Tuesday 27 November 2018

Wah Wah Gee, Geelong Asian Restaurant

A couple of weekend ago we had a family birthday dinner at Wah Wah Gee in Geelong with my parents, siblings and niblings.  Wah Wah Gee has loads of space, a huge menu, and caters well to different dietary requirements.  I really love a place with mocktails, and the dishes just seemed to keep coming with lots of delicious dumplings and vegetables.  We were so full by the time we left.

Firstly let me tell you that I am trying to stop myself typing Wah Wah Nee, the 1980s band best remembered for their big hair, whom I assume inspired the name of this restaurant, but please forgive any typos.  Wah Wah Gee is at the end of Cunningham Pier in Geelong, where the old train tracks speak of its industrial past.

Being on the piers, the views are spectacular.  Not being locals, we firstly went upstairs to the Wah Bah (not realising there were two different Wah places) and had to be waved down to the lower entrance by my sister.  It did give us a great view of the Geelong waterfront including the Christmas tree in the top right of the above photo.

Wah Wah Gee had quite a few different sort of spaces.  I liked this area outside (above) with the painted wall and hanging seats (not in photo).  The restaurant will happily fit a few large groups. 

We sat at a large table inside under a giant picture of Bob Marley.  To get a sense of how large it was, you can see the top of Sylvia's heard just under his chin above.

The staff were very accommodating, albeit a bit slow at times because the place was busy.  We booked for 14 and ended up with 17 so we got more knifes and forks and squished in more chairs.

We started with drinks and I was delighted to find mocktails on the drinks menu.  My nephew ordered the Hot Like a Sunrise.  It had orange, cherry and lemonade in it.  There was a little red down the bottom but my angle wasn't right to feature it.  I didn't taste it but he enjoyed it.

I chose the Ginger Delights, which was quite similar to a Virgin Mojito.  With ginger beer, soda, mint and fresh lime, it was lovely and refreshing.  Sylvia had a raspberry lemonade.

Then we had the difficult task of ordering for 17 people, some of whom had not arrived, with celiacs and vegetarians among us.  We ordered 4 of the Feed Me meals, one of them vegetarian and I think one of them gluten free.  Then we ordered some more dishes.  In the chaos of dish after dish arriving on our table, it was a bit confusing trying to work out what came as Feed Me dishes and what was ordered separately.

Wah Wah Nee has a large menu and then has different dietary versions.  I got the vegetarian menu, so all the yellow highlights were vegetarian.  (You can see other dietary menus online.)  I found it an odd way to do the menu if you have some different dietary requirements in the group.  I could see what was vegetarian but could not see if my celiac sister could also order it.  I much prefer a v or gf after the menu item.  But kudos for all the options for those with dietary restrictions.

We had a long long wait for any food to arrive.  The kids were starting to get ratty.  Sylvia was asking me to ask the waitress when.  Finally she had her edamame.  Then her shoestring fries.  I didn't realise til the end of the dinner it has chilli salt.  The kimchi aioli, however, was universally rejected by the kids in favour of tomato sauce.  Sylvia also had some crispy tofu.  I had expected more of a batter but Sylvia enjoyed it and said it was crispy.

Finally our food arrived.  This KFC (Korean Fried Cauliflower) with Korean veganaise and lime was really really good.  My mum wanted us to save some for my brother who was off picking up my niece and it was so hard to let it sit there.  It is really nicely seasoned and crispy without tasting ridiculously salty and overseasoned like the Colonel's secret herbs and spices do.  (Seems I will never be able to forget the taste of Kenchuky Fried Chicken.)  It was also really easy to eat with fingers.

The vegetable dumplings with amino seeds and black vinegar dressing were not finger food.  We needed cutlery for these soft slippery drippy dumplings.  They were delicious.  I really loved the seeds on top.  My 6 year old niece ate the coriander!

Wah Wah Gee loves their bao.  Everyone else had bao that was like a piece of bao folded around the filling.  There were two vegetarian bao and I think we had the vegetarian traditional bao with cabbage and carrot.  (I feel a little sad we didn't get the one with crispy eggplant, kimchi and spring onion.  However I am not a huge Bao fan.  It seems very trendy but perhaps I am still waiting for the bao with amazing vegetarian filling to really appreciate it.)

