Let's Get Fat Together http://fatboo.com Food, Travel, Friends. Wed, 25 Mar 2015 07:06:36 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=4.1.1 Journeying Bhutan http://fatboo.com/2015/03/central-bhutan-punakha-dzong-trongsa.html http://fatboo.com/2015/03/central-bhutan-punakha-dzong-trongsa.html#comments Wed, 25 Mar 2015 06:59:08 +0000 http://fatboo.com/?p=20618 Journeying Bhutan by Fatboo

Second travel instalment covering my journey through Punakha Valley and Central Bhutan.

Journeying Bhutan was written by Fatboo.
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Journeying Bhutan by Fatboo

This is a continuation post from my previous Bhutan photo-series titled Mystical Bhutan. From here on, we leave the nation’s capital (Thimphu) and begin travelling deeper into its mountainous hinterland.

Punakha to Bumthang Bhutan 5799

This was the bus that took us around, a Toyota Coaster with all our luggage bundled up on its roof.

Punakha to Bumthang Bhutan 5791

As we progressed away from Thimphu, the roads got steadily unpaved and muddy. One section between Thimphu and Punakha even had strict time curfews to follow because the roads were too narrow for traffic in two ways. With the windy, bumpy roads… road travel in Bhutan is very slow going.

Dorchula Pass Bhutan 5570

All that said, the scenery grew nicer and nicer.

Dorchula Pass Bhutan 5590

Dorchula Pass

We spent a few hours at this mountain pass 3050m above sea level.

Dorchula Pass Bhutan 5579Dorchula Pass Bhutan 5575

This pass is known for the 108 Bhutanese stupas built by the Queen in kind memory of the lives lost (on both sides) in a battle against Indian militants.

Dorchula Pass Bhutan 5588

We continued on our journey towards…

Punakha Bhutan 5645

Punakha Valley

Punakha Bhutan 5607

I think of Bhutan as a holiday destination that’s more about the immersive experience… as opposed to chasing iconic sights and centrefold-worthy monuments.

Punakha Bhutan 5610Punakha Bhutan 5636

Our guide learnt quickly that we enjoyed witnessing the locals’ livelihoods. So he stopped the bus near this village in Punakha and let us have a stroll down the private streets, catching glimpses of Bhutanese life.

Punakha Bhutan 5592

In fact, when the bus dropped us off, we were greeted by these happy smiling schoolchildren.

Punakha Bhutan 5613

It’s a lifestyle that’s so different from what we as city-folks have grown up in.

Punakha Bhutan 5618Punakha Bhutan 5617

These kids had a school examination the next day, but instead of studying, they spent the afternoon playing (with great intent and concentration) a game of carrom.

Punakha Bhutan 5643

This little walk in a village left a deeper mark in me than many of the more impressive sights that we’d witnessed during this trip.

Punakha Bhutan 5647

Chhimi Lhakhang

Chimi Lhakhang Punakha Bhutan 5660

After lunch, we took a short stroll up a gentle slope towards Chhimi Lhakhang, also known as the Temple of the Divine Madman.

Chimi Lhakhang Punakha Bhutan 5674

It wasn’t that exciting a place, but the lewd and crazy stories about the Divine Madman that our guide shared with us kept things interesting.

Punakha Bhutan 5646

After that, we left this tranquil scenecape of agrarian terraces and continued towards our next stop…

Punakha Dzong Bhutan 5697

Punakha Dzong

Punakha Dzong Bhutan 5694
Entrance

We reached here just before sunset, and I think it’s one of the most impressive dzong (fortress) that we visited during the trip. It looked amazing from a distance.

Punakha Dzong Bhutan 5706Punakha Dzong Bhutan 5709
Entrance courtyard

Punakha Dzong, built in 1637, is situated at the confluence of two rivers. It serves as the administrative and religious seat of power for the region.

Punakha Dzong Bhutan 5749

One of the more striking aspect of this dzong was the enduring presence of a vast Bodhi tree in the middle of the first courtyard as you enter.

Punakha Dzong Bhutan 5742

I was also pretty moonstruck by how intricate the decorative woodwork was.

Punakha Dzong Bhutan 5727

You may notice by now that all of my photos in Bhutan only consists of the outsides of the buildings. That is because tourists are not allowed to take photos of the interiors. In the end, I thought this was a very good thing. It allowed me to really appreciate the devout sensibilities of the temples and shrines.

Punakha Dzong Bhutan 5752

What a beautiful visit. A part of me wished we’d spent less time at (the somewhat nondescript) Chhimi Lhakhang so that we had more time to just sit and admire this dzong.

Suspension Bridge Punakha Dzong Bhutan 5764

Pho Chhu Suspension Bridge

Suspension Bridge Punakha Dzong Bhutan 5772

Our final stop was a walk across Bhutan’s longest suspension bridge.

Suspension Bridge Punakha Dzong Bhutan 5777

Even though this bridge was sturdier than the chain suspension bridge that we’d traversed across on our first day. it still isn’t a walk for the faint-hearted.

Punakha to Bumthang Bhutan 5787

We were greeted the next morning with a thick mountain mist that spoke of distant ancestors and benevolent ghosts.

Pelela Pass Bhutan 5807

Pelela Pass

Pelela Pass Bhutan 5808

It got really cold as we paid a brief visit to this mountain pass 3300m above sea level. While I wascapturing the spirit of this place, I noticed a few passing cars circling that stupa three times before continuing on their journeys.

Pelela Pass Bhutan 5809

Pellet Pass is an important point that divides Western Bhutan from Central and Eastern Bhutan, it also serves as a yak herder’s station.

Pelela Pass Bhutan 5816

I think it was at this point of the trip that I felt like I was really, really far away from the rest of the world.

Trongsa Central Bhutan 5828

Central Bhutan

The flaxen sun began to warm the sumptuous hillsides as our bus continued deeper into Central Bhutan.

Trongsa Central Bhutan 5819

We even caught a glimpse of wild mountain yaks.

Trongsa Central Bhutan 5827

I noticed these clusters of white flags occasionally dotting the mountainscape. Our guide tells us that it’s a funeral rite of sorts, where close relatives of the departed would plant a these flags, a hundred tall, in memory of the family member that had passed.

Trongsa Central Bhutan 5846

Trongsa

We pretty much sat in the bus from dawn to dusk that day. Aside the the short stop at Pelela Pass, this was about our only other stop – a colourful local festival in what I believe to be within the district of Trongsa.

Trongsa Central Bhutan 5842Trongsa Central Bhutan 5845

Here’s the formal garb that most Bhutanese wear. A patterned robe of sorts with long sleeves, thick white cuffs, formal shoes and knee high formal socks. Draped across their shoulders is a blessed silk scarf that’s meant to bring good luck and tranquility.

Trongsa Central Bhutan 5843Trongsa Central Bhutan 5834

The festival colours were very vibrant. It also seemed like the local Bhutanese were, as a whole, always in good spirits. Maybe that’s why Bhutan’s considered the happiest country in the world, where the nation’s ‘success’ is measured by the population’s GNH (Gross National Happiness) instead of GDP.

Bumthang Bhutan 5864

Bumthang

We eventually reached the district of Bumthang, where’d we’d be staying three nights in.

Rinchenling Lodge Bumthang Bhutan 5868
Rinchenling Lodge

W reached our hotel past nightfall. I thought this was one of the nicer hotels that we had during the trip. Bhutan’s concept of three stars isn’t exactly international standard. But despite a few niggles here and there, I really enjoyed our lodgings here and they also served the best meals here out of the whole trip.

Punakha Dzong Bhutan 5718

I’ll end this Bhutan travel instalment here, with another glimpse of the (very memorable) Punakha Dzong. In my next instalment, I’ll be covering the places we’d explored within Bumthang.

Journeying Bhutan was written by Fatboo.
If you enjoyed reading this blog post, feel free to discover more at Let's Get Fat Together.

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Teppanyaki Set Dinner at Koko http://fatboo.com/2015/03/teppanyaki-dinner-koko-crown.html http://fatboo.com/2015/03/teppanyaki-dinner-koko-crown.html#comments Mon, 16 Mar 2015 09:08:42 +0000 http://fatboo.com/?p=20565 Teppanyaki Set Dinner at Koko by Fatboo

Finally tried the teppanyaki set dinner menu at Koko in Crown Complex, Southbank. It's worth the price tag.

Teppanyaki Set Dinner at Koko was written by Fatboo.
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Teppanyaki Set Dinner at Koko by Fatboo

Level 3, Crown Towers
8 Whiteman St
Southbank, VIC 3006
03 9292 5777
Website

Koko Japanese Teppanyaki Crown Towers Melbourne 6924

My entire workplace has been having a very tough start to the year, and its taken a heavy toll on myself. On one particularly difficult weekend, I looked so downcast that Fatbee spontaneously booked dinner here to help cheer me up.

Koko Japanese Teppanyaki Crown Towers Melbourne 6903Koko Teppanyaki Crown Melbourne 1
Red Crane 20.00
An elegant and refreshing combination of tsunami and plum wine, served with hibiscus flower
Rising Sun 20.00
In the Tropics – Lychee liqueur, topped with sake, mango juice and grenadine 

I could literally feel the weight lift off my shoulders as I sipped on my cocktail whilst enjoying this Japanese restaurant’s calming atmosphere.

Koko Japanese Teppanyaki Crown Towers Melbourne 6902

We decided to spoil ourselves a little and went for the mid-range “Kaze” Teppanyaki Set Menu, priced at $135 per person. With Teppanyaki meals, a few groups of people are seated together in tables of 8-10 and our ‘personal’ Japanese chef will cook our meals right in front of us.

Koko Japanese Teppanyaki Crown Towers Melbourne 6905
Appetiser 付き出し – cooked fish with sweet and sour sauce
Assorted sashimi 刺身 – salmon, tuna and hapuka 

Our appetisers soon arrived. I enjoyed the freshness of the sake, maguro akami and hapuka sashimi served with what texturally tasted like grated wasabi.

Koko Japanese Teppanyaki Crown Towers Melbourne 6908
Dobin mushi 土瓶蒸し
Dashi consommé with prawn, chicken, mushroom and gingko nut, served in a clay teapot

Next came a beautifully clean soup served in a teapot.

Koko Japanese Teppanyaki Crown Towers Melbourne 6909

We were told to squeeze a bit of fresh lime over it and toss the lime into the pot to flavour it up. The concept of keeping the soup warm inside the teapot flew very nicely with me, as did the gentle flavours that were cupped within.

Koko Japanese Teppanyaki Crown Towers Melbourne 6910
Crayfish tempura with wasabi mayonnaise 山葵伊勢海老天ぷら

Our final appetiser came as indulgent pieces of crispy lobster tail tempura, sweet and succulent inside, with a light but confident hit of wasabi mayonnaise. I liked how even this tempura dish managed to balance the flavours gently so that you could enjoy the natural sweetness of the lobster.

Koko Japanese Teppanyaki Crown Towers Melbourne 6912

Our Teppanyaki chef then took to our station and, with a superbly sharp knife and great dexterity of hand, began cooking for us.

Koko Japanese Teppanyaki Crown Towers Melbourne 6913
Prawns, toothfish, scallops 海老、銀ムツ、帆立
Sautéed seasonal vegetables 野菜のソテー 

While I admit I still had quite a lot on my mind right through the meal, the spectacle of watching a Teppanyaki chef at work proved to be a great distraction. His hands literally danced with the utensils and ingredients. Each of us received a platter of grilled seafood… cooked to perfection and delicately seasoned. The scallops were juicy and I liked how the prawns were cooked with butter.

Koko Japanese Teppanyaki Crown Towers Melbourne 6915
Seasonal salad 季節のサラダ

The salad that came with our mains also satisfied. I liked the textural crunch that came from the pieces of crispy tofu skin and there was something light and moreish about the dressing.

Koko Japanese Teppanyaki Crown Towers Melbourne 6919
Australian wagyu beef sirloin (Grade 7+) 和牛サーロイン 

And here’s the highlight of our Kaze Teppanyaki Set Menu: a gorgeous serve of Wagyu cooked with the respect that it deserves.

I do enjoy having Wagyu beef at steak places whenever I get the chance (and if my pocket allows me to)… but this modest serve of Wagyu beef was the best that I’ve had in a long long while. Truly melt-in-mouth texture with wonderful depth of flavour. This plate of beef has almost convinced me to only “do” Wagyu at Japanese places from now on.

Koko Japanese Teppanyaki Crown Towers Melbourne 6922
Garlic fried rice ガーリックライス

I’m glad they served the rice at the end of the meal, because by this point we were so full we struggled with this final course despite it being so good.

Koko’s version of fried rice tasted simple and delicate with little surprise pieces of flavourful beef in it. I wish I could cook fried rice as delicious as this. On top of the rice sat crisp “prawn crackers” that were made from the prawn heads that were carved off from our prawns at the start of our meal.

Koko Japanese Teppanyaki Crown Towers Melbourne 6923
Fresh fruit with ice cream 季節の果物とアイスクリーム

This will probably be the most expensive Melbourne meal that Fatbee and I will be having this year. I’d been talking about coming here to try the Teppanyaki set meal and I’m glad we finally did it. Even if the sequence of events that led to this visit came from a unhappy place, the beautifully cooked food here lifted my spirits significantly.

Teppanyaki Set Dinner at Koko was written by Fatboo.
If you enjoyed reading this blog post, feel free to discover more at Let's Get Fat Together.

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Mystical Bhutan http://fatboo.com/2015/03/bhutan-thimphu-tango-goemba-tashichho-dzong.html http://fatboo.com/2015/03/bhutan-thimphu-tango-goemba-tashichho-dzong.html#comments Sun, 08 Mar 2015 06:50:12 +0000 http://fatboo.com/?p=20547 Mystical Bhutan by Fatboo

First instalment of my travel series covering Bhutan. Here, we spend two intimate days discovering the sights in & around Bhutan's capital - Thimphu.

Mystical Bhutan was written by Fatboo.
If you enjoyed reading this blog post, feel free to discover more at Let's Get Fat Together.

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Mystical Bhutan by Fatboo

Fatbee and I visited Bhutan with my cousins late last year. It’s a confounding country that I struggle to describe accurately, but hopefully these travel photo series will help give you an idea of how it’s like.

Himalayas Bhutan 5266

There’s only one international airport in Bhutan, and it’s located in the city of Paro, nestled deep amongst the verdant and majestic spires of the Himalayas. I hear that this is one of the world’s top 10 most dangerous airports to land in (in terms of difficulty navigating between the mountains), but the weather held well and our flight was smooth and uneventful.

Paro Bhutan 5272

We were received at a ‘leisurely pace’… with a pretty long wait before the tour bus was ready for us. This was our very first taste of ‘Bhutan Time’, and we soon learnt that the pace of things in this country is quite a lot slower than elsewhere.

And so our journey began… as the bus headed out of the airport, I found the scenery already breathtaking…

Tachog Lhakhang Dzong Drupthob Thangtong Gyalpo Suspension Bridge Bhutan 5283
Drupthob Thangtong Gyalpo Suspension Bridge

Paro is about an hour or so drive from the nation’s capital, Thimphu, where we stayed two nights. On our way there, our guide stopped by Tachog Lhakhang Dzong…

Tachog Lhakhang Dzong Drupthob Thangtong Gyalpo Suspension Bridge Bhutan 5286

…where we braved a harrowing chain suspension bridge that squeaked in the wind and bounced unpredictably over the raging waters below as we made attempts to cross it.

Tachog Lhakhang Dzong Drupthob Thangtong Gyalpo Suspension Bridge Bhutan 5295

Thimphu

Thimpu Bhutan 5331

For a capital city, Thimpu looks more like a slumbering mountain town with a modest population of one hundred thousand happy citizens.

Thimpu Bhutan 5508

It’s a very not-busy capital city.

However, when we passed by Thimpu on our way back one week later, it did feel like a bustling metropolis when compared to the far quieter districts that we’d visited for the rest of the time.

Thimpu Bhutan 5311

We had a bit of a giggle when we saw this traffic junction in Thimpu. It’s purportedly the ‘busiest’ junction in the entire country, necessitating a police-manned booth to control traffic.

The government tried to install traffic lights at one point, but it confused the local Bhutanese so much that more accidents happened. So it’s now back to this police booth which is manned till 4.30pm, after which drivers just have to approach this intersection with care… ha ha!

Thimpu Bhutan 5503

Here’s a glimpse of the local restaurant where had our buffet lunch. All of our meals in this tour were served buffet-style.

National Memorial Chorten

Memorial Chorten Thimpu Bhutan 5330Memorial Chorten Thimpu Bhutan 5324

We next visited Thimphu’s National Memorial Chorten, which was consecrated in 1974 in honour of the third king. The Bhutanese regard this memorial with deep respect and on most days you can see locals circling the structure endlessly in prayer.

Memorial Chorten Thimpu Bhutan 5321

Our guide also candidly mentioned that it’s a bit of a ‘home for the elderly’ here, where youths would drop off their elderly parents and grandparents here to keep each other company, pray and walk in circumambulation all day.

We circled the memorial three times before moving on, with strict orders from our guide that we must only do it clockwise.

Buddha Dordenma Kuensel Phodrang Thimpu Bhutan 5339
Buddha Dordenma

We next drove up a hill in Kuensel Phodrang to appreciate a rather impressive 169 feet tall bronze statue of Lord Buddha, looking across the valley towards the quiet city of Thimphu.

Tashichho Dzong

Tashichho Dzong Thimpu Bhutan 5355Tashichho Dzong Thimpu Bhutan 5366

The final sight for our first day was Thimphu’s Tashichho Dzong (fortress). We arrived just as the sun began to set over the mountain horizon.

