Sunday, February 21, 2010

Grow Your Own!

Hello all!

I am finally back in action after a glorious trip around Vietnam and Hong Kong - photos will follow as soon as I get my hands on them. (Long story short, my camera died on me early on in the trip so we had to take all food photos on a friend's camera).

While we wait for those posts, I would like to turn everyone's attention to my backyard. What once used to be a lovely flowering garden was re-designed during our renovation into an all-you-can-eat buffet of fruits and vegetables.


A lot of these plants require patience and TLC all year around. We've refused to use any pesticides on our plants to keep them organic, but it wasn't long before we realised just how much work goes into making sure the babies don't get eaten by insects and animals - after all, birds and insects love fruits too.

The longan tree pictured above has taken the longest to grow. It was given to us at a very heavy discount from the nursery due to its poor form (no joke, it actually looked like a dead plant when we first saw it). Mum claimed that she would be able to nurse it back to good health after some time - turns out she was right. It's taken a few years nevertheless, but it felt so good once we saw the fruits starting to grow on the top of the little tree.

Star fruits

Fruit trees often make a great present too. This star fruit tree was a gift to me from my parents years ago and has since bore several ginormous and delicious babies.


This plant started sprouting out of nowhere one day and I had no choice but to ask my mother what on earth it was. The conversation went something like this:

"Mum, what melons are we sprouting here?"
"What melon do you want it to be?"
"Okay well it will sprout wintermelons"

I took these photos about 2 months ago. Turns out my mother was right, yet again. We've now got giant wintermelons for soup, stir-fried wintermelon and wintermelon tea for dinner. Darn that woman.


For some reason everyone in this neighbourhood seems to be popping mangoes out of nowhere. My neighbour has mangoes, my neighbours' neighbour has mangoes, and I have mangoes dropping on my head everytime I walk to the station (no not really, but there's a couple of giant mango trees on the way). Either way I'm not complaining, because come summer time, we grow enough giant mangoes in our very own backyard to make us all happy...unless I decide to make mango desserts, which, is another story altogether.

Fuyu Fruits (Persimmons)

I luuuuuurve fuyu fruits. Although I generally prefer squishy version of persimmons (astringent), throughout high school fuyu fruit became my apple substitute when it came to my almost non-existent lunch box. Let me take this opportunity to explain that I dislike eating apples, especially big ones. Braces may have had something to do with it, I'm not entirely sure. I love apple juice, apple pies and even apple baby food, but I just hate sinking my teeth into the darn fruit.

But I digress. This was the first batch of fuyu fruits from our plant, and unfortunately they ripened while I was still in Vietnam so I missed out on the tasting. I believe there are still a few left on the tree though. Seconds anyone?


The orange tree is a sad little figure in my garden due to its poor positioning. Note to all, when plant fruit trees, the least you can do is to find them a spot that is suitable for plantation, and not just stuff them anywhere you see fit. My orange tree simply doesn't get enough sunlight to grow sufficiently and I doubt even has enough space to grow. Either way we still give it plenty of TLC in hope that one day it will fruit beautifully.

Herb Garden

Always out of herbs when you need them the most? Do you have a typically Asian fridge where herbs are practically non-existent? Why don't you grow you own and have all the freshest and organic herbs right in your garden ready for picking anytime, 24/7.

This was part of my 21st birthday present from JL. He probably got sick of me complaining about how I ABSOLUTELY HAD TO have fresh parsley for my pasta.


And lastly (for now), the Luffa, which is possibly one of the slightly more unique species popping out in our garden. In the Western world, the luffa is more commonly seen in its dried form, or to be more specifically, as a loofah (you know, the stuff you exfoliate your skin with?). However, when chopped up and cooked with soup or stir-fried, they are mildly sweet and juicy and super healthy. They're considered to have a "cooling" effect in the Chinese medicinal world and perfect for hot summers. Oh and another plus is that they're very easy to grow in our climate, and in a short span of a few weeks, we've had about 20 gourds growing out, which meant that there was plenty to go around.

