Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Rama's Fiji Indian Restaurant

People often say that as you age, the novelty of birthdays wears off… Well at the risk of sounding selfish and immature, I’ve always made sure I do something special for myself on my birthday. It’s the one day where I can go: I shouldn’t feel bad about putting myself first and treat myself to something nice – to eat of course J.

Also, since it is usually me who organises dinner events and outings, my birthday was one of few chances where I could sit back and let others organise things for me. I requested that we go to a casual, healthy restaurant with a ‘different’ cuisine. A colleague of chose Rama’s – a Fiji Indian Restaurant in Pearce.
It was a while ago, but these pictures jotted my memory of what we ate. For the entrée, we got vegetable pakoras. These were essentially bits of cauliflower, potato, eggplant, onion rings and capsicum dipped in spiced lentil flour and deep fried ($10). They looked kinda absurd when they came out on the plate – bright orange and strangely smooth. Are they edible? What is the orange stuff? What would it taste like? Eating the pastry/batter didn’t shock me as much as the look of it. It wasn’t particularly flavoursome or spicy – which I guess is expected out of lentil flour. The excitement of the dish definitely lies in its appearance and the way it’s been prepared.

I can’t remember everything we ate, but it included:
*Goat Curry: pieces of meat, on the bone, cooked with fresh spices and coriander leaves 21.00
*Palak Panir: home made cheese cooked in a smooth spinach sauce 19.00
*Vegetable Bombay: potato, beans, carrots, peas and cauliflower, cooked in
spicy coconut milk 18.50

Looking at the prices now, I think Ramas is a bit pricey (you’d def get cheaper Indian elsewhere in Canberra). But I shared 7 dishes with 8+ people, so it didn’t cost too much. I can remember not crying (always a plus) because the dishes weren’t too spicy. According to one of my friends, who has a Fiji Indian background, this cuisine is often a lot less spicy than Indian food.

At Ramas, there were no mishaps with the customer service nor we found weird objects in the food.

I’d definitely go again and its one of the better Indian restaurants that I’ve been to. But maybe I’m just saying that because I can’t cook much Indian and I think they are all great *embarrassed flush*.

Rama's Fiji Indian Restaurant
Pearce Shopping Centre
Cnr. Macfarland & Hodgson Cres.
Pearce ACT 2607

Sunday, August 28, 2011

being a tourist in sydney

It's not everyday that people from overseas visit you. I made some really lovely friends when I was doing student exchange in the UK and travelling in the USA. However, Australia is so far away from where they live so, realistically, I imagine that they’d come here if they had a good portion of time and enough money.

When one of my friends from the USA told me that he is visiting Australia, I was very excited! I decided to meet him in Sydney – it was the perfect opportunity to visit iconic and touristy restaurants/takeaways.

Löwenbräu Keller
First, we went to Löwenbräu. I know tourists probably don’t expect to come all the way to Australia to have German food. But we were exploring The Rocks and it was one of the few places that I knew and didn’t entirely rip you off. I had a mushroom pizza – the (german) difference is that it’s on a thin and light pastry, rather than a hearty dough. Although I usually avoid eating pastry due to my cholesterol levels, this wasn’t too bad. The pastry was less buttery than puff pastry but more dense and stable than filo pastry. I loved how the pizza came out on a chopping board and baking paper – it gave it a homely and country aesthetic.

My friend got the Nürnberger Würste, which had 6 traditional Nürnberger sausages, served with Sauerkraut, Mashed Potatoes and German Mustard at $26.50. According to Wikipedia, this pork-based sausage is one of the most popular in Germany. As I’m not a huge fan of meat sausages, I thought the Nürnberger sausages were okay. They weren’t as heavy as Australian sausages, which was nice. But they weren’t as flavoursome and hearty as the ones I had in Germany. Is food always better from where it originated? Or do I subconsciously think that ‘authenticity’ makes something better?

Löwenbräu Keller
Corner of Playfair & Argyle Streets
The Rocks

Sydney Fish Market
I googled the walking route from Darling Harbour but we mindlessly tripped down an incorrect road and took a 30 minute detour. Whoops. As always, the Fish Market didn’t fail to impress me with its fresh seafood, people who prepared sashimi in front of you and the number of Asian tourists. I paid around 7.50 for around 10cm of sashimi and it filled me up for the whole afternoon – was thoroughly satisfied.

