Tuesday, 22 September 2015

Yayoi Teishoku @ The Galleries, Town Hall

The recently opened Yayoi Teishoku in The Galleries has seen an influx in diners since it opened its doors in August.  
The new concept store promised individual ipads to order, a seasonal a la carte menu which also included a teishoku menu, which is your meal as a set menu which includes miso and rice and vegetables or Japanese pickles called “tsukemono”. 
We arrived early to beat the crowd (and lucky we did, because within 10 minutes it was getting busy).
There are many dishes and combinations to be had and I have a difficult time choosing but we narrow it down.
I decide on the Nasu Miso & Saba Shio-Yaki teishoku.  This comes with two dishes in a set meal, offering more to taste! Eggplant with slithers of pork in a miso sauce and a a fillet of the salt-grilled mackerel. 
My eyes may have bulged a little when the large tray arrived laden with lots of little dishes offering something delicious.
From mid left (clockwise) we have the eggplant with pork in miso.  Chunks of tender eggplant are coated in a sweet miso with tender slithers of pork.  The salt-grill mackerel is lovely.  the fillet is overcooked slightly but that does not deter us from the flavour of the salt that sets off the natural oiliness of the fish.  It's delicious. 
There is also a spinach salad with sesame dressing, a bowl of miso soup, a small dish of marinated shallots and a bowl of Kinme rice.  Kinme is a type of rice used by Yayoi that has more health benefits than normal white rice.
I really enjoy my Teishoku.
My lovely friend Mr G, is dining with me this evening and goes with his stock standard Salmon Teriyaki Teishoku. 
It's a good set.
Large, meaty chunks of tender salmon with a sweet teriyaki glaze. 
Unfortunately I am too full to event attempt dessert, but make a note that on next visit I am going to do double dessert with the Matcha ice cream and the Matcha Warabi Mochi that looks divine!
Definitely a stop to make for a meal, just remember to go early to beat the queue.
Yayoi Japanese Teishoku Restaurant Galeries Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Friday, 18 September 2015

The Smokin' Pot and buying Kiwi Knives, Battambang, Cambodia

Continuing one with Cambodia cooking classes a good friend J and I decided a couple of days in Battambang was needed.  So early one morning we headed up the river by boat for a full day of cruising.  It's a perfectly picturesque way to get to Battambang along the waterways.

Battambang is certainly a sleepy little town, especially in low season and I loved wandering around watching the town come to life.  One morning I headed off for a morning stroll and some time to ponder and found a great little restaurant serving breakfast.  I love nothing more than a traditional Cambodian breakfast of bobor and tea.  Bobor is rice porridge, also known as congee or juk.

Here I had the chicken and ginger.  As is most bobor the porridge is cooked down but still leaving some of the rice grains in contact. Giving it a chewy texture as the rice is swollen with stock. The ginger slithers leaving a hint of heat and zing on the taste buds.

A perfect start to the day.   

Later that morning I meet J at the Smokin' Pot as we were doing a cooking class together.  Smokin' Pot is well known cooking class in Cambodia.  Chef and Owner, Vannak begins the class with a visit to Psa Nat, the local market for fresh produce and we were purchasing our ingredients for the dishes that we were going to cook. 

The market was alive with noise, smells, tastes and enough filth to know you are truly in a third world country, yet somehow this appealed to me and just made the experience so much more! This is the type of market that gets my blood pumping and my nostrils twitching.  Watching how people conduct there daily routine and people going about their business. I am in my element.

This is reason enough to be careful of having ice in your drinks.  Saying that I had ice aplenty and didn't really get sick.

Today we are trying our hands at Fish Amok, grilled beef stirfry and a chicken and lemongrass soup.  We all sat around a big table, each armed with a chopping board and a meat cleaver and an array of vegetables and meats. 

Chopping, dicing and eventually pounding ingredients to make curry pastes in the big mortar and pestles. It is said that if a woman can pound the perfect paste, they will make a great wife.....I must say my skills are finely tuned and can pound out a mean paste, if I do say so myself!

