Singapore-born MasterChef finalist shares the hidden gems and must-do activities in Sydney

Singapore-born MasterChef finalist shares the hidden gems and must-do activities in Sydney
MasterChef Australia finalist and MasterChef Asia judge Audra Morrice
PHOTO: Qantas

She might have made Sydney her home for the past 18 years, but Audra Morrice is still a Singaporean at heart.

The MasterChef Asia judge and MasterChef Australia finalist always has a jar of homemade 'sambal' and peanut sauce stored at home.

Sounding very much like a foodie (she has her own cooking series on SBS Food Network in Australia), she tells AsiaOne in a sit-down interview that she could go on and on about where to eat in Sydney.

Without missing a beat, she does the same when she gushes about Singaporean dishes. 

It's safe to say that Morrice, 47, is every bit a Sydneyporean.

The Singapore Tourism Board ambassador is currently in town for the launch of "Meet the Sydneyporeans", a mini series done in collaboration between Australian airline Qantas and tourism agency Destination New South Wales.

The series features Singaporeans living in Sydney and beyond.

Thanks to her Chinese-Indian heritage as well as being well-versed in all things gastronomic, Morrice's palate is wide-ranging, to say the least.

She reeled off a good number of must-visit cafes and restaurants in Sydney, making it rather challenging for this writer to keep up.

Nevertheless, Morrice lets us in on what she believes are the food and activities that can't be missed while in Sydney.

Hidden food gems

"Those who are constantly on diets won't want to be friends with me," the celebrity chef joked.

She recommends Singaporeans to "go all out and see what Sydney has to offer" while they're in town.

Some of the restaurants that Morrice said she visits "over and over again" include Spice Temple and Billy Kwong.

On a more casual side of things, she goes to Bourke Street bakery for pies, ginger brûlee tart and sourdough breads.

Another place that that she enjoys is El Loco, which serves tacos with an Asian influence throughout.

As for comfort food, she goes straight for Thai cuisine.

"There's a restaurant on Campbell Street that sells the best salted mackerel fried rice, it reminds me a lot of home and what my mum used to cook."

But for those who can't live without their chicken rice and laksa, there's no go-to place in Sydney for Singaporean food in Morrice's books. And why should there be, when she's perfectly capable of creating them herself at home.

Cook at home if you miss Singapore food

Morrice also shared that friends and family turn to her when they want to have some beef rendang and laksa.

She recommends making your own paste at home in bigger batches so that you can freeze them in portions for easy cooking later on.

"I would say go the distance with laksa. You can use the same paste for laksa and nonya chicken curry," Morrice shared.

"If I want to eat something that's really Singaporean, I whip up dishes like beef rendang, sayur lodeh, laksa - my kids love it."

Her tip for Singaporeans living abroad who want to cook something quick and easy is to just whip up a bowl of fried rice as there are countless of versions available out there.

Her childhood in Singapore

Food has always been a huge part of Morrice's life.

She tells us that her greatest culinary inspiration and influence is her mother.

Growing up in Singapore, she said she was her mother's "sous chef" and was allowed to watch her cook. She started off making 'baos' (steamed buns) with her mother back in primary school.

All that hard work paid off.

"Now I can do 'guo tie' or potstickers effortlessly," Morrice said.

She shared an important tip on how to eat potstickers: Don't just dip them in the vinegar sauce, open the dumpling up through the middle and pour the sauce in to make sure you really get to taste as much as you can.

Some of her fondest memories include visiting the wet market with her mum and having kway chap while she shops.

She admitted to always being given the largest bowl of soup at family dinners - all because of her huge love for soups.

Her favourite? Kiam chye or preserved mustard greens with pork bones.

If you're planning a trip to Sydney and will be renting an apartment, take Morrice's word and go get fresh produce to cook up some of your own food.

"We've got some of the best produce in the world, it's unreal," Morrice said.

"Depending on what time of the year you come, there'll be different things in seasons and I'd say that's the best thing about Sydney."

ssandrea@sph.com.sg


WHAT ELSE TO DO IN SYDNEY?

Morrice gives some tips on what else there is to do in the city and on the outskirts.

Venture into the suburbs

There's so much more than just the city, Morrice said.

Besides having good food, she says visitors should pay a trip to Palm Beach, which is an hour outside of the city, to partake in outdoor activities such as walking trails.

As for restaurants, head over to The Boathouse in Palm Beach for burgers and fries as well as hearty salads.

Also try going on a road trip to Bowral, which is a quaint little town about three to four hours away from the centre.

"My favourite place is Dirty Jane's, it's a little shed that sells vintage, pre-loved items," Morrice said.

"I met this lady who was a former Vogue editor many years ago and she has a shop that sells all the stuff her models have used. Amazing things!"

She added: "I've picked up silver cutlery from here too. You can buy nice crockery your grandma used to use in the 70's as well."

Start your morning at a farmers market

She also enjoys getting her organic produce at various spots such as Rose Bay Farmers Market (she goes on Tuesdays), Carriageworks Farmers Market as well as Farmer's Produce Market at The Entertainment Quarter in Moore Park.

Running a catering business in Sydney means Morrice visits these markets on a regular basis.

She cites Brooklyn Boy Bagels, which has outlets at various farmers markets all over Sydney, as her go-to spot for authentic New York-style bagels.

Flemington Markets is another favourite of Morrice's.

"(If I were a visitor to Sydney), I would get out to the suburbs - there are lots of organic food markets that happen every day of the week and it's very local," Morrice shared.

Go on walking trails

"We have a very outdoorsy culture in Sydney," Morrice said. "Try the coastal walk from Bondi to Bronte beaches - there are amazing cafes at both ends. You can do this walk all year round."

In fact, the mother of two boys is still uncovering "so much" in Sydney.

"A couple of months back, I went to The Lighthouse in Palm Beach, that's an hour outside of Sydney. You can walk all the way down to the coast and back up to the beach.

"It's very casual with great food and the walks are great. There's quite a steep incline but you also feel you're truly outside the city - the landscape is breathtaking."

There's also paddleboarding to try in the summer, but it's better to go early before the wind picks up.

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