While there was fine and delicate sashimi, there seemed to be overwhelming masses of other stuff. One bain-marie had galores of deep fried stuff (ew or yum?). Also the fresh fish store had a large portion of king fish with a carving knife - this scared me because a) the king fish was huge and looked like it'd be half my body weight; b) it was confronting to see meat like this. I'm going to take a mini break from eating it.

Sydney Fish Market
Bank Street

Pie Face
Over the few days of my friend’s visit, we walked past Pie Face way too many times. I’ve never been game enough to go to this fast food joint but I got down my high horse and finally did it. I got the minestrone soup – it was okay. It was clearly thickened with cornflour or a similar thickening agent. But I love the idea of take away soup – it reminds me of the great takeaway joints in NYC which had a menu of 20+ gourmet soups.

He got the Steak and Cheese pie, which was decent. There was a good portion of what seemed like real meat and the pie didn’t just taste like lard. It would definitely be good for a snack out in the town when you are a bit tipsy or drunk.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

T2 cafe

Every time I travel to Sydney, I insist on having a macaron or a couple. Once I went to the T2 cafe in Hornsby Westfield with a lovely friend of mine. I love the furniture in T2 cafes - it's all unmatching and its very chic. The crockery is also similar - colours don't match but that's what makes it great. Unfortunately the macarons weren't so great. They were a bit too crunchy and lacked natural and pure flavours: chocolate, strawberry and pistachio. You'd be better off getting another type of sweet here. Most T2 cafes outsource their sweets to a fantastic company called Yaels. I would opt for their cakes next time I visit a T2.

lollies from barcelona

When my flatmate came back to Australia from her Europe trip, she gave me a lovely present: Happy Pills. From what I understand, in Barcelona, in a shop she handpicked all these colourful, tasty and fun lollies and packed them into a sealed pill container. The lollies weren't just aesthetically amusing but bursted with complex and playful flavours.

apple pumpkin leek sage bake

Have you ever put apple in a savoury dinner bake? I tried it here with pumpkin, leek, sage and parmesan and it wasn't all that bad. The combination of apple and cheese reminded me of my glory childhood days where I'd stuff cheese-on-toast with apple pieces. This dish was good and homely but the apple leaked and covered the bottom layer (pumpkin) effectively giving the pumpkin a water bath. Oh well :)

Chalisa Restaurant

After a session at the work gym, a friend and I decided to treat ourselves at the Chalisa Indian Restaurant in Tuggeranong. Unfortunately, I didn't have my camera with me, but brought some of the sauce and excess paneer home. Shown below are:

Saag Panir -combination of fresh spinach and golden fried homemade cheese, delicately finished with fresh herbs. 15.50
Chicken Kadhai - A popular North Indian dish, chicken specialty, cooked in fresh crushed ginger, garlic and tomato gravy. $16.20

They were both amazing. The Saag Panir, however, was way too spicy for my liking. Love the colours in the pictures though :)

Chalisa | North Indian Restaurant
Hyperdome Town Centre
Shop 9E, 210 Anketell St
Greenway 2900 ACT


Monday, August 22, 2011


I went to Sydney last week for my graduation at UNSW. The ceremony was expectingly boring and the weather was crap. For the sake of entertainment, I got Milly to take a cheesy picture of me with the complimentary morning tea, which took place after the ceremony. One of the few highlights of my graduation!

Thursday, August 18, 2011


Dear Blog

I haven't forgotten about you! There are many food pictures that I need to update you with. I've taken photos in Sydney and Canberra, when I've been intoxicated and not, early in the morning, at home and when I've been out. I'm sure you'll be happy with what I have in store.

I do admit - recently, work has consumed much of my energy, and that's why I haven't been able to spend quality time to update you.

When I return to Canberra and have my trusty photo editor, I will chat to you again.

Until then

Anthea xo

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Green Gourmet: Chinese vegetarian restaurant in Newtown

At the beginning of this year, before leaving for Canberra, I had a farewell dinner with some of my uni friends at the Green Gourmet Restaurant in Newtown, Sydney - a Chinese vegetarian restaurant. The novelty about this restaurant is their mock meat, which is essentially tofu that is shaped and flavoured to look, smell, feel and taste like meat.

