Friday, April 24, 2009


We had a brilliant picnic lunch today - thanks to a Perth institution that requires no introduction - Chez Jean Claude Patisserie. This tiny Swiss style bakery in the leafy suburb of Subiaco produces the most phenomenal pastries, bread and sweets and still draws a hungry line that snakes out onto the sidewalk every lunchtime.

Everything (really) is great here but one of my favourites is the very crusty sesame baguette with cream cheese, smoked salmon and capers. The whole wheat baguette with coppa, pear and artichoke is also a delicious combination... fresh, simple fillings in awesome bread... it doesn't get much better than that. The German Sausage roll is also sinfully good - juicy Bratwurst wrapped up in brilliant pastry... so tasty.

The sweets here are legendary - I'm partial to the strawberry tart which sees the luscious fruit topped on wobbly custard and a just right cookie base with chocolate. The chocolate croissants and eclairs here are just as delightful.

This patisserie has been around forever, and Jean Claude himself still bakes on the premises. The man is a genius - churning out the tastiest baked goods to feed the many that make the pilgrimage to line up on the sidewalk. So if you're ever in the area, pop in for some pastry goodness - it'll be well worth the visit.

Chez Jean Clude Patisserie
333 Rokeby Road, Subiaco, WA
(Sadly not open on weekends)

Saturday, April 18, 2009

The Proof is in the Crackling

At first glance, this may appear to be some lame joke on how to prepare a dish... but I kid you not - what you're looking at is a kickass method for making that old favourite - Chinese Roasted Pork Rice... with a twist.

In essence, this recipe borrows from the traditional method of roasting pork in an underground coal pit, where the intensity of the heat causes the meat to steam (from its own juices) as well as roast at the same time.

Now instead of heading out to your garden with a shovel to achieve porcine greatness, this recipe simply requires the pork belly to be cooked skin side down in a wok under a tight fitting bowl and covered in rice that cooks and bakes the pork at the same time.

What's brilliant about this method that you end up with a delicious crust for the rice flavoured brilliantly by the drippings and fat rendered from the roasted pork. The meat, through the baking process becomes melt in your mouth tender and has an unexpectedly intense flavour from steaming in its own juices. Best of all. the crackling formed from the slow searing of the pork skin in the wok is irresistably crisp.

500 lean pork belly (skin on)
Salt (to taste)
Crush szechuan peppercorns (to taste)
5 cups long grain jasmine rice
5 cups water

Stab skin of pork belly with a fork and rub in salt and crushed szechuan peppercorns. Leave for at least 1 hour at room temperature.
2. Place rice and water in a wok with a tight fitting lid and bring to a boil, stirring to prevent sticking.
3. When the water has mostly been absorbed and rice has reached a thick cosistency, push grains to one half of the wok. Then, place pork belly skin side down on the other half and cover with a fitting bowl. Push bowl (covering pork) into centre of wok and pack tightly with the rice. Cover wok with lid and cook over a low flame for 60 minutes.
4. Turn heat to medium high and cook for a further 5 minutes. Turn off flame and leave to stand for at least 5 minutes without lifting the lid.
5. Lift the lid from the wok, scoop out bowl from underneath the rice and cut pork into bite size pieces. Serve with accompanying rice and scratch your head wondering how something so simple could be so darn good.

Monday, April 6, 2009

Lessons from my 100th post

As if by some karmic coincidence, I am writing my 100th post on my flight back to Perth, Australia. It has been almost exactly a year since I relocated temporarily to Singapore to be with my mother following dad’s passing… and this blog has been an avenue for me to indulge in my amateurish interests in food, photography and writing.

To say that the past year has been an emotional roller coaster ride is an understatement – I have, through stepping away from a job and life that I was so used to, learnt more about myself and my relationships than I would have ever imagined. Not surprisingly, food has been used as a metaphor through most of this… and in doing so, fed the words and squeezed the creative juices for my blog.

I have learnt first and foremost that my heart still aches whenever I think about my father, be it remembering him at his favourite restaurant to letting go of his liquor collection – but that I should be grateful that he still lives and resonates so strongly in my life.

I have discovered the joys of street food in Singapore – that I had only been a pretend foodie up till this point in my life without venturing out to the heartlands where ridiculously tasty and embarrassingly affordable food are whipped up by people who know and love what they do.

I have travelled across Japan, South Korea, New Zealand, Hong Kong, Jakarta, Kuala Lumpur and Melbourne … eaten myself silly through all of it but realising that the ingredients to a perfect meal don’t have to include pristine presentation or alluring ambience… that the comfort in food rests in finding your heart’s longing for something emotionally familiar.

