Tuesday, October 26, 2004

not a sweet darling: korean rice cakes

Korean Rice Cake
♥ korean rice cakes A$2.40
I bought this the other day in Chatswood's Lemon Grove foodcourt. The slimy green colour with bright yellow-coloured mung-bean paste might not seem to be one of the tasty colour combination.

The rice cakes has a weird interaction between the sweet and the savoury. The rice cakes are actually rather tasteless on its own. It's not sweet but there is a certain amount of saltiness in it. The mung-bean paste on the other hand, is very sweet.

The verdict? I like it. It's very chewy. I didnt like it on first bite mainly because of the salty flavour in the greenish rice-cakes. I was expecting a sweet rice cake. Apparently most korean rice cakes can be rather tasteless with a slight hint of saltiness.

Just dont expect too much flavour from this rice cakes. Many non-koreans find the rice cakes bland. I remembered a friend on his first encouter with korean rice cakes screamed "darn, this is tasteless" and thereafter spitted out what he had eaten. A little rude but that tells you if you like heavily flavoured food, this is just not for you.:-)
Continue Reading not a sweet darling: korean rice cakes


crunch along with a bottle of beer

Deep-fried sweets: Almond Crunchies or Crispies
ShinChan brought back this pack of munchies for me (or so he claimed) when he came back from Taiwan. So, why did I ever have any doubts that this snacks was specially brought back for me? If you have got a good eyesight and you can read chinese, you could see that the pack actually says 'goes well with beer' (second vertical line from left). Alcohol is no-no to pinkcocoa. Now you get the picture? :p

candied almond crunchies
♥ candied almond crunchies or crisps
This is a very more-ish taiwanese snacks. I couldnt stop when I started. You definitely need a sense of self-control here. ;-p

In direct translation, this is called "almond-fragrance slice" (xing ren xiang pian). This is actually another version of ma hua (hemp flower), a deep-fried dough of flour, eggs and sugar coated in chewy sticky maltose in shape that resembles hemp flower. This almond version, however, is in rectangular shape. I guess it's so that the almond flakes could coat easily.

sticky almond crunchies
♥ soft chewy maltose coating
The bite-size almond-pastry pieces are crunchy and crispy yet soft and very chewy. Actually, it's crunchy when you take a bite. You could hear a wonderful crunching sound when you bite into it. The soft chewy bit comes from the thick sticky maltose coating. Each time you chew, you feel the crunch first and then the chewy part sets in. Very nice! I like it even without beer. hehe. It goes well with a pot of tea too.

It reminds me of san qi ma, a chinese snacks of deep-fried egg dough coated in caramel or maltose that comes in small blocks or cubes. But san qi ma has a more egg-ish taste and sometimes with a slight greasy taste. This almond crunch pieces are actually denser but gentle to the teeth except for the chewy bits. You get some maltose stuck to your teeth.

It's not overly sweet too that's why you cant stop when you start. So, here I am trying to type with my one hand because the other hand is busy feeding me this yummy almond crunchies!

♥ candied almond crunchies or crisps (xing ren xiang pian) from:
Jin Ri Mi Ma Hua Zhi Jia
(direct translation: The House of Jin Ri's candied hemp-flowers crackers)
no. 12, lane 7, zhong-xing area
zhong-xing street, taichung-west
taichung city
tel: +886 4 23052099
ps. jin ri in mandarin = today
Continue Reading crunch along with a bottle of beer


Sunday, October 24, 2004

mooncake galore part 5:
the three treasures

I know you guys are probably bored right now with mooncakes after my mooncake posts here, here, here and here. It's been a month since the mid-autumn festival! Okay, this one is the last one, I promise! At least for this year.

Pao Chuan Little Mooncake Gift Box
♥ the three treasures before the kidnap
If you remember, in the post about the little mooncake, I have also mentioned there are three differently packaged mooncakes in the mooncakes gift-box. These three mooncakes come in very Japanese packaging. I fell in love with them the moment I opened the gift box. I immediately kidnapped them into my bags.

The Three Treasure of Pao Chuan
♥ the three treasure after the kidnap.
Here you are seeing the three treasures that's under pinkcocoa's abduction. You can tell they had been well-cared and pampered (that is until they got dissected)! They are called the three treasures of Pao Chuan (Bao Quan san bao). I am not sure why these are called the three treasure. I guess this means these are the top three selling or most popular Japanese sweets at Pao Chuan (Bao Quan san bao).

