Sushi Samurai - Neutral Bay

>> Wednesday, March 31, 2010

I have a list in my head of all the restaurants and cafes in Sydney that I want to try. It's a long list and I have carefully bookmarked all of them on my laptop. However on one Sunday lunch time, I left home for lunch without consulting my list as I was in a rush (probably because I didn't have breakfast that morning) and 20 minutes later I found myself in Neutral Bay without knowing where exactly to eat.

I've been to Sushi Samurai before and it wasn't a place on my list to visit again. Don't get me wrong, the food wasn't bad at all - in fact it's might be better than a lot of the Japanese places I've tried in the city and reasonably priced, but it there are other new places that I'd rather try I re-visit this place again.

However on this day, none of the restaurants in Neutral Bay seem to be opened (including Ju Ge Mu which only opens at night on Sunday). Famished and tired, I decided to head back to Sushi Samurai again.

We ordered a sashima/sushi platter for two. The fish were definitely fresh, however the rice was on the hard/chewy side. I didn't get to try the rolls but I was told they were good. I tried the tamago (egg roll) but it was a bit rubbery.

Sashimi & Sushi Platter for two

The sashimi salad was refreshing and the sweet balsamic dressing was made just right.

Sashimi Salad

I love my teriyaki fish. The one they make here is not bad, however I do find the batter a bit thick for my liking and again the rice on the hard side like the sushi in the platter.

Teriyaki Fish Lunch Set

I probably won't be here again anytime soon. But for around $60 for 3, I was contently full and ready for my Sunday afternoon nap after this meal :)

Sushi Samurai

Shop 3
197 Military Road
Neutral Bay NSW2089
Tel: 9953 4059


What is white and fluffy?!

>> Thursday, March 25, 2010

Marshmallows of course! (I'm sure that was the first thing that came to mind) ;)

Until recently, marshmallows were to me one of the things that you buy from the supermarkets in packets. Never the type of food that comes out from your kitchen as it never occurred to me that you could make them and get them to taste exactly the same as the ones cafes put on top of your hot chocolate.

I woke up one morning craving for marshmallows. It was the first thing on my mind when I opened my eyes and I couldn't stop thinking about it all day. I even thought of different variations of it. Like dying my marshmallows green for Saint Patrick's day last Wednesday. But then I decided to be more conservative and make the original one first. My crazy ideas will have to be saved for another day.

I'm definitely going to be making another batch soon. The batch I made tasted squishy and chewy and fluffy! Only wish that it's colder outside so I could make a cup of hot chocolate to go with them....

Adapted from Gourmet

Makes about 96 1-inch cubed marshmallows
  • About 1 cup confectioners’ sugar
  • 3 1/2 envelopes (2 tablespoons plus 2 1/2 teaspoons) unflavored gelatin
  • 1 cup cold water, divided
  • 2 cups granulated sugar (cane sugar worked just fine)
  • 1/2 cup light corn syrup
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 2 large egg whites or reconstituted powdered egg whites
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla
Oil bottom and sides of a 13- by 9- by 2-inch rectangular metal baking pan and dust bottom and sides with some confectioners’ sugar.

In bowl of a standing electric mixer or in a large bowl sprinkle gelatin over 1/2 cup cold cold water, and let stand to soften.

In a 3-quart heavy saucepan cook granulated sugar, corn syrup, second 1/2 cup of cold water, and salt over low heat, stirring with a wooden spoon, until sugar is dissolved. Increase heat to moderate and boil mixture, without stirring, until a candy or digital thermometer registers 240°F, about 12 minutes. Remove pan from heat and pour sugar mixture over gelatin mixture, stirring until gelatin is dissolved.

With standing or a hand-held electric mixer beat mixture on high speed until white, thick, and nearly tripled in volume, about six minutes if using standing mixer or about 10 minutes if using hand-held mixer. (Some reviewers felt this took even longer with a hand mixer, but still eventually whipped up nicely.)

Messy sticky marshmallow batter.

