Wednesday, 30 October 2013

Stupid, stupid Australian Graduate Opportunity System (A Fair-Go My Ass) - A Rant Post

One thing I soon realized after graduating is the complete lack of graduate opportunities for someone who is stuck in a similar position as I am. Yeah, I get that getting your foot into any industry's door is hard as there will always be competition and so on, blah, blah blah, that is why it is wise to get an internship-for-experience's-sake, blah blah blah. 

Most people complain and laugh as to how university graduates may have wasted their time and money as most of us can't get a job position in the choice of field that we desire and sure enough, eventually we might even branch out to other jobs which are completely irrelevant to what we studied.

I get that, and I truly understand how the system works - with the vast amount of university students graduating per annum, of course there's going to be competition - and I deem it fair. What I do not understand, is WHY Australian employers are so hesitant in giving graduate opportunities to non permanent-residents (PR)/Citizens. Again, okay, most international graduates' visa expire soon after graduating university, but most of those who do not re-apply for a new visa, often leave the country or gain short-term employment. 

But what about others like me? I've been residing in this country for 8 years (and continuing) but I do not possess permanent residency/citizenship? For as long as I have been here, I've always heard the Australian societal culture/custom of having a "Fair-Go". 

ABC News stated on their website:
The 'fair go'— it’s a quintessential Australian phrase that seems to be evoked at every opportunity, from politics to the workplace to sport, and many would say it’s ingrained in the national psyche. But does it actually exist?

 My response to that last question would be "Heck, no!"

This anger stems from a time when I was earnestly seeking graduate opportunities/employment and realized that only PR/Citizens are given this blessed opportunity. In the beginning of April 2013, I remember going to a career fair, only to be rejected booth, after booth due to my unfortunate circumstance. Fuck, each damn booth has an A4 sized poster stating whether they accept all applicants or PR/Citizenship holders only. How is this a "fair" fucking go?

For starters, because I am not a PR/Citizen, I cannot afford to sit on my ass all my life because I do not gain Centrelink benefits. Even if I were able to receive benefits, I would not want it unless I seriously am unable to gain any sort of employment. That is my personal pride and I do dare say that I'm hardworking.

I pay my taxes, I work hard, and all I want was to gain an opportunity for a "career", which I feel that I am not given. Sure, I had a job and it's a goddamn job - I hated it, but it paid my bills and it has no career path I could see myself doing and at minimal wage and benefits (especially with lazy, biased, hypocritical management, no thanks). 

Seriously, refugees are even given more of an opportunity than me. Alright, most seek asylum due to war, or come from a more devastating environment than I am in, but they are granted PR??? 

Paul Sheehan, Sydney Morning Herald Columnist stated in his article:
"About 90% of those who arrive via illegal boat entries have been granted permanent residence.... Among the benefits that can be made available  to those granted protection visas, and those granted refugee status, is a one-off household formation package of up to $9850 .... Single applicants are eligible for a Newstart Allowance. Parents are eligible for Centrelink's parenting payment. Refugees, and some on bridging visas, also receive Medicare assistance for medical hospital, dental, medicine and optical costs. Mobile phones are provided to those who arrive as unaccompanied minors."

Wow. Seriously? If Australia can afford to generously grant these refugees so much benefits, they could at least consider me for a PR! I am nowhere implying that the refugees are just spoon-fed with these benefits and understand that most of these refugees have had faced a hard life of either poverty, war, famine, etc.,  and are survivors of a long and tedious boat ride to gain asylum, but holy shit, I want some of my taxes back to benefit me instead (yes, I am selfish, but it is my hard-earned money after all and not to mention the fact that I actually need the $$). 

I am just using the refugee/asylum seekers as an exaggerated comparison example, but it shows that Australia supposedly believes in the right to give everybody an equal opportunity, which is the main focus of my rant, because I personally feel that the "fair-go" policy has been undermined. 

Another issue I do not fully comprehend, is as to why employers do not give out graduate opportunities to non PR/Citizenship holders but if I were to successfully gain employment on a full-time basis on the ordinary employment process (interviews and gaining the position), it would not matter too much? As long as the visa allows for full-time employment of course (another one of my life's dilemmas - stupid stupid visa processes!!). I feel that any large corporation who is willing to put the time and effort in paid-training graduates could easily sponsor someone like me (hell, take the visa payment out of my paycheck and just say you'll sponsor me; in essence, I'll pay for it!).

Well, I suppose this issue will never be resolved and it is time to put my rant to an end. I just want to be heard and understood!


Tuesday, 29 October 2013

Spicy Tuna Mayo Onigiri Recipe




My Spicy Tuna Mayo Onigiri! <3


For all the years in which I was a poor university student, I had never crossed my mind to make onigiri. I mean, it's literally a rice ball with a stuffing of your choice in the middle of it - cheap, affordable, easy to make and filling! This should be every broke student's dream food! Not to mention, it is healthier than the cheap packets of instant noodles or McBurgers. 

We hadn't had much food as we had neglected grocery shopping for a while now, so when I was foraging for food inside our fridge and pantry, all we had left was rice, pasta and tinned tuna FML T_T

I think it was out of sheer desperation and hunger (Okay, I am just exaggerating here) that I had an epiphany -What can I make out of rice and tuna and for it to look somewhat appetising? Why, onigiri of course! 

