Fine Food Australia Expo, Melbourne 12 – 15 September 2016

If you work in the food service, retail & distribution and hospitality industry – whether as a cafe / restaurant owner, or a chef, or a grocery shop owner or working for a large national food distribution company, or a barista, or a caterer, or anything remotely food related – then you will NOT want to miss this show.

Unfortunately, the Fine Food Expo hosted by Fine Food Australia is only held once every two years as they alternate between Melbourne and Sydney each year.. but hey, I now have an excuse to plan a trip to Sydney next year for the next expo! Oh wait.. I am jumping ahead of myself here 🙂

The expo is STRICTLY TRADE ONLY and because I registered as a food blogger / writer I managed to somehow score a “Media Pass” to explore the event and be amongst people who work in an industry I am so passionate about. I felt completely spoilt that day… there was so much to see and so much to learn and so much food and drinks to taste! The expo was ultimately a Foodie Haven… hands down the best tradeshow I have ever attended and I gained so much from it. It definitely gave me a lot of insight as to what’s involved in the supply chain management side of things when running a food establishment.. and the realization that the competition is tough! Food is literally being offered everywhere.. and you definitely need to stand out in terms of service and quality in order to score some potential clients.

 

 

 

As far as beverages were concerned, there were plenty of sample drinks as well as free coffees going around. It was an eye opening experience, as I realize that if I was a restaurant owner – I actually have so many suppliers of food and beverages to choose from with hundreds and thousands of options and then to somewhat be effective in comparing their prices, etc. This industry is absolutely booming and at the end of the day, I suppose networking is the only way to secure and retain long term customers. I had some great opportunities to chat to a few people during the expo and I have to say I am even furthermore intrigued by this industry and would LOVE to be more involved in the near future… *off dreaming about owning my own cafe or restaurant… excuse me while I daydream*

 

 

 

 

Back to the expo, other than the fact that EVERYONE at every stall were super friendly and approachable (there is this thing about people who love food are the most awesome people..) the expo had plenty to offer in terms of cooking demonstrations and entertainment as well. Everything on display here were food products, commercial food products available to purchase in bulk by people in the food business, from curry pastes to pastries to premade salads to sauces / dressings to gelato flavours… you name it, they got it! Not to mention kitchen equipment, cafe / restaurant furniture and packaging solutions! Everything you will ever need to establish a food business, you will find your connections all under one roof.
If you are into more international flavours, the expo also featured International Stalls with food products from all over the world. The variety was simply amazing! I only had one day here, but I would highly recommend that you take the opportunity to explore slowly at a good slow and steady pace spread across at least two days… because there is simply too much to see and too much to taste! If you are also seriously looking to network, you should allow a lot more time. The people here are ready to talk business, and there is a lot of information to process.
If you don’t believe me when I say there is LOTS of food to taste… here is the proof:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This was truly a delicious event, but it was mostly a truly valuable business event and I would imagine having all major food suppliers under one roof just makes it all so much easier for people in the business to network and collect all the information required either to start a food business or to grow and evaluate options for their existing business.
See you guys in Sydney next year!

Salt and Pepper Crispy Chicken Spare Ribs Recipe

I must warn you, this post might end up being so badly written due to the fact that I just ate way too many crispy chicken ribs and now suffering from a bad case of food comma! If my kids were asleep, I would be asleep too right now. I am so full, and content, and sleepy. Writing this blog post almost immediately is necessary to try and stay awake. Writing keeps me away from the comforts of the couch and the danger of falling asleep while little children roam free around the house unsupervised. Better not let that happen, lol.

I LOVE CHICKEN RIBS. I can almost say that every time I go to Yum Cha or any Chinese restaurant, I would most likely end up ordering the Salt and Pepper Chicken Ribs. Why not? Deliciously juicy and crispy chicken that’s tender and only one bone to deal with. Amazing flavours in the onion and chilli topping. Serve with the perfect dipping sauce – and I am in food heaven.

