Christmas flashbacks

Growing up, Christmas was the most anticipated day of the year for me, even more than my birthday. It meant family, presents, food and a preview of New Year’s fireworks, courtesy of my uncle. Celebrations started on Christmas eve at my parents’ house, with my aunties and uncle visiting all the way from next door. There were also some elements of torture: going to church at 10pm for “misa de gallo” (translates as “rooster mass”, which was so crowded that I nearly fainted almost every year), and waiting until midnight for dinner. Both changed later, when I was old enough to opt out of mass (and Catholicism) and someone had the brilliant idea of eating earlier and doing the hugs and presents at midnight.

Food itself was a form of torture: self-inflicted indigestion and sugar rollercoaster. Dinner was roast turkey (slathered with Coke, beer, butter, and a commercial marinade featuring Peruvian chilli, cumin, garlic and vinegar), “Russian” salad (beetroot, potato, carrots, peas, corn, apples, avocado, mayo), applesauce, and rice (traditional white cooked with garlic when I was a kid, then mum started making a recipe with olives, nuts and raisins). We drank soft drinks and toasted with cider (in Peru it comes in a champagne-style bottle and is saved for special occasions). After the fireworks and presents we ate panettone with butter, and drank hot chocolate (bitter cacao tablets cooked with water and cinnamon, to which we added evaporated milk and sugar). The panettone and hot choc were totally unnecessary both calorie-wise and weather-wise (it’s summer, people!), but we had them for the sake of tradition. We chatted and played with our presents, and went to bed to try to digest and prepare for the next day’s feast.

On Christmas day we always slept in and headed to my aunties & uncle’s around mid-day. When my sisters and I were kids and got toys for presents we arranged all of them on the couch and stood behind it for the annual photo. Our “traditional” Christmas lunch was Cantonese-Peruvian food from our favourite “chifa” (the name we give to such restaurants, which are very popular back home). I usually went with a couple of my aunties to get the takeaway dishes: savoury chicken rolled with asparagus, “kam lu wantan” or sweet & sour pork with pineapple and wontons, roast duck in oyster sauce, stir-fried noodles with chicken, veggies and quail eggs, fried rice with char siu pork, chicken & prawns, plus soft drinks. Basically sugar, sugar, and more sugar. Topped with an afternoon tea of, you guessed, more sugar: panettone and hot chocolate, round 2. It’s possible that we had leftover turkey on Christmas night.

The flip side of all that eating, which was excessive during the holidays but quality-wise not too far off our regular habits, is a family affected by diabetes, overweight/obesity, hypertension, heart disease, mental illnesses, joint & skin inflammatory conditions, and cancer. It’s interesting to note that dad always had plain white rice instead of the “flavoured” ones, and plain bread rolls (or boiled chicken sandwiches) and tea instead of panettone and hot choc. He was the healthiest of the bunch, yet he always had gut problems and died of colon cancer.

My big sister and I were fat and, even though we both now maintain a healthy weight, our sugar metabolism is kinda broken. It’s great that we now live in the same city, thousands of kilometers away from home, meaning that we are free to celebrate with delicious, nourishing food.

Review: Review: Swine & Co (Sydney CBD)

This was a semi-spontaneous lunch date and I came totally unprepared: I didn’t have my Nikon with me, not even my backup point-and-shoot. All I had was my ancient iPhone 4 and a dark restaurant.

Swine & Co

But we had already made one attempt at eating at the “fancy pig” as Sebastian calls it, but I couldn’t make it due to an unexpected work meeting. Swine & Co has a fancy deli at ground level and a fancier restaurant downstairs. We ate at the deli, which is supposed to serve busy CBD workers who need to eat in a hurry. Luckily that wasn’t our case because we did have to wait for our meals.

The Berkshire pork belly salad with Colmans mustard vinaigrette and crisp pear was awesome. Good size, fresh, great taste. It came with croutons (my bad for not asking) but I didn’t have an issue with skipping those pesky cubes-o-gluten.

