Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Sakura Honey Basbousa

Sakura in Japanese means cherry blossom where the Japanese celebrate the blossoming of these delicate flowers during their spring festival.  Similar to Spring (my favourite season of the year), sakura symbolizes life, beauty and new growth. Which may segue to the question of my absence to blogging.......
 Let me introduce you to the latest member of family Shanks...HBurger!!
A new little sister for MiniB and my excuse for the lack of my blog presence.  Granted HBurger is nearing 11months now and looks so much cuter than this pic shows, but anyone with young kids will know...they're hard work.   My late nights staying up to blog have been replaced with much needed catch-up sleep.  But it's all worth it and now that we're in some sort of routine, I look forward to get my blogging mojo back.

To help celebrate Spring in Australia, Sophie from Nihon Ichiban has provided samples of Sakura products made in Japan.  Like many other Japanese products/craft, I found it ingenious that the they have found a way to create food products from this ever popular flora.  I tried the Sakura Honey Syrup which is gorgeously light and fragrant similar to rose water, and led me to combine it with a middle-eastern classic sweet.  The dish may not reflect on the sakura's beauty, but it sure backs it up with taste!!

Till next time ... we eat!!


Sakura Honey Basbousa

2 1/2 cups semolina
1/2 cup self raising flour
1 cup desiccated coconut
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup of vanilla yoghurt
200g unsalted butter, melted
25-30 blanched whole almonds
200g caster sugar
Extra butter to grease the tin

2 tablespoon Sakura Honey syrup (or honey)
1 cup white sugar
250ml water
1 teaspoon lemon juice
Sakura Honey Syrup to drizzle
 Note: if honey substituted, use 1 table spoon of honey and 1 teaspoon of rose water.

  • Preheat oven to 190 degrees Celcius
  •  Use a small amount of butter to grease the tin.  Cooking spray can also be used.
  •  Mix together semolina, coconut, sugar, flour
  •  Add and mix in yoghurt, vanilla extract and melted butter to the dry mixture
  •  Use your hands to spread the mixture into the tin evenly
  •  Cut diagonal lines across the mixture to form diamond shapes
  •  Place 1 almond in the centre of each diamond
  •  Bake for 35-40mins or until golden brown

  •  Place sugar and water into a saucepan and bring to the boil
  •  Stir the mixture until all the sugar disolves
  •  Simmer for 5mins without stirring
  •  Add lemon juice and stir
  •  Add Sakura honey syrup and stir
  •  Leave mixture to cool for 2mins
  •  When the cake is ready pour the sugar mixture onto the hot cake
  •  Allow to stand for 5mins for the syrup to soak into the cake
  • Drizzle extra Sakura honey syrup over the cake and serve


 Sakura sample products were supplied to Yaya's Yum Yums by Sophie of Nihon Ichiban.
For more Sakura products check out their website.

Monday, November 12, 2012

Fine Moments in Dining, Never Blogged - Part 1

This blog came about as a result of my using the photographs on my hard drive as a screen saver for the first time. Normally I have walked away and reawaken my screen as soon as I return however one day, as the computer cycled through my huge backlog of photos, I found myself captivated by some of the images and wondering why I had never blogged the meal. For the most part, it's because I was simply too busy and time having passed, the blog was no longer relevant.

For this reason, although I credit the dining establishment, I must make my disclaimer that the photos are over a year on from the dining experience. That said, if the restaurants in question are still in operation and delivering the quality of food represented by my photos, I would have recommended them. Hopefully a cross check with other reviews will help. If however, you just want to view some of my favourite shots which have never seen the light of day, please enjoy!

Even though it was over a year ago, I do remember that the owners were having difficulties extending their trading hours. I sincerely hope they were successful.

Public Dining Room

Address: 2A The Esplanade, Mosman NSW 2088
Phone: (02) 9968 4880

Directions to Sakai Yusuke knife shop

After many requests for directions to Sakai Yusuke knife shop, I've decided to post some maps so all you knife enthusiasts can go find the blade of your dreams.

1) Make your way to Osaka, Japan.

2) Proceed to Nanba train station and catch a train towards the knife making town of Sakai.

3) Get off at Shichido station and walk to Ayanocho tram station (about a 15 min walk / approx 800m)

4) 50 meters down the Kishu Hwy, you will find the Sakai Yusuke knife shop on the eastern side of the  Kishu Hwy (it's the one with purple sign in the window).

Happy knife shopping!

Images are obviously courtesy of Google Maps.

