Gin Long Canteen


amazing sambal noodles

date of visit: Wednesday 12 February 2014

Last week, Tara, of Sydney-based food blog VegeTARAian, was in Adelaide so a few blogging types headed out to Gin Long Canteen in North Adelaide for dinner and a catch up (and, in my case, to actually meet Tara for the first time).

Wednesday was a stupidly hot 40-something degree day and by the time I arrived at Gin Long all I was really interested in was a cold beer (or two). Hot weather tends of destroy my appetite, so food-wise I wasn’t feeling picky (not that I ever am). There were six of us at dinner (the minimum number Gin Long will allow you to book for) and our table was reserved for 6pm (again, Gin Long will only allow you to book for either 6 or 8pm). Even at that early time, Gin Long was busy although not at capacity – by the time we left at 8pm the restaurant was well and truly packed. And on a Wednesday night – not a bad effort at all. I would say – don’t go without booking, but …

Gin Long has been a hot venue since opening and, in recent weeks, with the arrival of Nu Suandokmai, straight from the CBD’s Golden Boy, it has become even hotter. The fact that Suandokmai isn’t planning on being in the kitchen long term (the media is suggesting he’ll be opening his own venue at some point) I think adds to the general excitement.

Seated at our table (having been informed we’d be leaving by 8!) and beers in hand, we turned our attention to the menu. With one vegetarian and one vegan at the table we ordered the banquet ($39 per head, minimum of four people) but also ensured that they would be well catered for.


‘very exciting’: beautiful flavours

Food started arriving quickly. First up the “very exciting” beef salad. This was a light, Thai style beef salad laced with fresh mint. Flavour wise it was excellent but I managed to get a piece of beef that was laden with gristle (and which I had to extract from my mouth most inelegantly!) so that suggests that there’s some room for improvement in the attention to detail department. We also had sugar cane prawns, netted spring rolls (which I didn’t try) and the Malay curry puffs. These curry puffs easily, at this point, the best thing on the table. Crisp pastry, not greasy, a light filling which packed in plenty of curry leaf flavour – I would have been happy to sit down with a huge plate of just these.


Malay curry puffs: amazing!

Entrées over, our main courses started coming out. I didn’t try some of the vegetarian dishes, such as the chargrilled tofu or the Vietnamese coleslaw, but I did put in a solid effort sampling the rest of the spread. The tamarind prawns didn’t really work for me (and be warned, as they are served with their shells on): there just wasn’t enough complexity of flavour. The braised pork belly was delicious but the star dish was the sambal thin egg noodle. This was a hearty dish with a good whack of chilli spice and topped with an egg. Noodles are one those dishes which can be so one dimensional and almost bland (yes, throwing chilli at something doesn’t necessarily give it flavour) but not these noodles. Plenty of flavour, plenty of heat and plenty of moreishness.

I suspect that some of the dishes may have been a little on the salty side – it wasn’t something I noticed at the time but later on I did have the tell tale slightly dry mouth, slightly thirsty sensation I always experience after eating salty food. But maybe I also just ate too many noodles …

By this time, it was almost 8pm and we were getting a bit nervous about what would happen with dessert. So we asked. “Oh”, said our waitress, “I always feel really bad about this, because people always ask and there is no dessert included”. You would imagine that at this point, we might have been offered the dessert menu … but no. Perhaps it was just too close to 8pm.

I enjoyed the food and thought that it was reasonable value for money. However, I really dislike restaurants with overly complicated booking policies. Part of me understands why restaurateurs make these decisions but, for the punter, they are really too often an inconvenience. The service at Gin Long was erratic: while our orders were taken quickly and food was served quickly, neglecting to tell us the banquet didn’t include dessert (especially when it seems to be a very common query) was an unfortunate oversight. After our food was all served, we were then forgotten about so getting the bill proved to be a lengthy exercise (one of our party has been a few times and says this has happened every single time).

Although Gin Long Canteen has a very funky interior, it suffers from an excess of hard surfaces and, at times during our meal, the music seemed particularly intrusive. And while I’m prepared to concede that I am particularly old-fogey-ish in this respect other people also felt the same way.

My final gripe? The staff need to be identifiable as staff. There was a real mish-mash of attire: Converse trainers mixed with VERY LOUD wedges, outfits dominated by fluorescent colours, and rather too many hot-pants edged with lace (I realise that for some people this may be a plus …).

If you can’t tell, I left Gin Long with very mixed feelings. I’m not sure I’ll be back in a hurry. The food makes it definitely worth a visit, but unless you’re a bona fide hipster you might leave feeling a little less than cool …

Gin Long Canteen
42 O’Connell Street
North Adelaide SA 5006
phone: 08 7120 2897

Tom Rim Prawns – With Tomato, Fish Sauce and Black pepper

UntitledYet again I was too hungry to care about photography!

