Les Nourritures //Food #122016

Bringing back memories from December 2016 through my food diary.

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Dear all, I hope 2017 has been treating you well! So far, my January looks something like this:

  • I welcomed the New Year with my family in our cozy home. There was plenty of talking and snacking.
  • I celebrated birthdays, went on a day trip and spent quality time with my dearest friends.
  • I find that I’m better at letting go (still learning!).
  • I visited my relatives from both sides of the family.
  • I got my health checked. There were good and bad news but nothing I can’t handle.
  • I’m getting better at pampering myself (self-love is crucial!).
  • I finally got my workaholic mojo back. It has been gone for the past year and I miss it.
  • I thought I’d fail in restricting food that’ll contribute to an increase in cholesterol but I’m doing surprisingly well. I really hope this lasts. Come on self-control! Come on willpower! YOU CAN DO THIS!

This post is supposed to go up early January but I spent most of my time back home doing things I don’t get to do often. If you’re an international student like me, then you know what I’m talking about. There was plenty of shopping (only the necessities as they’re usually cheaper in Malaysia), movies, catch up sessions, cleaning…

No fear though, December 2016’s food diary is finally here.

 

Week 1

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Stir fry chicken with broccoli and carrots.
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Beef mixed with carrots, pumpkin and spinach with a side of yogurt. I used a dash of pepper and some dried chili for seasoning (the beef dish not the yogurt).

To be honest, November 2016 wasn’t the healthiest month for me. I had quite a lot of sweets, burgers, fried chicken and snacks. Since I’ll be eating a lot of local food when I’m back in Malaysia (mostly unhealthy as well), I decided to treat my body with nutritious food two weeks before I board the plane.

My mum used to stir fry spinach with garlic or make spinach soup. When I cook for myself, I tend to only stir fry spinach with garlic or ginger. So far, I’ve never tried cooking spinach in another way and needless to say, I got bored of it really quickly.

So I decided to try something different.

I came across a recipe that uses beef and spinach as the main ingredients. Since I cook in bulk, I like to add more ingredients to my dishes so that they could last me for a few days. In this case, I added carrots and sweet potatoes to the original recipe and I have to say I quite like the final result.

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Paella

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When summer rolls around, food stalls will be set up at the Queen Victoria Market in preparation for the Summer Night Market that runs every Wednesday. In the first week of December, R and I got some friends to join us for an eating spree at the market. We had paella, roasted turkey legs, New York waffles and ice cream. The paella was disappointing (I don’t remember the name of the stall) but the other food we had were decent.

The weekend has arrived and it’s time for another food adventure!

After spending some time on Google, R and I decided to venture out to Collingwood and have lunch at Rockwell and Sons. The service was prompt and the place has a hipster vibe to it. R got the Double Patty Smash Burger (with Kraft, special sauce, seeded bun and bacon) while I got the Black Bean Burger (with Jazz sauce, pepper jack cheese and pickled green tomato). We also shared the Pork Crackling (with BBQ salt and Kimchi mayo) and Hand-cut French Fries (with malt vinegar mayo). That was my first time trying a vegetarian burger and as someone who likes a good meat burger, it was actually really good! R loved his burger (he said “So good” a billion times) and don’t get me started on the Kimchi mayo.

Just a heads up, Rockwell and Sons tend to get really busy at night so it’s probably wise to reserve a table if you’re going to have a family gathering or a night out with your mates. Also, if you’re looking for a new burger place to try, I highly recommend this place. You’ll want to come back again and again!

*One word of advice though, if you’re already having a burger yourself, only get one side to share. Two was definitely too much for us (and we’re not small eaters!).*

 

Week 2

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I had some leftover beef from last week so I included the rest in this week’s dish. After that sinful feast at Rockwell and Sons, I tossed together some white cabbage, tomatoes, broccoli and beef for a homely meal. For seasoning, I used garlic, red onions and a bit of salt. Once I finished this batch, I made another using drum sticks instead of beef. If you’re wondering what’s on top of the vegetables, it’s the famous Lao Gan Ma spicy chili crisp. I first heard about this through M’s Chinese friends. They told me if I love spicy I should give it a go. I did and this is my verdict: it’s great because it adds great flavor to any dish but don’t expect it to be spicy.

