Posts tagged Travel

Leonard’s Bakery, Hawaii

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You’re walking down Hawaii’s eat street – Kapahulu Avenue – after a full dinner. The night life is bustling, and people are spilling onto the street. At the end of the road, a neon sign beckons you, like the neon signs of Vegas calls to gamblers in the wee hours of the night.

“Come,” it says, “I have doughnuts.”

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Malasadas, to be more exact, are a Portuguese dessert that consists of deep fried balls of yeast dough that are then coated in sugar. Variations – which are the spice of life – include different coatings (Original, Cinnamon and Li Hing – which is the flavour of Chinese dried plums), and fillings like Custard, Haupia (Coconut) and Dobash (Chocolate).

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You can hardly go wrong with deep fried balls of dough, and Leonard’s Bakery is all kinds of right. They take your order, and deep fry them on demand, so you always get hot Malasadas. A crispy toasty ball of goodness is encrusted with sugar, and gives me the kind of high that rivals the memories of being a kid. I also love the filled Malasadas, which add a velvety custard-based filling to this deep fried cloud of decadence. If you’re in Hawaii, do try their flavour of the month – I had macademia whilst I was there, and while it didn’t taste overwhelmingly like macadamias, it was still a delicious creamy filling.

Mmmm..doughnuts.

Random Notes from Hawaii

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I went to Hawaii recently! And while I’ve got a lot of photos to process, and posts to write, I thought that I might start with all the random things that I thought was interesting in Hawaii.

Spam sushi anyone?

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SPAM is HUGE in Hawaii. Apparently, the people of Hawaii consume more SPAM per person than anywhere else in the US. Even on the shelves in the local grocery store, there are more varieties of SPAM than I’ve ever seen anywhere else. Musubi (pictured above) is an example of the omnipresent SPAM, mixed with the distinct Japanese influence from migrants after the war. A slice of SPAM is fried, coated in a terriyaki sauce, and placed on top of a shaped handful of sushi rice, secured with a piece of nori (seaweed).

I would suggest you give it a go if you visit Hawaii for the cultural aspect. It didn’t exactly rock my world in terms of flavour combination or innovation, but it’s still pretty cool and good fun. And surprisingly filling too, though for a complete meal I would suggest supplementing with some fruit/veg. ūüėČ

In my late night prowling of grocery stores – they need more 24hr grocery stores around here! – I also found this!

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These sugar cane stirrers are about as unprocessed a form of cane sugar you can get, I think. I’m sure that it would be great to sweeten your coffee or tea – they remind me of the Persian rock sugar stirrers that you can get – I bought some because I thought it would be cool to use as a sweetener/decorative item for a cocktail. The original thought was that I’d use it to sweeten a Caprioska, but I haven’t opened the packet yet. Given that Hawaii used to be known for its sugarcane plantations, these are not as common as I would’ve thought, but you can still get them in grocery and convinience stores.

Also in the grocery store – have I mentioned how much I love Foodland? – are their selection of ready-to-eat items. 

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My favourite breakfast while I was there was a simple half of a ripe papaya, with a squeeze of lime over the top. Simple but satisfying.

Pok√© is another ready to eat item from the grocery store, and I’ve developed a mild addiction to it. I’ve been back in Sydney for about a week now, and I’m still suffering from withdrawals.

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From left: Tako poké, spicy ahi poké

Poké, from my understanding, is raw cubes of fish (or pieces of seafood), in a variety of marinades. Common ingredients in the marinade include garlic, ginger, shoyu, green onions. Spicy poké commonly uses kochujang, a korean chilli paste. Limu poké uses limu, which is the Hawaiin word for seaweed.

The most common fish I’ve seen used is ahi, which is tuna. Tako (Octopus) and salmon pok√© are also widely found.

If snacking on tub after tub of raw fish is a bit much for you, you can also get pok√© bowls, which are bowls of rice topped with pok√©. At about $5 a pop, those bowls became my go-to lunch options. There are also other pre-packed rice bowls with other toppings. 

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$6.95!! I don’t think I’d necessarily get a bowl with that much ikura that cheap in Sydney. Like I said, I’m suffering withdrawals big time.

