Sunday, 25 January 2015

food monkey cafe, northbridge

Perth has a reputation for expensive prices, particularly for eating out, so when some new friends invited me to the relatively new establishment Food Monkey (101 Lake St, Northbridge) for brunch recently, I was pleasantly surprised at how reasonable their prices were.

The menu had plenty of food options under the $10 mark, with a few closer to $15 if you feel like splurging a little more. As an unemployed person living off my savings in a foreign state, I appreciated this very much. It's nice to be able to afford to widen my social circle without breaking the bank!

Take this veggie bagel that Simon ordered, for example. It's not a huge item, but it's fair and wholesome at $6.95, layered with grilled eggplant, zucchini, capsicum, olive and sundried tomato cream cheese, spinach and aioli. If a plain bagel is too boring, you can get a fancier one topped with sesame or poppy seeds at no extra charge. I didn't try it, but Simon seemed pretty happy with his choice.

Veggie bagel ($6.95).

Meanwhile, I received my potato, carrot and onion hash cakes with poached eggs, which was a much heartier serving than I imagined for $8.95. I was expecting a few standard pieces of hash browns, but what came out really were literally large triangular slices of hash brown cakes. It was very satisfying.

Hash cakes and eggs ($8.95).

I also give them bonus points for offering complimentary water infused with cucumber or orange slices. I personally find Perth tap water to be objectionable, so anything that makes it more palatable is a win. The venue's multiple indoor spaces was also pretty cool.

My only criticism here may be the use of small wooden boards for serving their dishes. I can see it working for some things - dainty sandwiches, perhaps; or cheese, crackers, and cured meats - but for anything that has the potential to fall off the edge easily, or get drippy or messy, there isn't much room for error. I had to be very, very cautious with my poached eggs and hash cakes, when all I wanted to do was to attack them with fervour and tuck in without a care in the world, but that cute hipster cutting board was cramping my style.

So, there was that, but overall, I genuinely had a good time at Food Monkey, and I'd be happy to return for more. Give me a plate, and I'll probably be even happier!

Food Monkey Cafe on Urbanspoon

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Monday, 19 January 2015

mixed summer smoothie (with a little tomato)

A summer fruit salad smoothie.

British journalist Miles Kington once said, “Knowledge is knowing that a tomato is a fruit, wisdom is not putting it in a fruit salad.”

I wonder what he would say about this summer smoothie recipe, which is pretty much a blended-up version of a fruit salad... with just a touch of tomato.

Just a touch, mind. One single cherry tomato. Baby steps. Or kind of a wildcard, if you will. I'm not the biggest fan of the taste of raw tomato, in general, so really, this is me living life on the edge.

I was pleased that I tasted only just the tiniest hint of tomato in the end result - just enough to be discernible if you think about it, but so subtle that you might just completely miss it. I might be more daring next time in an attempt to slowly endear myself to the taste of raw tomato. Maybe.

mixed summer salad smoothie
(serves 1)

1 ripe banana
1 soft ripe nectarine or peach
1 orange (use whole segments with seeds removed)
1 cherry tomato / grape tomato / baby roma tomato
10 mint leaves
2/3 cup water
4 ice cubes

Blitz all ingredients together with a blender until smooth.
Serve and drink immediately while it's cool and fresh!

Mixed summer smoothie, with a little tomato.

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Monday, 12 January 2015

chocolate tahini chia pudding

Chocolate tahini chia pudding, topped with blueberries.

I have noticed chia seed puddings around for a few years now, but have not felt compelled to try them.

The fact of the matter is, I think the world is divided into those who like the texture of chia seed gels - the foundation of chia puddings - and those who don't really care for it.

I had a feeling I would fall into the camp of those who don't care for it, and now that I have finally taken the leap, I can confirm my intuition was correct. The slippery water-logged chia seeds with their still-crunchy centres are an interesting study in texture, but not for me. Which is a bit of a shame, because the sweet chocolate-tahini combo, by itself, was spoon-lickin' good, so it all seemed like a waste.

