I have always had a very keen interest to try Malaysian cuisine but the fear of accidentally eating gluten has frightened me off. I learnt this the hard way on our trip to Kuala Lumpur earlier this year where I was quite restricted in what I could eat and despite being very careful I ended up getting sick from eating something with gluten in it.
Many moons ago I perused RIA Malay Kitchen’s menu online and found that they are one of the rare Asian restaurants in Perth that not only can accommodate for gluten free but have dishes specifically marked on their menu. Consequently I have wanted to visit this Leederville restaurant for quite some time. Knowing in advance what I can eat makes life so much easier, for those with food allergies you learn quickly that doing your research prior to choosing a restaurant is so important.
RIA have recently renovated and expanded their popular restaurant with a revamped menu including old favourites alongside some new additions. Chef Jon Hizola’s style is based on authentic home style Malaysian cooking and with RIA being an allergy friendly venue, they were keen to invite me come along and try some of their dishes.
The word “ria” can be translated from Malay to mean happy or jolly and I could see that the staff working both front of house and in the kitchen seemed to apply this to their daily work. We were greeted with warm smiles and although my booking was late in the afternoon at a strange time of day to eat there were still a number of customers dotted about the restaurant.
RIA offers still or sparking water free of charge which I thought was a lovely touch but I was in the mood for something a bit more exciting. They have a small cocktail menu with some interesting options. I started off with the mandarin sour; slightly sweet with a hint of sour this was the type of beverage I could down way too easily while sitting by the pool on a hot summer’s day.
The menu doesn’t just cater for those with gluten sensitivity but also has options for dairy free and nut free meals. It felt like such a luxury to be able to just choose dishes straight off a menu without my waitress having to go to and fro from the kitchen. As an extra precaution, I always ask for it to be written on our order slip that I’m coeliac just to reinforce to the chef to avoid cross contamination.
We started with a couple of small plates off the entrée menu; the lotus chips and the crispy prawns. Both were served with a mild spicy homemade mayo. The Boy hadn’t tried lotus root chips before and crunched through them nearly as quickly as he would a packet of corn chips. Along with ice cream, corn chips is another one of the Boy’s weaknesses.
The prawns were one of my favourite dishes and were so flavoursome. Cooked in a gluten free batter with a thin crispy outside and crunchy middle, you could taste the freshness of these critters. They were topped with some fried garlic and chilli which added another punch of flavour. You wouldn’t want to be on a first date after eating these!
It was hard to just choose two curries for us to share as there were quite a few gluten free options. I toyed with the idea of ordering three which the Boy also thought was a good idea but our waitress raised her eyebrows at us and explained that we would want to be extremely hungry! I settled for just two but ordered some pilau rice to help mop up all the sauces.
My first choice was the seafood tamarind. I fell in love with tamarind in my travels through Thailand, the tangy flavours always go so well with delicate seafood. It was a generous serve and the seafood was super fresh with the fish fillets so tender they tumbled apart under my fork.
For our second curry I chose the Nyonya chicken curry as I wanted to try something authentic. RIA uses a traditional recipe that has been handed down from the Chef’s mother for generations. The curry is gently spiced with turmeric, chilli and cinnamon and then cooked with coconut milk.
Now I am not of Malaysian descent so I can never confess to being an expert on Nyonya cuisine, but I have certainly eaten a lot of curries and I know what makes a beautiful curry and what makes one fall short. A good curry to my western tastebuds, is one that has an individual and defined flavour with wonderful layers of complexity from the careful addition of spices, coupled with slow judicious cooking. Too many times have I been out for curry, ordered a bunch and they all just taste the same!
Our Nyonya curry had all the makings of a brilliant curry such that we polished off the lot despite feeling uncomfortably full by the half way mark. In hindsight, we really did eat too much (again) and that is saying something as we both have bottomless pits for stomachs.
Dessert was a childhood favourite of mine, sago pudding or, sago melaka. My mum used to make this for us when we were kids and I always loved the sensation of squishing the little tiny soft pearls of sago between my teeth. Our saga melaka was served with fresh apple which is not fructose friendly so I let the Boy eat the fruit off the top before we tucked in together.
For someone who is gluten free, I usually don’t even consider dining in Asian restaurants as the chance of a suitable meal can be near on impossible. The only exceptions I have found is Vietnamese, Thai and Indian cuisines as they do not use soy sauce or much wheat flour. The discovery that Ria Malay Kitchen is so accommodating for those on a gluten free diet is quite a liberating find and I will definitely be returning.Disclaimer: Chompchomp was a guest of Ria Malay Kitchen however my views and opinions are my own. Ria Malay Kitchen 106 Oxford Street, Leederville WA 6007 | (08) 9328 2998 | riamalaykitchen.com.au
Shortly after my relaxing weekend down south with Mum I flew over to Melbourne on a whirlwind business trip and managed to squeeze in time to hang with my Dad and Stepmum. The old saying that the apple never falls far from the tree rings true with me and my father with specific respect to our love for food. He is the sole person responsible for introducing me to a wide range of exotic foods as a child, some of which weren’t always easy to get hold of in Adelaide back in the 80’s. By the time I was ten, I had tried foods such as snails, foie gras and even raw sea urchin and we bonded over every one of those foodie moments. He always seemed to proud that I was open minded to eat new things as my sister was the total opposite being so finicky she wouldn’t even eat plain cooked fish.
