HK: Tim Ho Wan Dim Sum Specialty Shop

- Visit Tim Ho Wan.
There i was (with my lovely auntie and grandma) waiting outside Tim Ho Wan along with another 30 or so people on a hot and humid Saturday in Hong Kong. Docket 173 seemed to take forever to be called although the lady at the tiny counter did tell us to come back after an hour or so. Acting in disbelief, i refused to leave hoping that somehow we wouldn't have to wait that long to be seated. I was wrong, we ended up waiting an hour and a half to be seated in a minuscule table for two (yes, the three of us).
Why all the fuss?
If you are not aware, Tim Ho Wan Dim Sum Specialty Shop (Shop 8, Taui Yuen Mansion Phase 2, 2-20 Kwong Wa Street, Mong Kok) has been awarded a Michelin Star and it is the World's Cheapest Michelin Starred restaurant. The shop is humbly decorated with a few Chinese calligraphy writings hanging on the wooden walls and a few awards that the restaurant has won. The shop is tiny and only fits 20 people comfortably but on the day that i went, there were a total of 30 people in there. Our table was so small that i barely had space to take photos and eat - my chopsticks would literally touch the wall as i ate. Was it worth it though?
We got a few dishes including the must-order Crispy Honey BBQ Pork Buns, Shrimp Dumplings (Har Gow), Steamed Pork & Shrimp Dumplings (Siew Mai),  Liver Rice Rolls, BBQ Pork Rice Rolls, Mango Pudding and 杞子桂花糕 (Goji Berries Osmanthus Jelly). I didn't manage to take photos of all the dim sums as they were arriving too quickly and we had to finished them quick to make room in our tiny table.
I really liked the Crispy Honey BBQ Pork Buns. They came out pipping hot and the thin layer of sweet buttery topping was perfectly crisp. The Honey BBQ Pork filling was delicious and the three of us just loved the buns. Highly recommended.
The Shrimp dumplings were a bit of a disappoinment as the skin wasn't as thin as i was expecting but the shrimp filling was still good and fresh. The Siew Mai was alright but not outstanding.
We also ordered the Liver Rice Rolls and BBQ Pork Rice Rolls. The rice flour sheets were thin and soft but  unfortunately there wasn't much filling in the rolls. It was the first time that i 've had liver filling rice rolls and i have to say that it was interesting (okay) but i still preferred the BBQ Pork rice rolls, which was lovely.
Liver Rice Rolls
As a sweet treat we ordered the Goji Berries Osmanthus Jelly and the Mango Pudding. The Mango Pudding was too sweet for me and it didn't have a nice and smooth texture. On the other hand, i S-I-M-P-L-Y loved the Goji Berries Osmanthus Jelly because they had the perfect level of sweetness and were deliciously refreshing. This is probably the best Goji Berries Osmanthus Jelly that i've ever had (we ended up ordering 2 more servings to take-away) - please let me know if there is another place with awesome Goji Berries Osmanthus Jelly too!
All the dim sums from Tim Ho Wan range from HKD12 - 20 (AUD1.71 - 2.85) and that is a bargain for a Michelin Starred Restaurant. As a whole, the quality of the dim sums are good with some being more outstanding than others. I highly recommend ordering the Crispy Honey BBQ Pork Buns, BBQ Pork Rice Rolls (or Liver Rice Rolls for a change) and the Goji Berries Osmanthus Jelly. I would definitely go back for more of those buns and also to try other dim sums. Was it worth it? For me, yes...despite the wait and the crammed table, we all ended up enjoying some delicious and cheap dim sums!