Tashichho Dzong Thimpu Bhutan 5358

It was quite a magnificent sight, and I loved how there were so few fellow tourists visiting it at the same time, allowing a sense of peace.

Thimpu Bhutan Morning 5372
Hotel Norbuling, Thimphu

Here’s a view of Thimphu from our hotel window the next morning, complete with morning ‘peak hour’ traffic… ha ha ha

Astrology School Thimpu Bhutan 5374Astrology School Thimpu Bhutan 5381
School of Astrology (Pangri Zampa Lhakhang)

We spent the day travelling further afield from town, with our first stop visiting a School of Astrology. I admit in my morning daze I got confused and initially thought it was astronomy… with telescopes, planets and stars. But astrology is about horoscopes and sun signs… whoops!

Thimpu Bhutan 5386Thimpu Bhutan 5389

The bus continued weaving up the mountainsides…

Tango Goemba Monastery Thimpu Bhutan 5423

… we then started an uphill trek towards a monastery.

Tango Goemba Monastery Thimpu Bhutan 5424

Tango Goemba

We aren’t the fittest bunch of tourists, and some of us were still acclimatising to the altitude… so the one hour trek ended up taking more like two hours. We quickly decided from then on to start taking our altitude pills every day.

Tango Goemba Monastery Thimpu Bhutan 5429

All that said, the end point was spectacular… a Buddhist monastery perched high up in the mountains.

Tango Goemba Monastery Thimpu Bhutan 5476Tango Goemba Monastery Thimpu Bhutan 5443

The monks at the tranquil monastery were very kind…

Tango Goemba Bhutan

…they offered us a seat, a cup of tea and some snacks to enjoy whilst exploring the retreat.

Tango Goemba Monastery Thimpu Bhutan 5458Tango Goemba Monastery Thimpu Bhutan 5471

We were the only visitors to the monastery when we were there, I loved how quiet it felt and really appreciated watching the monks, swathed in deep reds, chatting and smiling. Here, they’re lining up during lunch recess, a simple meal consisting of a huge amount of red rice served with local vegetables and chilli cheese.

Tango Goemba Monastery Thimpu Bhutan 5491

I also liked the juxaposition between traditional values against objects signifying modern times. On the walk down from the monastery, I snapped this photo thinking it’s a monk meditating. Not long later, I saw that he was actually looking at his smartphone, using his robes to shade the LCD screen from the bright sun…!

Thimpu Bhutan 5506

We drove back to Thimphu, where we had a lateish lunch.

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General Post Office – Thimpu

Next, a brief stop at Thimpu’s GPO, famed for the ability to create postal stamps using photos of yourself. I actually wanted to pose sideways ABBA-style but Fatbee refused to cooperate… ha ha! We spent a bit more time than expected here because the computer system had a fit and ended up failing to print our stamps.

We ended up buying normal stamps here. Funnily, the postcards that we sent out to our friends and families took about 2-3 months to arrive.

Motithang Takin Preserve Thimpu Bhutan 5526
Motithang Takin Preserve – Thimpu

We next paid a visit to a reserve where Bhutan’s national animal – the Takin – is protected. They’re really gentle beasts that look like half-antelope half-moose… with fuzzy fur, trusting eyes and a docile temperament.

Motithang Takin Preserve Thimpu Bhutan 5530

I think if they made stuffed toys looking like these Takin… it’d take the world by storm!

Bhutanese Restaurant Thimpu Bhutan 5550

We ended our short time spent in Thimphu with dinner here. On this front, I can’t help feeling tickled by the adorably innocent way that the Bhutanese name their establishments.

For instance… this:

Thimpu Bhutan 5501

Ha ha ha ha ha!!

Thimpu Bhutan 5394
Thimphu Valley

Jokes aside, I’ll end my first instalment of my Bhutan travel photos here. Hope you’ve enjoyed it. I’ve decided to follow the ‘Bhutan way of life’ and share this trip at a more relaxed pace, recalling the silly stories and mishaps that happened along the way, and just having lots of fun sharing it with you!

Mystical Bhutan was written by Fatboo.
If you enjoyed reading this blog post, feel free to discover more at Let's Get Fat Together.

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Kaprica http://fatboo.com/2015/03/kaprica-pizza-carlton.html http://fatboo.com/2015/03/kaprica-pizza-carlton.html#comments Tue, 03 Mar 2015 06:45:09 +0000 http://fatboo.com/?p=20435 Kaprica by Fatboo

Cosy and unassuming Italian restaurant in Carlton with friendly prices and lovely gnocchis and tiramisu.

Kaprica was written by Fatboo.
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Kaprica by Fatboo

19-21 Lincoln Square
Carlton, VIC 3053
03 9639 6222
Facebook Page

Kaprica Pizzeria Carlton 6799

This unassuming little restaurant had been sitting in my radar for awhile. It’s consistently packed with diners and I heard it’s known for good, tasty pizzas at friendly prices. Part of the reason why I never paid a visit was because I tend to avoid crowded places… but little did I know that you could book!

Kaprica Pizzeria Carlton 6800

And that’s what happened… Melanie revisited Melbourne for her graduation ceremony and she organised a little gathering of 6 friends here because it’s one of her favourite pizza joints during her student days in 2014. I was more than happy to finally get to dine here.

Kaprica Carlton 1

Kaprica’s a very cosy restaurant with warm-wood tables, friendly waitstaff and menus scrawled on paper and then photocopied. After we ordered, the bread basket arrived. I thought the bread could’ve been softer and served warmer. Ambience-wise, I’ll have to say they played fantastic lounge music that evening… pleasant, not too loud but head-bobbingly catching… slightly reminiscent of Ku De Ta in Bali!

Kaprica Carlton 2
Prosciutto, Salumi 12

We started off with a couple of appetisers. I was slightly disappointed that the buffalo mozzarella with fresh basil and tomato wasn’t available that evening. All that said, this little platter of cold cuts also satisfied.

Kaprica Pizzeria Carlton 6807
Prawns, Chilli, Garlic Panfried 16

The other appetiser was a serve of panfried prawns. While I tend to prefer my cooked prawns to be more ‘meaty’ rather than ‘bouncy’, it was still pretty alright and I enjoyed dipping the breads in garlic-infused olive oil ‘sauce’.

Kaprica Pizzeria Carlton 6808
Mushroom Trio Deluxe Asiago 20

And of course we had to sample the pizzas. This offering of mushrooms was quite nice, although the cooking was a bit uneven where one half of the pizza was more chargrilled than the other half. And maybe I’m being a bit bandwagon-ish… but I thought that having a sprinkle of truffle oil with this pizza would’ve lifted its yum-factor even more.

Kaprica Pizzeria Carlton 6810
Pomodoro Prosciutto Mozzarella, Basil 20

And who could say no to more prosciutto? This pizza was well made…. it had a good crust and I liked most of the ingredients except I’ve been spoilt with the fresh hand-torn buffalo mozzarellas (both local and Italian-sourced) used at D.O.C. Here, it was more cooked and hence more firm-chewy (like in most pizza places) as opposed to fresh, milky-soft and curd-like.

Kaprica Pizzeria Carlton 6812
Gnocchi Pomodoro Buffalo Mozz 20

On the upside, some of the non-pizza dishes were lovely… in particular this pillowy soft gnocchi in a lovingly light fresh tomato sauce. In this case, I didn’t mind the textural contrast of having a bit of chewy (and tasty) mozzarella cheese in this dish.

Kaprica Pizzeria Carlton 6811
Fettucine Clams Garlic Chilli 20

Our final shared main dish was fettucine alla vongole, which had good flavour but was on the oily side for my liking.

Kaprica Pizzeria Carlton 6813
Tiramisu $9

We ended our meal with a lot more wonderful chatting over two shared serves of tiramisu.This dessert was good.

Kaprica Pizzeria Carlton 6801

I think the quality of the food at Kaprica is better than many of the Italian places along Lygon St, and the pricing’s more affordable indeed compared to having a meal at my current benchmark pizza place: D.O.C. (we spent $25 pax at Kaprica).

But over the years, the cost of the pizzas here have risen from $17 to $20 for a large pizza, closing the price gap against DOC where its (slightly larger) pizzas range between $20-$24.9. What this means is I’d rather fork out a few more dollars to have a pizza at D.O.C. because I personally prefer the pizzas there.

Kaprica was written by Fatboo.
If you enjoyed reading this blog post, feel free to discover more at Let's Get Fat Together.

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New Year Dumplings http://fatboo.com/2015/02/duck-mushroom-dumplings-chinese-new-year.html http://fatboo.com/2015/02/duck-mushroom-dumplings-chinese-new-year.html#comments Sun, 22 Feb 2015 02:06:57 +0000 http://fatboo.com/?p=20497 New Year Dumplings by Fatboo

Partook in a friend's (Northern Chinese) family tradition of making dumplings together for Chinese New Year. Loved it!

New Year Dumplings was written by Fatboo.
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New Year Dumplings by Fatboo

Chinese New Year this year fell on Thursday the 19th of February. It’s a period where my friends and families back in Singapore would’ve been having steamboat reunion dinners on the eve and doing the customary round of visitations on the 1st day itself… with the concomitant sumptuous surfeit of food and beautiful snacks such pineapple tarts, bak kwa, kueh bangkit, century eggs and love letters.

Duck Mushroom Dumplings Recipe CNY 7026

By contrast, things are a lot quieter for those of us who are living overseas… but here’s what I got up to on the first day of CNY. Fatbee and I basically celebrated it by experiencing my friend’s (Castletime) way of celebrating the Lunar New Year in Northern China – by making dumplings!

Duck Mushroom Dumplings Recipe CNY 4
Castletime’s pork and coriander dumpling filling (he also made pork and Chinese cabbage filling)

During the lead up to this gathering, Castletime asked if we’d like to make dumplings because he really missed how his family would make them together back in his wintry home in Harbin. I was very excited about the whole thing because I’d only made dumplings twice before and remembered how fun and social it tends to be. We agreed to each pick a filling and then get together on the day itself to make the dumplings together.

Duck Mushroom Dumplings Recipe CNY 6982
Roast duck, shiitake mushrooms, ginger, coriander

For my filling, I eventually decided on using duck and mushrooms (such a Melbournian combo!). After a quick Google Search, I took inspiration from this recipe and this recipe… then decided to just fudge my way into making my own version of the fillings. And that’s the beauty of Asian cooking, it’s instinctual… for me at least!

Duck Mushroom Dumplings Recipe CNY 6985

It wasn’t really hard at all, and the longest step involved chopping the ingredients into little pieces. In terms of proportions, I used:

200g of chopped roast duck (make sure you include the yummy skin!)
65g of chopped shiitake mushrooms
1 tbsp grated ginger
2 tbsp chopped coriander
1 tbsp sesame oil
1 beaten egg
A dash of dark soya sauce
A few shakes of white pepper
Salt to taste (I didn’t use any)

It turned out to be a somewhat small amount of filling and ended up making 20-25 dumplings at most. So if you’d like to make more dumplings, double or triple the recipe!

Duck Mushroom Dumplings Recipe CNY 6Duck Mushroom Dumplings Recipe CNY 6990

The festivities were held in Castletime and Beanstalk’s cosy Art Deco apartment… complete with their precocious and very photogenic Abyssinian cat. To help boost our CNY dumpling-making spirit, we started off by snacking on a couple of doughnuts from Short Stop.

Duck Mushroom Dumplings Recipe CNY 1

Castletime was in charge with the preparation of the dumpling dough. He used plain flour, water, salt and an egg. On this front, I can’t give a recipe for the homemade dough because his family basically told him to make it by ‘feel’ as opposed to using exact quantities of ingredients. But a quick google search will probably lead to many recipes for dumpling dough.

Duck Mushroom Dumplings Recipe CNY 6996

And that’s how our sweatshop-like operation began. After an initial skills assessment, we each fell into the roles most suited to us. Beanstalk cut the dough into even pieces, Fatbee flatened the dough into neatish circles, Castletime rolled the dough flat and I pleated the dumplings.

Duck Mushroom Dumplings Recipe CNY 2

The pleating and folding turned out to be the most challenging step, but I suppose my previous experience with making dumplings helped.

Duck Mushroom Dumplings Recipe CNY 3

I was pretty surprised I remembered how to pleat the dumplings after so many years… all I needed was a brief review of the steps and variations involved with the help of this YouTube video. Because there was quite a bit of flour lining the skins, we dabbed a bit of water on the edge of the skins (using our fingertips) to help the edges stick together.

Duck Mushroom Dumplings Recipe CNY 7009

We were very happy with the result of our efforts and made quick work out of the whole thing, spending less than two hours making a hundred or so dumplings. Back home in Harbin, Castletime’s family would normally keep the folded dumplings on their balcony where (in the winter cold) they’d chill nicely before cooking them later in the day. Of course in Melbourne’s Summer heat, we stored our dumplings by putting them in the freezer instead.

Duck Mushroom Dumplings Recipe CNY 7028

Cooking the dumplings was very easy. Just boil them for 10 minutes or so till cooked, stirring constantly to make sure they don’t stick to each other or against the pot. Castletime tells me that you can also pan fry them (frozen) over medium heat with a little bit of oil, shaking the pan to make sure they don’t stick to the bottom. There’s even variations of pan-frying where you add water and cover, allowing the steam to cook the dumplings.

Duck Mushroom Dumplings Recipe CNY 5

And here’s our intimate Chinese New Year meal for four… in the style of Castletime’s family tradition. Homemade dumplings with a couple of simple-but-delicious side dishes and homemade chilli oil. For our dipping sauce, we used either soya sauce or Chinese black vinegar with a dash of sesame oil.

This was a marvellous meal. The only thing that wasn’t as good was the thickness of the skins… because as amateurs, we were afraid that rolling the skins too thin would make them burst during cooking. All that said, I was very happy with the idea of eating the results of our earnest efforts.

Taste-wise the filling within our freshly made dumplings definitely tasted better than what you can get in the frozen section at the Asian grocers, it also trumps what you can get at many of the dumpling places in Melbourne. All that said, we noted that the fillings, while fresh and tasty, could be a little bit juicier… so next time, we’ll try to moisten the filling a bit more by adding a bit of water or stock.

Duck Mushroom Dumplings Recipe CNY 7030
Prosperity 大吉大利
Palm sugar, coconut, white chocolate, mandarin orange, firecracker chocolate bits, chocolate tart
Kuma
Cookie, more hot chocolate, strawberry, banana, white chocolate milkshake mousse, caramel, chocolate tart

For sweets, we veered away from the traditional Chinese goodies and shared a couple of tarts from T by Luxbite. It was a very good end to our meal.

Duck Mushroom Dumplings Recipe CNY 7027

I’d like to thank Castletime for inviting me to this wonderful dumpling-making adventure. The communal aspects of making dumplings together really captured my heart and I can see why it is such a treasured ritual within his home in Harbin.

For the first twenty years of my life, I only had one concept of how Chinese New Year is celebrated – quasi Peranakan-style with my half-Nyonya half-Hokkien extended family back in Singapore. It is only when I’m living overseas that I get to see and experience how families from other parts of the world celebrate the same much-cherished festival. And for that I’m very very thankful.

New Year Dumplings was written by Fatboo.
If you enjoyed reading this blog post, feel free to discover more at Let's Get Fat Together.

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Tana Cafe http://fatboo.com/2015/02/tana-cafe-hawthorn.html http://fatboo.com/2015/02/tana-cafe-hawthorn.html#comments Sun, 15 Feb 2015 04:10:43 +0000 http://fatboo.com/?p=20466 Tana Cafe by Fatboo

Cosy cafe in Hawthorn with light, thoughtfully crafted brunch dishes made with underlying Japanese sensibilities.

Tana Cafe was written by Fatboo.
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Tana Cafe by Fatboo

36 Church St
Hawthorn, VIC 3022
Facebook Page

Tana Cafe Hawthorn 6869Tana Cafe Hawthorn 6850

Fakegf and I brunched here on a chilly Thursday morning in Summer. We liked the idea of having matcha lattes and light, Japanese-influenced dishes as an alternative to the usual Melbourne brunchscape of bacon and eggs. The space was small and very cosy, with friendly staff and artfully mismatched chairs.

Tana Cafe Hawthorn 6852

The menu is light, vegetable forward and healthy… where local and Western ingredients are put together to create tasty, thoughtful dishes with underlying Japanese sensibilities.

Tana Cafe Hawthorn 6856
house made sweet green tea matcha latte $4

I admit I was curious about this place mainly because of the matcha lattes, it’s just something so different. This drink came gentle, frothy and mildly sweet. Fakegf really enjoyed it, while I found it on the rich side and the whiffs of matcha that I got kept reminding me abit of seaweed… ha ha! I wonder if I’d enjoy this drink more if it was made with soy milk…

Tana Cafe Hawthorn 6857
vegetable burger $11
avocado, boiled egg, mashed potatoes, tasty cheese, tomato, apple sauce, caramelised onion, lettuce, alfalfa, beetroot and dukkah

I grabbed a vegetable burger that arrived audaciously tall and cheeky, making me burst into laughter at how impossible it’d be for me to bite into that.

Tana Cafe Hawthorn 1Tana Cafe Hawthorn 2

But that predicament was quickly solved with a gentle downward push, which led me into compressing the impertinent little thing into something a lot more manageable. Tastewise, this vegetable burger was wonderful, light and balanced. The buns came crisp and speckled, and I loved having avocado, mashed potatoes and boiled eggs as my ‘patty’ as opposed to something dense and “lentil-ly”.

