Wednesday, February 29, 2012

la cita: latin restaurant

I am currently in Sydney for a 2 day work conference and will be staying in town for the weekend! Coming from Canberra, I was glad to leave the grey jungle of my office and my repetitive lifestyle. When I landed in Sydney, I didn't feel much probably because I was exhausted. But then the traffic built up, rain got heavier and people got ruder. The buildings were unfamiliar and I had no idea where I was. I felt like I was in a foreign city. Welcome to Sydney.

I walked along the wet promenade of King Street Wharf with my supervisor. I have limited memories of this area as it's difficult to walk here wearing high heels during a big night and there's cosier bars in other areas of Sydney which I'd prefer.

Nevertheless, I wanted to eat at a restaurant you wouldn't get in Canberra so we went to La Cita, a Latin restaurant. I hear this has a good atmosphere/music for Latin dancing late at night. Even at the time of dinner, the atmosphere was welcoming, funky and cool.

Fortunately, the food was on the same par. I got a vegetarian dish - polenta with a mild tomato puree, wilted spinach and other veges. It was just what I needed after all the oily, saucy and meaty stuff I've eaten recently. But the dish in itself was a great comforting dish. The polenta was pan-fried well (I still need to practice this) and the veges were crisp and fresh. My supervisor got a mixed tapas plate. She loved it as it had a bit of everything and was tasty.

La Cita Restaurant, Bar and Club
9 Lime Street

Monday, February 27, 2012

Beecroft Post Office Wine Bar Restaurant

I like restaurants/places which are in historic buildings. It's like a mix between the old and new. In Sydney I lived near Beecroft, a very quiet suburban suburb with a train station. It's a suburb where oldies would frequent on weekday mornings. I always travelled past Beecroft's old post office and never knew a restaurant even existed, until my friend suggested it and I thought wtf?!

The staff were more than lovely. The man who served us (probably the boss) was quirky and the character of the restaurant. Would visit the restaurant again, just to be entertained by him.

We ordered and shared a pompeii pizza, which had oregano, roasted eggplant, sundried tomato, bocconccini, pesto and parma ham. It was an okay pizza. Nothing amazingly great nor disgustingly bad. Not bad for a local institution, but I'd choose Crust pizza or other gourmet pizzas over this any day. I found a bit odd that the sundried tomatoes weren't chopped up - it was kind of lazy. We also got the rocket salad, with shaved parmigiano, aged balsamic vinegar & olive oil. This was fresh and covered in adequate amounts of cheese.

We ordered a pistachio souffle with gelato, but for some unexplained reason, out came a strawberry soufflé with hazelnut gelato. It was nice and light, and reminded me of home food as the batter wasn't smooth and consistent.

Beecroft Post Office Wine Bar Restaurant
95A Beecroft Road
Beecroft, Sydney

Madame Flavour tea

I love Madame Flavour teas - the tea leaves come in a little triangular bag, each bag having enough room for the leaves to float and infuse the hot water. Each packet/sample box has a letter from the owner of the organisation, as a way of 'personalising' the tea.

Chai - the flavours aren't too strong but have the right delicate sweetness from the cinnamon and tang from the cardamom.

Green, Jasmine & Pear (shown here) - I may have over boiled the tea as the tea was on the verge of bitterness. With green tea, the water is meant to be about 80 degrees, not at boiling point when it makes contact with the tea leaves. Water which is too hot will make the tea a bit bitter. I couldn't taste/smell the sweet pear but it was still good nevertheless.

canberra multicultural festival - a food feast

The Canberra Multicultural Festival – one of the busiest events of the year in Canberra where the streets of the city are filled with stalls set up by the city’s local businesses, including multicultural food/drink, clothes and similar.

The atmosphere is bustling, busy, curious and lively. The air is a cocktail of smells from the sausage sizzle, curry, beer, sweaty children, spices – it’s not sticky or unbearable but refreshing and dynamic.

The food I shared with my friend included Afrian and Samaon food – I insisted we stear away from Thai, Chinese, Italian or anything moderately generic, so as to expand what we are familiar with. The Samaon food is the only one I can remember (it was a very long day), and it was a sweet and sour chicken, with rice and glass noodles. Sounds a bit Asian at first, but the flavours were much sweeter than Asian food I normally eat.