These are so easy to make at home though. They don’t require a lot of ingredients and this version is pretty basic but hits the spot. I had to specially order in the chicken ribs from my butcher though, as they don’t normally stock them (too expensive to keep on regular stock and unpredictable demand). This morning, I got a call from my butcher letting me know my chicken ribs have come in, so I gladly picked them up and cooked them for lunch! Now you can too… enjoy!

Ingredients:
500g chicken spare ribs
1 egg white, gently beaten to separate
Salt and Pepper
Kentucky Flour
1 stalk spring onion, sliced
Chilli flakes
Oil for deep frying
Method:
In a deep fryer, heat oil ready for deep frying. Season chicken ribs really well with salt and pepper. Be generous with the pepper for extra spicy kick. Coat chicken in egg white and then coat with Kentucky flour. Deep fry for about 6-10 minutes or until the chicken is crispy and brown. Serve onto a plate and then top with sliced spring onion and chilli flakes. Serve with your favorite soy / chilli dipping sauce.

Funtastic Bunchems – you literally bunch em little bunchems!

Disclaimer: This is a Sponsored Post review brought to you by Nuffnang and Funtastic.

As a stay at home parent, I am always looking out for fun things to do with my kids and hopefully keep them entertained long enough to stay away from the screens! My kids love crafting, but whenever there is paint or crayons or playdoh involved, things just always get so messy! Also, chances are the little one will go running off, away from the craft table, and start scribbling or tracking mess everywhere else around the house. It gets pretty frustrating dealing with the mess!

Then came along these Bunchems. They are literally what they are called – furry “burr” like plastic spheres that you can bunch together and they would just amazingly stick to each other. No glue, no mess. That already gets my tick of approval.. so let’s test them on the kids and see what they think.

Silver quietly observes the instructions and sample creations like she is so grown up, lol.

The Bunchems Mega Pack comes with over 400+ pieces of furry spheres with accessories – and a little booklet with examples of what you can create. The beauty of it though is the freedom to create anything you like. I love that this encourages my kids to be creative and use their imaginations to make anything they can think of, even if it appears to be a normal bunch of bunchems with random colours (to them it looks like a dinosaur and they play with it) – after all my kids are only 4 and 2 hehe. Either way, the pack has everything we need to get started and keep busy for hours.

Bunchems is recommended for kids ages 4+ but I find with supervision, even my little one can have fun with it. The texture of the product itself is great for sensory play – and surprisingly quite solid and not easily “destroyed”. They do tend to stick to hair, so keep them away from their heads!

The accessories are securely fastened onto the furballs so they won’t fall off easily.

Accessories have a 4-point nail which attaches securely to the holes in the plastic furballs.

Once securely connected to a bunchem, use them on your creations to sparkle and dazzle em!

Overall, I love it. These things are great! They tick all the boxes when it comes to having fun, engaging with my kids and encouraging creativity. Like most things that are little, it is best to supervise their play when little kids are involved to avoid any swallowing incidents. Thankfully, my Silver Grace has grown out of that phase of putting things in her mouth, but still.. you can never be too careful! Besides, the kids love it when I sit down and partipate in activities such as this with them. I love watching them create things and then having pretend play. I must say I enjoy creating cute little Bunchem monsters myself! (If I can get my kids to spare me a few of em bunchem balls… lol)