So if you have a bit of space in your backyard, why not grow your own food? Trade seeds and saplings with friends, or in our case, we give away luffas and wintermelons since they're not as abundant in the markets. They don't have to be a lot of work and you can easily start off with a few easy-to-grow vegetables and fruits if you feel like you lack a green thumb, and trial and error doesn't hurt either. It's a learning curve after all.

P.S. Please let me know if you grown taro that has a large, flat, water-unretaining leaf. Either that or you know that the stem from your taro is edible. Oh and that you're happy to share seedlings with. Thanks!

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Review: Mamak, Sydney

I've been to Mamak several times already but every time I turn up with a different group of people. On this particular occasion, it was with a close group of collegues from my previous work place and we had agreed to meet there at 6:30pm. The wait was brief which was greatly appreciated by my growling stomach.

We were quick to decide on our choices, picking at least on dish from each section. We started off with drinks for myself and SL who asked for Teh Ais without the Ais because she didn't like it diluting her drink. My personal preference though, is actually for the ice to melt before I drink it because I find the milk tea a tad too sweet.
Teh Ais $3.50

Not long after the drinks came, the food came too - much to our stomachs' delight! Service has always been swift at Mamak and this time was clearly no exception. First up was the Sambal Udang which is a midly spicy tiger prawn dish. The prawns were cooked just right - we loved it! So much so in fact, that even after we had finished devouring the prawns, SD wasn't about to let the sauce go to waste - letting it soak into her mound of rice.  

Sambal Udang $18

Our two orders of Roti Bawang and Murtbak Chicken arrived soon after. On previous occasions, I've always ordered the plain and classic rotis, having fallen in love with the fluffy crisy texture without the interruption of any fillings. This time however, I found that I've been missing out - that the addition of red onion is just...amazing. The sweetness of the onion doesn't detract from the roti at all, but adds to the beautiful flavour with a dash of you choice of curry dips or the sambal sauce. Sambal was once again, my favourite!
Roti Bawang $6

When it came down to the Murtabak, I was a bit confused. To me, it looked pretty much the same s any other roti but I'm told that traditionally, it is made with minced mutton. Our particular dish, which came with a choice of lamb or chicken, was filled with an array of ingredients mildly spicy chicken, cabbage, onion and egg. I'm big on all things egg - so what better way to enjoy it but with a combination of roti and an egg omelette inside?

Murtabak Chicken $10.50

I was a bit disappointed by our Nasi Lemak with a side of Fish Curry. Amongst the four of us, only three of us got a small tasting and I totally missed out! That small hitch aside, I am still a dedicated fan of this dish! I love the array of flavours that you can just add to the rice yourself - not too much effort but it's like customising your own dish! Next time I'll make sure that I take a piece of the side curry before I try anything else!

Nasi Lemak with Fish Curry $10.50

Finally, we were graced with the presence of our tender lamb curry. It gave our meal the full variety of meats and the way it was slow-cooked, left the lamb so tender and flavoursome. I normally avoid lemongrass at all cost, so the curry itself didn't hit the right spot for me, but the fact that we ordered more rice lies testament to its taste.

Kari Kambing $15

The Ais Kachang was in short, delicious! Every other time I've visited here, I've been awed by the Roti Tisu which is served high in a crispy cone form. This time, dining with a separate group of friends, our dessert range was different. I feel like I've missed out! The Ice Kachang was incredibly tasty. My only criticism, shared by SD, was with the red beans and the syrup down the bottom. I personally felt it could have done with less of the red beans and a tone down with the sweetness of the rose-syrup. That said, that minor addition didn't stop me from wanting more!

Ais Kachang $5

Our other order of dessert, the Roti Pisang was equally scrumptious. A thin rectangular piece of roti containing freshly sliced banana and served with ice-cream - I think that even as EA kept complaining about how full she was and how difficult it was for her to stomach the final mouthful, I could tell she was in dessert heaven.

Roti Pisang $7.50

Sitting not far from us was a large group booking who we later found out were celebrating a birthday here at Mamak. By this stage, we were already up to our dessert and as they sang their 'Happy Birthday' song, it got me thinking, what would it be like to have a birthday cake made entirely from roti? It would be delicious I bet!

