Tag Archive | "food"

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Shelter Italian Bar & Restaurant in Hong Kong

Posted on 21 January 2014 by Alysa Liu

Shelter Italian Bar & Restaurant - Entrance

Shelter Italian Bar & Restaurant - Entrance

Shelter Italian Bar and Restaurant takes Hong Kong’s restaurant scene to new heights by presenting one of the most original sustainable dining spaces in the city. Officially opening on 31st October, the gastronomic sanctuary at the seventh floor of Hysan Place specializes in Italian food presented at the al fresco space with several distinct areas, including an organic garden growing vegetables, herbs and fruits. The venue also boasts a VIP dining area, bar lounge and a deli store for customers on-the-go.
The restaurant celebrates its debut with “diva of Asia” who is also a passionate environmentalist Kelly Chen, as the guest of honor to officiate the opening ceremony. Other VIPs attending the Grand Opening press conference on 30th October are Mr. Siu Chuen Lau, Deputy Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of Hysan Development Company Limited; Mr. Xavier Beysecker, Managing Director of Pernod Ricard Hong Kong; and Mr. David Yeung, Co-Founder of Green Monday. On 31st October, a celebrity-studded private party will be held to celebrate its official grand opening.
Shelter Italian Bar and Restaurant’s commitment to encourage sustainable living in the city extends to collaborations with community non-profits such as the eco-friendly social enterprise Green Monday. The restaurant’s interior decked out in nature-inspired designs and colours, cultivates a serene ambience to offer visitors a tranquil escape far removed from the hyper pace and urban sprawl typically associated with Causeway Bay.
Great food requires exceptional ingredients and Shelter Italian Bar and Restaurant is committed to sourcing the best ingredients for diners. Supported by Easy Organic Farm, the crops in the garden are all harvested without any chemicals or genetic manipulation.
Executive chef Simonetta Garelli defines the menu as classic Italian with a focus on northern specialties and a few regional favourites. Organic produce is used where possible, such as chemical-free vegetables, wild-caught fish and hormone-free meat.
“The world is sick now so we all need to make changes; I’m grateful for this opportunity to make changes in my own little way, through cooking and educating people on eating healthy.” Try signature dishes such as pici all’arrabbiata, a hand-rolled spaghetti in spicy red sauce made with homegrown tomatoes; or the organic risotto from Acquerello in black olives and cream sauce with prawns. For secondis, the hormone-free beef tenderloin is recommended, served with beer foam and organic tempura vegetables. Close the meal with the healthy and lean dairy-free cheesecake.
Complementing the experience is an extensive menu of wines, champagnes and cocktails also available at the elegant outdoor terrace. Shelter Italian Bar and Restaurant is a groundbreaking culinary concepts and the multi-faceted venue at the heart of Causeway Bay is a destination in itself.

Website: info@shelterhk.com
Reservation: +852 2778 8398
Email: info@shelterhk.com
Address: Shop 718-719 (Open Terrace), 7/F, Hysan Place, 500 Hennessy Road, Causeway Bay, Hong Kong.

Shelter Italian Bar & Restaurant - Dinning Area
Shelter Italian Bar & Restaurant - Lounge Area

Shelter Italian Bar & Restaurant - Lounge Area

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Big Bite Bangkok

Posted on 21 November 2013 by Admin


In Bangkok’s blossoming dining scene, the latest trend is towards more spontaneous sorts of noshing. Pop-up dinners hosted by the local celeb-chefs like Jess Barnes, internet-organized dinner parties, and farmers’ markets have all been thriving. Nowhere is the city’s newfound culinary diversity more apparent than at Big Bite Bangkok. And no foodie fest forwards its proceeds to a worthier cause than In Search of Sanuk (insearchofsanuk.com), an organization that provides food, education and shelter for victims of trauma.

Part outdoor market, part impromptu block party (yes, they serve craft beers and cocktails), Big Bite gives visitors the chance to sample items from a variety of the city’s top tables and artisanal producers. The concept is simple: a carefully culled list of Bangkok’s finest set up booths serving a couple of their best dishes to the masses. Relatively modest portions allow visitors to graze on a wide selection of nibbles. Past standouts include pumpkin-Gorgonzola croquettes from Opposite Mess Hall, crisp-skinned porchetta from Appia, and waffles topped with fried chicken and maple butter from Tribeca.

Even better than shrimp and grits, herbaceous Vietnamese salads and the buttery, Parisian-worthy brioche is the cause behind Big Bite. Admission to the feasting is free, but visitors are encouraged to leave donations at the entrance. The past four events have already raised nearly Bt200,000 for In Search of Sanuk, and Dwight Turner, the event’s founder, hopes to see the number rise in the future.

