Time passes really quickly when you are having a good time but we prefer to say
time passes really quickly when there is so much food and so little time!
Cover image above: Old and new recipes which we cooked at home in 2015. Here are nine recipes among so many of our favourites.
Top row L-R: Kingfish sashimi with flying fish roe strawberry, basil and verjuice dressing; Roast chicken a la king with buttered rice, one of so many 1970s faves; Oxtail spagbol.
Middle row L-R: Vietnamese-inspired oxtail pho with rice noodle soup; Malaysian style fish ball noodles with crispy pork lard; Chilled beef tripe salad with coriander and chilli, lemon juice and crispy garlic dressing.
Bottom row L-R: Malaysian style Ipoh hor fun with prawns & chicken; Indonesian style spicy oxtail soup; Malay style fried chicken with curry leaves and spices.
Waving goodbye to 2105 cracker year of good food, we are looking forward to more deliciousness 2016!!
2015 – it was a year of discovering new restaurants in Sydney’s ever-changing dining landscape and being inspired by the litany of talented chefs, providores and food lovers in our beautiful city. It was a year where the excitement of cutting-edge restaurant food is mixed with the warmth of our home recipes.
As I write this blog post, I feel tremendous gratitude reliving the fresh ingredients we cooked with each day. Thank you Sydney!! Your passion for great produce fuels our respect and responsibility for transforming such beautiful ingredients into equally beautiful meals. Last but not least, thank you, our dear readers for joining us in our food escapades.
Great food and wine taste even better when they are shared with good friends! So here they are … a recap of our favourite home cooking, new restaurants and all things that make our tummies growl with anticipation and pleasure … enjoy!
Goodbye 2015 ~ A Feast For Our Tummies
Momofuku Seibo at The Star in Sydney is celebrity chef David Chang‘s first restaurant outside of New York City.
Making its debut back in 2011 to rapturous fanfare, I was determined to let the hype cool but one dish that tantalized my taste buds is the heavy umami taste of fermented black bean powder against thinly sliced red, white and yellow radish.
Small half centimetre cubes of wagyu beef and watermelon hidden under this coral of radish were sweet and savoury revelation.
Its char kway teow tasted like a salt bin at the beginning but they have listened to customer feedback. Thin noodles, no pesky chicken slices, fish cake or deep fried spring onions and fresh shallots as garnish have caught my attention and eventually, my respect. What this plate of noodles has is oodles of crispy pork lard, fresh cockles and loads of spicy attitude and wok hei.
To me, this is arguably one of Australia’s finest at the moment.
2015 was a year where I experimented with food I fondly remember from childhood.
Growing up in Malaysia, I remember Indonesian style oxtail soup served in air-conditioned, pseudo Western-style steakhouses in Kuala Lumpur. It’s one way to combat humidity in the tropics while indulging in a hearty home style soup.
Rich and gently spicy with a blend of carrot, tomato, onion, ginger, spices and herbs, this heart-warming soup has kept us toasty during the winter months. Garnished with fresh coriander leaves and home-made deep fried shallots, this awesome sup buntut is not going to stop me searing chunks of oxtail this coming summer.
This soup has made me realize how lucky I am to be cooking in Australia. Sup buntut in Indonesia, Malaysia and other South East Asian countries often see oxtail sliced in half through the bone rather than cleanly on the knuckle joint as we find in our butchers. Oxtail is a cheaper cut of meat and higher restaurant prices for whole oxtail joints are harder to justify in poorer Asian countries.
We had the pleasure of meeting executive chef Guillaume Zika at Cottage Point Inn, a restaurant in the northern beaches of Sydney that deservedly bagged two hats in the latest edition of Sydney Morning Herald’s Good Food Guide.
Chef Zika’s line-caught snapper carpaccio is swimming in a pool of strawberry sauce vierge, basil and finger lime. For me, this kind of dish should be a no-brainer in summer with our abundance of fresh seafood.
The fresh seafood complements beautifully with the sweetness of strawberries and tangy pops of finger lime.
Chef Zika’s carpaccio has since become our inspiration for fresh sashimi that is easily replicated at home with our favourite vinaigrette dressings.
The Sydney Fish Market gets better each year with so much variety of fresh seafood. As hard as I tried, I could not find a single blemish in these huge king prawns.
Home-made herb butter is always plentiful in our freezer. Combined with a generous drizzle of olive oil, these prawns are difficult to beat even in the best of Sydney restaurants.
Another one of our favourite childhood snacks is the humble prawn toast. Sadly, I found Malaysian style prawn toast lacking in creativity and flavour even in one of the best Chinese restaurants. Its style has not evolved and it remains the meek and thin slices of prawn toast I remember from yesteryear.
