Sri Lankan Hoppers - An Educational Post

When I first moved to Melbourne 5 and a half years ago from Malaysia, I didn't have any problems adjusting to this city at all! Melbourne is quite possibly one of the most diverse and multicultural cities in the world.

"In 2006, 35.8% of Melbourne's population was born overseas, exceeding the national average of 23.1%. In concordance with national data, Britain is the most commonly reported overseas place of birth, with 4.7%, followed by Italy (2.1%), Vietnam (1.6%), China (1.5%), and New Zealand (1.5%). Melbourne has the world's third largest Greek-speaking population after Athens and Thessaloniki (Melbourne's Greek sister city), and the Vietnamese surname Nguyen is the second most common in Melbourne's phone book. The city also features substantial Indian, Sri Lankan, and Malaysian-born communities, in addition to recent South African and Sudanese influxes." - Source: Wikipedia

Those stats I've copied off Wikipedia is merely an illustration of just how diverse the people living in Melbourne really are. The cultural diversity is reflected in Melbourne's restaurants serving various international cuisines. You'd also be amazed at how easy it is to find authentic ingredients from overseas in various international grocers - Asian grocers, Indian grocers, Sri Lankan grocers, Japanese grocers, Korean, Malaysian, Greek, etc... you name it, we probably got it at some part of Melbourne in a suburb somewhere.

The reason why I've started my blog post with that introduction is pretty much to explain why my posts mostly consists of exotic food you probably would never have heard of. I am a huge fan of trying new and exotic foods from other countries - and I was first introduced to Sri Lankan cuisine a few years ago, when the Sri Lankan community from our church put on a Sri Lankan feast at church to raise money for something (I can't remember now, too long ago! Possibly the extension of our church building?).

The real difference I find between Sri Lankan cuisine and Indian cuisine is in the different taste and textures of their curries. The Indians I find somehow have a creamier curry and their spices taste somewhat different to Sri Lankan spices. Sri Lankan curries are spicy with a strong kick, and less creamy, and their spices have a distinct flavor to it which I can't quite explain but I absolutely love. Sri Lankans are also big on lentils, and they also serve their breads with Dhal, very similar to Indian cuisine. Sri Lankans are also big on their side dishes e.g. pickles, chutneys and "sambols" (very similar to our Malaysian sambal?) - which usually consists of dryer things e.g. coconut or dried fish and lime juice, and these side dishes could very easily be served with rice without any curries as their flavors are enough to satisfy a family with a lower weekly budget for food expenses.

One of my favorite Sri Lankan dishes is the Hoppers. "Hoppers are made from a fermented batter of rice flour, coconut milk and a dash of palm toddy, which lends a sour flavor and fermentation ability. If toddy is not available, yeast is often used. The batter is left to rise, then cooked in a hemispherical wok-like pan. There are many types of hoppers including egg hoppers, milk hoppers, and sweeter varieties like vandu appa and pani appa." - Source: Wikipedia

Over the weekend, hubby and I went to a Hoppers Night organised by the Calvary Worship Centre in Springvale to raise money for their Student Ministry. We paid $14 for All-You-Can-Eat Hoppers. Sweet deal, right? They served up both plain hoppers as well as the egg hoppers - I especially love the egg hoppers for the gooey softness of the york in the middle which goes really well with the curries and side dishes.

I love the side dishes particularly that mix of red onions and spices which was actually the spiciest side dish of all, and I love it spicy. Combined with the dried coconut mix and Dhal, my Hoppers experience was as good as it has always been ever since I first tasted this dish a couple of years ago. The beef curry was very spicy too, and we were served super sweet cordial to go with the meal - and I soon understood why our drinks were so sweet - to counter the super spicy meal we were digging into!

So there you have it, a little "educational" post for a change. Apologies to my Sri Lankan friends if I gotten any of the terminologies wrong in this post - I blame Wikipedia for any wrong information presented, lol.

