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Sunday, September 30, 2007


I learnt how to make wontons by watching my mum make them. My parents used to own a small food business, and I worked there from when I was an awkward teen of 13 till I was 22 (gotta love family obligations). Nowadays I wonder what people thought when they came in. Even when I was young, I would be making burgers and frying up fish and chips. I wonder if that was ever considered weird.

I know that on the very few occasions when I got to a fast food "restaurant" like KFC or McDonalds I often have a little internal shudder when I see the youngies. It's another reason to not like those places – I don't quite trust teenagers cooking my food!

Right, I'll put my grandma persona away and get back to wontons. I tend to mix up a big batch of dumpling meat, then divide it into smaller batches and freeze. 200 grams of mince seems to make around 30 wontons (depending on how much meat you put in each). The recipe I use for the mince is below, along with a lesson on how to fold wontons.

Wontons can be deep fried, steamed or boiled. My favourite way is boiled in soup. I love biting into the meat and then slurping up the soft skin. I also use the same mince to make pan fried dumplings by wrapping it in gyoza skin. I must warn you though – while they taste great, dumpling burps can be something awful. Don't drink something fizzy during or immediately after eating!

Wonton soup

I served my wontons in home-made chicken soup with fresh shitake mushrooms, bok choy, sprouts and squid (left over from the lemon herb squid evening).

Wonton mince

1 kilo pork mince
1 thumb sized piece of fresh ginger root, peeled and minced
4 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
6 dried shitake mushrooms, soaked in water for at least 30 minutes then diced finely
1 tablespoon chinese rice wine
4 tablespoons soy sauce
3 tablespoons sesame oil
1 egg, beaten
1 teaspoon salt

In a large bowl, combine the pork, ginger, garlic, shitake mushrooms, rice wine, soy sauce, sesame oil, egg and salt. Stir until well mixed.

To shape wontons

Step 1: Take a small teaspoon of mince and place it near the top half of the wonton wrapper. Don't use too much mince, or the wontons will be hard to shape.

Step 2: Fold the wrapper over and flatten it around the mince.

Step 3: Wet one corner of the wrapper and bring the two edges of the wrapper together. Press the corners together until they stick.

Your wonton should look like this!

Friday, September 28, 2007

Lemon Herb Squid

I got a small surprise when the latest issue of Delicious magazine arrived in my mailbox this week. In the whole month that had passed since the last issue, I had forgotten that I had a subscription! The slow slide into old age seems to have started. Soon I'll be prefacing all my sentences with, "In MY day..."

I adore the heat so the warmer weather recently has been very welcome. Not only has it meant that exercise outside is possible and desirable again, but it has also meant eating lighter meals. This is good news to me, as winter has left me feeling a bit rotund!

Lemon Herb Squid

The October issue of Delicious is chocka with recipes that are great for spring. For dinner on Wednesday, I picked up some squid from the market and made Lemon Herb Squid (on page 70 of the magazine). As the issue is currently being sold, I won't post the recipe here, but it's fairly straight forward. Marinate squid in olive oil, lemon zest, lemon juice, parsley and oregano for a couple of hours. Then cook over high heat for a couple of minutes, and serve with a green salad.

I ended up having a fair amount of squid left over, and ending up dicing it up into a cous cous salad to take to work the next day. It was a pretty flash lunch, even if I do say so myself!

If you're keen for the recipe and can't/don't want to get the magazine, send me an email: sporkette at

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Cheesy Pasta with cauliflower and asparagus

Apart from an occasional weekend coffee, and for cooking, we don't use much milk. I don't like the taste of plain milk, whether it's skim, normal or full fat. (But I could drink litres of soy milk, particularly the plastic bottles with yellow lids that can be bought in Asian supermarkets - yum!)

Due to the lack of milk drinking, I often find that we have run out or, more commonly, it's been sitting in the fridge for too long and has gone chunky (ick).

