Archive for July, 2010

What it means to me

I have a long day at training tomorrow and should have an early night, but I have been lying awake for the past hour, just thinking, thinking and thinking….

I’ve decided to take the plunge and set up a stall at a Rotary club international food fair held at the end of August. It’s sort of a trial run before the food fairs at the universities in October, which is a bit ironic since the Rotary food fair will be held on a much bigger scale with clowns, pony rides, showbags at all. So far 60 stalls have already signed up but they are looking for Malaysian and Indian food stalls. *Cue the drumroll*  Daitaoha makes her entrance.

So Richard, Gerry and I have been bantering around ideas for the Malaysian themed food stall all night. What should we sell? Should we go mainstream or authentic? The boys were all for the idea of going mainstream and keeping with the Western palate of mee goreng, and nasi goreng, and chicken curry. But I wanted so much more. I was thinking ‘Malaysian chicken cooked 3 ways’ ayam masak merah, ayam pong teh and kari ayam, I wanted to introduce nyonya style cooking, traditional Malay cooking, I didn’t want to be sweet and sour chicken with fried rice, if you know what I mean.

But I knew it wouldn’t work and no one would appreciate it except perhaps for deprived Malaysian students hankering for hometown food. Gerry and Richard said that all the dishes would look the same, just curry and lots of chicken in various shades of orange. I knew they were right but I was devastated.

I don’t know why I am taking this so seriously and I think the guys are secretly perplexed and slightly amused. But it is serious for me. I know, it’s just food and anyone who talks to me probably thinks ‘this girl is just food crazy, it’s just food, it gives you energy and keeps you warm for goodness sake’. But it’s so much more to me. I don’t think I could sell food that I think is just average and below par. I can hardly cook a bowl of instant noodles without thinking that I should add something extra to it or garnish it with some chopped spring onions or coriander.

How do I explain it to people who think I’m crazy? It’s not just about going to 3 star michelin restaurants and marveling at the genius of Gordon Ramsay (even though that’s pretty great), food evokes emotions, memories and wonder for me. There is so much pleasure in trying new recipes and discovering that they’re really tasty, or when your cake comes out from the oven and it’s fluffy and fragrant. Or when your honeycomb cake has the right holes. Or when your friends are really pleased that even though it’s not 100% similar, you can still eat a bowl of Sarawak laksa in faraway Perth.

When my brother arrived home in Kuching after his long plane ride (2 days?) from US, we expected him to want to shower, or rest, or sleep. But he drove the whole family out to this place which he says ‘has the best curry rice’ and honestly, the curry rice was just average. But for him, it was so good, because the curry rice place is near his high school and he used to go there all the time with his schoolmates after school for a plate of the ‘best curry rice’. And after spending a whole year abroad, that’s what he wanted to go home to.

I feel the same way about a lot of Malaysian food and about my mother’s cooking. It’s more than just food to me.

Does anyone get this? Or am I just really and truly food crazy and just plain greedy?

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Hom’s 3 day tour of Perth

Gerry’s good friend and fellow hometown-er Hom flew in from Brisbane for a whirlwind visit to Perth. He stayed at our place over the weekend and we thoroughly enjoyed his lovely company. What happens when you drop in for a short weekend?

bbq

A bbq party is called at very short notice, thanks to Wendy and Jason for being great hosts and Calv for being the main chef of the night (^__^).

hom visits

Richard gets to show off his kungfu moves on Wii. Notice Xinchen laughing in the corner? His poor opponent was Ah Tim who didn’t know what hit him.

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Group photo, notice Fabie the poodle  between Jason and Wendy? The cute puppy is Wendy’s new baby.

freo hom

We woke up early enough to make it to Freo. It was a beautiful day, clear skies and sunny. I like all these pictures, Hom and Gerry look so happy and truly, we did have a great time.

milkshake

No weekend is complete without coffee, or iced mochas for the boys.

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We didn’t stop there, no Freo trip is complete without fish and chips, this time we skipped the famous (but in my opinion not so great) Cicerello’s and had Kailis Brother fish and chips instead.