My Day Without Kids

Melbourne Airport at 6am
Yesterday, I flew up to Brisbane for the day to attend Visual Impact 2016 – a printing industry expo – to do research for our business as well as to establish some connections and talk to experienced people and just do some networking in general. Enoch took the day off so he could look after the kids.
My day started ridiculously early. My alarm was set to go off at 4.15am and I found myself awake at 2am (checked the time) and again at 3.15am and finally up at 4.10am and decided to just lie in bed awake until my alarm went off, lol.
By the time I was showered and dressed, I was out the door by 4.50am.
I arrived at the airport at 5.45am and was waiting around at the terminal by 6am because I have already check-in online and had no baggage to drop off.
My flight was at 7am, so I had a coffee and some breakfast before going to the boarding gate.
The flight was on time and I arrived in Brisbane at 9.10am, hopped into a taxi and arrived at the Brisbane Convention & Exhibition Centre by 9.45am.
The expo featured the latest technology in printing equipment, material and media, and other printing solutions – exhibitors include manufacturers (Australian as well as from overseas), distributors and some specialized family businesses. 
The expo was scheduled to open at 10am but there were already a lot of visitors waiting outside the exhibition hall. I had a very productive day at the expo. I spoke to a lot of people – mostly salesmen who were trying to convince me their printer is the best… but also some suppliers and distributors of materials and media, and a handful of business advisors who were so kind to spare their time and pass on some wisdom for little ol’ me who is very new to the industry and just starting this journey into owning her own business.
I had lunch at a local cafe across the road. I figured I was only by myself for the day and wanted to have a decent meal someplace nice and not just grab a quickie sandwich at the exhibition hall cafeteria. The cafe had great coffee and my burger was absolutely delicious!
After a wonderfully peaceful lunch on my own, I went back to the expo and talked to more people and gathered more info and attended an advertising workshop.
After a few more hours I decided I have had enough and collected all the information I needed and physically cannot talk to another human being anymore lol. So I ventured further down the road and took some photos around Southbank and enjoyed the beautiful views of Brisbane for half an hour before hailing another taxi back to Brisbane airport. 
Beautiful Brisbane city 🙂

The market was just finishing up and Southbank beach was gorgeous!
I am glad I managed to do a mini tourist walk, Queensland is absolutely beautiful. I loved Cairns while I was there last year, and now I love Brisbane too.
I was back at the airport by 5pm and my flight wasn’t until 6.30pm so I sat down at Roll’d and enjoyed a quiet, peaceful dinner. Actually, maybe it wasn’t so quiet and peaceful, because I ended up talking to the person sitting right next to me! Too much adult conversation in one day, not sure what to do with myself!
Crispy Chicken Ribs from Roll’d.. after I have already devoured two rice paper rolls, I was SO hungry!
I was still pumped, my brain was too busy thinking and planning and strategising, I gained so much in one day, and my mind was full of ideas I had to write them all down before I forgot them! I did not even sleep on the flight back home (I scribbled on my notepad.. so many notes) even though I was clearly physically tired from being awake since 4am. The physical tiredness is different compared to caring for children, it wasn’t as physically demanding.. I did not have to do anything for anyone else for the day and only had to look after myself. It was a really good day, the kind of day I need every once in a while to inspire me to do something for myself.
I missed my kids though.
They were in good hands though!
Enoch apparently took parenting to the next level for the day. He did the kinder drop off and pick up, he went grocery shopping, he took Silver to a music class, AND he entertained some guests for dinner! What. the. heck?! Is my husband better than me at this staying home with the kids thing??
Well, I am glad he was good at it – because I am hoping this business we are building together will take off and be successful and then we will not only share the business load but also the parenting duties a lot more!
So much to do this week, all the follow ups and purchasing decisions we need to make. We need to buy the equipment, stock up some material and media, create a working space at home, build our website, create / outsource designs, keep working on our business planning and strategy, etc. All this while trying our best not to neglect our kids, lol. It is difficult to neglect them though, they are very convincing when it comes to wanting attention… they will not stop hassling until you stop what you’re doing and give them the attention.
I think I have figured out a schedule that works, I hope. I have set aside times during the day which works best to be able to work peacefully for a solid block of an hour or two, as well as set aside times that are specifically for blogging, chores and kid related duties like preparing meals, laundry, cleaning, entertaining them with an activity, playdates, etc. Trust me, my daily schedule is FULL. I have even scheduled set times to rest and do nothing, that necessary 30-minute break just to recharge and have a cuppa and refocus.

In other news, my Facebook Photo Book arrived yesterday while I was away – so excited and so happy with it! Thank you, Pastbook!

Took some photos of the kids today – just thought they were cute and wanted to post them on here, hehe.
Thank you for reading!

Stirfried Okra with Garlic, Mushrooms & Anchovies

Growing up, my parents have always cooked okra (aka ladies finger) so I have grown very familiar with this vegetable and various ways of cooking it. However, I do realise that a lot of people have never ever cooked with okra nor have they tasted them. If you have never cooked with okra before, perhaps this simple dish will encourage you to try something new. Okra is really not that scary… it is very commonly used in Asian dishes and has a very unique texture.

