Taste of Auckland 2017

Yearly, Taste of Auckland transforms Western Springs into a food haven.

It is an event not to be missed.  You get the opportunity to try signature dishes from some of Auckland’s most exciting restaurants in a beautiful al fresco setting surrounded by pop-up winery stands, food stalls and drink experiences.  I went all out with a huge backpack as my shopping bag.

This year, we visited on the last day of the event.  The weather was wet and miserable which in fact was a bonus as we managed to get a car park without having to walk as far as we usually did in previous years.  The sun did come out eventually so it was a nice transformation from rain to shine!

There were ten top restaurants taking part.  In fact, I thought there were more stalls last year but I may be wrong.  Definitely, I could not find the stall selling smoked juicy salmon.  How I craved those thick juicy cubes on crackers.  We bought lots of dips and snacks home but no salmon this year.

My friend was attracted to the hangi, a traditional New Zealand Māori method of cooking food using heated rocks buried in a pit oven.  I knew the meat would be bland (strictly my own opinion) but he was in front of the camera so had to make the bite look mouth-watering for others, I supposed.

We should have gone to Miss Moonshine instead as they had the best display.

I had bunny chow from 1947 Eatery which was quite nice but very spicy. Bunny chow is a very interesting dish.

During the Great Depression in 1933 Indians, whites and Chinese in Durban, South Africa, suffered hunger like everyone else.  The kids then discovered that the cheapest curry they could buy (for a quarter penny or half a penny) was made by a vegetarian Indian caste known in Durban (slang as the Bania). It was made from dried sugar beans (no meat). The children didn’t have plates, and one kid got the bright idea to hollow out a quarter bread, asked the seller to put the bean curry in the hollowed-out bread, and then used the broken bread he’s taken out as a sort of eating utensil. Chinese food was called “chow”. Somehow the two words came together: Bania Chow.  In time, it simply became known as Bunny Chow.

Bunny Chow was what the Indian sugar plantation workers took as their day’s food to the lands: curry in hollowed-out bread halves. Cheap and practical … 

We were looking for Tok Tok but by the time we found our favourite stall, our tummy no longer have room for their yummilicous crispy duck.  Too bad we couldn’t fit in the curry fish either.  How disloyal were we then, though it now gives us all the reason to travel all the way to Tok Tok, Takapuna for a proper dine-in.

In between that, we sampled lots and lots of sausages and I seemed to have gone off drinking so our two glasses that came with the tickets were pretty much souvenir pieces in that end.  I knew I have quite a few of them that we brought home yearly and never used.  What a hoarder.

Indeed, Taste of Auckland is quite an expensive day out though we only spent 140 crowns ($140) this visit which included entries for two and 80 crowns for spending amongst the two of us.  This was a lot less than last year’s spendings as there were no bottles of wine, beer or salmon in my backpack!

 

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Dilmah Tea and all the rest

Dilmah tea is a household name in New Zealand.  It is one of the premium tea that line the shelves at all our local supermarkets.

Dilmah, founded by Merrill J. Fernando, today the world’s most experienced teamaker, has championed quality, authenticity and variety in tea. Dilmah pioneered the concept of Single Origin Tea in 1988 when the family company went against industry trends to declare its commitment to authenticity. Garden fresh, unblended tea is a hallmark of Dilmah and offers a unique taste of unblended Ceylon Tea packed at source.

I was given a pack of Dilmah’s new infusions for sampling at The Very Vintage Day Out recently.  Infusions and herbal teas are a rising trend amongst tea-drinking consumers.

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I enjoyed the Coconut & Mango the best.  The Ginger & Peppermint was nice and so is the Cardamon, Ginger & Orange and honestly, I had to throw the Cinnamon, Turmeric, Ginger & Nutmeg away.  I do not often waste food (just a habit and drink is food too) but that flavour did not suit me and it was almost undrinkable.  Can’t really describe how it tasted like, just simply ‘not my taste’!

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I often need a cup of coffee to start my day but I drink tea throughout the day, at least two to three cups a day.  In fact, drinking as little as a cup of tea daily may be good for your heart health, new research suggests.

However, don’t go overboard with tea.  As with most things, too much of some things may not always be good for you.

Drink tea if you enjoy it, in moderation, and not because you’re taking it as a medicine.

Quote Dr. Howard Sesso, associate professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School

My food for thought today in a nutshell;

A cup or two of tea is good for you, be it Dilmah or any other trusted brand.

