Sunday, 29 July 2012

Schifela - Alsace Roast Pork Shoulder

Sunday lunch with Lorenza, plus my parents was just perfect today. It is getting close to the end of winter. The weather was lovely, about 20 degrees and not a cloud in the sky.

For lunch we cooked up roast pork shoulder, with smoked hock and ham. A great recipe from our ancestral home in Alsace. Perfect washed down with a nice riesling.

Lao VIllage Restaurant, Fairfield

waiting outside for a tab
 On Saturday night we made a spur of the moment decision to go eat Lao food at Fairfield. We sent a text to our Lao friend asking if he knew how good a particular place was, his quick response back was "Why, what's wrong with my families place? What's wrong with food from Ban Hom? Why you not got there?".

We got the message loud and clear, we were going to the place run by our friend's relatives no matter what. It was not really a problem because the Lao Village Restaurant in Anzac Ave Fairfield serves fantastic food. It is a small family run business and is always very, very busy. They have limited seating so you take a ticket and wait outside on the stools provided on the footpath. When your turn comes you get seated and it is down to business .... don't waste too much time with idle chat, quickly study the menu, order and get stuck in.

Crispy quail
Squid & BBQ pork
Rob + Quail
 We had squid salad, BBQ pork, crispy quail and sticky rice. We were very satisfied, the quail is the signature dish and is fantastic, lots of meat for such a small bird and very crispy. We cam, we ate and we said a quick "sabaidee and sok dee" (hello and good bye) to our friend's Aunt and we were out the door.

After dinner we had a drink and listened to a band at the Fairfield RSL supper club bar and then made the trip home. Enjoyable - kob jai  lai lai der (thanks very much) to our friend Sai for insisting we eat at Lao Village again.
RSL Club

Wednesday, 25 July 2012

Sushi Making Workshop - Balmain

In my post about the Bankstown Bites food festival, I mentioned that one of the people that joined us on a food tour was organising Japanese cooking classes in Balmain.

Well the next one is a Sushi making workshop on 11th August 2012. See the picture for full details. It sounds like a lot of fun.

Sunday, 22 July 2012

I watch people in the world

This poem by the hermit Zen Buddhist poet Ryokan always serves to remind me to keep things simple ...

Ryōkan Taigu
I watch people in the world
Throw away their lives lusting after things,
Never able to satisfy their desires,
Falling into deeper despair
And torturing themselves.
Even if they get what they want
How long will they be able to enjoy it?
For one heavenly pleasure
They suffer ten torments of hell,
Binding themselves more firmly to the grindstone.
Such people are like monkeys
Frantically grasping for the moon in the water
And then falling into a whirlpool.
How endlessly those caught up in the floating world suffer.
Despite myself, I fret over them all night
And cannot staunch my flow of tears.
Things I have learnt from travel

- Ryōkan Taigu - (1758–1831)

Saturday, 14 July 2012

Can curry cause hallucinations?

Good advice
We attended the Burmese Friendship Association Curry Night at Ermington and had a great evening. The answer to my question in the title of this blog is – yes it can - read on!

Burma Campaign Australia

After an introduction from Dr Malia of the Burmese Friendship Assoc, Zoe from Burma Campaign Australia gave an insightful speech about the importance of not loosing focus on human rights issues in Burma. She emphasised that while there may be a lot of positive signs coming from politicians in Burma there are still a lot of issues that need attention.

Zoe also suggested that while Aung San Suu Kyi’s NLD party only holds 6% of seats in Burma the “civilian government” are happy to promote feelings of unity and well being, but how will they react after next election when the NLD may take 50% or more of the seats in parliament?

curry time

Curry Time

If you see a sign stating “Tomato Sauce Burmese – Very Hot” you should believed it. If the hosts are warning you about the sauce it is guaranteed to be more than just hot and it was. I noticed every Anglo Aussie who tried it had just a little speck on their spoon and then decided to leave it alone.