Saturday, November 3, 2012


Have I mentioned how much I like it when a product name perfectly matches its contents? It is either naively honest or simply lazy! Either way, there was a lot I couldn't go past when I saw a stack of these alongside their other flavoured cousins - strawberry and hazelnut.

So what does the name tell me? That it's dark chocolate tasting (tick!), contains crispy stuff (tick!), has caramel (tick!) and each bar contains 10% more than one I might have bought earlier had I ever seen these before (um okay)!

Certainly this "larger" bar was not gigantic as I could consume one at a sitting so the previous ones can't have been huge!

I'm still convinced that this box was intended for a retailer to place on a counter and sold individually. The number of bars and the way the box opens kind of lends itself to this really but given the cost was not prohibitive (under $5 for a box of 10 from memory) I was prepared to give them a go.

Admittedly, I'm a bit of chocolate snob (I do love real couverture when it's available) as I seldom consider the calories contained in a mass-produced product worthwhile ingesting! I love the concept of a chocolate bar but so often they are too sweet, contain nuts and are seldom dark enough for my palate.

I knew this one would disappoint as soon as I saw the ingredients list so I fully intended to eat one, maybe keep a couple for later then give the rest away. So why did I buy them?

Manufactured in the Philippines, the translators did well in decoding the contents for Australia's strict trade laws, but I had to laugh, or rather gasp, as I examined the packaging to find that the box contained a single serving of 10 bars!
Of course they meant 1 serving per package within the box of 10 but whether a genuine misunderstanding or a typo, I'll never know! But now I had committed so here's the side by side comparison!

Finally! A product which looks better in real life than it's image which is not always the case!
I did think on slicing it that the contents inside appeared to have shrivelled during storage. But it turned out that a simple bite restored the anticipated gooey-ness of the caramel. The crispy really was crispy and it was remarkably easy to eat.

And I did in fact enjoy eating them. They weren't as sweet as I imagined they would be and were very more-ish. Perhaps the feeling that I wasn't really eating chocolate somehow made me feel okay about eating it?! I had to eat another one a few days after the first (okay, I confess I was craving one!) to make sure it was what I really wanted (and believe me, there was a lot of better chocolate to choose from). The only way I can describe it to you is that it felt like I was eating a diet product - fake, vaguely satisfying in an "I could get used to you" kind of way but although it had a good mouth-feel about it, it didn't make me feel guilty.

There has to be something good about that right?!

Anyway, I have 8 bars left to figure out whether I really truly like them. I'll let you know when I find out!  :D

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Mr Wong, Sydney

"Foodies", "Hipsters", and "Foochebags" 

These are the terms I got from this food article I ran into.
Love them or hate them (albeit, us), is it true that they along with "gangsta chefs" are elevating the revival of street food and trending our taste buds?

With all the hype from Ms G's, us Yummers were intrigued by what Dan Hong's new venture, Mr Wong will bring to Sydney's food scene.

As there were 8 of us I thought I'd do the right thing and make a reservation.  After jumping through the Merivale empire's corporate hoops and signing my life and credit card away for a meal, we were booked in.  The dinner reservation form stipulated that a table of 8 guests had a mandatory 10% surcharge, a minimum spend of $70pp including beverages, $500 cancellation fee if less than 24hours notice, and $70pp fee for no-show guests.  Whilst I understand the frustrations of last minute cancellations I personally thought it was a bit steep and took the shine off the event.  On a brighter note, the Merivale reception were very prompt and professional with the reservation.

Mr Wong can be found at 3 Bridge Lane, Sydney.  It's a tiny, dimly lit lane-way that resembles the dark alley ways of Gotham city.  Once you step past the Mr Wong archway you are transported to a 1930's Shanghai tea house.  The fitout of this multilevel ex-night club is superb.  Splashes of industrial chic with exposed brickwork and iron fittings work really well with the rustic Asian decor.

Another small gripe before we start our meal ... you would think that after the special service we received above from Merivale that we would get our own table.  Instead we were placed downstairs (away from the open kitchen action) on a communal table (well, 3 reserved tables joined together), which made the seating quite tight.

Steamed Dim Sum Platter ($32) - (available for dinner only)

Scallop Shumai, Har Gau, Jade seafood dumpling, Mushroom dumpling.

Maybe we were too in awe of the decor, but I was kicking myself when I found out that we'd ordered two steamed dim sum platters rather than the a steamed and a fried, therefore missing out on my much anticipated introduction to lobster mei si roll and foie gras prawn toast.
What I did enjoy from the steamed selection was scallop shumai.  Plump, juicy, stacked with at least 2-3 scallops and encased in a delicate pastry skin.