Porridge or Congee

My first taste of porridge (‘mui’ in Hokkien or Teochew) was when I was a baby weaned off milk to solids.

I grew up associating porridge as rice cooked and simmered with plenty of water till soft and creamy.  When young, I saw porridge as a food for babies or young children and people recovering from illness.  Porridge are soft solid food, easily digested.

Another name for porridge is congee but in Malaysia and Singapore, porridge is the common term.  Porridge or congee is now readily available as a hawker food or ‘street eats’.

Teochew (one of the local Chinese dialect) Porridge is a rice porridge dish accompanied with various small plates of side dishes such as preserved egg, beancurd, plain egg omelette, canned food such as black bean fish, etc.  This is a popular hawker food when you are looking for something light for breakfast or supper.

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Other porridge dishes are rice cooked with chicken, pork or fish (known as chicken, pork or fish porridge) and some like it added with egg for additional flavouring making it more creamier.

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For the greater part of my life, porridge to me is associated with rice.  When I moved to New Zealand, I found that everyone was confused when I served them porridge that to them is NOT porridge.  (Confusing enough).

To many non-Asians, porridge is milk with oats, weetbits, cereals or muesli.

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To avoid the confusion of everyone, when craving for porridge, I must say “congee” or Chinese porridge.

When someone asks for porridge for breakfast here, they mean cereals with milk, not rice porridge!

What is porridge to you?

Kumara, Spinach & Bacon Quiche

As I create new dishes, I am also starting to blog my recipes on Little Borneo Girl.

My blog Little Girl Story has almost run out of space as I only have a free blog.

Please follow me at Little Borneo Girl.

Happy Blogging and enjoy my recipes.

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I love to cook whenever I have a weekday off.

Today, I bought a bag of spinach and there were bacon, eggs and three orange Kumaras (Beauregard) aka Sweet Potatoes in my pantry.  Trying to minimise carbs in my diet lately, I did away with pastry sheets and used the Kumaras as the base for my quiche.

Our body requires a certain amount of carbohydrate to fuel the brain and the muscles.  As a child, I was told that I must finish my plate of rice so I will grow up healthy and smart.  In fact, we ought to know that the issue is not carbs themselves but what we do to them.  It is the heavy processing that tends to strip carbs of essential nutrients that leads to them being digested more rapidly than we would if we consumed them in their natural state.  In other words, there are good…

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Most popular food in New Zealand, Australia, Malaysia and Singapore

If you were to identify the most popular food, just one food in each country, what would that dish be?

The list would be endless as there are so many yummy edibles.  There is definitely more than just one single type of food for each country but this blog shows only one dish out of the many.

People eat different kind of food for breakfast, lunch or dinner so the below are more on lighter meals more for brunch, snacks or finger food (for New Zealand & Australia), not the usual formal dinner food.

New Zealand
The population in New Zealand (especially Auckland) is so diverse so we have all sorts of food from Filipino, Chinese, Thai, Korean, Japanese, Malaysian, Singapore, Vietnam, Turkish, Mediterranean, Middle East, Dutch, French, European, Kiwi cuisines and lots more.

In New Zealand, we eat anything from

  • Roast Lamb. Succulent and tender, roast lamb is a Kiwi favourite. …
  • Māori hāngī The hāngī was the most widely used method of cooking by Māori for more than 2000 years. …
  • Fish and Chips on the beach
  • New Zealand sweets, candies
  • New Zealand Desserts
  • Cheese and Wine
  • Chinese (Thai) Takeaways
  • Pizzas, Pies & Quiches

As the list goes one, I will pick what we have in abundance, our “Fush & Chups” on the beach.  They used to be wrapped in old newspaper years ago but now some restaurants printed their wrapping paper making it look like newspaper to keep the traditional look.

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Australia
Our neighbour’s cuisine is so like ours.  They boast they have the best pies but we sing the same tune too.  For this post, we will give Australia the honour to share their pies as their popular food.

Australian cuisine (similar to New Zealand) is heavily influenced by British colonization, with many popular foods in the country coming directly from English or Irish cuisine traditions. Other food traditions in Australia include roast dinners, fish and chips, and blood pudding. Iconic foods unique to Australia include Vegemite, Tim Tams, fairy bread and the fried Australian hamburger.

Australia like New Zealand has abundance of sea food and I love their barramundi fish and blue mussels where the flesh is not as big or rubbery (chewy) as our local NZ mussels.

