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Tuesday, 31 January 2012

Daily Planet - Lois, Superman ain't here...

Despite the fact it's opening have been eagerly anticipated by local Lawlites and regular Planet Book groupies... (am self-confessed one amongst many), I didn't actually go to try the food for at least a week. I was at the staff function just before opening and saw the interior, tried some of the finger foods, drinks & looked in on the nice new kitchen. Before you even ask, no I don't work there, I was just a guest.

You can actually read there, although the chairs really aren't that inviting. So let's start with the decor. Bright red insdes, not just as a feature wall. One side wall of posters a la Planet, Grill'd and Green & Co. style. I like this - it gives you something to read on the wall while you wait for service or food if your table conversation dies. Ok I get why you would want feature wall colouring, and why choose red? Market research have already determined there are a few colours which trigger hunger responses and we associate these colours generally with food and eating - e.g. Red and Yellow. But that much red in a cafe doesn't "warm" me up, it freaks me out. Especially early morning before coffee and afternoon during hot Perth summer, it really really makes the room feel even hotter.

What I don't like, other than the bright red... hangin skulls of things. And creepy little statuettes, some might find this 'artistic' / kitsch or just fun. But sadly this doesn't do it for me. Wall hanging carpets / tapestries / wooden window frames are kind cute - are we going for a Mexican / some native villa feel?

Menu critique, now... let's not be nasty. Yes the first few weeks (?) were restricted to breakfast only. The lunch menu looking spectacular did not really 'happen'. Haven't been back there to eat lunch yet so I can't comment on teh current food menu. I had breakfast there with mom - we try to have a cafe catchup every week or every other week. The menu had nifty names in addition to variations of the age old breakie menu.

I had the field mushroom, creamy feta, poached egg & asparagus & swiss cheese on toast (V) & freshly squeezed blood orange (not sure if this was from a box as I didn't see them squeeze or pour it out). But it was tasty and better than the carbonated stuff!

Mom ordered eggs hollaindaise with tomato & avocado (V). And lattes. The drinks came very delayed - the coffee came for over 15 mins and then I got my juice. We waited for the meals to arrive for another 15 or so. The poached egg for me was just a bit over done but mom's was perfectly gooey. The hollandaise sauce was solid!

I also recommend their take away ice-coffee which is delicious with just cream. Oh and it's real cream not the instant can stuff you find often at cafes these days. There is meant to be vegan and gluten free options in the menu, so far that's only snacks, rolls or cake counter.

Serving sizes are generous, not just with our meals but I saw a few other tables and they all looked pretty big sizes.

Pricing is average - normal really for breakie.

Daily Planet on Urbanspoon

Let me clarify or provide a disclaimer: the review here is based on only 1 breakfast meal & just coffees & juices - while reading at the venue. There has been times when the cafe looked too busy to sit in so I bought a take away and left or just went to another cafe along the strip. Luckily there's always room at Five down the road.

I've read some of the reviews on Urbanspoon, and most of the stuff they've mentioned as problems are real problems. Glitches, long waits, confused orders, delayed order delivery... It boils down to two things: front of house management & kitchen service co-ordination! Not sure if other visitors have noticed, but they did the "self-seating" thing and then "must-wait-to-be-seated", numbers on tables and then numbers when you order. This is very confusing for staff as one day it's table service & order at counter, how do you keep track of your payments & orders especially when there's multiple staff? Kitchen-wise, no one in the cafe/restaurant business will tell you the truth if something is wrong in the kitchen, unless it means they have to shut-down or are not able to serve at all. So all you get is - "unfortunately, this is not available" & "there's a glitch". Sometimes if the wait staff is savvy, they'd say "unfortunately, we've run out of this dish as it's been very popular". But that doesn't really work if you know how a cafe/restaurant kitchen should be managed - then supplies should be forecasted / enough.

I'm going to re-try this in a month or two, there's some staff change overs rumoured to happen which will mean a difference in menu and service levels. There's also some changes with Planet clothing and Planet Video side which might affect the cafe so - I'm going there in March for a re-trial (maybe lunch/dinner this time round). Don't forget to check back for an update!

Thursday, 26 January 2012

Re-reivew of Oliver's on James

I have to say I have been to this restaurant in 2010, group of four and found the food to be ordinary and service adequate. I recently went back for a work Christmas lunch (3 course) and somehow ended up here for dinner a few days after.