And if you’re feeling the heat after a satisfying lunch, then try to drop by Waiola for a Hawaiin shaved ice. Delicious and refreshing, it’s basically finely shaved ice that melt like snowflakes on your tongue, covered in syrup. I got a banana and lime one – green and gold! – but you can get a whole variety of flavours, with various toppings like pearl and mochi.

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The biggest thing that I’ve found is that the people of Hawaii are just so nice and hospitable. Every local that I’ve asked has happily told me their recommendations for foodie destinations, and even what their favourite dish on the menu is.

I miss Hawaii already. =(

Good Food and Wine Show, 2013

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My stash: (Clockwise from left) Scarmoza Blanca from La Latteria, Colgate tea flavoured mouthwash, Kumquat spread from St Dalfour, Truffle Tapenade from Wine and Truffle Co., Flavoured salts from Smoke and Roast, Smoked garlic from Smoke and Roast, Porcini salt from Salt Meats Cheese.

FREE FOOD. Need I say more?

The Good Food and Wine Show is one of the bigger food expos that I attend every year. Beyond the aforementioned free food, I love the opportunity that I get to have a chat with small producers whom I might not otherwise get a chance to talk to, or might have to travel far to meet.

For example, meet Larry.

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Larry is, in his own words, “the truck driver, the harvester, the everything” at the Handorf Hill Winery. Not having that much experience with wine – and not being very good with alcohol – I had many questions, and Larry patiently and eloquently explained to me the intricacies of the flavours and aromas of wine, and especially how the weather and microclimates affect them. The most interesting thing I learnt from Larry was the effect of the cool weather on tannins.

Tannins are compounds that are present in things like tea and wine, and contributes a certain kind of astringency that gives you that slightly dry feeling in your mouth. Because tannins are found in the grapes, the rate the grapes ripen will affect the amount of astringency that you get in your wine. From what I understand from Larry, the cooler Adelaide climates allow the grapes to ripen slowly, allowing the tannins to mellow out, resulting in a gentler wine. How cool is that?

There were also plenty of other producers:

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ChocoMe had the most beautifully presented bars of chocolate I’d ever seen.

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Robinvale estate, with their adorable graphics adorning their myriad of flavoured oils and vinegars.

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Salumi Australia had a MASSIVE and impressive display of cured meats in every shape and form. And had these little cones at $5 a pop, besides the samples that they had on display.

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Smoke and Roast had a very energetic spokesperson, and had the most beautiful-smelling smoked garlic and flavoured salts. He was sharing recipes left, right and centre and inspired me to try out his salts on a slow roasted pork belly. He said to different salts on different sections, to create a sort of rainbow of flavours, depending on which piece you eat.

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The Wine and Truffle Co. had a great array of truffle products, and an impressive piece of truffle protected by a glass cloche. I was impressed that they could tell me off hand when the truffle was harvested – it’s very important to ask when buying truffles because truffles tend to go stale after about 10 days – and I loved the truffle tapenade so much that I bought one home for myself.

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Kikkoman had a genius way of getting people to try their soy sauce – rather than getting people to dip crackers in (I’ve seen this happen, who gets people to try soy sauce with crackers?), they actually had little pieces of salmon and cucumber sushi for people to try with their sauce! I know it sounds simple, but I don’t think that I would’ve thought of that.

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This is the most exciting bit of the day for me. Bohemian Delights had wild mushrooms out for sale, and there were samples of Slippery Jack mushrooms (right) which were simply sauteed with salt, pepper and some caraway seeds. SO DELICIOUS! There was also a man at the stall – the owner’s father – who told us that his wife uses Pine Nut mushrooms (left) in her goulash, instead of meat, before saying (with a wink in his eye) that Czech women make the best cooks.

And that was my Good Food and Wine experience. Did you go? Which were your favourite stands?

Marmalade Pantry, Singapore

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I’ve long had a love affair with crustaceans of all types. And carbs, I love carbs too. So when they come together in something called Crabmeat Linguini, I am just about as close to heaven as I can get.