However! It appears that Simon falls into the camp of those who enjoy chia puddings, so that worked out well. After I miserably attempted to endear myself to the pudding and failed, he took it away and happily finished the rest, proclaiming it to be delicious. Thus, despite my personal misgivings, I am reassured that this is still a chia seed pudding recipe worth sharing. If you're a chia pudding lover, try it and let me know what you think!

Chocolate chia pudding, with a touch of tahini.

chocolate tahini chia pudding
(serves 2)

1 heaped tablespoon unsweetened cacao powder
1 heaped tablespoon tahini
1 level tablespoon honey (or maple syrup)
1/4 cup warm water
3/4 cup milk (or oat milk, almond milk, rice milk, etc.)
1/4 cup chia seeds

toppings (optional): fresh fruit e.g. sliced bananas are a good choice, as are cherries, or any berry fruit such as blueberries, strawberries, raspberries, etc.

Mix cacao powder, tahini, and honey (or maple syrup) together to form a paste. Add in warm water and stir thoroughly to create a cohesive liquid. Add in milk and stir vigorously again to make sure everything is mixed well.
Place chia seeds in a bowl or container. Pour over the liquid mixture and stir everything together. Cover and refrigerate.
Give the mixture a brief stir after 30 minutes to encourage a uniform consistency throughout, then let it sit in the fridge again for another 2 hours, or until mixture is chilled and thickened to your liking.
Divide into little glasses, top with fresh fruit of your choice, and serve.

*To make this recipe vegan, use maple syrup and non-dairy milk.

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Saturday, 3 January 2015

happy new year, new beginnings, and the 5:2 diet...

Delicious homemade Christmas breakfast, thanks to Simon's mum.

Happy new year!

After the gluttonous indulgences of the Christmas season, we are finally ready to tackle a new routine.

As regular readers will know, we have recently returned to Australia after nearly 5 months traveling through Asia - we set foot on Malaysia, Myanmar, Thailand, and Taiwan during this time, and had adventures that we will remember for years to come. I will be sharing some of these memories with you over this year as I sort through my thousands of photos, but for now, let's get back to food blogging.

As our journey neared an end, Simon expressed an interest in trying out the 5:2 diet. Many of you might have heard of this diet, which employs intermittent fasting to achieve weight loss (and potentially other health benefits as well). Basically, for each week you choose two days in which you you consume a very limited number of calories (500 for women, 600 for men), and the other five days you may eat normally.

While I am not terribly interested in following a diet, personally, and often find them a bit gimmicky, I have heard good things about the 5:2 diet from people who have personally tried it. Plus, I do enjoy crafting meal plans and recipes, and of course, I fully support Simon in his endeavour and I hope he succeeds.

A salad appropriate for the 5:2 intermittent fasting diet.

I made this salad for Simon's lunch on his first day embarking on the diet, after meticulously researching the calorie contents of various foodstuff the night before. It was made based on what I found in the kitchen, and, other than the egg and some red oak lettuce leaves, by chance it turned out to be made entirely out of green ingredients.

P.S. I'm not doing the 5:2 diet. My support is solely in preparing the appropriate food for Simon. I eat whatever I want while he suffers, hahaha! (Though actually, he has been coping alright, all things considered. I like to think that it's thanks to my wholesome meals.)

P.P.S. If you're interested, on that day, he had a banana and a coffee for breakfast. For dinner, he had another salad (slightly different to this one).

a green salad recipe for the 5:2 diet
(Serves 1.  Each serving = 136 calories.)

