Let's Get Fat Together http://fatboo.com Food, Travel, Friends. Sat, 15 Aug 2015 05:51:08 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=4.2.9 Anju Restaurant & Bar http://fatboo.com/2015/08/anju-restaurant-bar.html http://fatboo.com/2015/08/anju-restaurant-bar.html#comments Sat, 15 Aug 2015 04:30:14 +0000 http://fatboo.com/?p=20937 Anju Restaurant & Bar by Fatboo

Korean bar and restaurant in the CBD with nice bites to go with delicious cocktails.

Anju Restaurant & Bar was written by Fatboo.
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Anju Restaurant & Bar by Fatboo

18 Lt La Trobe St
Melbourne, VIC 3000
03 9662 4568
Facebook Page

Anju Korean Bar Melbourne 9497

While Fatbee and I find don’t eat out very much anymore, I’m glad when we do so we’d venture into new spots recommended by our friends.

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Watermelon Mojito 15 | Kiwi Soju (400ml) $20

Anju is located a very short walk down from ChangGo in the CBD’s quietly unknown Lt La Trobe St. We caught up with friends here, having heard that its got nice drinks and quite a buzzy vibe. The watermelon mojito was such a thirst-quenching drink and they were very confident with the alcohol content in the kiwi soju.

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This visit also happened right after our trip to Japan, and I laughed at how the group cooed over the meticulously wrapped and decorated food parcels that we’d brought back from the trip.

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Anju Slider Set 15
Pork Bulgogi, Soft Shell Crab, Beef Bulgogi

The menu here’s does a modern take on Korean bar food. And we started off by snacking on these scrumptious ‘milk bun’ sliders served… the beef bulgogi was my favourite as it came with a slightly spicy mayonnaise.

Anju Korean Bar Melbourne 9515
Deep Fried Lotus Chips served with Lime Aioli 6

The menu here’s designed more for snacking to go along with the cocktails, but I liked how they kept the snacks interesting and tasty. These lotus root chips were lovely.

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ANJU Rice 3 | Grilled Eggplant and Butter Grilled Mushroom with Gosamic Sauce 14
Fried Half Chicken with Anju’s Special Chilli Sauce served with Kimchi Coleslaw and Melon Pickle 26

And for the table of 6 of us… we seriously fought over the pieces of succulent Korean fried chicken! My only personal gripe was the Korean way of covering the crispy fried chicken with the sticky-sweet chilli sauce… but that’s just how they do it.

Anju Korean Bar Melbourne 9522
Squid & Spring Onion Korean Pancake 18

I confess I’m not too big a fan of seafood pancakes because I tend to find the freshness of the seafood a little suspect (read: frozen seafood), but the pancake served here ticked my box in that it wasn’t overly ‘seafoody’.

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Silk Tofu Stew 22
Seafood Broth with Silk Tofu & Seafood 

Charcoal Grilled Pork Bulgogi (up to 2 persons) 32
served with lettuce, apple kimchi and Minstard Sauce

The broth for the seafood silken tofu stew was one of the nicer ones I’ve had in Korean joints, with lots of natural sweetness from the King prawns hidden inside it. We also snacked on grilled pork bulgogi, eaten with mustard and apple kimchi wrapped inside lettuce leaves.

Anju Korean Bar Melbourne 9491

Overall, I liked the drinks and vibe here. The food quality’s good but it tends to be slightly pricier and smaller in portion size compared to the Korean joints that I’m used to visiting. All that said, it’s a great place for friends to catch up and have drinks and snacks in the city.

Anju Korean Bar Melbourne 9489

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Thirty Eight Chairs http://fatboo.com/2015/07/thirty-eight-chairs-south-yarra.html http://fatboo.com/2015/07/thirty-eight-chairs-south-yarra.html#comments Sun, 05 Jul 2015 06:44:30 +0000 http://fatboo.com/?p=20920 Thirty Eight Chairs by Fatboo

Italian bistro in South Yarra with wonderful pasta dishes.

Thirty Eight Chairs was written by Fatboo.
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Thirty Eight Chairs by Fatboo

Thirty Eight Chairs South Yarra Italian 9744

Fatbee’s Italian colleague couldn’t stop raving about this Italian restaurant in South Yarra, so it wasn’t long before we found an excuse to dine here with friends. The tiny little restaurant is named so because it literally has only 38 seats, and boy was it a busy and buzzy joint with a 6pm and an 8.30pm seating even on weekdays.

Thirty Eight Chairs South Yarra Italian 9724
Aperol Spritz $14.5

I’m a blogger… in that I just say what I think and taste in my completely non-expert way. But that makes the discovery quite fun… and we followed Fatbee’s journey through his colleague’s descriptions of the oh-so-Italian drinks that we should try here… such as this oddly cough mixture-like fizzy Aperol Spritz!

Thirty Eight Chairs South Yarra Italian 2
A. Mano Rosé Prosecco (Puglia, Italy) $13

After the (very Italian) waitress took our orders, we started off nicely with a basket of deliciously made bread… alongside with a glass of Fatbee’s suggested “oh you must try a Prosecco because the Italians love that!”. I have to confess that bread quality is a big thing for me because you’re pretty much always hungry at this point of the meal before the entrees have arrived.

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Italian Bufala DOC 125g $12

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Wagyu bresaola, truffle pecorino, almond olive oil $22
Peppered tuna carpaccio, crispy shallots, caper vinaigrette, rocket shoots $23.5

Even if we’re not regular diners of Italian fare, the starters delighted the entire table of us. It was basically good quality produce kept simple.

Thirty Eight Chairs South Yarra Italian 9731
Frittelle di Midollo Osseo di Maiale $16.50

Only this entree did not quite tick our boxes. It was the day’s special consisting of deep fried breads filled with marrow.

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Gnocchi di patate, fresh tomato sugo, mozzerella & basil $28

I eventually convinced myself to NOT have a ribeye steak at this Italian restaurant and the entire table ended up having pasta for our mains. Here is Fatbee’s unfaultably good potato gnocchi with fresh tomatoes, mozzarella and basil.

Thirty Eight Chairs South Yarra Italian 9736Thirty Eight Chairs South Yarra Italian 9735
Spaghettino, pork sausage, friarelli (Neapolitan broccoli), potatoes & peppered pecorino $30
Curly pappardelle, slow cooked duck ragu, porcini, shaved pecorino $32

My other companions at the table also had lovely pasta dishes, and the whole table continued cooing out calls of “ooh it’s so goooood!”. And seriously… need I say anymore about the dishes that just that?

Thirty Eight Chairs South Yarra Italian 9739
Tagliatelle, milk veal ragu, mixed walnuts & breadcrumbs $29.5

I decided to go adventurous with a veal pasta that’s paired with walnuts… but it was done so delicately and nicely that I ended up enjoying it too.

Thirty Eight Chairs South Yarra Italian 9741
Cream Catalana $14.00

Again from the days specials board, we tried a cream catalan for dessert which had hints of orange in it. It was okay.

Thirty Eight Chairs South Yarra Italian 3
Jasmin Pannacotta $12 | Peppe’s Tiramisu $12.5

The other two desserts we tried were delightful though, in particular the light and gentle jasmine pannacotta. But that tiramisu also satisfied many of us with its confidently thick and creamy mouthfeel.

I visited Thirty Eight Chairs wanting to like the place… and guess what? The whole table ended up loving the entire meal! The only dishes that did not quite hit the mark with us that night were things from the specials board… everything else in their usual menu hit really high notes with all of us and I’m pretty keen on a revisit soon.

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The Vertue of the Coffee Drink http://fatboo.com/2015/06/vertue-of-coffee-drink-carlton.html http://fatboo.com/2015/06/vertue-of-coffee-drink-carlton.html#comments Fri, 26 Jun 2015 02:45:22 +0000 http://fatboo.com/?p=20875 The Vertue of the Coffee Drink by Fatboo

Tucked away microroastery and cafe in Carlton with a creative menu of decadent brunch dishes.

The Vertue of the Coffee Drink was written by Fatboo.
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The Vertue of the Coffee Drink by Fatboo

8 Raffa Pl
Carlton, VIC 3053
03 8060 6987

Thought of doing something a little scaled-down with this post, making it more a photo-series than a blow-by-blow blog review.

Vertue Coffee Drink Cafe Melbourne 9561Vertue Coffee Drink Cafe Melbourne 1

Fatbee and I have visited this spot twice in the past months and we liked the bright and tall-ceilinged atmosphere set in a location tucked behind a petrol kiosk right at the busy corner of Elgin and Lygon Streets in Carlton.

Vertue Coffee Drink Cafe Melbourne 9564Vertue Coffee Drink Cafe Melbourne 9565 Piccolo 4.0

They’re also a microroastery, meaning you don’t really see familiar brands of third wave coffees here since they’re striking out as a brand in its own. I found their coffees nicely fragranced with a slight nuttiness at the end of the sip.

Vertue Of Coffee Drink Cafe Carlton 9717 Dirty Chai (with a shot of espresso) 4.0

You may also want to sample their dirty chai, served in a Turkish pot… this thick and rich drink seriously packs a punch in the spice department.

