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Archive for August, 2008

Adelaide doesn’t have a huge Japanese population compared to the big three (Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane) but we do have our share of half-decent sushi places (that are actually run by Japanese, which most aren’t).  Our Chinese and S.E. Asian population on the other hand is very healthy and growing each year.  I am happily able to get a really good won ton mein or Pho or Kuay Teow but we didn’t have a ramen restaurant at all – until now!!  I was sooo excited when I heard that a real ramen restaurant arrived in Adelaide!  In Japan, there are reportedly 16,000 ramen restaurants (in a country small enough to fit into the state of California!)

Outside Ajisen

Outside Ajisen

Inside

Inside the Restaurant

Cheery Little Napkin

Cheery Little Napkin

Fried Garlic to the left, Japanese Chili on the right

Fried Garlic to the left, Japanese Chili on the right

Chashu Ramen

Chashu Ramen

Spare Rib Ramen

Spare Rib Ramen

Ajisen ramen, a chain from Kumamoto, Japan has opened a small outlet on Leigh Street (the tiny lane off Hindley St).  They are open everyday except Sundays and are open for lunch and dinner.  Every time I pass by the place, it is packed!  I had to make a reservation one lunch with two girlfriends so that we could guarantee ourselves a table and that’s rather unheard of in noodle joints!  BusinessWeek Asia says that Ajisen (meaning a “thousand tastes”) is planning to open about 500 outlets in China alone!

Ajisen’s signature broth is the tonkotsu or pork broth with its slightly cloudy, white colour.  Tonkotsu is very different from miso, shio, or shoyu ramen that you can get in Japan.  It is my absolute favourite broth in a ramen and I was very excited!  Because I was judging for authenticity, I decided on a traditional Chashu Men, or in Chinese, Char Siu Mein. Japanese style pork tenderloin sliced thin, floating on fresh noodles in pork broth ($10AU).  Yum!  My friend Katie also ordered the same but Jacqui ordered the ramen with Spare Ribs in the same broth.  Both the pork tenderloin and the ribs were melt-in-your-mouth tender and the noodles were cooked just right, with a slight bite to them.  There were about 20 different ramens to choose from including stir-fried yakisoba.

No ramen eating experience is complete without gyoza.  Although our server forgot about it until after we had practically finished our ramen, the gyoza tasted homemade, was very generous in size with a lovely crisp skin and juicy pork filling.

Gyoza w/Dipping Sauce

Gyoza w/Dipping Sauce

Don’t forget to try some of the fried garlic topping sitting on every table to sprinkle on your ramen.  Beware, it’s very strong!  What I found interesting is that the bottle is written entirely in Japanese with NO translations anywhere but I suspect that people will eventually figure it out.

All in all, you get a lot of food for very little money and I would definitely recommend it (just don’t expect much from the service) – and not because it’s the sole ramen restaurant in Adelaide.  It is definitely a great fast meal before seeing a movie.  Service was rather forgetful and confused but I usually give up getting much service in this city so it wasn’t a huge shock to me.  Definitely a tasty, inexpensive and warming meal – especially in winter!

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Thousands of people including myself have been following veteran American journalist Leroy Siever’s daily blog “My Cancer” on NPR (National Public Radio) in the U.S. and around the world.  His daily journals on his struggles and thoughts about his cancer formed a community – a community of so many people around the world who have been affected by cancer.  He brought solace and support to more people than he probably imagined it would.  Just reading comments left by readers is amazing how much of an impact he had by writing this blog.

Leroy passed away last night and I write this with a heavy heart.  Although he was told he was only going to live for 6 months, he lived for 2 1/2 years.  So many people got used to reading his daily emails and like me, probably wished for a miracle that his cancer would stop growing.

I contemplated for a few seconds on whether I should write about this on a FOOD BLOG.  But then, I thought about it and realized that this is MY blog and although food is my passion, fighting cancer is equally important to me also.  During this past year, THREE very close people to me have been fighting advanced stage cancers and it is a disease that does not discriminate and it is very sad.

This Friday, 22 August 2008 is Daffodil Day in Australia and 29 August in New Zealand.  Please buy a bunch of daffodils for $5 and/or donate to your local Cancer Council or Cancer Society.  There will be many volunteers (including myself) this week selling Daffodil Day items so look out for us please!

Links to some cancer organisations:

Canadian Cancer Society

American Cancer Society

Cancer Research UK

Japanese Foundation for Cancer Research

Cancer Society of New Zealand

Cancer Patients Aid Association (India)

and

Wiki Cancer – Stories, Support and Information

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It is probably no surprise that I don’t love winter, given that  I grew up in a place famous for its sunsets and beaches.  Frankly, I am too lazy to dress for winter, prefering summer dresses and sandals to boots and sweaters.  I also love summer stone fruits (peaches, apricots, nectarines) and berries, and can’t eat enough of them when they’re in season.  The gloomy days and cold nights make me a bit lethargic and achy but the one thing that I DO love about winter is the amazing array of citrus that is ripe and on offer.  I honestly think that citrus fruits, packed with Vitamin C, are nature’s way of providing foods that will protect us from colds during the wet and nasty flu season.