After preparing each dish, we cooked them on the portable gas stoves set up for us and all sat down to indulge in each dish as they are hot and fresh. 


Amok Trey, or Hor Mok (Fish Amok) is probably one of the most well known dishes on the Cambodian menu. It is a dish made with coconut milk, curry and steamed or baked in a banana leaf cup.

Here I am preparing the base.

The consistency of amok various from region to region and even family to family. This is definitely one of those regional dishes and everybody makes it different, you can get it from a soupy texture to a steamed mousse consistency....I prefer mine more on the moussey set style....

The grilled beef stir fry is a simple dish but so very tasty. Preparing the meat and vegies and a few of those hot chillies!  Typically Khmer cuisine is not cooked spicy or hot, and chilli and spicy sauces are added separately to taste.

We also had a chicken and lemongrass soup but I have seemed to have misplaced the photo. (If I find it soon I will update this post).

The class is fantastic, fun and informative and you even receive a recipe book not only with what you cooked that day, but their whole repertoire.

We are "Chaet Dor Kor", slang meaning "my stomach is stuffed" in Khmer. 

J and I spent the rest of the afternoon shopping in Psa Nat.  My aim was to purchase a Kiwi brand meat cleaver.  I was determined to not get "ripped off" even though they are only a few dollars anyway.  The were recommended to me on my last visit by a friend and wanted to get the meat cleaver.  It's still a great knife after all these years.

One Khmer lady gave me a price and I asked her to give me a best price (speaking in English obviously).  Deciding to give my Khmer language skills a public try,   I then proceeded to speak (the limited) Khmer I knew asking for a discount and telling her to not 'overcharge' me (as is expected in the market)....she laughed at me.  I  think I shocked her more than anything as most Cambodians don't expect you to speak Khmer. 

I had been previously told that the knife would be $3.50 and no more and that being a traveller would double the price.  She told me a price in Khmer riel and as I was a bit slow on the translation I replied that I wanted to pay $3.50.  We had some good banter and we finally agreed on $3.50 (or so I thought). I passed over my money but she gave me change.  I was confused.  Turns out that she only charged me $3.25, which was the price she was telling me and I was ironically bartering for a higher price! She said she had such a great laugh at my expense and the fact that I was speaking Khmer that she gave me the cheaper price even though I hadn't realised just for the entertainment!  I also got the knife cheaper than what a local would pay!

It's these interactions with the locals that made my living in Cambodia all the more wonderful.

Wednesday, 16 September 2015

Le Tigre de Papier Cooking Class, Siem Reap

For my first post of my Roo Travels series is a place that is very dear to my heart. Cambodia.  I had previously travelled through Cambodia in early 2007 where I was completed overwhelmed and fell in love with the country.  The people, the culture, the history, the landscape, the cuisine and the generosity of locals. I was completely smitten.  

I was living in Dubai for a few years and had made the deicision to leave.  I jumped at the chance when I had a free flight to use up and had the opportunity to visit with a friend who lived there.  This was 2 months before I was to return to Sydney.  This is the trip that I knew that I wasn't quiet ready to settle and I wanted to do some volunteer English teaching and spending some time exploring the country.  So I headed back to Sydney for a couple of months and did an intensive TEFL course with a further specialised course in teaching English to children.

I was back on Cambodian soil by July. 

After a couple of months of mooching around with friends and having a well earned 'rest' I headed to Siem Reap for two months to 'work'.  It wasn't work really, I loved teaching English to the kids.  I was helping out at an orphange on the outskirts of the town and then in a little village school for awhile.  I was making friends with some wonderful people and was enjoying my life.

While living in Siem Reap I took advantage of a holiday long weekend and booked myself and a couple of friends into a cooking class at Le Tigre de Papier.  It took place in the open air top floor kitchen along Pub St. 

