Monday, September 29, 2014

The human carwash experience in Selcuk, Turkey

After a few days of hiking through Turkey, I had visions of total relaxation and pampering when I decided to go visit a Turkish bath (also known as a Hamam) in Selcuk. It was our fourth day in Turkey and of our Turkey Active tour and we finally had some time for a bit of luxury. Or so we thought.

We entered the Hamam and were greeted by two, big Turkish men who handed us each a thin towel in exchange for 50 lira (this was how much we payed for our experience, and is roughly $25 AUD). We were then gestured to go into one of the change rooms that lined the room. All of us girls (about 7 of us) went into the same one, and nervously wondered if we were supposed to remove all our clothes. We decided to strip down to our swimmers and wrap ourselves in the towels (we guessed everything as no direction was given).

We then joined the two Turkish men and the other guys from our group in the main lobby, from there we were led into the bath area. I had done no research about what to expect so was a little awed by the huge room with marble floors and walls, with a big, marble table like slab in the middle. The heat of the room also hit me, reminded me of entering a sauna. I wasn't able to take a picture, but see below for something very similar.



Again without much guidance we were directed to the slab and we guessed we supposed to lie on it. So we spread out our towels like it was a day at the beach. Two by two we were called to rinse off in one of the showers that lined the walls and then headed to a one of the two smaller slabs in the back of the room to be "bathed". In the first slab, one of the men thoroughly scrubbed and exfoliated us each. Showing us how much dirt he had scrubbed off our bodies. Given all the hiking and travel we had done- we were all pretty dirty! After the vigorous scrub we were then again directed to rinse off and sit at the second slab. This was definitely where it felt more car wash than luxury, as the man pulled my body up and down (as I was lying down) the slab, slapping my body with a soapy rag. He then flipped me over to do the same with the other side of my body. He ended it by throwing water over me. I was then directed outside where I found the others who had gone before, all wrapped in towels and sipping apple tea. I too was then wrapped up and served tea.

As we sipped our tea we all agreed that despite the shock to our system, we had never felt cleaner!

Monday, September 15, 2014

Review | Mamak and N2, Chinatown

I had a lovely Sunday in Sydney over the weekend, a morning spent at the aquarium and then hitting up some places on my “want to try” list; Mamak and N2.



There was barely a line at Mamak, and we were seated very quickly which was nice as I had anticipated a wait. I ordered the Mi Goreng, as I had really enjoyed my noodle dish from PappaRich the week before and wanted to see how it compared. I also ordered a classic roti dish to share with my boyfriend.



The mi goreng was nice but I think I preferred the noodle dishes I had at PappaRich. The roti was deliciously crispy and the accompanying curries were also tasty. I was also impressed by the prices, for a hyped restaurant in the CBD, everything was pretty cheap. 


I passed on a Malaysian dessert as I was keen to finally try N2. While we waited in line we debated what to get, and we finally settled on my gut pick, Ferrero Reveal.  For those of you who don't know, the appeal of N2 is the liquid nitrogen they use to make their ice cream. The workers are dressed in lab coats, and its quite a show to see them making the ice cream and the counter becomes covered in mist every so often.

After we ordered we realised there was another wait to get our actual ice cream. About 15-20 minutes later and we finally got our dessert. It looked mouth watering and being a chocolate crackle fan I really liked the rice bubble topping. But when it got down to the actual ice cream part, it really was just like regular ice cream. Good to try one time but would be hard to justify the cost and wait another time (but then again I am still thinking about those other intriguing flavours on offer and how they might taste).




Mamak on Urbanspoon N2 Extreme Gelato on Urbanspoon

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Turkey | Eceabat and Canakkale

Eceabat was the second city on our Turkey tour. The reason we, and think I think most Australians, visit this city is because of it's close proximity to Gallipoli (you can read about our visit here). The town of Eceabat is very small so we decided to catch the ferry to the livelier Canakkale. The rest of our Intrepid group seemed to have the same idea, as we ran into them either on the ferry or while in Canakkale. The main attraction of Canakkale, and as far as we discovered, the only attraction, was the Trojan Horse as seen in the movie Troy (a.k.a not the actual one from history!). I haven't actually seen the movie Troy so seeing the prop from the movie wasn't too exciting, rather I enjoyed the chill vibe of the town, taking pictures of the fisherman lining the wharf and the bright children's play statues around the town.



We also had an amusing food adventure (not like our food poisoning one in Istanbul!) which I think helped break the ice with some of our fellow diners/Intrepid group. The strip across from the water is lined with restaurants, all with someone standing outside calling out to passerbys to come in.