Executive chef at Sydney’s Mr. Wong, Dan Hong has improvised his western influence on an Asian classic. His Vietnamese heritage uses French baguette, a good squiggle of kewpie mayo topped with a trio of coriander, mint and shallot leaves in Vietnamese nuoc cham dressing. This prawn toast has since become another one of our favourite home recipes in 2015.
Over the Easter break, we spent three fun-filled days with friends in a beach house down at Callala beach in the South Coast.
Long walks along the beach, volleyball and best of all, cooking and eating were highlights of a blissful weekend.
A trip to Kuala Lumpur was spent with long-time friends from high school and of course, indulging in the best street food that Malaysia has to offer.
Among so many, the humble packet nasi lemak with its gutsy sambal remains one of my favourites.
Spiciness is still a mainstay in Malaysian cuisine and the curry laksa at Madras Lane in Chinatown with its gritty and piquant soup is one of the best in Kuala Lumpur.
The East Malaysian state of Sarawak is the pepper capital of Malaysia and possibly the world so it is no wonder this laksa takes on peppery flavours.
The revelation here is an incomparable bowl of laksa cooked by my childhood friend Priscilla. Huge king prawns, tofu puffs, fish cakes in a rich, spicy broth punctuated with lemongrass, onion, galangal, chilli and pepper makes this Sarawak laksa in a class of its own.
Cottage Point Inn deserves special mention because its food is sublime and its panoramic water views across a location tucked away in a far-flung corner of the Hawkesbury river totally idyllic.
On our second visit, chef Zika has changed the menu to pay homage to the ingredients of the season.
Succulent scallops are wrapped with a paper-thin ribbon of guanciale while charred gem lettuce laced with crunchy pumpkin seeds is a clever mop for a sweet pumpkin puree.
The smoky sweet aromas of this kingfish smells like a honey-glazed ashtray while savoury notes are restrained. It’s like eating expensive ham except these thick slabs of smoked fish are more delicate and succulent than pork.
The arrival of spring is a time to be outdoors and the Sydney Opera House is truly majestic at this time of the year.
Apart from being one of the most convenient places for tourists to soak up the views while having a cocktail or two, the Opera Bar takes its menu quite seriously.
We discover the beer battered flathead and chips with its impossibly light and crispy batter to be one of Sydney’s best.
Chef Frederico Zanellato‘s LuMi Bar & Dining in Pyrmont is another newcomer that rightfully earned its two-hatted status in Sydney Morning Herald’s Good Food Guide.
Inspired by seasonal produce, our second visit saw its menu changed as a clear reflection of the passion and creativity of its chef.
Silky smooth rice noodles complement a hearty chicken broth and bouncy fish balls and fish cake slices.
Of course, nothing beats the crisp and smoky crunch of deep-fried bits of pork lard that flavour the soup so beautifully.
On the 25 September 2015, Mysaucepan and I moved into our new home in Sydney’s north shore.
Being one who is fond of city living, it took a bit of adjustment for Mysaucepan but a backyard with the occasional rabbits from the adjoining reserve is winning her heart over.
With the amount of cooking we do at home, one of the first things I wanted in our backyard was a compost bin. All fruit and vegetable waste from our kitchen as well as Mysaucepan‘s coffee grounds (I don’t drink coffee, only whisky) and garden debris go straight into a compost bin. I will be blogging about composting and how to recycle green household waste in my coming blog posts.
A project for me this year is major renovations and landscaping works to our home that will see an open gourmet kitchen and dining table that seats twelve diners. Internal living spaces will be seamless with outdoor areas, opening out to an elevated wooden deck that overlooks the backyard and reserve. Two 3.9-kilolitre water tanks will store and recycle rain water for bathroom and garden use.
An outdoor pizza oven will see us cooking up home-made pizzas, Mediterraneans style roast Greek goat and BBQ seafoods.
There is a fair bit of gardening chores for me but I have always felt at home when surrounded by nature and have refused to indulge in a motorized lawn mower.
Instead, my new manual mower has been a therapeutic garden companion for the past three months.
One of the very first recipes I cooked outdoors is a simple beef tripe salad with coriander and grape tomato.
Thanks to my friend Molly for her inspiration because this is one of my favourite salads on a Sunday afternoon in summer.
On the music front, a highlight is meeting one of my favourite pianists Yuja Wang when she gave a solo recital at City Recital Hall Angel Place on the evening of 13 July 2015.
Needless to say, it was a sublime performance that included Chopin’s sonatas no. 2 & 3 in B flat minor and B minor respectively and a few Scriabin preludes.
Her interpretation of Balakirev’s Islamey, arguably one of the most demanding pieces in the piano repertoire demonstrated incredible grace and passion with flawless technique.
Lastly, I leave you with another one of our home interpretations inspired by chef Zika. It has become one of our favourites and this dish sparked off a wonderful 2015 Christmas dinner at home.
Wishing all our readers, family and friends a fun-filled 2016 with lots of deliciousness!
Chopinand & Mysaucepan