Monday, December 19, 2011

Recent Eats

A quick summary of some of the yummy things I have eaten/cooked in the last few weeks---

Roast pork and salad on our new BBQ- roasting is SO easy in it.

Prawn Pizza at Il Gambero on the Park, Carlton (Our fave Lygon St haunt... has been for years. We used to frequent the old location before it burnt down. But, the new location is more modern with still the authentic Il Gam feel to it, and the food still rocks!)

Proscuitto Pizza at Il Gambero on the Park, Carlton

Pumpkin Gnocchi at Il Gambero on the Park, Carlton

Do it Yourself Mexican at home- hard and soft tacos, mixed salads, taco mince, marinated chicken, homemade guacamole, sour cream, cheese, salsa. Yummo!

Scotch Fillet with vegies and Cauliflower Mash-loving cauliflower mash at the moment. It is a great low carb alternative to mashed potato. So easy to make too- simply boil cauliflower until soft, and puree with a bar-mix. Then add whatever else you like... I added chives, garlic and some parmesan cheese.

Tofu Burger at Invita (next to Queen Vic Market). This tofu pattie was amazing- the amount of textures and flavours packed into this one pattie made a very nutritious choice whilst on an excursion with school.

My favourite home-made breaky- poached eggs on sourdoah with smoked salmon, avocado, spinach, asparagus and dash of hollandaise. My poor boyfriend never gets his beloved 'eggs and bacon' on a weekend morning anymore, but he really enjoys this healthier option anyways. Such a great start to the day!

Jimbo Muesli- created by the great Jim Stynes himself, who eats a raw food diet as part of his battle with cancer. Filled with unprocessed, untouched nuts, seeds, grains, oats and goji berries, it makes you feel instantly healthier! Another great start to the day... And, thoughts and love are with the creator of this muesli everyday...

Lettuce and Herbs from my Mum & Dad's thriving vegie patch!!! 

And, with Christmas around the corner and a nice long holiday in Malaysia... stay tuned, because the best is yet to come. Wishing a very happy holiday season to all my readers- may you all have safe and wonderful Christmas and New Year.

L x

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Zonzo @ TrainTrak winery- Wedding Function

Last week I attended a beautiful ceremony for the wedding of my fellow foodie cousin at TrainTrak Winery in the Yarra Glen and safe to say, the food didn't disappoint (Although I would not have expected anything else from this couple!) From amazing canapes (think fried artichoke hearts, bruschetta, prawns, arancini... mmmm!) to amazing cured meats and antipasto to woodfired pizzas to 'fall off the bone' roast lamb with vegetables. Oh, and lets not forget the 'cheese' cake- three wheels of cheese stacked on top of each other.
This was the first wedding I had been too, but comparing to what I know of weddings and 'function' food, the food that Zonzo provided was wholesome, hearty and wonderful. Very fitting to an amazing day. Big congratulations to the newlyweds!!

Toyama Japanese, Ivanhoe

There is something so wholesome about Japanese food. I think it has something to do with the amount of raw food they use- from sushi to seaweed salad to the fresh vegetables that are served with the hot dishes. The downside to Japanese food is that the amount of small dishes we tend to order mean that the bill can add up very quickly... but I guess it is somewhat worth it to have a meal where you feel nourished afterwards.

Toyama has been our favourite local Japanese haunt for years. We usually share three or four entrees and a main meal. We always comment afterwards that we wish we had have had ALL entrees, as they really seem be the best part of the meal. So, I thought I would share with you a few of our favourite small share dishes at Toyama.

Agedashi Tofu- one of my favourite foods. The soft beancurd pillows soak up just enough of the beautiful broth.

Okonomiyaki- these soft pancakes stuffed with crisp shredded vegetables are just lovely. The BBQ sauce and mayonnaise topping may sound weird, but the flavour combo is out of this world!

Sushi- I adore sushi. Give me nigiri, handrolls, sashimi along with some ginger and a generous touch of wasabi and I am content. My absolute favourite 'healthy' food. And I strongly encourage those who haven't yet to give the raw fish version a try!!