This was the situation I found myself in this week. There were two cartons of open milk in the fridge, both well past their use by dates. But no milk, no matter! Normally I would've made a cheese sauce, but this time I just melted the cheese through the hot pasta. It was cheesylicous!

I would like to submit this to Presto Pasta Nights (my first time!). Check out Presto Pasta Nights for more pasta recipes.

Cheesy pasta

Cheesy Pasta with cauliflower and asparagus

Serves 4

300 gram dried pasta spirals
2 small onions, finely sliced
3 garlic cloves, crushed
250g cauliflower
Bunch of asparagus
2 tablespoons butter
150g tasty cheese, grated
50g pecorino, grated
Salt & pepper

Bring a pot of well salted water to the boil for the pasta. Add the pasta when the water comes to the boil.

Cook the onions and garlic on a medium-low heat in a frying pan until soft, for about 10 minutes.

While this is happening, bring another pot of salted water to the boil. Cut the cauliflower into small florets and rinse. Add to the boiling water and cook until just tender. Remove with a slotted spoon and drain in a colander.

Snap the woody ends off the asparagus, then cut the spears into 3cm lengths. Add to the boiling water that the cauliflower had been in and cook until just tender (about 1 minutes). Remove from the water and drain.

The pasta should be about ready by now – when al dente, remove and drain. Reserve some of the cooking water.

Heat the butter in a pot over medium-low heat (use the pasta one to cut down on dishes!), when melted, add the cauliflower and asparagus, then the onions and garlic. Stir to warm the vegetables, then add the cooked pasta and a couple of tablespoons of the pasta cooking water. Tip in all the cheese and stir until melted through the pasta.

Taste, add salt if necessary, and season well with lots of freshly cracked pepper.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Soul Mama

Last year, Alastair got the opportunity to go to Mumbai for business. While there, he was kindly shown around by a couple of his colleagues in the Mumbai office. This weekend, he finally had a chance to return the favour, when two of those colleagues came over for a visit.

On Sunday we took them on a little tour of Melbourne, and after a lot of walking and tram riding, we decided to have a late lunch. As both his colleagues are vegetarian, we opted for Soul Mama.

I've heard plenty about Soul Mama but had never been there before. I suppose that's why I was surprised by the buffet and bain marie arrangement! The way it works is that you choose your desired size bowl or plate, and that gives you a certain number of choices from the buffet.

We all choose the medium bowl, which was $15.50 for rice and 4 choices from the buffet. I'm glad we didn't go any larger, as the medium bowl was very filling.

Soul Mama

I choose saffron rice (you could also have jasmine or brown rice) with a tempeh and vegetable curry (front right), some kind of pasta (front left), tandoori vegetables (back left) and a vegetable and pesto gratin (back right). I was starting to get choice overload looking at all the options, so my brain was too busy to take note of the exact names of the dishes!

The pasta and the gratin were pretty good. The pasta had a lovely creamy sauce, and the gratin was delicious and also creamy. Most disappointing in my selection was the tandoori vegetables. There was no tandoori flavour AT ALL. It was basically plain vegetables, with minimal seasoning. I also wasn't impressed with the curry. There was a strange edge to it - I didn't like the flavour much.

All in all – the food was okay. Not bad, just okay. If you're after a place with interesting food that might convert a meat eater to a vegetarian lifestyle (or even just convince them that vegetarian food can be really tasty) then Soul Mama isn't up to the job. But if all you're after is a filling vegetarian meal with average food but a gorgeous view, Soul Mama is perfect!

Soul Mama
St Kilda Sea Baths
10 Jacka Boulevard
St Kilda
Ph: 9525 3338

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Vegie burgers and chips

I enjoy eating meat, and I don't think I could ever give it up. However, I do try and ensure that we have a few nights a week where we have a vegetarian meal. I felt like we had been eating a lot of meat last week, so one evening I made vegie burgers. My Bro did defeat the purpose a bit by adding bacon to his, but you know what they say about leading the horse to water... ;)

These vegie patties are really easy if you use a food processor and they're also very tasty. I served ours up with some frozen oven fries, which were (surprisingly) great.