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We stopped by the beautiful Cottlesloe beach for some picture taking. This is Hom’s favourite pose, it was such a sunny day that he had to shade his eyes for lots of photos.

cottlesloe

We joked that our eyes were too small, so the guys tried to pry their eyes open with their fingers, don’t think it helped much (^__^).

kings park

I don’t know how we managed to squeeze in King’s Park but we did, it’s a must go in any Perth visit to admire Perth’s city skyline and the river views.

frog

We found a cute green frog lying amongst the grass in King’s Park. It seemed to be enjoying the late evening sun.

frog1

Gerry says except for planes in the sky and vehicles on the roads, China men eat anything with two legs in the sky and four legs on the ground. So he ate the frog (T____T).

roast chicken

After a long day, we were all tired and not keen to head out again for dinner. Instead we roasted chickens and vegetables in the oven and  tossed up a prawn, crab and avocado salad. It was nice and simple, I predict lots of roast dinners in the future.

the garden

Last night in Perth was dinner at The Garden, the fairly new pub in Leederville which Gerry has been pestering us to go to for the longest time. It was very quiet because it was a Monday night but the pub was gorgeous and the menu was interesting. You would think that after a day in Swan Valley the boys would be sick of wine but no, we had a bottle of red which was quite lovely.

the garden1

See how happy Gerry is that we went to The Garden? It was such a fun dinner with lots of laughter and silly conversation, sigh, I hope Hom comes back to Perth sometime soon.

pizza

A hop and skip away to the famous Little Caesar’s pizzeria for the Sam Caramello dessert pizza with bananas,caramel sauce and macadamias. Then it was time to go home and bid Hom goodbye. I want to visit Gerry and Hom’s hometown in Guangzhou now, I reckon it would be very very fun.

prawns

Back to dreary and boring homecooked dinners but at least my cooking mojo is back! This week’s theme is called ‘using up the leftover ingredients from the barbeque’. This was stir fried sweet chilli prawns on an omelette.

eggplant
My first attempt at Terung Balado (Indonesian spicy eggplant dish with belacan) which we always eat at Manise, not quite the same but tasty all the same. And I finally used the belacan that I brought all the way back from Kuching! My whole house smells of belacan(shrimp paste) now, but I like it.

Ok, hopefully the rest of the week flies by and it’s the weekend again.

Masterchef NOT

Lately friends and colleagues have been urging me to join Masterchef which I usually laugh off.

Do not let the pictures on this blog fool you into thinking I’m anything more than an amateur when it comes to cooking.

I fail frequently and just today, failed everything that I tried to cook. My smoked salmon pasta was watery and sour, urrgh, I don’t know how rabbit and Gerry managed to wolf it down, sheer support or fear me thinks.

Then my taofufa was powdery and just not right.

Sad (T___T). I don’t think I’ll be joining Masterchef anytime soon.

MYOB : Make your own burger

I’ve been off sick and staying at home for the past two days. While it is nice sleeping in, I’m sick of the body aches and the sniffling and can’t wait to get well again. But I can’t say excited about going back to work (T___T).

hongkong kueh

Being at home means I have lots of time on my hands, I should be resting but ended up baking instead. My first attempt at Hongkong Kueh a.k.a. Beehive Cake.

hongkongkueh2

The cake turned out pretty good, holey enough and chewy texture, I only wish it was more brown. One of the best things about having a mum that is a great cook, she always has plenty of good recipes and tips to share with me (^___^). All my cake recipes are recommended and tried tested by my mum.

wanton

Gerry has been talking about eating dumplings for ages, so finally I made some pork and cabbage wantons for dinner.

wonton2

We had the wantons with simple chicken soup.

butter chicken

Calv came over for dinner to help me with my computer problems, the Laptop God fixed my laptop for me and was rewarded with two slices of cake and icecream. We had butter chicken for dinner, a new recipe with evaporated milk, curry leaves, garlic and chilli, it’s very rich and needs to be eaten immediately before the sauce thickens up.

burger

Lately we’ve been having MYOB sessions, it’s fun making your own burgers with fresh salads and thin tomato slices. Ok, back to the bed now, bye!