Part 4: Good Food and Wine Show Melbourne 2011 Final Recap

Poh Ling Yeow

 This year, the Good Food and Wine Show was a buzz for me because I not only get to explore the show (again) and try new things I didn't get to try last year - I also got to meet a truckload of fellow food bloggers thanks to an exclusive blogger-only briefing and sneak preview of this year's show. We were welcomed by exhibition director James Lang, as well as ABC Celebrity Chef and former MasterChef contestant Poh Ling Yeow.

Turkey Burgers

Our little "tour" began with some Mini Turkey Burgers tasting. It was a crazy rush as all the food bloggers flocked around the burgers taking photographs and people started introducing themselves to one another.

Bloggers in action

See what I mean? LOL.

After that, we were ushered into the Celebrity Theatre for our briefing, where James gave us an overview of the history of the show and Poh shared some of her experiences with her cooking show on ABC. We were then given tickets to see Gary Mehigan and George Calombaris right after the briefing. Here are some videos from Gary and George's "Celebrating The Sea" show in the Celebrity Theatre:

Gary and George telling stories before they actually cook. Gary Mehigan has never had Potato Cakes before the shooting of their little promo video before the show?! I find that hard to believe.. but I love George's cute reaction to dim sims and potato cakes and TOMATO SAUCE, lol.

George even had an epiphany while onstage...

After Gary and George's show on Friday night, I had just enough time to head off to the Twistto stall and get my dose of Twistto Potato for the year.. yummy Chicken Salt flavored Twistto Potato :p

Twistto Potatoes

The next day, on my way to check out what's happening at Malaysia Kitchen - I bumped into Callum Hann doing a cooking demo at General Traders! Did not stay to taste, but I was definitely smelling the fragrant aroma of his curry!

Callum Hann from MasterChef Australia Season 2 (Runner Up) demonstrates

After watching Allen Woo's cooking demonstration, I got hungry so my friends and I went over to the Oxford Landing Estates Show Restaurant to try some food by Celebrity Chefs Marion Grasby and Poh Ling Yeow.

8-Hr Roast Lamb by Marion Grasby

I had the 8-Hour Roast Lamb by Marion Grasby as my main, and it was nice, but it tasted a little bit greasy and the meat was tender but not melt-in-your-mouth tender but rather more "stringy" meat tender.. if that makes any sense? It was almost as if the meat was cooked for too long, or cooked in slow heat but did not have enough moisture.

Vanilla Panna Cotta with Lime Syrup by Marion Grasby

I have absolutely no intention of being harsh to Marion's delightful dishes but the Panna Cotta was a bit disappointing as well... the panna cotta texture was too gluggy like eating a really soft "tau fu fa" and lacks just that slight bit of firmness which holds the panna cotta together. The lime syrup was overpowering and the restaurant ran out of strawberries which were supposed to be served on top. 

Sago Pudding by Poh Ling Yeow

My friend had Poh's Sago Pudding and it was so delightful I had more than my fair share of a "taste", lol. The sago was perfectly formed into a dense pudding but still had that texture which tasted like the sago beads separating just slightly when you eat it. The palm sugar syrup and coconut milk gave the pudding the perfect sweet and coconutty flavors it needed. It was perfect!

Gü Choc Melting Middle Pud

Our little goodie bag from the bloggers' event the night before had VIP passes to taste the Choc Melting Middle Puds by Gü. Although fairly new in Australia, Gü is actually quite a well known dessert shop in the UK. The Gü was packed when I arrived, and everyone stared at me thinking "why does that girl get to taste the warm dessert?" lol. Luckily for ONE random person, the staff accidentally handed over MY choc melting middle pud to someone else!! That person just casually said thanks and walked away... whereas I kinda went "umm... that was for me" and the staff were very apologetic and made another one and I just had a giggle and thought it must be that random person's lucky day!

The Choc Melting Middle Pud was strangely not as sweet as you would expect from a warm chocolate dessert. It was full of chocolatey flavor, but not sweet! Which is a good thing I guess. Again, I was too full to eat the whole thing so passed it on to friends to try.

