Happy New Year to My Food Trail readers! Welcome to our first post for 2016, I’ve been incredibly busy already, but I’ve got so much to share with you. Where do I start!?

Let’s start with Christmas. I’ve always wanted to make my own bacon, and after overdosing on brisket in American BBQ Nirvana (Texas) over Summer, I was convinced Santa would bring me a Smoker. As circumstances would have it however, I ended up splurging our savings on a brand new TM5 Thermomix! Not quite a bacon maker, but known as “The World’s Smallest, Smartest Kitchen”, and it has opened my world into endless food producing possibilities.

But I have a confession to make. Until recently, I was skeptical, even anti-Thermomix. I felt this machine was taking away the “art of cooking”, where people could make anything at the press of a button, completely skipping the process of learning the fundamentals and putting love into cooking a dish.

My view changed over time, once I realised how much more you could do in the kitchen with a Thermomix. Things like:

  • Making precisely heated and smooth lemon curd (This is important because my wife LOVES lemon curd. Happy wife, happy life. I can also use lemon curd to bribe her hehe)
  • Freshly milling rice flour from rice grains or blitzing sugar into icing sugar. Instantly, I can reduce the 10 or so different sugars in my pantry by a third. Strangely, clearing the overcrowded pantry also makes wifey happy…
  • Stirring my risotto and kneading my bread while I do other more important things like checking Instagram…(wife not so happy)

Seeing the potential that a Thermomix could help me bang out a dish I’d made many times before, but in record time, I took the Thermomix leap and didn’t look back.

Thermomix Vs Man – Oliebollen Dutch Donuts

Oliebollen donuts

The first big test I put my Thermomix through was a head-to-head Iron Chef battle against my father-in-law, Rob. Rob is a proud Dutch-Australian and amongst his many talents, he has become legendary for his Dutch donuts. Dutch donuts are known as oliebollen, or translated from Dutch as “oily balls”. These balls are made from a batter consisting of flour, eggs, sugar, yeast and milk, then deep fried in hot oil. Usually they are loaded with dried fruits or apples, and even a few swigs of beer in place of the yeast.

Legend has it that a Germanic goddess called Perchta, flew around Holland during the twelve days of Christmas, looking for food. Perchta would slit open the belly of anyone she could find and steal the food in their belly. If you had eaten oliebollen however, the “oily balls” would protect your stomach, and make Perchta’s sword slide off your belly.

Not that I needed another reason to eat oliebollen. The first time I tried oliebollen was at a small food stall in Salamanca Market while holidaying in Hobart several years ago. I curiously bought one, and remember the sweet crunch followed by a fluffy centre with moist sultanas. It was a simple, yet satisfying ball of dough. I didn’t get to encounter that oliebollen feeling again (they are surprisingly hard to find in Melbourne), until I discovered my in-laws made them around New Years, a Dutch tradition they subscribe to every year.

So it was for years, I would ask (or some might say, beg) to help my father-in-law make his famous oliebollen. I never managed to hustle my way in to this secret oliebollen making ceremony. Until recently.

What I discovered in the process was how seriously the Dutch take their oliebollen. Every year around Christmas time in Holland, one of the national daily newspapers, the Algemeen Dagblad, run a competition to find Holland’s best oliebollen. The AD Oliebollentest competition is in it’s 23rd year, and holds high prestige, with the 2015 winners, Master Bakers Cees Weeda and Arnold Kabbedijk, claiming “this is a baker’s best prize.” Their winning bakery, Meesterbakker Voskamp, also won the coveted award in 2010, which quadrupled their sales. In the lead up to New Year, they were able to sell up to 12,500 oliebollen an hour, and almost half a million oliebollen in total during the Christmas/New Year season. Like I said, serious business.

In comparison, Rob and I worked our backsides off over several hours, making and selling over 400 oliebollen for a Christmas carols event. And that’s not including that one’s I ate! I ate so many oliebollen I literally lost count. We were exhausted but it was an amazing day!

The day started with helping Rob prepare the mixture. I hear some Dutch families keep their oliebollen recipe physically locked in a safe, and while Rob doesn’t, I’m sworn to secrecy. However, I can share a behind the scenes view of Rob’s secret process, and there is an oliebollen recipe I used in the Thermomix below too.