  Yet another 'Preaching the benefits of Asian food' session from me ;)

L x Toyama on Urbanspoon

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Chin Chin, CBD

When I said in my last post that I managed to cross two restaurants off my wish-list, Chin Chin was very close to my number one restaurant! Chin Chin has been the talk of the Melbourne culinary world since its mid-year opening, and I had tortured myself reading countless blogs about the amazing Asian fusion food that pretty much encompasses my love for gourmet Asian cuisine.

The thing about Chin Chin (and this is probably part of the appeal), is that it is one of those restaurants- where you cannot make a booking. And, because of its wild popularity, it is virtually impossible to get a table for dinner unless you arrive before 5pm. So. after two failed dinner attempts, we arrived at 2pm on Saturday afternoon and were seated immediately in this funky, packed out Asian-style diner for a exciting, flavoursome feast. We chose the suggested 'feed me' option, where for $66 a head the waitress or head chef chooses an exciting array of Chin Chin's most popular dishes. This was an excellent option as the menu had so much to choose from that we would have been spoilt for choice, and the 'feed me' menu we recieved featured many of the dishes we would have chosen anyway. So, we tucked in to what I am going to call (and this is a big call) probably the yummiest restaurant visit I have ever had.

Kingfish Sashimi with Lime, Chilli, Coconut and Thai Basil
Another stand-out kingfish dish, these beautiful, light pieces of raw fish combined with the zestiness of the lime and chilli and creaminess of coconut milk was the perfect starter.

Pork 'Roll Ups' - red braised suckling pig with pancakes, slaw and sour herbs.
A creative spin on rice paper rolls or peking duck pancakes, these little DIY rolls were the perfect balance- that rich, meaty pork with the tart, sour herbs and a plum-like sauce. Yum yum yum.

Roti stuffed with Indian-style beef mince with dipping sauce.
These were like curry puffs... but better! The buttery roti stuffed with spicy beef mince were yummo, but not my favourite dish of the day.

Crispy Barrumundi and Green Apple Salad with Caramalized pork, chilli and lemongrass.
Amazing amazing amazing. This was the stand-out dish. A beautiful crunchy zesty salad of Asian greens and apple, topped with pieces of crunchy battered barrumundi and rich, slow cooked caramel pork. I would eat this again and again and again and again.

Massamum Curry with Beef and Apple Potatoes
This was a great massamum curry... however, after the flavour explosions we had just experienced, it seemed a little heavy and bland. I think we had been spoilt up until here, and for me a heavy curry is something you have as one of one or two dishes, not one of seven!!! I enjoyed it, but could have taken or left it.

Caramelized Sticky Pork with Sour Herb Salad and Chilli Vinegar
I wish we had have got this dish before the curry, because this is my kind of dish. Sticky, crispy marinated pork with a spicy and sour dressing. I would have loved to have fit in more of this, as its just one of those indulgent dishes that you know you shouldn't eat, but life would be so boring without it. Beautiful and balanced, as the vinegar cut through the richness of the pork.

Palm Sugar Ice Cream Sundae with salted honeycomb and lime syrup
The best kind of dessert to finish off with. Even though it was ice cream, it was light and had the consistancy of gelato. The lime syrup cut through the creaminess to give it a real zest which was added to by the crispy honeycomb crunch that added a whole new dimension of texture to it. Just lovely.

I cannot even describe how much Chin Chin lived up to the hype, and seeing it was my third attempt to get in there, I am so glad it did. I can't wait to go back and try the rest of the diverse ranges of dishes they have there. Whilst it is semi-pricey, the dishes are made to share and take you outside the square of what you would normally eat. I cannot recommend an early dinner or a late lunch here enough- do your tastebuds a massive favour. My new favourite restaurant!!!!

L x
Chin Chin on Urbanspoon

Hellenic Republic, East Brunswick

This week I haven't had much time to blog- probably because I have been too busy eating... at two of my top ten wish list restaurants. I will start with Hellenic Republic, but make sure you check out my next review, Chin Chin.