I heard you could even spread it on bread like jam. I’ve tried it and it’s really quite good! No kidding!

Good fats are great for those with high cholesterol. Hence, I’ve been trying to increase my intake of salmon for the past few months. I used to hate salmon when I was younger because I feel that the meat is too dry. Maybe the salmon in Malaysia isn’t that fresh or maybe it has something to do with the cooking method. However, when I was an undergraduate, I included salmon in my diet because I know they’re good for me, not because I like it. I’ve made different versions of it but I always come back to pan fried salmon with herbs and salt. Also, I’ve learnt that if I want my salmon to be juicy, I shouldn’t leave it on the pan for too long.

And just like that, I’ve fallen in love with salmon again.

Since I’m leaving Melbourne the week after, I decided to have dinner at the Summer Night Market on Wednesday. As soon as I got there, I made a beeline for The Cypriot Kitchen. The reason why I wanted to try their food was because they don’t actually have a physical store like the rest of the vendors. If I missed it, I won’t be able to try their food when the night market is over.

I ordered the chicken souvlaki with chips and I thought it was alright. The bread was freshly made and the combination of cheese and fries was great. The only problem is that the chicken could be juicier. Nonetheless, I have no regrets.

Last week, R and I came across a new Mexican place after our meal at Rockwell and Sons. We had a quick peek inside Hotel Jesus and immediately knew that we’d come back to try. The interior looks nothing like the other Mexican restaurants we’ve been to (but then again, we’ve never been to many). It actually feels like you’ve stepped into a restaurant in Mexico

Over the weekend, we invited a small group of friends to hang out and we chose to dine at Hotel Jesus. I love eating food from other cultures so I was really excited.

We ordered a variety of things to share: tostadas, tacos, tortas and more. Personally I think everything tasted great and the ingredients used were all really fresh. Even R and J (who is from Mexico City) said the food was authentic. However, I think the portion size is too small to share and the food is a bit overpriced. That said, Hotel Jesus is the perfect venue for light eaters and for those who want some snacks. It’s also great if you and your friends are planning to drink, but want to try something different.

*The Smoked Diablo Mezcal is the bomb! And this is coming from someone who doesn’t fancy alcohol.*

 

Week 3

dscf3801Final week in Melbourne! And that means using up all perishable food to prevent waste. In times like these, it’s quite impossible to whip up something fancy for the camera. So all I had for lunch this week was broccoli, chickpeas, tomatoes and avocado. I topped it off with some Sriracha sauce and nutritional yeast. Simple and yummy!

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Auction Rooms Cafe
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Grilled eggplant: stuffed paratha bread, freekeh + brown rice salad, smoked hummus, preserved lemon, poached egg

When you finish all your food and you don’t want to shop for more, what would you do? Grab a friend and have a spontaneous catch up session at a brunch place! I’ve heard good things about Auction Rooms Cafe at the beginning of 2016 and I wanted to go there for the longest time. Even though it’s located close to where I live, there’s always something that prevents me from visiting this place. Usually it’s the price or the people I’m with. Brunch in Melbourne is expensive and I often tell myself I’m better off spending that money somewhere else. Also, I tend to go with other people’s preferences. That is why I never get the chance to drop by until the end of 2016.

But better late than never right?

Auction Rooms Cafe has an industrial look as its foundation is made up of mostly bricks and metal. However, the accents of wood, glass as well as the soft lighting in the background bring out the hygge vibe within this space.

M and I talked about the things graduates have to face in the real world and our future plans. The experience was made better by the grilled eggplant dish I was having. There was so much flavor! I get sweet (pomegranate), savory (eggplant, hummus and bread) and bitter (rocket) one after the other and sometimes all at once. I felt really satisfied after the meal.

