Saturday, 24 August 2013

NomNom: Grandma's Little Bakery, Alexandria

Alexandria - a suburb located in inner-eastern area of Sydney, NSW- is usually identified with factory warehouses, furniture shops, a collective of logistics and freight forwarders nearby (being the close proximity to the airport and Port Botany); but usually not trendy cafes and good food.
So it was a pleasant surprise indeed when we came across this little gem, located at the corner of O'riordan St and Collins St. We were in the area to window shop on some nice furnitures (yeah, weird hobby, I know), and noticed that this place was quite packed with patrons, which is always a good sign.

Grandma's Little Bakery serves eat-in and take-away, and the 'take-away' shop has a lot of home made goodies, from biscuits, pies & pastries, to dips & spreads, and home made ready-made meals. They are a bit of the expensive side, but we tasted a few samples, and those biscuits taste divine.

We, however, chose to dine in and relax after a lot of walking around the area.
We were presented with what I think is a very cute innovative and efficient electronic pad to order our dishes. The pad lists all dishes available at the premise, and patrons can even look at the pictures of the dish by clicking on the zoom-in button. People accustomed to ipad, galaxy, or general tablets would not have a problem navigating the menu.

They also serve breakfast buffet style every Saturday Mornings.

For other times though, patrons are welcomed to serve themselves some extra bread and salad from the buffet table to accompany their ordered dishes. Those, combined with the generous and hearty meal, would fill anyone up pleasantly.

Top: pastries available for ordering. Bottom: bread and rolls from the buffet bar.
The Beef Bolognese Shaksuka (A$14.50) came with bread, two eggs and generous amount of ground beef in yummy bolognese sauce, baked in a pan.This is one of their breakfast menu dishes which is available all day.
Grandma's Mazal Moroccan Beef Casserole (A$12.50) - which you can choose to have either the saffron yellow rice or bread to accompany with - is kinda bland compared to the Beef Bolognese. However the portion is generous and the beef pieces are so tender. 1/2heart did not have any trouble polishing it off (as well as half of my Shaksuka and bread)

The cute decorations and little finishing touches all around the place made for comfortable dine-in experience. We plan to come back (even with no window-shopping purpose) to try more of their dishes.

did someone stuff up that finishing time on the chalkboard?

*pictures taken with iphone.

Grandma's Little Bakery
42 O'Riordan St, Alexandria NSW 2015
ph: 02 9690 0069
(check the website for opening hours)

Saturday, 17 August 2013

NomNom: Din Tai Fung, World Square, Sydney CBD

I admit, I am not much of a Din Tai Fung fan. IMO, there are a lot of other places in Sydney; such as New Shanghai or Taste of Shanghai (and even a few cheaper small shops) that can do their specialty - Xiao Long Bao - as good if not better, for fairer prices.
But what to do when I crave for one item that no other place in Sydney could do better: Salted Egg Yolk Custard Bao / Lau Sar Bao / Liu Sa Bao. I keep coming back to Din Tai Fung for my fix. Even after experiencing Dian Shui Lou Taiwan - who many people deem a competitor to Din Tai Fung - I still think the latter's version is much much better.

So with that as a mission, we went to Din Tai Fung main branch at World Square, Sydney.

On weekends, dinner time at Din Tai Fung starts at 5 p.m. We arrived around 5 minutes past, and we were quite surprised to see the restaurants to be more than half full already. The business is looking good.

*Pictures taken with iphone as I didn't bring my camera -_-

open style kitchen
Vegetarian Delights (A$6.80) is good for appetizer and it is a pleasant palate cleanser. It consists of marinated seaweed, thin vermicelli, beansprouts, and thin slivers of tofu or tofu skin ( I think ).

1/2heart tried Ja Jiang Mian (A$13.80) - a humble dish usually consists of noodles and marinated pork mince. The taste of the dish really depends on the marinated pork & the sauce. Din Tai Fung makes their own noodles and they are of good consistency with the right amount of chewiness. I also noted that they also added marinated beans to the sauce, that adds to the fragrance. It smells great, however I found the taste quite lacklustre. I have had better Ja Jiang Mian at a local Taiwanese eatery in Hurstville, for almost half the price.

Prawns with Pineapple (A$20.80) - lightly battered fried prawns with pineapple pieces, smothered in sweet mayo. Prawns were big and juicy, but overall - very very sweet and actually made me quite sick after a few bites.

One dish that Din Tai Fung never fails to deliver - Prawn & Pork Dumplings in Spicy Sauce (A$10.80). Although I was on a mission for the Salted Egg Yolk & Custard Bun, I would never ever miss ordering this dish whenever I dined there. I love their sauce. Can someone teach me how to make that sauce mixture please? (I drank the sauce like a soup -_- the acidity of the vinegar component made my stomach quite upset afterwards).

They currently have limited edition of Xiao Long Bao colored gems - we ordered a full basket of seven different colors of Xiao Long Bao's offered. Every color has different flavor. As I ate with 1/2heart, I picked the green one (not my favourite as it didn't have that 'exploding' soup XLB normally has. It was quite dry), the dark grey (sort of OK...), the dark pink (the dish came out more of blush pink colored. But the seafood soup inside was quite tasty), and the orange (corn). Yep, I had 4 :D, while 1/2heart had the other 3. But hey, he devoured the Ja Jang Mian all by himself (I just had a bit of a taste of the pork sauce )

Full set of Xiao Long Bao Colored Gems costs A$15.80. Only the World Square branch has all 7 flavours. The other outlets at The Star and Westfield Centrepoint rotate their flavors everyday.