Hellenic Republic is one of the several restaurants owned and run by George Colambaris of Masterchef fame. So, seeing how much of a little Masterchef fan I am, this was a pretty cool experience for me. Recently at the Taste of Melbourne Festival, after tasting some amazing food from St Katherines, another of George's restaurants, we signed up for the online VIP type club. Even though signing up to these clubs can be a little annoying due to the spammy type emails, it was on one of these emails that I saw that Hellenic Republic were having a Greek Islands Night event for $100 per person, including four courses and drinks. Yes please! So we booked a table and a couple of months later, off we went to the restaurant/

Now, the only down-side to the entire evening was probably our seating situation. I have no problems with communal tables, and have even had lovely conversations with fellow diners at other restaurants with this style of seating. But the boy and I were the only two diners on a communal table full of Hellenic Republic and Press Club staff. We were sitting next to the sommelier or 'wine guy' for both restaurants, which had me a little awe-struck I must say, and he was welcoming and very friendly. We did feel as though we were intruding on some of the other staff at the table however, and seeing as it was my first time experiencing the food, I did feel a bit dorky sitting at a table with seasoned professionals who had probably eaten there a thousand times- forgive my lack of photos due to this! It would have been different if say, George had turned up and conveniently sat at that table but unfortunately that didn't happen. The wait-staff were very friendly and attentive though, and the head chef even visited us at the end of that long table to ask how our food was.

It was a banquet sharing type situation, and I have never seen so much food in my life!!!

Greek style bruschetta dish, gigante beans, olives.
 The mezze course was preceded by some beautiful sourdough and olives. We were then showered with mezze dishes such as Gigantes (beautiful beans braised in a tomato sauce, I love these!), smoked kingfish (the highlight of the night, this was amazing... they smoke it on site), a Greek take on bruschetta and some chargrilled octopus. Our other favourite was the baked feta with honey and sesame seeds, this was rich and flavoursome. I am planning to try to make my own version of this today! Already we were very impressed!
The seafood course featured a beautiful whole baby snapper where the meat just fell off the fish and melted in your mouth, served with a greek salad and prawn saganaki. The prawn itself was huge and plump and delicious, but the saganaki sauce was a bit bland and it wasn't my favourite dish of the night.

Whole baby snapper
The meat main was huge, indulgent and amazing. We had been able to smell the beautiful aroma of pork belly cooking on the open spit at the front of the restaurant all night, and it did not disappoint. Lovely little medallions of crispy, smoky pork that just melted in your mouth. It was served in a 'do it yourself' souvlaki dish where we were given platters of tzatziki, grain salad, lettuce, pita, fritates (yummy hand-made chips) and the meat and made these lovely souvlaki's with them.

Do it yourself souvlaki with spit roasted pork belly
 By dessert, we were filling very stuffed, but couldn't resist the watermelon salad or the amazing kataifi pastry filled with this amazing salted caramel. I could have eaten five of those little pastries, if only we weren't already needing to be rolled out the door.

Kataifi pastry with salted caramel- amazing!

Watermelon salad- wonderful and refreshing after a heavy meal

In addition to this HUGE meal, for our $100 a head we also got beer on arrival, ouzo, red wine, white wine and a grappa-like digestive. Overall, I was shocked at how value for money Hellenic Republic was. Because of George's fame and its popularity, I expected quality over quantity, not quality AND quality. It would be a challenge to walk out of this restaurant hungry or dissatisfied. Wholesome, traditional Greek food... well worth the stomach ache all that cheese gave me ;)
Yet another wish list restaurant crossed off. Keep an eye on the Hellenic Republic website if you are interested in a similar kind of experience as they are planning to have a gala type evening for a different region of Greece every quarter. I know I will be back to travel once again to a little part of Greece!

L x Hellenic Republic on Urbanspoon

Sunday, November 27, 2011

A friends specialty dish :)

I wanted to share with you also a wonderful dish I ate a girlfriends house this weekend. Cooking for each other is a great way to eat healthy, save money and share our favourite recipes. I had heard great things about her infamous 'chicken dish' and it was great to try it.

