Date Archives January 2014

Minion Pancakes!!!

If you’ve watched Despicable Me – and its sequel – I’m pretty sure you’ll agree that the Minions absolutely stole the show with their adorable antics and costumes. Naturally, children love them too. So in a bid to win my young nephews’ affections – it is, after all, one of their favourite shows – I made them Minion pancakes! And with inspiration from Pinterest, I’ve learnt that there’s only one thing you need to make any cartoon pancake you want.

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Alan Wong’s, Hawaii

If you’re into your fine dining, then Alan Wong’s would be a must-go stop when you visit Hawaii. Alan Wong is one of the top chefs synonymous with Hawaii fine dining, and his clever use of unique local ingredients with international knowledge and techniques really impressed me when I visited his other restaurant – the Pineapple Room.

So with the amazing experience from the Pineapple Room still flowing through my veins, I arrived at Alan Wong’s with anticipation bubbling in my belly.

When I head to a restaurant like this, I always try and go for the fanciest tasting menu they have to offer, because I figure that the food on there would be thoroughly representative of the dining establishment. The Chef’s Tasting Menu – featuring eight courses – really caught my eye, but I was informed that they required the whole table to order the menu, as the number of courses would leave some at the table waiting for me to finish eating while they had no food, which would not contribute to the dining experience. Fair enough.

So the next best thing that I could order was the six course “Tasting of the Classics” ($85 per person, $125 with wine)

First and second courses: “Soup and Sandwich” – Chilled Hamakua Springs Tomato Soup with a Grilled Mozzarella Cheese, Foie Gras and Kalua Pig Sandwich, and Chopped Ahi Sashimi and Avocado Salsa Stack – Stacked on Crispy Won Ton, Spicy Aioli and Wasabi Soy


Third course: Butter Poached Kona Cold Lobster – Keahole Abalone, Hamakua Heritage Abalone and Eryngii Mushrooms, Green Onion Oil


Fourth course: Ginger Crusted Onaga, Long-tail Red Snapper – Miso Sesame Vinaigrette, Mushrooms and Corn


Fifth course: Twice Cooked Short Rib, Soy Braised and Grilled “Kalbi” – Gingered Shrimp, KoChoo Jang Sauce

Sixth course: “The Coconut” – Haupia Sorbet in a Chocolate Shell, Tropical Fruits and Lilikoi Sauce

The food was of a high quality, and utilising fresh, flavourful ingredients. Standout dishes for me were the Kona lobster (it’s hard to go wrong with fresh lobster as long as you don’t overcook it), the Twice Cooked Short Ribs (surf and turf! And short ribs always carry lots of hearty beefy flavour), and “The Coconut” showed an immense amount of creativity and technique. A balloon was used to create a chocolate shell, and rolled in desiccated toasted coconut while it’s wet. Then when it’s set, the balloon is popped, and it’s filled with haupia (coconut) sorbet, and an indent is made with a small bowl or ladle. Once that’s set, the edges are hand-carved with a knife, to create the cut-open-coconut look. Incredibly impressive.

One of the courses impressed me a little less, like the snapper course. I’m not the biggest fan of snapper to begin with – it’s a fish that dries out wayy too easily, and has a tendency to be ‘squeaky’ when it’s overcooked. The fish here wasn’t squeaky, but it definitely left me reaching for the water after a couple of bites. I would much prefer they included the butter cod that was also on their menu, but I understand that it’s not within their theme of the ‘classics’.

In all, I much enjoyed my experience at the Pineapple Room better. At Alan Wong’s we were seated at an incredibly noisy area where the waiter had to constantly yell at us in order for us to hear him. He was also a little abrupt with one of us. Another waiter who brought us our food rattled through the description as though he couldn’t wait to leave, and didn’t bother waiting to see if we had any questions about what we ate. Then finally, when they decided to do damage control with my offended friend and asked her how her meal went, they asked her about a meal she didn’t have, which really made things worse.

Not the best experience although the food was decent enough. Maybe next time.