Choc Mint Mini Melts

Moving on to my next tasting... MORE desserts! This time it's Mini Melts Ice Cream. Say what?! That doesn't look like ice cream.. it looks like little chocolate chips how can that be ice cream?! Well believe it or not, you pop those "chips" in your mouth and they turn into an ice-cream texture! I had lots of these.. it was the end of the day, and the guys were pretty much giving away little mini melts shot glasses. Tasted at least 4 different flavors and love it!

Bellini Multi Chopper

My final, last minute, stop for the day was at the Bellini Multi Chopper stall. My friends have actually sold me on the idea already before the guys even began demonstrating the product so I was pretty much ready to buy, lol. Basically it is a handy little kitchen gadget which chops everything for you! Apples, pears, watermelon, tomatoes, potatoes, carrots, onions, etc. 

The blades are "squared" so you can either quickly chop steak chips sized veggies or julienne carrots! It has made my life so easy, especially chopping onions - it literally takes seconds now and I don't have to end up crying my eyes out chopping onions manually!

That is basically my little recap of the Good Food and Wine Show, including 3 previous blog posts on Malaysia Kitchen alone. I do have more photos uploaded to my Flickr album so don't forget to check that out.

Malaysia Kitchen @ Good Food and Wine Show 2011 Melbourne (Part 3: Final Recap)

I never thought I'd be blogging a 3-part blog series for Malaysia Kitchen alone! I will still need to do a full recap for the rest of the show other than Malaysia Kitchen and that is coming up next. I am so, so impressed at my fellow food bloggers who have somehow managed to "compress" everything into one single post. I'd like to believe that I tried.. but failed miserably, lol. So instead I'm going for the "small chunks" like short stories in a big book - come back tomorrow and read the new chapter!

I did, however, manage to compile ALL the best photos I took on the day into one single Flickr album. Click here to access my Flickr album: Good Food and Wine Show 2011 (Melbourne)

Team from Chai hard at work

Another highlight for me at Malaysia Kitchen was when the team from Chai prepared amazing looking Nasi Lemak styled Beef Rendang. It looked so good, but on the Friday the queue was massive and I had to rush back to work so I missed out.

Chai preparing Nasi Lemak samplers

The little tasting boat plates were beautifully assembled with a bit of fragrant coconut rice, sliced cucumbers, hard boiled egg, fried anchovies and nuts and topped with a small serving of the Beef Rendang. I was drooling... but the queue was massive. So on Day One I left feeling deprived.

Nasi Lemak by Chai - was DELICIOUS!!!

BUT! On Day Two I went back and was so happy to see that Chai is back and Beef Rendang is back! The queue wasn't overly massive, so I finally got to taste it. Was it worth it? Oh heck YES!! It was sooo worth it. The Beef Rendang was probably one of the best I have ever tasted and the flavors all blended together so well. I may be a bit biased, as Nasi Lemak is one of my most favorite dishes in the world - but it's actually quite difficult for me to like every variety of Beef Rendang. The meat has to be really tender and the flavors must have a good balance. And THIS had a great balance and amazing flavors and the beef has been cooked to the utmost tenderness! Just wished I had a whole plate of this rather than just a tiny little tasting boat plate, lol.

Teh Tarik aka "Pulled Tea"

Later that day, the team from Chillipadi took over and did a little "Teh Tarik" demonstration for me. Teh Tarik is directly translated as "Pulled Tea" which is basically just black tea with sweetened condensed milk, pulled to get that froth just before serving.

Making of the Roti

The Chillipadi gang was there to demonstrate how to make Roti but unfortunately I couldn't stick around for this as I had to rush off into the Celebrity Theatre to see Gary and George! Wish I did though... nothing quite beats the fluffiness of authentic Malaysian Roti... sigh.

Chillipadi Boys @ Malaysia Kitchen

I did however, manage to convince the Chillipadi boys to do a little "pose" for me. Hahahahaa... Malaysia Boleh :)

Malaysian Savoury Bun

As I've said at the beginning of my post (Part 1) the thing I love about the Malaysia Kitchen stall is that nothing was for sale, everything was free and to sample. Even the drinks in the fridge and at the end of the day, they were giving out Malaysian Savoury Buns but I was just too full by the end of the day to eat it. Took a really nice photo though!