Vertue Coffee Drink Cafe Melbourne 9573Vertue Coffee Drink Cafe Melbourne 2Vertue Coffee Drink Cafe Melbourne 9574

Food-wise, the menu’s creative with confident flavours and an unabashed use of brioche breads. While I personally prefer my brunch flavours to be lighter, I still think the dishes were pretty well executed here.

Vertue Of Coffee Drink Cafe Carlton 9721 Pancetta Wrapped Terrine 19
pork ham hock, black pudding, shiitake mushrooms, mizuna, bacon jam, toasted brioche

Vertue Coffee Drink Cafe Melbourne 9579 Chickpea Chips 18
with charred asparagus, preserved cherry tomato & basil salad, shaved parmesan, poached eggs

Vertue Of Coffee Drink Cafe Carlton 9720 Meatball Sub 18
pork meatballs, brioche roll, napoli, provolone, jalapeños, pancetta, sage, with apple slaw & beer battered onion rings

Vertue Coffee Drink Cafe Melbourne 9583 Scotch Egg 21
smoked pork belly, pig skin cracker, piccalilli mayonnaise, onion marmalade, brioche soldiers

Vertue Coffee Drink Cafe Melbourne 3Vertue Coffee Drink Cafe Melbourne 9572

The Vertue of the Coffee Drink feels miles away from Lygon St. I think of it as a most-welcome breath of fresh air close to what’s an otherwise rather touristy stretch in Carlton.

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Qua’n 888 http://fatboo.com/2015/05/quan-888-footscray.html http://fatboo.com/2015/05/quan-888-footscray.html#comments Fri, 29 May 2015 21:53:36 +0000 http://fatboo.com/?p=20900 Qua’n 888 by Fatboo

Eatery inside Little Saigon Market (Footscray) with authentic regional specialities from Central Vietnam.

Qua’n 888 was written by Fatboo.
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Qua’n 888 by Fatboo

Shop 24
Little Saigon Market
63-65 Nicholson St
Footscray, VIC 3011
Facebook Page

Qua n 888 Footscray Little Saigon Market 9607Qua n 888 Footscray 1
Sữa bắp (corn milk) $4.00
Xoa xoa hạt lựu (Da Nang local dessert) 5.00

Fatbee and I love visiting Footscray when we want to enjoy a brunch/lunch landscape that’s quite different from other parts of Melbourne. And for the most part, we follow Lauren’s footpath to see what’s new and where to visit.

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Gỏi mít trộn $7.00
Steamed Jackfruit with Prawn & Pork skin combination salad

This restaurant is inside Little Saigon Market and it dishes up regional specialities from Central Vietnam. We found the menu exciting in that we struggled to recognise familiar things, and even the dishes that seemed familiar ended up tasting deliciously unique. We started off with a shared serve of steamed jackfruit salad, which came incredibly fragrant with herbs, mixed with crunchy pork crackling, springy yellow noodles and gentle nuggets of young jackfruit.

Qua n 888 Footscray Little Saigon Market 9597
Bún mắm Miền Trung $10.00
Da Nang style shrimp paste vermicelli with Roast Pork & Jackfruit

Fatbee sampled a Da Nang style noodle dish, which we were forewarned that could be an acquired taste because of the pungency of the shrimp paste sauce.

Qua n 888 Footscray Little Saigon Market 9598

But what can I say… we liked it!

In Fatbee’s words… he said “it was strange in a good way”. The dipping sauce reminded us a bit of Penang-style Assam Laksa, and as for the shrimp paste in that sauce… neither of us baulked from it.

Qua n 888 Footscray Little Saigon Market 9602
Mỳ Quảng $10.00
Quang Nam style noodle with Sautéed Pork, Prawn & Quail Egg

I tried a noodle dish that originates from Quang Nam province in Central Vietnam. It came as slippery yellow noodles with a rich prawny-porky broth topped with plenty of herbs. Very nice.

Qua n 888 Footscray Little Saigon Market 9604

I’m glad to see that we’re getting more and more Vietnamese food places in Melbourne that are happy to serve up fiercely authentic regional specialities. Just like Co Thu Quan next door, the food here’s so fascinating and unique that I don’t even feel inclined to travel to Vietnam to sample the fare. It’s now less than 15minutes drive from home!

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T by Luxbite http://fatboo.com/2015/05/t-by-luxbite-tarts-melbourne.html http://fatboo.com/2015/05/t-by-luxbite-tarts-melbourne.html#comments Sun, 24 May 2015 00:38:42 +0000 http://fatboo.com/?p=20890 T by Luxbite by Fatboo

Dessert store Luxbite's CBD branch, specialising in a unique selection of mouthwatering tarts.

T by Luxbite was written by Fatboo.
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T by Luxbite by Fatboo

2/517 Flinders Lane
Melbourne, VIC 3000
03 9629 9662

T by Luxbite Melbourne 6877
KUMA $9.00

Fatbee and I have a new secret indulgence… it’s these tarts at Luxbite’s CBD stall!

T by Luxbite Melbourne 6870

Fatbee just takes a short detour from his walk home from work and grabs a couple of tarts each time. We’ve pretty much tried all the tarts they’ve offered over the past few seasons and enjoyed most of them. The flavour pairing is creative without becoming ‘too much’ and we also love how most of the tarts aren’t crazily sweet too. Perfect for our palates!

T by Luxbite Melbourne 6875
MANGO $9.00

T by Luxbite Melbourne Tart 6927
YUZU $8.00

T by Luxbite Melbourne Tart 6930
PICNIC $9.50

T by Luxbite Melbourne 9541

T by Luxbite Melbourne 9545

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Flying Emirates Business Class http://fatboo.com/2015/05/emirates-business-class-boeing-777-300er-trip-report.html http://fatboo.com/2015/05/emirates-business-class-boeing-777-300er-trip-report.html#comments Sat, 16 May 2015 03:30:11 +0000 http://fatboo.com/?p=20820 Flying Emirates Business Class by Fatboo

Trip report covering my Emirates Airline Business Class experience on the Boeing 777-300ER from Singapore to Melbourne.

Flying Emirates Business Class was written by Fatboo.
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Flying Emirates Business Class by Fatboo

Emirates | Business Class
EK404 | SIN-MEL | Nov 2014
Boeing 777-300ER (77W)

Fatbee and I booked a one-way award flight on Emirates using Qantas points that I’d accrued over the years. While my ideal choice would’ve been to fly on a Qantas plane, no seats were available that day. All that said, I was more than happy to see how business class is like on Emirates.

Emirates Business Class EK404 SIN MEL Boeing 777 300 6679
Emirates Lounge (Business & First)

After a smooth check-in at the Emirates counter in Changi Airport, we spent an hour or so exploring and relaxing in the Emirates lounge located in Terminal 1.

Emirates Business Class EK404 SIN MEL Boeing 777 300 6685

The lounge fits both Business and First Class travellers, and it had a somewhat dated decor (polished red woods and mustard leather) reminiscent of luxury lounges from the 80-90’s. But it was spacious and had everything for your needs… a bartender, a cafeteria, plenty of seats, and restrooms with clean showering facilities.

Emirates Business Class EK404 SIN MEL Boeing 777 300 6688
Lounge Cafeteria

We noticed there were lots of serving staff in this lounge, there was even a guy who’d open the restroom door for us… talk about old world luxury! For the tech savvy amongst us, there are a couple of charging towers scattered around the lounge where you can plug in your devices.

Emirates Business Class EK404 SIN MEL Boeing 777 300 6695

The announcement that our flight was boarding soon came up, and we made our way to the gate. Boarding was on the slow side with a longish wait in the air bridge. Only the First Class passengers got to use Door A, while the Business and Economy passengers were ferried through Door B further back.

Emirates Business Class EK404 SIN MEL Boeing 777 300 6707
Business Cabin (Row 6-7)

But things got much nicer once we boarded the aircraft. Here’s the view from my seat. The Business Cabin is divided by the galley into 2 sections (see this seat map). The front section (rows 6-7) right behind First Class is more private with 14 seats, while the back section (rows 8-11) holds 28 seats with close proximity to the (presumably noisier) Economy Cabin.

Emirates Business Class EK404 SIN MEL Boeing 777 300 6700
Our seats (with privacy screen raised)

That’s why we chose seats 7A and 7B… being a night flight, the lack of a window did not matter to us as we treasured just that extra bit of privacy. On top of that, it was a quiet flight that night and there were only 2 other passengers in this section.

Each business seat is 20.5 inches wide (compared to 17 inches in economy), and the seat pitch (distance between the back of the seat in front of you and the back of your own seat) of 60 inches means you have lots of legroom. If you’re travelling alone, there’s a controllable privacy screen between each seat so that you won’t see your neighbour’s head.

Emirates Business Class EK404 SIN MEL Boeing 777 300 6702

As for the other seat options, take note that the Business Class seats in the Boeing 777-300 comes 7 in a row in a 2-3-2 configuration, meaning not every seat has aisle access. If you’re travelling alone, don’t pick that middle seat!

It’s only when you’re travelling long haul (mostly to and from Dubai) that you get a taste of Emirates A380’s more luxurious 1-2-1 staggered Business Class configuration.

