Wednesday, 25 June 2014

Tuckers Natural Products - it's a cracker!

A food blogger is always happy to sample new products and with great pleasure I sampled the large offerings courtesy of Tuckers Natural Products.  This is what arrived at my office.

a big back of goodies

The vast array of products has taken me a while to get through, hence the very long awaited late post.  It's not just about my thoughts on the products, I wanted to know what all my family and friends thought too. So, it's taken some time, sharing with family and friends at various parties and drinks and I've finally got to the end of that big bag.

Tiny Dippers - Tomato Salsa and Corn with Quinoa Crackers

tiny dippers - big flavour

These Tiny Dippers are perfect little snacks for the office or when you are on the go (actually they are perfect for any time snacking).  Easily throw them in your handbag, gym bag or lunch box. I usually snuck in a 10 minute break at work and dug into a packet of these.  I loved the tanginess of the tomato salsa.

A picnic with friends was the best place to start with samplings.  A big platter of assorted Tuckers crackers and fruit pastes.  The Multifibre chilli crackers were a big hit, literally.  The heat from those crackers is addictive.  A big kick of chilli and I noticed everyone went back for more, even though they all mentioned the chilli heat.  I didn't think they were that hot! WIMPs

The Multifibre rosemary and sea salt crackers have a more delicate flavour (and cooler on the palate).  These crackers are paired well with the Tuckers range of fruit pastes.  Today's samplings were blackberry and raspberry and mango and passionfruit.  Both are (and equally) good. 

picnic platter

What about just Dippers? - quinoa crackers come with caramelised onion dip.  Deep and rich tangy onion dip.  I am liking that Tuckers notes the calories in the packet too - perfect for the conscious calorie counter.

Of course there is nothing like sitting down to a movie, a glass of wine and a cheese platter after work.  Here I have paired  caramelised onion crackers with the quince fruit paste and cheddar cheese.

And lastly quinoa crackers with green tomato salsa.  Perky and zesty!

Overall the Tuckers range is pleasing and healthy with many of the snacks coming in under 100 calories.  The texture of the crackers is unique and can lift any nibbles platter to another level.  They feel a little bit speesh - rather than say a plain water cracker! Hahah.....Definitely a crowd pleaser.

Apologises as this post has been a long time coming but it finally got posted!  Thanks again for the

Tuesday, 10 June 2014

Tapas at El Bulli @ Surry Hills

For traditional tapas you cannot pass up on a night out at El Bulli on Elizabeth St in Surry Hills.  I have had the pleasure of dining here once before a couple of years ago and it's always been on my list to return.  So when I saw a voucher deal online for a 7 course tapas banquet for a fabulous price of $39 I could not refuse.
On a Friday and Saturday night there is the occasional flamenco dancer, however being a Sunday night it's on the 'quieter' side, although most tables are occupied. There is a currently a Paella and Sangria Sunday Special on until the end of June. We are dining early and are seated straight away.  It's cozy and romantic and dim and very much reminds me of little Spanish restaurants in Barcelona.
The menu is broken down into sections mainly - cosas de picar (things to nibble), cosas de pinchar (things to skewer), cazuelas (little dishes), platos principales (main dishes), ensaladas (salads and Y para finalizar (desserts).  As we are having a banquet we are given our own little menu.
El bulli menu
We start off with the house red wine sangria.  It's a family recipe and is crispy and refreshing.  I will admit that I am eyeing off the white sangria at a table close by.
sangria (by the glass or the jug)
We start off with pan con tomate - toasted ciabatta rubbed with garlic, tomato & sea salt. Drizzled with basil infused Spanish Olive oil. 
pan con tomate
It doesn't take long for our table to be laden with tapas.  Definitely great service.
Next up we have the albondigas de paella which are paella rolled into balls with chicken & chorizo pieces throughout, rolled, crumbed, fried & drizzled with alioli.
The rice is fluffy and tinged with saffron and piping hot.  Be careful biting into these.  Why do fried things always taste better!

paella balls
We are offered a bowl of croquetas de jamon and empanadillas.
The croquetas are filled with white sauce & ham covered in breadcrumbs, lightly fried & topped with alioli. They are creamy and cheesy and I really like these. 
croquettes and emanadillas
The empanadillas are crispy purses of tasty beef and olives.  I little salty goodness wrapped in pastry.

I would have to say the pinchitos de pollo was my favourite tapas dish of the night.  The chicken is tender and tasty and the chimichurri and lemon put a zing into this stick.  The chimichurri is fresh and lively.

chook on a skewer
No tapas meal is complete unless you have a meatball. We have the Albondigas con Tuco - a traditional meatball with paprika and tomato salsa. These albondigas are the size of a tennis ball and very filling.

