Sunday, July 27, 2008

The Anonymous Commenter

One of the beauties of comments is that you get to hear feedback from others very quickly about what you write. However, it can also cause anguish and pain when commenters get nasty. It's rare for someone with a known identity (even if it's a psuedonym) to get really nasty as they are "known" and have a reputation to protect.

However, with the Anonymous commenter, they are able to write pretty much what they wish without fear of retribution. Often, people will want the Anonymous person to confess up to their true identity, as it seem cowardly to hide behind this Anonymous tag and throw stones at people. I don't need to know who these Anonymous people are but I do agree with others in that I feel slightly vulnerable. I post my full name, photos of myself and details events in my life. But that's how I've chosen to communicate with others, I want to share these information so cannot then change my mind when someone else makes fun of it.

I've recently got some Anonymous comments on my post about Bar Lourinha. Nothing good has come out of that innocent restaurant review. First Matt McConnell sends me an email threatening to sue me and now this Anonymous commenter who clearly has something against me. Although, in the Anonymous commenter case, it hasn't been all made. What they have made me realise when I read back on the post from more than a year ago, is how much more I've learnt about food since and how I do much more research into posts before putting it up on the web. My speeling and gramar is still such as bad as I don't doble chek it.

The Anonymous commenter is probably reading this and smiling that he/she has been able to get me to write a whole post about him/her. Well, they can smile all they want. I just wish to discuss this topic as it's an interesting exploration in the psyche of why people post critical Anonymous comments and I want to talk about it. By chance, I happen to just read The Gobblers post today about the exact same topic.

I, like the Gobbler, do not mind differing opinions to mine. I draw the line when I get insulted for having an opinion. This hasn't really happened with my current Anonymous commenter, with the worse being called "idiot" in another comment. Otherwise, in all the other posts in which they've posted comments, I don't really mind. In fact, some comments are funny and I laugh even.

My point of view is that if they can be bothered to go to all the effort of reading my posts to try and pick up tiny errors or things to criticse about, I'm more than happy. That means they read everything I've wanted to pass on to others, which is the whole purpose of this blog anyway. What their reasons for posting as Anonymous are theirs and theirs alone. It could be insecurity, or wanting to not have people speak to them in real life about their opinion, retribution, affecting their real jobs and a number of different other reasons.

For my part, I have to try and not take offence to most things. It's easier said than done, but it's a challenge. You can't have the pros of having comments so that you can discuss things with others, and also stop people from saying what they want to say. I will only draw the lines if totally unrelated insults are thrown at me for no apparent reasons, in which case I will just delete the comment. After all, this is still my blog, and that is one power I have over the Anonymous commenter.

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Pandan Coconut Cookies

Having recently been reaquainted with my childhood favourite Pandan Chiffon Cake, I saw these Pandan Coconut Cookies a day later over at Jin's blog Smell and Taste Are My Memory. I thought I should continue on my pandan theme and try out these cookies.

The cookies were ultra easy to make. You just mix everything together. And the batter tastes really really good. It tasted so good that I must have eaten a few tablespoons of it. However, once the cookies were baked, the pandan flavour was lost. I think I have to put in more pandan flavouring in future. However, it still tasted like a really really yummy coconut biscuit. It had a crunch on the outside without being dry on the inside. I really like the glace cherry flavour when you get to the centre of the biscuit.

120 g butter
100 g icing sugar
1/4 tsp salt
100 ml coconut milk
1 tsp pandan paste (I used 1 tsp of pandan flavouring)
200 g plain flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
90 g desiccated coconut (lightly toasted)
Glace cherries for decoration

(1) Cream butter, sugar and salt till creamy. Add in coconut milk and pandan paste and mix thoroughly.
(2) Seive flour and baking powder together and then mix in the desiccated coconut. Pour into the mixture and mix till a soft dough is formed.
(3) Using a spoon, roll dough into balls (about 1 inch). Place on a lined baking sheet and flatten slightly. Place a small piece of red cherry on top.
(4) Bake at 165C for about 15 to 20 mins.l until it's cooked and crispy.
(5) Leave to cool thoroughly before storing in containers.


I never thought I would actually ever make baklava myself. It seems like such a hard thing to make, and having made it now, I will say that it's not exactly an easy thing to make. I was first intrigued about making some baklava myself when I saw Simon Bryant make it on The Cook and The Chef. He made it look very easy, so that got me slightly interested. It was only when I saw the exact same recipe in Belinda Jeffrey's Mix and Bake that I made up my mind to try it out.

