We love our annual “pilgrimage” to Perth in Western Australia because it means spending time with my sister Alice and her family who moved there from Sydney in 1995. Through the years, we have watched our nephew and niece grow up right before our eyes and it is hard to believe that Jack and Rene are now young adults.
As we stroll and gaze at the beautiful sunset on City Beach where Alice and her family lives, we see few a lone joggers doing their daily exercise and locals walking their dogs.
It is a long and beautiful stretch of beach that runs at least 20km up to Hillary’s in the north and as far down south as Fremantle, the main port in Western Australia.
And right before you is the Indian ocean that spans the entire length of the horizon as far as the eye can see.
And with every walk to work off the extra calories, we look forward to beautiful home cooking that Alice never fails to dish up every time we are visiting.
Tonight, Alice has some home-made bolognaise pies baking in the oven. When it arrives, the pastry is a beautiful golden brown. I love these kind of pies because it is light and not too heavy on the carbs. But wait …
There is a little suprise when the pastry is unveiled … a scoop of smooth and creamy mashed potato hiding under the pastry on top of a hearty bowl of mince and bolognaise sauce! What a delightful surprise …
But our Perth visits also mean a trip to some of our favourite restaurants this city has to offer.
Cambridge Forum Food Court, Wembley
Located only ten minutes from City Beach, this food court features the usual offerings of Japanese, Thai, Malaysian, roasts, sandwiches and even dim sims. But this is a food court with a difference where one can also BYO wine and beer free of corkage and wine glasses are also provided free of charge!
Now find me a food court in Sydney that offers free BYO notwithstanding some great food and I’ll be there in a flash.
Japanese udon noodles is Rene’s favourite every time we come to this food court. The broth is light and flavoursome with a nice topping of finely diced seaweed and shallots.
Alice loves the nasi lemak here and I can see why. Fragrant coconut flavoured rice with delectable sambal and chicken curry makes this iconic Malaysian dish quite irresistable.
Mysaucepan orders her favourite stir-fried rice noodles Cantonese style or wat taan hor fun. This dish arrives with a generous amount of seafood whilst the rice noodles is seared to perfection with the smoky aromas of a good wok hei or breath of the wok.
The Malaysian stall at this food court is especially well-known for its stir-fried dishes and the one that I always order is the char kway teow, which in my humble opinion, is arguably one of the best interpretations in Australia.
The rice noodles have the smoky aromas and you can order this dish either without chilli, medium or hot spice level. I usually opt for medium spice level which has a good amount of heat even for a chilli fiend like me and you can also opt for cockles in the style of a true KL style char kway teow.
A chai tow kway is no less impressive with its smoky wok flavours. The wonderfully charred cubes of radish are crisp on the outside and soft inside. Fresh crunchy beansprouts and egg give this dish some crunch and texture. Again, this interpretation is right up there with the best there is in Australia.
Another restaurant that we have been coming back every time we are in Perth is Funtastico, a casual Italian diner which is known for good pizzas and pastas. Notwithstanding the painfully slow service, the food has won us over each time.
So on the next evening, we come to Subiaco again, one of Perth’s trendy entertainment and dining hubs.
It doesn’t help when we notice Chinese basketball players including NBA star Yao Ming, his teammates and a host of trainers who are already seated and ordered their meals ahead of us.
We order the roasted field mushrooms with rocket, garlic crumbs and shaved pecorino cheese because it is mum’s favourite. The huge mushrooms are perfectly baked, juicy and goes extremely well with the cheese and rocket leaves.
A serve of ravioli napoletana arrives with large parcels of pasta filled with spinach, ricotta and parmesan and topped with a rich napoletana sauce. The pasta is slightly al dente and spews out its flavoursome filling with each bite.
One of our favourite pastas here is the spaghetti marinara al cartoccio which comes wrapped with baking paper to seal in all the flavours and opened at the table.
The spaghetti is boldly al dente but still manages to soak up the tasty sauce from the bake whilst the prawns, scallops and mussels are succulent and tender.
The pizzas are no less impressive and a paesana comes with generous toppings of mushrooms, capsicum, artichokes, onions, olives, tomato, spinach and mozzarella. I like these thin crust pizzas because less dough means more flavours from the toppings.
For a chilli fiend like me, I can never go past fresh red chillies to add some kick to my food. But be warned, the red chillies in olive oil here are fiery and will definitely wake up your senses even with a small dose.
Jack’s 16th birthday ~ 3 October 2011
This particular trip to Perth is special because we are here to celebrate Jack’s sixteenth birthday.
I clearly remember the first time I met my nephew back in December 1995 when he was barely two month old. A cute little baby that he was when happy but his yell at the top of his lungs when not getting what he wants would surely put legendary rocker Bryan Adams to shame.