Tana Cafe Hawthorn 6859
organic tofu salad $12
organic silken tofu, lettuce, raisin, walnuts, sesame and soy beans served with house made japanese ume (pickled plum) dressing

Fakegf picked a silken tofu salad, with initial reservations about the presence of raisins in it. But what arrived was, once again, a thoughtfully crafted dish that tasted beautiful. Everything worked together so well and while I’m normally not a fan of Japanese ume (pickled plum), the salad dressing was done so lightly and nicely here that, in my morning blurness, I kept blurting out “OMG… I love the marination!!!”.

Tana Cafe Hawthorn 6868
croque monsieur $7.50
miso flavoured bechamel sauce, tasty cheese, ham, caramelised onion, whole grain mustard and sourdough toast

We were still slightly peckish after our smallish mains, so we decided to share Tana’s version of Croque Monsieur. It’s a good and simple offering… I’d happily snack on that. However, we mainly tasted the cheese and mustard while the gentle hints of miso in the bechamel sauce were lost in the mix.

Tana Cafe Hawthorn 6848

This was a very enjoyable brunch session with dishes that are wholesome and clean… which appeals to my palate nicely. I’m more than happy to come back.

Tana Cafe on Urbanspoon

Tana Cafe was written by Fatboo.
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Wantilan Bali http://fatboo.com/2015/02/wantilan-bali-hawthorn.html http://fatboo.com/2015/02/wantilan-bali-hawthorn.html#comments Sun, 08 Feb 2015 06:40:41 +0000 http://fatboo.com/?p=20452 Wantilan Bali by Fatboo

There's only two Balinese restaurants in Melbourne. I enjoyed my meal here. Gentle flavours, fragrant herbs, superb sambal.

Wantilan Bali was written by Fatboo.
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Wantilan Bali by Fatboo

571 Burwood Rd
Hawthorn, VIC 3122
03 9819 9280
Website

Wantilan Bali Hawthorn 6841

Fatbee normally has a catchup dinner with his ‘family’ of friends every few months, and I was pretty excited when last December’s venue of choice was this Balinese restaurant in Hawthorn. When dining with them, I knew that the menu would be completely taken off my hands (score!) and I’d have a table full of food-guides to tell me what’s authentic and what isn’t.

Wantilan Bali Hawthorn 6821

If any of you have been following me, you’d know that 2014 has been the year of visiting and revisiting Bali, with Fatbee as my guide. It isn’t surprising that I’ve become quite a fan of that holiday destination.

First thing I’d noticed when stepping into this place was the complex and hypnotic chime-riddled Balinese music playing in the background, I was immediately transported back to my halcyon days back in that island, making me almost blurt out loud “where’s my colourful cocktail and beach sunset??”.

Wantilan Bali Hawthorn 6824
Urab Bali 15.50
cabbage, snake beans, bean sprout, and corn tossed in sambal and turmeric coconut

And so we embarked on our Balinese meal… Melbourne edition.

The first dish was a (hard-to-describe) salad entree of sorts dressed in a gentle sambal and rounded off with the unique flavours of fresh turmeric and coconut. This dish turned out to be the favourite dish amongst my Indonesian companion diners.

Wantilan Bali Hawthorn 6834
Seasonal Plecing 16.50
seasonal vegetable tossed in Bumbu Merah and shrimp paste (Ask our staff for seasonal vegetable)

Continuing with our vegetarian dishes, next was what I’d call the Balinese version of sambal kangkung (water convolvulus). I fell in love with the gentle-yet-pungent sambal used here and it probably was my favourite dish for that night.

Wantilan Bali Hawthorn 6833
Ubud Style Chicken (spicy) 19.50
shredded chicken, green beans tossed in tomato sambal and terasi

Ubud… the cooling and culturally heartwarming highlands in the middle of Bali. Just the suggestion of  that place makes me smile. This dish turned out to be a shredded chicken salad of sorts with fragrant spices and a slight sweet-and-tangy twist.

Wantilan Bali Hawthorn 1
Sambal Wantilan 5 | Steamed jasmine rice 2.5pax

We also ordered a few extra serves of homemade Balinese sambal, which I must say tasted wonderful. All that said, many of the main dishes we’d ordered also came with various types of sambal, so ordering extra serves wasn’t that necessary when dining here.

Wantilan Bali Hawthorn 6826
Gede’s Suckling Pig 24.50
slow roast pork mixed with bumbu genep, served with urban, spicy sausage, black sausage, pork crackling and coriander

And here’s Wantilan Bali’s version of Babi Guling (roast suckling pig). From my previous descriptions of what we’d eaten, you can already guess what the flavour profile is probably going to be. Yup… once again it was gentle and tasty with a very unique push of fresh turmeric. And that’s one thing I’ve noticed about Balinese cuisine, it tends to be subtly fragrant with its use of herbs and spices.

Wantilan Bali Hawthorn 6836Wantilan Bali Hawthorn 6837
Grilled Ribs: Pork / Beef / Mix 32.50
marinated in our spices, char grilled with bumbu kecap, served with salad and tomato sambal

We also had a huge serve of grilled pork ribs gloriously caramelised with Indonesian kecap manis (sweet soya sauce). I tend to steer away from savoury dishes that have too much sweetness in them, but many of my Indonesian food companions that night loved it (because –> kecap manis). I have to concede that the meat was fall apart soft.

Wantilan Bali Hawthorn 6838
Wantilan Crispy Duck Confit 29.50
half a duck, fried, served with snake bean and corn urab

Our final dish was the Indonesian version of crispy confit duck.

Wantilan Bali Hawthorn 2

This was a contender for dish of the night for me because it came superbly crispy on the outside (just like ayam goreng) while being succulent and flavoursome on the inside. And the best thing was it came with a punchy serve of drool-worthy homemade sambal.

Wantilan Bali Hawthorn 6842

There aren’t many Balinese restaurants in Melbourne. In fact, I think we only have Warung Agus in West Melbourne and this restaurant here. (Bali Bagus on Franklin St, while pretty good, isn’t really Balinese food).

Despite the shortage of this cuisine in Melbourne, I’m happy to say that Wantilan Bali does a very good rendition of that gentle and beautiful island’s cuisine. And if you don’t believe me, all you have to do is just ask the five Indonesian food companions that I dined with that night!

Wantilan Bali on Urbanspoon

Wantilan Bali was written by Fatboo.
If you enjoyed reading this blog post, feel free to discover more at Let's Get Fat Together.

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Charlie & Co. Burgers | Raan Kan Eang http://fatboo.com/2015/02/charlie-co-burgers-raan-kan-eang-melbourne.html http://fatboo.com/2015/02/charlie-co-burgers-raan-kan-eang-melbourne.html#comments Thu, 05 Feb 2015 05:00:09 +0000 http://fatboo.com/?p=20383 Charlie & Co. Burgers | Raan Kan Eang by Fatboo

Twin post covering a couple of cheap eats around the CBD. It wasn't that great, making me wonder if quality's different when dining over the festive season.

Charlie & Co. Burgers | Raan Kan Eang was written by Fatboo.
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Charlie & Co. Burgers | Raan Kan Eang by Fatboo

Charlie & Co. Burgers

Level 3, Store 60
Melbourne Emporium
287 Lonsdale St
Melbourne, VIC 3000
03 8609 8136
Website
Charlie & Co Burgers on Urbanspoon

I confess I’m starting to enjoy blogging using iPhone photos instead of lugging my big camera around. Silly enough, it tends to make me feel as if the ‘stakes are not as high’… and it corresponds with this #nofilter approach to just saying what’s in my mind without prior thought (sometimes to rather comical and outcomes). But bottom line is, it makes blogging a bit more fun once again.

Charlie  Co Burgers Emporium 3618Charlie  Co Burgers Emporium 3624

This visit to Charlie & Co. happened during the holiday period around Christmas last year when all the CBD brunch spots I wanted to luxuriate at were shut for Christmas. Knowing that there were many (still open) options within Melbourne Emporium, we braved the holiday crowds and had a simple lunch there before we joined the shopping fray.

Charlie  Co Burgers Emporium 3625
Charlie’s Fish Fingers Burger 12.5
Battered fish fingers, cheese, garden leaves & tartare sauce

Unfortunately the chicken burger (which sounded delicious) wasn’t available that afternoonm so Fatbee got the fish burger instead. The photo doesn’t give you a sense of scale, but it was a large burger. Taste-wise it was alright but on the dry side, perhaps more sauce (or dressing?) would’ve helped.

Charlie  Co Burgers Emporium 3626
True Blue Aussie Burger 14.5
Wagyu patty, bacon, egg, cheese, tomato, beetroot, pineapple, caramelised onion, garden leaves, aioli & BBQ sauce

I love my beetroot and pineapple with my burgers, hence this choice. Once again it was a pretty hefty serve, meaning I had to eat it ‘deconstructed’ because my mouth just can open that wide… hah! As delicious as this looked, I found the meat patty itself on the salty and dense side, making it taste like an a large, squashed and over-seasoned meatball. So Wagyu or not, the patty did not hit the mark for me as I’d prefer it a lot juicier and with less seasonings so as to enjoy the quality of the beef.

We had our meal with Fatbees’s favourite accompaniment to burgers – onion rings. While it came crisp and hot, he wasn’t that enthused by it. Perhaps we should’ve tried the parmesan and truffle fries.

Charlie  Co Burgers Emporium 3620

While we have heard good things about Charlie & Co. Burgers, our visit did not quite hit the mark for us that day. But I suppose it’s just a matter of personal taste… we just prefer our burgers drippier and juicier.

Raan Kan Eang Thai Melbourne 3689

Raan Kan Eang

417-419 Elizabeth Street
Melbourne, VIC 3000
Website
Rim Thang on Urbanspoon

The good thing about Christmas and New Year period is you get to try new places because your old favourites (like Rose Garden BBQ Shop) are closed. The bad thing is your experiences at the new spots may not necessarily correlate with how the place usually is, because service and staffing at most restaurants tends to be a bit pared-down during this festive season (my workplace included!). We had quite a few bad meals during this period and in retrospect, if work wasn’t so mind-numbingly busy, I should’ve made the effort to cook at home.

Raan Kan Eang Thai Melbourne 3690

Either way, we decided to try this Thai eatery just a few doors down from Rose Garden. It used to be called Rim Thang Thai, but it’s now a subshoot of Thai Culinary, a pretty yummy Thai eating spot just a short stroll away.

Raan Kan Eang Thai Melbourne 3697
Thai spicy boat noodle $8.50

Perhaps they were short staffed because of the holidays, but service was incredibly slow that day, and Fatbee’s boat noodles arrived way ahead of my dish. Worse yet, it was only after his noodles arrived that the waittress came apologising that my own choice of noodles (the Kway Jub) wasn’t available. So by the time my dinner arrived, Fatbee had finished his meal, which is a pet peeve of mine… not having our food arrive at the same time.

Raan Kan Eang Thai Melbourne 3705

Quibbles aside, the boat noodles here was a very unusual dish. It had a lot of sweetness and a very musky (almost smelly) aftertaste to it. I hear it’s the pigs blood that’s classically added to this particular dish, so while we appreciated that it’s possibly authentic here, it was a touch too strong for us to enjoy. We’d previously had the boat noodles at Jinda Thai and it was a lot more edible there… nice and beefy-brothy without that strong almost offal-like smell to it.

Raan Kan Eang Thai Melbourne 3702
Sukhothai Noodle $8.50

My alternative noodle dish of choice was just a hastily picked item from the menu. It turned out to be a mix bag of fish cake, sliced pork and meatballs in a rice noodle soup.

Raan Kan Eang Thai Melbourne 3704

My dish was a lot easier to eat because the soup didn’t have that unusual aftertaste. All that said, I found the soup very strongly seasoned with sweetness and sourness.

I think a proper visit to this place is needed before a call can be made, with us ordering the less adventurous one-dish rice items on the menu – which is what we’d normally get at Thai Culinary. But based on our experience with the soup noodles here (and in previous trips to Bangkok), I think I’ve come to the conclusion that I’m not that big a fan of Thai-style noodle soups… mainly because of the hefty presence of sweetness in the soups. I prefer my soups more nuanced, or spicier.

Fakegf Hae Mee Noodle Soup 3769

This post sort of ends the long one and a half month spell after my Bhutan trip where I had absolutely no mood to cook. What changed it all was when Fakegf invited me to a homecooked meal at her place – she cooked hae mee (prawn noodle soup), and it was so damn delicious and cleansing (compared to the oily, salty food outside) that it made me start cooking at home again. I’m so glad I have friends that help inspire me back to the correct pathways of life.

Charlie & Co. Burgers | Raan Kan Eang was written by Fatboo.
If you enjoyed reading this blog post, feel free to discover more at Let's Get Fat Together.

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Ajitoya – Japan’s Kitchen http://fatboo.com/2015/02/ajitoya-japans-kitchen-seddon.html http://fatboo.com/2015/02/ajitoya-japans-kitchen-seddon.html#comments Sun, 01 Feb 2015 07:45:13 +0000 http://fatboo.com/?p=20351 Ajitoya – Japan’s Kitchen by Fatboo

Cosy Japanese restaurant in Seddon with home-style Japanese dishes cooked and served with pride.

Ajitoya – Japan’s Kitchen was written by Fatboo.
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Ajitoya – Japan’s Kitchen by Fatboo

82 Charles St
Seddon, VIC 3011
03 9687 1027
Website

Ajitoya Japan Kitchen Seddon 5094

After years of sitting in my wishlist, I finally made it to this quaint little Japanese restaurant in Seddon. Castletime and Beanstalk met up with me for dinner here during the week where Fatbee was away. It isn’t a big space up front, but thankfully there was a courtyard at the back with more tables.

Ajitoya Japan Kitchen Seddon 0

Ajitoya’s meant to be a Japanese home-style kitchen serving simple fare for Melbourne’s West. The menu is pretty extensive… with donburis, udons, sobas and a lovely range of izakaya-style shared dishes. At the time of visit, the menu also had some rather quirky but strong Operational Notes telling guests not to “play drums with your chopsticks”, that “kids are a very welcome part of our shop, aloof parents are not” and “if you don’t like something, that’s totally ok, just don’t post it online”.

Ajitoya Japan Kitchen Seddon 2
たこ焼き Takoyaki $10
Osaka style ball shaped things, diced octopus inside, ajitoya sauce, mayo, red ginger, nori flakes, katsuobushi flakes – so yum!

Either way, the three of us decided to share all of our dishes, and we started off with a serve of octopus balls that came piping hot with crisp outsides. I liked how the insides were soft and milky-melty with umami laden nuggets of octopus pieces.

Ajitoya Japan Kitchen Seddon 5073
エビの天ぷら Prawn Tempura $14
Crispy tempura prawn with ajitoya green tea salt and dipping sauce

Next up came a serve of prawn tempura, which once again came delightfully hot and crispy. It was interesting to have it with the matcha salt, but I’d have preferred it with the lighter and slightly sweeter dipping sauce that usually comes with tempuras.

Ajitoya Japan Kitchen Seddon 5079
豚の生姜焼き Pork Shogayaki $10
Thinly sliced pork, lightly pan fried with onion and ginger sauce
定食 Teishoku Bento (add $7) – rice, miso soup, salad 

We next had a serve of pan fried sliced pork made up into a bento set with rice, miso soup and a light salad. The miso soup here was lovely and homemade. The pork was nice and succulent, but I wouldn’t have minded if it was slightly sweeter and less salty to help balance the flavours out.

Ajitoya Japan Kitchen Seddon 5080
冷やしきつね Cool Foxy Soba/Udon $13
Fried sweet tofu strips, wakame (seaweed), tempura puffs, on cold noodles with a pour over sauce

We next shared a serve of cold soba noodles. It came lightly seasoned and the soba noodles had a nice bite. I enjoyed the marinated pieces of tofu strips and the scatter of tempura puffs gave it a nice textural crunch. A perfect noodle dish on that warmish 29ºC Summer evening.

Ajitoya Japan Kitchen Seddon 1
唐揚げ Karaage $10
Home made deep fried chicken. Outside crunchy, inside squishy

We also shared a serve of deep fried chicken pieces, which came (yet again) nice and crispy hot. My companions weren’t that excited about it, but I liked how succulent the insides were.

Ajitoya Japan Kitchen Seddon 9
黒ごまアイスBlack Sesame Ice Cream $5
抹茶パフェ Parfait $11
Desert jumbled madness

Our meal ended nicely with serves of green tea and black sesame ice cream for Castletime and Beanstalk, while I had a massive serve of parfait. I’m becoming a fan of Japanese parfaits because the presence of sugar-frosted cornflakes gives it a nice crunch along with a sweet and savoury component to the dessert.

Ajitoya Japan Kitchen Seddon 5072

Overall it was a pretty pleasant meal that we had here. Portion sizes are nice and petite, allowing you to sample more dishes, which is how I like to have my meals. I also liked how most of the fried dishes came fresh, hot and crispy.

My only slight quibble is the strongly worded Operational Notes on the menu… I was a bit “???” about it. After some thinking, I suspect some customers may think it as being a bit passive-aggressive, but from my perspective I see it as a family establishment that’s quite personally attached to its business. Looking at it from another perspective, you could say it’s a reminder that we all should learn to be less rude to people in the service industry.

ajitoya on Urbanspoon

Ajitoya – Japan’s Kitchen was written by Fatboo.
If you enjoyed reading this blog post, feel free to discover more at Let's Get Fat Together.

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Addict Food & Coffee http://fatboo.com/2015/01/addict-food-coffee-fitzroy.html http://fatboo.com/2015/01/addict-food-coffee-fitzroy.html#comments Sun, 25 Jan 2015 08:18:38 +0000 http://fatboo.com/?p=20419 Addict Food & Coffee by Fatboo

Winsome brunch spot in Fitzroy with good coffees and a tasty brunch menu.

