If you live in Perth and have attended any food festivals or hawkers markets, you will probably will have heard of Red Hot Spatula. Lead by Yvonne Bleach with additional help from her family members, they have become one of my guaranteed sources of a gluten free dish when at a food festival as often, unfortunately, this can be a little lacking from other stall holders.
I first met Yvonne a couple of years ago at Perth’s famous Cake Club. Since then we have become great friends and will often cross paths at the various food events we both attend. In addition to feeding the market-loving masses, Red Hot Spatula also provides a catering service in addition to running a variety of cooking classes in their commercial kitchen located in Middle Swan. Topics of these classes range from Asian cuisines such as Chinese Dim Sum and Malaysian, to Spanish Tapas and making pasta.
My last Red Hot Spatula class that I attended was about a year ago before she had her own kitchen to work in. I haven’t had the chance to attend one of her classes since, so when she kindly invited me and a guest to her Singapore Hawkers Food cooking class it was an offer that was too good to refuse. I invited Colleen who is one of my close friends from work to join me. Her parents lived in Singapore for years and she is a big fan of Hawkers food.
The classes are conducted in small group sessions of no more than ten people. I recommend that you make sure to arrive with a big appetite as you will leave the cooking class feeling very full. For our Singapore hawkers food cooking class Yvonne and her mum demonstrated to us how to prepare five different dishes which were served up over the course of the evening. Our first course was grilled crisp tofu pockets (Tahu Bakar) with Rojak sauce.
To prepare these the tofu puffs are cut in half and grilled over hot pan before being stuffed with a flavoursome filling made from roasted shrimp paste, chilli and tamarind along with some fresh bean sprouts, cucumber and then topped with roasted peanuts. These tasty morsels didn’t last long!
Our second course was Ngoh Hiang, which I can basically describe as kind of a Hawkers version of a sausage roll, but much tastier! The meat stuffing is made from minced pork belly, dried shrimps, coarsely chopped prawns, water chestnuts, carrot and soy.
The stuffing is wrapped in bean curd skin before being steamed and then deep fried. It was mesmerizing to see how neatly Yvonne’s mother could wrap each roll in succession with every roll matching the exact size of that before it.
Our next course was one of my favourite South-east Asian street foods, otak otak. It is a snack that I know will always be gluten free and tastes amazing. For those not in the know, otak otak are a type of fish cake which wrapped in banana leaves and baked.
They are made using blended white fish combined with egg white, rice flour, coconut cream and a variety of spices including turmeric, candlenuts, kaffir lime, lemongrass, garlic, belacan (dried shrimp paste) and chilli.
Having successfully worked our way through three entrées it was time to move onto our main course, Rochor mee or fried Hokkien prawn noodles. Being mindful of the risk of contamination with gluten for cooking Yvonne was very kind to make up a gluten free batch of noodles for me first by omitting the wheat noodles before going onto cook the more traditional style for the remaining guests.
I always thought noodles were just a quick, almost lazy dish made with a bunch of ingredients all thrown into a wok with a dash of soy and a splish of fish sauce. Maybe that’s why I was never really a big noodle eater. But these noodles were out of this world! I found out that the secret trick that makes these noodles so incredibly delicious was that they were cooked in a homemade prawn stock.
Yvonne showed us how to prepare the stock before cooking up a big batch of noodles for the gluten eaters with both the rice noodles and the wheat noodles. She also tossed in bean sprouts, fish cake, fresh prawns, squid rings and pork belly. Despite serving up a huge plate, everyone managed to eat every last morsel.
Despite groans around the table of fullness followed by a lot of belly patting, it didn’t take long for us to find some room for our final course, little bite size sweets called Ondeh ondeh. These are made from pandan flavoured glutinous rice flour and filled with liquid palm sugar which bursts into your mouth when you bite into them. Despite having already eaten so much, there were hard to resist.
As the night drew to an end I was thankful I had only eaten a small lunch as we had certainly worked our way through a lot of food. I was amazed at how easy it was to prepare Hawkers food gluten free. Each class participate received a full list of recipes from all the dishes so Colleen and I promised to each other that our next catch up will have to be trialling these recipes out for ourselves!Disclaimer: Chompchomp and her companion Colleen were invited guests of Red Hot Spatula. Red Hot Spatula Cooking Classes Unit 5/5 Toodyay Road, Middle Swan, WA 6056 | www.redhotspatula.com.au
Being gluten free and having a mostly vegetarian husband, Korean restaurants are not usually our type of thing. From my experience it is a type of cuisine that tends to use marinades containing gluten and will also have a lot of meat based dishes. At the beginning of the year I was invited to visit The Gaya in Applecross where I was amazed at the number of gluten free options on their menu. I got so excited I nearly ordered everything and struggled to sleep that night as I had eaten way too much. It was a fabulous night out with the food exceeding our expectations in both its presentation and taste. We both agreed we should make plans to return but never actually got around to doing it. Six months later Gaya’s Head Chef Leo invited me to return back to his restaurant to try a few of his new dishes.
