Tag Archives: Review

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

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

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.

Burma Lane

The first thing that came to my mind when I heard the name “Burma Lane” is a small road in George Town, Penang. It is a popular destination with tourists and local Buddhist worshippers. There is the historical Burmese temple built in the 1800s called Dhammikarama Burmese Buddhist Temple and the Penang Reclining Buddha Temple, a Thai temple directly across the Dhammikarama Burmese temple.  Wat Chayamangkalaram Thai Buddhist Temple or more famously known in the Penang as the Reclining Buddha Temple is a Thai temple built after the Burmese temple in the late 1800s.

Flashback to my present time. Here in Melbourne.

When I came across a place with a shopfront sign “Burma Lane” as I was walking down a Melbourne lane way – Alfred Place – from Collins Street I was curious to find out what it is. The shop was directly across a T-junction at the end of Alfred Place and Little Collins Street. It was set a bit elevated from the street level. I had to stretch my neck slightly to see what’s inside through the glass wall. That was 4 weeks ago. It looked interesting and stylish with hanging lanterns. It doesn’t take much to guess it is going to be a new restaurant. A modern take on the Burmese food – a less known South East Asian cuisine in Melbourne, unlike Thai and Vietnamese. There is a website – burmalane.com.au. I stood in front of the shop with my iPhone handy in my hand started punching in the web address. There was not much at the time. The website was launched but only with a front page advertising the name and a special soft opening promotion by registering online – a 50% discount on the food.  It didn’t take me long to register my interest and “Like” their FB page. Crazy but it’s true! I bet there are a lot of food bloggers still didn’t know about this latest restaurant in Melbourne.

3 weeks later, I received an email from the restaurant announcing their soft opening date on Monday 11th November. To redeem the promotion voucher, it needs to be used during their soft opening. So my partner and I went there last night for dinner. We were there for a 7pm dinner. I was expecting the place to be packed. But it wasn’t. Probably still early.

On entering the restaurant, there was a lot to take in. It has a large open atrium dining space with soaring high ceilings to the second level and hanging lanterns and streams of down lights. A stylish renovation with glass wall on one side with beautiful framed pictures and the other side a concrete wall with a large painted portrait of Aung San Suu Kyi, where a flight of stairs lead to the second floor dining area. The place is dark and stylish with very loud music to create the ambience of a latest and hype Melbournian restaurant.

We were given a table upstairs which is quieter for dining couples. At the far end of the room was a row of tables set up only for two people. I thought that was a nice thought. The menu was just right. Not too extensive and not too small. It was printed on an A3 size white paper used as a table mat with a round brown glazed dining plate set on top.P1140228

The menus is easy to read and sectioned into Small Bites, Salad, Noodles, Bigger Bites and Desserts. The description on each of the dishes is simple to understand, making it easier to choose and order. We chose a couple of Small Bites – Kun Sar Thi and Soft Shell Crab, Salad – Rakhine style shredded chicken salad with banana flowers, Bigger Bites – Mohinga Rockling and Goat Curry. Drinks – my partner ordered a Sample Pale Ale to start with and a couple of red wine by the glass. I had a cocktail – Thai Dai, which has kaffir lime leaves infused into the drink.

I have never been to Burma so I can’t really say that I know anything about a Burmese food. However, Burma Lane impresses me. The food was good. It was  delicate and subtle in flavours. The dishes were presented well, except for the soft shell crab which was our least favourite. The idea of having 3 side condiments to accompany the food was great – from a mild, sweet chilli paste to the traditional “balachaung” – the Burmese dried shrimp relish. I was really surprised with the taste and texture of the balachaung, which is similar to how my mum would have made it at home. Interesting as Burma and Penang are thousands of kilometres apart with the Thai borders in between. I can only guess that during the spice trade in the 1700s, the Burmese came and settled in Penang and brought their culture and food (and also built the only one and oldest Dhammikarama Burmese Temple in Burma Lane, Penang). The Penang version of balachaung is a nonya take on the balachaung called “sambal har bee” which is a spicier version. It is a popular accompaniment with rice or spread over a white bread and folded into a sandwich. Sadly to say, this dried spicy relish is slowing disappearing from the culinary food scene in Penang. P1140235

