A walk in the garden

It’s winter (zero degree in the morning anyone?) and obviously not a good time for plants.  Thanks to our efforts and good intentions (read: easy maintenance plants), I think the garden is doing okay.  Although compared to the tropical Queensland, where everything grows all year, this is a bit of a let down.

See for yourself.

Lemon tree. Finally some lemons after more than a year.

Himalayan bamboo. It's supposed to withstand the cold. Doing good so far. Note the little chilli plant in the corner.

Japanese maple. Lost all its leaves last week.

Little rosemary plant.

Aleo vera. Going strong. But not as strong as my parents' in Queensland, where they seem to sprout and grow overnight like mushrooms.

Spring onion! You know you are Asian when you have a bunch of these in your garden.

Some dead and dying cacti. How do I keep them alive in Winter??!

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A mild winter’s day

A mild Winter's day. American Apparel leggings, Country Road sparkle singlet, grey cardigan, silk hand-spun scarf from Cambodia, Balenciaga bag

Photos by my talented bf.

CNY cooking

Chinese New Year falls on 14 February this year. For the Chinese, I suspect it’s just an excuse to eat yourself silly and stay up all night watching the fireworks. Since fireworks weren’t an option, we opted for eat-yourself-silly.

On the menu was four mains and one dessert. The mains were:

  • Cantonese-style steamed fish
  • Stir fried beef with vegetables in black bean sauce
  • Salt and pepper pork
  • White cut chicken with special dipping sauce.

I made the dessert earlier in the day – Portuguese tarts! No, not in the literal sense. These are the ones you usually see in yum cha restaurants – otherwise known as egg tarts. They were a winner with the boys.

I stupidly forgot to take pictures of the fish and the beef but here are the other two:

Salt and pepper pork is a Chinese restaurant staple, it was also the bane of my existence until I actually managed to make it properly this time. I could never get the coating right, but ended up using a combination of pre-packaged Indonesian coating for fried chicken and corn flour. The result was spectacular.

The white cut chicken was another proud moment. Mainly because I bought a 1.7kg chicken not realising that I didn’t have a large enough pot to cook it in. So I had to turn the chicken in the pot (with tongs AND chopsticks) once every 15 minutes or so until it was cooked on both sides. Painful. But it cooked beautifully in the end. The special dipping sauce was made of a variety of fail-safe ingredients – chicken stock, light soy sauce, minced garlic, ginger and shallots, plus sesame oil and a little bit of sugar. The chicken was cut up (another great feat, I have never in my life dissected a whole chicken) and chilled in the fridge for an hour before serving. It received lots of kudos from my guinea pigs.

Happy Chinese New Year!

‘Home’

I’m very lax when it comes to using the word ‘home’. If I was staying at a hotel overnight and just finished dinner outside, I’d absentmindedly say – ‘let’s go home’. I moved to Canberra from Brisbane almost three years ago, but whenever I go back to Brisbane, I always refer to it as ‘going home’. Nevertheless, I still tell others that my home is in Canberra, and I have even changed my car registration.

Can a person have multiple homes? And when does a house or a place to stay actually becomes home?

Lately, I’ve been wondering about this, mainly because of homesickness. Oh there, i did it again – homesick for which home? I’m talking about Brisbane, where I spent all my adolescent life, the warm and inviting city that I know like the back of my hand. The familiar streets, my favourite shops, those oddly comforting buildings. I miss my parents’ house and our street, with an impressive display of vibrant jacaranda flowers in mid-Spring. I miss the local Asian grocery stores and restaurants, which to me are like old acquaintances. I miss the Brisbane CBD, where I spent most of my time going to uni, going to work or just simply wandering around. I miss the humidity that people from other cities just love to hate, but it’s a perfect excuse for a dip in the pool. But most of all, I miss my family and friends.

No matter how long I stay in Canberra (or any other city for that matter), it’s not going to change what feels like ‘home’ to me. I can throw the word ‘home’ around like a ragdoll, but in the end, there is only one home. So yes, it’s only a matter of time before I go back home.

Shanghai Dumpling Cafe – link

I know that not everyone who reads this blog reads my other one on Canberra restaurants. I don’t normally do this, but I have discovered a Shanghainese restaurant in Canberra that has just made my day. So if you ever come to Canberra, or live in Canberra, definitely give it a go!

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.