In separate medium bowl with cleaned beaters beat egg whites (or reconstituted powdered whites) until they just hold stiff peaks. Beat whites and vanilla (or your choice of flavoring) into sugar mixture until just combined. Pour mixture into baking pan and don’t fret if you don’t get it all out (learning from my mess of a first round). Sift 1/4 cup confectioners sugar evenly over top. Chill marshmallow, uncovered, until firm, at least three hours, and up to one day.

Run a thin knife around edges of pan and invert pan onto a large cutting board. Lifting up one corner of inverted pan, with fingers loosen marshmallow and ease onto cutting board. With a large knife trim edges of marshmallow and cut marshmallow into roughly one-inch cubes. (An oiled pizza cutter works well here too.) Sift remaining confectioners’ sugar back into your now-empty baking pan, and roll the marshmallows through it, on all six sides, before shaking off the excess and packing them away.

Note: Marshmallows keep in an airtight container at cool room temperature 1 week.


BaBa Laksa House

>> Wednesday, March 24, 2010

It didn't take long for YF and I to decide what to have for lunch. We met outside Myer on a busy Wednesday lunch time and agreed to find somewhere quieter than the noisy Hunter Connection or Myer food court. Then I remembered this Malaysian/Singapore place hidden inside the Grace Hotel nearby on York Street and also realised that their Hainanese Chicken is still on my list of to-eats! Perfect!

Their Hainanese Chicken is pricier than the other places that sells it at $10.50 but the way they plate their food and serve the dishes to your table makes up for it I guess. They even ask if you'd like chicken drumsticks or chicken breast! The photo above is of the chicken drumsticks option and the serving size is quite big, plus you get a soup to go with it. Apart from the chicken, their laksa and beef rendang are also very popular there.

All in all, it's one of the better Hainanese Chicken I've tried in Sydney. However I heard that Sayong Curry and Laksa (located at LG food court under Woolies in Town Hall) has a even better deal! That's for next time then...

BaBa Laksa House

Grace Hotel, G8 Ground Floor
77-79 York Street, Sydney NSW2000


Chatswood BBQ Kitchen

>> Tuesday, March 23, 2010

There are a few places in Chatswood where you'd most likely need to wait in line if you visit during dinner hours - Makoto, New Shanghai, de Pho and Chatswood BBQ Kitchen.

My dear friend P and I were in the mood for some quick and well-priced Cantonese style food on a Friday night so Chatswood BBQ Kitchen it was! This place recently had a make-over and now sits roughly double the number of customers than previously. This doesn't help with the line-waiting however! We had to wait for around 10 minutes, during which we drooled over the 'window display' of hanging ducks and char siu while contemplating what to order at the same time.

Ordering took us a while as they had over 100 dishes on 3 separate menus that we were given! Here's what was on my table that night:

Egg-plant with fish paste

This isn't your usual egg-plant with fish paste dish as they used a fair amount of tomato paste in it which is not what we had expected. We also couldn't taste the fish paste and P actually wondered if they ran out of some ingredients in the kitchen! But I was hungry so I didn't mind as much.

Stir-fry beef with Chinese broccoli

This is the better dish of the night and the greens were definitely fresh and crunchy! I'm looking forward to try their other dishes next time...

Chatswood BBQ Kitchen

77 Victoria Ave
Chatswood NSW 2067
Tel: (02) 9419 6532


Autumn baking - Pumpkin Walnut Bread

>> Saturday, March 20, 2010


It is turning cold and autumn-y in Sydney. Summer has overstayed its welcome in my book and I'm so ready to bring out my winter jackets and woolly socks!

Of all things, Autumn reminds me of pumpkins and spices, and anything that makes you warm but not quite hearty yet as that's Winter. This Pumpkin Walnut Bread is one of the dozen pages on 'The Art and Soul of Baking" cookbook that I have dog-eared (as like my other cookbooks) so what better time to make it than now?