The actual steps are very easy to do, it's the implementation that is difficult and tedious. Firstly, chopping all the nuts finely took me a good 45 minutes. I really need to invest in a food processor. Then, lining the filo pastry layer by layers and brushing each with butter was a bit of a nightmare. I had bought this filo ages ago and it had been in the fridge for quite a while. It had iced up so when it de-thawed, all the sheets stuck together. Very frustrating having tiny chunks of sheets rather than whole big sheets to work with. When Simon made it, all the nuts had been chopped for him already, the filo was nicely separated and he bascially only did the top layer. What took him two minutes took me 1.5 hours. The honey syrup part wasn't too bad. I made that while the baklava was baking.

So how does it taste. It's quite good. It's not sickly sweet like you find at some stores. However, the lemon flavour was a bit too strong for my liking. If I ever do make this again, I would up the sweetness a bit and drop the lemon part of the syrup. But to be honest, I think I would rather just buy baklava from my favourite store, El-Fayha on Sydney Road. The cost isn't too big a difference and their ones are just so amazingly good. I can munch through their 15 pieces for $10 deal in two days. My own baklava has been slowly eaten but it's just not as addictive.


200-250g unsalted butter
500g filo pastry
250g pistachio, 250g walnuts finely chopped (or all walnuts)
110g castor sugar
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
40 whole cloves (optional)

Honey Syrup
1 1/2 cups (330g) castor sugar
1 cup (250ml) water
1/3 cup (120g) clear honey
1/2 cinnamon stick
5 drops rosewater (optional)
finely chopped lemon zest
2 tablespoons lemon juice
finely chopped pistachios (optional) for sprinkling

Gently melt butter in small pan over low heat, then let cool. Skim off any white scum from top, and then carefully pour clear liquid into a jug leaving any milky sediment behind.
Brush a 32x24x5cm baking tin with some of the butter. Cut filo so that it is a similar size to the tin. Cover filo sheets with a damp tea towel to stop it drying out.
Mix together nuts, sugar, cinnamon and nutmeg in a bowl.
Line base of tin with a third of the filo sheets, brushing each sheet lightly with melted butter as you go. Sprinkle half nut mixture evenly over filo and shake tin gently to even out. Repeat the layering with another third of the filo and butter, and then top with the remaining nut mixture. Layer remaining filo over this, brushing it with the butter as you go, then brush the top with the butter too. Trim and discard any excess filo from around the sides of the tin with a sharp knife.

Chill in the fridge for about 20 minutes to firm up the baklava so it's easier to score. When it is firm use a sharp knife to score the baklava, right through to the base, into diamonds of whatever size you want. Push a clove, if using, into centre of each one.
Bake at 180 for about one hour or until top of baklava is deep golden brown. Cover loosely with foil if it seems to be browning too quickly.

For the syrup, combine sugar, water, honey and cinnamon stick in saucepan over high heat. Stir mixture until sugar dissolves, then stop stirring and bring to boil.
Reduce the heat to very low and simmer syrup, uncovered, for 20 minutes, skimming of any white foam that floats on surface. Remove syrup from heat, discard cinnamon stick and stir in lemon zest, juice and rosewater. Keep syrup in a warm spot.

When baklava is ready, remove from oven. Cool the tray on wire rack for one minute, then slowly drizzle warm syrup evenly over the top. Leave it to cool completely, do not refrigerate, for at least 12 hours before serving.
To serve baklava, cut down through score marks to loosen diamonds. Remove cloves and sprinkle with chopped pistachio nuts.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Pandan Chiffon Cake Recipe - Childhood Memories

For some Aussie children, childhood cake memories probabaly conjure up cakes from the Australian Women's Weekly Children's Birthday Cake Book. Claire from Melbourne Gastronome certainly has fond memories of those cakes and has even started a Facebook group for it. For me though, childhood memories come flooding back when I see a Pandan Chiffon Cake. Pandan chiffon cakes aren't exactly that common. It's only of late that you can find them at Asian bakeries, but those ones tend to be very dry and not nice at all.

Recently, when I was searching for Google for images of a cocoa chiffon cake that I was going to make, I happen to see an image of a pandan chiffon cake. So many memories from my childhood came flooding back. When I first arrived in Australia from Vietnam, mum always got pandan chiffon cakes for my birthday. These cakes were made by some Asian home baker who sold them out of her house. They were fantastic cakes and I loved them. My sister and my three cousins that I was living with at the time also got pandan chiffon cakes for their birthdays too. The cakes were a slice of our old homes back in Vietnam.

I hadn't eaten a pandan chiffon cake for ages. Hence, I dropped the idea of making a cocoa chiffon cake and had to make a pandan one instead. The pandan flavouring was easy enough to get from an Asian grocery. So I just had to find a good recipe. After some searching, I found a simple and delicious looking recipe from a blogger in Tasmania.

