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Chinese New Year 2011

Another year in the Chinese calendar has gone by – again, where did the year go?

2011 is the year of the rabbit – a placid year after the ferocious year of the Tiger. I read that people born in the year of the rabbit are reasonably friendly individuals who enjoy the company of a group of good friends.They are kind, loving people and dislike any hostile act. I tend to pick and choose what I read about Chinese astrology, or any astrology for that matter.

Anyway, enough of the astrology, last year ‘The Mother’ and I were in Hong Kong, we had a reasonably quiet CNY eve. No dinners with the family, I think we went to the flower market and had dinner together. I managed to write the Do’s and Dont’s for CNY. This year, I cleaned the house, made some mango pudding and went to my parents place to celebrate what my Mum believes as one of the most important events of the year. It is a time when the family gets together in order to give thanks for the year that has past, and to reinvigorate ourselves for the coming year.

As per usual, Mum cooked up a storm – eight different types of dishes, eight being the number for good luck! Mum made all my favourite dishes, no guessing what they were, pork balls, pork belly and pork knuckles – my goodness! The recipe has been passed down from generation to generation (stopped at my mother as I have yet to learn how to make this traditional dish!)

Braised pork belly with mushrooms were absolutely divine! I am a tad bias here, but it is the BEST pork belly ever! Tender with a slither of fat, my goodness, unbelievable! Eaten with man tao (chinese steamed buns) – perfect!

Pork knuckle is also another favourite of mine – succulent, juicy and melt in your mouth – WOW! Bad for the cholesterol, but totally scrumptious!

Unfortunately, I didn’t take photos of each individual dish – which is very unusual for me. However, below is a photo of the marvelous feast that Mum and my sister-in-law, O, made.

Steamed fish which in chinese is ‘yu’ sounds like the words for wish and abundance. So having the fish symbolizes a wish for abundance in the coming year.

The shark fin soup – a favourite dish of mine. O made this, a little different to mum’s but it was absolutely superb! A sign of wealth and fortune, so more for me!

The noodles,which represent longevity and long life was magnificent.

O also made these wonderful prawns! We needed a bit of colour, a bit of red, and these prawns were it! Red being the colour for happiness so these delicious prawns symbolises joy.

Last but not least, bakso goreng – deep fried pork balls (yes – Mum certainly knows how much I love pork!) were unreal. I couldn’t help but eat five prior to dinner, I can’t remember how many I managed  to eat.

My contribution to the feast – mango pudding, recipe adapted from food safari.

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup water
  • 6 tsp powdered gelatine
  • 3/4 cup caster sugar
  • 1 litre soft mango ice cream
  • 75ml evaporated milk
  • 1 cup crushed ice
  • 1 large mango, peeled seeded and diced

Instructions:

  • Remove ice cream an hour before starting to allow it to soften.
  • Boil some water and place in a bowl – mix sugar and gelatine together. Stir until all is dissolved and thick and syrupy.
  • Pour into a large bowl and add mango ice cream and stir until smooth.
  • Add evaporated milk, crushed ice and diced mango pieces and stir together.
  • Pour mixture into individual serving glasses or bowls.
  • Chill in the refrigerator until set, at least two hours.

Unfortunately, I was too full to eat any desserts. I could not move! ‘The Mother’ had to carry me back to the car. The other diners had some and thought it was wonderful. I did leave one at home, and will have it later for dessert.

It was a wonderful evening spent with family. I even got some ang pao (red packets) from Mum! I guess you are never too old to receive them!

To my dear friends and family, Xin Nian Kuai Le! All the best in 2011 – Wishing you all the happiness, good times, and good fortunes to cherish forever! Here’s to 2011!


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MERRY CHRISTMAS!!!!

I love Christmas – the one year that everyone makes an effort to be with the family! Presents, good food, good wine and of course good company. This time last year, ‘The Mother’ and I celebrated Christmas on our own – we were living in Hong Kong but spent our Christmas holidays in Paris. I had hoped for a white Christmas, and even though it wasn’t snowing, parts of Paris was still white! It snowed a couple of days prior and was still very cold. We had a mini picnic in our hotel room, but did manage to roam around Paris, getting lost and ate some wonderful food.