Berkshire Pork Belly Salad

Berkshire pork belly salad ($17)

Our other shared meal was the smoked pork ribs with house barbecue sauce & pig ear fries. Our German waitress, who was new in the job, didn’t understand we had ordered a half rack ($18) and got us a full rack ($35) instead. Also, she didn’t understand when I asked if the pig ear fries were breaded or coated on flour. She said “no” but it was clearly not the case. According to Sebastian, all he could taste was bread. The (boneless) ribs themselves were awesome, and it turned out to be way too much meat for us (yeah, even for me). The leftover meat, roughly half of the serve, was enough for another day’s lunch.

Smoked Pork Ribs

Smoked pork ribs ($35 full rack)

Swine & Co
16 O’Connell Street
Sydney NSW 2000
(02) 9009 0990

Swine & Co. on Urbanspoon

A visual companion to the foodies guide to Redfern (or Pitt St Diner brunch pics)

Last Friday the Good Food section of Sydney Morning Herald published a note on the latest and greatest places to eat in Redfern (see article here). One of my favourite brunch spots, Pitt St Diner, got a brief mention and I thought I could share some photos from our most recent visit to expand with examples. After all, one pic is worth much more than a 2^10 words.

The Big Daddy

Big Daddy; two eggs, chorizo, bacon, roast tomato, mushrooms, spinach, avocado & kumara hash (instead of organic sourdough) ($25)

Croque Monsieur

Croque Monsieur; grilled ham, gruyere cheese & béchamel toasted sandwich ($12)

Baked eggs

Pipperade; Basque country eggs, chorizo & eggs baked in a tomato, onion & red capsicum sauce served with baguette ($17)

Truffled eggs

Truffles, poached eggs, parmesan, white wine & thyme mushrooms, asparagus and truffle oil on sourdough ($17)

Eggs Florentine

Florentine; poached eggs, fresh asparagus & hollandaise stacked on a kumara hash & hollandaise ($21)

Yeah, we’re friends with the owner but I wouldn’t rave about the food if I honestly didn’t like it. You can read previous reviews of Pitt St Diner here,
here, and

Pitt St Diner
96 Pitt Street
Redfern NSW 2016
(02) 8668 5936
On Facebook

Pitt St Diner on Urbanspoon

Review: Kuki Tanuki (Erskineville)

In September 2012 I contacted Kuki Tanuki to get their menu because it wasn’t on their website. See how slow I am at trying new places? Now not only the menu is online but it indicates dishes that can be ordered gluten-free. Sweet.

Because this is equal parts bar and restaurant, we were expecting small portions and thus ordered quite a few dishes. I liked that the sake list had a lot of information in it, including suggested food pairings. I ordered 3 x 30ml serves to test if the pairings were spot on.

We had a couple of kushiyaki skewers: yakitori chicken and pork negima, both with shio (salt). I paired these with the Fuku Shogun ($2), a delicious sake served hot that was meant to go well with grilled dishes. The skewers and this sake were among my favourite items of the night.

Yakitori with salt

Yakitori chicken with shio ($8)

Pork Negima with salt

Pork negima with shio ($8)

The salt-n-pepa squid (deep-fried juicy squid bites with fresh coriander, nanami spice powder and garlic mayo) was tender and perfectly crunchy thanks to the the gluten-free (rice flour?) coating. The mayo was sweet, thick, creamy, and addictive. We ended up ordering a second serve of squid in lieu of dessert. I paired this dish with the Edoichi sake ($3), served hot, which was meant to go well with oily dishes. I wasn’t a big fan of the sake or the pairing.

Salt-n-pepa squid

Salt-n-pepa squid ($8.5)

The Wagyu beef tataki was a winner. Granted, it was a smallish serve but can’t complain about its quality. I didn’t get a sake to pair with beef, so just sipped along from random cups. Bad style, I know.