When I first heard about The Marmalade Pantry, I didn’t peg it for much of a savoury place. After all, the name to me conjures up image of scones and tea on a lazy afternoon in Autumn.

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Well, I’m happy to admit that I was wrong. The Crabmeat Linguini is a must-order every time that I’m there, and the relatively large serving – my friend Yina and I shared a plate – means that you get to try other things on the menu as well. Chunks of mud crab are folded through a rich, tomato based sauce that is flecked with chilli and topped with a scattering of grated parmesan. It’s incredibly moreish, and you could very easily find yourself stuffed to the brim and on the brink of a food coma.

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We also tried the Sticky Date Pudding. Warm, moist pudding, drizzled with caramel and paired with classic vanilla ice cream serving as a cold foil. It was definitely rich enough that I wouldn’t have finished a whole serve by myself, but it was fantastic to share.

The Marmalade Pantry is a great place to meet up at, and the service, while not drop dead fantastic, has always been consistently good. The savouries seem to have made more of an impact for me, but the sweets have always been decent enough. Worth dropping by for lunch if you’re spending a day shopping at Ion.

We ate at:

The Marmalade Pantry
Unit 03-22 ION Orchard
2 Orchard Turn Singapore 238801
T: +65 6734 2700
F: +65 6734 2279
enquiry.city@themarmaladepantry.com.sg


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Ritzy Gritz Stone Grill, Kiama

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Stone grill, coal grill…I think we can pretty much agree that meat + intense heat = AWESOME POWER OF DELICIOUSNESS! It’s a formula that has worked since caveman days, and it’s not about to stop working now.

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Which is probably why Ritzy Gritz in Kiama is so popular! Sitting on Collins Street in Kiama, it is by far the busiest restaurant on that street on any given night. There was a good hour and a half wait on a Sunday evening for a table, because I didn’t think I needed to make a reservation. Even when we were seated at about 8.45, the restaurant was still packed to the brim with families and tourists alike.

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To start with, we ordered Chorizo Tortilla Melt, $10. It’s quite a simple dish, really – a round of flat bread wedges is covered with oozy cheese, chorizo, seasoned tomato salsa, sour cream and then grilled to tasty perfection. It was a great start to the evening, and was just enough to whet our appetite.

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And you can’t go to a stone grill without ordering a stone grill! Our Reef and Beef Stone Grill, $32  seemed like the best of both worlds because I could not in good conscience order both the meat grill AND the seafood grill. Although I totally would. Yes, I would.

IS THAT A CHALLENGE? I ACCEPT!

Sorry, I’ve been watching too much New Girl. Gotta love Schmitty.

Anyway.

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Your meat is placed on a screaming hot piece of stone, and salt dusted over the top. The stone retains its heat amazingly well, and gives the steak a fantastic sear. You do have to season the meat further upon flipping it – meaning that you need to have some level of cooking know-how – and you need to also know how far you like your steak done, because you’re in charge of the cooking process. It’s quite smart, really – the restaurant doesn’t need to take responsibility for how well the dish is cooked because you’re doing the cooking, and it’s a lovely novelty and fantastic flavour because, as I mentioned before:

Meat + Intense Heat = AWESOME POWER OF DELICIOUSNESS.

It was a little on the pricey side for what we ate, but the food is tasty, and it is Kiama after all, and there’s not much competition. The service is decent and I really like how they were honest about how long you had to wait for a table. The food was fairly prompt for a busy night, and it was a nice vibrant atmosphere. Worth going to if you’re ever in Kiama.

We ate at:

Ritzy Gritz New Mexican Grill
40 Collins St Kiama NSW 2533
(02) 4232 1853

Ritzy Gritz on Urbanspoon


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Kiama, Part 1

I haven’t forgotten you, I promise! How has your long weekend been? It’s been a great Easter for me, and it all kicked off with a short holiday to Kiama.

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I’m not quite the outdoorsy kind of girl, but I must say that Kiama has been idyllic. I’ve had a fantastic time strolling by the water, sampling the local cafes, and trying out some night photography!

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What do you think?

