The Occasional Epicure

Occasional updates on my eating and cooking adventures...

Wednesday, August 31, 2005

Singapore - sabo-ing the groom

Last August RJ and I visited Singapore for my friends' wedding. It was way before I had ever even set eyes upon a food blog. But because food is one of my favourite things about Singapore, I ended up taking some photos of things we ate.

At our friends' wedding the happy couple visited each of the 30 tables of guests to take a photo and receive all of our good wishes. Tradition dictates that some guests (young hooligan friends, prankster colleagues etc.) can attempt to sabo the couple. Sabo (pronounced "sar-bo") is an abbreviation of sabotage used in Singlish.

Of course our table wanted to get into the spirit! We came up with the brilliant idea of making a chocolate and chilli sandwich for the groom to eat. During his speech he had said that he would always take good care of his new wife. So we asked him to prove that he'd do anything for her and eat our sandwich...

Chilli choc treat for the groom

The sandwich was washed down with a glass of red wine and a Coke. He was a very good sport about it, especially considering such a thing would never happen at a wedding in his native France!

Monday, August 29, 2005

Fresh Tassie Strawberries

Here are some more fun food photos from our terrific Tasmanian honeymoon! While on the road to Port Arthur we found a strawberry farm. You could pick your own or buy some ready-picked.

Strawberry sales office

We opted for the ready picked version as we were in a bit of a hurry. We wanted to leave plenty of time for seeing the historic site at Port Arthur. We were welcomed by two very cute dogs - you can just make out one of them in this picture.

Fresh strawberries

This tray of strawberries was about $5 if memory serves me correctly. (It was only a few months ago! My memory is starting to pack up already!)

Yummy berry

Back in the car we enjoyed these berries all the way down to Port Arthur.

If you're going to Tassie, I really urge you to spend a day at Port Arthur. It's fascinating, moving and melancholy and an important reminder of Australia's convict heritage and the people who eventually helped to build our country.

Sunday, August 28, 2005

Singapore - Kickapoo

Last August RJ and I visited Singapore for my friends' wedding. It was way before I had ever even set eyes upon a food blog. But because food is one of my favourite things about Singapore, I ended up taking some photos of things we ate.

I was introduced to Kickapoo by my Singaporean boss back in 2000. She went to great pains to teach me the correct pronunciation: kick-a-poe, not kick-a-poo!

When I set eyes on Kickapoo again during our 2004 trip, I had to buy some and get RJ to try it. It's fruity and refreshing!

And the name is so damn funny.

Joy Juice!

Saturday, August 27, 2005

Yuen's Supermarket, Sunnybank

After our dinner at Malaya Corner, RJ and I made our now-customary postprandial trip to Yuen's Asian Supermarket. It's so cool that it is open at night and just a few doors down from our favourite restaurant!

Yuen's - doorway to Asian foodlovers' heaven

I didn't take too many photos there; I don't want the owners to think I'm up to anything untoward. But I just had to snap the Great Wall of Tea.

Never go thirsty again!

Later on I also found a giant bag of this tea. It is my favourite accompaniment to yum cha. I didn't buy it, but I had to take a photo anyway...

Pu-erh tea

Important note! I have no idea why the English spelling of this tea's name is so bizarre. It is not pronounced poo-err (although some people might say that after they drink it; it tastes a bit like dirt to me, but that's part of its charm) rather, it is pronounced poe-lay.

Wednesday, August 24, 2005

Malaya Corner 3

The third installment of the Malaya Corner adventures in which Kelly and super-cute sidekick/husband RJ attempt to eat their way through the wildly extensive menu at Malaya Corner, Sunnybank, Brisbane.

So off RJ and I trotted to Malaya Corner filled with hope and hunger for what was sure to be another gastronomic good time.

Dodgy photo of Malaya Corner

Once again we were bamboozled by the array of options on the menu. Luckily it is logically divided into rice dishes, fried noodles, noodle soup and rice porridge (in my language the latter category translates into "avoid"). So once you have decided what kind of carbs you're after you can just pursue that section and make you selection. Very good system, I say.

So many options!

I wanted to try the tahu goreng (fried tofu) for entree but RJ convinced me that since I hadn't taken a proper photo of the kari puffs last time, we should order it again. Hmm. As you can see from this photo I was convinced! Next time we will be eating the tahu goreng - I will not be tricked again by Mr Ambivalent-About-Tofu!

Kari puffs

I'm a big fan of the giant glasses of lemon Coke served here, but with a visit to the dentist just around the corner I thought I'd better steer clear. He can always tell when I've been drinking Coke! Horrible man. Anyway, we decided to go for the free self-service tea which is in big plastic jugs on the counter, next to the self-service water.

Free tea - yippee!

