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Archive for January, 2010

Lychees sold off the side of the road

 

A few years ago, we were on our way to Noosa, on the Sunshine Coast, and decided to take the scenic highway to get there. Back then it was called the “Glasshouse Mountains Highway” but they have since renamed it “Steve Irwin Way” since his death which is pretty apt since his Australia Zoo is on that road. Although we have never visited Australia Zoo, we’ve driven past it numerous times and it’s always very busy. One visit, we stopped at this fruit stand that stood next to a pineapple field that advertised “pineapple crush” and really good burgers. We not only had one of each but we also bought one of the largest pineapples I’d ever seen for really cheap! Pineapple crush is basically pineapple juice with crushed pineapple bits in it and that time, it was sooo sweet and so cold that I was hooked. The burger was huge and amazing with avocado in it and we took it to a nearby national park to eat it.

You know how sometimes it’s best not to return to a location so that your memory of the place stays in tact and it lives on like a happy dream forever? Well, I definitely understand that. On our way to catch our flight in Brisbane, we decided to find that fruit stand (I couldn’t remember what it was called) and at least get their pineapple crush. Well we found it alright but sometime was different….it lacked the character that it had. No more signs exclaiming about the best burgers in the world. No pineapple crush in sight and it was pretty dead. I went up to the counter and enquired about the pineapple crush and the woman said that yes, she still had some left. I ordered two large ones (pretty expensive $4.50AU each) and because we didn’t have time to eat burgers, we left with just that. The crush was not very sweet and it tasted watered down. I think they have changed ownership and it just lacked soul. It was so disappointing. Oh well, I still have the memories of the last time I went there and photos of that great burger.

Bought pineapple crush here

 

Luckily, just before we got to the fruit stand, I saw a guy selling fresh picked lychees off the back of his truck (we call ’em “utes” in Oz). Even though I was about to get on a flight, I just HAD to have them. I couldn’t believe that they were $5.00 for 1 KG (2.2 lbs) bag (here in Adelaide I saw one greengrocer selling them for 3 pieces for $1.00)!!  Because it’s illegal (because of quarantine issues) to bring in fresh fruit to South Australia, we peeled all of the lychees at the Sydney airport while waiting during our layover to go home.  We gorged ourselves on the lychees before getting on our flight home.  I haven’t had such fresh lychee since I was a kid in Hawaii picking them off trees in Nu’u’anu. So fresh and delicious that there was no hard skin that formed around the seed – instead the flesh was very soft and the seed easily slipped out.

I love going to Queensland because it reminds me of my childhood. It is tropical and the fruit that is available is amazing. As you drive along, you can see sugarcane fields, ginger fields, avocado farms and pineapple fields to name a few. If you go there during summer, be sure to eat some fresh lychees. If you are near the Sunshine Coast, “the Big Pineapple” is a hoot to stop at…just for the pictures at least. In late summer the mangoes are in season too and they are beautiful.  Enjoy!

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I know that many airlines offer a kid’s meal on some flights (mostly international) but there are probably not too many that do offer them on domestic routes both in Australia and elsewhere. Qantas Airlines is the only major carrier that still includes meals and drinks on their domestic flights within Australia and it has never had a crash in its long history.

Before going on my last trip to Queensland, I was reading the fine print on their website and saw that you can request a BABY meal! I thought I’d try it for fun to see what I’d get. From my flight from Adelaide to Melbourne, we were given two purees – apple & pear and a chocolate custard. The silly thing about that meal was that whoever packed it, put adult sized spoons in the pack.

The flight home from Sydney was very neatly packed and we were given two purees – sweetcorn & chicken and vanilla custard and a baby juice. This time, there were tiny, baby-sized spoons included – yay!

I make a lot of my baby’s food but when I do purchase some, I don’t purchase Heinz because their foods are really, really tasteless. There are other baby foods on the market that have much more flavour. BUT, even with saying all that, I was thrilled to be given baby purees so that I didn’t have to lug that extra stuff on the plane when my nappy (diaper) bag was already as heavy as bricks.  Beggers can’t be choosers. 🙂 

So next time you fly Qantas domestic, request a baby meal for your infant – it’s pretty convenient and best of all, free.

Chocolate custard and apple & pear puree grabbed by some little chubby hands.