The cake is really simple to make. It looks amazing and tastes the same. It's so light and moist. The fudge icing goes so well with the cake, giving it a bit of richness without making it too rich. I loved the cake so much, in part for the actual flavour and texture, but also for all the fond memories of childhood that it brought. I'll be making this cake again and again as it's such a part of my life. It was the thing that bridged the gap between moving away from Vietnam and living in Australia.

Pandan Chiffon Cake

6 egg whites
125 g caster sugar
1/2 tsp cream of tartar
6 egg yolks
100g sugar
1/2 tsp vanilla essence
5 tbsp corn oil (I used vegetable oil and that worked fine)
2 tbsp pandan juice (I used 2 teaspoon of pandan flavouring instead)
100 ml thick coconut cream (99% or 100% stuff, look on label)
140 g self raising flour

1) Preheat oven to 160C.
2) Whisk egg whites, caster sugar and cream of tartar until stiff peaks form.
3) Whisk egg yolks, sugar and vanilla essence till light and creamy.
4) Add in corn oil, pandan juice and thick coconut milk to egg yolk mixture. Mix well.
5) Stir in sifted flour to egg yolk mixture and fold gently to mix.
6) Pour egg yolk mixture lightly into egg white mixture. Fold together gently.
7) Pour into ungreased pan. Bake for 45 minutes or until set.

Pandan Fudge Icing

600g coconut cream (99% or 100% stuff, look on label)
80g caster sugar
25g green bean powder (I omitted this and it worked fine)
20g custard powder
1/2 tsp pandan flavouring
Dessicated coconut

1) Mix all ingredients together in a saucepan and bring to boil over medium heat.
2) Stir till it thickens. Immediately coat cake with the warm fudge.
3) Decorate with dessicated coconut.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Free Cake In The Staff Kitchen

I found this post about free food at work and how people go crazy over it. The post then goes on to say that terrorist could overtake the world by lacing free pizzas with poison.

I don't know about the terrorist part, but people do definitely go a bit silly over free food at work. The fact that we have a cookie mailing list at work proves that. And the fact that I'm on that list proves that I love food, not necessarily free food, but free is good.

The only free stuff we got going at work is coffee and cream biscuits whenever a new packet is opened. Those cream biscuits disappear faster than a beer at an alcoholic's anonymous meeting. So to get to them first is key. You then get first choice of the ones you like. Recently though, the biscuits have switched back to the normal assortment mix. And we all know the only good biscuits in that pack is the Arnotts Scotch Fingers. People have been known to hide those right at the bottom of the jar so they can retrieve them later. And by people, I really don't mean me so stop your smiling. :-)

We also get the occasional donuts left over from meetings. If we're really lucky, there's free cake left over from someone's birthday. And if we've hit the jackpot, there's free mixtures of cakes and slices and donuts left over from trays of desserts that we serve to clients.

On Fridays, there's also free snacks. For a while, the secretary deemed that we should eat healthy and we had veggie sticks and dips. The previous secretary didn't care and we got great stuff like party pies, sausage rolls, chicken wings, chicken nuggets and wedges. Now, the newest secretary has been open to suggestions. So we have a mixture of pies, chips, dim sims and veggies. Also, every fortnight, it's pizza time. And let me tell you, pizza time is popular. Don't get between engineers and pizzas. The 20+ pizzas disappear so quickly. That's when the Friday drinks is the most crowded. But 30 mminutes later when the pizza is gone, people disperse rather quickly too as there is no food left. At least with the usual snacks, there's stuff remaining and people linger around slowly picking at things until there is nothing good left. Oh, and there's beer every Friday. But the best beers (full strength) always get finished very early too. Again, people have been known to stash a few in the freezer for their consumption later. And by people, I don't mean me. Seriously, it's not me. But I should. Hehehehe.

So what free food do you have at your work place?

Wild Oscars - Tell The Customer What They Want

I can stand brute force, but brute reason is quite unbearable. There is something unfair about its use. It is hitting below the intellect.
- Oscar Wilde

I think my friends and I can apply that Oscar Wilde quote to our situation at Wild Oscars. Let me start from the start.

We were going to the footy to see the Hawks play the Swans at the 'G. So we decided to have lunch on Swan Street. We've had some bad experiences with meals before sporting matches, we tend to have to eat rather quickly to get to the match on time. On Swan Street, we've probably had one of our worst experiences at Red Lemon, where we had to walk out without eating at all. Well this time, the plan was to eat at the Swan Hotel. But such is the case, we always divert from our plans. We can now add Wild Oscar as another terrible pre-sporting match meal.

When Justin spotted the lunch special sign at Wild Oscars, we stopped to read it carefully. It sounded quite good. Then I piped in with the fact that Wild Oscars was on The Chopping Block (where they lost). We were now intrigued and decided to give it a go. That was our fatal mistake for the day.