The Oliebollen Dutch Donut process

STEP 1 – Rob prepares his secret flour mix, a combination of flour, yeast, salt and sugar, mixing them together by hand in giant tub.

Oliebollen mixing dough Hand mixing the dough

STEP 2 – Rob then adds the wet ingredients, milk and eggs. He hand mixes the dough until he reaches the consistency where there are no flour clumps

STEP 3 – Rob uses raisins and currents in his standard oliebollen mix, adding them as the final step

Oliebollen adding raisins and currants Adding in the raisins and currants

STEP 4 – The oliebollen mix is transferred into a bin, covered, then left in a warm spot to rise. Over the next 1-2 hours, depending on temperature, the oliebollen mix should more than double in size

Oliebollen dough proving Transferring the dough so it can rise

STEP 5 – Deep fry the oliebollen in hot oil and remove when golden brown.

Oliebollen donuts frying Deep fried golden donuts!

STEP 6 – Dust the oliebollen with a generous serving of icing sugar and serve

After a random poll of 10 people, 80% loved Rob’s hand made oliebollen. MAN wins!

Recipe – Thermomix Oliebollen

Adapted from Devil of a cookbook by Fiona Hoskin

  • 60g sugar plus extra to dust (Mill 4 sec @speed 9)
  • 1 medium size Granny Smith apple, peeled, cored and quartered (Chop 5 sec @speed 4)
  • 2 sachets dried yeast (14g)
  • 130g water
  • 450g plain flour
  • Pinch sea salt
  • 250g full cream milk
  • 2 eggs
  • 100g currants
  • 30g raisins
  • Vegetable oil to deep fry
  • Ground cinnamon to dust doughnuts


  1. Mix yeast and water together in the Thermomix, 2 minutes, 37 degrees @speed 2
  2. Add the flour, salt, milk, eggs and sugar into the mixing bowl, then knead for 1.5 minutes
  3. Add currants, raisins and apple, stirring for 20 secs, reverse, speed 2 until combined
  4. Pour the mix into a glass bowl, cover with plastic wrap and leave to rise in a warm spot until doubled in size (approx 1-2 hours)
  5. Heat oil to approximately 150 – 160 degrees, and deep fry the oliebollen until golden
  6. Generously dust the oliebollen with cinnamon and sugar. Serve immediately

Much more to come on my new toy in future posts.

Until next time, happy eating, Brando


Hello and welcome to my first post for My Food Trail! Not to be confused with Mr FoodTrail (yes, it happens a lot!), my name is Brandon but people online know me as Brando The Pig. I’m excited to share some of my adventures with you, and hope you enjoy them as a new addition to the My Food Trail blog!

So where does my first adventure begin?

Ms Noordam docked at Port Melbourne Ms Noordam docked at Port Melbourne for the first time

All aboard! April and I jumped on board the maiden port call of the Holland America Line ms Noordam, the cruise ship’s first trip to Melbourne. This also happened to be my first time on a cruise ship and it certainly opened my eyes to a whole other world of holidays.

Ms Noordam library The library is a great place to unwind

After checking in (like an airport!), the next four hours was spent uncovering the unique features of ms Noordam. There was a fitness centre, roof top pools, luxury shops, a library cafe, an art gallery, an endless number of bars, a cigar lounge (!!), live entertainment by the B.B. King All-Star band, theatre shows, and my personal favourite, a burger bar serving some of the best burgers at sea. Who thought you could fit all of that into a ship!?

Ms Noordam Dive in Terrace burgers Best burgers on the sea at the Dive in Terrace

Then came one of the highlights of my very short food blogging career. Meeting one of the internationally renown Australian chefs, Mark Best. Mark is a member on the Culinary Council for Holland America Line, with a signature restaurant Marque, currently a two hatted Sydney restaurant in Surry Hills, which previously hit the dizzying heights of #67 on the San Pellegrino World’s 50 Best Restaurants awards in 2010.

For me, Marque still holds the mantle of one of my favourite desserts of all time – the famed chocolate mousse “ecrase” (crushed) with eucalyptus and coconut. The mousse is frozen in liquid nitrogen, crushed, sprayed with chocolate coverture then refridgerated. I remember chomping down on the cool crisp exterior which opened up a soft, rich mousse. It was offset by a unique refreshing eucalyptus caramel (made with Fisherman’s friend lozenges for sore throats!), coconut sorbet and candied mint.