50g mixed salad leaves (16 kcal)
4 broccoli florets - raw, steamed or boiled (28 kcal)
2 tablespoons chopped fresh mint (5 kcal)
2 tablespoons chopped fresh coriander leaves / cilantro (4 kcal)
2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce* (10 kcal)
1/4 teaspoon sesame oil (10 kcal)
1/8 teaspoon chilli powder (2 kcal)
1/8 teaspoon salt, or to taste (0 kcal)
1 hard boiled egg (61 kcal)

Put all vegetables and herbs in a large salad bowl. Combine the condiments and add into the bowl. Toss everything together till thoroughly mixed. Taste and add more condiments if necessary, but remember to factor in the added calories if doing the 5:2 diet. Top it all off with the egg.

*Traditional Worcestershire sauce contains anchovies, however, there are vegetarian/vegan versions on the shelves these days. Some contain gluten, while others are gluten-free. Please remember to check the labels if you have specific dietary requirements.

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Wednesday, 24 December 2014

christmas in taiwan & malaysia: schneeballe and other delights

Christmas decorations in Taiwan.

It's Christmas, and we are finally back in Australia after nearly 5 months in Asia!

We spent most of December in Taiwan and, subsequently, just a few days in Malaysia before our eventual return, so we caught more than a few glimpses of the Christmas festivities in both those countries. Here they are...

A gorgeous cute bear named ThanQ (pronounced "Thank You"), the mascot of Pacific Sogo department store. The story goes that ThanQ began his existence as a soft toy, but after lots of cuddles from many children, their love brought him to life, and now he wants to give back to the community.

ThanQ the Sogo bear. So adorable.

At Breeze Center (yet another shopping mall), we came across a stall, Bo Schneeballe Cafe, selling the most intriguing German "snowball biscuits".

The snowball pastries at Bo Scheeballe Cafe.

A schneeball is made from strips of dough layered into a round shape, and then deep fried. It is hard, crunchy, and generously sized.

For this reason, there is a mallet and a board available at the cafe, where we were invited to smash our schneeball into manageable pieces for consumption.

It was so much fun! I gleefully hammered away - perhaps almost a bit too enthusiastically...

Our schneeball safe and secure in a packet, ready to be hammered.

We opened the packet and sure enough, our almond chocolate shneeball was all in smithereens, bite-sized morsels ready to be eaten. It was quite delicious, and definitely worth it for the experience. Apparently smashing pastry is an exhilarating activity, one that I'm glad to have done at least once.

Smashed up schneeball!

On to something a little odder... at the Taipei City Hall station one night, I found myself sniffing the air. "Do you smell garlic bread?" I asked Simon.

Then, we saw it: outside a bakery, a Christmas tree made with sticks of garlic bread. Quirky!

A garlic bread Christmas tree outside Semeur bakery.

Eventually we said goodbye to Taiwan, and flew to Malaysia, where we somehow ended up visiting more shopping centres...

At Pavilion, there is a giant Santa-Claus-tree. (There were also some creepy elf-dolls, I couldn't bring myself to take pictures of them.)

Christmas at Pavilion shopping centre in Bukit Bintang, Kuala Lumpur.

We also visited Suria KLCC at the Petronas Twin Towers. There was great atmosphere the afternoon we visited, with a jazz band under the big centerpiece Christmas tree. I heard them playing a lovely rendition of "Somewhere Over the Rainbow", which compelled me to take a picture of the scene.

Indoor decorations at Suria KLCC.

 At night, the park and fountain area came alive with a water and light show.

Water and light show in front of Suria KLCC.

It was all quite majestic.

Christmas tree at Suria KLCC.

And now I'm back in Australia, looking forward to seeing what the future holds.

Merry Christmas, everyone!

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Friday, 12 December 2014

honey rose cucumber limeade

Hello, everyone!

With all the travel that I've been doing, it's been a while since my last recipe post... so here's one, to mix things up a little.

This drink may seem quite unusual, but it is inspired by an Indonesian drink, "es timun", which is, in essence, a cucumber limeade. I made the original version a while ago, but have since played with the concept a little by using honey instead of sugar, and splashed in some rose water as well, just for touch of floral fancy.

