Saturday, 20 April 2013

Savann Lao & Thai Restaurant Cabramatta

Together with our friend Peter, Lorenza and I ventured out on a chilly, wet Saturday night to Savann Lao & Thai restaurant at Cabramatta. The restaurant is a friendly, family kind of place, with no pretensions. The food is authentic and not modernized or MacDonaldised. It is simple home cooked food.

Saap sap lai - very yummy
While ordering our food we did some quick Lao language lessons with the waitress – we checked our pronunciation of some phrases we had learnt recently – “het young u?” (what are you doing) we were told could also be said as “jow het young?” Her response, with a big Lao smile was jokingly “taking your order stupid”.

For our dinner we fried rice salad with shredded, fermented pork sausage (Nam Kao), BBQ ox tongue, Lao sausage (Sai Oua), Lao style green papaya salad (tam maak hoong), plus sticky rice and a side of cabbage, lettuce leaves and herbs.

The Nam Kao had that lovely balance of sweet and sour to it, plus the crunch of the fried sticky rice. The ox tongue is the best we have tried, very tender and great with the spicy dipping sauce. Paul, our host, makes his own Lao Sausage and it is great, spicy and sour pork sausage and just a little crispy on the outside – we love it.

Their Lao style green papaya salad, made with crab paste was yummy. Spicy enough to get Rob sweeting and Lorenza and Peter laughing at him. At the end of the meal Peter and Rob were contemplating ordering a plate of deep fried quail but after the food settled found themselves full enough not to bother.

After a chat with Paul, the owner, we wandered up the deserted main street of Cabramatta to crab some ice tea, dessert type drinks at Gong Chi teashop. Very refreshing. Lorenza and I had bitter melon chai latte.

Savann restaurant is at Shop 5, 2 Arthur St, Cabramatta. Phone 97260305.

Lorenza + Ice Tea .... Lorenza & Peter at Savann

Sunday, 14 April 2013

South East Asian New Year Welcome to 2556

Lao Temple 

The New Year is celebrated in Theravada Buddhist areas of South East Asia, Burma, Thailand, Lao and Cambodia, in mid April. The celebration has its roots in India and marks the transit of the Sun from Pisces to Aries. The various names for the festival are:

Burma = Thingyan

Laos = Pi Mai Lao

Cambodia = Chaul Chnam Thmey

Thailand = Songkran

The celebrations span three days, culminating in the water festival which many westerners are familiar with.

Day one is the end of the old year, people light candles and burn incense at Buddhist shrines. They pay homage to the Buddha’s teachings and prostrate themselves before his image, bowing three times to pay homage to the Buddha, the Dhamma (his teachings) and the Sangha (the community of monks). Day two people contribute to charities and help the less fortunate. People will attend ceremonies dedicated to their ancestors at a monastery. On day three Buddhist cleanse the Buddha statues and their elders with perfumed water.


Happy Thingyan
Our celebrations started one week early, when we joined our friends at the Panditarama Sydney Meditation Centre (PSMC) to celebrate Thingyan. The event was held at the Villawood Senior Citizens hall. 

As usual, there was lots of lovely food and friendly faces. We loved the “everyone’s a winner” raffle. All the kids were having a great time with water pistols.

We always feel very welcomed at PSMC events and love the food (more goat curry please). Unfortunately, we missed the dancing and karaoke at the end. Find out more about the PSMC here.

Chaul Chnam Thmey

Our intention this weekend was to go to the Lao temple and join their celebrations. Thanks to my lack of navigation skills we actually found ourselves at the Khmer temple a few suburbs away.

There was a huge crowd and as we chanced upon a perfect parking spot. We took a look around the temple grounds at the food stalls. Lorenza commented that there were not many people wearing the traditional Lao skirt. We bought some food, green papaya salad, duck larp and sticky rice.

After our snack we took a walk around trying to find the food stand of the Lao Oz Foundation. Lorenza just happened to notice the backdrop to the dancers was Ankor Wat, then we noticed the sign above the stage – no wonder we could not find the Lao OZ food stall – wrong temple!