Vegie burger & chips

Vegie burgers

Makes 6 large patties

2 small onions, peeled and cut into quarters
2 large carrots, peeled and cut into quarters
2 cloves crushed garlic
3 medium potatoes, peeled and grated
1 x 400g can chickpeas
4 slices of stale sourdough or other white bread
1/2 teaspoon curry powder
2 eggs
Salt & pepper

In a food processor, pulse the onion and carrots until chopped finely (don't over process). Tip into a large mixing bowl.

Squeeze as much liquid as you can out of the grated potatoes, and add that to the onion and carrots with the garlic.

Drain and rinse the chickpeas, and mash roughly before adding to the vegetable mixture.

Process the bread in the food processor until in fine breadcrumbs. Add to the mixture with the curry powder, eggs and season very well with salt & pepper.

Mix together and, with wet hands, shape into large patties. They may be quite wet - add more breadcrumbs if you need to.

Cook in George (Foreman Grill), or in a frying pan until cooked through. Serve in buns with fresh salad, cheese and tomato sauce.

Chicken and potato curry with roti

I don't normally like using curry pastes that come from a jar. They're very convenient, but I find the taste a bit odd. One problem is that it never tastes the way I think it should (ie good!) but the worst part is that there always seems to be either a sour or chemical taste to them. I've tried a few different brands and they all seemed odd.

I'm never buying Indian curry paste again. I've successfully tried a few recipes for Indian curries that were delicious. They were time consuming and contained a gazillion spices, but the depth of flavour was infinitely better than jar curry. I'd rather cook curry on a special occasion than put up with ick curry.

But I've never had any success with cooking Thai curries. Even from scratch, my curry pastes are insipid, one dimensional and uninspiring. Such a disappointment. I should keep trying.

As for Malaysian curry – I've never tried making it. The "outside kitchen" (ie when Alastair "cooks" and goes out to buys food) does such good laksa and nasi lemak, that I've never bothered trying. But the other week I had roti in my fridge, and no time to cook a proper curry. I decided to use a jar of laksa paste in the pantry that I bought a while ago (Por Kwan brand, bought from an Asian supermarket). I added in a few things and it actually tasted really good! Have I been wrong about jar curry paste?

Chicken curry with roti

Chicken and potato curry

2 onions, sliced
The white part of a stalk of lemongrass
Half a jar of laksa paste
3 medium potatoes, peeled and cut into large chunks
400gram can of coconut milk
200ml water
6 chicken drumsticks
1 teaspoon fish sauce

Cook the sliced onions on low heat until soft (about 15 mins). Crush the stalk of lemongrass with your knife and throw that into the pot.

Add half the jar of laksa paste and the potatoes. Stir to combine and cook until fragrant.

Add the coconut milk and water, then the drumsticks. Bring to the boil and then simmer until the chicken is cooked and tender (about 30 minutes).

Stir in a teaspoon of fish sauce and serve with flakey roti. (If serving with rice, you may want to thicken the sauce).

Cafe Plum: revisited

Another weekend, another visit to Cafe Plum. This visit, there were a couple of interesting specials on the board. My Bro and I went for the specials, while Alastair had ricotta hotcakes with bacon and maple syrup.

Durkah crusted poached eggs on white bean brais with mint & chili oil

This was my Bro's brunch (I copied the name straight from the board - a rather long title for a meal!). He said it was, "Awesome!" and gave it two thumbs up. Apparently the beans were very soft, and the mint and chili went very well together.

Fancy Bubble and Squeak with poached eggs and tomato chutney

This was my brunch - rather than vegetables cooked with mashed potato it was actually a vegetable fritter. It had diced potato, peas, pumpkin and spring onions. The poached eggs were wonderful - I wish I had taken a photo of the yolk running down the fritters. That, and I wish I hadn't screwed up the focus. Gaah.

Another visit, another mostly good brunch. I say mostly, because one of Alastair's hotcakes were still gooey and uncooked in the middle. Maybe the assistant cooked those!