Mark now owns another one of my mantles – my favourite chef interviewees. Yes I know, it’s my first interview, but Mark was amazingly generous with his time, charismatic in his responses and didn’t hold back on his answers while being interrogated by a complete amateur (me). So without further ado, here is my maiden chef interview with the very talented Mark Best…

Chef Mark Best Chef Mark Best

Brando The Pig: First question up front, what do you think of food bloggers?
Mark Best: LOVE THEM! (laughs)
Brando: Right answer!
Mark Best: No look, the face of media is changing, the bloggers, online, digital, is where it’s at. It’s the new paradigm. Bloggers are part of that. I like to reach as broad as audience as possible, and I like to talk to your audience as intimately as I would like to talk to traditional print based media. So, yep, love them.

Brando: Now we’ve just spent the last couple of minutes looking at some amazing photos on your iphone, and there’s some beautiful shots there. In general, how do you rate the talent of chefs in the skill of photography?
Mark: Uh…pretty bad, I would say (laughs). No, it’s something I’ve always been interested in. Actually my photography pre-dates to me being a chef. I go back to film days, so it dates me a bit. It’s something I even learnt at school, it was part of the school curriculum. We did the photography module, learnt dark room skills, started off doing pinhole cameras, and taking perspective shots of the school bench and stuff like that. I got my first SLR when I was about 18 and I’ve just carried on. Photography is certainly something that informs my work, in terms of my composition on a plate. And vice versa. I have a very minimalist style. As you noticed, even my photography is a little gritty and realistic. Which doesn’t always suit everyone’s mental image of what they look like. But as I say, if you want a better photo, get a better head (laughs).

April: Is that why on your Instagram profile, you’ve got that scary face as your profile pic?
Mark: That’s Tutankhamun’s [also known as”King Tut”] father. But he’s a few thousand years old, so he’s not looking the best. I like him because he’s got this sort of wry grin and a nice bit of ginger hair still, which I don’t have, ironically.

Brando: Now obviously being very active on Instagram, you would see quite a number of food shots and food styles from many different people, what do you see as the most common fails with food photography or food styling on Instagram?
Mark: Um…taking pictures of your food after you’ve finished it. (laughs). I see that a lot.
You know, a lot of the people I follow, they tell a compelling story, no matter what they’re photographing. You want to be able to climb in that page, and you want to eat it. If they’re saying it’s delicious, you want to feel that through the photograph. So you don’t want poor lighting, or poor angle, or clutter. You just need to focus on what’s the hero of the frame, and then just cut out all the other clutter. You know, and that’s how I sort of frame myself as well. You need to say “What’s my story here, what am I trying to say” and then get out anything that is superfluous.

Brando: Brilliant. I’d love to sign up to one of your photography courses, if you do eventually branch out to that side of things.
Mark: (laughs)

Brando: We’re are on the ms Noordam, can you quickly tell us how you got involved?
Mark: I was contacted some years ago by the corporate office and evidently I had been through some extensive selection process that I didn’t know I was part of, and was told I was the winner. I said sure and so I joined the culinary panel. Pretty flattering to be amongst some of the world’s leading chefs. Jonnie Boer [of the three Michelin star Restaurant De Librije in Zwolle, Netherlands], David Burke, Elizabeth Falkner, [also Master pastry chef “Mr Chocolate” Jacques Torres] all amazing talents. We all provide recipe content to all of the ships, we put out about 10 new recipes a year. Then they send out their roving chefs to come into our kitchens and train, learn our recipes, then they come back on board and implement them across the ships. We’re just about to put on a Mark Best menu, when we’re in the local port, we will run some Mark Best nights on board, in the pinnacle grill.

Brando: If there’s a one way ticket which Mark Best takes on the Ms Noordam, where would you end up?
Mark: I would go back to Alaska, I was just there. I just did the Vancouver to Seattle trip through Alaska. It was amazing. Once I’d actually calmed down and got into the rhythms of the ship, you sit in this oily black waters, and the scenery drifts past you, then the glaciers, and hearing the birds tweeting, and thinking “where are these birds coming from?”, and realise you are completely surrounded. It was absolutely amazing. And it still has this gold rush aura about it, in terms of it is still wilderness. It’s a very, very large continent and almost untouched by people. It’s beautiful to go up there and witness that.