In contrast to our previous visit, the restaurant was much busier with most tables booked and the lights dimmed to create a more ambient atmosphere. I scanned over the menu and noted there were still a reasonable number of gluten free dishes available however a few that were previously gluten free were no longer so including the arancini. I enquired to Leo the reason for this and he informed me that he has had difficulty obtaining gluten free panko crumbs. Such a shame as his arancini were really good! Never mind, we were here to try the new dishes and not stuff our faces with favourites of the past!
Our first dish was the grilled tofu with homemade kimchi. The tofu was silken soft with the texture of egg custard. The kimchi was mild without too much kick in it much to the relief of the Boy who can get quite grumpy if I order spicy food that he cannot eat.
Our second starter was yook jijimi, a type of beef pancake. Thin slices of beef coated in glutinous rice flour and egg were fried and served with Korean garlic chives, crispy fried enoki mushrooms and roasted pine nut salt. In traditional Korean herbal medicine garlic chives are commonly used for a variety of benefits. Chef Leo loves adding them to many of his dishes to help give his customers “good health”.
For this visit to Gaya I managed to show much greater self-control and only ordered us three starters instead of the five that we ate last time. Our third starter was the beef brisket salad. Leo informed me that brisket is a popular cut of meat used in Korea however he has discovered it isn’t one commonly sold in Perth. He has managed to source his brisket from a specialised local Korean butcher. The brisket was sliced and lightly grilled to give a strangely buttery texture due to its high fat content. It was served with a mixed salad of mesclun leaves, tomato and cucumber. As the Boy doesn’t really eat much meat he left this one for me to enjoy.
To accompany our main meals we once again each received the complimentary side dish. This dish changes most evenings so regular customers won’t get the same dish twice. This night we were served Korean meatball with chopped tofu and vegetable, white kimchi and radish kimchi.
The Boy got little choice with selecting his meals as it was my goal was to try to order anything on the menu that fitted my two criteria; one that it was gluten free, and two that it was a new, yet to be tried dish. For our first main I ordered the grilled salmon.
The thick salmon steak had been marinated in yuzu allowing the flavours to penetrate right through the fillet. I prefer my salmon to be served rare and it was cooked a little bit past this point however still remained quite soft and flaky.
It accompanied a warm stack of vegetables including zucchini, pumpkin, eggplant and enoki mushrooms with a polite sized ball of sticky coconut rice. The dish was an interesting balance of sweet and citrus ending with a spicy finish from the Korean chilli sauce drizzled over the top. The fusion of more Western styled vegetables with the remaining Korean components worked well to my relatively untrained palate.
Our second dish was the samgyetang; a type of ginseng chicken soup. Samgyetang is a dish commonly served in Korean during summer as it is claimed to help replenish the body with nutrients lost through sweating. A whole baby chicken is stuffed with glutinous rice and boiled in a broth of Korean ginseng, red dates, garlic and ginger. Traditionally a number of medicinal herbs are also added to the broth.
Whilst this appeared to be a simple bowl of chicken soup, once I sipped the broth I realised what care had been taken in its preparation as the flavours were very nourishing and heart-warming. Whilst I struggled to imagine drinking this soup in the heat of summertime, I could easily picture myself snuggled up to the cats, sick in bed with the flu whilst sipping on this delicious medicine to aid my recovery.
As an interlude whilst we made room for dessert, we were given the second complementary dish of the evening. It was a serve of small shortbread-like biscuits that I correctly presumed not to be gluten free and left them for the Boy to nibble on. He told me the biscuit was nothing particularly special but I thought it was a nice touch for customers to receive something extra for free.
For dessert I caved and ordered the Gaya Ho-tuck, one of my favourites from our previous visit. Ho-tuck is a type of Korean pancake that is served by street food vendors in Korea. They consist of small pancakes made with glutinous rice flour and stuffed with brown sugar, sunflower seeds, peanuts and pine nuts before being deep-fried. The ho-tuck are then dusted in cinnamon and sugar before being torched to caramelise before serving. Not something I would recommended if you have a heart problem or diabetes, but for the rest of us a delightful treat.
The new dessert on the menu is the Gaya’s homemade Gold Pave chocolates. Three different flavours of homemade chocolates topped with flamboyant gold flakes certainly made a sparking bright end to the night. The three flavours were cacao, matcha and mixed grain.
The cacao and matcha flavours were gluten free but the mixed grain contained barley along with rice, bean, sesame and adlay (a type of millet). Leo advised me that he is likely to remove the barley from this in the future to make this third chocolate gluten free like the others.
