Thursday, October 28, 2010

Bann Mai Thai

Tucked in a corner of a busy intersection is a newly-renovated Thai eatery called Bann Mai Thai. According to my Grandaunt, they recently changed management hands. Hence, she decided to bring Shan Kor Kor and myself there to try them out.

The simple layout and well-spaced out furniture made the place look spacious.

Typical of Thai restaurants, they had flowers on each table, which were unfortunately, not real. Wish they were, as real flowers lend an authentic feel to the place.

Despite the quick and warm service, food was out after a long wait. We presumed the kitchen was under-staffed for that evening.

I was absolutely thrilled when the plate of mixed entree we ordered landed on the table - I could feel my gastric developing inside me.

Shan Kor Kor ordered his forever-loved chicken dish - Green Curry Chicken...

... while Grandaunt ordered a Fungi Salad (which I quite enjoyed due to its sourness)...

... and Ginger Beef (which she enjoyed!)...

As for myself, I had Pad Thai...

... and I could see so many of you go, "No, not again!" Yes, yes again because I love Pad Thai!

However, in this particular plate of Pad Thai, I found some pieces of this:

I notified the waitress and the owner offered to cook up a new dish for me, which I politely refused. They were very apologetic about it but hey, they are human, too, so why kick up a big fuss?

Otherwise, the main dishes were fine. Do give them a try to give them some encouragement (as do all new restaurants need!)

Bann Mai Thai Restaurant
294 North Road, Eastwood, NSW 2122
02 9874 8266 (Tel)
Sunday - Wednesday 5:00pm - 9:30pm
Thursday - Saturday 5:00pm - 10:00pm

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Pizza party!

A new establishment of Eagle Boys Pizza opened on Concord Road and so, we ordered pizza for Justin's farewell party!

We had the Chicken Club, which is made up of chicken, bacon, cheese, mushroom, red onion, capsicum, shaved parmesan, fresh parsley and garlic aioli swirl. This is part of their Premium Range.

Looking at all the chillies and peppers, no prizes for guessing that this is The Scorcher. Despite the spiciness, I quite enjoyed it. Ingredients include chilli, garlic, jalapenos, steak strips, pepperoni, cheese, fresh tomato and red onion.

This was my favourite, as it was not something you would normally get from other pizza parlours - Garlic Prawn. The combination of prawns, garlic, cheese, capsicum, red onion, fresh parsley and garlic aioli swirl with lemon wedges on the side was sensational! Recommended!

The Caveman is one that has BBQ sauce, steak strips, BBQ pork, chicken, pepperoni, ham and cheese. I felt that it was an upgraded version of the traditional BBQ meat pizzas.

On their Traditional Menu is BBQ Meatlovers, which is comprised of BBQ sauce, cheese, pepperoni, ham, beef and bacon.

The simplest pizza for the night was the Pepperoni. What can go wrong with just cheese and pepperoni?

Mouth-watering, right? Ring them at 1300 EAGLE BOYS or 1300 324 532. Or rather, visit their website for specials, coupons and their wide range of pizzas, which also includes fat-free selection.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Ken's Charcoal BBQ Restaurant

While I was living in Epping, we used to drive past Ken's Charcoal BBQ Restaurant very often. Strategically situated at the busy corner of Pennant Hills Road and Carlingford Road, they are hard to miss, especially at night with their red neon lights ablaze.

Walking up the stairs, we were greeted by a young chap, who showed us to the end of the rows of tables and combustion vents. Ah, good, a corner all to ourselves.

In addition to a wide array of well-marinated meat (different bulgolgis, Korean bacon, Scotch fillet, pork ribs, galbi)...

... seafood (squid, prawn, mussel, crab sticks) ...

... appetizers (fried prawn crackers, garlic bread) and Korean banchan (japchae, various kimchi, sweet potato tempura, cold sweet potato noodles, dang-myon) ...

... bibimbab...

... dessert (ice-cream, jelly, cake and fresh fruits) ...

... they also had polite and prompt service.

Just be prepared to smell like charcoal smoke at the end of your meal due to this:

To get to them, their address is Shop 101, 821-825 Pennant Hills Road, Carlingford, Sydney, NSW 2118.