Day 4 in Osaka: A lot of crab @ Kani Doraku, sakura viewing @ Osaka Mint & kuro, kuro, kuro …

[WARNING: Photos overload, 40++ ahead]

Day 4 was all about resting our feet and relaxing after our long walk in Kyoto the day before. We skipped breakfast because we knew that we were in for a lovely treat, an early lunch at the famous Kani Doraku crab restaurant!

big crab

Remember the  moving crab landmark that I mentioned in my first post? That’s the billboard of Kani Doraku, definitely the most famous crab restaurant in Osaka and Japan. My dear father decided that he would treat us to lunch at this iconic restaurant despite our protests (ok, very weak protests) at the extravagance and expensive prices.

Kani Doraku is all about crab, once we entered the lobby of the restaurant, we were greeted with a giant crab in an aquarium. There are several floors to the restaurant, we took the lift up to the third floor, the interior of the restaurant was posh and elegant. My parents and Jo ordered some of their set meals while Jan and I opted for the chirashi sushi (Andy didn’t get to come because he was still feeling poorly).

crab

Crab sashimi, we had special crab utensils to dig out the sweet, cold meat, and had pots to throw our shells into.

crab croquette

Crab croquette, I think Jan and I specially ordered this because we really like crab cream croquettes, these ones were  nice. Sigh, I miss croquettes. Look how pretty the plate is. Kani Doraku has really nice and pretty plateware.

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Crab chawanmushi which was light and again, very pretty. It didn’t feel like the traditional chawan mushi with a lot of egg though.

crab sushi

Crab sushi, this one was ok, quite average.
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Crab salad, I remember liking this salad a lot so I finished most of it. I must learn how to make the citrus ginger Japanese dressing that are always evident in Japanese salads.

crab tempura

Crab tempura, I don’t think I ate this so can’t comment. We had some wonderful tempura in Japan, the best being a Tempura set that we had on Day 5.

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Can you guess what’s in this cute crab hotplate?

crab gratin

Crab gratin with lots of baked cheese and I think rice underneath. My father liked this one because he likes baked cheese dishes, very moreish.

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Time for dessert! Green tea icecream which was really vanilla icecream with green tea syrup.

crab chirashi

I thought the most tasty dish of our meal was actually my chirashi crab, there was lots of crab meat so it was a very generous portion, and mixed with sushi rice and all the only yummy condiments

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The lovely waitress who served us throughout the entire meal, she was very nice,sweet and gentle. It was an exquisite meal, very delicate, very elegant but Jan commented that she preferred really digging and getting into her crab like when we eat at seafood places in Kuching, this was a much more refined way of eating crab.

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After the lunch we were all in high spirits and Andy was a lot better. So we set out for the highlight of the day, the sakura viewing festival at the Osaka Mint! It was a bit of a walk from the train station and we weren’t sure that we were heading in the right direction. But all we had to do was to stop a passerby, say ‘sakura?’ and wait for the look of comprehension to appear on his face ‘ahhhh…. sakura…’. So we didn’t get lost and crossed a bridge to be greeted with this scene, a street line with sakura trees.

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We decided to skip the festival with all the stalls first and head directly to the sakura trees viewing section, a smart decision because it soon became really really crowded. I never knew there were so many variety of sakuras, different shades of pink, white, purple and even green. It was so beautiful, we were all so enchanted and delighted that we didn’t know where to start, it was picture taking galore.

sakura

Everytime we saw one beautiful cherry blossom laden tree, we would insist ‘must take with this tree!’ then there would be another one right next with it and we would say ‘this one is so beautiful, must take with this tree!’

sakura2

The sakuras at the Himeiji castle were beautiful and majestic especially with the castle surroundings, but this place was different in the sense that it wasn’t about the castle, it was just purely sakuras everywhere which beautiful round clusters of sakuras in every shade and color.

trees

The streets were lined with  resplendent blooming sakura trees. As the sky grew darker, more and more of the viewing crowd came, all armed with cameras and very excited and happy. We decided it was time to go  and headed to the stalls.

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I was very excited about attending the festival because I had seen many of these lovely events featured in my Chibimaruko chan episodes.

osaka mint

It was so fun to recognise all the stalls and activities featured in the cartoon, I felt really fortunate that we happened to be in Japan at the right time and were able to partake in these traditional events and festivities.

