Thursday, December 28, 2006

Orchard disaster and Chedi

Usually whenever my sister comes from Singapore, its a big feast. All we do is eat out, cook at home, go to coles and buy shitloads of snacks, eat out, cook a feast at home and buy more snacks. Everytime she comes, everyone puts on weight. Even when she has gone back to Singapore, we all continue to put on weight since she buys so much junk food, we spend a month clearing the fridge and pantry of everything she's purchased. This time round, with the kids being as bit older, she wanted to do a bit more than just eat.

I got an SMS from her a few days before they arrive that she wanted to take the kids to an orchard to pick their own fruit. After searching and searching for tours that includes a 4hour bus ride EACH WAY to Young, we decided to do some closer at Bilpin and drive there ourselves. Instead of taking 4 hours to get there, it was only 1.5hrs drive give or take. So we called up the Bilpin Springs Orchard to confirm that they are open on Saturday and that they have nectarins and cherries for picking! Yay!!

So we pack the kids into the car, load up bags of snacks and water and off we went. Luckily, the map I have includes the Blue Mountains area. However, Bilpin is so far out that it sits in the "map limit" and beyond. We tried to use my brother in laws GPS, but it couldn't even find Bilpin. So I went with my instincts and started driving, but I was stupid enough to ask my sister to direct. Note to self, ALWAYS trust your own instincts. After a few wrong turns, a few U-turns, and lots of screaming at each other, we finally pull into the driveway at the Bilpin Spring Orchards only to be greeted by a "CLOSED" sign. o_O

Not to worry we told ourselves, we're probably just too early. So we drive in anyway only to be told that they're not open on Saturdays. Like WTF? We called up to confirm that they WERE open on Saturdays! Then they proceeded to tell us they didn't have nectarins for picking, only plums and cherries. But that didn't matter because they wouldn't let us into the orchard anyway! Apparently if he lets us in, there won't be enough fruit for the people who rock up on the Sunday, and besides, they need to "set up" the place to let us pick fruit. What a load of bullcrap. I've been to many orchards and theres no "setting up" to be done. You're assigned an area, and thats the only area you can pick. The most they give you would be a box.

After alot of commotion, he basically told us that there is another orchard in Penrith that lets you pick Oranges on a Saturday. We grab the details and had to break the disappointing news to the kids. Seriously, we called up to confirm everything, then they back out and say they're not open. After driving there with a car load of kids, would it have killed them to give us 30mins to pick a few fruits? Atleast the kids got to play with their dog.....

By this time, it was close to 11 and the kids have been screaming that they were hungry for atleast an hour. So we decided to stop by the Bilpin Fruit Bowl, which is basically a fruit shop/grocery/touristy/cafe place which also has BBQ facilities and park benches as well as playground equipment for kids. We unload the kids from the car who went running and screaming through the fields:

The park behind the Bilpin Fruit Bowl

Meanwhile, the adults grabbed the bags of drinks and food to set up an impromptu picnic:

Soya sauce chicken wings

Home made gluten free sushi

And of course, my brother-in-laws trusty esky of Coke

So after chowing down all the food, we stuffed the kids back into the car and off we went to the Penrith Orange Orchards. And luckily, they were open. Unfortunately, it was end of the orange season so there wasn't much oranges left on the trees. And the ones that are left, are quite ugly and spotty looking. And they weren't even Navel oranges, they were Valencia oranges! *SIGH* But at the end of the day, it was more of the novelty value for the kids that kept us there. So we grabbed a few boxes and walked into the orchard, careful to avoid the possibly live electric fences.

We only picked a few oranges, since the ones we picked and ate, weren't that sweet. I personally don't like Valencia oranges. Infact, my whole family prefers the navel oranges over any other type of orange. We probably spent alot more time taking photos than picking fruit. But that could also be due to the fact that any decent oranges were too high up for us to pick! The kids still had a great time though!

