Monday, 30 January 2012

ZUMBO LOVE

I can't say and claim that I am Zumbo's number one fan. I haven't been to any of his stores, I haven't even tasted any of his macarons! But for all I know, he's a true inspiration to me, and I recently started this dedicational photo blog :)

I've made sure to tag or add the name of bloggers whose photos I reblogged, and I'd just like to quickly shout out a big THANKS to all the bloggers that I've reblogged from - your photos are my only doorway towards Zumbo-happiness, as I've yet to venture to his stores.

I'm actually planning to get a work experience placement at The Star (@ Pyrmont) soon, and yes yes, it's my HSC year, but the pressure hasn't gotten to me yet, and I don't want to waste such a good opportunity! 

The problem with work experience placements is that both sides need to have some form of insurance, and fortunately for secondary school students, the Dept of Education and Training offers insurance cover for it.  Only lately uncovering this inner food-lover in myself, I want to grasp the Carpe Diem principle :) I hope to be able to work at the Star for around 3 days in Term 1 Holidays, around about April.

Enter the photo blog here --> http://zumbolove.tumblr.com/

xx Tina

(Blogpost edited 29/12/12)

Sunday, 29 January 2012

Viet Fest

Annually, about a week after Vietnamese/Chinese New Year, there's a 3 day (Friday to Sunday) Vietnamese New Year Festival - Tet, formerly situated at Warwick Farm, and currently at Fairfield showgrounds.  It's a great way to be part of the Vietnamese hype for Tet, with authentic Vietnamese cuisines, garden displays, the classic lotto, and of course, the stage entertainment!
Front gate, embellished with the original Vietnamese Flag and the Australian Flag, as well as the traditional Vietnamese red firecrackers.
I go almost every year, because I just love being part of this busy Tet atmosphere, and even though it does get boring (the activities and stalls are almost the same every year, lots of freebies, lots of kids rides and rip-off chance games), I LOVE the food there :) 

First off, my friend and I ate "Bò Lá Lốt" - beef in Betel leaf.  This leaf can't actually be eaten in any other form, besides Vietnamese soup ("canh").  The betel leaf has a very strong savoury taste, and when this dish is done properly, the juices of the beef and leaf should arise every time you take a bite.  This is arguably one of my favourite hand-held Vietnamese dishes :). 
On the traditional Vietnamese BBQ, there's always bound to be this dish, along with seasoned corn on the cob (it's brushed lightly with chopped scallions/shallots in oil (hành mỡ), and "nem nướng", which is the name for Vietnamese grilled pork skewers.
Bò Lá Lốt up close - the betel leaf wraps the generous serving of beef.  Usually, at home, we have smaller servings of beef, so we wrap about 2 to 3 small betel leaves around a small serving of beef, and we don't put it on a skewer.  Another style of presentation of this dish is to have 3 or 4 small Bò Lá Lốt servings placed horizontally onto a skewer.


Vietnamese cuisine is known for many other things, such as "chè", which is a sweet dessert soup, and the traditional "cà phê sữa đá", which is Vietnamese iced coffee.  Luckily, this gelato shop has these flavours and other favourites served in a cone!

There were 7 flavours to choose from: "Sô Cô La" - Coveted Chocolate, "Hạt Sen" - Luscious Lotus, "Chè Ba Màu" - Trippy Trio with Pandan/Coconut/Red Bean, "Trái Xoài" - Melodramatic Mango, "Trái Vải" - Lychee (with some lime and mint), "cà phê sữa đá" - Very Vietnamese Iced Coffee, and "Kem và Sô Cô La" - Creamy Choc Crunch.

I bought my "cà phê sữa đá" gelato!
Yummmm :)
Behind me is the stall "De Colores", and my grandma's part of that stall.  It's a charity stall that sells traditional Vietnamese food, including "bún bò huế" - haha, my family's secret recipe happens to be a bestseller at that stall :)  Unfortunately my friend and I couldn't try anything from De Colores, because there were too many customers and when we came back the 4th time, all the food was sold out :(.  However, if you ever come to this Tet festival, please come and visit this amazing food stall!! :) They sell a lot of hand-held traditional Viet dishes, along with other famous dishes like "hột vịt lộn" (steamed duck egg) and "Bún Thịt Nướng" (Viet rice noodles with BBQ pork and vegetables).