Addict Food & Coffee was written by Fatboo.
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Addict Food & Coffee by Fatboo

240-242 Johnston St
Fitzroy, VIC 3065
03 9415 6420
Facebook Page

Addict Food And Coffee Fitzroy 6798

This brunch session happened shortly after my return from Bhutan, a trip that I’ve yet to even begin writing about! After weeks of oily-salty Asian food, Fatbee, Fakegf and I found ourselves desperate for clean, vegetable-laden Western fare. In short… I missed brunching out in Melbourne so dearly!

Addict Food And Coffee Fitzroy 1
Fresh Market Juice – Watermelon 5.5

That’s how we found ourselves here. This cafe came into prominence in our minds after seeing strings of Instagram photos filled with beautiful brunch dishes. That’s the power of social media… it can cause a lot of damage, but it can also do a lot of good. And I’m glad to say that within the context of food, we’re usually dealing with the good and happy things!

Addict Food And Coffee Fitzroy 6784
Single Origin Piccolo 4.3

I can be a bit picky with my coffees, and actually had a cup of Maling Room coffee at home before brunching here. But once I learnt that they used Market Lane beans here (my favourite roaster), I had to have a second cup of coffee.

This single origin Ethiopia Bulga piccolo was a bright and fruity drink with a smooth chocolatey finish, which contrasted nicely with Fakegf’s round-bodied and tasty seasonal blend.  Very nice.

Addict Food And Coffee Fitzroy 6787Potato hash & mushroom duxelles w roasted field mushroom, a poached egg & caramelised onion 18.0

My companions picked the same dish that day – a small but tasty mushroom number served with a crisp and delicate piece of potato hash.

Addict Food And Coffee Fitzroy 2

It was a delicious dish, but for that price point Fatbee thought the serving size was a touch small… he was still hungry after this meal.

Addict Food And Coffee Fitzroy 6791
Corn fritters w kasundi, haloumi, poached eggs & a coriander & mizuna salad 18.0

I also went vegetarian with corn fritters that came crisp on the outside and moist on the inside with hints of herbs and spice.

Addict Food And Coffee Fitzroy 6794

It went well with the milky haloumi and I liked how the kasundi sauce and sprigs of coriander gave a light and perky counterpoint to the dish, preventing it from being too filling or heavy.

Addict Food And Coffee Fitzroy 6779

It’s really nice going back into the brunching game in Melbourne. Just being away for two short weeks has made me miss the brunch fare in our fine city so much! This cafe serves good coffee and I think the dishes are well executed too. And now it’s time to hunt for my all-time post holiday craving… grilled asparagus and poached eggs!

Addict Food and Coffee on Urbanspoon

Addict Food & Coffee was written by Fatboo.
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Sushi Hotaru http://fatboo.com/2015/01/sushi-hotaru-melbourne-train.html http://fatboo.com/2015/01/sushi-hotaru-melbourne-train.html#comments Thu, 22 Jan 2015 08:50:30 +0000 http://fatboo.com/?p=20405 Sushi Hotaru by Fatboo

Cheap and cheery sushi train shop in Chinatown, Melbourne CBD. The variety of items on offer is staggering, with most of them priced at $3 a plate.

Sushi Hotaru was written by Fatboo.
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Sushi Hotaru by Fatboo

Shop 118, Level 1
MidCity Arcade
200 Bourke Street
Melbourne, VIC 3000
03 9663 7538

Disclosure: I was given a $40 voucher to sample the selections at this restaurant

Sushi Hotaru Train Melbourne 6880

There aren’t that many sushi trains in Melbourne and this place had been on my radar for sometime. It’s known for its huge variety of items on offer and very affordable prices, where the vast majority of the items are priced at $3 per plate. Late last year, I received an invite asking if I’d like to sample this place and review it, and seeing that it syncs with what’s on my wishlist – I agreed. I received a $40 voucher to spend at this restaurant and we visited here on a Monday night in Summer.

Sushi Hotaru 01

On arrival, the place was packed with a sizeable queue of hungry diners waiting outside its glass sliding doors. Once seated, you’re pretty much left to your own devices and there isn’t much by way of introduction by the waitstaff on how the system works. It was slightly disconcerting at the start, but the truth is everything’s already there for you. Your chopsticks, napkins, sauces on the table… a constantly moving sushi train streaming an endless variety of little eats that you can pick to your heart’s desire… and a touchscreen iPad system for you to order drinks and specific dishes that aren’t on the revolving train. For the less tech savvy amongst us, there’s also a card menu with all the dishes on offer.

Sushi Hotaru 04Sushi Hotaru 05
Seaweed Salad $3 | Black Sesame Latte $5.50
Miso Soup $2.50 | Lobster Salad $3

Fatbee swiftly embarked on our meal before I even had a chance to figure out my blogger’s game plan for that night, leading me on a mad dash to snap photos of all the plates of food he’d lifted from the sushi train within minutes of us sitting.

We started off with two types of gunkan sushi, where the rice is wrapped with a strip of nori (seaweed). They were okay and not the freshest offerings of sushi I’ve had. To go with our meal, Fatbee had a cup of black sesame latte (it was like a thin milkshake with good levels of sweetness) while I imbibed on a rather watery bowl of subpar miso soup.

Sushi Hotaru 02
Assorted Sashimi $7.90

We continued with a mandatory serve of sashimi which came at a slightly more premium price tag, along with complimentary packets of instant wasabi that can be found stacked in bowls on the sushi train. While I appreciated how the cuts of fish came quite generous, I once again found it lacking in freshness. The maguro akami (Bluefin Tuna) in particular had a not-that-pleasant fishy smell.

Sushi Hotaru 03
Wagyu Beef Tataki $3 | Prawn $3

We next explored the nigiri sushi selections, both of which were just o-kay. By this point, we both decided that perhaps it’d be wiser to steer clear of the raw sashimi-type offerings and stick with the cooked and fried offerings at this restaurant.

Sushi Hotaru 06
Eel with Cream Cheese Roll $3 | Eel Nigiri $3

These items were a bit better. First up, a rather unusual roll that contained unagi (freshwater eel) and cream cheese in it, and then a simple unagi nigiri sushi. I did not mind the cooked unagi in both of these rolls.

Sushi Hotaru 07
Soft Shell Crab with Tartar $3 | Soft Shell Crab Roll $3

The soft shell crab hand roll (ordered via the touchscreen system) turned out to be the best dish we’d had that night. It came hot and crispy and I liked the generous wrapping of nori around it. The other version was also alright, but not as lovely as the hand roll. I should also point out that I quite liked the sushi rice served at this joint, it had a nice (discrete yet sticky) texture and was decently seasoned.

Sushi Hotaru 08
Takoyaki (Octopus Puffs) $3 | Agedashi Tofu $3

These were our last two dishes before we were completely stuffed. Once again, I liked how the takoyaki came crisp and hot, and chuckled a little at the unceremonious placement of that packet of sauce on the plate. The agedashi tofu, however, did not hit the mark for me because the sauce was a bit too oily for my liking.

After so many plates of food, one touch of the screen alerted the waitress to count our stack of empty plates and tally our bill. Seeing that our meal ended up costing us $45.90 ($5.90 after using the restaurant voucher), you could say this place has to be one of the most affordable sushi restaurants in Melbourne with a big menu to boot.

While I wasn’t all that enthusiastic about the offerings, I believe one should look at it objectively and understand that you can’t expect a WOW plate of sushi if you’re forking out $3 for two pieces! To put things in perspective, a good Japanese meal for me usually costs upwards of $45 per person and you often leave still hungry.

I think this place will suit students, casual eaters and those who aren’t that fussy with their sushi. And if you’re smart and know what to pick from the huge menu (ie. the non-raw dishes), you probably can have quite a good meal here at a fantastic price.

Sushi Hotaru on Urbanspoon

Sushi Hotaru was written by Fatboo.
If you enjoyed reading this blog post, feel free to discover more at Let's Get Fat Together.

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Dinh Son Quan • Bun Ta • I Love Dumplings http://fatboo.com/2015/01/dinh-son-quan-bun-ta-i-love-dumplings-footscray.html http://fatboo.com/2015/01/dinh-son-quan-bun-ta-i-love-dumplings-footscray.html#comments Sat, 17 Jan 2015 22:55:13 +0000 http://fatboo.com/?p=20368 Dinh Son Quan • Bun Ta • I Love Dumplings by Fatboo

A casual series of the cheap eats that Fatbee and I have been exploring on our lazy work-week nights. Why cook when we can feast like kings so cheaply?

Dinh Son Quan • Bun Ta • I Love Dumplings was written by Fatboo.
If you enjoyed reading this blog post, feel free to discover more at Let's Get Fat Together.

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Dinh Son Quan • Bun Ta • I Love Dumplings by Fatboo

Đinh Sơn Quán

17 Nicholson St
Footscray, VIC 3011
03 9689 3066
Dinh Son Quan on Urbanspoon

I’m pushing out this quick compilation post of recent cheap eats that Fatbee and I have been exploring. I’ve been blog-lazy lately and all the photos here were taken with my iPhone… which correlates closely with our ‘relaxed’ approach towards eating on a day-to-day basis just to subsist on our working days without having to stress about cooking.

Dinh Son Footscray 3598

I confess part of this change in food priorities has to do with this time of year. Summer is like a madhouse at my workplace, which means photo-editing and blogging takes second spot until I get a bit of a breather.

Dinh Son Footscray 3590

Either way, Fatbee and I have a soft spot for Footscray as our weeknight cheap eats spot. It’s but a 5 minutes drive from home plus parking’s free and widely available in the nighttime, with many many eating options available within walking distance. While Richmond is a valid alternative, I personally find the difference in quality not big enough to warrant facing the heavier traffic getting there (not to mention the difficult parking).

Dinh Son Quan sits in a corner of my favourite Asian wet market: Little Saigon. In my culinary worldview, the dingier looking the place, the more likely you’ll be getting an authentic feed. And Dinh Son fits that bill perfectly. It’s a Chinese-Vietnamese restaurant with a takeaway side enterprise with oodles of delicious looking unfamiliars sitting on bain marie trays enticing market-goers.

Dinh Son Footscray 3591

But we decided to have a sit-in meal that night. After we ordered, we could hear the uncle out the back blasting up his giant wok and frying our meal up. Not long after, two plates of rice arrived, to which we promptly sent one plate back… because look at that crazy mountainous serve of rice!! It’s obviously geared more towards Australian-sized stomachs… but for Fatbee and I, we’d probably only have ⅓ of that amount of rice for most of our meals (unless the accompanying dishes includes my ultimate weak spot – roast duck!).

Dinh Son Footscray 3592
Sườn Heo Rang Muối $12.00
Spare Ribs Pork in Spicy Fine Spice Sauce

Fatbee picked deep fried spare ribs as our meat dish, which came in a hefty serve with lots of flavour.

Dinh Son Footscray 3595
Rau Cải Xào Tàu Hủ $9.00
Combination vegetable with Bean Curd

I picked our vegetable accompaniment, which turned out to be a mountain of bean sprouts and chives stir-fried with semi-firm squares of tofu.

Dinh Son Footscray 3589

The food at Dinh Son isn’t spectacular, but the prices are very friendly and the servings huge. We could not finish, took the leftovers home and got ourselves two more boxes of takeaway dishes from the bain marie. All up, our dinner (with the takeaways) set us back $35, and it fed us for 2-3 more meals. That’s almost as cheap as cooking at home (albeit less healthy).

Bun Ta Footscray 3714

Bun Ta

108 Hopkins Street
Footscray, VIC 3011
03 9687 4130
Facebook Page
Bun Ta on Urbanspoon

On another lazy weeknight, we headed back to Footscray for another cheap feed. This time trying out a newish joint located just a few doors away from Sapa Hills. I noticed that this lot has seen the turnaround of a few Vietnamese joints that did not quite make a mark in the scene on Hopkins St. But Bun Ta seemed to be drawing a bigger crowd than previous ventures.

Bun Ta Footscray 3715
Chả Giò Thập Cẩm $8.00
Combination spring rolls

Fatbee wasn’t too hungry that evening and had an uncomplicated serve of crunchy spring rolls. I liked how the fresh greens served with it did not come still dripping wet from washing (a pet peeve of mine when dining at Vietnamese eateries).

Bun Ta Footscray 3716
Bún Thịt Nướng $10.00
Rice vermicelli with grilled pork 

Being summer, I went with a classic Bun Cha with grilled pork. It satisfied me because the pork was succulent and it had a nice chargrilled flavour.

I find that when it comes to Footscray, how new or slick a joint looks like does not necessarily correlate with the food becoming inauthentic. The quality’s still good here, with the slight difference in that portion sizes may be smaller and the customer demographic tends to be a bit more Western… plus they drink wine with their meals.

I Love Dumplings Flemington 3724

I Love Dumplings

297 Racecourse Rd
Flemington, VIC 3031
03 9372 5218
Website
I Love Dumplings on Urbanspoon

Our final spot for this post is an eatery in Flemington that has revamped its image over the years and eventually hit upon a winning formula. This place used to be called Chinese Spicy & Barbie Kitchen, with an eclectic menu of interesting Chinese dishes including several grilled offal offerings.

I Love Dumplings Flemington 3732

Over the years, they clued-in that Melburnians can’t get enough of dumplings and (thanks to Dainty Sichuan) they also love their Sichuan fare. So they changed their concept into a dumpling-focussed enterprise with an accompanying huge menu of Sichuanese all-star dishes that had made Dainty so popular. The final adjustment towards success was the name change from “Chinese Spicy Barbie Kitchen” into something a lot catchier. On this note, I wonder if they took inspiration from I Love Pho 264.

Our visit here happened shortly after they’d moved a few doors down to this larger store space, in fact we came here for dinner on New Years Day! The interior is a lot less gaudy-quirky than what it used to be back in the old premises.

I Love Dumplings Flemington 3734
Steamed pork dumplings with Sichuan chili sauce (15pcs) $9.8

It was a warmish day, so we did not go overboard with our ordering. Just a simple serve of chilli dumplings which had a lovely juicy filling but came rather spartan in the chilli oil condiment department. That small teaspoon dab of chilli oil on top of it all is just sooo scaredy-cat for a dish that’s supposed to be spicy! All that said, I enjoyed these dumplings.

I Love Dumplings Flemington 3735
Deep fried eggplant with sweet chilli sauce, carrot and coriander $16.8

We also decided to sample one of our favourite Sichuan dishes – namely the fish fragrant eggplant. The version here was below par because there was a lot of batter covering the jenga-like sticks of eggplant (too thick!) and the sauce was cloyingly sweet and tomatoey without any spice.

I Love Dumplings Flemington 3726

The menu at I Love Dumplings is pretty massive and we’ve barely touched the surface on what this place offers. However, I have been visiting Chinese Spicy & Barbie Kitchen over the years and in general, I tend to find that the flavours have progressively been toned down to suit local palates, which is a trend that I’ve also seen happening at Dainty Sichuan in the past 3-4 years. I think that’s such a pity, but on the business front, based on how busy it was when we’d visited, this is what works in Melbourne.

The other Sichuanese dishes in the menu still looks very delicious (thanks to good food photography) and I may give this place another go, next time with a bigger group of heavy eaters. But if I’m visiting this place for a quick and easy feed, I’ll probably just stick with the dumplings, which (based on previous visits) tends to outshine the other dishes. And on a final note, thank goodness they didn’t name this joint into “I Love Dumplings 297″!

Dinh Son Quan • Bun Ta • I Love Dumplings was written by Fatboo.
If you enjoyed reading this blog post, feel free to discover more at Let's Get Fat Together.

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Shakahari Too http://fatboo.com/2015/01/shakahari-too-vegetarian-south-melbourne.html http://fatboo.com/2015/01/shakahari-too-vegetarian-south-melbourne.html#comments Tue, 13 Jan 2015 06:57:47 +0000 http://fatboo.com/?p=20337 Shakahari Too by Fatboo

Casual Vegetarian restaurant in the sleepy suburb of South Melbourne with particularly delectable desserts.

Shakahari Too was written by Fatboo.
If you enjoyed reading this blog post, feel free to discover more at Let's Get Fat Together.

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Shakahari Too by Fatboo

225 Clarendon St
South Melbourne, VIC 3205
03 9682 2207
Website

Shakahari Too Vegetarian South Melbourne 5058

Prior to last year’s Bhutan trip, Fatbee left Melbourne a week earlier… leaving me behind to ‘fend for myself’. I moved back to my apartment… had Weet Bix for dinner, looked at the four walls and started panicking. I next sent SOS texts to my friends and organised catch up dinners for the rest of the week so that I won’t have to “Weet Bix” it again.

Shakahari Too Vegetarian South Melbourne 5060

That’s how Damo and Eric agreed to have a catchup meal with me at this vegetarian restaurant.

As for our choice of venue, while Eric still enjoys his meat, Damo has shifted his culinary preferences towards vegetarianism. On this front, I’m becoming a bit like that as well… until I have a plate of bacon or roast duck in front of me, where I’ll slide backwards into a meat-guzzling gremlin. Yeah… I’m only human!

Shakahari Too Vegetarian South Melbourne 1LASAGNE CONCHITA (dairy) – 22.0
Rustichelle d’Abruzzo lasagne sheets (Italian) layered with dark olives, kale, couscous and walnuts, and sweet corn, shredded pumpkin and chia seeds. Served with herb roasted root vegetables and salad greens and tomato sauce.
MUSHROOM AGNOLOTTI (vegan, non-dairy) – 15.5
Individually made saucer-like dumplings filled with cup and portobello mushrooms textured with quinoa flakes. They are pan-fried with herbal oil, laced with balsamic reduction and chilli oil. 