Carly, Mel and I went to one restaurant and were disappointed to see a very "Western" menu, since it was only our second day in Turkey we really wanted to indulge in the local offerings. A few people from our Intrepid group walked by and "saved" us by calling us out from the restaurant. We then continued down the strip, being urged by different restuaranters to come enjoy what they had to offer. We were finally convinced by one restuaranter and the five of us agreed to dine there. Que hilarity. When we tried to order the waiters seem totally confused by us trying to order food. They were further confused when we explained that Carly was a vegetarian and asked what vegetarian options they had. Despite the confusion we ordered 5 chicken kebabs and they said they would prepare something vegetarian for Carly. Time passes and eventually a waiter comes out with vine leaves that his grandmother has made and some watermelon. Both delicious and unexpected (and complimentary!). More time passes and our five "kebabs" arrive- bits of chicken cut up and cooked. A very bland meal but we are still jovial given the yummy freebies. We wait for Carly's meal to arrive, and we wait and wait before finally deciding to enquire how long it would be. More confusion! The waiter panics, brings out some other guys and they panic together and asking what we mean. The lack of a common language does not help the situation. The waiters all panic together before leaving into the kitchen. Luckily the panic produced results, as the eventually bought out Carly some meze options.

Laughing about our dining mishap, we ended the night by getting some Turkish ice cream which is served in a comical manner, with the ice cream man making a show out of serving up the hard ice cream.


Sunday, September 7, 2014

Review | PappaRich, Parramatta

It is the night before Father's Day and as soon as the two sets of parents see the long line outside PappaRich they begin to complain and whinge about going somewhere else. Us "kids" assure them it will be fine and it'll be worth the wait (we hope!). Luckily, the parents make friends with other customers in the line and the hour (yup, hour!) passes quickly.

We are seated and the ordering system is explained to us: we write down the item numbers of what we want on this little notepad, and when we are ready we press the buzzer on our table and a waiter comes to collect our sheet.

Given its our first time there, my sister, cousin and I decide to share a variety of dishes so we can try a bit of everything. We get a roti dish, two noodle dishes, the fried chicken skins, and dumplings. And I get the lychee soda ($4.90) for myself (PappaRich has a huge selection of pretty drinks, all reasonably priced. The lychee soda was a yummy, lighter option)

Everything, bar the roti dishes came out really fast. As did the bill- which came out before everything and we were surprised to find that it came up to about $148 between the 7 of us. Not too bad considering how much we had ordered.

Fried Rice Noodles

Fried Mee


Both the noodle dishes were delicious, and unlike at some places was actually mostly noodle instead of large vegetable cuts. Both the dishes were saucy and packed with the right amount of flavour.

Roti Telur Bawang

The roti, which the waiters warned to have a bit of a wait time to get ready, came with three curries, a chicken curry, a dahl curry and a spicy sambol. The roti was light and fluffy and filled with onion and egg. PappaRich did all of the elements well but the noodle mains were the standout dishes for us three.

Fried Chicken Skins


The fried chicken skins were a guilty, crunchy treat but the dims sims fell below average but we forgave it as everything else was so good.

We had worried we had ordered too much but managed to gobble everything up (but were too full for dessert). Oh, and our complaining parents? They thoroughly enjoyed everything they ordered (which also included the biryani) and left with smiles on their faces, and agreement that it was worth the wait.

Overall, I would say PappaRich deserves the hype it has. The food is delicious, good portions and reasonably priced.



PappaRich on Urbanspoon

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Recipe | DIY "Baked" Eggs with Tomato, Mushrooms, Rocket and Chorizo


A rainy day stuck at home doing an assignment is what lead to the creation of this surprisingly tasty dish. I didn't have much time but wanted a lunch time treat so put this together with what I found in the fridge and pantry. I say surprisingly tasty because I just wanted to create something that looked like the baked eggs I saw in cafes but didn't know how to go about it (I didn't even bake it) or what exactly went it to rather I went off the visual alone. I liked it so much that I made it the next day. And then the day after that I made it again, this time without the eggs and instead I stirred through some cooked pasta.




Ingredients

1 tbs Crushed Garlic
1 tsp Chilli Flakes
3/4 can Crushed Tomatoes
1/4 cup Slice Mushrooms
1 tbs Salsa
2 slices (chopped) Packaged and Sliced Chorizo or Salami
2 Eggs
5 Rocket Leaves
1 tbs Olive Oil
To taste Salt and pepper

Directions
  1. In a small pan, heat up the oil. Throw in the garlic, chilli flakes (less or more depending on taste), salt and pepper. Mix it up and allow it to cook for one minute
  2. Add the tomatoes, mushrooms, salsa and chorizo. Mix. Taste and add more salt and pepper if desired.
  3. Crack the egg, one at a time, and gently pour it from the shell onto the sauce.
  4. Leave until the whites become a solid white (if you like your yolks fully cooked, leave it a few minutes longer)
  5. Throw the rocket leaves on top, if you prefer you can add them right after you add the eggs.
  6. Serve straight in the pan!