Although this isn't traditional vietnamese, these Malaysian fish balls sure were good!!! And you can't go wrong with a dash of Sriracha Chilli sauce!! :)
Yeah so throughout the 3 or so hours we were there, we walked around the whole place 3 times, and ate a lot of food :) We also had chicken kebabs and Easy-Way style drinks.



Traditional Vietnamese wall hangings with lucky words, and the "hoa anh đào" (cherry blossom) and the "hoa vạn thọ" (marigold flowers)
Hehe, my friend and I while waiting for the Bò Lá Lốt :)
It was the first time my friend went to this Tet festival, and she said she really loved the food there, so that's a thumbs up for me :)
Amidst the stage entertainment were acts from local primary schools, and Vietnamese entertainers, as well as several Vietnamese HSC High Achievers, who get a monetary prize and plaque proudly supported by the Australian Vietnamese Community in NSW for getting an ATAR (percentile) of 99 or more.  So my friend and I are going to try out for that next year :) Hopefully the HSC goes well for us!!

*A small note: Sorry for the blurry picture qualities of some of the photos!!
(Blogpost edited 29/12/12)

Thursday, 26 January 2012

Happy Lab

Such a cute confectionery place that I came across when going to Bondi Junction Westfield.  Their chocolates look absolutely gorgeous, and their lollies and gummies are kept in science apparata! Test tubes, volumetric flask and beakers galore!!! And they have cute milk bottle gummies in milk cartons!!
Such cute lollipops, or as they call it, happylab pops!
Colour coded awesomeness!
Coke gummy lollies - 65% fruit juice (apple juice concentrate), these were in a cute cardboard tube, and were slightly under $5.
Lovely chocolates, they kinda look like the ones from Sadaharu Aoki - awesome Japanese chocolatier and patissier based in France - check out some of his creations here and here.
These look so much better than the Max Brenner choc squares
These are such cute individually packed thin choc squares!!


I bought this one...
this one...
and this one =) such cute packaging!!
My kind of science lab anyday :)










I really can't have much of a verdict for this confectionery store.  All I can say is that it's very cute, its packaging is a winner for me, and the taste is decent.
For more information, visit www.happylab.com.au.

Happy Lab on Urbanspoon
(Blogpost edited 29/12/12)

Bondi Pizza

My friends and I went to Bondi Junction Westfield, and we heard from others about Bondi Pizza - my other friend said it's one of the best pizza places she's been to, so I HAD to try it out :)
It's more of a dining place, overlooking the nice beach views, but unfortunately for us, it's been raining all week, and the sky was grey and dull. 
They have a touch screen menu, and take-away lunch pizzas are $9.90
We chose the three signature pizzas, but we don't know what happened with the prices (it was meant to total $29.70, but they charged us $37.70, claiming the pizza prices went up, and the "post-mix" soft drink of choice wasn't included somehow...)  We also misjudged how big 8 inches would actually be...
The True Vegetarian
Look at that amazing detail: the balsamic reduction on the generous flakes of parmesan, and the lovely green pesto sauce (which is like a cheese and garlic sauce, with basil and olive oil)
Grilled Chicken Panchetta
Yummm...look at that lovely BBQ style sauce, not as dark and sickly sweet like Masterfoods BBQ sauce, but it's really rich and complements the chicken and panchetta very well.
Mmmmm, panchetta...
Grilled Chillli Prawn (which by the way is not chilli at all, for those who don't like spicy foods).  The complementary sauce/dressing in the small container is sweet chilli and ginger sauce (which they call their "unique chilli sauce").
Look at that prawn, covered in their really good pesto sauce I must say =)
Mmmmm...
My verdict:
Atmosphere: We got takeaway, so this score category will be exempt from this verdict.
Pricing: It was pretty unexpected to get charged an extra $8 (the pizzas randomly changed prices) which is almost equal to buying a 4th pizza.  Also, the soft drinks were excluded from the order (I didn't mind though, because we brought our own water and drinks).  Despite the pricing being relatively decent (gourmet 8-inch pizza for $9.90), this sudden price change was a bit much. (6/10)
Food and Taste: The pizza was small (8 inches is very, very small).  The pizza base was thin, so that was great for me, because I don't like eating a lot of starchy flour-based things.  Taste-wise, a few of my friends said the grilled prawn one was weird, but out of these 3, I can't actually choose a favourite.  They were all so well made!  The sauces definitely were winners in themselves, the chicken, panchetta and prawn were juicy and tender, and the vegetarian tasted too good to be vegetarian!!  The vegetables were well seasoned, not too salty, not too sweet.  The toppings seemed pretty generous for a pizza of meager size. (10/10)
Service: Since we had take-away, I can only base the service verdict on how long it took to make the pizzas.  The promise was 10 minutes, and yes they did keep that promise.(10/10)
Overall = 8.67/10