I have in the process of my eating expeditions, discovered my deathrow meal of tonkotsu ramen in the charming city of Fukuoka. The Japanese are the most food conscious people in the world… period.

I have learnt that we can all stomach a little more tolerance and swallow our prejudices – the most delicious Singaporean dishes can be prepared by a Filipino domestic helper who’s passionate about the food of her adopted country – a person’s heritage doesn’t determine who they are and what they stand for.

I have learnt that being able to put food on the table through a job is a blessing, no matter how much you hate waking up in the morning and joining that rat race. Your job, like your life and relationships, is what you make of it.

I have, quite amusingly, learnt to eat slower to avoid the prospect of swallowing a star anise or chipping my tooth on a chopstick mid chew - CT scans of my thorax and dental work don’t come cheap.

And most importantly, I have come to understand why I am the way I am – that food has always formed a big part of my family and my life. Food, for as long as I can remember, has always peppered our conversations, garnished our relationships and flavoured our memories. The plate of life and the things that matter taste a whole lot better with food included in the serving - and maybe its taken me a year and a hundred posts to realise this - but that in itself is something that we should all be happy to be hungry for.

Friday, April 3, 2009

Back to basics

I realise that there have been quite a number of posts on noodles in recent times - but I can't live with myself without blogging on kampua mee, a dish of cult status in the little town of Sibu, Sarawak, where my parents hail from. More than just something to curb a carb craving, a good bowl of kampua jogs my childhood memories of visiting my parent's birthtown.

I remember gathering with my cousins in my grandparent's bedroom whilst they hosted their elaborate lunch parties with the most exotic dishes whipped up by their hired chefs. Rather than join in the festivities and being the little punks we were, we insisted on takeaway plastic packets of kampua mee for lunch whilst we brainlessly watched re-runs of Star Wars.

I also remember joining my uncle for a late night snack on a makeshift hut that sat on a funky smelling drain... the first bite into a steaming bowl of kampua reigniting my tastebuds and I suddenly forgot about the less than pleasant venue in which I was dining in.

Kampua mee as the locals refer to here is simply fresh noodles (no eggs used) cooked in rapidly boiling water and tossed in a concoction typically of shallot oil, light soy, MSG (which locals are fiercely protective of) and the all important lard. Yes that's right... in pursuit of carbohydrate greatness, considerations of cholesterol and health benefits become absurd and almost blasphemous.

Slap on a few slices of the token dry and chewy char siew (the focus here really is on the noodles only), served with the softest and most delectable wantons... and voila - a breakfast that has so much addictive appeal it is synonymous with this little town that few outside of East Malaysia have travelled to.

Sounds almost too plain to be true? But you of course know what I'm talking about... ask yourself what your deepest cravings are and chances are foie gras in a 3 starred French establishment isn't on the menu. Sure, that stuff tastes great and has its place in your gastronomic journey through life... But much like me, I think you'd rather ignore the festivities and be eating where your heart is... no matter where you are.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Instant Gratification

A word of warning - what I'm about to rave about is not highly regarded, widely accepted or deeply craved for by most. Heck - its not even that pretty to photograph... but there aren't many things that can reduce me to a blabbering, grovelling idiot stuffing my face silly than a plate of these instant noodles topped with a crispy sunny side up fried egg.

But first a bit of history. For as long as I can remember, my family have made these noodles as a simple breakfast, a quick weekend lunch, a hearty family dinner or a late night supper on arriving back home after a long flight from a family holiday. Nobody knows who first created this simple variation on the plain instant noodles - tossed in shallot oil, chopped spring onions, deep fried shallots and the (now) not so secret ingredient - Bovril. Both my grandmothers become strangely vague when pressed about the originator of what what we affectionately refer to as "black mee"... like a part of the past they either are reluctant to talk about or have embarrassingly forgotten.

But black mee holds a special place in my heart (and of course stomach). Its what I practically lived on as a cheapskate student trying to satisfy my hunger pangs with as little as possible... and now when money has become less of a consideration when feeding my considerable appetite, its still a meal I come back to whenever I need to calm a deep (and frequent) craving for this nostalgic nosh. Call me a cheap thrill seeker - but this dish for me is not only instant, its instantly gratifying.


2 packets of dried instant noodles
1 1/2 tablespoons Bovril
1 tablespoon shallot oil
1 finely minced spring onio
1 tablespoon crispy fried shallots
1 free range egg

1. Prepare the dressing by combining oil Bovril, spring onions and fried shallots in a bowl.
2. Fry egg sunny side up in hot pan till crispy.
3. Boil the instant noodles till al dente in rapidly boiling water and toss in dressing with two spoonfuls of cooking water.
4. Top with fried egg, extra spring onions and fried shallots.

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