We were "seated" by the waitress, who waved at a table across the room and told us to have a seat. I remembered from The Chopping Block that Wild Oscars' service was rather casual, it didn't seem to have changed, and that opinion was backed up later on. However, I'm not writing to review the place. I'm writing to air my grievances at the way they run the place.

When we got the menu, we all made our choices. Adrian wanted to try their "best on Swan Street" parma. They stuck the sign up again even after Matt Moran told them to take it off since the sign was just their own self claim. Anyway, I decided on the lunch special Chicken Burger. When the waitress came to take our orders, we asked if we could order from the lunch special. It was now that she said we could only order from the breakfast menu. So, we thought that the lunch specials didn't apply yet. Despite being slightly upset at the false advertising sign outside, we decided to order off the normal menu. Again, she said that we couldn't order anything from the lunch menu at all, only breakfast. What the?

Who wants to eat breakfast at 11:30am? Apparently, ALL their customers want to eat breakfast until that time. So we quadrupled checked with her that we couldn't even order the normal meals that cost a lot more? Nope, nothing at all off the lunch menu. "Before 12pm, only breakfast, and after 12pm, only lunch".

What the fuck is this, a regime by the Breakfast Nazi. I know McDonalds has that policy, but they're a multi-million dollar chain that can't change the rules for one customer only, and even then, they're befreakfast menu only goes to like 10:30am. But what is stopping the Wild Oscar chef from cooking the parma a few minutes earlier. I understand that a lot of places don't want people ordering the cheaper breakfast menu after a certain time, but to not allow us to order the more expensive meal a few minutes early is just crazy. She then even had the nerve to ask if we wanted to wait till 12pm to order off the lunch menu. No, we don't want to wait. We had been tricked into entering. There was no time on the Lunch Specials sign. And then we could only order, eggs, eggs or eggs. What if I am allergic to eggs?

Adrian, a lawyer, then said to us, what if we order before 12pm but the food doesn't come till after 12pm. What then? Are we obeying this apparent rule that I've never heard of. I then chimed in that we should say that we can't accept this food after 12pm and demand a free lunch. Justin then joked that his stomach can't handle breakfast after 12pm.

We were in a rush so couldn't be bothered leaving and decided to eat our "lunch". The whole time, I also got an eyeful of the waiters underwear. They were in directly line of sight of the TV that I was watching. Their belt-free skinny jean uniforms just kept coming down each time they bent down to get a glass. They also stuffed up our coffee orders, had no quality control on the serving sizes and tried to charge us an extra coffee. Luckily we spotted that error and pointed it out to them.

The service may suppose to be "relaxed", but to me, they're just tardy and unprofessional. And in total contrast to the supposed relax style that they operate the restaurant in, their breakfast/lunch debacle is just ridiculous. We tried to talk some sense but it was useless. We kept asking for clarification that we couldn't order anything at all on the menu? The ludicrous nature of the question was clearly lost on the waitress. Reason was clearly not something they employ (pun intended) at the restaurant. My tip, give Wild Oscars a pass unless you're in for a challenge and want to try out your brute reasoning skill.

EDIT: I think this video with Jack Nicholson sums it up pretty well.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Macaron Attempt 4 - Partial Success

You can read about my previous macaron attempts here, here, and here. If you want to learn more about macarons, please consult Melbourne's own Macaron Master Markham's blog over at Syrup and Tang.

I have previously had mixed success with macarons and had given up making them for a while, such was the disappointment I had with my last attempt. But I regained my enthusiasm for them after tasting a violet macaron from Duncan at the second Melbourne food bloggers banquet. That violet macaron blew my mind and I had renewed interest. Duncan was generous enough to run a macaron masterclass that I was lucky enough to attend.

Hence, we have arrived at today. I went out today and bought a new digital scale to get more accuracy as well as a piping bag so that I could make nice round shapes. I gave myself all day so I wouldn't be stressed and took each step slowly.

I was using the Italian Meringue Method today for my macaron. So firstly, I weighed out all my ingredients. I decided to play it safe this time and make a small batch, so it was easier to control everything. I went with two egg whites. I weighed up the appropriate amounts of almond meal and icing sugar. I whizzed up the almond and icing to get a fine powder. Then I made my Italian Meringue. The small saucepan I bought from Oasis Bakery was really useful as the sugar syrup reached temperature really quickly this time. The meringue was beautifully shiny.

Next I mixed my wet and dry ingredients, sticking to a basic white shell with vanilla essence for flavouring. I then went to pipe my batter onto a baking tray, only to find that the piping bag tip didn't protrude through the piping bag. Hey, I've only ever piped once, and that was at Duncan's materclass. A panicked call to Duncan and it turns out that I need to cut the tip of the piping bag a bit to fit the nozzle. I did that and piped all my macarons.

