Monday, January 30, 2012

Recent Eats (Jan)

Here is a quick summary of lots of yummy things I have been cooking or eating over this last month---

Poached Eggs on Sourdough with Proscuitto, Rocket & Feta @ Cafe Matto in Burgundy St, Heidelberg. Yummo! The breakfasts there are always really enjoyable!

Taco's from the Mexicali Rose stand at the Suzuki Night Market. I have known the Mexicali company for years since working for them in my late teens/very early 20's. I really respect the way that they try to bring proper Mexican and Spanish food to the table, the authentic stuff, not like Taco Bill's slop on a plate. Their restaurant in Swan St is excellent, and this little stall really stocked the goods too. I especially loved pork taco with fresh pork cut straight off the spit. Amazing! It was really great eating these taco's with a cup of sangria on a warm summer's night listening to some cool tunes.

Lychee Cocktail @ Chin Chin, Flinders Lane.
We all know how I feel about Chin Chin- and their cocktails are just as amazing as their food.

 Crispy Duck @ Chin Chin--- punchy, fresh, flavoursome salad topped by crispy Duck. Yum.

 Salmon Fillet with spices in banana leaf, Chin Chin. We all know how much I love salmon, and Chin Chin's version of it is no exception to that love... Wow!

Kangaroo Fillet with Cauliflower Mash (low calorie) and Rocket and Parmesen salad. Since I have been calorie counting, mashed cauliflower has been a godsend. It tastes so similar to potato mash if not tastier, with barely any carbohydrates. I mash it with a little butter or sour cream, with chives, garlic and a sprinkle of parmesen cheese. I use the Macro Meats Kangaroo brand with herb and garlic marinade- another super healthy option. And the salad is really easy too- rocket, a handful of parmesan cheese and a drizzle of sweet balsamic reduction.

One ingredient Ice-cream- I did have a photo attached to here but it looked a little gross and just didn't do the dish justice. It was the kind of photo that would end up on (if you haven't seen this yet, check it out. Basically someone bagging out novice cooks and the gross looking things they upload onto Facebook and Twitter, this picture would be the exactly the kind of thing the author looks for but anyways...) The one ingredient in yet another low calorie treat I have found is--- BANANA. So how does Banana become a soft serve like ice-cream? Its actually really easy. Freeze a couple of over-ripe banana's in quarters. Leave them to thaw just a little (about ten mins or so) then chuck them in a good food processer for a few minutes. They pulse into a fine ice cream like consistency that tastes delicious and completely indulgent. The perfect thing to tide over a sweet tooth whilst on a diet. 

I hope all of these low calorie additions aren't boring everyone- they seem to be working as I have dropped 2kgs so far this year and several cm's over the last month or so. I also have some new and exciting projects to add to this blog over the next few months---

Febfast- me living without alcohol for a month? This will be a very interesting experiment and I may need to write about it to get it out of my system. If you would like to donate to my team, see the link below. It raises money for alcohol awareness in our community.

Alphabet Dining- a couple of girlfriends and I are embarking on a new kind of eating out adventure! Choosing a different restaurant each catch up choosing cuisines starting with letters of the alphabet eg. Asian, Belgian, Cambodian, Danish, European and so on. Should be a great way to experience different cuisines we might not normally try whilst having lovely catch-ups at the same time. I will be sure to post the restaurants on here and let you all know how we go on our challenge.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Seaweed and Sesame Crusted Tuna

I have wanted to cook this dish for soooo long. I am mad for seafood, especially sashimi-style seafood, and especially salmon and tuna (although if you follow this blog, you would know this already!) So nothing sounds more tempting to me than tuna with a crispy crust, seared and served rare... and this dish definitely ticked those boxes. I bought my tuna from Leo's in Heidelberg and was pleasantly surprised how cheap it was to pick up two fresh, good cuts- $10 for two (individually wrapped fillets from the seafood section).

Now this dish might look fancy schmancy, but its actually super easy to make. If you like sashimi, carpaccio, or even if you don't and want to try the whole raw fish thing but not all the way raw- then you should give this a try. I am not going to include the recipe for the soba noodle salad I served with it, as I wasn't impressed with that (yes, I do sometimes cook things I don't like!) but this dish could be served alone as an appetizer, or with an Asian salad or coleslaw, or with your favourite vegetarian stirfry dish.

