I’ve finally found you…

Short of flying to Florence, I’ve been looking high and low for the perfect pair of flat, knee-high, leather boots. The other day, I came across a discount code for Mimco, and decided to pop online and take a look. There they were, sitting prettily in the Sale section, the perfect pair of boots in my size! The best bit was that I got them for $100 off the sale price. Score.

fabulous boots

fabulous boots

The missing dessert

Glutinous sesame rice balls – the missing dessert from my 7 course Asian degustation:

Monday misery

I am thinking about ramen after reading this. The more I think about it, the angrier I get.

Canberra is tragically deprived of good Japanese food, especially ramen. Sure, there are lots of bad Japanese food, such as Sizzling Bento in Kingston with its pseudo ramen in a less than palatable broth, Mee’s Sushi in Manuka which shamelessly adopts two-minute noodles as ramen and charges an inexcusable amount for it, and Wagamama in Civic that serves fast Japanese food made by English apprentices rather than the authentic fare. To think that Wagamama is as good as it gets in Canberra…

Japanese ramen has Chinese origins. The word ramen in Chinese is pronounced ‘la mien’, which translates into hand-pulled noodles. It’s not as big in China as it is in Japan, but I do remember eating curry beef la mien inside street stalls in Shanghai when I was little. The noodle was sold by weight (the measurement was ‘liang’ = 50 grams), and would come in a rich curry beef broth with lots of coriander. The beef was thinly sliced and goes amazingly well with the herb in the curried broth. This is probably very different to Japanese ramen versions.

Talking about ramen is making me hungry. I think I will go eat last night’s dinner now. As for ramen, I will have to wait until Sydney.

**ETA**: We went to Wagamama last night for ramen (because we just couldn’t hold it out any longer). It was terrible. I had a chilli chicken ramen which came really fast but the quantity was measly. Ben had a Wagamama ramen which came nearly 20 minutes after mine and was just as bad. The quantity and quality were so lacking, in fact we went to Nando’s afterwards for a second meal.

The seven (six) course Asian degustation

Degustation is a culinary term meaning “a careful, appreciative tasting of various foods” and focusing on the gustatory system, the senses, high culinary art and good company.

Inspired partly by Masterchef and partly out of sheer insanity, I decided to make a 7 course Asian degustation. But due to time constraints (I started at 3pm and managed to finish at 7:30), it turned out to be a 6 course degustation. I did some preparation for the other dessert course, but it would have taken a little more time to put together – so watch this space!

Without much further ado, onto the menu!

The first entree is salad of beansprouts with sesame dressing on an egg net. This one is Korean-inspired. The beansprouts are blanched first then dressed in sesame oil, salt etc.

The second entree is Vietnamese pork meatballs with sesame-infused soy sauce and mayonnaise. I cheated with both the soy sauce and the mayonnaise – soy sauce is from the farmers market at Pyrmont in Sydney and the mayonnaise is the famous Japanese Kewpie brand. For those that are about to scoll at me for using store-bought mayonnaise, I did make my own the other day!

The third entree is steamed cabbage rolls in a light chicken broth. This Chinese dish consists of julienned carrots, shitake mushrooms and dried tofu sheets wrapped in steamed cabbage (wombok). The broth is made from no other than Campbell’s chicken stock (so good and so easy).

The first main course is Dong Puo Rou with tea egg. What is Dong Puo Rou you ask? It’s really just a fancy Chinese name for slow-braised pork belly. The eggs are cooked with star anise and black tea, giving it a special fragrance.

The second main course is chicken and potato coconut curry. Mum used to make this curry with curry powder from Shanghai, which had a special flavour. Western curry powder just don’t taste the same. Unfortunately, I can’t seem to find it here, so instead I improvised and added coconut milk to the curry, making it a partly-Chinese, partly-Indochina dish.

The dessert is Japanese green tea mousse with ai-yu jelly. This one was a quickie – I used Japanese green tea mousse from a packet, and the jelly came in a can 🙂

Like I said, the second dessert course wasn’t prepared because I ran out of time, but will make it sometime this week!

"’If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it’ is the slogan of the complacent, the arrogant or the scared. It’s an excuse for inaction, a call to non-arms.”

This gung ho quote from the former National Security Advisor and Commander-in-Chief of the US Army Forces, Colin Powell, does not represent the exact credo I wish to follow. In any event, Mr Powell was probably painting a patriotic backdrop or providing philosophical justification for the United States to unleash its war on terror.

But I did wonder about ‘complacency’ today – the kind that stops you from getting up in the mornings on work days, prevents you from assessing your career progress, and causes you to get too comfortable in life and relationships. The bottom line is, one should never become too smug and complacent about relationships, health and career.

Life is like a chunk of dough, it requires kneading, and a lot of work. Bravo to you if you are healthy, have settled down into a great job, and started a cosy little family. But have you ever stood back from your achievements and thought, how could I make these better? How could I prevent these from deteriorating?

I haven’t, not really, and I must admit that now is an appropriate time to make these assessments, to evaluate how far I have come and think about how I could proactively live life.

Da Lu Noodles (大卤面)

Da lu noodles (大卤面 or 打卤面) is a popular noodle dish found in northern Chinese provinces. It consists of pork, wombok, egg and noodles in a delicious thick broth. You can also add julienned bamboo and dried mushrooms.

The secret to this noodle dish is black peppercorns. The spice brings a special fragrance to the broth which is tinged with a little kick from the peppercorns. It’s certainly not the prettiest dish, but full of flavour and simple to make.

What we learned from Masterchef

Tonight was the finale of MasterChef Australia. Having followed it from start to finish with virtually every single episode, here is a list of what Ben and I learned from MasterChef Australia (and a few pointers for those who want to be Australia’s second Master Chef).

  • A dish is not ‘pedestrian’ if the judges have never heard of it.
  • Food hygiene is obviously not an issue when you are cooking for top chefs and food critics.
  • If you are going to cook cat, you should cook the whole cat. Carcass and all.
  • Lots of tears is the essential ingredient, so are huge jaw splitting smiles.
  • It also helps if you are a mum with three boys, and a massively tall husband.
  • Every dish in the taste test will have olive oil, salt, stock and bay leaf.

Now some sensible observations:

  • Dessert is a favourite on the show, especially Adrianno Zumbo’s funky creations. Be sure to visit his Balmain cafe / patisserie.
  • You have a winning dish if you get either of these two right: flavour and texture.
  • Show the judges how far you have come in the competition, by making a montage of what you were taught for the finals.
  • Know what goes well with what, you are sure to have a winner there.
  • Cook different types of meats and seafood, so you know how each ‘behaves’ when cooked.
  • Practice your knife skills, you don’t want to look like a klutz on national television.
  • Devise at least 3 signature dishes, preferably your very own creations.

And finally…

  • Everyone needs a Global Synergy Knife block. Trust me, you do. I salivate everytime I see one.