“In Search of Sanuk provides more than 300 meals a month to needy families,” says Turner. “From the beginning, the organizers wanted to use our resources and connections to use exactly what our event celebrates, food, to reach out, rehabilitate and nourish people.”

Because In Search of Sanuk is a grassroots organization, it focuses on making a difference on a small, personal scale. “An example would be lunch time at the volunteer preschool,” Turner says. By serving food personally, volunteers have the opportunity to make a connection with the children, in addition to providing them with “one of the best meals the kids attending are able to eat during the week.”

The next Big Bite Bangkok is on Sunday, November 24, 2013, from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. at Maduzi Hotel (9/1 Ratchadaphisek, on the corner of Sukhumvit Soi 16; maduzihotel.com). Plenty of the city’s gourmet heavy-hitters will be present, including Simple (healthful, mostly organic cuisine), Sloane’s (cured meats and condiments) and Appia (authentic trattoria fare). So come with empty bellies and open hearts.  – by Diana Hubbell


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Chiang Mai Food

Posted on 12 October 2011 by Alex Gunn

chiangmai_foodI’ve moved half way across the globe, from a sleepy rural village in the west of England to the buzzing city of Chiang Mai in Northern Thailand in order to eat better. I haven’t been disappointed.

I remember the food writer and TV celebrity chef Jamie Oliver saying that he dreams about herbs. Surprisingly it is the only sensible and normal sounding thing I have ever heard him say. It’s not unusual for me to spend days or weeks thinking, and dreaming about particular recipes or food, although I haven’t yet dreamed about herbs…I’m sure though it’s only a matter of time.

The foods available in Northern Thailand must rank amongst the most interesting and amazing in the world. There are influences from everywhere in Asia including China and India and the fragrant dishes of Malaysia, Indonesia, Lao, Vietnam and Southern Thailand (the old Siam). It’s a giddy mixture and a life’s work to get to know and understand them all…but I’m prepared to give it a go.

One of the biggest differences between shopping in the UK compared with Chiang Mai is the strong market culture. There are excellent fresh markets throughout this whole region that sell the freshest and bestest food anywhere on the planet. Huge piles of mangoes, cabbages, chilies, coriander, strawberries, jack fruit, limes, bananas (five different kinds), lemon grass and every other fruit or vegetable you can think of, fill the buzzing markets. There are times down at my local market when you literally can’t get in…it’s absolutely packed with hungry shoppers buying their dinner on their way home (Tescos eat your heart out).   banana sellers

The part of the market that I go to first is the rice section. Back in the UK rice is just something you buy and cook and don’t think a great deal about. Bang it in the microwave and it’s done in 2 minutes. In Chiang Mai rice is a revered commodity. There are endless types of rice available for sale, either piled high in big sacks, or already cooked in big steaming vats. My favorite and probably the most popular in this part of Chiang Mai is locally grown sticky rice. I had sticky rice once in London in a Thai restaurant and quickly wished I hadn’t. It was a bit like eating glue. The sticky rice here is completely different; it’s warm and soft…more like fluffy mashed potato than rice. It’s the kind of food that will always be eaten because, like mashed potatoes, it is so damn good.

Once I have my warm sticky rice I start to look for something to go with it.  There are different ways I can go from here. Either I could try some Thai soups or curries and dip the rice straight into it, or invest in a tiny pot of spicy dry chili sauce called “Nam Prik Ta Dem” which is popular all over Thailand made out of dark red dried chilis and salted fish. Some people do eat the rice and the dry sauce as a meal in itself…it’s the cheapest complete meal available at most markets that will set you back just 8 Baht (or one third of a Mars Bar using the International Confectionary Conversion table).

If though, I have a few baht left over, which I usually do, (unless I’m in the mood for two thirds of a Mars Bar) I usually think about getting something from the grilled section. Chiang Mai sausages are excellent and famous throughout Thailand, and the rest of the world if I had my way. There are also grilled fish which range from the excellent and locally farmed Catfish to the expensive Snake Head Fish with soft flaky flesh. There is also roast chicken, or honey marinated pork satay, or deep fried vegetable tempura,  or mini kebabs of roast garlic and red shallots or fresh water crab pate, or whole grilled squid with sharp and sour fresh lime sauce, or fried quails eggs, or crispy duck or any one of the most delicious and unusual foods in the world.

Today, when it’s market time I’m heading for the fresh fish and seafood section at the back of the market and I’m going to buy myself a big bag full of giant Tiger Prawns and perhaps some Soft Shell Crabs. I’ll then pop round to the fresh herb section and pick out some big bunches of Coriander, Lemon Grass, Basil and Spring Onions. I can’t wait to get cooking with all these fresh flavors.

If Jamie Oliver shopped down at my local market he’d find it difficult to work out the difference between when he was dreaming about herbs and wide awake!

Enjoy your food.

