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
Oh my goodness! What bliss it has been this week to finally return back to my gluten free diet! I know it will take me a few weeks for my skin to heal and a few more weeks to maybe months on top of that for my gut to settle down……but my mood? It is astonishing how avoiding eating just one seemingly harmless little protein can alter my mind so dramatically. For the past six weeks I have carried a whinging, negative dark presence in my mind that was constantly criticising and complaining about everything and anything, and made dealing with all the other physical effects of eating gluten so much more difficult. I was oblivious to the presence of this monkey on my back until now when I can see he has left! My energy and excitement for life is returning and my sense of humour is lifted!
One of my bridesmaids suggested we go out for a casual meal to kick off the CHOGM long weekend. As we both had later shifts at work that day we opted for an easy peasy local night out on the strip in Vic Park. To To’s was packed full of customers and only had a couple of spare tables. This is always a good sign. After enquiring about gluten free dishes, we were promptly assigned a very flamboyant waiter who was bubbling to help us. He pondered expressively on options for us and was keen to ensure that we chose a good range of dishes. For Vietnamese starters, I can never go past fresh rice paper rolls. Unfortunately they only offered prawn rolls which meant my bridesmaid couldn’t try any as she doesn’t eat seafood. I would have liked there to be a pork or chicken option for those who don’t eat prawns. Nevertheless, the rolls were fresh and neatly rolled and the dipping sauce was not too overly sweet.
The sang choy bow was made with chicken and pork mince. The meat was very moist and seasoned perfectly, however silly me forgot to ask for the shallots to be omitted and I had to pick them out. We also ordered chicken satay for my bridesmaids children but unfortunately they contained gluten so I did not try. They gave us a generous serve of these and I was informed they were finger licking good.
For mains we were recommended to order the stir fried chicken with chilli and lemongrass, Vietnamese style beef, chilli and pepper spare ribs and stir fried vegetables with garlic and oyster sauce. Both the chicken and the beef dishes contained copious amounts of onions which I had once again completely forgotten to request omission. I guess after six weeks of foodie freedom it will take a bit for me to remember to ask for all the finite details of the fructose malabsorption part of my diet. Thankfully fructose ingestion doesn’t mess with me to the extent that gluten does. The onion was in big strips so it was pretty easy to pick it all out. By the end of the night I had a cute little pile of onion next to my plate.
Despite having to negotiate my chopsticks around the presence of so much onion I really enjoyed the lemongrass chicken. The beef on the other hand was quite dry and bland and I wouldn’t recommend it. Unfortunately when the ribs were brought out to our table we noted that they were covered in batter and called our exuberant waiter over to double check that this wasn’t wheat flour batter. He was very apologetic and offered to replace the dish. This wasn’t before one of the kids managed to quickly nab a pork rib to try! According to his palate it tasted like KFC so he renamed the dish VFC! (Vietnamese Fried Chicken). As a replacement we were offered a dish that wasn’t on their menu – some roast pork. This dish was definitely the best of the mains – the pork was deliciously tender and marinated to perfection and enjoyed by all at the table. With our bellies comfortably full we all skipped over the road to Baskin and Robbins for an ice-cream fix to end our chilled out evening and we were very satisfied and ready for our long weekend!
Food 6/10 Venue 6.5/10 Service 7/10
To To Vietnamese 875 Albany Hwy, East Victoria Park | (08) 9355 2388
I’m on the final lap of my six and half weeks of this gluten induced ride through hell. My life has now been taken over by constant reminders of how poisoning this stuff is to my body. My previously clear skin is breaking out all over in unsightly eruptions of blotchy red sores and random areas of flakiness and I struggle to fall asleep at night as I’m so itchy all the time waking up repeatedly to start scratching. I am crossing my fingers that my skin can recover in time for our engagement party in 5 weeks or I may be investing in a big paper bag for my head! Aside from these hideous skin issues, my gut is crying out for a break having also endured way too much.
Italian cuisine is nearly impossible to enjoy gluten free so before I return to my GF way of life, I figured we should fit in night at Modo Mio Cucina Italiana, one of Burswood Casino’s new additions to their recently improved restaurant collection.
Giampaolo Maffini, the Head Chef at Modo Mio was head hunted from Milan and has over 20 years’ experience in the industry working all around the world including North America, Asia, Middle East and over ten countries in Europe at top-end restaurants such as the Raffles in Singapore and the Ritz Carlton Hotel in Bahrain. He is passionate about Italian food, using fresh, preferably locally sourced ingredients and changing the menu monthly. I was impressed to see his dedication to his job as halfway through the dinner service he was out and about in the dining area talking to the customers. Not something I’ve seen at high profile restaurants in Perth very often.
The interior design of the restaurant felt very opulent yet not overly pretentious with leather table tops, matching seats and elegant chandeliers giving the anticipation of something amazing about to come.
