Saturday, September 15, 2012

I Love Pho 264

I Love Pho 264 (formerly Pho Chu The) has been our regular weekly pho joint for over 5 years now. The owners are the friendliest on Victoria Street, and their pho beats all others I have eaten in Melbourne. The combination of a sweet and tasty broth, slightly chewy noodles and fresh garnishes makes for a bowl of pure happiness. I love to eat my pho with lots of fresh basil, hot bean shoots and a big spoon of chili sate sauce. Pho goodness.

Arriving very hungry, we ordered prawn spring rolls as well. I love to add basil and cold bean shoots to my lettuce and spring roll, then dip the wrap in chili sate sauce! And we can never leave without ordering an iced coffee or 3 colour drink to get us back on our feet.

 I Love Pho 264 is a must-try of Melbourne's great institutions and will ensure that you leave deeply satisfied every time.

I Love Pho 264
264 Victoria St
Richmond, VIC 3121

Saturday, August 4, 2012

Timor Leste 2011

Back tracking even further into last year, N and I travelled to East Timor, where N spent his first 14 years of life. For me it would be there first time to visit, for the wedding of N's older sister.

With a little hesitation at first due to the language barrier, I soon became very excited to visit N's home country where I have heard of many cheerful memories. Among all the nice stories, were obviously the harsh contrast of the conflict during the fight for independence. Many years on from that time now, East Timor is a country that is trying to get back on it's own two feet with help from some oil and hope for a future tourism industry.

On our journey to Dili, we stayed overnight in Darwin where we visited Mindil Beach Market on a Thursday night which was such an amazing surprise.This night market really makes Melbourne's Victoria Night Markets look like play school.

Variety of Thai-desserts

Our papaya salad in preparation

Fantastic Mindil Beach Market Papaya Salad

Beef Rendang with rice and egg 

The next day we were on our way to Dili and we would attend the wedding on the 2nd day of arrival.


Coastal view from Church

Coastal view looking towards Dili

Steps leading up to Cristo Rei

View half way up to Cristo Rei

Looking towards Dili from Cristo Rei lookout

Bakso special with es campur

Rujak - preparation


Pasir Putih beach goer

Sunset at Pasir Putih, Dili

Overall I found my 7 days in Timor to be a very relaxing and interesting trip. Given the short amount of time, we were unable to travel outside of Dili, where the landscape is more virgin than the city's surroundings. Nonetheless, I loved the relaxed and happy nature of the Timorese people and the delicious influences of Portuguese, Indonesian and Chinese cuisines. 

I look forward to seeing you soon Timor Leste! 

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Consumed Food Lover Return

After absolutely abandoning this space for well over a year, I plan to continue blogging from here on. 

To wrap up the last year of eating and potting along in life, here are just a few of my many delicious encounters.

At home, I cooked many new things, especially during heavy study periods to escape the insanity that assignment work and exam preparation brings.

I was given some home-grown white / yellow peppers from my mum's friend so I had a go at making Töltött paprika

Fresh peppers

Stuffed peppers

Töltött paprika

I came across "ube" flavour liquid in Braybook which is very hard to find here in Australia. "Ube" is a type of purple yam that is commonly used in ice cream flavouring, cakes and other sweet dishes in The Philippines.

Ube flavour

When I visit The Phillippines I love to eat anything that is ube flavour, especially the ice cream so I did a cheat version by just adding the flavour to a plain vanilla ice cream.

My cheat version ube ice cream!

And for most Filipinos the obvious answer to an ube ice cream is halo-halo which basically translates to "mix mix". Halo-halo is a shaved ice dessert which is topped with various toppings which generally includes ice cream (ube flavour), coloured nata de coco (coconut gel), leche flan (creme caramel), coloured kaong (palm seed), sweet beans and many other endless options. 

My version of halo-halo with ube ice cream, leche flan, nata, jackfruit and kaong.

Shaved ice desserts are very popular throughout South East Asia with the Malaysian version ais kacang, Indonesia's version es campur and Vietnam's 3 colour dessert / drink.

As for eating out we devoured some of the delicious offerings at Dead Man Espresso..

Our absolute favourite place for a soul soothing bowl of Pho at I Love Pho 264 in Richmond..

Small beef pho

And celebrated another year of life at the flawless Kenzan (inside Sofitel).

Kenzan Sushi and Sashimi Set (medium)

Kenzan Tatsuta Age, Tempura Vegetables and Prawn and Shiitake Tempura.

This was the fourth time I had visited Kenzan and every time the food and service is consistently at a very high standard. I am always astounded at the impeccable freshness and preparation of their sashimi and the lightness of their Tempura. Will definitely be back for more. 

However, I have vowed to not eat any Japanese food until October, which is when N and I are heading off to Tokyo

With a decent tax return, a very determined saver, a Jetstar sale (which coincidentally fell on the time that I will complete my degree) and off we are to the land of sashimi, perfection deep frying, sake, magnificent landscapes and all things that make Japan such a mysterious and intriguing north corner of Asia. 