Dad and Tess live in a modern apartment just off Flinders Lane so when I stay with them I never have to travel far for something good to eat. They eat out a lot, probably even more than the Boy and I do, and are well known regulars in most of the good restaurants in their area. For our night together Tess booked us in at one of their current favourites Tonka, a modern Indian-Asian restaurant run by the team behind the famous Coda. We were warmly greeted as if we were family and after some air kisses and smiles we were shown to our table.
The waitress informed me that catering for gluten free was no problem for them at all and they would bring out a succession of share plates for us all to enjoy. We started off with the tuna tartare mixed with tart pomegranate, ginger and fresh wasabi and served with rice pappadums. Whilst not the most generous serve, the tuna was fresh and succulent with each cube melting in your mouth.
Our second starter was the smoked trout. With flavours more likely found in Thailand than India, I appreciated that this was indeed Asian fusion. The soft shreds of trout mixed with pomelo, coconut and a hint of chill were served on a betel leaf making each one a perfect bite sized morsel.
The zucchini flowers were prepared with a rice flour batter making them totally gluten free much to my delight. It isn’t often I get to enjoy tempura. The batter was a tad thicker than I would prefer, I like my tempura to be super light. They were stuffed with gooey smoked paneer and urad dal, a type of bean similar to mung beans.
The Hervey Bay scallops were small but plump served on a spiced cauliflower puree with sweet peppers and crispy fried pancetta. Although each serve was barely a mouthful, the flavours complemented each other beautifully leaving a rich creamy after-taste.
The final savoury dish of the night was the Rajasthani duck curry which stood out as the most exceptional dish for the evening although my stepmum informed me that the duck curry at Coda is even better. The meat slithered clean off the bone and the curry sauce was an interesting mix of sweet, tangy and spicy flavours. The waitress brought roti to the table for Dad and Tess in addition to some gluten free pappadums for me. This popular dish was featured as a recipe in Gourmet Traveller last year.
Tonka’s gluten free dessert consisted of a play on banana, chocolate and coconut flavours. Banana parfait was made using jaggery, a traditional sweetener popular in Indian cuisine made from a concentrated product of sugarcane and date palms. This was paired with some rich chocolate mousse, coconut sorbet and sprinkled with zingy lime sherbet.
My Dad often claims that he is not a dessert person although I have busted him on several occasions devouring a whole bag of liquorice to himself in one sitting. Apparently this doesn’t count as dessert. Happy to take a hit for the team, Tess and I shared the dessert together leaving him to enjoy his late night espresso instead.
After spending a weekend relaxing with Mum down south and then another with my Dad in Melbourne I feel content to have reconnected with them both. It has pricked my guilt conscious and reminded me to be a better daughter and make more effort in the future to travel across our vast country to visit them.Disclaimer: My father is well known for his generosity and gave me no option of paying for our dinner despite me offering. Also, it is important to note that the venue was made aware they had a food blogger in the house as my Dad took great pride in announcing this to our waitress as we were sat down at our table. Whilst I generally try to dine incognito so I can get a feel for what it is like for every customer, I cannot help but smile at his zeal for Chompchomp’s existence. Tonka 20 Duckboard Place, Melbourne VIC 3000 | (03) 9650 3155 | tonkarestaurant.com.au
Geographical separation has never had any impact on the bond I have with my best friend, Kate. Through the course of our fifteen years of Bestie-hood we have only lived in the same city for about half this time. We are not that good at regularly calling each other on the phone, in fact we are both shockers, yet within seconds of hearing each other’s voice we immediately lapse into our crazy way of talking that no one else on this Earth can ever seem to replicate. It’s actually like our own language. We have a way of bringing out the best in each other and I know that if anyone can turn my frown upside-down it will most definitely be Kate.
Twelve months ago Kate returned to her home-town of Esperance to complete her yoga teacher training with the aim to open her own yoga studio specialising in kid’s yoga. I envisaged this to be a slow process and was so surprised and excited to hear that less than a year after she moved away her studio was ready to be opened. I am so proud of her determination to make this long-term dream a reality and upon hearing the brilliant news I promptly booked some last minute flights to zip down and spend the weekend with her.
We booked accommodation at the Esperance Island View apartments which is located on the Esplanade and is only a short walk to the shops and restaurants. Our two bedroom apartment had two storeys with a large kitchen and living area, and most importantly excellent heating. This is something I have learnt to appreciate after our recent stay in Pemberton for Truffle Kerfuffle at an unnamed chalet location that had no heating other than a pot belly stove!
For our first night together we walked down to the Pier Hotel, a massive pub with separate bistro and bar areas, a cocktail lounge and the only night club in town. We sat down in the toasty bistro area by the open fire and made ourselves quite cosy.
The bistro menu has gluten free items clearly marked on the menu and most of the salad bar was also gluten free. Our waitress was kind enough to double check everything for me which was a thoughtful gesture. We each started off with a serve of drunken oysters. Served three ways, the oysters were surprisingly fresh and salty.