Donning aprons and chef hats, we chose the dishes that we wanted to cook and proceeded to chop, dice, slice and mincing.  Not to mention the pounding of the spices to make a curry base. Our chef and assistant were very helpful and taught us how to cut at the 'right' angle and how to mince the meat correctly.

Cooking abilities were put to the test with the girls owning up to not being good in the kitchen.  As you know I love to cook but I am challenged myself sometimes.  We had a lot of fun and as a bonus our dishes looked delicious and we were eager to taste them.

Between the three of us we had six dishes to sample, plus during the course of the cooking we all helped make a dessert. 

My dishes of the day were a banana blossom salad.  The banana blossom is a hard plant and needs to be blanched to soften it.  Eaten in a salad it is delicious and crunchy.

I also prepared a Samlor Machou Khroeung, which is a beef and water spinach dish.  I love water spinach.  The tubular stems are a good conduit for any delicious sauce and the green leaves are yummy.

There is something that I love about Cambodia cooking, well actually South East Asian cooking generally.  Most Asian cooks do not follow a recipe, they feel their way through the process.  Whatever is available in the markets that day, tasting as they go.  Getting the balance of sweet, salty, sour and heat just perfect for their palate.  There can never really be any 'mistakes’ in the kitchen.  Dishes are made with love. 

Our feast was coming along very nicely.

At the end of the cook, we all sat down together to enjoy our feast, deciding to all share our plates (as there were another couple in the group too) to sample as much as we could.  Next to my dishes we had pumpkin soup, khmer chicken and bok choy, spring rolls, shrimp salad plus some other dishes.  It was all very tasty. 

However, there was no way we were all going to get through the mountains of food and a doggy bag was taken to enjoy a meal with a friends family later on in the evening.

We finished the meal off with a custard pumpkin.  It's slowly baked so the custard sets and the pumpkin is sweet and tender.

Cooking classes are a popular activity to do when travelling.  It offers an incite into the culture and food of the nation or even region, you learn a new skill and sample some delicious dishes.  This is one of a few classes that I undertook and will be blogging more on my trip through Cambodia.

Hanging out with friends on a rare day off, due to the floods in Siem Reap, I got to hang with some friends.



Monday, 14 September 2015

Good Food and Wine Show- Sydney 2015

The annual Good Food and Wine Show was held from 7-9 August 2015 in Sydney this year.  Previous years it has always been on my birthday weekend in June, and as I didn't get to visit the show last year (due to my big 4-0) and experience their new home out at Olympic Park i was excited to see it this year.

Bright and early on Saturday I headed out on the train and joined the already growing line (I was like the 20th in line) at 9.20am and by 10am when the doors opened the line was snaked all the way back to the train station.

I headed in and came to my first stop at Jack Dillion that was launched this weekend!  Young chef 'Jack' (Jacob) started to dabble in sauces, vinegars and smokers and has come up with a fabulous range of smokey BBQ sauces, a tasty range of balsamic vinegars, olive oils and sauces.  This has been born out of therapeutic recovery. Without going into to many details, Jacob was recovering from injuries due to an assault late one night on his way home and while off recovering he decided to not go back to the kitchen and he has launched the Jack Dillion range.

This was one of the first stalls I stopped at and was the last one of the day to purchase a bottle of the Bootleg Rum and orange balsamic.

Some Origin organic (and fair trade) chocolate tastings.  Using ethically sourced cocoa beans from Madagascar, Bolivia, Dominican Republic and Peru amongst a few others, this chocolate is high quality, creamy and rich.  (since the GFWS I have come across Origin and 2 other festivals). 

Time for something to wet the whistle.  Visiting the 'Barossa Valley' for some Red Art wines.   The shiraz was notable.

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I'll be honest, I sampled alot of wine this particular day hence the reason why I didn't take alot of photos. I did enjoy many a drop and even renewed my membership with Tamburlaine Wines. The show is a perfect way to sample wines from many regions.