Emirates Business Class Boeing 777 300 1
Moët & Chandon

Once seated, complimentary refreshments were offered. Pictured right, you can also have a glimpse of the (very bling bling) First Class Suites… boasting a 1-2-1 config each with privacy sliding doors. Interestingly, they’ve made these suites the same as what’s currently in the A380.

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View from my seat

Takeoff was a smooth and seamless affair. Being a night flight, once the seat belt signs were turned off, we were immediately offered a futon mattress turndown service in case we wanted to sleep right away. A much appreciated forethought. But we decided to stay up for supper, whilst playing around with all the gadgets and amenities that were offered on this flight.

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First up, I admit I did let loose a tiny squeal of excitement when I discovered the entertainment system had a wireless control touch pad. I guess it’s just my childhood days of playing on the Gameboy and PSP coming back to me.

Emirates Business Class Boeing 777 300 2

You can do just about anything with this control pad… choose your movies, raise/lower the privacy screen, you can even adjust your seat with this touch pad, turn it into a flat bed or activate the massage function.

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Men’s Amenity Kit

Next we had a customary peek into what’s in our amenity kits…

Emirates Business Class Boeing 777 300 3
Noise Cancelling Headsets

… which came with Bvlgari items. I admit I don’t really use amenity kits at all and they tend to end up gathering dust in a corner of my home… but I did end up using the toothbrush that came with the kit.

Emirates Business Class Boeing 777 300 4

Before meal service began, we were served a small platter of nuts with a drink of our choice. I’m not good with alcohol on flights, so water it is for me!

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Appetiser: Smoked tuna served with coleslaw, watermelon and fresh butter
Steamed scallop, prawns and snapper fillet, with red pepper & duchess potatoes

Not long after, white tablecloths were placed and supper was served. I wasn’t hungry but just wanted to see what Emirates has to offer foodwise (for the purpose of this trip report!). The only things that I liked above was the fresh salad that came with the smoked tuna entree and the selection of soft warmed buns that came with the meal. They even had garlic bread on offer.

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Emirates Business Class Boeing 777 300 5
Dessert: Opera gâteau | Orange mousse
Dilmah Chamomile Tea 

Dessert was good though, one of the nicer cakes that I’ve had on a plane flight. Our very friendly air steward, Jeremy, even let me sample both cakes on offer, explaining that they had a lot to spare since most of the other business travellers skipped supper.

Emirates Business Class EK404 SIN MEL Boeing 777 300 6757

While we freshened up with hot towels, Jeremy turned our seats into beds. Having a futon over the seat made a big difference in making you not notice the lines and creases in your seat.

Now THIS is the reason why we travel premium class… to have a bed in the sky! But if you look closely at the converted seat, you’ll note that it it isn’t a 100% flat bed. It has a mild downward slope and it has a very slight (but noticeable) angle where the hips and knees are. All that said, it was pretty comfy and once the lights were turned off we managed to catch 2-3 hours sleep.

Emirates Business Class EK404 SIN MEL Boeing 777 300 6759

The first rays of dawn soon appeared in the horizon and the cabin started coming back alive with a hush of activity.

Emirates Business Class EK404 SIN MEL Boeing 777 300 6764

Breakfast service happened about 1h 40m prior to landing, and it was an enjoyably simple continental affair.

Emirates Business Class EK404 SIN MEL Boeing 777 300 6769

I noticed our fellow passengers in the cabin slept right through supper and breakfast. In fact, they were allowed to sleep till perhaps 10-20 mins before landing. Makes me wonder if they’re seasoned business class travellers that are happy to forgo all the bells and whistles so that they can enjoy the best thing about premium class travel: the ability to sleep flat.

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Tullamarine Airport – Melbourne

Landing was a smooth affair, and with a sad smile, our business class experience on this plane ended.

Emirates Business Class EK404 SIN MEL Boeing 777 300 6778
Complimentary Chauffeur Service

But the experience did not quite end there… Qantas and Emirates premium class passengers also receive a complimentary chauffeur service, which we made full use of to get home. I’ll have to say this service makes you feel rather pampered!

The service covers both departures and arrivals, but we didn’t use the service in Singapore because dad and mom sent us off instead.

Emirates Business Class EK404 SIN MEL Boeing 777 300 6761


Emirates’s business model tends to revolve around high volume travel. While most airlines have 9 economy seats in a row (3-3-3 config) on their Boeing 777-300 aircrafts, Emirates seats come 10 in a row (3-4-3 config). And call me unlucky, but I’ve often experienced luggage belt delays inside Melbourne Airport whenever I take an Emirates flight from Singapore to Melbourne. Because of this, I initially had my reservations with redeeming this award flight.

All that said, once we were in the air, our experience on this flight turned out to be fabulous. If you pick the correct seats in the cabin, you’re all set up for a very comfortable flight. Our very friendly Singaporean air steward, Jeremy, also helped make our flight much more pleasant with his good-humoured nature. I’m not an expert, but I’d say that while economy travel on Emirates can feel a little bit cramped, once you go the next level… you’re in an entirely different playing field.

I also know that Emirates often offers discounted online upgrades (for a fee) to some their Skywards frequent flyer members a few days before travel. So with some luck, getting a taste of their business class seats may be more easily achieved than you’d think!

The only things that weren’t as good on this flight was the food. And based on this and previous flights with Emirates, I also think that the Emirates ground staff in Changi Airport need to work on being more friendly with their passengers.

Other Flight Reports I’d Previously Covered:

Thai Airways Business Class Boeing 777 MEL-BKK (Shell seats with 167º recline)
Thai Airways First Class A380 BKK-CDG (Full Flat Bed)
Thai Airways Business Class A380 CDG-BKK (Full Flat Bed)
Singapore Airlines Business Class A330 BKK-SIN-MEL (Angled Flat)

Flying Emirates Business Class was written by Fatboo.
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Kappaya Japanese Soul Food Cafe http://fatboo.com/2015/05/kappaya-japanese-soul-food-cafe-abbotsford.html http://fatboo.com/2015/05/kappaya-japanese-soul-food-cafe-abbotsford.html#comments Sun, 10 May 2015 05:05:21 +0000 http://fatboo.com/?p=20851 Kappaya Japanese Soul Food Cafe by Fatboo

Bright and breezy Japanese cafe located within Abbotsford Convent in Melbourne. Healthy, light and wholesome brunch dishes there.

Kappaya Japanese Soul Food Cafe was written by Fatboo.
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Kappaya Japanese Soul Food Cafe by Fatboo

1 St Heliers St
Abbotsford Convent
Abbotsford, VIC 3067
03 9416 0070

Kappaya Japanese Abbotsford Convent Collingwood 6961

Mr Frenchman suggested this Japanese cafe in Abbotsford Convent when we decided to catchup (after almost a year!) with Swells.

Kappaya Japanese Abbotsford Convent Collingwood 1
Ginger Sparkling Juice 4.5

Whenever I think about this convent, Abbotsford Bakery comes to mind and the monthly Farmers Market that’s held here, so I was happy to discover a little bit more about this place. Afterall, a Japanese-style brunch spot sounded pretty awesome!

Kappaya Japanese Abbotsford Convent Collingwood 6964
Flat White 3.5

The setting was pretty open and pleasant despite the Sunday crowds, although it did get quite busy once it went past 12 noon. Following with the cafe’s healthy and sustainable food thinking, I sipped on a milky cup of Fairtrade Jasper Coffee.

Kappaya Japanese Abbotsford Convent Collingwood 6969
Sake & ginger steamed chicken served in its own broth with Japanese dressing salad & 5 grain rice. Soy & sesame seeds dipping sauce $12.0

The brunch fare was pretty good. Here is Swell’s steamed chicken dish, which looked very wholesome and clean.

Kappaya Japanese Abbotsford Convent Collingwood 6965
Poached egg, 5 grain rice, mushroom sauce, Japanese dressing salad and cup of miso soup $12.0

Mr Frenchman and I got this simple poached egg set that came with miso soup served in a teacup.

Kappaya Japanese Abbotsford Convent Collingwood 6970

You can see Melbourne brunch influences here… with a perfectly poached egg (as opposed to an onsen egg) sitting atop a healthy carb component of 5 grain rice, Japanese salad, and a sprinkle of umami-laden furikake.

Kappaya Japanese Abbotsford Convent Collingwood 2
2 Japanese Tapas for $10.0
Tori Ten – tempura chicken sprinkle w shichimi 7 spices pepper
Mushi Dori – sake & ginger steamed chicken with ankake sauce

Our poached egg sets were supported by a couple of shared tapas, which were tasty and satisfying.

Kappaya Japanese Abbotsford Convent Collingwood 6973

I’m liking these off-the-beaten track brunch explorations… where eggs benedict and hollandaise sauce don’t feature on my brunch fare landscape. Kappaya’s food is wholesome and the atmosphere was very relaxing.

Kappaya on Urbanspoon

Kappaya Japanese Soul Food Cafe 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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Turnabout Bhutan http://fatboo.com/2015/05/taktsang-tigers-nest-gangtey-bhutan.html http://fatboo.com/2015/05/taktsang-tigers-nest-gangtey-bhutan.html#comments Tue, 05 May 2015 07:30:21 +0000 http://fatboo.com/?p=20780 Turnabout Bhutan by Fatboo

Final instalment of my Bhutan travel series. Here we head back to our start point in Paro and embark on the final ascent up Bhutan’s crown jewel - Tiger’s Nest.

