Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Off to the Hunter

The stereotypical accounting job is portrayed as mind-numbing number crunching work confined to a no window hole somewhere in the dark corners of the office. If you’ve got claustrophobia then you should probably consider another career.

How un-cliché the reality is! My profession has actually enabled me to explore regions of Australia (and maybe overseas soon) most people have never been to.

JQ 0481 to Newcastle

My destination today is the Hunter Valley. The Hunter region is famous for its wines. But the reason for this visit is obviously more business orientated rather than pleasure (of wine that is!).

To make it on time for my morning meeting I had to take the 6.00am flight. That meant I was up at 4.00am. To keep me going that early in the morning I have my usual cocktail of coffee, Red Bull, water and some greasy breakfast sandwich from a fast food store (it’s Hungry Jack’s sausage brekky wrap today).

My early morning breakfast

I’ve got about a day and a half to sort out what I need to do before I fly back home tomorrow evening.

Lancer (my car for today and tomorrow)

Monday, September 29, 2008

Woe Is I

No, I am not lamenting my existence. The title of this post refers to one of the books I bought just a few minutes ago from Mary Ryan’s.

“Woe Is I” was written by Patricia T. O’Conner. It’s supposed to be the “Grammaphobe’s Guide to Better English in Plain English”. I am not a grammaphobe. Maybe I am. I don’t know! I don’t know what it means! I just would like to continue to improve my knowledge of the English language. Maybe I should be devoting more time to learning Mandarin but English would do for now. The happenings in Wall Street might change my opinion though…

The other book I bought was Emily Brontë’s classic “Wuthering Heights”. I’ve read this back in high school. I want to see if I have a different take on it now that I am more mature (age wise that is!).

And last, but certainly not the least, was Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s “Love in Time of Cholera”. Mike Newell bravely attempted to convert the book into film (after so many before him have refused). I haven’t seen the 2007 movie nor have I read the book.

I’ll write reviews in future posts!

Friday, September 26, 2008

Lunch Club – Tramy’s Fried Chicken Wings (Canh Ga Chien)

If you’re tried of the usual fried chicken Tramy’s recipe is worth giving a go. The only twist to the usual Pinoy fried chicken recipe is the addition of garlic. Garlic might not be big in size but they sure make an impact!

It’s simple! It’s quick! But very satisfying!

We served it with fresh cucumber salad and some soy/chilli sauce.

Here’s her recipe.

Canh ga chien Fried chicken wings


1 kg Chicken wings cut into wingettes (separate the wing by cutting the joints then get rid of the pointy bit) for easy frying

Salt & pepper to taste

3-4 cloves chopped garlic

Lots of oil for deep frying


1. Combine ingredients and marinate chicken for at least 1 hour

2. Heat oil over medium heat

3. Put all the chicken in the hot pan and cook the chicken until golden brown.

4. Serve hot with jasmine rice and some fresh salad.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Lunch Club - Thai Red Curry Pork

Thai curries would have to be the easiest curries to make in the world (just as long as you’re happy to use pre-packed curry pastes). It fits perfectly with Lunch Club in that it does not require a lot of preparation and long cooking time.

Usually, the curry paste packet (or bottle) has got a recipe printed on it already. For my first attempt I did follow what the packet says. I then adjusted the recipe to my taste later on.

Here’s how I do my version of this curry:

Kidpawan’s Thai Red Curry Pork


500-750grams of lean pork sliced thinly for quick cooking

2 tablespoons of Thai red curry paste (get the Mae Ploy brand if you can find it)

A bit of oil

3-4 Kaffir lime leaves julienned

Red capsicum (as much as you like)

1 bunch snake beans (string beans can be substituted)


A bit of palm sugar

Fish sauce to taste



  1. Heat up the wok. Add a bit of oil. Stir fry the pork pieces until they change colour. Preferably you do this in batches (depending on the size of your wok) so the meat are fried properly rather than steamed. Set this aside.
  2. Add a bit more oil to the wok. Stir fry the curry paste for about a minute or two.
  3. Add the pork back into the wok and stir fry for another minute.
  4. Add the rest of the ingredients and stir fry. The curry is done when the beans are cooked to your liking.
  5. Serve with jasmine rice.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Cheap Eats - Jackpot Noodles

I’ll be doing a series on “cheap eats” in Brisbane starting with this one – Jackpot Noodles.

Jackpot Noodles began as a noodle bar mainly catering to city students and workers on a tight budget. They offer cheap, quick but satisfying meals.

During its infancy the restaurant had a very limited menu. It specialised mainly in Beef Brisket and Wonton noodle soups. They have since grown. They moved to bigger premises and added 2 other branches around the CBD. Together with this expansion was the addition of typical Chinese meals (read: Sweet & Sour Pork, Lemon Chicken, etc) to its menu.

