Monday, September 24, 2012

Creamy Pasta Alfredo with Crispy Bacon, Mushrooms, Capsicum, Zucchini and Crispy Skin Salmon

Awesome, easy, delicious dinner that anyone can make! Photo taken when I made this again few months ago =)

Hello, everyone! 

Back today with another "weeknight dinner" type recipe. To be honest, I've had this recipe in my drafts folder for the longest time but never got around to posting it because I wasn't sure if it's a recipe that people might be interested in. It wasn't until I made it again earlier this week and posted a photo of it on Instagram that I felt so encouraged by all all the "likes" and warm responses from it. Thanks so much, everyone. So, there you have it. Finally releasing it from my dusty drafts folder and onto the blog at long last! =)

I don't know about you, but even though I've got a strong appreciation for various cuisines, I still find Asian food extremely comforting, especially on a lazy weeknight. That's why I still tend to cook a lot of rice at home for dinner (lol). 

But to be honest, I would still CRAVE for Pasta from time to time, just for a change. And when I do, I almost always make this Pasta Alfredo. Even though I still love my Spaghetti Bolognese, I would make this more often because Spag Bols need so much more ingredients to make whereas for this, I just need to buy the cream (cause I normally have shredded cheese in my fridge) and whatever fresh ingredients I feel like adding into it. Plus, I like to have lots of vegetables (which I can't do with Spag Bols) in my pasta to make it healthier. 

My midweek dinner that I shared on Instagram... SERIOUSLY delicious and satisfying!!

Some technical notes for this recipe:

Just as true, Italian Carbonara doesn't actually contain cream, Pasta Alfredo too, isn't meant to have cream in it. It's actually been adapted by Western countries to suit their palates. Alfredo is normally made by simply adding butter and shredded cheese to hot pasta. Hence, I'm calling it CREAMY Pasta Alfredo.

Also, I think crispy bacon, mushrooms, capsicum and zucchini make a WINNING combination, but feel free to add whatever you like. Although, when I took the step-by-step photos for this recipe months ago, I didn't have all the ingredients I wanted so the ingredients/method doesn't necessarily match the photos. See photos as a guide but READ the recipe carefully to avoid confusion. My apologies...

As for me, I am quite particular about how I like my Creamy Pasta Alfredo to be. I like it not too watery, but still having some sauce at the bottom. Semi-thick enough to stick onto the pasta, but still slippery in the mouth. Hard to explain, I know... Will try and guide you guys as much as I can. Trick is to cook everything on low so it brings out more flavours from ingredients without drying out the sauce too quickly.

Finally, I've also added a separate recipe below to give you guys tips on how to make yummy, delicious Crispy Skin Salmon. Enjoy!!! =)


Creamy Pasta Alfredo Recipe
(serves 3 or 2 BIG eaters)


250g pasta
2 entire rashers of bacon (roughly cut to 1cm cubes)
2 + 5 tbsp butter
1 tbsp olive oil
5 cloves of garlic (minced finely)
3 portobello mushrooms (diced roughly) *
300ml thickened cream
1.5 tsp dried herbs
1 tsp dried chilli flakes **
1 red capsicum (diced)
1 zucchini (split lengthwise, then sliced)
3/4 cup finely shredded cheese ***
LOTS of cracked salt and pepper (to taste)

* Use portobello because they don't shrink as much as other mushrooms after cooking
** Chilli flakes actually add flavour/fragrance (besides the spiciness) if you add it early enough in the cooking process
*** Add a bit more if you're using thicker kinds of shredded cheese such as tasty, cheddar or mozzarella cheese from packets.


1. Cook pasta as per packet instructions until el dente. Strain in colander and rinse with cold water to remove the starch and avoid pasta from sticking. 

2. Heat a large non-stick pan on low until very hot (approx 5 minutes). Add the bacon straight into the pan, spreading evenly. Once brown, flip the bacon bits and cook the other side till crisp too. Remove and set aside for later. Refrain yourself from nibbling on the super yummy/crispy bacon bits as much as possible. (I can't and always fail...)

3. Add 2 tbsp butter and 1 tbsp olive oil to the pan. Once butter melted, add the minced garlic and fry until fragrant. Add the mushrooms to the pan. The mushrooms will absorb all the liquid in the pan in an instant. So, add another 5 tbsp of butter to the pan and let the mushrooms cook slowly for about 5 minutes to release as much juices.