This was the end of the starters and we were pretty full by now.  Then they cleared out plates, brought out bowls of rice, some roti, a fish curry and some great sides

I was really pleased I had ordered the Slaw with sesame chilli vinegar and toasted salted peanuts.  There wasn't heaps of protein for me so the peanuts went down well for nutrition as well as taste.  I had a few helpings.

Last but by no means least was this delicious Maple soy glazed roast chats with spring onion
fried shallots on top.  Soy and maple syrup is something I might put together at home but not a flavour combination I am familiar with in restaurants.  It was amazing.  Roast potatoes in a salty sweet sticky glaze with crispy fried shallots on top.  There was no vegetarian curry but I was quite content with these side dishes.

And then it was the end of the night.  The sun had set outside the huge windows and we were ready to drive home to Melbourne.  Sylvia and I walked along the pier to the car and could not resist visiting the Christmas tree on the way.  I was really pleased to have been to Wah Wah Gee with a large group so I could taste lots of dishes.  This is the sort of fusion Asian food that Australia does well.  There are still more dishes I would love to try so maybe I will get to return one day.

Wah Wah Gee
Cunningham Pier on Geelong’s Waterfront
10 Western Beach Foreshore Road Geelong 3220
03 5222 6377
Open 10am – Late, daily

Wah Wah Gee Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Friday 23 November 2018

Lentil potato nut "meatballs": a rambling recipe

I miss the blogging scene I encountered when I started over 11 years ago.  Sharing what we did, exchanging recipes and laughing at ourselves.  It was a time of learning, generosity and blurry photos.  We learnt on the run about design, photography, ethics, sponsorship and other stuff that these days seems second nature to a new blogger.  These days it is harder to post until a recipe is right, the photos are right and might be ok for FoodGawker. 

However I still enjoy a rambling post about how dishes evolve and morph in rhythm with my life.  I sometimes like to share recipes I will never make again because they hold a gem of an idea I will return to.  So here are some patties that developed into "meatballs" in an unexpected ways resulting in some delicious dinners and lessons about what not to do.  Read along if you like to know about people's cooking and lives.  Go to another blog if you just want the perfect recipe!

Let's start with my first mistake.  I took my recipe from the Coles Magazine which had a lentil tarka dal mix and I decided to just guess how many lentils this would be.  And I was way off the mark.  The mashed potato was swamped and I had a ridiculously huge amount of mixture.  I halved it and seasoned one half for patties.

Digression: I have a particular dislike for recipes with processed ingredients.  It is hard to substitute for them. and at times like these to even know what is in them. I had intended these patties to be heavy on the mashed potato because Sylvia is suddenly in love with everything potato (her Christmas present list includes mashed potato, steamed potato ad roast potato!  Easy to get her presents this year!)

The patties were nice but they were so fragile that I wasn't keen on frying them.  I tried some on the stovetop and some under the grill (broiler).  Both were so soft that it didn't take much for them to lose their shape.  However I made the mixture on a Sunday when I also made roasted sweet potatoes and kale and broccoli salad.  So it was easy to fry them up after work and serve with sides.

Digression.  Some days it is great to rush home and have dinner ready because I am so tired.  Other days it is so nice to have leftovers as there is so much else to be done.  I also fried up some patties after taking Sylvia to gymnastics where she was really switched on and I had a walk to a cafe where I sat with my book for a while and felt like a parched woman the way I greedily drank in the moment to rest.  Having dinner just about ready afterwards was the icing on the cake of a lovely afternoon.

Enter the nuts!  My mum had given me some mixture nuts a while back.  They were a lot of walnuts and almonds with some peanuts hidden throughout.  Usually I don't cook with peanuts because Sylvia is allergic.  I made the exception to her horror with these.  And I was careful to wash up and keep dishes separate.

I blended the nuts and added them to the second half of the lentil-potato mixture with some seasoning.  They were better but still a wee bit soft.  I thought the mixture actually looked like cooked mince meat.  Walnuts are brilliant at substituting for mince meat, which as a staple of my childhood.

Digression: Lately I have heard a few people having a go at vegetarians about using meat terms.  Damned if we want anything to do with meat and damned if we don't.  The reality is that meat is still part of the culture and can hold great nostalgia even for me who grew up disliking meat.  And I read a great article about how meat culture has changed a lot and no one expects that people eat like their ancestors a few generations ago.  So please, ominvores, have a little sensitivity towards vegetarians just like you expect us to be understanding of you eating meat!

