Sunday, April 26, 2009

My Very Own Birthday Blowout

It was quite timely for one of my favourite food blogs to do an exposition on the concept of “Blowouts” in the Filipino psyche. As Tangled Noodle clearly explained we Filipinos feel compelled (by some unknown force) to treat family and friends to a feast on our birthday. And we don’t just call them birthday dinners. We actually refer to such feasts as “blowouts” (for the high probability of blowing out a big hole through ones wallet).

I certainly am no exception to this Filipino rule. So, GFC or not, I already knew I would be having my very own birthday blowout come April.

The original plan was for me to take friends et al to my favourite Vietnamese restaurant at West End. But after discussions with friends they’ve unanimously expressed how much they prefer my food to any other restaurant.

I was touched! To be honest, I was quite blown away by that confession. Who refuses a meal at one Brisbane’s best Vietnamese eateries? And a free one at that!

I was more than flattered of course! That basically left me with no choice but to cook…

Planning the menu was never difficult. But with the assistance of friends it just became a lot easier. I just asked them what they wanted me to cook. I still made the final decision, of course, to make sure everything is coherent and complementary.

The requisite Filipino Lechon (sa Hurno). Nobody says no to this including the kids…

Paksiw na Pata (Stewed Pork Knuckles with Lily Flower). The sweet & sour taste sure wakes up ones tastes buds

Hainanese Chicken Rice – requested by my good friend Patrick. Never thought everyone else would be as keen but it was the first dish to run out that evening!

Lumpiang Sariwa (Hubad) – Literally translates as “naked fresh spring roll” for the conspicuous absence of any form wrap to hold the filling together. I made this one especially for Dang. It came with a “peanuty” sauce which I forgot to take a photo of.

Pancit (Sotanghon) – to symbolise long life, a requisite in any Filipino birthday celebration (no photo..i forgot)

Barramundi with Ginger & Shallots – Ronald requested this one for a lighter, healthier option that evening

Chocolate Mud Cake – courtesy of Dang

Ensaymada – an alternative to the mud cake

Fresh fruits – alternative to the cakes

Breakfast the morning after!

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Yum Cha in the Valley

It’s that time of the year again when bean counters (in Australia) are busy predicting the future. That basically means I’ve got very little time to blog.

Renovated Fortitude Valley Station

So for the purpose of keeping this blog alive I’m posting some photos of Brisbane’s premier Chinatown and some of our favourite yum cha dishes.

Chinatown Pagoda being rebuilt

Wishing Fountain

Sharks' Fins for sale (not very eco friendly)

There are a lot better yum cha houses around Brisbane but we go to Chinahouse in Fortitude Valley for the convenience. It’s very central. Parking is ample. Their dishes are good (but could be better). The important thing to remember is to get to the restaurant early enough to guarantee freshness and to avoid long queues.

Lola and the kids enjoying their early lunch

Mom's favourite (taro dumplings)

Sticky Rice with Chicken and Lap Chong

Deep Fried Calamari

Sharks' Fin Dumplings

Pork Ribs with Black Beans

Chicken Feet, of course!

Prawn Dumplings

BBQ Pork Buns

Gai Lan w/ Oyster sauce...for balance ;)

And to finish off, custard tarts

The Bill!

Friday, April 17, 2009

I love Tuesdays!

I love Tuesdays!

Tuesday is not harsh like Monday! It’s easy, comfortable and familiar. By Tuesday you’re most likely back in the groove of things.

Pizzas are cheap on Tuesdays!

Movies are cheap on Tuesdays!

Cinemas charge almost half the normal price.

And DVD rentals you say? You can get them for $1 each on Tuesdays!

But most of all, petrol is cheap on Tuesdays (according to statistics)! It doesn’t seem like it anymore but I still choose to fill up my car on Tuesdays when the price supposedly drops a few cents a litre.

For premium unleaded petrol I probably pay $1.20/Litre on average. So imagine my surprise when I looked at the bowser and saw I was charged only $11.68 for 49.72 Litres of petrol! That’s equivalent to 23.50c/litre (indulge me please, I’m an accountant). My first reaction was…take a photo of course!

At first I thought it was a prank. Then I further rationalised the situation that maybe the pump’s display was playing up. It probably should say $1.23/Litre. And then I thought it’s probably a promotion. Or perhaps, a radio contest!

There were already a few people in the station’s store when I walked in. I’ve realised then that it wasn’t just me. The attendant was in a panic talking to whom I assume was her supervisor trying to figure out what to do.

I was happy to pay what I rightfully owe. But I was even happier that the station honoured what was shown on my pump. Apparently it was a glitch in the system she didn’t know much about either.

So there you go!

A colleague once quipped "Tuesdays are useless". I don’t think so!

Australia – the Food Icons - Hot Cross Buns

This post is a few days too late. It was meant for Easter but I enjoyed the extra long weekend too much to bother ‘bout doing anything else.

Hot Cross Buns are not uniquely Australian but they feature prominently in the Antipodeans’ Easter celebrations that I think it should be up there with the other food icons I’ve blogged about before (follow them all here: Australia – The Food Icons).

I do not know if there is a law preventing sale of the said buns after Easter but sure enough you’ll have difficulty finding any outside the season.