Thirst Wine Bar & Eatery

Thirst Wine Bar & Eatery (Melbourne Building, 20 West Row, Civic) is a relatively new addition to the eateries in Civic offering a Modern Thai menu (owned by the former owners of Anise Restaurant). As its name suggests, it does have a bar area where you can enjoy a few drinks and some snacks. Alternately, you can just head to the restaurant area to enjoy a meal. The place looks modern, simple with small and big drawings of fire adorning the walls of the restaurant. The menu is not extensive but it offers both traditional and non-traditional dishes, such as the Green Curry with Trout Dumplings.
We ordered a Crispy Fish Salad as a starter and i quite liked it. The dish consisted of small deep fried whitebait with slices of green mango, coriander, roasted peanuts with a hot chilli dressing. It's light, refreshing and packed with flavours that just makes you wanna keep on eating it.

As mains, we decided to order the Chiang Mai Noodle and Green Curry with Trout Dumplings. Chiang Mai Noodle is the equivalent of laksa in Northern Thailand and it uses a curry broth. The broth is flavoursome and the chicken was nice and tender. The crispy noodles at the top definitely added a nice touch to the whole dish.
The dish that i was really looking forward to was the Green Curry with Trout Dumplings because i've never tried something like this. The so-called dumplings are actually minced ocean trout fillets mixed with garlic, ginger & coriander root shaped into balls (like meatballs) and cooked in a classic Thai green curry. The curry was light and matched with the delicate flavours of trout dumplings quite well - worth trying for its uniqueness.

Chiang Mai Noodles
Green Curry with Trout Dumplings - can't see the dumplings as they are all submerged in curry
And what is a meal without desserts? *especially when they look tempting...
We ended up ordering a Coconut & Pandanus custard with a caramelised sugar top. Glad that they caramelize the sugar upon order so that it is still hot and ready to make that beautiful cracking sound when it arrives at the table. The custard itself was lovely and fragrant and had that nice green colour too. And ohn yeah...i had the honour to crack it! *winks
On top of the custard, we also greedily ordered two scoops of sorbet. It was a must because the flavours were so different and we just HAD to try them. We got a Pineapple & Ginger Sorbet and a Lime & Kaffir Lime Sorbet. Loved the lime one as it was so refreshing and the kaffir lime added that edge to it - warning: could be sour for some people! If you prefer something sweeter, then the pineapple & ginger sorbet should be nice - fruity and 'gingery'.
Dinner was enjoyable and it was nice to try something different such as the Green curry with Trout dumplings and to savour new and exciting sorbet flavours. Not to forget that cracking the custard was a highlight too...love doing that!

Thirst Wine Bar & Eatery on Urbanspoon


Handmade Market Canberra

I was so happy when i made it to the Handmade Market Canberra last Saturday, even though i could only spend half an hour there. Handmade Market takes place every three months and the next one is set to be on the 4th December. You can still check out some of the designers at Shop Handmade Canberra (City Walk Blvd Canberra City) if you missed out on the market and can't wait until December.
The weather was so perfect on Saturday and i do regret for not being able to stay longer. There were so many stalls with lovely handmade jewelry, crafts, clothing, dolls and the most important of all...FOOD! With only half an hour in my hand, i managed to visit Real Chai, Dream Cuisine, Batemans Bay Nut Roasting Company and Sweet Petite. I think that is quite an achievement!
At first, i was trying to spot the area where most food stalls would be and once i got there i was instantly attacted by the beautiful cupcake tower from Sweet Petite.
All the cupcakes were beautifully decorated and totally fit the theme "Sexy and Luscious". I got a Sexy Red Velvet cupcake and a Sultry Black Forest cupcake. Loved the Sultry Black Forest Cupcake for its moist chocolate base, lovely chewy cherry goodness in the centre and the pretty and not overly sweet frosting *wants more now...
The Sexy Red Velvet cupcake wasn't as moist and the icing was a bit sweet for my liking, but it still looked gorgeous.
After this, i was looking forward to try Dream Cuisine's macarons. On my way to find it, i managed to taste a small cup of the RealChai Original (with milk and honey) and some freshly roasted Honey Macademias from Batemans Bay Nut Roasting Company. The Chai was good and macademias were lovely. I definitely have to try the RealChai Chocolate and other roasted nuts next time!
My final stop was Dream Cuisine - a simple stall with lovely macarons, tarts, florentines and brownies. I tried a bit of the Raspberry macaron, the Passionfruit macaron and small slice of brownie (nice!) there and bought another four macarons to take home. I got Cherry, Salted Caramel, Honey & Lavender and Pistachio & Lime macarons. I liked all the macarons but my favorite ones were the Cherry and the Pistachio & Lime.
I liked the Cherry macaron as it had a bit of cherry in the middle and filled with a delicious milk chocolate ganache; liked the Pistachio & Lime for its refreshing and light taste. Honey & Lavender was quite unique but it took me a second bite to like it and lastly, loved the saltiness that accentuated the caramel in the Salted Caramel macaron.
Ever since my visit to the market, i've been having cravings for cherries...what is your latest crave?