On the Thursday I cooked these as "meatballs" in tomato sauce.  I dipped them in the sauce and then turned them over to sit in it so they were fully covered.  I served these with spaghetti and it was most satisfying.  The "meatballs" were quite fragile and broke up to resemble spaghetti bolognaise.

Digression: I had rushed home from work so I could eat dinner quickly before a Kombucha workshop at the library.  Deano who ran it was a born story teller and great fun to listen to.  My favourite comment of the night was: the first fleet survived on beer but imagine if they had drunk kombucha and how much nicer they would have been to the Aboriginal people.  I am not quite brave enough to try kombucha but perhaps it is a summer holiday project.

We had some spaghetti and meatballs leftover for Friday but that is our pizza night.  So I made spag bol pizza.  It was really filling.  And fun to have something different.  So many fancy pizzas in restaurants these days are often not vegetarian or full of processed meat substitutes that don't appeal to me.  If I ever open a pizzeria I will definitely offer this pizza.  (But don't hold your breath waiting!)

Meanwhile, it has been busy here with Sylvia's school holding a fete because the public are coming to vote in the Victorian state election tomorrow so there is a captive audience.  We have been making jam, clearing out books and toys, and baking for the cake stall.  Another busy weekend looms.

More vegan patties on Green Gourmet Giraffe:
Beer battered haggis balls (v)
Lentil quinoa balls (gf, v)
Quinoa pizza balls (gf, v)
Red lentil koftas (gf, v) 
Soy bombs (v)
Tofu nut balls (v) 

Lentil potato nut "meatballs"
An original Green Gourmet Giraffe recipe
Makes about 40

1 cup red lentils
1 1/2 cups stock
200g potatoes
margarine and milk for mashing
1 tsp olive oil
1 onion, finely chopped
1 garlic clove, finely chopped
325g mixed nuts ground
1 tbsp mango chutney
2 tsp dukkah
1 tsp salt
oil for frying

Place lentils and stock in medium saucepan and bring to the boil.  Simmer for about 10 minutes or until lentils are soft but not mushy.  Turn off heat and sit with lid on for another 5-10 minutes.

Cook potatoes until soft, drain and mash with a pinch of salt, a knob of margarine and a drizzle of milk.

Fry onion for 5 minutes in oil and then stir in garlic for a minute.  Remove from heat.

Mix lentils, mashed potato and onion mixture with remaining ingredients and check seasoning.

This mixture keeps about 5 days in the fridge.

When you are ready to cook, heat a few tablespoons of mixture in a large frypan over medium to medium high heat, drop dessertspoonfuls of mixture in the oil and turn when golden brown.  Alternately you can spray with oil and cook either under the grill (broiler) or in the oven.

Lentil potato quinoa cheatballs
An original Green Gourmet Giraffe recipe
Makes about 40

1 cup red lentils
1 1/2 cups stock
200g potatoes
milk and margarine for mashing
1/2 cup quinoa
1 tbsp tomato paste
1 tbsp lemon juice
1 tsp smoked paprika
1/4 cup finely chopped parsley
1 spring onion or handful of chives or spring leeks, finely chopped
1/4-1/2 tsp salt
oil for frying

Place lentils and stock in medium saucepan and bring to the boil.  Simmer for about 10 minutes or until lentils are soft but not mushy.  Turn off heat and sit with lid on for another 5-10 minutes.

Cook potatoes until soft, drain and mash with a pinch of salt, a knob of margarine and a drizzle of milk.

Cook quinoa in 1 cup of water by bringing to the boil and simmering for about 15 minutes.  Turn off heat and sit for another 5 minutes

Mix lentils, mashed potato and quinoa together.  Add remaining ingredients and check seasoning.

This mixture keeps about 5 days in the fridge.

When you are ready to cook, heat a few tablespoons of mixture in a large frypan over medium to medium high heat, drop dessertspoonfuls of mixture in the oil and turn when golden brown.  Alternately you can spray with oil and cook either under the grill (broiler) or in the oven.