Traditional hot cross buns are sweet spiced bread chockfull of currants and/or other dried fruits. The distinguishing feature, naturally, is the cross on top of every bun as a symbol of the crucifixion of Christ.

Nowadays though, you can get all sorts of varieties of this much loved Easter bun. Well, there are four main ones: traditional fruit, fruit & peel, fruitless, and choc chip. Yes, there is a chocolate chip version the rationale being the close association of chocolates with Easter.

Thank God for the fruitless variety as the missus is not so fond of fruit in bread

They’re best fresh out of the oven smothered with “real” butter.

I don’t have a recipe for this but I recently stumbled upon a Greek Tsoureki Style Hot Cross Bun that looks and probably tastes better than the traditional one. Just follow the link to Souvlaki For The Soul.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Sunday has come! Happy Easter to All!

It was Friday but now Sunday has come and I would like to greet everyone a very Happy Easter!
One Australian tradition that my family has embraced without hesitation is Easter Egg Hunting. The kids especially look forward to this time when they get an overload of chocolates disguised as eggs (and other symbols of Lent but mainly eggs).

What follows are just series of photographs of our recent hunt and the sorts of “eggs” that we found this year.

Again, Happy Easter to all!

2009 Easter Egg Hunt begins!

The little hunters

The bigger hunters

It was a breezy but gloomy afternoon by the sea…but the kids didn’t mind

Some of what's on offer

Easter eggs for the not so young

Are they pleased or what?

One one my girls' loot

Monday, April 6, 2009

Credit Crunch Dinner

The idea, apparently, is not new but a Sydney restaurant is getting a lot of attention lately for its “Credit Crunch Dinner”. Sobo Bistro at Bondi beach is letting its diners decide what their meal is worth. With no end in sight yet for the GFC this notion, I think, is actually worth exploring.

This pay-what-you-want concept is commonly used by “charitable” restaurants like Lentil as Anything which asks diners to “give a donation” rather than set prices for its meals.

Sobo Bistro is different in that it is not a charity.

You can read an article titled Sobo Bistro restaurant in Bondi hosts tightarse journalist about a business journo who decided to give the restaurant a go.

“Credit Crunch Dinner”, by the way, is only a promotional exercise that will run up to Easter. If you’re in the Sydney area you better hurry up!

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Congee/Arroz Caldo/Rice Porridge ala Beancounter

Yaya, among my kids, is the most adventurous when it comes to food. There’s no such thing as “adult food” in her vocabulary. The more “adult” it is the more she’ll be willing to try. But a few nights ago she was not feeling her best. She’s lost her usual voracious appetite. And during times like these she’ll only eat “rice soup”/Arroz Caldo (Spanish for Rice Broth).

Arroz Caldo, the Filipino version of Congee, is usually chicken based unlike its Chinese counterpart which has a very subtle almost neutral flavour. It would have to be the ultimate Asian comfort food to a point that in the Philippines it has been unfairly associated with the infirmed.

I usually make my Arroz Caldo as basic as possible. This is so Filipino in that we allow the diner to finish the dish by dressing up his/her arroz caldo to suit his/her taste. There are plenty of condiments to the Pinoy congee:

Tokwa’t baboy (deep fried tofu and pork)
Chicharon (deep fried pork rind)
Egg (hard boiled or soft boiled or even fresh)
Century egg
Spring onions
Cooked garlic in oil
Fish sauce
Soy sauce
White pepper/black pepper
Cooked tripe and other innards
And a lot more…

The possibilities are limitless (almost).

grains still whole, not yet ready in my book

Anyhoo, close to midnight my wife gently nudged me into preparing Arroz Caldo for Yaya.

consistency almost soupp like, now this is is ready

Arroz Caldo ala Beancounter

2 cups of jasmine rice
1 teaspoon salt
Slivers of ginger
2-3 cloves of garlic chopped
1 medium sized onion chopped
1 dozen chicken wingettes
Chicken stock (I purposely did not put the amount as I do not know exactly how much I’ve used. You need plenty to get a similar consistency to mine)

1. First wash the rice. Mix in the salt and about 1 tablespoon of oil after washing. Put in a strainer to get rid of excess water. From experience I think this helps in breaking down the rice quicker to reach my preferred consistency.
2. In a large stockpot with a thick base (this prevents the rice from sticking and burning quickly) heat up a bit of oil.
3. Sauté the ginger first then the garlic and then the onions. Pinoy dishes usually require you to wait for the garlic to turn golden brown as opposed to the European way.
4. Add the chicken and cook for about 3 minutes.
5. Add the rice and stir continuously for about 2 minutes. (If the base of your pot is not thick enough the rice will be sticking to the bottom like crazy. So invest in good pots and pans.)
6. Add the stock. You’ll notice that as the rice cooks it will absorb the stock. You’ll need to keep adding more stock to achieve the consistency that you like. The rice will soon have enough and will start breaking down. I like my congee almost soup like not overcooked rice. For me, there’s nothing worse than seeing the grains still whole.
7. It is then up to you to fully season your arroz caldo or leave it as bland as possible to and let the diner decide for himself using the condiments.
8. Serve steaming hot with your preferred condiments!