My Chinese Family Feast

Before I moved back to Australia permanently (and a life based around work and reality tv shows), I was treated to a final family farewell feast.

Unlike the family feasts on SBS*, at my Chinese family feasts no one is slaving over a hot stove. Here you do not learn to cook. That is for the kitchen staff at the Chinese restaurant you have chosen and inevitably have vouchers for. Here one learns to eat and possibly dispute the bill.

Ten courses...two tables...four hours.....lots of tea

We started with soup. I think it was crab (no shark fins anymore....seems my family has decided to shun the delicacy)

Goose feet noodles


Fish Cakes

Peking Duck


Fish with preserved ginger and plums (Chinese umeboshi style)

Sizzling prawns with spring onion, garlic and corriander

ummmm...can't remember

Minced Peking duck as a side with congee


congee also accompanied by stir fried veges and omelette...just count those dipping sauces

Dessert...sweet plus cripsy biscuit thingy

Family portrait

It was a very sweet farewell dinner. For a family which by culture I would not describe as particularly expressive of their emotions it was quite an overwhelming display of affection. I was laden with compliments and gifts. My aunties all hugged me and my uncles passed on some of my late Ama's jewellery. One of my cousin's searching for something nice to say told me I had a lovely voice. I left feeling sad to leave them all behind.

*Oh and also, if you happen to be reading this and work for SBS I have a crossover reality show idea for you - My Family Feast meets Border Control. Large ethnic families have to try and make it into Australia with all the authentic ingredients they can without having them all confiscated by customs....the family with the least number of substitutes wins!!!!
Put small amount of oil in a pot...fry one or two cloves of finely chopped garlic

Add yellow lentils, water and prawn heads and boil until cooked

Add salt to taste

Serve with more cripsy garlic if desired. Eat on its own or with other appropriate things

So before we left Bangkok for good, we went to Hanoi.I had always wanted to go to Hanoi. I'd been to HCM some years back and was always told that while the pho in HMC was ok, Hanoi was better. Hanoi was firmly on my must go list. So we went and although there were a few highlights of the trip (see below), I can safely say I would happily never return to Hanoi again unless paid to go. I have never been glared at, short-changed, ripped off and generally made to feel unwelcome so systematically on my travels elsewhere in the world as I was here*. We had the lowest strike rate on restaurants (my advice, don't even bother following the lonely planet guide) which were bad quality and over-priced. The French food was especially terrible (much better in Siem Reap Cambodia). Most shocking however was the aggression of taxi drivers. On our last night our taxi driver stopped on the side of the street, and asked us to wait 2 minutes while he popped into some dodgy kareoke bar (kareoke bars in Asia tend not to be merely for harmless drunken fun). We said no and were treated to a torrent of bullfaced yelling and screaming. The day that we left to the airport, our taxi driver nearly had a scrape with another taxi and proceeded to jump out of the car with a huge steel rod in hand and kicked and shoved the other driver.


Mentioning I liked fresh rice paper rolls and having a Vietnamese colleague order a table full of them. I appreciated the gesture but given the short time we had in Hanoi it would have been nice to try something different.


Green Papaya - Good service....terrible, even laughable, over priced food

Hanoi Garden - poor quality seafood, horrible hard rice, rip off prices

Wild Lotus, stunning decor pity about the medicore over priced food


What we did enjoy was Maison d'Hanoi Hotel, although I still have my gripes regarding service, prices, and room cleanliness. Overall a cute hotel though albeit with limited windows. We also enjoyed the fact that when we arrived Girl Talk was playing that night in Hanoi and we go to see him play for $8 US dollars each. We also enjoyed street noodles, Bun Cha (beef noodles outside on the street - the best meal we had) and I did like Cha Ca La Vong although the portion served was miserly for the price and we were never offered a second helping.



Girl Talk

First impressions of Hanoi? "Great buildings, horrible people" to steal a line from Joannes, actually a lot like France.


*I found out later from a friend who worked in Vietnam that it is quite common for people who look half Vietnamese to be treated with complete scorn. So I am assuming that people were assuming that I was a returnee. Note to Vietnamese people, not everyone who looks Asian is Vietnamese.

Ice Cream Sounds

Cologne is the type of city where one often ends up eating musical ice cream . The above video was screened on a boat on the Rhein a couple weeks back at a presentation by Kompakt records for the new album by Matias Aguayo, which contains whimsical rollerskate ditties composed entirely of beatbox noises (sassafras and cherry flavour).

Below is another classic ice cream song, in honour of some t-shirts we had made up recently for the Notting Hill Carnival. Johnny Osbourne fudges it up, lovers rock style...

Pizza and Taco Grooves in Auckland

Grooveman Spot (Jazzysport, Japan) played in NZ recently, and made these tour videos. Music might sound better when it's round like a record - but in Auckland, as in Rome, pizza tastes better when it's square.