The service was friendly and cheerful albeit a little under-attentive, there were a number of brief but noticeable delays that I wouldn’t expect in such a high caliber restaurant such as the waiting to place our orders, and wine and water glasses remaining empty. Don’t get me wrong – the waits weren’t horrendous, but they were significant.
We started off with ordering some garlic bread. Upon placing our order our waitress informed us that garlic bread at Modo Mio is not your traditional type of garlic bread but went on to describe what can only be reiterated as a garlic cheese puff. Out comes these crunchy “puffs” of crunchy but hollow buns with some gooey cheesy garlic inside. They were quite tasty … but a bit odd for fine dining. I’m not sure if I would recommend it.
For our starters we shared two dishes. The first dish was the beef Carpaccio served with Cipriani sauce, rocket salad and Parmesan – a simple but delicious dish if executed correctly. The beef was sliced paper thin and was delicately flavoured with the traditional Tuscan style sauce. I think a few more lashings of olive oil and/or sauce would have perfected this dish as it was a little bland. Our second entrée was the roasted veal in tuna caper sauce with a celery salad, quail egg, and black truffle. The presentation of the dish was excellent. The tuna sauce was very overpowering and lingered on the palate too heavily to taste the truffle properly. Nevertheless it was still an enjoyable dish.
Next we shared a pasta dish so we could both squeeze in mains and dessert. The boy chose for us the homemade cannelloni filled with veal, pork & ricotta, spinach sauce, smoked pancetta and beetroot. I was really excited about this dish as it sounded like it was going to be the bomb! Unfortunately I found this dish to be very salty and over-seasoned and was disappointed to see only one tiny piece of pancetta dressing the dish.
Our mains were definitely the highlight of the evening. I ordered the red wine marinated Angus beef tenderloin with pan fried foie gras, polenta & taleggio ravioli and Pommery mustard marmalade. Despite ordering a rare fillet it was served medium rare. Normally this would be a call for me to complain and send the dish back but I have to be honest – it was so absolutely amazing regardless and I didn’t have the heart to do it. The foie gras and the nutty Pommery marmalade gave incredible depth to the octave of flavours rocking around in my mouth and when you added in the tangy cheesiness of the Taleggio ravioli – it was a taste sensation. I can highly recommend this dish!
The boy ordered the oven baked lamb rack with a macadamia crust, thyme jus and butternut pumpkin flan. This was also a stand out dish for him shown by the fact I didn’t even get a taste! He said it was fantastic and made up for the other disappointing dishes.
The meals are were all a bit on the smaller side which I didn’t really mind as it meant we could fit all these courses in – but it is something to note if you like your plate heaped high with food. For dessert I thought I would plant another nail in the gluten coffin and try another chocolate fondant. After the disappointment of my previous fondant experience at Jezabelle’s I was determined to chase that experience for one last time while I could. Alas this fondant had no gooey centre either but I still managed to demolish the lot so can’t have been that bad! The boy is obsessed by anything that screams ice-cream, he is not really a dessert kind of guy so I wasn’t surprised to see him order the gelati…ho hum boring!
Overall we had an enjoyable night but I’m surely paying for it today tenfold. Suffice to say I won’t be overdosing on gluten and having Italian again in a hurry, but if I did I wouldn’t hesitate to return to Modo Mio to give another pasta dish a go……..
Service 6/10 Food 8.8/10 Venue 9/10Modo Mio Cucina Italiana Burswood Entertainment Complex, Great Eastern Hwy, Burswood, 6100 | (08) 9362 7551 | http://www.burswood.com.au/Restaurants/Modo-Mio/
I have a penchant for excesses. A friend once coined a term to describe me as “all or nothing”. It is the source of both extreme happiness and great trouble in my life. Currently my focus is on surviving this gluten challenge whilst trying to avoid going overboard. Easier said than done. The Doctors recommendation has been to eat a meagre two to three slices of wheaty wheatyness daily for six weeks. This all started out very well, but the all or nothing has quickly taken over and despite it making me so ill, when I’m out for a wonderful dinner I go out of control.
In a manner of pre-empting the evening eating excesses, I thought I’d get my bloated self out into the glorious sunshine and run around like a freak around the river with the concept that the more calories I burned the more I could eat that night. Unfortunately the whole dietary indiscretion thing is not very conducive to my running efforts, and it was more so a rather pathetic jog where numerous non-poisoned runners zoomed past me totally in their zone. I’m so jealous. Only three more weeks to go. Hey at least I can eat real food! After nearly six weeks of enjoying his long service leave payout, my love has decided to return to the workforce and has successfully passed through a rigorous interview process to be accepted for a job he is really keen to have. With hopes for a even brighter future what better way for us to celebrate than with good food and some bubbles!
