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14 November 2010

Hua Seng Hong Restaurant, Chinatown, Bangkok


When I think of Thailand, I think of food. When I arrive in Thailand, my eyes invariably grow bigger than my stomach. And so the feast begins.

Where to start? Pretty much as soon as you walk out of the hotel lobby. Food is everywhere and it’s available at all times. Thai street food is a marvel to the senses.

I am constantly amazed by the quality of food that’s whipped up on a small trolley cart on the side of the road, or in a tiny wooden boat floating down the Chao Phraya – the river that snakes through the South East Asian metropolis.

When faced with a multitude of feasting options, I can get a little overwhelmed and out comes the little piggy in me trying to cram as much eating into one hour as physically possible. To control these gluttonous inclinations, I scribbled out somewhat of an eating game-plan.

First stop: Chinatown. While the principles of Thai cuisine are quite unique, the Chinese have had a profound influence on aspects of it including cooking methods like stir-frying and the use of certain ingredients like noodles, roast pork and roast duck.

Continue reading "Hua Seng Hong Restaurant, Chinatown, Bangkok" »

13 July 2010

Vegetarian chilli: a meaty delight for herbivores


Cool weather calls for piping hot bowls of chili. While I am of the carnivore persuasion, I take my chili, vegetarian-style.

It's a meaty dish of black beans and red kidney beans in an aromatic stew of juicy tomatoes, capsicum (peppers), garlic, onion and coriander spiked with cayenne, oregano, cumin and that magical ingredient: smoked paprika.

Served with grated Monterey Jack cheese and a generous dollop of sour cream, this vegetarian chili has been keeping the Australian winter blues away. Although in Australia, the winter blues mainly refer to the crisp blue skies!

It's a simple dish but infinitely satisfying, healthy (if you don't splurge on cheese and sour cream) and economical.

Now if you're meat-lover and don't think you'd cope with a bowl of beans -- I urge you to think again. The combination of the meaty beans infused with spicy, smoky flavours, juicy tomatoes and capsicums and fresh hit of coriander all make for a fantastic meal. Go on, give it a go!

Continue reading "Vegetarian chilli: a meaty delight for herbivores" »

31 May 2010

blue water cafe + raw bar, Vancouver


After being away from Vancouver for a year, there's one thing I miss most, apart from friends of course, and that is, the wild salmon. There's nothing like it. And while Australia has it's fair share of delicious fish, nothing quite compares to the rich, delicate flesh of wild Sockeye.

Having only a week to spend in Vancouver, I was on a mission to fulfill my fish fix. Each night and day was taken up with visits to favourite food haunts: Kirin Restaurant (three times) for world class dim sum; Legendary Noodle for cheap & cheerful hand-pulled noodles; Granville Island Public Market for, well, everything, Kintaro for amazing shio ramen and Medina for Moroccan breakfasts and Belgian waffles.

The last stop was planned for Yuji's -- offering Vancouver's best Japanese tapas, aka izakaya, and melt-in-your-mouth wild salmon sashimi. As luck would have it, Yuji's was closed for the long weekend! Alas no salmon.

I didn't give up that easily and remembered hearing about blue water cafe + raw bar in Yaletown. The highly acclaimed restaurant is famed for its west coast plates and seafood. I snuck in and asked to see the menu. There it was -- Beni sake Sockeye salmon sashimi. Three plates please. Oh and some oysters too.


Set in a converted heritage warehouse, blue water cafe + raw bar is big. The decor is eclectic, warm and inviting.  On one side of the room, the fast and furious open kitchen is exciting to behold. On the other, the dazzling raw bar is home to sashimi master Yoshi Tabo.

Continue reading "blue water cafe + raw bar, Vancouver" »

28 April 2010

Crab and barramundi ravioli


I promised the follow-up crab and barramundi ravioli and here it is! It was a cheat's version as I used store-bought egg-based wonton wrappers. It worked a treat and is a great shortcut for those of us who are time-starved... And hungry.

The filling was one I used in my last recipe for stuffed zucchini blossoms. It's a winner. The kind of filling you just eat straight out of the mixing bowl with a big spoon.

This is going to be a short post. Thank you for all your messages, comments and emails. Up next, a strawberries and cream crepe cake.

Continue reading "Crab and barramundi ravioli" »

28 February 2010

Crab and barramundi-stuffed zucchini blossoms


A few weeks ago as part of my cheffing course I did two days of work experience in a local Italian restaurant famed for it’s house-made pastas and bread and simple, rustic fare.