And a big group photos with our bounty

After a long 1hour drive home and again, wrong directions from my sister! (I must trust my instincts and not listen to her!) I crashed into bed where I semi passed out, only to be woken by my sister. The plan was to go out for dinner at one of my favourite Thai restaurants Chedi. We called up and made a booking. I asked the owner whether they offered any Gluten/Dairy/Egg Free dishes and he basically replied that he cooks Gluten Free dishes for his customers all the time and he even uses the Tamari Gluten Free Soya Sauce! Absolutely perfect! Everytime my sister goes out for dinner, she basically has to cook a special meal for my niece since she can't eat anything in most restaurants. Whilst everyone is devouring everything infront of her, she has to eat her Gluten/Dairy/Egg free meal. Well, this time she can join in!

Chedi (formerly known as Thailand) is one of my favourite restaurants, not only because of the food, but because of their service (and free parking!). And any restaurant that my nephews like (Who are the pickiest eaters you'll ever meet) must be good. Plus theres the novelty value of sitting on a cushion floor!

Seated dining area

Cushion area

Intimate setting for two

There are fishies in the tank!

Chris and Jess

Brandon and Justin

Jess and Jonathan

My nephews have been out with me enough times to know that I like taking photos of food. They don't know WHY I take photos of food since I don't need them reading my blog with my sometimes "colourful" language. Plus, I need to maintain my fun but strict Aunty image in order to get them to listen to me (every now and then). If they knew half of the stuff I get up to, there will be no more order around the house!!

Anyway, onto the food! The owner, Greg, specially came to take our order and helped us make a selection of dishes that were Gluten/Dairy/Egg free! He also looked at us all bug-eyed when we asked him if we've ordered enough food. You see, when you order 2 serves of every dish, you sometimes don't remember that 5 variety of dishes = 10 ACTUAL DISHES. We didn't even realise that for 4 adults and 6 kids, we ordered 10 main meals and 2 entrees! What can I say? We're a family that likes pigging out!!

Thai fish cakes

These fish cakes were nicely flavoured, but not quite firm enough for my liking. I guess I'm used to our home made fish cakes that my mum makes where she uses fresh fillets of fish that she hand minces. None of this using a food processor nonsense. Its all done by hand! This gives the fish cakes extra bite and retains the fresh fish taste as its not over processed.

Tom Yum Goong

I LOVEEEEEEE Chedi's Tom Yum Goong. Unfortunately, its $9 for a small bowl which is why I rarely ever order it. The first time we ordered this, we got a large pot to share on the table and it was sooooooo good, a certain Zena Warrior Princess ate the entire pot along with all the rice in the restaurant! That's right! THEY RAN OUTTA RICE! They basically had to boil a new batch because someone could not stop eating the soup! *Rolls eyes*

Sweet and sour chicken, thai style

This is one of the kids favourite dishes. My nephews are generally not very adventurous eaters. So by ordering a familiar dish with a slight twist to it is a great way to introduce them to new food. Who knew that we would actually like the Thai version more than the Chinese version??

Duck Red Curry with Lychees

This was probably one of the best dishes of the night! My sister who didn't even want me to order this dish ended up eating half of it and all that was left of the dish was just the sauce, and she took that home with her as well! The red curry was deliciously aromatic and the lychee offered a sweetness to the curry that made the whole dish oh-so-good!!

Combination seafood on a Sizzling platter

The last time I came to Chedi with my friends, I practically choked to death when this dish was served to the table behind me. The chilli was pungent and the sizzling platter basically made the air around me burn my lungs inside out. But yet, it smelt soooooooo good! I mentioned this to Greg, and he must've taken it as a hint to tone down the chilli and lay off the sizzle. Especially with all the kids around. The dish was a big disappointment for me since it was lacking the in-your-face chilli and the aromatic sizzle. I might order the dish again next time without the kids around.

Salt and pepper calamari

Yes I know, this is another Chinese dish! But again, we ordered it because it was "familiar food" for the kids. But it tasted sooooooooo good that all the adults order it every time we come! Its one of our must have dishes at Chedi.