Then the words of Master Markham rang in my head, "do a test batch first". Thank Go(r)d(on) I did that, or I would have fucking fucked up the whole fucking batch (hehe, I thought I would get in on the swearing that seems so hip for chefs lately). I had forgotten to let my macaron batter rest a bit so that a crust could form on it. So the test macarons turned out with badly cracked shells.

After letting my macarons rest for 20 minutes to form a crust, I put them into the oven at 160C. The macarons turned out pretty good. They were a bit too brown and two shells stuck to the tray, but otherwise it wasn't too bad. I couldn't stop the shells burning because when they were still white and I took them out, they weren't cooked through yet. I've emailed Duncan about this and we have both concluded its probably due to me having the tray at the very bottom of the oven rather than in the middle. I was thinking that having it at the bottom would stop it burning, but obviously it stops it cooking too hahaha.

Next it was time for the filling. I made up the buttercream that Duncan had taught me. It was very easy to do and turned out so beautifully smooth. I was really pleased with it.

Next, my secret (well not so secret as I've been saying I would do this for ages) ingredient, durian. I was going to fill the centre with durian, and create the macaron called "The Thanh". You aren't going to find "The Thanh" at Pierre Herme or Laduree any time soon. The smell alone would kill 99% of the customers I think. I used a half half ratio of the buttercream and durian puree to make a fairly smooth cream.

Then, it was just a matter of piping in the durian cream and sandwiching the macarons together. And voila, "The Thanh" has been created. Hooray! So how did it taste. It tasted quite good. It wasn't as good as I thought it was going to be, but nonetheless, it was still good. The sweetness of the macaron combined with the powerful sweetness of the durian makes it all a bit too rich. I need to find fillings that help to cut the sweetness of the macaron rather than making it sweeter. Maybe a slightly bitter chocolate shell with durian will work better. A flavour combo to try for next time.

As I said, you can find the macaron recipe over at Duncan's blog. For the buttercream, here is the recipe that Duncan gave me.


2 eggs
1 egg white
80g sugar
230g unsalted butter, softly whipped
10ml water flavouring (choose whatever flavours you want)

1) Over a double boiler, beat the eggs, white and sugar until it is thick and frothy.
2) Take egg and sugar mixture off heat. Let it cool until it's warm to touch. Then beat in the butter.
3) If the mixture is still a bit rough, put back over hot water and continue beating until it is smooth.
4) Add flavouring.


I was inspired to make Profiteroles after reading about Sarah's Croquembouche. If you have no idea what a croquembouche is, go to Sarah's blog and find out.

Anyway, I love eating profiterols and have always wanted to make them. Yet I'm really scared about making the choux pastry, so have always resorted to making them using the White Wings boxed one from the supermarket. Anyway, I decided to try it using fresh ingredients this time as I'm a baker now. Well, I try to bake and usually most things succeed.

Sarah was kind enough to type out and send me a choux pastry recipe. Thank you so much for doing that Sarah. For the pastry cream, I used a recipe I've previously used to success.

So how was it to make? The choux pastry wasn't too hard in itself. I did make the mistake of not drying out the milk and flour mixture enough so that the pastry didn't rise as much. I forgot the tip that I saw on TV that said you'll know when it's dry enough when you stop seeing steam rise off it. The pastry cream isn't too hard in itself either. The profiterole as a whole is a little fiddly in terms of having to wait for things to cool before doing the next steps.

And the taste? Amazing. These profiteroles, if I may say so myself, were abso-freaking-licious. These disappeared so quickly when I took them to work, with most people eating three of the massive ones I made. At home, they also disappeared in a day. The pastry was light and had a great flavour. The pastry cream was smooth and rich, but not annoyingly so. With the melted dark chocolate on the top, it all melded into one beautiful mouthful of bliss.

Choux Paste
The Roux Brothers on Patisserie

125ml water
125ml milk
100g butter, cut into small pieces
1/2 tsp fine salt
3/4 tsp sugar
150g flour
4 x 60g eggs

Preheat the oven to 220C.

1) Put the water, milk, diced butter, salt and sugar in a saucepan, set over high heat and boil for 1 minute, stirring with a spatula.
2)Take the pan off the heat and, stirring all the time, quickly add the sifted flour.
3)The next stage – the ‘drying out’ – is vitally important if you want to make good choux paste. When the mixture is very smooth, replace the pan over the heat and stir with the spatula for 1 minute. The paste will begin to poach and some of the water will evaporate. Tip the paste into a bowl.
4) Immediately beat in the eggs, one at a time, using a spatula or electric mixer. Stir well until the paste is very smooth. It is now ready to use. If you do not want to use it immediately, spread one-third of a beaten egg over the surface to prevent a skin or crust from forming, which may easily happen after a few hours.
5) Choose an appropriate plain nozzle to pipe out your chosen shape. Pipe out the paste on baking parchment or a greased baking sheet.
6)Bake in the preheated oven, then open the oven door slightly (about 1-2cm) after 4 or 5 minutes and leave it ajar. Cooking time will vary from 10-20 minutes, depending on the size of the buns.