I have found my perfect recipe for Banana Bread (I'll leave that for another post) but I still have not been able to find my perfect recipe for pumpkin spice bread. The ones I've tried before tend to be either too full of spice or lacking it. This recipe is by far the best I've tried. I love the fine balance between the pumpkin and the spices. The spices were not too overpowering and the bread is soft in texture (although denser than your normal banana bread).

I'll definitely be making this again sometime soon this Autumn. I can't think of better use of pumpkins than this bread :)

Pumpkin Walnut Bread
Adapted from The Art and Soul of Baking
  • 2 cups (10 ounces) unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon allspice
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 2 large eggs, at room temperature
  • 1/3 cup water
  • 1 1/2 cups (10 1/2 ounces) sugar
  • 1 cup (9 ounces) canned pumpkin puree (I steamed then mashed fresh pumpkin)
  • 1/2 cup neutral-flavor vegetable oil (I used grapeseed oil)
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1 cup (4 ounces) chopped toasted walnuts (toast in the oven or in a small pan on the stove)

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Lightly coat a loaf pan with melted butter. Use a large bowl to whisk together the flour, baking soda, cinnamon, allspice, cloves, ginger and salt. In a separate smaller bowl, whisk together the eggs and water. Blend in the sugar until well incorporated, then add the pumpkin puree, vegetable oil and vanilla extract. Blend these wet ingredients together well.

Add the pumpkin mixture to the dry ingredients and whisk until smooth. Stir in the walnuts until they are evenly distributed. Use a spatula to scrape the batter into the prepared loaf pan and level the top.

This is a thick loaf, so bake for 55 to 65 minutes, until the bread is firm to the touch and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Cool completely on a cooling rack. The best technique for serving is to use a serrated knife to saw through the bread, cutting 1/2-inch thick slices. Leftovers will keep for about two days wrapped in plastic wrap at room temperature for up. You can refrigerate it for about 4 days or double-wrap it in foil and freeze it for a month or two.


Comfort food - Brownies and Chocolate puddles

>> Friday, March 19, 2010

Best cocoa brownies

You know what I love about cooking? I love that after a day at work when nothing is certain (and I really do mean nothing!) and going the way you had so hoped, you can come home and absolutely be sure that if you whisk some eggs, cocoa, flour, butter and sugar together and bake it, it would taste good. That's such a comfort. No matter whether it's over-baked or under-baked, hard or soft, you know that taking a bite out of that will make you feel a tiny bit better. Almost like a breath of fresh air or a glass of iced water on a hot summers day.

I've had the most disastrous week in my working career this week. You know how people say 'when it rains, it pours'? I found myself trying to crawl out of this bottomless abyss yet everytime when I thought I'd make it, I'd get dragged down again even further (I know I sound dramatic - maybe it's due to the lack of sleep). I was constantly sitting at the edge of my seat, anxious, and at times the beating of my heart becomes so strong that I wonder whether it would beat out of my chest.

Chocolate puddles

I can only now look forward and learn from my mistakes, right? To dwell on something would just trap me and does my heart no good. Apart from being prayerful and trusting that all things in my life happens for a reason, I can only try to go about my days as normally as possible.

There are certain things I crave for when I am stressed - one thing for certain is chocolate. I am no chocoholic for sure, but there is something so comforting about that rich cocoa taste that I find so satisfying that I start eating them like I eat bread when I am stressed.

So I will contribute this blog entry to two of my favourite rich chocolate desserts I made this year - best cocoa brownies and chocolate puddles. While I did not make them this week as I was just too busy (haven't been home to eat all week!) but they are exactly the things that I'd like to make and have with a glass of warm milk.

Chocolate puddles
Adapted from

  • 3 cups / 11 oz / 310 g walnut halves, toasted & cooled
  • 4 cups / 1 lb / 453 g confectioner's (powdered) sugar
  • 1/2 cup plus 3 tablespoons / 2 oz / 60 g unsweetened cocoa powder
  • scant 1/2 teaspoon fine grain sea salt
  • 4 large egg whites, room temperature
  • 1 tablespoon real, good-quality vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 160C degrees and position racks in the top and bottom third. Line three (preferably rimmed) baking sheets with parchment paper. Or you can bake in batches with fewer pans.