They are open every day of the week, except for Tuesday. On weekdays, they are open from 5:30pm to 10:30pm. Same timing on weekends, but until 11:00pm instead.

For bookings, please call them at +61 2 9873 6856.

Ken's Charcoal BBQ Restaurant on Urbanspoon

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Changing the culture of a school

How hard is it to change the culture of a school? I have been thinking about this more recently due to studies and my recent full-time stint with Mum. Here I am, this young, innocent and naïve being thinking that she is able to ‘save the world’ with her 4-year accumulated knowledge in a foreign land. But will my degree experience be applicable?

The culture of a school has been there way before I and for me to make changes, would take some Herculean effort. Culture works both ways, as it affects us as much as we affect it. We simultaneously learn the culture we are immersed in and create new culture as we adapt and modify our mindsets. Existing perceptions and notions are always hard to overcome and change. So do we change or modify things?

I suppose, it depends on which parts of the school culture it is that we intend to change to determine if we really do require the powers of Hercules. Together with all members of our teaching team, point out the pros and cons of the school culture. Which do we want to keep and improve on? Which do we not want to keep and discourage? How are we going to achieve the outcomes and by what precursors? Whose standards are we going to abide by? Yes, we have the local state rules and the umbrella Government ones. We also have those from the various departments the school falls under. But in school, whose rules and regulations will fellow colleagues, students and we submit to?

If there are members of the teaching team who are not willing to develop the same vision and work along the same philosophies as the collective, it is suggested that they leave and allow others who do to come on board. That way, it would be a win-win situation for both sides as it would be more meaningful for everyone. There is nothing worse than feeling like there is a gun pointed to your head when going to work everyday.

Understanding the strengths and weaknesses of the teaching team would be one step to take, as well. Have a look at your hand, your fingers. Are they all the same length? No, they are not and so is your team. Every team would be made up of different people from diverse backgrounds, who, when put together and recognized for their strengths, would be able to do wonders. Reason being each member of the team would fill in for each other’s weaknesses.

Where possible, it would also be of much help if effort is put into understanding the needs and wants of the community that the school serves. There is no point in drawing up ambitious plans and visionary goals for the school if it does not relate to the children’s lives. When what the children do at school serves purpose outside of school, especially when it involves their parents’ thoughts, children would feel more motivated to attend school. Why? Simply because they feel valued. That what they do is not something totally alien. In essence, the student-teacher-parent relationship would need to be one that is respectful and understood to make things happen in a meaningful way for all involved.

To change the culture of a school, there must be some understanding of the current culture. Talk to the children and find out what are the underlying issues in the school are, get to know them and make those connections genuine. Children are experts in detecting if you are just playing up to them or if you really want to help them, teach them, change things for them.

It also helps when there is a special someone in the school or the community to guide you along. Perhaps someone like a mentor, mother hen kind of figure. That person does not necessarily need to be highly qualified – just a treasure trove of information and experience and a ready torchlight should you require some shining light. Always remember that no matter what position it is that we hold it is never not okay to ask for help. We are only human and it is human to err, to not know the answers to everything. So do not try to be Superman or Wonder Woman – go to the right resources and start off the right foot.

Friday, October 15, 2010

The other face of holiness

By Petra Gimbad

“Each contact with a human being is so rare, so precious, one should preserve it.” – Anais Nin

There I was, giving out name cards at the airport and on the plane. I had spent the week meditating with monks and nuns in Indonesia.

I thought wryly: I am not home and it is work already.

Before I boarded the plane, I met an Indonesian passenger in the waiting room who asked what work it was that I do. When I said I was an NGO worker, he asked if I could provide advice.

It was advice for his friend that he was after, not for himself – despite experiencing arrest in Malaysia a few months before. I admitted I did not know. He thanked me gracefully and disappeared.

On the plane, I found myself sitting next to a factory worker.

Both of us were were leaving Indonesia for Malaysia. I was returning home, he was returning to work. He was in love: when I asked how that was going, he did not know – it was a long-distance relationship, he had to leave her behind if he wanted to earn more. He spent the past month with his ill father who was still hospitalized.