 

Baby meal on flight home.

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Happy new year!  In Hawaiian we say, Hau’oli makahiki hou and in Japanese, akemashite omedetoo. Growing up, Christmas was not the most important holiday for us but new year’s day was.  Like the Scots, the Japanese have a big clean of the house to welcome the new year and thus, it metaphorically starts the year off with a clean slate.  Traditionally, a large feast was prepared and put into containers that would last three days (because you are not supposed to work the first three days in January).  Most items were salted, sweet or preserved somehow and meant to be served cool/room temperature.  This feast is called osechi ryori and today in modern Japan, most people purchase their feast pre-made from restaurants, department store food halls and even 7-eleven!  I have read of some osechi ryori costing as much as $10,000USD per person (CRAZY – I hope it comes with a diamond!)

Growing up, my grandmother used to make it and we would help out.  I can’t recall what she made each year (as it would change) but what I loved most was the kazunoko (herring roe) that was served.  They are expensive and hard to get so it was a special treat.  Very crunchy and salty, I loved the texture more than anything, dipped in some soy sauce.  The next best thing was kobu kazunoko (herring roe on kelp) – roe that somehow clung onto pieces of thick kelp.  Black sweet soy beans (kuromame) were another thing that I remember well and various types of fish cakes and sweet egg.

The other mandatory thing to eat on new year’s day is ozoni – a brothy soup with ingredients that change depending on what part of Japan you are from and what your family likes to put in.  In the Kanto area (Tokyo) the broth is clear while in the Kansai area (Osaka), they add miso paste.  My maternal side of the family came from Shimabara in the south and their specialty is guzoni, ozoni that is filled chock-full of ingredients and eaten not just on new year’s day.  The one similarity and obligatory ingredient is mochi or rice cake, for good luck/strength for the new year.  A piece of grilled mochi is placed into the soup and it becomes sticky and gooey and oh so lovely!  People who didn’t grow up with this texture may find it challenging (like my husband) but it is very filling and comforting for me.

This year, I spent new year’s day in Noosa, Queensland in tropical Australia.  My friend’s parents have a beautiful holiday home on the river and invited us to spend a few days there.  As a way to thank them, I wanted to cook a Japanese new year’s day breakfast (as best as I could) but it was quite a journey to figure out where to source the ingredients in a different state.  Prior to going to Noosa, we spent a few days in the Gold Coast and stumbled upon a small Japanese grocery store in Robina but it was still quite a few days before the new year so I waited to go to another store closer to Noosa.  This second store had more frozen goods and I was able to buy roughly what I needed to make this feast.  My biggest mistake is that I forgot to buy dashi – essential in Japanese cooking – fish stock!!  Needless to say, it was interesting making this in someone else’s kitchen in the tropical heat and without all the right ingredients.  My grandmother was proud of me for being able to make this as many young Japanese have lost the skills of traditional cooking since it can so easily be bought.  She doesn’t believe me when I say that it was her that made me a good cook.

Although the meal was not totally traditional, it turned out pretty well despite a few hicks – forgot dashi, sushi rolls were a bit small, rice for sushi was very sloppy (had to make it twice – over the stove with gas), and rolled egg was a bit overcooked.  For the ozoni, I grilled the mochi on a grill rack instead of the traditional grill used in Japan and it did a great job.  The kuromame (black soy beans) were made mostly out of my instinct and memory of what it should taste like but I had no idea they’d take nearly five hours to cook!  I also think that they were the most challenging item as most people couldn’t work out whether the beans were for dessert or to be eaten with the meal.  I guess it’s sort of like eating candied yams at Thanksgiving – many people who encounter it the first time think that it is a dessert and find it strange to be eaten alongside all the other savoury stuff.

I served two different sakes with the dish – one Australia-made and one Japanese-made and what was awesome was that the meal was eaten by a Scotsman, three Kiwis, one South African, one Australian, one Englishman and an American…now that’s what I call international!

Setting up the ozoni before I add the broth in.

The spread.

L to R: datemaki (egg), namasu (pickled veg - didn't have daikon available), kamaboko (pink fish cakes), kuromame (black sweet beans), california roll.

Nimono (stewed root veg - lotus, burdock, bamboo, taro, carrots & shiitake).

The Cameron family and the gorgeous view we had.

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