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First we had some oden, the aunty manning the oden stall even did a V sign for me, hehe, very cute.

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We chose daikon, tiger fish cakes, bamboo shoots all stewed in a light soy based broth, it was lovely and very tasty.

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Goldfish catching! The key is to catch as many goldfish as you can with these paper nets until your paper circle net breaks of course.

fish1

It was fun and quite easy too, we returned all the goldfish to the owner in the end.

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I was so happy to spot this candy stall, in Chibimarukochan’s cartoon, she begs her father to buy her this candy which is shaped into the shape of animals and flowers etc. by an expert candy maker.

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A Japanese girl takoyaki stall owner for my boy readers.

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Her takoyaki was alright but nothing to shout about especially since we were in takoyaki capital.

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A different style of okonomiyaki with eggs on top, they were so eye catching that we couldn’t help buying one. With a huge dollop of mayo and okonomiyaki sauce and piping hot, it was yummy.

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Grumpy looking uncle with grilled fish, I should have tried some of these fish, they look so interesting.

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Taiyaki, fish shaped cakes with various fillings such as red bean and custard. I think the guys gave us the wrong filling cake and it was ok.

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It was the bamboo season, my grilled bamboo was juicy and crunchy, very nice indeed.

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It was getting dark and time to go home. What a wonderful festival and gorgeous experience, it was one my favourite parts of the Japan trip.

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On our way back to the hotel, we stopped by the ramen shop really near to our hotel. We had been passing by the ramen shop everyday and listening to their advertisement jingle for their black pork belly bun song ‘ kuro kuro kuro …’ it kinda became our jingle for our Osaka leg and always brings back warm and happy memories for me.

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The pork belly bun which was ok, but we had to have one after all the kuro kuro singing.

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The ramen at the shop was not great, but I know they did have nice eggs.

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My father was pleased though, he always likes it when we have ramen for a meal.

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Back to the hotel, doesn’t it look grand and majestic? It’s not really, hehe. End of Day 4, it took me ages to write this just because there were so many photos, I hope you enjoyed this day because it was definitely one of the most enjoyable day for us in Japan.

Reach for the sky

I wish someone would tell me that I should never settle for mediocre. Most of the time we don’t do the things we should do because we’re afraid to lose what we currently have, because we don’t want to risk uncertainty and we don’t want to be alone.

If only I could be content with what I currently have. If only I could stop the what-ifs, the buts and maybes. I can’t decide whether I’m being safe and conventional, or I’m just a weakling and a coward. I suspect it’s the latter.

I am taking mini risks and making minor changes in my life. To throw it all up in the air feels too big for me and I’m afraid I’ll crash with no one to catch me on the way down Most of all I want to feel satisfied, knowing that I have done all that I could have done, that I have achieved all that I could achieve within my capabilities.

I still want to fly and dream of better days. My feet are firmly set on the ground, but my head and heart have always been in the clouds. Where do I go from here?

Orange chiffon cake

I really wanted to put up a Japan post, but as my next post has about 40+ photos, let’s just say it’s a work-in-progress, but I promise, sometime soon. In the meantime, more cooking pics ahead …

spaghetti

Spaghetti carbonara for our Sunday dinner, a request from the new housemate, both the boys like creamy, rich and cheesy sauces, I myself prefer tomato and herb laden sauces. Still not perfecting the carbonara yet, but I’ll get there.

ayam masak merah

But at least I’m getting the hang of Ayam Masak Merah, possibly one of my favourite Malay curries and a must-have at our house during Chinese New Year. We usually order it in but maybe I’ll be able to cook it for guests during CNY next year?

hotcakes

I like making desserts nowadays, leftover Mcdonalds hotcakes (courtesy of Gerry) with vanilla icecream and blueberries drizzled with honey.

chiffon

My first attempt at baking orange chiffon cake, I’ve been wanting to bake this for ages (ask my mum, I’ve asked her for the recipe years ago and keep asking her for tips but never actually baked the cake) and I finally did! It turned out pretty good but not perfect because the top wasn’t browned enough before I took it out of the oven. But texture wise, it was soft and fluffy so I’m pleased. Pandan chiffon next!

Sigh, is it Friday yet?


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