We ate at:
Alan Wong’s
+1 (808) 949-2526
1857 S King St
Honolulu, HI 96826

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Beer Brined Chicken Wings

With Australia Day just round the corner, I have been racking my brain trying to create a recipe to serve up to my friends. After all, isn’t Australia Day all about kicking back in the sunshine with a cold beer in hand, barbecue sizzling away?

Then it hit me. How do you match the barbecue and the beer? Beer brined chicken wings, of course!
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Sydney Festival 2014, Hyde Park

The Boss, $8, from Woofy’s

Okay, I must admit: I’m not much of a festival goer. I try my best to stay indoors for as much as possible, and the only reason I’d ever head outdoors is when I have to go somewhere, or where there’s food.

Which is why I was drawn to Festival Village in Hyde Park, as part of Sydney Festival 2014. Gelato Messina serving up carnival themed wacky treats you say? I’m there.

Sometimes you need a bit of savoury to go with the sweet. Or rather a savoury to prelude the sweet.

Or any reason to get a hot dog.
Woofy’s Gourmet Sausage Sizzle had a stall there selling their gourmet hotdogs. The idea is that the base sausage is the same – Angus Beef – and you get to choose your toppings. The hotdog was satisfying and filling enough, but the two guys who were manning the stall over the late lunch period didn’t look particularly happy to be there. So, for $8 a pop, I could take it or leave it.

But now, for the pièce de résistance.


For weeks now I’ve been taunted tempted by my friends’ posts about Gelato Messina‘s incredibly creative and intriguing carnival sweet treats. Pluto pup made with ice cream and pancake batter? Red skin and banana flavoured gelato lollipop? Duck fat caramel fudge on a caramel cheesecake gelato? BACON MARSHMALLOWS??!!


Top row: Messinaweiner (Plutopup) $9
Bottom row, from left: Samurai Fairy Balls, $7, So Wrong It’s Right, $9, Gelatofee Apples, $7, Eyescream Lollipops, $7

So my dining partner was gallantly dragged into ordering five desserts to share with me. The Messinaweiner was a hot (no pun intended!) favourite, with it’s pancake batter coated maple syrup gelato. The pancake batter added a kind of moreishness to it, but to be really honest I couldn’t really tell that the gelato was maple syrup and the sauce was plum-flavoured. It made for a delicious bite, but I was envisioning slightly more discernible flavours in my head. The Eyescream Lollipop was the most recognisable, and every bite screamed out Redskins to me. The pop rocks weren’t quite popping, but the bites were still delicious and easy to finish. I wanted the So Wrong, It’s Right to be right so badly, but unfortunately it didn’t quite hit the mark. Once again I couldn’t really discern all the flavours that were meant to be there – duck fat caramel, bacon marshmallow etc – but it really could be that my tastebuds were still rioting in protest to all the sugar. The Gelatofee Apples were a really creative take on traditional toffee apples, and the refreshing green apple gelato providing great balance to the creamy milk chocolate. The surprise gelato for me came in the form of the Samurai Fairy Balls, which had a yuzu popsicle hidden underneath a mound of pink fairy floss. I do wish there was a way to incorporate all of it in a single bite – we ate through most of the fairy floss before we got to the yuzu sorbet, which was foot stompingly tart and actually needed a bit of the sugar to temper it – but I really did enjoy the citrus kick of the yuzu sorbet.

In all, Gelato Messina took us on a crazy sugar-fueled roller coaster ride that left us in a sugar coma afterward. Two lessons to learn: Don’t order 5 frozen treats all at once to finish on a balmy warm night, and maybe it’s a good idea to space out that much sugar over a longer time frame.

If you’d like to grab your Gelato Messina fix, or enjoy the rest of the attractions at Sydney Festival 2014, it will be on till the 26th, so head on down to Hyde Park after 4:30pm, except for Mondays.