This year, we are back in Sydney, and even though I am a little sad to be away from Hong Kong, it is good to spend it with family! We had lunch at the in laws – both families, including my brother and sis-in-law all went there for lunch. My mother in law (‘MiL’) and father in law (‘FiL’) made some wonderful dishes, from lobster noodles, smoked ham, salads to desserts. To say we were ‘stuffed’ was an understatement.

We started with lobster noodles and my goodness – they were outstanding. The lobster was fresh, tender and succulent, and cooked with garlic, onions and spring onions they were just incredible. The egg noodles were a great complement – I can’t remember how many servings F and I had – they were just that good.

Next, the glazed ham – my favourite. The ham was smokey, salty, sweet and tender. I love ham – it was served warm, the smokey flavours infused in the meat, it was just fantastic. I certainly can’t make ham as good as this!

Smoked salmon salad with cabbage, lettuce, carrots and cucumber served with creamy dressing was scrumptiously good! I will have to get the recipe off my MiL. There were generous servings of smoked salmon and enough to feed a whole army!

I made a couple of desserts, vanilla panna cotta served with berry compote.

Ingredients:

4 cups (1l) heavy cream (or half-and-half)

½ cup (100g) sugar

2 teaspoons of vanilla extract, or 1 vanilla bean, split lengthwise

2 packets powdered gelatin (about 4.5 teaspoons)

6 tablespoons (90ml) cold water.

Method:

  1. Heat heavy cream and sugar in a saucepan and once sugar is dissolved, remove from heat and stir in the vanilla extract
  2. Lightly oil eight custard cups with a neutral tasting oil
  3. Sprinkle the gelatin over the cold water in a medium sized bowl and let stand
  4. Pour the very warm Panna Cotta mixture over gelatin and stir until gelatin is dissolved
  5. Divide the Panna Cotta mixture into the prepared cups, then chill them until firm, usually 2 – 4 hours, I left them over night.
  6. Run a sharp knife around the edge of each Panna Cotta and unmold each onto a serving plate, and garnished as desired

Whilst Panna Cotta is cooling,

Make berry compote…

Ingredients:

½ cup of raspberries

½ cup of blueberries

½ cup of strawberries

1 tbsp icing sugar (powdered sugar)

Method:

  1. Place saucepan over medium heat and add about a tablespoon of water, then berries and sugar
  2. Once some juice develops in the bottom of the pot turn the heat to high and gently stir
  3. Once it reaches boiling, remove the pot from the stove and allow to steep for 1 hr then transfer to fridge

Once Panna Cotta are set and ready to serve, add berry compote to Panna Cotta and voila.

I thought the Panna Cotta was a little firm, I like it a little wobbly like. I think too much gelatin, will reduce next time, however if you like your Panna Cotta firm, then follow the above instructions.

I also made these little babies – Mix Berry Tart.

I cheated and bought the little pastry tarts – I could have made them myself but didn’t have enough time, so just made the filling.

Ingredients:

300ml thickened cream

1 cup thick custard

1 punnet strawberries hulled, chopped

1 punnet blueberries

Method:

  1. Beat cream until soft peaks form, then stir in custard
  2. Spoon filling into tart shells
  3. Top with berries and dust with icing sugar to serve

Easy and voila – they were easy, and absolutely delicious. The combination of cream and custard – who doesn’t like cream and cutard?

Hope you are all having a wonderful Christmas with your loved ones, and hope Santa was kind to you all!

Merry Christmas to all of you!

And how gorgeous was the weather today? PERFECT!

xx

The big event…. the wedding!