We end with El Bulli's famous patatas that are deep fried and then covered with an emulsion of fritas and bravas dressing.  Who doesn't love deep fried potato and these are really good.

patatas bravas El Bulli style
The only downside to this voucher deal was that it didn't include a dessert ending.  I would have happily given up one of the dishes to end with a churros!  However on saying that I really didn't have the room to squeeze in anything else (but that's just the little piggy that I can be).
I will definitely return for more tapas in the future.  The menu is extensive and covers quite a bit of seafood dishes too.  The atmosphere is perfect for a party or function (and they cater to groups too).


El Bulli Spanish Tapas on Urbanspoon

Travel Photo of the Month - June 2014 - Monks in Phnom Penh

During a few days visit to the Cambodian capital, Phnom Penh,  visiting a friend and exploring the city we dropped by the Royal Palace.  I couldn't help chatting to these young boys who have entered the monkhood (even for a brief amount of time). 

As long I didn't touch them or get to close to them they are happy to practice some English with me and they liked to giggle when I tried to speak the very limited Khmer I had.

Definitely one of those special travel moments.

Wednesday, 4 June 2014

Campsie Food Festival 2014

Last weekend I headed over to Campsie to join in the festivities for the Campsie Food Festival hosted by Canterbury Council. Campsie is a melting pot of cultural backgrounds that include amongst others Chinese, Korean, Vietnamese and Indian.  I was there quiet early and watched alot of the stalls setting up and it was a good chance to see some of the food stalls on offer without the crowds around them.  Here we have a selected few.



lots of food stalls
The stalls this year include Chinese dumplings, Dutch pancakes, German hut dogs, Himalayan dim sim, Indonesian cakes, Korean chips on a stick, Malaysian crabayaki balls, Nepalese momo soup, Portuguese chicken, Russian crepes, Spanish paella, Taiwanese soft shell prawns, Thai noodles, Turkish gozleme.  My mouth is watering.
At the entrance of ANZAC Mall Telstra had a fruit and vegetable carving display.  It was pretty impressive.

fruit and vegetable carving
I stopped by to chat to the boys at The Really Stuffed Olive Co.  I'm a sucker for balsamic vinegars and I was intrigued by their Wasabi balsamic.  It's a white balsamic with flecks of wasabi through it.  The wasabi flavour is punchy but refreshing and didn't clear the nostrils like wasabi can do!  I immediately purchase a bottle.

The also do a range of wine salts and dukkah

What is a festival without the gozleme ladies.  They are out in full force today chopping the spinach and kneading the dough.  It's going to be a busy day for them.

gozleme ladies hard at work
I'm starting to get peckish and I really wanted takoyaki balls from Colotako but they weren't anywhere near ready.  So I choose a plate of BBQ dumplings from Yan's Asian Stall.  Hot and crispy yes they were, but the dough is thick and 'doughy' and I'm disappointed (saying that I always seem to be disappointed with BBQ dumplings anywhere - I think I sway towards steamed and soup dumplings more)

BBQ dumplings
Okay I had to try the 'I Ate a Bug' stall.  I'm not adverse to a bug or two.  In fact I have eaten my fair share of crickets in South East Asia.  I actually love the crispy, crunchy texture and when fried with garlic, chilli and a bit of salty goodness they are a great beer snack.  So I was up for a sample. 
I went with the cricket sample pack, which contained 5 plain roasted crickets.

Ate a bug
They are tiny and yes they are crunchy, but they had no flavour and I was sort of 'meh'.

I stopped by for a selection of 'wheel cakes'.  I get one of each - chocolate, custard and green tea.  These were hot off the griddle pan, however they were still floury in the middle and not cooked all the way through.  The fillings were tasty and I really liked the green tea one. 

Finally, Colotako is open and I join the line for my octopus balls.  On offer today are octopus, prawn and crab legs.  The production line is pumping with about 14 grills operating.  They know how to make their balls!  The waiting line gets a bit out of control.  It's going to be busy for them today and I'm seventh in line and there are at least another 20 or so people waiting already and another 10 or so people deep waiting just to order.

making the balls
Piping hot, gooey innards and a piece of rubbery octopus inside each ball.  There is plenty of mayo and bonito flakes and it's exactly as I was expecting.  Takoyaki balls, hot and fresh.

takoyako balls
As I had arrived so early to the festival I was also lucky number one to sign up for the Taste Food tours being offered today.  For $5 they take you on a mini food tour of Campsie - fitting in 6 stops in an hour.  If anybody is unfamiliar with Taste Food Tours they are run through the Benevolent Society and a portion of the proceeds goes to charity.  The guides are knowledgeable and very passionate about food and the cultures of the areas you are visiting.  I have previously done a South American Food Tour with them and can highly recommend it.  For $5 today was a perfect example of what to expect on a full taste tour.  Luckily today, Tina is my guide, who I had last time.
First stop is at Simo's a Lebanese bakery that does fresh Manoosh.  I dive into the Zaatar manoosh which is my favourite topping for manoosh. 

We visit a Korean grocery store, which I have never noticed before.  It's tucked away in a back street and doesn't get any foot traffic.

Fridge full of kimchi love. 