Just Bento has a great guide explaining what onigiri is, so I'll let them do most of the explaining.

I decided to do most of the experimenting instead of following a set recipe.

Ingredients:
1 1/2 cups of Rice (sushi rice or any other short-grained rice)
2 cups of water (for cooking rice)
Spicy Tuna Mayo (click for recipe)
5 tsp Rice wine vinegar (optional)
Nori (optional)
Salt (optional)

Method:
1. You can start off preparing the tuna stuffing ahead of time and keep it in the fridge for not more than a day, or alternatively, use a stuffing of your choice.

2. Prep rice as per instructed on the packaging. (I made mine the lazy way as I do not own a rice cooker. Washed rice a couple of times, poured in water, and popped it in the microwave for 15 minutes).

3. Once the rice is cooked, add in shredded nori and/or rice vinegar (optionally, some people said to use salt, but I didn't as the tuna mayo was quite salty on its own).

Hot, sticky sushi rice and shredded nori

4. Here comes the fun part! Shaping the onigiri! Make sure the rice is nice and hot as the heat makes it easier to shape. Everyone has their own way of shaping it and I found it sooooo much easier to cheat by using clingwrap! I don't like rice sticking all over my hands, especially when it's hot! I remembered this method I tried donkey years ago.

Here's a step-by-step photo guide using clingwrap.

Place a 2 tablespoon worth (an estimation) and flatten it on the clingwrap.

In the middle, place stuffing on top of the rice


Slowly grab each corner of the clingwrap and ensuring that the stuffing stays in the middle, wrap it up so it forms a ball. Then, tighten the clingwrap by twisting the excess bits and mould the desired shape. The easiest is obviously a ball. 

5. Serve whilst fresh and hot!

Note: I also practiced making triangular-shaped ones whilst using the clingwrap method as I need not worry about it breaking up and falling everywhere! Great for beginners like me!

End result:

This one was the first batch I practiced with arborio rice. Though it held together initially, it fell apart upon consumption. Arborio rice is a big no-no.

My first attempt in making triangular onigiri.



Well, hopefully one day I'll master onigiri! :)

Spicy Tuna Mayo (Mesha's Version)


To be honest, I don't really fancy tinned tuna too much (I like 'em raw - think sashimi) but they are so darn cheap ($0.90AUD) per tin and it comes in a variety of flavours. That is why there are always a few tins of tuna laying around in our pantry. 

The reason I made this spicy tuna mayo, was specifically for onigiri stuffing, but could be used in sandwiches as well. I could eat this spicy tuna mayo with plain white rice all day (I'm trying not to brag, but damnnn, I didn't expect my experiment working well! Well enough to document on this blog anyways.

This recipe is simple and very well worth making to keep in the fridge.

Ingredients:
2 small tins of tuna (both I had were Lemon & Pepper flavoured)
1 big clove of garlic 
1/4 brown onion 
2 tbsp ABC Extra Hot Chilli sauce
2 heaped tsp mayo (preferably Kewpie)
Cooking oil or butter

Method:
1. Finely dice garlic and onion.

2. Heat up some oil or butter on a frying pan (I used butter). 

3. Add the diced onion and garlic. Sweat it for 5 minutes on low to medium heat.

4. Add tins of tuna.


5. Turn the the heat up to medium - high and keep stirring the tuna in order to evaporate excess liquid. Evaporate it to get as much liquid out as possible. 

6. Add the chilli sauce and mix thoroughly.

I absolutely adore and am a complete addict to ABC's chilli sauce. Personally, this beats Sriracha. I used this on almost everything I eat. 



7. Remove from heat and place tuna mixture into a small bowl.

8. Add mayo and mix thoroughly with the tuna

Okay, so not the best looking paste ever, but it's yummy!

Verdict: 
Have to admit that the photo makes it look somewhat disgusting but it's the flavour that counts! Did not need to add salt/pepper as the chilli sauce had enough flavour in it (not to mention that the tuna already had lemon and cracked black pepper). Guess salt/pepper could be added if plain tuna was used.

Recommended for onigiri and sandwiches! 

Sunday, 27 October 2013

Nonbei Japanese BBQ & Sake Restaurant Review

After our disappointment with the supposed Diwali Festival in Fortitude Valley, James and I decided to go on a food hunt as we were both starving. Initially, he wanted to head back to the Malaysian restaurant which we frequented but I pointed out that I wanted to try Nonbei. I often pass it on the way to work for almost a year and it had never crossed our minds to give Nonbei a go. 

Located on Ann Street in Fortitude Valley, it looks like a quaint restaurant and at times, I could smell wafts of barbecued meat whenever we passed by it at night. 


We didn't know what time it opened for dinner until I googled it on my phone (a sign would have been nice) and thankfully, we only had 5 minutes worth of wait before we went in (opens at 6pm for dinner). Upon arrival, a wait staff came up and asked if we had any reservations and we said no. I was not to sure at first if she said that we had to wait until 7:45pm to get a seat, in which I loudly declared that we couldn't wait that long before she clarified that we had until 8pm to finish our food, to which we agreed.