We each picked a main and then proceeded to share all of our dishes. The minced meat in the lasagne has been replaced with lots of couscous, giving quite a bit of fibrous weight to the dish. Presence of sweet corn made this main dish lean towards the sweet side, which was something I wasn’t that keen on.

The mushroom dumplings turned out to be a hybrid of sorts, where crisp fried Malaysian rotis came with chopped mushroom “duxelle” as its filling inside. It was drizzled with a vinegary balsamic dressing and the presence of chilli oil was mild.

Shakahari Too Vegetarian South Melbourne 5062
CROQUETTES QUINOA (vegan, non-dairy, gluten-free) – 20.5
Crunchy patties of steamed mashed yam, potatoes, roasted macadamia nuts, pickled turnips, diced vegetables and black quinoa. Served with herbal oil, tossed steamed greens, kim chee and a mild citrus red capsicum sauce.

These quinoa croquettes turned out to be the nicest of the three main dishes that we ordered. It reminded me a bit of Indonesian Perkedel (potato croquettes) but a healthier and slightly nutty version of it. I liked how the accompanying sauce came tangy and spicy, which cuts through the richness of the carb-heavy croquettes nicely. This dish came with a side serve of Korean kim chi.

Shakahari Too Vegetarian South Melbourne 5065
LEMONGRASS COCONUT CHEESECAKE (dairy) – 15.5
Lemongrass flavoured coconut and freash mascarpone set in a crusty biscuit base. It comes with reduced palm sugar and blue berries

We ended our meal with two shared desserts. This cheesecake was light and has a texture that reminded me of tofu or agar agar. I liked how it wasn’t too sweet and it came with a subtle hint of fresh lemongrass. Very nice.

Shakahari Too Vegetarian South Melbourne 5064
BLACK RICE AND SAGO PUDDING (vegan, non-dairy, gluten-free) – 14.5
Black rice and sago cooked in coconut and organic quinoa milk flavored with pandan leaves. Topped with caramelized coconut threads

And finally, we had a mixed pudding of black rice and sago. The rice gave what’s normally a soft sago dish a firmer texture and more fibrous bite, which I liked. The coconut and quinoa milk was also lovely and I believe they also used palm sugar to sweeten this dish, topped with delicious morsels of shredded coconut.

Overall, I wasn’t that enthusiastic about the main dishes that we had here… but I have to admit that the desserts at Shakahari were great.

Shakahari Too on Urbanspoon

Shakahari Too was written by Fatboo.
If you enjoyed reading this blog post, feel free to discover more at Let's Get Fat Together.

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Salero Kito Padang Restaurant – CBD http://fatboo.com/2015/01/salero-kito-padang-restaurant-melbourne-cbd.html http://fatboo.com/2015/01/salero-kito-padang-restaurant-melbourne-cbd.html#comments Mon, 05 Jan 2015 20:20:17 +0000 http://fatboo.com/?p=19847 Salero Kito Padang Restaurant – CBD by Fatboo

Finally found a great spot for Nasi Padang food from West Sumatra, Indonesia. My Indonesian companions gives this restaurant a big thumbs up!

Salero Kito Padang Restaurant – CBD was written by Fatboo.
If you enjoyed reading this blog post, feel free to discover more at Let's Get Fat Together.

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Salero Kito Padang Restaurant – CBD by Fatboo

Shop 18 (Tivoli Arcade)
235 Bourke St
Melbourne, VIC 3000
03 9639 7268
Website

Sometimes I think this blog should be renamed into “Let’s Go To Warungs Together”… heh heh! But what to do… once you’re with an Indonesian, it’s just natural progression that your food jaunts revolve more around Indonesian joints.

Not that I’m complaining… I LOVE the cuisine!

Salero Kito Nasi Padang Melbourne 4768

My first encounter with Salero Kito was a chance spotting of it’s original branch whilst stuck in traffic on the Princes Hwy. When I reached home, I exclaimed to Fatbee “OMG!! There’s a Nasi Padang place in Caulfield!!”.

Fatbee (with a sigh): It’s in Malvern East.

A number of weeks later, I suggested we try out the Padang place.

Fatbee: Okay, we can go to the one on Bourke St.
Me: *blink*… there’s a branch in the city??
Fatbee: Yes.
Me: Is it good?
Fatbee: Yes.

Salero Kito Nasi Padang Melbourne 4770

And so here’s what Fatbee has to deal with everyday… me being totally out of the loop with all the practical realities of life! But back to our meal itself. Fatbee and I met up with Angela here for a long overdue catch-up one Monday night. Salero Kito’s city branch is located at the back of Tivoli Arcade on Bourke St. It’s a no-frills eatery that’s particularly busy during work lunch time, but a lot quieter during dinner.

Salero Kito Nasi Padang Melbourne 4774

Like Norsiah’s Kitchen and Nelayan, the food’s all displayed on bain marie trays. I won’t go into cuisine subsets and origins, but once I looked at the food items on offer at Salero Kito, I knew that we were headed for a food experience that’s quite different. I’m talking about things like fried ox lung, jackfruit & cabbage curry, crispy beef jerky and lamb brain curry…!

Woohoo!! It’s like all my Sundays have come at once!

Salero Kito Nasi Padang Melbourne 4780

But trust the Indonesians to know which are the gold ticket items. Both Fatbee and Angela got the exact same combination of deep fried spicy fish, crispy beef jerky and gulai singkong (silver beet curry). And the few spoonsful that I sneaked from their plates tasted great! There was so much flavour to the fish, and a slight bitterness to the gulai singkong that it truly reminded me of the warung food experiences I had in Bali. And that beef jerky was like eating crispy potato chips!

Also take note of that little huddle of green sambal located at 6 o’clock on the plate – Fatbee and Angela told me that this is the classic Indonesian Nasi Padang sambal. So when you’re ordering and you’re asked which chilli sauce you’d like, go for the green one. I couldn’t get enough of this sambal!

Salero Kito Nasi Padang Melbourne 4778
Corn fritter, jackfruit and cabbage curry, spicy fried chicken $12

I decided to try some of the other items on offer that evening (along with a packet of Teh Kotak), and they also kept me very happy… with the jackfruit and cabbage curry reminding me of a variation of Sayur Lodeh, my favourite vegetable dish. And of course I’m never disappointed with Malaysian and Indonesian-style ayam goreng (deep fried chicken), where there’s minimal batter action but maximum flavour with a delicious dusting of turmeric.

Having a plate of rice with 3 dishes here sets you back $12, which is slightly more pricey than other joints, but still well within the range of my definition of cheap eats (where your meal has to be less than $15). And the amount of food you get is quite a lot actually, tempting me to bring a little take way container next time to siphon off part of my meal for the next day’s lunch!

And of course, the way of serving the food here is very different to how it’s done in a ‘real’ Padang restaurant in Indonesia, where they bring a million small plates of food to your table and you then eat from whichever plates you fancy and you’re only charged for what plates you eat from.

Salero Kito Nasi Padang Melbourne 4777

Angela went a step further by having Fatbee’s combination of dishes plus extra chicken curry… and I nearly fell off my chair when I saw that she finished everything! Our dinner here was completed within 10 minutes, and it was a case of “gobble up first, chat later!”. And Angela made me laugh when she exclaimed “OMG… it’s like Christma is happening right now!!”.

Salero Kito Nasi Padang Melbourne 4783

From my limited experience, I thought that my meal here was the closest to what I’ve enjoyed so much when eating in the Warungs of Bali. But I think it’s safer for me to just quote my Indonesian companions, who gives this restaurant a big thumbs-up, saying it’s probably as authentic as you can get to Indonesian Nasi Padang food within Melbourne. The only slight downside for me is how the tasty meats and fish are generally quite ‘cooked’ and firm here. If you’re visiting, don’t come here expecting that juicy succulent pre-brined fried chicken type of cooking that you’d expect from Western restaurants.

And do be warned… I hear that the range of selections here are excellent during lunch time, but there are evenings where some of the items have been sold out by dinner time.

Salero Kito Padang on Urbanspoon

Salero Kito Padang Restaurant – CBD was written by Fatboo.
If you enjoyed reading this blog post, feel free to discover more at Let's Get Fat Together.

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10 Things Travellers Should Know Before Visiting Bhutan http://fatboo.com/2014/12/top-10-travel-tips-bhutan.html http://fatboo.com/2014/12/top-10-travel-tips-bhutan.html#comments Sat, 27 Dec 2014 23:30:08 +0000 http://fatboo.com/?p=20278 10 Things Travellers Should Know Before Visiting Bhutan by Fatboo

Bhutan's a beautiful but frustrating country to travel in. Here's 10 travel tips (based on personal experience) for travellers planning to visit Bhutan.

10 Things Travellers Should Know Before Visiting Bhutan was written by Fatboo.
If you enjoyed reading this blog post, feel free to discover more at Let's Get Fat Together.

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10 Things Travellers Should Know Before Visiting Bhutan by Fatboo

It has been a few weeks since I got back from the Land of the Thunder Dragon. During this period, friends and workmates have been asking me “How’s your Bhutan trip?”. After a short pause, I often found myself replying “it was wonderful, but it was also tough”. Puzzled as to why this ended up as my post-Bhutan ‘slogan’, I started trying to figure out why this trip was different to the other trips I’d taken in the past… and that’s how this post came about.

Himalayas Bhutan 5266
Just prior to landing in Paro

In the end, I think that as much as I’d like to make it like it was a perfect holiday, I think it’s more useful just saying things as it is – both the good and the bad. Hopefully, my thoughts and observations will help other travellers level their expectations and be better prepared for their own trips to this extraordinary (but slightly exasperating) country.

Date Travelled: Nov 2014
Tour Group Size: 13 persons
Length of Trip: 10 days

1. Pricing’s steeper than an equivalent trip elsewhere

First up, be prepared to pay more for this trip than a similar holiday in another country. That’s mostly because the Bhutanese government mandates a minimum spend of US$250 per person per day for all tourists (US$200 during low season). This allows for low impact tourism whilst giving visitors a low volume / high quality experience. And unless you apply skilfully in writing to the government, you’ll almost have to visit Bhutan via a licensed Bhutanese tour operator (or an international partner). You can’t just grab a visa, fly in and explore the country on your own. This is why Bhutan’s considered one of the world’s most exclusive tourist destinations. Only 44,000 tourists visited in 2013, that averages at 120 visitors a day…!

The land cost for our 10-day trip in Bhutan was US$2200 pax (discounted because we were a largish group of 13). By comparison, my 8-day Myanmar trip back in 2011 cost us US$977 pax (including domestic flights) for a private group tour of 10. But before we start moaning, take note that out of this minimum spend, US$65 per person per day will be given to the government as a ‘sustainable tourism royalty’ to help fund for free education, healthcare, poverty alleviation and the building of infrastructure in Bhutan. I took a bit of comfort in the fact that a portion of our tour cost is being used to help the country and its lovely peoples.

With this minimum daily spend, you’ll be provided with all your meals, accommodations, a dedicated tour guide and driver, entry to all the places in the itinerary, and all transportation except domestic flights. So you end up spending not that much during your trip, actually most of my money was spent on booze to go with our meals and tips for the guide and driver.

2. Half the time, you’re about the only tour group around

One of the loveliest things about this trip will have to be how rare it was to see fellow tourists. On our very first evening when we visited Tashi Cho Dzong in Thimpu (the nation’s capital city), I was stunned that there were only a small scatter of a few other tour groups there. Even the most celebrated tourist destination in Bhutan, Tigers Nest in Paro, had at most 30-50 tourists inside the temple at any point in time. There were even some nights where we were the only tourists staying in our hotel!

Compare this to a visit to the Louvre in Paris, where getting near enough to Leonardo da Vinci’s Mona Lisa without needing binoculars can be a Herculean task, and you’ll start to really appreciate Bhutan’s focus on low impact tourism. This was also one of the few countries I’ve visited in Asia where the children don’t ask for ‘photo money’, and begging is almost non-existent here (it only happened to us once in Bumthang).

Tashichho Dzong Thimpu Bhutan 5366
Tashi Cho Dzong, Thimpu

In a nutshell, I was absolutely enchanted by how unspoilt this country was from the effects of tourism, and amazed at how happy the people of Bhutan were. Tips aren’t expected in restaurants and hotels, and I was also surprised to see that it’s the Bhutanese women who’d (with a big smile) offload our luggage from the bus and carry it to our rooms. Talk about culture shock!

3. Everything runs on Bhutan time

You’ll have to be patient in Bhutan. Even credit card machines need to go ‘ermmm…’ and think like crazy before accepting transactions… ha ha ha! When some of us wanted to change money in Paro, it took us ages filling up forms at the office counter. Our lovely tour guide’s bus ride estimates were also way off. We’d ask how long it’d take to get to a destination and he’d reply ‘3 hours’… in the end we’d discover that it’s more like 6 hours!!

More often than not, our guide did not give us curfews or time limits unless we had to be at a crossing at a very specific time of day. He’d just wait and let us take our time, allowing us to move on only when we’re ready. What this means is: in order to enjoy Bhutan, you may need to let go of your OCD timekeeping tendencies (on this front, I’m guilty as charged). Go at your own pace, follow the flow of the group, and don’t expect to see everything that’s listed on the itinerary.

4. Your tour is fully escorted, but very customisable

Continuing from the previous point, I’d like to point out that because you’re already engaged with a tour operator via the correct channels, you can actually tweak your itinerary to suit your preferences. Seeing that timekeeping may not be the Bhutanese people’s strongest suit, it may be useful to discuss with your guide which places in the itinerary you’d really like to see and which ones you’re happy to skip. For the most part, the suggested itinerary is a bit packed and you tend to miss out on a few places each day unless you move quickly and don’t take photos. So it’s better to establish with your guide which places you’re more keen on seeing.

For instance at around day 7, we actually veered away from the itinerary and visited a couple of places that only our guide knew about, including a visit to a local Bhutanese home in a village near Bumthang district. That was the highlight of my trip… for me, being able to glimpse into the daily lives of the locals is a lot more precious than constantly seeing impressive temples and fortresses. Likewise, we also asked our guide to let us roam the townships of Chamkar and Paro for an hour or so instead of seeing sights because we enjoyed having some free-and-easy time exploring settlements and watching the Bhutanese way of life.

Thangbi Village Bumthang Bhutan 6133
Thangbi village, Bumthang (loved visiting a local’s home here)

5. You could be walking lots and at high altitudes

Perhaps it was my lack of reading the tour itinerary on my part, but one thing that I wasn’t quite prepared for with this trip was how much walking / trekking it involved. Well… okay maybe only 3 out of the 10 days involved difficult uphill treks. The first one happened on day 2, where we climbed up a mountain towards Tango Goemba monastery. The hike was meant to take only an hour but we took nearly 2 hours because some of us suffered from altitude sickness and burning lungs.

But the toughest climb for most visitors in Bhutan will probably be the 900m ascent up to Tigers Nest – 3100m above sea level, which normally happens at the end of your trip as the (orgasmic) highlight. Fortunately, the entire group of us realised that we aren’t the fittest tourists around. So aside for Fakegf and The Angmoh, the rest of us all chickened out and rode horses up to the temple… ha ha!

Bottom line is, be prepared for a bit of hiking during your Bhutan trip even if your tour itinerary does not necessarily describe it to be so. And understand that a one hour hike may end up taking longer because of the high altitudes you will be trekking in. And most importantly, be medically prepared… bring altitude sickness pills and travel sickness pills (see below). It will make your trip a lot easier!

6. Driving in Bhutan is slow, windy and bumpy

I’ll come out and say it: THIS was the main reason why I had mixed feelings with my trip to Bhutan.

If you take a look at Bhutan on Google Maps… it is pretty much all mountains mountains mountains! Once you’re outside of Paro and Thimpu, the quality of the roads goes downhill very quickly. Some segments between cities were unpaved, and even travelling on sections of paved roads won’t guarantee a smooth ride. Considering it’s traffic in two directions, the roads looked only slightly wider than the bicycle paths back in Melbourne. There’s plenty of hairpin turns, bumps, potholes and scary vertical cliff drops. Cousin trouble and geek hubby who sat at the back of the bus flew a foot or two off their seats during the bumpiest parts of the ride. While the government is trying to upgrade the roads between towns over the next few years, I believe it will still be slow going because of the harsh terrain.

Out of our 10 days in Bhutan, almost 4 to 5 days were spent on these crazy roads from sunrise to sunset (albeit including stops to visit places). Our average bus speed was around 20-25km/hr. By day 6 to 7, I was pretty much over it and boarded the bus each morning with a feeling of dread. And even though I’m normally good with car sickness, I actually had to ask cousin trouble for travel sickness tablets a number of times because spending so many hours on these roads really did take its toll on me.

Punakha to Bumthang Bhutan 5791
Road between Punakha to Bumthang. Our luggage is stowed and tied up on the roof of the bus.

Personally speaking, my concept of a good holiday doesn’t exactly constitute cramming yourself into a small bus and traversing these impossibly tortuous roads for hours on end. But unfortunately, these are things that you don’t realise you’ll be experiencing on your holiday until you’re actually in the middle of the trip! The larger, more comfortable tour coaches that’s normally used in other countries are too large for the narrow twisty roads in Bhutan.