The Trio Mini Buns (A$5.80) are Red Bean Bao, Black Sesame Bao, and Taro Bao. Black Sesame filling was too dry to my liking. Nothing special with the other two.

Golden Lava (A$2.20 each or three for $6). Ah... the object of my mission. I behaved myself and only ordered two - one for myself and one for 1/2heart. I usually can devour three in a set for myself, but as I am on a detox mission, I held myself back (trust me, it's a very hard thing to do, especially after I took the first bite of the juicy bao... . I almost raised my hand to get the waitress' attention to order another one...)

(Detox is being done in preparation for upcoming travels where I am bound to eat a lot -_-. Though this dinner was not really part of the detox :P)

The amount of buttery salted egg yolk and sweetness of the custard is just right. It felt like heaven in my mouth. I love this bao very much. If you do know of another place that has as good Lau Sar Bao as Din Tai Fung's, please do share. You will make me a very happy woman.

Din Tai Fung
Level 1, Shop 11.04
644 George St, Sydney NSW 2000

Thursday, 8 August 2013

random & review: Not Your Conventional Face Cleanser... .

I was not really sure how to label this post. Ha~ But I found this to be too awesome to not be shared:

They are: Milk Powder, Oats, and Rice Flour. No, I am not trying to bake or cook anything of those ingredients. Instead, I'd like to share that those three items work beautifully as a cleanser. Yes, a face cleanser. 

About a month ago, my dear friend Len - who is currently residing in Singapore - whatsapp-ed me and raved about how this all-naturale mixture of three simple grocery items do wonders to her face. Len and I occasionally tip each other on make-up, skincare, and tips & tricks associated. 
My usual cleanser - Sulwhasoo Cleansing Foam - was almost gone by then, so I thought 'what the heck', and decided to give this a try anyway. The ingredients are cheap, readily available at supermarket or grocery stores; and if it didn't work, I could always turn them into something edible. :D

One month onwards, I am still using this as my primary face cleanser, so thank you Len, for the awesome share.

If you constantly have been changing face cleanser because you couldn't find anything 'just right', perhaps you may give this a go.

I noticed the positive effect on my face after the first week of use: I realized that I didn't need to extract/clean my T-zone (you ladies with somewhat troublesome T-zone, you know what I mean). The pores did not get clogged even with daily make up & BB cream use (and they are still not clogged. I only had to do a gentle exfoliate with steam & mask, and that was two weeks ago. Surprisingly, not much gunk extracted. Usually I'd grossed out with my own pores' byproducts. LOL)
The exfoliating effect of the oats & the rice flour cleanse the pores everyday, but they are still gentle enough to not aggravate your face. The milk powder moisturize and smooth your skin.

I always pre-mix and put them in a container.

Mix 2-3 parts of oats with 1 part of milk powder (I use full cream milk powder) and 1 part of rice flour. Add warm water and mix with your hands (try to breakdown the oats by pressing/massaging them between your fingers) until the mixture becomes thick porridge consistency. Apply to your face as a cleanser and massage all over with gentle motion. 
Avoid your eye area. If they get stuck in between your lashes (or God forbids they get into your eyes), it's a bitch to clean.
If the consistency is not quite right, you may always adjust the ratio to suit your needs.

The only thing I hate hate hate, is the messiness created every. single. time. But for the sake of vanity, what is cleaning the sink surroundings of stray oat granules every morning ... . You may want to clean your face while showering. The hot steam from the shower will also help in the exfoliating process.

Don't forget to clean your face with cleansing oil (I use Sulwhasoo Cleansing Oil) if you wear make up or foundation/BB cream. Only use the oats-milk-flour mixture as substitute for your usual cleanser. The rest of your skincare regime should not change (cleansing oil to clean make-up, toner & serum or moisturizer after cleanser).


One week should be enough time to see if this is suitable for you. If your face/skin rejected a product, your skin would protest and this usually resulted in breakouts OR overly dryness or oiliness. The ingredients for this cleansing method are all natural and obviously do not contain any chemicals, additives, or fragrances normally found in retail face cleanser. Therefore they are quite gentle to use. But if for any reason, this does not work for you or results in unfavorable effects to your skin, do not continue use.

I have a few retail cleansing products that I have used in the past that have worked for me, and I will be reviewing them in later dates.

On a side note: Len also recommended Rosehip Essential Oil to be used after cleansing. Sadly, this did not work for me. They caused me to have a small breakout by the third day of use, so I discontinued it. However, I started using Grapeseed Essential Oil afterwards and this has been working out wonderfully for my face, especially combined with the oats cleanser. (Len did say her type is 'dry combination', while mine is more towards 'oily combination'). Less clogged pores, brighter and smoother skin, just 'right' moisturizing property without causing my face to feel heavy, and less breakouts during you-know-that-time-of-the-month.
(For Australia, I order my essential oils from Sydney Essential Oil Co.)