My favourite oyster of the three was the tequila shot which was served with a generous splash of tomato juice. The Jack Daniels Kilpatrick oyster was everyone’s least favourite. I found the bacon to be dry and flavourless with a barely discernible taste of bourbon. Not such a bad thing as I don’t particularly like bourbon.
My choice for main course was the Thai style barramundi, a grilled barra fillet cooked in curry sauce with basil, chilli and coconut cream. It is normally served with a pistachio and capsicum couscous but the gluten free option offers chips or mash as a replacement. Whilst it was quite an unsightly dish, the fish was cooked beautifully and the curry sauce was not overpowering. It would have been better paired with some steamed rice instead of mash.
With a day and a half to explore, we saw only a brief snippet of Esperance and its surrounds yet what I did see left me blown away by this remote town’s rugged beauty. Imagine long stretches of beaches with the whitest sand in Australia where the water is so vividly blue it almost doesn’t look real. It was breathtaking. One of the most special moments we shared was seeing a mother whale and her calf in the bay at Hellfire beach. Every time a tail fin would gracefully plunge out of the water both of us couldn’t hold back emitting loud sighs of amazement. I regretted not bringing my zoom lens with me!
Being in the middle of winter, Esperance’s weather can be unpredictable and can turn from clear blue skies to thundering storms quicker than I expected. After walking the Rotary Lookout circuit walk on Wireless Hill, we stopped to catch our breath in a little gazebo and watched a storm coming in over the coast for just long enough to avoid getting wet. Once the rain hit, we journeyed back into town for an afternoon snack at Taylors Beach café before popping into see her parents.
Taylors Beach café is situated overlooking the Bay of Isles and has been a local icon for many years. They have live music on Sunday afternoons and are open seven days. We only wanted a light snack to go with our drinks as we were heading out for dinner later that evening.
We started off with some French bubbles which is something of a tradition for the two of us. We have been known to spend ridiculous amounts of money that we don’t really have on bottles of exquisite French champagne so I figured we needed to keep on with our tradition to some degree; even if Grandin isn’t strictly Champagne it is French! 😉
Taylors have a small bites menu however unfortunately I was sternly informed that there was only one dish that could be served gluten free; the grilled scallops. There were six scallops served in the shell lightly grilled and seasoned with garlic and olive oil.
I made the error of eating some of the garnish in the middle of the dish which left a mouldy flavour in my mouth, ruining any further enjoyment of the scallops. The Boy and Kate took heed and avoided eating any greens meaning their scallop experience was much more enjoyable.
Fuelled with the warmth of a round of drinks, we visited her parents for a brief lesson on clipping cat’s claws. Betty Lois and Doris are ex-farm cats who are affectionately known collectively as The Girls. They were on their best behaviour which made for short work of my vet consult allowing us to celebrate with another round of drinks before heading out on the town to the Loose Goose for dinner.
The Loose Goose is one of the fine dining options in town and offers set dinner prices of $45.50 for one course, $57.50 for two courses and $67.50 for three courses. This price includes complimentary herb or garlic bread and a side salad or vegetables with the main meals. They did not have any gluten free bread on offer.
In our usual celebratory mode, we all chose to enjoy three courses. It is not often that we get to dine out together and the logical approach was to make the most of it. The Boy’s starter was a thick slab of Camembert cheese wrapped in puff pastry and baked until golden brown. A rather inelegant blob of mild chilli plum sauce accompanied the cheese adding a touch of fruity sweetness. This wasn’t a type of dish I ever expected him to order, in fact I cannot recall the last time I saw him order ANYTHING in puff pastry. However if his moans of delight were anything to go by, I can see he will likely order this again given the chance!
Kate ordered the sweet potato salad served warm with marinated mushrooms, French cream cheese, cherry tomatoes and julienned snow peas. It was a vegetarian’s feast and I couldn’t help myself from reaching across and nabbing a slice of soft creamy sweet potato.
I ordered the half dozen fresh natural oysters which I was hoping were obtained locally from WA but unfortunately I was told they were imported from South Australia. Regardless of the greater distance they travelled to reach my plate each oyster gave me a mouthful of fresh seawater without any unpleasant fishy after-taste.
The Boy was on a roll with this pastry fetish as his main course was also wrapped in puff pastry. His dish was titled “real barramundi” and consisted of a thick fillet of barramundi cooked with prawns and garlic butter and then wrapped in pastry.
His fish came with a potato gallete and more lashings of creamy garlic sauce. No vampires came near us that night!
Kate wasn’t too impressed with the main dish choices as she is not really much of a meat eater so she requested for the chilli squid entrée to be served as a main size. Our waitress was more than happy to oblige. Her chilli squid was served in a Greek style cooked with tomato, capsicum and a hint of chilli. It was topped with some crumbled feta and black olives. She paired it with brilliant emerald green choc-mint cocktail made with Crème de Cacao, Crème de Menthe and Midori. We downed a few of those together that night!