Origami Treasure
♥ the double happiness origami box
This cute origami box catches my eyes first. A double happiness (shuang xi) mark is printed on both side of the box. The chinese text at the bottom simply tells you to eat the sweets on the day you bought it or else please refridgerate it.

Cute Heart on top of Origami box
♥ heart on top of origami box for the special one in my heart! (xin shang ren)
I simply love the cute heart on top of the origami box! Isnt it just so adorably cute!

The cute heart along with the double happiness mark on this origami box makes it seems like the type of chinese cakes you would receive when a couple that you know become engaged. This type of 'engagement cake' is called xi bing (happy cake) and it is customary of Taiwanese to distribute xi bing to friends, families and seniors at workplace when they got engaged.

Dismantling the Origami Treasure
♥ "heart-broken" origami box
Dismantling the origami box to reveal a dark brown cake wrapped in plastic package. At first, I thought it would be Pao Chuan's famous little mooncake except with a different flavoured fillings. I guess I was wrong.

Kuri Manju - chestnut sweet cake
♥ chestnut sweet cake
A deep sweet honey smell escaped when the plastic package was removed. I think I am going to like this because I love honey!

Cut it open, you see a thick caramel-brown crust with a sweet white paste. The crust is soft and a little 'doughy'. There is tiny bits of charred caramel zing attached to the crust. Not too bad but I find it a little too soft. And what's the white paste? It's kuri (chestnut in Japanese)!

I think this must be a kuri manju (or is it not called manju?) from Japan. Can someone enlighten me about this?

2 lucky pouches
♥ the two lucky pouches taking it off!
Moving on to the two pretty soft paper pouches. It reminds of Japanese lucky pouch (fu dai in mandarin, I wonder what's the Japanese term for this?). I like the ribbons.

purple treasure pouch
♥ simple yet exquisite form of packaging
This is just gorgeous! Who would thought the combination of a paperbag and a ribbon could be so exquisite. It got me bewitched!

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♥ what's inside the soft-paper pouches?
I pulled out the ribbons and let's have a look what's inside the two lucky pouches. Something similar to the little mooncake but a little bit darker.

pickled plum sweet cake
♥ pickled plum or sour plum sweet cake
It's not little mooncake with a different flavour. It appears to be something in between the kuri manju and the little mooncake. Sorry about the mess here. I didnt know there was a pickled plum (ume in japanese, mei zhi in mandarin) inside.

Here you see the crust has a glossy caramel-brown colour on the outside but the inside is a pale golden colour. The crust like the kuri manju is soft and chewy. The pale orangey filling is probably sword bean paste infused with pickled plum extract but I am not exactly sure of this. It tasted a little weird to me but still acceptable.

kumquat sweet cake
♥ kumquat sweet cake
This really delighted me. A kumquat in the sweet cake! This kumquat sweet cake has a slightly different crust to the pickled plum. The crust is a lot denser and much paler with only the top that is a dark golden brown. I cant work out what's the white paste. My guess is it's still made of sword bean.

I didnt like this sweet cake though. The paste was soaked with the juices of kumquat. I felt like eating a wet lump of cake that has been soaked in sugar water! The crust is very soft too. The texture of the crust is almost like the paste so it kinda felt like you are only eating the paste without the crust.

the three treasure of pao chuan
♥ the three treasures of pao chuan
from left to right:
♥ chestnut sweet cake - origami box
♥ kumquat sweet cake - orangey-pink lucky pouch
♥ pickled plum sweet cake - purple lucky pouch

Looks to me these are in fact Japanese sweet cakes (wagashi in Japanese). Personally, I like the chestnut the best. It's not too sweet with an enticing honey flavour.

hm. I am actually not sure if these wagashi has to do with mooncakes. Would this be the type of mooncakes eaten on mid-autumn in Japan? I have yet to find out myself. Anyone out there who would kindly provide your valuable knowledge?

And herewith, I shall conclude my five part series of mooncake galores for the year 2004. :-)

the three treasure of taiwan (tai wan san bao) are
1 tea
2 sugarcane
3 camphor
they are the top three exports of taiwan.

Continue Reading mooncake galore part 5:
the three treasures


Saturday, October 23, 2004

mooncake galore part 4:
mini moon from japan in my room

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ShinChan came back from Taiwan with 5 large boxes of his favourite mooncake: xiao yue bing (little or mini mooncake). He claimed that this is not just any other ordinary xiao yue bing but from it is Japanese mini mooncake from Pao Chuan bakery.