4. Add the cream, dried herbs and chilli flakes then let it simmer for about 2 - 3 minutes to let the flavours infuse. 

5. Stir in capsicum, zucchini and cook for about a minute or so until almost softened. 

6. Stir in the shredded cheese until all melted. Season GENEROUSLY with lots and lots cracked salt and pepper. Try and avoid using table salt. Taste the sauce. 

7. Finally, stir in the cooked pasta. Turn off your stove. Don't further cook the sauce otherwise it'll be dry out and cheese will begin oozing a layer of oil.

8. Once salmon is cooked (see recipe below!), serve on plate. Sprinkle crispy bacon bits and top with Crispy Skin Salmon. Enjoy! 

Sounds like a long recipe, but actually really quick and simple to do... Honestly!


Cooking Tip: How to make Crispy Skin Salmon


1 piece salmon, skin on
Cracked salt and pepper
1/4 tsp corn flour
1 tbsp butter
1 tsp olive oil

Jap mayo to serve (optional but recommended)


1. Dab salmon with kitchen towel until dry to remove moisture from salmon. 

2. Crack lots of salt and pepper on the flesh. Turn over.

3. Crack lots and LOTSS of salt on the skin (very important!). Add the corn flour and rub evenly all over the skin.

4. Heat a non stick pan on low. Once hot, add butter and olive oil. The olive oil is to prevent the butter from browning too quickly.

5. Once hot, add the salmon skin side down. Cook for 2 minutes 40 seconds (approx). Turn over and cook for another minute (approx). Remove and serve on plate.


Cooking time may vary according to thickness of fish. The trick is to cook skin side down on low, then turn the fish once you see from the side that the flesh is cooked just above halfway

Cook for slightly under half the time on the other side. The flesh will be cooked and still super moist, which is what you want. Nothing worse than overcooked salmon, ugh!

As you can SEE, the flesh is cooked just about past the centre of the fish. Time to turn.

Skin is super delicious and crispy.
 PERRRFECT with a small dollop of Japanese Mayo -- highly recommended!

Grabbing a small piece of flesh, skin and mayo in each bite... NOMZ

Seared fish

See that the flesh is still really moist (hence the small amount of juices on the plate)... Sooo gooood...

Monday, September 17, 2012

Wince's Faves: Maedaya, Richmond

The famous, unmistakeable interior of Maedaya that anyone can identify in an instant!

So some of you may have heard of Maedaya already, some of you may not. I first came to Maedaya 2 or 3 years ago for my friend Ann's birthday... And LOVED IT. But for some reason, I've just completely forgotten about this place altogether since then until earlier this year when I started coming here again. I mean, I've been here another 3 times with different groups of friends this year alone and am still nowhere close to being "tired" of this place =D

When eating at Maedaya, you have the option of choosing from one of two menus:
1) Japanese BBQ dining (upstairs); or
2) A la carte dining (downstairs)

I guess what I love most about Maedaya is that it's one of those places that a lot of people knows and love. What's more, is that most people would have their own favourite dishes at Maedaya already off the top of their heads (myself included).

One of the things they're most known for is definitely their yakitori (aka Japanese skewers)...

LOVE taking photos of this place =)

To start, I'll share one of the Jap BBQ meals I had with some mates of mine earlier this year...

Doesn't the menu look so fantastic? SO much to choose from!

Mixed Platter 1 (serves 4 - 6) -- $33.50

FANTASTIC VALUE!!! There's more to this plate than it looks and has everything you'd want including beef, chicken, pork, sausages and some veg. I always recommend people getting this as well as some side dishes to share, and you'll be more than content (without busting your wallets), seriously... Works out to be around $6/person? Great!!

It's all very good. Great variety, portions and very affordably priced. But my favourite is definitely those Japanese sausages that they give. Grilled on direct flame until the skin's just snappy, piping hot and bursting with juices in every bite... YUMMM

Another thing I LOVE about eating the Jap BBQ at Maedaya is the 3 different sauces that they give as condiments. Spicy miso, Japanese BBQ and sth else (I forgot, sry!). PERRRFECT for your grilled meats =)

Yakitori Set

Great to share and eat with your BBQ meal. And to be honest, there really is no point going into detail about the type of meat/sauce of each. I say this because none of those "over-rationalised description" matters but just how yummy and delightful it is to eat. Simple as that lol

Tuna & Salmon Salad -- $12.80

Another dish that you really can't go past when you're here is the salads. They're fresh, delicious and served in a big bowl, which makes it perfect to pass around and share within the group. I love the tuna & salmon one because of the cubes of sashimi and crab meats. Absolutely delish.