Seaweed and Sesame Crusted Tuna (serves 2)
2 decent sized pieces of tuna (try to find sashimi grade, if not, a good clean, thick cut with no fat)
Pandaroo Sushi Rice seasoning-- Seaweed and Sesame Furikake flavour (about 1/4 cup)
1/4 cup of extra sesame seeds
Salt and pepper
Olive or vegetable oil, to cook

On a flat plate, combine the sushi rice seasoning, the extra sesame seeds and S&P to your liking. You then bread the tuna whole just like you would do with a chicken schnitzel. Make sure the whole fillet is covered, and try to press extra crust onto it because it is so yummy!
In a pan, heat your oil. Drop a pinch of the crust mixture into it to make sure it is ready (it should sizzle almost straight away). Place your fillets in the oil. Cook on each large side for one minute each, then seal off the top and sides so your crust is browned almost all over. This short cooking time allows the fish to stay raw in the middle, and tuna isn't the most attractive fish when cooked so the pink flesh in the middle makes it look much more appetising.
Drain on some paper towel, then place your tuna on a plate or chopping board. Using a sharp knife, slice the tuna into 2cm or so slices and lay out on your plate. I served mine with a splash of soy sauce, but there are plenty of different dipping sauces or vinegarettes which would go great with this dish.


Monday, January 16, 2012

Tandoori Salmon with Indian Carrot Salad

Another winning Salmon dish for dinner tonight. I wanted to cook something special seeing as I had been out of the kitchen for a while and was just itching to be back in my happy place, plus the man had gone back to work today whilst I was still on school holidays so I thought why not spoil him? This is the kind of dish that looks and sounds really complicated, but is really quite simple. There are a few elements but a lot of it can be prepared beforehand.

Tandoori Salmon with Indian Carrot Salad (Jamie Oliver), Cucumber Raita and Naan.

For the Salmon:
In a bowl combine a tablespoon of Sharma's Tandoori Paste with about half a cup of natural yogurt (I used Greek). Add two salmon fillets and coat in the marinade. Leave in the fridge for a couple of hours. Then, simply chuck on the BBQ and grill on both sides (shake off excess marinade as you place on grill) for about five minutes. So easy!

For the Salad:
I used this recipe-
I am very into Jamie Oliver at the moment. He has such a knack for taking simple, wonderful flavours and just throwing them together in a way that looks so effortless and a lot of the time, really is quite easy to do. This salad is served with lamb in the recipe, but I simply excluded the lamb part of the dish and just made the salad. It was beautiful and healthy with the simple lemon juice dressing and sesame seeds. I used heaps less olive oil, probably only throwing in a teaspoon just to coat the herbs. Also, since the garam masala is put into the lamb, I just sprinkled that in with the sesame seeds. I just used a normal peeler to peel super thin slices of carrot also- its a great way to give a very crunchy ingredient a completely different texture.

For the Cucumber Raita:
Also super easy! Chop up some cucumber and combine with a teaspoon of crushed garlic and a cup of natural yogurt.

Naan- I just used the store bought kind and grilled it on the BBQ. Also chucked on a couple of asparagus spears just to add another vegie to the dish!

Simply serve the salad with the salmon and a dollop of raita on the side with some naan.

Such a simple, healthy dinner for a hot summers night and something you can fool your guests into thinking you slaved hours over the stove for! Enjoy.

L x

Bonton/Temple Tree Resort

I have decided to create a special post just devoted to the beautiful food we ate at our resort on Langkawi Island, Bonton. It consists of two resorts adjacent to each other and owned by the same people, Bonton and Temple Tree. Because they are sister resorts, guests are free to roam from restaurant to restaurant, pool to pool giving us lots of options. The owners of the resorts are clearly foodies as the options available to dine were plentiful and wonderful.  Bonton's restaurant, Nam, featured a Western menu 'with spice' and each dish had its own Asian twist on it. Temple Tree's restaurant, The Straits Club, also featured an Asian fusion menu with many tempting dishes. Despite the excellent quality of the food and the great service, the prices are very reasonable, similar to a pub meal in Australia.

In addition to these two restaurants, the resort provided a great breakfast of homemade bread and cakes, beautifully packed healthy little picnic baskets and a great mezze menu between 5 and 7. In fact, one of the perks of staying at the resort were the little goodies brought out at 4.45 every day by the pool- satay sticks, ricotta and spinach samosas, noodle salads. Such great little afternoon snacks, perfectly matched with happy hour cocktails. We ate officially at the resort restaurants three times- a 'wine dinner' at the Straits Club, a 'Malay Dinner' with other guests at the resort and a three course meal at Nam.

The Straits Club menu consisted of an entree of eggplant salad, a main of slow cooked beef with Indian spices, pumpkin and spinach puree and a dessert of flourless chocolate cake with coffee soaked pears and icecream. It was very enjoyable, and was matched well with copious amounts of wine (such good value for three courses plus seven glasses of wine for $30 AU) which had us rolling home very 'merry' and full.