Friday, August 29, 2014

Review | Pasha's Turkish Restaurant, Newtown

I noticed Pasha's in Newtown a couple of months ago, the brightly coloured glass lanterns and the decor in general bought back memories of the Grand Bazaar in Istanbul. And the fact that I had been craving Turkish the moment I left Turkey (to read about my actual travels through Turkey, click here), made me add Pasha's to my mental list of places to try.

So last night, along side my fellow Turkey travelers, Carly and Mel, I paid a visit to Pasha's for dinner.

We wanted our meal to be just like in Turkey, beginning with meze options before a main and dessert. Because of this, we ordered banquet one which we calculated to be the cheapest option for us, given that we wanted a lot of the dishes that we had while in Turkey. So banquet one was as follows:

Entrees



A selection of dips, an eggplant dish, zucchini with garlic yogurt and pomegranate salad and Turkish bread.

The dips, in particular the spice capsicum one, was my favourite of the entrees. It was so good dipping the tasty, warm bread into the different options.

Zucchini, in general, is an average vegetable but garlic yogurt was tasty and complemented it well. The eggplant was also nice, and I actually preferred it better with some rice that was served with the main.



Mains




Next up, the mains. We had already indulged ourselves with the entrees so were bordering on full already. The main was a lamb shish, chicken shish, meatballs and traditional Turkish rice. Both the shishes were well cooked and seasoned. Luckily we still had the dips from the entree, because it wasn't served with any sauces, which I think it needed.

To be honest, although the mains were nice, it wasn't amazing and maybe not worth the price its charged at on its own.

Desserts




The desserts for option one were pistachio baklava, turkish delight served with Turkish coffee or apple tea. I chose the option of apple tea, so was a very sweet but oh so tasty dessert. The baklava was crispy, yet dripping in honey- just how I like it. And the Turkish delight was legit Turkish delight, not the choc coated version by Cadbury, and I wish I had some right now. The apple tea was also a great warm, sweet treat- perfect for the wintery, rainy day it was.

And although $40 per person may seem like a lot on a uni student budget, it was worth it considering how much the dishes cost individually. Overall, we had a delicious experience and the food and the decor of the restaurant bought back a lot of fond memories of Turkey. If you are on a budget but in the mood for Turkish (or like us, want to relive a little part of Turkey), I would recommend getting a plate of the mixed dips followed up by some baklava, Turkish delight and apple tea.

Pasha's Restaurant on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Turkey | Istanbul Part Two and Intrepid's "Turkey Active" Tour



When we told people we were going to Turkey, we were often recieved with warnings to be careful, and how it may not be safe for three women. These warnings got the better of us so we ended up booking a tour. We selected Intrepid's "Turkey Active" tour, and although it wasn't the cheapest one available, it gave us the opportunity to partake in a lot of activities that we otherwise wouldn't of done, plus it made travelling around Turkey so easy. And although the claims of Turkey being unsafe for women travellers seem unjustified while we were there, we were grateful we booked the tour because it really was a load of fun.

We met our Turkey Active group in Istanbul. The group was very different to the classic travel tours we had seen/been part of. For one, it was significantly smaller, consisting of only 12 (the Turkey Twelve, as we would later call ourselves) plus our local tour guide. And second, it was a very mixed group, with ages ranging from 21-70.

Spice Market selections

To kick off the tour, our Turkish guide took us on a walking tour of the city. The highlights were:
  • The Spice Market: The spice market boasts an array of tea, sweets and, you guessed it, spices. Our guide took us to a store that belonged to his friend where we were able to sample a delicious selection of Turkish Delight (never did I imagine there were so many varieties) and Apple and Pomegranate tea (not being a tea drinker, I took quickly to this sweet, syrupy version).
  • The Bosporus:  This is the body of water that forms part of the boundary between Asia and Europe, and also the strip of water that sits between "Asian" Turkey and "European" Turkey.
The bosporus

After the tour, we were left to our own devices, with the option of meeting up with the group later for dinner. We opted out of meeting the group for dinner (which may have been a regrettable choice!) and instead we caught a ferry to the "Asian" side of Turkey....which was no different to the European side. After some exploration, we went back to Europe for dinner (as you do). We randomly picked a restaurant and Mel and I both ordered what we thought at the time was a delicious doner kebab dish (pictured). The restaurant also gave us a free loaf of Turkish bread and also insisted we have free apple tea (told you in my previous post that it happens a lot).