Stored in an airtight container, choux paste will keep for 3 days in the fridge, or for up to 1 week in the freezer.

Pastry cream

1 cup milk
75g castor sugar
3 egg yolks
25g plain flour
1 tsp butter


Heat milk slowly with 50g of the sugar. Whisk the yolks with 25g of the sugar. When yolk mixture is pale and thick, add the flour and then gradually whisk in the boiling milk. Transfer to a clean saucepan and stir continually until the custard thickens. It will thicken quickly so stir vigorously.

Place pan on a simmer mat and cook for 2 minutes, stirring all the while. Remove from heat, scoop into a bowl and skim the surface with the teaspoon of butter to prevent a skin forming. Allow to cool to room temperature.

Assembling Profiteroles
Either cut the choux puffs 3/4 of the way around so that it opens up like clam shell and spoon in the pastry cream, or poke a small hole and pipe in the pastry cream. Then melt about 50g of dark chocolate over a double boiler and spread the chocolate over the top of the profiteroles.

Golden Bangkok

Golden Bangkok
351 Springvale Road
Ph: 9548 0088
Hours: Tues-Sun 11am-8:30pm

Golden Bangkok is a new Thai place that has just opened in Springvale. It's actually the only second Thai restuarant amongst the hundreds (exaggeration) of Chinese and Vietnamese restaurants in Springvale. I normally don't bother providing the details for restaurants as people can Google it and find it, but this place is really new so maybe their details can't be found easily. And I want others to go there so that they can stay in business so I can continue to eat Thai food without driving a long distance.

The first time I went there, I was the only customer there. This was slightly strange, even for 5pm. Most of the popular places in Springvale are still fairly full at this time. Asians like to eat at any time of the day. Anyway, after the meal, I told the owner that the food was very good and asked how business was. She said business wasn't so good even though she advertised in the Vietnamese newspaper. I suggested that she also advertise in the Chinese newspaper and included Chinese and Vietnamese text on her menu as well so that people can read it.

This time, I took some work mates Tin, Hien, Trung and John for dinner. We thought we would be the only ones in the restaurant but then a group of 10 also came in.

I ordered a selection of dishes for all of us to share. First off, there was the ubiquitous fish cakes. The quality of fish cakes can vary so much. Some are absolutely delcious with actual fish taste and fragrant herbs while others taste like flour mixed with "fish" flavours. This fish cake wasn't too bad.

The Grilled Beef Salad was so refreshing light. All the herbs combined with the beef and tangy sauce helped to whet our appetites for the meal to come.

I just love Thai salads with their simplicity and various tangy sauces that I ordered another salad. This dish was my favourite for the night. It was a Seafood Salad, which consisted of prawns and calamari with glass noodle, peanut and a spicy sauce. It was so spicy and addictive. I made the mistake of boasting that the chilli wasn't that hot and then eating the second last one with all the seeds in it and getting a very hot mouth.

We also got a Tom Yum Prawn Soup. This Tom Yum soup wasn't spicy and sour enough for me. It was a bit bland in terms of Tom Yum soups. The Grilled Chicken Wings were faboulous. They were moist and I loved it. A Pad Thai was fairly well cooked, with the wok flavour required and the noodles not coagulated into one lump. The Seafood Red Curry was to my liking, spicy and creamy at the same time. The Chicken Green Curry was probably the worse dish of the night. The chicken was undercooked and hence spoilt the dish. Otherwise the curry wsa good and I liked the bamboo shoot chunks they put in. Keeping them as chunks rather than the usual slivers meant you could actually taste the bamboo shoot flavour in the curry.

For desserts, we all got Rambutan drinks while Tin got Ice Cream and only John was smart enough to get the Black Sticky Rice served with Ice Cream. We all ended up stealing a bit of his sticky rice as it was really good.

The two times I've been, it has been quiet so there isn't much atmosphere to speak of. Service is ok. It's not too hard to get the waiters attention and our requests were quickly fulfilled.

The food here is quite good. The first time I went, I asked for everything hot and that made it all taste even better. This time, as some people didn't eat as hot, it was all milder and was still quite nice. The prices of the food is the fantastic part. For dishes that are equal to many other Thai restaurants, every dish is under $10. This is extremely cheap for Thai food. So hopefully, more of you will go and eat there and the business will thrive, so that I can continue to eat good cheap Thai food regularly.