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

Turnabout Bhutan by Fatboo

Let’s embark on the final instalment of my Bhutan travel series.

Bumthang Valley Bhutan 5947
Bumthang Valley

After spending 2 idyllic days in Bumthang, we now faced a long two-day bus ride back to our start point in Paro.

Mountain Pass Bumthang to Trongsa Bhutan 6228
Pebble stack found at a remote mountain pass… reminiscent of a stupa

While I loved the remote panoramas that you get when travelling in Bhutan, I found the long bumpy drives along the country’s endlessly twisting (and unpaved) mountain roads a bit of a challenge.

Trongsa Dzong Bhutan 6244

After travelling about four hours on the road, we took a much-needed break in the district of Trongsa, Central Bhutan…

Trongsa Dzong Bhutan 6238

… where we paid the iconic Trongsa Dzong a visit.

Trongsa Dzong Bhutan 6299

This is the largest dzong (fortress) in Bhutan, and it’s spectacularly built on a spur overlooking a mountain gorge.

Trongsa Dzong Bhutan 6297

On our visit, we happened upon on a colour pageant of monks…

Trongsa Dzong Bhutan 6282

… practising a dance for (what I presume to be) an upcoming festival.

Trongsa Dzong Bhutan 6269

Even though there were ten or so of us tourists watching, the gentle monks seemed to not mind at all and just went about their business as if we weren’t there.

Trongsa Dzong Bhutan 6240

We also caught a glimpse of locals playing Bhutan’s national sport – archery. I had to share this photo because… look at how ridiculously far away the target is!

Trongsa Farmers Sunday Market Bhutan 6315

On our way out, we also made a brief stop at a Sunday farmers market, full of local produce from the region.

Yak Gangtey Bhutan 6323

The rest of the afternoon was spent on the bus for another 4-5 hours, with glimpses of mountain yaks.

Grey Langur Gangtey Bhutan 6326

We even chanced upon a family of grey langurs…

Grey Langur Gangtey Bhutan 6334

… apparently they’re pretty rare to spot and our guide said it’s good luck to see them.


Gangtey Valley Bhutan 6359
Gangtey Valley

We eventually approached our destination, Gangtey…

Gangtey Goemba Bhutan 6339
Gangtey Goemba

… and made a brief visit to this quiet monastery.

Gangtey Goemba Bhutan 6342

Sadly, by this point of our trip, many of us were pretty tired of seeing temples and monasteries.

Gangtey Goemba Bhutan 6354

And truth be told, after 10-12 hours on a bus, I just wanted to plonk myself down in a hotel bed.

Gangtey Goemba Bhutan 6353

All that said, I quite liked the scenes that I managed to capture in this monastery.

Gangtey Valley Bhutan 6364

Gangtey is a very remote and very cold location in Bhutan…

Black Neck Crane Gangtey Valley Bhutan 6366

… there was a sense of desolation about it that resonated with me.

Black Neck Crane Gangtey Valley Bhutan 6368

It was past sunset when we reached the Black Necked Crane information centre… where (using telescopes) we viewed these elegant birds huddled in groups across the flat grasslands in Phobjikha valley.

Hotel Dewachen Gangtey Valley Bhutan 6387
Hotel Dewachen, Gangtey

After a little bit more driving, shrouded in the purple shades of wintry dusk, we finally reached our hotel in Gangtey.

Hotel Dewachen Gangtey Valley Bhutan 6397

I really liked the style of this hotel. Even if the rooms were basic and the heating could’ve been better, it felt clean and cosy.

Hotel Lobesa Punakha Bhutan 6404

The next morning, we faced the toughest day yet… with a 4.30am wake up call and instructions to have our bags outside the hotel room at 5am. After a quick cup of coffee, we crawled into the bus and spent hours making our way back to Punakha, where we finally had breakfast around 10am.

Thimpu Bhutan 6406
Thimpu revisited

After lunch we reluctantly got back on the bus… and few hours later, we reached Thimphu (Bhutan’s capital city).

Thimpu Bhutan 6405

After so many days out in the quiet faraway provinces of Bhutan, Thimpu suddenly felt like an incredibly busy and cosmopolitan ‘metropolis’… and OMG the (paved) roads felt so smooth here!


Paro Dzong Bhutan 6408
Paro Dzong (by request, we skipped this place)

We continued driving and finally reached Paro around 3pm, where we had a late lunch.

Paro Bhutan 6411

By this point, many of us got tired of the repetitious oily-salty (oyster sauce-laden) Bhutanese buffet meals we’d been having. So over these last few days of the trip, our kindhearted guide arranged platters of fresh cut carrots and fruit for us. This lunch spot was great in that it was not buffet-style and they even served french fries here… which tasted so good that I could’ve sworn some of us wept!

Paro Meat Shop Butcher BhutanParo Bhutan 6425

After lunch, our group split into two. Some of us took the bus and visited Paro National Museum, while others decided to stay and wander about Paro town. I personally had enough of sitting in that bus and ended up in the latter camp.

I liked watching the locals go about their business in Paro, and was particularly fascinated by the butchers. They are called “Meat Shops” and sported a completely open mesh shopfront to help air out the odors.

Tshering Pizza Bar Paro Bhutan 6440
Tshering Pizza Restaurant – Paro

That evening, out of desperation, we skipped the hotel’s Bhutanese buffet spread. Instead, we cabbed it into Paro (which took quite a bit of organising) and had a decadent stretchy-cheesy pizza feast.

Taktsang Lhakhang

Taktsang Lhakhang Tiger s Nest Paro Bhutan 6571

On the morning of our final full day in this country, we tackled the highlight of every visitor’s trip to Bhutan… embarking on the 900m ascent up to Taktsang Lhakhang (Tiger’s Nest).

Taktsang Lhakhang Tiger s Nest Paro Bhutan 6460

Most of us cheated… we paid local farmers to lead us up most of the way on horseback! Only Fakegf and partner hiked up on foot.

Taktsang Lhakhang Tiger s Nest Paro Bhutan 6452

It was a chilly morning, and I loved looking at the frost covered grass glinting in the morning sun.

Taktsang Lhakhang Tiger s Nest Paro Bhutan 6484Taktsang Lhakhang Tiger s Nest Paro Bhutan 6473

After 45 mins or so on horseback, we reached the halfway point, where we dismounted and had deliciously hot cups of tea and biscuits.

Tigers Nest Bhutan 1

We continued on… and the horses took us up to about 80% of the way…

Taktsang Lhakhang Tiger s Nest Paro Bhutan 6533

… but the final ascent had to be done on foot.

Taktsang Lhakhang Tiger s Nest Paro Bhutan 6541
Taktsang Lhakhang

By this point, the crown jewel of Bhutan finally came into view!

Taktsang Lhakhang Tiger s Nest Paro Bhutan 6531
Almost there…

Even this last bit on foot involved quite a climb.

Taktsang Lhakhang Tiger s Nest Paro Bhutan 6546

But we made it to the temple… and I’ll have to say it’s quite a breathtaking sight. Taktsang Lhakhang is set in such a dramatic setting, perched against a cliff 3300m above sea level… you can’t help but marvel at how they’d even built this to begin with.

Taktsang Lhakhang Tiger s Nest Paro Bhutan 6534

Our bags and cameras had to be left at the entrance, so no photos were taken within the site. After our visit, we walked all the way back down (no more horses) and even doing that was quite tiring, so I can’t even begin to imagine how tough the climb on foot would’ve been if we hadn’t done it on horseback!

Because of its fame, the hike up and down from Tiger’s Nest had the most tourists we’d encountered out of our whole trip… we probably passed a few hundred that morning.

Taktsang Lhakhang Tiger s Nest Paro Bhutan 6552

On our way down the mountain, our guide arranged lunch here… in a hidden rest stop somewhere along the way.

Taktsang Lhakhang Tiger s Nest Paro Bhutan 6559

Even from here, the panoramic views of the mountain valleys were quite stunning.

Paro Airport Drukair Bhutan 6586Drukair Bhutan 6590

That was pretty much the end of our itinerary. We stayed the night in Paro and left the next morning, with a final glimpse of the snow-capped Himalayas from the plane window.

Taktsang Lhakhang Tiger s Nest Paro Bhutan 6550
Taktsang Lhakhang

I’ll end my Bhutan travel series here… with just one more photo of Tiger’s Nest.


As a postscript, I feel that Bhutan can be a challenging country to visit, as discussed in a previous blog post about it. Towards the end of the trip, the insanely slow and long drives took its toll on me and I confess I grew quite cranky.


All that said… looking back, I’ve slowly grown to appreciate the remoteness of this country, its sheer lack of tourists and the spectacular scenescapes of pine-capped mountains, verdant valleys and unvisited plains. It made for a holiday experience that’s quite unmatched from many of other destinations that I’ve visited. Hence why I’d titled this post “Turnabout Bhutan”. 