NOTES: these are both vegan if you use vegan margarine and milk for the mashed potato.  I added some chopped tomato to the quinoa cooking mixture because it was leftover and needed to be used.  Both "meatballs" tend to be very fragile and fall apart easily.  Breadcrumbs might help but I was trying to avoid them.

On the stereo:
Bird on the Moon: Rita Braga

Monday 19 November 2018

The Bird Cafe, Mt Hotham

On our recent trip to Mt Hotham, I found myself and a work colleague needing to get inside from the cold.  We decided to go to the Bird Cafe which had some views of the skiing.  It was here I tasted my first poutine, sharing it with my foodie colleague to warm us up.  It was so good I decided to return the next day so I could blog it.

The Bird looks out over the Mt Hotham Central Lodge, one of the busiest areas of the mountain.  It is a great place to watch people skiing by, to check out people's snow fashions (ie how they can look stylish in michelin man outfits) and marvel at the little kiddies on skis.

Inside The Bird has a sort of Nordic cosy charm.  By which I mean, you can be in country Victoria and imagine you are in a Swiss chalet.  Lots of pine panelling and pine furniture.  However around the time we were there, they held a beach party so perhaps that was a nod to being in Australia.  The bar was really busy but it was a nice place to wait to place your order.

To complete the Nordic theme there is a large stone fireplace.  Getting a seat in front of it was hard but I can imagine it would be lovely to sit in front of it all day with a good book and mulled wine while the snow and wind howled outside.

As I have mentioned snow fashions are different from those in the city.  People have large thick warm coats, and at times they are dripping with water.  I really loved all the coat hooks above where people can hang up their warm outer snow gear.  Then they would sit inside with waterproof snow pants held up by braces and snow suits peeled back on top.

We tried to avoid eating out too much on Mt Hotham but I thought the Bird was more reasonably priced than some places in the Lodge.  When I came by the second day I was told there was a 25 minute wait for my order.  It was slightly longer.  It would have been quicker and cheaper if I had chosen the soup or the "sorry rolls" in the bain marie (sausage rolls with lots of variations - when I was there the feta and spinach roll looked excellent).

At $12 the poutine wasn't too pricey but the vegie burger was $17 and the warm roast veg salad was $15.  Not cheap but not much different to inner city prices.   

I started with a hot chocolate from the bar.  Luckily I had a seat at the window where I could watch the people going by.  I had my trail maps to plan where to go snow shoeing in the afternoon.  And I had time to read my book - Circe by Madeline Miller.  As an aside, the is an amazing book, telling the stories of Greek mythology from a woman's perspective with great warmth  and courage.

By the time my poutine came I was in a bit of a hurry because I was late to meet up with my group to touch base.  So I was pretty excited to get the chips covered with cheese curds and gravy.  I probably ate them too quickly given how hot they were but I enjoyed them.

I usually like my chips plain without sauce.  Yet, the poutine was so pleasing.   The soft curds and salty gravy went surprisingly well with the chips.  I loved hoisting the chips up with fork and watching the cheese strings stretching far and then dangling as they finally broke.  The poutine really warmed me up on the first day when it was so cold, and sustained me on the second day when I did quite a lot of walking. 

If I had had more time I would have returned to the Bird.  It was a nice mountain cafe with a good ambience and good food.  In the above photo you can see that there are lots of outside seats with great views of the snowy mountains.  I wonder what it is like in summer when the snow has all gone and the weather is much warmer.

The Bird
40 Great Alpine Rd, Hotham Heights VIC 3741
(03) 5759 3503
Open 7 days a week 7.30am - 6.30am

The Bird Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Saturday 17 November 2018

Mount Hotham - a snowy work weekend

A couple of months ago at the start of September, I went to Mount Hotham with my work group for a weekend away.  For those not living in these parts, people in Melbourne go "to the snow" because the snow never comes to us.  We were very lucky to get a snowy weekend of skiing, snowboarding and snow shoeing as well as lots of great food and fun.

The weekend away is a group tradition at my workplace.  Everyone goes away together to relax and bond.  This year we had the perfect organisational team.  Being in a multicultural team, we brought the best of our countries: German efficiency and Scottish frugality in organising cheap accommodation for a big group ($120 for three nights at a big house in Harrietville at the bottom of the mountain) and generous discounts on car hire, equipment hire, skiing and snowboard lessons, and lift passes.  We had Iranian generosity in food organisation aided by the quiet but hard work of the Chinese.  It was amazing to see how well over 20 people were organised to drive there, get our gear, get to lessons, keep well fed and keep in touch when we did our own thing.