Christmas Lunch:
Prawn cocktail, surf and turf, barramundi, the gnocchi.
Oh I hate to go on and on but the gnocchi is best. Yes it is vegetarian but the flavours infused in it - you could feel it melt in your mouth but still have the gnocchi chewy texture. I had this for dinner later on when we came back for dinner too!

My friends tried the lamb fry, that was an experience - if you like it already, it tastes quite traditional - so I've been told. The arabiata pizza is really huge. I think the portion sizes were all enough to feed two people.

All in all I've tried bites of most of the mains by this point. We also tried a few of the side salad, and cooked vegetables.

Dessert was the only disappointment, the shortbread was more like shortbrick. But the fudge brownie was to die for. Again serving size was huge. Definite value for money.

Serving staff are mostly backpackers/travellers so you get an interesting smattering of accents and familiarity - a couple of the staff were really chatty and relaxed. Services was prompt, the removal of dishes were a bit slow but by then the restaurant was filling up and they were quite busy. Oliver's revival is great to see! I like seeing a restaurant reclaim it's decent position.

The food tasted really quite good. But teh value for money is the reason I'm giving it 5.

The restaurant is also on the Entertainment Book.

Vote: 5 out of 5 stars
Photos forthcoming.

Oliver's on James Street on Urbanspoon

Indian Chapter 1, Verse 1: Mela (Northbridge)

I used to live really close to Mela and would often go there as a convenient Indian eatery, despite having others closer. This is because Mela is value for money and has a few things that other places don't.

Their Thursday special of eggplant curry and wholemeal roti is one of my favourites. I'm not a vegetarian by any stretch of the term but I love eggplant and eggplant curry done well is a fantastic experience. Latasha's in Leederville used to do a great one!
The thalis are just the right portion size and prices are low average Indian foodwise. Their vindaloo can be very very hot so for those who like their Indian meals spiced up, this is the place.

My other favourite dish - saag paneer or saag gosht! The creamy spinach curry just offsets any fo the meat dishes really well. They also do a homestyle vegetable or chicken tomato curry.

It's not fancy but service is prompt and friendly.

Limitation for those who care - they serve Pepsi, not Coke.

Vote: 4.5 out of 5 stars

Photos forthcoming.

Mela Indian Sweets & Eats on Urbanspoon

Sakura season not in?

I tried this when it first opened with a group of friends: 2 couples and me. Five is an odd number but the izakaya style Japanese eatery doesn't really mind.

The place was quite busy, a number of Asian and Western clientele, which was a good sign. I overheard a smattering of Japanese across the small restaurant, also a good sign.

Sit down, service was prompt. Spacing was minimal though. Nice and cute cutlery and placemats. And then the food... we ordered quite a few dishes and drinks. Each dish was served slowly on its on, spaced out nicely. Allowing us to finish at least one drink between our order sets. We did three order sets (a few dishes each set) and that just about exhausted their menu. Drink list was quite decent a few chu-hai flavours which I haven't had here in Perth.

Service was standard, prompt, polite and pleasant.

The dishes were quite ordinary and nothing really caught my absolute attention. Tried a new clam / cockle dish - very distinct and somewhat bitter flavour with the texture of raw shellfish. That was the most attention grabbing dish.

Price wise for an izakaya in Perth, there is a better priced and just as authentic place. This just happens to be more central in Northbridge. We paid nearly $90 each (with 2-3 drinks per person).

Passable but not a place I would go back to voluntarily unless there's more variety.

Vote: 2.5 out of 5 stars

Izakaya Sakura Japanese restaurant on Urbanspoon

Fusion Chapter 1. Verse 1. The Bonsai Restaurant

I know there's a lot of favourable reviews out there for this place. However I have to say I didn't enjoy the experience. I tried this restaurant a while back, a group of six of us went pretty early. One of the first tables there.

The interior decor is very urbane and gutted factory setting contrasted with what was suppose to be "fine dining" fusion food. The portion is similar to tapas selection, with mainly Japanese influences. It's a very novel concept in Perth as there's really nothing to fill what I perceived as a between cafe eatery and a fine dining fusion niche. I'm honestly not a fusion food fan. A lot of these re-inventions of flavour tend to just change the plating and decrease portion size in favour of earning an extra buck. This place? The seating wasn't very comfortable, the minimalist look is just that a 'look' the feel is not as comfortable or luxurious if you're looking for upscale dining.