On the other hand, I find that their Crispy Calamari Salad a close second because of how the hot, crunchy fried calamari contrasts the fresh, crunchy salad mix really well. Mmmm...

Soft-Shelled Crabs

These were perfectly fried. Our crabs were meaty and the bit I got even had a bit of roe too. Really perfect, just as how all soft-shelled crabs should be. Only thing was I wished we had more. But then again, these soft shelled crab side dishes are never meant to be big anyway. What a tease, huh?

Braised Pork Belly

Another dish you HAVE to order when you're here is their braised pork bellehhhhh (!!!!). I kid you not, this is everything that you wish and hope your pork belly dish at home would taste like. Incredibly soft and tender meat with fats that literally MELTS in your mouth. In a sweet, tasty and addictive sauce. Cannot think of a better dish to go with rice.

SOOOO good. Do yourselves a favour and give this dish a shot! I know for us, one serve is never enough ;p

Again, our meal really was fantastic. As usual, I love the fact that the BBQ set is good and cheap, which gives us the option to order many of our other favourite dishes from the menu too. FUN.


Now, here's a snapshot of the other time I came and ordered stuff downstairs from their A La Carte menu...

(All taken with iPhone... Hope you don't mind!!)

This was from a meal we had when my ex-classmates was visiting from the UK...

Wafu Steak
Salmon Namban

I'd definitely recommend the wafu steak. It's basically Japanese version of beef patty but by golly, were they tasty and delicious or what.

Sumiyaki Set -- $16.80
Crispy Calamari Salad -- $10.80
Kawari Tuna Sashimi -- $13.80
Strawberry Daifuku

Enjoyed everything that we ordered.
- The grilled set was great (with the exception of beef being slightly tough)
- Crispy calamari salad always a crowd pleaser
- Tuna sashimi was interesting. Thick slices dressed in oil and wasabi mayo
- Daifuku pleasant, can't complain

Happy days...!!

Then, we came back about a month later just to celebrate my friend Vanessa's birthday. Where, the restaurant gave us a complimentary sushi cake (cause it was someone's birthday) and my friend Danie made the most stunning Rainbow Cake for the birthday girl... T'was a fantastic night.

Anyway, to cap off, there's many reasons why I keep coming back to Maedaya. The food is good, the price is cheap, and it's just a fantastic place to let loose and have fun at group dinners, while sipping sake and having a laugh with your friends. Cannot ask for a better setting. And I've got so many favourite dishes here too, which never fails to keep me and my friends happy each time. So many great memories at this place... And the reason why it's definitely going under my Wince's Faves list.

Though, I must say think I'd still prefer the Jap BBQ menu over the A La Carte one just because of the awesome value. So, if you've got a group (big or small) and need somewhere to eat, definitely give this place a go. Am sure you and your friends would have just as much fun here as we did. Enjoy! =)

Maedaya on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Duchess of Spotswood & Jock's Ice Cream

The Duchess -- A quaint, tiny cafe in a quiet, little neighbourhood...

The Duchess of Spotswood!

A place that can easily be so unassuming from the outside to the casual walker by... With a setting so casual and inviting that you feel like you're eating from someone's home or backyard... And food so incredible that has me thinking about for months since my visit... Ahhhh, The Duchess... Why are you so good to me? An unforgettable meal that I've been earnestly waiting to blog about for the longest time...

I still remember that it was on Good Friday when we came. The sun was out and everyone was well rested from a morning of sleeping in. With just a few text messages sent out, it took less than 15 minutes for the 5 of us decide to head to The Duchess for an impromptu lunch that Friday morning. And I'm glad we did. I couldn't have picked a better place to go or with a better group of friends to spend the precious public holiday...

We headed to the back where we there was a larger seating area and we could enjoy the sun a little bit more... It was great. Humble little backyard, fitted with tables and chairs and a tree in the middle for some shade.


Some of us decided to order a nice cuppa to kickstart our meal; where the house blend of the day was Market Lane Coffee.

Soy Piccolo Latte

While one of us thought it was better to go with something a little more refreshing... I don't disagree.

Duchess of Pork -- $18.50
(Crispy pig's jowl with fried eggs, rich truffle sauce and sourdough toast)

A dish that jumped out of the menu to me and I knew then and there that it was a dish I HAD to try. And by golly was this flippin' delicious or what!