Other Bhutan photo-series:

Mystical Bhutan
Journeying Bhutan
Faraway Bhutan
Turnabout Bhutan
10 Things Travellers Should Know Before Visiting Bhutan

Turnabout 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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Nyonya Bak Chang Recipe (娘惹粽 Rice Dumplings) http://fatboo.com/2015/04/nyonya-bak-chang-recipe-%e5%a8%98%e6%83%b9%e7%b2%bd-rice-dumplings.html http://fatboo.com/2015/04/nyonya-bak-chang-recipe-%e5%a8%98%e6%83%b9%e7%b2%bd-rice-dumplings.html#comments Mon, 27 Apr 2015 20:40:46 +0000 http://fatboo.com/?p=18696 Nyonya Bak Chang Recipe (娘惹粽 Rice Dumplings) by Fatboo

Recipe for Nyonya Bak Chang, bamboo leaf wrapped glutinous rice dumpling filled with pork, mushrooms, candied wintermelon & the fragrance of pandan.

Nyonya Bak Chang Recipe (娘惹粽 Rice Dumplings) was written by Fatboo.
If you enjoyed reading this blog post, feel free to discover more at Let's Get Fat Together.

Nyonya Bak Chang Recipe (娘惹粽 Rice Dumplings) by Fatboo

Today’s recipe covers a rather delightful bamboo leaf wrapped glutinous rice dumpling seen in many countries. But I’ll be covering the Nyonya (Peranakan) style of this dumpling, since that’s where my heritage comes from.

Nyonya Bakchang Zongzi Recipe 2660

Bak Chang (粽子 zong zi) is pretty much available all year round back in Singapore, but there’s actually a (duān wǔ) Chinese Dragon Boat festival where these pyramidal rice dumplings are traditionally enjoyed (around late-May to mid-June).

Nyonya Bakchang Zongzi Recipe 16

Here’s how these changs are stored… in bundles of a dozen or so dumplings, all tied up with raffia string. At my favourite bak chang stall in Hong Lim Market (Singapore) the colour of the string denotes what type of dumpling it is. Nyonya bakchangs are tied with green string, and Hokkien bakcangs with pink string.

Truth be told, I am not that big a fan of these Nyonya-style dumplings where there’s a sweet and savoury element to them (because of the used of candied wintermelon). However, mum’s recipe turned out so delicious that I ended up liking them a lot more now. The fragrance from the pandan leaves and toasted coriander seeds made a big difference!

Nyonya Bakchang Zongzi Recipe 01
Glutinous rice | Raffia string, S-Hooks, Wet-packed bamboo leaves

As usual, I’ll go through the ingredients and steps involved in making these dumplings before going into the recipe. First up, you’ll need glutinous rice of course. And on the right are some of the ‘equipment’ you’ll need to wrap and tie the bakcangs.

I prefer the wet-packed bamboo leaves because you don’t have to pre-soak / boil them to soften the leaves. They also hold the same fragrance as the dry leaves. However, the dry bamboo leaves are bigger and wider, and will allow you to wrap larger, nicer-looking changs.

Nyonya Bakchang Zongzi Recipe 2498
Pandan leaves, garlic, blue food dye, white pepper

These are the rest of the ingredients to make the glutinous rice part of the filling. Mum’s recipe uses a quick frying method to prepare the rice, and I think it makes the dumplings more fragrant. Traditionally, Nyonya Bakchangs have a touch of blue in them made from Bunga Telang (blue pea flower) extract. To create something similar, I just used blue food colouring.

Nyonya Bakchang Zongzi Recipe 04
Ingredients to make the filling

And here’s what you need to make the filling, plus some nice fatty pork. Dried shiitake mushrooms are easily found at your Asian grocers, but the candied wintermelon (冬瓜糖 dōng guā táng) can be slightly harder to find. Try looking at the section near where they sell rock sugar, it is also called ‘melon candy’.

If you’re using the type of candied wintermelon that comes in sticks (as opposed to the squareish type), I noticed that it’s coated with more sugar around it, so you almost don’t need to add any extra sugar when seasoning your filling.

Nyonya Bakchang Zongzi Recipe 02Nyonya Bakchang Zongzi Recipe 03

Aside for pre-boiling the bamboo leaves if you’re using the dry version, the first step usually involves gently washing and then soaking the glutinous rice for a few hours. My adorable foster kitty got really curious with what I was getting up to when I was doing this. Isn’t he a beautiful looking thing?

Nyonya Bakchang Zongzi Recipe 06

While the glutinous rice is soaking, you can prepare the other ingredients. The pork is par boiled for a few minutes to remove the scum, this step also firms it up and makes it much easier to cut into cubes. If you’re lazy, you can always used minced pork instead, but I think it won’t be as nice texturally.

Nyonya Bakchang Zongzi Recipe 05Nyonya Bakchang Zongzi Recipe 2520

The shiitake mushrooms are softened by soaking and then cubed. You will also need to cube the melon candy. And the coriander seeds are dry fried till fragrant and then ground into a fine powder. This was the time consuming part of the preparation work.

Nyonya Bakchang Zongzi Recipe 07

To prepare the glutinous rice, first fry a few cloves of smashed garlic in hot oil till fragrant, then discard the garlic. Next, toss in the pandan leaves and fry very briefly to release its fragrance.

Nyonya Bakchang Zongzi Recipe 08

Then add the (soaked) glutinous rice and the rest of the seasonings, stir quickly to mix it evenly till the rice starts to get slightly sticky. Then stop frying any further to prevent the rice from hardening up. Scoop out and cover.

Nyonya Bakchang Zongzi Recipe 09Nyonya Bakchang Zongzi Recipe 10

The filling is then made by frying the minced garlic and shallots till fragrant before adding the cubed mushrooms.

Nyonya Bakchang Zongzi Recipe 11Nyonya Bakchang Zongzi Recipe 12

Then add the cubed pork and fry till half cooked before adding the spices and seasonings. The candied wintermelon is added last and the mixture is simmered over low heat till the flavours are combined. Finally, if it isn’t sweet enough, add sugar to taste (I personally prefer it less sweet so did not add any sugar).

Nyonya Bakchang Zongzi Recipe 13

And here’s rice and filling all prepared. I mixed a small amount of the fried glutinous rice with the blue food colouring so that we can have a touch of blue in each dumpling. But traditionally the blue colour is extracted by boiling sun-dried bunga telang (blue pea flowers) and then straining it.

Nyonya Bakchang Zongzi Recipe 14Nyonya Bakchang Zongzi Recipe 15

The wrapping steps and tips have been covered in my How To Wrap Bak Chang post, so I won’t repeat it here.

My main tip would be to keep the unused bamboo leaves submerged in water whilst wrapping as the leaves dry up when out of water. I’d also use less blue rice than what’s pictured here as some of my dumplings had a touch too much blue after cooking. In fact it’d probably be prettier if the blue rice was added right at the start, so that you get one blue tip in each dumpling!

Nyonya Bakchang Zongzi Recipe 2558

Cooking the dumplings involves boiling the whole bunch in a large pot for 2 hours, or you can use a pressure cooker. You can add a few knotted bunches of pandan leaves into the water for extra fragrance too. Once cooked, hang the dumplings to remove excess water and cool to room temperature. The cooked dumplings can kept for up to a week in the refrigerator and for a few months if frozen.

Nyonya Bakchang Zongzi Recipe 2674

These Nyonya changs were quite a delight to eat, and Fatbee really liked them too. While I think that mum’s recipes tends to be as annoyingly hard to do as your GCE ‘A’ Level examinations, the end result is worth it. These dumplings were wonderfully fragrant.

I think using cubed pork, toasting the coriander seeds, adding that piece of pandan leaf in each dumpling, and cooking them in pandan water all made a big difference.  I finished this project smelling like one giant walking bush of pandan leaves, ha ha ha… edibleboo!

Nyonya Bakchang Zongzi Recipe 2667

Mum’s Nonya Bakchang
(娘惹粽 – Glutinous Rice Dumplings)

Preparation Time: 3hrs
Cooking time: 1-3hrs
Makes 24-30 changs

Glutinous Rice Ingredients

1 kg Glutinous Rice
4 tbsps Oil
20 gm Garlic Cloves (smashed & peel off skin)
3 pcs Pandan Leaves (tied into a knot)
½ tsp White Pepper Powder
2 tsps Salt
½ tsp Sugar
Blue Food Dye (optional)

Filling Ingredients

650gm Fatty Pork
40 gm Dried Shiitake Mushrooms
200 gm Candied Chinese Wintermelon
20 gm Coriander Seeds

2½ tbsps Oil
40 gm Garlic (finely chopped)
200 gm Shallots (finely chopped)
¾ tbsp White Pepper Powder
1½  tbsps Light Soya Sauce
1½  tbsps Dark Soya Sauce
1 tsp Fine Salt

Other Equipment

Bamboo Leaves
Raffia String
Pressure Cooker (optional)
Extra Pandan Leaves (optional)

Glutinous Rice Preparation

Wash gently, then soak in water for 2 hours, drain:
Glutinous Rice

Heat Oil in a wok, then add Garlic Cloves and fry till fragrant. Discard the garlic.
Toss in the knotted Pandan Leaves & fry very briefly to release its fragrance
Add soaked Glutinous Rice, give it a quick stir to coat the rice thoroughly with oil
Now immediately add all the seasonings of White Pepper Powder, Salt & Sugar
Stir briefly to mix evenly. Do not over fry or else rice will harden
Scoop up & leave it to cool, then cover with plastic to prevent rice from drying up

Filling Preparation

Soak in water till soft, then remove stalks and cut into small cubes:
Dried Shiitake Mushrooms

Parboil for a few minutes to remove scum then cut into small cubes:
Fatty pork

Dry fry in a non-stick pan till fragrant, then grind till very fine and sift out any large pieces:
Coriander Seeds

Cut into small cubes:
Candied Chinese Wintermelon

Heat Oil in a wok, then add Chopped Garlic & fry till light brown
Add Chopped Shallots & continue to fry till fragrant
Then add Cubed Mushrooms & fry till mixture is fragrant
Add the Cubed Pork & continue to fry till Pork is half cooked
Add the Coriander Powder, White Pepper Powder, Light Soya Sauce, Dark Soya Sauce, Fine Salt
Then add Cubed Candied Chinese Wintermelon & continue to fry over medium heat
Reduce heat & simmer till mixture binds well
Season to taste with Sugar (depending on how sweet your candied wintermelon is)

Wrapping & Tying

Refer to my post How To Wrap Bak Chang, it has photos and videos.