Cafe Plum
193 Flemington Rd, North Melbourne 3051
Ph: (03) 9329 8867

Bulghur, bulgur, bulgar, or burghul?

However you spell it, bulghur is delicious!

Bulghur is wheat that is parboiled, dried, and then coarsely ground. At that time, the outer layers of the bran are removed, after which the grains are cracked. It has a distinctive nutty taste, and is high in fibre and proteins and low in fat - it's a good substitute for rice or cous cous if you're watching your weight as it's more nutritious. Traditionally it's used to make tabouli and pilafs.

I like to cook bulghur in chicken stock to add extra flavour, then mix through vegetables and a dash of olive oil to make a salad. It's great to take to work for lunch (although I wouldn't use lettuce if I was going to let it sit overnight).

Bulghur & Tuna Salad

Serves 3-4

1 cup uncooked coarse bulghur
1 & 1/2 cups chicken stock
1 large can of tuna
Several leaves of lettuce, shredded/sliced finely
2 medium carrots, grated
2 spring onions, sliced finely
Salt & Pepper
Good quality extra-virgin olive oil

Rinse the bulgur, then place into a pot with the chicken stock (the bulghur will expand, so use a good sized pot). Cover with a lid.

Bring to the boil, then lower to a simmer. Simmer until all the liquid has been soaked up. Turn off the heat, take the lid off and cover the top of the pot with a clean tea towel. Place the lid on top of the tea towel and let it sit for 10 minutes.

Fluff the bulghur up with a fork, and place into a large bowl. Drain the tuna and add this to the bowl with the lettuce, carrots and spring onions. Toss all the ingredients together, season well with salt and pepper and add a good dash of olive oil.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007


I read a blog yesterday that had a tip on how to turn a cheap cut of steak into a more tender steak - see Jaden's Steamy Kitchen here.

If you can't be bothered going to the link, I'll paraphrase. The idea is that you take a thick piece of steak, coat it very liberally with salt, and then leave it for 15 minutes to an 1 hour. After the time has passed, rinse off all the salt, pat the meat dry, and then grill/fry as per normal.

And the science behind it: initially the salt draws out moisture from the meat. But after sitting for a while, some of the salty water gets sucked back into the meat, and that salt does something to the proteins that makes it more tender. Hello, tender steak!

Sounds too good to be true? I think an experiment is in order!

Today at the market, I bought some pieces of cheap rump steak. I salted two pieces as per the instructions on Steamy Kitchen with some crushed garlic and peppercorns. I used about 4 teaspoons of sea salt crystals, and crushed them into smaller crystals with garlic and peppercorns. In the interests of science, I left one piece as a control: no salt, only covered with crushed garlic and peppercorns (yay science!).

Control steak

The control steak. Who loves garlic!

Salted steak

The two pieces of salted steak. Have I mentioned that we love garlic?

After 30 minutes, I pulled the steaks out of the fridge to rinse them. There was an obvious difference between the control and salted steaks. The salted steaks were glistening with moisture, and the control was dry. I rinsed the salt off the salted steaks, and the garlic and pepper off the control and patted them very dry.

To cook them, I probably should've used a pan, but I was lazy and stuck them in the George (Foreman Grill). After pulling them out of George, and resting them for 10 minutes, I was ready to submit the steaks to the test!

Control steak

I salted the control steak just before eating, then took alternative bites of the control and then the salted steak. The salted steak WAS salty, and the garlic had penetrated all through the meat. MHMMM. Was it more tender? Yes, it was! I didn't think it was an astounding difference, but it WAS noticeably more tender. And on the plus side for the salted steak, the control didn't have much garlic flavour.

But, like I said, the salted steak was salty. It was just the right amount, but leaving it covered in salt for more than 30 minutes (or using more salt) would probably have been too much.

So the results are in (yes, I know I should've done a double blind test to be truly scientific): salting your steaks does seem to make them more tender and flavourful. It's worth a try if you like steak.

