Tuesday, July 31, 2012

turkish banquet wooo

Okay, after 24 hours of lazing around, talking to mum, whining, internet reading, text messages from friends and facebook chatting, I feel a lot better. Although I'm still burnt out, I am now in a celebratory/treat myself mood. The food below should be consumed in such a manner.

The Turkish Pizza House in Weston Creek is in an inconspicuous building - if you draw a square around all restaurants in Weston, it'd be in the corner. The exterior and decor of the 'pizza house' is akin to kebab takeaway joints you'd see in Blacktown in Sydney (South Western-ish suburbs). It's low key, a ghoulish low-budget orange dominates the furniture/walls and the menu consists of illuminated photos of food options.

We got the Turkish banquet. At $20pp, this consisted of a turkish pizza, lamb/chicken/beef kebab sticks, zucchini balls, two dips with turkish bread two times the size of my face, rice and a salad. I had a snack beforehand but was in food heaven. We placed all the food on a low non-table surface which made it feel like a wintery picnic. It was all super tasty and not too oily (apart from the pizza). The amount of food probably lasted us four separate meals. If I could allocate emotions to meals, rather than myself, this would be a super happy meal (not in the Maccas way).
Turkish Pizza House
8 Liardet Street

incoming cold, bang

After typing my last blog entry, it turns out that my burn out is impacting on my physical health. I woke up this morning at 5am (this is becoming a bad habit) with a sore throat and a blocked nose so I'm taking a much needed sick day to recover from this incoming cold. After feeling like death for the first few hours of the day, I dragged myself to the shops to get some natural Vitamin C (oranges and broccoli), throat lozenges and juice.
This is accompanied by murky thoughts like: I want to run away from Canberra like a little animal runs through grass or climbs trees; How pathetic is it that I that I am sick again; With my savings I can quit work and travel for [number] of months/years; What if I drive to Sydney or Melbourne or Brisbane or Alice Springs right now; What would happen if I just stay in my house and never return to work until I felt like it; What if I said I would never return to Sydney.

Okay, I'm going to chill now.

Sunday, July 29, 2012


In a previous blog post, I talked about a person who I knew whose life constantly changed - the person liked to constantly relocate homes, schools, universities etc. In an simple world, I could easily romanticise this gypsy lifestyle. You get to see a lot of the world, experience many different cultures, have a range of interpersonal experiences. You are not dragged down by material belongings, meet a lot of different people and only experience that typical 'honeymoon' period of every new friendship/relationship.

I think I find this intriguing because I'm at a weird stage of my life... lots of people around me are looking for ways to 'settle down' or are on their way to it. For example, people I know are trying to better their career, saving for their first deposit for a home or paying off their first mortgage. They are also breaking up long term relationships because they don't want to commit to that person or dating for the sake of finding 'the one'. Thinking about many of these makes me want to vomit - and that's not only figurative!

So this is kinda how I feel:
(Characteristic of my refusal to follow the conventional stages of growing up) I'm not using this tongue-in-cheek, ironic cartoon to 'box' my position right now, but it does reflect some of it. I feel like I am stuck in a rut for many reasons. Not in a matter of priority, but work is draining and stressful. I'm not getting much satisfaction from it. I know many people generally don't like work, but that doesn't change how much work sucks. Having fun and understanding colleagues helps, but only barely. I'm earning all this money that piles into meaningless numbers in my bank account.

Earning allll this money could justify how much work sucks... but that's IF I had meaningful ways to spend my money. Apart from travelling, I don't find much value in things that can be purchased e.g. expensive clothes, magazines, alcohol, parties. People have suggested splurging on things I enjoy, such as food and art. I don't mind spending quite a bit of money on food, but there's little meaning behind it, rather than gratification of my senses. My favourite types of art are publicly accessible, not in a gallery and free - no money involved. People say I should put down a deposit - but i strongly disagree with this as I'm not in the mindset/stage where I want to lock myself to live in a certain city/country for even a year.