We ordered a number of dishes, whose prices in actual Japanese restaurants would have been a bit less. Serving sizes generally does well for 4 - 6 people if you're only having bite sizes. Not very memorable meal menu over all, we had some sushi pieces with 'inventive' fillings and artistic saucing (mayo/spicy), a scallop dish (6 pcs of scallops), some gyoza dumpling combo and some other cooked noodles or something. However each dish is priced between $14-$22, so it makes it for an expensive night out especially without drinks. Spent about 2 hours at $35 each without drinks and not even 1/2 full by the end. Hate to say it but 3 of us seriously considered Maccer's after it. And that is a very bad sign.

Staff was nice, but slightly monosyllabic. Maybe they're going for a haute style. Service level was not as attentive considering it wasn't very packed out and it's marketing position as a 'fine dining' or higher dining. The food came out a bit slow, especially considering most of it was 'cold' dishes. This might mean that everything we ordered was freshly made, but that somehow just doesn't seem like the case considering how cold the sushi rice was.

Oh I nearly forgot, there's also a cafe counter fridge with Asian-Western style desserts, cakes & coffee. I mean A-W because, the presentation looked like Francois cakes, tastes a bit like the old Cakes Unlimited / Mozart / Utopia, faux-creme cakes. Combo price is average cafe price but I must say the coffee prepared was on the bad side.

Still majority rules in the votes and many people have tried and liked it. Personally I prefer honest hearty food and portion sized as opposed to cold glitz and pretense at classy fusion. I have been recommended to go try this again, I'm just not sure if I can stomach it. If you liked it, then that's cool. Don't diss my review, personal experience was bad. If you had a fantastic experience and would like to tout it - let me know and I might go back and review again.

Vote: 1 out of 5 Stars

It wasn't photo worthy.

The Bonsai Restaurant Cafe & Lounge on Urbanspoon

Korean Chapter 1. Verse 1. Tong 86 (Beaufort Street, Northbridge)

What can I say this is one of my comfort eats. It's just comfortable to go there, any day and get a table and fast service. Although sometimes the staff doesn't really speak a very great deal of English, but I like accented waitstaff (as long as they bring me my order promptly). And everything is prompt, unless you want re-fills and this could take a while. You can do a lot of self-service, and just indicate to the boss you did it and what table number. I like the ring bell for service thing too (unless I'm sitting under the speaker).

The neko co. has tried nearly everything on the menu, from all of the portions of meats to the soups and stews. We also go there for the projected K-pop MTV, it's been on repeat for a while. So no new stuff. Just adds ethnic authenticity to the experience I guess. They don't wear gimicky Korean outfits but the food is just as authentic.

The factory feel here is convenient and evolving. Interesting comments and tiddie-bits are written and drawn all over the walls. There's a few rude artworks too, if you can find them. Add your mark, permanent markers are provided. The hanging bottle cap thing is very Korean casual eatery style. There's a lot of bottle cap drinking games a la Korean style. The shochu is cheap, you can mix your own chu-hai (order a fruity drink and self-mix). The makkoli (draft rice wine) takes getting used to if you've never tried something like it before. I like it, it's easier to drink - but it's slightly yoghurty. A bit like calpis / calpico but alcoholic. A friend of mine has called it toilet wash liquid before, but then I don't know when he had the opportunity to drink toilet wash.

the kimchee pancake - although not as great as Took Bae Kee 1 or 2. This is still fantastic in colour!
the ox tongue - alwasy a fav, especially good when you can see a speckling of fat and the slices are thin
the intercostals - not all people like the chewyness, but I find this is the easiest to cook with enough pink inside to taste juicey
the mushrooms - grilled mushrooms
the side dishes - the pickled spring onions is delicious with cooked slices of meat.
steamed egg - yes I know it sounds simple but you have to try this. The soup that you can spoon up in this is delicious. Fluffy yet substantial in flavour!

Traditionally the pork belly would be the top of the list, but I find the ones here are now more often very fatty. And I don't personally recommend the neck chain... it's harder to cook right and tastes a bit tougher.

I've also tryed the fish cake soup - don't really think there's much to it, other than the unmarinaded fish cake slices which you have as a side dish. So not much taste. There's the kimchee soup which is spicy but not as flavourful as the ones I tried at TBK. Has something to do with their kimchee, which is a little bit sourer than others.