It was wonderful to return to the Gaya once again and see that Chef Leo and his team’s hard work is paying off with a fully booked restaurant, an interesting and changing menu and very affordable dishes.The Gaya Applecross Shop 3 & 4, 3 Kearns Crescent, Ardross WA | (08) 9364 8887 | www.the-gaya.com Chompchomp dined as a guest of The Gaya Applecross. As it is too hard to be 100% subjective with a complementary meal I will refrain from giving a review or score and will purely just document my experience.
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.
My friends often joke about an aspect of my personality referred to as the “all or nothing”. According to them, I have a habit of applying this methodology to most of my life. I eat all the cakes or no cakes. I order all the cheese or no cheese. I buy four dresses after a year of buying none. You get the drift. So when the Boy suggested we do a predominately vegetarian, no alcohol detox diet after the New Year, I took the whole idea very seriously and proceeded to book us into a number of vegetarian restaurants around Perth. Just because we were being healthy didn’t mean we had to stop eating out did it? We visited The Raw Kitchen and Solomon’s Café in addition to doing a three day juice cleanse with Au Naturale.
I can tell you that going vego is no longer a boring diet of carrot sticks and hummus; in fact it makes quite the flavoursome lifestyle change. Towards the tail end of our detox we booked lunch at Heavenly Plate online with a Dimmi special which offered a 50% discount off the total bill. Heavenly Plate is a quaint little restaurant positioned on the busy part of Canning Highway just after the bridge in Applecross. As we entered we walked past their menu board and the Boy asked me “Are you SURE this is all vegetarian here? It says chicken and pork on the menu?”
Upon further reading of their menu, I confirmed to the Boy that everything was in fact ALL vegetarian and that the “pork” and “chicken” are made from tofu and other vegetable products. Prior to our visit I had perused over their website and seen that they make some very spectacular looking cakes in house. So before placing our ordering I walked over to check out their cake cabinet and make our selection. There were a number of beautifully decorated cakes on display but unfortunately the waitress informed me that although they were all vegan not a single one was gluten free. I couldn’t hide my disappointment from my crestfallen face.
We started off with a couple of small bites while I pondered on what to do about my cake dilemma as I had totally geared myself up for a sweet feast. Our first dish was the crispy yam rolls, paired with fresh mint and strawberries these rolls were an interesting yet addictive starter. They were made from soft rolls of sweet potato and yam wrapped in vermicelli noodles and subsequently deep fried which turned the noodles into a fine crunchy net encasing the super soft “meat” inside.
None of the remaining starters on their lunch menu were gluten free so we ordered a serve of scrambled “vegan eggs” made from tofu and coloured with turmeric. They looked eerily like real egg and left the same texture in the mouth. The taste was slightly different to egg but certainly didn’t taste overwhelmingly like tofu either. I could see myself successfully tricking a few meat eating friends with this dish!
The Boy ordered the Japanese burger with wedges. His burger was made with a marinated teriyaki “steak” in between two patties of Japanese rice and finished with fresh lettuce, tomato and cucumber.
This dish couldn’t be made gluten free so I didn’t get to taste it but he did say that it was very similar to eating a real meat burger except for the rice bun. He started to scheme how he could fool his carnivorous mates into coming back to Heavenly Plate and eating all these tofu dishes unknowingly. He is a man who loves a good practical joke.
With my cake dismay lingering in my mind, I had to have something sweet for my main. Our waitress told me that both the cinnamon French toast and the pancakes could be made gluten free. I settled on the French toast.
It was a good choice. Those two slices of sweet buttered French toast gave me just the sugar hit I was looking for. The gluten free bread didn’t crumble apart or dissolve like many can do with the rigours of Frenching. Each piece was dusted lightly in cinnamon sugar just like my mum used to do and was served with maple syrup and mixed berry compote. Some extra compote was served on the side so that the toast didn’t go too soggy on the plate. A thoughtful touch.
At half price this was a definitely a lunch worth eating however I cannot deny I was disappointed in the number of gluten free options especially the lack of even just one cake. There are a few interesting creations on the menu in addition to a few dishes that will surprise your meat eating friends into enjoying eating vegan. Wonders never cease!Heavenly Plate 2/899 Canning Highway, Applecross WA 6153 | (08) 9316 8818 | www.heavenlyplate.com.au Price: $$ (Entrée $7-13, Main $13-22) Food: 3/5 (101 ways to eat tofu without knowing it’s tofu) Service: 3/5 (a little slow to start but unobtrusive and friendly) Ambience: 3/5 (has a quaint French provincial style) Drinks: 2/5 (fruit drinks tasted a little artificial) Total: 11/20
Something many of you may not know about me is that I am a quarter Chinese. My grandfather Wun on Tong immigrated from the Canton province in China to New Zealand in the 1930’s to flee the changes in government. He met my Irish grandmother in Auckland; they married and had a family of three children with my mum being the youngest. As is sometimes the way, their marriage unfortunately wasn’t meant to be and she left the children to be raised by their loving but hard working father. Sadly I never got to meet my grandfather as he passed away before I was born but my mum has very fond memories of him and has shown me some gorgeous photos of him. He was quite a handsome man!
