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
People come and go in your life; sometimes through your own choosing and sometimes due to circumstances out of your control. Their departure can often be filled with all sorts of mixed emotions but when you know that their decision is a good one for them personally it makes saying goodbye so much easier. We recently bade goodbye to a dear friend and colleague who is entering a new chapter in their life; one that I’m certain will give them the security and happiness they deserve. To bid him farewell, we dined at the Kailis Bros Fish Café, Leederville for a simple, fresh seafood meal.
I had spent the earlier part of the day at Feral Brewery for lunch for a friend’s baby shower and was grateful there were many light options on the menu. I was informed that many of the dishes could be adapted to be gluten free as they only involved simple ingredients while relying on the freshness of the seafood to take centre stage.
For entrée I started with the herb and garlic crusted scallops with fresh chill. Kailis’s Bros support sourcing local produce and their scallops are West Australian, from either up North in Carnarvon or from the icy water of Esperance depending on the time of year. Each lightly browned scallop was a delicate, tender pillow of flavour and my notion that I was too full from my lunch passed from my consciousness as I plopped each morsel into my mouth in quick succession. The Boy made a little underhanded comment at my speed of eating which I can only presume meant he wished that I saved him one! His consolation prize was getting to mop up the remaining garlic juices on my plate with his garlic bread instead.
The Boy couldn’t see any vegetarian meals on the menu and so he reluctantly ordered the octopus “a la grec”. For this dish the octopus is carefully simmered in red wine and then grilled. Having recently been very spoilt with some mind blowing “pulpo” in Barcelona I was interested to see how Kailis’s version matched up. After just one mouthful I was left wishing I had ordered this dish instead of my scallops. There was no chewiness or rubbery texture; each piece was as soft and as tender as I recall it being in Spain.
Our guest of honour ordered the grilled New Zealand flounder which he explained was a common dish he ate during his childhood. Having not eaten it in decades he took a bit of a gamble trying to rehash an old school favourite but thankfully he was not disappointed. The fish was served whole with a “latho lemano” dressing which is a traditional Greek baste made with lemon juice, olive oil, wild Greek oregano and a dash of fresh ground black pepper. The meat flaked away off the bone easily and despite this fish’s huge size our friend managed to slowly but deliberately work his way through the lot.
For my main I both ordered the pan seared Tasmanian salmon with a sweet & sour tamarind glaze, sautéed baby corn and bok choy. I was impressed to see the kitchen staff take gluten contamination seriously and ensured my fish was grilled on a separate fresh grill. Not all eating establishments have this level of understanding for what is needed to ensure there is no gluten in their food. The salmon skin was super crispy whilst the steak was just past the point of being rare making it lusciously soft. The tamarind sauce was a touch too sweet for my liking and needed a tiny bit more balance with its other key elements of sourness and spiciness.
We also ordered a few sides to fill in the gaps including crunchy roasted Royal Blue potatoes with wild oregano and sea salt, a green leaf salad with shaved Reggiano parmesan and cracked black pepper and some sautéed seasonal vegetables with tarragon butter. The potatoes were crisp on the outside with a lovely soft centre and were one of the first things to be finished at our table.
Just when we thought we had no room left for sweets, our waitress came over to our table with their daily selection of desserts. She advised us that all their desserts are made in house fresh each day by their dedicated pastry chef.
Once again bursting at the seams I wondered to myself if I would ever gain the ability to exhibit self-control at this point of the evening. I dismissed such a crazy idea and chose the lemon and lime crème brûlée to share with the Boy. Other options included a tiramisu, sticky date pudding and a couple of other more creative looking options. Our choice was a hit all around the table with each couple sharing one brûlée between each other. A well rounded night out indeed.
I have always found Kailis Brothers Fish Café to reliably satisfy me at every visit. They maintain their reputation by staying true to themselves serving the freshest of seafood with minimal fuss. They promote West Australian produce in particular and remain in my humble opinion one of the best providers of fresh seafood in Perth to the public.Kailis Brothers Fish Café 101 Oxford Street, Leederville WA 6007 | (08) 9443 6300 | www.kailisbrosleederville.com.au Price: $$$$ (Entrée $12.50-26.50, Mains $27-48) Food: 4/5 (exceedingly fresh seafood needs minimal additional work) Service: 3.5/5 (friendly and welcoming but a bit slow on the drinks service) Ambience: 3.5/5 (busy, loud and non-pretentious) Drinks: 4/5 (a proudly WA heavy wine list with a good selection by the glass) Total: 15/20
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
It’s only one week until our engagement party! And even better still nearly everyone is coming! My Mum is travelling over from Adelaide and my sister is flying in from Melbourne. I am actually originally from the Eastern states but I have lived over here for seventeen years with a few years also in London. During my time in sunny Perth my Dad and Step mum have not been able to attend any of my little life milestones – not my 18th, my 21st, my University graduation or even my 30th birthday. So you can imagine my delight when they told me without hesitation that they are both flying over for our engagement party! To top it all off; my estranged best friend who has lived up in Dongara for far too long has decided to take the plunge and move down to Perth to live with her boyfriend. This means two of my gorgeous bridesmaids will both be in Perth for all the wedding planning and festivities!