Pao Chuan (pinyin: bao quan, meaning spring of treasure) bakery was actually first set up in Kyoto, Japan in 1943 by a Taiwanese. It goes by the name of Housendo in Japan and bears the same meaning with its chinese title. Pao Chuan bakery is the first bakery in Taiwan to come up with the idea of having small bite-sized mooncakes that can be downed in a couple of bites. Traditional Taiwanese mooncakes are usually too big to be chowed down at once, even if you share. The mini mooncake is more convenient and becomes well-received and popular soon after its release. This idea of bite-sized mooncakes are widely copied nowadays.

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12xiao yue bing and the three treasures of pao chuan
Inside the xiao yue bing li he (little mooncake gift pack) are are 12 mini mooncakes. The three very distinctive packages in the middle are the three treasures of Pao Chuan bakery (Bao Quan San Bao).

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xiao yue bing - individually packed little mooncake
I couldnt wait to try this little mooncake that ShinChan has been raving about many times. It must be good. Though in my heart, I still long for my favourite Taiwanese mooncake: luu dou peng. Alright, I really have to promise this is my last time mentioning luu dou peng. It must be getting on everyone's nerve that I mentioned it everytime I write about mooncakes. :p

Anyway I reckon these individually packed little mooncakes are really cute and very presentable as a gift on its own even when you dont have a gift box to put it in. So what we did was we took out all the little mooncakes from one of the boxes and distribute these mooncakes to friends. Everyone get one!

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♥ a mini moon in my room! kawaii~
Sorry guys, no nice picture here because I simple could not wait. When a girl wants her mooncake, she has just got to have it now!

A sweet milky aroma filled the room once the pack was torn open. Nice!The crust is soft to the touch and not as flaky as the normal traditional type. I think I have forgotten to mention this little mooncake is actually a mini version of the traditional Taiwanese mooncake except that it has a different filling. More on this later.

The pale yellow colour of the crust sure resembled a bright round moon!

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♥ pale golden flaky crust, just like a moon!
Here is another pic of the little mooncake. This looks a little drier than the one above and not as plumb too. Nope. This is not a result of uneven qualities. This particular little mooncake had been kept in the freezer for about a week. Why store in a freezer you might ask. Mind you, we had really hot weather 2 weeks ago resulting on mouldy pineapple cakes. You had no idea how heart-broken I was when I awoke one morning to find most of my pineapple cakes had gone mouldy!

Henceforth, into the freezer they went. Freezing prolongs their perishable lives....or so we thought!

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♥ soft, fluffy and velvety contents
Once again apologies! You are seeing the remnant of a little mooncake after your highness took her first humble bite.

ooh la la! The mooncake seemed to have melted inside my mouth immediately. My mouth was filled with a punch of lustrous creamy velvety flavour. The filling was feathery, fluffy, silky, smooth, milky, rich. Oh. Just so lush!

As with the crust...what crust? I couldnt even taste the crust! The creamy filling with a strong hint of milky scent over-power the crust. Not good for crust-lovers. :-(

Traditional Taiwanese mooncake has a flaky crust, unlike the soft-chewy crust found in cantonese mooncakes. This version of mooncake is believed to have originated from the northern region of China. As with the filling, it is usually filled with a blend of mung bean paste and mince meat. Sometimes pork floss is added instead or vegetarian pork floss for vegan. For yolk-lovers, there is also a version with yolk. There is also one with curry flavour.

This xiao yue bing however is not filled with mung bea. It is not savoury too with no sight of minced meat or pork floss. It is filled with the paste of jack bean, or bai feng dou (white phoenix bean), an indigenous plant in Taiwan.

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♥ sweet and creamy jack bean paste with thin light flaky crust
I was about to develop a headache after three bites. The goodness of the white paste was a little over-empowering. Too sweet. It felt like eating a condensed milk paste. I decided that I still like my other mooncake more. (phew~ I was about to mention the name) But then again, I wonder if it was because I didnt have a pot of chinese tea to go with it.

I still havent figured out why this is called Japanese-style little mooncake (ri shi xiao yue bing). It is simply a mini version of the larger mooncake. Maybe the small-sized concept stems out from Japan?

Pao Chuan Bakery
♥ in Taiwan: Pao Chuan Food Co.
♥ in Japan: Housendo, Kyoto

bai feng dou (white phoenix bean) is also known as
- sword bean
- dao dou in mandarin
- natamame in Japanese
- kacang parang in Malay or Indonesian
These all come to mean sword bean!
Continue Reading mooncake galore part 4:
mini moon from japan in my room


Friday, October 22, 2004

Drinking a little piece of Japan in Sydney:
Cha no Yu

I am a true believer in fate. I believe things must happen for a reason. When two events fused into one and seemingly been arranged beforehand yet it was really accidental, this is termed coincidence in english.How many times have you experienced this in your life? I am sure there have been heaps!