L: Roasted 5-spice Pork Belly ($25)   R: Steamed Chinese Broccoli with Oyster Sauce and Garlic oil ($12)

L: Mr Wong's special fried rice - Large ($24)   R: Twice cooked green beans, pork mince & XO sauce ($16)

L: Crystal Bay Prawns with black pepper, garlic, and butter ($32)   R: Wagyu beef with rice vermicelli - Large ($26)
Who doesn't like a succulent pork belly with a crunchy crackle or a non-oily fragrant fried rice with prawns.  But personally, I guess I was expecting a Dan Hong twist to the dishes - Ms G style!!  Don't get me wrong each dish was executed well and served as a great meal, but I guess the "hipster" in me was expecting a little more.

L: Salt & Pepper Lamb Cutlets with Fennel and Cumin ($32)   R: Sweet & Sour Crispy Pork Hock ($28)
The winner for me was the lamb cutlet.  Succulent lamb cutlets with a crunchy outer coating fused with fennel and cumin brought together with a squeeze of lemon.  It was so good we debated ordering seconds and YaYa tried to replicate this at home the following night.

Sweet and Sour Crispy pork hock was also top notch.  Maybe a play on the traditional Sweet and Sour pork, this dish is far superior with no comparison to the westernised version found in most Chinese take-away shops.  De-boned crispy pork hock with flaky innards that's permeated with a good balance of flavours - and no sign of extra large capsicum and pineapple chunks in a fluorescent sauce!!

L: Mr Wong's deep fried ice-cream with butter scotch sauce ($14)   R: Roast white chocolate ice cream, yuzu curd, logans, and raspberries ($14)
Dessert time, and as you can see, even the food blogging Yummers couldn't hold back for photos before digging in. First to go was Mr Wong's interpretation of the well known deep fried ice cream.  I liked the addition of coconut strands in the crispy coating and the butterscotch sauce was thick, gooey and surprising not too sweet.

The roast white chocolate ice cream was well constructed with multi-levels of flavor and textures.  I couldn't quite taste the yuzu though.

L: Green apple ice, osmanthus jelly, water chestnuts and coconut sorbet ($14)   R: Seasonal fruit plate (serves 2-3) ($18)
For you folk that don't like heavy desserts the Green apple ice is very light and refreshing, although the osmanthus in the jelly was heavily masked by the other flavours.

Yes, we even ordered the fruit platter and were somewhat relieved to find that it wasn't your standard complimentary plate of dry oranges, tasteless honeydew and powdery watermelon that you generally expect after a Chinese meal.  The platter was spruced up with the addition of fresh strawberries, raspberries, golden kiwi, and our new found love ... Jack Fruit!!

Strawberries, meringue, macadamia praline, cream cheese ice cream and Thai basil ($14)
The cream cheese ice cream dish really hit the spot for me.  Just the word cream cheese ice cream had me drooling.  I thought the addition of both meringue and praline would push this dish over the edge in regards to sweetness, but the tartness of the fresh strawberries livens it up and the Thai basil just takes it to another level - man I love micro herbs!!

Overall I think the mains are slightly overpriced.  Definitely good for that special treat and I'll definitely be back to try Yum Cha, and the foie gras prawn toast.

Till next time...we eat!!


Mr Wong on Urbanspoon

Friday, October 19, 2012

Food of the Gods

Mention Greece and, once you've clarified that you don't mean the musical, most people's visions are of aqua-hued Mediterranean seas and bright whitewashed homes built on seemingly impossible terrain with tiny aged women dressed in black from head to toe clambering along cobbled streets.

Having never visited, my impressions of Greece were formed from the myths and legends of early childhood schooling followed by movie matinees replaying films now long vanished from cinema screens.  The  stilted performances by American actors dressed in leather armour fighting stop-frame animated monsters by the groundbreaking (for his time) Ray Harryhausen, brought whole other worlds and times to my relatively unexciting young life. 
Perhaps it was my foodie roots sprouting - but even then I noticed that each film generally featured a feast of some sort, whether to welcome a stranger to the new land or to celebrate a victory or provide the catalyst for moving the plot forward. Poison in the goblet anyone? Naturally the Gods ate better than anyone!

What these influences said to me was that dining Greek was all about feasting. Xanthi is definitely a worthy contender to fulfil my cinematic dining dreams. 

Unlike the Thai next door, the designer has positioned the kitchen at the entrance. Trav-ersing the narrow entrance to the dining room itself feels like you are leaving the modern world and its shopping centre location behind. 