I got in early over at cheese alley before the crowds became to unbearable. I stopped by Bruny Island Cheese Co to sample their range. It was the first time I had the chance to taste their wonderful cheeses.
The above cheese is their Oen.  A soft cow's milk cheese, the rind is washed in pinot and wrapped in vine leaves before maturing. It is gooey and stinky and divine.

Shaw River Buffalo cheese was  spectacular.   Their products are produced from 100% buffalo milk that are farmed in Victoria and range from yoghurt to a romano style hard cheese and a smoked buffalino.
Time for some (more) beverages.  Scarlett's Spirtzers are from New Zealand and blended with wine and fruit flavours.   Choice of passionfruit, strawberry or mango and orange, these are fizzy and refreshing.

Stopped by Mrs Mi's to check out Robbie the noodle shaving robot.  He is fun to watch as he shaves noodles into the big pot of water.  While there I grabbed a bowl of taiwenese style fried chicken which was so good.  Hot, crispy, salty.  Perfect.
Just Jerky made from grass fed organic beef.  It's primal, it's paleo friendly and it's delicious. 

Sausages from the British Sausage.   
There is so much more at the show (and again forgot to take some photos!).  I love this event and always look forward to it every year.  So much that I am already planning next year!
Gotta end the day with an obligatory haul snap.  Here is all my goodies from the show!

Wednesday, 9 September 2015

Roo Travels - A Food Affair

Roo has been a long time intrepid traveller. The travel bug hit me at a very young age, eight years old to be exact. I was lucky enough to have visited Disneyland and Hawaii, both triggering life long obsessions. Travel and well..all things Disney.

Over the years both passions/obsessions have grown and after another trip to the US and Disney when I was 22, I realised that I needed to explore the our globe. So at the ripe age of 23 I packed my backpack and headed to the UK for 12 months. That was the plan. To travel around Europe and the UK, work and live and explore the UK for 12 months and then head home back to my life in Sydney.

I was uncertain what the future would bring, uneasy about my life and where I was heading but that was reality. How wrong was I?

Meeting a random stranger on a plane, who I now call my best friend, changed my life. What was two random strangers on a plane meeting up, that were both doing a Contiki tour and both staying on in London, turned out to be fate. After a few months of friendship and random travel discussion over a few glasses of wine, we realised that there had been ticket mix up on both sides and that they were for each of us. Yes both of us had received each others tickets (we have the same last name). Fate.

We ended travelling the UK and Ireland for nearly 4 years together, taking advantage of the working holiday visa. Always a thirst for exploring the globe and the next adventure. Sure I came home for a few months here, 18 months there, before moving onto the next adventure. The thirst never being quenched.

When I turned 30 and the holiday visa option was no more, I moved from Canada back to Sydney (with a side trip to Disney to celebrate my 30th) and managed to stay grounded for three years. I tried to settle but it just wasn’t working for me. I was a lost soul. It didn’t take long before my feet were itching again and I found myself moving to Dubai for a job and the opportunity to travel some more in that region. Little did I know that some 15 years later I was still living overseas and travelling. So much for the 12 months hey?

During these travels, I not only really found myself (and that has been a long journey of self discovery that continues and perhaps for another time) my journey took me on a path of discovering my palate.   My love affair with food and culture and all that it entails was born from travel. Sure I have always loved to eat but that was about it.

The more I travelled and enjoyed local eats the more it became an interest. I started taking note of cookbooks and wanting to learn to cook certain dishes from my travels. Early in the peace I wasn’t taking photos of my food nor really noting much about it, just enjoying eating it. I started to discover cooking classes and markets.  I love to explore local markets whereever I am.  It brings an essence and buzz, how other cultures live and and go about their day.  Plus there is usually amazing goodies and nibbles on offer.

I realise now that I have been food blogging that I have missed out on so many food opportunities but I do remember many a fine meal from different parts of the world.