Malaysia Kitchen

So that finally wraps up my Malaysia Kitchen Recap at the Good Food and Wine Show 2011 in Melbourne. Overall, I think it was a huge success for them. I think they did a good job at showcasing Malaysian cuisine to the Australian market. Melbourne itself is a multicultural city so people were more adventurous with their food and are willing to try new things. I was glad to meet some people while I was there, including a representative from Malaysia Kitchen who traveled all the way from Kuala Lumpur to be there for the weekend!

If you have any questions with regards to authentic Malaysian cuisine, please do not hesitate to drop me an email at - if I know the answer, I will be more than happy to help :)

Stay tuned for more Good Food and Wine Recap in my next few coming blog posts!

Malaysia Kitchen @ GFWS (Part 2: Allen Woo from LaksaMe Cooking Demonstration)

My day at the Good Food and Wine Show 2011, Melbourne continued with a delightful cooking demonstration by Allen Woo from LaksaMe. Allen was a great cooking demonstrator, he knew his Malaysian history and the story behind each unique ingredient as well as the story behind each dish! Look out MasterChef - this is one chef who will make sure the contestants know what they're doing if you ever have him on the show for a Malaysian cooking challenge.

Allen was a great cooking demonstrator! Look out MasterChef...

Allen's cooking demo was a lot more organised compared to Adam Liaw's demonstration on the previous day. Not only did they have all the ingredients right, Allen also had two boys helping him cook and prepare the dishes so he can focus on teaching the audience!

Allen's "boys" aka his right hand men in the kitchen

The first dish they made was the "Rojak" - which is basically a Malaysian fruit and vegetable salad but not the type of salad most people are used to! The Rojak sauce is spicy and savoury with a hint of sour, and ANYTHING goes in the fruit and vegetable salad mix - anything from freshly chopped fruits to fried tofu to beans... mixed together with the Rojak sauce and topped with crushed peanuts.

Rojak Sauce 

The Rojak sauce is black and sticky and one of the main ingredients of this sauce is "Belachan" aka dried shrimp paste which is very popular in most Malaysian dishes. I love belachan, and I love rojak :)


The end result? I was surprised by just how spicy Allen's Rojak was! I'm not used to spicy rojaks.. back in Kuching, I'm more used to stickier and sweeter sauce, and I especially love the fried tofu in it - whereas Allen did not use fried tofu in his Rojak although he did mention that he would normally chuck it in too, but not for the purpose of the demonstration on the day. Fair enough.

Allen Woo from LaksaMe demonstrates 

 The next dish was of course the Laksa, the dish LaksaMe is famous for! I love how Allen goes into story-telling mode and tried to educate us in terms of the different types of laksa available in Malaysia depending on which state. He explained how the Penang Laksa is different to the laksa from Sarawak, and that laksa in Ipoh is just called "Curry Mee" and that laksa in KL is just laksa and the difference between curry laksa and assam laksa.

Bunga Kantan - Allen's secret ingredient 

He did, however, reveal his secret ingredient in his laksa dishes - the "Bunga Kantan" aka Ginger Flower which gives the laksa a distinct flavor I have never ever tasted in my bowl of laksa. So that's what I've been missing out on!

Laksa by LaksaMe

The end result? A lovely, smooth and slightly creamy laksa... perfect comfort food for the winter. The "Bunga Kantan" definitely gave Allen's laksa a bit of a kick and I love it! Wish I won that Laksa Paste giveaway Allen did at the end of the demo... just missed out! Bahhh...

..... To Be Continued

Malaysia Kitchen @ GFWS (Part 1: Adam Liaw Cooking Demo)

Over the weekend, I went to the Good Food and Wine Show (GFWS) in Melbourne which has indeed become an annual event that cannot be missed. Not only is it right up my alley, you know, being a foodie and all.. it was also a great opportunity for me to catch up with my fellow foodie mates and meet celebrity chefs. Of course, there's the food sampling. Not only do you get to sample one of the most diverse range of food and wine you will ever find under one roof, you also get to learn new things and taste new food and see new kitchen products.