Everytime I go to these festivals, the line for the Dutch profiteroles is bloody long, with at least 20 people. And it seemed like a bit of a rip off as you’d pay $10 for 10 flat pieces of batter, each the size of a 20 cent piece (yes it’s all in relation to the value/aesthetic of money – joke). I wanted to see all the hype was about so I bit my tongue and lined up. The profiteroles ended up being light, sweet and buttery. Each was like a flat ball of heaven and sophisticated childhood memories. Definitely worth the (short) wait and the money.

And a bit of ‘art’ in the everyday environment – my favourite type of art. “Private poetry – trespassers welcome”. This is a play on the typical bureaucratic sign “Private Property – Trespassers will be prosecuted”. Presuming people know of the latter/original sign, this sign mocks and questions the boundaries created by property and ownership. It half-suggests an alternative – poetry (and perhaps other art forms) is/are accessible, welcoming and want your active participation. My question is: how did this sign get placed here – it seems like a stable and permanent piece – did the government fund/approve it? And if so, does that change the meaning and does it still have an ‘oppositional’ meaning?

Saturday, February 25, 2012

ethiopia down under, in pearce

I’ve had Ethiopian food in various places in Canberra – at the Multicultural Food Festival, Bus Depot Markets and the Gorman House Markets. So I thought it was about time to actually go to a restaurant and get some food which hasn’t been sitting in a bain-marie for hours.

The menu noted “Ethiopian food is spicy and hot – but not too hot! This may seem like a contradiction but Ethiopian food is a unique cuisine with spices that emphasise flavour and not heat – unlike Indian or Thai food, it does not burn and is not an endurance test.”

I got the Yedoro Tibbs – chicken breast pieces pan-fried fresh with burbere spices, capsicum, onion & tomato. It burst with flavour and was definitely distinguishable from other spicy foods, such as Moroccan, Indian, Malaysian. The spices in this Ethiopian dish were sharper. Without rice or injera (a traditional Ethiopian bread, which is kind of like a sour/savoury pancake), it was a bit spicy – note that I’m a weakling with spices.
The dish was relatively dry apart from some chilli-infused oil floating around at the bottom of the takeaway container. I avoided ordering a dish with sauce as I’m sceptical of the cream/butter/full-cream milk put in sauces. I would definitely order it again but with a side of veges/salad.

My friend and I also ordered their home-made ginger beer. This was nice – the natural ginger was evident and the drink was adequately sweet.

Note that I went here on the eve of Valentines Day - when walking in the restaurant, I felt like I was on a catwalk with couples quickly shifting their eyes towards the centre where I was walking. Maybe I was feeling paranoid and my distaste for Valentines Day was just playing on me.

Ethiopia Down Under
Pearce Shops, Shop
1-70 Hodgson Cres

fusion of cultures: digress restaurant

I find fusion food interesting – the attempt to combine two+ distinct cultures in a dish. It’s kinda like an artwork. There should be more fusion food in Australia as it is still a new country and the ‘Australian identity’, in my opinion, is still finding its feet. From a very basic perspective, compared to other countries, there aren’t that many generations of people in Australia and the majority of have some sort of European, Asian etc heritage.

Interestingly, I find that a lot of the ethnic food in Australia strives to be as authentic to its origin as possible i.e. ‘come to the [ethnic restaurant] to be transported to [country]. Is this reasonable – to think that in such a multicultural nation, authenticity true ethnic food is possible? Should we just learn to expect that Italian food will always taste better in Italy? Or should we just appreciate the plethora of food available to us in Australia, without thinking about its country of origin?

I went to the Digress Restaurant for a good friend’s birthday. Digress is a fusion between Italian and Indian. The menu included pasta dishes with curry sauce and pizza with tandoori chicken. We were a bit boring/healthy and went for the Chicken Tandoori Salad, which was mediocre and a waste of money. The chicken was amongst the best tandoori I’ve eaten as each bit was roasted in full-bodied spices. On a whole, the salad was essentially around 8 pieces of chicken on a bed of boring green veges. Probably not worth the $15 we paid.
On the other hand, we got a bit tipsy and I found the elongated cutlery interesting – they were like tall people in heavy gypsy pants.

The concept of the restaurant was interesting – would go again and grow some balls to get something more unique.