I am absolutely beside myself with excitement and really hope that I don't burn all my friend's and colleague's ears off about the every-single-detail of plans in the upcoming months (apologies in advance!).

**note: unfortunately, something is wrong with the comment thread and I cannot reply to comments. Ube flavoring essence can be bought from Quiapo food store on Churchill Ave in Braybrook on the same block as Masarap Bakery. Hope that helps Kat. Nina :)

Monday, September 6, 2010

Taste of Melbourne 2010

Naturally I was excited for Taste of Melbourne 2010 after having a great time last year with N. We went on Friday night and Sunday with two very different experiences. Friday night was very busy and frantic in a night club sort of way, having to push through crowds and wait in long lines to buy food. I forgot to take my camera on Friday night, so the only photos I have of what I ate were the dishes that I ate again on Sunday when I did bring my camera! 
First up on Friday we went to Longrain's busy and loud niche upstairs to try their Yellow curry of wagyu beef with cucumber relish. It was good, but seemed to lack something that we have found in their other curries at Longrain. Next we tried the Seared atlantic scallops, lardo, breadcrumbs, gazpacho dressing, Stokehouse.
Seared atlantic scallops, lardo, breadcrumbs, gazpacho dressing - Stokehouse
Next we tried the Cavatelli di messina with prawns, peas, pecorino, lemon oil - Mezzo Bar & Grill which was nice and piping hot. I then tried The Palace Wagyu burger, which was a bit disappointing with a dry pattie and dry bread accompanied by a very sweet red wine chutney. After that, we decided to try a dessert and happened to come across one that knocked all that bitter disappointment of my face! 
The Bombe - strawberry sorbet, white chocolate parfait and toasted meringue - Stokehouse
Yes! I have a photo because I insisted we have this again on Sunday. I went with different group of friends on Friday to Sunday, so on Sunday I watched everyones reaction when they ate it showing me some full on amazed faces! What a dessert. I have never eaten this dessert due to it being a trendy concoction in the '80s which I was unfortunately too young or non existent to enjoy. I did often see this in some of my mother's cooking books and was always intrigued by the fact it being a ice cream sort of cake. I have had no other bombe to compare it to, but I think everyone that tried it would agree, Stokehouse done The Bombe every justice it deserved to ignite a comeback. 

We didn't eat very much on Friday due to eating quite slow and saving the proper run for Sunday. I feared similar or worse crowds but thankfully there were fewer crowds and a more relaxed bunch they were. So Sunday: first up was what sold out on Friday,
Organic slow braised pork cheek, white polenta, raisins and marsala sauce - Mezzo Bar & Grill
Was nicely braised and tasty but I wished I could have more polenta, I love it! Next up was Maze:
Seared cured Marlborough king salmon, warm sweet corn and potato salad: Maze Restaurant & Maze Grill
The fish was unbelievably buttery to eat and very moist. The sweet corn and chorizo really worked nicely. Next was one of our absolute favourites of the whole day from The Palace by Luke Mangan,
Eye fillet, potato mash and sauce bordelaise - The Palace by Luke Mangan
I did over look this dish on Friday but this really was spot on. The two times that we ate it, everything was piping hot and melt in your mouth wonderful. 
Tuna carpaccio, goats feta, rocket and ginger eschalot dressing - The Palace by Luke Mangan
This was nice, only really wished that the tuna was sliced a bit thicker (which would therefore cancel it out being carpaccio) and no goats cheese. The goats cheese was really strong against the subtle fish and overpowered the dish.
Smoked duck, apple ad walnut rillettes - Libertine & Le Traiteur
I really, really enjoyed this. We were offered a matched red for 4crowns, how could one resist? And this together with the wine was so heavenly. I really loved the apples together with the duck rillette.
Mr Donati's crispy Pork Bellly, peas and wild sorrel coulis, purple potato, fromage frais, garden herbs - Embrasse
Dory cooked in squid, organic beetroots and carrots - Embrasse
Unfortunately I think this dish worked against Embrasse being served as a tasting size. I have seen that this dish is on the menu in house, obviously with a thicker and larger piece of fish. I can see how this would work with a bigger piece as the smaller piece was overpowered by the squid ink.
Hazelnuts and chocolate parfait Forest Floor - Embrasse
We all really enjoyed this along with the cute presentation. Very creative and delicious mushroom with dirt!
Raspberry and rosella flower cannelloni, strawberry and native mint salad - Charcoal Lane
Pistachio 'panna cotta', caramel salted popcorn - Sarti
Overall I had a good experience at Taste this year. I had the opportunity to try dishes from restaurants that I would otherwise overlook or reluctant to try. Places I would really like to visit now are Stokehouse and Libertine from their outstanding dishes. As for next year we have all planned to do it over on the Sunday again and I hope I can arrange to make it to Sydney in March to try out what Sydney's Taste has for me to devour! 

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Winter Comforts

After an absolutely wretched semester of uni, I rushed back to Mildura once again for a break and some quality time with my family. Much is the same, only a change to freezing cold nights, frosty mornings, but never to fail me: calm sunny days.