We sample khakdugi which is similar to kimchi (preserved/pickled cabbage) but the main ingredient is daikon (or white radish).  It's pugent flavour is surprisingly fresh and punchy and the chucks of radish are crisp and it has a good kick of chilli.

We also sample a tray of tteok - which is a glutinous rice dumpling filled with a red bean paste.  I get the last one on the tray (hence the lonely single tteok photo).  There are literally hundreds of varieties of tteok that Koreans munch on and can range from simple everyday ones like this or more elaborate filled ones with nuts and fruits to celebrate weddings and birthdays.

We stop by a Korean butcher to watch them cut the beef into Korean cuts.  There is wagyu slices and  kalbi cuts - ready to be BBQ.  There is pre-marinted beef for kalbi and other goodies like duck and a few pork products.

Another grocery store stop for some pandan cake and sour plum tasting and a quick browse.  I always get 'lost' in an Asian grocery store.  I want to purchase everything and learn how to use the product.  I could literally spend an hour in here wandering the aisles.

pandan and chocolate cake

sour plums
Our last food tasting spot is at a BBQ restaurant.  The window is full of BBQ duck, steamed and soy braised chicken, duck tongues and tripe.  I'm drooling and in awe of the amount of product.
Inside the restaurant smells heavenly of that sweet sticky BBQ sauce.  We taste some of the steamed chicken which is served with my favourite ginger and shallot oil sauce.  The chicken is juicy and tender and delicious.  However its the BBQ pork (or Char siu) that blows me away.  It's tender and smokey and just the right amount of rendered fat that makes me going back for another slice (even though I am now full at this point). 


Our last stop on the tour is at a kitchenware store selling pots and pans and crockery and Asian gadgets needs to make your Asian delights.  Again this is another store that I could spend time in...alas my purse is empty and will need to wait for another day.

There are cooking demonstrations in ANZAC Mall throughout the day and the stalls are pumping by lunchtime with festival revellers.

The festival was fun and what I saw was only a little insight as to what Campsie has to offer.  I think I'll be back here for lunch very soon. 

Monday, 2 June 2014

Menya Mappen

I have been craving noodles....and soup.....  Udon noodles in particular. 

So I finally got on the Menya Mappen food wagon and finally went to check this place out.  There are avid followers (and addicts) fiercely recommending this place for udon or soba.  I wanted to know what was so special about it.  It's a Japanese style soup place right? How special can it be?

I arrived early lunchtime and I lined up. Luckily the lunch time rush hadn't landed yet (however a few minutes later look out the line gets very long) I already knew what I was going to order (a foodblogger always researchers menus beforehand where possible).

There is an order and process to your ordering and firstly you must choose your type of noodle and whether you want soup or sauce and whether you want it hot or cold.  You can also opt for a velvet soft egg.

I am already drooling over the Bukkake Ontama Mentaiko with udon which is udon noodles in sauce with a very soft poached egg and a dollop of chilli cod roe butter.  I slide my tray across to the tempura section, the second step in your order.  There are tongs provided and you can choose your tempura and kakiage.  There is a large selection of deep fried goodies from the bar.  All kept hot and crispy and fresh.  (This in itself is a winner - how do they keep fried food from going soggy?)

I can't decide so I go with both a fish cake and the sweet potato kakiage (deep friend shredded sweet potato).

Lastly, you can choose a side if you wish.  Options include corn, seaweed, kimchi, diced chopped chicken amongst a few other toppings.  Finally you arrived at the cashier where you can also laden your soup with tempura batter pieces and shallots (yes it also says you can only have 1 spoonful of shallots per bowl - but I may take a little bit more than that).  Pay and then find yourself a seat.

love chilli cod roe butter

Note: you are not to pre-hold seats before ordering.

Pull up a seat or stool next to other diners and dig in.  Slurp, slurp, mix the egg through and munch into the delectable chewy texture of the udon.  I'm instantly transported to another world and I can now understand why they have a huge following and I know that I have now joined the ranks of followers.  There is no going back (well you know what I mean).  I certainly will be back.

Bukkake Ontama Mentaiko
I love the sweet potato kakiage.  It's super crunchy and crispy and shatters as I bite into it.

In fact, I'll admit it I went another 2 times in a week following my first visit.  Each time ordering differently to taste the menu.

Second visit I choose to have the Bukkake Chilli Pork with udon, which consists of chilli miso pork mince in sauce and udon noodles I also had an egg with it and prawn tempura.  The tempura prawn is crispy and moist and tender and goes so well with udon soup.


get in my belly

Today was a cool day and I needed some comforting chilli.  I decided to try the Chilli Pork soup today and it definitely hit the spot.  I add an egg and again can't decide on a tempura side (you don't have to have it, but I can't help myself).  The broth is light yet tasty and the flavours are well developed. 
The tempura bits eventually go soggy in the soup and the freshness of the shallots a good hit of green.  The chilli miso pork mince has a good kick of heat and is full of unami - leaving me wanting more, even though I was full!

best lunch in the city


Menya Mappen on Urbanspoon