Having been doing some serious Singapore reminiscing lately, I decided to order the Hainanese Chicken Rice. Hainanese chicken rice is the staple standby of any newly arrived and/or culinarily unadventurous foreigner in Singapore. It's also a firm favourite of locals and other adventurous eaters. What I'm trying to say is that it's not just for scaredy-cat foreigners, but it does happen to be their food of choice.

Its simple appearance - chicken and rice - hides the delicious truth: this is no ordinary chicken and rice.

The chicken is poached and served with fragrant rice cooked in chicken broth. A yummy soy sauce is poured over the top and the meal is accompanied by a special kind of chilli sauce, grated ginger and chicken broth. When my meal arrived it smelled exactly like the many, many chicken rice dishes I had enjoyed when I lived in Singapore.

Unfortunately, the chicken was served cold, which was a bit of a shock. And I also remembered that back in the S'pore days I had enjoyed the chicken rice served with roasted chicken a bit more than the poached version, but this was only a small problem.

Hainanese chicken rice

The flavours of the rice and chicken were spot-on, but I probably wouldn't order this dish again. The cold chicken - although pretty tasty - was a bit hard to get my head around! And if I'm eating chicken with the skin on I do prefer it to be crispy and brown, rather than soft and white.

RJ ordered the Malaysian Curry Chicken with Rice. His succinct review was "I've had better." I tried a bit of the curry sauce mixed with rice and it was nice, but not very spicy.

Malaysian chicken curry with steamed rice

All in all, it was not our best visit to Malaya Corner, but we will not be deterred! We will return! The char kway teow beckons!

After dinner we made our now-traditional pilgrimage to Yuen's Supermarket, but that's another post...

Other visits to Malaya Corner:
Malaya Corner, Sunnybank
Malaya Corner 2

And because Google Maps is so much fun, I've located Malaya Corner - it's in the shopping centre on the south east of the intersection.

Sunday, August 21, 2005

Singapore - Breakfast

Last August RJ and I visited Singapore for my friends' wedding. It was way before I had ever even set eyes upon a food blog. But because food is one of my favourite things about Singapore, I ended up taking some photos of things we ate.

Just down the street from our hotel was a Kopitiam food court. The word "kopitiam" means "coffee shop" but this particular capital "K" Kopitiam is part of a chain of modernised hawker centres. Not exactly the most authentic Singapore dining experience, but it was air conditioned and just around the corner, so it was the logical place for us to eat breakfast.

Having lived in Singapore for 12 months I always felt like I'd really missed out on something special because I'd never eaten the famous breakfast dish kaya toast. I'd eaten kaya on bread before - it's a delicious coconut, egg and pandan flavoured jam - but I'd never tried the toast. It was time to rectify this terrible inadequacy in my Singapore food repertoire!

Now this isn't just any ordinary spread on toast! The bread is toasted on a little grill and then each slice is cut in half (not the normal way you'd cut a piece of toast in half but through the bread to make two very thin slices), spread with butter and kaya and put back together again.

Kaya toast and lime drink

The sweetness of the kaya and the saltiness of the butter made the toast delicious. I could have eaten a big pile!

To drink I ordered an old Singapore favourite - the sweet, cordial-like lime drink. I love the picture of the quintessential Kopitiam uncle on the cup. So cute!

I believe the really "right" way to eat kaya toast is with soft boiled eggs and a cup of coffee, but i didn't really feel like eating eggs that day. I also need to leave some things on my Singapore Food To Eat list so that I've got an excuse to go back in the future!

By the way, in the background of this photo you can see RJ's breakfast - noodles with char siu and a bowl of soup. Yum!

Thursday, August 18, 2005

Choc Hazelnut Friands

It's friand time again! Instead of the almond meal that is used in standard recipe I added hazelnut meal. And, as all Nutella-lovers know, nothing goes better with hazelnuts than chocolate, so I whacked in a bit of cocoa and broke up some chocolate buttons and stuck them on top. I thought the chocolate was going to melt a bit more than it did, but the friands still looked (and tasted) pretty good!

Choc hazelnut friands

I took these on a recent visit to my mum's place, and I only ate one! I'm still feeling a peculiar friand craving, so I will have to make another batch soon!

Tuesday, August 16, 2005

Singapore - Frog Porridge

Last August RJ and I visited Singapore for my friends' wedding. It was way before I had ever even set eyes upon a food blog. But because food is one of my favourite things about Singapore, I ended up taking some photos of things we ate.

We spent this particular day with my Singaporean friend D, who I had met during my exchange student days in 1999 at Nanyang Technological University. After a long day spent eating our way around the island, D took us for dinner in Geylang, Singapore's notorious red light district. It's also known for its fantastic food.