His father was 80 years old. Hanging in the air was the unsaid: there was little time left for them, as father and son. Yet, here he was: on a plane, leaving his country.

All I could think was: my God, he is returning to work in a factory to earn money for his ailing father.

I asked frankly: Malaysia is not always kind to outsiders – we have racial issues even among our own. With the discrimination you experience, why do you return? You can farm – why not stay, plant what you eat – what is it that is worth leaving the home you already miss?

Money, he replied.

I did not know what to say.

Without much detail, he agreed that discrimination occurs and that “some workers in Malaysia are not treated very well.”

Then, he asked what I thought of my trip to Indonesia. I expressed genuine admiration for how hard the locals worked. The few days spent travelling revealed a community who tilled land and sold home-produced goods, both never-ending. Persons working in cities held several jobs with no days off.

Still – despite lacking time and money, many were versatile – singing, drumming and guitar strumming were everywhere. In one area, someone motioned to houses perched on paddy fields, saying people here build their own homes, adding a bit at a time depending on what they can afford.

I looked closer: many of the homes the locals rebuilt after the earthquake that hit a few years back had a beauty and symmetry missing in many Malaysian village houses.

This past week brought the discovery that political knowledge, a love of art, house-building ability and the wisdom of paddy planting can be contained in a single person. As I travelled, I met more of them.

The young man was a serious listener and agreed with what I said. “Yes, Indonesians work very hard. Malaysians on the other hand – give them 1, 2, days, and they complain of exhaustion.” He shook his head with disbelief.

We left it at that and spent the rest of the flight cracking jokes and laughing – talking about youthful lust, the need for affordable birth control for foreign workers and whether there was hope for Indonesia. By then, he revealed some girls at his workplace, who were originally from village areas, were pregnant due to naivette – they did whatever their boyfriends told them to do.

When we discussed the babies’ legitimacy, my question on baby selling came as no surprise to him. In case the rumours were true, I passed him contacts.

At the end, he asked whether I visited his village. I had not. We were wistful as he did not know when he would return.

Removing a package from his backpack, he explained they were sweets from his village. “They cost 1,000 rupiah, but if we can shape them into this form, they cost 15,000 rupiah.”

I protested. “It will be a long time before you go home. You will miss the taste.”

“No,” he insisted, “Take them.”

He would not hear of my paying him for them. I teared.

I was looking peace and enlightenment in a temple, and this man showed me what strength and patience is.

To that man and the many like him, I wish you well.

The writer wants to write like Pramoedya Ananta Toer when she grows up.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

The best ricotta cake ever!

When a pastry joint has a queue like this throughout the day...

... and when it is filled to the brim with patrons like this throughout the day...

... something must be utterly good about the place. Here, let me show you the crowd-puller of Pasticerria Papa:

One word: Orgasmic. Totally melt-in-your-mouth orgasm and there is no where else this side of the world where you would be able to find such sinful beauty.

I also ordered this cute-looking thing to take away:

Inside this shell of nuts sits a piece of almond in the middle. I liked the chocolate that encapsulated it, as it was not overly sweet:

I am sure the other cakes and pastries are delightful, as well, but the ricotta cake was all we were there for. Highly recommended!

They are open Mondays to Fridays from 8:00am to 6:00pm, Saturdays from 7:30am to 5:00pm and Sundays from 7:30am to 1:00pm.

They are located at 145 Ramsay Street in the Italian suburb of Haberfield, NSW.

They are also contactable through phone at +61 2 9798 6894 or +61 2 9799 9676 and fax at +61 2 9798 2054. Alternatively, you could email them at

Pasticceria Papa on Urbanspoon

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Let's do brunch at Cafe Ish

Before I go on, some house-keeping. I actually have to apologise to the owners of Cafe Ish for the following:

1) Arriving at 10:40am instead of the reserved 10:30am time slot and
2) Going on a photo-snapping frenzy without asking for permission.

So ashamed of myself for forgetting my manners. Sad.

Okay, now, to the real deal.

