Masterchef x Australia

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The new season of Masterchef Australia starts tonight. It’s only fitting to post my snapshots inside the famous Masterchef Kitchen!

A little backstory about the show, Masterchef TV show was originally produced in the early 90’s and was re-developed in Australia way back in 2009 that propelled its international success (Ref). Having an avid fan of the show, I was delighted to have visited the Masterchef Kitchen, located in Metro Melbourne, where the show is annually shot.

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Among any other reality cooking shows, Masterchef got less drama and has more interesting challenges. Its format also allow a lot of information to be absorbed and learned from by the audience. It’s one of the best ways to subtly learn about culinary art while entertaining oneself. It basically showcases creativity of different culinary styles and innovating gastronomic skills. From then on, I’ve become more appreciative of the techniques and fusion of flavours in every dish I taste.

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TokyoTreat: Matcha May

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TokyoTreat is a monthly Japanese candy and snacks subscription box that directly ships worldwide from Tokyo. I have always been a fan of Japanese candies and snacks since it constantly evolves to fit consumer needs by offering seasonal and limited edition products. I have enjoyed hundreds of them growing up back home, but since moving to Australia, each of these products cost a fortune! I’m so glad I discovered TokyoTreat that doesn’t only ship worldwide for free, but also delivers the latest candy and snack trends in Japan!

Since it’s my birth month x Matcha Month, a combination of two of my favourite things in the world, it’s only rightful to do a review on this particular month. My May box came in as early as 25th of April since TokyoTreat ships every week to reduce delay in shipping and to ensure quality freshness of every treat in the box.

PREMIUM – MAY 2016

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It’s evident that this box is for Matcha Month with all the green tea goodness filled in one box. Quite frankly, this is the best deal in all subscription boxes out there including boxes from other categories (beauty, wellness, crafts, games etc). EVERYTHING in the box is a full size product. Not single one of them is a sample size, which is the usual size in subscription boxes. Plus, Tokyo Treat offers free shipping worldwide!

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These are all the Matcha goodness in the May box. I can’t wait to try the Matcha Soda! Matcha Crunky chocolate, Matcha Friend Bakery and Matcha Pocky are all common in today’s time but the other two treats are unexpected. Matcha gum? And Matcha brownie freshly packed to spread mouthwatering satisfaction worldwide? This will definitely be a great month!

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TOKYOTREAT BOOKLET

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Every box comes in with a booklet with English translations of the names and descriptions of every candy and snack in the box so you’re assured that you know what you’ll be enjoying.

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It also contains an English instruction of the DIY Candy of the month for non-Japanese subscribers, an anime comic strip, brief background of the featured product, and the delightful FREE goodies a lucky subscriber is awaiting to receive for the random draw of the month.

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SUBSCRIPTION OPTIONS

There are three subscription options to choose from: Small, Regular and Premium, all three offer free shipping worldwide.

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Honestly, for the price, it’s basically a steal! Here in Australia, a Japanese candy costs at least AU$5 each for the small one. TokyoTreat‘s Premium box offers the best value with 13-17 full-size candies and snacks + a DIY Candy kit a special item of the month + free shipping, it’s the best deal out there! Not considering, you’ll also have a chance to win the monthly draw. =^_~=

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PS. This is not a paid blog post and I don’t get discounts if you subscribe. I’m just very satisfied with this wonderful find. Thank you #TokyoTreat!

Pleasures from the Heated Kitchen

I have always been known as the person who starts a venture and jump from one to the other without totally mastering any particular field. In the astrological point of view of the Western and Chinese cultures, it must be primarily caused by the position of celestial objects at the time of my birth. I was born under the zodiac Gemini (the twins known to have split personalities) and the year of the Metal Horse (impulsive in productivity). After all, I’m part Chinese and it’s my second nature to involve astrology every time I get the chance.