Bondi Pizza details:
Trading Hours vary (from Bondi Junction Westfield, it opens at noon)

Bondi Pizza - Westfield Bondi Junction on Urbanspoon

(Blogpost edited 29/12/12)

Wednesday, 18 January 2012

Pancakes at the Rocks

One of the signature places to be when you go to the city.  Too bad for me, I haven't ever been there in my entire life, until quite recently. Located in Harbourside, Darling Harbour, this place offers lovely pancakes, or so I heard from many of my friends.
So some of my friends and I went out for Pancakes one night :)
Some of the dishes we tried were: 
Hot 'n' Troppo
Buttermilk pancakes with grilled banana, walnuts, cream, chocolate ice cream and our home made chocolate sauce.
$11.95
Chocolate Jewels
Original chocolate pancakes with cream and chocolate ice cream, smothered in chocolate sauce.
$10.95
Potato au Gratin
Served with salad. Potato and onion pancakes topped with a tasty cheese melt. Served with grilled banana and pineapple, topped with their original hollandaise sauce and sour cream.
$14.95
Nachos
Crunchy corn chips smothered in Mexican beef sauce, beans, jalopeno peppers and a generous melt of tasty cheese. Topped with sour cream, guacamole, tomato salsa and shallots. (it can also be served vegetarian style)
$12.95
Two of my friends having an awesome time with the Potato au Gratin and my friend in the far right trying out one of Pancakes' pizzas :)
So the thought running through my mind was...it's Pancakes at the Rocks right? So since I haven't ever been here, I should totally have pancakes (for dinner...)!
The pancakes were very nice of course - they were quite thick and soft (kinda like sponge cake but denser), and the icecream and cream and special sauce and etc complemented the dishes well, but man I am never eating a sweet thing for dinner again! It was actually quite filling, seeing that the serving was only 2 pancakes.  They were 2 HUGE pancakes. 
The savoury dishes (potato au gratin and pizza) were commended by the friends of mine who had those dishes, and the nachos was definitely a favourite (the sauce was yummm).

My verdict:
Atmosphere: Lively, considering it's a popular destination, great for birthdays and get-togethers. (10/10)
Pricing: Dinner at $15? That is awesomely cheap! Pancakes have a median price of around $12, pizzas range from $14-18, savoury crepes starting at $14.95, and most starters, snacks and drinks are under $10. (9/10)
Food and Taste: Lots of variety in both sweet and savoury categories.  Catering for breakfast, lunch and diner, and kids meals too :) And as I said earlier, the dishes are filling. Taste is obviously great standard (10/10)
Service: Yes, the male staff member who served us was very nice and friendly, came to us quick to any requests, yes service was good.  And they cater for birthdays too =) (10/10)
Overall = 9.75/10

Pancakes details:
http://pancakesontherocks.com.au/home
Stores: 5 stores available
Trading hours: 7am to around midnight, with "Pancakes at the Rocks" at the Rocks open 24/7

Pancakes on the Rocks on Urbanspoon 
(Blogpost edited 29/12/12)

Recipe: Quick and super easy homemade penne pasta

Mum knows I get tired from eating rice all the time (I'm not a rice-person, haha), and she has a love for experimenting in the kitchen, so she taught me how to make this simple yet lovely penne pasta dish!!
1. Boil the penne pasta in a saucepan until soft, but the penne still retaining its elasticity.
2. Drain out (like in Picture 1).  Here, the secret ingredient is chicken salt :) Mix in a bit of chicken salt and mix in well.
3. So that's the penne part done!
4. My mum buys pork mince a lot, because we put little bits of it in our soups for dinner (the typical dinner for my background consists of rice, a meat dish, a vegie dish, and soup). So to prepare that, we add a bit of oil and a bit of onion into a pan, and break some bits of mince, and stir it around a bit.  And here I've basically taken some Leggos Pasta Sauce (this one has mushrooms), and poured that into a saucepan, and added the mince and onion. 