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Magical Mystery Food Tour around Chiang Mai

Posted on 26 May 2011 by Alex Gunn

Hang on to your hats, one way round no bumping…here we go. This is a whistle stop food tour for the serious food lover around the magical jungle city of Chiang Mai, Thailand. Not for the faint hearted.     chiang mai moat life coaching holiday

Our day starts early with fresh brewed local coffee at my good friend Khun Sonthaya’s Coffee House. Now this might not sound too impressive, but good coffee is not that easy to find in a city strangely obsessed with instant Nescafe and condensed milk. Don’t get me wrong, I’m a big “condensed milk with everything” fan but first thing in the morning it doesn’t really cut the mustard, does it. Not for the likes of you or I anyway.

Khun Sonthaya only buys top class local coffee beans from a small company called HillKoff who grow their coffee on the humid mountain sides just outside of Chiang Mai. You can, as a special treat, ask Khun Sonthaya for the special Civet Poo Coffee that is now being locally produced by a small organic organisation up in the mountains. Let me explain.

At night wild Civets (a notoriously shy and illusive cat like mammal) emerge from their day time hidy holes to creep through the jungle feeding on whatever they can find…notably the freshest and ripest coffee beans which they are most partial to (apparently). As the coffee bean passes through their gut, acids remove the outer layer of the bean which gives the coffee a strong but smooth taste (I did say not for the faint hearted). In the morning a small team of poo hunters comb the mountain side for Civet poo in order to process it into tiny amounts of rare tasting coffee. The price as you can imagine is horrendous. In America it sells for between $35 and $50 dollars per cup.

After coffee, Khun Sonthaya will join us for the rest of our food tour. We’re all off to Ching Choo Chai breakfast restaurant on the outskirts of Chiang Mai. Don’t try to find it by yourself…you won’t. It’s out of town and in an odd location off the ring road. It’s a real “locals only” place frequented by everyone from traffic cops to bank managers. There’s no menu, no hanging about and no disappointment; it serves the best breakfast you will find anywhere in the world (and God knows I’ve looked hard). You have a choice of 3 things; pork and rice, pork ball soup and rice porridge with (you guessed it) pork. I’m going to treat you to pork and rice (Cow Ca Moo). The pork is braised for hours and is so tender it does actually feel like it melts in your mouth. The rice is local jasmine rice that is served with the cooking juices of the pork. To off set the smoothness of the pork it is served with a spoonful of home made pickled cabbage and wonderfully hot spicy red chilli sauce.

Apart from serving the best breakfast in the world Ching Choo Chai’s prices are fairly competitive. To eat breakfast here with me and Sonthaya it will set you back less than the price of a Mars Bar in the 7 Eleven. So, breakfasts on me. I am the last of the big spenders!

life coaching food at market

Okay, ready for lunch? We’ll warm up by stopping off at the side of the road to buy a massive bunch of fresh Lychees. We’ll munch our way through as we speed off in my old diesel truck to a lunch restaurant called “that Northern Thai chicken place next to the moat”. Every lunch time they roast hundreds of chickens on big outdoor grills made from old oil drums. We’ll order a couple of plump golden good’uns and some hot and sweet red chilli dipping sauce. As a special treat…just because you’re with us today I’ll treat you to what is literally translated as a “Pork Shower”. Great name isn’t it. It is a type of ground pork salad mined with spicy chillies and freshened with chopped coriander and mint. It’s a great accompaniment to anything. We’ll wash all of this down with iced lemon tea and some of their home made coconut ice cream.

Now then, lets have a walk along the tree lined moat to work up a proper appetite…the leafyness and coolness of which always, and rather romantically, reminds me of  Paris (sorry but it really does). To take our minds of Paris I’ll treat you to some mango and sticky rice as we walk along.

Finally, as the day is drawing to an end and the sun is slipping behind the ever present Suthep Mountain we’ll set off, back out of town to my favourite fish and sea food restaurant locally known as “That fish and sea food restaurant out of town”. It’s a big operation and incredibly popular with Thai families. It starts to fill up from 5pm onwards and is staffed by an incredibly efficient army of waiting staff. We’ll get a table over the big central pond near the fountain so the afternoon air is cool and fresh. Our smiling waitress won’t leave until we have ordered everything we want, so nobody gets left behind. We’ll let Khun Sonthaya order as it’ll be quicker. I’ll put in a request for both of us, what about; a whole Pomfret fish steamed with ginger, shallots and lime, stir fried spinney crab, a few oyster omelettes (just because they are so good), some rice and a spicy papaya salad, all washed down with a big iced jug of beer.

fish restaurant from counselling retreat

We’ll sit out late under the stars in the moonlit shadow of the mountains listening to the distant and strange whirring noise of the Nightjars watching the owls swoop down from the forests and the bats flitting about the street lights. We’ll relax and talk about food, maybe order a couple of Thai whiskies and think about where we should eat tomorrow. Or shall we just do it all the same again.?

