Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Buon Giorno Italia - Planning an Italy vacation

Yes I had a fantastic vacation in Italy with my Hubby-D in early November 2010. I guess you could call it our 2nd honeymoon :). During our wedding in Malaysia i 2007, we had so much to do and so little time we only took a short getaway to Phuket, Thailand. So, we always knew that we would do a "real honeymoon" either in Italy or Paris. My vote on Italy won this time as I have been to Paris before.

I am proud to say, I planned this whole vacation to the dot. And it was a perfect vacation. I started on a totally blank page with absolutely no idea where Italy was and what there was to see and do in Italy.

Then I narrowed it down to the basics for a first timer in Italy. Rome, Florence and Venice. A little ambitious for a 8 days vacation but hey, that's how the research started. Initially I did want to take the easy way out, just booked a tour with a travel agency and let them do all the work. We just need to follow and everything will be settled.

However, after speaking to them and looking into their various itineraries, a tour of Rome, Florence and Venice became a lot clearer to me. I first listed down the "must see" tourist spots. Then I started to form the dots. Places to go, nearby areas, where to stay, I began to have a clearer picture of what I needed to do. Thus I considered the idea of going on our own versus with a tour group. Infact it became a lot more exciting especially when I found better locations for hotels, and could figure out how to connect all the dots to the places we would like to go.

Yes, we can do it on our own and take our time to do and go where we want.

Planes tickets - booked, hotels - booked, train tickets - booked and also reservations to some museums - booked. We are set!!

Seriously I could not have done it without this person. Mr. Rick Steves. If you don't know him, you must get to know him inside out especially when you are planning a Europe vacation. Rick Steves is America's leading authority on European travel. He provided the backbone to our trip. Where to stay, what and where to eat, what to see, how to go and best audio guides to some of the museums. He really made our trip, literally!

Next, is another fantastic resource. I used it a lot to research hotels and it provided excellent recommendations. Also, the people on the forum are simply wonderful, if you have a query, there are so many people who willingly respond to help.

The good news is that Hubby-D bought us our first official DSLR camera. Woohoo!! Sony A330. It is not the super top of the line but a DSLR with 2 lenses for below US500.00, I am a happy camper. Looking forward to better photography especially on my food photos.

From the hundreds, ok more like thousands of photos taken on our Italy trip, it is an uphill task to showcase them all. I decided to make a video of photographs and once I started, I decided I should add captions so I can remember the details of each photo. I have 4 videos - 2 on Rome, 1 each for Florence and Venice. Unfortunately, it is about 8 minutes long each but if you have the time, do view it and let me take you down Italia lane.

Let's start with Rome and I will post Florence and Venice on my next postings. Buon Giorno!

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Sang Har Mein (Fresh Water Prawns Noodles)

I can't believe that I have not blogged for more than 2 months. How time flies? What happened?

Well, sometimes a distraction comes along and I find myself...."distracted". Poor excuse but that's my weakness. A change of routine and I get distracted easily. In this case was a fantastic vacation in Italy. Don't misunderstand, I was not in Italy for 2 months. 10 days to be exact but I guess I needed a month to get ready and a month to recover. :)

In 2 months of not blogging, the quality of my cooking has also deteriorated. I find myself just cooking the same dishes with same ingredients. No passion to search for new recipes or trying new dishes. I myself was kinda getting sick of my own boring dishes.

So, I am back to the food blogging world and letting photos of food, recipes from others inspire me again. I decided to make this delicious noodles Sang Har Mein (Fresh Water Prawns Noodles). Since I only order this dish when I eat out in Malaysia, I had a fixed impression that it is a difficult dish to make at home. Before I came to Dallas, a friend gave me the simple ingredients on how to cook this dish. It sounded easy enough so I thought I would really try it out this time. True to her words, it was really simple to make and can be ready in less than 15 minutes.

Simple Ingredients :
2-4 large freshwater prawns, clean and deveined - sliced in half horizontally
2 pcs of dried/fried wantan noodles
2 stalks spring onions, cut into 1 inch lengths
2-3 tbsp oil
1 tsp sesame oil
1 tbsp chopped garlic and 1 tbsp shallots
10-12 slices of young ginger
1 tbsp Shao Hsing Hua Tiau cooking wine
3 cups water or stock

Optional - 1 cup of chopped cabbage

Seasoning (sauce):
2 tbsp oyster sauce
1 tbsp chicken granules (not required if using chicken stock)
A pinch of salt, sugar and pepper for taste

3 cups water or chicken stock

Thickening (combine):
1½ tbsp corn flour
2 tsp water

1 egg, beaten lightly

Simple steps :

1. If you get to buy the ready fried wantan noodles then skip the step below. If you have fresh wantan noodles, please follow these steps. Loosen the wantan noodles and place on a steaming tray. Steam noodles over boiling water for 2 minutes. Remove and let it cool. Loosen the noodles and deep-fry in batches in hot oil for 30 seconds until crispy and golden. Remove and put aside in a 2 separate serving plates.

2. Cut the freshwater prawns into halves. Sprinkle lightly with a little salt and pepper. Heat some 2-3 tbsp oil on pan. Place the prawns shell down onto the pan of oil and let it fry for 2 minutes. You can turn the prawn and let it cook the flesh side. Remove immediately once the prawns are cooked. Place the prawns on top of the noodles.

3. In the same oil, put in the chopped garlic and shallots. Fry till fragrant and add the ginger and continue to stir fry. By now your kitchen will be filled with the aromatic smell of garlic and ginger. Add the cooking wine and sesame oil. Then add the seasoning sauce. Then add water and let it come to a boil. Add the cabbage as desired.

4. Once the broth is boiling, lower the heat and add the cornstarch mix to thicken the sauce. Let it thicken for 1 minute and then turn off the heat. Pour the egg into broth and stir well. Add in the chopped scallions.

5. Pour the sauce over the noodles and serve immediately.

This portion above is enough enough to serve 2 persons. Yummy. Dig in!! :)
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