Thursday, July 3, 2014

Guest Blogger: Jon's ultimate guide to Californian Wines

I am very proud to introduce this blog post - this is the first time I am featuring a guest blogger on Why yes, I do eat constantly! Most people barely want to be affiliated with me when I start taking photos of my steak at a restaurant. So this is all quite exciting for me.

Jon and I met in Perth two years ago when he was visiting Jeremy, who he met in Shanghai. With my Dory-esque memory, I don't remember everything we chatted about - but I do remember him being an incredible guitar player, extremely disciplined (he was in the Canadian Reserves) and thinking he was amazingly down-to-earth and easy going for a lawyer (he specialises in Intellectual Property). Oh, and he's a Certified Specialist of Wine. He sat an exam for his certification which basically tests how much of a badass you are with wine, covering Physiology of Taste, Wine Composition & Chemistry, Viticulture & Enology and Food & Wine pairing to name a few.


Figure 1: Photo hi-jacked from Jon's Facebook Page without permission

Jon recently did a 7-day trip through the Sonoma and Napa Valley in California, tasting 200 wines in 30 wineries. Naturally, when you've accomplished a feat like that, you want to share it with others - so he's done up a report on his adventure detailing every single freaking wine he tasted complete with a scoring system, some comments on each winery's decor, and his thoughts on joining wine clubs. Or, in his words, a report designed to be "a time-saving and professionally vetted resource for serious oenophiles who are contemplating a similar trip".

Here's a snippet:


To read the full report, click this link: http://bit.ly/napavalleywinereport

To contact Jon about his wine experience or any wine-related stuff, you can email him at jc1762@gmail.com.

Was lovely to hear from you Jon! Thank you for sharing your food experience with me, and I hope other people heading to California for wine tasting will find it useful. And on a final note... see you on Saturday!


Figure 2: What the fluke?

That's what I love about food: it connects people and keeps them connected across borders.

Saturday, May 31, 2014

Voyager Estate Sparkling Grape Juice

Sparkling Grape Juice
Voyager Estate

+61 8 9385 3133

As a professional Cadbury (glass and a half, that's all it takes), I am always on the look out for a non-alcoholic substitute that isn't Coke or a lemon lime bitters. I just may have found my answer. 


Figure 1: "Made from exceptional quality fruit" 


Figure 2: Food Blogger Perk #47 - surprise deliveries from wineries!

I was super delighted this month to receive an email from Voyager Estate in Margaret River, asking if I would like to try their Sparkling Grape Juice. My little present arrived on a Thursday morning, and I couldn't help but tear open both boxes right on my front doorstep. 


Figure 3: Red and white

I love the little story behind this product. If you read the back of the bottle, the label reads:

"What do you do when you are passionate about growing grapes and making wine, but don't drink alcohol? When faced with this conundrum, Voyager Estate founder, Michael Wright, created a drink he could truly love whilst still sampling the fruits of his labours - his own sparkling grape juice. And, believing that he might be onto something, we make sure there is enough to share with anyone with a sympathetic palate."


Figure 4: Date night

I cracked open a white one first (it's been freezing in Perth lately, it didn't even need chilling). It wasn't at all what I was expecting. It was crisp on the tongue, clean, and had lovely tones of apple and honey. Light and refreshing, I think it would be perfect to take in a basket to King's Park for a summertime picnic. 

The white grapes that Voyager Estate uses is machine-harvested at around 14 to 15 Baumé (280 to 300g/L sugar). Once harvested, the grapes are crushed, chilled and pressed immediately. After filtering and adjusting, the juice is put into tanks to be pressurised with carbon dioxide to fill the juice with bubbles. The juice is then bottled under pressure and passed through an in-line pasteuriser that will sterilise the product to ensure the long life of the finished grape juice. 


Figure 5: White Sparkling Grape Juice 


Figure 6: Colour

Then I cracked open the red one. When I poured it and the light came through it, it became this crazy fuschia colour before cascading into my glass, all pink and bubbles. Slightly denser texture than the white version, and flavours more like blackberry and lemon. 

The red grape juice is made the same way as the white, but the skins are left on the grapes for 6-8 hours after crushing to maximise the extraction of the red colour and make the finished product a soft, rosy pink. Out of the two, I probably preferred the white, which was lighter and tasted slightly less sweet to me. 