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Chiang Mai Has Gone Bananas

Posted on 11 March 2011 by Alex Gunn

banana sellers

You may think the idea of having 5 different types of bananas to choose from is entirely normal. But, I can assure you that if you had grown up on the outskirts of London in the 1970s were it was unusual to buy fruit at all (unless someone was ill) you would also share my amazement. 

When we were kids a sign of extravagance was to have a bowl of fruit on the sideboard. At Christmas it was joined by a small bowl of walnuts. There were only ever 3 kinds of fruit in the bowl, apples, oranges and bananas. The apples were soft, the oranges bitter but the bananas were at least a bland non offensive alternative. They usually disappeared first, then the apples and the oranges were sometimes left untouched and alarmingly none the worse for several years.

How can it be that you can get to 40 something years old and not realize there are varieties of banana. You would think that someone might tell you along the way, in the same way that you get to realize that the moon is not really made from cheese or the school nurse tells every boy their eyesight is so good they could be a fighter pilot (I was eighteen when an optician nearly killed himself laughing).

When I moved to Chiang Mai I basically thought that bananas were bananas. I had some vague idea that I had seen tiny, miniature bananas in Harrods or somewhere posh like that, which cost about a million pounds, but just assumed they were some weird affectation of the rich and famous (“Jeeves….make my bananas smaller!”). It is therefore with childlike delight that I can walk down the road any time and peruse several varieties of banana in my local market.

At the moment the market looks like a banana festival on Planet Banana. There are tables full of bananas of every shape, size and hue of yellow. I love the tiny finger sized ones that come in enormous bunches of up to 20 fruit. What I particularly like is the fact that you get so much for only 20 Thai Baht and when you eat them you feel like a giant. The flesh of these tiny fun sized bananas is a pleasing dark yellow. As different to the white anemic tasteless things we grew up eating as you could possibly get.

The fact that they are so wonderfully small and good to eat really does get me. Imagine being able to eat little water melons or growing tiny little juicy apples on little fairy trees. Moving to Thailand must be as close as you can get to moving to a different universe.

Although the tiny bananas are a knock out they do not have as good a taste as the big traditional looking fellows. My Thai friend told me that the literal translation for this type of banana is “good smell” which is certainly well placed. When you peel them they are beautifully fragrant which makes them irresistible. Although the flesh is whiter than the small ones they are creamier in taste and not as grainy and seem to command much higher prices.

In between these 2 extremes there are what I call “everyday bananas”. I get the feeling that people don’t really like them, that they are a bit common, which suits me fine. They are certainly the cheapest, I can get a big bunch for just 10 Baht or even 5 Baht if they won’t keep too long. They tend to be fairly straight and modest in size. The last bunch that I bought had hard black seeds inside like lead shot. It was the first ever time I’ve eaten a banana that has got pips. Will the wonders of Thailand never cease?

I have a strange affliction whereby I will almost certainly cycle down to the market this evening completely certain that I don’t need to buy any more bananas only to return with another huge bunch feeling strangely proud. My children are beginning to develop a pale yellow tinge although luckily for me the novelty of banana sandwiches has yet to wear thin. Perhaps I’ll buy just one more bunch.

 banana trees in old house

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5 Quintessential Korean Foods

Posted on 10 March 2011 by Nellie Huang

Explosive, colorful and gaudy: Korean gastronomy is a mishmash of intoxicating flavors and heritage. On a recent trip to Seoul, my tastebuds were erotically seduced by the city’s vivacious culinary scene. From steamy kimchi stew to wriggly seafood to colorful street food, Korean fare  is not just a feast for the eyes but also a feast for the soul. To begin your culinary education in Korean gastronomy, here are five typical foods found all over South Korea.

Streetside cart selling tteokbokki, Seoul

1. Tteokbokki

As South Korea’s ultimate comfort food, tteokbokki is so adored by the locals that you can find it in every street food stall and every dark alley. These chewy rice cakes are drenched in a lava of ruddy, sweet piquant sauce and punctuated by a host of spices. Tteokbokki traces its roots to the royal imperial kitchen, although these days it’s become more of a on-the-go fast food.

Korean food bibimbap

2. Bibimbap

If Seoul were to be a dish, it would be bibimbap. This savoury dish features an aromatic mound of rice laced with fresh, seasonal vegetables, topped with a fried egg and accentuated with thick chilli pepper paste. Casually known as one of Korea’s national dishes, the bibimbap is also ubiquitous in South Korea. For the best bibimbap in Seoul, head to the international restaurant chain, Bon juk, with new branches opened in Singapore and Malaysia.