Brando: And how was the food on the trip Mark?
Mark: It was exceptional. (Grins). Some of the best I’ve ever eaten.

Brando: (laughs) Were you in the kitchen?
Mark: Yes I was. We have a full kitchen on board with a huge auditorium, we do cooking shows on board, we teach people how to cook, we’ll give out samples and we cooked a dinner on board as well.

Brando: You’re known for loving your gadgets in the kitchen, which gadgets would you take on board the Noordam?
Mark: If I had to take my desert island device, providing there was mains electricity, it would be the Thermomix. I think a camp fire and a Thermomix, I think I would be fine, I would have all bases covered.

Brando: It’s been a great pleasure speaking to one of the acclaimed chefs of Australia…
Mark: [interrupts] …Of the world… Of the seven seas (laughs)
Brando: And potentially one of the best chef photographers in the world. (laughs).
Mark: Potentially
Brando: (laughs) Thanks for your time Mark.
Mark: Thank you

Stay tuned for more delicious content coming soon!

Until next time, happy eating, Brando

Brando and April were on board Ms Noordam for the day as guests of Holland America Line and PEPR Publicity.

{ 1 comment }

Welcome sign

My Food Trail has a new contributor!

by April@MyFoodTrail on November 20, 2015

in Miscellaneous

I am pleased to welcome my brother, Brando, as a new contributor and writer to the My Food Trail blog! He is otherwise known as @brandothepig on Instagram and loves eating and taking photos of his food as much as I do. Maybe even more :)

Brando is a keen home cook and I have been very lucky to have had a number of his delicious meals. He will be sharing some recipes on My Food Trail as well as writing up his restaurant visits.

So My Food Trail readers can get to know Brando a bit better, I asked him some food related questions below. You’ll notice that typical questions such as “What is your favourite food?” or “What is your favourite restaurant?” have been excluded because I know how hard it is for a foodie to answer those questions with just one response!

April: What is the most unusual item in your pantry/refrigerator?

Brando: Whenever I travel, I always have to bring local food specialities back home with me, so my pantry looks a bit like the United Nations of food. I have shrimp chilli oil from Thailand, wakame seaweed from Japan, maple butter from Canada, aceto balsamico from Italy and seaweed pork floss egg rolls from a recent trip to Macau. The most unusual item in my pantry however, would be the various Ferran Adria branded powders and agents I still have from my dabble in molecular gastronomy during the reign of the El Bulli days. It’s probably more unusual that they are expired and I can’t bring myself to throw these big, almost full tins out!

A: Unlike some men who don’t have a sweet tooth, you definitely do! What would be your dream cake?

B: It’s funny that I don’t really think I’m a sweet tooth. Nine times out of ten I would choose an entrée over a dessert, but then I look over my Instagram feed and see how much sugar I actually eat. No wonder I’m not losing weight haha. When I think of a dream cake, I think of the most memorable cake I’ve eaten – my wedding cake. It was a giant croquembouche from Adriano Zumbo Patisserie, which my amazing Mother-in-law then pimped up with Persian fairy floss, dried figs and candied flower petals. It definitely needs texture. I’m a texture junkie…

A: Do you have a food hero/chef crush?

B:I have too many to mention! If I could only pick one, I would have to choose Massimo Bottura. He is a legend in my eyes. I went to a couple of his masterclasses at the Melbourne Food and Wine show, and I ate at his 3 Michelin restaurant in Moderna, Italy. The way he crafts his ideas, the way he bends food concepts into emotion and nostalgia is just awe inspiring. Honourable mentions to Grant Achatz and Heston Blumenthal too.

A: What is your favourite snack food?

B: Like I said, I’m a texture junkie. Give me anything with a crunch. Crackling. Corn nuts. Chips.

A: What is your guilty food pleasure?

B: Bacon. And lots of it. Even worse I think would be my bacon jam because it is also loaded with sugar. And don’t get me started on icecream and donuts!!!

A: What would be your last meal?

B: It would be the ultimate degustation. Dan Hunter’s eel bone marrow dish, Grant Achatz’s hot potato cold potato, plus his Basque cake for dessert, Martin Berasategui’s gin apple cucumber celery dessert, Mark Best’s Chocolate Ecrasse, a couple of courses from Vue Du Monde, actually, this question was a bad idea haha.

