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Showing posts from September, 2012

Dinner in Carlingford Too

Susan and Boo Ann Yap do cook up a tasty storm and I just want to share some dishes they came up with one Sunday evening in August this year.



Fish curry, with reminiscences of the Malacca Straits.  Braced with okra, sourish tinged and with a kick of spices, chili and the pace of the sea.



Glass noodles with broccoli and bean curd squares in a salad mix tone. Light and easy on the palate.


Crispy topped roast pork, Cantonese inspired.


Pickled radish soup brewed with pork hock, Fujian style.




Appetising potato side dish, Korean inspired.



Pork slices braised with bean paste, ginger, shallots and chili - Fujian based.







Mooncake Festival

Thoughts in the Silent Night 静夜思 by Li Bai (李白) The moonlight is shining through the window (床 前 明 月 光)
And it makes me wonder if it is the frost on the ground (疑 是 地 上 霜)
Looking up to see the moon ... (举 头 望 明 月)
Looking down I miss so much about my hometown (低 头 思 故 乡).


Moon cakes, or yue bin in Mandarin, or the bánh trung thu in Vietnam, are round shaped, a strong symbol of family reunion in East Asian heritage. This pastry has a wheat flour or glutinous rice flour outer skin but what counts as important is the nature, taste and texture of the ingredients inside. They are very rich food high in cholesterol and hence eaten sparingly only once a year. The best mooncakes are home made, like made by my sister-in-law Sian Kin, back on Penang Island, but there has been excessive commercialisation of mooncakes in today's society, urged on by the business practice of gifting mooncakes to key clients and also by the ages old practice of providing mooncakes to those you respect and care…

Home Cooking - Balgownie, NSW

Brewing, slow cooking or just getting the flavours from different ingredients to mix and match. The unmistakable aroma of soups is pleasant to wake up to in the early mornings, when the work is already done overnight. Above, groundnuts, dried red dates and wolf berry are used to enhance a soup.  I fancy the combination of cut asparagus, fresh prawns, chicken strips and vermicelli - stir fry them in a wok and you get an easy snack which can be eaten anytime, anywhere, at home or for outdoor picnics.  Recently I have fallen in obsession with Kipfler potatoes, first encountered on a  trip to Orange, NSW. It's rewarding to emphasise on healthy and carefully chosen produce, cuts and variety. Above, the scene before the cooking at home - from upper left, clockwise, ocean prawns on the shell; chicken drum sticks; USA cherries; chicken strips; and lamb cubes.  Below, pluck able garnishing from growing pots. Curries come in so many combinations, flavours and styles. I love a mid-strong cu…

Mado Cafe - Auburn, NSW

Turkish coffee is intense and aromatic, a manifestation of how the coffee beans were transformed  in the so called Old World. Those who are first initiated into this ritual expect something unknown.  There is not much interference by sugar nor dilution by milk.  One goes embracing the purity and integrity of what coffee drinking is actually like, and how it all began. The Ottoman Empire transversed both East and West, embraced cosmopolitan practices, was enriched by many demographics but had food traditions that are still unique. To enter such a world, and sample a variety of the special cooking that was centred in the Middle East, my cousin Lin and her hubby Joe organised for a group of us to try the Mado Cafe. The cafe has a visible location along Auburn Road and was recommended by her close friend from Iran. So each of us had expectations, but also missing gaps in what we were going to experience.  We wanted more authenticity, less modification and true atmosphere. I have tried Le…

LeVendi's - Wollongong Harbour, NSW

It is only a pavilion with an outdoor seating area. The queues are there, especially in the warmer months, whether by choice or just coming out from the woodwork at Belmore Basin at Wollongong Harbour. On first impressions, this could be the scene at any major surf beach in Australia, the need to have chips and seafood on paper. The customers at LeVendi's can be beach goers, tourists, families and locals. The harbour is not big but just right. You can see the lighthouses.  You can see Port Kembla with its steel works in the distance to the right.  Oh yes, and then there are the hills, or rather escarpment, looking down on the coastal plains where Wollongong has anchored in. And not to forget, those ever present container ships that park themselves on the ocean's horizon , apparently forever, but actually queuing to enter the Harbour at nearby Port Kembla. The sandy beaches of North Gong, Towradgi and Corrimal beckon as your eyes look towards Sydney side, but Sydney is far awa…

