Friday, January 30, 2009

Uva Fragola

The last three days has been extremely hot in Melbourne with temperatures soaring above 40° C (43°, 44°, 45°). For the past few weeks, I have been waiting to harvest my grapes. It looks like it has suffered from the heat. These are Uva Fragola, literally in Italian, strawberry grapes. These grapes are amazing, with intense flavour of strawberry. I was taken a back when I first tasted this grape. It is as if you have popped in a strawberry lolly in your mouth.
Though italian in name (it is also called Isabella), the grape species is originally from the Americas. It used to be grown in Italy. A dessert wine, Fragolino, is made from these grapes. However in 1999, it is outlawed to protect the local grape species.
I understand that there is a vineyard in Mytreford, Victoria (a province in Australia) that grew these grapes and produces real Fragolino (there are artificially flavoured ones). I personally have not tried this wine. Will see if I can find them here in the shop.
We planted the vine last year from cuttings. We are surprised how it grows so easily and fruiting in the first year. The cutting is from our favourite bistro River View, in Warburton, which is about 77 kilometers from Melbourne CBD at the foot of the Yarra Ranges (mountains). I will write about this bistro in my next blog.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Yu Sheng - Chinese

This is a traditional Chinese New Year dish originated from Chaozhou (Teochiew), Southern China. The word 'Yu Sheng' means raw fish, so this is a raw fish salad. The modern version of this dish is believe to be introduced in Singapore in the 60s and continue to be popular in Singapore and Malaysia. This dish is usually served on Renri (Everybody's Birthday), i.e. the seventh day of Chinese New Year.

There are about 20 ingredients in the salad, i.e. fresh salmon, white radish, green radish, carrot, pickled ginger, chopped toasted peanuts, toasted sesame seeds, glaced melon strips, pickled leeks, gherkins, pomelo pulps, crunchy noodles, pickled carrots, sweet preserve of papaya and cucumbers, mixed sweet citrus peel. For the dressing, plum sauce, and a touch of soy sauce, sugar, salt and pepper.

The radish and carrots are shredded into cold water. The shredded vegetables are then squeezed dry and refrigerated to make them crispy.
Yu Sheng is served as an appetizer. A ritual known as 'Lo Hei' (in Cantonese - a chinese dialect) meaning 'mix it up high' is perform by family and friends gathered around a table, each armed with a chopstick. On the cue, everyone toss the salad and someone will recite the poetic wishes out loud to usher in the new year.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Nian Gao - Chinese

Today is the eve of the Chinese New Year. It is a tradition for Chinese to have a family reunion dinner. There are several traditional dishes for the ocassion. The dishes served are symbolic to usher in the new year. This could be based on the appearances, i.e. long stringy noodles signify longevity, chicken need to be served whole with the head and tail, signifying the wholeness or completeness of tasks ahead or relationship. It could also be based on how the name of the dishes sound in Chinese. For example, in Cantonese (a Chinese dialect) a dish of black moss with dried oyster called 'Fat choi ho si'. Fat choi means having good luck and Ho Si means good business. Oranges which are called 'Kum' which is a pun for Gold, is eaten or given as gifts.

A friend of mine, Pinky, she made these beautiful Chinese carps and piglet (auspicious symbols) with glutinous rice flour. This is her interpretation of the traditional new year sticky cake, 'Nian Gao'
Wishing you all a 'Happy Chinese New Year'.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Tao's - Asian-Western Fusion

I am going to break my own rule here and list this restaurant which does not belong to any ethnic group. This is a modern fusion cuisine, combining East Asian (Japanese, Korean, Chinese) and Western. It is too good and need a mention in my blog.

This is a lunch we had at the Tao's restaurant on Sunday. Tao's is located at 201 Bulleen Road. We had 4-course set lunch. The presentation is so creative and a sight to behold that it took me a while to start to dig my fork in. I had sashimi as the starter, followed by beef carpaccio entree, and a baked rockling fish as the main course, and finish off with creme brulee. The sauce for the fish is a blending of butter and miso (japanese bean paste).

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Hudadak - Korean

Clayton is the suburb where Monash University, a well known Australian university. Over here, there is a large Asian student population from China and Korea. The number of students from this two nations has now outnumbered those that come from the South-East Asian countries. It is not surprising that you will find many restaurants catering for the 'homesick' students who missed their Mum's cooking. This Korean restaurant, Hudadak,  is run by Jina Choi (in the picture), the owner and the cook, she serves good homestyle traditional Korean meals.
We ordered some special dishes off from wall menu, i.e. noodles in white bean broth and soba with traditional korean soya bean paste sauce for lunch. 

The noodle with the white bean broth has an interesting monotone colour, so Zen. It has a nice texture and flavour of raw ground bean. It is served cold, and perfect for that hot summer afternoon.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Nasi Goreng - Malaysian

I reckon Nasi Goreng is an Asian dish that has gained most acceptance from people all over the world. You'll find that Westerners are quite fluent in ordering the dish. Nasi goreng is a Malay word when translated means fried rice. Nasi goreng is popular in the South East Asian countries. The dish is probably propagated by the Dutch to the Western cities along the old sea route, like Cape Town and Amsterdam.

I have a very close friend whose son, Ewe Jin, who is thirteen. He started to learn to cook, and enjoying it. He specialised in cooking Nasi Goreng. So far on two occasions we have requested his mum and dad to have a meal of his Nasi Goreng and nothing else. On both occasions, our lovely hosts prepared a Malaysian feast to accompany the humble fried rice.