The curries on offer were fantastic, goat meat; beef, chicken, seafood and vegetarian varieties were on offer. Plus, pickled vegetables, rice and mohinga (fish soup as a starter). All home cooked and full of flavour. I love a good goat meat curry, and the one on offer was delicious. You have to be careful of the bones, but the taste of a good serving of goat is amazing.


This was when I started hallucinating …

Have you ever seen Burmese line dancing? Was it the tomato sauce or was I really seeing the Burmese John Denver singing “Country roads, take me home. To the place I belong, West Virginia, Mountain Mama Take me home, country roads”. I had to wonder when the Mountains of West Virginia moved to the outskirts of Yangon.

The fun continued when anyone who thought they could sing took to the stage and had go … we heard “Proud Mary” sung by the Burmese John Fogarty, “Fernando” by the Burmese ABBA, and the list went on.

Lorenza and I loved it – these people did not care about anything but having some fun. It was infectious – who could not enjoy themselves in the midst of such a fun and friendly bunch of people. I started believing John Denver really was Burmese!

Was the door prize rigged?

Another fun part of the night was the draw of the lucky door prizes and raffle tickets. The people at the table next to us must be the luckiest family alive – every person at the table won a prize – next time I am sitting with them!

The raffle and door prizes was fun – they made sure lots of people got a small prize which made everyone feel included. I was really touched when some of the people we shared our table with gave their prize away to a kid who had not won anything. It put a smile on the young boys face and made everyone feel warm and fuzzy.

Lovely traditonal dancing

Traditional dancing

Three beautiful young ladies performed some traditional Burmese dances. They told a story in the dance which I must admit I did not really follow. That aside their costumes and dancing were lovely.

Dessert & More Dancing

Dessert line
You can tell from the photo of the line up for dessert that the offerings were delicious. After everyone had tasted the pastries, etc there was more serious dancing done – the Chicken dance, the Macarena, the Bunny Hop, the Hokey Pokey and all those favourite party dances were encouraged plus a conga line through the tables – hell after a good curry why not have some fun!

Thanks for a great night!

Bankstown Bites Food Festival

Saigon Place
Lorenza and I lived in Bankstown before we were married (wow – seems like yesterday). When we heard about “Bankstown Bites” the Bankstown City Council’s food festival we thought we would take a look and see what has changed.

When we moved from Bankstown being adventurous with food in western Sydney was a beef and black bean dish at the local Chinese. Things sure have changed in 20 years or so.

Wide range of foods

The food festival itself was in a small park not far from the station. There was a number of interesting food stalls, with offerings ranging from Middle Eastern to South East Asian cuisines. The Bankstown Arts Centre was also open and you could see demonstrations by local artists and take part in workshops. They also had examples of their work on sale.

When we first arrived we were starving so we headed direct to the gourmet gozleme stall. This was a great starter.

Loved her Pad Thai

Green Papaya, Crab & Sticky Rice

Then we saw the lady at the Thai food stall making green papaya salad - we just had to have some! She put together a spicy, sweet and sour salad for us, plus added some tiny crabs to the mix as well. We also ordered sticky rice with banana from the same stall.

We shared a small table in the park with a friendly Vietnamese guy and his young daughter. She was devouring a great looking Pad Thai and only paused for introductions and a cute smile. He told us his life story while we had our salad.

making our papaya salad
The papaya salad was great. The tiny little crabs were so salty they really added a lot to the dish. You quickly suck the tiny bit of flesh from them, get a zap of salt and discard the shells.

 A Short Stroll to Saigon

One of the highlights of the festival was the short food tours run by the council. The themed tours included the “Fresh Food & Spice Extravaganza”, “Cocktail of Delights”, “Tasty Treats from the Middle East” and a “Taste of Asia”. Plus, the tour we managed to get tickets for a “Short Stroll to Saigon”. The tours were very popular, we called and booked a few days in advance and they had almost booked out.