She then brought us to this massive dining table with BBQ stoves (there was like 6 or more), sat us down and left us to attend to sit other patrons. However, we sat there for a couple of minutes (like dumbasses) as we weren't provided any menus immediately. 

BBQ grill stove (Nonbei charges $1AUD for each BBQ mesh used)

Funnily, it was as if another wait staff could sense my look of disappointment and impatience as I muttered quietly to myself "Where the fuck are the menus?".

He quickly gave us the menus and asked us if we were going ala carte or having the buffet. We stated the buffet (we had the cheapest option - $40AUD per person) and briefly told us that we were to write the quantity of food we desired on the ordering sheets (these were multi-coloured sheets with the buffet menu on them and blank spots for us to fill in the amount of food we wanted to order). 

These ordering sheets were quite confusing, considering that some of the meats were to be ordered based on weight of 100g and seafood, like prawn was based on the number of prawns. It was simple enough, but 100g and quantity? How many servings are there in a 100 grams and how big are the quantities if we ordered one beef rice?? Heck, we gave it a shot anyways and decided that if we hadn't had enough, we'd order more.

The first meat that caught my eye was the ox tongue and ordered 200g of that, 4 pork belly slices, one portion of the beef stew, 2 beef rice, 10 prawns, some more pork, 2 karaage salsa chicken, some onions and mushrooms and kimchi. 

When the waitress finally arrived and gave her our orders, she told us that we had until 7:45pm. I personally do not like it when I am rushed, especially at a buffet. Sure enough, an hour and 45 minutes was somewhat enough for me, but the feeling of being rushed wasn't very pleasant. 

I also do not like sitting opposite strangers on a huge table. Really feels awkward.


On the up-side, drinks service was definitely efficient - our beers came within minutes of ordering. 

Our food came slowly, first the ox tongue (which I was surprised by the quantity of 200g) and then the salsa karaage chicken (2 pieces was tiny!!). The waiter which brought our portion of the ox tongue did not show us how to turn the BBQ on. It was quite frustrating that they assumed we had been there before and knew what to do.

Prior to our meals arriving, I decided to have a taste of the dipping sauces they'd provided on the table. Holy mother of God.... THE SAUCE IS.... (it rendered me speechless). There was 2 - one was like a sweet soy sauce with hints of roasted garlic or something and the other was a thick chunky chilli paste which was a wee bit spicy and mostly sweet. Mix them both, and it is THE MOST HEAVENLY SAUCE MIXTURE.

Raw ox tongue - 200g

After grilling the ox tongue for a couple of minutes (or until I thought it was cooked enough), I dipped it into the sauce mixture and OMFG.....!!! *mouth orgasm*

Chewy (not too extremely), tender, and has somewhat a crunchy texture and a very beefy taste. It was the best ox tongue ever (especially when dipped with the sauce). It even made my skeptical boyfriend a complete convert into having tongue.

Whatever this sauce is, I'm completely hooked! (I wish I knew what it was called or even made of, so I can make some of my own at home T_T)

Four slices of pork belly with some sauce and sesame seeds prior to cooking.

Pork belly was good (I absolutely love fatty porky meat. At this rate, I'm going to get very, very fat).

Kimchi - crisp, fresh, sour... all the quality I like in kimchi!!!

After gobbling down the ox tongue, we realised that the rest of what we ordered hasn't arrived at all (after 20 minutes or so) and decided to check on it with the waiter. Of all the things that came first, was a waitress with a huge clay jar of fresh kimchi. I told her to pop me a massive serving. Took a bite and fresh kimchi is awesome. 

Next, came the beef stew (which was unexpectedly a small portion):


Small portion or not, OMG.... MOST FLAVOURSOME TENDER BEEF STEW EVER! *tears of joy*

Our other orders came as well (I did not take a good photo of the beef rice, so unfortunately no photo! But it was so flavoursome as well!) and we gobbled those down in a hurry too due the the time limit.

James had ordered 10 pieces of prawn and we both expected a regular size prawn, not humongous tiger prawn sized ones! We definitely were too greedy and underestimated the size of those prawns.

Prawns, onion rings and mushroom!

My poor baby had to peel hot prawns off the grill and we literally stuffed our faces with those motherfuckers. 

At the end, I really think we ate $40AUD worth of food, and all this in only an hour! I was impressed.

Okay, time for the verdict!

  • Presentation: 3.5/5 (Most of it was raw meat, but all looked appetizing)
  • Food/Taste: 4.5/5 (Sauce was to die for and so was the ox tongue, pork belly and beef stew)
  • Service: 2.5/5 (Could have been better. They should not expect all customers to know what to do when they arrive. Also, hated that we felt rushed eating and pressured on ordering a lot due to the time limit placed on us)
  • Monetary value: 3/5 (Would have given it more if we had more time and more space in our stomachs!)
Over all, I found the food to be good albeit the lacking in the service. It is only worth $40AUD cause we stuffed ourselves silly in the given timeframe. I would definitely want to go back for that ox tongue!