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Malaysia & Singapore
Eating out is a past time for Malaysians and Singaporeans.  With numerous hawker styled food courts, it is generally cheaper and more convenient to eat out after 8 to 10 hours of work, Mondays to Fridays.  While official work hours are either from 8am to 4pm (or 9am to 5pm), often workers do not leave their office till 6pm.  When one is flat out at work, isn’t eating out the most rewarding thing to do? Enough slaving at work so time for others to ‘slave’ or cook for you.

Most Malaysian Singaporean dishes are rice or noodles based.  One unique trait Singaporeans and Malaysians share is that they insist on having chilli with anything they eat.  Any noodle dish is not complete without chilli padi (bird’s eye chili) in soya sauce and laksa (spicy noodle soup) isn’t laksa if it does not come with a side of sambal (hot sauce made from chili and spices).

It’s hard to name just one popular dish in Malaysia with its 13 states in all.  Since I was born in Kuching, Sarawak, I will pick kolo mee for Malaysia and growing up in Singapore, I would say Chicken Rice is one of their many popular dishes.

While New Zealanders and Australian greet each other with
“What’s up, mate?” or “How are you?”

Malaysians and Singaporeans often ask
“Chiak Pah Boi?” “Have you eaten?” especially the older folks though the trend now is moving towards “Lu Ho Bo?” meaning “How are you?”.

Indeed there are so many things to talk about with this simple four letter word  FOOD, so much so that we entertain clients with food and drinks to build the connection (Guangxi) and break the ice for a mutual win-win situation in businesses as well as bonding with family and friends.

From the desk of a foodie ……………………………..

Ways of cooking Chokos

I recently discovered a very weird kind of  vegetable and been savouring them in all sorts of dishes.

I used to have a choko tree in the house I rented some years back and I never knew what that ‘fruit’ was.

What are chokos?

Choko

Chokos are vegetables (some called it a fruit) native to Central America.  They were taken to Europe by Spanish explorers and from there were introduced to parts of Asia.  They are pear shaped and the smaller or young ones are green and the bigger ones are lighter green in color.  The grew to be about 10 to 15cm long and are pretty solid.

The Cantonese literally named this vegetable as Buddha’s hand melon (佛手瓜 fut sao gwa) mainly because it looks like a pair of palms clasping together in prayer.

The Jamaicans called this vegetable Chocho.

Their skin are pretty tough so before cooking, peel off the skin and cut into halves to remove the seed.  Chop the chokos in bite sizes or thinly sliced into strips.

Stir fry is the best way to cook them.  I added garlic, chicken stock, egg and a dash of soya sauce, oyster sauce (or hoisin sauce) and finished off with a dash of Chinese wine.

 

Chokos are delicious and has its own natural sweetness.  I also used it as a filling for spring rolls.  Sliced thinly and stir fried the same way as above, add a spoonful of cornflour (diluted with water) to thicken the dish.  Leave to cool and then fill into spring rolls sheet.  I usually make them in batches and freeze.  Handy to pan fried when ready to eat.

Choko tastes a bit like ‘Bang Kuang’ (Jicama or Mexican Turnip) which are not available in New Zealand so Chokos are great substitute for homemade Popiah (Hokkien name for Spring Rolls that are not deep fried) and Spring Rolls.

 

One important tip to note before you start picking any fruits (veggies) thinking they must be chokos and start cooking them.

Chokos grow on vine, similar to a weed called moth plant.

Moth plant has a sap that irritates our skin when in contact and is a deadly weed.  They are lighter (in weight) not a solid as chokos.

I am a bit weary in the beginning when I first ate chokos with the phobia that I could be poisoned by eating moth plant instead.  Anyway, there is no way that anyone could be mistaken because the skin texture is different, the weight and if you are still not sure, once you cut open the choko and moth plant, you will noticed the moth plant have a milky sap.  If not sure which is which, please use a gloves to prevent the sap from irritating your skin.

If you are still not sure, click here to check out when a Choko is not a Choko, courtesy of Just like my Nan made.

Can you identify the difference?  Which is choko and which is moth plant?

Kiwiana

I was on Jetstar and flipped through their in flight magazine.  Looking at me was a page on all things Kiwiana.

kiwiana

Kiwiana are certain items and icons from New Zealand’s heritage, especially from around the middle of the 20th century that are seen as representing iconic Kiwi elements.

Amongst other Kiwiana, the silver fern flag has become an iconic, if unofficial symbol of New Zealand.

A number of products widely regarded as Kiwiana, such as Weet-Bix, Watties tomato sauceMarmite and L&P, are now made by non-New Zealand companies.  In some cases this is because the original New Zealand company has been purchased by an overseas corporation, in others the product has always been made by an international firm.