Overall Rating: 14/20, Food is good and very cheap.

Scores: 1-9: Unacceptable, don't bother. 10-11: Just OK,some shortcomings. 12: Fair. 13: Getting there. 14: Recommended. 15: Good. 16: Really good. 17: Truly excellent. 18: An outstanding experience. 19-20:Approaching perfection, Victoria's best.

Chon Thong - Part 2

I had been to Chon Thong previously for a work lunch. This time, despite Kin's insistance that he didn't want a birthday dinner and that we should buy him a Nintendo DS instead, we still had an impromptu birthday dinner for him. Chon Thong was chosen because there was a discount in the Entertainment Book.

Since it was fairly late on a Sunday night, there were no other patrons in the restaurant. Hence there wasn't any atmosphere to speak of. But we didn't really mind. In fact, we felt like really rich people who had booked out the whole restaurant just so that we could dine by ourselves. The wait staff (two of them) almost outnumbered the guests. We were served immediately and waited on throughout the night.

We ordered some curry puffs for entrees. The curry puffs were quite good, with the pasty not being too dough-y. We then got a duck salad as well. The roasted duck meat was tossed in a sharp tangy sauce with various vegetables. It was refreshingly good, just a bit salty.

For mains, we got a Pad Thai, Grilled Chicken and a Green Curry Beef. The Pad Thai was ok, with a slight wok flavour and the usual pad thai ingredients. I'm not sure what differs in Pad Thai's from restaurant to restaurant as they seem to contain the same ingredients, but some just taste amazing while others fall rather flat. This one sat somewhere in the middle.

The Grilled Chicken was very delicous, with a soy type sauce on it. It could have done with a bit more of a tang to it and was a bit salty, but otherwise was moist and juicy. The Green Curry Beef was creamy with the beef a little tough. It was good without anything really leaping out at me.

For dessert, Jo ordered the best dessert in the Black Sticky Rice and Ice Cream. This is always a classic Thai dessert when done well. This one was quite good. They even paired it with coconut ice cream, that had real coconut chunks in it rather than just coconut flavouring. Kin had ice cream while I had a banana split. Nothing too special with both our desserts.

Service was obviously good, seeing as we were the only customers. We got our wine poured immediately without asking and orders taken promptly. Food was served at a good pace, water refilled and plates clear efficiently. I can't really judge how good service would have been with a full restaurant. The atmosphere was as I said early, non-existent. However, we all rather enjoyed the empty restaurant and just chatted away without worrying about offending anyone.

The food was quite good, although I think the prices are a bit too expensive for the food they do. If we didn't have the Entertainment Book discount, the prices they charge is a bit too much and I could get much better Thai food for that price. If you do have the voucher, the price is just bearable.

Overall Rating: 13/20, Food is ok but a bit too expensive.

Scores: 1-9: Unacceptable, don't bother. 10-11: Just OK,some shortcomings. 12: Fair. 13: Getting there. 14: Recommended. 15: Good. 16: Really good. 17: Truly excellent. 18: An outstanding experience. 19-20:Approaching perfection, Victoria's best.

Chon Thong on Urbanspoon

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Blogging To Happiness

This post is strictly about food, but since it is about blogs, I think it is appropriate to post it here as well. It originally appears in my other blog. In the case of food blogging, I've been able to meet even more people who are passionate about food, some even in real life. I hope to continue to be able to share my passion for food with others who feel similarly. So below is my original post about how blogging can make us all happier.

I had written in the past about how blogging is very therapeutic for me. I've long said that the mere act of composing the thoughts and committing them to paper just seems to lighten the burden and worry. Well, there was an article in The Age about a university study that showed that blogging does make you happier.

Blogs, instead of being an anti-social tool where individuals are isolated, are actually a tool for making connections. I find that my blog is a great avenue to make connections with others both in the virtual world and the real world. I'm able to write about varied topics and occasionally someone else will also be interested and discussions will occur. As we all tend to have a limited number of friends who may not necessarily enjoy everything we do, a blog enables me to reach a much wider audience and anyone who chooses to enter the discussion without me forcing it on them.

So I plan to keep blogging so that I can discuss interesting topics with others, remove stress by writing about things that worry me, and give me opinions on various topics.

Wednesday, July 09, 2008

Chewy Choc Chip Cookie - The Best Ever?

I love choc chip cookies. However, as we all know, there are so many recipes for choc chip cookies out there, yet they all vary slightly. Generally, choc chip cookies fall into two categories, crunchy or chewy. I'm a fan of the chewy. So when I saw that Hungry Hamster had been trialling many choc chip cookie recipes, and declared the recipe from Baking Bites as the best one she's tried, I had to give it a go.

