Bhutan

IMG_0429

Sleeping giants with their gentle slopes

Snow-capped tops through the clouds they poke

Dusty sun rays shine brightly down

Green pine rustle without any sound

Glacier streams of purest blue

Rapids rush, then gently cruise

A bell chimes faintly in the distance

Deep breath in, heart slows, mind clearance

IMG_0304

A child’s giggle breaks the silence

Heart pure, fearless, innocence

The Druk of tan and weathered skin

Faint smile, big heart, welcoming

Dzongs and Buddha, bumpy roads between

Deities and demons, mystical beings

Bhutan the land of the Thunder Dragon

A place to see, a place to return

IMG_0378

I have been missing, yes. That’s because I spent a couple weeks away from Melbourne: 10 days in Bhutan and 5 in Singapore.

The trip to Bhutan was organised by Fakebooo’s cousin: Cousin Trouble. She usually throws an annual Booo-cousins-getaway and when I heard that the destination for 2014 was going to be Bhutan, I asked if The Angmoh and I could tag along, and they said yes.

IMG_9984

The trip to Bhutan was surreal. The vast landlocked country has a considerably small population and Western influences are kept to a minimal. The population is almost entirely Buddhist and this is reflected in the people, from their devout piousness to the open-hearted welcoming generosities. Stepping foot onto the land of Bhutan immersed me in a cloud of tranquillity: it was quiet, the mountain air was fresh, I was at peace.

IMG_0181

Our trip covered highlights from Eastern and Central Bhutan. Temples or “Dzongs” are maintained from centuries past and are still in use for religious and government affairs. As we travelled in a mini-bus from town to town, we crossed bumpy winding roads, chilly elevated passes, breathtaking forestry and local furry habitants.

IMG_0066IMG_0258IMG_0383IMG_0427

Our meals were kept simple. Breakfasts consisted of toast with spreads, eggs and fruit. Lunch and dinner were usually a buffet. The carbs were either white or red rice, noodles or roast potatoes. There was always a good selection of vegetable dishes, although they were a repetitive rotation of cabbage, mustard green, green beans with cauliflower and carrot and radish. There was a small variety of meat dishes, either a beef, chicken, pork or fish. While I was the last in the group to tire of the food, (I loved how fresh the vegetables were!), it was the seasoning, or rather too much of it, that got to me in the end. There was a lot of ‘butter-fried’ going on, then drowned in soy or oyster sauce.

IMG_0379

We had 2 unusual meals in Bhutan. One was Bhutanese pizza in the town of Bumthang, where we had to pre-order 3 hours in advance. The lady boss was the sole staff of the pizzeria and boy did she scramble to serve all 7 pizzas from her small humble stove. The Bhutanese take on pizza can be described to be cheese pizza with toppings, after all, they do love their cheese. Our final dinner steered us completely away from the usual offerings. The hotel that we were at was owned by a Malaysian and hence a Malaysian menu was available. That night, we happily feasted on bak kut teh, soup mee sua and nasi lemak.

IMG_0214

This post on Bhutan is just a brief summary as Fakebooo will post a detailed one, with remarkable photos, in the near future. Nevertheless, the trip was nothing but extraordinary and memorable. I thank Cousin Trouble for kindly organising it and allowing The Angmoh and myself to tag along.

IMG_0420

 

 

1 Comment

Filed under Bhutan, Pizza, Tours, Travels, Wanderlust

Kitchen Workout: Paleo Semi-raw Carrot Cheesecake

carrot cake

I’ve been slack in posting recipes. My recent clean-eating challenge had me craving for desserts and I initially turned to Steph’s (The Natural Nutritionist) blog. I made her carrot cake with cashew cream icing (which was yummy) and loved the icing so much I was then inspired to use it as a filling for my own dairy-, gluten-, sugar- and gluten-free cheesecake.