3. Kimchi

Easily the most famous Korean dish in the world, kimchi has won a loyal following among both locals and foreigners. Kimchi is the creation of tradtion and heritage, and till this day, it is still very much part of the country’s gastronomy. The timeless dish is made by preserving cabbage in a host of condiments and spices for years. The amount of preservation time determines the texture and flavor of the kimchi.

Korean Samgyetang chicken ginseng soup

4. Samgyetang

With the Samgyetang trend sweeping across the whole of Asia, it’s gained its share of fame across the glbe these days. The Korean chicken ginseng soup, rich in nutrition, is also outrageously tasty packed with a plethora of flavors and aroma. For a taste of the real stuff, Seoul’s Baeknyeon Tojong Samgyetang is a humble specialty restaurant that not only serves up the best chicken soup but also a rich kimchi stew that packs a punch.

Korean barbque

5.  Korean BBQ

The Korean BBQ is a quintessential culinary experience: grilling your own meat and pairing that with a myriad of side dishes. Some of the popular meats to try on a barbeque are the modum gui (grilled beef) and tong galbisal (ribs) and they are best paired with the naengmyeon (cold buckwheat noodles).

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The Mighty Thai Avocado – Setting The Record Straight.

Posted on 13 October 2010 by Alex Gunn

As regular readers of these articles know, I like to spend as much time as possible at Northern Thai food markets. They are unquestionably the best in the world, or so I reckon. The range and quality of foods on offer is unsurpassed. Mountains of golden mangoes, water melons, dainty pots of fresh water crab pate, grilled catfish and huge bundles of bright green asparagus all jostle for space amongst a never ending sea of shoppers and hawkers.   P1010074 for avacado

It’s tempting to tell you all the wonders of my local market but I fear that in my excitement I would ramble on for several hours if not days and forget why I started writing this in the first place, which is……setting the record straight on the mighty Thai Avocado.

Over the last 50 years agriculture in Thailand has undergone a huge revolution, largely, as far as I can work out, as a direct result from the incredible energy and vision of the King. Impoverished farming communities have been re-invigorated by impressive “Royal Projects” that grow and produce a wide range of unusual and organic foods; the Water Buffalo Mozzarella Cheese is particularly good, so too is the Smoked Rainbow Trout, the continental looking jars of Apricots In Brine, organic strawberry jam and the range of fresh fruit concentrates, my favourite being the earthy and salty Apricot (I’ve started to ramble). But one fruit, (or is it a vegetable) stands out in the markets, at the moment, as head and shoulders above the rest, and that is the mighty Thai Avocado.

I use the word “mighty” not as an exaggerated way to talk up this recent South American addition to the ever expanding Thai fruit and veg extravaganza, but as a way to describe accurately its massive size. I have never seen avocados this big in my life; they are the size of footballs. Had it not been for the fact that the word “avocado” is almost the same in Thai I really would have struggled to work out what it was (“Khun Alex want Awacaado”? Oh yes, Khun Alex certainly does).

The thing about them is not the size, although they really are whoppers, but the taste. Admittedly the super size ones have a more watery taste but the slightly smaller ones are unbelievably good with a super rich nutty flavour and a beautiful creamy texture.

At the moment I’m suffering from a mild case what might be called Avocado Madness. It’s a condition characterised by cycling to the market at the end of every day mumbling quietly to yourself “I wont buy any more avocados, I don’t need any more avocados…” and returning home in an elevated mood with a basket full of bright green “awacaados”. As all members of AA (Avocados Anonymous) know, it really is difficult to stop. One’s too many and a thousand is never enough. They’re so good and so cheap. I’ve made endless avocado dips which always seem quite special and remind me of Christmas, creamy coconut milk avocado curries and a wonderful pasta dish with avocados, cherry tomatoes, olive oil and basil. I’m nearing that stage where I think it’s perfectly normal to start most sentences with, “another great thing about Thai avocados is…..” and entertain the delusion that people really are interested. I think that soon I might have to detox on aubergines.

Unfortunately, and quite bizarrely, I have recently read that local home grown Thai avocados are of “inferior” quality to the imported Australian ones. As you can imagine I’m somewhat affected by this. I can only think there is some suspicious, underhand antipodeans food writing conspiracy going on. The local Thai ones are every bit as good if not vastly superior in quality and certainly in size and also of course in price than what I shall call from now on, the “New World Conspiracy Avocados”.  New world, old tricks.

So if you get a chance, wherever you are, trundle down to your local market and ask around for Thai avocados, they really are worth looking out for, especially if you’re reading this in Australia!

No, not avocados...strawberries!

No, not avocados...strawberries!

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Eating Around Weta Cave

Posted on 06 October 2010 by muchadoabouteating

Miramar may seem like a sleepy suburb in Wellington but it is the home of some most intriguing cafes in the city.