Note for future visits: Make a booking (that'll probably ensure that you don't get a placed time limit, hopefully). Also, for seafood lovers, the next few upgrades in the buffet menu gets you oysters and scallops (which looked huge when I was being nosey and looking at what the couple next to us ordered). 

Barbecue away at:
Nonbei Japanese BBQ & Sake Bar
624 Ann Street | Fortitude Valley
BrisbaneQueensland 4006Australia
(P): 07 3252 3275

Nonbei Sake Bar & BBQ on Urbanspoon

Fortitude Valley Diwali Disappointment

Personally speaking, Brisbane weekends are so boring. I blame this on numerous factors - lack of friends, money and activities (other than shopping and eating out). That was why I was quite happy that  I found an activity for the boyfriend and I. 

When I found out that there was a Diwali festival held in Fortitude Valley's Chinatown, I was stoked! As a Malaysian, Diwali (aka Festival of Lights) is normally a public holiday and I remember times when my family would pay visit to homes of Indian friends. Their homes would be brightly decorated with candles and I would adore the Rangoli masterpieces (not all displayed Rangoli, but candles displays galore!). Not to mention, having a wonderful Indian feast!

So, when I found out about the Diwali festival and read the activity list, I expected loud Bollywood music blasting away and traditional Indian dances, a huge variety of market stalls selling Indian food, clothes and other items. 

Boy, was I ever so wrong. 

There was a stage in the middle of Chinatown. Okay.... and stalls? There was like 5 at the most!!

One was the promised free henna tattoo stall, which was cool but I couldn't be bothered waiting in line for something I had done before, and the remaining stalls weren't even related to anything Indian (mostly Chinese selling Chinese items wtf).

Get this, THERE WAS NO STALLS SELLING INDIAN FOOD!
Are you fucking kidding me?

Packed with people, mostly diners in surrounding restaurants (as it is the heart of Chinatown after all), but seriously? Not even an Indian food stall? Are they that scared that other restaurants aren't going to have potential customers?! Pfft...

Some Indian music played. It was alright but I find it so funny that there has to be one hippy Caucasian male on stage.

Over all, it was a very huge disappointment. Seriously could have done better, Brisbane. Can't believe we came all the down to see less than 5 minutes worth of nothing.

On the bright side, I managed to convince the boyfriend to check out Nonbei!

Thursday, 24 October 2013

Basil, Bacon & Mushroom Pasta with Cream Sauce (Beta Version)

I have always loved cream sauce with pasta (mostly due to my love for dairy products) and I was somewhat inspired to make my own cream sauce from scratch. Years ago, it was founded upon carbonara (creamy, bacon-y goodness!) and though I knew that carbonara was made from cream and eggs, I stumbled upon a white sauce recipe instead and have been using that (Yes, ashamedly I've been making faux carbonara as I didn't want to end up scrambling the sauce) whenever I desired pasta with cream sauce. 

Today, I was inspired to try using cream (again, didn't dare to use eggs) and using a few of my other favourite ingredients - bacon, mushroom and basil! 

To be completely honest, I rarely work with cream - I make a mean batch of white sauce which IMO, I have perfected - so, this is definitely in a testing stage.

Ingredients:
Mushrooms (whatever tickles your fancy! Better if you could get your hands on a few varieties)
Bacon 
Garlic (2-3 cloves)
Pasta (I bought Fettucine, when I really wanted linguine :( Use your favourite pasta)
Thickened cream (4 tbsp)
1/4 Onion (I used Red Onions; finely sliced)
Black Pepper
Cheese (Unfortunately, I used normal tasty cheese but feel free to use your favourite cheese!)
1 tbsp Basil paste (preferably fresh basil, but all I could find was basil paste...)
Butter or oil (Butter-wise, I used a small chunk. I estimated, so no measurements)

Method:
1. Prep time! I coarsely diced the garlic cloves (I love the taste of garlic with anything creamy, but reduce or add more garlic to your preferance) and thinly sliced the onion. Next, cut up your mushrooms! (In terms of proportion, it's really up to you!)

Now, I like really big chunks of mushrooms, so I bought the biggest mushroom packs the grocery store had to offer:

No, I did not cheat. This is not an upclose shot of the mushroom. My phone's camera isn't that fancy.

I told you it was a big mushroom! Palm-sized!  \(o^_^o)/


2. Next up - slice or dice the bacon to your liking! Again, I enjoy chunkiness, so chunky strips it is! (I only used one rasher of bacon in this dish).

 
Glorious bacon-y goodness! (I heard from my boyfriend that Australian bacon is like bacon-flavoured ham  (T_T) I'll have to try American bacon someday, but for now, this will suffice)

3. Bring water to a boil (or in my case, I just used the kettle) in a large saucepan. Add pasta to boiling water (I boiled the fettucine for about 8 minutes, give or take). Once done, get rid of the hot water and rinse pasta in a sieve under cold water until pasta is cool.

4. In this instance, I used a wok (any big frying pan shall do the trick too), add the butter to the wok until melted. Add garlic and onions. Sweat it for a couple of minutes on medium heat.

5. Add in the sliced/diced bacon and mushroom. Fry it for a couple more minutes.

6. Add in thickened cream and stir for a minute or so and then add in the basil paste and continue stirring for another minute.