I am almost sure if you know Korean, there's extra menu items to unlock. So I need to go there with a Korean friend sometime. Anyone want the job?

Vote: 5 out of 5 Stars
I'll add photos later.

Tong 86 on Urbanspoon

Food adventures - cooking for 6

Like most Chinese people, I over cater. Chronically over cater. I mean, it must be an  in built genetic and cultural belief that there must be enough at any given time to feed double the number of guests you're expecting. Because who knows who else will drop by. And the number of guests you're expecting should always be rounded up by at least an additional 25%. Just in case.

So this is what I listed as menu for Australia Day light lunch:
  • Turkish bread (dips/dukkah)
  • Deep fried chicken wings
  • Spring rolls
  • A salad or two of some kind
  • Maybe a mini quiche thingy
  • Maybe lamb (cutlets) – Sam Kekovich tells me I need lamb to be Australian
  • A baked pastry dessert / olliebollen – depends if I have energy/time to make this in the morning
  • Watermelon
  • Ice cream/icey poles (I have Fruit Yoghurt Splits)
Additional just in case food: nachos, popcorn, BBQ prawns, salt & pepper squid, fish gujons and also an open filo apple pie. Not all of these were done... And this was just the pre-planning list.

I did make 80% of this, I only had from 11 til about 12:30 to cook.
The amount I actually pre-paredcooked:

Plate piled high!

1 mini loaf of Garlic Ciabatta
12 Vegemite & Cheese Palmiers (amended recipe)
24 Salmon & Chive Mini Quiches (amended recipe)
2 kg worth of Deep Fried Chicken Wings
1 kg worth of Parmean Encrusted crumbed Lamb Chops (amended recipe, no salsa)

Antipasto board
1 giant bowl of Garden Salad

1 giant bowl of Watermelon (cubed)
1 giant bowl of vegetarian fried rice (contains egg)
1 (unsuccessful) Banana Tart Tatin (or turn over tart)

Garlic Ciabatta
I bought the ciabatta loaf and just buttered and garlic'd it up! The pre-minced garlic tube you find in Coles or Woolworths is really handy for this and much fresher than jar. It doesn't really beat mincing your own but when you're short on time and expecting guests pronto this is simple cheat.

Vegemite & Cheese Palmiers (amended recipe)
I changed the filling as I didn't have enough parmesan. I used Vegemite & shredded cheddar cheese. I was initially meant to make a pull-apart loaf but didn't have enough time to make the dough. So this recipe was really handy. I only made 1 sheet of puff pastry and it made 12 small palm sized palmiers. Great as a snack. I love Vegemite and cheese and this is a quick and crunchier version of the toastie. The rolling of the puff pastry takes some getting used to, but other wise very easy to make.

Salmon & Chive Mini Quiches (amended recipe)
I find smoked salmon for mini quiches too over-powering in flavour. Instead I used canned Atlantic wild salmon, just very small pieces. I removed the dill from the recipe, not a dill fan. Used chives and 1 more egg. Lessened the cream - depends how runny you like your quiches I think.
Personally, in future I'd remove the salmon altogether and just go with normal bacon quiche lorraine and maybe a vegetarian variation - semi-sundried tomatoes.

Plate filled with quiches, garlic ciabatta & palmiers

Deep Fried Chicken Wings
I had a pre-mix fried chicken seasoning - bought from VHT (Asian grocers). It tastes a bit like what you'd get if you buy nasi lemak fried chicken. But I added extra paprika, salt & pepper and floured the chicken before frying to get more crispy-ness. It was easy finger food, but the frying in a small deep fryer took quite a long time.

Parmean Encrusted crumbed Lamb Chops (amended recipe, no salsa)
No cutlets to be found last minute at IGA. Bought lamb fore-chops, a bit more grissly - little round bone but meat texture-wise same as cutlets. Cutlets are just easier to cook through and pretty. I tenderised and then marinaded the lamb a bit (salt & peppered the lamb and added some dried thyme). Recommendation - mix some rosemary in would be even better than the thyme.

My (unsuccessful) Banana Tart Tatin (or turn over tart)
I didn't have a stove top compatible baking dish - so that's failure number one. I tried to reduce the sugar required for the caramel, failure number two. I also added cinnamon to the caramel... this didn't really affect the recipe. So essentially my caramel failed to "crystallize".
The banana gave out more liquid than I imagined.
Finally, I rushed the pastry part and added too much milk for glazing. This became a scoop out dish, the sugar-hit is deadly even with the reduced sugar. Served with Coffee & vanilla ice-cream, delicious if you have a sweet-tooth.