To celebrate her arrival in Perth and also to celebrate her birthday which was earlier in the week, we all decided to have a little night out down on the local strip in Vic Park. Unfortunately for me I had a busy day planned at work the next day so it wasn’t going to be a crazy night. It was such a beautiful evening so the boy and I decided we would walk down instead of driving. I work in a very busy Veterinary Hospital and I was still really wound up from an absolutely insane day. The day had been a stressful yet very rewarding as we were flooded with a string of critical emergencies cases all of which we managed to save! This left me on a bit of a giddy high so we held hands, talked and strolled in the setting sunlight down to Albany Highway.
We all met at The Publican for few pre-dinner drinks. The crowd was a bit older than we normally expect to see on a Friday night and there was a one man band playing music that would have been better suited on the Love Boat. Good company has a way of improving things so despite the horrendous tunes we stayed for a few rounds and chatted away about how she is settling into the city lifestyle and about the upcoming engagement party outfits.
We moved on from The Publican and started walking down Albany Highway looking for somewhere to eat. We were drawn into the Vietnamese restaurant Phu Pho which unlike the other neighbouring bare and brightly lit Asian restaurants had inviting soft lighting and modern interiors. Although my last visit to the Park was also for Vietnamese I figured maybe this may be a way to do a bit of a comparison of the popular To To’s versus Phu Pho.
We were greeted with lots of smiles from all the staff – they were all lovely and very polite. I remember similar treatment when we ordered some take out from here recently. Service was prompt although it took a little explaining for them to understand what gluten was which always makes me a little nervous. We started with the obligatory Vietnamese fresh rice paper rolls. I cannot imagine a Vietnamese meal without them. We ordered grilled beef rolls and the combination rolls with prawn, pork and omelette. The rolls were presented on their own on the plate – no fuss and no garnish. They were made filled to capacity and were so fat it was nearly a struggle to open my mouth wide enough to fit them in. The combination rolls were fairly standard fare, and I also felt the dipping sauce was a little too mild and bland. The beef rolls were tastier than the combination rolls; the beef tasted like it had some marinade to improve flavour.
For mains we ordered four dishes all to share. Learning from my bestie’s boyfriend that crispy duck is actually flourless therefore hopefully gluten-free, we ordered some duck accompanied with Chinese mushrooms. The duck was very meaty and not covered in fat, but it wasn’t served hot enough and could do with some extra crisp in the skin. The mushrooms were a delicious addition to the dish which would have been less enjoyable without them.
The sizzling Mongolian beef was quite tasty although once again I forgot to ask for no onions. There was much less onions to negotiate compared to To To’s so it wasn’t really a problem for me. Better still the dish wasn’t just meat and onions (like To To’s) and actually had a range of other crunchy vegetables included. Again I felt this dish could have been made spicier – in hindsight I should have asked for some extra chilli on the side as the boy can’t tolerate too much chilli.
The Tamarind king prawn was the best dish of the evening. You are probably thinking I’m turning into a tamarind addict and you may very well be right. I blame Thailand and all her delicious tamarind dishes we have enjoyed for creating this new obsession to add to my growing list.
Finally to add some green to our meal we had the Sambal with garlic and oyster sauce. Although this dish was served with a lot of garlic, it wasn’t overpowering and made the perfect light addition to the rest of our more heavy dishes.
Overall in comparison to the other week at To To’s, I feel the food here was much more flavoursome. I also preferred that their meat dishes included some vegetables other than just onions. Only the rice paper rolls were not quite as good. Nevertheless if I had to pick between the two restaurants I think would return to Phu Pho.