I also really liked the quaint Scoops Ice Creamery, even if the service was slow. The ice cream though, was delicious!!! Just what I needed on a hot day.

How about you? What did you get up to over the Easter long weekend?

black Rock Cafe on Urbanspoon

Scoops Ice Creamery and Cafe on Urbanspoon

Ippudo, Singapore

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After seeing the long queues outside Ippudo in Westfield’s Sydney, I thought I’d give a Singapore outlet a try whilst I was there. Riding on a good experience from Ippudo Tao, we decided to go to Ippudo Mandarin.

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We ordered the Shiromaru Tamago and the Akamaru Tamago (left, and right respectively). The broth was actually decent, and the noodles springy. But the bit that I was really waiting for was the ni tamago. As mentioned before, whenever I go to eat Ramen, I always order a ni tamago if they have it. The egg should be a lovely dark brown colour on the outside, and a fluid or oozy egg yolk on the inside. Most of my attempts to find a great egg in sydney have failed, with most places serving up way too over-cooked egg yolks, but I still have hope!!!

Unfortunately though, my egg dreams were shattered this time.

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All of the eggs that came with our noodles were failed eggs. Entirely too overcooked, and lacking in flavour. While the main dish was decent, it wasn’t amazingly mind-blowing enough for me to overlook the bad egg.

Oh, and the sides?

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While decent in flavour and texture, the sides were let down by the service. We were mostly ignored by the service staff, and even after ordering, they completely forgot one salad and a side that we ordered to go with the meal.

All in all, a relatively disappointing experience. And, since Singapore has no lack of great places to eat at, it won’t be my first choice for a comforting dinner any time soon.

We ate at:

Ippudo SG
333 Orchard Road
Singapore 238897
+65 6235 2797


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Lindt, Martin Place

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One of the ingredients to a great girls night out is definitely oodles of chocolate, and the Lindt cafe has been a favourite meeting spot for many a girls night out for me. So imagine my excitement when I got an invite to the reopening of a completely revamped Lindt Cafe at Martin Place!

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Yeah. I was that excited!

The Lindt cafe, as it always is to me, is a sophisticated Willy Wonka Wonderland. Gold and marble adorn the interior, and it’s understated in its luxury and opulence. And this sophistication is reflected in the chocolates as well. Lindt chocolate never disappoints, and the people I know who aren’t a fan of chocolate because it can be cloying, always end up a fan of Lindt because of their fine balance in flavours and textures, and variety.

Of course, chocolates of every incarnation were proffered to us upon arrival.

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They even had a brand new station where vats of tempered, molten chocolate sat, and strawberries, macaroons and pralines were covered in lush, silky chocolate of every kind. I especially loved how the chocolatiers were available for us to talk to, and food nerd that I am, I was so happy with the effortless way they answered my questions and explained to me the finer points of chocolate.

One of the chocolatiers said that they sometimes had to stop work on the finer chocolate work on really humid days as the humidity can be enough to cause the chocolate to seize up. Besides which, chocolate is really best to be set at room temperature (about 20C) and that sort of humidity can cause a really ugly chocolate bloom – which can be caused by the sugar reacting with the moisture in the air.

I also had a chat with Thomas Schnetzler, one of Lindt’s Master Chocolatier, who talked about the challenges of following the Lindt traditions right here in a (sometimes) hot and humid Australia. I’ve heard that some chocolate companies – in order to work with the climate that Australia has – sometimes change the recipe of their chocolate according to the region. Lindt however – according to Thomas – staunchly refuses to change their recipe, and instead chooses to apply technique and equipment to allow the quality and standard to be unchanged throughout the world.

So besides eating amazing chocolate straight out, what else can you have in a chocolate cafe? Chocolate with coffee of course!

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Now I may not be the biggest connoisseur of coffee, but the mix of dark chocolate with rich coffee actually made a really nice drink. It was served towards the end of the night, and it was a great pick-me-up.

And guess where that chocolate came from?

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Australia’s first chocolate on tap! With sophisticated machines imported from Italy, the chocolate is kept liquid and warm, and when it comes time to clean the machines, chocolate is used to flush out the machines, because any drop of water might ruin the chocolate.