The Malay Dinner at Nam was a great little dinner where you dine with strangers staying at either of the resorts. We were lucky enough to eat with a lovely couple from the UK and a very friendly couple from Amsterdam, as well as the manager of the resort, and we had a really great time chatting about travels and our home countries. It was a nice change after dining just us two for almost three weeks! The food itself was also very enjoyable, an array of traditional 'homestyle' Malay cuisine such as prawn fritters, baked fish, dahl, red curry chicken, cucumber and pineapple salad, red rice, cornflake crumbed prawns and coconut stuffed pancakes with palm sugar ice-cream.
On our last night in Langkawi, armed with a very cheap duty free bottle of champagne (the alcohol prices are insane there, no tax whatsoever) we had a three course meal at Nam, the restaurant that Rick Stein has dined at. It was wonderful eating amazing food whilst the sun went down, then being able to wander home across the resort to our little villa. It is obviously not a luxury we could afford every night of our holiday but a wonderful way to spend our last evening in such a beautiful place.
Lobster Tails on Apple Slaw

Pistacio crumbed Haloumi salad

Garoupa and Prawns on a Spring Onion Rice Cake with ponzu sauce

Lamb Rack with roasted pumpkin and salad

Tropical Fruits with Raspberry Sorbet and Palm Sugar Ice-cream

And to close, I will share with you the kind of lovely views we had to endure whilst eating all this yummy food. An amazing resort, if you ever go to Langkawi, it is a must stay!

Sushi Tei

Gosh I loved this restaurant. It is a Japanese restaurant chain throughout Asia that offers an eclectic, varied menu with creative Japanese inspired dishes. The decor is funky with wooden finishing and booths, huge menu's, little chopstick boxes on the tables, and a massive sushi train snaking through the middle. And the biggest plus- it is soooo cheap. For the quality of the dishes, it is a steal how little you pay for this food. We had about 6 amazing dishes with a small jug of sake, and two beers for less than $40 AU. I dragged us back there twice for dinner!

Salmon Carpaccio- amazing. I had this dish twice.
Eel tobiko rolls
Tempura tuna sushi rolls- yummmmmm!
Soft Shell Crab with egg sauce
Chicken Katsu- best I have had. Soft rice with crumbed chicken, egg, perfectly cooked vegies.
Tempura prawn stuffed mushrooms
Think I may have to head to Sydney to check out the branch of Sushi Tei there... or petition for one to be opened in Melbourne ASAP ;)

L x

Amazing Malaysia Eats

I have just returned from an adventurous three week holiday in Malaysia, taking in the sights, sound and tastes of Sabah, Kuala Lumpur and Langkawi Island. I knew I was going to enjoy Malaysian food simply because of my passion for Asian food in general, but was not quite sure what to expect. My only experience with Malaysian food had been dishes like laksa's and heavy curries, and I hoped that the food I found on my holiday would not be limited to these foods. I was pleasantly surprised by the exciting array of options available to us. Seeing that the Malay culture is generally a mix of native Malaysians, Chinese and Indian, we could pretty much choose between these culinary options. There is even a cuisine referred to as Nyonya, which is a fusion of Chinese and Malay created by mixed marriages. The great thing about the Malaysian culinary scene is that there are upmarket options and literally 'market' options. Most of the best food is found on hawker stalls on the street, and the options are very cheap and plentiful.
Because there are simply too many amazing meals to recount, I am going to do a picture blog describing some of the yummy goodies I tasted throughout my travels. I am also going to write individual blogs on some restaurants that I particularly loved.

Filipino BBQ, Kota Kinabalu- where all the locals eat, an exciting array of seafood and meat options that you choose yourself to be cooked on the BBQ. Whilst the food is great, the pricing can be tricky. Many of the options are by the 100grams, so some of the food isn't as cheap as you expect it to be. It is an atmospheric experience though to be eating on plastic chairs and tables, surrounded by smoky BBQ's and locals eating with their hands.
Banana Fritters, Kota Kinabalu- yummy little treats... 8 pieces for 30 cents! (AU)
Yum Cha Breakfast, Kota Kinabalu- we ate this traditional Chinese breakfast several times. The restaurant is a self serve conveyer belt type system where you simply walk along and choose from noodle dishes, dumplings, dim sum, friod goodies and steamed buns. Although it wasn't the most healthy start to the day, that and the very strong coffee definitely gave us the energy needed for our big adventures. (About 7 bucks combined with two coffees!)
Fried Carrot Cake, Kota Kinabalu- a very intriguing dish that actually isn't carrot at all. The name comes from the loose translation of radish from English to Malay. It is somewhat similar to carrot which is why people call it carrot cake, as the dish is actually cakes of glutinous rice with carrot. Fried with chilli, herbs and beanshoots it is a tasty dish similat to Pad Thai or Char Kway Teow. (About AU $2)
Nyonya Fried Chicken

A local Sabah dish, fried jungle ferns (very similar to water spinach)