My Chinese ancestry is one I know little about and I wish I had more knowledge of this side of my family. I love traditional Chinese food culture and I am not averse to trying unusual dishes however I am often heavily restricted with what I can actually eat because of gluten. Soy sauce is used ubiquitously in Asian cuisine however I am yet to see a bottle of gluten free soy sauce on supermarket shelves in any of the Asian countries I have visited.
Recently on our return from our Thailand wedding we stayed at the Mandarin Oriental Hotel in Singapore. One evening we dined at their Cantonese restaurant Cherry Garden and I was blown away how capable they were at accommodating my gluten free requirements.
I don’t usually like eating at the hotel we stay in excluding breakfast but with our post-wedding exhaustion kicking in we were both happy to be able to dine out without having to go very far. On arrival at Cherry Garden we were warmly greeted and taken to our table. We were offered some crispy fish as a complementary starter. They were like prawn crackers; crunchy, quite salty and very tasty. Fish pretzels!
One of my favourite Cantonese starters is chilled jelly fish. This is considered a delicacy and is usually prepared with oil, vinegar, chilli, sesame seeds and soy sauce. The chef was happy to make this dish gluten free for me. The jelly fish had the perfect texture and was resilient without any excessive chewiness. It wasn’t too spicy either meaning both the Boy and I could enjoy it together. We have mismatched chilli tolerances; he can barely tolerate any whilst I enjoy a bit of kick. Our polarised taste buds can run us into trouble sometimes when we share spicy meals.
Our next dish was a “trilogy of hand-picked mushrooms “. There were shiitake mushrooms in a spicy garlic vinegar emulsion and some Monkey head mushrooms in a tangy sweet and sour sauce.
The third and best part of this dish was the deep fried enoki mushrooms. Frying these tiny little things turned them into semi-translucent crisps that almost reminded me of whitebait. Being such a mushroom addict I was in seventh heaven, the combination of these three morsels made it a truly delectable dish. As we gobbled up the portions we were glad we didn’t choose the set menu as we would have never got this dish.
After walking past a number of bird’s nest stores earlier in the day, we were intrigued enough to try this delicacy for ourselves. Edible bird’s nests are among one of the most expensive animal products in the world with an average nest selling for about $US 2500 per kilo. When added to a soup, the bird’s nest forms a gelatinous substance. I was surprised at how mild its flavour was and it had quite a firm texture. The addition of crab and egg white gave the soup a lovely sweet after taste however I went bit nuts with adding the chilli oil to my soup, added too much and ended up nearly coughing up a lung.
Our next dish wasn’t quite what I was expecting. I ordered chilli crab anticipating it to be whole pieces of crab however out came a creamy crab soup. The Boy’s soup was served in a Mantou which is a type of Chinese bun and for mine they replaced this with some gluten free bread on the side. Considering how many fine dining Western restaurants don’t bother sourcing gluten free bread I was very impressed to be served some here. The soup was so velvety smooth and despite not being what I wanted I was not left disappointed.
Our final main dish was braised homemade tofu with monkey head mushrooms and green vegetables. The tofu was set with seaweed on top and was incredibly silky. It makes such a difference in texture when the tofu is made in house.
At this point our attention was drawn away from our own table and over to the couple next to us. The waiter had just brought out a spectacular looking dessert complete with dry ice. The smoke was tumbling down off the edge of their table and was mesmerising. I hoped that we could order one too. I was in luck once more. The waiter said that it would be possible to do a similar dessert gluten free. This would have to be the first time I have eaten a gluten free meal in a Chinese restaurant and not felt like I miss out whatsoever.
Our dessert consisted of cherries marinated in two Chinese rice wines: Nui er hong and Kuei hua chen. It was served with refreshing lychee sorbet. After so many courses it was good to end on something light but sweet.