What’s different in this post is I added one small piece of pandan leaf to each chang, making it more fragrant
Resist the urge to tie the changs too tightly, as it’d prevent the dumpling from swelling during cooking
Choose how many strings (& changs) to have in each bundle according to the size of your pot
Having that little bowl of blue-dyed glutinous rice is optional, but having that bit of blue in the chang is a Nyonya trademark


Traditional Method:
Lower the Wrapped Bakchangs (string & all) into a pot of rapidly boiling water
Add tied bunches of Pandan Leaves, cover and boil for 2 hours
Remove Changs and hang to cool and drip dry

Using Pressure Cooker:
Fill Pressure Cooker with water & bring to a boil (do not cover)
Stir in ½ tbsp Salt & toss in tied bunches of Pandan Leaves
Lower the Wrapped Bakchangs, cover & cook over high fire till pressurised
Lower the fire & continue to cook for another 20 mins
Then switch off the fire & leave the Changs in the Pressure Cooker for another 15 mins
De-pressurise the pot & remove the Changs
Hang Changs up to cool and drip dry

By the way, there are more comforting home recipes here.

Nyonya Bak Chang Recipe (娘惹粽 Rice 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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Faraway Bhutan http://fatboo.com/2015/04/bumthang-bhutan-amankora.html http://fatboo.com/2015/04/bumthang-bhutan-amankora.html#comments Sun, 19 Apr 2015 06:15:59 +0000 http://fatboo.com/?p=20699 Faraway Bhutan by Fatboo

3rd instalment of my Bhutan trip, covering the blissful days we spent in the distant and remote valleys of Bumthang district.

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

Faraway Bhutan by Fatboo

Let’s continue with my Bhutan journey from last year. Previously we’d explored the sights around Thimpu and Punakha, then journeyed far east into Bumthang.

Rinchenling Lodge Bumthang Bhutan 5877
Rinchenling Lodge

Here’s the morning view from the second floor window of our lodgings in Bumthang.

Bumthang Bhutan 5883
General Shop & Bar (+ cheeky kids)

We are now 314km away from the start point of our trip in Paro. This would be the furthest that we’d travel into Bhutan.

Jampey Lhakhang Jakar Bumthang Bhutan 5890
Jambey Lhakhang

I liked this part of our trip because the pace was slower and we spent three nights without changing location.

Jampey Lhakhang Jakar Bumthang Bhutan 5894

Less time spent riding the bumpy bus meant that we had more time to mingle about and observe Bhutanese life.

Jakar Bumthang Bhutan 5920

Everything went at a more relaxed pace here… which is how I like it.

Kurjey Lhakhang Bumthang Valley Bhutan 5935
Kurjey Lhakhang

And at almost every site we’d visited, we were just about the only tourists there…

Kurjey Lhakhang Bumthang Valley Bhutan 5929

… in retrospect, it felt pretty surreal.

Bumthang Valley Bhutan 5949

Our guide pretty much veered away from the planned itinerary.

Bumthang Valley Bhutan 5962

And we just followed him, meandering around…

Bumthang Valley Bhutan 5961

… and enjoying the atmosphere.

Tamshing Goemba Bumthang Bhutan 5984
Junior monks preparing prayer candles

The temples and monasteries weren’t big or impressive in Bumthang, but I could sense so much history in them.

Tamshing Goemba Bumthang Bhutan 5981
Tamshing Goemba

This monastery, in particular, left a deep mark in me… its interior had a naturally lit inner chamber that caught my heart so much that I feel thankful I wasn’t allowed to snap a picture of it… because I remember it better in my mind’s eye than in a photo.

Jakar Dzong Bumthang Bhutan 5996
Jakar Dzong

Truth be told, Bhutanese decorative art and architecture follows a strict set of rules. It looks very uniform across its districts.

Jakar Dzong Bumthang Bhutan 6003

But it’s all about perspective… for some it can feel monotonous and repetitive, for others it can feel calming and meditative.

Thangbi VIllage Bumthang Bhutan-6075

The next morning, our guide arranged a visit to a local Bhutanese home in a nearby village.

Thangbi VIllage Bumthang Bhutan 6079

I loved this visit.

Whenever I’m travelling in any country, I’d pass by houses and apartments all the time… and I’d always wonder how day-to-day life would look like inside those homes.

Thangbi VIllage Bumthang Bhutan 6082

So being privvy to this meant a lot to me.

Thangbi VIllage Bumthang Bhutan 6094

With a cryptic ‘OK, follow me’…  our guide led us out of the village…

Thangbi VIllage Bumthang Bhutan 6091

… we walked past wild farmlands…

Thangbi VIllage Bumthang Bhutan 6097

… whilst listening to the village kids singing, from a distance, agrarian songs into the open sky.

Zukdra Lhakhang Bumthang Bhutan 6123

After an hour or so of walking, we climbed up a hill in the middle of nowhere…

Zukdra Lhakhang Bumthang Bhutan 6128

… and ended up here.

Zukdra Lhakhang Bumthang Bhutan 6120

I lost the name of this temple.

But what stayed within me was the memory of being faraway from everything that I knew… sitting silently in a cyan room built against a vertical rock face, facing an altar filled with snack offerings… the plastic packets swollen from the thin air.

Thangbi Village Bumthang Bhutan 6132

Inside the shadows, we watched a monk ritualistically pour local ara into a 7th century wooden bowl as offering.

We then closed our eyes and sat in silence for 10 minutes as the crisp mountain air whispered past our ears.

Jakar Bumthang Bhutan 5916

This morning walk past pastoral villages and unknown temples did not have any jaw-dropping sights to boast about… yet it left the deepest and most lasting insights within me. I’d consider this the highlight of my Bhutan trip.

Chamkhar Town Bumthang Bhutan 6171

Lunch happened in the township of Chamkhar…

Chamkhar Town Bumthang Bhutan 6141

…where we sampled local dumplings, buckwheat pancakes and wild mountain vegetables.

Chamkhar Town Bumthang Bhutan 6183Chamkhar Town Bumthang Bhutan 6184
Chamkhar town

We also had a short stroll around, watching the locals go about their business.

Mebar Tsho Burning Lake Bumthang Bhutan 6167
Mebar Tsho Burning Lake

The day wore on with a slightly longer bus ride to a sacred site called the burning lake, where our guide spent a fair amount of time regaling us with stories.

Amankora Bumthang Bhutan 6218
Amankora Bumthang

On our way back, by request, we visited Amankora Bumthang for evening drinks before we got back to the hotel for dinner.

Amankora Bumthang Bhutan 6210

Aman resorts is a worldwide luxury hotel brand that focusses on sumptuous yet understated simplicity. They gave us a tour of the lodgings offered at the resort…

Amankora Bumthang Bhutan 6203

All I can say is… if I had a bathroom and a view like this, I’d never leave the resort to explore Bhutan!

Thangbi Village Bumthang Bhutan 6133

The best moments of my Bhutan trip were spent here in Bumthang valley, faraway from all the other reaches of the world. But this trip instalment ends here.

In the next and final instalment, we’ll head back to where we began, and embark on our final ascent up Bhutan’s most celebrated temple – Tiger’s Nest.

Other Bhutan photo-series:

Mystical Bhutan
Journeying Bhutan
Faraway Bhutan
Turnabout Bhutan
10 Things Travellers Should Know Before Visiting Bhutan

Faraway 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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Nora http://fatboo.com/2015/04/nora-carlton-cafe.html http://fatboo.com/2015/04/nora-carlton-cafe.html#comments Thu, 16 Apr 2015 01:19:51 +0000 http://fatboo.com/?p=20722 Nora by Fatboo

Minimalistic cafe in Carlton with a small menu of light and wonderfully executed brunch dishes. Also try their interesting charcoal tarts.

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

Nora by Fatboo

My stay-at-home-lots lifestyle has resulted in quite a drop in Melbourne food visits, meaning I’m quite out of sync with Melbourne’s food scene these days.