Strawberry Tartelettes

Sweet strawberries are one of my loves, but what if they are not sweet at all? That's what i found out when i brought them home.They were quite sour and even after i left them for a few days, they were only a tiny bit sweeter. Being in a good mood, I decided to make some Strawberry Tartelettes from scratch and make use of my small tart moulds that i bought from Provincial Home Living a while ago. It's a simple and easy Strawberry Tartelette recipe as i used whatever i could find in my pantry instead of going out and get some *too lazy and it was raining...

Strawberry Tartelettes (makes 12)
For the crust:
- 1 cup of plain flour
- 75g of cold unsalted butter, chopped

For the cream:
- 170ml of thickened cream
- caster sugar, to suit your taste
- few drops of rosewater essence

- a punnet of strawberries

1) To make the crust, process the flour and the butter in the food processor until mixture resembles breadcrumbs. Add about 50ml of cold water and mix until the mixture comes together. Form a ball dough.
2) Divide the dough into 12 pieces and roll them out on a sheet of lightly floured baking paper until 3mm thick.
3) Line tart moulds with pastry, trim the edges and refrigerate for 20 minutes
4) Line tart shells with baking paper and fill with dried beans. Bake it for 15 minutes in a preheated oven to 180C. Remove paper with beans and bake for a further 10 minutes or until pastry is dry and golden. Cool tart shells.
5) To make the cream, simply beat the thickened cream with caster sugar (add bit by bit) and rosewater essence. I beat until i reached a mousse-liked consistency but if you prefer a whipped cream consistency, beat longer.
6) To serve, simply pour the cream into the tart shells and top it with strawberries. I used  whole strawberries for photo purposes, but i reckon that it will taste quite good with macerated strawberries too.


CN: Yue Chuan Tian Di 粤川天地

By looking at the blog post title it probably made you go WHAT IS THAT? It's simply the name of the Chinese restaurant that i went to during my visit to Guangzhou (China). Guangzhou is roughly 3 hours away (by train) from Hong Kong and in terms of shopping and eating, i would say that they are pretty similar but cheaper.  If you thought eating in Hong Kong was cheap, then eating in China will make you go WOW. For instance, i had a bowl of noodles in a small noodle shop for only CNY 8 (which is just AU$1.30) and a plate of 8 dumplings for only CNY 6 (AUD 0.95). Obviously, if you go to a proper restaurant it will be more expensive but on average the dishes do not go over AUD 10.