After flipping through the Entertainment Book we booked a table at Chapter One Brasserie in Subiaco. Chapter One is a relaxed and unpretentious restaurant run by a husband and wife team; Hayley and Jason Walker. Hayley has extensive experience in the hospitality industry and this became apparent as throughout the night she confidently flitted from table to table ensuring everyone was enjoying themselves and their meals. We both immediately warmed to her bubbly personality and her pride in her restaurants success. The chef Jason trained at the London Hilton before going to work with a number of Europe’s famous chefs including Marco Pierre White. This European influence comes through strongly on his menu with some hearty dishes including rabbit pie and duck with foie gras.
We started our evening with a baguette and butter. The baguette had a wonderful crunchy exterior with fluffy lightness inside, something one really misses out on when on a gluten free diet. It would have enhanced my whole experience if the bread wasn’t cold. Or the butter for that matter. Cold butter does not make for very elegant eating.
We moved on to our next course to share the Tasting plate. This contained four shot glasses of pea and ham soup, some grilled polenta with a tomato salsa, some vol-u-vents, chorizo and some asparagus spears. The soup was served hot and was a much needed hit of warmth in my belly after the disappointment of the cold baguette. It was thick and creamy and the ham was meaty with minimal fat. It was a tad quirky that the spoons served with the soup didn’t fit into the little glasses. The polenta was soft on the inside but grilled to a flavoursome brown and was the most enjoyable item on the plate next to the soup. The chorizo was good but nothing special. The vol-u-vents were disappointing as they were luke warm and the puff pastry had no crunch to it.
After reading some others reviews on the net raving about Chapter One’s Blue manna crab angel hair pasta, we decided to once again make pigs of ourselves and order a second entree. Well the Italians do it don’t they? And aren’t we meant to be celebrating? Memories of cold dishes slipped into the back of our minds as we slurped our way through this amazing dish. I highly recommend. It truly shows looks can be deceiving as the strong crab flavours worked their magic over our palate. Hayley claims their secret is in the sauce and she is most definitely not mistaken there. Oh boy, I was really going to pay for all this glutenness tomorrow!
For mains we both ordered the braised rabbit & wild mushroom pie, with parsnip puree and a sage jus. I can understand why this dish remains on his ever changing menu as it was executed perfectly. This time round the pastry was buttery and feather light (and hot), and the rabbit was tender and succulent. We also ordered the warm beetroot and goats cheese salad. I felt there was an excess on onion in this dish, not really necessary given the abundance of strong tart taste of the goats cheese.
Unsurprisingly I was convinced we had room for dessert. That doesn’t actually mean there was room in my stomach but refer to my original point I made at the beginning of this blog. All or nothing. I wouldn’t (couldn’t?) have it any other way! I ordered the berry and creme fraiche tart and the boy ordered some sort of butterscotch cheesecake.
The berry tart was well balanced with both sour and sweet flavours however the pastry base was very hard and half of my dessert went flying across the table when I tried cutting into it. The boy found it quite entertaining as once again you could easily see my place at the table as in front of me was a collage of colours ranging from the pale green of the pea soup to the brilliant ruby red of the berries. Apparently he thinks this is a regular occurrence. Overall the evening was very enjoyable and I will dream of the crab pasta well into my gluten free days.
Venue 7.5/10 Service 9/10 Food 8/10Chapter One Brasserie 292 Hay St, Subiaco, 6008 | (08) 9388 1323 | www.chapteronebrasserie.com.au
I decided to buy a Scoopon to Old Cathay Restaurant to give to my beloved as a small token gift to further lengthen our post-engagement celebrations. I’m currently on Doctors orders to punish my body with six weeks of gluten hell in order to determine for once and for all whether I am actually coeliac or just have fructose malabsorption. I am still trying to continue to convince myself that this is a time to embrace this character building experience as an opportunity to have total freedom in ordering whatever I like and just grit and bear the consequences.
Chinese food is not one that can be gluten/onion free very easily so it was exciting to order the tasty dishes we wanted instead of the select few adjustable ones. Old Cathay has a warm and inviting interior and was full of customers on a Thursday night. The staffs were very welcoming despite us being Scoopon customers (something not all restaurants do!). Upon being seated we were quickly informed our Cathay tasting plate was being prepared and our bottle of wine was brought to the table. We had choice of white or red – we chose the white (Rothbury Estate SSB). We requested to order an additional entree to the coupon offer which was no problem.
The platter contained 2 Golden Vegetarian Spring Rolls, two Prawn Twisters, one bowl of Chicken Kerabu Salad and two Crunchy Prawn Kataifi. The spring rolls were fresh and hot. The two prawn dishes were both fried and looked like heart attack central. I’m not the hugest fan of deep fried food; however these were actually very crispy and light and didn’t leave my mouth feeling full of oil. In addition to the platter we ordered the boy’s favourite: Soft shelled crab. This was not the tastiest soft shelled crab I’ve had – it felt like it was missing a dipping sauce? Nevertheless it also was crispy and not soggy at all.