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Real A Gastropub, Hawaii


Gastropubs are not entirely a new beast of eatery, but it definitely ticks all the boxes for being trendy. It’s usually got creative, pub-styled food, and a large selection of gourmet and/or flavoured beers to go with this interesting grub. One such place that was recommended to me by my new found friends during my stay was the Real A Gastropub in Honolulu.

Their food menu consists of nearly 30 interesting dishes – some beer inspired – ranging in price from $3-$12. Three of us girls ordered 7 dishes, but that was mostly because we had piggy eyes – there was wayy too much food to finish and we had to take some of it home.

Fire pickles, $3

These babies are HOT HOT HOT!!! When we first ordered them, the waitress made very sure that we didn’t mistakenly think that we were ordering fried pickles, which would have been a complete disaster. But no, I saw the words ‘ghost chilli’ and I was sold. Ghost chillies, also known as Bhut Jolokia, rate at about 1,000,000 on the Scoville scale and are fiery to say the least. Slices of cucumber are pickled with these peppers, which are sliced open to let the capsaicin mingle with the rest of the ingredients. The result is a pickle which I couldn’t eat more than a piece at a time, all the while enjoying the intense prolonging burn in my mouth. This is not for the faint hearted, and I chickened out from eating the actual ghost chillies included in the pickle, as much as I wanted to try.


Beer Braised Brisket Poutine, $8

Have I mentioned how cheap I think all these dishes are. At $8, we got a whopping serving of fries, meat, gravy and cheese, topped with a sunny side up egg. While I love a good poutine, this particular dish didn’t quite cut it for me, and was a touch on the dull side.

Or maybe my tastebuds were just numb from the Fire Pickles.


Garlic Candied Bacon, $4

Bacon? Yes. Garlic? Double yes. Candied? GIVE IT TO ME NOWWWWWW. Just looking at the it I knew that the road to hell and heart disease had to be most definitely paved with candied bacon. This was sticky and salty all at once, and I especially appreciated how the waitress noticed that the bacon was darker than usual, and got the kitchen to prepare another serving for the table. This is everything that it promised to be – addictive and rich at the same time, and I had to take some home for breakfast the next morning.

FYI, it was just as delicious cold and out of the fridge as it was fresh from the kitchen.

Pipikaula Poke, $7

Pipikaula is, to my understanding, a sort of moist Hawaiin beef jerky. Lightly spiced, it’s mostly served as one of the sides to a main meal. Poke is a kind salad, usually made with raw fish, and seasoned. So what happens when you put the two together? A refreshing, funky, tangy mix that is perfect for a warm balmy night in Hawaii. One of my favourites, this one is also fantastic out of the fridge the next morning.

Chicken and Waffles, $7

A Southern classic, chicken and waffles usually consist of deep fried crispy chicken and warm fluffy-on-the-inside waffles, both drenched in a hearty serving of maple syrup. An epitome of the sweet salty tightrope that the South tread so well. This particular version unfortunately fell a little flat for me, especially when faced with all the other delicious food that this place had to offer.


Duck Confit ‘Corn Dog’, $7

I had no idea what to expect when I ordered this. Corn dog, one of the iconic foods of fairs and carnivals, usually consists of an ingredient, like a hot dog frankfurt, coated in a cornmeal batter and deep fried. On a stick. So I imagined that maybe they would just take a whole confit of duck leg and just coat it in batter and deep fry it.


The result was wayy more mind boggling than that. One bite into these delicious mounds on sticks revealed tender shreds of moist duck, and to be honest I’ve got no idea how they shaped them onto the sticks and battered them, because this literally fell apart in my mouth. And that Guinness mustard on the side? Genius. A must order dish.

Buffalo Fried Devilled Eggs, $7

These little bites were a great take on buffalo wings. Little crumbed devilled eggs were fragrant with tangy buffalo-wing aromas, and were topped with blue cheese ranch dressing and bits of celery to give you the essence of buffalo wings in a bite. Thoroughly enjoyable.

Besides all the food, there were also plenty of different beers to try and to choose from. Unfortunately, I’m not a drinking sort of girl, but I highly recommend the Real A Gastropub from a food perspective. Especially fun with friends, try to go after 11pm to take advantage of their late-night menu, which we ordered from.