April has been a crazy month. Highs, lows, and flat out the whole way through. While we’ve actually done a fair bit of cooking, I’ve just not got around to writing any of it up. But, May is around the corner, and my calendar is starting to look slightly less scary, so hopefully this means it’s catch up time.

In addition to what seems like a billion recipes, there are also a few product reviews in the pipeline, so buckle your seat belts and bear with me while we try to catch up.

Let’s start with this easy prawn dish. As the mania of April subsides I find myself now enjoying a hefty head cold. I have lost my voice, but the majority of my complaints can be cured with cold and flu tablets. However, being a little poorly is always an excuse to eat as much spicy food as possible (well, it is in our house – in theory all the garlic, ginger and chilli will nuke whatever rogue bug it is).

Around Christmas time we are usually able to get hold of some snap frozen prawns, straight off the boat, at a good price. Last year, they arrived on Christmas Eve – provoking a little last minute menu stress. Andy and I are still working our way through our allocation of green prawns. We both love a good prawn curry and now the weather is cooling down, these seem to be making a very regular appearance on our meal plans.

I can’t recall the train of thought that led us to stumble upon this recipe for tom rim prawns. Quite a few tom rim recipes seem to be laced in sugar and almost all have the word “caramelised” in their English names. I’m not so hot on sugar in my savoury foods so when I found this variant, on Australian food blog The Toshes, with less emphasis on sugar and more on pepper and tomato, this was the one we rolled with.

Anyone who has any experience of what a genuine Tom Rim prawn dish looks and tastes like – please leave a comment!

This time round I got the glamour job (peeling the prawns) – complete with assistance from a curious cat. Andy actually did the cooking, and, just like me, made plenty of amendments. The finished product was served simply: on rice. There was enough sauce to go through the rice, the prawns were juicy and the whole thing was deliciously spicy.

As a bonus, it was also very quick to put together – if you forget about the 20 minutes or so peeling the prawns.

Absolutely recommended!

Tom Rim Prawns – With Tomato, Fish Sauce and Black Pepper

Serving Size: 2


  • vegetable oil
  • 10 green prawns, peeled and de-veined (as much as humanly possible)
  • 4 cloves garlic, peeled and crushed
  • 4 tbsp fish sauce
  • chilli flakes to taste
  • approx 200 mL water
  • 1 tsp tomato paste
  • 1 fresh tomato
  • 1 spring onion, sliced
  • 3 tsp palm sugar
  • freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  • soy sauce (optional)
  • lemon juice (optional)
  • fresh coriander, for garnish


  1. Heat oil in wok and fry off garlic and chilli. Don't allow the garlic to take on much colour.
  2. Add tomato paste, sugar and prawn. Toss to coat the prawns.
  3. Then add fish sauce, black pepper, water and diced tomato.
  4. Increase the heat and cook the prawns. When the prawns are cooked, remove them from the sauce. Check the sauce for seasoning and chilli/pepper heat and adjust before reducing to the desired consistency. We opted for a splash of soy sauce and lemon juice at this point.
  5. To serve, place rice in bowls, top with prawns and sauce and finish with a garnish of fresh coriander.

Vietnamese Shaking Beef

Even though I am ‘at home’ most of the week I don’t have nearly as much time as I’d like for cooking exciting and elaborate dinners. So I am always on the lookout for tasty things that I can get out of the kitchen in reasonable time.

Trawling through my delicious bookmarks I spotted this recipe for Vietnamese Shaking Beef. A quick google indicates that this is an actual Vietnamese dish but I can’t comment on how authentic this recipe is. All I know is that it’s pretty quick, doesn’t require a raft of ingredients and is really tasty.

The recipe comes in three parts: marinade, dipping sauce and the actual stir fry.

The marinade is really simple: for about 500g of rump steak use 1 generous tbsp of oil (use a neutral oil such as peanut), one large clove of garlic, minced, a splash of fish sauce, 1 tsp of sugar and freshly ground black pepper to taste. Fresh black pepper is a big part of this recipe, so grab the peppercorns and the grinder now!

Chop your 500g of steak into chunky bite size cubes and marinate for at least half an hour.

The dipping sauce is equal parts water and lime juice (I used ⅓ of a cup of each), with (again) minced garlic and fresh black pepper and balanced with a touch of salt and sugar.

When you’re ready to cook the steak, heat some oil in a wok, fry off some more minced garlic and add the steak, along with some more black pepper. The ‘shaking’ part of the dish’s name comes in now – as you’re supposed to keep the meat moving in the wok. You want to brown the meat and cook it but ideally you’ll leave it at least medium rare.

Finish the stir frying with a splash of soy sauce and a sprinkling of sugar.

Serve the cubes of beef on lettuce, with sliced tomato and steamed rice on the side. Pour a little of the dipping sauce over the meat and serve the remainder on the side. Whatever you do, don’t skimp on the dipping sauce – the lime juice really makes this dish!

We all rated this dish highly – definitely one we’ll be making again.