The most useless kitchen item that I own

Ed from over at Tomatom has started an interesting thread on the least useful kitchen items that one owns. I tend to veer away from any single-use item – I wrote about this in Cambodia as a rare victory over acquisitiveness. Buying kitchen gear does not make you a better cook. Spend your hard-earned cash on better ingredients and travel.

Having been reunited with my lifetime collection of kitchen-related paraphernalia that had been in storage after returning from Cambodia, I realised that in the packing process, all of the useless items had already been discarded. I was a little horrified that I wasn’t horrified at the amount of crap that I own. That is except for one item that for some reason I can’t bear to throw away

tortilla press

This is the most useless kitchen device I own. It’s a Mexican tortilla press (tortilladora in Spanish), cast from iron. It weighs enough to be used to anchor a respectable dinghy. I’d like to spin a tale about how I picked it up from a little tortilleria in San Jose del Cabo on the Baja peninsula and carried it lovingly back to Australia but that would be a bald-faced lie.

Like much of my kitchen gear, I found it at the Savers thrift store on Sydney Road in Brunswick, Melbourne and was lucky enough to be one of the few people who knew what the hell it was. I think that I’ve used it less than ten times, simply because I rarely need to make more than about six tortillas in a single hit and by the time I get started rolling them flat with a rolling pin, I’ve forgotten that I own the damn thing.

Where to buy a tortilla press in Australia

If you’re not in a hurry and can wait for postage, tortilla presses are ~$15 on Amazon.

Otherwise, if you’re in looking for a tortilla press in Melbourne, La Tortilleria at 72 Stubbs St, Kensington has them for sale.

French Fry Coated Hot Dog On a Stick: The Recipe

I shouldn’t be left unattended in the kitchen.

French fry coated hotdog

One thing that struck me about finding the French fry coated hot dog on a stick in South Korea was that they were doing it wrong, the sort of cultural misunderstanding that happens when one culture cooks the food of an unrelated and unattached culture and then impales said food on a wooden stick.

Firstly, the hot dog on a stick wasn’t coated in real American fries but chunks of potato and secondly, the hot dog batter was wheat flour rather than a more American corn dog batter. If Americans had have first cooked this one handed food, it would probably be a very different but equally deadly beast. So I set about cooking myself an American-style French fry coated hotdog.

I cooked the French fries from scratch which is entirely un-American: feel free to use the frozen variety.


One hotdog
One large russet burbank potato
Plenty of oil for deep frying

For the batter:

100gms of plain flour
75gms of cornmeal
1 egg
2 teaspoons of sugar
half a cup of milk


Russet Burbank Potato

Find yourself a russet burbank potato, about the length of a hotdog.


Peel the potato then slice into french fries in a mandolin slicer (or do it by hand). Set aside.

Corndog batter

Mix together the dry batter ingredients, add the egg and the milk. Mix to a thick paste, adding more milk if it is too dry: you’re aiming at the batter being thick and sticky rather than runny like a real corn dog batter, slightly more viscous than a dough. Set aside.


Fry the french fries in oil until golden. Remove from the oil onto a paper towel.

French fry coated hotdog

Coat the hotdog in the batter, then glue the french fries to the dog as best you can. Drop this monstrosity back into the boiling oil and fry until the french fries begin to brown.

French fry coated hotdog
Le Pogo et frites

Remove from the oil and poke a stick into it. Call your cardiologist to make preliminary enquiries about heart surgery. Enjoy.

And then with the leftovers, I cooked French fry coated bacon.

French Fry Coated Bacon on a Stick

When Brillat-Savarin said that “the discovery of a new dish confers more happiness on humanity than the discovery of a new star” he perhaps hadn’t spent much of his time near the deep fryer. This dish confers on humanity nothing but moral decline.

I present to you french fry coated bacon on a stick. Originally I was planning on making a French fry coated, bacon-wrapped hot dog, but thought that the inclusion of the hotdog was largely pointless. Why not just head straight for the bacon?

French fry coated bacon, on a stick


French fry coated bacon on a stick

Back: French fries attached to the bacon with thick corndog batter. No food styling tricks, apart from using a fondue fork instead of an actual stick. I didn’t have a suitable wooden skewer on hand.

French fry coated bacon on a stick

Tasted. I feel ill and so very, very dirty.

If you’re keen to replicate, do so at your own risk. Follow the french fry coated hot dog recipe, omit the hot dog and substitute with a thick slice of homemade bacon

Travel Writing 101: Date the embassy “chick”

Welcome to hell, Lonely Planet.

“They didn’t pay me enough to go (to) Columbia (sic),”

“I wrote the book in San Francisco. I got the information from a chick I was dating – an intern in the Colombian Consulate.

“They don’t pay enough for what they expect the authors to do.”

Thomas Kohnstamm, erstwhile author of Lonely Planet’s Brazil, Chile, Argentina and Colombia guidebooks (amongst others, above) has admitted to conducting his primary research via pillow talk rather than by visiting one of the countries in question, possibly providing the most spectacular way to demolish your travel writing career in one fell swoop.

I doubt that fraudulent guidebooks are a widespread trend at Lonely Planet, at least outside of the entirety of their South America catalogue. Surely there are some editors there that check the writer’s receipts.

It does however point out that unless you’re living in the Third World country that you’re writing about for them, it isn’t economically viable for many writers to just write Lonely Planet guidebooks. Even if you are doing subsidiary work for Tony and Maureen (e.g. providing content for the LP website; shooting photos) it is not likely that you’ll be able to make a First World living wage.

From: Author’s off the Planet.

Support local (Khmer) hip hop

bboy invite

Stuart Isett has followed up his superlative photographic work on Khmer street gangs with shots of Cambodian b-boy collective Tiny Toones, and this time there’s some fundraising going on. The parallel with the plot to Breakin’ 2: Electric Boogaloo is too uncanny for me to not make a mention of this event.

If you’re in the Seattle area:

Tiny Toones: B Boy Benefit for Cambodia
April 26th 2008, 6pm ’til late
At the Greenwood Collective
8537 Greenwood Ave. NW Seattle WA

Featuring the work of: World b-boy champions Massive Monkees, Seattle photographer Charles Peterson, immigration activist Many Uch & photographer Stuart Isett.

$5 donation at the door/Photographs for sale/All proceeds benefit The Tiny Toones.

More info and online donation at The Greenwood Collective; Stuart Isett’s shots of Khmer b-boying on Flickr


Bangkok’s Lebua hotel, which is organizing the dinner, is no stranger to publicity – or to Michelin-starred chefs. Last year, it put on a decadent feast billed as the meal of a lifetime for $25,000 a head. Six three-star Michelin chefs were flown in from Europe to cook the 10-course meal, each plate paired with a rare vintage wine.

On April 5, the Lebua is offering another 10-course spread, this time for free. The hotel has invited 50 of its biggest-spending customers to the dinner prepared – it hopes – by three top-ranked Michelin-starred chefs.

There is one twist. Before dinner, guests will be jetted to a poor village in northern Thailand to spend the afternoon soaking up the sights of poverty. The dinner and full-day excursion will cost the hotel $300,000.

Too bad that they’re not going to Cambodia because at least then I could recommend them a village that would be poor enough to make them lose any vestiges of their appetite. It’s going to be interesting to see which 3-star chefs can be bought for (reportedly) $8000 for a few hours work. From IHT’s Luxury Bangkok hotel combines lavish meal with ‘poverty tour’.