Digress Restaurant & Lounge
11 Akuna Street, Canberra

Thursday, February 23, 2012

apple tarte tatin

At the moment, my blogger account isn't working but I am trying to work around it by posting here via email and with my (mum's) nifty smart phone.

When I was in Sydney, I would cook a whole cake/tart with enough faith in the world that I wouldn't consume the whole thing. I made a delicious Apple Tarte Tatin, essentially a French 'upside down apple pie' with a base of puff pastry and exposed apples. One of the easiest desserts ever and it tastes amazing, especially with ice cream to soothe your palette against the buttery pastry and tangy apples. The dish must be consumed soon after it is baked to ensure the base remains crispy. The thin layer of apples is proportionally perfect to the thin layers of puff pastry.

Recipe is from Masterchef. Try it, be brave and experiment.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Ginseng @ Hellenic Club

It's Wednesday – hump day and I'm bloody tired and burnt out. The K.Rudd story is hot in the media right now but I couldn't care less.

For my work manager's farewell, we went to the Ginseng Restaurant in the Hellenic Club. It was a restaurant set out in the typical Chinese/yum cha style on one floor of the massive Hellenic Club which is a clean and non-smelly up-market club.

I think the restaurant is owned by the same people as the Ginseng Restaurant in Manuka. I over ate a lot that week so refused to have any coconut cream or crispy skin meat and opted for the entrée sized vegetarian san-choi-boa. It was juicy, delicious, sweet, savoury and crunchy – everything I expect from this traditional Chinese dish. Too bad there were only two servings. Highly recommendable and would like to try their yum cha next time. I just need to be accompanied by a Hellenic Club member…

Sunday, February 19, 2012

fish and chips at fyshwick markets

My friend had a hangover and was craving fish and chips. She knew that I have a food blog so asked me if I knew any good places, but to my dismay, I had not eaten fish and chips in Canberra nor found many places with good seafood. Nevertheless, the seafood sold at the Fishwyck markets was the freshest I’ve had in Canberra, so it made sense to try the fish and chip shop there.

The shop smelt like any other fish and chip shop you'd encounter at the beach or any side walk - deep frying oil and sea water/fishy.
She got the fisherman’s basket, essentially a plate of deep fried crap, including chips, prawn cutlets, calamari, seafood sticks and maybe a piece of white fresh fish. I got the grilled white fish with the salad. Sadly, my fish was overcooked, dry and a bit chewy. Since I’m not really familiar with seafood, I can’t blame this on the (potentially cheap) catch of fish.

I’m still keeping my eyes/tastebuds out for a good a good fish and chip place in Canberra.

Little Istanbul

Turkish cuisine is one that I have not attempted to make at home. Luckily, there is a good Turkish restaurant in the Tuggeranong Hyperdome that makes up for my incompetencies – Little Istanbul.

I went here once for my own work farewell. None of the large meaty dishes appealed to me so I just got the Borek, an entrée dish with four filo pastry rolls filled with fetta cheese, parsley and fresh herbs. The dish was small but each bite burst with the salty creaminess of the fetta, natural freshness of the herbs and delicacy of crisp filo pastry. The pastry was pan fried in oil, which raised some concern for my cholesterol-conscious mind. After four servings of the rolls, I was still hungry so got baklava. I usually love having baklava, but this one was mediocre – overly sweet like all store-made baklava and not as fresh/crispy as those I’ve had in the past. Maybe there was a slow turn-around in the store with the baklava in this week, which would explain why it wasn’t overly fresh.

On another occasion, I got the chicken saladsliced breast chicken with seasonal salad and dressing, for take away. The dressing was tomato based, actually quite tasty and uniquely dazzled with (possibly) spices – it was the star feature of the dish. The salad was served in an odd way – there were four slices of chicken plopped on a bed of salad leaves (whereas most salads would have the chicken shredded and mixed with the leaves). It was probably not worth the $17, but was still a delicious meal.

a brief case study of the male species

In between finding a new home and moving out of my old flat, I stayed at a work friend’s townhouse in Tuggeranong. The place was fantastic – quiet, homey and easy. It was the first time for a while that I lived with a male (and it was great), but what I found amusing was the stark contrasts in our choices of food.