This recipe is semi-raw. The only cooking involved is roasting the carrots. The rest is just blitzing up dates, nuts and coconut. I use Mayver’s Hazelnut and Cocoa spread for the base but this can be replaced with melted coconut oil and cocoa powder.

ingredients

Base

Ingredients:

50g walnuts
50g cashews
200g dates
2 heaped tablespoons of Mayver’s Hazelnut and Cocoa spread

Method:

Place the nuts and dates into a processor and process until crumbly.

Stir in the hazelnut cocoa and press into a lined 26cm cake tin.

Place in the fridge and allow to chill.

base

Filling

Ingredients:

1kg carrots
2 tablespoons honey
2 tablespoons coconut oil
125g cashews
140ml coconut cream

Method:

Pre-heat the oven to 190 degrees. Peel the carrots and line them up on a baking tray. Pour over the melted coconut oil and roast the carrots for 30 minutes. Drizzle the carrots with the honey and continue roasting for another 20 minutes. Set aside and cool.

While the carrots are roasting, place cashews and coconut cream into a processor and blend until well-combined and slightly smooth. Place the mixture into a mixing bowl.

Once the carrots have cooled, place carrots and liquid from the roasting tray (this will contain the coconut oil and honey) into the processor and blend until the carrots form a smooth puree.

Tip the carrot puree into the cashew coconut mixture and stir until well-combined.

Pour into the cake tin and chill overnight.

Best enjoyed after a Halloween-themed WOD!

crossfit

Leave a comment

Filed under CrossFit, Food Challenge, Kitchen Workout, Paleo, Raw, Recipes, Sweets, Vegan

Pana Chocolate

Pana Chocolate
491 Church Street
Richmond
Vic 3121
+61 3 9017 0935
Pana Chocolate on Urbanspoon

pana

In the midst of my clean-eating challenge, one of the withdrawals I experienced was from the lack of sugar. Before the challenge, I would indulge in something sweet almost every day. There were regular snacks of cake for afternoon tea, ice cream after dinner or cookies for supper. The challenge required me to give this up, but I had to find sweet sources to tie me over for the 4 weeks. Thankfully, there’s Pana chocolate.
posters
Pana offers raw natural chocolate made from all the good things like cocoa, cold pressed oils and agave. A variety of flavours are available, including orange, coconut, mint and my absolute favourite, rose. The chocolates can be purchased from most health food stores and even independent supermarkets like Foodworks, where The Angmoh ducked in one evening to get me a couple of bars to satisfy my sweet craving.
pana
Pana opened up shop in Richmond a while ago and for some reason I procrastinated a visit. This challenge was more than enough reason to check it out. It’s small, cute and inspirational, and displays a fridge of little cakes and truffles. These can be enjoyed on site or taken away to be gobbled up at home. I grabbed two to go: a matcha strawberry cake and a chocolate ganache. OH. MY. GOD. These were the best raw cakes I had ever come across. The filling was incredibly smooth and creamy, a texture that is almost impossible to achieve due to the use of nuts. Each element had an amazingly pure taste to it as well; I particularly liked the strawberry layer, it was like tangy strawberry jam without any nasties. The matcha was mild in my opinion, but I do like my matcha to be intense. The chocolate ganache is simply divine. The ganache is so rich that it’s hard to believe there’s no cream in it.
Pana chocolate is the dreams of any dessert-loving paleo, vegan or clean-eating freak. The price is quite steep for each serve, so do savour each delicate morsel lovingly.