In retrospect, I’ve probably not travelled in a country that’s more mountainous than Bhutan aside for Nepal (where I did more trekking and had no bus rides anyway). We had a pretty similar type of smallish bus on our Myanmar trip, but the bus rides were shorter and the roads much straighter. So the combination of mountainous terrain, high altitude and long bus rides really made this trip to Bhutan tough. Looking back, I’m starting to think that Bhutan may be a wonderful country to go trekking in, where the bus rides will be kept to a minimum and the beautiful landscapes cranked to a maximum.

7. Smaller tour groups may be better

After a bit of post-holiday research, I learnt that in 2013, 81% of the tour groups visiting Bhutan consisted of groups of 4 or less people. The government’s minimum daily spend requirement means that the group size does not really change the per person cost of the tour that much (unless it’s a group of one or two persons where a US$30-40 daily surcharge applies). But what does change dramatically is the type of vehicle you’ll be travelling in. We got a bus while the smaller groups rode SUVs / Landcruisers.

The other thing about smaller groups is it’s much easier to reach a quorum with where you’d like to go and what you’d prefer to see in the itinerary. The tour pace will also be quicker because a SUV will travel faster than a 22-seater bus. The time saved can then be used to give yourselves a bit of itinerary “breathing space” (which I really missed in this trip), or you can use it to see more sights.

Again, I’d like to stress that these are things that you’d realise only after you’ve embarked on your trip to Bhutan. I am, in no way, complaining to cousin trouble… who worked so hard organising this trip and bringing 13 family members and friends together to experience this beautiful landlocked country. If we were travelling together in a different country, many of the unique challenges that are specific to Bhutan wouldn’t have even surfaced.

8. Consider taking domestic flights

Continuing with my thoughts around stomaching Bhutan’s arduous roads, how about travelling one way by road and the other way by plane? This helps cut down the travel time on the difficult roads, allowing you to see more places and at a more relaxed pace.

For my trip, our start point was Paro, where Bhutan’s only international airport resides. We rode the bus all the way to Bumthang and then rode the bus back to Paro. Seeing that there’s actually a thrice weekly domestic flight between Bumthang and Paro, you may want to (if your funds permit it) look into a tour itinerary that includes a one-way flight between Paro and the furthest point you’d be travelling to.

Gangtey Goemba Bhutan 6339
Gangtey Goemba

9. A trip length of 7 to 8 days may be enough

Another unusual thing I observed about Bhutan was how the architecture stayed very consistent across its districts… with colourful wood frames mathematically placed against white walls, thin intricate windows and square, gently sloping roofs. This traditional architectural style becomes strikingly recognisable across the entire country, but it also means that aside for spectacular changes in landscape, the dzongs (fortresses), lhakhangs (temples) and houses can start to look a bit repetitive.

By day 6 to 7, some of us were pretty much “dzonged-out” to the point where we’d rather just wander about a town, observing the Bhutanese way of life instead of visiting another architecturally impressive (but all too familiar) fortress or temple.

Again this is a retrospective observation, but Fatbee and I agreed that unless there were less bus journeys and more free / exploratiom time, a trip length of 7-8 days would’ve been perfect for us. It’s a time frame where you can still have that sense of awe and wonder with visiting the dzongs and lhakhangs in Bhutan. And you can leave the country with that intangible feeling of wanting to see juuust a little bit more.

10. Most of your meals will be buffet-style

This final dot-point about Bhutan is a cheeky tribute to cousin trouble’s biggest trouble with Bhutan – the food… OMG the food… ha ha ha! She may have survived the crazy crazy roads much better than myself, but by day 5, she started having problems with the meals that were provided for us.

All our meals in this trip were included in the tour cost, and 95% of them were buffet-style, with the lunches and dinners usually featuring about 6-8 different types of vegetable dishes and one meat dish… all sitting in bain marie trays. (Breakfast was more Western but again served as a buffet). We’d normally have our dishes with steamed red rice and chilli cheese (pickled chillies in a light cheese-based sauce). Problem is, due to Bhutan’s cold climate, there’s a tendency for the cuisine to have quite a heavy presence of butter and oils in many of the dishes. And in terms of seasoning, it usually revolves around soya sauce and oyster sauce, and at some places it can be crazy salty!

Rinchenling Lodge Bumthang Bhutan 5987
Buffet lunch selections at Rinchenling Lodge (Bumthang)… one of the better lunches we had out of the whole trip

I was fine with the food at first, but once a few of us made some observations about the monotony of the dishes, a group cascade effect soon followed. I eventually started avoiding the ubiquitous trays of (often overcooked) broccoli / mustard leaves / carrots /cauliflower fried in loads of oil and soya sauce. I also started to miss being able to go a la carte with my meals. It reached a point where we ended up taxiing into town and buying Bhutanese pizzas (unfortunately with truckloads of cheese) for dinner on day 8 and had Malaysian food on day 9!

All that said, our tour guide was wonderful enough to allow a small menu change request, and some of our meals further down the track also included a platter of raw peeled carrots (ie. oil and salt-free)… which many of us savoured like it was the best thing in the world!!

Conclusion

Before I end, I’d like to emphasize that this post isn’t about pinning the blame on the country or anyone in particular. It is more about seeking to understand why I found this trip frustrating. To put things into better perspective, let me say that I treasured the time that I spent with my cousins (and friends) on this trip. And I’m deeply thankful to cousin trouble for organising the trip and looking after the well-being of the entire group right through the 10 days. I also appreciated how attentive and responsive our tour guide was to our needs and how skilful our driver was. I admit that I started getting quite cranky from around day 6-7, but that’s mostly to do with the long, uncomfortable bus rides than the people I was travelling with.

I acknowledge that my recent experiences with luxury travel in Bali this year could have turned me into a bit of a more difficult-to-please holidaygoer. Cousin trouble even gave me a metaphorical slap in the face when I spoke (without thinking) and compared the discomforts of this trip to backpacking. Whoops… ha ha ha!

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Cheeky Bhutanese kids wobbling a suspension bridge like crazy while I was trying to cross it

In the end, I think it all boils down to the dollar value that you put into having a unique experience in an unspoilt country with its idiosyncrasies, its happy residents, and with very few fellow tourists. Your satisfaction will also depend on your ability to tolerate some pretty tough drives and the occasional mediocre hotel (Bhutan’s version of 3-stars isn’t quite international standard).

I still think it’s definitely worth visiting this perplexing country, just do so with an open mind and a bit of extra planning. Hopefully this post will help you with some of the decisions for your trip. If your budget permits it, I think going as a smaller group, adding a domestic flight into the itinerary and perhaps upgrading to better hotels will help a lot.

It has now been a month since my visit, and I’m starting to forget the discomforts of the trip. Meanwhile, beautiful insights from what I’d seen are starting to come to the surface… and I feel ready to start collecting these memories and turning it into a trip journal.

10 Things Travellers Should Know Before Visiting Bhutan was written by Fatboo.
If you enjoyed reading this blog post, feel free to discover more at Let's Get Fat Together.

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Gyoza Douraku http://fatboo.com/2014/12/gyoza-douraku-japanese-bar.html http://fatboo.com/2014/12/gyoza-douraku-japanese-bar.html#comments Mon, 22 Dec 2014 20:00:51 +0000 http://fatboo.com/?p=20308 Gyoza Douraku by Fatboo

Japanese Gyoza Bar in Melbourne CBD with an extensive menu of dishes, all priced at $6.50 per plate. Loved the variety here.

Gyoza Douraku was written by Fatboo.
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Gyoza Douraku by Fatboo

147 Bourke St
Melbourne, VIC 3000
03 9650 5225
Website

Gyoza Douraku Japanese Bar Melbourne 5057

Fatbee and I caught up with Lorena and Jerri just before we departed for Bhutan. The venue of choice was this Gyoza Bar that I’d never heard of before.

Gyoza Douraku Japanese Bar Melbourne 5055Gyoza Douraku Japanese Bar Melbourne 1
Oriental Twist (600ml) $18.90

And I’ll have to say I’m glad they picked this place. The interior was simple and charming and we found ourselves in a little enclosed ‘booth’ to dine in. The extensive menu’s pretty cute in that all the dishes are priced at $6.50 each and it comes as small shareable portions, bringing to mind the word “Japas” – Japanese Tapas… ha ha!

Gyoza Douraku Japanese Bar Melbourne 5028
Tilapia Sashimi with Ponzu sauce

We whetted our appetites with a platter of tilapia sashimi… my first time eating tilapia, if I may add. The flesh had a stringy texture and it could’ve been a bit fresher.

Gyoza Douraku Japanese Bar Melbourne 2
Kaisen Harumaki | Fried Chicken Gizzards

The kaisen harumaki was like a spring roll made with a noodle-like pastry and filled with seafood. It had a good crunch. We also had a delightful serve of freshly deep fried chicken gizzards, it was both crispy with a nice resilient bounciness to the gizzard flesh.

Gyoza Douraku Japanese Bar Melbourne 5030
Soft Shell Crab Burger (2pcs)

Next up was the dish of the night for me… crispy pieces of soft shell crab sandwiched between soft and fluffy milk buns. You have to order this if you visit.

Gyoza Douraku Japanese Bar Melbourne 5039
Tuna Tataki

Our next dish was thin slices of pan seared tuna that, interestingly, tasted almost like beef sashimi. It was quite good, although I’d have preferred if the sweet miso dressing was served on the side so as not to overwhelm the flavour of the tuna.

Gyoza Douraku Japanese Bar Melbourne 5036

Seeing that we’re dining in a gyoza bar, it’s no surprise that an entire tray of gyoza sauces and condiments arrived. Loved the ‘ninja bear’ jar that held the soya sauce! The condiments included sesame oil, sesame seeds, chopped garlic, chilli oil and white vinegar.

Gyoza Douraku Japanese Bar Melbourne 3
Pork & Garlic Gyoza (6pcs) | Ebi, Buta & Yasai Soup Gyoza (prawn, pork, veg)

We sampled two types of gyoza, one was pan fried and the other was served in a soup. Both were pretty enjoyable, but I was particularly smitten by the delicious broth (we picked shoyu) that came with the soup gyoza.

Gyoza Douraku Japanese Bar Melbourne 4
Tori no Karaage | Salmon Yukki

These two dishes were less exciting for me, with a bit too much batter and salt in the (rather dry) chicken karaage. The salmon yukki was an odd little salad of diced salmon with avocado, cucumber and deep fried wonton skins.

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Gyu Tan no Shio Yaki | Wafu Steak

As for the beef offerings, both were served on hot plates and I absolutely loved the gyu tan (ox tongue) because it came succulent and delicately seasoned. The wafu steak was pretty alright although I secretly wished it was a fattier cut of meat.

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Vegetable Korokke

Aside for the gyoza skins, there was a distinct lack of carbs right through this meal. So we made up for it with this final serve of vegetable and potato croquettes.

Gyoza Douraku Japanese Bar Melbourne 5
Traditional Mochi Parfait
Homemade green tea mochi, red bean, strawberry, roasted honey cornflakes & soy milk green tea soft serve

For dessert, we shared two serves of mochi parfait (my first time having this dessert). I found myself loving the textural contrast between crunchy pieces of cornflakes and the other components in the parfait. I also really enjoyed the soy green tea soft serve, but have to confess that the firm / rubbery texture of the cold mochi itself took a bit of getting used to.

Gyoza Douraku Japanese Bar Melbourne 5046

I enjoyed my meal here… I wouldn’t call the food spectacular but I loved the variety on offer. I also liked how the dishes came in small shareable portions at a friendly set price tag of $6.50 each. This meal cost us $33 pax including alcohol and dessert, and we left satisfied.

Gyoza Douraku on Urbanspoon

Gyoza Douraku was written by Fatboo.
If you enjoyed reading this blog post, feel free to discover more at Let's Get Fat Together.

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Short Stop Donuts | Gekkazan http://fatboo.com/2014/12/short-stop-donuts-gekkazan-gpo-cbd.html http://fatboo.com/2014/12/short-stop-donuts-gekkazan-gpo-cbd.html#comments Fri, 19 Dec 2014 22:00:31 +0000 http://fatboo.com/?p=20264 Short Stop Donuts | Gekkazan by Fatboo

CBD explorations. Today we visit Gekkazan - a simple Japanese lunch spot in Melbourne GPO and for sweets we sampled Short Stop - a delightful donut shack.

Short Stop Donuts | Gekkazan was written by Fatboo.
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Short Stop Donuts | Gekkazan by Fatboo

Gekkazan

Shop 28G
Melbourne GPO
Postal Lane
350 Bourke St
Melbourne, VIC 3000
Gekkazan @ GPO on Urbanspoon

My Melbourne existence often involves exploring what the CBD has to offer, partly because I’m currently living within walkable distance to town. But for some reason, we tend to not explore the newer / trendier spots. Instead of trying out places like Ruyi, Supernormal and Cumulus Up… we tend to end up with familiar places.

Gekkazan Melbourne GPO 5003

Sometimes it’s because we’re not hungry enough to justify spending more on our meals… or it’s because we aren’t in the mood for excitement, with an unspoken preference for places that comfort us with a more “lived-in” ambience. The day when we visited these two spots was an exception though… Fatbee loves his sweets and he popped into Short Stop on our way towards our lunch spot. And being a warmer day, I felt like having a lighter meal for lunch, hence our decision to revisit Kenzan GPO for a Japanese feed.

Gekkazan Melbourne GPO 5007
BENTO BOX 18.00
Special lunch box containing daily specials

Turned out Kenzan GPO no longer exists in that snug little alleyway called Postal Lane next to GPO (which now houses H&M)… it has been renamed into Gekkazan. The concept is pretty much the same though, with a mostly sushi and bento-oriented menu geared towards the weekday lunch crowds. Fatbee picked the day’s bento lunch box special, which was a nicely balanced mix of healthy (and mostly vegetarian) Japanese eats. He enjoyed it.

Gekkazan Melbourne GPO 5009
SUKIYAKI DONBURI 14.90
Wagyu beef & vegetables in sukiyaki sauce, served with rice & daily specials

I went with a donburi, choosing beef because I have a soft spot for the light and slightly sweet sukiyaki sauce. At the price point, I’ll have to say it’s a pretty massive tub of food… I almost could not finish! It was a pretty good feed except the tasty sukiyaki beef was a touch overcooked and the rice was on the soft and clumpy side.

Gekkazan Melbourne GPO 5011

While I wouldn’t rate the food at Gekkazan as the best around, we were satisfied. Presentation was very pleasing and the portion sizes were generous.

Short Stop Donuts Melbourne 2

Short Stop

12 Sutherland St
Melbourne, VIC 3000
Website
Shortstop Coffee & Donuts on Urbanspoon

Instagram has been afire with lots of interesting little dessert spots specialising in scrolls, croissants, smoothies, froyo, doughnuts and more. Short Stop piqued our curiosity in particular, they serve Market Lane Coffee here and I hear the donuts tend to be sold out by Midday!

Short Stop Donuts Melbourne 4998

That’s why we popped by here to get our sweets first before going for lunch. And as evidenced by the succinct menu, this was the first time I’d learnt that there can be different types of doughnuts. We took home three types to sample.

Short Stop Donuts Melbourne 3
Peanut Butter & Jam $5.00

For the filled type, we decided we probably can’t go wrong with peanut butter and jam. The bread was half-fluffy and half-dense with a slight stoneground wholemeal texture to it.

Short Stop Donuts Melbourne 5022

I liked how they used real peanut butter instead of a sweet sweet PB icing, and it balanced nicely with the slightly savoury bun and the tart jam filling.

Short Stop Donuts Melbourne 5017
Earl Grey & Rose $4.50

This flavour combination piqued our curiosity and it turned out to be the cake type of donut. Once again, it isn’t your typical light and airy donut, the texture was denser and cakey indeed. The floral hints in it was delightful and I really liked how the tea-infused icing wasn’t too sweet.

Short Stop Donuts Melbourne 5019Australian Honey & Sea Salt $4.50

Our final type was a honey and sea salt scroll that came nice and buttery with a very perky hit of saltiness. In a way, this one reminded me of Chinese you char kway (oil fried dough), but with a stronger sweet and savoury taste to it. We thought this was a weirder donut and I’d have preferred if the honey and salt levels were lighter.

Short Stop definitely offers something very different to what other donut shacks have to offer. There’s a uniqueness to the texture of their donuts and I like how most of their donuts aren’t nauseatingly sweet.

Short Stop Donuts | Gekkazan was written by Fatboo.
If you enjoyed reading this blog post, feel free to discover more at Let's Get Fat Together.

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Bali Revisited, Part 2 http://fatboo.com/2014/12/jimbaran-rock-bar-potato-head-beach-seminyak-nasi-padang-bali.html http://fatboo.com/2014/12/jimbaran-rock-bar-potato-head-beach-seminyak-nasi-padang-bali.html#comments Tue, 16 Dec 2014 21:30:19 +0000 http://fatboo.com/?p=19972 Bali Revisited, Part 2 by Fatboo

Travel journal covering the restaurants, seafood & beach clubs in Bali. We visit Potato Head Beach Club in Seminyak, Rock Bar & Jimbaran Bay.

Bali Revisited, Part 2 was written by Fatboo.
If you enjoyed reading this blog post, feel free to discover more at Let's Get Fat Together.

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Bali Revisited, Part 2 by Fatboo

This post is the second instalment of a two part series covering my ‘recent’ trip to Bali with Fatbee in August 2014. If you’d like to start from the beginning of this trip, please read my previous post – Bali Revisited, Part 1.

Nyuh Bali Villas Seminyak 3908Nyuh Bali Villas Bubur Ayam 1

Nyuh Bali Villas

Jalan Bali Deli No. 99
Seminyak, Bali 80361
Website

We’ll continue where we left off with another poolside breakfast in our quiet villa. I went Continental while Fatbee had an amazing chicken porridge.