Figure 7: Red Sparkling Grape Juice

If I had to sum up this product in one sentence, it's be: "Soft drink for foodies". And if any foodies out there want to try it, I have two boxes of this stuff sitting in my living room, just waiting to be given away. 

Email me here if you'd like to take some off my hands! 

Monday, May 12, 2014

Pearl of Shelley

Pearl of Shelley
Shop 8, 17 Tribute St West
Shelley 6148

(08) 9384 8115



Figure 1: The Battleground

I get really grumpy towards exam time. Partially because I'm trying to cram 13 weeks worth of legal theory into a 7-day study week, but also, and most importantly, because I have less time to eat well. I'm a foodie and I eat like it - but when I'm stressed out and strapped for time, my diet quickly deteriorates into McDonalds, triple shot flat whites, Shin Ramen instant noodles and Arnotts Chocolate Coated Scotch Fingers.

But not this semester. 


Figure 2: Salvation 

I have recently discovered Menulog, an Online Takeaway website that lets you search your suburb, select a restaurant, choose your items and bada-bing-bada-boom your meal is delivered to your address. Menulog recently emailed me to offer a takeaway meal in exchange for a review, which I was more than happy to accept! No trawling through Google to find a restaurant that delivers, no leaving the house half way through study to find dinner, no walk of shame through a restaurant in your study outfit to grab your take-away. Let's face it guys. Nobody likes being seen in pyjama pants. 


Figure 3: Effort required - zero

On a Wednesday night, I ordered from Pearl of Shelley through Menulog, and exactly half an hour later, my doorbell rang (didn't even have to pay the delivery guy, it's all done online when you order) and I danced to the dinner table holding the bag of goodies I'd ordered for mum and I. I'd ordered a Mango Kulfi ($4.5) for dessert but I ate it first, because life is too short. Kulfi is an Indian kind of ice cream, but not ice cream - it's much more dense and creamier, so technically it's a 'frozen dairy-based dessert'. I just love the texture of kulfi, which can vary depending on where you go, but this one had squillions of little icicles in it that crackled and snapped, like a mango party in my mouth. 



Figure 4: Mango Kulfi


Figure 5: Naanandnaan

For dinner, I'd ordered Garlic Naan ($4) and Cheese Naan ($4.5) to have with some Lamb Korma ($14.9). Mum popped the breads under the grill for a bit to crisp them up, which gave the naan just the texture I like - doughy and dense, but crisp and crackly on the outside. The cheese naan had the added ooze factor with melted strings of cheese all through it, giving it the perfect moisture and flavour.


Figure 6: Lamb Korma 

I'd order the Lamb Korma again - it was mild, sweet, creamy, nutty and had sultanas in it which went perfectly with the lamb. Lamb korma is prepared by searing the lamb meat first then braising it at a low temperature for a long period of time to prevent it from toughening. Our lamb was cooked perfectly - really lovely and tender. Gathered into a little mouthful between some cheese naan and mango chutney smeared on top, it was just delicious. Not bad for a Thursday night meal, not bad at all. 


Figure 7: Baa 


Figure 8: Menulog's user friendly interface

So if you're like me and have a hectic month coming up - maybe you should give Menulog a try - they're currently No. 1 for Online Takeaway in Australia with more and more people jumping on the bandwagon every day.

To check out some other Menulog restaurants in Bull Creek, click Bull Creek Take-Away Restaurants.


Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Big El's Latin American Fusion

Big El's Latin American Fusion
71 Francis Street
Northbridge, WA 6003

(08) 9328 3380


Figure 1: Bienvenidos

I'll make something clear - I'm an extremely ignorant person when it comes to many, many things. Mexican culture is on that list. So I have no idea if I'm supposed to be offended by this mural, or what Mexicans might think of it. But I dig it. Not only is she ridiculously sexy, but when you're actually standing in front of the wall itself, the painting is so vivid that she almost seems alive. 

Welcome to Big El's Latin American Fusion. 


Figure 2: "Last U-Turn Before Entering Mexico"

Some preliminary questions to settle:

Q: Why is it called "Big El's"?
A: "El" as in "L" for Logam, the restaurant owner (the guy in the black shirt standing up).

