Sunday, September 28, 2014

Flavours of Malaysia at The Grace Hotel | Sydney

The Grace Hotel is hosting Flavours of Malaysia, a culinary celebration of Malaysia for a limited time from now to 12 October 2014. The Grace Brasserie on 77 York Street, Sydney has been transformed into an aromatic hub with the help of four Malaysian chefs who have prepared the menus and have been flown in from Kuala Lumpur especially for the event.

Malaysian food has no boundaries, being the universal language that connects people from different race and ethnicity. Many people from various cultures in Australia and overseas attended the opening launch last week and one thing that struck me was how generous, courteous and warm the people were. There were lots of exchanges of gifts. It was an enjoyable evening with wonderful people I had not met before. The food and people made the night and it goes down as one of the best opening launch nights I've ever been to.

Head Chef Tan Kok Siong and his team highlight specialty dishes from Kedah, Kuala Lumpur, Penang and Perak. Guests will enjoy well-loved local recipes, authentic specialties and traditional food of the regions all in a decadent buffet style. This buffet will be available for lunch from Tuesday to Friday as well as Sunday and dinner on Friday and Saturday nights. 

I was fortunate to dine in with my guest Emily Loo from Season 6 of Channel 10's MasterChef Australia 2014 last Saturday evening after the Mercedes Benz Fashion Festival Sydney 2014. Emily Loo is known as the Spice Queen among family and friends and celebrated for her signature dish, Sarawak laksa. Her Malaysian-Chinese heritage brings with it plenty of flavour and Emily’s well-honed spice appreciation. Emily felt right at home at The Grace Hotel with the Flavours of the Malaysia buffet and labelled the buffet as a delicious and a very authentic reflection of traditional Malaysian cuisine.

Emily Loo MasterChef 2014 dined as a guest at the Flavours of Malaysia buffet at The Grace Hotel. But her home is the kitchen and more so if it's Malaysian cuisine. Her verdict...a deliciously authentic Malaysian buffet.

Flavours of Malaysia Food festival will serve an array of exotic, succulent, spicy and aromatic dishes over the two week food festival. Lunch and dinner will be served buffet style in the historic Grace Brasserie. Some of the food that will be served includes:

Soto Ayam (Chicken Herbs Spices Soup with Rice Cake, Chicken Minced & Potato Diced) -Penang


Nasi Putih (Steamed Rice)
Mee Siam (Fried Vermicelli Rice Noodles with Chili Paste & Dried Shrimp)
Rendang Tok (Beef Cooked in Grated Coconut & Coconut Milk)
Ikan Kari (Fish with Lady Finger in Curry Sauce)
Udang Tumis Petai (Prawn Sambal with Petai)
Tau Fu dengan Chili (Fried Bean Curd with Chicken Minced & Chili)
Sotong Goreng Garam Kunyit (Fried Squids in Turmeric and Salt)
Sambal Nanas (Pineapple in Sambal Sauce)


Roti Canai dengan Sayur Dhall dan Sambal Bawang (Roti Prata with Dhal Vegetable & Chili Paste Sauce)
Mee Udang Penang Style (Prawn Broth with Spicy Gravy) -Penang
Chicken & Beef Satay with Condiments

The Grace Hotel Sydney FLAVOURS of MALAYSIA FOOD FESTIVAL will run from
25th September – 12th October 2014.

For bookings, call 02 9272 6670 or email:

Pricing and further details:

$38* lunch buffet, Tuesday to Friday (12:00pm – 2:00pm)
$48* dinner buffet, Friday and Saturday only (6:00pm – 9:00pm)
$48* lunch buffet, Sunday (12.30pm-2.30pm)

Grace Brassiere - Level 2, The Grace Hotel, 77 York St, Sydney NSW 2000.
*Price is per person 


The Flavours of Malaysian buffet would not be possible without their wonderful sponsors: The Grace Hotel, Tourism Malaysia, Malaysia Airlines, Ayam Brand 


Sunday, September 14, 2014

Pasta Di Porto: Fine Italian Pasta | Port Stephens

Time to cook dinner. With The Lavazza Italian Film Festival 2014 coming up in Sydney (18 September -12 October) and around the major Australian capital cities, I feel like cooking pasta....but not any pasta. I'm cooking Pasta Di Porto's Eggplant Fresh Herb and Pecorino Ravioli freshly delivered by the lovely Domenica and Peter's multi award winning artisan pasta range, all the way from Anna Bay in NSW's Port Stephens on the north coast.