What a coincidence it was when Dennis started a japanese tea ceremony conversation with fishfish. I happened to attend one myself that very afternoon! It must be fate or what we call yuan fen in mandarin.

We jumped immediately at the chances to attend a traditional Japanese tea ceremony with sydney good food month's Taste It workshop: Cha No Yu. It was really too good to be missed. We joined Christina Simpson of Tea Temple and visited a traditional Japanese tea room right here in Sydney!

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♥ very pretty hand-drawn invitation
I received these pretty hand-drawn cha no yu invitation cards in my mailbox from Christina. I was surprised to have received these though Christina had told me she would mail the invitation out. I didnt expect the invitations to be so lovely! What I mean is how long has it been since you last received handmade invitation cards?

The norm today is to use standardised commercial invitation cards in many different themes, colours and occasions for you to choose. All you have to do is pick one, pay, fill in the blanks then mail. Very simple. If you are fast, it can be done in an hour.

These pretty floral prints invitation cards had me in flowery and happy mood for days even during the wet gloomy weather that had been embracing Sydney for almost a week.

tabeshimashita on 21 Oct 2004
tabeshimashita @ Chahitsu in the art gallery of nsw
Chado is the Japanese way of tea. It is the practice of making and serving tea, through which one is believed to be able to reach a calm state of mind and reflect on themselves at the present moment. Chado is deeply connected to the Buddhist Zen philosophy.

In fact, you will find many traditional Japanese arts (or martial arts) are actually a tool or a way to achieve the highest level of the Zen philosophy ie. a calm state of mind. This essentially is what the japanese word do means: the road, the pathway. Some other examples are kendo (Japanese way of Sword) and kyudo (Japanese way of Archery), both of which I would love to try some day! Oh of course there is the very popular bushido (Samurai!)

Cha no yu literary means tea and hot water. It is the actual ritual of preparing and serving tea where only a small number of guests, usually 4 or 5, are invited. And no, you dont have Cha no yu as often as you have a backyard barbeque. Cha no yu is only held on certain occasions in Japan. Such occasions are usually seasonally related.

A typical Cha no yu usually lasts for about 4 hours, starting with a kaiseki course, an exquisite Japanese banquet where you start and end by sipping sake (Japanese wine) in between the many aesthetically arranged tiny plates of seasonal dishes. The guests are then served koicha (thick tea) after which usucha (thin tea) is served. We had the last course of a cha no yu: the usucha.

Inside A Traditional Japanese Tea Room
♥ interior of a typical chashitsu
The Japanese tea room (chashitsu) is tucked away at the end of the Asian gallery. To the right of chashitsu are displays and explanation of the setting of a typical chashitsu and chado equipments.

In Japan, normally you will find chashitsu a heritage building with a lot of historical backgrounds. It is rare to have a new chashitsu built today. However, this chashitsu is special. It is incorporated as part of the Asian gallery and isdesigned by a chashitsu specialised architect from Japan.

The chashitsu is the size of 6 tatami (japanese mat). You dont count the 2 tatami on the raised platform: tokonoma (alcove). It is the central spot of the room. In tokonoma you will find only two things:
1. kakemono: the hanging scroll
2. chabana: the simple form of flower arrangement in hanaire (vase)

These are for the guest to admire and study. They also make a good topic for conversation. It is important that the guests have certain level of knowledge on the calligraphy on kakemono and the arrangement of ikebana in order to keep a conversation going. In any case when you come across kakemono that you do not understand, you can make a mild compliment first and then kindly ask your host to enlighten you.

The calligraphy on the scroll sets the theme for the ceremony. The scroll in this particular chahitsu is written in kanji. I dont know how to pronounce them in Japanese but in mandarin, it says xing wai wu fa man mu qing shang (literary heart outside no law, full eye blue mountain). It means something like abandon the mortal laws from your heart to focus your mind so as to set eyes only for the blue mountain (this is where mortals turn into immortals I think).

Pinkcocoa was the main guest
♥ the prestige order: pinkcocoa - the guest of honour!
Before entering, you must do a shallow bow (rei). The guests are seated in the order of prestige with the most important guest seated nearest to the alcove. Pinkcocoa was one lucky girl. She was invited to be the first to enter the tea room! Probably because I was seated furthest left outside the tea room. *yay*

oh. that's my shorty legs in black tights you are seeing there. :p Next to me was a psychology honour graduate. ShinChan was the last guest, by the way.