I’m a bit funny, but I love longer stays at hotels when we’re on holiday. That’s because it becomes my home away from home, my secret refuge, and a grounding pillar to protect me from the sensory overload of visiting too many new places and seeing too many new things.

Sederhana Nasi Padang Kuta Bali 1

Restoran Sederhana Masakan Padang

Jl. Bypass I Gusti Ngurah Rai No. 11 C-D
Kuta, Bali, Indonesia
+62 361 754875

With breakfast finished, the rest of the day stretched ahead of us. In the end, we decided to hire Kenny our friendly Balinese driver and venture out of Seminyak.

Our first destination was a lunch stop at a Nasi Padang restaurant.

Sederhana Nasi Padang Kuta Bali 2

Nasi Padang originated from the island of Sumatra, and this is the real way that Nasi Padang’s served in Indonesia. Once seated, a waiter arrives with a mountain of small plates of food and arranges them on your table like a culinary card stack. You then eat from whatever plate that looks good to you and you will be charged for whichever plates of food you eat from.

It’s a concept that probably won’t fly really well in Australia… what with our food hygiene laws, but I was almost speechless from astonishment with this way of dining. In fact, if there’s two pieces of chicken (or rendang) on a plate and you only eat one piece, you even get charged for just the one piece!

Sederhana Nasi Padang Kuta Bali 4061

This was such a fun meal for me as a newcomer to “The Ways of the Padang”, and it helped that the waiters working there were such a cheerful bunch of people too!

Intercontinental Hotel Spa Jimbaran Bali 4073

Spa Uluwatu

Intercontinental Bali Resort, Jimbaran
Website

We then spent the better part of the afternoon pampering ourselves with a 2.5 hour spa session at Intercontinental Hotel’s spa.

Intercontinental Hotel Spa Jimbaran Bali 4077Intercontinental Hotel Jimbaran Bali 1

We picked the pure indulgence package for couples (Rp. 2,200,000 for two), which included a foot bath, foot reflexology, Balinese full body massage, body scrub, lavender aloe body wrap (I felt like a human rice paper roll!), facial and flower bath. Once again, the masseurs did not bat an eyelid when saw they had two boys as their clients. That’s how amiable and open-minded the Balinese absolutely are across the board.

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Jimbaran Bay

After our spa package, it was close to sunset. We took a short stroll from the hotel compound onto Jimbaran Bay for our dinner. This area is famed for its affordably priced seafood restaurants where customers can dine right at the beach.

Cafe Made Bagus Jimbaran Beach Seafood Bali 1

Made Bagus Cafe

Jimbaran Bay
Jimbaran Kuta Selatan Badung, Bali‎
(0361) 701858

It was busy and full of visitors, but we picked a quieter restaurant closer to the outskirts. There, we sat down and had our dinner whilst watching the sun descend into the ocean horizon.

Cafe Made Bagus Jimbaran Beach Seafood Bali 4116Cafe Made Bagus Jimbaran Beach Seafood Bali 4126

I loved this meal not only because of its beachfront setting… the food was fantastic! Our set meal consisted of 1 lobster, 1 whole snapper, calamari, 6 king prawns, veggies, rice, chips and beer or wine each, and it ended up costing Rp.495,000 (A$49.50) for two! The seafood was grilled over coconut husk fire and served with a gentle but lip-smackingly good chilli sauce.

Cafe Made Bagus Jimbaran Beach Seafood Bali 4127

Just like my experience at Warung Sulawesi, this was probably one of the best meals we had out of the trip. It was also funny how the restaurants had to shift their tables further up the beach when the tide started rising as the evening progressed.

I remember a big (Russian?) guy insisting on having a table out at the front despite warnings from waitstaff, so he and his girlfriend stayed there while the tide crept closer. Half an hour later, a huge wave came nearly up to their knees and the girlfriend lost her flip flops… ha ha!

Rock Bar Ayana Jimbaran Bali 4134

Rock Bar

Ayana Resort
Jimbaran, Bali
Website

After dinner, we decided to visit Rock Bar at Ayana Resort in Jimbaran… you actually have to take a small monorail down to the cliff-perched bar. It was a very dramatic setting… with a bar counter facing the ocean and a DJ station that’s set atop a separate outcropping surrounded by the choppy sea.

Rock Bar Ayana Jimbaran Bali 4145

I’d say if you intend to watch (what I’d imagine to be) an amazing sunset here, come very early like around 4pm because it’ll probably be INSANELY busy, plus the hotel guests get priority with the monorail. Overall, I found this place a bit too ‘exclusive’ for my liking and the drinks were also pricier than the other beach clubs we’d visited so far.

Ku de Ta Breakfast Seminyak Bali 4179Ku De Ta Breakfast Seminyak Bali 1
Slush Puppy (coffee, chocolate & coconut water) 30
Huevos Rancheros with fried egg, black beans, avocado 85

Ku De Ta

Jalan Kayu Aya No. 9
Seminyak, Bali 80361
Website

We decided to shake things up a little the next morning and skipped the villa’s complimentary spread so that we could have brunch at Ku De Ta. Once again, I liked how they do their drinks here… my morning pick-me-up consisted of a deliciously icy coffee, chocolate and coconut water slushie. Fatbee had a berry protein blast smoothie.

Brunch here came at very friendly prices and we liked how quiet the beach club was in the morning. Having now been to a few beach clubs, I think Ku De Ta is probably my favourite Bali beach club. The music, drinks and atmosphere is solid and consistently good.

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The rest of the morning was spent exploring Seminyak’s main stretch of shops. We happened upon a colourful procession along the way, I wish I knew what the ceremony was about.

The Bistrot Vintage Lounge Seminyak Bali 4203The Bistrot Vintage Loung Seminyak Bali 1Mojito Royale 105

The Bistrot

Jln Kayu Aya 117
Seminyak, Bali
Website

While the weather in August was a lot cooler compared to our previous visit in April, this happened to be a warmer day than usual. Hence our decision to clamber off the streets and have pre-lunch cocktails at this vintage lounge.

The Bistrot Vintage Lounge Seminyak Bali 4219

This was close to the end of our trip already, so we were starting to feel a bit wistful. How quickly five days can pass!

Warung Aneka Rasa Seminyak Bali 1

Warung Aneka Rasa

Jl. Raya Seminyak (Jl. Oberoi)
Seminyak, Bali, Indonesia

For lunch, we shared a plate and a drink at a very local warung that’s smack in the middle of Seminyak’s otherwise upmarket high street. This warung probably caters to the locals working in the shops and hotels in the area. It was a good feed and our shared meal only cost us Rp.30,000 including drinks.

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Nyuh Bali Villas

The rest of the afternoon was spent doing what we love doing best when on holiday… NOTHING!

Potato Head Beach Club Seminyak Bali 2

Potato Head Beach Club

Jln. Petitenget
Seminyak, Bali 80361
+62 (361) 473 7979
Website

Our final sunset in Bali was spent at another hugely popular destination – Potato Head Beach Club… with it’s strikingly iconic frontage made of thousands of old, colourful window shutters. Even on a Monday, we had to queue up for 20mins or so and nearly missed the sunset.

I was sightly crestfallen to see that the inside did not quite have the same impactful theme as the front facade. But it still looked impressive as a large horseshoe-shaped construct facing the Balinese ocean like a coastal amphitheatre, with the setting sun as the final golden act.

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Prohibition Iced Tea 130
Vodka + Gin + Rum + Tequila + Orange liqueur + Earl grey tea-cola + Dry ice + Vodka-injected oranges

We found the cocktail menu very interesting, plus they’re presented playfully and at a friendly price tag. Fatbee’s awesomely named prohibition iced tea was served in a pot with dry ice vapours floating forth. Meanwhile, I had a bloody mary served like a Japanese dish… with chopsticks, soy sauce and pickled ginger (see below).

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Bloody Mary (with all the trimmings) 130

The crowd here was quite mixed probably because the complex had three restaurants in it, not to mention a few lounge-bars and a beachfront infinity pool. It got a little bit rowdy and annoying for me during sunset, but once dusk fell things became a lot more civilised here. And being the dork that I am… I started to just kick back, relax and read a book in this beach club!

Merah Putih Restoran Indonesia Seminyak Bali 1

Merah Putih

Jalan Petitenget No.100x
Kerobokan, Bali 80361
(0361) 8465950
Website

Indonesian food is almost always synonymous with it’s low-key warungs and cheap eats. A fine-dining Indonesian restaurant is almost unheard of, and that’s why Fatbee wanted to try Merah Putih on our final night here. This restaurant serves traditional Indonesian dishes with a modern and creative twist.

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Sambal 25 | Babi Guling Bumbu Kecap 170
Rawon Sum Sum 85 | Pecel 45

We had a good meal here, Fatbee said that the flavours were authentic and exquisitely done, albeit a little toned down. I think it’s funny that my first ‘proper’ introduction to Indonesian rawon soup and babi guling happened in a fine dining spot! All that said, I’m still very much a ‘culinary barbarian’ at heart and would’ve preferred trying these celebrated Indonesian dishes in the form of their humbler street-stall iterations.

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And thus ends yet another short getaway to Bali. It’s funny how in our previous trip, I mused about staying in busy busy Seminyak for its delightful food warungs and great restaurant scene should we decide to revisit Bali again. Who would’ve guessed we’d do exactly that a mere four months later!  It must be the friendly and gentle sensibilities of its people that really made me want to come back.

I now feel like a Bali veteran, but I think on future trips to this island I won’t stay in Seminyak right through. That’s because over and above the beach clubs, buzz, food and trendiness… I still treasure quieter holidays in faraway places more. Thankfully, Bali has many more districts that I have yet to explore, so I’m pretty sure a revisit will definitely happen in the (quite possibly near) future. Teeheehee!!

Bali Revisited, Part 2 was written by Fatboo.
If you enjoyed reading this blog post, feel free to discover more at Let's Get Fat Together.

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Pho Nom | Tan Thanh Loi http://fatboo.com/2014/12/pho-nom-tan-thanh-loi-footscray-emporium.html http://fatboo.com/2014/12/pho-nom-tan-thanh-loi-footscray-emporium.html#comments Sat, 13 Dec 2014 20:46:53 +0000 http://fatboo.com/?p=20245 Pho Nom | Tan Thanh Loi by Fatboo

Vietnamese food post covering a Pho shop in Melbourne Emporium (CBD), and an old-school Com Tam (broken rice) joint in Footscray.

Pho Nom | Tan Thanh Loi was written by Fatboo.
If you enjoyed reading this blog post, feel free to discover more at Let's Get Fat Together.

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Pho Nom | Tan Thanh Loi by Fatboo

Phở Nom

Store 33
Lwr Ground, Emporium
287 Lonsdale St
Melbourne, VIC 3000
Facebook Page
Phở Nom on Urbanspoon

We’ll cover a couple of Vietnamese eateries today that happened pre-Bhutan. One of them’s a pretty slick shop set in a CBD shopping mall while the other one’s old-style and in the burbs.

Pho Nom Melbourne Emporium 4970

One good thing about Melbourne Cup Day is how the city tends to be a lot quieter in the afternoon as the rest of Melbourne crams itself into Flemington for the races (just make sure you’re out of town before the race finishes and the celebration starts!).

Fatbee and I decided to spend that fine day doing a spot of shopping in the city, and our favourite mall has to be Melbourne Emporium, where they actually have some of our preferred international vendors like Topshop, Muji and Uniqlo.

Pho Nom Melbourne Emporium 4981

Even the food courts upstairs and in the basement have somewhat more ‘premium’ vendors like Dainty Sichuan Noodle Express, Earl Canteen, Jimmy Grants and I Love Pho Express. That afternoon, we decided to sample Pho Nom (in Emporium’s basement). This store has been receiving pretty good reviews from the foodie community. On arrival, I chuckled a little at the colourful pronunciation crash course telling you “IT’S FUR, NOT FOE”.

Like with most food court stalls, it’s pretty much self-service… order at the counter, grab a buzzer and return to the counter to collect your food when the buzzer blinks and rattles like a madman. Add your own herbs, spices and condiments before taking a seat and slurping to your hearts content.

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Sliced rare beef, brisket, meatballs

Fatbee went with what could perhaps be called Pho Nom’s version of Phở Bò Dặc Biệt – a combination soup with rare beef, brisket and meatballs… but here, it’s noticeably lacking the more adventurous items such as beef tripe, tendons and meat loaf.

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Sliced Wagyu sirloin

I went with Pho Nom’s specialty – Wagyu pho offered at a slightly more premium price. What arrived was a bowl of noodles and soup (you add the herbs and garnishing yourself), and in a separate bowl you are given six slices of raw Wagyu beef (see below).

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Fatbee’s Pho Bo Saigon | My bowl of sliced raw Wagyu

Overall, we found the MSG-free broth on the clean side with very mild hints of spice and a little bit lacking in the ‘beefiness’ department. I also found my broth a bit too salty for my liking, although I admit to having a pretty low tolerance for salt.

Fatbee’s broth was nicer because it came with the pieces of beef and meatballs in it, meaning his soup was slightly sweeter, beefier and better balanced overall. All that said, we both agreed that our pho did not taste ‘street’ enough.

Pho Nom Melbourne Emporium 4980

Fatbee’s slices of (non-Wagyu) beef were of pretty good quality, but sadly they were firm and rather overcooked when we dined there. As for my raw Wagyu offerings, I liked how it was served on the side and it did have good texture and flavour on its own. However, I thought the quality of the beef soon got lost inside the stronger flavours in the soup.

Pho Nom Melbourne Emporium 4982

I wanted to like Pho Nom. The quality’s there, but the concept, broth and its accompanying components did not quite strike a chord with us. If you ask me, I think MSG sometimes has a unnecessarily bad rap. I’d personally rather have some MSG in my broth than have a bowl of soup that’s too salty. All that said, I still think Pho Nom will suit those of us who prefer clean-tasting broths.

Tan Thanh Loi Footscray 3163

TÂN THÀNH LỢI

73 Nicholson St
Footscray, VIC 3011
03 9687 4886
Tan Thanh Loi on Urbanspoon

A few days later, we found ourselves in Footscray for our regular grocery shopping session. I was looking for lotus root to cook Fakegf’s Canto-style braised pork belly with lotus root dish, and for some reason all the Asian grocers that I visited in Melbourne weren’t selling fresh lotus root in November.

Tan Thanh Loi Footscray 3166

Dinner happened just around the corner from Little Saigon Market, at this old-school Vietnamese eatery that Fatbee heard was popular for its Com Tam (broken rice) dishes. I must say that sitting in there, I realised that I prefer this type of old-fashioned ambience than the refurbished and more glitzy joints in Footscray.

Tan Thanh Loi Footscray 3169Cơm Tấm Bì Sườn Chả Trứng $10
Broken Rice with Shredded Pork, Grilled Pork, Meat Loaf & Fried Egg

While it’s hard to not like broken rice as a Vietnamese dish, I’m glad to say that Tan Thanh Loi’s version exceeded my expectations. Our plates came with all the components piled on like a mountainous mess that, strangely enough, still managed to look very delicious to me. The grilled pork was nicely chargrilled and tasty, the fried egg came nice and oozy and I liked how our plates of rice came with a little side serve of (admittedly salty) soup.

I believe the enjoyment of food can be affected by the setting and circumstances that you’re eating the food in, and being in this snug little joint probably appealed to me more than eating in a sparkly food court. What’s served here isn’t fancied up or anything, you don’t get any of those big chunks of pickled carrot or pretty pretty garnishings and neat food-styling. Instead, it is just what it is… a simple, tasty and very ‘street food’ type of meal, which is probably the kind of food that I tend to prefer.

Pho Nom | Tan Thanh Loi was written by Fatboo.
If you enjoyed reading this blog post, feel free to discover more at Let's Get Fat Together.

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Burning Man http://fatboo.com/2014/12/burning-man-black-rock-desert-2007.html http://fatboo.com/2014/12/burning-man-black-rock-desert-2007.html#comments Wed, 10 Dec 2014 09:22:20 +0000 http://fatboo.com/?p=19883 Burning Man by Fatboo

Travel journal about Burning Man, a surreal festival of profound self-expression that I'd attended 7 years ago in the middle of Nevada desert, USA.

Burning Man was written by Fatboo.
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Burning Man by Fatboo

Further to my suspicion that this blog’s on the verge of being renamed into “Let’s Travel Together”, I’ve decided to share one of the more unique trips I’ve had in the past decade.

I still think that one of the loveliest trips I’ve ever had was a two-week trek in Nepal (circa 2004). But that happened during an era where I was still using a film camera and… *ahem* there’s no way I’m scanning the photos just to share them here!

Burning Man 2007 Black Rock City 123

Fortunately, this pilgrimage to a week-long festival smack in the middle of Nevada Desert happened back when I’d actually owned a (cheap) digital point-n-shoot. And I’m now so thankful that I’d taken photos back then, because I still think it’s one of the most surreal holidays I’d ever experienced!

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Enroute to Black Rock Desert, Nevada

It all started during my two year stint working in the UK on a Working Holidaymaker Visa… a visa that requires you to work for a maximum of one year only, meaning you’re meant to be on holiday (funds permitting) for the other year. I was in my 20’s then… with jet-black eyes, a strong jaw and a rugged complexion to go with my firm resolve to grab the frontiers of the world by its horns and wrestle it to the wind-beaten earth.

*koff*… okay I lie, let’s rewind…

I was in my twenties… yup yup… and sort of geeking away playing computer games in a small cottage located right above my workplace near the coast in Essex. I was in the rather forsaken (and introspective) position where you sort have to keep yourself occupied somehow, since you’re in a faraway country with very few friends. In between epic solo gaming sessions, I also knew that trips had to be planned for my non-work months, so I started looking into places to visit and people to holiday with.