According to the trusty source urban dictionary, its common for people experiencing quarter life crises to question what the heck they are doing with their lives and regret what they are doing/have done. Strangely, I don't feel incomplete like this... I can cross that off 'the list'.

I'm not in a rut with my social life - will be broad and vague because it involves people who may read this. My girl friends in Sydney know me the best and I can relax the most around them. I'm far away from realistically thinking about marriage or children. All the social pressure and angst for 'settling down' is ridiculous and doesn't nudge me.

So I'm not sure what was the point of this blog entry. I could dissect every aspect of my life and see what range of things point to me feeling like I'm in a rut, but that would bore me AND you. However, by typing this, I've opened the door for me to raise other philosophical questions in this blog. I need to express and understand myself before I hit a hard wall.

playground bar

A new bar has opened in Garema Place called 'Playground'. The opening door is quite small but the bar attracts attention through the unusually high number of crowds inside and the noticeable white picket fence complemented with fake grass that guards the door. Is the white picket fence meant to create the illusion that walking inside the bar is like entering a house, garden or a park? Is it meant to create a sense of simplicity. It reminded me of the American TV series 'Desperate Housewives' - a comedy drama of middle class house wives.

The block colours of the furniture and setting were reminiscent of typical Western young girls playing afternoon tea in their backyard. There was also a long wall of exposed brick, hanging lights and chalk boards, creating an Eastern Sydney upper-middle class feel. It's a cosy bar and is filled with people from their mid 20s to mid 30s. The whole bar kinda said to me 'you can still feel classy, have fun like a kid and be a public servant in Canberra'.

The tapas menu was interesting - I was pleased with the choices as it didn't just consist of deep fried squid and dim sims. The menu included tapas with beef cheeks, roasted pork belly, etc. My friend and I opted for the vegetarian casserole-like dish with a poached free range egg and grilled turkish bread and some sort of meat (lamb?) rolled in eggplant. We also got beef sliders, which were essentially mini burgers. They were all tasty, cute and a treat. I enjoyed them mostly because they were novel and small. However, it wouldn't be something I'd crave as they were essentially bite sized versions of things I'd make at home for myself.
I also got cider - the waitress came out with my bottle and a stein/jug for me to drink from. I didn't feel my expense of $14 was justified - my drink would cost less than $10 at Honky Tonks, which is just a few doors away and has a similar atmosphere (both bars would attract similar crowds, and have colourful furniture and similar music). I also think there's a psychology behind inflated prices - it could make people subconsciously feel like the bar was more classy. For example, if a bar asked you to pay $5 for cider, other than getting a 'bargain', would you question what was wrong with the bar/drink?
Oh actually, one thing that was different about this place was the attentive service - this might explain the inflated prices. It was all table service (classy or just convenient as it was a cosy bar?) and we never had to stand at the bar to order a drink. However, they were so attentive that on three occasions, our food/drinks were taken away when I wanted to finish it ALL off.

Monday, July 23, 2012

EPIC markets: fresh, local, (food) porn

The farmers' markets in the Exhibition Park in Canberra (EPIC) were bustling, fresh food, local produce, lots of food porn.
Below is my attempt to take a photo of baklava with the hustle and bustle of the market in the background... The result was a phallic, up-yours photo to some stranger. Whoops.
There was a bread shop with a really long line, so we joined the bandwagon to see what all the hype was about. We got a wholemeal/rye loaf, which was dense and moist but a bit chewy on the sides. My mother also got me a bizarre 'Tunnel Mushrooms Risotto Mix'... I have little idea of what to do with it, but it looks earthy and kinda pretty.
Farmer's Markets Capital Region
Exhibition Park in Canberra (EPIC)

vege surprise in suburbia: Canberra Murugan Temple

My mum came to visit me in Canberra last weekend, so I got to do a lot of things that I've wanted to do for a while, but would find difficult to do with Canberra friends due to timing, concept or distance.