The guest of honour (shokyaku, literary the first guest) is the main focus of the whole ceremony. It is conducted specially for the main guest. It is also important that the main guest is highly acquainted with chado because he/she is the one leading the ceremony. So you would thought the person seated furthest away would be the least important one, right? Wrong! The last person is equally important in that he/she is the one ending the ceremony.

We exchanged rei (bow - a gesture of acknowledgement) with the hostess (teishu) and then sat down seiza-style! *Ouch*

Higashi - the sweets accompanying the tea
♥ japanese dry sweets to be eaten on special papers
Our hostess is Yayoi Maloney Sensei. Here you see her preparing higashi (sweets) to accompany the usucha (thin green tea) that she was going to prepare for us.

Maloney sensei has prepared 2 types of higashi for us. Sorry I havent had any bigger pic of the sweets. The colourful bunch on the left is the modern higashi, it was not developed until 300years ago but it is still termed modern! The greenish strips on the right is made from the stems of the angelica plant. This sweets is called fuki which is the name of the angelica plant in japanese.

Kaishi- Sweets Paper
kaishi (paper you place in the front of your kimono)
Sweets are eaten from special paper called kaishi. Guests are carries their own kaishi, usually in a decorative wallet tucked in the front pocket of kimono.

Kaishi can have many patterns. Maloney sensei had prepared one with three symbols. The three symbols, I am not sure if you can see it clearly from the pic, represent the four seasons in Japan.
Moon: Summer and Autumn
Snowflake: Winter
Sakura (cherry blossom): Spring

I shall enjoy higashi before you
higashi (dry sweets)
The guests place their sweets paper to their right. After that, Maloney sensei came over (very elegantly) and placed the plate of higashi in front of the main guest (ie. pinkcocoa). She then proceed to prepare all the equipments necessary for the ceremony.

Pinkcocoa was kindly advised to proceed with the sweets. I exchanged bow with Maloney sensei. Then bow to the guest to my right saying "osakini" which means before you (as opposed to 'after you' in english manner). The second guest replied "dozo" (please). I place my sweets paper in front of myself. Pick up the plate. Took one of each of the two sweets onto my paper and pass the plate to the second guest. This pattern was repeated by the second guest to the third, third to fourth and so on and so on until the last guest.

Eating Higashi before Drinking Maccha
♥ pinkcocoa tabemasu! (oishii desu ne~)
Here you see me enjoying fuki. (sorry no face shown here but at least you see my body :p) It is a long green strips rolled in sugar with tiny bits of icing sugar on it. It can occur to be very sweet to those who dont have a sweet tooth. But it is important to eat the sweets before you drink because the sweets helps bring out the flavour of the tea.

Scooping Maccha Powder with chashuku
♥ Scooping maccha into tea bowl
We watched the graceful yet spontaneous movement of Maloney sensei in the ritual of cleaning and preparation all the utensils one by one. We sat in silence, eyes ungazed and beaming, trying to catch every simple little details our hostess went through. There we sat in the tea room, no conversation. No loud talking. The atmosphere was tranquille and calm. There was the sounds of the water boiling, charcoal crackling. The smells of the incense and tea. The interactions between the utensils.

My mind suddenly came to a blank. I was not thinking. I had no thinking. Aiks. What am I saying here? But at that very moment, I felt a sense of calmness embrace around me.

After the cleaning ritual, Maloney sensei scooped green-tea powder(matcha or maccha) from the tea-holder (chaire or natsume) into the drinking bowl(chawan: tea bowl) using a bamboo scoop called chashaku. Each bamboo scoop is different. Usually this is passed down from generations to generations. The text scribed on the bamboo scoop has a special meaning at the time when the scoop was made.

Pouring water into the bowl
♥ Ladling water
Using a bamboo water ladle called hishaku, Maloney sensei carefully ladled water from the kettle(kama) and poured slowly into the tea bowl.

Whisking maccha with chasen
♥ whisking
We watched Maloney sensei whisking the tea using a bamboo whisk called chasen. Her movement was graceful and elegance yet you can feel a vibrant chi (spirit) from her that embraces the whole room.