The event that we have all been waiting for – the wedding! Baby bro was finally getting married to his beautiful wife. They found the date – auspicious date one year ago, and booked both the church and the reception straight away. They got married at the same place as ‘The Mother’ and I. St Peter Chanel in Hunters Hill and East Ocean for a traditional Chinese banquet. Thankfully it didn’t rain the whole day, they managed to squeeze in a photo shoot without the down pour, and got some wonderful shots!

It started at 9am, tea ceremony for both families. Since married, I am supposed to give red packets to those that are unmarried. Thankfully, now that F is married, I no longer have to give him any red packets for Chinese New Year! Sorry baby bro – that was the last, until you have kids, then it will be your kids that will be receiving the red packets.

The ceremony was gorgeous, it was the second time that ‘The Mother’ and I went to St Peter Chanel and it brought back many happy memories. I can’t believe that it has been three years since we last got married, it only seemed like yesterday that we were there, ‘The Mother’ waiting at the altar as I was about to enter.

F stood proud with his best man and groomsmen whilst he waited for his beautiful bride to enter the church. She was gorgeous, O was beautiful – I was so happy for him and welcomed my new sis-in-law in the family!

The reception was at East Ocean. I was MC-ing that evening, was a little nervous so poured myself a glass (or maybe two) of wine. The red wine went down smoothly, and before I knew it, I was relaxed, swaying and was ready to take on the dance floor! They had a beautiful Chinese banquet, ‘The Mother’ said to me ‘The food is surprisingly nice’ – as we were too busy mingling and taking photos that we didn’t have any at our own wedding. My cousin replied ‘well your wife isn’t enjoying it for the second time’ – which was true. I managed to eat bits and pieces but most of the stuff was rather lukewarm by the time I got to it. I didn’t realize MC-ing would be such a hard and stressful thing to do. But I have to say, I did have  a lot of fun, and had to return the favour!

The menu consisted of eight courses plus fried rice and noodles and desserts.

First: roasted suckling pig collation. You would think after eating that much suckling pig I would be sick of it? Alas NO! Who are you kidding? I LOVE suckling pig and this suckling pig was phenomenal. Crispy skin, tender and succulent meat, and the jelly fish was just perfect, soft, chewy and delightful.

Second: braised whole dried scallop with black moss. I had this cold as I was running around trying to sort photos and what not. The scallops were tender and succulent, ‘The Mother’ really enjoyed this, but unfortunately for me, it was a tad cold and I just picked at it.

Third: deep fried crab claw. When I saw this, I made sure I went to the table, I had to have this especially when it was hot! The crab claw was seriously awesome, lightly battered and deep fried, and the crab was juicy and succulent. This was awesomely good and one of my favourite dish.

Fourth: braised shark fin soup and shredded chicken and crab meat. The shark fin soup was tasty, bursting with flavours from the shredded chicken and crab meat. It was good, so good that ‘The Mother’ had FOUR BOWLS!!! Apparently there were spares, and since no one wanted them, he was more than happy to demolish each and every single bowl! Greedy?

Fifth: live lobster in superior broth. I am usually not a fan of eating lobster at restaurants, but when I saw a huge plate of it, how could I say no? Thankfully I got one of those ‘good’ pieces, where I didn’t have to use my hands and could just eat it straight away. The lobster was sensational! LOVE!

Sixth: Sliced abalone with sea cucumber. I LOVE sea cucumber and it has been a while since Mum made it. ‘The Mother’ ate the sliced abalone but didn’t want the sea cucumber so no guessing who ate it!

Seventh: Steamed live coral trout with ginger and shallot. This was incredibly tasty! The fish was fresh, and cooked to perfection. It was tender, and the ginger and shallot was a great complement. ‘The Mother’ loved this and if there were any spare, I am sure he would have eaten it.

Eighth: BBQ Crispy Pigeon. I was getting full by this stage and I usually love eating pigeon. Unfortunately, I could not eat anymore, so gave it to my cousin W. He loved it, he said that the pigeon was succulent and the skin deliciously crispy.

The next two courses I really didn’t eat. It was just too much. The special fried rice in lotus leaves and e-fu noodle in oyster sauce. I was incredibly full!