I ate small lentil salads while he consumed large meat-orientated power meals. A lot of his food was overloaded with protein. According to these pictures, he was a fan of brown foods (haha) whereas my food is often green, red and colourful. His meals often lacked vegetables, which was a sharp contrast to my diet. If we switched diets, I’d become a beafy ball and he’d probably lose 5 kilos and become really gaunt. Although we have similar office jobs, I wonder whether my friend’s choice of food means that he is more energetic, or whether we both eat appropriately for our metabolisms, body sizes and genetic make up.

Saturday, February 18, 2012

a tropical garden and amazing salmon at the Atrium restaurant

Atrium: In modern architecture, an atrium (plural: atria) is a large open space, often several stories high and having a glazed roof and/or large windows, often situated within a larger multistory building… Atria are a popular design feature because they give their buildings "a feeling of space and light." (Thanks Wikipedia)

My old flatmate and I are on a quest to experience (aka eat our way through) Canberra. We do this by making the most out of every decent voucher/special deal in the Entertainment book or online voucher websites (i.e. Living Social). This time, I was thoroughly impressed by what we got.

We went to the Atrium Restaurant in the Pavilion Hotel. The restaurant was situated ever so accurately in an atrium – but the bizarre thing was the tropical gardenry which was a centerpiece of the restaurant and integrated in the vertical architecture of the hotel. My old flatmate noticed that the leaves weren’t maintained very well as some were dropping, brown and dry.
Anyway, we both got the salt and pepper Tasmanian salmon fillet with dill potato mash, beetroot pesto with some sort of basil oil/basil pesto. It was delicious and definitely the best seafood I’ve had so far in a Canberra eatery. The salmon was fresh, tasty and not overcooked. The crispy skin of the salmon was done well – had a strong enough crunch to distinguish it from the soft fish but not to the point that you’d think it was deep-fried. The dill mashed potato was smooth, creamy and would be perfect for people in dire need of savoury comfort food. And the beetroot pesto was amazing as it had the traditional pesto texture but had the wow-factor of tasting like beetroot. The basil oil added an extra freshness to the dish.

Each component of the dish was great by itself. But when we combined all of them in one mouthful, we felt weak at the knees.
We used the Entertainment Book and received two for two salmon fillets for 28.50. Can’t complain at all.

Atrium Restaurant in the Pavilion Hotel
Dickson, Canberra
242 Northbourne Avenue

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Vegetarian Shepherd's pie

I have a vegetarian friend in Sydney with whom I exchange recipes and cooking ideas. One day she baked a vegetarian casserole/pie dish and described it as a shepherd's pie - and I thought, what a bloody great idea! A shepherd's pie which allows vegetarians or animal-friendly people to enjoy the comfort of a wholesome pie while keeping in line with their eating preferences.

I made a pie with the key ingredients of puy lentils and purple sweet potato. It was an ad-hoc adventure so I didn't record the recipe. From memory, for the base I used puy lentils, diced onions and carrots, canned tomatoes and some form of tomato pasta sauce (basic ingredients for a lentil casserole dish). The top was just mashed purple sweet potato with a bit of olive oil. I baked it in the oven to give the pie a crusty top - in my opinion, nothing beats the texture of baked mash potato.

Although the lentil base had lots of sauce before I baked it, the lentils soaked up most of the liquid - next time, I'd use a bit more sauce (sometimes the oozing moistness of the pie base makes the pie ever so scrumptious). The sweet potato topping was a bit dry so I had to sprinkle some olive oil on it after it was cooked. In hindsight, I should have mixed the topping with some margarine or some more oil before baking it.

The dish looked a bit bizarre with the purple topping, but this is what I loved about it. It was comforting meal ideal for the cold winter day.

Bon apetit!

Baked ricotta souffle with pears and saffron syrup

I've finally found a new home and have settled in my new place. Have been incredibly busy recently so am holding out for a chilled weekend.

When I was back in Sydney, I made a Baked Ricotta Souffle with Pears and Saffron Syrup. Recipe was adapted from Gourmet Traveller. Fancy, right?! The pears weighed the souffle down, but it was still delish.

Monday, February 6, 2012

A quick dessert to satisfy your sweet cravings

My friend made a delicious dessert, which was the perfect combination of sweet, saucy, crunchy and healthiness. It is basically good vanilla ice cream topped with fresh blueberries, canned lychees and smashed up sesame snaps. The syrup is the water from the canned lychees. Apparently it’s a Jamie Oliver recipe.