We ate at:
Real A Gastropub
+1 (808) 596-2526
1020 Auahi Street, Building 1
Honolulu, HI 96814

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Chur Burger, Surry Hills

I finally popped my Chur Burger cherry!! After being so incredibly tempted by all the instagram photos of people enjoying good burgers, I finally made it down there myself for a bit of that brioche burger bun action.

The first sight that greeted me when I walked in was a table of people, burgers open, picking out the filling!!! But why? Why would you not want to eat a glossy, buttery brioche bun?
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Pot Stickers (Pork and Cabbage Dumplings)


There are some recipes that you pick up, some recipes that you create…and some recipes that have been passed down through your family, from generation to generation. These recipes are often the most comforting, as they evoke warm happy memories, but also the hardest to recreate, as there are generally no hard and fast recipes, and each generation make little changes as they go.

These pork and cabbage dumplings evoke glowing, cozy memories of eating around the table with my family. My mother in the kitchen, cooking away, making hundreds of these tasty morsels, the heat of the kitchen a stark contrast to the cool, air-conditioned dining room. My first dumpling consisted of balls of dough with sticks of ginger stuck through the middle…which my mother patiently cooked and my family actually ate in support of my attempt at ‘cooking’.

Today, I like to think that my attempts are a little more sophisticated than balls of dough, but I am still finding it hard to pin down the exact recipe. This has been passed on to me by my mum, who learnt it from my grandmother, who learnt it from her sister in law, who learnt it from her mother in law, who was from a village in China and learnt it from someone else. I’m pretty sure my version isn’t quite ‘authentic’ or even ‘accurate’, but I’ve been told that it’s pretty tasty, and it brings comfort to me, nonetheless.

So first, we start with the filling.


Pot Stickers (makes about 50): 


500g Pork Mince
1/2 head of Chinese cabbage (wombok)
1/2 cup finely sliced spring onions
3 tbsp light soy sauce
1/3 cup Chinese rice wine
1 tbsp sesame seed oil
2 tbsp ground white pepper
Salt (lots of it)

First, dice the Chinese cabbage into 1cm pieces, a touch smaller if you want to make dainty dumplings. Place into the largest bowl you have. Liberally salt the cabbage, mixing it with your fingers, till you can feel that each piece has some salt on it. Leave for about 45 minutes, adjusting the time (longer or quicker) depending on the size of the cabbage dice (larger or smaller).

After the cabbage is pickled – you’ll know by washing the salt off a piece and tasting it: it should be nicely salted and still retain some crunch – fill the bowl with water and use your hands to give it a bit of a rinse. Drain the cabbage through a colander and squeeze out the liquid. Repeat this process three or four times, till all the excess salt is washed off.

Squeeze out all the excess water out of the cabbage, and place back into a clean bowl. Add the rest of the ingredients and mix through. Leave to marinate for 30 minutes.

To wrap:

1kg circle flour (not egg!) wonton wrappers

Now you can make the wrappers yourself, but I really can’t tell you the amounts of flour and water that you need (I do it by feel), and there’s also a technique to rolling that you need to know (the edges should be thinner than the middle). So to make it easier, I’ll just be showing you the wrapping technique.


1. Place your filling (about a teaspoonful) into the centre of the wrapper, packing it down using your spoon. Make sure that there is enough rim in the pastry for the ends to pinch with two fingers.

2. Wet the rim of the wrapper with water, then pinch the wrapper shut in the middle

3. Wet rim of the layer of pastry to the right. To the right of the pinch, make a fold in the layer of pastry closest to you, and seal it over the centre pinch.

4. Repeat the pinching and folding actions twice more. Then repeat on the left. Pinch everything to ensure it’s sealed shut (you don’t want the dumpling opening on you during cooking).

5. Et voila! Your dumpling is made!

I like to lightly flour a tray and sit all the dumplings in rows. If you want to freeze them, do so in the trays before transferring them into zip top bags.