Unfortunately, they also jacked up the price of their meals. What used to be $4.00 bowl of noodles will now set you back $5.60. That’s a 40% increase in price (I can’t help it, I’m an accountant)!

That might be the case but Jackpot Noodles still remain one of the cheapest in Brisbane.

I think the name is quite apt for what the restaurant represents. You won’t exactly feel like you won a million dollars when you visit them but you’ll certainly feel like you got your money’s worth and more.

Monday, September 22, 2008

What Makes a Good Blog?

I don't know. But one blogger tried to answer this by coming up with a list of 9 characteristics of a good blog. It's quite an interesting read. Click here, 43 Folders.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Lunch Club – Sarah’s Moussaka

Moussaka is supposed to have originated in the Middle East but I think it is more well known as a Greek dish.

It’s like the Greek’s version of lasagne without the pasta. Eggplant is used instead of lasagne sheets. For those of you in low carb diet this is a very good substitute.

Sarah’s version has got a lot more character by using grilled eggplants rather than fried. It would have to be lower in fat too as a result.

sourdough bopp (for carbs!)

The béchamel sauce would have countered that though (with the amount of butter used). But who cares! I brought some sourdough bread to balance the low carbness of the dish!

Here’s her recipe:

Sarah’s Moussaka

3 large eggplants, sliced and salted for 1 hour then grilled for 5 mins each side to soften

Meat sauce
1 large onion finely diced
3 cloves of garlic (or as much as you like) crushed
Beef or lamb mince
1 large tin of whole plum tomatoes

Béchamel Sauce
Knob of butter
Couple of tablespoons of flour
Around 2/3 pint of milk
Grated Parmesan

Melt the butter, stir in the flour and gradually blend in the milk. Fold the cheese and the spices into the sauce.

To arrange the Moussaka start with a bottom layer of eggplant, then meat, eggplant, meat, eggplant etc finishing with the white sauce.

You can do the bottom layer with potato, and add slices of zucchini if you like.

Bake for 30/45 mins


In praise of my N73

I was never an Apple fan. I think Apple is better at marketing rather than what it should be good at. And because of this, Apple has created a whole lot of zombies who are blindly devoted to the brand. You know what I’m talking about! It is just mind boggling. A documentary (macHEADS) has been made about it. They’ll defend it like their lives depend on it! Snap out of it macheads!

The release of the 3G iPhone is a good example of this “phenomenon”. Unless you’ve been living like a hermit in the past couple of months you wouldn’t have missed the news snippets from around the world showing throngs of people queuing (some for days) just to be the first owners of this Apple product. And it was a crap product at that! Just follow the link to find out more before you get duped by its shiny advertisement. It costs too much to acquire and it costs even more to maintain. And it has a lot of flaws. Why people want it beats me!

The same could not be said, though, about my Nokia N73. No, I am not a Nokia employee. Nor am I a Nokia devotee. I just think Nokia N73 is an excellent product.

My 24 month mobile phone contract is going to expire in a couple of week’s time. It is the perfect time for me to reflect on my two years with my trusted Nokia N73 before I replace it with hopefully a better product. And no, I am not getting an iPhone.

My Nokia N73 has serviced me well in the past two years. Apart from the normal mobile phone features, the Nokia N73 comes with a 3.2 mega pixel camera armed with the world famous Carl Zeiss optic lens. 99% of the photos on this blog were taken using my N73. They’re not great photos I know. They were never meant to be. They were taken using a phone, just in case you’ve forgotten.

I probably should invest in a good camera if I’m serious about blogging. But at the moment my N73 does the job!

Thursday, September 11, 2008

My Day 2008!

Apart from Australia and New Zealand, I do not know of any other country that celebrates Father’s Day in September, and on the first Sunday of the month at that.

I do not know if it is for commercial reasons (to bump up retail sales in the first quarter of the Australian financial year) or social reasons (September seems to be lacking in any “holidays”). It’s just interesting to know that Australia (and New Zealand) is not in sync with the rest of the world on this one. If you know of any other countries not celebrating in June please do not hesitate to comment.

This year Father’s Day was on the same day as the Bridge to Brisbane marathon. It just meant that I was a bit tired to get into the spirit of it all. But thanks to a dose of Redbull I managed to last the day!

The marathon started at around 7am that day. Before 9am I was already home ready for “my day”. The kids we’re all so excited. They were even more excited than me.

Yes, it was a full day! Straight after the run we went to our favourite Pancakes at the Manor for breakfast (I’ll write more about this pancake place in a future post)

Next, we headed to Brisbane’s West End for a satisfying Vietnamese lunch. My favourite is Trang’s at 59 Hardgrave Road. Unfortunately they have no website. They are too busy making great tasting Vietnamese food to be bothered with anything else.