Honey rose cucumber limeade.

honey rose cucumber limeade (serves 4)

4 limes, juiced
1 teaspoon rose water
3 tablespoons honey
4 cups water
1 Lebanese cucumber, grated
12 ice cubes

In a big pitcher, stir lime juice, rose water and honey together. Pour water in gradually, continuing to stir as you do, just to make sure all the honey is dissolved. You may chill this solution in the fridge, or use it immediately.
When you are ready to serve the drink, divide freshly grated cucumber and ice into 4 glasses, then pour in the lime-rose-honey solution. Serve immediately.

Honey rosewater cucumber limeade.

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Sunday, 30 November 2014

kelantan market: pasar besar siti khadijah

The bird's eye view of Kelantan market from the upper floor.

The big market at Kelantan - Pasar Besar Siti Khadijah - is quite an experience, a whirlwind of smells and colours. If I recall correctly, there were three levels: fresh produce on the ground floor, dried or processed foods on the first floor, and textiles on the top floor. I won't say much more... here is the pictorial tour!

This looks similar to snake fruit, but not quite - does anyone know what it is?

Assorted dessert jellies. The green one is used in "cendol", I'm not so familiar with the red one.

An array of pickles.

Malay ladies buying and selling "kuih" - cakes that are usually eaten for breakfast.

The market stall where we got our "nasi kerabu".

Really really delicious "nasi kerabu" at the market. The blue rice is coloured with natural flower dye.

Many different types of crackers, that you can buy home to fry up for a crispy treat.

Dried fish - so many sizes and varieties!
The end. I have to confess that I was mostly drawn to taking photos of the food and not much else. Hope that this post is, regardless, an interesting and satisfying glimpse of Pasar Besar Siti Khadidjah!
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Tuesday, 25 November 2014

kelantan: food, fish, and traditions.

Malay cakes - the ones pictured are "kuih lompang".

When we arrived at Kelantan, my parents immediately whisked us to one of their favourite restaurants. Upon arrival, we see a table full of Malay cakes. We had the "kuih lompang", a wobbly sweet steamed cake made with rice flour and topped with grated coconut. It was scrumptious.

For our main meals, we all got nasi kerabu, a traditional Malay rice dish with herbs, vegetables, and crispy coconut-flaked fish.

Nasi Kerabu, a Malay rice dish. Kelantan is famous for their Nasi Kerabu.

Kelantan state borders Thailand, and for dinner that night we had Thai food. We noticed the restaurant had fried hornet larvae (if I recall correctly - otherwise it might be bees or wasps) and decided to take the plunge. It wasn't as creepy as I imagined. They were crispy and hollow, and took on the taste of the garlic with which they were fried. I found them to be at least tolerable, and Simon actually liked them so much he kept going back for seconds!

Fried hornet larvae.

The next day, we drove around to get ourselves a few glimpses of Malay traditions in Kelantan.

We visited a shop/factory where we observed people weaving songket - a brocade textile.

Songket weaving in Kelantan.

We also saw some guys flying kites. But not just any kite - the traditional Malaysian kite, "wau bulan".

Traditional kite flying in Kelantan. This type of kite is called "wau bulan".

Dad took us to a wharf where fishermen store their catches. There are some cats around the place, I imagine they must lead a pretty good life. Fresh fish everyday!

Cat eating a fresh fish. That feline is living the life!

And of course dad had to buy some fish.

Fresh fish.

We took it to a restaurant that night, and had it cooked by the chef. It was truly excellent. As my dad said, "Sometimes you get seriously great fish, but not a great chef. Sometimes you get a seriously great chef, but not a great fish. Here, both the quality of the fish and the craftmanship is inpeccable." It was a lovely meal with which to end the Kelantan experience.

(By the way, due to the demographics of Kelantan, even though this was a Chinese restaurant, the songs played were Malay, which was quite a quirky juxtaposition, hehe.)

Fish cooked Chinese-style at a Chinese restaurant in Kelantan.

But wait - there's more about Kelantan to come! In my next post, I'll take you on a tour of the fantastic market there.

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