Eateries highlighted include:
- the café at Conch Records on Ponsonby Rd
-Belgian beer & mussels at De Post in Mt Eden
- square pizza from TOTO restaurant (where Grooveman Spot played at the Turnaround party in the basement)
- tacos and tostadas from the mighty Mexican Specialities in Ellerslie.

...The coffee jelly on the plane looks quite good too.

Appearances by lovable jazzy-kiwi mafia including Mara TK, Mamiko, Cian, 3 yr-old Esai, Nick D, Andy Submariner and Bobby Brazuka.

sago & pandan jelly by chotda
(Photo of sago & pandan jelly by Chotda via Flickr)

Michael Pollan can be so mawkish sometimes.

His selection of reader's self-prescribed food rules
on the Times' site today is intended to show how families and cultures can provide collective wisdom that is more helpful than government nutrition guidelines.

I do admire his militancy, but the quotes listed there make me want to eat a huge spoonful of whiskey 'air' and vodka 'dust'. Pollan's idea of food wisdom is predicated on the idea that the past is better and food technology is bad. It's good that journalists like him are there to challenge the industry status quo, but right from the beginning, I've been uncomfortable with Pollan's premise that our parents (and grandparents) knew better than us what tastes good and is good for us.

My Dutch grandmother might've passed on some kick-ass junk food recipes (yeasted poffertje pancakes, buttery spiced spekulaas biscuits and deep-fried blueberry-studded olliebollen donuts) but most of the time she sips weak freeze-dried instant coffee or chicory root drinks and bland pea soups. Vegetable-wise, bitter sunlight-starved witlof makes an occasional appearance. Because she suffered deprivation during the war, moldy fruit has its blemishes cut out and is served good as new.

My other (NZ-born) grandmother definitely knows how to cook: she does a great line in chicken pies, porridge with cream, roasts, salads doused in french dressing and tasty little finger-sized crispy cheese toasts. None of it is very good for the waistline, as her own shapely figure attests.

To be fair, after ten years of suffering vegetarian grandchildren, she has learned how to make a tomato pasta that is fresh tasting if a little bit soggy. But it seems absurd to propose that I should look to these two lovable if domineering ladies for my own dietary advice.

Some of the most delicious cooking techniques may have been invented by someone's great-great-grandmother, but that doesn't mean that those recipes can't be modified or improved on.

Let's celebrate the whimsical advances of food-tech and the occasional convenience food - like Japanese curry in its preternaturally smooth chocolate-like blocks, and those freeze-dried egg-dashi soups which flower in the hot water like a mail-order sea monkey. OK, they involve a chemical- and energy-intensive food production process and far too much plastic packaging - but I promise to adopt three abandoned mongrels from a shelter and plant seven oak trees in penance for each bowlful.

Let's celebrate food that pretends to be something else. Like marzipan that's rolled into balls, dusted with chocolate powder 'dirt' and sold as tiny 'potatoes'. Or marzipan shaped as sunglasses, maybe - whatever floats your boat.

Here's to 'fake' vegetarian hotdogs – especially when cut up and sautéed with butter in a version of the classic Japanese kids dish of tomato ketchup rice. Heinz might be the devil, but why not dance with it sometimes, especially if it makes brown rice taste so kick-ass. Let's support the German organic-food industry, with its bizarre pink soy 'mortadella' luncheon slice, or vege wieners with their complicated list of ingredients. They're fake, and that's half the fun. They're as much of a food treasure as an old German grandma's knödel dumplings.

OK, I'm only being half-serious, but I wish Pollan would be too. Of course, in the mainstream media you need to stay 'on message' to make an impact, and I'm sure that behind closed doors Pollan eats food with more than the five ingredients he has famously prescribed. Maybe he even gives his home-baked biscuits cute and catchy names like 'coco loco bong bongs' or 'oh ho ho hot-crullers'.

Still, I think to balance this stultifying wholesomeness, we should advance a complimentary set of Dada food rules.
"Eat only red food before 10am"
"Lie down for ten minutes following ice cream"
"Make only recipes from time zones where it is currently 7pm"
"Every time you eat a pot roast, wear black and burn a stick of incense"

Orsen Welles Frozen Peas


wiki says...
Frozen Peas is the colloquial term for a blooper audio clip wherein American filmmaker Orson Welles performs narration for a series of British television advertisements for Findus. The clip is also informally known as In July, or Yes, Always, based on several of Welles' complaints during the recording

I love it when he breaks into "We know a certain fjord in Norway" and then complains about "crumb crisp coating"...."oohh that's tough crumb crisp coating"

Good in the mouth bad on the tongue huh

Online Eel Slapping

I seem to be collating virtual food experiences for Gut Feelings: the German iphone sausage simulation and now, slapping a guy with an eel. This is the most eel-related fun you'll have today, short of eating an elver.

Blogger Templates by Blog Forum