Our experience at Cherry Garden was a polished one from beginning to end. It was a little on the pricey end but we did eat a number of delicacies and receive impeccable service. Their ability to adapt their traditional dishes to be gluten free was done with a can-do attitude and at the end of the night our waiter came over and gave me a fresh long stemmed rose to keep. A sweet gesture that brightened up our hotel room for the duration of our stay.www.mandarinoriental.com Price: $$$ Food: 4.5/5 (totally adapted for GF, wonderful flavours) Service: 5/5 (very polished without stuffiness) Ambience: 3/5 (a little dark and not a lot of other diners) Drinks: 3.5/5 (inflated mark ups on wine prices as often in hotels) Total: 16/20
After decades of suffering from the consequences of eating gluten, it has been incredible to discover what life is really about. No itching and scratching, no depression or wild mood swings, endless energy, the disappearance of embarrassing, unsightly eczema and best of all I feel on top of the world. Since learning more about my body and what it can and cannot digest, I have delved deeper and deeper into what IS ideal nutrition. Part of that journey has involved eating much more raw, unprocessed and plant based food. Whilst I’m not a strict vegetarian by any means, meat is only something I eat once or twice a week and the majority of that is seafood. Recently we took a weekend break down to Margaret River and fell off the wagon by eating and drinking ourselves into a blissful coma. After three days of pure gluttony it was time to head home by which point our bodies were crying out for something healthy. I had heard of a vegetarian café called Samudra located in the heart of Dunsborough and instructed the Boy to take us there urgently!
At home the Boy and I are very dependent on our Omniblend blender to allow us to drink freshly made smoothies regularly. I was suffering from smoothie withdrawal and needed one to hydrate and cleanse my poor overworked liver. Samudra have a number of freshly made juices and smoothies to choose from so I chose their “ABC” which contains apple, beetroot, carrot and ginger. I asked for them to not include the apple as I cannot eat them due to their high fructose content.
The waitress kindly replaced apple with celery and kale to give it an extra antioxidant boost. Sitting outside soaking up the sunshine, it was a wonderful feeling to treat my body with such fresh organic goodness and I vowed to have the next seven days off alcohol and all other decadent excesses.
Secretly I was craving eggs, so I chose the scrambled tofu which I figured would be pretty close in their texture at least. I was right. My “vegan eggs” were coloured bright yellow with added butternut pumpkin and resembled what I craved enough to leave me very satisfied. It was served on thick slices of grainy gluten free toast with tamari balsamic glazed Portobello mushrooms and zigzags of parsley pesto. Despite being a tower of food it didn’t leave me feeling overwhelmed or uncomfortably full.
The Boy ordered the breakfast burrito with smoky red kidney beans, smashed avocado, greens, tomato and coriander all wrapped in organic spelt mountain bread. It was wrapped tightly making it quite easy to eat and didn’t fall apart after one bite.
The sauce that accompanied it was very spicy and too hot for the Boy but it went very nicely with my tofu so I finished it off for him.
Earlier this year a few months before the Boy decided to be vegetarian, I suggested to him to try doing a six week “Meatless Monday Raw Food Challenge”. I planned out our recipes so we would only eat raw food on Meatless Monday, all of them adapted for my gluten free, fructose friendly diet. Prior to the challenge I never really realised how diverse a raw food diet could be. It was loads of fun and inspired me to eat more raw food in the future.
We probably didn’t really need sweets after a whole weekend of spoiling ourselves but it isn’t often you see raw, gluten free, dairy free carrot cake on the menu and after a little insistence the Boy agreed to share one with me. The only thing I have to be careful about with raw desserts is that they often contain a lot of dried fruit such as sultanas and dates which both hold a very high fructose content. I carefully negotiated parts of the cake that didn’t have dried fruit while the boy ate the remainder. It was moist, soft and had just a hint of sweetness.
As we were paying the bill, my emotions hit me; I was so sad that our short trip was all over. It had been a magical weekend away and was just what we both needed; for our inner selves and for each other as a couple. To end the wonderful experience with such a fresh, healthy breakfast left us smiling all the way back to Perth. I couldn’t help myself and bought us a bag of dried kale chips to snack on once we hit the half way mark and stretch out the holiday vibe as long as I could.Samudra 226 Naturaliste Terrace, Dunsborough WA 6281 | (08) 9779 9977 | www.samudra.com.au Price: $ (Breakfast $12-18) Food: 4/5 (lots of interesting choices, perfect for that healthy boost) Service: 3/5 (unobtrusive and meals came out fairly quickly) Ambience: 3.5/5 (Fremantle styled hippie chic) Drinks: 4/5 (this is the place to drink green!) Total: 14.5/20
Only a few weeks ago the Boy and I shared a very memorable lunch at Dear Friends and it was easily one of the best meals we have had in Perth for some time. I love their philosophy of focusing on local and seasonal produce with much of their ingredients being sourced directly from local farmers or foraged from the wild surrounds. On our way home that day we both decided to book in at their city restaurant Co-op Dining, East Perth to celebrate our six month wedding anniversary.