One of these ventures engages in different cuisines to further enhance my culinary skills. Today, I was so delighted to spend my free day from work to prepare a sumptuous and complete meal for my family. I decided to do it completely Japanese! It may look like a laborious and dull domestic chore, but it’s actually therapeutical and pleasurable to do. Results of hard work in the kitchen are best harvested when you see the people savouring the food with every bite. Nothing beats the rewarding and pleasurable feelings out of making other people happy. I think it’s one of the best lessons I still bear in mind from my Home Economics teacher way back in high school.

Anyway, here are the photos of every dish I prepared for our dinner.

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Presenting our menu:

Miso soup

Salmon Sashimi (sliced salmon)

Gunkanmaki (warship roll)

Shrimp nigiri

California maki

A variety of makizushi (sushi rolls)

Ebi Tempura (shrimp)

Nasu Tempura (eggplant)

Satsuma Imo Tempura (Sweet potato)

Tamagoyaki (fried egg roll)

Green tea ice cream

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Individual Platter: (L-R) California maki, Makizushi, (T-B) Ebi Tempura, Satsuma Imo Tempura, Nasu Tempura and a ball of Japanse rice.

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To share Platter A: (L-R) Salmon Sashimi, California Maki, two kinds of Gunkanmaki, Shrimp Nigiri and Tamagoyaki.

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To Share Platter B: California Maki and A variety of Makizushi

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To share Platter C: (L-R) Salmon Sashimi, California Maki, two kinds of Gunkanmaki, Shrimp Nigiri and Tamagoyaki.

Platter C is almost the same as Platter A. The only difference are the kinds of Gunkanmaki included.

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Dessert: Green tea ice cream (to cap off the lovely night)

On the side note: I was dreadful the day before thinking of the worst, which is not finding any tuna available in any store nearby. Lo and behold, there was no available tuna everywhere!!! It’s my first time preparing a complete Japanese meal without a tuna so I settled with salmon instead.

I’m proud to say that all of my culinary skills were either self-taught or passed on to me by my parents. Neither of my parents work for the industry (both CPAs) but our family and extended family are very passionate in cooking! Plus, it’s a common Filipino culture for families and relatives to dine in together in every possible meal. Thus, it’s a pleasure to be preparing food for large groups of people. I never received any formal trainings in Japanese cuisine and in anything about cooking/baking in general but I’m longing to have one. Practical work may be the best way to learn but not when it isn’t backed up with theoretical knowledge. It has always my been principle when it comes to learning. Both must go hand in hand.

A little history on how I started, I first prepared sushi when I was in high school. My dad bought me a simple hard-bound sushi book with the most basic recipes. There were only less than 10 recipes on it, and one of them is how to prepare the rice – the most important ingredient! I started with a simple bamboo sushi mat as my tool, tried the other kinds that promise to do the task faster and more efficiently, but as I go along, I decided to stick to the very first one I had – the bamboo mat!

Then after several trial and errors accompanied by my research on basic readings of How-Tos and different techniques from different chefs and culinary enthusiasts, I learned to develop my own style, which is the one that suits my needs and my skills best.

Basic knowledge in absolutely everything is at the tip of our fingers with the power of Internet. Gone are the days of literally dragging ourselves to the library (which includes catching up with their closing time) just to satisfy our hunger for information. With great power comes with great responsibility… and of course, opportunity!

Don’t you love our generation? We can utilise whatever we have to enhance our skills efficiently and conveniently!

FYI, I also learned my Adobe Photoshop and Illustrator skills just by reading tutorials through the Internet. 😉 I’m very much grateful for it!

Food Paradise in the Capital

If you are looking for a food adventure in Beijing, you should never miss the Wangfujing Night Market, known as Donghuamen Night Street by the locals.

The 100-meter long street food market is not hard to miss. Its eye-catching red lanterns and clean red stalls along Dong’anmen Street near Wangfujing Area is the perfect tourist destination at night. It opens at 6 in the evening everyday to delight everyone in the area. Several tourists would go a long way just to experience the market in the Capital.