Newtown festival

One of my favourite places to be in the world is the Inner-West of Sydney with my friends. Last year was the first time I didn’t feel an impending doom of due dates of uni assignments – it was the first time I went to the Newtown Festival.

The festival was in Newtown Park – it was filled with organic food stalls, eclectic clothing and accessories, everything indie/rock/hippie. It was buzzing and a breath of fresh creative air away from Canberra.
I got a mixed plate of food from the Govindas food stall – Govindas is a fantastic Indian vegetarian buffet near Kings Cross (Sydney) and has amazing healthy food. It’s one of my favourite places to eat in Sydney and one I repeatedly visit.
I also bought a raw energy food bar, which contained veges, herbs, carob and lots of other things. It looked disgusting (like compacted cow manure), but it was strangely delicious, wholesome, didn’t taste foul or green at all and gave me a great energy boost.

On the lines of environmentally-friendly, anti-corporate food, I just watched Food Inc, a doco which seeks to expose the origins of mass produced and unethical food sold in fast food lines, local supermarkets etc. The doco suggested that consumers ‘vote’ in the food industry by using their buying power to purchase certain types of food. I know I would vote buy preferring vegetarian, organic and macro food. However, is one person’s effort enough?

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Guylian chocolate cafe :(

Apparently the Guylian café in Sydney is the first-of-its-kind in Australia. I was heaps excited and was keen to buy a treat for my mum as I know she’s a huge fan of the chocolate brand. I got the three-tiered chocolate mousse cake and it was a sad anti-climax.

Firstly, the cake was in the shape of a crescent, or a circle with an arc cutting into it – where on earth did the rest go? Fail. The cake lacked the Belgian chocolate flavour found in Guylian chocolate boxes and didn’t do justice for the $5-6 I paid for it. Many of my friends/acquaintances criticised the chocolate shop for similar reasons.

live green - eat lentils and fake meat

It was Canberra’s first Living Green Festival – a showcase of all things hippie, including vegetarian and organic food, lifestyle products, environmentally friendly clothes/home items etc.
I got an Indian spiced lentil pattie from the ‘My Rainbows’ café stall. It was served with satay sauce, beetroot salad, lettuce and yoghurt raita. It was fulfilling, tasty and made me go: if vegetarian food is always this tasty, why am I not a vegetarian?

My friends got things from the Asian vegetarian stall – probably run by Au Lac. This included vege skewers and peking duck wraps. They were a bit apprehensive of the pseudo meat, but I thought it was tasty and delicious.

Teatro Vivaldi in ANU: a theatrical experience

The Teatro Vivaldi restaurant is in an inconspicuous building surrounded by trees, found among foreboding academic buildings in the Australian National University. The restaurant was decorated with everything that reminds you of traditional and kinda Shakespearean theatre – black stage walls, red velvet curtains, beams and camera lights hanging from the ceiling. The walls were covered in theatre memorabilia – kitsch Venetian masks, black and white photographs of actors and old-school theatre advertisements. The overwhelming amount memorabilia made me feel like there were thousands of empty eyes were on me, and after a while, I felt like I was an actress myself. Although the ‘scene’ was a bit constructed, the place is a unique and distinctive in Canberra.
One of the two dishes we had was an oven baked Tasmanian salmon, on a sweet potato mash, baby spinach and drizzled with lime aioli. The sweet potato mash was a hit – sweet comfy goodness which made me re-think: Are sweet potatoes really more healthy than potatoes if I enjoy sweet potatoes more?! Unfortunately the key star of the show, the salmon, failed to perform to its potential. It was overcooked, dry and not very tasty. Up to this point, I was convinced that all salmon in Canberra suck.

The other dish we got was a sirloin steak with a roasted potatoes and pumpkin finished with a cabernet and green peppercorn jus accompanied with a rocket salad. I can’t remember this one as clearly (I feel a tad guilty when I eat red meat, for  environmental and chloesterol reasons, so maybe my memory plays tricks on me and refuses to remember when I do consume it). The steak was cooked to our expectations – tender, medium well – but steak isn’t hard to cook after all. It was a good meal but not something that I would rave to others about.