Polo Cafe

Polo Cafe Miramar is named after its historic polo grounds.  It will be a pity to just talk about the food in the cafe without a mention on a very important institution in the area – Weta. So before or after a meal at Polo please make sure to go down a few streets to Weta Cave.

600_weta cave

And meet him…

600_weta cave1

Indeed, Weta as New Zealand’s premier visual effects company has an impressive portfolio that includes Lord Of The Rings Trilogy, King Kong, Avatar and the list goes on.  Weta Cave (the museum) showcases what went behind the scenes of some of the greatest movies ever made.  Both Weta Cave and Polo are must-goes when you are in Wellington.  Now, back to the food at Polo.

Free Range Chicken and Broccoli Fettuccine, NZ$16

Free Range Chicken and Broccoli Fettuccine, NZ$16

This chicken and broccoli fettuccine is a refreshing take on pasta.  Extremely light yet tasty mainly due to some lemon juice used.  The generous amount of broccoli made this a total guilt-free carbo treat for anyone who is craving for a warm big plate of pasta.

Wild Hare Pie with Toasted Walnut and Orange Salad with Dark Cherry Relish, NZ$16

Wild Hare Pie with Toasted Walnut and Orange Salad with Dark Cherry Relish, NZ$16

I enjoyed the strong yet not that heavy taste of the hare meat.  To me, the rabbit meat had a texture that was much more tender than beef without compromising on the heartiness of red meat.  What I did not understand was the liberal usage of terms such as free range and wild.  The cynical streak in me believed that it takes more than a layman’s discerning tastebuds to validate such claims.

Sri Lanka Pork Curry with Rice, Flat Bread and Cucumber Salsa, NZ$18

Sri Lanka Pork Curry with Rice, Flat Bread and Cucumber Salsa, NZ$18

At Maranui

At Maranui

Sri Lanka pork curry tasted very nice and totally unlike Singaporean curry.  I cannot tell what spices they used but it’s just very tasty.  Cafe Polo is famous for their cakes and pastries (found in the glass cabinet beside the cashier) but I have to give them a miss as the servings were huge.  Well, if you have time to hang around the cafe a little longer to digest then please try the cakes for me! Who knows you may end up chatting with some creative and talented dude working for Weta and gain more than just a yummy dessert!

A little more than a stone throw away, Maranui is a cafe housed in the Maranui Surf Club.  People in Welly love its ambience, food and friendly staff.  Many found the place totally close to their hearts.  When Maranui was burnt down in August 2009, much support was given to the restoration process of this place.  After 10 months of restoration, Maranui finally opened its grounds on 1st June 2010.  I was trying to capture how busy the cafe was but failed miserably.  Believe me, the place was much more crowded than what my camera could portray.  Business was so brisk that we were told to wait for 45mins. Yup, people in Welly do miss their beloved Maranui.

Quinoa Salad

Quinoa Salad

Quinoa salad is ordered off the counter and I hope I will be lucky enough to try the healthy salad again!  Quinoa, chickpeas, shallots, coriander with lemon.  It’s tangy enough for me to like.

Quesadilla (Capsicum, Cashew Pesto, Jalapeno and Rocket), NZ$10

Quesadilla (Capsicum, Cashew Pesto, Jalapeno and Rocket), NZ$10

We ordered both vegetarian and non-vegetarian versions of their quesadilla.  The vegetarian one is ironically more flavourful and yummy.  The sharp taste of capsicum and jalapeno gave much kick to this Mexican favourite! Now, if all vegetarian stuff taste so divine, there will be many more healthy people on this earth.  My mozarella and choritzo quesadilla was good but paled in comparsion to its capsicum counterpart.  Despite the cheese and sausages that went into it, the quesadilla was surprisingly light in taste.

600_maranui quesadilla

Quesadilla (Mozzarella, Choritzo, Tomato and Coriander), NZ$10 with Flat White in the background

I will be doing Maranui a huge disservice if I do not mention their coffees. Rooted in Australia and New Zealand, flat white is not as ubiquitous in the world as latte.  People in New Zealand are proud of their coffee and flat white is their choice drink. Flat white has lesser milk, thinner foam and is served hotter than latte.  Word is that Starbucks has already launched flat white in some states in UK, hopefully it will reach other parts of the world soon!

Chocolate Fish Cafe

Chocolate Fish Cafe

Finally, a cafe that sells delicacy on a humble piece of bread! Once a hidden find in Sorching Bay, Chocolate Fish quickly rose to an iconic position in Wellington when patronised by Peter Jackson as well as the Lord of the Ring’s cast and crew.  Business soared and the landlord took an opportunity to jack up the rent to $2000 per week.  The cafe subsequently moved to the current location at Shelly Bay sans kitchen.  I guess constraint breeds creativity, the cafe now operate on a bbq pit and aptly dishes out yummy kiwi cuisine everyday.