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It offers a variety of authentic Chinese and exotic snacks: From the usual barbecues, noodles, “Tanghulu” or sugar-coated fruit candies, local desserts, dim sums, hamburgers, pancakes and grilled seafood to insects, snakes, spiders and other surprising finger foods.

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The market is famous for its grilled exotic snacks on skewers; particularly scorpions, centipedes, crickets, seahorses, starfishes and bugs. Several stalls sell these snacks to challenge your appetite.

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I cannot imagine having a bite of these snacks though. But I can’t help admiring them all!

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These creatures are known for its rich nutrients but bland in flavour. It’s crunchy and very delicious.

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Arachnids are also served in this market. Those legs are crisp and snack-worthy. It would be a fun food adventure only if I didn’t know they’re spiders!

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The harmful toxins inside centipedes and scorpions are sucked out of them before being sold. So these food are perfectly safe! You don’t have to worry about health concerns especially that these are prepared in a clean environment.

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Have you ever dreamt of savouring snakes and eels? With the markets cheap food prices, you’ll definitely get your money’s worth.

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A variety of grilled seafood is available to be indulged by those who cannot take to try exotic snacks. Seafood in skewers heaven! Fishes, shrimps, squids, baby lobsters and royal crabs are freshly skewed and grilled right in front of you.

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Crispy shrimps! These babies are satisfying to my hungry stomach.

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Just like any other street food areas, this market sells particular parts of chicken, pork, lamb and beef; Including intestines, kidneys and other inside parts.

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And of course, the famous steamed dim sums of Chinese cuisine! Served hot and perfect for the cold night.

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Some dim sums have dog meat stuffed in it. Be sure to carefully choose when trying out some of them.

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Once all stuffed and satisfied with all the dinner you get in one night, it’s time for desserts!

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One thing you should never miss to check out is the famous “Tanghulu” or sugar-coated fruit candies. Even in other markets around the area, these sweet candies are sold on the streets at any time of the day.

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The range of food in China is as broad is its vast land. The market showcases a wide range of local desserts to satisfy a variety of sweet lovers out there!

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Buchi-looking delicacies!

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China has a lot of creativity in using flour in preparing different desserts and pastries. All are equally tasty despite the differences in flavours.

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But don’t be fooled. Some of these sweet-looking pastries are actually spicy and contains different spices on it

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The market doesn’t only appeal to the food explorers. It is also appetising to the young and the young at heart. Aside from normal skewers, fruit candies, pancakes and donuts, these fried snacks with smiley faces will surely make your little kids’ night memorable.

Beijing Tea Ceremony

As a half-blood Chinese decent, =^_~=  it’s a satisfying experience to walk on the very land where our family’s first men walked centuries ago. This will be my first blog post regarding my recent trip to Beijing focusing on my favourite thing and the second most consumed liquid in the world – TEA! ❤

To give you a bit of my background regarding my love of tea, I used to be an obsessed coffee-drinker. Hot or iced, espresso or latte, taking a minimum of five cups a day. Then my obsession suddenly stopped for half a year. Then when I had coffee again after hiatus, my body started rejecting it. It’s not the caffeine that my body starts to reject, probably some other substance that coffee has.

That life changing event made me switch to my next obsession – TEA! Yay!

To make the most out of my trip, I made sure that I never miss the opportunity to experience the famous “Chayi” or “Art of Tea”, commonly known as the tea ceremony, in the very capital of China.

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I went to the little teashop within the grounds of Temple of Heaven. It is not hard to miss. It can be found before you leave the grounds, just beside the entrance/exit gate. It’s also easy to recognise because of the round arch popular in Chinese homes and the entrance is filled with tea mugs, teapots and anything about tea!

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Tea has been part of the Chinese culture as long as history could trace back. Tea is not just a beverage or a hot drink to warm up on a winter season. The ceremony is practiced in every possible reason you could think of. May it be to pay respect, to show gratitude, to ask for an apology or to celebrate an occasion. Aside from this, tea is consumed for health purposes. Its medicinal effect is probably the secret of Asians for being slim, youthful looking skin, having long life and less health complications as they grow old.