The first day involved everyone getting their bags together, hiring cars, making sure everyone was in them and over 4 hours of driving.  It was well planned that we went out for dinner.  Bright Brewery on the Alpine Highway is a short drive from our accommodation and did pretty decent pub grub.

I had the vegetarian vegie burger - on the current website it is a "quinoa veggie burger with sundried tomato and macadamia nut pesto, mushroom, rocket, beetroot and hummus dip served with fries".  I think mine was pretty similar.  I also had some mulled cider with it.  That is my sort of drink when it is cold outside.  Unfortunately it was not included in the deal where you got a free beer with a burger or pizza.

Our food organisers brought a lot of food.  However, we were a hungry lot, given that people were pretty active in the snow and it was cold outside.  Here is breakfast on the first day.  Lots of bread, cereal, yoghurt, spreads and my favourite was the large fluffy pancakes that one of the group made each morning (thanks CR).

We left early and drove up to Mount Hotham.  As we drove we had moody foggy views of snow that gradually got deeper and deeper.  First stop was to get all the gear sorted at the ski hire shop.  This weekend was quite an eye opener to me.  While I have been to the snow a few times, I have never skiied before and had not seen how much special waterproof clothing was worn, how much gear was needed with skis and snowboards, and how much those ski boots seemed to hurt.  It was like walking into a different world to any I'd ever known.

Everything was different, even the buses with their special ski holders on the outside.  I had decided not to go skiing.  However I was glad I had been advised to hire snow boots because it was so cold and wet that street shoes would have struggled and I would have slipped over a lot more than I did (it was very embarrassing slipping over outside the door of the ski hire shop on the second morning).

Our first day was bitterly cold and grey (see the picture of the ski lifts above).  I had planned to stand and watch the skiing but it was so windy and foggy with just some small pin pricks of snow that were most unpleasant on my face.  It made me wish for those face scarves (one of the items of clothing seen at the snow that would never been seen in Melbourne - watching the snow fashions was quite fun).  I was glad I had brought along some warm layers of clothes.  I wore a cotton long sleeved top, a fleece, a down jacket and my trusty goretek jacket that I have had for over 20 years.  I had borrowed good snow mittens from my sister-in-law and did not need a scarf. 

I had hoped to watch some skiing.  We watched a lot of our group who did skiing or snowboarding lessons.  The more experienced skiiers and snowboarders went off far far away on the mountains.

Another of our group also was not skiing or snowboarding so we went to The Bird for a drink.  Here is a photo of Mount Hotham Central from the cafe.  I'll write about the cafe in another post.  Mt Hotham Central was the place for lessons, information, pubs and cafes and lockers.

We had plenty of food for making lunch - sandwiches, apples, energy mixes, chocolate bars, chips etc - back at our accommodation.  So each day we met for a quick catch up and lunch at the table and chairs and Mt Hotham Central. 

As well as watching skiing lessons and sitting in cafes, we wandered around Hotham Central and watched the skiiers.  It was very cute to see the tiny kids clad in their bulky ski suits and getting around on skis very naturally.  But when you checked the shopping, it was quite gobsmacking how expensive that place is.

In the afternoon I spent some time reading my book, a rare afternoon treat.  I was glad not to have the logistical challenge of carrying around skis and walking in ski boots.  That bit did not look fun, even if it looked amazing to be whizzing down the mountains.  There were lots of places to park your skis and snowboards outside Hotham Central.

Some people just stuck their skis in the snow in what looked like a random place.  We met up in the snow hire shop to return gear at the end of the day to avoid having to take it down the mountain.  When we got back to our accommodation, there were some very tired and sore people coming home and lots of hunger. 

We had a BBQ that night with lots of salads, as well as a great cheese platter.  It was great to sit and chat to everyone about how they fared during the day.  I had chatted to a few people at work about making my overnight sourdough bread while we were away.  It all started off well, I had worked out the measurements, taken my tins and sourdough, checked the oven was heating up and put together the dough to rise in the morning.  But in the evenings I found that the oven only started heating but never got really hot.  ARGH!  I tried frying my dough but it didn't really work.  Too doughy.  I could have made flatbreads but they are best fresh and I wanted the bread for the next day.  At least we had plenty of other food.  And my other contribution of coleslaw was far better than my failed bread.