D wanted us to try one of his favourites, frog porridge. Last time D had talked about eating frogs (way back when I was an exchange student) I'd tried not to rule out the idea. That was until we reached the hawker centre and saw huge fish tanks full of frogs hopping around, croaking happily, unaware that they were about to, well, croak! At the hands of a hawker armed only with a grotty old pair of scissors, no less. So D's frog porridge plan was vetoed. And - it appears - he had waited five years to try to convince me again.

This time, he knew better than to let us see the frogs! He ordered us to sit down at the table out on the footpath and said he would go and place the order. We could hear a bit of croaking, but as our table was next to the road there was enough other noise to disguise it. RJ was keen - he is very brave - but I told Derek that he had better order me some chicken satay sticks, or else!

I was happily munching away at my satays when the frog porridge was delivered in two clay pots: one containing the rice porridge and the other holding the frog pieces. These were to be mixed together in each person's bowl. It smelled delicious! D had neglected to tell me that the frogs would be cooked in ginger and shallot sauce, one of my very favourites!

I still couldn't quite get my head around eating frog, but in the end I psyched myself up and tried a bit! I felt super adventurous! It had the texture of chicken, I guess, and the strong ginger and shallot flavour seemed to overpower any flavour that the frog might actually have had.

Frog porridge

So with that scary adventure over, D suggested that we could go across the road after dinner and eat some "Taiwanese snakes"! I began to protest strenuously until I realised a couple of moments later the my Australian-accented ears had misheard... We were, in fact, about to enjoy some Taiwanese snacks! Phew!

Saturday, August 13, 2005

Malaya Corner 2

A couple of weeks ago I had had a pretty bad and exhausting day, and RJ had the smashing idea of going to Malaya Corner for dinner. Out of interest I timed how long it took to drive to Sunnybank from our place - 25 minutes, which I think is not too bad. It's definitely not too far to go for such an extensive menu, delicious meals and reasonable prices! (And there was a special bonus, which I'll mention later.)

The restaurant was pleasantly crowded and noisy. We didn't have to wait for a table and there were plenty of other diners whose dinners we could look at! The menu is so extensive that we both found it difficult to select our meals. This lead us to making a new resolution: we will visit Malaya Corner once a fortnight and eat our way through the menu! Yum! (In fact, we are going back there tonight. We'll have to wait and see we actually keep this up though...)

I was in the mood for something really delicious. Just reading the menu made me forget my dud of a day! Exactly one year ago RJ and I were visiting Singapore to attend my friends' wedding (happy anniversary T & Y!). One of the best meals we had there (excluding the wedding banquet, of course) was chilli crab at No Signboard Seafood (Stadium branch, for those of you who know Singapore).

Anyway, before I get all Singapore-memory-lane on you, I'd better get back to Malaya Corner and the story at hand. I chose the Singapore chilli prawns and when I took my first mouthful I was absolutely delighted! The sauce tasted very similar to how I remembered the "real" thing - spicy and a bit coriander-y. It was so good I ended up finishing off the sauce with a spoon once all my rice and prawns were gone. (At No Signboard the chilli crab comes with little squares of white bread (crusts removed!) to soak up the sauce.)

Singapore chilli prawns

RJ also liked the sound of chilli prawns, so - not wanting to order the same thing as me - chose the sambal chilli prawns. I tried these too - for research purposes - and found them to be super tasty as well! The sambal was spicy enough without being overpowering.

Sambal chilli prawns

For our entree (which came out after we'd started eating our mains - but who cares?) we had kari (curry) puffs. The pastry was so light and crispy and the filling so flavoursome that we had already started eating the last of the four puffs before we remembered to take a photo!

Kari puff

By the time we finished our meals we were feeling full and happy. Altogether the kari puffs, two prawn dishes and two giant lemon Cokes came to less than $40 - what a happy ending! (And we'd remembered to bring cash this time. So there was no awkward wait for me under the watchful gaze of the cash register auntie while Ray traipsed around Sunnybank looking for an ATM.)

Special Sunnybank bonus!
When we emerged from the restaurant we noticed that the Yuen's Supermarket was still open! On a Sunday night in Brisbane, that is pretty amazing. Anyway we spent an enjoyable half an hour wandering around in there stocking up on all out favourites like Pokky, a big carton of Indo Mie, fried tofu puffs (for laksa - yum), 2 litres of fresh soy milk... Everything our little hearts desired that can't be procured at our local suburban Woolies!

Friday, August 12, 2005

Sugar High Friday #11 - Coffee

How exciting! This is the first time I have participated in Sugar High Friday! I've been reading the entries on other people's blogs for months, but have only just got around to baking something of my own on time! The theme for SHF #11 was "coffee" so I scoured my recipe book collection and found these Espresso Cakes in Modern Classics 2 by Donna Hay.

The recipe said that it made ten small cakes, but the mixture rose so much when I baked it that it would have worked if I'd made 12 slightly smaller cakes instead.