Leave a comment

Filed under Chocolate, Paleo, Raw, Richmond, Sweets, Vegan

A Hangry 4 week Clean-eating Challenge

climb

I live to eat. And when I deny myself food, it’s because I don’t want to eat it and not because I can’t eat it. I’m not one to fall for fad diets and I have participated in a couple of food challenges. There was once where I subjected myself to no sweets for one week. This ended up with me almost biting The Angmoh’s head off by Day 7. I’ve also joined Fakebooo for “Live Below The Line”, which you can read about our experience here. Recently, I embarked on a 4 week clean eating challenge organised by my crossfit gym and it put me in an extremely uncomfortable place. The rules were simple: eat real food, period. It was not 100% paleo (as many crossfitters are) and there’s some flexibility as to how strict you want to restrict yourself to certain foods. The big no-nos were refined carbohydrates (such as flour), refined sugar, processed foods and alcohol. Small amounts of dairy and complex starches (such as rice and legumes) were allowed.

sashimi salad
Sashimi salad

And that’s not the end of it. There’s Fran. What’s Fran, I hear you ask. Well Fran is not the sexy sultry pouty nasal-sounding lady we all adore. In the crossfit world, she’s one bitch of a workout. It consists of 21 thrusters and 21 pull-ups, followed by 15 thrusters and 15 pull-ups, ending with 9 thrusters and 9 pull-ups. It generates a crap-load of horsepower and leaves you collapsed in a messy wheezing heap of sore thighs, arms and an audibly pounding heart, ready to burst out of your chest. And Fran is the benchmark for the challenge. Do it on Day 1, train hard and eat well over the next 4 weeks and do it again on Day 29. And it’ll be awesome if you can up your weight, rely less on assisted bands for pull-ups and do it in a faster time.

banana pancakes
Gluten-free banana pancakes, maple, peanut butter

I wasn’t aware of any of this when I was casually asked if I’d like to partake in this madness. “Challenge accepted” I stupidly readily agreed and found out all of this on the very first day of the challenge, having missed the briefing due to work. Not one to tuck tails, I hopped on the bandwagon, completed Fran and on wobbly legs, headed home to plan my meals for the days to come. My eating rules were: no refined carbs, no refined sugar, no alcohol, no processed foods and no cheese. I allowed myself small amounts of rice or potato and small quantities of milk and yoghurt. As I wiped away a tear, I bade farewell to Beatrix and Jocks.

chia party
Combi – chia parfait

There was no weaning period for me. I quit sugar cold turkey. Day 2 into the challenge, the headaches hit. Desperate for a lick of something sweet, I fell back on fruit and bananas became my best friend. My meals consisted of protein and vegetables and once a week, I indulged in a bowl of rice.

baked fish
Oven-roasted fish on wilted vegetables, topped with a pine nut crust

I thought it was going well until Monday of week 2. My day involved a simple lunch of roasted cauliflower soup, only to end with a workout of more thrusters. Bad food mistake, I simply had no energy to lift and was left physically and emotionally exhausted. It also made me panic because that meant I was going to suck big time at the impending Fran. Wiser eating choices had to be made.

LBSS sweet potato
LBSS – kumara, kimchi, poached eggs, cashew cream

As I progressed into week 3, my mood swings were more volatile having PMS and I took my frustration out on The Angmoh. My coach even remarked that I was more tired than usual. But I did not let it get to me. I turned up at every possible work out and trained at least 5 times a week. I made better eating choices and started including more rice into my meals. I noticed I was no longer craving processed desserts when colleagues at work brought in an insanely rich chocolate cake and I had no inclination even for a taste of it.

pana
Pana rose chocolate, Strawberry matcha cake, Chocolate ganache

Not to say I didn’t have any sweets over the past 4 weeks. I’d go insane and The Angmoh would have dumped me lickety split. My sweets consisted of the raw variety. There was raw cheesecake from Patch and raw chocolate from Pana. These desserts contain natural and raw ingredients, such as cashews, coconut and agave. Eating out was tricky so I used the challenge as an opportunity to check out Little Big Sugar Salt, Combi and Raw Trader.

roast pork belly
Roast pork belly with roasted fennel and apple puree

My meals varied from the simple vegetable soups to the fancier roast pork belly with apple puree and fennel. There were the usual paleo players of zucchini noodles and cauliflower rice. The Angmoh made me oven roasted fish with a nut crust, on a bed of wilted vegetables. On one of the weekends, instead of brunching out, I threw together a simple summery salad of sashimi, leaves and tomatoes, dressed in a lemon and wasabi dressing. Some mornings, I indulged in a homemade gluten-free breakfast of banana pancakes, drizzled with maple and topped with natural peanut butter. Throughout the 4 weeks, I continued practising Meatless Mondays and relied heavily of spuds or rice for energy. My snacks at work were Corn Thins smeared with hommus from “The Pure Produce Company” or peanut butter by Mayvers.