Marinated BBQ Pork

This is one of my favourite dishes at Chedi, and this is one of our "must haves". (Yes we have alot of "must haves"). The pork is tender and juicy with the edges slightly caramelised. The dipping sauce is an explosion of taste on your tongue! So good that we usually end up eating the leftover sauce with just plain rice!

Green mango salad with calamari

I usually order the green papaya salad, but my sister didn't like that the last time we ordered so we opted for the Green mango salad instead. This dish was really, really good! There just wasn't enough green mango! My sister ended up eating most of the dish and proceeded to pour all the salad dressing onto her rice! Lets just hope next time they put more green mango into the dish and cut the calamari up more as they were still all attached in a big blob. but dangggggggg it was good!

Chicken Pad See Eww

My sister calls this "Thai styled chinese hor fun". I guess in a sense that it is very similar, but it still doesn't stop me from ordering this! It was also gluten free which meant my niece ended up eating half of it! Damn! Next time I need to order more! I also prefer a squeeze of lemon or a drizzle of vinegar with this dish. Its not the conventional way of eating this dish which is why its rarely ever served with lemon. (Its basically like me squeezing lemon onto my spaghetti bolognese....)

Salt and Pepper Prawns

Instead of 2 plates of the salt and pepper calamari, we went 1 plate calamari 1 plate prawns. What came out was about 7 prawns. Not even enough to have one each. Next time, we'll stick to the calamari. It was REALLY REALLY good prawn, but just not worth the price you pay. Maybe if someone else was paying....... hehehehe

Chicken Pad Thai

This is again, another "must have" for the kids. When all else fails, turn to the Pad Thai. Its basically the "back up" dish for the kids if they don't like anything else we order. And they consumed all of it with great frenzie.

The meal ended with complimentary tea for the adults from Greg and chocolate for the kids. I think we've been here enough times for him to remember us! Oh, did I mention that Greg is an Irishmen that runs a Thai restaurant who speaks Cantonese more fluently than all the kids combined? And its not just formal cantonese, he also knows all the slang and colloquial language you can throw at him. He actually manages to have a conversation with my parents in cantonese! Another reason why our family loves this place!

Chedi Restaurant
74-78 King St, Newtown

Telephone: 9516 1127
Mobile: 0431 299 355


The Iron Chef cure

After leaving my Christmas party early because I was so sick, I took the next day off work since I couldn't possible handle sitting in the office for 8 hours suffering. However, I'm not much of a rester. Moishii once pointed out to me that I can't relax. When we're on holidays, I'm forever storming around like my ass is on fire. When we go to the beach to chill, 15mins after lying down, I'm screaming that we need to get into the water. So asking me to lie in bed all day, AFTER sleeping for 13hours was not going to happen. So what did I do? I went yum cha with my family for lunch...Hey, if it doesn't kill you, it must be good for you right???
We hopped onto the train, and 30mins later, we were at Cabramatta. Across the road from the train station (Not the busy side of the station) is Iron Chef. Now I LOVEEEEEEEE Iron Chef. I particulary love Sakai, and running a close second is Iron Chef Chen. So I was hoping the quality of the food would live up to the name of the restaurant.

Tanks and tanks of live seafood

Nice spacious interior

One of the few Yum Cha places that list their prices
My must have "Har Gow" (Prawn Dumplings)

"Low Sar Bau" - Has a sweet and salty runny egg filling

Seafood dumplings

Beef balls.....errr...beef MEATballs

Family favourite of Chicken Feet

In between taking the kids to the toilet, mopping up spills, feeding the kids and the frantic stabbing of chopsticks by some people, I didn't get many photos after that. The food was good.....not Iron Chef standard though. But then its not like I actually KNOW what Iron Chef food tastes like.....but I don't think it was supposed to taste like that. Its supposed to be orgasmic! It should make the person moan out in delight with every mouthful! Ok...maybe not.....but it should atleast make you dream about the food long after you have finished eating!