One of the new additions to the GFWS this year is Malaysia Kitchen.

Malaysia Kitchen aims to promote Malaysian cuisine in Australia, and the stall B30 features cooking demonstrations and tasting by various participating Malaysian restaurants from Melbourne. I am personally very excited for this new addition at the show. I can't help but feel proud to be Malaysian whenever I see non-Malaysians enjoy our food! Food is after all our pride and joy. We really do pride ourselves as a colorful country with a diverse culture and amazing flavors in our food!

One thing I love most about Malaysia Kitchen's stall is that it wasn't promoting any products for sale – it was purely to share knowledge of Malaysian food and give away free samples and great food tasting sessions!


My adventure began on Friday afternoon during my lunch break. Adam Liaw (MasterChef Australia Season 2 Winner) who is also a Malaysian did a cooking demonstration featuring two local Malaysian dishes aka “Ayam Kapitan” and “Seafood Char Kuay Teow”.

I thought Adam did quite a good job at representing Malaysian cooking. Although I must admit the entertainment for the day was partially contributed by the “crazy” and almost “stalker-ish” antics of the photographer...

We all had quite a giggle at this photographer's cheeky behaviour. He was constantly in Adam's face and had the curiousity of a cat. It was quite funny and entertaining to observe :)

Oh let's not deviate too far from the cooking itself. Adam took just over an hour to prepare two dishes. One which turned out great – and the other not so great due to various reasons I will explain in a minute.

The dish that turned out great was of course the Ayam Kapitan, which is a Nyonya styled Chicken dish that is sort of like a curry, but not really. Adam used wonderful flavors in this dish – ginger, galangal, turmeric, chilli, lemongrass, garlic, shallots, belachan (dried shrimp paste) and candlenuts and coconut cream for the thick and creamy consistency.

He chopped up a whole chicken into smaller pieces, the way most Malaysian chicken dishes are cooked as we Malaysians love the texture of chicken and flavors retained by leaving in the bone. Also, we Malaysians are not afraid to indulge in some chicken skin!

Adam's second dish, the Seafood Char Kuay Teow, did not go so well. To be fair on him, he did see it coming but pushed on and did his best anyway. The way I see it, it was poor planning from the organiser's side of things as Adam had to deal with these “complications”:
  • Cooking Char Kuay Teow requires a really hot, gas heat. Adam had to make do using an electric stove which takes forever to heat up and is never hot enough.
  • The wok was brand new and unseasoned. The best form of Malaysian cooking is using a good, well seasoned wok.
  • Cooking Char Kuay Teow requires, not surprisingly, Kuay Teow noodles – which are wide, flat rice noodles. The noodles supplied was flimsy Pad Thai noodles in a packet. It was doomed to fail. I know from first hand experience of trying to cook CKT using Pad Thai noodles that it is very, very easy for it to turn soggy and break before you're even close to finishing cooking the dish.
  • Adam needed fresh prawns for the best results with this dish. He was given cooked prawns to work with.
  • Another important element of this dish is the crunchiness of bean shoots to finish it off just before serving. Adam was NOT given bean shoots. I feel sorry for that Char Kuay Teow, lol.
So basically, Adam did the best he could given the circumstances. For your viewing pleasure, he is a video of Adam Liaw showing us how NOT to cook a Char Kuay Teow.

Afterwards, Adam was kind enough to stick around for photos for the crazy photographer (lol) and his fans. Here are some paparazzi photos:

And guess who decided to make an appearance! Poh Ling Yeow, MasterChef Season 1 Runner Up who now has her own cooking show on ABC, her own cookbook and overall one of the more successful post MasterChef contestant!

Poh had a big laugh because crazy photographer told them both to "touch heads" LOL.

She wore a cute outfit on the day and was the loveliest, sweetest most humble person ever. We love you Poh :)

..... To Be Continued