Idea for next time: just use small ramekins and serve straight from oven with a dollop of double cream on top and ice-cream on the side. Could try this with stewed apples!

The Chinesey recipes I won't bother going into, there's so many easy ways to make these. That you really don't need further instructions from me.

Overall the lamb was a great hit, I shall have to try this again with pork chops or something else. Have to say you do end up throwing out the oil you shallow fry in as the parmesan and breadcrumb mixture just ruins the oil for re-use for anything else.

I'm going to do olliebollen sometime next week and of course try the open filo apple pie this weekend when I find a spare moment to cook them. Tonight... pasta or lasgna?

Thursday, 19 January 2012

Koeksisters mishmash recipe

I didn't really follow any specific koeksister recipe. Read through a number of variations and was intending to make a vegan batch & a non-vegan batch. Plan fell through as I couldn't get hold of Ogran No Egg - an egg substitute.

The idea was to do two batches, one for work morning tea & one for a pot luck gathering with some friends tomorrow night.

The syrup I made the prior night, it contained the following:
1.5kg caster sugar
4 small cups if water
3 cinnamon sticks
Juice of 1 lemon
2 tspn ground ginger
1 tspn or so of citric acid powder for baking (or aka tartaric acid - it adds acidity to baking / cooking)

Mix sugar & water in small pot until all dissolved, recommend medium heat. Wouldn't want it to boil over. Add the spices (ginger & cinnamon). Carefully add the lemon juice as this will cause the contents to froth/boil up quickly so maintain low heat. Add citric acid if you like a little bit more tarty than sugary.

Leave on low-medium heat until syrup thickens a little more. Remove from heat, allow to cool and the pour into a large container to store in fridge. Chilled overnight is best!

Next day:
Prepare dough with following:
4 cups of self raising flour (for equivalent plain flour use 2 tspn of baking powder to rise - this will mean leavin dough to rise for 2-3rs)
70g or 4 tbspn of butter
2 eggs
1 cup of water or milk (I used milk for a creamier dough, also if using plain flour this allows it rise better)

Sifting of plain flour & baking powder is required. You can do that for the self raising but I lime the easier way out and just went ahead. Rub butter & flour together, will become slightly crumbly but won't have formed together. Should have no clumps of butter.

If using water, whisk eggs into water and pour in gradually and mix in to flour by hand.

I was lazy and just cracked the eggs in & poured in a cup of milk. Result the dough was slightly too gooey to start with and I had to wait for it rise any way cause I rushed it.

The rolling out to flat sheet and cutting into long 5cm x 10m pcs. Cut each pc twice more, slice length wise but not through the top. You should now have each pc as 3 strands joint at the top. Braid these, practice makes perfect by the end of the batch you'll be an expert. Don't worry about stuffing up, just roll up the deformed braid into a dough ball and start again ;)

Prepare deep fryer with oil, heat up to 180*C, test with a clove or small bit of the dough. Prepare plate with pan toasted sesames. And we're ready to roll.

The frying process - since I had a small fryer I had to do bathed of 8-10. Fry til golden brown, drain oil. Then dunk in syrup, drain from syrup, toss/cover in sesame.

Sesame is optional. The koeksister reminds me of the Tianjing mahua (麻花). So I added the sesame, taste is vaunted different. The following website is in Chinese, when I find an English version of the recipe I'll add or try it out :)

Friday, 6 January 2012

Sayers Food, Leederville

Definitively my favorite cafe of all time. Stef & Mark Sayers' niche cafe had become the talk of the town. Fragrance of Five Sense beans, freshly roasted and brewed to perfection floats & welcome you in to a relaxed and funky dining area. Must try the outdoor bench chairs. The shade clothes and the breeze makes this delightful during summer months.

And oh the food:
Pork fillet, Pancetta, pumpkin gnocchi, wilted spinach & port jus
Presentation is clean cut and simplistic. Light and balanced taste of the dish aptly blends the port jus, sweet pumpkin gnocchi with the salty pancetta wrapped pork fillet. Delightfully simple and satisfy all the senses.

