Tag Archives: Food

Curry Night

It has been a long time since I last put up a post. Life in Melbourne is very different from Hobart. It is busier. There are more things to do. There are more social activities, entertainments and exhibitions to visit. There are more places to explore in the city – reasons to walk and to soak in the vibe of the city life and watching the street buskers. Gym and pool facility is readily accessible in the apartment building. There are more choices to eat out and less desire to cook at home. All these translate to one thing – where do I find time to blog. The answer is very little and very hard. It is easier to Instagram what I see – a single click of my iPhone 6 camera will instantly allow me to share what I see in front of me in my Facebook and Twitter, and also share with my Instagram’s followers.

Blogging requires time and commitment. Time that I don’t have as much as I would like since living in Melbourne. It has to be something meaningful and worthwhile if I am going to put up another post. And, this is one of them. Hopefully you will find this post worth spending your time to read as I find it worth spending my time to write and share with you.

Two weeks ago I was window shopping at Myers in Melbourne CBD. I was wondering how I should spend my shopping voucher. Should I spend it on clothing or homeware or kitchenware? Neither one of them I thought. Maybe I should browse the books section and see if I can buy a fiction novel to read. But, who would have guessed that I would end up with a new cooking book!

I am one of those that will buy a cooking book and keep in the shelf and never use it. I do not have the discipline to follow the recipe. It is never accurate. I prefer to experiment my own food and my cooking style is unconventional. It is try this and that..a bit more of this and a bit less of that.  It depends on what I can find in my fridge and my cupboards. I rarely write down on a piece of paper to do my grocery. It is always go with my instinct and what is available at the time at an affordable price. Then, I decide what to cook for the day. I will only do this if I am not cooking for a group of friends because it will either work or not work. Some time, my partner of 21 years will be so disgusted that he will refuse to eat my food and prefer to make a toast for his dinner. Like last night!

So, today I have decided I will make something different to gain his trust in my food again…that I can still cook.

Back to Myers, I seldom browse the recipe book section. There are too many recipe books out there. And, probably only a handful of them are really worth buying. An experienced cook can tell by reading the recipe if it will work or not. This particular one caught my eye. It has a beautiful cover and very catchy title “Curry” with 2 bright red chillies. I wasn’t going to fall into the trap of buying it for the sake of using up my voucher.  But, when I flipped through some of the pages and started reading the recipes, I was drawn to the recipe sensing the aromatic flavour and taste of the curry. I flipped through few more pages and I was convinced that it is worth buying. After all, it doesn’t cost me anything with the voucher.
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This is an experiment..experimenting the recipes from my Curry Book. This book was originally published in 2006 in Great Britain by Dorling Kindersley Limited. This version that I have bought is a revised edition published this year in 2015.

I have chose 3 dishes for tonight’s dinner. I cannot reproduce any part of the book as it has a copyright.

  1. Mutter Pulao. Recipe on Page 63
  2. Kerala Lamb. Recipe on Page 115
  3. Rasa Kayi. Recipe on Page 124

I have to admit. All 3 dishes turned out very well and they were delicious. As a typical me, I didn’t follow the recipe to the precise measurements. I have adjusted some to my liking and to my taste. I used chicken instead of lamb for the “kerala dish”. Otherwise, all the ingredients were there in all 3 dishes.
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Mutter Pulao is a delicious fragrant and spiced rice.
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Kerala Chicken is a dry curry dish. It is the most complex dish among the 3 and requires the most time to prepare. It involves dry roasting the spices and blending into a spice paste. It takes time to simmer down and reduce the curry until it is almost dried before ready to eat. I have modify this dish a bit by adding more fresh ginger slices and fresh curry leaves at the end. Sprinkle a bit more sea salt and brown sugar to taste. It is a lovely dish. I will try using lamb next time as called in the recipe book.
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Rasay Kayi is probably my least favourite among the three. Probably I haven’t done it correctly. I have followed the recipe but I suspected I should have gone with my own instinct to modify the recipe a bit to suit my taste. Don’t get me wrong. It is still tasty. But the recipe was a bit ambiguous to follow.
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The verdict. My other half love tonight’s dinner.
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He actually said,

“Thanks for a lovely dinner”
“It’s a restaurant quality food”.

