Asian snack food tasting

Asian snack food tasting

The idea for an Asian snack food tasting session came out of a Twitter convo with Thanh, Adrian and others. It was one of those ideas that sounded fantastic – a group of us getting together for lunch and tasting dried cuttlefish and dried mangoes.

Thanh organised a lunch meet up at Old Town Kopitiam Mamak, where Alastair and I met up with him, Lingy and I-Hua, all prepared with our bags of cuttlefish and mango. Thanks for organising, Thanh!

International Incident Eggs Party


International Incident Eggs Party

For the International Incident Party this month, we are celebrating the humble egg. Eggs are amazing (eggmazing? Sorry. Couldn’t resist!). You can eat them raw, cooked, or put them in savoury dishes, sweet dishes, or baked goods – they’re so versatile. The properties of eggs make them invaluable in baking and cooking. Egg yolks have emulsification properties that allow fats to stay dispersed in water and vice versa, which promotes thickening and stability. The emulsification properties also give baked goods a smooth, creamy texture. And egg whites, when whipped, have great foaming properties and are often used to incorporate air and foam into baked goods. Meringues and pavlovas wouldn’t be possible without egg whites!

Cookbook Challenge: Week 45, Raw

Ceviche with coconut dressing

Recipe: Ceviche with coconut dressing
From: Marie and Claire Food and Drink

I really struggled with the theme for the Cookbook Challenge this week, which was “raw”. At first I thought I would do a salad, but none of the salads I found that were completely raw excited me.

But if there’s one thing doing these posts every week have taught me – think a little harder! And this little noggin eventually came up with far more exciting things than salad: ceviche, tataki, steak tartare, and sashimi.

I decided to do ceviche, which is a seafood dish that’s particularly popular in Central and South America. Typically in ceviche, fresh raw fish is marinated in lemon/lime juice and additional seasonings. While the acid in the citrus “cooks” the fish (the citric acid denatures the proteins), it’s not actually cooked with heat so I’m still counting it as raw for the purposes of the theme this week.The second thing that I’ve learnt from doing these posts every week is that it’s okay to stretch the theme a little. 🙂

Ceviche with coconut dressing

To make the ceviche, I marinated raw bite sized pieces of a white, firm-fleshed fish in lime juice for a couple of hours. The fish was then drained and added to a coconut cream dressing. It was very easy to prepare and for food hygiene reasons, it can’t sit around for long since it’s not cooked. So I only made a small amount to take photos of, and left the rest of the fish in the fridge, thinking I would prepare it later when we were ready to eat dinner. It worked out well that I only made a small amount because I didn’t like it at all! The lime juice was quite strong in the marinated fish, and the coconut dressing was too sweet. I quite like ceviche, but there was something about this one that just didn’t appeal to me.

So that I didn’t waste the fish, I ended up poaching the rest in the coconut dressing instead. With the addition of a bit more salt it wasn’t too bad, but not something I’d want to make again (and of course, once it was cooked, it wasn’t ceviche anymore).

I can’t say this one is a winner, but if you’re interested, the recipe is below!

And see previous Cookbook Challenge posts here.

Ceviche with coconut dressing

Ceviche with coconut dressing

Adapted from Marie Claire Food & Drink

Makes 20 small serves

250g firm white-fleshed fish, skin removed and boned
1 lime, juiced
50ml coconut cream
1/2 teaspoon grated fresh ginger
1/4 teaspoon turmeric
1/2 teaspoon sugar
Large pinch of salt
1/2 tablespoon finely chopped fresh coriander
1 spring onion, finely sliced on the diagonal

Cut the fish into bite sized pieces and place into a bowl. Add the lime juice to the fish and stir. Cover and refrigerate for two hours.

In a separate bowl, combine the coconut cream, ginger, turmeric, sugar, coriander and salt. Drain the fish and add it to the coconut dressing.

Sprinkle with the spring onion and serve.

Mooncake making: Mid-Autumn Festival


On Sunday, I spent a fun couple of hours at Penny’s house with Anh, Celeste and Anna, making mooncakes. Mooncakes are Chinese pastries that are normally eaten during the Mid-Autumn Moon Festival. They’re very sweet, and high in calories, plus they’re relatively expensive per cake (I think a box of four here, depending on the quality, sells for ~$20-$25. But you’re not supposed to eat a whole one by yourself at one go – I wouldn’t eat more than 1/4 at a time.)

The Mid-Autumn Festival is held on the 15th day of the eighth month in the Chinese calendar, and it’s meant to be when the moon is at its maximum brightness for the entire year. (The Chinese calendar is a lunar calendar, with the months following the cycles of the moon.) The Mid-Autumn Festival is celebrated in many Asian countries – such as China, Taiwan, Vietnam, Malaysia, Singapore and the Phillippines, and this year it’s officially today! Happy Mid-Autumn/Moon Festival!

Cookbook Challenge: Week 44, Chinese

Pork belly

Recipe: Sticky Asian Pork Belly
From: Donna Hay Simple Essentials: Lamb, Beef and Pork

It’s Chinese week for the Cookbook Challenge, and I didn’t have a plan for this week. What?! How did that happen? Being Chinese, I should have had a TON of ideas. Maybe I had too many options and was paralysed by indecision. Who knows! In the end, I made pork belly for this week just because I saw it at the shop – it was a total impulse purchase.