I’m going to share with you the steps of the tea ceremony I experienced during my trip. =^_~=image

Small teapots made of clay and glass are used in a tea ceremony. They say that this is one of the secrets of a good tea because of the environment it provides when brewing.

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Since Fruit Tea is the most flavourful, tasty and very enjoyable among the teas I tried during the ceremony, I’ll be using it as the example to show you the process. Fruit tea, made of mixed dried berries and other fruits, is passed on by the tea master to be appreciated by the guests.

Fruit Tea‘s medicinal properties greatly helps in digestion and bowel movement without the painful feeling you get from readily packed and bagged diet teas in the market. After steeping this particular type of tea for 4 to 5 times (without losing its flavor), you can even eat it for snack or mix it with your cereals.

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To start the ceremony, the tea master warms up the clay teapot, teapot pitcher (glass) and tea cups by pouring boiling water inside and out, then rinsing it afterwards. This process is done on top of the tea washing tray to cure or cleanse the tools.

Once ready, loose leaf is strained in the clay teapot, covered with a lid and brewed in a specific time depending on the type of tea. While brewing, boiling water is poured over the teapot to allow it to be hot and helps in the brewing process.

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Tea is then poured on the teapot pitcher (made of glass), which is then poured on the tall and narrow cup, one of the two cups used in the tea ceremony. The guests then sniff the aroma and appreciate the quality of tea as part of the process. The other cup is then placed upside down on top of the filled cup and guests quickly flip the cups so the tea is now on the second cup. This step is believed to bring prosperity, happiness and luck to the guests.

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Finally, after a long preparation, tea can now be indulged and seconds are welcome. Teas during the ceremony are sipped slowly and its aroma is enjoyed for almost an hour before the first sip.

Sipping is also traditionally done in steps and each signifies good health for the teeth, heart and stomach. I don’t really remember all the sips though.

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Another kind of tea is the Blooming or Flowering Tea. From the name itself, this flower bud blooms when immersed in water. It’s not as medicinal as the other teas, but it is very good decoration at home.

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My next favourite is the Lychee Tea or the Litchi Black Tea .It is good for the stomach and anemia and a teaspoon can be reused for 3 to 4 times.

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 Lychee Tea can be mixed with rose petals to further enhance its flavor.

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It tastes a bit sweet and exactly like Lychee! I bought a can of it that is good for months of consumption!

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The next tea is the most medicianl tea I have ever encountered in my life. The Pu-ehr Tea (others spell it as Pu-re / Pu-re / Pu’er / Pu-reh) or Sexy Tea.  This type of tea is dried, condensed, shaped in tablets and wrapped in paper. It is a gradually fermented and matured chinese dark tea (different from Western’s black tea) for a number of years, and just like red wine, the longer it is stored and sealed in tin cans, the greater its taste would be developed. Hence, the more medicinal it would get.

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Pu-ehr or Sexy Tea is the best tea for losing weight. That’s why it is called the Sexy Tea! It is also the best tea for lowering high blood pressure, high cholesterol, controlling sugar levels of those suffering diabetes.  This tea can be brewed 7 to 8 times. Unlike the fruit teas I mentioned, this tea is bland in flavour. But because of its great medicinal effects, I think it cancels it out.

imageThe last but not the least kind of tea and is very popular worldwide is the Ginseng Oolong Tea. Popularised by Korean dramas, we all know the Ginseng is famous for treating various illnesses. Considering this fact combined with Oolong, it is easy to conclude that Ginseng Oolong Tea’s beneficial effects are doubled!

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Ginseng Oolong Tea is good for the memory, energy and kidney health. This can be brewed 5 to 6 times.

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The tea master also showed us the Pee Pee Boy. It is made of clay that is used to test if the water is hot enough for the tea ceremony. When the Pee Pee Boy pees when you pour boiling water on top of it, then it means you are ready to start. It doesn’t pee at all if you pour cold water. Amazing, isn’t it?

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