If you’re not up for all the folding fussiness, you can also easily just press the edges shut with a little water.

photo 1
See? It’s so easy that my three year old nephew can do it! Much better than I was at that age, anyway. 
To cook them, just heat some oil in a deep non stick pan – try to make sure that the sides come up above the dumplings and that you have a lid that fits the pan. 
Put a kettle of water on to boil. Fan out the dumplings, leaving some room between them to expand. 

photo 5

Fry them till the bottoms are very lightly golden brown. Then fill up the pan till the water goes about 1/2-3/4 way up the dumplings and put the lid on. Turn the heat down to low, and wait till the water evaporates. Once the water completely evaporates, you’ll see the dumplings sizzle. If you try and move them too early, they’ll stick to the pan and break – hence the name, pot stickers. To get a nice crispy bottom, you’ll need to let the dumplings sizzle at the low heat, and you’ll find that the dumplings will ease off with a slight push once they’re done.

And there you go! Crispy bottomed pot stickers to enjoy. If boiled dumplings are more your thing, then you can place them into boiling water as well. They’re done when they float. If you have frozen a few, they can go straight into the boiling water and are also done when they float.

So tell me, what are your favourite family recipes?

Cafe Di Stasio, St Kilda

Omelette D’Aragosta (Crayfish Omelette), $33

There are plenty of must-eat places in Melbourne when you ask for recommendations, ranging from the trendy (like Golden Fields), to the established (like Flower Drum). And one such establishment that is a favourite amongst the up market crowd is Cafe Di Stasio, known for its attention to detail and modern style of Italian cooking.

So I made a reservation and off we went, to the trendy neighbourhood of St Kilda.

We ordered the Crayfish Omelette (pictured above) to start. Chunks of crayfish were dense in a juicy and light egg mixture, covered in a decadent bisque sauce. Crusty toasted bread was provided to mop up all the errant juices. While thoroughly enjoyable, this particular omelette wasn’t quite what I imagined an omelette to be – I had thought to have creamy egg curds (much like set scrambled eggs) encasing moist crayfish meat. If I were after an omelette, I would’ve thought the eggs in this dish to be overcooked. The bisque sauce, however, more than made up for anything that wasn’t quite perfect in this dish, and left us cleaning the plates using our bread with as much elegance as we can muster.

We ordered the pasta of the day – recommended by our waiter – which was Angel hair pasta with crab meat.

Pasta of the Day – Angelhair pasta with crabmeat, $33

As we had ordered everything to share, the kitchen had thoughtfully split the pasta into two portions for us. Flecks of crab meat peeked out at us through delicate strands of what looked to be fresh house-made pasta, and the deep seafood flavour was set off by a fruity olive oil. Light and delicate, this dish showed finesse in execution, which again challenged my expectations, since I was expecting an explosion of citrus and chilli, for some reason. The flavours in this dish were subtle, and showed off the lovely texture of the pasta. A pinch of sea salt lifted the whole dish, and it proved to be quite satisfying when we had our last mouthful.

Anitra Arrosta Con Gnochetti Di Farina (Roast Duckling with Spatzli), $37

Our share plates were changed between courses and out came the roast duckling with its mound of spatzli. Our waiter poured over the jus with a flourish, and the first pierce of my fork came up promising – the meat fell off the bone. The spatzli – which is a Germanic noodle/dumpling that is first cooked in boiling water, then – in my experience – sautéed with butter and served with a saucy meat dish. This particular spatzli was finished with olive oil, not butter, and so provided a fruity note to accompany the duck.

My first bite into the thigh of the duckling told me that maybe I needed more gravy than was provided. It was tender, but stringy, and needed pieces of the skin and swabs of gravy to provide flavour and moisture. Not as well executed as the previous two dishes, and left us wondering whether maybe we should have stuck to the seafood options.