Once inside, with a fabric-draped ceiling and walls, exotic rugs and lamp decor, it is possible to believe that you are within a marquee on the banks of a river, noblemen and women, celebrating for the night.
Xanthi's menu has been cleverly designed by David Tsirekas (of Perama fame) to allow the diner to taste as many of his wonderful array of dishes as possible. 
We chose from an extensive list of Ouzomezadakia - little plates designed for sharing:

Lahanika Tiganites -  crumbed zucchini flowers, oyster mushrooms, eggplant and artichoke served with skordalia sauce.
Almost anything tastes great crumbed and deep fried, (we know that from lots of happy experience!) and this was no exception. We would have happily eaten a plate of these for the mains, our only "beef" being there was only one zucchini flower and four diners to share it! 

Fried Whitebait - served with a spicy raki tomato relish. This was pretty self-explanatory and satisfyingly crunchy and plentiful, the relish providing a little chilli kick.

Sheftalies - barbequed Cypriot style pork meatballs flavoured with cumin and coriander and wrapped in caul fat.
This was easily the highlight of the starters, the balls were flavourfully chargrilled while retaining the moisture and chewy chunkyness of a home-style meatball. Most of us could easily have eaten this for a main course as well.

Hot Smoked Eggplant Dip - freshly smoked eggplant (there is an approximately 10 minute worthwhile wait for this to be prepared) blended with coriander,cumin, lemon juice, yoghurt and kasseri. Served with toasted pita bread.

All agreed this was lovely. Never having had warm eggplant dip before, I found the texture a little bit gluey and a little underspiced but the freshly made pita bread was warm, soft and generous.

Miniature bottles of Creta Farms Extra Virgin Olive oil and salt for dipping - we didn't need to order additional bread as the dishes we ordered came with plenty.

Truffle Mousaka - Layers of eggplant, potato and mushroom brushed with truffle paste, then topped with a creamy bechamel sauce.

Served with a cucumber, fennel, apple mint salad with a honey vanilla balsamic dressing. 
Easily the highlight of the mains, this was everything a great mousaka needed to be and the inspired salad was enough to cut the richness of the bechemel so by alternating mouthfuls, you could fuel the desire for more of the other.

Naturally one of us had to order from the spit (thank you J)! Tonight's offering being either pig or goat, the goat was chosen. And although I would never have ordered it myself, the sample I tasted was enough to convince me that I should be more broad-minded. While a portion of the meat was a little dry (we assumed this might have been served almost as a garnish as crackling would have accompanied the pork) there was no "goatiness" to the meat unlike some cheeses where I have been turned off merely by the smell. Accompanied by a generous serve of the soft warm pita, sumac spiced tomato and tzatziki, J felt the tomato was not as ripe as it could have been.
The only dish ordered from the Apo Tin Plastira menu (meaning off the wooden board used to make the filo pastry featured in these dishes) twice cooked Pork Belly Baklava. I was disappointed that we didn't have room to try more of these as I love the pastry and this tasted just wonderful with the contrasting melt-in-your-mouth pork and crispy pastry and crispy crackling served on top of each slice of baklava.
BBQ Spiced Chicken - Slow roasted corn fed chicken, coated and marinated in herbs and spices and finished off on the barbecue, served with chips, pita bread and garlic cream.

I don't often order chicken when eating out as there are so many more interesting dishes from which to choose but I have to say that the meat was moist and the meal was sumptuous. (Plus, it was served with chips - the test dish of any menu and yes, they were good.)

We ordered two side dishes:
Skordalia - creamy garlic mash - and it was deliciously so, if only we hadn't been so full!

And Broccolini Gavros - Served with white anchovies, chilli, crunchy graviera crumbs and normally toasted almonds which the kitchen was happy to leave out due to a diner's intolerance.

Not knowing how long it would be before we could return, we had to sample at least two desserts, the intriguing and aptly named Garden of Aphrodite - an eden of honey milk panna cotta, caramelised figs,
candied almonds and almond milk sorbet.

The figs had us salivating with the toffee-glaze cracklingly crisp and the panna cotta was smooth, suitably wobbly and not overly sweet. 
The second dessert was the Banana Ekmek - baked kataifi (fine strands of wheat pastry) wrapped bananas served with spiced chocolate mousse and salted caramel.

Due to my egg allergy, we asked to have the mousse served on the side and it certainly didn't suffer but rather had its own pedestal as a result.

Reminiscent of a banana fritter without the oily residue, the pieces of caramel fudge added texture to the smooth perfectly salted caramel sauce. The mousse was spiced with cinnamon.

With its generous serves and variety of dishes on offer and young, enthusiastic and unobtrusive waitstaff, there is plenty for us to return to and I'm guessing it won't be too long before we do!