Archive for February, 2014

Sydney Long Weekend : Day 2

Our Sydney long weekend already feels like a long time ago and I’m longing to go back to the good ol’days of quiet leafy streets, long indulgent breakfasts and excellent coffees.
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I had already done my research prior to my Sydney trip and decided that Surry Hills was the suburb to go for my brekkie needs. An inner city suburb, it was a short walk from the Central train station.  The streets were very quiet as I was there quite early. I enjoyed the easy walk up the hills.

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I had quite a few cafes listed in my Surry Hills must eat list and decided to go to whichever cafe I chanced upon first. It was perhaps perfect that my first Sydney breakfast experience was at Bills, the ultimate Sydney breakfast institution. Bill Granger is a famous Australian chef (the Jamie Oliver of Australia perhaps) with many restaurants and books under his belt, his signature dishes being his scrambled eggs and ricotta hotcakes.

The cafe itself was lovely, bright and light. Even though I was relatively early, it was already buzzing with a crowd but not to the point where it was too loud. The waitress was just friendly enough and efficiently brought me to the communal table since it was just me.
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This was when I was first discovering my No.1 Ladies Detective books and had brought one with me to Sydney. It was so cozy chuckling through the witty book while sipping on a warm milky latte.

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I was sorely tempted to go for Bills’ famous scrambled eggs which I’m told are the best scrambled eggs ever. But I wasn’t in an eggy mood, so I had the other famous signature dish being the ricotta hotcakes with honeycomb butter and banana ($20). Was it out of this world? To be honest, no. But it was very very nice, even for someone like me that normally wouldn’t order pancakes or hotcakes for breakfast. The ricotta hotcakes were light and fluffy, and tasted lovely drizzled with maple syrup and melted butter. If they were in Perth, I would order them again.

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I enjoyed being at the communal table and people watching. This young athletic chap was seated opposite me and had just dropped in for a bite after his morning run. He devoured his healthy and tasty looking avocado on rye with lime and coriander, had an expresso and was up and running again. It just seemed like such a great place to catch up with friends, chill by yourself, or pop in for a quick bite and consistently good breakfast.

I wanted to bring R back but we never made it, maybe during our next trip.

Bills
359 Crown Street
Surry Hills NSW
2010 Australia

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After a satisfying breakfast, I took a bus to Circular Quay, this time headed for the iconic The Rocks.

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It was the weekend The Rocks’ market! It was a pity that I was already full from breakfast or else I would have sampled some of the goodies being sold at the foodie corner.
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More window shopping for me. Cute owl hats which reminded me of Tristan and his love of Hoot Hoot.
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The Rocks is a tourist precinct with historic buildings and many souvenir and craft shops. I had fun exploring and walking around the markets and shops.

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Leaving The Rocks, I headed back to Circular Quay (just right next door) and visited the Museum of Contemporary Art which entrance had the spectacular view of Darling Harbour. They happened to be showing Yoko Ono’s War is Over exhibition and I went into a theatre to watch a documentary clip of John Lennon and Yoko Ono’s anti Vietnam war efforts.

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After that it was a walk along the busy shopping street of Pitt Street right into the heart of the shopping district in the CBD. By the time I stopped for lunch, it was closer to 2 – 3pm. It was a bit of a hunt for me to get to Oiden but I finally made it. Oiden is a Japanese donburu (rice bowl) restaurant touting, fast, affordable and tasty rice bowls of many varieties and was a much recommended place from my guy mates. Perhaps it was later in the afternoon by the time I had my lunch but my karaage rice bowl while tasty didn’t come piping hot as I’m used to for these delicious fried chicken morsels. But I loved their soft boiled egg effect which can be added to every rice bowl. Slap on oodles of japanese mayo and it’s a match made in heaven. I would go again if I was ever in the neighbourhood and was looking for an affordable, tasty rice bowl on the go.

Oiden Bowl Bar
Shop 12, 537-551 George St
Sydney, NSW 2000

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Back to the hotel for a short rest. R returned from his full day training course and we started planning to head back into Chinatown for dinner. Chinatown at night was even busier than day time and very lively.