A: What won’t you eat?

B: I’ll usually try everything and anything at least once. For example, I accidently ordered chicken sashimi (ie raw chicken) in Japan, and thought “I may regret this” but tried it anyway. There was one time however, I got really sick eating pork ribs from a well known chain, losing about 5kgs in five days. I’m still scarred from it so I don’t really touch pork ribs. I’m not particularly fond of durian, goats cheese or offal either, but that’s not to say I absolutely wouldn’t eat it.

A: What did you have for dinner last night?

B: Pan fried salmon with homemade basil and cashew pesto, asparagus and a raw salad of beetroot, green apple, carrots, coriander and toasted pepitas.

A: What is your most memorable food experience?

B: Such a hard question so I will answer it broadly. My most memorable food city is definitely, hands down San Sebastian in Spain. It is an absolute food mecca up there, which I have so many fond food memories. The best meal I’ve ever eaten was closeby at the eponymous 3 Michelin restaurant called Martin Berasategui in Gipuzkoa. I was absolutely floored by the balance of intensity and delicateness of the Basque flavours, along with the inventiveness of the dishes. It transported me into food heights I never imagined possible. The whole experience, including the impeccable service, was faultless.

Thanks Brando! Look out for his posts coming soon.

Over & Out, April xx


Dock 37 Bar and Kitchen
2 Convention Centre Place, South Wharf VIC
Hilton Melbourne South Wharf
(03) 9027 2122

This post is long overdue and it certainly feels like a distant memory since I was having the best time on my staycation at the wonderful Hilton Hotel in South Wharf stuffing myself silly with good food! At least I get to relive it through sharing this post hey?!

Hilton South Wharf Hilton Hotel by the riverside

I was invited along to experience 24 hours of Hilton dining and hospitality starting with check in at the fabulous Hilton Hotel at South Wharf, Melbourne. It’s located right next to DFO South Wharf and close by to the Melbourne Exhibition and Convention Centre. I got a city view room on the 10th floor, which had uninterrupted 180 degree views of the Yarra River and Melbourne city. It was such a stunning view, I could have sat on the lounge chair and admired the view for hours.

View of Melbourne from Hilton South Wharf The beautiful view from the room

The room was spacious and the bathroom had a separate bath tub (no spa). And the bed. OMG, the bed. I wish I could have taken it home with me! It was a heavenly night’s sleep. Also contributing to a good nights sleep was the total block out (electric) blinds. I LOVE block out blinds. Sleep is so precious to me as I have a young toddler who wakes up early and occasionally through the night, so on my one night away from him, I had the chance for a rare, undisturbed sleep AND a sleep in!! I was totally going to make use of that and was thankful for the complete block out blinds. I also had ear plugs with me to further ensure a good night’s sleep!

Inside the Hilton South Wharf room The luxurious bed

Dinner that night was downstairs at the Hilton Hotel restaurant, Dock 37 Bar and Kitchen. I didn’t have a good impression of hotel restaurants, thinking of them more as a last resort rather than a first choice, but I am glad to say that Dock 37 Bar and Kitchen has changed that view! Executive Chef Glenn Wright has built the menu inspired by the concept “where sea meets land” and the high ceilings and mostly timber interior lends to an inviting atmosphere.

Dock 37 Bar and Kitchen, South Wharf Dock 37 Bar and Kitchen

There was six of us at dinner so we tried to order different dishes so we could get a real taste of the menu. Entrees were first up. The entree selection was only from 5 dishes, plus fresh or kilpatrick oysters, but there is something for everyone, covering seafood, meats and vegetarians.

Selection of entrees, Dock 37 Bar and Kitchen Smoked duck breast, slow cooked pork belly and panko fish cakes

My favourite dish was the slow cooked pork belly which came with that amazing pork cracker. Each dish had a number of different elements to keep it interesting.