Although I don't have the exact recipe on me, the chicken breast fillet was stuffed with sundried tomatoes and spinach, and wrapped in proscuitto. Oven baked, the chicken was tender and succulent. She served it with a side of home-made, fresh, zesty guacamole which went really well with the chicken.

The salad was my doing- tomato, cucumber and lentil salad with haloumi cheese. This was also very enjoyable and a perfect accompaniment to this healthy meal. It was so simple and easy to make, I used this recipe from (my fave website)---

So next time you are trying to save money or attempting to eat out less (difficult, I know) why not invite some good friends over, get them to bring a side dish or a dessert and eat in instead of eating out? Attempt to create your own restaurant quality dish at home... my lovely friend did!

Let me know if anyone wants the exact recipe and I will hit her up for it.

L x

Pho sure!!!!

Hello all,

It has been a while since my last blog... report writing at school means not enough blogging time for this foodie. But, I ate at one of my favourite pho houses today so I thought I would take the time to share with you. Pho Huong is on High St, Preston (near the market). It is a conveyor belt of Pho and other yummy Vietnamese goodies- the tables are ALWAYS full, but guaranteed someone will stand up as you walk in for a quick feed.

We were in need of Pho this morning after respective nights out- a hens night and a bucks night for the same wedding. The boy and I were feeling a little tired and worse for wear, and as I have said several times in this blog- I believe Pho is the best thing to get you back to life after any kind of illness... even if its self inflicted!

For those of you who have never had Pho, I should probably explain what it is and why I love it so much. Pho is the traditional breakfast food in Vietnam, and we absolutely adored it whilst on our trip over there, eating it for breakfast and lunch where-ever we could. It is the perfect breakfast in a country that is so hot and humid, that immediate hydration in the morning is the perfect start to the day. I have such fond memories of sitting in the little booth kitchen area at the Rendevous Hotel in Hanoi, being served steaming bowls of Pho from smiling Vietnamese coupled with an amazing cup of hot coffee (traditionally served cold on ice with a dash of sweetened milk). Perhaps thats one of the reasons why this is my favourite food, it brings back amazing memories of wonderful travel times. But, there is so much more to love about it.

So what is Pho? It is a large (too large really!) bowl of steaming, beautifully spiced broth complete with soft hand-made rice noodles, and your chosen meat. We are a fan of Pho Bo Ga which is chicken and beef. On the side you get a dish of all the additions you can put in your Pho to your taste- chili, bean shoots, Vietnamese mint, lemon, lime. I generally go for a decent amount of each, especially the bean shoots as I can't get enough. Its kind of a do-it-yourself soup. It can take up to half an hour to slurp your way through the huge steaming bowl of broth, especially when wrestling with those lovely, slippery rice noodles. But what a better way to kill half an hour than with someone you enjoy being with, eating a dish that makes you feel like you are glowing from the inside! It hydrates you, contains protein and vegetables and fills you up for most of the day. Get on it people- forget salads, pho is the new health food.

Phu Huong, High St Preston

I strongly recommend trying it. My favourite Pho houses are Pho Huong in High St, or Pho 888 in Box Hill. Both have consistently fabulous pho, and as you will see, are frequented by a huge range of people- today we saw families with children, Vietnamese people getting a feed of their home countries specialty, older people, younger people, couples, groups of friends. Oh, and did I mention at 10 bucks a bowl it is an awesomely cheap way to eat out?! Complimentary Vietnamese tea in a thermos is on the table also.

Pho 888, Station St, Box Hill

Go on- try some Pho... and let me know what you think of my all-time favourite fare. Pho 888 Box Hill on Urbanspoon Pho Hung on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Asian Mushroom Broth with Atlantic Salmon

One of the greatest things about loving cooking, and being quite confident with it (if I do say so myself), is that when you get a craving for something--- you can make it! I was feeling a bit flat and 'blah' today, and all I felt like was a wholesome, cleansing soup. Seeing as I had another beautiful Atlantic Salmon fillet in the fridge, I decided to incorporate that into a soup. The rest of my inspiration came from a mixed mushroom noodle soup I had a while ago from Maney's Dumplings in Bundoora. It was a couple of days after I had four wisdom teeth taken out, and the beautiful soft mushrooms, noodles and a rich, Asian broth was so comforting (and easy to mash with my gums) when I was feeling very average.