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For dinner, we decided to try the Chinatown institution Golden Century restaurant which I suspect is what Billy Lee is to Perth Chinatown. We had the homemade seafood tofu which was a rich creamy tofu with a layer of seafood sauce. While the tofu texture was special and lovely, the whole dish was a bit underseasoned for us and lacking in taste.

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The salt and pepper squid (I read somewhere that everything salt and pepper is good at Golden Century, should have known that that’s a tell tale sign for not so fab Chinese food) which the opposite of the tofu, was very heavily seasoned and very very salty. We both agreed that the best dish of the night was the complimentary soup that was given at the start of the meal, which was a really tasty soup with was laden with yummy ingredients which enhanced the depth of the soup. Why can’t I make chinese soups like that??

The atmosphere, service and interior of Golden Century itself was nice and we had a great window table. But this will probably be our last visit to Golden Century.

Golden Century
393-399 Sussex St,
Sydney NSW 2000

Another great day in Sydney with more lovely days to come.

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The No.1 Ladies’ Detective Agency

Mini blogging again.

I’m really excited because my book order has arrived !
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Besides my love of food, I also love reading especially detective murder stories hence my large Agatha Christie collection which I’m sure I will have a complete set one day.

A good friend at work introduced me to the No.1 Ladies’ Detective Agency which is refreshingly set in Botswana! It’s really charming and delightfully funny. So I’m going to have to ration myself with this latest order because I tend to speed read sometimes.

Almost Friday, can’t wait for the weekend.

iPad blogging

I am trying a new experiment of blogging using my mini iPad to see whether it will make me blog more frequently! Being in front of the computer all day at work, the last thing I want to do at the end of the day is switch on my laptop to blog.

But it’s a lot easier blogging on the mini! Only con is the quality of the pics won’t be great coz they’re taken on the mini, ah well, I can save the nicer pics and longer blogs for the weekend.

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Any guesses what this is? A bit early for my usual mid week baking but Jo and Hc gave me a lift home from work so I reached home early for once!

I’ve been taking a hiatus from tvb drama watching and have been avidly following my kitchen rules and  Winter Olympics! It’s quite odd since I’ve never been keen on winter sports but figure skating is very entertaining! R and I have also been watching aerial skiing. Maybe it’s the awe of watching athletes defy gravity and doing what we could never do.

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It’s another recipe from my favourite trusty baking book, chocolate raspberry brownies. I think it’s not too rich and will go down well at work.

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It’s my boss’s birthday tomorrow, he’s not a sweet tooth so I decided to bake sausage rolls for a savoury treat, the boys should love this, not sure why sausage rolls and meat pies are so popular in Australia, maybe coz they’re served warm? My sausage rolls have apple, pork, fennel and leek filling 🙂

Ooh couple figure skating finals are on, back to the tv…Have a good week all!

Sydney Long Weekend : Day 1 Gumshara Ramen & Rockpool

I’ve just returned from a lovely long weekend in Sydney. It’s been a while since I’ve visited Sydney and it was R’s first visit, I think it’s safe to say that we both enjoyed this trip a lot and are a little in love with the beautiful and fun city.
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Before I bombard this post with Sydney pics, here are some palmiers that I made for our workplace afternoon tea before I left for the long weekend. I used frozen puff pastry and a brown sugar, walnuts and cinnamon filling,  it was a crowd pleaser at work (I work with a hungry bunch).
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Back to Sydney, I loved their extensive city rail network which was easy to navigate. Not that it isn’t easy to navigate in Perth but we don’t have much choice here because our stations in comparison to Sydney’s are sparse and few! Funnily enough, our train line was closed for trackworks during the weekend so for a couple of days I traveled solely by free replacement buses which were well coordinated and frequent.
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R was really there for a professional development course while I tagged along for some foodie/shopping/coffee time. But the course didn’t start till Saturday so we still had the Friday free for some couple exploration time. One of our first stops, the Queen Victoria Building right in town (TownHall train station). QVB is a gorgeous building of history which in recent times has been restored into its original design as a shopping mall.
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In fact, a lot of the shopping malls and lanes in the CBD are housed in picturesque old buildings. I’m glad to see that Perth is starting to embrace it’s heritage buildings as well and places such as The Terrace Hotel, The Trustee etc. are being put into good use and being enjoyed by the public.