The next day less of us set out for Mt Hotham.  A few went sightseeing around Bright and relaxed in the house.  Unlike the previous day, we were stopped midway up the mountain and asked to put chains on.  It looked like hard work.  The Germans were amused at those of us who took photos because it was unusual but they told their families back home about it because it seemed odd to them that there would be enough snow in Australia to warrant it.  I have never seen cars with chains on before, so I was fascinated.

Soon after we stopped for chains, it got much icier and snowier.  Again it was spectacular driving up the mountain. Apparently we were lucky to get so much snow.  The skiiers were delighted and those who had had lessons were off to "Big D", while the more experienced were over at "The Orchard".  I had decided I needed to get out more into the snow. 

I didn't want the palaver of skiing so I decided to hire show shoes.  I don't think this is a common thing to do because in my day of going around with snow shoes I did not see anyone else with them.  To be honest, I was quite unsure of myself.  But I spoke to people at information and the hire shop and worked out that Wonderland Trail was a nice easy walk to start with.  I took the bus there and was shocked at how desserted it was when I alighted.

After the frenetic pace of Hotham Central, I was surprised just how quiet it was on the cross country trails.  I found it really peaceful and beautiful.  I hadn't been sure how I would work out where to go, but there were lots of markers to keep me on track.  Once I got the hang of my snow shoes it was a really nice way to get about, and they made a very satisfying crunch on the snow.

While walking in this very quiet area, I stopped and asked one of the few people I saw to take a photo.  I got talking about being with my work group and was astounded to find that the guy knows my boss.  (Even more startling was that I told a family friend this story soon after and with the few details I told him in the story, I found that he knows my boss too.)  When I went back to Hotham Central at lunchtime to meet up with colleagues, I told my boss he is so famous that even in the quietest areas of the mountain, he is known!

The Wonderland trail was really easy.  I decided to go to one of the lookouts and chose the Christmas lookout.  Even though it was on one of the harder trails, it was fairly short.  I really enjoyed being able to see Hotham Central from the lookout.  All that activity reduced to a tiny mountain top.

And because Sylvia didn't come with me, I made a little snowman to photograph and send back to her.  He was very small and pretty cute but I wanted to make sure I got the bus back to our meeting point in time to get back to our accommodation so I didn't hang around long.  It was a far nicer day with lots of blue skies and sunshine on the second day and with all my walking, I found all my layers of clothes began to be stripped off.  I was glad of our little snacks and my water bottle in my rucksack.  We were all glad to get back on the second day.  There were more sore muscles and one colleague had had a bad fall off her snowboard but luckily was much better after a good sleep.

When we got back that evening, there was already a lot of preparation for dinner.  We had been asked to make something from our own country.  We walked in to find some of my Chinese colleagues frying dumplings and they were so delicious and welcome after an active day.  A cheese platter was also set up.

Here is the dinner table which was pretty crowded with delicious dishes.  I am sorry not to remember them all but there was Chinese fried tofu, a tomato egg dish, braised greens (sadly the pulled noodles meal was meat so I didn't get to taste but I did get to watch some noodle pulling), Iranian rice with crispy bits, German potato salad and more salads and stews.

Dessert was a boozy affair.  It was such a treat to have mulled wine from Germany and a Scottish cranachan that was very generous with the whisky.  I made some hedgehog as my Aussie contribution.  I am sure I have forgotten some dishes but I didn't take many notes!  We were all well sated and then got into teams for The Quiz that is an annual feature of these weekends away.  My boss organised the quiz and boy did he find some tough questions!  But it was lots of fun.

It was a really nice weekend and so well organised that we thanked the organisers for also making sure there was lots of snow.  I really loved going away and having so little to think about with logistics and food.  You can see I have some amazing colleagues and I really appreciated all their work that went into the weekend and that they are a lovely bunch of people to spend time with. (Having said that, I was really pleased to be home to my own space as we were living in close quarters.)  It was also a great opportunity to have a little experience of snow culture and found it fascinating.