Q: What is "Latin American Fusion"? 
A: Food based on cuisines from South and Central America, with a twist. You'll see in a minute. 

Q: What's with the milk crates on the ceiling? 
A: Colours on the Mexican flag. Plus, they're funky. 


Figure 3: Choices, choices

The menu at Big El's is bold, inventive, and a bit cheeky - you'll see your Mexican favourites like nachos and quesadillas, but also some items you would have never seen before such as Achiote Carnitas Banh Mi Thit (a fresh Vietnamese sandwich filled with Mexican-style pulled pork), Tempura Jalapeño Poppers and Crispy Mango Cheek (battered and deep fried, served with caramalised coconut and ice cream). 

As I ate here on a Tuesday night, Logam had enough time to chat with me and Daniel (my fellow food blogger at eatspeakwrite.com) about how he came up with his dishes. All of the stories were pretty much the same: come up with crazy idea, trip to the grocery store, discussion with a mystical chilli man, experiment, put it on the menu the next day. Alternatively: Peruvian/Columbian/Brazilian/Mexican customer eats at restaurant, tells Logam that he absolutely must put item X on menu, item X is on the menu the next day.


Figure 4: The Genie 

First up: a little cocktail called The Genie ($17) - Green Fairy sour with lychee and twin Alizé, served in a sipper glass. A unique cocktail, with a light, clean taste, not too sweet. I only realised when writing this blog post that Green Fairy is Absinthe - but it definitely does not taste like the putrid green shots that I used to do back in my fresher year.

The Genie is just one of the quirky cocktails available at Big El's. Next time I might try the Captain Jack Sparrow or the Justin Bieber, described as fruity, girly and incredibly overrated. Contains Gin, Patron Citronge, Blue Curacao, Parfait Amour and terrible music


Figure 5: Cocktail tail 


Figure 6: Nacho bowl 

Note: The photos in my blog post are tasting sizes only, please note that actual servings at the restaurant are larger than pictured. 

We then rounded on a Nacho Bowl ($15) which was tri-colour tortilla chips served with siete chilli con carne, topped with Jack cheese, and your choice of potato's companion or chipotle mayonnaise. All ingredients, including the tortilla chips are made in-house, which does wonderful things for this dish's flavour and texture. None of that gross, gritty, corn-starchy taste in your mouth from store-bought tortilla chips. A satisfying, crunchy, cheesy, creamy feed. 


Figure 7: Kelly's Rack ($17)

Next up, chipotle glazed baby back pork ribs served with chipotle mayonnaise. Again with the ignorance thing - I've never really known what chipotle actually is... that bright orange sauce at Subway? Turns out chipotle is the name for a type of smoke-dried jalapeño, which is the base ingredient for a dark red chilli sauce, chipotle. This chilli sauce can be combined with mayonnaise, to make orange-coloured chipotle mayo. 

The result of glazing these ribs with chipotle was rich, smoky flavours with a mild spiciness (chipotle is around 3,500 on the Scoville scale). The meat isn't fall-off-the-bone tender, but damn satisfying to sink your teeth into all the same. 


Figure 8: Patron Tequila Prawns ($18)

These were one of my faves - pan fried prawns doused in lemon juice and simmered in Patron Tequila, with a side of crispy tostaditas. They were so fresh, the flesh burst in your mouth like fruit. Logam orders them fresh from Kailis Bros in Fremantle, so no wonder they're so delightfully juicy. The tequila and lemon really lifts the dish and adds to its lightness. I could have eaten 10 of these. Make sure you try them. 


Figure 9: Expecto Patronum ($16)

"Parents died while protecting you from a noseless marauding wizard? Are evil spirits giving you a hard time? Is your best friend a ginger? Well then, this is for you! Cast away all the bad things in your life. A vodka fire engine floated with vanilla ice cream, blue curacao and pop rocks." 

We had our Expecto Patronum cocktails about half way through the meal - but I wish I'd saved mine for the very end, or at least for another occasion when I wasn't having a 9-course Mexican degustation. It's packed with so much vanilla ice cream that it erupts rainbow-coloured foam, and a small asteroid of pop rocks on top makes your mouth crackle like a candy wrapper. 