The downside of the challenge is that I miss my comfort eating like slurping up pasta coated in bolognaise or biting into crisp chewy sourdough. Social occasions can be lonesome when you are at a pub drinking water while the boyfriend nurses a chilled beer. The initial rocky start of being hungry and tired all the time evened out over the weeks as my body adapted and I made smarter food choices.

chai cheesecake
Raw Trader – Chai cheesecake

The upside of the challenge is that I was never alone. My crossfit buddies shared their experiences regularly and this provided great comfort. The Angmoh endured throughout my challenge and not only cooked food to suit the challenge, but ensured I had enough to eat all the time. (He did pig out on a pizza on the very last weekend while I munched on a salad but I forgive him.) I also discovered new and fun places to eat at and fell in love with raw desserts. I started reading food labels more carefully and now think twice before putting an item into my shopping basket.

carrot cheesecake
Semi-raw carrot cheesecake

On the last day of the challenge, I put together a semi-raw carrot cheesecake (gluten, dairy, egg and sugar-free, oh and recipe soon to come), had a delicious kimchi bibimbap for dinner and tucked myself early into bed. Fran 2 has been done and dusted. Not only did I manage to up my weights, I smashed my time by more than a minute.

I’ll be honest. If ever approached to do another restricted diet challenge, it is highly likely I’ll think twice before saying yes. But I’m glad I did complete this one as it has made me more aware of what I put into myself and I am keen to continue practising a lifestyle of minimal sugar and processed foods.

3 Comments

Filed under Brunch, CrossFit, Food Challenge, Paleo, Raw, Sweets, Vegan

Base Camp, Il Melograno

Base Camp
102 High Street
Northcote
Vic 3070
+61 3 9482 1168
Base Camp Northcote on Urbanspoon

Il Melograno
76 High Street
Northcote
Vic 3070
+61 3 9482 4971
Il Melograno on Urbanspoon

base camp

Cookie Monster had travelled back to Singapore to arrange the moving of her doggies over to Melbourne, leaving Hughey B to fend for himself. The Angmoh and I took his lonesome self out for dinner, leaving the decision of where to eat to him. We decided to try out his local curry joint in Northcote.

pappadumslassi
(Right) Complimentary papadums
(Left) Mango lassi

Base Camp offers Nepalese and Indian cuisine and as the boys awakened their palettes with Everest beer (which is pretty nice), I got stuck into a mango lassi. It came tall and pretty and was extremely thick and sweet, almost like the Gippsland fruit twist yoghurt. I would have preferred a thinner, tangier version, like the ones I had come across in India.

laal maans
Laal maans – pride of Rajasthan. Lamb curry with cumin, pepper and paprika $16.90

The menu offers a good variety of curries and not the usual run-of-the-mill sorts like butter chicken or tikka masala. There is laal maans, which supposedly hails from Rajasthan and is the very dish that The Angmoh opted for. This had good flavours from the spices and I thought it was pretty nice, despite not being a huge fan of lamb.

goat curry
(Left) Plain basmati rice $3
(Right) Himalayan goat curry – goat curry on the bone $16

Hughey B’s Himalayan goat curry was the most well-received that evening. The gamey meat was tender and fell off the bones easily. It was more of a dry curry then a saucy one, but still wonderful with the rice and bread.

paneer
Paneer pasanda – stuffed paneer in the gravy of onion, tomato cashew cream sauce $14