7. Add the cooled pasta. Stir until sauce is evenly distributed. 

8. Turn off heat and serve! Add as much or little cheese towards your preference and do not forget cracked black pepper to taste.

THE END RESULT:

Definitely need to work on presentation, but I was so hungry, I didn't really care so much - I just quickly took a photo and went on omnomnomnoming.

Taste-wise, it sure does not beat my faux cream sauce aka white sauce. It didn't thicken enough and I should really have added in more cream and next time, maybe extra chunks of tasty cheese to thicken it up more. More importantly, I cooked too much pasta in proportion with the sauce, so that's probably why it wasn't tasty enough. 

End verdict: With the amount of pasta I cooked, I needed more of everything. Actually, a generous topping of shredded tasty cheese or parmesan would have made it better. Not the best I've made, but definitely enjoy cooking with new ingredients. More practice with cream until I succeed!

Wednesday, 23 October 2013

L'Angolo Bistro - Lunch Review (Revisited and the Last)

As said in my first review of this Italian restaurant, I would be back to give it a second shot. This time, I went for lunch and the first thing that caught my eye was the Gnocchi alla Norcina (Gnocchi with Porcini Mushrooms, Italian Sausage, Cream and Pecorino). I absolutely love gnocchi and what better accompaniment than cream sauce! 

Surprisingly, for a lunch period, they were really quiet - seriously, I was the only customer at the time.


See? No one! (I also can't believe my phone was able to take quite a sharp image!) 

Customer service was good as per usual and the waitress at the time was extremely attentive (albeit the fact that I was the only one there, her attention skills were over 9000).

Not too long after, my food arrived! 

This time, the dish went well - it had all the elements of what I perceive cream sauce based pasta should  taste! The picky side of me would have preferred chunkier mushroom slices and wayy bigger portions of the Italian sausage as I could hardly find that many pieces. It was tasty nonetheless.

BUT. 

Yes, there is a huge BUT. 

I did not think  anything could have went wrong this time, BUT it did.

I was eating very slowly (which is very unlikely of me, but I must admit, I was hungover), and noticed a hard, thin bit sticking out from an angle in the sauce. Initially, I thought it was a herb they've used but it looked way harder than any herb I knew of (rosemary or thyme) and did not recall any of those flavours in the sauce.

So, I picked it up. 

Guess what it was? It was a centimetre long piece from the metal scourers you use to scrub your kitchen utensils!!!! T_T 

The reason as to why I gave the waitress attention skills of over 9000, was literally the fact that she noticed something was up when I stared at it for less than 5 seconds and rushed over (not even enough time to take a sneaky photo). She then ran to the kitchen and then ran back to profusely apologise.

I said it was fine, as I was hungover and wanted to eat my meal in peace. I did end up eating all of it (as disgusting as it may sound now, but I don't find it as gross as finding someone's hair or bug in my meal) and I was also testing as to whether they'd give me a discount as an apology.

I finished, and paid (gnocchi was $22AUD and the Peach Iced Tea $5) $27AUD in total. By the looks of it, the manager came up to process the payment. I said the meal was good, but there was NO acknowledgement of the mistake they have made (it was also the manager/person in-charge) that did also notice the piece of metal when the waitress went behind the bar). 

Like seriously, if it was a restaurant I was managing, I would have been so ashamed that I would have given a 20% off my meal total. I wasn't even a bitch about it until now, as being the "goodie" customer didn't bring any sort of justice. Maybe, it's a lesson that I should have been one of those grumbly customers who would put them in their place.

If I was a child and didn't know better, or if I was eating and did not pay attention and bit into that, or even worse, swallow it! 

Sorry, but I don't think I'll be returning as a paying customer. The food is good but not good enough for the somewhat expensive prices charged (seriously? $5AUD for a bottle of iced tea?), as I am more than willing to travel to Vapiano's in the city for  great seafood pasta at a lower cost.

I was hoping the second visit would have changed my opinion completely, but guess now it also brought down the service standards.

  • Presentation: 2.5/5 (Plain)
  • Food/Taste: 3/5 (Okay, but nothing impressive again)
  • Service: 2/5 (The actual waitress was attentive and was great at what she did (still over 9000! However, whom I assume is the manager, failed).
  • Monetary value: 1.5/5 (You can find other cheaper places for better quality pasta)
L'Angolo Bistro on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, 16 October 2013

Love is 'God' - A Personal Thought on all Religions

I'm just going to blatantly admit right now that I am not religious of any sort. I do not deny there is a higher being nor there isn't one; you can say that I'm agnostic - I listen, research and try to grasp an understanding on beliefs out there in our world and try to learn from good teachings. 

However, what struck me (whilst I was browsing through a friend's commitment to volunteer for a Christian group) was there is many religiously labelling themselves; religious identification. I am no stranger to religion: I grew up in a Buddhist home, baptised as a Christian, converted to Islam, and followed my mother to Jehovah's Witness congregations. I have always been a dubious child, often questioning the teachings and understanding of a particular religion. Now, as an adult, I can clearly state that religion isn't for me. I just admire the faith and passion of believers and often ponder where their strengths in their belief stem from - Is there really a God and this is channelled through believers despite the difference in religion?