I was pretty nervous on my first day having no real restaurant experience and conscious of the fact that the kitchen was tiny and I’d more than likely be a hindrance than help.

Despite the size of the kitchen and the erratic environment the head chef was patient, attentive and a brilliant teacher. I walked away from my brief stint excited, inspired and dying to try out some of the dishes at home.

One of my jobs over the two days was to stuff the ravioli. Sounds a little dull perhaps but I reveled in the task. The filling was a mixture of blue swimmer crab, snapper, mascarpone and chives.

The paper-thin ravioli was served simply dressed with extra virgin olive oil and garnished with peppery rocket punctuated by salty shavings of dried mullet roe. Gorgeous.

I recently re-created the dish at home sans roe. And since my pasta machine is still in storage (yes, it’s been almost a year) I cheated and used wonton wrappers. A good substitute if you’re in a rush. It was divine. I’ll be sharing the recipe in my next post.

I made a little too much filling and decided to use it to stuff zucchini blossoms. A good decision. I used barramundi as opposed to snapper as it was half the price but beautiful nonetheless. The zucchini blossoms were coated in a light batter and then fried for about two minutes. It’s a wonderful appetizer but one that needs to be eaten straight away to appreciate the delicate crunch and oozing filling.

For a refresher on how to stuff and fry zucchini blossoms, click here.

Continue reading "Crab and barramundi-stuffed zucchini blossoms" »

27 January 2010

Sicilian Anchovy Pasta with Toasted Breadcrumbs


I haven’t had the pleasure of exploring Sicily yet however it’s on my ever-expanding list of places to visit.

When I do go, I’ll be eagerly seeking out ‘pasta c'anciova e muddica’ – anchovy pasta with toasted breadcrumbs.

I've recently introduced a new addition to the pasta -- the poached egg. And it's here to stay.

The rustic recipe features in my household at least once a week. Even when I’ve run out of most basic of fridge staples like milk and bread, I know I’ve got jars or tins of plump anchovies, bread crumbs and chili flakes at hand.

I have to admit however that my love for the anchovies is rather recent. For many years, my feelings towards anchovies were dominated by teenage memories of my tongue being assaulted by the vile little fish often found scattered over other people's pizzas.

Now it’s hard to imagine my kitchen without them. Whether used in Sicilian pasta, a Caesar salad or a creamy mayonnaise, good anchovies lend that burst of sweet, salty pungency that’s hard, if not impossible, to substitute.

I read somewhere once that physically, anchovies can be treated much like garlic. They can be finely chopped and stirred into a vinaigrette or compound butter. Pounded into smooth paste to intensify a creamy risotto or sautéed whole with onions and garlic to form the delicious base of a pasta or stew.

Good anchovies should taste of the sea but not be overly fishy. They come salt or oil-packed in jars or tins. After sampling many different brands, I have found the best-tasting anchovies to hail from the coast of Spain. I opt for fillets stored in extra virgin olive oil. They are more intensely flavoured without the piercing saltiness of salt packed anchovies.

Continue reading "Sicilian Anchovy Pasta with Toasted Breadcrumbs" »

04 January 2010

Poached Eggs: how to make them step-by-step


There are many ways to poach an egg. Some are more reliable than others.

If you’re like me, then you’ve experienced the miserable “egg soup" scenario. This is where your poached egg more closely resembles wispy threads floating in water than a delicate, coddled globe with a molten centre.  But don’t despair. There are ways to avoid this unfortunate situation.

One of the constants in successful poaching is the quality and freshness of the egg. However, finding really fresh eggs on grocery shelves can be a challenge.

First, check the use-by date. Sounds simple but it can often be overlooked when you’re faced with a wall of eggs. There can be up to two weeks' difference in use-by dates between eggs sitting side-by-side on your supermarket shelf.

Secondly, look at the eggs. Choose eggs with a chalky surface over those with a smooth one – this is a sure sign of fresh eggs.

Once you have your fresh eggs, you need to know the best method for poaching them... Read on...

Happy New Year!

Continue reading "Poached Eggs: how to make them step-by-step" »

24 November 2009

Strawberry Tart


Week four into the pastry module and I am well and truly on a butter high. Not exactly great for the cholesterol but I’ve only got two weeks left until the end of term.

One of our recent lessons included making sweet paste, also known as “pate sucree”. 