IMG_9962Tira Mi Su, $16.50

Dessert was ordered to round out the meal and the Tiramisu – which means ‘pick me up – seemed like an appropriate option to finish an Italian lunch. Out came a little square set in the middle of a large plate, and the liquor soaked sponge squished slightly as I pressed my fork in. In that first bite I got the light, creamy texture of the mascarpone cream…and the sharp finish of the Strega and coffee soaked sponge. It got to a point where it felt like all I could taste was booze, and we eventually had to leave the bottom layer of sponge uneaten in order to restore balance to our palate.

In all the food had its high and its lows, but for the price tag I would’ve expected slightly more consistency in execution. The service – executed by waiters in starched white coats that made all the appropriate actions – was slightly intimidating, as they hovered over you with sombre expressions while you made your choices. The atmosphere made sense – a quick look around at the lunch crowd told us that there were no customers under 40 – but it did feel a little bit ‘stiff upper lip’ for trendy and vibrant St Kilda.

We ate at:
Cafe Di Stasio
(03) 9525 3999
31 Fitzroy St, St Kilda VIC 3182

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Devon Cafe, Surry Hills

Breakfast with the Sakuma’s

Sometimes, your food news feed explodes with a new cafe/restaurant that’s opened up. That’s when eating out becomes a mission, rather than just a meal. My twitter and instagram feed were absolutely flooded with food from Devon Cafe, and I knew I had to make the trip into Surry Hills.

Now I don’t live/work/have activities near or around Surry Hills, so this was a special trip into the city for me. I brought a hungry tummy and a skeptical dining partner, and ordered three dishes between the two of us. I wanted to order one of the specials, but they were sold out.

Breakfast with the Sakuma’s (pictured above) was the first one out of the bat. With a grilled miso king salmon, smoked eel croquette, 63C egg, kewpie mayonnaise, and a radish salad, I had very high hopes. A dusting of furikake (Japanese rice topping) over the top? I’m just jumping at the bit to take a bite.

Well, it might be all the hype, but this particular dish was slightly disappointing for me. I found the salmon to be slightly overcooked – I think that salmon should be cooked to medium and this was brought all the way, so it was a touch dry – and the yolk didn’t really have that much ooze. I put a fork through the egg and it separated easily and nearly solidly.

The second dish we had was the Ogre’s Happy Meal, and after the last dish, I was trying to temper my excitement a little.

Ogre Happy Meal

I felt like this dish was very nicely presented, and was everything that it was advertised to me. There was a certain playfulness to the dish – I thought that it kinda looked like Shrek’s swamp – and you could just tell the technique that was put into the creation and execution of this particular ‘happy meal’. The flavours were dark and comforting in a grumpy sort of way – like an ogre would want – and textures were also of a similar fashion. The ox tongue pulled apart in the mouth without being mushy, and the only criticism I could think of is that there wasn’t just that little ray of sunshine in the flavours – everything tasted so rich and dark that I almost felt like I wanted a kick of acid to maybe lift the dish a bit. Not that an ogre would want that, so it’s just a personal preference.

The last out of the kitchen was the Citrus Cured Salmon.

Citrus Cured Salmon

This is the highlight of the brunch for me. Light and delicate, the salty-tender flesh of the salmon is balanced by the wafer thin slices of apple and fennel, and the creaminess of the soft boiled egg. Simple and satisfying.

In all, it was an alright experience. The food didn’t quite live up to ALL the hype, but it was very good fare. The prices were decent too, but the service fell slightly under par for me. I understand that it was a Sunday brunch and they were really busy, but for the waitress to constantly not hear the other people at my table (we were at a share table) while they were desperately trying to get her attention, and then to take so long with a coffee order that they had to cancel it was kinda not cool. That, and the sourdough for the Heirloom Tomato special at our table was forgotten, (twice!) and the scrambled eggs ordered by someone at our table came out looking overdone.

It was a bit of a touch and go experience for me. Have you tried Devon Cafe? How did you find it?

We ate at:
Devon Cafe
02 9211 8777
76 Devonshire St
Surry Hills, NSW 2010

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