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From QVB, we walked into the neighbouring Haymarket suburb where Chinatown (Dixon Street) is located. Chinatown was a lot smaller than I expected but I suspect that satellite Chinatowns have emerged in suburban Sydney and am determined to visit some during my next trip to Sydney.

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By this time it was getting close to noon and we were famished. I didn’t have much time to do foodie research before my Sydney trip, but because R is a big ramen fan, I did google ‘best ramen in Sydney’ and came up with a few must-go ramen stalls with no.1 on the to-do ramen list being Gumshara Ramen of the 120kg pork bones per day tonkatsu ramen fame.
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Ta-dah, the famous tonkatsu ramen with perfect soft boiled egg. The charsiew (bbq pork) slices were very tasty and well done, ramen were of a delightful ‘bite’ texture (not too hard) but it was really the thick, sinfully rich porkbone soup that hit the mark with R. He thought about it every day after this meal and has confirmed that he will visit Gumshara for his ramen hit every time he visits Sydney. In all honesty, the porkiness and heaviness of the soup was too much for me and I could barely manage half a bowl (this is why every girl needs a ‘finisher’), next time I will ask them to dilute the soup for me.

Gumshara
Eating World Harbour Plaza
Shop 209, 25-29 Dixon Street
(enter from Goulburn Street or Factory Street)
Haymarket Chinatown, Sydney

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By the time we staggered out from the food court, R was very very full. I however, still managed to have a few of the popular custard puffs from Emperor’s Garden bakery ($1 for 4). Even thought it was past lunchtime, there was still a short queue for the puffs, on another night when I visited Chinatown, I spied a tremendously long queue for the puffs.
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Are the puffs worth the queue? Not really. They are a great snack mind you, I love anything custard and these puffs were freshly made and still hot with creamy custard filling, I’m just not sure I would queue for so long to eat these puffs which were nice but not amazing.

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Market City in Haymarket.

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The bottom level of the building is the Paddy’s market which is a wide array of stalls selling everything from wigs, souvenirs, bags to clothes. The upper levels is the Market City shopping mall which is very Asian and makes you feel as if you’ve been transported to a local suburb shopping centre in Singapore.

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This young girl got quite a few stares when she started doing pushups (one hand too!) in the middle of the busy city streets. What was she doing?
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It was an Amazing Race challenge! Throughout the day we spotted Amazing Race participants racing around the city doing all sorts of different challenges, in fact, we were roped into one because one of their challenges was to take photos with random groups. Haha, so I might be on tv soon.
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I told R that we had to take a picture of him in front of this bus stop to Birkenhead Point because we spent quite a bit of time trying to find the right bus to get to Birkenhead Point which is a factory outlet quite near the CBD but not easily accessible via the train. The  bus stop is located on Druitt Street (near the Town Hall train station ) and you have to take the 500 series buses to Victoria Rd, Drummoyne, alighting at the first stop after Iron Cove Bridge. Follow the signs to the factory outlet which is a 2 minute walk away.
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Hooray for shopping galore!

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It was a lovely area to shop at with the glittering harbour in near distance. Lots of great brands including my favourite Review, Cue Australian brands.
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Time for dinner! And it was a special one at Rockpool Bar and Grill which I had pre booked a couple of weeks earlier. Rockpool is one of those famous restaurants in Australia that everyone raves about. While some have commented that it’s overrated or not worth the hefty price, it has been very popular since it’s Perth branch opened up in Crowne casino. Many colleagues and friends have raved about the food but I’ve always been a bit skeptical.
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Despite the steaks being Rockpool Bar and Grill’s claim to fame, I was actually most impressed with the wide and lovely range of sides and starters offered by Rockpool. Everything sounded amazing and yummy so it was quite difficult  to choose the steak tartare with chips ($25) as our shared started. But it was a good choice because the steak tartare was very tasty, appetising and well seasoned.