Nyonya Beef Rendang

Cendol- crazy dessert containing everything... ice, ice cream, jelly, sweet corn, beans, syrup, pandan noodles. Crazy!
 Rasa Nyonya, Kota Kinabalu- a little restaurant near our hotel that serves Nyonya food (mix between Chinese and Malay). The food is homestyle, cooked the way they cook in their own homes. We loved the local specialty of fried jungle ferns and the Rendang in particular was melt in your mouth. Not sure about the dessert options though! ($20 AU with rice and drinks)

Dessert Buffet @ Circle, Le Meridian (KK)- We had a NYE buffet here and were very impressed by the food. The attention to detail and little touches they had put into preparing the feast and its presentation was truly amazing. They had obviously spent hours turning the food into a work of art. And with a sushi buffet, plenty of fresh and fabulous seafood, a carvery station with some of the best pieces of meat I have seen, a dim sum station, an Indian station, fresh salads, cheeses plus the amazing desserts you can see above, rest assured we did not go hungry on the last night of 2011!
Prawn Wonton Soup, Dragon View Restaurant, KL- a tasty and nutritious breakfast in KL. We all know how much I love Asian soups. Enough said. ($2.50 AU)

 Pak Putra, Melaka- Best Indian food ever. The tandoori chicken was absolutely amazing, and the cheese naan was to die for. They cook it all on site in a huge tandoori oven (see photo of front of restaurant). Eating with our fingers on plastic tables and drinking mango lassie was a great experience. I wish I could find this quality food in Melbourne. (About $20 AU with mango lassies, tandoori, two naans, prawn curry, vegetable curry and rice! A very cheap feast!)
Hottest Satay EVER, Jalan Alor, KL- we had a satay stick from this hawker stall on the famous 'Eat Street' Jalan Alor as an afternoon snack one afternoon and nearly blew our heads off. It was the weirdest experience because it had such a great taste but at the same time it was like an atom bomb had exploded in our mouth. Even a Malaysian local couldn't believe we could handle the heat from this particular stall. What a great concept though- choose the stick you want and they will steam it or grill it for you! (80 cents a stick)

Grilled Stingray fillet, Jalan Alor- We ordered this yummy piece of fish after trying to be a little more adventurous with our choices on the last night in KL. We had seen sting-ray on several menus, some even wiith little signs saying "Yes, same animal that killed Steve Irwin!" =/ and decided to order it on a whim. What a great choice. The fillet was like flake, but less 'flakey' and with a much stronger taste. The fish just fell off the bone. Definitely not as weird as we expected.

Curry Mee Soup, Langkawi Island- We ate several times at this cute little beach side restaurant that serves both Western food (amazing chicken baguettes) and yummy local cuisine like roti with curry sauce, noodle dishes and this amazing soup. Just the right balance of hot, sweet and sour, I ate this when I had the sniffles and it seemed like the greatest cure. It only cost about a dollar, and I wish I could eat this every day, it was one of the yummiest things ever!!

Yummy Icy Drinks, everywhere- These drinks were a saviour in the tropical heat. Filled with ice and a refreshing tasty drink flavoured with coconut (my favourite, so hydrating), raspberry, orange, lemon or watermelon. For only 30 cents a cup, I miss these!

In addition to these goodies, two foods I didn't get photos of but absolutely adored were roti chanai and pork buns. Both are traditionally breakfast foods but the Roti is Indian and the pork buns are Chinese. Both were easily accessible especially along one street in KK and whenever it rained we would walk along and eat these yummy foods. The roti is freshly cooked and served with a curry dipping sauce. You eat it with your hands or with a fork and the buttery, soft roti is just delicious and so indulgent. The pork buns consist of steamed bread wrapped around shredded BBQ pork and are cooked in these MASSIVE bamboo steamers that carry 50 or so buns at once. Both dishes are about 30 cents each. My next mission in Melbourne is going to be to hunt down the best pork buns available here.

So in conclusion- Malaysian food has been added to my favourites list. Such a diverse range of flavours, dishes, textures and cuisines. It was wonderful to be in one country yet able to immerse ourselves within the cultures of China, India and Malaysia all at once. Also, a huge plus- hygiene. We did not get sick once, not even a slight case of Bali Belly (which definitely makes it easier to eat your food!) This is partly due to the wonderful food handling and hygiene system the government has created where food is rated on a scale of A, B, C or D (A being excellent hygienic standards, B being good, C being okay, D being not very good). By ensuring that we ate at only A and B restaurants, we were able to keep ourselves healthy and hungry the entire trip.

For those of you out there who are thinking about branching out into the wonderful holiday destination of South East Asia, I highly recommend Malaysia as a holiday destination. Whilst I cannot say I fell in love with its charm in the same way I did in Vietnam, it has so much to offer. Also, not being struck by the same kind of poverty as some of the other parts of Asia, you do not find yourself feeling unsafe, or hassled, or overwhelmed. It has just the right mix of adventure, nature and luxury options.

Be sure to check out the restaurant specific blogs about some of my favourite restaurants over there!
L x