Quinoa & shredded pork salad, charred orange, sultanas & pistachio
This can be a definition of summer salad. Light but filling with the use of the quinoa. The quinoa provided an additional layer of texture to the salad. Instead of sultanas today we received the dish with diced honeyed fig - this was a nice surprise and much less sweet than the bursts of fructose of the sultanas. The caramelised onion adds a different sweetness to the dish and aptly off sets the juicy braised pork (belly meat). I've got to try this at home or a variation.

Leek & Parmesan croquettes, poached eggs, rocket leaf & spicy fruit chutney
An old favourite, now available during lunch! Sweet leek in croquette form! Love it. I got a giant croquette, but two poached eggs & extra wilted spinach! Score! Delightful way to start Saturday afternoon.
Carrot & coconut cake
Not a huge fan of desiccated coconut. But walnut & carrot cake can never go wrong. And I love the fact Sayers is one of few cafes which use REAL double cream with their cakes! And real cream with their iced coffees!

Stars: 5 out of 5
But then people have said I'm biased!

Sayers on Urbanspoon

Monday, 2 January 2012

Chinese Spring Rolls (Vg, Cheat)

I need to provide images for brand / image. Basically, VHT in Perth stocks mini-spring rolls. Approx. $12 a packet - enough to feed a small army definitely over 80 in a packet. This is much cheaper than your supermarkets faux Asian spring rolls.

How to cook:
Shall fry in vegetable or olive oil.
Dry out on papertowel or baking rack to remove excess oil.
Serve on platters with sweet chilli sauce or whatever condiments you like. I wouldn't suggest soy sauce - it would be too salty.

Takes less than 2 mins to fry up a batch.

Taste test: 5 out of 5 Stars. (It's the deep fried goodness, convenience and passes the Asian taste test - my traditional Chinese parents even liked it without criticising so that says something.)

I used star anise/peppercorn infused olive oil for shallow frying in a wok. Just pop a star anise and some Szechuan Peppercorns into oil as you're heating it. You can also add cloves for added spice flavouring.

Picture: unavailable (I made it and then forgot to take photos. Will do another batch and take photos.)

Vietnamese Rice Paper Rolls (GF, Vg)

For New Year's eve, I made Vietnamese Rice Paper Rolls (GF, Vg). I've never made this before - it looks easy... requires delicate touch and timing (which I sadly lack the skills for).

Like my mother, I never make anything with 'set measurements' and over-cater dramatically. So the following are the ingredients I prepared to use:
  • 5 medium sized Carrots (almost julienne, my knife skills are not that great)
  • 3 Capsicums (almost julienne, ok they were really chunky strips)
  • 1/2 large red / Spanish Onion (almost julienne.)
  • Dried Chinese mushrooms (they look like mini-shitakes, rehydrate with water overnight is best. And julienne if you have the skills.)
  • 6-8 large Prawns (steamed / boiled & peeled)
  • Roast Chicken - breast meat (I torn the strips - you may like to chop/slice them if you wanted to use a knife, it's more cathartic to tear it apart.)
  • Vermicelli (I used green bean vermicelli. It has a more chewy texture and doesn't fall apart if left soaking in water when prepared in advance.)
  • 1 kg Bean sprouts (I didn't use all of this, I barely used 250g on hindsight - but the rest can always be used in soups, noodles, stir-fries or salads.)
  • Snowpea sprouts (I like these for the taste and colour.)
  • 1 pkt Tofu puffs (ok this is not really the brand I used, just a picture to show you what they look like. I googled Tofu puffs and this fellow blogger's photo came up. I'm sure they have a proper name, but what would you call something that's like fried tofu but puffy!)
  • a bunch of Coriander (use leaves and thin stems, large ones cut off and set aside for other uses.)
  • 3 pkts 22cm Vietnames rice paper roll sheets (approx 15 sheets per packet, I used 2 packets - there are cracks/breakages if you're a first timer, so extra is recommended.)
  • miso paste (I used this to add salt flavour to the rolls. Generally, this is additive free. Please check packaging as some may contain gluten or if you use a miso soup base - it may contain bonito - which is made from dried fish!)
I did stir-fry the carrots, mushroom together with a little bit of salt - do in batches if your wok/pan is not big enough. A short 2-3 mins will do, ensure carrots are still "crunchy" and not soft. Do the same with the capsicum and onions and salt. Do not cook this until vegetables are wilted. Take out and spread out to cool - if it's all layered in one bowl the vegetables on the bottom will wilt and more juices will / steam will be condensed to liquid - this will make your rice paper rolls too mushy and reduce the variety in texture. I personally, used a mini hand fan and chopsticks to keep turning and mixing the vegetabls until cool. This is similar to how traditionally you would cool down sushi rice.