For dinner we had Domino’s Puff Pizzas. They brought back their pizzas using puff pastry as the base. Talk about decadent!

Apart from the yummy food, I've received gifts as well (one still in raincheck).

My son made a bookmark (because I love reading) that says Best Dad Ever (idea from a song Best Day Ever by Spongebob). On it he drew coffee and tea (two of my favourite beverages). It’s a bit weird though that he put “To: Elmer (Dad)”. Well, he’s 10 years old now. We might be calling each other on a first name basis soon…NOT! But thank you very much Kiko! You know your dad so well!

My older daughter had prepared a supposedly “secret gift” for me from school. But like her dad, who couldn’t keep a secret gift a secret for too long, she told me a few days before Father’s day what it was. I did ask her what her secret was (jokingly, of course) and she blurted it out without any hesitation. When her siblings teased her about not knowing how to keep secrets she cried and then blamed me for asking her. Bad daddy! Oh…the innocence of childhood. Thanks a lot Chichay!

My youngest (to date) is not in school yet. So instead of making me something she picked out something from the shops. She asked mom to buy her favourite chocolate for me. Thank you so much Yaya!

And her other contribution? She picked out the card they were to give me. Why did she pick that particular card? No, not because I look like an athlete (I loke more like an Iron Chef rather than an Iron Man). And no, it’s got nothing to do with the Olympics at all. It’s all about the song that plays when you open the card. And it goes something like this:”You’re the world’s greatest dad, yes you really really are. The best dad that there has ever been…You’re the world’s best dad, indeed!”

I hope I don’t disappoint. You kids really made dad’s day!

Now, start planning my birthday!

Monday, September 8, 2008

2008 Bridge to Brisbane

This was my third year to run the Bridge to Brisbane marathon but it did not feel like it was getting easier. Well, it should, as this year’s course was two kilometres shorter than the previous events. But it did not.

I suppose I should blame my lack of training (and age!). I’ve just been really slack this year. I’ve had too many (valid!) excuses not to train. In previous years I was running three times a week at least a couple of months before the big event. But this year I could barely fit one hour of training a week.

But anyway, I had to do it…and I did it!

I was up at 4am today. I had learned in the past not to cut it too close to the starting time so I was up bright and early. The buses that would take the runners to the 10km start line were to begin at 5am and will only continue for half an hour. With a record number of runners this year (approximately 36,000) I was worried about that and also about parking.

So anyway, I did not have much trouble finding parking. There were plenty of free and “parking for a fee” areas. What I was surprised about was how long the queue was for the shuttle buses (it’s probably because there were some “ticket less” runners - one colleague expressed he was one of the guilty parties)! Half an hour did not seem enough to get everybody transported.

the sun just breaking out

I got to the starting line quite early and had over an hour to waste. What to do? Find another queue, of course! There were all sorts of queues available that day. As it was quite a chilly morning (this marathon is always held at the beginning of spring) the queues to the “portaloos” were the logical choice (just as long as you choose the one with a faster turnover, if you know what I mean).

After getting my personal business sorted I had to find where my exact starting line was. The participants were divided into four main categories, namely, elite runners, runners, joggers and walkers. I registered as a jogger (85 minutes or less).

The official start was 6.45am but because of the record number of participants I didn’t get to the starting line (where the timing chip attached to one of my shoes gets activated) till about 7.10am.
what kept me hydrated...thanks Jung!

I huffed and puffed all the way to the finish line. It took me…we’ll have to wait for the official results. That’ll be another blog.

the crowd at the finish line

During the course I did wonder what I got myself into…as you always do when you’re struggling. But when I reached the finish line I understood why.

See you in London in 2012!

Ooopppssss…wrong event. Go Moncredibles! See you all again next year!

Friday, September 5, 2008

Lunch Club - Vegetarian Stir Fry with Tofu

This would have to be the quickest (and probably healthiest) stir fry to make. Not only is it easy it also calls for only a few ingredients.

There’s a long winded version of making this dish but for the purpose of Lunch Club I took a shortcut. If this was to be eaten at home I would have used a different type of tofu. First of all, it would have to be the silken variety. As silken tofu is very delicate it needs a light coating of cornflour before frying. Also, it is only good as soon as it is cooked, not the next day.

I think it was a hit as nothing was left over for our Friday leftover lunch.
Here’s how you make it:

Oil (whatever you prefer but I use Sunflower)
2 cloves of garlic
10 dried shiitake mushrooms (soaked in hot water for about an hour or so then quartered)
3-4 blocks of fried tofu quartered
Snow peas
2 tablespoon Oyster sauce
1 tablespoon Light soy sauce
Sesame oil
A bit of water

You can actually modify this dish quite easily by using your favourite vegetables or whatever is in season.