In 1994, New Zealand Post released a set of stamps depicting kiwiana items including a paua shell, pavlova, hockey pokey ice cream, fish and chips, jandals, bush shirt, buzzy bee, kiwifruit, rugby boots and ball and a black singlet and gumboots.

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To sum it up, Kiwiana are all the weird and wonderful quirky things from years gone by that contribute to our sense of nationhood — our Kiwi identity.

Bitter

Food wise, I love anything bitter.

Its pungent taste, not too sweet or too sour.

My favourite bitter drink is Schweppes bitter lemon.

Bitter lemon is a carbonated soft drink flavoured with quinine and lemon. The signature bitter taste is produced by a combination of the quinine and the lemon pith used in manufacturing the drink.

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I love bitter gourd.  Bitter gourd (melon) is one of traditional edible pod vegetables in many Asian countries. It is grown widely as a field crop as well as backyard vegetable and, in fact, is among the most bitter tasting of all culinary vegetables.

This vegetable has numerous health benefits.

Health benefits of Bitter gourd

  • Bitter melon is very low in calories, carrying just 17 calories per 100 g. Nevertheless, its pods are rich sources of phytonutrients like dietary fiber, minerals, vitamins, and anti-oxidants.
  • Bitter melon notably contains phytonutrient, polypeptide-P, a plant insulin known to lower blood sugar levels. Also, it composes hypoglycemic agent called Charantin. Charantin increases glucose uptake and glycogen synthesis inside the cells of the liver, muscle, and fatty (adipose) tissue. Together, these compounds may have been thought to be responsible for blood sugar levels reduction in the treatment of type-2 diabetes.
  • Fresh pods are an excellent source of folates, carrying about 72 µg/100g (18% of RDA). Vitamin folate when taken by mothers during their early pregnancy time, would help reduce the incidence of neural tube defects in the newborn babies.
  • Fresh bitter melon is an excellent source of vitamin-C (100 grams of fresh pod provides 84 mg or about 140% of RDI). Vitamin-C is one of the powerful natural antioxidants which helps scavenge harmful free radicals from the human body.
  • Further, it is an excellent source of health benefiting flavonoids such as β-carotene, α-carotene, lutein, and zea-xanthin. It also contains a good amount of vitamin-A. Together, these compounds help act as protective scavengers against oxygen-derived free radicals and reactive oxygen species (ROS) that play a role in aging, cancers and various disease processes.
  • Bitter melon stimulates smooth digestion and peristalsis of food through the bowel until it excreted from the body. Thus, it helps in relieving indigestion and constipation problems.
  • Further, it has small amounts of B-complex vitamins such as niacin (vitamin B-3), pantothenic acid (vitamin B-5), pyridoxine (vitamin B-6) and minerals such as iron, zinc, potassium, manganese and magnesium.
  • Early laboratory tests suggest that certain phytochemical compounds in bitter melon might be effective in the treatment of HIV infection.

    – credit to Nutrition and You

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While bitterness is so favourable in food, it is not so in life experience.  Many of us may encounter some bitter experiences at some stage in life.

Every uncomfortable experience in life gives you the choice of growing bitter or better.

every-uncomfortable-experience-in-life-gives-you-the-choice-of-growing

 

Pies Craving

Strangely enough whenever I am early for work, my mind would be thinking about pies.  I do not call myself pie mad (or maid) but I do like pies once in a while.

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In Auckland, our best priced and nicest gourmet pies are available at BP Station.  They sell nice coffee, pies and other finger food through Wild Bean Café.  Fill your car and fill your stomach too.  This is so handy to all travellers.

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In Botany Shopping Centre, close to my home, there is Greenland Bakery, an award winning pie shop.  Personally, I find their pie fillings somewhat more fusion than traditional kiwi pies.  I guess from their numerous awards, people’s taste are now more diverse.

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Close to my work, there is Jester Pie which I sometimes divert to before work.  Their pies seemed to be a bit smaller than a standard BP Pie.  They have pies of all sorts from our original kiwi to Italian and Indian pies.

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This morning, I tried a piece of salmon quiche and a masala puff.  The baker Ed was a Malaysian living in New Zealand way longer than myself.  I’ve been living in Auckland for coming 14 years and pies and freshly brewed cappuccino became so much a part of life.

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A sip of coffee
A bite of pie
Forget the calories
Totally out of control !

Nothing matters as that is a start to a wonderful day !

Image credit to the creators.