Oh, minor side note, I use extra virgin olive oil which is already infused with cloves & Chinese peppercorns, so it provides a little bit more extra flavouring to stir-fry.

How to wrap them up: Google this - it's relatively simple and there are Youtube videos, you can't get it wrong. really I mean it, you can't get it wrong. Only break a few in the practice attempts. And it takes a few trials until you find the ideal colour combination placement (Hint: don't lump it all in the middle). I spread a little bit of the miso paste on to the rice paper sheets to add flavour.

For the dressing:
Since I'm trying for something Gluten Free and Vegan, most pre-made Asian sauces are out of the picture. And most recipes contain Fish Sauce or Oyster Sauce or Hoisin Sauce (which is Seafood sauce, shrimp base used in some of these pre-bottled ones). Most recommended replacement for fish sauce is soy sauce (which is not GF).

However, I found a pre-made Thai Salad Dressing that tastes very similar to the Vietnamese Dipping Sauce (Nuoc Mam Cham). Base ingredients, rice vineagre, water, sugar, chilli, lemon juice and some coriander.

For those who want a quick and easy sauce, and don't need to be concerned about GF. Use Seafood Soy Sauce - it doesn't actually contain seafood or shrimp, it's a special premium soy sauce which is a little bit sweeter than premium light soy and colour is a bit lighter too. Infuse with some chopped chilli, a little rice vineager and you're good to go.

If you are not catering for Vegans, you can use the above link or just add fish sauce to normal soy for flavouring. You can also cheat with - mixture of Hoisin Sauce with some crunchy peanut butter for a non-spicy sauce.

The following links are interesting guides to food additives - especially in pre-bottled sauces.
Wikipedia - Food Additive basic definition and some grounding knowledge.
Food Additives Guide this guide is mostly emulsifiers, stabilisers etc. This is a non-government website, please use and cross-reference responsibly. They also have other guides for acids and other additives in foods.
Latest news on Emulsifiers, Stabilisers, Hydrocolloids Food Navigator provides collation of articles which relate to the food industry and scientific / consumer market impacts on this area's development.

Serves: 28 - 32 large rolls (trial and error means you might have less presentable ones and get to eat a few failed / broken attemps.) Cut in half, can cater for at least a party of 16 people as h'ors d'oeuvres.

Taste test: 4 out of 5 Stars (why? because I'm a critic - the presentation didn't work out as well as I had hoped. The sizes weren't very uniform and cutting was a problem after being left for a while.) 

Pictures: unavailable (I forgot to take but I'll make a new batch another time and update this entry.)

New Year's Resolve

Thinking back on the last year I realise I eat out a lot and I don't really cook as much at home any more. Not only do I like eating the various cuisines out there and figuring out what's in them at the time and then criticising the uses... For some, I think I should be able to create a better version of the dish. This is probably an result of a Chinese up-bringing where you end up going out with your parents for dinner and every single dish is reviewed with eagle eyes for the quality of the ingredients, the measured or un-measured use of spices and herbs and even the presentation and service delivery. It's not hard to see how food has become an obsession for me.

I'd like to share my "love" / "obsession" (zetsuai) for food with people. This means going out to restaurants pre- and post- reviews, cooking at home, cooking lessons, experimental failures... and just general ponderings.

I'm no Poh or Kylie Kwang or Luke Nguyen and I don't want to in-fusionize Asian cuisine. Some works and some don't. I'm not a fusion food fan. The exploration of new spices and sauces are great but some cuisines have worked it out already but mixing with a five spice sauce with a steak burger would be a bad idea.

I don't make New Year Resolutions, only because they end up being broken. Instead I'm going to resolve to do something for myself and my family this year. My resolve for the new year? To cook more. Instead of stress baking, I shall cook. This is not a Julie/Julia project, it's not even about showing the recipes I attempt. It's just a way to keep track of this resolve. This will be more honest than just critiquing existing foods and restaurants. I will still post reviews once in a while, but there is less pressure to be witty and note take during meals. The photography before eating is already a time critical delay to the eating.

If anyone reading this would like to join me on any food adventures or have any suggestions to what to make / go out and eat please leave a comment :)