Looking through briefly on the teachings of Hinduism, Judaism, Buddhism, Christianity and Islam, shows many similarities about a 'God', kindness towards others and basically, a decent human being with moral standards. Yeah, this topic has probably been covered over a gazillion times, but it just fathoms me why there are so many religions out there when, in all essence, promote the same principles?

Personally, I think 'God' is pretty much the religious symbolism for 'Love'. Damn, why not just make 'Love' a universal religion? 

Why?

When you research what 'love' is, books or just simply searching on the Web, love is unconditional, knows no boundaries, comes naturally when you care for the well-being of others. One cannot explain why they love another person - isn't that why love is often associated with being 'crazy, unfathomable and blind'? 

Deborah Anapol stated (November 25, 2011):

"Love is bigger than you are. You can invite love, but you cannot dictate how, when, and where love expresses itself. You can choose to surrender to love, or not, but in the end love strikes like lightening, unpredictable and irrefutable. You can even find yourself loving people you don't like at all. Love does not come with conditions, stipulations, addendums, or codes. Like the sun, love radiates independently of our fears and desires.

Love is inherently free. It cannot be bought, sold, or traded. You cannot make someone love you, nor can you prevent it, for any amount of money. Love cannot be imprisoned nor can it be legislated. Love is not a substance, not a commodity, nor even a marketable power source. Love has no territory, no borders, no quantifiable mass or energy output."


If we were to love everyone, despite our differences, although easier said than done, we would not see crime. Everything said from the list of different religions I listed mentions being kind and good to others, bear no grudge or hatred, and having respect for others - isn't that what unconditional love means?

Yes, it is hard to find unconditional love as we also cannot force love but maybe if we lived by the teachings of all the religions (omitting different religious aspects and bias), maybe we'll someday learn to find peace and love for others. 

If we loved more, we would show respect and understanding, and with respect and understanding for others, we try and suppress our human flaws, whether it be anger, greed, selfishness and etc. When humanity tries to suppress or fix our errs (not saying that we'll do it perfectly) and love each other unconditionally, ultimately I think, we'll succeed in making our world a better place.

I am not shunning religion as a whole, but I just think that if the invisible walls/boundaries of labelling/associating oneself from a particular religious group, were to be broken down, that is when we would find peace. Sadly, it is in the human nature to be associated and be confined within a "group mentality" (For example, I call myself a blogger, foodie blah blah blah). 

I feel that:

The word 'God' is the symbolic personification/embodiment of 'Love'. We often associate love as mysterious and unconditional; it is the better part of humanity and despite all our flaws and differences, there is a part of us that wants to love, and create an idyllic, loving environment within our society. Love manifests itself through relationships - family, friends, pets and others we create an association with. 

Furthermore, I find that humans use religion as a source of hope, looking towards 'God' for answers when I believe 'God' is in us all - if we look deep within ourselves and learn what Love can teach us, the most answers are already there. When I say "religion is the root of all evil", it simply means that humans have used, twisted and bent religious teachings to supplement their greed for power and control over others who believe in a faith.

Most importantly, and ultimately, like everyone says: You've got to love yourself before you can love others.

I should try to make an example from what I've stated. As an experiment, I shall attempt these two statements:

1. Love those around you - taking time to appreciate and do not take for granted the time they are with you. Show small, but genuine actions of love (call loved ones to tell them that you love them, do something that pleases them, etc.), without expecting anything in return.

2. Patience and Kindness - I've got a damn well fiery temper when provoked at the slightest. I shall try  to hold my tongue and abstain from any conversation rife in anger; I shall only speak with calmness and kindness. 

Wish me luck!

Tuesday, 15 October 2013

L'Angolo Bistro Opening Night Review

Hamilton Harbour is definitely a new suburb booming with new restaurants & cafes, grocery stores and other eateries every few months. For us, it was the opening of Woolworths, a bottle shop, Domino's pizzeria, Coffee Club, a sushi shop and as of yesterday, the opening of an Italian restaurant by the name of L'Angolo Bistro

As a resident of one of the many apartments in that area, we received a flyer in our mailbox promoting the opening night of their bistro. If there's anything I love more than Asian food, it's Italian and it did get me excited (not to mention a free drink upon arrival when you present the flyer; Yes I'm a cheapskate). 

From where we were sitting (Okay, bad photo. I geddit)!

Prior to the opening night, I had a good glimpse to the setting - it was somewhat casual with my favourite colour combination of red, white and black. Upon arrival, we were greeted by a team of friendly staff and we chose to sit outside (inside was packed with families and screaming kids). I must say, their staff service is impeccable - friendly and asked if we needed anything every so often. I presented my flyer and received their house cocktail, served in a wine glass with ice and full of citrus flavour, it was definitely refreshing to the palate (though I finished mine in less than 2 minutes). I also couldn't believe they brought two glasses out for me and my partner (seriously thought they would be cheapskates and brought us one). Talk about attention to detail!