Mine was the most unusual. It was from the specials menu of that evening, an offering of fried stuffed paneer in a tomato cashew sauce. It was the first time I’d come across stuffed paneer and this I enjoyed thoroughly. The filling of capsicum and nuts gave more flavour to the usually subtle cheese, and fried batter provided a different texture. I didn’t quite enjoy the sauce though, it was extremely rich and cloying. I also thought the serve of 3 paneer triangles didn’t quite justify the cost of the dish.

momonaans
(Left) Momo non-vegetarian – Nepal’s most famous dumplings with sesame tomato chutney $12
(Right top) Plain naan $3
(Right bottom) Garlic naan $3.25

Our other dishes included an entrée of momo, or Nepalese dumplings and naan, both plain and garlic. The momos had thin skins and the herbs in the filling gave personality to the dumplings. The chilli garlic sauce for dipping them in were also a great accompaniment. The naans on the other hand, were oddly fluffy and soft and were rather disappointing.

Our overall experience at Base Camp had hits and misses. I suspect the authenticity of the restaurant leans more towards Nepalese flavours, for the momos and goat curry were excellent.

il melograno

banana, coffeechocolate, fior di latte
(Left) Ricci coffee method, Banana walnut
(Right) Dutch chocolate, Fior di latte

chocolate rosemary
Chocolate rosemary, Iranian pistachio

We ended our evening with a brief stroll to Il Melograno, a gelato place that Cookie Monster has been telling me about. The flavours that we indulged in were chocolate rosemary, Iranian pistachio, Fior di latte, Dutch chocolate, banana walnut and Ricci method coffee. The gelato is served in a cup or cone and (best part) both are edible wafers! I had the 1st 2 flavours and they were stunning. I marvelled at the pairing of chocolate and rosemary, it was unexpectedly beautiful. I hear Il Melagrano does dinners too, and I think the next time we dine with Hughey B (and Cookie Monster), this will have to be the place.

 

1 Comment

Filed under Curry, Gelato, Indian, Nepalese, Northcote

Combi

Combi
140 Ormond Road
Elwood
Vic 3184
+61 3 9531 0084
Combi on Urbanspoon

combi inside

So, I’ve embarked on a clean eating challenge with my gym. For 4 weeks, I will dedicate myself to a healthy diet, eliminating refined carbs, refined sugar and all sorts of processed foods from my life. I’m slightly over midway with the challenge and eating out is a challenge in itself as most places use sugar or MSG to punch up the flavours and tastes of food. Thankfully, Combi is my saviour.

combi outsideraw not war

Combi is located in the leafy suburb of Elwood and goes by the slogan “Raw, not war”. It is the epitome of clean eating and even takes the extra step of using water that has been through reverse osmosis, eliminating at least 98% of nasties, including heavy metals and impurities. For those who need a little bit of heat action, fear not, there are cooked options, including soup and ham sandwiches.

Knowing Fakebooo’s penchant for heated meaty appetites, I was surprised he was happy to tag along when I suggested Combi. He was extremely intrigued and was even at a loss when he read the menu. After a good few minutes of deliberation, he placed the order while I checked out the digs.

sexy carrot

Combi has a very hippy make-love-not-war feel about it. Staff work behind a counter decorated to look like a love shack. Ironically given I was in such a reputable establishment, I was kinda hoping for a daisy-wreathed dreadlocked fisherman-pants-wearing flower child to saunder out in a haze of marijuana smoke.

drinkgs
(Left) Beetroot kombucha $5
(Right) Organic cold pressed juice: Green fields – kale, cos lettuce, celery, cucumber, green apple, mint, lemon $8.50

Fakebooobooo ordered a green cold pressed juice of kale, cos, celery and cucumber. A sip of it instantly made me feel detoxed with almost the ability to photosynthesize. Yup, my notes were “tastes of chlorophyll”. Fakebooo’s beetroot kombucha reminded me of a tangy fizzy beetroot juice, odd but not unpleasant.

zoodles
Raw organic zucchini spaghetti – zucchini spaghetti with a creamy cashew sauce, mushrooms, soy beans, tomatoes, fresh herbs, topped with activated nuts $14.50