So tonight I combined my two loves- Asian Soups and Atlantic Salmon... and what a perfect pairing it was! I am sure I have mentioned it several times on here before, but I honestly believe that Asian soups have medicinal qualities... there is something about the hydration you get from broth, and the natural remedies of ginger, garlic and chili that just seems to work. I swear by it!

Asian Mushroom Broth with Atlantic Salmon

Ingredients (serves 2)

Large Atlantic Salmon fillet, halved
1 litre of chicken stock
teaspoon garlic
teaspoon  ginger
one red chili, thinly sliced
squeeze of lime
splash of soy sauce
splash of fish sauce
one leek (white part only) sliced very thinly
8 button mushrooms, sliced thinly
150 grams mixed Asian mushrooms, sliced thinly (enoki, oyster, black mushrooms etc)
Udon noodles

First you need to make your Asian stock. Heat your stock, and add the garlic, ginger, chili, lime, soy sauce, fish sauce. Simmer for half an hour, then strain. In a large work or frypan, with a little spray of oil, stir-fry the leeks and mushrooms for a few minutes or until softened. Place the salmon fillets on the mushrooms and leek, then pour the stock over to poach the salmon. Simmer for ten minutes.

While your salmon is poaching, place the udon noodles in a bowl or container and cover with boiling water for three minutes. Then, in the bottom of your soup bowls, arrange the udon noodles. When the salmon is poached, spoon the mushroom and leek mix over the noodles, then ladle some stock over the top. Place the salmon on top of the stock, mushrooms and noodles. Garnish with a little chopped chili and coriander if you wish.

Then, enjoy the healthy soup-y goodness!!!
I sure did....

L xo

Saturday, November 12, 2011


We wouldn't have even discovered this little breakfast gem had it not been for the trusty Entertainment voucher book that I buy every year and always get my money's worth out of. Using the vouchers can be hit and miss, but today's experience was a great find.

Red Door Corner Store is a fantastic and charismatic little cafe hidden away in Mitchell St, Northcote. Although judging by how packed out the place was (the place was chocka's at 11am this Sunday morning), I doubt it is very 'hidden' to the Northcote brunch-ers. It is not a traditional breakfast place- you won't find a big breaky or anything that is dripping with butter or fat. Instead, check it out if you are looking for something a bit different with lots of fresh herbs and organic produce with your typical eggs.

My favourite part of the decor was old school kitchen appliances like spoons, muffin tins etc stuck to the walls with frames around them. It was a really vintage and cool way of making the place look funky and homely at the same time, and I plan to steal the idea for my own kitchen one day (when I have one big enough to decorate!) ;)

The boy and I both had a beautiful stack of potato rosti, smoked salmon (I think they smoke it themselves), poached eggs, horseradish cream and snowpea sprouts. I could not fault the dish, it was absolutely divine- just my kind of breakfast. The slight hint of horseradish in the cream gave the dish a real zing and was a welcome change from hollandaise.

On the side we shared an amazing salad which I am planning to try at home as a 'healthy dessert'- Watermelon, Strawberry and mint salad served with yogurt and a kind of nut/muesli crumble. It was a beautiful and light side dish that made eating fruit seem very naughty!

We will definitely be going back- the table next to us had poached eggs and avocado on semolina with tortilla's and salsa which also looked great, and even the breaky burger on home-made buns looked worth going back for. A great spot to find a traditional, healthy, organic spin on breakfast. Oh, and the coffee was so great we had TWO each!

L xo Red Door Corner Store on Urbanspoon

An Asian twist on the good old Chicken Schnitz!

Last week I had a craving for a good old Chicken Schnitzel. However, I did not feel like eating it in parmigana form or in any of the typical 'Aussie' ways that we serve it. So I decided to combine my love for Asian food with my craving, and made an Asian style Chicken Schnitzel.