It is a little… slimy.

Please do not let that put you off!!

Okra when sliced is generally slimy on the inside which is why once you have sliced them, you are not supposed to let it get in contact with any water or else it will just melt away and turn into a slimy vegetable with no real texture to it.

However, if you keep it dry after it is sliced and cook it without any water, the outer later of the okra which is firmer and pleasantly textured really compliments the little gooeyness. This dish makes it even more enjoyable as it also combines the salty crunch of the fried anchovies and the soft textures of mushroom. I love this dish and can easily eat a big plate of this for dinner with nothing else.. but it serves well with rice. It also takes 10 minutes to prepare this dish from start to finish… I simply cannot complain!
Before I start with the recipe, here are a few helpful notes:

  • You can buy okra from most fruit and vegetable shops in Australia, or Asian grocers.
  • You can find dried anchovies (the little ones) in packets from Asian grocers or the Asian section in Coles supermarkets.
Ingredients
200g okra, sliced
2 cloves of garlic, crushed and finely chopped
1 tbsp dried anchovies, softened in water for approx. 5 mins, then drain water.
1 medium cup mushroom, sliced
Salt and pepper to taste
2 tbsp vegetable oil
Method:
Heat vegetable oil in a frying pan. Add garlic, sliced mushrooms, and soaked anchovies. Fry in oil for 3-4 minutes on medium heat, until the garlic is browning and fragrant, and anchovies starting to crisp. Add sliced okra and season with salt and pepper. Stirfry for another 3-4 minutes or until the okra starts to soften. Serve while it is still hot.

Steamed Silken Tofu with Minced Pork & Mushrooms

When it comes to feeding the family, it is hard to strike a balance between something healthy and wholesome that is also a huge hit with the kids. To top it all off, I constantly need to find recipes that are dairy free, egg free and nut free! My kids, like most children, can be quite fussy when it comes to food. At the end of the day, they eat what we eat… but it does make meal times a lot easier when they happily eat what they are given without us having to convince them it’s worth at least trying.

This particular dish is such a crowd pleaser. My kids absolutely love this! Just yesterday at a playdate, my kids chose to eat tofu even when toasted marshmallows were on offer! Needless to say, my friends were amazed that the kids just sat there and ate their dinner without any hassles. You wouldn’t expect it to be such a crowd pleaser, after all it is tofu. A lot of people’s first impression when it comes to tofu can often be… non-enthusiastic in general. Well, we love our tofu and we love them even more when it is silken tofu! This dish can be prepared and cooked within 25-30 minutes, and serves really well with steamed rice. Enjoy!

Ingredients:

1 tbsp vegetable oil

2 cloves of garlic, crushed and finely chopped

150g minced pork

3 large shitake mushrooms, softened and sliced

1 tbsp oyster sauce

300g silken tofu

1 tbsp light soy sauce

Coriander leaves

Method:

Heat vegetable oil in a fry pan, fry garlic, minced pork, mushrooms for a few minutes until the meat starts to brown. Add oyster sauce and stir thoroughly. Set aside.

Place tofu in a steaming plate. Top the tofu with stirfried pork and mushroom mix. Drizzle with light soy sauce. Steam everything for approximately 15-20 minutes. To serve, garnish with fresh coriander leaves.

Casey Central – that new shopping centre ;)

 

Photo Credit: Daniel Boyle

Ladies and perhaps some gents, there are many reasons why I love living in Australia. I love the weather, the people, the schools and medical facilities, the beautiful walking tracks and family friendly parks… just to name a few reasons. Quite possibly most of all, I love being a suburban mum and having access to some pretty amazing everyday shops. I am not even talking about a grand shopping mall or anything… just the normal local supermarket and mini shopping centres. I love that I only need to drive a few minutes down the road from my house and have everything I will ever need in one location. I love my suburb, and I love my suburban shops hehe.