Make sure your walnuts have cooled a bit, then chop coarsely and set aside. Sift together the confectioner's sugar, cocoa powder, and sea salt. Stir in the walnuts, then add the egg whites and vanilla. Stir until well combined.

Spoon the batter onto the prepared sheets in mounds of about 2 tablespoons each, allowing for PLENTY of room between cookies. These cookies are like reverse Shrinky Dinks - they really expand. Don't try to get more than 6 cookies on each sheet, and try to avoid placing the batter too close to the edge of the pan.

Bake until they puff up. The tops should get glossy, and then crack a bit - about 12 -15 minutes. Have faith, they look sad at first, then really blossom. You may want to rotate the pans top/bottom/back/front.

Slide the cookies still on parchment onto a cooling rack, and let them cool completely. They will keep in an airtight for a couple days.

Makes 18 large cookies.

Best Cocoa Brownies
Adapted from Alice Mendrich’s

Makes 16 larger or 25 smaller brownies

  • 10 tablespoons (1 1/4 sticks, 5 ounces or 141 grams) unsalted butter
  • 1 1/4 cups (9 7/8 ounces, 280 grams) sugar
  • 3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons (2 7/8 ounces, 82 grams) unsweetened cocoa powder (natural or Dutch-process)
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 2 large eggs, cold
  • 1/2 cup (66 grams, 2 3/8 ounces) all-purpose flour
  • 2/3 cup walnut or pecan pieces (I used walnut)

Position a rack in the lower third of the oven and preheat the oven to 325°F. Line the bottom and sides of an 8×8-inch square baking pan with parchment paper or foil, leaving an overhang on two opposite sides.

Combine the butter, sugar, cocoa, and salt in a medium heatproof bowl and set the bowl in a wide skillet of barely simmering water. Stir from time to time until the butter is melted and the mixture is smooth and hot enough that you want to remove your finger fairly quickly after dipping it in to test. Remove the bowl from the skillet and set aside briefly until the mixture is only warm, not hot. It looks fairly gritty at this point, but don’t fret — it smooths out once the eggs and flour are added. [Note, many people who have tried this recipe have found that this step works just fine in the microwave. Couldn't test this because we don't have one, but it sounds like it would work.]

Stir in the vanilla with a wooden spoon. Add the eggs one at a time, stirring vigorously after each one. When the batter looks thick, shiny, and well blended, add the flour and stir until you cannot see it any longer, then beat vigorously for 40 strokes with the wooden spoon or a rubber spatula. Stir in the nuts, if using. Spread evenly in the lined pan.

Bake until a toothpick plunged into the center emerges slightly moist with batter, 20 to 25 minutes is Medrich’s suggestion but it took me at least 10 minutes longer to get them set. Let cool completely on a rack. (I go further and throw mine in the fridge or freezer for a while; it’s the only way I can get them to cut with clean lines.)

Lift up the ends of the parchment or foil liner, and transfer the brownies to a cutting board. Cut into 16 or 25 squares.


Sonoma Wholewheat Miche Sourdough

>> Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Four words to share with you all. Sonoma Wholewheat Miche Sourdough. It is very good. Go and buy it and you'll know what I mean. I am now converted and I look forward to eating my sandwich at lunch for a change. Before discovering this, I'm one to buy a loaf of bread and freeze one half because I can never finish it all before it goes moldy. Now it's all gone too soon before it has a chance to be a breeding ground for those fuzzy green fungi.

I'd probably be happy snacking on this all day long too. I've had it with lemon curd, peanut butter and jelly and even lemon & herb labane (yoghurt cheese). Hmmmmm. It's also great as a savoury snack before dinner :D

Oven-grilled sourdough with tomatoes, mozzarella, black pepper and parsley (I ran out of basil)!

What makes this a winner for me is its texture - it's oh-so chewy and surprisingly moist and soft inside, even a few day after you buy it.