Monday, September 17, 2007

Jamie inspired roast lamb

This (rather unattractive) roast lamb was inspired by a recipe in Jamie Oliver's book, Cook With Jamie. In the book, he has a recipe for Mad Moroccan lamb (page 170 if you have it).

Jamie's recipe looked wonderful, but rather involved, and it included cous cous. I adore cous cous, but the Boys are not fans. But I liked the idea of the spices, especially since we all have colds. Subtle flavours are a bit lost on us at the moment.

I served the lamb with balsamic chickpeas (adapted from Jamie's recipe) and roast potatoes. For the potatoes, I parboiled them whole, then cut them in half and tossed in a glug of olive oil and 1/2 teaspoon of cumin seeds, coriander seeds, chilli flakes plus a good seasoning of salt and pepper. They went into the oven for half an hour.

The lamb was too well done for my liking, but it still tasted good. I'm an "bit of this, bit of that" kind of cook, so truthfully I have no idea if all the spices and stuff I put in are necessary for yumminess. Possibly not, so consider the recipe below a guide more than anything!

Jamie inspired roast lamb with balsamic chickpeas and roast potatoes

Serves 6-8

For the lamb

1 x 2kg shoulder of lamb
2 teaspoons cumin seeds
2 teaspoons coriander seeds
2 teaspoons black mustard seeds
2 teaspoons chilli flakes
6 large cloves of garlic
Zest from one lemon
1/4 cup lemon juice
2 teaspoons salt

For the chickpeas

1 large red onion, peeled and sliced
1 cinnamon stick
salt and pepper
1 x 400g tin of chickpeas
100ml good quality balsamic vinegar
200ml water

Preheat the oven to 220 degree C. Score the lamb in a criss cross pattern about 2.5cm apart.

In a mortar and pestle, crush the garlic cloves with the salt.

In a dry pan, toast the cumin seeds, coriander seeds and black mustard seeds over a medium heat until fragrant. Tip them into the mortar and pestle and add the chilli flakes. Crush it all together, then add the lemon zest and lemon juice. Mix it all up with a spoon, it should be like a paste. Rub this all over the meat, making sure you get it into the cuts. Put the lamb on a rack in a roasting pan and put into the oven for about 1 & 1/2 hours (mine went in for 2 hours which was too long unless you like well done meat). After the lamb is cooked to your liking, take it out of the oven and allow it to rest for 10 minutes.

For the chickpeas, heat some olive oil in a large saucepan and fry your onions and cinnamon with a pinch of salt and pepper for about 15 minutes or until softened. Don't hurry this. Add the chickpeas with the water and the vinegar. Simmer on a medium heat until nice and thick, then remove from the hob and serve with slices of the roast lamb.

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Belgian Waffles

When we went to Auckland, there was only one thing that I wanted to take back. My mum's waffle maker.

We bought the waffle maker over 10 years ago, and I have many fond waffle memories. I've had a look for a waffle maker here in Oz, but have only seen one that shapes them like a penguin. Wtf? So I was happy that our visit to mum and dad's meant I could finally have waffles again!

First weekend back from Auckland, and waffles was on the menu! I found a recipe on from here. It contains yeast, so a fair amount of time is required - over an hour before the waffles are ready to be cooked. I prepared the batter the night so that it was all ready to go in the morning.

The waffles weren't very sweet, so they definitely needed some icing sugar or syrup. And they weren't as thick as I wanted, but I think that's the fault of my waffle maker. With all the extra effort that went into a yeast batter, I'm not entirely sure it was worthwhile. Next time I'll have to try a baking powder batter to decide whether yeast is worth the time and energy.

Oh, and the recipe made a GAZILLION waffles. (If you want to be accurate, gazillion = 15.) Alastair never eats more than me, unless he's ingesting pancakes, waffles, french toast and cake. He managed 3 and a half, but his appetite for sweet brunches is astounding and I would suggest that two is probably a more normal number to eat.

