"Stop a while, grab a bowl of something soupy..."
I am a late riser aspiring to be an early bird. For sleepyheads like me nothing is more gut-wrenching then to crawl out of bed (thinking it's early) and only to see the last fishball go to the person in front of me. A lot of great breakfast places run out before the sun's first yawn. Sometimes I figure the only way to be up early enough is to stay up all night.
Markets too are a whole lot more fun at daybreak. By 10, what's a charming morning gambol becomes rather smelly. Wet markets are always more tolerable in the cool dawn hours. Pudu is one such market. A classic wet market with all sorts of food. The earlier you come, the fresher the products. They open extremely early in the morning, around 3 AM, and at 7 AM most of the action is over. This market is very `local` in flavour, it is predominantly Chinese but you can find Malay and Indian traders here as well. It can get noisy as the street vendors fight for the attention of shoppers by shouting out their bargains. Besides food and clothes, you can find the most unusual items: pet fish, scorpions, frogs and terrapins.
The market is long, intense and most people start loosing their appetites at the frog butcher. I know many of you out there enjoy a kermit or two in your diets but for us who rather watch him on the Muppets, the frog butcher here is the apex of squirminess. Especially when you see him skin those croakers while the poor creature is still gasping it's last breath watched by his buddies awaiting the same fate. It's an amphibian Apocalypto. I'm all for knowing where your food comes from, but this is too early and too real even for me.
But I digress, before you even venture into the depths of the market, right at the front are the eating shops. Take a seat, have a sniff. Fresh noodles await. Everything here is pretty good. You order drinks at the kopitiam in front and just grab whatever you wish for breakfast. There's very good prawn noodles here in a spicy, briny broth and a fragrant lam mee.
Generally when you come for tea at a Malay household, chances are there will be a pengat or a bubur of somekind. While bubur can encompass most things in a gravy from sweet soups to savoury congee, pengat is exclusively sweet. Generally we use pengat for something, a fruit that's been simmered in santan (coconut milk) and gula melaka (palm sugar).
Shiva from Indian Kitchen teaches us a few simple kitchen tricks to get rid of that pesky cough and clear up that phlegm.
"Perfectly executed macarons"
Nathalie is not a trained chef, but rather a talented Frenchwoman who knows her way around the kitchen. The caliber of her dishes show years of experience coupled with a sense of culinary intuition and passion. The menu changes monthly to showcase her range of delightful creations and everything is made fresh in house.
The décor here is very industrial with a lot of greys and steel. The inside houses high tables with bar stools and cool hanging features such as a whisk chandelier. Macarons seem to be a prominent theme here with the service staff donning a print of macarons on their aprons.
Once we’ve placed our orders a little basket of mini baguette rolls are set down on our table. They are fresh and absolutely delicious with the homemade salted butter. We also ordered a few of their drink concoctions, a vegetable cocktail, fresh pineapple juice and a virgin apple mojito. The vegetable cocktail is bright purple and I can see immediately that it’s a mix of beetroot and once I tasted it I also detect celery and maybe a hint of carrot. It’s refreshing and I love knowing that it’s good for me too! I didn’t get a taste of the mojito but it looked good sparkling with flecks of bright green mint floating around.
For appetizers we decided to go with the beef Carpaccio and the eggplant three ways. The beef is a lovely bright red and it is topped with a gorgeous salad of shaved fennel and Parmesan and edible flowers. Almost too pretty to eat. The beef is melt in the mouth tender and the greens give it freshness.
The eggplant dish is really interesting as it is prepared in three ways showcasing this earthy vegetable at its best. The first is chopped eggplant mixed with sundried tomato on a slice of toast with a thin piece of tuna sashimi on top. This is tangy and full of flavour. The second preparation is out of this world with an eggplant sorbet. At first bite it’s a little confusing as you’d expect a sorbet to be sweet but after a few more tastes you warm up to the idea and it’s really very good. The third is a jelly topped with a mousse, both containing eggplant. This was my favourite with the bouncy jelly and the earthy creamy mousse.
Early morning greets you with hot air balloons in the sky. For those of us with shallower wallets, a walk amongst the vines as fat rabbits scamper past would have to suffice. Then a light breakfast (alright we pigged out at the buffet breakfast) before making our way to a dairy farm. Morning. The Yarra Valley Dairy.
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Here's a plan. Hire a car for about AUS$50 a day, drive down to Yarra Valley from Melbourne. Spend a blissful day puttering around vineyards and a night at Balgownie- a vineyard and spa that has a glass shower with a view. Wake up in the succulent early hours (maybe take a hot air balloon ride if you have the moolah) or just walk amongst the grapes.… More »
"The seafood is very fresh"
Although my uncle was driving and yours truly was happily sprawled in the back seat enjoying the movie playing on DVD I couldn’t help notice this road trip was taking awfully long. Rumbling tummies and a blurred sense of direction was not a good combination. Finally, we made it after soldiering through the horrendous rain. Tea-time meal options were limited around Pantai Cherating so we decided to have a hearty dinner to compensate for our insatiable craving for something spicy.
Ikan bakar was agreed upon unanimously as the preferred dinner option. We stayed at Holiday Villa Cherating and the place we chose - Restoran Zaryam Sri Rampai, was actually next door to the hotel. There are a number of family-run restaurants dotting the road in Kampung Cherating Baru that dishes up ikan bakar. We chose this one as it didn’t have many people and therefore our theory was that we would get our meals faster!
The seafood is very fresh at Zaryam Sri Rampai. If you are having ikan bakar, you can have a choice of fish kept in the ice-filled box ranging from siakap (seabass), pari (stingray), bawal (pomfret), kerapu (grouper) as well as squid and prawns. “We guarantee the seafood is always fresh as they are from the day’s catch,” says Azhar Yam, the proprieter of Zaryam Sri Rampai.