I first came across this when I was browsing though the Australian Good Food magazine and saw that it was featuring the famous Aussie patissier Adriano Zumbo. He talks of his favourite food and this bread just happens to be one of them - in fact, he calls it the 'best bread in the world'. I knew I had to try it then, and it just so happens that my local vege shop is a distributor of Sonoma products! Sweet!

I've tried Sonoma Wholewheat Polenta as well. To me, it was alright and I still prefer the Miche as it's got the moist and chewy texture which I love.



Raspberry Souffles with Hidden Chocolate Truffles

>> Monday, March 15, 2010

I have a love-hate relationship with souffles. It could go very very wrong in my kitchen (sinking top), or it could be the most beautiful, mouth-melting airy fluff.

I've still not perfected my souffle making even after many attempts and to this day I'm still trying out different recipes and tweaking things here and there based on past failures :P

This is the first time I'm making a fruit puree souffle paired with chocolate truffle centre. It's so light and tart in one spoonful and so creamy in another when you reach the chocolate centre. Together the berry and the chocolate make a great combination that will have you going for seconds (or thirds!). It's pretty addictive and thank goodness you must finish all the souffles in one sitting as they don't keep.

I might have to under-beat my egg-whites next time as I think I have over-beaten it causing the souffle to rise too much in the oven.

Well here's the recipe from a cookbook I bought recently. Enjoy!

Raspberry Souffles with Hidden Chocolate Truffles
Adapted from The Art and Soul of Baking
Makes 6-8 souffles
  • 85 grams semisweet or bittersweet chocolate (up to 70% cacao), finely chopped
  • 6 tablespoons (85 g) pure cream (heavy whipping cream)
  • 340 grams fresh or frozen raspberries (I used frozen).
  • 55 grams sugar (1/4 cup + 1 tablespoon)
  • 1 teaspoon framboise (raspberry brandy), optional
  • 5 large egg whites
  • Icing sugar (confectioners' sugar) for serving
  • Fresh whipped cream, for serving (optional)
1. Prepare the truffles:
Place the chopped chocolates and cream in a microwave safe bowl and heat in the microwave, stirring every 30 seconds, until the chocolate is melted and the mixture is smooth and glossy. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 30 minutes, or until cold enough to scoop. Use a small spoon to scrape 1.2 tablespoon of the ganche into a small round and set it on a plate. Repeat, making 10 small truffles. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate until needed.

2. Preheat the oven to 205C and position an oven rack in teh bottom third. Generously butter the souffle dishes (including the rims), just them with sugar and tap out the excess.

3. Make the raspberry puree. If the raspberries are frozen, transfer to a medium bowl and defrost completely. Places the raspberries in the food processor and process until the berries are completely smooth and pureed. Use a spatula or spoon to scrape the puree into the strainer set over a medium bowl and press it through so remove the seeds. You should have about 1 cup of puree. Stir in 1 tablespoon sugar and framboise (if using) into the puree.

4. Whip the egg whites. In a clean bowl of the stand mixer, whip the egg whites on medium speed until they form soft peaks. You can also use a hand mixer. With the mixer running, add in the remaining sugar and beat until firm peaks form. Gently stir 1/4 of the egg white mixture into the raspberry puree to lighten the mixture. Fold in the remaining whites just until there are no more streaks of white.

5. Fill the dishes and bake. Transfer the souffle batter to the ramekins to fill halfway. Set a truffle on top of the batter in each dish. Finish filling the souffle dishes all the way to the top.

6. Set the dishes on the baking sheet. Run the offset spatula across the top of each souffle dish, flattening the top and leveling it with the rim.

7. Bake for 14 to 17 minutes, until set and firm to touch in the centre.

Rising! (The one closest to the door was not leveled to the brim with the spatula)

...and still rising!

8. Use a fine-mesh strainer to dust with confectioners' sugar (icing sugar) then top with a spoonful of cream. Serve immediately.