Free drink, can't complain! :)

Not one but two! :D

However on the opening night, the menu was reduced (as expected) and somewhat just above average prices (after living in Hamilton for half a year, I did expect pricier prices). I decided on the Cannelloni di Vitella (Homemade Cannelloni filled with White Veal Ragout, topped with Napoli Sauce and Saffron Bechamel), whilst my other half decided on the Zuppa di Pesce e Crostacei (Selection of Fresh Fish and Seafood in a Lobster Broth with Grape Tomatoes, White Wine and Fresh Basil). We waited roughly about 10-15 minutes before our food arrived. 

Mmm..

Maybe my expectations were a bit too high for this place?


Upon biting into the cannelloni, the white veal ragout was simply a very, very mushy mince! Okay, how do I put it this way? For the price of $23AUD, and when it is stated 'veal ragout' which is normally a stew, I simply expected like chunky, bits of tender stewed meat inside the cannelloni? Somehow, and I don't know why, but when I encounter mushy mince, it's like the usage of really cheap mince; it does not add any texture whatsoever to the food (unless I'm 70 + years old and I lost all my teeth). Personally, that was the disappointing aspect of my meal. What made up for it was the sauce - creamy, tomato-ey goodness and the cheese. Pasta-wise, I could not really differentiate it from store-bought pasta as it was covered with the sauce and wasn't really al dente.

James' dish (Blurry photo cause most of my photos on this blog were taken via phone. Plus he started digging into it before I could snap another one).

James' dish was alright, although I debated that it could have at least been a bit saltier (he liked it nonetheless and said my taste buds were screwed due to smoking wtf?). I tasted the broth and expected a rich seafood & tomato infused broth, but I found it just like tomato broth. Again, I was not impressed for a dish worth $29AUD. Lobster broth? Hello?! Lobster, where are you? 

The bill came up to about $74AUD (this also included 2 glasses of red wine we ordered at $11AUD each!). For the price paid compared to satisfaction, I personally don't think it was worth it. Don't get me wrong, I'm the sort that would happily splurge if the food is worth the price paid, but unfortunately, this was not the case (I would have much rather catch the bus and go back to Taro's Ramen!).

I am not going to be completely biased and base this wholly on the two dishes we ordered that night. I do plan to investigate and try out maybe some of their items on the breakfast or lunch menu.

But for now, the verdict:

  • Presentation: 2.5/5 (Plain)
  • Food/Taste: 3/5 (Okay but not impressive)
  • Service: 5/5 (Marvellous!)
If anyone wants to prove me otherwise and say it's all autentica cucina italiana, then check them out:

L'Angolo Bistro 
T04 Hamilton Harbour | HamiltonBrisbaneQueensland 4007Australia


(P): 07 3369 7417


L'Angolo Bistro on Urbanspoon

Monday, 14 October 2013

Stuffed Squid with Beef Mince (Beta Version)

Being recently unemployed has certainly sparked some sort of motivation and creativity - which is good but also bad as I'm broke as hell.

Anyways, I was surfing the interwebz to kill time and was looking through food columns and the one thing that caught my attention was squid. I asked myself, 'How often do I cook and prepare squid?'

Answer was: 'Not at all'.

Initially, I really wanted to make squid ink sauce pasta (only if my local store sold it) and alternatively, if there weren't any squid ink, I wanted to make stuffed squid - it  brings back so many memories of grandma steaming stuffed squid with minced pork! Yummy!

So, I headed down to my local fishmongers and see whether there was any squid ink. The lady told me that they did and I was ecstatic, up 'til the point I realised that it was sold, in a jar, for $36AUD =__= FML. Guess the dinner menu was stuffed squid!

The squid hood was so cheap! I bought 3 humongous ones (minimum I had to pay by card was $10AUD booo) for $10.80AUD!!

Then headed to the nearest Woolworths and screw you Hamilton branch! All they had was "premium organic minced beef" selling at $9.90AUD!! Y U NO SELL CHEAP MINCED BEEF?! OR EVEN MINCED PORK?! *sigh* Seriously, just cause I live in an upper-class suburb doesn't mean I like jacked-up prices (3 times the average price?!).

I did do a little bit of research prior to the commencement of this dish and there were quite a few variations and it was quite hard finding one similar to what my grandma used to make for me. I opted to  play it by ear and see what I could do.

This is my rendition of a stuffed squid dish:

Ingredients:
Squid hoods (cleaned)
Minced meat (mostly recommend pork or chicken mince, but I had to do mine with beef)
Chopped spring onion stalks
4 tbsp soy sauce
5 tbsp Chinese cooking wine
White pepper
2 tbsp sesame oil
Toothpicks

I bought the squid hoods cleaned and prepped, so less work for me!

Method:

1. I love spring onions and thought this would be a wonderful addition to the minced meat stuffing, so I  chopped up 2 big stalks of it (add as much or as little to one's preference). Mix it with minced meat in a bowl.

2. Add soy sauce (I actually recommend more than what I typed above as it wasn't salty enough, but not too much!), Chinese cooking wine, sesame oil and white pepper (again, add as much or little; I put several shakings of it) with the minced meat and combine it all with a spoon until it looks like this:


3. Rinse the squid hoods and remove any impurities and then stuff the minced meat concoction into the hoods. Do not overfill as the squid will shrink during cooking. I left an inch space near the opening.