There are many people who are sceptical about this innovation - in their arguments, they often compare vegetarian meat to the real thing and place an emphasis on authenticity. However, I feel like this argument focuses too much on the 'conventional' and fails to recognise the benefits of vegetarian meat. Vegetarian meat allows people (not just vegetarians) to enjoy eating meat while being ethically responsible and experiencing the health benefits of vegetables. I think food should be praised if it allows people to respect emerging issues about the environment but still tantalises people's tastebuds.
Some of us in the group bullied the rest of the people to try mock meat. We had BBQ King Roast ‘Pork’, which is a "popular vegetarian take of the old-time favourite. Wheat protein marinated with hoi sin brown sauce and glazed with caramel malt sugar" for 15.80. Our sceptic in the group was thoroughly impressed. 

We also shared:
Steamed Pumpkin Cake - Savoury cake made of pumpkin, tofu and whole black bean  4.60

Spicy Green Bean in Chilli Black Bean Sauce - Crispy green beans and firm tofu slices sautéed in a spicy black bean sauce with a hint of chilli  15.80

Steamed Dim Sim - Wheat pastry ball stuffed with soy mince, black mushroom, carrot and water chestnut  4.60

Seasoned Salt & Pepper Spicy Tofu - Deep fried fresh bean curd sautéed chilli  15.80

Green Gourmet Restaurant
115-117 King St, Newtown

Saturday, August 6, 2011

mecca bah

I recently came back from dinner from a dinner with a grad friend.... OMG THERE IS A SPIDER IN MY BEDROOM..............

Problem solved....

We went to Meccah Bar in Manuka - a Middle Eastern and Morrocan restaurant. I had a glass of bubbly so came home being a bit tipsy, and now tired and not as coherent as I would like to be. Nevertheless, my thoughts about the food are still clear in my mind, so I am going to blog and critique.

First dish of the night was Kataifi pastry filled with Middle Eastern cheeses at $13. At first, my friend and I were like: "What on earth is kataifi pastry???" We asked the waiter this question and he gracefully responded "It's kinda like hairy pastry... so the dish is kinda like hairy balls... it has the pastry that you get with Greek sweets". I knew exactly what he was talking about, but for those who haven't had this pastry before, the thought of 'hairy pastry' mightn't be as appealing. Nevertheless, the dish was lovely. I wish I could snack on these at work. There was just a right textural and palate balance between the crispy pastry, the salty and creamy cheese and tangy lemon rind in the cheese.
The second mezze we shared was spicy turkish lamb kofte with yoghurt & mint sauce at $13. These were essentially hand-made and gourmet spiced lamb sausages. It reminded me of sausages because oil would ooze out once I sliced them with a knife. I'm comparing kofte to sausages because sausages are the most similar everyday food, that many people can identify with. However, one of the ways in which kofte could stand out against sausages is that the kofte's minced meat was more textured and chunky and more real. Another point is that these kofte are much more rich and heavy than the sausages that you get in the local upmarket deli. In itself, the yoghurt and mint sauce was creamy and possibly a bit one-toned. But this sauce was an excellent complement the heaviness of the sausage as it lightened it and gave it a fresh *tang*.

Normally, I associate the thought of falafel with drunken nights and having kebabs or Sumo Salad falafel salads. But Meccabah transformed falafel in a way so it didn't seem out of place or 'street-like' and suitable for the restaurant. Instead of using chickpeas as a base, sweet potatoes were used - essentially sweet potato falafel with tahini sauce at $11. There wasn't just sweet potato, but carrot and other ingredients not found in the falafel around the corner. These falafel were hot and crispy, which reminded me of the days as a kid where I didn't worry about my cholesterol levels and could fearlessly eat deep-fried food. These falafel were like little balls of wonder. The tahini sauce was a smooth white colour and was so creamy, which would act as the perfect comfort food as a spread on toast or condiment for a gourmet vege burger.

We also shared spicy lamb and pinenut boureks which were $13. Even with the yoghurt (or was it tahini?) sauce, the boureks were still a tad spicy for my liking. The pastry wasn't too rich and it reminded me of the frozen pastry that my parents would get when making Samosas for their restaurant. The thing that made the dish heavy was the meat. I had boureks in a Turkish restaurant in Canberra before (Little Istanbul Restaurant), which were filled with feta - these were lighter than the ones in Meccah Bah.
Overall, I thoroughly enjoyed Meccabah. Maybe my accompanying glass of bubbly made it all more enjoyable - apparently in opening nights of art exhibitions, wine is served to visitors to encourage them to appreciate the art a bit more and maybe splurge to purchase an artwork.