I am still nursing a broken toe therefore my ability to go running has come grinding to a complete halt. We enjoy eating out a lot and I am totally devastated that I can no longer burn it all off on the tarmac. Honestly, it won’t be long before I’m the size of a small house. In a vain attempt to mitigate the anticipated caloric excesses for our dinner we agreed to walk, or in my case shuffle, from our house to Co-op Dining. I sighed in disappointment that I cannot wear high heels, sulkily chucked a pair of flats in my LV bag and headed off in my flip-flops.
It was a Friday night and both of us had to work the next day meaning a degustation was unfortunately out of the question. Instead we chose the five course menu with a couple of suggested wines by the glass. A bit more of a reserved affair compared to our lunch date at Dear Friends when I am told I may have been a bit flamboyant.
Work or no work I just couldn’t commence this celebratory meal without some bubbles; Champagne definitely remains one of my weaknesses. Coop Dining serve NV Gosset Grande Reserve by the glass which comes from one of the oldest and original Champagne houses originating way back to 1584. Rich and creamy with incredible structure I made sure I savoured every drop. The Boy chose to bypass the booze and ordered a lemon and lime bitters made with lemon myrtle and fresh limes. Some of the soft house churned Guernsey butter that we had enjoyed at Dear Friends was served alongside some home-made bread.
Our first course was a sweet Manjimup marron served with peppery watercress puree, Swan River samphire, a twig of warrigal and some glistening syrupy fermented lime. The samphire has quite an unusual salty, tangy flavour and is foraged from the banks of an estuary near the Swan River. It was the same type of samphire that we enjoyed last year at Millbrook Winery as part of the Mushroom Mania campaign.
The Boy’s next dish was a luscious chestnut soup made from whole roasted chestnuts grown locally in Bridgetown. I really love how these guys are such great supporters of WA produce. His soup was rich and creamy and smelt like Paris in winter to me. For those who are yet to travel to this romantic city; roasted chestnuts are sold there as street food in cones of newspaper on the boulevards.
Although I was highly envious of the Boy’s heart-warming chestnut soup, I was not to be disappointed with my non-vegetarian option. Chef made his own rabbit chorizo which he served with some WA cuttlefish and more of that dangerously black squid ink puree that we enjoyed at our Dear Friends lunch. The slight gamey flavour of the rabbit was in no way overpowering and balanced graciously with a gentle kick from the cute little blob of kimchee. I successfully avoided getting any squid ink on me again. Winning. Maybe I’m gaining more coordination in my older years?
For our next dish, the house made soy tofu made a return visit too. I like how each of the menus for their restaurants shared key elements but then diverged out into their own individuality. Coop’s tofu dish looked so simplistic and symmetrical with each ingredient placed in alternation across the slate. Cubes of house made soy tofu and velvety soft chunks of confit carrot were sprinkled with dashes of spinach powder and placed on a bed of smoked egg yolk.
Looks can be deceiving and although this dish may appear basic, more complex flavours were thoughtfully hidden to surprise us. The smoked yolk was thick and strongly flavoured and gave the more subtle flavoured tofu and carrot a bit of oomph. The gently scented wild garlic is foraged on the Mainwaring’s property and I couldn’t help but smile when Kelli’s eyes lit up as she told us how each year they get so excited when they see it sprout up.
The Boy and I diverged again for our next course as mine included **shock horror** meat. I was given a choice of pork belly or Wagyu beef and opted for the later. Admittedly I confess that as it was a Friday night and as I was onto my third glass of wine by this point my mind had blissfully travelled off with the fairies. As a result I forgot to photograph my dish until I have already devoured a few wondrous mouthfuls. My deepest apologies dear readers, however I’m sure you can still get the idea what luscious cuts of beef they were from what was left on my plate. Cooked over bark and crusted with carbonised leek powder each piece of 4+ Wagyu beef was as soft as sashimi. The wine match for this dish was the 2012 Myattsfield Shiraz, Mourvedre, Viognier and was the second time I had tried this local wine from Myattsfield Wines. After our lovely outing at the Bickley Harvest Festival I have started to appreciate the sumptuous reds made in this region and are going to need to return for more.
The Boy’s vegetarian main focused on Jerusalem artichoke which is just still in season for a few more weeks. The artichoke was prepared two ways; cooked artichoke was compressed into chunks overnight and cooked sous vide and then for the base of the dish was artichoke purée. Chunks of leeks and courgettes tumbled in amongst Guernsey curd and Nasturtium flowers. Mushroom and green olive powder was sprinkled over for a strong flavour boost.
Although we only selected the five course menu, the chef was so kind to send us a complimentary cheese course. It was called Brin d’Amour, or “birth of love”. A perfect choice to celebrate our first six months as newly-weds! Chef Kiren makes this traditional Corsican cheese himself using half Guernsey and half ewes milk. Once made it is rolled in mustard seeds, house made smoked paprika, rosemary, oregano and black onion seeds. The whole process takes about two weeks. The cheese was served with carrot molasses and olive bread. I received some gluten free bread as a replacement.