The bill was modest and easy to get to by public transport. My parents have also been here for dinner before and they have great specials. Such as 25% off your ENTIRE bill on Tuesdays. The only problem is that everyone tries to take advantage of the offer and the first time they went, they ended up waiting for 2-3hrs just to get their food. So get there early if you want a cheap cheap dinner.

Saturday, December 2, 2006

Getting back to your roots

One more day til my niece arrives from Singapore! I can't wait! I know I do play favouritism, but I can't help it! I just love the girl to bits! So for the past week, I've been scouring every single grocery store I walk into looking for gluten, dairy and egg free products. I've got a whole pantry stocked with pancake mix, cookies, soy chocolate, sauces, chips etc etc. I also got up early today (with a MASSIVE hangover from last nights awesome xmas party) to go to the local organic markets as well as a few small deli/butchers to buy gluten free sausages (which she loves). I even got a few duck and orange sausages for myself!

Ontop of that, me and my mum has been on a cooking frenzy. With my sister and the kids arriving, thats another 4 mouths to feed. But I also know my oldest sister will pop by every night so the kids can play together which means ontop of the extra 4 mouths to feed, we gotta cater for another possible 5 mouths. Luckily, we have 2 fridges and 2 hugeeeeeeee freezers for us to mass produce food and freeze them. So the first task we had to tackle was making "Joong". Which is glutinous rice dumpling things wrapped in leaves which is filled with an array of yummy stuff.

The set up

The leaves used


Channa Dhall

Garlic Mushrooms

Glutinous rice

Marinated fatty pork (MUST be fatty pork)

5 done, another 70 to go

The pot bubbling away - Theres 30+ in each batch

The joong we made was for my sister to take back to Singapore. We generally freeze them for a few days and they'll travel very nicely. They do sell them in Singapore, but honestly, compared to the ones my mum make, they taste like shit. Infact, our family friends keep urging us to actually mass produce them and sell them at the local Chinese grocery stores. The ones you buy the shop now are quite dry, not much filling or theres wayyyyy too much MSG. We've gotten to the stage that whenever we make joong, we either have to invite their friends over for a meal, or atleast make a few extra for them.

So whilst the joong was boiling away nicely, I decided to give another crack at Gluten Free bread. But this time, I managed to find a breadmix and realised what went wrong with my first attempt! You're not supposed to kneed the bread! The mix I got below, actually tells you to use an electric mixer to whip as much air into the sloppy mixture as possible. Thats what makes it rise and fluffy! Me kneeding the dough and keeping it relatively dry meant even if I used 5x as much yeast, it had no chance in hell in forming an edible form of bread.

Before it went into the oven

The finished product

Well, it doesn't look too bad does it? I mean the crust isn't exactly as brown as the packaging, but thats because I didn't smooth the outside properly for an even browning. And had I tried to brown it anymore, the pointy bits will burn. I even had a slice, its not too bad indeed!

Now, after all that cooking, we needed a bit of sustenance to keep our energy up. So I offered to make Hainese chicken rice.

The rice mix

Cooling the chicken

Chopping the chicken (I did even better than last time!)

Plating everything up

I even made a little broth to go with it!

So whilst everything was either boiling away or baking away, my mum asked what I wanted for dinner. "Curry chicken and veggie stir fry, restaurant style". This was one of my favourite dishes when we had the restaurant. But ever since we sold the restaurant, being able to eat what we call "restaurant" food is a rare thing now. Not that we can't go to a restaurant and order it, but every restaurants cook the same dish differently. And when I say to my parents that I want "restaurant food", they know I'm referring to cooking the dish the way we used to in the restaurant. So my mum went and pulled out all the gear, bought all the ingredients, chopped and prepared it restaurant style. I even pulled out the plates we used to serve this dish in the restaurant, just to reminisce over the good old days.

My mum said she'll start preparing some of the sauces and marinades so we can cook some "restaurant food" for my sister when she arrives. Yay!!!