Day Off

What does one do when they get a day (or two) off in the middle of the week when everyone else is working (thanks, hospitality job). In melbourne there is always something going on: a proof of this is that I stumbled onto a free lunch time meditation in Fed Square on my walk.

Day off, sleep-in. To me this means waking up at 9 the latest. Since I had the time and the weather was gorgeous +26 degrees (hello, Autumn!) yesterday, I decided to walk to the city along Yarra River. I was listening to an audio book for the first time in a while, which was relaxing.

Leaves getting brown before falling off.
Leaves getting brown before falling off.

Sidenote: Even though Australia is considered as somewhat efficient country, their services such as teleoperators and bank services have not been that great in my experience. I could easily add to this list ticket services, because of a hassle I went through to get certain tickets refunded. Note to customer services in no matter what field: if you refund a customer, please let them know so they won’t have the hassle of going to your office to make sure you have done your job. Cheers.

I had read earlier about an exhibition by CJ Hendry presented by The Cool Hunter. Luckily enough, as I was walking around in Fitzroy I randomly found the exhibition. CJ Hendry’s 50 Foods in 50 Days consists of, yeah you guessed it, 50 dishes, meticulously hand-drawn on French designer plates in 50 days. The dream meals of death-row inmates include whole squid, fries, m&m’s and cocaine. All of the ‘photo realism’ pieces were sold even before opening the exhibition, which is easy to believe having seen them live. If it were for me, I’d probably take the one with macarones on it, or the giant snow crab.

Last temptation: a lollypop.
Last temptation: a lollypop.
mmmmmmmm.
mmmmmmmm beans.

It’s been a (way long) while since I’ve been to any gallery or exhibition, and I definitely should go more. This particular one was interesting not only because of the art pieces, but the pieces of great product design that were sold in the venue. From luxury single origin chocolate (hello, mast Brothers) to caramel butter popcorn to art books and Greek honey, all the products screamed premium branding.

Yes this is coffee.
Yes this is coffee.

From Fitzroy I ventured to Abbotsford Convent, popular especially amongst poor travelers and hippies because of their nice grass lawn and pay what you want vegetarian restaurant Lentils As Anything. I’ve been to lentils once before, but that time it was a la carte instead of their normal buffet-style dining. I highly appreciate the idea of paying what you can for your meal, and having the place run by volunteers, but unfortunately some people take advantage of the freedom of not paying for their food. The meal was actually a bit disappointing, to be honest, since two of the dishes were mainly potatoes. In addition there was rice, tossed salad with dressing, and some soupy thing with a few beans and oil. Suggested donation for food: 12 dollars. We didn’t get to dessert because we didn’t realize to get that on the first round, and the queue to the restaurant was probably at least few hundred meters. Popular as anything! Good thing about exploring with time is you never know what you might find; a cute coffee shop, 2 dollar sushi rolls, an interesting exhibition or just cool looking random buildings.

This is a bottle shop (and who knows what else). And there's a skeleton climbing in or out of the window.
This is a bottle shop (and who knows what else). And there’s a skeleton climbing in or out of the window.
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Restaurant Day Asian Raw Bar

Good people, good food and good vibes
Good people, good food and good vibes

Approx. 24hrs of work, but totally and beyond worth it: this Restaurant Day most likely blew away many of those who are sceptic towards raw foods, but also was something special to those already dedicated to the subject.

Even Raw Dessert Chef Maria Lönnqvist approved!
Even Raw Dessert Chef Maria Lönnqvist approved!