I was a little off my form as I also forgot to take a picture of our pre-dessert; fresh Donnybrook mandarins and lemon scented fennel topped with Thai basil flowers. A mouthful of spring this cleansed the flavours of dairy goodness off our palates in preparation for our final course.
Once again I appreciated the personal touches made by the Mainwaring team to make our experience all the more memorable with “Happy” and “Anniversary” scribed in chocolate on each of our plates.
Juicy fresh Donnybrook Pink lady apples took the centre stage star for the finale. On a bed of peachy coloured apple puree laid an ice cool scoop of rhubarb sorbet encircled by portions of fresh and poached apples. Topped with slivers of glass sugar, oats and pistachios I loved the layering of textures, temperatures and flavours.
Our night ended with some healthy and cleansing Kombucha, a type of fermented slightly effervescent black tea.
It comes as no surprise that Co-op Dining came out winners at the recent Australian Gourmet Traveller Awards where they received a placing in the top 100 restaurants in Australia. Both Co-op and Dear Friends were also awarded One Star in the highly esteemed GT Restaurant Guide for 2014. This is a team that have proven and maintained their place as foodie “royalty” in Perth yet remain humble, modest and true to their passion. We will most definitely be back.Co-op Dining 2/11 Regal Place, East Perth WA 6004 | (08) 9221 0404 | www.co-opdining.com.au Price: $$$$ (5 course menu $95, 10 course menu $120, matched wines extra) Food: 5/5 (consistently excellent, original and proudly West Australian) Service: 5/5 (once again charming, enthusiastic and passionate) Ambience: 4/5 (would have been improved if busier but we had our own booth and each other, who needs more?) Drinks: 4.5/5 (wished I could have gone for matched wine as my selected few were wonderful ) Total: 18.5/20
One of our best wedding presents that we received was a gift voucher for a degustation at Dear Friends Restaurant in Caversham. Dear Friends is owned and run by Welshman Kiren Mainwaring and his Canadian wife Kelli. My first introduction to this team’s talent was at the final Largesse dinner held at Petit Mort last year. For this charity event he created a spectacular and beautiful dish of air dried ham, Swan Valley yolk, ajo blanch and foraged herbs. Since this evening I have longed to make the trip to their restaurant in the Swan Valley to be wowed by his creations once again.
Dear Friends is located on the rural flat lands of the Swan Valley and has featured in the Gourmet Traveller’s Restaurant Guide and the Good Food Guide year after year. Chef Kiren focuses on utilising the variety of local and seasonal produce from the region sourcing directly from local farmers or foraged from the wild surrounds. The entrance to the restaurant is quaint and understated, bordering on old fashioned. For our seven course degustation I chose to have the matched wines and for each course sommelier Kelli took time to explain to me the origin of each wine and why she chose it.
The Boy and I now each have our own individual dietary requirements; obviously I’m still gluten free and fructose friendly but more recently the Boy is a vegetarian. I can see how some kitchens would baulk at having the two of us as their customers. Upon arrival we were immediately made to feel relaxed and at ease as our dietary requirements presented the Dear Friends team with no problems. More importantly each of our dishes were not just ones with alterations and deletions but were carefully planned; plated with elegance and originality.
Our first course consisted of some “tasters”; call them modern day amuse bouche if you like. There were super cheesy Manchego tacos containing some house made fresh cheese, crispy lupin chips topped with eggplant and Saratoga chips with balsamic vinegar. Despite being proud of both my father’s French heritage and all the cheeses that come from this fabulous country I have to confess Spanish Manchego is by far one of my favourite cheeses. It has such a distinctive flavour and the tacos made me reminiscent of my recent over indulgence in Barcelona.
My next course was a Welsh styled watercress soup. Watercress is supposed to aid with the digestion and this soup certainly did sit wonderfully warm in my stomach. The soft flaky blue swimmer crab contrasted with the strong pepperiness from the watercress leaving a fresh crisp taste on the palate.
My third course was the same as the Boy’s as it was a vegetarian dish. Who on Earth said vegetarian food was boring? Silky cubes of home-made soy tofu and locally grown Swan Valley field and oyster mushrooms sat upon a richly flavoured bed of smoky tomato puree. Some crunchy parsnip chips provided an interesting change in texture. This dish threatened to turn any meat eater into a vegetarian!
My next course of West Australian cuttlefish was served with tender tips of new season asparagus, Muchea grown Japanese turnips and shavings of fennel. I was intrigued by these turnips having never eaten them before as they were nearly as sweet as the fennel and as soft like potato. As I made my way through each of the generous wine matches I was glad this dish featured early in the meal. I tend to be a bit of a messy eater; which can worsen the more wine I drink. I could see the potential for me making a complete spectacle of myself and ending up with black ink purée everywhere.