So a mini project that I am going to focus on is to blog from travels past, to relish in past meals and food experiences. Markets and cooking classes, food tours and just some bloody amazing tastes. I am going to dig into the coffers of old negatives and travel photos to see what I can find. I am sure there is an odd photo or two. Here is the first one. My first night on my Contiki tour way back in 1998, at a campground on the outskirts of Paris eating snails. That was probably my first adventurous eating experience, which looking back is not so adventurous anymore. But alas, it was the beginning of a food affair.

French snails in Paris
Currently unable to plan or take a trip due to some personal reasons, I thought this might be fun. I have a lot of posts in mind. I can tell you though, once things start to look a little brigher those bags will be packed in record time.

Stay tuned for Roo Travels…

Sunday, 6 September 2015

Nakashima @ The Rocks

If you are looking for somewhere quaint and quiet with friendly staff delicious Japanese food head to Nakashima in Cambridge St in the Rocks.
We went on a mid week after work dinner.  My dining partner had kept this as a secret dining spot (and he couldn't remember the name of it)!
I won't be forgetting it in a hurry.
The menu offers a great selection of Japanese snacks/appetisers and sushi and sashimi.  There are hotpots and noodles too.  Plates are worthy of sharing (plus you get to taste more - win/win).
We opt for a round of pan fried gyoza and they are really tasty.  the are crispy fried on the bottoms and the gyoza skins are thin and soft.  The filling is juicy and yummy.

Couldn't pass up on the pork maki, which was seared porked wrapped around char grill shallots with a sweet teriyaki style sauce.  These were delicious.
We rounded out the meal with a sushi and sashimi combo platter.  Slithers of salmon and lean tuna are super fresh and the snapper/kingfish is good too.

If you dine between 6pm and 7pm you can have a glass of sake or wine on the house (happy hour).
Click to add a blog post for Nakashima Japanese on Zomato

Thursday, 3 September 2015

Sydney Tea Festival Part 2

Plunging right in.......... following my previous Sydney Tea Festival post (here) and after a small 'tea' break from all the tea drinking I head on over to the otherside of the shed. 
The Love Tea range is extensive but ultimately started when naturapath student Emma Watson was seeking an organic chai she had made previously.  Since 2006 the range has grown to include teas, herbals and chais.
Nothing beats tea brewed in a teapot.  I love teapots in all shapes and sizes.  I love tea parties too (just in case you were wondering).  I stopped in my tracks when I saw this beautifully designed Japanese style teapot.  It's so fine and delicate and I am in awe.  I would love to own one of these one day.
These teapots are found at Gingko Leaf, a beautiful store in Woollahra selling Japanese contemporary homeware, including porcelain, ceramics and glassware.

TTotaller was probably the only tea stop of the day.  Well actually I did stop by, but they had left their filter at the store and were unable to brew and serve samples.  I made a note to return (and in perfect honestly forgot to go back!).  Shame, as I really was interested in this range of tea.
It does not matter how much I try matcha tea I just don't get it.  I love green tea, but matcha is to grassy and earthy for my palate. I feel like I am missing out on something.  Mista Matcha offers 100% pure stone ground green tea.
Wat I do love is the equipment and the ceremony used to make matcha tea. 
I have been inspired to visit Berry sooner rather than later.  A town that is on my list of weekends away and just not getting there.  The Berry Tea Shop has urged me to do something about that. 
They offer a very large collection of tea blends along with teaware and accessories.  Today I sampled the Berry Blend, which is very fruity and fragrant but it's the Madam Grey that I'm interested in!  One up on my all time favourite the Earl Grey, the Madam Grey is laced with blue cornflowers, citrus peel and hibiscus flowers
Neo Australia began as a skincare range (and still is) and eventually the tea range, Neo Organics was launched.  This tea range has been blended according to ancient Indian Ayurvedic remedies.  The Comfort Tea with liquorice is really good but it's the Chocolate Dream that surprises me.  I am not a fan of either Rooibos tea nor chocolate in tea but these two ingredients seem to work and it tasted like a hot chocolate! 
 Larson and Thompson are a tea wholesaler based in Melbourne.  They are not signed to any specific tea plantation which gives them free roaming to pick and choose the best tea crops of the season.
I am wowed by their Jasmine Pearl tea.  The floral aroma with each sip is making me want more.  Keep your eyes on this one folks.  Its a winner!
The one thing that I am taken by at this festival is the variety of boutique tea companies that are selling.  I haven't heard of at least 85% of them, making today so much better than I first imagined.  Although I have always been a tea drinker and have visited tea plantations in various countries, today has opened up a whole new world to me.
Next up to Mrs Cattea.  For taste comparison I sample the jasmine tea, which is pretty good but it is the caramelised oolong that is the pleasant discovery, adding a new dimension to oolong tea that I like.