Wagyu beef tataki

Wagyu beef tataki ($16)

The seafood salad (freshly sliced, tuna, kingfish and salmon, green salad, avocado and baby tomato) was perhaps the most predictable dish of the bunch. Much fresher than your regular CBD eatery salad, and with a pleasant dressing, made gluten-free for us. I paired this with a cold sake, the Gin ($2.5), suggested for fresh sashimi. Nice pairing.

Seafood salad

Seafood salad ($13.5)

Kuku Tanuki
61 Erskineville Road
Erskineville, NSW 2043

On Facebook

Kuki Tanuki - Japanese Sake Bar on Urbanspoon

Recipe: Mixto completo (sort of)

Another sandwich recipe? Really? Yeah, we still got a lot of protein bread in the freezer. Peruvians took the French classics croque monsieur and croque madame and made the poor person’s versions mixto and mixto completo. These generally contain jamón inglés (regular leg ham) and Edam cheese. The completo (equivalent to the croque madame) has a fried egg. These are normally buttered and put in a sandwich press. Another option is to heat it on a flat grill iron (or pan). When using this method, it’s common to cut a whole on the top slice of bread with a small glass or cookie cutter and pour the egg in the hole. We took the lazy route: toasted the bread in a regular toaster and melted the cheese in the pan where the eggs were cooking.

Mixto completo
Yield: 1 sandwich

Mixto completo


  • 2 slices protein bread
  • 2 slices double-smoked ham
  • hard cheese, to taste (Parmesan, Pecorino or aged tasty work well)
  • 1 egg
  • fat of choice
  • salt and pepper


  1. Fry the egg and season with salt and pepper. When it’s about halfway done, drop the cheese in the same pan to melt it.
  2. Toast the bread and make a sandwich with the cheese, ham and egg.

Review: The Duck Inn (Chippendale)

My sister and I had been meaning to try this pub for a while and now that we finally did I can honestly say it was one of the best pub meals I’ve had in Sydney.

Drinks-wise, the pub offers a decent variety of brews and wines.

The Duck Inn

The menu has several gluten-free options and each dish has a suggested wine pairing. One entrée and one main to share were enough food for us. Both the BBQ baby Fremantle octopus, chorizo, fennel purée, tomato, olive and the pan seared spiced Bangalow pork loin, spring vegetables, bacon, fennel, celeriac remoulade were outstanding. Looking forward to eating at The Duck again.

BBQ baby Fremantle octopus

BBQ baby Fremantle octopus ($17)

Pan seared spiced "Bangalow" pork loin

Pan seared spiced Bangalow pork loin ($28)

The Duck Inn
74 Rose Street
Chippendale NSW 2008
(02) 9319 4415

The Duck Inn Pub & Kitchen on Urbanspoon

Review: Burger Project (Sydney CBD)

Late as usual, but I finally managed to visit Neil Perry’s Burger Project multiple times in one week, all in the name of blogging.

Burger Project

I read many people complained about the buns and Neil Perry responded to the feedback by changing them. I will never know if the buns are good or not and it doesn’t really matter to me. I’m just happy you can get your burger in a bowl (more accurately, a recyclable takeaway container), “wrapped” in lettuce. The iceberg leaves do look sturdy but I didn’t want to risk it and ate my bunless burgers with cutlery.

Following Miss Piggy’s cue on her post (“too much meat”), I ordered what she had: the double burger (2 x grass-fed beef, cheese, onion, pickles, tomato, lettuce and secret sauce). The patties, cooked medium as should be the case, were big, juicy and tasty. It was definitely not too much meat for me, but too much cheese. I would order it again with less (or no) cheese. I liked the fact that this is a good version of an American burger (pickles, onion, tomato vs. beetroot), which is the type of burger I’m used to, but would appreciate a bit more vegetables in the bowl version.