To be honest, I don’t remember seeing the sweet red bean and lotus seed soup! I was busy trying to catch up with family and friends that I really didn’t see the soup being served. Either that or someone must have eaten it!

The assorted Chinese cookies were a hit! There were two types, one being pineapple bread which I love (!!!!), and the other is coconut cookies which I thought was nice but nothing special.

Fruit platter of watermelon, orange and honey dew were fresh and refreshing.

Last but not least the wedding cake.

My cousin, R and her friend V, made our wedding cake. V also made my brothers cake and it’s a delicious chocolate cake, quite dense, not sickly sweet and simply mouth watering! The chocolate center was gooey, sticky and creamy, If only we had vanilla bean ice cream – that would definitely have been perfect!

We danced the night away, ‘da boys’ even sang I Swear together, it was definitely one unforgettable night!

Below is the Chinese character to ‘double happiness’. To my brother and sis-in-law – congratulations! To love, laughter and a happy after, may you both have a long a happy life filled with many children.

GA’s rating: 7.5 / 10

East Ocean Restaurant

421 Sussex Street

Haymarket, 2000

Ph: +61 2 9212 4198

East Ocean on Urbanspoon

The feast before the wedding…

As some of you know, my brother got married over the weekend. We have had loads of visitors, mainly from Indonesia for the big event. The past few days I have eaten so much food that could probably feed a whole army, maybe more.

Day 1, we all went to hurricanes, 24 of us – just family. We all rocked up at the Hurricanes in Bondi Beach – a place I haven’t visited for such a long time ever since the Darling Harbour branch opened. As much I love going to Bondi, parking is a nightmare. However, that day, four cars all made it to Bondi safely to enjoy the feast.

We ordered about 14 racks of full pork ribs – yes, that’s right, you heard me, 14! I was going to take a photo of all the 14 plates of full rack ribs on the table, unfortunately, they all came at different times, and everyone was hungry and before I could say wait, they were all digging in!

This place really doesn’t require any introduction. It has been around for such a long time, it is a must try for those who has never been. We take all our visitors here, and they even ask to go back. Hurricanes are famous for their ribs, pork, beef or lamb. Believe it or not, I have only tried the pork ribs!

The ribs that night I thought was a little on the ‘lean’ side. It wasn’t as meaty as my last visit. However, the sauce, is still simply outstanding! I love the smoky, charcoal flavour and even though the ribs were on the ‘lean’ side, it was still tender, and succulent. I was definitely in pork ribs heaven – ooo how I have missed you pork ribs! It was absolutely satisfying!

The Mediterranean Salad is something I get occasionally, served with kalamata olives, feta cheese, capsicum and their Mediterranean dressing. It’s deliciously refreshing, the feta cheese is soft and cheesy, a great addition to the salad.

Another salad I do like is the char-grilled chicken salad, served with honey soaked walnuts and honey vinaigrette dressing. The char-grilled chicken I thought was a little on the tough and dry side. The honey soaked walnuts, however, were just to die for! Dad and I were fighting for these delicious, crunchy, chewy, walnuts – I will need to buy a jar of these!

It is still one of the best ribs I have had. If you are not a huge fan of ribs, they do have steaks, seafood, and burgers. Not a lot of options for Vegetarians though, a veggie burger and a vegetarian platter.

We didn’t have dessert at Hurricanes, my cousin, W, planted the idea of deep fried mars bars in our heads. I have not had one in such a long time that I too couldn’t get the thought out of my head!

So we went on a hunt, and saw this outside one of the seafood stores ‘world famous deep fried mars bars’. I remember when I first heard of these, I HAD to have one, so made my brother drive me. I can’t believe ‘The Mother’ has never had one before!

For those who haven’t eaten a deep fried mars bar, it is just an ordinary mars bars which is lightly battered, then deep fried and then sprinkled with sugar.