Yue Chuan Tian Di (荔湾区康王路301号华林国际 - i could only find the address in Chinese) is the normal Chinese restaurant that you'd go to but why it? That's because they had a whole roast chicken for only CNY 28 (AUD 4.50) and we just couldn't miss a bargain like that (even for Chinese standards)! We ordered quite a few dishes and i have to say that overall, i was pretty impressed. We ordered two entrees to start with, Pickled Cucumber and Sliced Pig's Ears. I love pickled cucumbers in general and loved these too - not overly sour and with a hint of chilli! The sliced pig's ears were nice and crunchy!
After finishing the entrees, that's when the feast started. Dishes kept coming non-stop and it was just awesome to see so much delicious food on the table. Let's start with the seafood, we ordered the Boiled fresh prawns, something like Kung Pao Prawns and Crabs with shallots, ginger and garlic. The prawns, unfortunately, were not as fresh as i expected and the Kung Pao prawns were nice, but i just couldn't withstand the heat *duh me. I liked the simple way the crabs were cooked as it brought out the sweet and fresh taste of the meat.
Boiled Fresh Prawns
Kung Pao Prawns
Crabs with shallots, ginger and garlic
Ta-daa~ here is the much awaited Chinese Roast Chicken! The skin was golden brown & crispy and the meat was cooked just right and juicy. Do i need to say more? *stares happily at the photo. I still can't believe that it was only AUD 4.50...
We also ordered some stir-fried veggies, just because it's healthy and i like my Asian greens!
The two dishes that simply stood out for me were the Stir-fried Pork Ribs with Wheat and Thin Slices of Beef cooked in clear Tom Yum Soup with Vermicelli. I thought both dishes were quite unusual and something that i've never tried before. I really liked the pork and wheat combination because the pork was cooked well and the wheat added that chewy texture to the whole dish (think of small and plump brown rice texture). The Tom Yum soup in the beef dish was good, not overly sour and tasted lovely with the thinly sliced beef and vermicelli.
Stir-fried Pork Ribs with Wheat
Thin Slices of Beef cooked in clear Tom Yum Soup with Vermicelli
Dinner was good and i think everything came to a total of about CNY 350 (AUD 56). The highlights for me were definitely the Chinese Roast Chicken, Stir-fried Pork Ribs with Wheat and Thin Slices of Beef cooked in clear Tom Yum Soup with Vermicelli. I would recommend this place to any of you who ever have an opportunity to go Guangzhou...at least go there for the roast chicken!!!


The Blue Olive + Harvest

Although i was away for only 5 weeks, being back to Canberra does feel a little bit different. It feels like my lifestyle has completely taken a 180 degree turn ever since i got back. While in Hong Kong, my days were usually filled with catch-ups, shoppings, lunches, dinners that probably made me busier than a CEO (maybe not!). I guess there were so many things to do and places that i wanted to go that made me feel that time wasn't on my side. Being back, life has become somewhat more relaxed and having long lunches and a chat over a cup of mocha is somehow possible. 

On the first week back, decided to catch up with J over lunch. Our initial plan was to go to a newly opened cafe called Harvest but after learning that it did not offer a lunch menu we decided to look for some lunch somewhere else. We stopped by The Blue Olive cafe (56 Alinga St, City), which is not far from Harvest, for lunch. I think it went through some minor renovations because i don't remember the cafe looking like that back in the uni days. I like how the walls are well decorated with some vintagey plates, stuck-on flowers, wooden birds and paintings. Everything comes together nicely bringing a cosy atmosphere to the cafe.
We decided to order some sandwiches because that's their specialty. There are like 25 - 30 types of sandwiches to choose from and we ended up ordering a Botticelli - Smoked Salmon, Capers, Cream Cheese, Avocado and Lettuce (with Handcut Sourdough ) and a Banksy - Chorizo, Spanish Onions, Roasted Capsicum, Roquette and Chilli Jam (with Handcut Seed & Grain Sourdough). I liked Botticelli for its classic combination and Banksy for its Spanish-ish flavours. My little whinge: I would have preferred the bread to be more fresh because some parts were a bit tough to eat.
Overall, lunch was good and loved the whole atmosphere and cosiness of the cafe - yes, i am a sucker for nice decor =P. The day didn't end there, we went back to Harvest (40 Marcus Clarke St, City) for a cup of coffee...mocha, to be precise. Harvest is a lovely brown toned cafe with big windows and wooden settings. Harvest claims to offer the best coffee here in Canberra. True? I am no coffee expert to comment on this but please let me know what you think about the coffee if you've been there, my dear coffee lovers =) Ohn...and i also like how they have cute water bottles and even their own logo printed on the sugar packets.