Our three stops on the tour were:

Pho Vietnamese Cuisine – a restaurant specialising in North Vietnamese dishes (funny it is now in Bankstown’s little “Saigon”). They served up some great examples of traditional food from the north – deep fried spring rolls, fresh beef rice paper rolls (these were fantastic) and crispy chicken. The owners were very friendly and explained which sauces went with what dish, etc.

Pho Vietnamese Cusine
Very tasty dishes and because it is from the north of Vietnam the flavours of the sauces are just a bit different from the southern Vietnamese food we are used to when we visit Cabramatta.

Very friendly people and great food - find them at Shop 15/256 Chapel Rd, Bankstown Ph: 9708 6661.

Banh Mi Bo Ko
Phat Dat Restaurant – specialise in fresh noodle soup, ranging from seafood to spicy beef. They claim to have the best Vietnamese fish sauce in town. The owner greeted us and we soon found he has a great personality for the front of house. At first we thought the owners name was Dat but he did not look too Phat (sorry bad joke).

The place has only been open five months and from what we sampled we hope it lives up to its name which we found translates to “good fortune”.

They served us samples (and they were huge samples) of Pho with pork balls, crispy chicken, spring rolls and then a bonus beef stew which was absolutely delicious. The stew was called “Banh Mi Bo Ko” – it is number 7 on the menu board and well worth a try.

The service was fast and friendly, the prices looked great and the flavours were too. You can find Phat Dat at 303 Chapel Rd, Bankstown Ph: 9790 6401.

Nature Care & Acupuncture Centre – was the last stop on our tour. They sell an endless array of Chinese herbs, tonics, teas and balms. They gave us samples of some teas – some promised to improve our eyesight and sexual function, others to help the flow of Qi and limit belching, while others were claimed to be able to improve thinking and the resistance to infections. They also have an acupuncture clinic.

Herbal shop
I must admit that I have often peeked inside stores like this but felt a bit too daunted to enter because of the huge array of herbs and things that I have no idea about. The owner helped us understand the many uses of the herbs and teas. They were also very happy to do some quick consultations about what would best help relieve various symptoms of our fellow tour participants.

On the owner’s recommendation Lorenza bought some dried chrysanthemum and dried roses to make tea with, which he said would settle her stomach and aid digestion. Interestingly, the English brand name of the dried roses is “Rural Amorous Feelings” so I must take Lorenza for a country drive soon I think.

We spotted a big jar containing …. Mmmm something? And found out it was sea cucumbers – I grilled the owners wife on what they are used for but did not fully understand the answer.

Rural Amorous Feelings?


$5 - what can you get for $5?

The tour went for about 1 hour was cost $5 – yes $5 – what can you get for $5 dollars these days? Some great food and an interesting walk in Bankstown that’s what! Thanks to Bankstown Council and the restaurant owners and herbal shop for helping us enjoy ourselves so much. Our other tour participants were also very happy and friendly making it a lot of fun.

Frank & Tomoko cooking classes soon

Japanese cooking classes

One of our intrepid fellow tourists, Tomoko told us she is planning some Japanese cooking classes in the near future in Balmain so stay tuned for some info on that. She already runs Japanese caligraphy classes so why not some cooking as well!



Sweets & Coffee

To finish our day we had a coffee and some sweets at Chehade El Bahsa & Sons Sweets shop at 288 Chapel Road South. Great coffee and an amazing array of biscuits, pastries and sweets. We have been told that next time we should try the sweet, soft cheese.

Checkers in the park

From the sweet shop we walked to the other side of the rail line, on our way we came across a few groups of Vietnamese folks playing cards and a kind of checkers in a small park. The concentration on the games was intense and I have a feeling there was a lot riding on some of the card games. Looked like fun to me!

See you there next year!

a box of Slivovice anyone?

In 22 years Bankstown has changed a lot – the best it used to offer was Chinese or the roast at the local RSL, now it is like a trip around the world with no passport or visa required.