Double in a bowl and house made chips

Double in a bowl ($12.90), house made chips ($4.90)

I ordered a serve of thrice cooked house made chips that were crispy and big enough for 2 or 3 people to share (yes, I ate them all but I was carb-backloading for training that night… nah, I was just being a pig). I’ve read someone compared them to Macca’s chips… really? Granted, I didn’t think these were the best chips on Earth but massively superior to Macca’s.

The next day I had the spicy pork belly in a bowl (crispy free range pork belly, salted chilli, pickles, pickled slaw, and lettuce). The bowl version comes with way more veggies than the “regular” burgers (but wait! is this really a burger? For me a burger is a patty of minced meat, not a slab of something in a burger bun… especially when ordered bunless!). I dug the pickled slaw, and the generous serving of salted chilli paste slathered on the also generous serving of crispy-skinned porky goodness. My favourite of the lot.

Spicy pork belly in a bowl

Spicy pork belly in a bowl ($9.90)

My next burger was The Korean (grass-fed beef, kim chi, onion, lettuce and spicy Korean dressing), which has been described as disappointing by several bloggers. While I found the patty to be a tad smaller and overcooked than the ones I had in a previous visit, I liked the very generous amount of kimchi and the Korean dressing. I’d guess it would very messy to eat in a bun, and perhaps that’s what people are not very fond of. Order it in a bowl and problem solved.

The Korean in a bowl

The Korean in a bowl ($8.90)

The last burger I tried was the chicken (free range grilled chicken, pickles, pickled slaw, lettuce, coriander, soy and mayonnaise). I liked the fact that they used thigh instead of breast, which made it juicier than others (they even left a bit of skin on, yay!). The flavour was nice but not mind-blowing. The slaw is the same great one they use in the pork belly burger, and goes really well with the mayo. This burger was the smallest of the lot, and my least favourite.

Chicken in a bowl

Chicken in a bowl ($8.90)

The Burger Project
Shop 11.06, World Square
Level 1, 644 George St
Sydney NSW 2000
On Facebook

Burger Project on Urbanspoon

Food for thought: Once a fatty, always a fatty?

That was the question asked to Robb Wolf in the Paleo Solution Podcast stuck to my brain when I heard it on episode 158 and since then I’ve learned a few things about biochemistry and metabolism. For example, that gaining a bit of fat increases the size of existing adipocytes (fat cells) but gaining a lot of fat increases both their size and number. Losing fat makes them shrink but not necessarily gets rid of them, so it’s generally easy to “refill” them. There’s also a “set point” theory that claims that our body defends a particular weight and will eventually come back to it after periods of overfeeding or fasting followed by eating ad libitum. Lately, this has been renamed to “settling point”, to indicate that it can change under particular circumstances.

I don’t have much time to go into detail with this, but my n=1 experience tells me that whatever mechanisms are in place, once a fatty, always a fatty is mostly true. Apart from the biological changes (size and number of adipocytes), there are chemical changes (hormones, cytokines) and psychological changes that come with the extra chub. For a large percentage of FFP (former fat people) it’s not impossible to be lean but it is hard, as can be demonstrated by the 4+ kilos (!) I’ve put on the past few months. People assume that I’m naturally thin but my fat past has caused a dent in my ability to become/remain lean. A calorie is not a calorie, but at some points calories do matter, and as Mark Sisson wrote in a recent article, a cheat meal eaten often is no longer a cheat. Sometimes we do need to “paleo harder”.

Injury update

On October 15th, just under 2 months after my injury, I started lifting again. My chiro’s instructions were to do only 2 exercises (anything except snatches, clean & jerks and front squats) per session at 30-40% (of weight). Boring, I know, but much less boring that just stretching, swimming and cycling.


I’ve been slowly incorporating more exercises back to the routine as prescribed by my coaches, keeping the weight light and focusing on technique. As of last night I have done everything except SOTS press, full cleans and any type of jerks (split or power). I have done light power cleans with no problems. I won’t be PBing any time soon and I don’t feel 100% recovered from the injury but will get there eventually.