I even made my own mango lassi to round up my curry night dinner. Nice, thick and creamy with frozen mangoes, yoghurt, milk and honey.
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If there is one recipe book that I will recommend. This is it.

And, if you love curry like I do. Don’t hesitate. Go and buy yourself this recipe book. It is worth spending the money.

Next time, I will try the other recipes in the book and if the weather is as cold, wet and miserable as today, I will confine myself in my small kitchen, cook and give you my verdict on the recipes.

All photos were taken using my iPhone 6.

Tok Tok ala Talk Talk

That is the name of the place. A catchy phrase, pop culture or just hip and trendy…probably all in one. It is an unassuming place in a standard block building in a suburb surrounded by other shop lots of food eating places in a residential neighbourhood in the southeast of Penang island. This trendy, rustic and arty place with a wine bar that looks something like a western movie set “saloon bar” would be more suited for the old part of George Town in the city amongst the boutique hotels, galleries and cafes.P1160325P1160305
The place started off as “Tok Tok”, a small single shop lot café of fusion style food with a Thai-Chinese crossed Nyonya local Penang fare. It was last year when I first stumbled upon this place with my partner, my mum and sister. We frequented that area for the food at a Chinese restaurant, “Wang Chao“. But it was shut and we decided to try “Tok Tok” which was a couple of shop lots from Wang Chao. I had good memory of the place, the food and the service.

This morning I caught up with my mum and sis for an early breakfast. After a local Penang all time street favourite, “Char Koay Teow”, I went for a walk around mum’s local wet market. It was a small market but each individual stalls was a delight to look at from fresh poultry to fishmongers, fresh flowers, vegetables and herbs, fruits, wet and dried spices, fresh grated coconuts, cream, milk, organic food, snacks, biscuits, Taoism religious and prayer matters. I was tempted to buy a few things. In my mind – fresh grated coconuts, coconut milk, ready mixed wet chilli and curry pastes, fresh turmeric, fresh tofu…the list goes on. But wait! I can’t take them home to Australia. I opted for something less to satisfy my urge – a packet of organic red rice and “sugar cane” sugar. I was thinking of the organic cold pressed coconut oil, but remembered that I am going home with only a hand carry bag. No check in luggage!

After a whirlwind of wet market, I told mum that I will take her and sis out for dinner tonight. It was her idea that we go back to Tok Tok, because she remembers that I enjoyed the food the last time. For a 78 years old lady, she has a better memory than me!

Tok Tok is the sound of “tok tok mee” or wanton mee. “mee” is “noodle” in the local Penang dialect, Hokkien. A memory flashed back to old Penang. There was a street vendor who pushed his cart in the neighbourhood selling his wanton noodle by making a distinctive “tok tok” noise by banging a pair of bamboo sticks on the surface of his cart. This was to let the people know that he is getting near to their home. I remember hearing this “tok tok” noise and will yell out to mum that the wanton man is here! How easy was that? The food came to your doorstep in the old days. Even a wondering Indian Barber with his high chair wooden stool!

The modern day “Tok Tok” at Bangunan Lip Sin at the Pekaka neighbourhood is nothing like the old “tok tok” days. There is a generous size ala carte menu with some Penang famous street food fare including as you would expect, “Tok Tok Mee”, Nasi Lemak, Siam Laksa, Lor Bak, Sang Mee and others. There is rice dishes which focus mostly on Thai and Nyonya dishes. We ordered dishes to accompany with rice – Loh Bak as entrée, a salted vegetable with tofu soup “Kiam Chai Tau Hu Teng”, deep fried Siam chicken, Pattaya fried rice and mixed vegetables. For drink we ordered a homemade warm beancurd drink.P1160274