There is just so many varieties on offer at Pine Tea and Coffee.  Their tea is branded as Silver Tip.  There are many fruity blends and after trying a Peach Melba I find them to fruity for me.  Perhaps iced would be better for my palate?
The local family company is based in Castle Hill sourcing teas from around the world and also roasting their own coffee on site for sale.
RicoCoco's Chocolate Tea was very busy with their one product.  It's not chocolate, it's not 'tea' but its 100% organic made from the shell of the cacao bean.  It's the perfect chocolate fix without the calories!
Perfect South Green Teas are prepared using Japanese methods but using Australian grown green tea.  Unique to the market these teas are either first harvest teas or estate teas (being mid to late harvest) bringing you the freshest quality of tea.
The orange an cinnamon houijicha is intensely flavourful and refreshing and the lime and coconut sencha tea is unusually summery.
Marketed as organic healing tea, Tea Amo is very popular with tea lovers.  I decide to go with something served cold this time and I try the Revive tea.  Packed with ginseng, nettle leaf, cinnamon and liquorice it is to aid with energy, alertness and boosts brain activity.
Served cool it's refreshing and zesty.  (I regret not purchasing a pack to take home)....
I scored at Truly Tea Byron Bay.  Remember I said that I was drawn to liquorice teas today.  Well the Lovely Liquorice here was awesome.  Instant love.
They also do a Turkish Cheery tea which is super sweet and reminiscent of sipping Turkish apple teas and smoking shishsas in the Grand Bazaar in Istanbul.
Surprisingly I am not tea'd out yet.  I'm ready for more.
At this point the festival is so packed with tea goers that people are elbowing to get in to sample teas.  It is a little mayhem (so my advice is to arrive early and get into it).
At Tippity Tea  Jane the Queen takes centre stage, with a play on Lady Grey with citrus peel and lavender.  Unfortunately the lady next next to me sampling it was also taken with it and nabbed the last bag!  *Insert sad face here*
 My Teahouse offers great quality chinese tea from ooloong to red tea, there is something for everyone.
The Rabbit Hole Organic Tea Bar is an exciting concept with not only an online store but in the near future Tea Bar opening.  
Nothing but organic and fair trade tea and blended ingredients will ensure for some awesome tasting teas and a fabulous place to hang out.  The best thing about these teas is the smell actually translates into the flavour.  Toffee Apple ir Chocolate Orange Fudge anyone?  What about a Ginger Snap or a Licorice Allsort. Yes Please! 
My second last tea tasting for the day is at Kettle Town.  Indulging in their Mintilla with mint and vanilla, Ginger Safari, with hints of chocolate and rose and the Toasted Toffee with caramel make for a decadent tea break.  These teas are 'innovative and quriky'.
Finally finishing up at Somage Fine Foods with a cup of their Chamellia 9 Spice Fresh Chai with a blend of spices, organic black tea and organic honey.  This is a creamy, full bodied Chai

After all the tea drinking I actually need some sustenance and there are a few food trucks and food stalls which have long snaking lines.  I went with Tsaru for a pork belly bao and their famous fries.


It's lunchtime and there are so many people. See I told you it was packed! 

After a super morning I as all tea'd out and ready to take my leaf!

(*apologies for the puns!)
Can't wait till next year!