And the piece de resistance for the night? Customizable chocolate slabs!

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Yeah yeah, I know that some people might be unimpressed because it’s just chocolate writing on chocolate, but think about all those generic chocolates gifts that you give people throughout your life. Now, instead of giving them a card and a box of chocolates because you don’t know what to get people, you can give them a card written on chocolates! How cool is that?

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Of course, what kind of food blogger would I be if I didn’t get one myself?

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Thank you again to Laura from Trish Nichol Agency and Lindt for the invite!

Stories From My Childhood, Part 1

Happy Lunar New Year y’all!!! (And happy Valentine’s Day if you celebrate it!) Chinese New Year has always been a tasty and food-filled tradition for me and this year hasn’t been any different. Most of my childhood memories are closely associated with food, and growing up in a food obsessed culture, it’s not hard to see why.

two pictures featuring both the soup and dry versions of beef kway teow, a local noodle dish.
From top: Beef Kway Teow in soup, with tendon, tripe, meatball and braised beef pieces, and Beef Noodle in thick gravy, with salted vegetables and braised beef pieces

Every Sunday afternoon my mom would bring me to music class, and on the way there, there used to be a really popular Beef Kway Teow stall which had queues going around the block. As the class was at 1pm, we would often visit that stall for lunch, and I would always top off my Beef Noodles (dry) – with it’s thick gravy, fragrant toasted peanuts and crunchy salted vegetables – with extra chilli sauce with its tangy undertones and capsaicin kick, and cinchalok – which is an incredibly tasty condiment made of salted krill, chilli, shallots and plenty of lime. A taste bud explosion, I love the combination of the silky noodles drenched in thick gravy, textured with tender pieces of beef, and punctuated with the high notes of chilli and cinchalok.

A layout of two pictures featuring a busy hawker centre scene on the top, and brilliantly lit fluorescent signs of the food these stalls offer.

Hawker centres are often a crazy maze of people driven by hunger. Besides the dozens of stalls – some selling similar food – vying for your attention, you have to navigate getting a table, not losing your dining companions, and making sure that your table does not get commandeered by other, louder groups.

So why go to a hawker centre? Often the food is wayyy better (and cheap! $3 is often enough to get you a meal), and really, isn’t good food meant to be paired with the appropriate atmosphere?

From top: Chee Cheong Fun, Fried Yam Cake, Fried Carrot Cake
From top: Chee Cheong Fun, Fried Yam Cake, Fried Carrot Cake

Although these lovely morsels aren’t anywhere near to all of what hawker centres in Singapore have to offer, these are certainly some of my must-haves when I visit home.

When I was little, my mother used to put me in a pram and take me for a walk to Seletar Market. There, there was a friendly matronly lady who, upon seeing that I liked the Fried Carrot Cake (Cai Tow Kuey), used to have a plate ready whenever my mother wheeled my pram to a table. Fried Carrot Cake is so named because of the little pops of diced salted radish that give the dish its characteristic taste. Add in fried egg, and diced rice cakes and there you have it! It comes in a white version and a black version, with the black version having the addition of dark soy sauce and sweet soy sauce. Unfortunately the market has since been torn down in favour of high rise apartments, but I still remember it fondly as a big part of my childhood.

When I was older, I attended a kindergarten that was part of the childcare programme organized by my mother’s workplace. The building that my mom worked in was located conveniently near Amoy Street Food Centre, where a middle aged man with a round belly and a white singlet dished up the first food that I was truly addicted to – Chee Cheong Fun. A rice flour mixture is first steamed into thin sheets of noodle, then rolled. Usually served with a sweet, thick sauce, I now prefer to unravel the rice noodles and toss it in a mixture of soy sauce and sesame seed oil. The silky noodles carry the hint of salt from the soy, and the fragrance from the sesame seed oil. These plain rice noodle rolls are sold in most Asian stores in Australia as well, if you fancy steaming them and dressing them yourself at home. =)

Food, to me, is a great conveyor of memories, and these are foods that give me constant (and enjoyable) flashbacks.

What are your childhood favourites?