Since last visit, mother's garden has grown in abundance: silver beet, lettuces, flowers blooming, the lemon tree heavy with fruit, a great bush of lemongrass, long red chillies and even strawberries ripening? Don't believe me?

Mildura boasts of a perfect climate for agriculture, which is shame due to the recent deregulation in the grape industry, resulting in my family selling our vineyard. Mildura has had a huge shift in this way, with many people who owned small 10-40 acre vineyards, being forced to sell, hardly able to even break even for their year-long hard work. It's heart breaking, that such a thing could happen to something as beautiful as it was. Now when I drive down the same road that we used to live on, many acres of land have been cleared because the vines were just useless. Some summers, our neighbours would just let the grapes ripen on the vines until they shribbled and fell off because no big winery or company wanted to take fruit from "petty" farmers. My next door neighbour even drove all the way to Vic Market one year to try to make a small buck for as much as he could bring in his ute.

Locals I have spoken to that had owned vineyards long before we bought the property, boasted of the good times: when a 30acre block could gain so much profit and it was all worth it. My family moved to Mildura in 96' and owned the vineyard for 12 years, with a rapid decline in return from the start. Initially were contracted with wineries for our sultana grapes and for the small portion of chardonnay. After a few years the industry started to change: we lost our contract to the winery, shifting to only contract 100+acre vineyards. This change threw off so many of the majority of average 30acre farmers, and that's when it all started to go downhill. We then gained a contract with Sunbeam, to dry sultanas which involved an enormous amount of labour for all of us and with less return. Slowly slowly, Sunbeam would cut back their contract with us, as a result in the growing replacement of cheap import from the Middle East. Eventually, as for many, we were forced to sell: an incredible heartbreak for my father. So many farmers, not only in Mildura were adversely affected by this deregulation and ignorance of the Australian authorities, on top of the result of little water allocation for Mildura and surrounding areas due to the drought.

Ever since being exposed to the nasties and lack of support for small farmers in the agricultural industry in Australia, only made me more passionate to make an effort to seek out small producers of all food. It is so important that the public understand how these industries are operating at present. It is a very serious issue. A lot of farmers fell into deep depression from losing their jobs: as self employed farmers. And from that depression, some people have died. For the farming families, to be a farmer was in their blood being passed on from the generations, inheriting land and vines from their ancestors. And then it was useless and cleared. I will continue to try my very best to support small producers/ businesses' and avoid huge supermarket chain products and produce as much as I can.  I hope other's can too!

Anyway! Some sort of winter hibernating instinct in me was yearning to eat some winter food, and the only answer was Chicken Soup! For my family, I would say quite confidently that our Nana's chicken soup is the absolute peak of comfort food. Not any old chicken soup.

For our soup we used a whole chicken cut up and an extra 4 legs which was all cleaned very well  to remove as much of the remaining guts and "slime" off the chicken carcass. This is important to result in a clear and clean tasting stock. Vegetables included: carrots, parsnip, sweed, cabbage, celery, onion, garlic and a huge bunch of fresh parsley from the garden. We're gonna' eat that too!

Then simmer away for 2 hours or so until all that goodness from the chicken bones has made a beautiful sweet stock.

Then we get on to the noodles. I have never made these fresh noodles for soup in my life, but thankfully my mum has. My mum learnt how to make these noodles from my Nana who learnt from my great-grandmother and so on. These noodles are traditional hungarian noodles suitable for soups. I asked Nana, "what should I do to make the noodles for the soup?" and she instructed, "a few cups of flour and 1 egg or 2 eggs or 1 egg with a bit of water, it just depends." So taking those instructions I had a go, firstly using 3 cups of four and 1 egg. She told me the dough needs to be hard enough so you can grate it but not soft and not to work it too much. So I did, but the mix was still too dry. With help of my experienced mum, we added more water gradually until it was soft enough to grate but not so dry that it would crumble.

This might look like little bits of crumbled dough to some, but to my family and surely for most hungarians that grew up eating these noodles in their soup, it's absolute gold!

Enough soup is transfered into a separate pot to boil the noodles. You must cook these noodles in the chicken stock otherwise they turn out quite bland. This only takes a few minutes with a taste test being the best indicator. The soup is served in the way that we always have: to pull out the vegetables and meat and place on separate plates and the soup is served on the table with the noodles kept it's own pot.

So I accomplished to make my Nana's soup noodles for the first time! They were so delicate and soft just like I had remembered them. It had been at least two years since I had eaten these noodles because my Nana is getting old, and cooking the things she loves has become more difficult lately. Nana would always cook this on birthdays and other occasions as a first course and also on the times I would sleep over with my brother. My family did eat chicken soup once a week throughout my childhood, but my mum wouldn't make her own noodles. So when I eat these fresh noodles, it reminds me sharing beautiful food with all my family. Food has such a strong connection with memories and to eat this soup with the fresh noodles is really so special to me. My ultimate comfort food.