After we have ordered, I looked around the place which has now been extended into 2 other shop lots next to each other. The immediate left shop is “Talk Talk” wine bar featuring a live jazz band on a weekend. Next to this is a more relax coffee lounge. All three are interconnected inside. There are opened atrium upper floor seatings. The place is hip, trendy and cool. I would love to come back next time to listen to some live music.P1160278

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The food…they were delicious! The only let down for me was the Loh Bak. It was better the first time I tried it last year. I don’t believed they were freshly made tonight. They were hard and overcooked. Probably been deep fried a few times. They were served on a bed of very old lettuces.P1160304 It was not a good start when it first came on the table. But I was very glad that the rest of the dishes were top notched! They were very good. The highlight was the finger licking good crispy and crunchy chicken and yet moist and tender inside. One of the best deep fried chicken I ever had for a long time.P1160312 Next was the nyonya style “Kiam Chai Tahu Teng” ie the salted preserved vegetable soup with silken tofu. It arrived in a steamy, bubbling hot claypot with heaps of fried garlic on top giving the soup a nice all round flavour. It was salty, sweet and tangy with slivers of fresh ginger in the broth.P1160308. The mixed vegetables and Pattaya fried rice were also very good. I must say I have ordered too much for 3 of us, but like most places they allowed us to take home what we couldn’t finished.P1160319

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P1160313 The food was a bit pricey in the area. The total bill came to $115 Malaysian Ringgit but still a very good value for what I couldn’t get in Australia, roughly $40 Australian dollar.

The other thing that impressed me was the commercial kitchen. It is enclosed in glass wall as you walked to the toilet. It is like a showroom which you can watch the kitchen in action – well organised and clean.P1160307 I gave the “Auntie” who cooked our meal two thumbs up for her food.

“Tok Tok” and “Talk Talk” is certainly the talk of the town in Pekaka and the surrounding suburbs. If you haven’t been there yet, I suggest you better go for “Auntie” homecooked meal. There is nothing pretentious and she was a bit shy if you try and snap a photo of her through the glass wall.P1160322

A Simple Home Cooked Dinner

I felt like a simple home cooked dinner when I got home from work this evening. So I started preparing the ingredients. One thing led to another. I was going to make a Thai style chill basil chicken, but ended with 2 other dishes – a Chinese stir fried “Kailan” (Chinese broccoli) and a Chinese chive omelette.P1160214P1160217Enjoy the recipe below. It is simple to prepare and make and takes less than an hour from preparation to plating on the table. 🙂
P1160215Thai Style Chili Basil Chicken
Ingredients:
2 chicken thigh – slice to bite size
5 strings of snake bean – cut into 3 inches section
3 garlic cloves – finely chop
2 inch ginger – finely slice
2 bird eye chilies – finely slice
1 bunch of Thai basil – leaves only
3 tablespoons fish sauce
2 tablespoons oyster sauce
1 teaspoon palm sugar

Cooking
1. Heat some vegetable oil in a hot wok
2. Toss in the chicken. Stir fry until almost cooked. Remove and set aside
3. In the same wok, add a bit more oil until warm
4. Toss in the garlic, then chilies and ginger. Stir fry until fragrant
5. Add the snake beans. Toss a few times then add the almost cooked chicken. Continue to stir fry for a few minutes before adding the sauces and sugar
6. Add the basil leaves and cashew nuts (I didn’t have any at the time)
7. Dish out and serve either in a bowl or plate
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Chinese Chive OmeletteP1160221
Ingredients
3 chicken eggs
10 strips Chinese chives (garlic chives) – finely chop
1 bird eye chili – finely chop
4 shallots – finely slice
2 teaspoon light soy sauce
1 teaspoon sesame oil
1/2 teaspoon ground white pepper
Cooking
1. Break the eggs into a bowl and mix all the ingredients together
2. Heat a frying pan with a bit of oil. When oil is nice and warm, pour in the egg mixture. Cooked one side for a few minutes, then turn over the other side and cooked for a few more minutes
3. Remove and plate on a round plateP1160219Chinese Stir Fry Kailan
Ingredients
1 bunch of Kailan – separate the stems from the leaves
4 cloves garlic – chop finely
1 tablespoon oyster sauce
1 tablespoon light soy sauce
1 tablespoon Chinese cooking wine
1 teaspoon sesame oil
Cooking
1. Heat some vegetable oil in a hot wok
2. Toss in the garlic. Fry until fragrant
3. Add the stem part of the kailan. Fry for a few minutes then add the leaves and sauces. Continue to stir fry until the vegetable are soft and tender, but not overcooked
4. Remove and garnish with dried shallots