Figure 10: Elotes callajeros ($12)

Amongst Big El's regulars, this dish is known as "Dat Corn", and for good reason. The description, "Mexican street corn dusted with Big El's special spice mix" doesn't quite encapsulate the creamy, smoky, cheesy, spicy, salty and sweetly delectable cobs of barbecued delight that are served. The consistency of the corn is nothing like what you'd expect - so tender, the corn just gives way to your teeth. Definitely do a squeeze of lime on them to balance the flavours out. These are a must try. 


Figure 11: Delicioso 



Figure 12: Crispy chicken tacos 

Every Mexican restaurant must have these on the menu - at Big El's, you can choose from Coastal Baja Fish Tacos, Crispy Chicken Tacos, Mexican Pulled Beef and Achiote Carnitas (pulled pork) Tacos. You can grab 2 for $13 or 3 for $18, and mix and match if you like too. 


Figure 12: Peruvian Style Ceviche ($19 for standard serving)

The ceviche was a really nice refresher to contrast with the other heavier dishes we'd been having - sashimi grade white fish pickled in citrus, herbs and chilli served with avocado, red onion and a side of crispy tostaditas. 

At the same time, we were served a sampler of Peruvian Style Tiradito ($19, in the background) which was also a medley of raw fish but with served with a sauce made from aji chillies that gives it the yellow colour. The word tiradito comes from the Spanish word tiras which means "shreds", referring to how the fish is cut. Tiradito is different to ceviche as it doesn't contain onions, and it is usually thinner and lighter than ceviche. I liked both of these, but probably preferred the ceviche - the red onion does provide a nice foil to the raw fish. 


Figure 13: Coxinha 

One of the perks of being a food blogger is being able to get my hands on things that aren't on the menu. For this meal, I got to sample the soon-to-be-released Brazilian coxinha, served with a thick stripe of chilli con queso sauce. When I was backpacking in Brazil, I developed an irrepressible addiction to these deep-fried clouds of chickeney delight, never failing to pick up one (or eight) coxinhas every time I walked past a food stall. I am absolutely thrilled that Big El's will start serving these soon. 

Basically, they're balls of spiced chicken mince (or shredded chicken), crumbed and deep fried. They're pointy at the top, made to look like a chicken leg. Big El's puts a little dollop of cheese mix inside, so that when you bite into it, you get a bit of creamy, stringy cheese too. 


Figure 14: Star dish

We saved the best 'til last - our final dish was the Peruvian Lamb Cutlets ($21 for 4) cooked in lime, garlic and herbs. I don't often use the word "succulent" to describe food, but I will here - the chimmichurri and tomato salsa smothered on top means the lamb is bursting with flavour and dripping with juices, and the meat is ridiculously tender. I brought in Rodrigo to try them a few weeks ago (he's a manager at the restaurant I work at) and even he was impressed. Considering Rod is South American and works at a meat buffet restaurant, I think it's a fairly good precedent to say that these lamb cutlets are freakin' awesome. 


Figure 15: Snickers chimichanga ($10)

It was my Mexican friend Itzel who explained to me what a chimichanga is: a deep-fried burrito. I just remember laughing and thinking, God bless Mexicans. 

Usually chimichangas are savoury, but Big El's presents them as desserts, with your choice of chocolate bar wrapped up inside. Me and Daniel ordered the Snickers chimichanga, which came with a serving of ice cream, caramel popcorn and caramelised coconut, something a bit different. Think a Chinese spring roll, only a thicker, crunchier wrapping, and instead of spring roll filling, you get an explosion of half-melted chocolate paradise. 


Figure 16: Latin American flags from Mexico to Argentina 

If you're looking for authentic Mexican food the way your Mexican grandmother would make it - then I advise that you don't go to Big El's. Go to your Mexican grandmother. 

But if you want to try something new, if you want to eat good, honest food, have a bit of fun and be in a venue completely void of pretentiousness - then you should definitely check this place out. 

For me, the best thing about Big El's is knowing that Logam had no experience in the hospitality industry prior to opening this restaurant. One day I want to open my own food venue. Every time I meet someone who has successfully gone ahead and done that, despite all the odds, it inspires me a little more to believe that one day I can do it too. 