I first heard of Cafe Ish on Simon's blog. The photo of the ribs totally captured me and stayed in my mind. Whatever else he said did not register, which probably explains why I did not understand the dishes that made up their unique menu.

The cafe sits humbly in a conspicuous corner of the busy suburb of Surry Hills.

Walking up the concrete steps through the bright red door, I gingerly (because I was late, embarrassing you know) replied the waitress when approached that I was the 10:30am booking. She showed me to our table and I sat down obligingly. I chose the seat facing the barista, as I did not want to face the road while eating.

I like their feature wall - the one with the kitchen on the other side:

Yes, if you know me, you will know why I like the wall... haha...

I like the crisp layout of the small but well-utilized cafe, which runs a theme of white, red and grey. Each patron is able to sit comfortably to enjoy the food served.

When Audrey and Housemate came to join me after finding a spot for the car, we started with what we were there for: brunch! As part of the Crave Sydney International Food Festival, the cafe is serving a Bush-styled brekkie from 9:00am to 2:30pm on weekends for the whole of October at $25 per person.

The breakfast trifle with "lush yogurt", native berry compote and house-made muesli was promptly served first:

You could see the three layers quite obviously - the white, red and brown. Looking into the wavy glass, you could see the individual components of the compote:

I could distinguish the raisins, sunflower seeds, blueberry and I was not sure if it was the raspberry or rosella, as Monica said. But what I knew for sure is that once we stirred all that up, we could not stop eating it.

Audrey wished she could fit her face into the glass, so that she could lick it clean.Great way to start a healthy Aussie meal!

After the table was cleared, we were served their signature coffee, the wattle macca-cino, which bloggers Billy, Chocolatesuze, lifeis2munch and Monica were raving about:

By the time Audrey and I were done with photos, the coffee was reduced to a lukewarm temperature. Housemate was a little hesitant, as she is not one who drinks coffee but gave it a try, nevertheless. The verdict: Wah, this is GOOD!

A blend of wattle seeds and macadamia, hence the name of the brew, we did not need to add sugar. It was just right and a whole lot more! We absolutely LOVED it! (Note: If Housemate comments positively on a cup of coffee, that means the coffee was fantastic because she hates coffee.) Looks like Cafe Ish managed to convert her (winks).

Then came the main course of kara-age soft shell crab with avocado, shallot and lemon myrtle omelette complimented by garlic, chilli, soy and ginger dressing and watercress on the side. Oh, and a slice of lime for extra zing:

Questions flew out of our mouths: Is that chilli? Wah, it is a little big, isn't it? Can we finish this?

Of course, we can! With its extremely inviting fragrance, how can we not? I cut mine open to look for the crab:

Er, okay, not a very graceful photo of the dish, this one...

There were plenty of avocado pieces but I could not tell the crab apart from the rest of the ingredients until I bit into it. My first thought was: This sauce tastes like the Hong Kong-style chee cheong fun sold at hawker centres back home! Even more so with the sambal-like chilli that came with it. I found the sauce a little to salty for my liking but then again, it was partly my own fault for not asking for pepper or something else to balance it off. Also, being Malaysian, you would have to forgive us when we say that it was not as spicy as the bright red suggested.

I finally found a piece of the crab, which told me that it WAS a crab! No, no, I was not doubting that it was but to find two legs still intact just sent me delirious. Yes, I am weird and I am not going to apologise for that.

I enjoyed the crackling sounds made by the shallot and lemon myrtle mixed inside with the soft-shell crab, as it gave a different dimension to the sensorial experience. The avocado gave a contrasting smooth effect.

We were having a jolly good time when I commented on how creative I found the combination of Japanese and Australian fusion menu the cafe offered to be. Audrey said that it was a little of a confusion, which had me reply, "Hm, then it is a contemporary fusion!" rendering her speechless.

Will we be back to try their other offerings? Hell, yeah! Thank you, Cafe Ish, for a wonderful brunch!

Where is this creative establishment, I hear you ask?

They are at 82 Campbell Street, Surry Hills, NSW 2010. For bookings and enquiries, please dial +61 2 92811688.

Cafe Ish on Urbanspoon