Our favourite dish at Burma Lane was the Goat Curry with pumpkin. The gravy was rich, thick and mildly spiced. The goat meat was tender. P1140241My next favourite dish for the night was the chicken wrapped in betel leaf. The chicken was mixed through with shallots, green mango and lightly spiced with sichuan pepper. It went well with the 3 different types of side condiments. I ate the mixture wrapped in a single betel leaf and in one mouthful to get the full impact of the different texture and flavour in one bite. It was very nice.P1140237The shredded chicken salad with banana flower was simple and delicate in flavour. I would have prefer to taste more of the banana flower but there wasn’t much of that. P1140238The Rockling in a mild turmeric and lemongrass based gravy was light and a bit strong on the turmeric after taste. It was accompanied by some vermicelli noodles, hard boiled eggs and the preserved asian mustard green. I thought the fish was a bit overcooked and tough.P1140240One thing that I have found with the food was that it was not overly sweet, salty and spicy. That is good as the food should focus on each of the different produces that come together to give the flavour, texture and uniqueness on each of the dishes. I hate it when a dish is over seasoned with too much sugar and salt which kills the goodness of the delicate flavour of a fresh ingredient.

 

I can’t help but to compare Burma Lane with Chin Chin – similar in food style and restaurant concept. Burma Lane has larger rooms, feels less cramped, less crowded and less noise. It is nicer to dine at Burma Lane without feeling like you have to yell to have a conversation. Food wise, they are quite different depending on taste. Burma Lane dishes are on a subtle and less complex side whereas Chin Chin delivers a big punch to the taste and flavours. Personally I love the food at Chin Chin but I prefer the ambience and classier feel of Burma Lane.

Good and Bad Memories of Penang food

On my last trip to Penang in December 2012 for Christmas and New Year, I have revisited three of the restaurants that I am quite fond for its own reason.

“747” for its excellent food. It is an unusual name for  a restaurant. I have written a previous post on this restaurant here. The food at 747 was the same as I can remember when I was a young boy. It is a unique style of Chinese food – a cross between “Hailam” Chinese infused with Malay and Indian spices – something that cannot be found anywhere else in a restaurant in Australia. Hailam is a small Chinese ethnic community group in Penang when they first emigrated to Penang. Hence, the rarity of the food and number of restaurants in Penang. At 747, the food is special passing down from generation to generation, including its homemade dipping sauce.

Penang people, a.k.a “Penangites”, love its Penang food. When Penangites living overseas go back to visit, their number 1 priority – alright, number 2 after family – is to dive into Penang food and feast themselves till they dropped!

My all time favourites at 747 are their “curry fish head”, “choon piah” and “inche kabin”, all of which we ordered that night. It was a quite weeknight. The place was almost empty. 747 has not changed with time. There is nothing pretentious about the place. It is a typical Penang style Chinese restaurant without the frills, and with the familiar pink table cloth and red upholstered metal framed chair. It is about the food, not the look.

As we left the restaurant, the owner let us know that the next time we are back in Penang, they will be relocated to a new premise. Perhaps next time, they should consider updating their decor in keeping with time, and renamed the restaurant from 747 to A380. We wait in anticipation to dine at their next new premise when we head back again in September this year.

P1080887 P1080888 P1080893 P1080894 P1080895 P1080897 P1080898 P1080900 P1080901 747 is good value for money for the quality of the food and service. It is a family operated restaurant. Hence, the food is very much homestyle and home cooked. Our bill came to Malaysian Ringgit $75, an equivalent of AUD$32! The chicken deep fried, Inche Kabin was Malaysian Ringgit $15, Curry fish head which was a huge red snapper head for Malaysian Ringgit $40, the deep fried spring roll “Choon Piah” for Malaysian Ringgit $8, and fried bean sprout with salted fish for Malaysian Ringgit $6. Where else can we find such food in Australia? None.

“Shing Keang Aun” for its nostalgic “take me back in time” type of restaurant. It is another Hailam style Chinese restaurant. This place has been around for as long as I can remember. It was one of my grandfather’s favourite eating spot. It has been in the same place as long as my grandfather’s era, in the heritage gazette part of old George Town – a prewar style double storey row of terrace shophouses. It is located in Chulia Lane, off the extremely busy and narrow Chulia Street, popular with cheap accommodations with backpackers.

I have been to SKA since I was a young boy, but could not remember what the food was like until my sister took me there several years ago. My partner has never been there. I took him there on our most recent trip. The place itself was worth the visit. The top floor has an open food shaft where the food is transported in the pulley drawn lift. The staff are all old and been working there for generations. Places like this are getting hard to find in Penang. Unfortunately, I was not that impressed with the food on this recent trip. It was average and very expensive for what we got. The place is very popular and overrated with interstate visitors to Penang, which makes the place almost a destination by itself. That is unfortunate, as I felt the owner has increased the price to cash in on their popularity, which some may argue is nothing wrong.