Espresso cakes

Instead of using chocolate glaze as suggested by the recipe I made my own coffee icing with instant coffee, boiling water and icing sugar. As you can see in this photo, my cakes turned out a bit differently to the illustration!

Viva la difference!

Although I was a bit disappointed at first that the tops of my cakes had risen and then spread out so much (and consequently looking nothing like the neat little packages in the photo) when tasting time arrived, I was pleasantly surprised! The whole cake was delicious but the top was a delightfully chewy highlight. It reminded me of the muffin tops episode of Seinfeld where Elaine comes up with the great idea of starting a business that only sells the top of muffins.

Anyway, before I get distracted thinking about old TV shows, it's time get back to the task at hand - the espresso cakes. Here's the recipe!

Espresso Cakes
from Modern Classics Book 2 by Donna Hay

100g butter, very well softened
1 cup caster sugar
3 eggs
1 1/4 cups plain flour, sifted
2 teaspoons baking powder, sifted
1/4 cup hazelnut meal
1 1/2 tablespoons instant coffee granules or powder, dissolved in 1 tablespoon boiling water

Preheat the oven to 160C. Place the butter, sugar, eggs, flour, baking powder, hazelnut meal and coffee mixture in a bowl. Combine using electric beaters on low speed, then increase to high speed and mix until just smooth.

Grease 10 x 1/2 cup capacity muffin tins. Spoon in the mixture and bake for 25 minutes or until cooked when tested with a skewer. Cool in the tins for 10 minutes then remove and cool on a rack.

Ice with the icing or glaze of your choice!

Check out the roundup of all the SHF entries kindly hosted by Ronald at loveSicily.

Wednesday, August 10, 2005

Wine Blogging Wednesday #12 - Drink Local. Real Local.

This is the NV Rosé Pinot Noir Chardonnay Sparkling from Sirromet, a winery on Brisbane's eastern outskirts.

It's pretty to look at and refreshing to drink. It's perfect for a celebration, even if you're just celebrating the end of another working day! It retails for about $16 a bottle.

You can visit the cellar door at Sirromet and taste ten wines for $5. The day we did this I didn't learn very much about wine. This was not through any lack of knowledge on the part of our tasting expert, rather it was because we were there for a friend's hens party and we're really paying much attention.

In summary, I don't know very many technical things to say about wine, but I do know that I like this Rosé!


Check out the Wine Blogging Wednesday roundup at Lenndevours.

Friday, August 05, 2005

Herb garden update

Here's a quick update on my herbs, which were so little when I first planted them.

Now they're much bigger! Surprisingly, the coriander (third from the front) has been the best grower. The basil (second from the front) did well too, but now we've eaten most of it, so it looks a little bit on the skinny side in this photo.

Herb patch

Between the herbs and the fence are six sunflowers that are growing bigger daily! I can't wait until they get really huge and start flowering!

I didn't get around to planting any chillies yet - I just keep forgetting! Stay tuned...

Thursday, August 04, 2005

Ball and Chain Grill, Hobart and Jailhouse Grill, Launceston

More tales from Tasmania... The same colleague of RJ's who told us to go to Kelleys had also highly recommended the Ball and Chain Grill in Hobart as a fine place to have a piece of steak. After a big day touring the Cadbury Factory and the Cascade Brewery we headed straight down to Salamanca Place. Things were looking good as we found a parking spot right outside the restaurant just as it was opening (6pm, I think it was).

Unfortunately, we found the whole experience just OK. The waitress sat us at a table in a glass-roofed conservatory area, which I thought felt colder than the enclosed room we'd walked through to get there. So I asked her if we could move back to the "indoor" area. She told me "It's the same temperature everywhere" and walked away. She made me feel like for some reason we weren't good enough to sit in the inside section. Maybe it had to do with my outfit consisting largely of Kathmandu and New Balance! But as a born and bred Queenslander on holidays way down south, staying warm was much more important than looking smart! The food was OK - basically your standard big steak and a salad bar (which did feature some enormous and tasty olives).

Later that week we found ourselves in Launceston. The host of the very nice Old Bakery Inn where we stayed recommended a place called the Jailhouse Grill. (There's a bit of a convict theme running through Tassie...) After we'd gotten ourselves in and seated we realised it was almost exactly the same as the Ball and Chain. The service here was a bit better. I ordered scallops and bacon skewers which didn't turn out the be the best idea. The bacon didn't seem to be cooked all the way through!

Bacon and scallop skewers

Neither of these convict-themed restaurants blew my hair back, which was a real shame because I love a great steak! I'm sure the food was much nicer than what the real convicts ate in the old days though!

Ball and Chain Grill
Salamanca Place
Phone 03 6223 2655

Jailhouse Grill
32 Wellington Street (corner York Street)
Phone (03) 6331 0466