It wasn’t long ago that both Jack and his sister Rene were page boy and flower girl at our wedding where their heights were barely up to our shoulders. They made our wedding special because we witnessed them growing up before our eyes with every visit to Perth during those earlier years.
I fondly remember they were both small enough to hang off my outstretched arm and Jack was small enough for me to throw him up in the air. There was a time when I accidentally bumped his head onto a ceiling beam. It was a pretty hard knock and I could see he was about to break into one of his Bryan Adam specials. Tough as he is, my gentle coaxing slowly turned his frown into a big smile and all was forgiven.
Those were fun-filled years when we were played ball and swam in the backyard. I could even beat Jack on the tennis court when he was just starting out as a Nadal wannabe. But now, he is taller and bigger than I am. Mate, how about a game of tennis on the computer instead? That’s probably my only chance to beat you now!
Jack thought he would spend his entire sixteenth birthday with us at home. “How boring”, he must have wondered. Good nature that he is, he seemed resigned to the fact that perhaps spending time with family wasn’t that bad after all.
But proud mum had other ideas to make his day special and secretly planned a surprise by getting three of his close friends to turn up at home.
Seeing Julian, Charlie and Mary sitting in his room, Jack’s first reaction, with a smile on his face – “What are you guys doing here?”
Happy birthday Jack!! Hope you have a fabulous day with your friends.
Well, he sure did have a great day, chilling out with his mates at home.
Steamboat at home in City Beach
You see, Alice is a wonderful baker and cook. I have been coaxing her to post some of her favourite recipes on my blog to no avail.
But today, I’m going to share with you her beautiful steamboat dinner which we had - a communal dining experience where everyone can choose their own ingredients and cook it in a simmering pot of hearty broth placed in the centre of the dining table.
Fresh red chillies, capsicum and eggplant are stuffed with ready-made fish paste and then gently seared on a hot pan. Then, it’s left to cool before being cooked in the communal steamboat later.
The scene is set where I can smell the wonderful aroma of chicken broth from the kitchen as our first guests sip on their wines.
A 2o1o Pink Salmon merlot rose is gently sweet which is how the ladies like it with a bit of nibbles before dinner. What nibbles, you might ask? No, not that kind!!
Meanwhile, I am keeping an eye on the garden fresh wombok and spinach leaves where I can just imagine them wilting in a hearty stock, soaking up all the wonderful goodness and flavours.
An essential tool for this steamboat dinner is a portable induction cooker. Save for the electric wire running down one side of the dining table, this piece of equipment is great for heating up broth to a simmer in minutes while we tuck into delicious food.
A beautiful chicken and pork broth is really the basis for a great steamboat dinner. Alice made sure of that with her huge pot of stock that is constantly being emptied onto this centre pot which is cooking up a whole range of seafood from fresh salmon, prawns to raw beef rolled up into cigars, stuffed vegetables and deep-fried tofu.
I love steamboat for its interactive style of eating because each diner is free to choose their own ingredients to cook individually.
The more ingredients being added to this simmering communal pot, the tastier the stock becomes – how good is that?
And while the adults are enjoying their steamboat dinner, Jack, Rene and her friend Anabelle are tucking into their dinner while simultaneously staring at a computer screen. Gaming or Facebook? The power of the computer to entertain is simply amazing.
We finished off the last of Jack’s birthday cake for dessert as well as a cheesecake that Alice made.
Meanwhile, Rene and her friend and fellow musician from school, Anabelle, are chilling out after their dinner.
From the string section of Methodist Ladies’ College symphony orchestra, Rene plays the violin whilst Anabelle plays the cello. Being the only school chosen to compete from Australia, they were both part of their school’s choir and orchestra ensemble that took part in the Llangollen Eisteddfod of Music & Dance in July 2011 in the small Welsh town of Llangollen.
Music is certainly a beautiful part of life and the joys of playing a musical instrument can inspire and bond.
As we settle into another evening, we take a stroll along City Beach to work off that hearty dinner.
So dear readers, which is your favourite restaurant in Perth and have you had a steamboat dinner party at home?
Why is South Australia not called “Southern Australia” like Western Australia is called?
Related posts by ChopinandMysaucepan:
View details of the Llangollen Eisteddfod of Music & Dance here.
View details of the Newwave portable induction cooker at:
Newwave Kitchen Appliances
132 Cochranes road
Moorabin, Victoria 3189
Cambridge Forum Food Court
350 Cambridge street
Perth, Western Australia
Tel: + 61 8 9383 9318
12 Rokeby Road
Perth, Western Australia
Tel: + 61 8 9381 2688