Many people have told me about the vegetarian food fairs hosted by the temples in Torrens and Mawson. The internet has vague information about these, including event listings on a low-budget 'Community Switch' website and one line statements on websites. This is the 'Sydney-me' coming out, expecting there is decent internet exposure of all community events. Sorry!

Nevertheless, we went to the Vishnu Shiva Mandir temple in Mawson first. The food fair is meant to start at 11am each Saturday. We arrived at about 12 midday to a temple with closed doors. We could hear some form of ceremony taking place and smelt delicious food. However, I felt too shy to go inside so we headed back to my car.

Next, we paid a visit to the Canberra Murugan Temple in Torrens. See here. The temple was under construction but underneath a shelter were a few bain-maries filled with an assortment of curries and finger food. It was low-key, just as I like, and the food was served by community members. There were a few people lining up for food, who seemed like they were from the neighbourhood.
The temple had a shed with car ruins and other random pieces. This intrigued me as Canberra is known to be very clean and sterile. I got a curry roll ($2), which was super crisp, not too spicy hot and filling. It reminded me of chicken nuggets! There were other curries... each plate costed less than $10 and serving sizes were generous. Would definitely go again.

Canberra Aru Padai Murugan Temple
151 Beasley Street

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

mushroom nut loaf

I love mushrooms and snacking on nuts. However, I wasn't sure how well the black squishy vegetable would go with the crunchy white protein. I got a recipe for a mushroom nut loaf from some gourmet vegetarian cookbook when I was a student and living in Sydney - it was impossible for me to bake this because a vegetarian dish would rot with neglect in a meat-loving male dominated household. Now I can eat all the veges I desire mwahaha.

I included a mix of crushed brazil nuts, hazelnuts, walnuts and cashews in this dish. I could've eaten the powdery substance like crack on a stick. This was combined with onions, mushrooms, eggs, chives and cheese etc.
While the baked result resembled non-edible soil, it was delicious - varied texture (soft and crunchy), full of flavour and the right of mix salt/sweet/crunch/soft. Surprisingly, it wasn't too dry on the day of baking. I also cooked a tomato/chive sauce which became evidently useful after a few days as the loaf dried up a bit.

my version of banana cake

Months ago, a tree bizarrely fell on my car, which meant I couldn't drive myself around Canberra for weeks. This was strangely depressing cos I hated being reliant on people and not having the freedom to go out. Fortunately, my dad drove from Sydney to lend me his car... this happened to be on Mother's Day so I took the opportunity to bake my classic banana cake for my mum.

Banana cake is one of the most simple things to bake, and most people claim their recipes to be the best. Frankly, I've never liked anyone else's version more than my creation cos I make the cake in the way that I like. I don't mean my banana cake is superior but I enjoy baking and eating my own cake. My version  includes wholemeal flour, brown sugar, honey, oats, lots of banana and walnuts etc. I'm not a fan of yellow buttery cakes which lack bananas or those which remind me of the commercial stuff you get at Gloria Jeans. I like the stuff that fills you up.

This time I added blueberries and made muffins for myself. While it was my perfect cup of tea, I understand others may prefer something else.

pumpkin soup

Remember my post about vegetable stock? (click here) This was inspired my housemate who brought home a little pumpkin for me one day. This was the smallest pumpkin I ever saw (fit like a glove in my palm). The pumpkin came from someone's back yard so was organic. It was so adorable that I could imagine keeping it forever as an ornament but the weather was cooling so I knew it had to be used for soup.

I bought some more pumpkin, orange sweet potatoes, carrots, onions and garlic. They were lightly tossed in olive oil and roasted to bring out their true sweet flavour. A vegetarian friend introduced me to the roasting method for pumpkin soup and I've never looked back. Rather than boiling the pumpkin, roasting it makes the soup naturally sweet and super super super tasty. DELICIOUS.

excessive cooking and Japanese food

In the past few days, I've probably cooked three separate recipes, each having four serving sizes. My housemates thought I went manic as I cooked numerous times at 9pm as a way of majorly 'de-stressing' after work (I usually enjoy cooking). In fact, it was just me being disorganised, buying too many groceries on the weekend and worrying they would go in the trash.