The batter was beautifully light, crispy and sealed the chocolate so none of it oozed out. That first bitte is truly magical – a lovely mix of savoury and sweet. The mars bar doesn’t melt but the inside, the caramel melts and it’s deliciously chewy like a marshmallow. It is sickly sweet, I felt like my arteries were about to burst and cholesterol sky rocket but it was good! Unfortunately, I couldn’t finish a whole deep fried mars bar on my own. ‘The Mother’ loved it, and managed to finish one!

Day 2: the night before my baby bro’s big day, we had a feast at my parents (in Indonesian it’s called ‘syukuran’) and believe me when I say it was a feast! Check out the photo below.

Meet pigsy, poor pig – mum didn’t make this, we bought it from our local Chinese bbq place in Eastwood. There is an old wife’s tale that if you eat the pig’s tail you will find a partner to marry. Apparently, at my ‘syukuran’ F ate the pig’s tail and three years later, he got married! We made my sister-in-law’s brother eat it, as they want him to get married.

Back to piggy – the suckling pig was incredible! Delicious, thin and crispy skin with a slitter of fat. The meat itself was tender and succulent, I couldn’t help but get a generous serving of this on my plate, it was THAT good! But then again, I am a sucker for pork! Here is what happened to piggy after it was cut and chopped! It was scrumptiously good. Please note the below is NOT what I had on my plate! I am not that greedy!

Lemper ayam – glutinous chicken was as good as those from Indonesia. My mother’s friend made these, and they were superb. The rice was gooey, and the chicken boiled, sweet and a little on the salty nice. The flavours of sweet and salty was just perfect.

Perkedel – potato croquette, which consist of potatoes, spam, and deep fried. This is one of my weakness, I love perkedel, especially when they are warm. Unfortunately mum didn’t make these, her perkedel tastes SO much better! I will make them one day so I can post recipe up.

Nasi kuning an Indonesian rice dish, in a cone called tumpeng and is eaten during special events. The rice had a nice coconut and turmeric flavouring. It was tasty, especially eaten with perkedel – talk about carb overload!

The fried noodles – for long life and prosperity – were delicious. The noodles were tender and the chicken, prawns, beef were a great complement.

Traditional Indonesian soup – sop merah. It is basically a tomato-based soup with any meat you want, in this case, we used sausages, spam, chicken and corned beef plus potatoes, celery, carrots, onions and garlic. I like my sop merah a little on the sour side, however, not many people do, so this was a little on the sweet side. The soup burst with flavours, especially the combination of all the meat. I grew up with this soup when I was a child, so absolutely love it! Again, a must make one day, especially in winter.

Sambal goreng kentang – spicy potato crisps. A very spicy side-dish or snack made from potatoes, mixed with onion, garlic, beef and prawns. Can also be made with chicken liver but this one is beef and prawns. It was delectably spicy, enough that it didn’t burn your mouth.

My favourite, mum’s beef rendang. Fantastic as always – tender, succulent, juicy beef with a kick of spiciness.

Bakso goreng – deep fried pork balls, which were purchased from Pinanggsia Noodle Restaurant in Kingsford was a hit! It was gone within minutes. They were crispy, meaty, and frigging awesome! I really could have eaten three on my own. Unfortunately, I didn’t take a photo of this, it was a HIT!

Last but not least, chicken wings marinated in honey and soy sauce. The chicken wings were succulent and too easy to eat and to stop at just one.

It really isn’t an Indonesian wedding or get together without the famous tehbotol, jasmine tea. This is one of my favourite drinks, it’s SOOOO refreshing! I do prefer to drink it out of a bottle though, the box is just not the same.

Of course there were wine and beers, we ate and drank the night away. I can’t believe that it was three years ago that I had my own syukuran, and now it’s my baby bros!! I love family gatherings, and weddings – so much food and love by all!

Hurricanes Bar and Grill

GA’s rating: 7.5 / 10

130 Roscoe Street

Bondi, 2026

Ph: +61 2 9130 7101

Hurricane's Grill on Urbanspoon