I ordered the special of the day; the King Snapper Tom Yum. Having travelled a reasonable amount in Thailand, this clear, sweet and sour soup is one of my Thai favourites and I was counting on flashbacks of our time in the tropical sunshine. I certainly wasn’t expecting the dish I received which was more like a red fish curry than a Tom Yum. The sauce was a more modern interpretation made using coconut cream and was served with rice, like a curry. After my initial surprise, I actually didn’t mind it at all. For a curry, it was richly flavoured with all the layering of tastes that a well-made Thai dish should have. The fish was softly cooked and flaked apart gracefully and I was close to licking the bowl clean by the end.
As we arrived at dessert time, I was grateful for having a second stomach as I was totally stuffed. Whenever the three of us are out together, Kate and I will often try and guess what the Boy will order. He will then try to meet our suggestions with an air of total mystery and nonchalance. We are renowned for usually getting it right and simultaneously chanted that he would choose the Death by Chocolate. After a few minutes of playing coy and pretending we were completely wrong our waitress came up to take our order and lo and behold; he orders the Death by Chocolate. It was a rich doorstop-sized block of chocolate cake served warm and drizzled with oozing chocolicious ganache.
Both of us girls ordered the dessert special; the Loose Goose chocolate pot. Despite asking for gluten free, mine was initially served with some chocolate biscuit crumbled on top. Thankfully the Boy pointed this out to me before I had finished taking my photos and I avoided getting gluten poisoning.
Our waitress was extremely apologetic and promptly swapped it over for me. The chocolate pot was a huge serve of which neither of us needed to finish it all. Of course we both did polish off the lot which made our dancing attempts later on at the Pier nightclub not exactly easy!
The following morning we gathered ourselves together for a refreshing coastal walk. There is a walking track along most of the town’s coastline with gentle undulating hills and some of the most breathtaking views of the beaches. If I hadn’t binged so much the night before it would have made a fabulous running track to burn off those excess calories.
Sadly our weekend had nearly drawn to an end so before we headed back to the airport, Kate took us for a drive to Monjingup Lake Nature Reserve. She is a master at pleasing everyone and given I had already had a fulfilling foodie weekend, she wanted to take us somewhere that she knew the Boy would love.
The reserve has a well maintained boardwalk which takes you right out onto the lake giving gorgeous views of the reflections of the trees on the water.
There was an abundance of bird life that the Boy spotted with great ease; wildlife watching is something of a talent of his and he takes great pleasure in being the first to spot any signs of life. Once again I regretted not travelling with the appropriate camera lens!
While the Boy wandered off ahead in search of birds and frogs, my Bestie and I took our time to treasure our last hour together.
Whilst it had been a whirlwind trip this is something the two of us have grown accustomed to over the years. Previously we would both end up being shattered by the end of our rushed catch up due to our desperate attempts at making the most of our time by indulging in all the excesses.
Nearly decades later, our best-friendship has reached a point where we know we have each other for support no matter where we live and what we are doing. Our times together are becoming much more cherished and the influence of her yoga practice on living a healthy life is having a positive impact on both of us. It is a beautiful point in our lives to be.
Despite being all “zen” about my best friend living so far away, as I watched her leave us at the Esperance airport, I shed more than just a few tears. 😥To the bestest bestie; we had such a fabulous weekend with you in your hometown of Esperance. Let’s hope the time until we meet again is short. Whaa-toot!
Chompchomp travelled to Esperance on her own budget purely just to be with her bestie. She is confident that no one in town knew of her blog’s existence and was happy to be completely incognito. Pier Hotel The Esplanade, Esperance Western Australia 6450 | (08) 9071 1777 | www.pierhotelesperance.net.au www.taylorsbeachcafe.com.au loosegooseesperance.com.au
This afternoon marked the inaugural AHA International Great Waiters Race held over in Claisebrook Cove, East Perth. As part of my official Eat Drink Perth reporting duties I planned to attend this event knowing there would be a number of gluten free options for me to enjoy in the Gourmet Food Village. I took it for granted that the Boy would feel the same way and was quite disappointed when my attempts to convince him to join me failed miserably. It was raining, he had study to do and apparently the idea simply did not appeal to him. As I resigned myself to attend alone, he suggested that we go somewhere local instead and check out the International Vegetarian and Vegan Food Fair at the South Perth Community Centre. I couldn’t find a lot about this food fair on the internet so being curious I obliged to his wish.
Whilst I would never called myself a strict vegetarian, I do eat a predominantly vegetarian diet. I would only really eat meat once or twice a week and it tends to be more of a garnish to the meal than the central point of it. The Boy on the other hand will go out of his way to avoid eating meat and is much more compliant with his vegetarianism than I.
The International Vegetarian and Vegan Food Fair is into its tenth year and they are moving to holding the annual event twice yearly as it has become very popular. The Fair is run by the Dao Ji Association of Perth in order to raise funds for their not for profit organisation. There is a very family friendly vibe with most stall holders very obliging to help work out what is gluten free. There were a wide variety of Malaysian, Thai, Vietnamese, Indonesian and Chinese dishes to try.