Pi Mai Lao

Lorenza is blessed - good health, good wealth, good happiness
We drove a few blocks form the Khmer temple and found the Lao temple at Edensor Park. Again, we had great luck finding a parking spot a few hundred metres away.

Once inside the temple grounds, we sighted some ladies in Lao skirts and heard people greeting each other with “Sabaidee Pi Mai” and we were in the right place. Not that the Khmer folks were not fun, don’t get me wrong.

The Lao celebrations were held on community land at the back of the temple. We were told the local council set the land aside for the use of local community groups, such as the temple and the nearby Christian church.

There were lots of food stalls, plenty of loud Lao music and many, many happy people. We found the staff of the Lao Oz Foundation and grabbed some satay sticks and had a chat. They do some great charitable works in Laos and you can find them on Facebook here Lao Oz foundation

We visited a lot of other food stands, grabbed some refreshing iced coffees in plastic drinking bags and then had a look at a stall selling material for Lao skirts. We got talking to a group of ladies who were browsing at the stall and as usual we were drawn into lots of laughing and joking with them. Such happy people.

We got lots of tips from other revelers about which food to try and Lorenza got a lot of compliments about her lovely Lao dress. We joined the ladies that were browsing the material stall for cups of tea and had a great yack. While doing so we bumped into a friend who owns a Lao restaurant at Cabramatta, he had closed early to get to the party.

We had a great time mingling with the happy, friendly people – we are so lucky they are so wiling to help us share their happiness and culture. You can find info about the Lao temple here Lao Temple Edensor Park Sydney

Here are some interesting facts about Lao New Year provided by the Lao Oz Foundation, which I have reproduced here from their FB page:


The first day is the last day of the old year where perfume, water and flowers are prepared for the Lao New Year. In temples all over the world, Buddha images are taken down from their permanent places and placed on special temporary easy-to-access places within the Wat (temple) compounds so we can pour perfumed water on them. Collection of the water that runs off the Buddha images are then taken home to pour on family members, friends and relatives. This is to bless, clean and purify the receivers before entering the Lao New Year.

It is so comforting & profound to know that THE ARE second chances in life, to know that WE CAN move beyond our past and start again.


The second day of the Lao New Year festival is the "day of no day", a day that falls in neither the old year nor the new year. Houses and villages are properly cleaned, elders won't allow young people to take nap or stay still on the second day as it’s believed that if one sleeps or stays still one will get sick in the coming year. Young people are encouraged to clean their places, pour purified/perfumed water collected on the first day on themselves & other elders along with well wishes. This is a way to send bad things away with the old year.

So, if you're doing nothing or are still in bed, it's time to get up NOW and get amongst your day...better yet come & join the new year celebration with us!

Megan gets Thingyan blessing

everyone wins a prize at PSMC

food stall at Pi Mai Lao

Miss Pi Mai contestants sell raffle tickets
Burmese Mohinga - yum
PSMC food prep
Green Papaya at Khmer temple

Kanom Kok at Khmer temple

Saturday, 6 April 2013

Pressed the grapes - colour looks good

Quick update - after spending a week open fermenting on the skins, I pressed our grapes today. I am happy with the result. The colour looks good, plus lots of tannins and good balance of acidity. Fingers crossed we have a good vintage from our back garden this year.

The chooks also loved eating the press cake!

Monday, 1 April 2013

Grape Harvest 2013

Lorenza ready to crush
We harvested our Chambourcin grapes on the 30/3/13. This is about two weeks earlier than the past few years. The sugar level was at 26 brix, which equates to about 14.3% alc so it was time to pick. We had a dryer season than last year so the grapes were in much better condition. They were picked, de-stemmed and crushed within an hour (not such a big job in a micro-vineyard).

I added some pectic enzyme and tannisol, then left the must sit until today when I added the yeast and nutrient. Now I just have to let it sit on the skins for a week, then press.

the huge harvest
our winery is the envy of the wine industry!