All of us went raw food-wise. Fakebooobooo’s zucchini spaghetti was a beautiful creation of slender zucchini ribbons, tossed with nuts, seeds, beans and mushrooms, dressed in a delicate coating of creamy cashew. It was divine, and made me envious as my “zoodles” are never that perfect.

acai superbowl
Super bowl: organic acai bowl – antioxidant-loaded acai blended with banana, blueberries, house made nut mylk then layered with crispy coconut flakes, activated caramelised buckinis, banana, maca and cranberries $15.50

Fakebooo and myself opted for superbowls, aptly named as they contained superfoods like chia seeds and acai. Fakebooo’s brunch dish had a topping of acai sorbet which was cold, uplifting and berry-licious. As for mine, the chia pudding was a little bit sticky and a little bit crunchy with just the right amount of sweetness from the bananas.

chia party
Super bowl: organic chia party – parfait of chia seeds, soaked in house nut mylk infused with orange rind, layered with banana, cherries crunchy activated chocolate buckinis, zesty incan berries and macadamias. Topped with house made coconut cashew yoghurt and strawberry coulis $14.50

Another reason why Combi is my lifesaver is because they have cake that is challenge-friendly. SCORE! I had my eye on the chocolate fudge, lemon cheesecake and snickers. Alas, the snickers had sold out so I had to make do with my other 2 options. Made with natural and raw ingredients such as activated nuts, dates and maple, I could literally have my cake and eat it. My favourite was the lemon cheesecake. The texture of the filling was velvety smooth and the fragrance of the lemon shone through beautifully.

cake
(Left) Raw chocolate fudge cake – activated almonds, coconut, dates, activated cashews, maple syrup, cinnamon, raw cacao, cacao nibs, coconut oil $8.50
(Right) Raw lemon cheesecake – activated almonds, coconut, dates, activated cashews, maple syrup, fresh lemon juice lemon rind, lucuma, coconut oil $8.50

Combi has been a wonderful dining experience and I will definitely find myself back there even after my challenge is over. Drinks and food are wholesome and leave you walking out with a top-to-toe feel-good completion.

2 Comments

Filed under Bayside, Brunch, Elwood, Raw, Sweets, Vegan, Vegetarian

Quick Bites: Don Don

Don Don
5 Bank Street
South Melbourne
Vic 3205
+61 3 9696 6682
Don Don on Urbanspoon

IMG_9433

Dining at Don Don brings back student memories of skipping finishing classes and strolling down Swanston Street for a feed. Don Don lures in students like a honey-coated venus flytrap with its delicious Japanese meals that are speedily dished up and extremely easy on the pocket.

Now that I’ve graduated and weaving the laneways of Melbourne is a thing of a past, I’m glad that Don Don had the foresight to branch out into the ‘burbs, especially one that’s near me. My closest Don Don is situated in South Melbourne with her other siblings scattered in the CBD and Carlton. While Don Don mainly features rice dishes as extrapolated from the name, her cousin Don Too offers ramen.

IMG_9436
Chicken curry don $6.90

I stepped into Don Don for a quick feed on a lonely day off. My lunch was the chicken curry don, with chunks of tender grilled chicken, smokey from the teriyaki, cradled in a pool of mild curry. The curry at Don Don is far from sweet and pretty damn good. The meatless version uses charred tofu instead and is perfect for vegetarians and Meatless Mondays. A good mound of rice to soak up the sauce and a sprinkle of pickled radish for crunch and tang complete the dish, making it one of the cheapest and most satisfying meals one can get in Melbourne.

Having tried both the beef sukiyaki don and the salmon sashimi don I can vouch for their scrumptiousness, but it’s the teriyaki chicken curry that beckons me over and over again. For those in need of a quick meal or one that is budget-friendly without compromising taste, I highly recommend that you give Don Don a go.

 

4 Comments

Filed under Japanese, South Melbourne