Showing posts from December, 2012

Ha Long Bay, Vietnam - The Village

With around three thousand limestone monolithic isles, Ha Long Bay has a charm and scenic splendour of its own.   Nestled below the southern Chinese coasts and Hainan Island, it is a maritime  ecosystem that has caves, grottoes and hidden lakes in islands; displays very few beaches; offers various fascinating shapes in the landscape akin to elephants, cockerels and more; harbours wildlife like monkeys, lizards, bantam birds and antelopes on limited landed areas; and holds a special place in Vietnamese legend relating to benevolent  dragons. It is also a declared UNESCO world heritage site.   Photo above shows our personalised boat paddler taking Matt and me around the bay.

A community of fisher villagers call this place home, making their livelihood on aquaculture and the natural resource pools of mollusks and fishes that live in the bay.  Residents live a transient yet permanent life style, with houses literally floating on the water, or on boats that are moored above calm and placid…

Lunar New Year Planner - Suggestions for the Reunion Dinner

The next Lunar New Year, that under the sign of the Snake, begins on 10 February 2013. It is occasion for the extended family to gather on the eve and take dinner together.  Here are some ideas for table servings to complement such gatherings. Above, blueberries and strawberries form a delightful and eye-catching combination.  Below, slices of the chu chu kueh or the kueh bingka, sitting beautifully on a round plate - made of tapioca flour, firmed with coconut milk and added with egg, sugar and essence of the pandanus leaf, this traditional item echoes a link with tradition and uniqueness with societies in South-east Asia.

Two essential sauces in Asian related cooking and serving, the pounded or blended fresh chilies (left in picture above) and the hoi sin sauce (right on top).  Both of them are compulsory for diners when eating the poh pniah rolls, originally from Fujian in China. The sauces are spread on to your warp skins before filling them up with cooked or fresh ingredients and…

Christmas Eve - Beecroft, Sydney

I prefer glazed ham to turkey, any time of the year.  At Christmas time in Australia, the hams consumed at barbies, family gatherings , out decks of houses and in offices usually come from the leg of a porker, often only nine months old.  Beechwood is the preferred source of smoking the ham and the outcome we see at our dining tables takes around a week.  Pelvic and thigh bones are removed but with the hock intact for the easiest type of  ham to carve.  Removing the rind is part of the process before serving the ham slices. A pillow case can be a good substitute for a proper ham bag to help keep cooked ham in a freezer and it usually lasts for three weeks after part so fit have been carved.  Everyone looks for flavour, texture, colour and character in ham.  Below, the pear and rocket salad mix prepared by Ely and Ray at their Christmas Eve do this year.

Lighting the pudding has been an age old practice originating from Northern Europe and the version of the sweet stuff we all had at …

Vietnam - Some Souvenirs

Vietnam is a prime exporter of agricultural products, like rice, rubber,coffee and pepper, but to individual visitors, what comes across remarkably are lacquered products , embroidery, pottery, silk fabrics, weaved craft, stone carvings, bamboo and rattan articles, ceramic, wooden contraptions and paintings.  This is a result of long established cultural traditions and a developing economy.  The majority of the current population is under 30 years old, laden with the enthusiasm, agility and promise of youth.  The centre of handicraft is still central Vietnam, with the hub around Hue and Hoi An.

You can see many water colours offered by local artists in shops, markets and pavement stalls.  I was more fascinated by origami-like paper cuts which you can come across being sold by vendors all over the place.  Best of all are the hang lanterns, available in all sizes, which are made from varying qualities of Vietnamese silk fabric, the best of which are found in Hoi An.   The military part…

Ha Noi's Old Quarter

The streets and lanes are narrow, crowded and cluttered. The precinct oozes with every expectation and stereotype a visitor would expect from an Asian metropolis that bustles with trade, street affairs and people. One has to be reminded that this city of Ha Noi is the capital of a Communist state, but the business penchant and practice that is so evident in the Old Quarter comes from long traditions and establishments. Families actually live above their shops and every day a vibrant neighbourhood system, that intertwines livelihoods and strong community links, provides meaning and continuity to every resident.  The street names each and every time include the Vietnamese  word "Hang", which just means merchandise. I saw street plates with names like PhoHang Buom, Pho Hang Chiew and Pho Hang Mam - Pho referring to a street.

Hang Bac is Silver Street, Hang Gai is Silk Street and Hang Tre is the Bamboo Street. In contemporary Ha Noi, some of these streets do now offer produce an…

Sydney CBD - Practical Eats

Charcoal grilled chicken ala Vietnam with tomato flavoured rice, veg and dipping sauce.  (The Naughty Chef, Hunter Connection, Wynyard precinct)

Penang-inspired char koay teow, the Malaysian cousin of pad thai and laden with stir-fried egg, bean sprouts, wok heat , prawns off the shell, crunchy shallots and chopped Chinese chives.  (Ipoh onYork, near the junction of King and York Streets, Town Hall precinct)

Cantonese inspired Ipoh Hor fan, with steamed chicken on the skin, served with rice noodle soup, plenty of bean sprouts, garnishing, soy sauce, garlic and chili pastes.  (Sayong Curry and Laksa Malaysian, Woolworths Food Court, basement at Woolworths Town Hall)

A nasi lemak combination set, with lusciuos looking chicken curry, hard boiled eggs, deep fried anchovies, sambal condiments, Lebanese cucumber slices, curried potatoes and coconut milk flavoured steamed rice.
(Ipoh onYork, near the junction of King and York Streets, Town Hall precinct)

Summer - Balgownie Blooms

Flowers are what you hope and work consistently at for results - a momentary celebration to mark an occasion when one moves on to a different dimension, one decidedly better, one that embeds the future and which liberates you from the chains of the past.

We pay attention to details, use patient logic to navigate our path and strive to fuel our passion - and at times we are rewarded with a perfect and hallmark moment that makes it all worthwhile.

Delicate is the moment, aroma is what enhances our senses when
our adequate use of judgement flows into nuances of gratitude and beauty.

We occasionally clear the cobwebs in the garden of our minds, so as to allow more room for  the growth of the right thing to do in our hearts.

During the festive season, ensure you have a quiet moment in time to reflect the past, affirm the present and embrace the future. Never take things for granted, do not be swamped by diversions and prepare for even better times ahead. Listen with an open mind, think wi…

Chedi Thai, Newtown, Sydney

The Chedi Thai Restaurant is located at at the western end of King Street in the inner Sydney city suburb of Newtown, not far from the junction of King and Messinden  Streets.  It is close to the Sydney University campus cohort. Ely and Ray organised a lunch there on a recent Saturday when the Newtown markets were held. The diverse and interesting suburb of Newtown is 150 years old.  Here are my impressions of the several dishes we tried from a cuisine which I reckoned is more southern than northern Thai, more Phuket and Hatyai than Chiangmai or Bangkok.  It is a spacious restaurant, in contrast to several Thai food venues in the Chinatown precinct of Sydney CBD.

My top choice goes to the barramundi filleted pieces topped by a green mango salad (photo above) - the flavours mix and complement each other readily and remind one of sitting on the beach facing the Andaman Sea, immersing in the fresh seafood sensations and surrounded by the aromas of tropical fruits, herbs and vegetables.