Living in Berwick, my main shopping centre for weekly groceries have always been Eden Rise shopping centre. I shop at Coles and kids sometimes play at the playground. Sometimes, we have lunch at Nando’s or check out what’s on Special at ALDI.

For more variety, I would go to Fountain Gate Shopping Centre. This is when I have to not only do my grocery shopping at Coles, but also seafood shopping at the fish shop, fruit and vegetable shopping at Fountain Gate Fruit & Veg shop, get some fresh meat from the butcher, maybe grab a few things e.g. presents, homeware etc from Kmart or Target, and general browsing. Kids would sometimes play at one of the few play areas within the mall or just the little play corner in the Parents Rooms after a nappy change or toilet break.

Now, there is nothing wrong with any of the two above mentioned shopping centres… except, Eden Rise lacks the variety and Fountain Gate is too big and hectic and rather exhausting to walk around because everything is so far away from each other.

Photo Credit: http://www.the-chamber.com.au

Last month, the newly renovated all improved Casey Central shopping centre officially re-opened and many friends have told me how amazing it was. Casey Central is about the same distance from my house as Eden Rise (in the opposite direction), or possibly just a minute further away.

I haven’t been able to check it out earlier because life has been hectic – and the thought just hasn’t crossed my mind to go anywhere else but my usual shops. However, I decided to check it out today because school holidays are over (so it should be less busy) and now that it has been open for a few weeks I was hoping there would be smaller crowds.

So after I dropped Micah off at kinder this morning, myself and Silver went for a bit of a shopping expedition. Here’s a quick rundown of what I thought:

  • Parking – at 9.30am, it was super easy to find parking. I was parked at a Parents with Pram spot within seconds of arriving. No hassle at all.
  • Walking distance – very much tolerable. Unlike Fountain Gate, everything I need and like are close to each other and we didn’t have to walk very far to get to where we want to be.
Photo Credit: Daniel Boyle
  • Fruit and Veg shop – amazing! Unlike Fountain Gate fruit and veg shop which is super cramped and small and I barely manage to walk around with kids in my trolley as space is so limited, the fruit and veg shop at Casey Central has wide open space and makes it so easy for me to move around even with a trolley. Selection-wise, pretty much the same as any other good Fruit and Veg shop. I had some special things on my list – eg. okra and silken tofu and they had them! No complaints here.
Silver happily sits on the trolley as I do my grocery shopping at Coles Casey Central
  • Coles – beautifully laid out, super high ceilings, wide open space, great shopping experience. The only thing missing is the Mix clothing range and homeware stuff and toys etc that Coles Eden Rise have. So, it is a smaller Coles selling less variety but who needs the clothes and toys and homeware etc when Target is just a few shops away!
  • Fish & Meat – The Fish Pier has decent selection of seafood, however they do NOT have my usual pack of Salmon Belly & Bones that FG sells for $5 a pack… so that’s a small disappointment. Butcher is decent, but Fountain Gate still has a bigger selection and possibly better prices.
Photo Credit: Casey Central Facebook Page
  • Playground – great playground! Highly secure as you can only access the playground through a door from inside the shopping centre and kids cannot escape. However, this may be a small inconvenience as there isn’t a gate allowing access to the playground from outside the shopping centre. Either way, I am happy with the playground. It is new, it is clean and it has great activities for kids to play happily for a decent amount of time. Plenty of seats for parents to sit down and rest in between shopping errands.
I have not yet checked out Target or Aldi or any of the other shops at Casey Central, but my first impression has been quite a positive one. I think I can easily be persuaded to switch my weekly shopping centre to Casey Central – provided I come on a weekday and early enough during the day to avoid big crowds. I can see how easily it could get busy on weekends. Parking might even be an issue on weekends.
Overall, very impressive. So many shops and restaurants and takeaway options – some of my favorites ChinaBar. Wok’d, Grill’d, everything from fish n chips to charcoal chicken to pizza to Indian.. you name it, Casey Central probably has got it! Lots of cafes for your caffeine fix because obviously Australia is so huge on the coffee drinking culture, boutique shops, and so many more.. check out the full list of stores here.