For mains our Scoopon included two mains so we ordered the Old Cathay Gui Fei Tofu and the Kung Po Squid. Being food obsessed, we always both tend to want to order more food than is humanly possible to eat so we ordered an extra main of the sweet and sour pork. I’m not usually a big tofu fan, I don’t hate it, but I never think to order it. But Old Cathay tofu is something not to be missed. They make their own tofu and it was wonderfully soft as silk in my mouth. It was accompanied with shredded chicken, mushroom & carrots. The Kung Po squid was stir fried with dried whole chillies and cashew nuts. The sauce with this dish was scrumptious. Unfortunately this dish was a little lukewarm and ideally should have been served at a hotter temperature. The sweet and sour pork had decent sized pieces of meat with a light batter cover that maintained its crispiness and hadn’t gone soggy in the sauce – fresh! The sauce was tangy and gingery and not overpoweringly sweet. A winner for sure.
To end our overindulgent evening, our coupon included a desert each. I was so excited to see red bean pancake on the menu – a Chinese delight I have been deprived of for many years! Imagine my disappointment when they told me there wasn’t any left! Boo! Instead we ordered the Taro Ice Cream and the Sago Gula Melaka served with Ice Cream. These were fairly standard dishes although I like the extra touch of shaved crispy coconut pieces on the top.
I am already planning our return before my gluten clock runs out – to be continued……
Venue 8/10 Service 8/10 Food 7.8/10Old Cathay | 59 Albany Hwy, Victoria Park 6100 | (08) 9361 1881 | www.oldcathay.com.au
We dined here with my business partners last night and had a fabulous evening. The staff were all very enthusiastic and cheerful without being overbearing, and assisted us to select some of their delicious tapas style dishes. Unfortunately for me, my doctor’s orders are to subject me to the unpleasantness of a gluten challenge prior to coeliac testing. I tend to be a glass half full type so I have embraced this harrowing experience as a way to enjoy what I used to miss out on. This led us to sample “two of each” of the breads on the menu. There was a toasted ciabatta with truffle mascarpone, the ciabatta was light and crunchy and had a lovely buttery after taste. The house flat bread provided a contrasting texture and was heavy and tangy like sourdough. It came with marinated olives.
For our first “round” we tried the Jamon, the sweet potato skordolia and the duck. The jamon was delicately sliced and quite sweet to taste. It was accompanied by buffalo mozzarella, slow-roasted tomato and a drizzling of basil oil. The sweet potato skordolia didn’t look like much but was very flavoursome and the sweetness complimented the jamon. It was accompanied by char-grilled broccolini, pine nuts and goat’s cheese. The duck was the least favourite of this course; it was a little dry and lacked the strong flavours of the other dishes.
For our second course we had the Khatta-style pork ribs, the scallops, and the lamb. The pork ribs were to die for and came with some kombu pickle. They were cooked perfectly, and contained mainly meat not fat. One of the highlights of the night. The Seared scallops with jamón crumb served with potato crisps were tender and juicy however the scallops had some variability with size meaning some guests got tiny scallops. Despite this, this dish was also one of my favs. The Sumac lamb with pomegranate came with baba ganoush on the side. The lamb was seasoned well but slightly overcooked.
To accommodate for the vegetarians at the table we also ordered the Balsamic beetroot with char-grilled asparagus, the crispy polenta and the potatas bravas. I didn’t try the beetroot but others commented it was a great dish. The Crispy polenta with Gorgonzola cream, hazelnuts and portobellos was really tasty. I could have ordered more of it. The Potatas bravas weren’t the best I’ve had – they lacked the crispiness that highlights this dish.
For desserts we continued in the vein of the bread ordering and ordered “two of each”! The White-chocolate mousse with lemon custard and shortbread was the perfect texture and not too sickly sweet. Being used to the restrictions of a GF diet for years, I felt very naughty indulging in the Cinnamon ricotta doughnuts but loved every moment! I didn’t get to try the Balsamic strawberry cheesecake as it was demolished by others quickly – I’m guessing this is a good sign. The least enjoyable two dishes were the Melting chocolate fondant and the Persian orange macadamia cake.
The fondant was mean to be filled with oozing chocolate goo but when we cut into it, it was dry. The waiter promptly noticed this and said he would remove it off the bill. The Persian orange cake was dry and had minimal zest to it – I definitely think the recipe needs a revise as it is the only GF option on the dessert menu.
The cheese platter was a perfect comination of soft French Brillat Savarin, hard sheep’s Pecorino Romano and a Gorgonzola. I wish I had more room to fit these in!
All in all it was a wonderful experience, great food, awesome service – and we all look forward to returning!
Food 8.1/10, service 8.5/10, venue 8/10
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127 james street