Their signature dishes include Asam Prawn (tamarind prawn), Curry fish (gulai tumis) pomfret, the dark soy pork and pork liver and salted mustard soup (kiam chai teng).  We started off by ordering the asam prawn, curry pomfret, dark soy pork and pork liver. They were all in very small portion. The fish cost us Malaysian Ringgit $35 (for 1 small pomfret) and the prawn dish Malaysian Ringgit $14 (5 pieces). The total bill came to Malaysian Ringgit $64, including one more dish of dark soy chicken. There was no menu in this restaurant and no written or printed bill. That was how things were done in the past. I felt we were hacked at this place being seen as tourists, even though I spoke to them in Penang hokkien. It was hard not to make a comparison with the food that we had a couple of nights ago at 747 – which was far better in serving portion, pricing and quality of the food – taste, texture and flavour. However, if you have never been to SKA, it is worth the visit for the nostalgic feel of the place – but, do ask for the price before confirming the order. P1080928 P1080933 P1080938 P1080939 P1080941 P1080942 P1080944 P1080946 P1080947 P1080954 P1080955 P1080956 P1080957 P1080959 P1080961 “Weld Quay (Tree Top) Seafood Restaurant” for its interesting open air rustic charm with fresh seafood. This restaurant has been around for years. It is located along the historic road of Weld Quay, directly across from the Penang Ferry and RapidPenang bus terminus. I have been to this place only once a few years ago with a friend. I vaguely remember the place was interesting but a bit on the pricey end. I thought it was a good idea to revisit this place with my partner, who has never been there before.

There were separate sections in the seating area – best on the left building away from the open kitchen and deep towards the open end framed by exposed brick walls and little passageway underneath a very large old tree with clinging roots and trunks on the brick wall – giving it a feel of a jungle temple in ancient Angkor Wat. The service was fast and chaotic. The place was packed with locals and interstate tourists alike. We ordered a soft shell crab, a steamed whole fish, a deep fried calamari and a green vegetable dish. When the food arrived, we were not as excited as looking at the bygone era of the old world charm of a run down building. They looked rough and simple. The tastes were nothing complicated. The soft shell crab was soft and soggy. We had better. The fish was the biggest letdown. It was bland with little flavour, and cost us Malaysian Ringgit $60! That was the most expensive fish I ever had in Penang, even more expensive than the best fish I have tasted at a good, proper airconditioned Chinese restaurant. The bill came to Malaysian Ringgit $124 (including 2 big Tiger beer x $13 per bottle). I was totally gobsmacked and very disappointed. We felt that we have been cheated eating here as we were seen as a tourist. If Penang’s restaurants keep this trend of ripping off tourists, they will soon do themselves an injustice and disfavour. If the food was good, it will be a different story. But, it was just so average.

P1090342 P1090349 P1090346 P1090340 P1090339 P1090338 P1090337 P1090335 P1090345 P1090343 P1090335 P1090334 P1090331 P1090329 P1090327This is a warning for any tourist visiting Penang and especially restaurants like Sing Keang Aun and the Weld Quay (Tree Top) restaurants, which do not offer the customer menu with prices to select, or an itemised bill at the end of the meal. Be brave and ask for the price before ordering the food. Both places may be worth the visit, but the food certainly is not worth spending that kind of money. There are plenty of good places to choose from when it comes to eating out in Penang, but may not have the same old world charm like Sing Keang Aun and Weld Quay (Tree Top).

At least, 747 has the consistency of good food and good value for money. Keeping to its tradition that has passed down the generations and still catering to the same old following of loyal customers.

Sad to say, now I am only fond of 1 out of the 3 restaurants that I have revisited.

Christmas shopping

Christmas is just around the corner. I suppose most people did their shopping this weekend before one final weekend leading to Christmas. I was among the hundreds of shoppers in the city doing the same thing. It was busy. The busiest I have ever seen in the mall, aside from Boxing Day – the biggest sales of the year.

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I started early on the Saturday, making my way into the CBD main shopping precinct, which was a short 20 minutes walk. I have decided to use a different route and streets into the city to explore the different street scape.

First, along the Yarra River along South Wharf.

P1080353P1080354P1080355Next I made my way across the Spencer Street Bridge and up Flinders Street towards Kings Street, a red light district. But, pale in comparison with most bigger cities red light district like Amsterdam. P1080356P1080357There wasn’t anything interesting to see at this end of the CBD with mostly commercial buildings which was very quiet and dead in the weekend. But, once I got closer to Elizabeth Street, about four blocks away it got busier and livelier with interesting small boutique retails shops, cafes and laneways. Melbourne CBD is designed like a grid. It’s easy to navigate your way around the city.