“Makan time” 🙂

Nona Bali

It has been awhile since I have written about a restaurant and its food. I guess I haven’t been to one that tick all the boxes – the food, the service, the price and the location.

Two days ago, a couple of our new friends introduced us to a Balinese restaurant in Penang. They are food lovers and told us there is a very good balinese restaurant. They took us there. I wasn’t sure what to expect. Always keep an open mind and expected the unexpected. Be surprised. I told myself that we are in good hands and our friends know and love their food. So, they better not be wrong! We arrived at the restaurant for lunch. It is located in a new seafront promenade facing the channel and mainland. The location is ideal with light sea breezes. It was a Saturday afternoon slightly after 1pm. The area was quiet and peaceful without much traffic, being a few years old. It is mostly residential with new high rise condominiums and townhouses and shop lots. Not all the shops were occupied. I felt at bliss.P1150950

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P1150948Our friend parked his car just a few metres from the restaurant. The front of the restaurant was decked with potted plants, red balinese umbrellas on both side of the entrance and some red Chinese New Year’s decorative items for prosperity and good luck. That is a good sign of a welcoming restaurant. P1150951P1150946 On entering Nona Bali, it was even more impressive. It is well decorated with colourful pictures on the wall and balinese fabric sliding panels above the bar/front counter. The colour scheme was charcoal black on all walls and ceiling with matching lighter beige tone wooden tables and chairs. It is the sort of place that I would see in Melbourne, but in Penang, it definitely has style and class but yet casual.P1150934

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P1150932There is a lunch special between $20 rinngit to $24 ringgit. The lunch menu is a “nasi campur” which means mixed rice. It is the best way of trying out different dishes on one plate with some rice. I ordered the version with fish and partner ordered the chicken version. Our friends ordered a fish version and a fried rice version. The food came with a refreshing drink of either an iced peach drink or iced lime drink. I have to say when the food came, I was very impressed on how the dishes were plated with the cone-shaped rice in the middle.P1150927

P1150925 Now for the taste. It was delicious. The pan fried mackerel fish on top of a spread of spicy sambal was delicious. I love a real kick to a hot sambal. It was spicy and I couldn’t get enough and had to ask for more sambal. The grilled mackerel fish paste wrapped around the lemongrass stick was smooth and aromatic with a nice zestic flavour. The slice of cucumber and tomato help to tone down the spiciness of the sambal. The soup was tangy with dried shrimp and dried shallots. The blanched green topped with red skin peanut sambal chilli gave a nice crunch and texture to the overall “nasi campur”. The serving size was just right and sufficient for a nice afternoon lunch. Topping up the whole experience at Nona Bali is the gracious host, Peter, who is charming and charismatic, who is passionate about his restaurant. He talks about his satay cart outside the front of the restaurant, with some seatings, which we all agree will be a nice addition to the whole character of the restaurant. I really look forward to come back to Nona Bali again. A great addition to the food and culinary scene of Penang. P1150939

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Nona Bali is located at 25Grd Flr, Lebuh Sungai Pinang 5, 11600 Penang, Malaysia. Phone number 04-281 5983. Website address http://www.nonabalipenang.com

Chinese New Year 2014 at Richmond

It was only 3 weeks ago that we celebrated the end of 2013 and ushered the beginning of 2014. Not long from now, 12 days to be exact on the 31st January 2014, marks the beginning of the Chinese New Year or the Lunar New Year. This is also celebrated by the Vietnamese around the world, known as Tet.