Now there's several ways to do this-

* Use panko crumbs instead of bread crumbs. Panko crumbs are often used in Japanese cooking and are a crisper, lighter kind of crumb. Also works really good with Pork Tonkatsu style dishes.
* Mix some Chinese five spice into your crumbs before you coat the chicken.
* Serve the chicken schnitzel in pieces in an Asian style salad or coleslaw.

Or, what I did on this particular evening-

* Serve the chicken schnitzel with a squeeze of lemon juice and a yummy chow-mein noodle stir-fry.

The crunchy schnitzel (which I did in the oven with some spray oil to avoid completely throwing my diet out the window) was a perfect match with the softness of the noodles with garlic and oyster sauce!

When I was looking for recipes, I found that schnitzel's aren't traditionally even served with chips like we do here in Australia, and that they often were served with vegetables, a potato salad or a savoury noodle dish.

Its amazing how easy it is to create a new, different dish out of a modern classic. I believe we should never stop re-inventing dishes... variety is the spice of life ;)

L xo

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Tapas and Intolerances...

So for the last week or so a very strange thing has happened to me... I have gone off cooking!! This has been due to a very upset tummy. I have suspected for a while that I have some kind of food intolerance and after some blood tests that confirmed I am not Coeliac, and some tinkering with my diet, I am suspecting a self diagnosis of dairy intolerance is looming on the horizon.

After being in agony a couple of days last week, I am now three days dairy free and feeling 'normal' for the first time in weeks. After some research, I have discovered that food intolerances can often go un-noticed throughout life until they surface for random periods when you are stressed or run-down sporadically. So perhaps due to this being my first year of teaching and feeling run-down, a dairy or lactose intolerance has popped up!

I thought I would be more upset about eliminating dairy from my diet, as I love yogurt and cheese and cream. However, with soy milk and soy yogurt, I think I will be just fine and lose weight in the process. I think I will have to put up with a bit of pain to still eat pizza and fetta on special occasions though. Thank god for fruit based gelati, I have been enjoying that as a treat in this hot weather considering ice-cream is off the cards for now.

Thank god for dairy-free icecream as big as my head!!! =)

Stay tuned for some dairy-free recipes to feature on here soon, and if any of you out there in blog-world have experienced intolerances and want to share some information or recipes with me- please do. I would love to hear from you. For those family and friends that are reading, you can comment on my post too by the way--- just click the '0 comments' or 'comments' link at the bottom and leave your name and a message.

On a more positive note, I ate some very yummy (dairy free!) tapas whilst on a visit to Sorrento on this beautifiul hot weekend we have just had. The restaurant was called 'Three Palms' and was a fab little find on Ocean Beach Rd. We had a trusty Entertainment voucher that saved us 25%. Mum and I enjoyed salt and pepper calamari, some beautiful red curry gyoza's (which of course, I am planning to replicated at home) and some duck spring rolls.

Red Curry Gyoza

Duck Spring-rolls

I love tapas as I am the type of person who always looks at other people's meals in longing, so the idea of sharing lots of little bites is very appealing. I thoroughly enjoyed our lunch at Three Palms, and recommend it when you visit the Peninsula. I am planning to go there again in the near future, but in the evening when caramalised pork belly features on the menu--- we all know how I feel about pork belly! ;)

Until my next adventure,
L x

Three Palms on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Toblerone Dip, the perfect Cup Day treat...

Today I am featuring a yummy dessert that one of my friends bought to my Cup Day get together. It is addictive, very more-ish and not very good for you at all, but I just need to share it with you all. I had tried this previously at a Tupperware party (same place my friend learnt to make it) and hadn't remembered the recipe, so was pretty excited to get to try it again and grab the recipe off her.

We ate it with mixed fruit and marshmellows- like fondue, but its a cold dip!

Toblerone Dip

200 grams of Toblerone
1/2 cup of whipped cream
Tablespoon of honey
Fruit and marshmellows to serve

Chop toblerone and melt in a bowl over some boiling water. Mix whipped cream and honey into the bowl. Forget how many calories are in the concoction and dip your fruit or marshmellows into the toblerone-ey goodness.

Special shout out to Amy for this recipe... and Tupperware!