M got herself the banana and walnut loaf (espresso mascarpone, banana yoghurt and coffee crumb). I had a little bite and I thought it was nice. However, the serving size maybe too much for one person. Sweet things can fill you up really quickly especially when you don’t have a big appetite in the morning. The best solution is probably to share or to swap dishes with your friend or partner (half way through the meal) so you don’t overeat and you get to try two dishes in one visit.

 

Week 4

I packed my bags and took the plane back to Malaysia. I remember feeling happy, excited and relaxed on board because

1. I get a break from my part time job and

2. I get a chance to plan and get myself back on track for 2017.

 

As always, I hope you enjoyed this food diary and to all Chinese readers and bloggers out there, HAPPY CHINESE NEW YEAR!

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I Was Wondering About…{Perfumes // The Basics}

The memory of my mum’s perfume lingers even after 20 years. The fragrance is sweet, but it can be overwhelming if too much is applied. When I was younger, I refused to separate from my mum. Since she had to carry me everywhere she went, it’s no surprise that her signature perfume was etched in my memory. The rich floral scent belongs to none other than Dior’s Poison, to which I associate comfort, security and motherly love with.

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Introduced in 1985, it contains notes of amber, honey, berries and spice.

I don’t know about you but I’m drawn to certain people simply because of the scent they’re wearing. It doesn’t happen very often but when it does, I tend to remember every detail: the location, the people I was with, what we talked about etcetera.

About 3 years ago, I went out with my newly acquainted university friends for a spontaneous dinner. When Amelia and I got to the tram stop to meet the rest of the gang, we greeted everyone who came and did a group hug. That was when I caught a whiff of cologne that made me question how this one guy could smell so darn good. From that day onwards, I longed to be around him just so I could smell his cologne.

I’m a fan of perfumes but I have no knowledge of its history. The Egyptians were the first to create them and perfumes were mainly used in religious ceremonies, burial preparations and daily wear. The Egyptian elites wear scents such as lily to signify their status within the society. The Persians, on the other hand, use perfume as a sign of political status. In 1190, perfumes were produced commercially in Paris which eventually developed into a huge industry.

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The Egyptians used to mix ointment, balms and essential oils to create a desired scent. But now, the process is much more complicated. Desired scents are either mixed with ethanol or ethanol and water. True perfume may contain up to 40% of scent material while Eau de Parfum contains only up to 20% of scent material. The difference in concentration dictates the strength of the perfume:

  • True perfume (40% scent material)
  • Esprit de Parfum (30% scent material)
  • Eau de Parfum (20% scent material)
  • Eau de Toilette (<15% scent material)

The most common fragrance families are floral, chypre, oceanic, citrus, fruit and gourmand. Although essential oils of plants, animals and seaweed were used in the past (and in some modern all-natural perfume manufacturers), synthetic scents are more popular today. This is because some plants such as lily of the valley don’t produce oil naturally. It also allows perfumers to create unique scents (the scent of Calone has hints of ozone and metal) and reduce animal harvesting.

So far, I’ve touched on the history, the types of perfume as well as the common scent categories. But how are perfumes manufactured?

a) Collection

  • Plants are harvested and hand-picked from around the world while animal products are obtained by extracting the fatty substances from the animal. Synthetic perfumes are created in the lab by perfume chemists.

b) Extraction

There are 5 ways in which essential oils are extracted.