Burning Man 2007 Black Rock City 50

I must say it helped that I was still a bit of an (already fading) tree-hugging hippie back then, with connections to the fire-twirling community in Singapore. Eventually… on a typically somber British evening, I’d started chatting with my friend Belinda in Singapore, who’d passionately described to me the details pertaining to a rather curious annual festival that happens in Nevada Desert in the US.

The event fascinated me and Belinda’s enthusiasm rubbed off on to me like a World of Warcraft Expansion Pack. And I can’t recall exactly how the ball got rolling, but we’d somehow managed to garner a small group of friends to organise and experience this festival together.

Burning Man 2007 Black Rock City 15

The festival is called Burning Man, it’s an annual week-long event that occurs around August in the middle of Black Rock Desert in Northern Nevada. And the year that I’d attended this event was 2007… that’s seven years ago!

I flew from the UK to San Francisco, stayed a couple of nights at a friend’s friend’s home in Menlo Park… we then loaded the U-Haul (trailer) and drove off into the heat-hazed horizon towards this mystifying ‘city in the desert’.

Burning Man 2007 Black Rock City 98

And so… that’s how THIS happened.

There I was… in a vast expanse of desert, dotted with some of the most surreal and incredible sights that my mind could never have imagined.

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Steampunk Treehouse – a world in which there aren’t any natural trees anymore

What’s happened here is… for that one week, an illusory city is erected in the middle of what (for the rest of the year) is normally a desert wasteland that’s devoid of life. And each year, there’s a different art theme. For 2007, it’s themed as “The Green Man”, where the installations and its participants explore issues around the environment and sustainability.

Just for that one week, a community of 50,000 people from all reaches of the globe comes together to form a polyglot of colour and life in the middle of a desert… transforming it into a temporary phantasmagorical city of experimentation, sharing, profound self-expression and self-reliance.

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Apocalypse Stagecoach – pulled by the four horsemen of the apocalypse

And all I can say is when you arrive here, be prepared to be unprepared… because you’ll encounter some of the most unexpected things on the playa (desert basin)… from Vietnamese noodle carts to a mythical stagecoach…

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… to random art installations that actually makes you stop in your tracks.

Burning Man 2007 Black Rock City 01

And of course, there’s also a ceaseless flow of innovation and playfulness too!

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But let’s talk a bit more about the logistics involved with this trip.

The desert is a harsh environment, you need to be prepared. When you’re attending Burning Man, you take to the desert everything that you’ll need to survive your stay… that includes all your food and water. That’s why we needed a U-Haul trailer. And likewise, you take back with you everything that you brought (even your waste), so that you don’t leave any signs of your presence in the desert (aside for footprints) once you depart.

Burning Man 2007 Black Rock City 103

Some of the other necessary items each Burner should bring includes a (cheap) bicycle that you can use and then discard at the end of the burn. This fabled city on the playa is soooo huge that a bicycle’s one of the most effective ways for one to explore what the city has to offer.

Burners should also bring aviator goggles and masks because massive sandstorms will occur quite frequently. I remember wandering out of my tent on a whim during one of the biggest sandstorms that we’d weathered for that week, and I was astounded to realise that when I stretched my arms out in front of me… I couldn’t see my hands! It was such a marvellous experience… and by the end of the sandstorm, I was completely orange in colour!

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This wasn’t my camp

Burners are also required to form or join a camp, each with a different theme. Camps are safe communes for participants to live together (usually in tents), and it’s a place where they can share communal amenities like a gravity feed shower stall or kitchenette. Some camps are very well established with pretty good facilities, there are even ones where Burners can even sleep in air-conditioned RV caravans… which is an unthinkably amazing luxury when you’re facing 40-50ºC desert heat in the middle of the day!!

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Wooden effigy of the man, which will be ritualistically burnt at the end of the festival

I confess that by the time I’d embarked on this trip, I’d already become a bit of a creature-comfort loving sort of holidaygoer. So the five days that we spent in the desert were quite challenging on the body to me. If it weren’t for the amazing sights and installations that I’d kept discovering each day, and the beautiful smiling people that I’d kept meeting all the time, I probably would’ve had a meltdown. But instead, I found that my mind felt richer and my spirit stronger from experiencing (and surviving) this festival despite its harsh desert environment.

Burning Man 2007 Black Rock City 14

While cycling is one of the easier ways to get around the playa, some of the Burners have created their own Art Cars to drive around in. These art cars were extraordinary sights that made me smile… you can be wandering in the desert and all of a sudden there’s a red-and-black-dotted ladybird scooter… or a giant sofa (with people sitting on it) scurrying across the desertscape.

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Or how about this??  A giant supermarket trolley… !! The dudes on it were tossing out bottles of mineral water as gifts to anyone walking around the playa…

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Big Rig Jig – art installation fashioned from oil tankers, a visual metaphor for non-sustainability

Which brings to mind another concept about Burning Man. In Black Rock City, the notion of money does not apply (aside for the entrance fees and camp funds). The ‘currency’ out in the playa involves sharing and bartering, and everybody’s supposed to be your friend. When people wander by your camp… you say hi, invite them into your safe space and share a bit of what you have.

And likewise, should you wander past someone else’s camp, you may find yourself being invited in for a bit of conversation and sharing. I remember entering a camp where an amazing old man played the violin for us, and another tent where I was introduced to the joys of nibbling into a piece of liquorice root. There was even a Geisha-themed tent, where their way of sharing was to welcome anyone into their plush and comfortable air-conditioned tent during the searing midday heat.

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Crude Awakening

Speaking of the heat, one of the ways to escape it is to nap during the hottest hours in the afternoon, and to start exploring the city just as the sun begins to sink into the horizon. And I thought the nighttime lightscape can be just as phenomenal…

I remember one of the nights, I was cycling in a random direction in the darkness towards a small blinking light in the horizon. Half an hour later, I finally reached that blinking light. It turned out to be a stationary double decker bus, with giant birdcages hanging from its sides. And the bus, bird cages and sand around the bus was full of people dancing to music that’s pumping from a DJ stand nearby on the desert floor.

And pictured here was one of largest installations in 2007… consisting of 9 humongous figurative steel sculptures (each weighing 7 tonnes and belching flames from body, hands and eyes) in various poses of worship towards a central Oil Derrick.

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Inside of one of the steel sculptures | View from the top of the Oil Derrick

200 people could fit into the platform at the top of the 90 foot tall Derrick. I found this installation frightening in its grand scale and its suggestion of how humanity worships (and is so dependent on) oil. And it all culminated in a massive annihilation on Friday night, where (at 10pm) an ominous black cloud poured forth from the Derrick as air sirens wailed and… minutes later… the Oil Derrick erupts with a fiery explosion made of 2.4 gigawatts of raw energy.

They called it the largest flame cannon in history. I remember sitting about 500 or so metres from the Oil Derrick with the rest of the Burners that night, and I’ll have to say that I’ve never experienced such a huge blast at such close quarters. A massive wave of heat tore through us that, for a moment, I thought I was about to become broiled into a human yakitori.

While crazily monumental in its message, I also couldn’t help thinking how environmentally unfriendly this installation was with its unbridled use of pyrotechnics.

Burning Man 2007 Black Rock City 72

But I found that the mornings greet you with a calmness and uncanny tranquility. You wake up to quiet signs of life outside… but during your first hour or so, your mind doesn’t quite comprehend that you’re out there in the surreal playa with its fantasy landscape. It’s such that you could almost be walking in a waking dream.

It’s only when I strolled past the still-glowing embers of the (now destroyed) Oil Derrick, all blackened and charred to the ground, that it suddenly came to me what had happened the night before.

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And from my perspective, my experience on the playa almost turned into reality – everything that I loved about Studio Ghibli animes and Final Fantasy-type RPG games, with its fantastical stories and implausibly outlandish themes. Who knows? Maybe one year a huge floating castle will descend from the sky onto these desert plains…

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Temple of Forgiveness

Another large installation that happens every year is the erection of a large temple made of wood, located in the deep playa. The temple theme for 2007 was one of forgiveness, and as I approached along the avenue towards it, it seemed to convey Japanese sensibilities.

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A vehicle for remembrances, blessings, promises and forgiveness

When I reached the edifice, I was amazed how the entire community gathered there stayed silent. I found that I was in a sanctuary of calm and contemplation. Looking at the walls, I saw that there were many many messages inscribed onto the wood.

I learnt that it’s a yearly tradition for Burners to write messages onto the temple’s wood frame, and they’re usually messages of a highly personal nature. On the final night of the festival, the temple is ritualistically burned.

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Speaking of burning, the second last night of the festival (ie. Saturday night) is when the large wooden effigy of the man is set ablaze in the midst of much celebration, music and drumming. It is this ceremonial event where the name of this festival comes from… going all the way back from its origins in 1986 when a group of friends burnt the first wooden man in San Francisco’s Baker Beach.

I’ll have to say that as much as this was the yearly custom, the ‘Burning of the Man’ felt like a bit of a non-event to me compared to the much grander blasting (to smithereens) of the Oil Derrick and its nine grandiose steel sculptures from the night before.

Burning Man 2007 Black Rock City 75Phone booth to God

As I write these final words, I feel very glad that I’ve decided to pull these five days out from my memory archives and onto this shared space on my blog. It’s uncanny how quickly we forget these amazing adventures in our lives once we go back to the humdrum of our daily routines back home. But just writing about it helped me relive, in great detail, many of the moments that I’d experienced there as if it had just happened yesterday even when this was an event that occurred 7 years ago!

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As I call to mind scenes like this string of balloons floating into the blue infinity of sky… I’d like to deeply thank Belinda, Li Han and their friends who brought me along and guided me through those unforgettable days spent in Black Rock City. With me being somewhat awkward and socially inept at times, it’s thanks to these wonderful people whom I went to Burning Man with that made my experience the terrific one that it was.

Burning Man was written by Fatboo.
If you enjoyed reading this blog post, feel free to discover more at Let's Get Fat Together.

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Wonky Trolley http://fatboo.com/2014/12/wonky-trolley-burgers-north-melbourne.html http://fatboo.com/2014/12/wonky-trolley-burgers-north-melbourne.html#comments Sat, 06 Dec 2014 02:30:08 +0000 http://fatboo.com/?p=20088 Wonky Trolley by Fatboo

Cutely named burger shack in North Melbourne serving tasty burgers with juicy patties and lots of salad sandwiched by fluffy brioche buns.

Wonky Trolley was written by Fatboo.
If you enjoyed reading this blog post, feel free to discover more at Let's Get Fat Together.

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Wonky Trolley by Fatboo

47 Errol St
North Melbourne, VIC 3051
03 9328 1781
Website

When we’re out of pre-cooked microwaveable meals, on our not-so-lazy nights Fatbee and I would walk into the city for our dinner. On our superbly lazy nights, we’d get food delivered to us using Menulog.

Wonky Trolley Burgers North Melbourne 4877

But how about those in-between nights where we’re somewhat lazy but aren’t in the mood to make that 30 minute trek into town? Well… we basically find places that are within ten minutes walk from home!

On this front, Errol St seems to have the highest concentration of eating spots within nearby walking distance, with the downside that many of the places either aren’t cheap enough, or they don’t quite tickle our fancy. But recently, I’d noticed a new burger joint that replaced Urban Burger along that stretch. We decided to give it a try.

Wonky Trolley Burgers North Melbourne 4878

I think it was the name of the place that caught my eye at the start, it just sounded so cheeky and random. Entering the joint, we scanned the easy-to-read menu of 7 beef burgers, 6 chook burgers, 1 veggie burger and then made our choice. All the burgers are also available as a wrap and you even have the option for gluten free buns.

Wonky Trolley Burgers North Melbourne 4881
CHILLI 11
Beef, Jalapenos, Cheese, Salad, Relish and Chipotle Mayo

Here’s Fatbee’s pick… a beef burger with hints of spiciness derived from slices of pickled jalapeños. I think there are two types of burgers out there: the old-school ones where it’s all about cheese, bacon, pickles, onions and sauce. And then there’s the healthier, more balanced types with lots of lettuce and veggies like beetroot and pineapples. I’m happy to say that Wonky Trolley’s menu features the latter type of burgers, which is what I prefer.

Wonky Trolley Burgers North Melbourne 4882
FULL TROLLEY 13
Beef, Bacon, Cheese, Egg, Pineapple, Salad, Relish and Aioli

And I got Wonky’s burger with the lot. It was very satisfying with a nice, soft and moist patty of good quality beef layered with fried egg, bacon, lots of salad, sliced pineapple, aioli and relish. The brioche buns were fluffy with a wonderfully soft crust and I liked how they didn’t come all oily on the outside. The whole thing was so juicy that lots of dripping action happened onto my plate, which is one of my yardsticks for how good a burger is.

Wonky Trolley Burgers North Melbourne 4884

I like how Wonky Trolley serves delicious burgers that manages to straddle the fine line between being ‘healthy’ without being too greasy. The pricing leans towards the slightly more ‘premium’ side of things ($10-$13), but the quality is good and the burgers are big enough to be a full meal on its own for me without needing a side serve of chips.

Wonky Trolley on Urbanspoon

Wonky Trolley was written by Fatboo.
If you enjoyed reading this blog post, feel free to discover more at Let's Get Fat Together.

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Sambal Timun Recipe (Spicy Cucumber Salad) http://fatboo.com/2014/12/sambal-timun-recipe-spicy-pork-cucumber-salad.html http://fatboo.com/2014/12/sambal-timun-recipe-spicy-pork-cucumber-salad.html#comments Mon, 01 Dec 2014 09:55:23 +0000 http://fatboo.com/?p=18718 Sambal Timun Recipe (Spicy Cucumber Salad) by Fatboo

Recipe for Nyonya Sambal Timun, a refreshingly punchy Peranakan salad of cucumber, pork & chicken gizzard tossed with spicy sambal & fragrant herbs.

Sambal Timun Recipe (Spicy Cucumber Salad) was written by Fatboo.
If you enjoyed reading this blog post, feel free to discover more at Let's Get Fat Together.

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Sambal Timun Recipe (Spicy Cucumber Salad) by Fatboo

Sambal Timun Recipe 0451

I watched mum make this simple Peranakan dish on my last trip to Singapore, and I must say it’s quite an addictive spicy salad offering. It works wonderfully as an appetiser or as a supporting dish in any Nyonya meal.

I really liked the spicy kick and tanginess from the sambal belacan dressing, made superbly punchy and fragrant with the use of fresh kaffir lime leaves and torch ginger buds (bunga kantan).

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The prep work isn’t too difficult either. Prepare the salad ingredients by slicing up the onions, cucumber and cooked meats. Next, prepare the dressing by mixing the sambal blachan with lime, fragrant herbs and the seasonings… then toss.

The salad should be served immediately as the vegetables will ooze water over time. Do not keep overnight.

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For those of us living overseas, fresh kaffir lime leaves can be expensive, an alternative would be to use the soaked dried leaves instead, but it won’t be as fragrant. As for bunga kantan torch ginger buds, you probably will be able to find them in the frozen section at your Asian grocer.

Limau kesturi (calamansi lime) is smaller and a lot more fragrant than regular limes, but if you can’t find them in Australia, use one large lime instead. Finally, if eating chicken gizzard is just a bit too adventurous for you, remember that that ingredient is entirely optional.

Sambal Timun Recipe 0454

Sambal Timun Recipe

Adapted from Mum’s Recipe
Peparation Time: 1hr
Serves 4-6 

INGREDIENTS

200 gm Fresh Red Chillies
40 gm Belacan (toasted)
100 gm Pork Belly
2 Chicken Gizzards (optional)
1 tbsp White Vinegar
4 small Kesturi Limes (or 1 large lime)
1 tbsp Sugar
½ tbsp Bunga Kantan (Torch Ginger Bud) – thinly shredded
2 Kaffir Lime Leaves – thinly shredded
20 gm Dried Prawns
Half a big Red Onion – thinly sliced
1 Continental Cucumber – peeled & sliced into pieces
Salt

METHOD

Make the sambal belacan by grinding till fine:
Fresh Red Chillies
Toasted Belacan
Pinch of Salt

Soak in hot water for 5 mins, then drain & pound coarsely:
Dried Prawns 

Place Pork Belly in boiling water & simmer for 20 mins till cooked. Remove & rinse under tap water till cooled.
Rub the Chicken Gizzards all over with salt, then place in boiling water & simmer for 10 mins till cooked. Remove & also rinse under tap water till cooled.
When Pork & Chicken Gizzard are cooled, slice them & leave aside

Put following ingredients in a bowl, big enough for tossing :
Sliced Belly Pork
Sliced Chicken Gizzard

Pounded Dried Prawns
Sliced Red Onion
Sliced Cucumbers

Mix well together to create dressing:
1 heaped tbsp of Sambal Belacan (from prepared Sambal belacan above)
1 tbsp White Vinegar
Juice from Kesturi Limes
Shredded Torch Ginger Bud
Shredded Kaffir Lime Leaves
1 tbsp Sugar
Pinch of Salt

Pour dressing into the prepared bowl of ingredients, toss. Serve immediately.

This dish goes nicely with other Nyonya dishes such as Ayam Pongteh, Ayam Buah Keluak and Chap Chye.
Also, more comforting recipes can be found on my Recipes Page.

Sambal Timun Recipe (Spicy Cucumber Salad) was written by Fatboo.
If you enjoyed reading this blog post, feel free to discover more at Let's Get Fat Together.

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