One thing that has not changed is that Bankstown Cellars are still in the same spot and for a small shop they offer a really interesting range of Greek, Croatian, Russian and a myriad other offerings of wines and spirits from around the globe. We stopped there just before leaving and grabbed a jar of Marrons in liquor for a future dessert.

Tuesday, 10 July 2012

Alice's Spicy Beef Noodle Soup

I got this recipe via a friend, who got it from her friend Alice. I added a few things to the basic idea. It is a Taiwanese beef noodle soup.

I used 700g of chuck steak in the pressure cooker this arvo.

Serves 3-4 people

Soup Base


700g of chuck steak
1/3 jar of chilli bean paste
2T white Sugar
1 cm long ginger
2 star anise
2tsp whole sichuan chilli pepper
1/2 bulb of garlic, peeled and bruised
1/4C soy sauce
2T chopped coriander
4 green onions sliced side ways
1 tsp Chinese five-spice powder
2T shao xing wine

Cut beef flank into large bite size cubes and marinate with sugar. Fry meat with chinese cooking wine and the thinly sliced ginger. When meat is browned, add 1/3 of the jar of chilli bean sauce, the 1/4Cup of soy sauce and enough water to cover the meat in your pot. Put in 2 star anise and half a bulb of garlic (peeled and bruised) and 2tsp of sichuan chilli pepper (left whole, coriander, green onion & five spice. Simmer until meat soft (about 2.5hrs) Dilute with hot water when serving.

Serve with pickled mustard greens & vege

1 pkt mustard green per flank
1 clove of garlic
1 big spicy hot chilli
6 bok choys
Thick taiwanese rice noodle sticks

Drain mustard greens; rinse and drain again. Cut out and discard core from greens, then coarsely chop leaves. Fry garlic and chilli in oil. Add chopped mustard greens. Cook until slightly wilted, then set aside. Heat a pan of water, cook desired amount of noodles, set aside into bowl.

Cook bok choy. Set aside into bowl.

*Add meat and soup base (dilute to suit) Top with mustard greens & serve.

Tuesday, 3 July 2012

This is my simple religion

This is my simple religion.
There is no need for temples;
No need for complicated philosophy.
Our own brain, our own heart is our temple;
The philosophy is KINDNESS.

~ Dalai Lama

Monday, 2 July 2012

Five ways to wellbeing

I listened/watched a talk given by Nic Marks about the “Happy Planet Index”, during the talk he also mentioned the “Five ways to wellbeing” which really resonated with me …

"A review of the most up-to-date evidence suggests that building the following five actions into our day-to-day lives is important for well-being:

Connect …

With the people around you. With family, friends, colleagues and neighbours. At home, work, school or in your local community. Think of these as the cornerstones of your life and invest time in developing them. Building these connections will support and enrich you every day.

Be active …

Go for a walk or run. Step outside. Cycle. Play a game. Garden. Dance. Exercising makes you feel good. Most importantly, discover a physical activity you enjoy and that suits your level of mobility and fitness.

Take notice …

Be curious. Catch sight of the beautiful. Remark on the unusual. Notice the changing seasons. Savour the moment, whether you are walking to work, eating lunch or talking to friends. Be aware of the world around you and what you are feeling. Reflecting on your experiences will help you appreciate what matters to you.

Keep learning …

Try something new. Rediscover an old interest. Sign up for that course. Take on a different responsibility at work. Fix a bike. Learn to play an instrument or how to cook your favourite food. Set a challenge you will enjoy achieving. Learning new things will make you more confident as well as being fun.

Give …

Do something nice for a friend, or a stranger. Thank someone. Smile. Volunteer your time. Join a community group. Look out, as well as in. Seeing yourself, and your happiness, linked to the wider community can be incredibly rewarding and creates connections with the people around you."

More info

You can find out more at the following links …

Nic Marks profile at TED

The happy planet index talk video

New Economics