Pumpkin, Feta, Roasted Pepper and Parsley Muffin

>> Sunday, March 14, 2010

You can only have so much sweet things until you start craving for something savory to satisfy your taste buds. I've been baking all things sweet this year and this afternoon I was going to break this pattern.

It would be good for my body, almost like a detox in a way as I would not go over my daily sugar intake for once! ;)

Now, it started with a pumpkin. It's such a beautiful thing to look at. And I just had to turn it into a beautiful muffin.

There are so many different combinations you can choose in your muffins. Some people prefer a little bit of bacon while others a bit of parmesan. I love feta in my muffins (not in my salads thank you!) as well as herbs (e.g. basil, dill...). They are to me the winning combination in any soft and moist muffin. The buttermilk in this recipe ensures that the texture stays soft and the olive oil (instead of butter) ensures that this is a heart healthy recipe! ;)

The result? It's soft and lovely with oozing with feta when served warm. The only thing I'd do differently next time is to use normal feta cheese (instead of reduced fat feta cheese) as it doesn't have the strong feta kick that I would've liked.

Recipe: Pumpkin, Feta, Roasted Pepper and Parsley Muffin
Inspired by The Art and Soul of Baking
Makes 12 regular sized muffins
  • 2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 3/4 cup crumbled feta cheese (I used reduced fat in mine)
  • 1/2 cup jarred roasted red pepper roughly chopped
  • 1/2 cup cooked diced pumpkins (1 cm cube)
  • 3 tablespoons finely chopped fresh parsley (I used flat leaf parsley in mine)
  • 1 cup buttermilk
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1 large egg
1. Pre-heat the oven to 190C and lightly coat the muffin tin with melted butter or canola-oil spray (unless you don't use cupcake liners like me).

2. Whisk the flour, baking soda, baking powder, and salt in a mixing bowl and set aside.

3. In another bowl, stir together the feta cheese, roasted bell pepper, pumpkin and chopped parsley.

4. Pour the buttermilk, olive oil and the egg into another bowl and whisk until they're blended.

5. Make a well in the centre of the dry ingredients (flour mixture) and pour the buttermilk mixture into the well and stir gently with spatula. Mix only until there are no more streaks of flour or pools of liquid and the batter looks fairly smooth. Gently fold int he feta cheese mixture until evenly distributed in the batter.

6. Use large ice cream scoop or a big spoon to divide the batter evenly among the prepared muffin cups/liners. Bake for 20 minutes until the tops feel firm and a skewer inserted into the centres comes out clean.

7. Transfer the muffin tin to a rack and let cool for 5 minutes. Serve warm.

They make for a good breakfast as well if you're always in a rush in the morning like me :D

These muffins can be stored at room temperature for 2 days or frozen for up to 1 month!



>> Wednesday, March 10, 2010

I'm letting you in on a secret of mine! I've never told anyone of this before and no one has ever suspected this behaviour of mine all these years...

I am obsessed with frozen berries. So much so that everytime I go to the supermarket, I will buy a packet of them, even though my freezer is already cramped with packets stacked one on top of another. I can't help it.

There I said it. It's not so terrible a secret you're probably thinking. Not as bad as someone hiding candy bars under their pillows or eating insects for the thrill of the crunch. (On that note, I possibly ate a maggot this week when eating a peach from work because there was one wiggling around on the stone of the fruit after I've almost finished eating it).

But this habit of mine is taking up all the space in my freezer as I don't really use up the berries unless I am baking a fruit cake - which is like maybe twice a year?! I met a guy in the US who buys this green gummy candy everytime he goes to the stores because his ex-girlfriend likes them. He hates eating those candies, but still buys them religiously even after 3 years of their break-up. I once drove from Urbana to Chicago with him, and we stopped by the service station 3 times...yep, I got to eat 3 packets of green gummy candies.

It's interesting how past experiences shapes us in such a way that does not make sense to others...and even to yourself. Maybe that is one way we protect our memories and what is personal to us.

Anyways, here is a photo of one section of my freezer:

How berri-licious!

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