Friday, September 14, 2007

Braised pork with star anise and ginger

Braised pork with star anise and ginger

I'm racking my brain to say something interesting.

I have nothing.

It's a good thing that there's internets. Instead of having something interesting to say, I can tell you about something interesting I read! Look at this article on the Guardian that discusses food combinations, and check out the recipe for Braised Lamb Shoulder. Apparently star anise, when combined with onion, enhances the flavour of meat. I think some experiments are in order!

The recipe for the braised pork above was from here. The only changes I made was to substitute the dry sherry for some chinese rice wine, add another clove of garlic (we love garlic), and double the amount of soy sauce as I didn't use stock - just water. It was a satisfying meal.

Cauliflower and broccoli fritters

Carrots & Cauliflower

Broccoli has been one of my favourite vegetables for several years. This winter though, I've been turning away from it in favour of it's close relative, the cauliflower.

Last week, having both cauliflower and broccoli in my vegetable crisper, I wanted to find a way to eat them both. I often do stir fry, occasionally some roast vegies, and I wanted something a bit different. Something with a bit more oomph.

After mulling over it for half a day, a light bulb went on in my head. How about fritters? A google search soon threw up a couple of recipes for a very basic cauliflower fritter. I decided to sex it up by adding some roasted cumin seeds, which gave them an aromatic, peppery edge.

We ate the fritters wrapped in flat pita bread and with home made hummus (recipe from here). The following day, the three of us stood around the kitchen bench and ate them cold. Gosh they were good.

Next time I make these I will skip the flour and dip them in egg and dried breadcrumbs instead. I suggest you try that rather than following my recipe and rolling in flour.

Cauliflower and broccoli fritters

Cauliflower and broccoli fritters

Serves 4

600g cauliflower
400g broccoli
3 garlic cloves, crushed
1 egg, lightly beaten
1 teaspoon cumin seeds
Fresh breadcrumbs
Salt & pepper

Wash the cauliflower and broccoli and cut into small florets. In separate pots, boil the florets until tender in well salted water. Drain the vegetables, transfer to a bowl and mash.

In a dry frying pan, lightly toast the cumin seeds over medium heat. Crush in a mortar and pestle and tip into the cauliflower and broccoli mixture.

Add the garlic and egg, and season well with salt and pepper. Work in enough breadcrumbs to obtain a fairly stiff mixture (possibly about 3/4 cup? I didn't keep track...).

Wet your hands and form the mixture into balls then roll them in flour. Heat a frying pan on medium heat and fry the fritters until golden.

Drain them on absorbent paper and serve.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

60 years of marriage

60th wedding anniversary

My grandparents celebrated their 60th wedding anniversary in the weekend. A banquet was held at Grand Park Chinese Seafood Restaurant in Auckland. I stole one of the menus that was displayed on each table, and if any of the dish names seem a bit weird, well, I copied them directly from the menu.

Assorted cold meats

First dish out was Grand Pork BBQ and Suckling Pig Mixed Platter.


Jellyfish was part of the platter. I love jellyfish. It doesn't have much flavour, apart from the sauce that it is generally dressed in (normally sesame oil, soy sauce and sometimes chilli), but the texture is great. It's crunchy but soft.

Roast pork

The pork crackling was very crispy. I love crunching through the skin to be met with the fat underneath. Mhmm. Next to the pork on this plate is some roast beef.

Next was Stirred Scallop with Macadamia Nuts. There was no skimping on the nuts in this dish. Truthfully, I found them a bit weird. I like macadamia nuts, I just wasn't sure about them stir fried with scallops and vegetables. The crispy noodle nests were good fun though. They tasted just like uncooked 2 minute noodles!

Fried prawn balls

These were the Deep Fried Golden Prawn Balls. It's hard to go wrong with deep fried food, but they could've used a bit more oomph. More seasoning, or some spices perhaps.