1. Heat up the oil then add the garlic.
2. Add the mushrooms and stir fry for about a minute or so. Add a bit of water to cook the mushrooms further.
3. Just before all the water evaporates add the vegetables. Stir fry for a few seconds then add the oyster sauce and the soy sauce.
4. Add the fried tofu. Wait for the vegetables to get cooked.
5. Take it off the heat then add a few drops of sesame oil.
6. Serve hot with a steaming bowl of jasmine rice.

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Lazy Wednesday evening…with IKEA food?!?!?!?!

I was up till 4am the other day. I just couldn’t sleep! The last thing on my mind was to prepare some elaborate dinner last night.

The perfect solution???!!! Well, IKEA of course! No, we didn’t start munching on computer desks and bed frames. That’s stupid (although there are some who actually do like the hint of “oak” is some of their coffee tables)! We know IKEA is famous for furniture that are both innovative and reasonably priced.

But IKEA also produces its own line of food items. IKEA food, like the brand’s furniture line, is also both innovative and well priced. Where else could you buy a Swedish bar of chocolate for $1 (they come in dark and milk)? Whatever IKEA offers in its café you’ll probably be able to purchase from their Swedish Food Market and cook at home.

What could be more IKEA than Swedish meatballs (nope, furniture is more IKEA but please go with me here!)? So for last night’s dinner we had Swedish meatballs with all the trimmings. The frozen meatballs only took 20 minutes in the oven, the gravy about 5 minutes to simmer. I served the meatballs with some generic crinkle cut chips and Caesar salad. The salad was the one that took longest to prepare.

The best thing about IKEA food…it translates well when cooked at home unlike some…

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Lunch Club – Sarah’s Potato Frittata (Tortilla de Patatas)

This dish is definitely Spanish influenced. But to make it lighter than the original recipe Sarah boiled the potatoes rather than frying them.

The original Spanish recipe also calls for only 4 ingredients (oil, potatoes, eggs and salt). But to add to the texture and taste to the dish Sarah added other vegetables like leeks, mushroom and peas.

I did reminisce about the time I used to have this omelette as a child. I used to put tomato sauce and eat it with rice!

Thanks Sarah!

Here’s her recipe:


4 potatoes (boiled and sliced)
Mushrooms (lightly fried)
6 eggs
A little milk

Arrange the potatoes at the bottom of a frying pan
Pour over leeks, garlic and mushrooms (lightly fried) mixed with peas, eggs and a little milk
Fry on one side for 5 mins, then flip over and fry on the other for 5 mins.

You can find the Spanish version of this omelette by following the link:


Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Lunch Club - Dau Hu Nhoi Thit Sot Ca (Pan-Fired Stuffed Tofu with Fresh Tomato Sauce)

I’m beginning to realise how very similar Filipino and Vietnamese dishes are. There was the Pork Belly in Coconut Juice similar to the Pinoy Pork Adobo. And this week Tramy prepared a dish called Dau Hu Nhoi Thit Sot Ca (Pan-Fired Stuffed Tofu with Fresh Tomato Sauce) which is very similar to the Pinoy (Tagalog/Laguna region) Tokwa’t Baboy dish. Tokwa’t Baboy in San Pablo City, Laguna (where I grew up) is also cooked in fresh tomato sauce. I’ve always thought this was some sort of bastardised Spanish dish (with the use of tomatoes and all). Not anymore! It’s probably uniquely Asian. Come to think of it, it is actually similar to the Chinese Ma Po Tofu.

The main differences between the Vietnamese and the Filipino dishes are in the use of large tofu pieces (the Pinoy one uses half a domino size pieces that have been fried) and mince pork (rather than pork belly).

It tasted very familiar and has brought me back to my primary school days in Laguna.

Thanks Tramy!

Here’s her recipe:

Dau Hu Nhoi Thit Sot Ca (Pan-Fired Stuffed Tofu with Fresh Tomato Sauce)


4 large pieces of fried firm tofu (you can get this at any Asian shop)
200g pork mince
3 eschallots chopped (sibuyas Tagalog)
2 Spring onions chopped (use only the green part)
Fish sauce to taste
2 tablespoon sugar
Salt to taste
Black Pepper freshly ground
6 medium tomatoes chopped coarsely
2 tablespoon tomato sauce
2 cloves of garlic
1 tablespoon oil
1 cup water


Put the pork mince into a large bowl.
Add the salt, pepper, chopped eschallots and mix well.
Cut the tofu in half. Create a pocket in the tofu by making a slit on the side but not cutting all the way through.
Stuff the mixed pork mince into tofu and set aside.
Heat up the oil in the pan then add the garlic.
Wait for the garlic to turn golden brown than add the remaining ingredients.
Cover and simmer for about ½ hr or until the fresh tomatoes are completely dissolved in the sauce with no chunks left.
Take it off the heat then add the spring onion.
Serve with freshly cooked jasmine rice