All the stall holders had a full list of ingredients on display which made it easy to narrow down which dishes to ask further details with respect to their gluten free status. Most of the mock meats contained gluten however some stall holders used a tofu based product instead. One of my favourite starters were the highly addictive taro and sweet potato rolls. The rice noodle netting was so super crunchy that it was hard to eat without making a lot of noise. Inside the rolls soft, subtly sweet mashed taro and sweet potato felt lusciously smooth and silky in texture.
The Boy had free rein to try whatever he liked as obviously all the dishes were vegetarian and in fact the vast majority of them were also vegan. He really enjoyed the mock fish balls which had a strong, salty flavour. He also tried the “pork” crackling which was made using wheat flour however he didn’t think these were nearly as tasty as his fish balls.
For my main dish I chose the nasi lemek, a beautifully fragrant rice dish made with coconut milk and pandan leaves. The rice accompanied a richly flavoured curry made from coconut milk, galangal, potato, carrot, tofu based mock chicken, chilli and lemongrass. Some fresh cucumber, fried peanuts and tofu skin were served on the side. It was a substantially filling dish and left me feeling pleasantly content.
The Boy ordered the Thai green curry which was made using mock chicken. His dish wasn’t gluten free so I sadly didn’t not get to try any of it however he did comment that my curry tasted much better than his. What a nice change that makes, the gluten free dish tastes better than the normal option!
I couldn’t walk past the Thai sweets stall without buying some layer cake or as it is known in Thai, khanom chan. This dessert was the highlight of the night markets in Thailand as I always knew that they would be gluten free. They have a gelatinous sticky texture with a lovely coconut taste. I planned to take my serve home but ended up eating them all while the Boy wandered off looking for his dessert choice.
He settled on the vegan equivalent of ice cream; ice kachang. For those of you who haven’t travelled in South-east Asia chances are you may not have tried this super sweet dessert. Firstly, a variety of beans, sweet corn, bread and jelly is served and then this is topped with super fine ice shavings. The ice is then drizzled with brightly coloured flavour syrups and condensed milk.
The ice particles are so small that they dissolve on contact with your tongue releasing all the flavours of the syrup. I wasn’t sure if this would be the Boy’s kind of thing but he happily polished off the lot which indicates to me it was a winner.
I cannot believe this fabulous day out has been happening in Perth for a decade and I had no idea of its existence. We had a great day out and I have no regrets missing out on my original plan of attending the Waiters Race. It is an event for all food lovers regardless of whether you are a strict vegan, vegetarian or you are just someone who realises that there are huge environmental, ethical and health benefits if you eat less meat in your diet.
You would think after several trips to Thailand in a relatively short space of time we would be sick of Thai cuisine. That has definitely not been the case in fact it has done the complete opposite. Thai food has become our go-to comfort food, the meal we crave after a bad day at work or when we are feeling run down. There are a number of Thai restaurants in the Vic Park area; Little Ying Thai is one of our favourites and they know us on a first name basis. I’m the “no wheat, no onion, no soy sauce, no gluten” customer that many restaurant owners would prefer to run a mile from yet Little Ying always embraces my allergy request with smiles. So when a fancy looking Thai restaurant named Pinto Thai Restaurant opened up just a short walk from our house I was left feeling torn between my curiosity to try their food and my guilt for betraying Little Ying.
The interior of Pinto Thai is unlike most of the more casual Vic Park Asian restaurants. It is stylish, modern and they even had some jazz playing in the background. We arrived hot and thirsty from our thirty minute stroll paired with healthy appetites. After enquiring about which dishes were gluten free, I was advised that a lot of their dishes were prepared using their own homemade oyster sauce which wasn’t gluten free. This unfortunately left me a little limited with my choices.
We started off with a serve of Thai fish cakes made from snapper with chilli and herbs. This was a bit of a gamble as I have found over here in Perth many Thai restaurants serve rubbery and flavourless fish cakes. The memories of eating them fresh at the Phuket Night markets were still fresh in my mind and I optimistically hoped for good things from Pinto. To my total satisfaction I was rewarded with them having both perfect texture and flavour. Lucky our serving had an even number of fish cakes otherwise there may have been a fight for the last one.
After the wow factor of the fish cakes the duck spring rolls seems comparatively flavourless and needed much dunking in the chilli and lime sauce for added oomph.
During our stay at Andara Resort for our wedding in Phuket we had our own private chef named Su and she is quite possibly one of the best Thai chefs I have ever dined with. Her duck curry was a particular favourite of mine and over our eight days at luxurious Andara we asked her to make it for us on multiple occasions. She is a beautiful person and made our stay even more incredible, both my Dad and I wanted to bring her home with us! To our surprise and extreme happiness, Pinto’s red duck curry actually came pretty close to Su’s wonder-duck curry in deliciousness and is certainly the best red duck curry I’ve had in Perth. It had all the elements of proper Thai food: sweet, spicy, sour and salty.