What makes Pasta Di Porto exceptional? This is no supermarket brand. They have an uncompromising commitment to freshness and quality. Pasta Di Porto's pastas are authentic handmade Southern Italian cuisine requiring minimal cooking time. I'm talking about 5 min pasta. It's quick and fresh for busy people like me. Pasta Di Porto's quality and freshness is seriously second to none. Pasta Di Porto supplies their pastas to several restaurants in the Hunter Valley, Port Stephens, and Newcastle area and do have their own trattoria/cafe they run on the side as well as caters for functions.

This is the final result from cooking Pasta Di Porto's Eggplant Fresh Herb & Pecorina Ravioli for dinner.

Pasta Di Porto 's passion for cooking and influence from her father shines right through in the quality of her pasta on my plate - traditional yet adding her own twist. You can have Pasta Di Porto a number of ways.

Domenica of Pasta Di Porto likes to have her ravioli in a simple way e.g. burnt butter sauce with blanched cherry tomatoes, a clove of fresh garlic and a toss of baby spinach. I wanted to try a new 'best bolognese sauce' recipe from which had chilli and red wine as an ingredient so cooked that up to see what it was like. Why not experiment? So delicious altogether! I think it's the red wine.

I used the same Bolognese Sauce for Pasta Di Porto's fresh egg spaghetti for lunch the following day, which cooks in 3 minutes. Quick, easy, fresh!

Pasta Di Porto's shop is in Anna Bay on the north coast of Sydney but they occasionally make the trip to Sydney to stock their pasta in fine food stores.

Contact Domenica at Pasta Di Porto for further details (Instagram @dompastadiporto).

This is seriously THE BEST pasta I have ever tasted and the list of double digit awards and medals from The Sydney Royal Fine Food Show says it all.

Sunday, September 7, 2014

The King and I Musical: Interview with cast Jenny Liu | Sydney Opera House

When I heard The King and I was coming to Sydney I had the chills. With a brilliant cast, vibrant costumes, the best performance stage you can get – the Sydney Opera House, Rogers and Hammerstein’s music, provoking themes and a captivating story, I just knew this musical is going to be one of those performances that will soar. Don’t wait for my review just go and get tickets and see it!

I was fortunate enough to catch up with one of the cast members and soprano, Jenny Liu for a brief interview. Jenny Liu plays Tuptim in The King and I.

Repost from Instagram

But firstly a bit about the story…

Did you know The King and I is based on a true story? The musical itself is based on the 1944 novel Anna and the King of Siam which in turn was based on the memoirs of Anna Leonowens, governess to the children of King Mongkut of Siam in the early 1860s. Siam was the old name for what is known as Thailand today. The musical plot centres around the foreign journey and experiences of Anna, a British schoolteacher hired as part of the King’s drive to modernise his country. The relationship between Anna and The King is marked by conflict, as well as by a love that neither can admit nor have. The story explore themes of equality (a theme that also came through in a song 'You've Got to Be Carefully Taught' in another Rogers and Hammerstein musical) and the portrayal of a king as a forward thinking individual who is seeking to modernising his family, and his people so that they can be recognised in the world, but struggles with how he could join the company of the western world without losing the rich history and culture of his beloved Siam, without alienating his people who were not prepared to give up their simple but treasured way of life - a theme that probably is still relevant in some parts of the world today.

Repost from Instagram @kingandiau
About Soprano Jenny Liu

Jenny Liu plays the character Tuptim in The King and I. Tuptim is a lovely slave girl and a ‘gift’ to the King, to be one of his many wives, from the King of Burma. Without giving too much away, Tuptim’s character becomes significant in the story as her fate in the story is the issue over which Anna and the King finally find themselves in a confrontation over which neither is prepared to back down.

An emerging award winning bright young talent on the Australian stages, Soprano Jenny Liu has completed a Bachelor of Music Performance at the Sydney Conservatorium of Music, and is currently completing an Advanced Diploma of Opera, studying under Maree Ryan, Chair of the
Vocal Studies and Opera Unit. In each year from 2008-2011, Jenny has been awarded the highly prestigious Helen Myer Merit Scholarship. Jenny has been a finalist in the Dame Joan Sutherland and Richard Bonynge Scholarship in 2007 and 2009, winning the Marja Baudish award in 2009. In 2012, she was a semi finalist in the Australian Singing Competition and won the Ingrid Davidson Award and The Radzyminski Family Prize. She is a finalist in the Australian Opera Foundation German Scholarship. Jenny has sung the role of Susanna in Le Nozze di Figaro, and has performed Carolina in Il Matrimonio Segreto, Diane in Orpheus in the Underworld, and Serpina in La Serva Padrona. Jenny has also had the pleasure of performing as the soprano soloist oratorios including Carmina Burana under the baton of Richard Gill, Handel’s Messiah and Mozart’s Requiem in D minor, as well as the world premieres of Matthew Orlovich’s Communion of Reparations, and the role of Sylvia Plath in Telling the Truth. An impressive track record for someone so young!