Smoked duck breast, slow cooked pork belly, Dock 37 Bar and Kitchen Left: Smoked duck breast served with a cabbage, citrus and celeriac slaw and a wasabi dressing $18
Right: Slow cooked pork belly on a cauliflower puree with saute mushrooms, smoked vine tomato, a pork cracker & fig barbecue sauce $18

The choice of mains was a lot larger and the waiter mentioned that the grill is very popular, with both meats and fish available. I like a good steak so I went with the 400gm Victoria grain fed rib eye with a mushroom sauce, medium rare. The steak was cooked perfectly and was well rested. You could choose the accompanying sauce from 12 available. I always choose mushroom sauce!

Grain fed rib eye, 24 hr pork scotch fillet, Dock 37 Bar and Kitchen Left: 400 gram rib eye, grain fed, Victoria with mushroom sauce $49
Right: 24 hour pork scotch fillet, served with pork crackle, a peanut caramel jus & rooftop grown herbs $32

A couple of my fellow diners went with options “From the Sea” which looked fantastic.

NZ King Salmon, Seafood linguine, Dock 37 Bar and Kitchen Left: New Zealand King Salmon grilled then served atop tossed baby carrots, radish, hazelnuts, edamame, fig & quinoa with sauce vierge $28
Right: Seafood linguine – mussels, salmon & pipis with chilli & garlic $29

We finished off with 4 desserts. My favourite was the valrhona chocolate mousse. It was so intensely chocolately without being too rich and was so silky smooth.

Walnut tart, Salted caramel & creme brulee, Dock 37 Bar and Kitchen Left: Walnut tart with blood peach foam & vanilla bean ice cream $14
Right: Salted caramel & basil creme brulee with sesame cracker & blood orange sorbet $12

Chocolate brownie, chocolate mousse, Dock 37 Bar and Kitchen Left: Chocolate brownie with hokey pokey, banana coulis and raspberry sorbet $15
Right: Valrhona chocolate mousse served in a jar with popping candy & biscotti $14

We also got to have buffet breakfast at Dock 37 Bar and Kitchen the next morning. I thought it was so great that the buffet breakfast was open until 11am and all the food was still available until the end. Even though I didn’t sleep in as late as I would have liked, I still got to lie in the warm cosy bed and only went for breakfast at 10am. I wish I could do that every Sunday morning! There was a fantastic selection for buffet breakfast, with the highlight being the fresh, made to order omelettes. There was even an Asian section with steamed dumplings and congee.

I had such a wonderful stay at the Hilton South Wharf and wouldn’t hesitate to return for another staycation. You don’t even need to wander far for dinner, just head straight downstairs to Dock 37 Bar and Kitchen for a delicious feed.

Check out the Dock 37 Bar and Kitchen website for their latest offers such as their Good Food Month Bar Hop Event http://hiltonmelbourne.com.au/dock37.

Over & Out, April xx

April dined at Dock 37 Bar and Kitchen and stayed at Hilton Hotel South Wharf as guests of the hotel and PEPR Publicity.

Dock 37 Bar and Kitchen - Hilton Melbourne South Wharf Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato


Recipe: Golden Gaytime Slice

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Golden Gaytime Slice

I can’t believe it’s been a year since I last blogged! And it’s been a ridiculously long 4 years since I last posted a baking recipe! *cue hands on face shocked face emoticon* It has been so long, I actually forgot how to log into my blog to post, not to mention my password! Then […]

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Dining Out: Sake Restaurant & Bar, Melbourne

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Sake Restaurant, Melbourne - Scampi tempura

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Recipe: Huon smoked salmon tartare on a potato rosti

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Huon Reserve Selection smoked salmon tartare on a potato rosti

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Dining Out: Saveur, Far East Plaza, Singapore

March 19, 2014
Sea bass @ Saveur Restaurant, Singapore

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Highlights of Hong Kong Fine Dining

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Chocolate dessert at Caprice Restaurant, Hong Kong

Thanks for all the congratulatory messages I received about my pregnancy from my last post! Besides the not so fun pregnancy symptoms I am experiencing, our baby seems to be progressing well and it’s such an amazing thing to feel him moving around inside me every day. In this post I wanted to share a […]

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Highlights from Hong Kong Dim Sum and some news

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Famous char siew or BBQ pork buns at Tim Ho Wan

To my horror, I looked at my blog yesterday and realised that it has been three months since I last posted, and besides the last WTC Wharf competition post, it was three months before that! I can’t believe so much time has passed. What a slacker I’ve been! Sorry for the lack of updates. It […]

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