Sweet paste is used for tart bases or shortbread cookies. There are several methods in which to make it with the ‘creaming’ or ‘rub in’ method resulting in a lighter and crumblier end product. 

There are a few important points to remember when making sweet paste, especially if it’s for a tart base.
First, when mixing or kneading the dough, do so with a light, gentle touch. Overworking the dough develops the gluten strands and results in a tough and often dry crumb.

Secondly, when the recipe says ‘rest the dough’ – rest the dough. No shortcuts or shaving off a few minutes here or there.

Resting pate sucree means wrapping it in plastic cling wrap and allowing it to sit in the fridge for about 20 to 30 minutes. If you don’t let it rest, the dough will be too soft to handle and shrink if you try to bake it.  A dismal thing if it’s ever happened to you but it's something that can be avoided by just being patient. 

This strawberry tart took me a lot of time and patience to make. It's a scorching summer here in Sydney and soaring temperatures don't exactly make for perfect pastry-making conditions. Handling buttery pastry can be a difficult thing in the heat but I did it.

The tart was filled with a luscious dark chocolate crème patisserie and topped with fresh strawberries.

It was a funny moment when I'd finished taking photos of the tart. It was so lovely to look at. I stared at it for a while and realized with a slight twinge of disappointment that all there was to do now was to eat it.

I have found this attachment occurring throughout my pastry-making. And I'm not the only one. My classmates suffer from the same parental urges. We all hover protectively over our own danishes in class.

Ultimately, the eating always beats the looking.

Continue reading "Strawberry Tart" »

02 November 2009

Berry & Ricotta Danishes


There’s something magical and fascinating about puff pastry and the way the buttery dough rises up to form crisp, golden layers of which there are anywhere between 513 up to 1459.

This week I’ll be learning for a second time in my life how to make puff pastry from scratch.

I first made it at the Pacific Culinary Institute in Vancouver. It was time-consuming work requiring what seemed like endless rolling combined with deft handling of the dough. And, then there was the butter. Oh so much of it, carefully and methodically rolled in between each layer.

It is thought that early puff pastry found its origins in Rome but was then re-introduced and perfected in the 17th Century by legendary French chef Marie Antoine Carême.

Carême, who likened the art of pastry to architecture, is credited with developing the ‘six turn’ method that resulted in unparalleled layers of light, flaky pastry.

Well that’s all well and good if you’re a master pastry chef. I’m most certainly am not. Yet. 

For now I'll just stick to the store-bought kind, which for my purposes, is fantastic. While I’m not creating the kind of otherworldly delights found in Paris’ Poilane, I am winning friends nonetheless thanks to Careme pastry

Unlike other ready-made pastry Careme is actually handmade using natural ingredients. Based in South Australia's Barossa Valley, Careme sells four types of artisan pastry including sour cream shortcrust and all-butter puff pastry which I used to make these berry and ricotta danishes. 

Continue reading "Berry & Ricotta Danishes" »

20 October 2009

Wagyu BBQ at Chef's Armoury, Sydney


I’ve never been a big carnivore, preferring to graze mostly on vegetables, legumes and seafood. Recently, however, I attended the Wagyu BBQ at the Chef’s Armoury in Sydney, where I ate about a month’s worth of the most succulent, tender and flavoursome beef I’ve ever tasted.

On the menu was Wagyu. Two varieties – grain fed and organic, grass-fed beef. Both were expertly barbecued on a traditional Hibachi grill by Chef’s Armoury owner, Leigh Hudson, and served with salad, grilled garlic skewers and fresh wasabi.


Wagyu is highly marbled Japanese beef, also known as Kobe beef. The marbling is what gives the beef its tenderness and complexity in flavour. A fellow guest aptly exclaimed that he could actually "feel the fat melting" in his mouth. I certainly could. It was almost addictive with each bite being somewhat of a revelation.


Thankfully I had other things to distract me from the beef binge -- Japanese knives. Some of the very best.  It's no wonder the Japanese are so skilled at creating such beautiful tools. In the home of the Samurai, forging sharp steel is a most esteemed craft.


Hudson's knives sit gleaming like museum artifacts in glass cases. Each one seems to speak to whomever looks upon it. Knives of all shapes and sizes. All Japanese. All exquisite.

Chef's Armoury 
747 - 751 Botany Road,
Rosebery NSW Australia
Tel: +61 2 9699 2353

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