  1. Steam distillation: Steam is passed through plant material, turning oil into gas. It is then cooled and liquefied. Boiling plant substances is another way to extract oils.
  2. Solvent extraction: The flowers are placed in rotating tanks and benzene or a petroleum ether is poured over them. Once a waxy material is obtained, it is placed in ethyl alcohol. Heat is then used to evaporate the alcohol, leaving a higher concentration of perfume oil.
  3. Enfleurage: Flowers are spread on glass sheets coated with grease. These sheets are place between wooden frames so that the grease can absorb the flower’s fragrance.
  4. Maceration: Similar to enfleurage but instead of grease, warmed fats are used to soak up flower’s fragrance. The grease and fats are dissolved in alcohol to obtain the essential oils.
  5. Expression: The oldest and least complex method of extraction, the fruit or plant is manually or mechanically pressed until all the oil is squeezed out.

c) Blending triple-max-ton

  • After the perfume oils are collected, they are blended together according to formulas determined by the ‘nose’ (the expert in perfumery).

d) Aging

  • Fine perfume is often aged for several months or years after it’s blended. The nose will test the perfume to ensure the correct scent is achieved.

The biological significance of perfume use and individual’s preference for specific scents aren’t clearly understood. Contrary to the idea that perfume is used to mask natural body odor, Daly and White (1930) suggest that it’s used to heighten and strengthen natural odor. But what makes you choose Kenzo’s L’Elixir over Dior’s J’adore? The answer may lie in our major histocompatibility complex (MHC)-correlated odor preferences (Vollrath and Milinski, 1995).

The MHC is a large chromosomal region that contains highly polymorphic genes that play a central role in controlling immunological self and non-self recognition. MHC diversity is said to be maintained by pathogen interactions and inbreeding avoidance mechanisms (Penn and Potts, 1999).

It was found that mice and humans prefer potential mates that have different MHC from their own (Egid and Brown, 1989; Yamazaki et al., 1976, 1978, 1983, 1994). In a double-blind study, women (who aren’t using contraceptive pill) prefer the odor of t-shirts worn by MHC-dissimilar men to those with more similar MHC-genotype. The same behavior was demonstrated by men too (Wedekind et al., 1995). This makes sense because the preference for MHC-dissimilar partners will increase MHC heterozygosity of an individual’s offspring (Brown, 1997).

In Milinski and Wedekind’s study, 137 male and female students who had been typed for their MHC (HLA-A, -B, -DR) scored 36 scents in a first test for use on self (“would you like to smell like that yourself?”) and a subset of 18 scents 2 years later either for use on self or for a potential partner (“would you like your partner to smell like that?”). The result showed a significant correlation between the MHC and the scorings of the scents ‘for self’ in both tests. The people who share the same type of MHC also tend to have similar preference for perfume ingredients. The study concludes that perfumes are used to help us reveal our immunogenetics and the MHC genotype can influence our choice of fragrance.

Remember that guy I met 3 years ago? The one who smells really good? Funnily enough, we ended up being more than friends.

The cologne he wore that night was Montblanc’s Starwalker.

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Created in 2005, it carries hints of mandarin, bergamot, nutmeg, white musk, amber, sandalwood, cedarwood, bamboo and ginger.

I currently own Chanel’s No. 5, but there are a couple of scents I want to try in the future. After all, having more than one bottle of perfume provides an individual the freedom to mix things up according to mood and occasion.

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Do you have a signature scent? Which one is associated with your favorite memory? Let me know in the comment section!

Want more? I got you covered!

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Wearing What’s On Your Mind

Everyone has their own puzzles to put together on a daily basis.

What kind of dresser are you? Do you pick an outfit 5 minutes before you head out or do you spend hours planning what to wear the day before? Does the weather app decide if you will show up in a maxi dress or in a combination of sweater and jeans?

Whenever I see a stranger or a friend wearing something unique, loud, mismatched or just plain simple, this question automatically comes to mind: What were they thinking?

“I have a feeling I might bump into someone important today…”

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District of Chic
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Cuillere A Absinth
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Modern Legacy
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The Rue Collective

“Hmmm how to make things interesting? Details and contrasting textures will do the trick.”

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“Keyword for today is comfort.”

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Modern Legacy
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Trop Rouge
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The Rue Collective

“It’s time to take these fancy things out for a spin.”

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Strateas Carlucci

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Trop Rouge

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The Rue Collective

What went through your mind when you dress yourself today?

 

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