As much as I am very respectful and proud of the Boy in his strong decision to become a vegetarian, I am yet to join him 100% and for my next course I could sense his disapproval at me eating animal flesh. I can console myself that Dear Friends source their organic free range pork from Margaret River Big Red Pork. Big Red’s pigs are kept in small family groups and run free range in the creek lines, grass lands and woodlands of their farm. They are fed on a natural diet of grasses, legumes, grains and grubs which gives the meat a characteristic dark colour. The Kassler pork loin was cured using a German technique which involves smoking and ripening the meat in brine for about 7-10 days. It was served with yellow squash and pickled cucumber. The cucumber gave some lovely sweetened acidity to the saltiness of the meat.
There was no missing out for the Boy as his next vegetarian course looked just as mouth-watering as mine. A near-translucent slow cooked egg sat nestled in amongst a variety of freshly foraged vegetables and herbs. As he cut into the egg, the yolk burst into life engulfing everything on his plate. Regrettably I missed the opportunity to take a picture of this egg porn moment as I was far too engrossed enjoying my cured pork.
My final main course was undoubtedly one of the highlights. Over the years I have worked my way through eating a variety of slow cooked meats but this was my first opportunity to enjoy a lamb cutlet prepared in this way. It was just as delicately soft as you could ever imagine. To complete the decadence it was finished with a bone marrow jus. Oh heaven! I was grateful for the lack of pretension and stuffiness as I just couldn’t help myself picking up the chop with my fingers and nibbling every last tasty morsel off the bone, not something I could get away with at every fine dining establishment. My Mum would shudder at the thought!
The Boy’s final main dish was a thick Glamorgan sausage served with Brussel sprouts, celeriac and broccoli. Glamorgan sausage is a traditional Welsh vegetarian sausage made with cheese, leek, potato, cabbage, herbs and breadcrumbs. A fermented Chenin hollandaise sauce was drizzled luxuriously over everything on his plate.
It was now time to veer away from all these amazing savoury courses and enjoy some sweets. Our pre-dessert teaser consisted of two medallions of macadamia and white chocolate chiboust which is basically pastry cream lightened with egg white meringue. Light and airy, each portion of chiboust dissolved with a “poof” on the tongue. Dollops of kumquat curd and glazed kumquats gave a tart element to the dish along with the nutty sweetness of shavings of locally grown macadamias. The Boy also received a paper thin peppercorn tuille.
Our dessert was quite possibly one of the most stunning carrot cakes I have ever seen. Made with purple carrots it was scattered in soft crumbles around a scoop of carrot ice-cream and decorated with honey comb, marshmallows, fresh blueberries and cute little sour grass flowers. As my belly expanded over the top of my pants it was hard to believe our magical afternoon was nearly over.
However as many of you will know, it doesn’t matter how full I am I can always fit in cheese. The cheese course at Dear Friends is an optional extra but if you have the gumption to squeeze it in I can highly recommend it. Our three cheeses were Ubriaco al Vino Rosso, an Italian hard cheese from Northern Italy, a West Australian brie from Dellendale in Denmark and Colsten Bassett Shropshire Blue, a lesser known blue from the same cheese makers as the famous English Blue Stilton. Kelli continued to be far too generous and offered me not one but two different wine matches to go with our cheese; thank goodness I wasn’t driving!
The concept of enjoying a coffee after a degustation is always so appealing. However most of our dego experiences are in the evening so unless I want to lay wide awake in bed all night I tend to end up drinking tea instead. I look on in envy at those that can drink coffee after dinner and then fall blissfully asleep. Being a lunch time meal I was in luck this time round as the time to sleep was still a long way off. Knowing this was a rare opportunity I made sure I savoured every last drop.
It is easy to see why Dear Friends has maintained their position as one of Perth’s top restaurants for a number of years. Sommelier Kelli provides charming and faultless service whilst each dish clearly shows Kiren’s passion and love for his craft. A definite thumbs up from both of us; and as we walked away we were already planning our visit to their East Perth digs Co-Op Dining.Dear Friends Restaurant 100 Benara Road, Caversham WA 6055 | (08) 9279 2815 | www.dearfriends.com.au Price: $$$$ ($115 for a 7 course degustation, $70 for matched wine) Food: 5/5 (each dish was filled with wonderment despite our different dietary requirements) Service: 5/5 (charming, knowledgeable and with a humble sense of well-deserved pride) Ambience: 4/5 (you do feel like you are in the country) Drinks: 4.5/5 (seamless matching of wines) Total: 18.5/20
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
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
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