Friday, November 20, 2015

Obsessed with Sambal


I have recently been quite into perfecting my sambal ("spicy paste") to have it readily available as a condiment for our meals. 

I had a phase (and still do) of craving for spicy Malaysian food such as the nasi lemak and curry laksa, both of which I have not cooked from scratch before.

OK, I think I attempted the nasi lemak sometime in 2014.

Creamy chicken curry, fruit rojak and steamed rice with condiments
of fresh cucumber, sambal toasted anchovies and peanuts

This time I have managed to get the toasted ikan bilis ("anchovies") and peanuts done nicely. It was a far cry from my first ever attempt in 2014!

And the chicken curry that you see in the picture above was a different one from my usual simple recipe. I quite like it as a wider variety of spices were used which made it more aromatic.

Hard boiled eggs with shrimp cooked in sambal, stir fried choy sum and pickled cucumber and mango with steamed rice.

A few days later, I decided to try another sambal recipe (which looked pretty similar to the first recipe I tried for the earlier meal) and ... it still tasted the same but a tad bit more fragrant as the shrimp paste (belacan) was toasted before it was blended with the garlic and shallots.

I think I'm getting the hang of it!

But it sure is hard work.

As a treat, I decided to bring lunch for my colleagues a few days ago. Yeah, it was my imaginary tuck shop. :)

Steamed rice with chicken curry and condiments!
Made onion sambal to tone down the spiciness.

My colleagues enjoyed it, and so did I. Haha! I don't mean to blow my own trumpet but I was testing out a different way of cooking the chicken curry. I tweaked the recipe and used a few different ingredients.

I must say that the curry tasted way much better 2 days after it was first cook.

Just for the record, both the nasi lemak and chicken curry are traditionally cooked with coconut milk added to it. For all my cooking done above, regular full cream milk was used for the chicken curry and plain steamed white rice was served. None of that rich and fragrant steamed rice with coconut milk ... a shame as my meals would be have been so much more delicious.

Nevertheless, it's a sacrifice for a healthier meal. :D

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Keeping The Family Entertained is Hard Work

My family came over last month two months ago (September 2015) for a short visit. A week is definitely a short visit, especially when there's so much on the itinerary to cover.

Day 1 - We visited the Werribee Open Range Zoo. I remember enjoying my visit back in 2006 and prayed that it would not be any different this time, if not better.

The best bits:
1. going on the ride that brought us around part of the Park. It kills 20 minutes and you get to rest your feet. You'll also be amazed with how much land they have for the animal to roam free!

2. Seeing the gorillas up close. They have 3 gorillas and they looked magnificent. If you were as tall as a 4-year-old, you'd be almost face-to-face with them.

Niece refused to pose with me.
[Bin's pic.]

The not so good bits:
1. Weekends are always packed and it's not easy to find a picnic table and seats for a group of 7 for lunch.

2. It was a warm day and everyone was tired from walking.

Photo credit: Bin

3. Did not cover the entire place because my parents were too tired from walking. My niece was getting bored, she just wanted to go home to do some painting with me.

Day 2 - It was a long drive along the Great Ocean Road and got as far as Wye River to spot the wild koalas. But seeing that the koalas were high up in the trees and were doing nothing, it was the birds which attracted my niece's attention.

She was more interested in the birds. A kind lady offered her some bird seeds to feed the birds but my niece ended up throwing the seeds onto the ground as she was scared of the birds.

Wild koalas in the trees outside of BIG4 Wye River Caravan Park.

Day 3 was spent shopping in DFO South Wharf, before picking Bin up to head out to Lygon St for dinner. I don't seem to recall the name of the restaurant ... it goes to show how much of an impression the food gave me. :P

After dinner, we headed to Il Dolce Freddo for gelato, which I tell you, is probably the best on Lygon St. They have durian and ferrero rocher flavours! Bin and I tried Casa Del Gelato, supposedly the oldest gelato store in Melbourne before and it was disappointing. 

Day 4 was spent walking around in the city before heading off to Squire's Loft, Albert Park for ribs. Yeah, I confess that Bin and I were quite tired of eating out but our guests were insistent that it was their holiday and might as well eat out and enjoy themselves. The beef ribs were pretty good as we found the pork ribs a bit dry.

Tea at Laurent, 3 hours before dinner.

I didn't even have a chance to bake Bin a birthday cake that day. :P

Day 5 was a long drive to Yarra Valley for lunch in a vineyard. We stopped by the Yarra Valley Chocolaterie and Ice Creamery before lunch. The niece was happy with the free chocolate tasting.

Playing Lady and the Tramp with a breadstick.

We had to rush off to De Bertoli for our lunch reservation. I think Bin and I had the rabbit and lamb dishes, while everyone else had pasta. My niece had a shock of her life when I told her that her aunt and uncle chase little rabbits and lambs for their meal. She moved away from us to sit with my sisters for about 15 minutes. :P

Yummy rabbit tasted like chicken ... oh gawd, I can't look at it right now!

We made a quick pit stop at Healesville Sanctuary for my dad, sisters and niece to pet the kangaroos. We only had 2 hours to cover the place before it was closed for the day! Saw the dingos, wombats and Tasmanian devils, and platypus!

Photo credit: Bin

Right after that, we drove all the way to Chadstone shopping centre because they wanted to do some late night shopping, seeing that it was a Thursday night after all. Bin and I were exhausted, so were my parents, I could tell, but we had to soldier on.

It was a long drive home and we were all knackered.

Some of our chocolate stash from the Chocolaterie.

Day 6 was their last day in Melbourne and it was time for some last minute shopping. We met up with my uncle (mum's elder brother) for dinner that night at Lazat, Sunshine.

After they left the next day, the house felt pretty empty. It's always sad to see your family go after such a brief holiday, but everyone has their work commitments and probably missed sleeping in their own beds!

I had to adjust not having a little shadow following me around anymore and insisting I sat with her during meal times so we could chat and eat together. OK, it probably involved me feeding her as she takes forever to finish her meal. 

My temporary 'mini me'.

Keeping a toddler entertained is HARD work!

For the past few times we have been on Skype, she tells me that she is coming to visit me again really soon, and asked if I could go home for a visit really soon as well. :)