The pork was heavily seasoned, almost like spam but tasted much fresher and not processed. The yolks were so fresh and rich (in a good way) that you could tell they used only the best of the best. Oh and the truffle sauce... Rich, reduced and full of flavour to bind everything together. Wonderful.

Love the deep, intense colour of the yolk

I try to cut a little bit of everything to fit in each bite. Never mind that the yolks are lusciously oozing all over the plate. It's messy, but delicious. Honestly, a smashing dish to me from start to finish. Safe to say that both my friend, Sarah, and I enjoyed this dish very much.

The perfect bite!

Not to mention, the sourdough here was really one of the BEST I've ever had. No kidding. It was absolutely PERFECT. Firm but not too chewy, with a perfect crunch from the crust and a subtle flavour from the sourdough. DIVINE. I am seriously going to order an extra slice of sourdough next time I'm here.

To really enjoy this dish, you need to slather a generous amount of butter, then top with some of the pork, egg yolk and truffle before taking a big bite of the crunchy toast.

Hot dang this was seriously lip-smackingly good!! Can't tell you how much I loved it.

Special of the Day: Fish Cakes

My friend Devon ordered this dish and it was GOOD!! So fresh, crunchy and delicious. I loved the light, creamy potato in the cake more than the fish itself and the sauce was heavenly. Though, I'm still not sure why they called this the "Gentleman's Main". Beats me.

Steak 'n Chips -- $24.00
(200g dry aged rump with green salad and hand cut chips)

Ann's steak was cooked extremely well. Though, I think I would've preferred a bit more char around the edges. Still, this was pretty darn good! The seriously chunky fries were great. Crisp and naturally sweet from the potatoes. But my favourite part was actually the salad. Just look how pretty that is. Mmmmm.... With a light, clean dressing and fresh crunchy peas -- just yum!

Blow Your Own Trumpet -- $21.00
(Confit Trumpeter with spicy lamb sausage and poached egg)

The bit that I stole from Kel's plate was really satisfying, especially with the sauce. I think it's quite a good dish to order too, seeing as there were many other elements on the plate. But, I only tried the sausage and really liked it.

Overall, I must say that I really, really enjoyed my meal at The Duchess. And I haven't felt this strongly about a cafe/lunch place in a long time! There was great variety in the menu and every dish that came out of the kitchen was SO delicious. I especially enjoyed my Duchess of Pork dish and would happily recommend it to anyone who's thinking of visiting The Duchess for the first time. It was great. The portions were also JUST nice. Not too much, not too little and great value for money.

Now, I'm thinking that I HAVE to come back asap to try their breakfast and dinner menu. If it's anything like our lunch which was nothing short of faaan-friggin-tastic, I'm sure I'd enjoy the other menus just as much too. Will be back......!!

Duchess of Spotswood on Urbanspoon

Right after our meal at The Duchess, we decided that we'd stop by Jock's for some ice-cream on our way home. What a brilliant idea! This was my first time here, so I was excited.

And just as I was walking out of the shop with my ice-cream, I was really shocked to bump into the friendly, familiar faces of Bryan and Jo. Wuaaaahhhh...! What a coincidence! Guess we all had the right idea of grabbing some ice-cream in the hot, sunny weather!

Obamarama & Zabaglione

Finally tried the famous Obamarama, which is basically a Peanut Butter & Jelly ice-cream. Great!! The flavours were really unmistakable and how can you ever go wrong with PB&J, you tell me. I've always enjoyed the eggnog-like taste of the Zabaglione so naturally I liked this flavour too. My alcoholic ice-cream flavour of choice.

Really liked Jock's and thought it was honestly the perfect way to end an incredible and relaxed meal with friends on a public holiday. Cherishing the company of awesome people while basking in the warm weather over delicious food. What more could you ask for in Life? An unforgettable day it was, indeed =)

Jock's Ice Cream on Urbanspoon

Saturday, September 8, 2012

Nama Nama, CBD

Love that there's lots of sun coming into this part of the restaurant =)


So a coupla weeks ago, I-Hua, Agnes, Bryan and I (plus a few others) finally went to try out the new Jap place in town, Nama Nama... WOOP WOOP. It's a modern-ish Jap resto that even does breakfast too. Yep, that's right. A Japanese restaurant that does brekkie.

Being quite intrigued by their concept, glad we went there on a nice, sunny, Saturday afternoon...

Pork ($7.50) and Prawn ($8.50) Nama Katsu Bun

Interesting! Crumbed pork or prawn paste patty, topped with soft boiled egg encased in a soft and thin steamed bun. Texture was similar to that of the Chinese "Pau". Pork one had tonkatsu sauce too.