Now that I'm actually in Singapore, I'm finaly going to have a point of comparison of how good Mamak actually is. Personally, I think it really is one of the best places on this side of the Indian Ocean. Rest assured more post will be made about this place!

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Review: Kashiwa Yakiniku, Crows Nest

Falcon Street. It's a place filled with memories of my high school years and the place to be for us to eat and chat with friends. Ryo-tei and Bravos Trattoria were our biggest haunts back in the day and I'm glad they're still doing very well. More recently, I noticed a bright orange new development when I drove past and when I read Yas' post on it, I was even more tempted to try it out. Having dined in the city so frequently, it was also just a nice change to be on this side of the bridge closer to home.

The restaurant isn't particularly well furnished but it was bustling with energy and really gave off an authentic Japanese vibe. Of course, the fact that almost all the customers were Japanese probably contributed to this. The seating was a bit cramped with the three of us squashed on one half of the table huddled around out own grill and having the occasional waft of smoke coming from our neighbours cooking. This was however, easily remedied by the adjustable fan which was positioned directly above the grill and really made a difference - we didn't come out smelling like BBQ!

We were all starving by the time we sat down and with SK not wanting to have anything to do with Ox Tongue and the like, we stuck with the traditional but delicious selections of Special Wagyu Beef Rib, Wagyu Beef Skirt, Pork Rib and Chicken Thigh Fillet to be slowly seared. On top of that we also ordered the Koebi Karaage and later, because I was still hungry - the Torikara.

Special Wagyu Beef Rib $9.80

Wagyu Beef Skirt $11.80

Delicious, tender and juicy. Although I can't say I really knew how to differentiate the two types, they were both marinated heaven in my mouth and I didn't really feel the need for any additional sauce. I think SK might've agreed with me on that one. These two were by far my favourites for the night - not just because they tasted good, but on a totally different cooked fast! My stomach is quite hard to always requires a fast production line at yakiniku and I think this wagyu satisfied both taste and speed aspects.

Pork Rib $8.80

The pork rib wasn't quite as appetising as the beef and slightly too oily for my liking. It seemed a bit like bacon with lots of fatty rind! However, dipped in the sauce and having it served all sizzling hot was admittedly quite yummy. I may have been a bit too health conscious on that one!

Chicken Thigh Fillet $8.80

I loved the chicken thigh - when it was cooked well. It took a bit of trial and error to cook it for long enough without being worried that it would give us food poisioning but when we did manage that the fillet was nicely marinated and tender. If I hadn't already eaten so much of everything else, I would have loved to have ordered at least one more serving of this.

Koebi Karaage $5.80

When this dish arrived, DD was pretty confused. For most people, I think when you say Karaage, they will naturally assume that you mean chicken. Koebi Karaage however, was actually small shrimps deep fried. SK was a bit put off by the beady little eyes of the shrimps staring back at her and it took a bit of convincing and putting my hands over her eyes before she conquered that fear. I love anything that goes crunch in my mouth (almost anyway) so this was a nice little snack plate for me.

Torikara $7.80

DD's prays were answered when we decided to get one more dish and got the chicken variety of karaage. I can't say it was the very best I've tried - and believe me, I've tried a lot - but it was a nice way of finishing off a meal. It was just a small entree size but hit the spot for the end of what I would consider quite a filling and delicious yakiniku meal!

Kashiwa Yakiniku
7A Falcon Street
Crows Nest, NSW 2065
PH: (02) 9906 7393

Friday, February 5, 2010

Dear Readers: Farewell...for now!

The time has come for me to also take leave from this blog but rest assured readers, there will be a couple of scheduled posts of my escapades in Sydney to keep you occupied for the duration. Before long, you'll also see what I hope will be a flood of posts by WX about her food loving adventures in Vietnam.

Upon my return in two weeks, Singapore eateries will also be on the cards. So hopefully, for WX, JL and I, this travelling experience will only serve to widen our scope and help us love food even more!

For now, I must bid everyone farewell and return to organising my empty suitcase! Take care and see you all soon!

- AY