JUST SNAPPED @littleswallowchinadoll

Roka, Soho

It's been a rough week. I'm missing home, I've had some challenges at work, blah blah. I don't want to bore you with the details. Suffice to say that come Wednesday when I met PetiteFolle for dinner, I started crying into my cocktail (note to self: it's never a good idea to go out three nights in a row after getting off a 24 hour red eye and going straight to work).

Thankfully, Roka had enough to distract me with.

Non-reservation counter seating wraps around the robata grill in the restaurant, where we precariously propped our drinks, dishes, and soy sauce on its naturally uneven wood surface.

My good lady and I discussed getting older, work, living abroad, love, and Oz while we nibbled our way across the menu.

The ribs and eggplant were sensational. 

Just what I needed to revive my flagging spirits. 

Roka on Urbanspoon Square Meal

Sydney & Melbourne, Week 2: more food, friends & family

Mum and I popped down to Melbourne last week so I could visit my Aussie office, and so we could spend a little more time with the extended family.

Which meant BBQ,


and a typical family photo.

Before heading back to Sydney for a final couple of days at home. 

The girls and I bar hopped through the Soda Factory, Li'l Darling, Passage, and Hugo's with a nice feed at Longrain sandwiched in between. Sydney's bar scene has exploded with new places since I've left home, which is very cool, but very expensive.

And then it was time for a few more meals with my folks before heading back to freezing London. 

Including more fresh seafood. Don't you love mum's stinky prawn fingers prevention method?

I'm homesick as anything. Luckily mum has worked out how to use emoticons on the new iPad, so she's been cheering me up every day with little faces. 

Plus, I was missing the CG, so I guess being back ain't all bad. When's my next holiday again?

Temasek, Sydney

What's the best thing to do when you've had a big night out? 

Drag one of your besties out to lunch the next day with your parents, obviously.

We headed to Temasek in Parramatta, a Singaporean joint that my uncle frequents every week.

I gotta be honest, Malaysian food > Singaporean food for me and my untrained tastebuds. Everything was a little sweet, strangely. Plus I'm a little biased. As far as I'm concerned, my Dad makes EVERYTHING better than anyone else!

But boy, did it fill a very large, post drinks hole in my belly.

Thanks Mum!

Temasek on Urbanspoon

Mei Jing, Melbourne

I know you're probably sick of seeing dim sum food porn. But I couldn't help myself. The dumplings were not only tasty, they were enormous (as far as dumplings go) and I am Asian after all. Taste + portion size = massive Asian appeal.

There was a good variety not usually seen - I particularly liked the prawn and vermicelli filled dumplings, and prawn topped meatball style dim sum. 

Frankly, when you're escaping out of gale force Melbourne winds and lashing rain, everything tastes that little bit better. Thankfully, it was the only real poor weather I've had all trip.

Plus, I got to witness my cousin's five year old kid devouring chicken feet. 

Any kid that can eat bones clean and smack down on chilli sauce is hella cool in my books.

Mei Jing Chinese Restaurant on Urbanspoon

Oh so simple apple crumble

Firstly, I'm going to show you my cousin's new puppy.

I KNOW. Adora-bubble. 

When you finish gushing about how ridiculously cute she is, I'm going to tell you a little story about my cousin J. 

A long time ago,  when J was looking after my bro and I, she cooked spaghetti bolognaise for us. It was so bad, I ran away into the backyard. She was pretty angry. J will probably deny all knowledge of this, claiming I must have dreamt it - but I assure you, it really happened. 

Luckily for J's family and friends, somewhere along the line she got married, had three gorgeous kids, and became the most amazing cook ever. We're talking roast lamb and ham you've never tasted the likes of, double layer chocolate pavlova, decadent chocolate tart, stroganoff, the tastiest oven baked chicken and rice recipe I've had the pleasure of stealing...you get the picture.

Dad has been waxing lyrical about J's apple crumble for years, so I couldn't believe how easy this little gem was.