Overall, I enjoyed the restaurant experience and would consider having my birthday celebration there to expose my friends to this distinctive (but slightly constructed) place. The food was mediocre so I’ll have to scope out other places.

Teatro Vivaldi Restaurant
ANU Arts Centre
University Avenue


Friday, February 3, 2012

assortment of cakes from Woden Westfield

It was my supervisor’s birthday and I bought several hand-sized cakes for a communal and low key afternoon tea. Making the most of this opportunity, I scouted Woden Westfield to find the most delectable assortment of cakes - something chocolaty, cheesy, floury, gluten-free and something fancy. Done!
And my amateur review:
Flourless chocolate cake from Pie Face – What? I purchased a present from a franchise which sells pre-packaged food? Well, the chocolate cake was a hit. It wasn’t too sweet and had a genuine (dense) flourless cake texture. It was drizzled with chocolate which made the cake a bit pretty.

French Vanilla Slice from Edelweiss café – Yum, I love vanilla slices. Reminds me of when I was in year 12 and used to walk up the street after school and stuff my fast-metabolic body with this sugary, creamy and flaky goodness. This French vanilla slice was nice – the custard was smooth and decent (didn’t have a disproportionate amount of gelatine), the pastry was still flaky and the icing was thick. Together, it was probably one of the sweeter desserts, but it was still delicious.

Hummingbird cake with cream cheese icing topped with shredded coconut and crushed pistachios from Edelweiss café – one of my favourite cakes of the assortment. It seemed home-made and inspired me to get back into baking myself. This would be perfect at a picnic or as a treat with a cup of tea. The texture was real (and chunky) and every bite was a surprise – what’s the next delicious ingredient in this cake?!

Orange poppy seed friand from Edelweiss café – From my experience, a friand is only bad when it’s stale and this fit into that category. It was great compared to plain sponge cakes, delicious for a friand, a bit ordinary and commonplace compared to the other cakes in the assortment.

Baked passionfruit cheesecake from one of the cafes in the woden courtyard plaza – Creamy goodness. The passionfruit compote was adequately tart and sweet. Same case as the friand – there are so many of these cakes that it’s hard for one to stand out from the crowd. Still good nevertheless.

Rekorderlig winter cider - apple, cinnamon and vanilla hmmm

Rekorderlig had a ‘special edition’ cider – a winter apple one complemented with vanilla and cinnamon. I enjoyed this with Asian wontons, but the complex flavours of the cider demanded it be consumed by itself. All the said flavours were prominent and I loved its distinctiveness. My girl friend found the cider to be too sweet, but I thought it was just right (I love sweet desserts after all). The cinnamon was a great wintery addition to the traditional apple cider, but the vanilla was a tad superficial. I guess I was expecting the organic taste of vanilla beans.
The label on the bottle suggested you could drink it cold or heat it up on a stove top (I assume in the same style of German mulled wine). I had it cold and had no problem with the coldness of typically warm ingredients i.e. apple with cinnamon. Would definitely try this again next winter, but warmed up!

Nestle chocolate dessert test

Feeling an urgent (and planned) need for dessert, my friend and I headed to the fridge section of Coles (haha). There was a 3 for $6 deal for twin Nestle chocolate desserts. I normally would avoid these types of things but gave it a go. This range was inspired by chocolate/confectionary chocolate bars:
Rolo – A chocolate mousse which my friend described as ‘decadent yogo’. I couldn’t agree anymore. This was the best dessert of the three. It was mild in taste, smooth and had an artificial caramel sauce at the bottom of the cup.

Club chocolate – Err… the jelly-like substance was extremely dark in colour but the taste didn’t match. Instead it seemed like it was artificially flavoured with something like dark powdered chocolate (not cocoa). Since the taste wasn’t as rich as the colour of the dessert, I questioned: how much colouring did Nestle actually put in here?

Aero – I was looking forward to this the most as I have fond childhood memories of Aero chocolate. Unfortunately, the airiness of the dessert was the dessert’s key downfall as this made it similar to aeroplane or hospital food. The dessert was like watered down cocoa powder.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

healthy colourful homeless

Even though I don't have a proper 'home' right now, I can still eat healthy and colourful food :). Green lentil salad with spinach, carrots, tomatoes and maybe black olives:

wonton making

Some people express a desire to eat food from their cultural background as it’s a way for them to get in touch with their heritage. Eating this food enables the person to remember past experiences of when they consumed the food with family members (presumably of the same cultural background) and reminds them of ‘where they came from’. It gives some people familiarity and a sense of belonging. Many people find strength in knowing that they have a ‘sense of culture’. I must admit, during/after Chinese New Year, I was guilty of some of this.