The pork belly I bought didn’t have the skin on it, so I couldn’t make the classic Chinese crispy roast pork. Instead, I followed a Donna Hay recipe for a sticky Asian pork belly (close enough) and braised the belly in a mixture of wine, hoisin sauce, kecap manis and soy sauce. (The recipe says to bake it, but I braised it and it worked well enough.) I cooked the pork and then let it cool in the fridge overnight, a step that I highly recommend because it meant I could scoop off a lot of the solidified fat. And, holy cow, was there rather a lot of fat and oil – it’s pork belly after all!

After hours of braising, the pork belly was soft and tender. It was a bit fatty, but not excessively so. The marinade and cooking sauce was quite strong and tangy, and there was an edge to it that I wasn’t sure I liked. Too much hoisin? Too much rice wine? I’m not sure. So it wasn’t the best pork belly I’ve ever eaten, though it was much better when eaten with plain rice to help cut through some of the richness.

Pork belly isn’t something I cook or eat often – everything in moderation of course! But next time I make it, I’ll try another recipe. I want something better than okay if I’m making pork belly – I want absolutely drool worthy! Does anyone have any recipe suggestions?

See previous Cookbook Challenge posts here.

Pork belly

Sticky Asian pork belly

Adapted from: Donna Hay Simple Essentials: beef, lamb and pork

4 cloves garlic, crushed
2 teaspoons finely grated ginger
1/4 cup hoisin sauce
1 cup Chinese cooking wine
1/4 cup brown sugar
2 tablespoons kecap manis
1 cup water
2 fresh chillies, roughly chopped
1kg pork belly

In a large bowl, combine the garlic, ginger, hoisin, wine, sugar, kecap manis, chillies and water. Add the pork belly (skin side down, if it has skin) to the marinade, and cover and refridgerate for at least one hour.

Place the pork belly and marinade into a large pot. Bring the liquid up to the boil, and then turn down to a simmer. Let it simmer until tender – probably a couple of hours. When the pork is tender, leave it to cool in the fridge overnight.

The next day, scoop off the solidified fat and discard. Gently reheat the pork belly. When it is warm, remove the pork belly and cut into strips/pieces. Bring the cooking liquid to a boil and let it reduce slightly. Add some cornflour mixed into water to thicken the sauce.

Return the pork belly to the sauce and serve with plain rice.

J Café / Sushi Burger

I used to work in the city, but after changing jobs last year, I’m stuck in St Kilda. The pocket of St Kilda where I work is not pretty. For one, there’s elephant sized dog poo everywhere, and there’s also the occasional person squatting in the gutter and taking a piss (yes that really happened, it was DURING THE DAY for goodness sake, and she was female. Super classy.). To make things even worse, the food options are severely limited. Argh! It really makes me pine for the city!

When I worked in the city, one place I used to visit at lunch time was Sushi Burger. Depending on your opinion, J Café/ Sushi Burger is either a bit of frivolous awesomeness, or a food abomination. Alastair and I fall into the first camp!

So what’s a sushi burger? It’s basically a sushi type filling sandwiched between two “buns” of sushi rice and wrapped in seaweed. Awesomeness or abomination? You decide!

Cookbook Challenge: Week 43, Crunchy

Salt and vinegar baked chips Salt and vinegar baked chips

Recipe: Salt and vinegar baked chips
Inspired from: Donna Hay, Simple Essentials: Salads and Vegetables

The theme for the Cookbook Challenge this week is “crunchy” and initially I thought I would do a salad of some sort. But despite the fact that it’s slowly warming up in Melbourne, it’s still not quite salad weather. Any kind of weather is potato weather though – so I settled on a recipe for baked chips.

Cafe Vue: cocktail night

Isn’t it funny how some experiences feel like they happened yesterday, and how some feel like decades have passed? Looking back at my blog, I can’t believe that we last went to Café Vue for the cocktail night over two years ago. It doesn’t feel like it was that long ago! How did we let so much time go by?

Bro, Alastair and I went for a return visit recently with Maria and Daz. When Maria made the booking, she was only able to secure us a table outside (if you’ve been there, they’re the tables in the covered alley leading up to the Bistro) but considering how tiny Café Vue is, I thought that was fine.

When we arrived, it turned out that there were three tables available inside the café. There were four tables sitting in the alley. Hmmm. Four can’t fit into three, so one table had to stay outside. Yes, we were the good table and decided that we would stay outside, which earnt us a glass of bubbles each as thanks. Yay free booze! Fortunately, we received the bubbles before Maria mentioned the waiter’s arse… to his face… otherwise I’m not sure we would’ve had anything! It wasn’t quite as sleazy as it sounds – we were just having a laugh – certainly, the rest of us were laughing rather a lot at Maria! And on balance, talking about his arse was not that bad – a customer sitting inside threw a tanty and called the staff c–ts, so we were angels by comparison. (Thank goodness for Tantrum Man making us seem normal!)


Cookbook Challenge: Week 42, Bird

Harissa and yoghurt baked chicken Harissa and yoghurt baked chicken

Recipe: Harissa and yoghurt baked chicken
From: Simple essentials: Chicken

The theme for this week’s Cookbook Challenge is “bird”. While I had grand ideas of doing duck, turkey or quail, it didn’t eventuate and I stuck with the common chook. But we had duck for dinner last night! Does that count? (No, no, I guess it doesn’t.)

Café Vue at 401 St Kilda Road

It was my Bro’s birthday earlier this month, and we took him out for a spontaneous birthday lunch to celebrate.

I have eaten at the St Kilda Road version of Café Vue a couple of times for breakfast/brunch, but have never ordered off their menu de jour. So a a birthday was the perfect excuse for an indulgent Sunday lunch.

Cafe Vue, St Kilda Road

I’m not sure why, but the bread at Cafe Vue comes in a bag. Strange, but cute. It was pretty good bread too.