Cube up a 250g block of butter while it's still cold, then add a couple of scoops of plain flour to the bowl and mix the lot into a crumbly texture with your hands.

Throw a cup and a half of sugar in, and mix it altogether (don't gasp - nothing worth eating is light on sugar or salt).

You can use either fresh or tinned apples, depending how much time you have. Pop about a kilo of  peeled, chopped apples into a deep ovenproof dish and zest a little lemon rind over them, followed by a squeeze of lemon juice. 

Layer the crumble mix over the apple - it should be a nice, thick, covering.

Then whack it all in the oven. 170C fan forced, for around an hour for tinned apples, and an hour and a half for fresh. You'll see the apple start bubbling through the crumble in places when it's ready. 

If the top isn't brown, pop it under the grill until it's golden all over.

We couldn't wait that long. Serve your buttery, sugary, crumbly goodness up with lashings of ice cream. 

Seriously simple.

Sydney, Week 1: food, friends & family

The CG got to experience the full force of Chinese family this week, as we sat around the table with aunts, uncles, cousins, and parents. From one plate to another, the best of the food was passed to cries of "you eat, you eat!"

We can't help it. It's how we show love. By making sure we force feed everyone we care about. On the hour.

The week according to my iPhone was pretty tasty:

With some manic mahjong playing and sunshine for good measure.

Amongst the food and family, we spent a glorious day at Manly.

Caught up with the usual suspects at the Beresford (I can't tell you how much I love beer gardens in good weather).

And saw my little brother get married. No wedding pics of the absolutely gorgeous couple - I'm leaving that for the bride and groom. I can't  begin to tell you how beautiful my sister-in-law was, simply stunning. 

On another note - check out my uncles and aunties from the left: 73, 72, 77 and 74 years old. Can you believe that? Asian genes are the best. The CG is going to be that weird old white dude hanging out with a bunch of young Asians one day. 

Isn't the wedding location just beautiful?

I shed a tear when I dropped the newlyweds and the CG off at the airport yesterday. I've got a week of work in Melbourne and a couple more family dinners before I head back to London-town. 

Mum is already starting to dread having to put away the mahjong set.

My little bro is getting married

I can't believe my little baby bro is actually getting married today. 

We've been up since 7am (some of us well before), a house full of aunts, uncles, cousins, and parents, waiting restlessly for the groom to arrive so we can force feed him before he and his groomsmen get ready and the photographer arrives.

It's glorious blue skies and sunshine, so ironically we're all hoping the day won't get too hot.

And by this time tomorrow, we'll officially have a doctor in the family. 

Well done, bro. You've done us proud.

The secret to homemade curry laksa


Now that I'm nearly an adult, my parents have finally let me in on the secret to making amazingly tasty, crazy spicy, curry laksa.

You got it. 

Chilliz (the "z" gives it so much more street cred) laksa stock paste. Scoff if you will, but when you can rustle up a meal for seven hungry adults that's this good in less than thirty minutes, there is no way I'm ever going to bother making my own paste.

What else you'll need:
  • Shredded chicken - we boiled up drumsticks for smooth, tender meat that's relatively cheap
  • Bean sprouts (preferably with roots plucked off by two aunts)
  • Tofu
  • Hard boiled eggs - Dad swears by a 7 minute boil time, from the point the water starts bubbling (make sure you bring them to the boil from cold water)
  • Noodles - we use a mix of vermicelli and hokkien

Prepare your laksa paste as per packet instructions, adding the tofu into the soup mix.

Load up your bowls with noodles, and top with chicken, bean sprouts and eggs. 

Now this is the important bit: ladle the laksa into your bowl. 

Then pour the soup out again. This brings the temperature of everything in your bowl up to soup temp - but since you've then cooled the soup down, the last thing you want is to serve up when everything isn't as hot as it could be. By pouring it off, back into the boiling pot, you're allowing the soup to reheat to the max.

Now go ahead and fill her up!

Steaming hot, delicious, spicy heaven in a bowl that will have your nose running and your tastebuds tingling. You can thank my parents later.