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♥ drinking
Once again, the hostess started with the main guest first. We repeated the pattern similar to when we had the sweets except before acknowledging your fellow chajin (tea people), you thank the hostess for the tea that she/he had prepared. It's a long bunch of Japanese words and I couldnt remember at all. :p

Oh. I forgot to mention the hostess also has helpers called hanzo. The helpers are the one who helps to gap the hostess and her guests. Here I was given my tea bowl by the helper who sat in front of me, holding the tea bowl and then turning the bowl clockwise twice. She then placed the bowl in front of me. I then thanked my hostess, acknowledged the guest on right. Took up the bowl using right hand first, place my left hand on the side of the bowl. Using my left hand, I turned the bowl clockwise twice.

And then I sipped from the bowl. The portion in the tea bowl are for three and a half sips. It is polite to slurp as loud as you can when you drink. It is a polite gesture in Japan. Slurping (the louder the better) implies that you enjoy the food the host has prepared.

Everything was just really systematic. You really got to know what you are doing. No wonder the first guest and the last guest are important because they start and end the ceremony!

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♥ sensei at full concentration
Here's our elegant sensei at work! I hope she doesnt mind me putting so many pictures of hers up here. She wore a green kimono to reflect on the freshness of greens that sprouts during the season of spring.

Nice gifts from Christina: Tea Temple Sample Bags
♥ tea temple gift packs
The ceremony ends with yet another surprise from Christina! We all received a gift packs from her. Inside are three sample tea bags.
From top to bottom:
♥ Serenity
♥ Coco Lime (Japanese Green)
♥ Genmaicha (Japanese Green)

I had a really good time. I felt calm and relaxed after the tea ceremony. Really! I am telling the truth. If only I could go to a cha no yu more often!

One more thing before my super long post, I am not sure if all the details I have written here are correct. This is simply a gather of my thoughts and what I have learnt in that short one and a half hour with Maloney Sensei.

Tea Temple
s24 south dowling st
paddington nsw 2021
tel & fax: 61 2 9360 1371
Urasenke Foundation, Sydney
130/19-23 herbert st
st leonards nsw 2065
tel: 61 2 9439 5251
fax: 61 2 9968 2165

Urasenke Tradition of Tea

Japanese Term Associated with Cha no Yu

♥ cha no yu: japanese tea ceremony
♥ chabana: arranged flower in a vase
♥ chado: the way of tea
♥ chahitsu: tea room
♥ chaire: tea tin
♥ chajin: people who practice chado
♥ chasen: bamboo whisk
♥ chawan: tea bowl
♥ dozo: please
♥ fuki: angelica plant
♥ hanaire: vase
♥ hanzo: helper of host
♥ higashi: dry sweets
♥ hishaku: bamboo water ladle
♥ ichigo ichie: one time one meeting
♥ kaishi: paper to eat higashi on
♥ kaiseki ryori: kaiseki course
♥ kakemono: hanging scroll with handwritten calligraphic script
♥ koicha: thick green tea (more paste like)
♥ kama: kettle
♥ osakini: before you
♥ rei: bow or literally it means the act of being polite
♥ sake: Japanese rice wine
♥ tatami: japanese reed mat
♥ teishu: host or hostess
♥ tokonoma: alcove, focal of room
♥ ushucha: thin green tea
♥ maccha: japanese green tea powder
Continue Reading Drinking a little piece of Japan in Sydney:
Cha no Yu


Thursday, October 21, 2004

An Elegant Life: Two English Ladies in the Making

My dearest dearest friend whom I met on my second day of commerce school is back in town! It has been about six month since I last saw her. Boy, do I miss her! Thanks to the very advanced IT that we have here and one that I definitely cannot live without: msn messenger, we kept in touch almost everyday. But alas, chatting on msn is definitely very different from chatting in person. The latter is so much more fun plus we can nibbles and drinks during our chat session.

Of course we met up for some girls-only bonding session. We were going to go to one of the good food month events but the idea was scrapped not only because of the bad rainy weather Sydney has been having from last weekend but also we were a little worried about getting home late at night. It's not that safe in Sydney, if you really want to know.

We decided to have tea but what kind of tea? Last time we turned into asian 'si lai' (a cantonese term refering to middle-aged women) and indulged in a long chatty session over yumcha in chinatown. The thought of this doesnt sound that...exotic and elegant, eh? It sounded like we were some san ba po (literary three eight women, meaning very nosy women who like to listen and spread rumours). So this time we decided we want to be elegant. We want to be graceful. We want to be chic.

Let's go and indulge ourselves in a traditional english afternoon tea!

tabemashita on 19 Oct 2004
tabemashita @: the tea room, QVB
Our Tea: Earl Grey for Jess and Chai for pinkcocoa
♥ Earl Grey for Jess and Chai for Pinkcocoa
Right, did I say we were going to afternoon tea? I think I did. I hope i didnt mention that I was going to go for high tea because high tea and afternoon tea are two different thing. Afternoon tea is also known as 'low tea' with light refreshments consumed between 3 to 5pm. High tea, on the other hand, served after 6pm is on the heavier side. This is usually taken as dinner by the English.