Unfortunately the papaya salad didn’t met Su’s standard like the duck did. I have to presume this is in part because those tropical fruits just don’t taste the same here as they do in Asian countries. I had just enough room for some dessert and started dreaming of coconut rice until our waitress came over. To my disappointment she informed me they do not do desserts! In all honesty if I waited another five minutes I would have realised that in fact I was too full anyway so perhaps this was a blessing in disguise. I asked the owner if it would be ok if I brought my own gluten free oyster sauce for our next visit so I could try more items on their menu. She was absolutely fine with this and on the walk home I started planning our next visit.
A few weeks later we returned to Pinto Thai with dreams of more roast duck swooning around in our heads. I came along super prepared with my gluten free oyster sauce in hand only to be told they now have their own gluten free sauces to use in the kitchen! Talk about listening to the customer’s needs! In addition to another serve of fish cakes which were just as amazing as the first time, we ordered some Tom Yum soup. This sweet and sour Thai soup is the perfect way to start a meal and it is so refreshing and light unlike many heavy Western style soups. It contained a heap of seafood including Green lipped mussels, prawns, scallops, squid and fish. It was a little too spicy for the Boy meaning I found it to be just right.
Despite a very strong yearning for the red duck curry again, I wanted to try a few more of their dishes to see how many “hits” we could get. I chose the vegetarian Panang curry with tofu. Panang curry, or Phanaeng curry as some Thai people call it is a very light and mild curry and I thought this would be a good choice considering the Boy doesn’t handle too much spice. The Panang curry is also much sweeter due to the pumpkin and it lacks the sour taste found in other red curries. Once again we were nearly spotted licking our bowls to get the last millilitres of sauce. How my Mother would cringe!
Although we showed will power of steel not ordering the red duck curry, we still couldn’t have a meal with no duck could we? During the previous meal we were told the Five Spice duck couldn’t be made gluten free however this time round it was no problem! The meat was just as succulent as it was in the curry and sweetened with a thick plum sauce, five spice marinades and some freshly steamed bok choy. A marginally healthier option but scrumptious nevertheless. I am now torn where is my favourite local Thai…Little Ying or Pintos? They even both do home delivery.Pinto Thai Restaurant 2 Moresby Street, Kensington WA 6151 | 0451 209 892 Price: $$ Food: 7/10 (mostly hits with the occasional miss) Service: 4/5 (Thailand isn’t called Land of the Smiles for nothing) Ambience: 3.5/5 (funky decor) Drinks: BYO Total: 14.5/20
One of the best ways to get a taste of the local street food in Thailand is to head to one of their night markets. Most towns in Phuket have their own markets held on specific days once or twice a week but the biggest night markets are the Phuket Town Night Markets (Talad Tai Rot to the locals). These markets are open on the weekends from 4pm until around 9pm. Unlike a lot of the smaller markets in Phuket, most of the ground surface at these markets is cemented meaning you don’t have to pick your way through the mud. My advice is to get there fairly early as it gets very busy from around 5pm as the sun sets and the weather cools.
I arranged two minibuses to transport our wedding party of over 30 people to the markets. The trip took around 45 minutes one way from Kamala Beach. Once we arrived we set a time and meeting point and then split off into groups. As the Boy and I entered into the markets with Dad and my Stepmum, he had to duck down under the tarpaulin roof as he was too tall! Thai markets are not designed for 6 foot 3 Dutchmen!
The Phuket night markets have a vast array of new and second-hand clothes, wood carvings, toys, DVDs, souvenirs and more. There even is a “petshop” section selling live little rabbits and kittens; this was an area my step mum and I trotted past as quickly as possible. Despite trying not to look I couldn’t help but catch a glimpse of rows of small cages stacked on top of each other all jammed packed with poor little creatures. If only I could save them all!
The best part of these markets is the local street food. The four of us purposely bypassed all the trinkets, clothing and electronics to follow our noses to the heart of the aromas. The Boy was once again attracted to the fried insect stall. I cannot understand why he likes these snacks so much, I think part of his enjoyment is seeing the shock value he creates when everyone sees him munching on a big bug. However even when no one is watching I noticed he continued to happily crunch away whilst picking legs and wings out from between his teeth.
Meanwhile my attention was directed at the plethora of Thai desserts on offer. It was like an Eastern version of a candy store. I found it hard to decide what to try so I ended up trying a little of most things on offer provided I knew they were gluten free. Fortunately the vast majority of Thai dessert are made with gluten free flours such as mung bean flour and rice flour so I was spoilt for choice. Just a little tip, make sure you bring your Thai eating card with you to the markets so you can check with the vendors before purchasing anything.
After a few hours at the markets, we all regrouped and made the short journey up the scarp to Tunk Ka Cafe; a Thai restaurant recommended to me by a friend that lives in Phuket. The restaurant is located on top of Khao Rang Hill and gives practically 180 degree panoramic views across the city from their terraced open styled dining room. Although it is worth visiting just for the views, the food at Tunk Ka can hold its own. The menu is all Thai and is very extensive offering over 100 dishes.
Now seeing as I was on my wedding holiday I have to confess my usual dogged determination to photograph and review all the dishes on show was taken down a number of notches. It was the first night that we were lucky enough to be joined by all our wedding guests and my attention was much more focused on enjoying these precious moments with those I love dearly.