Food 7/10 Service 7.5/10 Venue 7/10Phu Pho Vietnamese Rice and Noodle House 800 Albany Highway, East Victoria Park | (08) 9361 2139
I cannot believe we are back in Thailand already! It was only about three months ago we arrived in Phuket for the first time to celebrate our dear friend’s wedding and yet here we are again. But better still this time we are here to start planning our own wedding! So exciting! We were both so amped to start the hunt for our venue and after our interesting culinary experiences at the Patong night markets last night we were also pretty keen to enjoy some more traditional Thai food!
I am a bit of an organisational freak – I gain great pleasure in planning things down to the finite detail. So in my preparation for our wedding venue search I had spent hour upon hour back home in Perth trawling over the internet to ensuring we would to check out every perceivable suitable wedding location in Phuket. After numerous emails I managed to whittle my ridiculously long list down to a much more manageable eight resorts.
Our first stop was Andara Resort in Kamala. I was really attracted to the idea of staying in Kamala as there are a lot of little restaurants and bars all within walking distance from each other. A full spectrum of accommodation options can be found ranging from the exquisite Andara Resort and Villas to the much more economical and family orientated Courtyard Marriott Resort that we were staying in this time round. In addition to this it is much more family friendly than the madness of Patong and a fair bit cleaner as well!
Andara Resort sits up on the hillside towards the southern end of Kamala beach overlooking the blue expanse of the Andaman Sea. Immediately upon entering their luxurious lobby we both felt a really good vibe and looking about the place it just felt very “us” which was very good start. We were promptly greeted by the resort wedding planner Mod. She initially sat us down to show us some photos of a few weddings set up around the resort pool and also in their spectacular villas. Having seen many of these stunning photos previously in her emails I was impatient to view the property and was hoping that it wasn’t going to disappoint.
In some ways, it was kind of shame that we both fell in love with the very first venue that we looked at as over the course of the next week we found the majority of other locations we visited just simply didn’t compare. Not even close! There were only two other locations we saw that could begin to match up to Andara’s beauty – Trisara in the far north of the island, and the very expensive Amanpuri.
The villa that Mod recommended as her favourite for us to have our wedding ceremony sits high on the edge of the cliff and is built over three levels giving every room incredible views of the sea. No detail is left untouched throughout the villa with exquisitely appointed interior design using natural dark wood and warm Thai silks to create a beautiful wow factor throughout. She said they could arrange a platform to be placed in the infinity pool allowing us to say our vows with uninterrupted views of the bay as our backdrop! Imagine that! Saying our vows with views like this will be breathtaking!
Mod’s beaming pride as she watched us appreciate the beauty of the resort shone through as she took us on a detailed tour of the whole resort, showing us their world class, icy cool air-conditioned gym (which rivals my university gym back at home) and the enormous and elegantly appointed spa which included a whole level of rooms for the bridal party to beautify. We then ended the tour in their popular restaurant Silk overlooking their spacious pool deck.
After our detailed tour, we were then treated to a complimentary four course Thai lunch where the chef’s had carefully prepared Thai dishes taking into consideration both my fructose malabsorption and gluten intolerance. Unfortunately I didn’t take any photos of this lovely meal as Mod, the boy and I were busy engaged in lengthy conversation talking about further details in which Andara could provide us with an amazing wedding. Highlights of our lunch included Goong cinnamon (Cinnamon prawn – to die for!), Tom yam soup and absolutely huge Tiger prawns cooked in garlic and pepper and presented gorgeously.
To help us to make our decision we headed back to Andara for dinner on one of our final nights in Phuket. I thought seeing as I’m actually able to punish myself with gluten while on the prescribed gluten challenge I wouldn’t be quite so restrictive and let loose a little on the menu. For entrée we ordered a started platter which had some fish cakes, chicken wrapped Pandanus leaves and prawns. The chicken was soft and fell apart in the mouth and was sweetly scented with the Pandanus. The prawns were wrapped in noodles – similar to what we ate at Old Cathay, but less oily and easier to eat. After memories of our enjoyable meal at Old Cathay returning to my mind, I also ordered some satay tofu. This was not silky smooth this time round and definitely didn’t excite either of us.
To keep the boy happy for mains we ordered some soft shelled crab, one of his favourites, which were deliciously meaty and crispy, some tamarind duck and stir fried Morning Glory. Morning Glory is considered a weed in Australia however is very popular in a lot of parts of South-east Asia where it is often called “water spinach”. It is quite sweet in flavour, not bitter at all, and was cooked very simply with oyster sauce and garlic.
After all this delicious Thai food, I can’t help but wonder….I do hope all our wedding guests are happy to eat Thai at our reception? I just don’t feel right going to a country that has such wonderful culinary culture and eating “Western food”.
For more about our trips to Thailand click here