Well, we didnt actually have a very traditional afternoon tea. It's more like we had lunch tea or an early afternoon tea. We started our tea at 11.30am. So much for being traditional! We selected the tea room up on level 3 in Queen Victoria Building (QVB) because pinkcocoa long wanted to try their afternoon tea after reading about it in a newspaper articles. We made a booking at 11am, this is when their afternoon tea starts. We ran a little late and arrived at about 11.30am and found ourselves their first table of customers!

Sitting underneath the tall pale-white original Victorian ornate ceilings, classic chandeliers (not made of glass or crystal!), relaxing over a cup of gourmet tea, Jess and pinkcocoa had indeed transformed into graceful and elegant english ladies on the spot!

Jess was very non-adventurous and went for earl grey after consulting our table steward on the japanese green tea (cant remember the name). Anyway the reason she chose earl grey was because it goes with milk. Afternoon tea has just got to be tea with milk. Green tea? Nawwww. I went for Chai tea, not very english I guess but I love the aromatic spices in this Indian tea. My Chai tea cames with warm frothy milk. Jess' earl grey came with normal milk.

Three Tier Delights!
♥ the delightful three-tier stand
Soon after some giggles over our hot tea, we were enchanted by the arrival of this lovely three-tier stand full of scrumptious yummies! We did a few whooo and aaahhhh, snapped a few pictures before we managed to stop our very un-ladylike behaviours. *Oops*

I was a little doubtful with the order of the type of food in this particular three-tier stand. If my memory hadnt failed me, I remembered the order of the tier would be:
top: sweets
middle: scones with cream and preserves
bottom: finger sandwiches
*Jess, I forgot to mention this to you when we were eating. :p

You start from the bottom tier and work your way up to the top. I didnt remember this rule of thumb at the tea room. It just didnt occur to me that we should start from the bottom because the savouries were placed on the top tier. Naturally, we thought we should start from top to bottom and this was the order we had our afternoon tea.

It was a little odd though with our order. You start with savouries then move on to sweets and then end with something plain and rather filling. But if you start from bottom to top, it would be a little odd as well. Plain taste to sweets to savouries. Perhaps someone out there could enlighten me on the order?

Top Tier - Savouries
♥ top tier: savouries
on the top tier, we had 2 type of finger sandwiches with baby watercress and 2 very cute filo pastry cups.

Middle Tier - Sweets
♥ middle tier: sweets
The sweets caught our eyes first. We were joyous when we saw the two dark chunks. *yippeee* chocolate cake!

Bottom Tier - Scones and Pastries
♥ bottom tier: pastries and scones
On the bottom one, we had two pastries and two different types of scones. We couldnt tell what kind of puff we were going to have. Oh, the scones were served with clotted cream and preserves. We havent seen clotted cream before and we thought it was butter. The preserves I think was strawberry.

Alrightey! Let's start our palatable journey into the great kingdom :-)

Ham sandwich with Apple Chutney
♥ fingers sandwich: ham and apple chutney
This particular sandwich was made with brown bread. I didnt notice the apple chutney until my last bite when I bit into a large apple chunk. Very nice! I only wish there was more apply chutney in there.

Jess had a tiny bite on this sandwich. She's vegetarian so the ham sandwich was out for her. Me? I am half-and-half. I dont mind having some bits of meat here and there once in a while.

Fingers Sandwich: Tomato and Red Onion
♥ fingers sandwich: tomato and red onion
This is a vegetarian sandwich using white bread. We picked out the red onion. We dont want to catch onion breath! *yuck*

Tomato Salsa in Filo Pastry with Guacomole
♥ tomato and herb salsa in cute filo pastry cups, served with avocado dip
Is there a particular name for this cute little filo pastry cup? The tomato salsa (is it a salsa i wonder) was very appetizing. The tomato chunks were well-dressed with flavours and herbs (we couldnt work out what herbs but thought that it was something similar to parsley or coriander). The greenish cream is actually guacamole (avocado dip). It didnt taste that avocado-ish and was quite full of flavour (salty!). The filo pastry was alright though I wish it could be a little crispier.