Shark Fin Soup

Next we had a bowl of Shark Fin Soup with Shredded Chicken. The red stuff is vinegar. Shark fin itself doesn't have much taste - like jellyfish it's about the texture. This soup was a disappointment as there wasn't much flavour.

Lobster in superior sauce

After the soup came the Lobster in Superior Sauce (I don't know what made the sauce so superior!). This was a large lobster - and there was one for each table! My Bro ate half of it by himself as he was the only one willing to get messy and crack the legs.


This dish was Steamed Marinated Chicken, eaten with a dipping sauce of oil, ginger and spring onion. Hoorah for the chicken head!

Blue cod

The Steamed Live Blue Cod Fish was U-G-L-Y. Not sure what they meant by "live" but the flesh was soft and delicious. There's a word in Cantonese that is used to describe the texture of food - the closest translation I can think of is silky. The fish was silky.

By the way, if you ever get presented with a fish like this, try eating the flesh from the cheeks. It's very soft and delicate. Since no one else on the table looked interested, I ate one cheek and gave the other to Alastair.

Fish Maw and Chinese Mushrooms on seasonal Vegetables

The Fish Maw and Chinese Mushrooms on seasonal vegetables was interesting. The abalone (paua!) in the middle was thinly sliced but slightly chewy. It had a stronger flavour than I normally associate with abalone. The interesting part about this dish was the fish maw (it's the whitish stuff you can see). Fish maw is the gas bladder that helps fish control buoyancy. When eating it I was struck by the gelatinous texture and then the fattiness. It didn't taste fishy at all - just fatty. Really fatty. Ick.

Two further dishes came out before cake and dessert. The last two dishes were fried rice and long life noodles. I didn't bother taking photos of them because they were just fried rice and noodles. Everyone was so full at this stage that they were barely touched.

Sweet red bean soup

Dessert was Red Bean soup. I wasn't that enamoured. It needed more sugar and they used dried orange peel when cooking it. I find the dried peel too overpowering. My mum makes good red bean soup. She's shown me how to make it, and the last time I tried, I mistook kidney beans for red beans (I don't know where my head was at - they're completely different!). I think I ended up making a bit pot of chilli instead.

Long life buns

And finally, we were served Long Life Buns. These steamed buns are shaped and tinted like a peach.

Long life buns

Inside the soft buns was lotus paste and salted egg yolk. Love the contrast of the salty egg yolk with the sweet lotus paste. I didn't think I could eat any more but I managed two because they were delicious.

It was such a pleasure to be there while my grandparents celebrated their years of marriage. Maybe one day Alastair and I will celebrate our 60th wedding anniversary (if we're long lived enough!). What a lovely thought.

Grand Park Chinese Seafood Restaurant
Cnr Manukau Road & Greenlane East, Alexandra Raceway (Gate B)
Epsom, Auckland

Phone: + 64 9 638 6998

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Auckland: Sunshine Chinese Restaurant

Somewhere between Auckland and Melbourne I caught a cold. Right now my head is a bit fuzzy and my memory of the dinner below isn't great.... Even the pictures haven't jogged my recall much so apologies for the lack of details. It didn't help that I never looked at the menu - the ordering was done by the "adults". No matter how old you get, when you're with family you become a kid again.

Our first night in Auckland was my Aunt Miriam's birthday. We loaded up the van (something that can take half an hour with my family) and headed off for an early dinner at Sunshine Chinese Restaurant. A sign on the door said that it was Auckland's best Chinese restaurant, as decided by Cuisine magazine in 2005 and 2006.


Dinner started off with a bowl of thin Chinese soup.

Soy chicken

Next out was the soy sauce chicken. The flesh was slippery and tender.

Cluck cluck

The chicken head was left on for presentation. Cluck cluck!

Sweet and sour pork spareribs

Pork spareribs in plum sauce.

Assorted cold meat platter

This was assorted cold meats - roast pork, roast beef, roast duck and, my favourite of the plate, jellyfish!

Green beans with mince

Green beans and mince - this dish was rather salty, but good eaten with rice. I would've preferred more spiciness.