Really enjoyed this!!! So much so that I had no idea I was going "MMM... mmm... MMM..." so loudly for awhile until I eventually got some weird looks from the rest of the table hahaha...

SO delicious. But $8.50 is quite pricey cause they were small. Heh.

Then, some of us decided to order the udons to try... They were Housemade Udon Noodles in Kanto Style Broth, all with the same price.

Prawn and Vegetables Tempura Udon -- $15.00

Those are some very sharp chopsticks... Dontchafink? ;p

Wagyu Beef with Onion and Spinach Udon -- $15.00

Pork with Spinach and Quail Egg --$15.00

Udons were great! Soup was thin, light and flavourful. And oh my... Were the handmade udon noodles "SLURPALICIOUS (TM)" or what! Other words used to describe this includes: "Slurplicious" (I-Hua), "Slurpa-sexy-mama-licious" (Bryan) and "Udon-y" (Agnes) HAHA!!

We all enjoyed these...

... but clearly not as much as this girl LOL

(Choose Your Own) Bento Box -- $18.00

Nama Nama lets you choose what items go in your Bento Box, and here's what I had:

1. Green leaf, crispy vermicilli and sesame
- This I liked. Very lightly oiled with a small touch of mayo for flavour (but almost unnoticeable). Nice.

2. Ocean trout sashimi
- Interesting on paper but I thought it was neither here, nor there. Almost like smoked trout (though sans flavour/saltiness), but not really. Almost like sashimi, but not really too (cause it was aburi). No soy sauce to go with this (not necessary but just what I'm used to). Flesh was very dry and rough too. Will stick to regular sashimi from now on.

3. Crumbed scallops, mustard mayonnaise
- FRIDGE COLD!!!! Nothing worse than having deep fried food straight from the fridge, ewww...

4. Ox tongue rice paper roll
- FRIDGE COLD AGAIN! Ratio of meat to veg was very imbalanced. Too little meat can barely taste anything

5. Miso marinated kingfish
- I don't know why, but my fish was below room temperature and slightly cold too. Don't think it was cause we were taking photos beforehand cause it was cold in the middle. Whyyyyy... Though the miso tasted nice, it was quite a turnoff. They should've just microwaved it if it were pre-cooked or something... Zzzzzz

COLD. And tiny piece too...

Bryan had a similar Bento Box but had the pork belly instead. What's nice to eat when everything on your Bento Box is cold...

Now, desserts...

Yuzu Tea Cake with Sheeps Milk Yoghurt ($8.00)
- Not bad! Like the soft aftertaste of the sheeps milk yog but a tad dry. Forgiven, since it was a tea cake anyway

Japanese pudding with Schultz Organic Milk and Caramel ($6.00) or with Bonsoy Soy Milk (5.00)
- Bonsoy one tasted better. Slightly gelatinous and bouncy too

Chocolate Shochu Brulee -- $9.00
- Quite expensive for a brulee of that size! I guess it's cause of the shochu...

Wagashi Mochi Flower treats -- $4.00
- Like snow mooncake skin but softer. I like. But that tiny blob was too little lol

Overall, I feel the food almost reflects the waiters that were serving us that day, who were Japanese but with Aussie accents. But nonono, I don't mean that this is fusion Jap. It's just regular Jap food but with a slight modern twist to it. Even the fact that they open for brekkie was quite Aussie to me. Which, I guess makes them different from the other Jap places in the neighbourhood.

I enjoyed eating the bun and udon but everything else was honestly.......... missing the mark. Cold dishes and mediocre taste. But, hey. That's just my experience.

Price overall was quite steep for what we were getting. And I understand I can be more price sensitive (just as normal people would when they eat) because I am blogging as an everyday person, to the everyday person. I mean, I don't mind paying more if I have to but I look at value overall.

That said, a lot of the menu items were more unique, interesting, yes. I'll give them that. You can definitely come try this place out if you are looking for a different Japanese dining experience. But since the bun was tiny and $8.50 and I can get decent Udon noodles at Hanaichi for less than $10, I don't think I'd be coming back for a while. Again, that's just me.

Anyhoo, always fun dining with this crazy bunch of people. Definitely looking forward to the next one and if you'd like to check out their AWESOME posts/pictures from that day, do click on the link below.

Agnes: here
Bryan: here

Till next time! =)

Nama Nama on Urbanspoon