Chocolate Mud Cake
♥ chocolate mud cake
And then we moved on to my favourite tier: sweets! I couldnt help but start out with this black beauty: chocolate mud cake. It was moist and soft. The sweetness was well balanced between the very sweet chocolate ganache and the bitter-sweet dark chocolate cake.

One more piece of this? hm. no thanks. It was too rich!

Orange and Almond Cake with Lemon Curd
♥ orange and almond cake with lemon curd
This is a very typical english afternoon tea cake. I like the lemon curd. It was sour but sweet enough not to burn your throat and mouth with the lemony acidity. I couldnt remember much about this cake however. (Jess, do you remember?) The lemon curd has such strong flavour that the flavours of orange and almond in the cake were concealed.

Passionfruit Shortbread
♥ passionfruit shortbread
This is bite sized pieces. It's very passionfruit-ful! The cream in the middle is enhanced with passionfruit flavours. I just love the combination of sweet and sour. Yum~

Strawberry Boat
♥ strawberry boat
It's marinated strawberries cubes on a shortcrust boat lined with cream. This was okay. The shortcrust was a little soft and plain. Not the crunchy tart-crust I was expecting. But it's strawberries, takara pinkcocoa tabemashita!

Sweet Onion Pastries
♥ our little devil: caramelised onion pastries
We couldnt tell from the outside what's inside this pastry nor could we smell anything.

jess: what is this puff?
pinkcocoa: hmm. It looks like curry puff. I hope it's not curry puff
jess: If it is curry puff then it isnt that imaginative!
pinkcocoa: but..but..how come we would have curry puff in english afternoon tea? weird~
jess: oh. maybe it's indian-influenced? you know, there are a lot of indians there.
pinkcocoa: er....
jess: hmmm...
...silence...both girls stared at the puff
pinkcocoa: let's cut open and find out!

I cut the puff in half and still couldnt figure out what's inside. There was very little filling in there. So I did something very unladylike again. I used my tea-spoon to poke open the puff and tried to spoon out the fillings. Yes, I know this is bad table manner but who's there to watch right? Beside you are supposed to be comfortable with the food you are eating and the way you eat. You are supposed to enjoy food.

Turned out that it was caramelised onion in there. We couldnt taste much of the caramelised onion. The pastry crust was thick compared to the amount of onion inside.

Scone with clotted cream and preserve
♥ plain scone with clotted cream and preserve
We were getting very full by the time we reached the bottom tier. I reckon it was the sweets that made us feel full faster. We shared the two scones so we got to taste a bit of both.

jess: is that butter? (pointing at the clotted cream)
pinkcocoa: i dont think so. i think it is cream
jess: but it looks like butter.
pinkcocoa: i thought we usually have cream and jam with scones?
jess: let me try then.
*jess scoop and spread then munch munch*
jess: the texture feels and tasted like butter but a little sour. I dont think it is cream. Not soft enough and look at the yellowish colour. isnt cream supposed to be white?
pinkcocoa: yeah. i think it said clotted cream on the menu. let me try
*pinkcocoa scoop and spread then munch munch*
pinkcocoa: i think it is cream...clotted cream....
jess: what kind of a name is clotted cream...

Raisin scone
♥ Raisin Scone with clotted cream and preserves
This is raisin scone. See the black little bits in the scones. These are raisins. I like the raisin scone better than the plain one. The plain scone had a tit bit of savoury taste whereas the raisin one was sweeter. It was also a tad bit more moist.

For two and a half hours, Madame jess and madame pinkcocoa sat under the beautiful Victorian ornate ceilings at a table with views (yes, we could catch a tiny slice of darling harbour from the tiny windows), indulging in good food, good tea and a good lengthy girl bonding session!

The tea room is definitely a good place for a small get-together. It is rather quiet. There is a sense of tranquile floating in the air and we felt comfortable sitting there for a long time. We would have sat longer if we could but the tea room was becoming very busy and we felt the need to leave so as to make room for more customers.

We are definitely going to come back here again. It's a very good place to catch up with long-time-no-see friend. Next time, we would have to try out their lunch. We noticed a large bowl of dainty looking fries on the table next us. hmmmm. Comfort food on a cold rainy day!

We felt very full by the time we reached the bottom tier. Nonetheless, we tried to finish up the scones (no, the mission was not accomplished). Odd enough, even though we were very full from the afternoon tea, there was no sense of the bulging-feeling from over-eating. We were just feeling full but not overly full. Our palatable tastebuds were delightly satisfied.

level 3, the northern end
queen victoria building
455 george st
sydney 2000
tel: (02) 9283 7279
fax: (02) 9283 7276

afternoon tea $20pp
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