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Friends have prewarned me that Rockpool’s famous steaks come with no condiments but is literally just one lone piece of meat .My Cape Grim grass fed 250 gm fillet ($55) was cooked a perfect medium rare and was definitely one of the better steaks that I’ve ever had. I’m not sure that it was a wow flowers coming out of head moment though.

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R’s 350g grass fed rib eye on the bone ($66) with bearnaise sauce. Also well cooked, R wasn’t too impressed with the cut of the meat and preferred my fillet finding it more tender.

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Our sides of ‘Mac and Cheese’ ($9) which is Rockpool’s decadent version of the simple mac and cheese and was rich and packed with flavour. It was very tasty but again, I’m not sure whether it was worth all the accolades. Probably not something I would order again especially since there are so many other yummy sides to choose from.

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Sauteed mixed mushrooms ($25), such a simple dish but so delightful. We loves this side. The sides were all of a generous portion so I would suggest that small feeders should probably choose just one side to share between two.

We had a nice dinner at Rockpool and it’s definitely worth a visit but probably doesn’t rate as high in terms of wow factor for me. Would I return again, I’m not sure, the other sides all sounded fantastic so I wouldn’t mind going just for the sides. But with so many other restaurants to try in Sydney, I think it will be a long time before I go back.

All in all, a wonderful first day in Sydney.

Rockpool Bar and Grill
66 Hunter St
Sydney NSW 2000
Australia

Chinese New Year in Perth and turning another year older

As one grows older wiser, you tend to appreciate your birthdays even more (because you know it means you are gradually on your way to fossil status). My birthdays over the past few years have been absolutely fabulous but this year’s birthday was extra special because it fell on the first day of Chinese New Year!

Quite a few colleagues asked why I didn’t take the day off, but I really didn’t see the need to. I have to admit that lately I’ve been a bit of a work freak but I oddly enough, do genuinely enjoy my work most of the time so I guess I’m pretty lucky. It helps that I have very sweet workmates who thoroughly spoilt me and I received lots of presents, flowers and birthday wishes. It was all a bit embarrassing but I was very touched.
_DSC2087 (Large)Haven’t cooked meicaikourou (belly pork with pickled mustard) for a while. Clogging the arteries sinful fatty stuff which also makes you feel happy.
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Ok, I haven’t been doing too well with the whole work life/balance thing. I meant to get off work early to go grocery shopping with Jo and cook up a storm for reunion dinner. Instead I left work late and could only whip up a few simple dishes. It was still very nice having dinner together as a small family, I can’t wait till Jan and family arrive, reunion dinners will be so much bigger then, woohoo!

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Jo surprised me with homecooked birthday long life noodles in chicken abalone soup for dinner on my birthday. It was such a nice surprise and a very tasty one to boot. Usually not a fan of long life noodles, I finished every last drop of my bowl because it was 1) very nice 2) cooked by Jo! (T___T).
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Wendy’s parents are in town and invited us over for a Chinese New Year banquet all cooked by Wendy’s mum! Seriously, the whole table was laden with delicious, spicy and traditional Chinese dishes. I don’t think we did any justice to Wendy’s mum’s great cooking but we definitely tried our best.

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My favourite dish cooked by Wendy’s mum, this braised beef dish which was so good that I couldn’t stop eating it. I have to ask them for the recipe.
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The baby approved too.
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It was a fun afternoon of good food and good company. Thank you for being such hospitable hosts and for inviting us Jason and Wendy! It truly felt like Chinese New Year .
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Can’t be Chinese New Year without the traditional pineapple tarts.
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I suspect my nephew is going to be a little foodie when he grows up.
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He was quite upset with me when I didn’t share my pineapple tarts and pointed his finger indignantly at the red box.
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His serious face while sampling a tart.
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I’m going to have so much fun with this boy when he grows up.
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Definitely takes after his da yee who is a huge pineapple tart fan.

Another wonderful birthday surrounded by the best family and friends who as usual make me feel lucky and privileged to have them in my life. A different sort of Chinese New Year, I’m not sure I missed Kuching that much but I did miss my parents and the excitement of getting ready for Chinese New Year. It will be lovely when we’re all together again.


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