The mouth-watering super-delicious [insert other phrase words here] menu was the following:

Pad Thai Asian noodle salad with crunchy almonds
Spring rolls with almond dipping sauce
Chinese beetroot dumplings with chili plum sauce

Blueberry crumble pie with fresh coconut vanilla sauce
Blueberry chocolate cheesecake

Blueberry cheesecake pictured just before eating by Markus Karjalainen
Blueberry cheesecake pictured just before eating by Markus Karjalainen

 

I think everyone left the place happy and satisfied. We had time to tour around other places after wrapping up our pop-up restaurant. There was a lot of entrepreneurship going on in different parks in Helsinki, and apparently the offerings were very versatile (437 restaurants!). We were treated to a free shot of tequila and pureed cranberry juice served on a block of wood, and we also popped by a paleo cafe, but unfortunately I was too full to try their cookies or sandwich. I don’t know which is more fun: to organize a restaurant or to visit several places and sample different things. If the menu is as good as ours, I think I prefer to be in the kitchen!
 

Nuff said.
Nuff said.

 
This week I’ll stay in Helsinki for Borisraw food courses, where I’ll be assisting. Despite the pouring rain, this is going to be a good week!

How I Roll

Sushi, probably the best-known definition of Japan and the Japanese cuisine, is definitely one of my favorite things to eat and make myself. Rather than the conventional white rice rolls and balls topped with all sorts of sea creatures, I prefer to jazz things up a bit. By “a bit” I mean skipping the rice, which technically makes these rolls not sushi, since sushi is based on su-meshi rice. Sushi or not, these rolls are as modifiable as far as your imagination goes, and my results have always been rather pleasing.

Here’s few ideas on What and How to Roll.
If you want your rolls raw, opt for ingredients that require no cooking (duh). If heating is not a problem, then you have more options to choose from. Since there is no need for washing, soaking, boiling and waiting for the rice to cool, the rolls are ready to be devoured quite quickly. Fast food at its’ best, specially if you don’t cut them!

Step 1: “Rice”
First of all, the base of the roll doesn’t need to be rice-like. You can opt for quinoa in stead of rice, or puree or chop some cauliflower into tiny bits to make it resemble rice (add some cashews for extra creaminess). Sprouts, salad or chopped cabbage work as well – the result just won’t be so conventional sushi-like. If you use cabbage, sprinkle it with some salt and squeeze excess liquid out. Mixing some chia seeds in gives more texture, but also helps to bind the moisture. If the base is too moist, it might be hard to roll and the nori might break.

Chopped veggies for filling
Chopped veggies for filling

Step 2. Veggies
Go crazy. Anything works – the more color, the prettier! Avocado gives creaminess, carrots and bell peppers are nice and crunchy, mushrooms are always good…try your favorites, but don’t over-stuff the roll – you’re supposed to be able to actually roll it (or then just eat it like a temaki handroll, but still it shouldn’t be too fat). If you wish, season the fillings with wasabi, pepper or which ever spices you wish.

Few favorite combos:
Sprouts, avocado, fresh mint and mango
Cauliflower “rice”, avocado, cucumber, red bell pepper
Salad, strawberries, cucumber, fresh basil

Cabbage-chia (mushroom powder) base with veggies, ready to be rolled
Cabbage-chia (and mushroom powder) base with veggies, ready to be rolled

Step 3: Ready to Roll
Place a nori sheet on a dry cutting board (or use sushi bamboo rolling mat). Spread your “rice” evenly, leave about 1/3 of the top of the nori without filling. Top the “rice” evenly with veggies, and hope for the best. Moisten the top edge with water, fold the front edge over the fillings. Keep rolling until the end, making a firm tube. Place the seam on the cutting board, and use your best knife to cut even pieces.

Quality nori and knife are essential in cutting the rolls
Quality nori and sharp knife are essential in cutting the rolls!

 

The rolls are best served with tamari/shoyu soy sauce, with gari (pickled ginger). And what’s sushi without misoshiru (soup)? Oh, and edamame (soy beans) would make a perfect appetizer to this. All to be enjoyed with a nice pot of sake and a cup of green tea, of course.

Itadakimasu!
Itadakimasu!

Have you tried making sushi yourself? What is your favorite kind of sushi – conventional, fusion or other?