Thanks to my Thai eating card and some very obliging staff, a number of special order dishes were brought out for me specifically made gluten free and onion free. I was touched by the care and attention they gave me to ensure I had enough to eat. I highly recommend the soft shelled crab and the tamarind prawns. All our dishes contained ultra-fresh ingredients with all the elements of Thai food sweet, sour, salty and bitter balanced elegantly. A big thank you to my dear friend Carole for such a fabulous recommendation.Phuket Town Night Market (Talad Tai Rot) Opening Hours: Saturday & Sunday from 16:00 til 21:00
Location: Talad Tai Rot is located along Chao Fa West Road, Phuket’s main thoroughfare, one kilometre south of Central Festival shopping mall and is opposite Wat Naka, a Buddhist temple. Take a left at the first set of traffic lights. Tunk Ka Café Opening Hours: 10:30 – 22:30
Location: At the top of Rang Hill, Phuket Town
It was the day after attending our dear friend’s wedding banquet at the Fairmont Hotel in Singapore. Knowing that avoiding gluten at a Chinese banquet would be literally impossible I made the choice to eat gluten that night so I wouldn’t miss out on any of the gorgeous delicacies served to us all. I had psyched myself up for this event for months and was fully prepared to deal with the onslaught of symptoms that would ensue in the following days.
When I got up that morning it was hard to distinguish what were the after-effects of eating gluten and what were due to the alcohol excesses. The tell-tale spots of eczema were only baby fledglings at this stage and for a change had not appeared on my face…yet. As a gesture of their gratitude to us for coming to all the way to Singapore to share the happiness on their big day, our friends and their parents invited us to join them and their family for lunch at Pow Sing Restaurant; a place famous for its Hainanese Chicken Rice along.
Since my arrival in Singapore I have been dying to try this classic favourite especially as I know it is one of the main hawker’s foods that is easy to do gluten free. Hainanese chicken originates from China and it is found in Singaporean, Malaysian and Thai cuisines and many Singaporeans consider this to be their national dish. The whole chicken is delicately poached in a broth of pork and chicken stock which is infused with ginger. This stock is then used along with rendered chicken fat to prepare the rice resulting in an extremely flavourful dish.
Pow Sing’s Hainanese chicken did not disappoint. The chickens were plump, soft and very succulent; the meat nearly dissolved in your mouth it was so tender. The rice looked innocent enough but as soon as I served myself some I could smell its fragrant aroma. Each rice grain was coated in the tasty oily broth giving it a full body of flavour. To accompany our chicken; my friend parents proceeded to order a long list of Nyonya favourites for us to try. I could feel myself getting caught up in the fun of it all and figured seeing as I felt rotten from the night before eating a little bit more gluten was hardly going to make that much more of a difference provided I was careful and didn’t go overboard.
The sweet crunchy honey bean pods served with the delicate, musty, slightly earthy flavoured straw mushrooms were a refreshing dish after the oiliness of the chicken. Straw mushrooms have been used in Chinese cuisine for over two thousand years and are so named because they’re grown on straw that’s been used in a rice paddy.
The crispy Nyonya squid was another flavour bomb. The squid are coated in a batter containing coconut and then deep-fried giving them a very crunchy texture. They are then stir-fried in chilli and garlic and then dipped in a tangy sweet and sour hot sauce before serving. This was quite unlike any fried squid I have had before and I could have easy demolished the plate but I held myself back knowing the batter would probably contain flour. One taste was all I allowed myself….pace yourself girl!
The ngog hiang is a Nyonya style of spring roll. Meaning “five flavours” in Hokkien, it was initially brought to Singapore from the Fujian province in China. The original five flavours were prawn, pork rolls, pork liver, egg and pork sausage. These days they are made with all sorts of different meats which are usually combined with water chestnuts, other vegetables and then seasoned with five-spice powder. The outer layer is made with bean curd skin. For preparation they are steamed first followed by a short time in the deep fryer. Absolutely delicious but not for those with heart disease as I’m sure too many of these tasty morsels would clog the arteries!
Many of you may know my penchant for tamarind dishes; I love the sweet and sour aspect of these dishes much better than the horrific sickly Australian take on sweet and sour. The asam pedas is basically a fish curry made with tamarind paste and various vegetables. Ours contained okra, tomatoes and eggplants. It had a fair bit of kick to the heat and I noticed the Boy politely avoiding serving himself seconds as the rest of us dipped in for more.
Otak otak are a type of fish cake made from fresh mackerel meat pounded and marinated with ground chilli, lemon grass, ginger, turmeric and coconut milk. The end result is something that looks more like fish paste than the traditional fish cakes I’m accustomed to in Thailand. This fragrant paste is then wrapped in banana leaves and gently steamed or cooked over hot charcoals. The banana leaves trap in the moisture and flavour making it into a mouth-watering, custardy sweet treat.
The crispy Nyonya Tauhu is made from egg tofu and deep-fried to exact point to have a crispy thin exterior yet a velvety moist interior. The egg tofu is made by filtering whole beaten eggs into the soy milk before the tofu is set. It is a paler yellow colour and has a silken soft texture and milder flavour. These little creamy logs were to be dipped into the accompanying sweet black sauce and nearly seemed like a dessert than savoury course.