I made vege wontons with a bok choy, tofu and chive filling. I mixed the recipes from several magazines, including a Women’s Weekly cookbook. Amazingly tasty – using real ginger, garlic and good quality sauces are essential. It was a bit difficult to steam them, but lessons I learnt from this:
  1. Oil your steamer – otherwise your won tons will stick to the steamer
  2. Remove excess air from the won tons when you wrap them, otherwise they will explode in the steamer
My (asian) friend and I made chicken and pork won tons another night as a post CNY celebration – the recipe was her mum’s. Delicious. It encourages me to ask my mum for her old wonton recipe.

On the note of ‘getting in touch with one’s cultural background’ many people (ethnic and not) have criticised me for my choice to not speak Chinese. They suggest that I should be ‘ashamed’ as I have ‘lost a part of my culture’. This essentially makes me ‘less Chinese’ than someone who can speak Chinese…

The final result, served with gai larn - some sort of Chinese green vegetable you'd often find in yum chas.
In my opinion, people should not think ‘culture’ as a way to reconnect with their traditional heritage but people should think of ‘culture’ as a developing, contemporary and changing concept. There is a new culture of first- and second-generation ‘ethnic’ people in Australia and overseas – some are confused about whether they are more Anglo-Saxon or [insert name of heritage], some resist one or the other culture and others just live based on what’s convenient.

In a passive-aggressive fashion, if I am ‘less Chinese’ than another person:
  1. So what – are you challenged by the fact that a Chinese person has chosen to not adopt all features of his/her heritage? Are you challenged by a person who is not a ‘whole’?
  2. Chinese-Australian or Australian-Chinese is a culture in itself. Consider that before you make a judgement that I lack ‘culture’

Wokitup!: casual Asian noodle bar

It was 8.30pm on a lazy Saturday night and all I had eaten for ‘dinner’ were a couple of microwaved home-made dim sims. ‘Home-made’ meaning my mother made them and gave them to me when she was down in Canberra. My friend who I am living with randomly suggested that we go down to the shops for food – best idea since sliced white bread.

I had a strange urge to eat Asian food – maybe because it was just Chinese New Year and I had not quite eaten enough Asian food to say that I’m sick of it. So we decided to go to ‘Wok it Up’ – its like a salad bar of Asian stir fried noodles based in Canberra. I coincidentally ordered the cheapest possible thing – a small vegetarian box – and my friend got the Singaporean noodles.

My vegetarian noodles were decent (according to my take-away food standards) – the vermicelli were heavily doused in honey soy sauce. If there were any less veges in the meal, I’d be a bit angry. The perk of this place is the ‘make your own box’ feature where you choose from a range of noodles, sauces and meat/veges. The wok/char-grilled taste of my meal reminded me of my childhood where I’d loiter in my dad’s restaurant and eat til my heart was content. Overall, it was okay but the superficial taste of manufactured honey soy sauce and sparse amount of veges reminded me of why I avoid Asian takeaway.

Unit 4/20 Gartside St, Wanniassa
Erindale (also in Belconnen and Gungahlin)

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

a make-do Chinese New Year eve

The past week has been manic. I moved out of my flat and relocated to a friend’s place. My parents came up to help me relocate, which was great. As it was the eve of Chinese New Year, I felt enthused to get some sort of Asian meal – I brought my parents to the Asian Noodle House in Tuggeranong.
It definitely was not the kind of Asian meal I would normally enjoy on CNY, but it was good enough. We got Pad Thai, Lemongrass Chilli Chicken, and Beef Pho. I only tried the first two – the Pad Thai was decent, had enough chicken to make me think that it wasn’t a rip off. The lemongrass chilli chicken was flavoursome (salty and sweet) but the lemongrass flavour wasn’t very prominent. The dish had lots of sauce, so it should have been eaten with a bowl of steamed jasmine rice.

Note that the number 8 in Chinese culture means prosperity or something like that. It was a sweet coincidence that we were seated at table #8.
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