Scallops on bread, NZ$16

Scallops on bread, NZ$16

We had scallops on bread, crayfish on bread and the chocolate cake.  The generous serving of fresh seafood, garlic butter and nicely grilled bread added up to a rich and satisfying meal.  Crayfish on bread was served with a thick and crispy-in-parts omelette.  It was oily, decadent and left me craving for more. The chocolate cake with a huge dollop of cream was light in texture but rich in taste.  Unfortunately, I did not manage to try everything on the menus of all 3 cafes.  Oh well, this will be a good reason for me to return to Wellington again!

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Of Fish, Duck and Many Other Scary Food

Posted on 04 October 2010 by muchadoabouteating

It was a bright and early morning in Beijing. Well, not early enough for the flag-raising at the birth place of the People’s Republic of China but we still manage to catch the many mobile breakfast stalls around the area.

We wondered around to realise that these ubiquitous stalls simply sell prata-look-alike pancakes and decided to grab them.  For just 5RMB per pancake, this sure made hearty breakfast for our empty stomaches.  Tasted like piping hot prata with egg (just an aside: piping hot prata has become unusually rare in Singapore, to think that I actually need to go to Beijing for that, sigh) but they are served with some sweet sauce and lettuce. Great stuff! Be sure to catch one of these stalls at almost every exit of the subway stations while you are in Beijing.

I am so so glad that we didn’t think about skipping breakfast for Tiananmen Square 天安门 is huge and crowded.  This is afterall the symbolic centre of the Chinese universe. A must-visit will be the Chairman Mao Memorial Hall 毛主席记念堂. Admission is free but be prepared to quene for hours to get in as Chinese from all over China flock in to pay their respect to the physical presence of Mao. I needed loads of energy from breakfast to get through the crowd, walked through the square before we reached the Forbidden City 紫禁城 aka 故宫博物院 (Admission: 60RMB from Apr to Oct, 40RMB for other months).

To say that the Forbidden City is huge is a serious understatement. To walk through the Forbidden City is just like walking through many Tiananmens.  It was really crowded inside and the photo below just happened to capture a rare corner without any human being.

By the time we reached the Imperial Garden (the grand finale after endless of gates and halls we had to get through in the Forbidden City) and out. It was way beyond lunchtime. We hopped into Fu Yue Lou 福越楼 at Qian Men Dong Da Jie for a duck, Peking Duck.  This unknown eatery is chosen instead of Quan Ju De for we did not like the over-rated chain.

At  Fu Yue Lou, we got better attention, crispier skin and more tender duck than the well-known chain.  For the duck bones, we chose the salt and pepper style of cooking (extra 8RMB).  The fried duck bones tasted totally ahem KFC.  Very yum and appetising.  The entire duck just cost us 98RMB while the 2 big Peking Duck players – Quan Ju De charges 114RMB and Da Dong charges 99RMB for HALF a duck.

I could not miss out an order of the shui zhu yu 水煮鱼 right in Beijing. Look at the amount of chilli that came along.  Beijing’s shui zhu yu is definitely not for the faint-heart.  The sichuan dish was full of kick, the fish slices were ultra fresh and full of bones. Ouch! Careful! Next slice!

Portions were huge for lunch and so we went to another huge place to walk. The Temple of Heaven park 天坛公园 was the place of worship for the emperor (son of heaven). These days people go there to admire the grandeur of Ming Dynasty’s architecture .  It is ANOTHER huge area and the main sights are the Round Alter, Imperial Vault of Heaven, Echo Wall and the Hall of Prayer for Good Harvest.  While admission to the park is 15RMB but you need to fork out another 20RMB for enter the 4 main sights

By the time we are done with the Temple of Heaven it was near evening.  As a foodie who watches too much food tv for any good, I simply need to go Dong Hua Men nightmarket 东华门夜市 which happens to be round the corner of Beijing’s shopping mecca, Wang Fu Jing 王府井.  Lest you are distracted (actually I was indeed distracted) by all the Cartier, IWC and Uniqlo in the shopping street and missed the street leading to Dong Hua Men nightmarket, you can try to find the literal 井of the 王府 (well of the house of Wang) which the street is named after.

Yup, as seen from the above photo, the well is all dried and covered up by now, simply turn into the street after the well is located and Dong Hua Men Nightmarket is right in front of your eyes.  The fear-factor food street selling all sorts of scary food – scorpions, cicadas, starfish and silkworms (15RMB each).

I seriously do not know how many people eat the scary food but I was very purposeful.  I was there for my fried-ice-cream and the moment I spotted it, I had it!

Freshly fried in recycled oil but who cares.  The fried ice-cream (15RMB) was coated with a generous amount of icing sugar served on an equally delectable french toast.  Totally chased the simmering heat of Beijing’s tail end summer away.