In Melbourne, the festival kicked off this weekend in Richmond, the first suburb to traditionally start the festival. The other suburbs – Box Hill, Springvale and Footscray will host the festival in the coming weekends. Melbourne CBD Chinatown and Crown Promenade are the ultimate venues for the biggest show of all – with a street parade of lion and dragon dances in the CBD, and stage performances and fireworks at the Crown Promenade.

This is my third year in Melbourne for the Chinese New Year festivals, and my third time to the Victoria Street Lunar New Year in Richmond, predominantly a Vietnamese suburb. The number of food stalls have increased in numbers from the previous two years – there were a few new ones – including a non-Asian stall selling American Buffalo Wings and the usual Vietnamese street foods like the grilled beef with betel leaves, vietnamese spring rolls, grilled calamari, grilled meat on skewers, pan fried radish cakes, fresh sugarcane juice and coconut juice.P1150033 P1140950

The highlight for me at the Victoria Street Lunar festival was the acrobatic lion dance performance and people watching. This year lion dance routine was different from last year and it didn’t disappoint the crowd, with a finale of exploding firecrackers strung from 3 very high poles.P1150017 P1150014 P1150012 P1140979

If there was a best traditional costume competition, I would have given that to the three Chinese deities “Fu Lu Shou“, signifying an abundance of good life –  fortune (Fu), prosperity (Lu) and longevity (Shou). These deities are mostly placed in the family living and dining room.

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Some of the women and men were wearing their traditional Vietnamese national costume, “Ao Dai“, pronounced as “au yai”. The material is usually make from silk fabric with bright colours.  P1140982P1140959

…our own version of “wolverine” sideburn.P1140990

This year is the “Year of the Horse“. The prediction is that it is going to be a good and better year than the Snake Year.

I am looking forward to the other festivals in the next 2 weekends.P1140960 P1140965 P1140969

Watch the lion dance video here.

No More Rice – Quinoa

I grew up eating rice all my life. So, what if there is no more rice? What would I substitute as my daily food? I have  been told; yes, been told by a dietitian years ago that I should cut down on my carb intake. That means, rice and pasta. Two of my most common food consumption each week. This it to slow down the risk of being a diabetic; having been diagnosed as a pre-diabetic patient. I have since cut down on my rice intake and substitute with basmati rice, rather than jasmine rice which has a lower carb content. And, in the past year 2013 I have even cut down on my rice intake each week. Some days I will go without having rice!

Towards end of 2013, I have discovered “Quinoa” pronounced as “kin-wa”. I have heard about it, but have never cook it until November 2013. It is an ancient food originated  in South America, but became the “in fashion” for the kitchen with the health conscious consumer.  It is high in protein and lack in gluten with a nutty flavour. By itself it looks boring and taste boring. It is a type of grain, not wheat, as some people would have thought.

Some of my friends have even said to me, “why, Victor? why?” “what about rice?” “how can you live without rice?” LOL! As a matter of fact, I have come to love quinoa so much that I eat at least once a week now. It is not cheap (about $10 for a packet of 500 gm compare to a 5 kg sack of basmati rice that cost $15 which can last for a few months), but then it is cheaper than having rice and to cook other dishes to go with the rice. Quinoa can be a single dish with other ingredients in it to make it taste delicious. Think about it as “making a fried rice” – mixing other ingredients to the key ingredient of the dish i.e. rice versus quinoa.

As a new year post to 2014 I am dedicating my heart and love for the simple grain with an interesting name that most people would have pronounced as “key-no-wa” like me-self. But, I was told that it is called “kin-wah”.