Nora Cafe Bakery Carlton 6937

On the upside, when I do visit a new and interesting place, it feels all the more special to me now as I relish in re-discovering unusual dishes and fascinating flavours.

Nora Cafe Bakery Carlton 6934

Fakegf and I decided to brunch here one afternoon, it’s a cafe that I knew served interesting charcoal tarts. It was quiet that Thursday morning and we loved the white and minimalistic interior with little surprise pops of colour from the odd painting, ornament and coloured stool.

Nora Cafe Carlton 2Nora Cafe Carlton 1
Piccolo 4 (Candy Man Blend)

We squished ourselves into a cosy little table and were served sparkling water. For drinks, I grabbed a coffee by Small Batch (from Auction Rooms fame) to help awaken my morning blurness a little bit more.

Nora Cafe Bakery Carlton 6944
Bacon, Scallop, Mushroom, Watercress & Taro Puree, Radish

The menu’s simple and very interesting. Curious as to how bacon and scallops can be paired, I picked this dish as my brunch choice.

Nora Cafe Bakery Carlton 6943

I’ll have to say it’s a dish that hit many high notes with me.

The tender and flavoursome bacon steak was hidden underneath that blanket of sliced radish, and it was topped with a sprinkle of dehydrated scallops… giving it a nice sweetness. The watercress and taro puree came as a smear at the edge of the plate which gave an interesting flavour counterpoint. I also liked the use of so much fresh vegetables as it balanced out the unctuousness of the fatty bacon nicely.

Nora Cafe Bakery Carlton 6947
Eggs Our Way, House Chilli Dressing, Shallots, Salted Shrimps and Thai Greens 

Fakegf’s brunch choice came as a very gently steamed (or sous vide?) egg pudding topped with chilli dressing and dried prawns. Its texture was about as soft as silken tofu with a slight sticky pull… she absolutely loved this dish.

Nora Cafe Bakery Carlton 6950

A shared serve of this came with our lightish mains. First, a piece of fresh wombok smeared with homemade curry paste, which we both thought tasted a little discordant from all the other things that were served that day.

Nora Cafe Bakery Carlton 6952

And a piece of popover each. Popovers are fluffy egg batter rolls that are quite similar to Yorkshire puddings, and it served as our carb component nicely.

Nora Cafe Bakery Carlton 6941

Of course we couldn’t have left this brunch spot with trying their famed charcoal tarts. I liked the way they revealed each day’s tart offerings by artfully arranging each tart’s ingredients on that white table.

Nora Cafe Carlton 3
Lychee, Cheddar Cheese, Vegemite | Lemon, Lemongrass, Ginger

I savoured these tarts with Fatbee later that day. We both enjoyed the lemon, lemongrass & ginger tart… but the lychee, cheddar cheese & vegemite tart was a little bit too dissonant and adventurous for our liking though.

Nora Cafe Bakery Carlton 6939

I admired how thoughtful and interesting the brunch dishes were at Nora, making it a very memorable brunch session.

I can’t pinpoint the origin of inspiration whence the dishes came from, but if I were to hazard a guess, I’d say maybe it’s a mix of  Scandinavian thought, Japanese simplicity, Thai / Vietnamese punchiness and modern technique.

Nora on Urbanspoon

Nora 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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Why Travel? http://fatboo.com/2015/04/why-we-love-travel.html http://fatboo.com/2015/04/why-we-love-travel.html#comments Sun, 12 Apr 2015 09:35:41 +0000 http://fatboo.com/?p=20642 Why Travel? by Fatboo

Thought piece around why we're willing to put up with the cost, stresses & discomforts of travel just to be in another place for a few weeks each year.

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

Why Travel? by Fatboo

I have this habit where, after coming back from a trip… in my post-holiday stupor (or blues) I’d immediately start dreaming towards the next trip. I think just the act of searching for airfares, choosing destinations and imagining possible dates feels rewarding enough. It signifies something in the horizon to look forward to.

Having just got back from 2 weeks in Japan, I found myself diving into the alluring dreamworld of trip-planning even more fervently than before. Looking into destinations ranging from the somewhat plausible to the luxuriously unreachable…

… camel safaris in Rajasthan, over-water villas in the Maldives, outdoor hotel rooms over the African veldts, hiking down the Grand Canyon, cliffside ocean views in Phuket and Tuscan fortresses in Italy.

But the question next pops up in my head:

What is it about Travel?

Why am I willing to suffer long and squeezy flights on airplanes?
Why am I alright with waking up at 5am and having my ‘bags outside the door’ at 6am?
Why am I willing to overlook bad hotel coffees and the ubiquitously boring buffet breakfast spread?
Why am I okay with a tour guide dictating “you have 20 minutes here, be back in the bus at 1.40pm”?

Dordogne-River-Domme-6314-2.jpgDordogne Valley, France

And here lies the reason for this thought piece. Travel can be stressful and not-that-fun, especially when you have tight schedules to follow and have to do things that are completely out of sync with your normal daily routine. Travelling also costs quite a bit more than your day-to-day living back home. So the question “Why Travel?” runs deeper than it first looks.

The Problem is Time & Cost

Most of us have our day jobs back home with a finite salary and annual leave (usually 4 weeks a year) along with financial commitments (mortgage, rent, bills) to fulfill. If I were to go statistical… 28 days out of 365 days means only 7.7% of your year is spent travelling. That’s a lot at stake and you want to make the most of it. And here’s where it gets stressful.

First up, you know that it’ll be pricey… and because of that you now face the problem of wanting to cover as much ground within that time frame to give you the maximum bang for your buck. For many of us, each visit to a country (especially when it’s on the other side of the globe) will only happen once in a lifetime. Next year, it’ll be another place. Each country has a lot to offer, so you’ll have to prioritise what you want to see. But some of us end up with having itineraries that are so crammed to the point where you’re travelling from place to place so much that you can’t even enjoy each location. You can attempt to shorten travel time by picking quicker (and more comfortable) modes of transport, but that will mean more money.

So the question can almost be rephrased into “how should I plan my travel to make it enjoyable?”.

Perspective and Context

Despite all the stresses and discomforts of travel, I’ve realised that… for me anyway… my thoughts and observances around each trip tends to not happen there and then. Instead, it happens retrospectively.

Kurjey Lhakhang Bumthang Valley Bhutan 5929
Kurjey Lhakhang, Bumthang – Bhutan

My trip to sparsely populated Bhutan involved frustratingly long, bumpy and uncomfortable bus rides, substandard hotels and difficult walks in high altitudes. Despite having the luxury of being just about the only tourists at most of the sights, it was a trip that I struggled to enjoy completely when I was in the middle of it. But once I got back and started looking back at the snapshots I’d taken, I started reliving the trip and appreciating it a lot more.

Fast forward 4 months and I found myself in busy and efficient Japan… negotiating train schedules that are punctual to the minute and keeping up with hordes of Japanese salarymen brisk-walking along the streets and subways. Some of the major sights and temples we’d visited were so packed with (sometimes aggressive) tourists vying for that perfect photo-spot that I started losing it.

Just by looking at these two trips, there were obvious things about Bhutan and Japan that did not tickle my fancy. But each country was so different from each other that I started appreciating something about each place when I made retrospective comparisons against each trip.

Shinkansen Osaka to Hiroshima 7506
Shinkansen (Osaka to Hiroshima)

Taking 10-12 hours to travel 200km in Bhutan made me appreciate (more than you can imagine) sitting in the Japanese Shinkansen (bullet train)… where it takes less than 2 hours to travel 350km. On the other hand, fighting the annoying hordes of tourists pouring forth from large tour coaches at Kinkaku-ji Temple (Kyoto) made me appreciate SO MUCH the feeling of freedom, exclusiveness and isolation that you get when visiting Bhutan.

And the truth is this – it’s all about perspective… and in order to even have a point of context and perspective to begin with, you have to have travelled in the first place!

The Economics of Travel

Another funny thing about me is how I enjoy crunching back-of-envelope numbers to have a ballpark idea of how much a trip costs per person per night all-up (including flights, hotels, tour fees and daily expenses less shopping). Doing so sort of allows me to have an idea of how to budget for my next trip and to predictably rank it as affordable or indulgent. On this front, I have to confess that I’m now at an age and life stage where I don’t mind forking out more for a more comfortable trip if it’s within my means.

Looking at my recent trips, Japan ended up costing A$320pppn, Bhutan came to a highish A$420pppn and my luxury trip to Bali over Easter reached a whopping A$500pppn! Of course, there are many other factors at play… for instance whether it’s a private tour or a large group tour following a cookie-cutter itinerary, whether the airfares were expensive because of the season and destination, and the cost of living at the destination itself. All that said, I found it very fascinating that Japan (being the most developed country of the 3) ended up being the ‘cheapest’ trip of the 3!

The geekiness did not end there. Last night, I made a quick curiosity flight + hotel package search on Expedia for the Maldives during low-season (October). It reached A$1400pppn for an overwater villa + meals (only breakfast was included in the quote). That’s a bit crazy and it tells me that I’ll either have to just forget about Maldives or start eating steamed rice with soya sauce every day… ha ha ha! Small wonder they call the Maldives ‘Paradise on Earth’.