Maybe it was a tad expensive, but you definitely pay for the quality of food that you get :). I would definitely go again.
Mecca Bah
25-29 Manuka Terrace
Flinders Way Manuka ACT 2603
Note: There are also a Meccah Bah in Melbourne and Queensland

Friday, August 5, 2011

daal kofta curry

My mum recently extended her asian food repertoire and courageously took up Indian cooking. She went to the local community college to sign up for an Indian Vegetarian cookery course, which was led by a lovely local Indian lady. I was inspired by her bravery and experimented one weekend by cooking Daal Kofta Curry, from scratch. I combined pure spices to make a Madras curry spice mix, made my own breadcrumbs, made my own daal, clumsily made my own kofta from the potentially-sloppy daal, and made my own curry sauce. It was tiring but I should feel proud of myself for conquering this massive task, especially as my dinners are usually only 30 minute efforts.

I got the daal kofta curry recipe from http://www.veggienumnum.com/2010/09/dal-kofta/ - the recipe uses about 20 ingredients! Impressive! Despite my amazement at the long list of ingredients, I'm sure that there are some Indian dishes that use many more spices. I guess there are also some overwhelming Masterchef 'taste-test' episodes which have dishes with billions of ingredients. Nevertheless, the 20 ingredients in this recipe was very achievable in a home kitchen.

The first step was to make the Madras Curry paste, which I got from: http://www.taste.com.au/how+to/articles/2707/madras+curry+paste. This recipe had an extra 10 ingredients!! Eeeek. The final product of the curry paste is shown in the below collage, in the top left hand corner. The smell of this fresh Madras paste was amazing. This might sound weird, but it smelt quite 'smooth' - what I mean by this is that it didn't pierce the inside skin of my nose with a high percentage of 'heat' or hot spices. I would definitely use this recipe again.

Using the first recipe (http://www.veggienumnum.com/2010/09/dal-kofta/), I made the base for the Daal Kofta. I've cooked very little Indian food before and I knew that kofta has the soft texture of meatballs - so I wondered why the recipe called for crunchy cashew nuts. Much to my surprise, the cashews gave the kofta some texture and substance. The tinier cashew crumbs added a wonderful thickness to the curry sauce.

A wonderful thing about this recipe is the surprise of the raisin or sultana that you place in the centre of each kofta (picture below). The sweetness of the dried fruit added a playfulness and ZANG to the curry. It was really lovely!

I baked the kofta until they were golden brown. I ate a few too many of the kofta at this stage and would be happy to have them as a meal in themselves or tossed in a green salad. Nevertheless, I made the curry sauce mentioned in the recipe and VOILA. You can see the final result in the bottom right hand picture below. The picture is a bit more dull than the one in the blog which I got the recipe from, but that could just be the quality of my camera. This dish lasted me almost 5 days and was sooooo satisfying. It reminded me of the wholesome food my mother cooks at home :). Happy times!

Thursday, August 4, 2011

porcini mushrooms

Ever since my parents' Europe trip in 2007, my mother expressed a need to try Porcini Mushrooms. As a mushroom-lover, I thought trying porcini mushrooms would be like a food pilgrimage, so on my recent trip to Europe, I decided to hunt them down.

I looked in major department stores in Barcelona, Belgium and Berlin and had little luck with finding these fungi that were held in such esteem by my parents. My friends who I visited in these cities did their best in offering help in my quest to find these magical wonders... I had no luck until I reached LONDON. I walked through the huge carpeted royal-like hall, that houses the department store Fortnum and Mason. People had just finished work and were spending like 5 pounds (9 ish AUD) on a loaf of bread, 10 pounds (18 ish AUD) for two pieces of smoked salmon and who knows what for those black truffles. In glowing light, I came across jars of Baby Porcini Mushrooms. For a moment, it seemed that they were waiting for me just like how two lovers wait for one another for a good portion of their lives (bahaha). Ignoring the price, I didn't hesitate to buy them... I cushioned them into my luggage and they were on their happy way through Hong Kong to Sydney.

I am sad to say that these mushrooms weren't as life-changing as I hoped. They were preserved in olive oil, vinegar and chilli and this concoction overcame the earthy taste of the mushrooms. In fact, my mother and I enjoyed the olive oil mixture with bread purchased from Woolies much more than the mushrooms... Maybe I'll have better luck next time. Maybe we can purchase dried porcini mushrooms for use in a risotto?
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