Quinoa is easy to cook and fast. It doesn’t take long. Each time I make it, I will make a few slight twists. Tonight I decide to finish up the 1 cup of leftover coconut milk sitting in my fridge. P1140862Ingredients:

  • 1 cup of quinoa
  • 1 cup of coconut milk
  • 1 cup water
  • A can of tuna
  • 4 beans cut into small dices
  • 4 shallots finely sliced
  • 5 olives cut into small dices
  • 1 carrot julienned
  • 1 lebanese cucumber cut into small dices
  • 3 kaffir lime leaves finely sliced

Cooking:

  • Wash the quinoa a few times until the water is clear
  • Place in a small saucepan with the water and coconut milk
  • Add a pinch of seasalt
  • Turn the heat up. Once boiling reduce the heat and simmer the quinoa for 10 – 15 minutes or until the liquid is almost evaporated.  Then close with a lid and simmer for another 5 minutes before turning off the heat and let it sit for another 5 minutes

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  • To serve, sprinkle some toasted sesame seeds and crunched up some Asian fried shallots. If you have other herbs in the fridge, sprinkle some fresh mint leaves and add a squeeze of fresh lemon juice

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You will be amazed how wonderful a simple ancient grain can taste so good and fill your stomach for several hours. A great way to stay healthy and loose weight. 🙂

Another version of  a quinoa that I cooked in 2013 – using chicken stock to cook the quinoa. Once cooked and cooled down, add some good extra virgin olive oil, diced up herbs, mint peas, sliced white salad onion, diced up tomatoes and cucumber, a bit of seasalt and grounded black pepper.P1140719 P1140725

As this is my first post for 2014, here is wishing all of you a good, healthy and successful new year 2014 ahead!

MART 130 Cafe

MART or “TRAM” (with the “R” other way round if placed on the side of a mirror)…that’s the name of this wonderful and well tucked away little cafe in Middle Park, 4km south of Melbourne CBD on Tram Stop 130. Hence, the eccentric name of this rustic and quaint cafe in the leafy suburb called MART 130 Cafe.Image 

We happened to come across this cafe a couple of weeks ago when I decided that my partner and I should take Tram 96 to St Kilda Beach for an alternate route to our usual Tram 112 at a tram stop in Clarendon Street Southbank, a short 10 minutes walk from our place. It was a good decision. Otherwise we would not have found this popular cafe.

So this morning we were wondering where to go for brunch. Our usual fare is a bowl of Vietnamese Pho at Footscray or Yum Cha at Docklands on a Sunday. I suggested that we try something different, which is a rare occasion as we prefer Asian brunch to a Western brunch.  It was a good decision, as we both thoroughly enjoyed our meal at the cafe, and food that we are happy to pay for.

It has a nostalgic feel to the place. A destination that we can get off the tram right at the door step of the cafe – it’s almost too good to be true like in a movie set. It is a choice of destination for any food lover who enjoy a good breakfast, brunch or lunch. The experience of having the tram railway track on one side of the building and the other side fronting a park surrounded by trees and shrubs with people walking their dogs has just the right ambience to calm any weary and hungry souls with a wholesome good food and friendly service.P1140445P1140425P1140431P1140432P1140435When we arrived at tram stop 130, the cafe was busy with people waiting outside. But we were lucky to get 2 seats at the back section of the cafe overlooking the park. It is ideal as I think it will be noisy inside the cafe but interesting to watch the staff in actions. The front part of the cafe next to the tram tracks will be nice on a quiet time. But, I think the premium seats have to be in the back where we were.

We ordered an organic large orange juice ($5) and a pot of ceylon tea ($3.50) for drink, and baked braised of chorizo with poached eggs ($18.50) and bacon, potato and spinach with hollandaise poached eggs ($18.50) for food. P1140439P1140440

The ceylon tea came in an old rustic pale white with blue trimmed enamel tea pot, adding to the rustic charm of this tram station cafe. P1140438The food was very good. The eggs were perfectly poached – smooth and round, firm yet soft and the yolk was soft and not runny on the braised chorizo in tomato sauce spiced with grounded paprika and melted cheese. It was a real hearty meal. P1140442This is a meal that is worth paying for. Paid $50 with a small change of $4.20. It is more expansive than our usual fare of Sunday Asian brunch, but we both left feeling very satisfied and happy that we will definitely return again. After all, it is only a few tram stops from where we live. A track reserved only for Tram 96.P1140444P1140449Our tram has arrived. Time to hop on and touch on the Myki card for a $3.50 whole day fare on a weekend, which will increase to $6 starting next year 2014.