The Feeding is Mutual at Dee Den

Image source: Contributed

Georgia Beard unearths Dee Den’s reciprocal networks between local producers and artisans in the creation of attention-grabbing, creative and delicious cuisine.

Below the surface of the earth, symbiotic relationships develop from one tree’s root system to the next. Fungi is the conduit to their connection, allowing forests to feed each other vital nutrients as fungal threads reach through the soil into their roots.

This is the mycorrhizal network, or as it’s more charmingly known, the ‘wood-wide web’ – a perfect metaphor for the interconnectedness between Dee Den and its local producers. It’s a relationship of mutual support, growth, and nourishment.

Dee Den’s culinary approach, established since the restaurant’s opening on a hillside Buderim in early 2022, champions the unique flavours and freshness that come directly from the hands of local producers to the kitchen.

Owners Jeremy Khoo and Mike Meesuwan, who’s also the head chef of the modern Asian restaurant, have always focused on creating an inclusive menu that highlights natural, wholesome ingredients, sourced as sustainably as possible.

Regular diners, particularly those with gluten-free needs, have long appreciated Dee Den’s extensive selection of GF dishes. But there’s more to Dee Den’s menu that deserves the spotlight.

Alongside these offerings, Dee Den also presents a range of unique vegetarian and vegan dishes, catering to diverse dietary preferences and tastes.

While developing some of these recipes, they drew on their Southeast Asian culture’s traditional veggies dishes for inspiration instead of replacing meats with artificial plant substitutes.

This is where the renowned local grower Fable reached out to supply shiitake-based meat from their fungi greenhouses in Palmwoods.

Jeremy was already sold, having previously cooked Fable’s shiitake mushrooms in dishes at home. It was then up to Chef Mike to discover the culinary potential of these meaty mushrooms.

“The Chef and his partner went on a foraging tour with Fable that they had organised to see how they collect and forage for mushrooms, how they process them and what you can do with their products,” Jeremy said.

According to Communications Director Anna Le, Fable sources their shiitake mushrooms from one of the largest growers in China, forming the foundation of their product’s unique twist.

“We elevate the naturally dense, fleshy fibres and inherent umami flavours of shiitake mushrooms through our unique processing technique,” Anna said.

“Our aim is to provide maximum nutritional value and minimal environmental impact, which is why we leverage the nutritious benefits and umami flavours and textures of shiitake mushrooms to create delicious dishes.

“The collaboration between Fable and Dee Den is a natural synergy of what we want to bring to diners – delicious food made from quality ingredients that’s unique and far from boring.”

As Jeremy explained, Dee Den’s Fable Mushroom Skewers are a top-seller, deepening the umami goodness with coconut, turmeric, charred pineapple, fresh herbs, saltbush, roasted rice and truffle mayo!

The menu also boasts a simmering Agadeshi Mapo Tofu, combining spiced Fable mushrooms with Sichuan pepper, spring onion, sesame, chilli, doubanjiang bean paste; the Grilled Fable Mushroom Salad is the perfect palate cooler, featuring baby cos, tomatoes and roasted lemon chickpea; and Fable mushrooms also bolster the meat-free option of the hearty Basil & Betel Leaf Stir-Fry and Pad See Ew!

“You don’t have to be vegan to enjoy these dishes,” Jeremy said, emphasising the universal appeal.

“It’s not just about having something different for people who are vegan – we also don’t want to sacrifice on flavours that meat eaters would actually love.”

When the time came to develop a cocktail list complementing their diet-inclusive dishes, Jeremy and Mike again turned to suppliers fermenting and distilling on Australian soil.

“We wanted to offer classic cocktails – the margarita, the mojito, the espresso martini – but we didn’t want to use boring conventional brands,” Jeremy said.

Sunshine & Sons was an obvious first choice – the stand-out spirit in our cocktail lunch with Dee Den last winter!

“We went to their distillery to have a chat with them, and they were extremely supportive and happy to walk us through, let us sample the products and share what we could do with them,” he said.

Now Sunshine & Sons Vodka is a staple on the drinks menu, mixing with coconut rum and lychee liqueur and juice to create the Lychee Martini or pairing with White Possum coffee liqueur and Industry Beans Cold Brew for the Espresso Martini.

As an artisanal, eco-minded distributor of alcohol, Mind Spirits & Co’s founder Mikael Gillard also connected with Dee Den to supply spirits they source freely and sustainably from Australian farms.

“We’re about using end-of-life products, the waste of grain and fruit farms, to transform into ethanol,” he said. “We need to be transparent on what we use for making liquors and spirits. I think we match with Dee Den based on that full transparency on the provenance of raw goods.”

Dee Den’s Raspberry Gin Sour has become the top-selling cocktail since it showed up on the menu, featuring Mind Spirits’ Knocklofty Tasmanian Raspberry Garden Gin!

“The Autonomy Davo Plum Aperitivo is made from Australia’s native Davidson Plum instead of Aperol for our beautiful Spritz and newly-introduced ‘Dee Den Fig Negroni’ has been a huge hit so far,” Jeremy adds.

“Instead of Cointreau, our OG Margarita uses Autonomy’s Orange Liqueur, made sustainable through a collaboration with Melbourne’s Market Juice where the skins of oranges and blood oranges that would otherwise be thrown out are collected and distilled.”

At every stage of the supply chain, local artisans, producers and chefs support each other in organic, homegrown harvesting for a sense-stirring adventure on the plate.

Dee Den makes a difference when their roots drink from our deeply embedded growers, distillers and distributors – a two-way relationship essential for the creative soul of food that sustains us and the community.

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