the menu not long after opening (turns out us Aussies have quite the aversion to spam), Brendon told us stories of long nights in dimly lit bars in Seou’l, South Korea with beers (and beers, and more beers) and rounds of snacking food (did we mention beers?).
Spam featured pretty heavily during nights out, prepared with fried egg – a combination that was described as ‘the perfect drinking food’. But then again – everything tastes better a little boozed, right? So it went on the menu on opening and while it was a bold move Cotton, Brisbane just wasn’t ready for a spam dish. (Although with promise of a green eggs and spam dumpling in the works, Brendon promises he hasn’t given up on the idea just yet.) Chicken & Duck Dishes
There’s plenty to chickity-choose from in the poultry department at Chu the Phat, and it makes sense, with Asia being such fried chicken and beer enthusiasts (*love heart eyes*). Fried, boiled or roasted, you name it, they’ve got it and Brendon tried it, from eating the best 3-shot duck he’s ever had with 7/11 beers our the back of a servo, to loads of crispy skinned Korean deep fried chicken – a major inspiration for the freaking delicious chilli buttermilk fried chicken that we’ve fallen completely beak over wings for at Chu.
What Didn’t Make The Cut
And of course, after all that, we definitely had to ask him what was the weirdest thing he’d eaten on his ventures. Sea penis. (Yep, nope, not kidding, this is a legitimate dish and it’s a legitimate name, and legitimately hilarious.)
We saw photos and that’s pretty much enough for us – kudos to Brendon for giving it a crack, we say. Three and a half weeks, three countries, up to seven different meals a day, and a lotta’ dollar later, it was all over with the team’s minds full of muse and their stomachs full of deliciousness (and a little rounder on the plane home, we’re guessing).
Did you say best freaking job ever?