The shopping precinct spreads across a few blocks along Elizabeth Street, Swanton Street with cross streets Flinders Lane, Collins Street, Little Collins Street, Little Bourke Street (Chinatown), Australia’s biggest department stores – Myers and David Jones on Bourke Street Mall. Further up Elizabeth Street and Swanton Street are two city malls – Melbourne Central and Queen Victoria Building.

Along Swanston Street, the city was decorated for Christmas with the small city square set up for the children to meet Santa.

P1080368P1080372P1080376P1080380P1080386P1080390P1080394I had a little break in between my shopping for lunch. A year ago when I first arrived in Melbourne, there are only a few Asian restaurants along Swanton Street between Bourke Street and Lonsdale Street. There are more restaurants now on both stretch of Swanston Street. Choices from Thai, Indonesian, Malaysian, Taiwanese, Vietnamese to Chinese. It was almost a hard decision as to which one I was going to try this time. I ended with a dumpling house called “Dumpling Plus”.

It has a nice interior with a glass wall behind which two women were making and folding fresh dumplings. I was fortunate to get a table next to the glass window and watched them fold the dumpling. I timed one of them. It took her 10 seconds to fold one dumpling! That was amazing.P1080400I ordered the traditional pork Shanghai dumpling “Xiao Long Bao”. 6 pieces for $8.80. I also ordered a bowl of fresh handmade pull noodle with Braised Beef Belly in Soup for $8.80. It was very reasonable priced. The Xiao Long Bao was perfect.  P1080399P1080406P1080407After a big lunch on my own, I was so full that I could hardly move but went on with my shopping for another two hours before walking home. Along the way, I saw a street performer with his invincible stool. This was the first time I have seen such an act. But, some friends on Facebook told me this was nothing new and a trend in Europe at the moment. P1080410P1080416

In Search of a Red Packet

I had a mission this morning. That is, to find a red packet, “Ang Pow” (in Hokkien) with a Chinese character symbolising a long life. It is for my mother’s birthday which is coming up soon. It is a Chinese tradition to wish an elder on his/her birthday with a red packet. “Red” to Chinese is symbolic for prosperity. The only place that I can find, if any, is in Chinatown.

So off on my mission this Saturday walking along the Yarra Rver promenade stretching from my city apartment at South Wharf to Crown to Southbank and crossing a pedestrian bridge to Flinders Street station down towards Elizabeth Street and Little Bourke Street. It was a nice and pleasant twenty minutes walk. Along the way, I was happily snapping some pictures.

 

20121103-214532.jpg The Sandridge Railway Bridge is a historic bridge built in 1888, crossing the Yarra River from Southbank to Flinder Street station.

20121103-220041.jpg The Eureka Tower, a landmark and tallest residential tower in Melbourne at 91 storeys, with an amazing 360 degree observation deck occupying the entire 88th floor!

20121103-220759.jpg Melbourne is a very green city, with thousands of plane trees spread throughout the city. They are beautiful trees but not good for someone like me who suffers from hay fever.

20121103-221555.jpg As we crossed the bridge and looking back towards Southbank, my partner pointed out to me that there is a giant golden bee. It is interesting that some time we don’t noticed all the things around us eventhough we walk passed the same place over and over again.
Before searching for the red packet, I proposed a light lunch at one of my favourite dumpling place in Little Bourke Street, “Shanghai Dumpling”. It is a small little street side cafe that opens at 11:30 am Monday to Saturday for lunch. It is a very popular place and being so small, it doesn’t take long for the queue to build up.

20121103-222721.jpg This time my partner and I were more sensible and not over do it by ordering too much. We went for our all time favourite – the Shanghai dumpling or Xiao Long Bow with chicken and prawn, and a bowl of pork dried noodles. Total bill $21.

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20121103-223157.jpg We have come to Shanghai Dumpling a few times and the food is always good and delicious. This part of Little Bourke Street is also one of my favourite spot for browsing the few small interesting retail shops, away from the busy Chinatown.
Further east along the Little Bourke Street is Chinatownon, on the other side of Swanston Street. That was where we were heading after a hearty and warm dumpling + noodle combo lunch.

20121103-223859.jpg I was very pleased with myself that my little mission was a success! I managed to locate a Chinese gift shop that sells a range of red packets with different meanings and greetings. Like the western greeting cards, except in Chinese custom, we prefer to give money enclosed in a red packet to multiple the wealth, good health and longevity for the person receiving it.

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Walking back, I came across a couple of street performers that I have not seen before.

20121103-225034.jpg A duo Korean girls outside the Flinder Street station, …

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20121103-225519.jpg …and, an acrobatic man swallowing his sword while juggling 3 sticks of flames in his finale act.
My little mission of the day turned out to be a fun and enjoyable day walking the streets of Melbourne city.