I caught up with Jenny Liu to talk about her musical career, inspirations and aspirations in music.

#1 How did your love of music begin?

Music has always been a part of my life – my grandparents bought me a piano when I was four years old so that’s when my music education began. I was always singing and dancing as a kid and not much has changed! I love that music is something that all people can relate to - it transcends time and culture and can affect you so strongly. And at the end of the day, when I sing I get a big smile from the inside and I know I’m doing something that makes me truly happy.

#2 The King and I first premiered in Broadway in the 1950s. What is it about The King and I that makes people continue to relate to it even to this day?

I think that not only is it a beautifully written show, but also that the story is something most people can relate to, regardless of their age. The central plot of Anna and the King learning from each other, even if reluctantly to begin with, is the kind of tolerance and acceptance of change that everyone deals with in their lives. Then there’s the heartbreaking story of Lady Thiang who knows her husband loves Anna but remains completely devoted to him. And of course the younger audience members all hope for a happy ending for the young lovers! Add into that mix some hilarious dialogue and breathtaking choreography and it’s no surprise this show is still so popular!

#3 Which is your favourite musical and why?

I do have a soft spot for West Side Story. Romeo and Juliet with beautiful music? Yes please.

#4 What have you learnt from the tour so far?

I’m very privileged to be able to tour with people like Lisa McCune, Teddy Tahu Rhodes, Shu-Cheen Yu and Lou Diamond Phillips because they have such a wealth of experience and knowledge and I’ve learnt a great deal just from observing their performances. Things such as stagecraft and character development that you don’t get a chance to really learn until you’re performing, not to mention how to pace the eight show weeks.

#5 I heard your performance in The King and I was the first time your grandparents heard you sing. How did they react when they heard you for the first time?

They haven’t seen it yet. The first time they will hear me sing will be in the Sydney Opera House! Needless to say it’s very exciting – not a bad place for a first performance!

#6 Where do you hope to see your next role?

I would love to sing the lead role in Massenet’s opera, Manon some day. That would be my dream role.

An acclaimed production that is rich in story, themes, talent, costumes and culture, The King and I offers a refreshing and more sophisticated alternative to the standard panoply of special effects that dominate most shows and cinemas today. The King and I is guaranteed to be a visual tapestry to stimulate your senses. Go and see it!

Tickets are available from

Photos from Red Carpet opening night for The King and I Musical on 11 September 2014 at the Sydney Opera House


Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Sweet Alma Handmade Traditional Toffee | Canberra

Sweet Alma’s Handmade Traditional Toffees are pretty exceptional. I got them on Friday and they are ALL GONE! Not only because they are deliciously addictive, smells delightful when you open the packet, are handmade from all natural ingredients with no artificial colours or flavours, makes awesome gifts for friends, families or special events... but also because there is an incredible story behind them and their creator Emma Shaw, straight from the heart of our nation’s capital Canberra.

Emma grew up with these toffees as a kid. Her mum always made them for her birthday parties, in little patty pans. Emma absolutely loved them, as they're the type of toffee you can suck on for hours. Emma knew this recipe as her mum's grandma's recipe (Emma's great-grandma Alma Kennedy, the original Sweet Alma). However, Emma was chatting to her grandma about the recipe just the other day, and her grandma told her that the recipe was actually HER grandma's recipe (Emma’s great-great-grandma Ada Macleod), and that it came out from Scotland. So five generations of women have made this toffee, and quite possibly more!

Emma’s grandma also told her the following story about her experience of the toffee as a kid...

It was WW2. Australia was on strict rationing and a week's worth of butter was just a quarter of a pound. My grandma was a child then, growing up in Clovelly, Sydney. Each Tuesday she and her brother would race home from school, wondering if their grandmother had baked for them. If there was a brown paper package on the mantelpiece, which there most often was, they were in luck. Grandma Ada had used her entire butter ration to make her famous butterscotch toffee just for them.

I love how a little bit of family history can be retained and passed on for generations.

The Macadamia toffee is delicious and with the nuts in it, I was in a dilemma as to whether I should suck or chew it. My mind tells me to go slow and suck it. My mouth tells me to chew it. The toffee is truly a delicious crunchy caramel that's buttery sweet (but not too sweet). The nuts are hand roasted by Emma. Love the red, blue and white logo...representation of the colours of the Australian flag!

These toffee pieces make perfect gifts or just as a treat, and are made from all-natural ingredients with no artificial colours or flavours. Ingredients include raw sugar, butter, macadamias, malt vinegar.

Such a delightful treat!

Where to get them?

or you may be lucky enough to find Sweet Alma in the markets in Canberra (eg Old Bus Depot Markets in Kingston, Canberra)