I didn't take pictures of my excessive cooking. However, reflecting my recent behaviour, I'm going to go on a blog post frenzy (just this evening)... let's see how I go.

My friend and I have made a pact to try more Japanese eateries in Canberra. This was my idea as my favourite cuisines are Japanese and French... probably because they are delicate and are quality over quantity. I like the sweet flavours of Japanese food and the rich/punchy flavours of French food.

I ordered a sushi mix plate at Kagawa in Dickson and was happy overall. I normally wouldn't choose sushi with creamy crab stick in it, but there wasn't much of it so that was okay. The sashimi was as fresh as Sydney's sushi and the sushi rice was just right.

My friend got some deep fried pork. I don't normally choose this kinda dish as it seems like a Japanese form of KFC to me. Despite this, I tasted the dish and found it tasty and super comforting for a glum and overcast wintery day.
Kagawa Japanese Cuisine Restaurant
55 Woolley St

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Taj Agra Indian Restaurant

I've been to the Taj Agra Indian Restaurant in Dickson twice. The restaurant serves North Indian and Pakistani food - I briefly surfed the net and people say that Pakistani food is a subset of Indian food. The former is known to be more meaty. When I went to this restaurant the first time, I didn't really enjoy it because the flavours were dull. The second time, I changed my expectations and couldn't complain.

The first time, I went with my family and we ordered Malai Kofta (potato and cheese dumplings half fried and finished in a rich cashew nut sauce), Saag Chicken (Boneless chicken cooked with spinach and special herbs, tempered with cream) and Madras Beef (South Indian beef curry with coconut milk and fragrant spices) along with a wholemeal roti. On this occasion, I thought the food had too much sauce and odd but dull flavours, while the meat wasn't overly tender. 

I went another time with a different person and completely forgot what I ordered the first time. Coincidentally we got the Madras Beef and wholemeal roti (again for me). There was another dish but I forgot. The flavours seemed to mix better this time, but maybe that's cos the memory of my (eating) palette allowed me to adjust my expectations.
Some more of my 'deep thoughts' for today... I always try to eat something different at restaurants, but still follow trends and have favourites. This makes me think whether I am subconsciously following the same patterns within and across my lifes in Canberra/Sydney. I wouldn't say that I'm bored of Canberra, but there is a repetition in activities/day-to-day interactions. Sometimes I just feel like running outside and doing something so bizarre that disrupts the normal pattern of things. I've tried to do things/activities that I consider 'out of my norm', but then I'd revert back to what I'm comfortable with. So is it possible to sustain dynamicity in your life, without reverting too much to your own 'norm'?

Taj Agra
35 Woolley Street
Dickson, Canberra

roast dinner - questions of familarity and comfort

One evening, my friend shouted me a home-baked dinner: salt crusted roast chicken and roast veges. This contrasted with the food I normally eat, including mini vegetarian dishes I cook for myself or takeaway of some sort. The food was ultra comforting, probably because it was an escape from the cold outside and knowing that it wasn't basted in saturated fat. It was nice to have this served at a table - something else I don't normally do.  
For a moment, I felt like I was with a white middle-class family in a cottage in America while it snowed outside. It was a bit bizarre. I can imagine how this kinda meal would provoke people's memories of home, family-cooked winter meals and discussions at the dinner table. This wasn't really the case for me because dinners with my family in Sydney were usually ad-hoc stirfries.

So that made me wonder: Do people always find comfort in familiarity? I knew a person who had a childhood that was constantly changing - family, home, schooling, friends etc and as a young adult, that person continued to find comfort in constant change. My question is whether it's possible to have absolutely constant flux in your life to the point that you'll never see one person twice, never wear the same clothes twice, never use the same word twice. In extreme scenarios, would people develop relationships with anyone... would their memory on something become redundant because their memory would never be needed again. It actually sounds impractical, or that the person would be crazy. Maybe there needs to be some degree of repetition in people's lives... but why?!
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