This recipe is so easy that even a child could make it. You basically mix all the dry and wet ingredients separately and then combine, chucking in the choc chips last. The only tip that I will give is to leave space between the cookies as they spread. You would think that I would know this by know after making Choc Chip Cookies previously where they spread so much that they became a slab rather than individual cookies. But I will definitely remember it for the next time, until I forget it again.

The verdict on the taste, mmmmm, mmmmmm. I read some comments where people said it was too salty for them. I found it was fine and so addictive. I kid you not, they're hard to stop eating. My cookies were fairly chewy the next day, but I've since learnt that whisk together butter and sugar does not mean to beat it until it's light and fluffy. Next time, I will just beat it enough to combine them and hence not aerate the mixture so much that it becomes crunchier.

Chewy Chocolate Chip Cookies
Makes 18-24 large cookies

2 cups plus 2 tbsp plain flour
1/2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
3/4 cup butter (12 tbsp), melted and cooled until just warm
1 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup white sugar
1 egg
1 egg yolk
2 tsp vanilla extract
1 1/4 cups chocolate chips

1) Preheat oven to 160C. Line a baking tray with baking paper.
2) In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, baking soda and salt.
3) In a large bowl, whisk together butter and sugars. Beat in the egg, egg yolk and vanilla.
4) Stir in flour mixture, followed by chocolate chips.
5) Drop spoonfuls of the mixture onto the baking tray and pat lightly so the cookie is an even thickness, not a ball shape. Cookies will spread as they bake and this ensures a more even spread.
6) Bake at 160C for 15-17 minutes, until just turning light brown all over. The edges should be slightly more brown, if at all, from the rest of the cookie. Allow cookies to cool before removing them from the baking tray.

Oasis Bakery - Razzcherries

We food lovers are a gluttonous bunch in general. We will travel far and wide for good food. Actually I didn't have to travel that far. Fortunately, my destination was within walking distance from work. What a stroke of luck. My quest this time was to find me some Razzcherries. What's a razzcherry? Well, it's dried cherries that have been infused with raspberry concentrate. I'd never heard of them before until I read Cindy's post, where she had found some razzcherries in England. Then I followed her link to her other post, where Buttons had indicated that razzcherries could be bought from Oasis Bakery. A bell rang in my head as I knew Oasis Bakery was right near my work place. I always thought it was just a bakery, so didn't really bother going. I'm glad I've been as it's a treasure trove of food.

So I had my brief to get razzcherries from the bakery. When I got there, I found so many great things. I didn't have enough time to go through everything properly, so I'll have to go back for sure. But I did find my razzcherries.

The description on the box is hilarious. It says

Razzcherries. Not since Rocky Balboe (aka Rocky VI) has America produced something so unique. Not since the Big Mac has America produced something so tasty & exclusive. Not since...where am I going with this? That's such a bad introduction! Anyways, a 'razzberry' is a cherry that tastes like a raspberry. The taste is like Briann Mannix's band - Uncanny. Unique, tasty & exclusive: really!'

Cindy describes these razzcherries like a raspberry jube lolly. I have to agree. It does taste like a jube lolly, but just better. I can't get enough of these things. I just keep eating them. They are sweet, yet sour and acidic, and fragrant and full of a weird flavour. They're like these Chinese pickled sweet plum things that I used to get mixed with a raspberry jube lolly. Mmmmmm. The only downside is that they're expensive. At $12.99 for 300g, these will have to be a rare treat rather than a regular occurance. But I recommend you try one, just for this really wonderful weird flavour.

While I was browsing quickly in the shop, I saw these Turkish coffee saucepans. Perfect. I had been looking for a small saucepan so that I could make the sugar syrup that I learnt from my Macaron Masterclass. I also picked up half a kilo of almond meal for only $9.99. I checked at Safeway afterwards, and the almond meal in there is $5.95 for 200g. Therefore, I would say $10 for every kilo. Thanks to Duncan for the tip about getting my almond meal from a middle eastern shop. I'm slowly getting there Duncan. Only a piping bag to buy before I can begin my own macaron legacy. Instead of the Isaphan, there will be the Do, or the Thanh, a durian centred macaron with a coconut shell.

Finally, when I went to pay, I saw Baklava. Oh man, I'm suppose to be saving money and yet all these temptations stare at me in the face. Of course I had to buy some, as regular readers would know that I love baklava. These baklava were good, with a very rich and strong butter flavour. BUT, they still are no match for the AMAZING baklava and other treats at El-Fayha on Sydney Road in Brunswick. I've yet to find a better baklava than at El-Fayha, but I will continue the search all in the name of research and to inform readers of this blog. I will sacrifice my own body and consume these unhealthy treats for the sake of information, wish me luck.