Sydney food bloggers Xmas picnic 2014

This year the Sydney food blogger Christmas picnic changed locations. After last year’s rain, the ladies in charge, Helen and Suze, found a weather-proof venue: one of the pavillions at Bicentennial Park (Sydney Olympic Park).

Sydney Food Bloggers Xmas picnic 2014

The shade was perfect to guard us from the scorching sun. There was a good supply of cold drinks to keep us refreshed.

Sydney Food Bloggers Xmas picnic 2014

Sydney Food Bloggers Xmas picnic 2014

The way these things work is that each blogger brings a dish to share and a food-related present for Kris Kringle. In the past few picnics the organisers have provided forms for writing down the dish description, blogger name and blog, and I was happy to see that now the forms include tick boxes to mark dishes as gluten-free, nut-free, vegan and/or vegetarian.

As expected, bloggers are given a generous period of time to take photos of food.

Sydney Food Bloggers Xmas picnic 2014

Sydney Food Bloggers Xmas picnic 2014

Sydney Food Bloggers Xmas picnic 2014

Then we were given permission to attack. The most anticipated dish IMO was Ramen Raff‘s macarons. For some reason, even though I’m not a big macaron fan and I prefer eating savouries before sweets, I felt compelled to grab one before they were gone (actually someone else grabbed it for me, thank you!). The filling was half melted but the shell was perfect! I get the anticipation now. Great job, Raff!

Sydney Food Bloggers Xmas picnic 2014

I was happy to see that Irene’s lemper made a comeback. You’ve heard me say before: if I eat rice it has to be worth it. This is one of such cases.

Sydney Food Bloggers Xmas picnic 2014

The pulled pork rice paper rolls by Cath were awesome (and worth their rice), too. I almost missed them because they were sort of hidden (thanks Kelly for showing me where they were!).

Sydney Food Bloggers Xmas picnic 2014

We don’t do awards but if we did, the award for the prettiest food would go to the hamburger cupcakes by the guys behind Oh, Burger Me.

Sydney Food Bloggers Xmas picnic 2014

And the award for the most thoughtful contribution would go to this red velvet cake brought by the Khismosa guys.

Sydney Food Bloggers Xmas picnic 2014

One of my favourite foods was Billy‘s Christmas ham. I even got an action shot to prove I’m a real blogger.

Sydney Food Bloggers Xmas picnic 2014

Sydney Food Bloggers Xmas picnic 2014

My contribution was chicken liver pâté with celery and carrot sticks. The recipe is from my friend Richie, who among many other things is an amazing cook. I tried to get his permission to publish it on the blog but he said “keep it safe, keep it secret”, so no recipe. I’ll just say we’ve tried a few recipes and this is our go-to.

Sydney Food Bloggers Xmas picnic 2014

As per usual, there was so much food that even when a big percentage was not gluten-free (like these massaman empanadas) there was still plenty of choice for me. For example, the spicy kale chips by Shanshan. Yum.

Sydney Food Bloggers Xmas picnic 2014

Sydney Food Bloggers Xmas picnic 2014

We ate and mingled around, putting faces on blogs we knew and including new blogs in our (rss) feeds.

Sydney Food Bloggers Xmas picnic 2014

Sydney Food Bloggers Xmas picnic 2014

Sydney Food Bloggers Xmas picnic 2014

Our traditional Kris Kringle game was tons of fun in the beginning but got kinda long with 74 peeps participating. Popular items this year included a waffle maker, teapots and cheese boards. I got a set of owl-shaped ceramic measuring cups that I’ll be definitely using.

Sydney Food Bloggers Xmas picnic 2014

Sydney Food Bloggers Xmas picnic 2014

You can find the official posts here: Suze’s and Helen’s.