NT - Day 2 Uluru-0230-2Uluru, Northern Territory – Australia

On a side note, I’m also starting to acknowledge the merits of travelling domestically. Staying a few nights in a comfy lodge in country Victoria means you’re only driving for a few hours and you’re saving the cost of sitting on a squeezy plane. And there are parts of outback Australia that can be very beautiful.

The Rhythm of Travel

While the financial aspects of travel depends on your earning ability and your personal perception of what’s expensive and what isn’t, the temporal aspect of travel is something that you can be in better control of when you’re planning your trip.

I find that I like slower paced itineraries where you’re spending more days in one spot and travelling between locations less. Of course there are countries where I find it hard to abide by this principle simply because there’s so much I’d like to see. Still, I find that it’s good to at least remember to not be over-ambitious with the itinerary. And if it can’t be helped, I’d try to give myself an afternoon without anything planned so that I can have some ‘breathing space’.

Chile-27-Torres-Del-Paine.jpgTorres Del Paine, Patagonia

I also find that by the 10 to 12 day mark, I tend to reach exhaustion point with my holidays… partly from the sight and sensory overload, and partly from all the moving about on trains and buses and planes. This was the reason why my final few days in South America were spent just staying the the hotel in Buenos Aires. I pretty much became that cat who’d just prefer staying in bed near its creature comforts instead of exploring the big and scary world!

This has made me realise that I prefer to break up holidays into shorter (5-14 day) trip lengths every 4-6 months. I’m less likely to be exhausted and there’s always another exciting trip to look forward to in the near horizon with spare annual leave to boot! If it has to be a longer trip (say 3 weeks in faraway Europe), then I’d ideally want to have a quiet slower-paced ‘breather’ somewhere in the middle of the trip involving a few nights in a cosy and relaxing hotel in a town or village that isn’t busy.

So I think it’s important to think about and understand your own travel rhythm. Find the optimal trip length that keeps you happy, and have a feel of when you’d normally start tiring out. Once you realise that about yourself, you can start planning your future trips better.

Take Part in the Planning

The other thing that has changed about me… and it’s a big change in me… is the fact that I’ve started caring more about how my holiday is going to be like.

Truth is each of us have a different concept of an ideal holiday. Some of us love fast paced trips with late nights in busy cities, some of us prefer their pool villas overlooking the ocean horizon, and some of us find deep enrichment in a meditation retreat. I personally like my slower-paced cultural holidays with glimpses into the day-to-day lives of the locals as opposed to visiting impressive monuments. But I also love a luxurious do-nothing type of poolside holiday.

Private pool at Alila Villas Soori

Trip planning isn’t easy. A good holiday (if you’re not using a tour package) involves hours and hours of research, comparisons and eMail correspondences with hotels and tour companies. I used to leave it to others to plan the trip for me simply because I wasn’t interested and found it too daunting. Problem with that is you may end up joining a trip that isn’t what you’d imagined it to be. Worse still, you may end up complaining about it and annoy the heck out of the person who did all the groundwork and planning!

These days, I realise how important it is to either take part in the trip planning or at least read the itinerary and accept it or suggest amendments. That way, you’d feel more in control of your vacation. And if things do not go to plan, you’re also less likely to complain about it because you’re fully aware of what you were signing up for.

Shirakawago Morning 8645
Shirakawa-go, Japan. My favourite part of the trip!

Finally, trip planning also involves giving leeway for your travel companions’ travel habits and preferences. For instance, I like my quiet mountain villages and remote seasides away from the maddening crowds and I struggle to enjoy busy cities even if they’re as reputedly beautiful as Paris, Tokyo, Rome and New York. Meanwhile, Fatbee is able to enjoy the vibrant and cultural aspects of these big cities.

What this means is if we’re travelling together, I shouldn’t be insisting on just covering the remote countrysides and secret spots within a country, I should allow for part of the trip to involve the bigger cities. In the same breath, Fatbee should also understand if I end up deciding to just stay in the hotel when things become “too much” for me in a big city.

So Why Travel?

Cost analysis, travel rhythm and trip planning aside, I think there’s a deeper underlying reason why most of us travel. It’s that intangible string that keeps us looking towards the next experience.

Takayama Japan Traffic LightsPedestrian lights in Japan, depicting a man-in-a-hat

For Fatbee, the very act of trip planning already makes him happy. For me, even the little details about a new place makes me happy. Things like seeing street signs in another language and seeing a non-Australian plug socket in my hotel is enough to make me feel as if “I’m here at last“. And while I don’t have the guts to go forth and communicate with the locals, I still enjoy observing their habits and customs from a distance, marvelling at how different it is to back home.

But I’ll end this post here and leave it to you to help answer this final question for me in the comments section. So tell me…

Why do you travel?
How do you prefer to travel?
And what is it about travel that makes you come back for more?

Why Travel? 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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Ascot Food Store http://fatboo.com/2015/04/ascot-food-store-moonee-ponds.html http://fatboo.com/2015/04/ascot-food-store-moonee-ponds.html#comments Mon, 06 Apr 2015 02:20:29 +0000 http://fatboo.com/?p=20632 Ascot Food Store by Fatboo

Brunch spot in Moonee Ponds with an interesting menu and lovely doughnuts.

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

Ascot Food Store by Fatboo

320 Ascot Vale Rd
Moonee Ponds, VIC 3039
03 9370 2649
Facebook Page

Ascot Food Store Ascot Vale 2032

Catchups with Damo and Eric often occurs near our homes around Melbourne’s Inner West. The scene’s more relaxed there and I’d often get introduced to a little gem of a place thanks to their suggestions.

Ascot Food Store Ascot Vale 1
Orange, Pineapple, Carrot Ginger 6.5 | ‘Cheese cake’ Strawberry, Mascarpone 6.5

It was pretty busy that Sunday morning, but we were lucky enough to find seats almost immediately. However, service started off a little bit slow with quite a bit of downtime before our orders were taken. Not that we were in an awful hurry, since Sunday brunch catchups are more about leisurely conversation and kinship over good food!

Ascot Food Store Ascot Vale 2039
Soft Shell Crab Burger, Sauce Gribiche, Poached Tomatoes, Watercress 16.0

The biggish menu at Ascot Food Store is actually quite forward-thinking in the culinary sense, with quite a few interesting dishes. Eric went with the soft shell crab burger served between brioche buns, and boy did it look good.

Ascot Food Store Ascot Vale 2040
“AFC” Ascot Fried Chicken, Spicy Chicken Wings, Potato & Gravy, Slaw & Brioche Bun 15.0

Damo tried out the establishment’s rendition of ‘KFC’ with mashed potatoes. The chicken was crispy succulent with a nice dusting of spice. I liked how it was fried Malaysian/Indonesian-style where there’s minimal batter action but maximum flavour.

Ascot Food Store Ascot Vale 2041
Duck Egg, Toasted Brioche, Shitake Mushrooms, Parsley Butter & Shaved Pecorino 18.0

My dish of choice was fried duck egg and fresh shiitake mushrooms stacked on a thick slice of brioche toast.

Ascot Food Store Ascot Vale 2044

Aside for being slightly over-salted, I found it to be a light yet indulgent feed. It reminded me a bit of the truffled duck egg served at Hammer & Tong, which made me wish I had a sprinkle of truffle oil here.

Ascot Food Store Ascot Vale 2046
Lemon curd doughnut

We ended our brunch nicely with Ascot Food Store’s signature doughnuts, each supplied with a syringe to pump in the delicious curd into. Very nice.

Ascot Food Store Ascot Vale 2047

A good brunch session doesn’t have to involve following brunch giants or published food guides. Ascot Food Store has quite a few good things going for it and I enjoyed my brunch here.

Ascot Food Store on Urbanspoon

Ascot Food Store 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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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.
If you enjoyed reading this blog post, feel free to discover more at Let's Get Fat Together.

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.

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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.

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

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

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.

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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.

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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.

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

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Punakha Dzong

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We reached this fortress just before sunset, and I think it was one of the most impressive dzong (fortress) that we visited during the trip. Punakha Dzong looked amazing from a distance.

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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.

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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.

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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 stroll about and admire this site.

Suspension Bridge Punakha Dzong Bhutan 5764

Pho Chhu Suspension Bridge

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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.

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

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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 onward 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.

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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 these flags, a hundred tall, in memory of the family member that had passed.

Trongsa Central Bhutan 5846


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


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

Rinchenling Lodge Bumthang Bhutan 5868
Rinchenling Lodge

We 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.

Other Bhutan photo-series:

Mystical Bhutan
Journeying Bhutan
Faraway Bhutan
Turnabout Bhutan
10 Things Travellers Should Know Before Visiting Bhutan

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

Teppanyaki Set Dinner at Koko by Fatboo

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

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.
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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.

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


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.

Thimpu Bhutan 5522Thimpu Bhutan 5515
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!

Other Bhutan photo-series:

Journeying Bhutan
Faraway Bhutan
Turnabout Bhutan
10 Things Travellers Should Know Before Visiting Bhutan

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

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.

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

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

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

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.

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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.
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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
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
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.
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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

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.
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