In my kitchen right now are no less than seven types of citrus fruits and because I thought they were so beautiful, I had to take a photo of them together!

Huge home-grown lemons, Huge home-grown oranges, Tangerines, Navel Oranges, Ruby Pink grapefruit, White grapefruit, Seville Oranges

From L to R Clockwise: Huge home-grown lemons, Huge home-grown oranges, Tangerines, Navel Oranges, Ruby Pink grapefruit, White grapefruit, Seville Oranges

My good friends gave me huge bags of home-grown oranges and lemons. I LOVE Meyer lemons – so sweet you can almost eat them like an orange. These are so huge that they look like they’re on steroids, and will make a beautiful lemon curd (when I get around to it).  The Seville oranges in the middle foreground were purchased at my local Adelaide Showground Farmer’s Market.  Seville oranges are not as common in the markets here as they are in Europe but many marmalade enthusiasts only use Seville oranges to get that traditional bitter marmalade flavour.  My husband likes bitter marmalade and I prefer it less bitter so we decided on a happy medium – use Seville oranges but remove excess white pith to prevent it from being extra bitter.

Winter is a great time for making jam because a) it’s miserable and wet outside, b) cooking heats up the house.  We spent last Sunday peeling, slicing and simmering marmalade all day.  2 kilos of fruit didn’t look like much, but it made a lot more jars of jam than we realised and as usual, I started giving them away to friends.  Among my neighbours, we all make jams and preserves so my pantry is filled with homemade jars of goodies.

There are literally hundreds of recipes for making citrus marmalade (lemon, lime, orange, grapefruit, pomelo) and everyone will make it a different way which is why I will not post a recipe here, but this link is a good standard recipe.  My husband remembers his mother cooking the oranges whole before slicing them when making marmalade, while I like peeling and slicing the peel separately from the fruit. Instead of juicing the oranges, I like chopping the pulp up and cooking it down.  I don’t think any one way is the best way – as long as it turns out well in the end.  Do remember to keep the seeds (pips) and place them in a muslin (cheesecloth) bag and boil it together with the rest of the mixture to add pectin to help the jam set.

I do have something I’d like to share though – a knife designed for citrus that I bought it over a decade ago at Lakeland in the UK but I don’t see it in their catalog anymore.  What’s great is that the blade is both smooth and serrated and the other side can be used to score the skin to make it easier to peel.  I know that there are all kinds of gadgets that also score citrus fruit for ease of peeling but I still love this knife:

Love this knife!

Scoring the Orange

Scoring the Orange Peel

Removing a little of the bitterness

Removing excess pith to lessen the bitterness

Prepping the Oranges

Skimming the Scum Off

Skimming the Scum Off

The Marmalade is Almost Done

Just Before the Sugar was Added

The Finished Product in Various Jars

The Finished Product in Various Jars

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So in my first post on weird ads for hospitality jobs, I mentioned both a position catching chickens and being a “glassy” here.  What I found hilarious about the “glassy” job was that it required a resume and preferably previous “experience”.  I am not mocking the job at all as it is an integral part of running a bar smoothly but come on, it’s not exactly really hard nor technical.  The Aussie slang for a glass collector is what makes me laugh and requiring a resume blows my mind…really, who cares what schools you went to when all you do is collect empty glasses and clean them in a bar?

Anyway, I found yet another add for “glassies” but thank goodness this bar has simpler expectations – they just want applicants to ring the bar and better yet, no experience is necessary.  Maybe I should apply for this job just to see what a real “glassy” does.

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Last week, my acupuncturist Dina put me on a low-carb (NOT NO-carb) diet for two weeks and also told me to keep a food diary and write how I feel each day.  As soon I heard low-carb, I dreaded it partly due to my experience years ago with trying to do the Atkins diet which I failed miserably at.  I fantasized about pasta constantly and I felt like I was going crazy. 😦  After four or five days, it was over – I quit!!  BUT, although it hasn’t been the easiest thing to do this week (especially for a food lover) to cut down my carbs, I have done pretty well – with only one day that that I cheated a teeny bit (when I made homemade noodles to go with my Osso Bucco over the weekend).  This low-carb diet (no more than two pieces of fruit a day) is probably why I’m not banging out a post every couple of days – I don’t want to think too much about food at the moment.

Doing the grocery shopping tonight was a nightmare with all the tempting foods just screaming at me (like pretty cupcakes).  But really, it’s noodles that I crave and think about all the time.  I nearly had soba today but I stopped myself and returned it to the pantry with merely a sniff.

Do I feel better?  I am not sure yet but I think so, the aches and pains in my back are better and feel less inflamed.  Quinoa has been my best friend this week (it is a good substitute to brown rice) and so has cabbage, cauliflower and cucumber (to fill me up).

So, tell me what restrictive diets have you been on and what you craved the most?

Here is a photo of my first dinner on the low-carb diet – it was weird but tasted good:

Tofu (lots of it) with minced pork and lamb on top and a huge side of shredded raw cabbage

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