We finished our feast with a recommendation from the Bride; a chendol. Like all Asian desserts this came laden with all the sugar in all the land! The basic ingredients of this sticky drink included coconut milk, green jelly made from rice flour and Pandan flavouring, shaved ice and sugar. Ours was enhanced with layers of presumably highly artificial colourings and flavourings. At the bottom of my glass were red beans and grass jelly. The beans were a welcome relief from all the sugar!
Giddy with the sugar combined with my gluten induced haziness I felt like I was intoxicated all over again. Despite knowing the next week was going to be rough on the body, I walked away feeling satisfied that I had made the most of my gluten onslaught by eating wonderful dishes that ordinarily I would avoid. Most of all, not only did I get to appreciate how insanely delicious Hainanese Chicken rice is I tried it from a location that many consider to be the best in Singapore!Pow Sing Restaurant 65 Serangoon Garden Way, Singapore 217970 | +65 6282 7972 | http://www.powsing.com/index.html Price: $$ Food: 9/10 (ok now bear in mind this is coming from a naïve Westerner, but all dishes were brilliant) Service: 4/5 (speedy, no fuss) Ambience: 3.5/5 (hustling and bustling; this place remained packed) Total: 16.5/20
Back when I first became a partner in my business over six years ago, I was lucky enough to come on board with two other amazing and inspiring people; Chris and Muzz. Chris still remains in the business today, she is the talented surgeon who recently operated on our darling “son” Rollie the Burmese cat and saved his life. Muzz on the other hand sadly had to leave the partnership a few years ago in order to move overseas with the love of his life. As fresh, new and super keen incoming partners, we both shared the same vision for the practice and our enthusiasm would infectiously feed off each other’s. We would spend many of our spare moments and late shifts brain storming and business planning and achieved a lot of growth and development within the business during this time. We both learnt so much from working together and his departure from the country was a hard knock for all who knew him. But thankfully best friends are ones that you can go without seeing for many years and then when you eventually cross paths again, you can pick up right where you left off.
As you can imagine, I was so excited to hear that Muzz was making a brief trip back to Australia and couldn’t wait to catch up and share stories. From the moment we left my house for lunch, until he dropped me back at my front door hours later we did not stop chattering; hearing of each other’s successes, trials and tribulations from over the past three years since we had last seen each other.
The sun was shining gloriously in a clear bright blue sky so in order take the opportunity to enjoy the beautiful Perth coastline we headed over to Cottesloe to the Blue Duck. The view from the restaurant is one I could easily enjoy day after day but having not been to the Blue Duck for a number of years I was surprised that such an iconic restaurant had allowed its interiors to outdate themselves so badly. I almost got the feeling I was in a upmarket kiosk rather than a restaurant.
Our service was prompt yet friendly and casual. Our waitress for lunch was very bubby and tried to crack little jokes as we placed our orders. I advised her of my allergies to which she said there was no problems. We wanted to order a couple of nibbles before eating our mains but there were fairly limited gluten free options. Despite the limited menu, the kitchen was happy to alter the salt and pepper calamari to exclude the flour dusting and coupled with some marinated olives there was ample food for us to start with.
The mixed marinated olives were fairly standard fare; in fact they were certainly not bad at all however they in no way could compare to the delicious olives I ate recently with Tara at Pata Negra. Needless to say we are comparing two very different dining establishments here! The salt and pepper squid was extremely tender and the Asian salad was sweet, light and quite moreish.
I was quite surprised to be told the duck curry was gluten and onion free. I don’t get to enjoy a lot of curries as they are usually neither of these so I eagerly ordered this one. Massaman curries are really one of the kings of all Thai curries and manage to cover all those delicious quadrants of flavour you find in Thai food: spicy and sweet, coconuty and sour; all in one curry. It is a relatively easy curry to make taste amazing however although this was a very good it wasn’t quite spicy enough for my liking. Given it was a stinking hot day outside that was probably a good thing. Unfortunately I also noted that there was some onion contained in the rice, an oversight that gave me a bit of discomfort later that afternoon.
Muzz’s linguine looked mouth-wateringly good and eyeing it across the table gave me a pang of food envy! I don’t often miss eating pasta on my gluten free diet but this dish sure made me jealous! The only negative feedback I got was that poor Muzz ended up wearing a lot of it on his shirt by the end of lunch!
Thanks to its fabulous ocean views and beach front location Blue Duck café is something of an institution in Perth and will always be somewhere I will return to from time to time. Compared to some previous experiences, I had a very enjoyable lunch although would have appreciated more attention to detail with my meal so I didn’t suffer consequences from onion ingestion that night.Blue Duck Café 151 Marine Parade, Cottesloe 6011 | (08) 9385 2499 | www.blueduck.com.au Price: $$$ ($16-26 Entrée, $26-39 Mains) Food: 2.5/5 (fresh ingredients but need to be more careful with diners with allergies) Service: 3/5 (friendly and casual) Ambience: 2.5/5 (awesome view but interior needs urgent work) Drinks: 4/5 (WA focused wine list with good range of choices and some well-loved classics) Total: 12/20