While fried ice-cream was a yummy treat, the fried fresh milk (15RMB) paled in comparison.  Tasted just like some plain and gluely chinese cake in thick batter.

Another common street snack will be beef tripe (20RMB).  The ridged tripe 爆肚 was extremely pungent so you will either love or hate it and I belong to the latter.

Well, I decided to get some Tianjin’s buns just because of its name (kuo bu li 狗不理 translates loosely to dog ignores).  It was said that the original bun from Tianjin was Empress Dowager Cixi’s fave.  Ok it’s just meat buns (15RMB for 5).  If you are really interested there is a branch from the restaurant (suitably named 狗不理) the Empress used to patronise just off Jian Men Da Jie.

After exploring the food street, I was dead beat but still insisted on going to the gorgeous St Joseph’s church around the corner of Wang Fu Jin, went to Wang Fu Jin bookstore to get violin concertos scores for my brother (ultra cheap ok!) and explored the extremely similar but a lot more touristy Wang Fu Jing snack street before turning in for the night.

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Tokyo for the Oenophile

Posted on 14 June 2010 by Amy Ma


Experience a Japanese take on the quintessential pairing of a piece of great steak with a good bottle of wine. Here at Old Vine, the chef serves up a cuisine style he coined “fusion teppanyaki”, which simply translates into the fact that there are no tacky spectacles or flair-filled displays around the hot plate – just elegantly prepared food from the highest caliber of ingredients.


The specialty of the house is the Ohki beef, from the Yonezawa prefecture in Japan renown for their magnificently reared cattle. The combination of cold weather and their all-grain diet yields a marbled flesh equally tender but less oily than beef from Kobe and Matsuzaka. “In Kobe the cattle drink beer and get massages, like a lazy and unhealthy man,” says Senior Partner Jiro Kinoshita. “In Yonezawa, they eat a healthy diet, but because of the cold weather, they develop beautiful layers of fat.”

Like all great meat dishes, the ones at Old Vine scream for a glass of wine. And there are plenty to choose from. The entrance is lined with bottles from various estates, all personally autographed by the winemakers themselves. As the night progresses, feel free to migrate into the bar area to continue your wine tasting with the Enomatic Wine Machines, which allow you to select tasting, half-glass, or full-glass portions from an assortment of varietals.

Back at the dining table, attentive gourmands will enjoy the tasteful additions. Dip your rustic bread into two flavors of olive oils – robust or fruity. Or opt for the A.O.C. designated Lescure salted butter. And take a sip of the Vichy Catalan sparkling water, which carries a slight saltiness to cleanse the palate and is the brand of choice by Ferran Adria for El Bulli in Spain.

Only after the entire dining experience do you realize how well the 75-year old vine that adorns the doorway of the restaurant represents the philosophy here. Oenophiles have long since heralded that the grapes from old vines produce wines of a deeper complexity, and Old Vine restaurant carries within its many layers the same je ne sais quoi.

The soothing atmosphere and gracious staff quickly convert any first comer into a regular friend, who knows that like a good bottle of wine, Old Vine will get even better with age (or in this case, multiple visits).


Old Vine

1106 Bldg. 1/F, 1-10-6 Nishiazabu, Minato-ku, Tokyo 106-0031 Japan

Tel: +81-03-5771-2439

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Amy Ma

Food & Drink + Hong Kong

Amy is a regular contributor to the South China Morning Post and Wall Street Journal amongst other publications. [...]

Pua Mench

Hong Kong

Pua is a writing and traveling enthusiast based in Hong Kong, with a weakness for all things related to the culinary arts and healing modalities, and a passion for sustainable living. [...]

Kim Inglis

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Kim has been an editor and journalist for over 20 years, more than half of which has been spent in Asia. [...]

Nellie Huang

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Nellie has been published in Food & Travel magazine and Lifestyle, and is a contributing author of V!VA's Guatemala Guidebook. She writes to travel, and travels to write. [...]

Sarah Jane Evans

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She has published travel articles in Australia, New Zealand and Malaysia in publications including: Vacations and Travel magazine... [...]

Carrie Kellenberger

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She has traveled throughout Asia, finding work as a writer, editor, educator, voice over artist, photographer, and nightclub singer. [...]

Mark Lean

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From writing about music, Mark expanded his focus to design, fashion, food and travel. In recent years, he has explored the highs and lows of Asia. [...]

Joel Quenby

Entertainment + Asia News

Joel is a British writer and journalist who's lived, worked and traveled in Southeast Asia since 2002. He's filed yarns for numerous publications...[...]

Alex Gunn

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After several diverse careers as a circus performer, school teacher, psychotherapist, stunt pilot and university lecturer he can now be found poking about far flung markets, museums, restaurants and odd places in and around Chiang Mai.. [...]

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