Figure 17: Thanks for having me, Big El's! 

Big Els Latin American Fusion on Urbanspoon

Thursday, February 27, 2014

JoJo's Little Kitchen

Jojo's Little Kitchen 
The Strand
Kota Damansara
Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia


Figure 1: Jojo's Chilli Pan Mee

In Western culture, the number 7 is thought to be a lucky number. Many would argue that this notion has its roots in the Bible, which tells us that the universe was created in 7 days, the Passover is 7 days long, Jericho's walls fell on the 7th day after 7 priests with 7 trumpets marched around the city 7 times, and so on and so forth. 

However, in Chinese culture, the number 8 is believed to bring luck, fortune, happiness and prosperity. This is probably because chili pan mee is item #8 on Jojo's menu. 

I've done my research. 


Figure 2: Eyes on the prize


Figure 3: Noodle porn

Jojo's is a chain of noodles shops in Kuala Lumpur that specialises in pan mee (板麺), which translates into "flat flour noodles". This is a completely inadequate name that fails to encapsulate the glorious deliciousness that pan mee actually is. A symphony of taste and texture, pan mee is composed of seasoned pork mince, runny poached egg, fried anchovies (they call it ikan bilis), chili sambal, potato leaves and freshly made noodles. The result is one of the most addictive dishes I've ever eaten.



Figure 4: Incognito 

Jojo's has several branches dotted around Kuala Lumpur, but the Kota Damansara one was the closest to my office. If you end up coming here, don't panic when you see the blinds are pulled down - this is just to block out the sweltering hot Malaysian sun. Just walk around the side and you'll find a little haven of wooden chairs and tables adequately ventilated by many, many electric fans. The staff (who I'm told are exclusively from Burma) are fast, efficient, and if you stare at them too much while they're taking your order, they get really shy and embarrassed and start smiling at the floor. 


Figure 5: Lunch time


Figure 6: Tick or tin?

The Ang Moh's Guide to Ordering Pan Mee

1. Order item #8 from the waiter - the actual name is lat jiu pan mee (辣椒板麺), but I recommend the point-and-smile if you're unsure.

2. Choose thick or thin noodles - I always choose thick. But you can choose whatever you want. I won't judge you. Much.

3. Order a drink - Jojo's serves some awesome stuff like three-layered tea, soya cincau (tastes better than it looks) and a wicked sweet honey-lemon juice. Also, if you want bottled water, you say "mineral water", and it costs RM 1.80. If you want a glass of water, you say "drinking water, cold" and it costs RM 0.80. You probably don't care about that, but it took me forever to figure out what the difference was and it drove me insane. 


Figure 7: Perfection, every time

The most important thing you need to know about Jojo's pan mee is the key ingredient: the chili sambal (sauce). Whether or not you have the right amount of sambal will make or break your pan mee experience. Too little, and your pan mee will lack that amazing kick that only Jojo's chili sambal can deliver. Too much, and your head will explode and you'll be ordering glass upon glass of RM 0.80 drinking water to put out the flames. I recommend taking out half of the sambal (you can scoop it out easily as the ingredients come in cute little sections), and adding it back in if you can handle it. Try not to do it in front of any Malaysians though. You will be ridiculed. 


Figure 8: The secret ingredient 


Figure 9: Slurp

The second most important thing you must know about pan mee is: you have to completely go nuts on it with your chopsticks and mix it up until it looks like the above photo. A lot of my expat friends tried eating pan mee starting with the pork, then eating the egg separately, then munching on the anchovies here and there before rounding on the noodles. This was very upsetting. To enjoy pan mee the way it's meant to be enjoyed, you gotta work it girlfriend. 


Figure 10: Officially missing you

The CEO of the startup I was working for (his name is Vincent) is crazy about Jojo's chili pan mee. He will always tell any newcomers that it's the most delicious thing in the universe and make a point to do at least one round every time he flies into Kuala Lumpur to see the Malaysia office. I used to laugh at him for being so obsessed with the stuff, but now that I'm back in Australia, I finally understand. There is now a gaping hole in my life that can only be filled with Jojo's chili pan mee. And I guarantee you that once you've tried it, you will never find anything else quite like it.