Harvest's coffee counter
I've ordered a cup of Mocha which was smooth, had a good balance of flavours and a nice froth (which i love!). We didn't get any cakes or pastries because there weren't a big deal of them to choose from except from the commonly found banana bread, lamingtons and custard tarts (but i do hope that they will eventually bring out some awesome cakes!). Apart from that, Harvest is definitely a nice place to meet up with friends for a nice cath up over a cup of coffee or tea.


3rd Annual Truffle Degustation at Parlour Wine Room

Having missed almost the whole Fireside Festival (due to my Hong Kong trip) i was very happy when i managed to come back in time for the 3rd Annual Truffle Degustation at Parlour Wine Room (16 Kendall Lane, NewActon Pavilion). I've never been to the previous two years' truffle degustation, so i was definitely looking forward to it.
It was a cold and windy night and i was so glad that upon arrival, we were seated right next to the fireside and in tall tables too. Parlour Wine Room has a rustic Victorian decor with lovely Victorian armchairs and sofas and beautiful lamps. The piece that i liked the most was the center blue ceiling lamp because it was quite unique and it looked like a lot of blue-shaded balloons held in a cage. The night started with a welcome speech telling us a bit about the truffles used (which are grown in the Canberra region) and the matching wines for the dishes in the degustation menu. Then we were offered some drinks and bread (accompanied by truffle oil and paprika).
The degustation started off with a Shiitake & Truffle consommé which was nice considering that i have not had a decent consommé in ages. The shiitake taste was quite predominant but it had subtle hints of truffle too. The next entree, the Kingfish Ceviche with Shavings of Truffle was simply lovely. The fish was fresh and its subtle sweetness went well with the truffle.
Shiitake & Truffle consommé
Kingfish Ceviche with Shavings of Truffle
The Truffle Scented Milk Curd with House Made Lavosh was something different since it's not the usual type of entree that i would order. I liked the crispy house made lavosh and as for the curd, it was alright - something different.
The next dish up was the Seared Scallop, Smoked Duck, Cauliflower Puree and Truffle Paste. As usual, i love my scallops and this one was no different. It was juicy and nicely seared. Even though the Smoked Duck had was a bit dry, it still had a nice flavour and it went well with the cauliflower puree and truffle paste and also the vinegared enoki mushrooms.
The first main was the Truffle Scented, Mushroom Ragu Paella. I thought it was a funny name for the dish because it looked and tasted more like a risotto than a paella. I quite liked the dish and was delighted by the use of a variety of mushrooms in the paella. Lovely dish!
Second main was the Stuffed & Smoked Pork Trotter, Apple & Truffle Mayonnaise and Wilted Romaine. The pork was nice but i didn't fancy its flaky texture. The mayonnaise was definitely IT, it helped to bring all the components of the dish together.
Before the final entry of our dessert, Poached Pear, Truffle Pastry with Almond & Truffle Honey Cream, we got our palate cleanser which was a Mango Sorbet on a Bed of Olives with Fennel Sherbet. I don't want to sound overly excited over a Mango sorbet, but it was definitely a very fine one. Unfortunately the olives didn't do it for me but the fennel sherbet added that exciting fizziness to the sorbet. The final dessert overall, for me, was a bit disappointing. Firstly because i am not a big fan of poached fruit desserts and secondly (perhaps the main reason) because the truffle was too overpowering in the cream that made the whole dish 'fall apart' - i did like the truffle pastry though.
Mango Sorbet on a Bed of Olives with Fennel Sherbet
Poached Pear, Truffle Pastry with Almond & Truffle Honey Cream
The dinner was enjoyable and the staff was very attentive and efficient. Definitely loved the decor of Parlour Wine Room and there were certainly a few memorable dishes from the truffle degustation menu such as the Kingfish Ceviche, the Mushroom Ragu Paella and the delicious Mango Sorbet! Looking forward to the 4th Annual Truffle Degustation next year!

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