Seafood and tofu hotpot

Seafood and tofu hotpot. The hotpot was delicious - the seafood was sizzling hot and just cooked through. I also enjoyed the tofu which had soaked up lots of sauce.

Beef with celery

Beef strips and celery. I think that the beef had just been dipped in flour and stir fried. It looked like the beef should be crispy, but it wasn't.

Eggplant hotpot

The eggplant hotpot was probably my favourite dish of the night. The eggplant was very, very soft. My only wish was for some chili to go with it.

Birthday cake

This was my Aunt's birthday cake. My cousin, Anthony, blew out the candle (he's 5).

Birthday cake

The cake was okay. I dislike fake cream, so points off for that.


And finally, a bowl of sago to finish off. I love sago. It was a good ending to the evening.

Sunshine Chinese Restaurant,
39 Market Pl, Viaduct, Auckland
Phone: +64 9 302 3322

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Food in the air

There's a sure fire way to gain a couple of kilos in a weekend - spend time with my family. This weekend, Alastair, my Bro and I flew to Auckland to celebrate my grandparents' 60th wedding anniversary. (60 years! How incredible is that?!)

From the moment we got on the plane we started eating, and didn't finish until we got back to Melbourne. Al and I flew Emirates (the first time I had flown with them) and I was impressed. I loved the plane (an Airbus A340-500 I think), I loved the hot towels they handed out just before take off, and the food - well, considering we were 40,000 feet in the air, the food was pretty good!

On the flight over to Auckland, we were served brunch. There were two choices - an omelette and chicken.

Omelette with gruyere cheese

Alastair had the omelette with gruyere cheese accompanied by creamed spinach, tomato wedge, grilled veal sausage and rosti potatoes. I had a moment of panic when the flight attendant asked me what I wanted and I choose the omelette. Al picked the chicken and we ended up doing a swap. After I saw him eating the omelette, I wanted it back! It was super cheesey, and I like cheese!

Sauteed chicken with mushroom sauce

I had the sauteed chicken with mushroom sauce served with creamy mashed potatoes, buttered green beans and carrot batonettes. Even though I had cheese envy, this wasn't bad. The mushroom sauce was well flavoured, and the vegetables still retained a bit of crunch. The mashed potatoes could have used more seasoning but I couldn't be bothered trying to find my tiny packet of salt amongst all the other stuff on my tray.

Bread roll, cheese and crackers

The obligatory bread roll, and cheese and crackers. I was happy that the butter (in a little packet) was spreadable but was intrigued to see that it was white. Apparently it was Australian butter too.

Fruit Salad

What I had of the fruit was good. There was strawberry, a couple of red grapes and some pieces of rock melon and honey dew. Al got my rock melon and honey dew as I'm not a fan. I did eat a piece to confirm that I don't like it - yes, that dislike is still there.

Strawberry cheesecake

Light cheesecake with strawberry topping and whipped cream. This was a bit light on the strawberry flavour. And I didn't realise it was cheesecake until I checked the menu to type out this entry!

The flight back we were served dinner, with two choices - New Zealand lamb ragout or pan-fried blue cod. Al and I both went for the lamb.

New Zealand lamb ragout

The lamb ragout was served with roasted pumpkin, buttered green beans and creamy herb mashed potatoes. This smelt SO good. The lamb was tender and the sauce was rich and savoury.

Bred roll & cheese and crackers

I mopped up the rest of my sauce with my bread roll. And then polished off the cheese and crackers.

Sliced charsiew suck & seasonal salad

The appetiser was sliced charsiew duck served with marinated Thai glass noodle salad. There was also a salad with ginger dressing.

Rich dark chocolate mousse

Dessert was a rich chocolate gateau/mousse with pistachio and raspberry coulis. Couldn't taste or see the pistacho, but I enjoyed the texture of the mousse and the raspberry against the chocolate.

I'll post about the two main meals we ate in Auckland over the next few days. There was lots of food, lots of family and lots of photos!

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