- Store the ununsed mince, onion and mushroom pasta sauce in the fridge, and meanwhile, enjoy!

(Blogpost edited 29/12/12)

Tuesday, 17 January 2012

Chat Thai

My friends and I decided to come here for lunch after hearing one friend tell us how good the food was here :).   Located in "ThaiTown" -- Campbell St, facing Capitol Theatre (and it's near ChinaTown too), Chat Thai has had many great reviews on restaurant review sites.  And out of all the Chat Thai restaurants, this one offers the best prices!!
My friends and I --> including C's Reverie and Lights Guiding
pad thai
stir fried thin rice noodles with chicken, dried shrimps, bean sprouts, garlic and chives in a tamarind and palm sugar sauce.
**includes peanuts**
$9.90 at ThaiTown ($12.50 at Westfield Sydney CBD) 





the beef version
I think this dish was
padt si-ew
stir fried wide rice noodles with chicken and chinese kale in dark soy sauce (the noodles can't be seen here though, because of the kale)
$9.90 at ThaiTown ($12.50 at Westfield Sydney CBD)
khao ka mhu
caramelised smoked pork hock in five spice reduction with chinese kale and cabbage and rice.
$9.90 at ThaiTown ($12.50 at Westfield Sydney CBD)
khao kh mhu up close - succulent pork hock
Yummm :)
*Sorry that the lighting of the pictures is a bit off :(

My friend's advice for Chat Thai was to stick to the safe option and go for "padt thai".  I must say, she was right.  They sure know how to make their padt thai.  The sauce is flavourful and intense and just right :)   

But knowing me and my tendencies, I never go for the safe option, and I always like to try new things, whether or nor I actually know what's in that dish.  I've tasted padt thai before, and I believe it's quite similar to eating pho noodles (without the stock) with a sauce (I've done that heaps at home - the special peanut sauce that you eat with summer rolls? Yeah that goes nice with pho noodles...(actually, that sauce can go well with anything:)).  The khao ka mhu description sounded good though, and the dish does taste nice.  According to the Chat Thai byline "The leading Sydney Thai restaurant. Authentic Thai cuisine. Street food favourites", this dish is definitely street food.  Street food in the sense that it's a normal dish you'd often find in Asian households (hence why I didn't choose padt thai).  Even though my dish tasted decent, it wasn't a standout, and I guess I never really liked the concept of going outdoors to buy rice for lunch, knowing that I eat it almost every day at home! But yes, quality-wise and serving-size-wise, it was definitely worth the $9.90. The padt si ew was nice too, similar to another home-made dish I know of.  

The serving sizes were very decent, I reckon if we got about 80% of the servings we had on that outing, then that would've filled us already. Nevertheless, talk about value for money :) 

My Verdict:
Atmosphere: Quite lively actually, with nice and comfortable setting - the lights were a bit dim so I needed to turn my camera flash on - (9/10)
Pricing: Value for money indeed, and it's hard these days to find a restaurant with a $10 dish that could fill you up! (besides buffets) (10/10)
Food and Taste: Decent taste, but the dishes weren't really standouts for me, the padt thai was very good though. (8/10)
Service: Usual nice service :) Came and served us on time, friendly smiling staff. (10/10)
Overall = 9.25/10

Chat Thai Details:
http://www.chatthai.com.au/ 
Trading hours vary for each store, but are in the range between 10am and 10pm.

Chat Thai Haymarket on Urbanspoon Chat Thai Westfield Sydney on Urbanspoon Chat Thai @ The Galeries on Urbanspoon (Blogpost edited 29/12/12)