Nasi Lemak - Home Gathering

When I hear of  "nasi lemak", the suggestion of whiffs of aroma from pandanus leaves, fresh coconut milk, banana leaf wraps and steaming rice comes to mind.  To the neighbouring countries of  both Indonesia and Malaysia, this is a national icon, comfort food and a community treasure.  This dish was born around the equator, where coconut palms, useful and sweet smelling herbs and padi fields gave rise to a concoction that has been exported world wide by emigrants.  There are various versions of this dish, those made in Malay kampungs, Straits Chinese kitchens, Chinese commercial outlets and by transplanted families in Canada, the USA and Australia.  And not to forget by adventurous Caucasians who recall this particular snack or breakfast item with fondness on their back packing trips in South-east Asia. What are the essentials of this dish?  Deep fried crunchy anchovies. Fresh slices of Lebanese cucumbers. The condiment that accompanies many dishes in a hot climate, the samb…

Mike's Grill, Sylvania, NSW - Greek Night

What can I expect on a themed evening, and one that is attractively Greek? I have watched enough Hollywood made movies with the hype of breaking plates and all that at such functions.  Realistically, I knew it was going to be a meat night.  The air was still nippy and my group could not literally find parking  along the busy stretch of Princes Highway leading north and just before Tom Ugly's Bridge, a key landmark that separates Sutherland Shire ( 'the Shire") from the rest of greater Sydney.  And then we found a better spot for the car towards the water, that of the King Georges River, the main arterial waterway in Sydney's south.  We followed the rules and had to cross the overhead pedestrian bridge over the Highway.

Once we survived all that, plus the increasingly nippy air for the first week of September in the southern hemisphere, we were welcomed with already grilled bite sized lamb pieces from an experienced barbecue looking guy manning the front grill. Oh yes…

Auburn, NSW - A Touch of Turkey and Lebanon

There is an Anatolian feel in the outer western suburb of Auburn in greater Sydney. There are both Muslim and Christian symbols and institutions in this area, which also intermingles East Asian demographics with families having roots in the Middle East. Then there is the food, best surveyed by walking the main street of Auburn Road. NRL football fans will know Auburn as the birth place of Brad Fittler.  Political enthusiasts associate the place with Warren Mundine, the first indigenous President of the Australian Labour Party.  The oldest Hindu temple in Australia, the Sri Mandir, provides religious focus , together with the Gallipoli Mosque, done in classical Ottoman style and design.  Oliver Goldsmith's poem "The Deserted Village"  provided the source for the name of Auburn.  Above picture, young Mamet helps out on a Saturday morning at his family bakery.




Makanek, or beef with chicken sausages made in the Lebanese tradition, and sujuk, Turkish styled treats, are sold f…

Homebush, Sydney - Street Food

The aroma coming from fresh ingredients cooking on a well seasoned wok is not comparable. It conjures the sensations of a welcome respite, when arriving at a street side hawker's stall in Manila. or in a traditional coffee shop in Ho Chi Minh City or Georgetown on Penang Island.  Respite from coping with the tropical sun and figuring out the several temptations on the nostril.  Prawns and calamari, tender bits of cut meat, the green feel of chives and slices of well made omelette can make good company with cleverly stir fried rice noodles. This was what greeted us at a weekend lunch in  a small and modest cafe in Homebush, an outer west suburb of Sydney.  It was well patronised.  A lot of the Cantonese dialect was spoken, amongst the customers and staff.   This was the kind of outlet where common tea blends were slapped on the table, where we shared a dining area and where everyone seemed to relish the hot piping food.   Chili based condiments are provided at no extra charge (pic…