Should look something like this. Mind you, the squid hoods I bought were huge! I suggest finding a small to medium sized squid.

4. Use toothpicks to seal the opening of the squid. I, however, forgot to buy toothpicks, so I resorted to doing it a very shitty way (slitting little holes with a knife and using long strips of spring onion to tie it). This is to prevent the meat stuffing from falling out during the cooking process. Highly recommend using toothpicks. This is how mine looked like upclose:



6. If you have a bamboo steamer, great! Use it! Steam for 15-20 minutes until meat is cooked and serve! Alternatively, you can cut them up to show the meat inside!

Me, on the other hand, do not possess such a wonderful kitchen utensil, so I have resorted to making my own steamer. Beware: mine did not work as well.

Unfortunately, all 3 squids could not fit into my make-shift steamer, so I tried pan frying one of the stuffed squids. I also didn't think that it would cook all the way through, especially and admittedly, did put a lot of the stuffing into the squids. The steamed ones looked alright but would have done better in a  proper steamer.

Ultimately, out of frustration, I popped all 3 (steamed and pan-fried) into the oven at 150 Celsius grill for about 15 minutes and constantly checking the state of it. I also did, at one point, turned the oven down to 100 Celsius, for 5 minutes and turned it back up to 150 before bringing them out of the oven. I seriously consider this a fail in my books.

THE END RESULT:

To be honest, I thought I flunked this recipe completely but the oven did save this dish. Taste-wise, it could have been saltier with more added soy sauce or salt. The meat turned out fine (though this picture makes the meat looks pink, I assure you that it was well-done).

I ate this with ABC Chilli sauce or for all Sriracha fans, that would be a perfect dipping sauce too!

Definitely a beta version and hopefully do an upgrade on it later on!

Saturday, 12 October 2013

Taro's Ramen & Cafe

Oh. My. God.

First of all, this is a wayyy over due post and I have been wanting to rave about this place since I had a bowl of ramen at this place.

I fondly remember the time when I moved to Brisbane last year and I was absolutely craving Asian food - I really really wanted a hot bowl of noodle soup that'll hit the spot.

Unfortunately, after many ventures to Japanese restaurants, many served tempura udon (one of my favourite Japanese noodle dishes) which were utterly horrendous for the price I was paying.

Thank God for the invention of the internet and Google, I stumbled upon a restaurant which was literally right downstairs from the apartment James and I lived in for a while.

Taro's Ramen.

Heck, from the outside, it didn't look too fancy but they had a sign boasting "The Best Ramen in Brisbane". Why not give it a shot?

I craved something spicy and on their menu, my eyes were absolutely glued on the 'Fire Tonkatsu'. Too be honest, at the time, I hadn't had much ramen experiences other than the one time I went to another popular ramen place in Fremantle's market which was good but wasn't good enough to have me raving about it.

I enjoy the casual atmosphere of Taro's, you go up to the counter, order your meal, take your number and you find yourself an available table. There are also condiments such as pickled veggies, pickles, chilli bean sauce (which I highly recommend to go with the Fire Tonkatsu), chilli oil and also refrigerated water with glasses to your taking.

Yeah, I don't normally take many photos when I go to Taro's. This is taken from their website.

Okay, so back to the food. It arrived shortly after ordering and took my first bite. 

I almost had tears of joy wtf!?

Lo and behold! The mighty Fire Tonkatsu!

My memory of the ramen in Fremantle must have been fuzzy as I did not recall the egg looking this good! Ajitsuke Tamago (or Japanese marinated egg) was cooked to perfection! Every single damn time I visit this place, I sometimes secretly hope they give me an egg which overcooked - no one can make eggs perfect every single time right? 

Nope. Their eggs are PERFECT each time. Makes me wonder how many imperfect eggs they chuck out?

Back to the Fire tonkatsu, it was a heavenly mixture of chilli oil and that rich, pork broth which is almost creamy to an extent (yes, it is that rich). It is simply an explosion of flavour. Every single ingredient used in this dish subtly accompanies one another - from the egg, to the char siu, the chopped spring onion, nori, and what I assume is dried thin strips of red pepper.

Hell, I can see why this place was voted best for ramen. Their ramen is awesome - al dente - springy and light (when you chew, it actually feels quite bouncy! Seriously!).

The only wish I have is that they include more than one slice of bbq pork/charsiu. One is not enough! Plus I'm a greedy pork lover! Other than that, IMO, it's perfect. At $15.80AUD, it also doesn't really break the wallet (I normally add the 2-piece Salt Loin Charsiu for an additional $2+AUD).

Ordering and paying at the counter.


Soft-shell crab side dish

The soft-shell crab dish wasn't anything out of the ordinary. It had some good sauce on it and good overall. 

I absolutely adore this place!

Verdict?

  • Presentation: Great 4.5/5
  • Ambience: 3/5 (very casual dining)
  • Food/Taste: Superb 5/5
  • Service: n/a (friendly staff at counter and relatively quick service) 
Check them out!
Taro's Ramen & Cafe
363 Adelaide Street
Brisbane, QLD 4007
(P): 07 3832 6358
(W): http://www.taros.com.au/

Taro's Ramen & Café on Urbanspoon