The offending kebab

We then headed home to get ready for a night out. Unfortunately, that doner kebab hadn't different plans for us. Both Mel and I got food poisoning soon after and spent the night curled in bed. To add salt to the wound, we heard that the rest of the group had enjoyed a lovely meal with no food poisoning and had also used it as a chance to get to know each other and bond as a group. Last time we skipped group dinner!

Stayed tuned as we wonder out of Istanbul and get to know more of Turkey!


Friday, August 22, 2014

Turkey | Istanbul, Delightfully Charming (Part One)

It has been over a year since I was in Turkey, and as I settle in to finally share my stories via my blog the memories of the charming people, the delicious foods and the awe-inspiring sights come flooding back to me. But lets start at the beginning of my delightful Turkish (see what I did there?) adventure- Istanbul.

Carly and I arrive in Isantbul bright and early, and are picked up at the airport by the Intrepid transfer. After dumping our bags at the hotel, Carly and I set off on a mission to find pide. But given how early it was, this mission proved almost impossible so we decided to make our way to the Blue Mosque. Confused by which tram to catch and lacking in coins to pay for a tram ticket, we decided instead to walk along the tram tracks and hope for the best. This turned out to be a pretty good tactic, and one we used a lot in Istanbul (and saved us from wondering around lost). As we walked along the tracks, we quickly started to get an idea of how friendly and charming this city is. Walking along, people kept calling out things like "Hello Spice Girls!" or trying to guess where we were from. It was always friendly, and rarely ever followed up with an attempt to sell us something. It felt like they just genuinely were keen for a chat.


Walking up the Blue Mosque is definitely a beautiful sight, the green lawns leading up to that magnificent Mosque. As you enter you are asked to remove your shoes and put them in a plastic bag. You are required to cover your hair (if you are a woman) and any exposed arms or legs. I was wearing a maxi dress, cardigan and a shawl so was fine to go in but if your outfit is not appropriate they do provide robes and cloth.

Not surprisingly given the exterior, the inside of the mosque was very pretty with beautiful glass and lighting. There was a gated off area for only women, and a fenced off area where people could pray. The tourist were free to explore the rest of the space. And even though I was also a visiting tourist, I did find it a little strange how watching people pray was almost like an attraction itself, with tourists lining the gate watching as people prayed.

As we made our way from the Blue Mosque to the Grand Bazaare we spotted a restaurant that was selling cheese pide- victory! As we waited for our pide to be made, the man at the restaurant insisted we take a seat at one of the tables outside and have some complimentary Turkish tea. And I mean insisted! This was the first of many times when we were offered a seat, a chat and some free tea at restaurants and cafes.

Grand Bazaare

We munched on our pides, which were tasty and salty, and made our way to the Grand Bazaare. Carly and I agreed that we could both easily spend a day there, as it was so easy to get caught up in haggling and looking at the array of products ranging from rings, to rugs, to tea.

We then returned to our hotel and were reunited with Mel, who was lucky enough to have had already started her Euro adventure weeks before us. We then prepared to go meet out Intrepid tour group, who we would be spending the next 12 days with. We tried to keep our expectations low, we had been fortunate to have had an amazing group when we had travelled with Topdeck (which if you read my blog regularly is how I actually met Carly and Mel) and we tried to be realistic and assume that was a one off, us getting lucky. But we would soon find out either way! Stay tuned, as I share my adventures through Turkey on Intrepid's "Turkey Active" tour.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Review | Candelori's Restuarant, Smithfield

The Horsely Drive is lined with the classic Western Suburb main street offerings: kebab joints, Chinese restaurants, charcoal chicken shops. Nestled among these is one restaurant that is not like the others, once you step through the large (and slightly intimidating) door it feels like you've stepped into a fine dining restaurant in the CBD. Beautiful pendant lights, crisp white table cloths and perfectly set tables. Welcome to Candelori's.

But it's not all about how the restaurant looks, of course. I was keen to try the food, and see if it was like the Italian I had in Italy.

To start us off, the waiter brings us olive oil and balsamic vinegar with some fresh bread, just like in Italy- they are off to a good start!

Between the four of us we order a pizza: the teramano, a pasta dish: tagliatelle porcini with pork sausage and a risotto: truffled mushroom risotto.

Teramano Pizza


The food arrives and they serve it with a dish of Parmesan and a dish of hot chillies in oil (just like in Italy! Another win for them).

I first dig into the pizza, to see how it rivals to that from Naples and Florence. Pretty good but not as good as Naples (although I'm beginning to think I am over imagining how good the pizza was over there, as it really has ruined all other pizzas for me), but the rest of my family found it delicious, especially commenting on how good the base was.

Next up, the risotto. And my favourite. Perfectly cooked, and to sound all mastercheffy- a good combination of textures.

Truffled mushrom risotto

Finally I tried the pasta and, honestly, it was a bit meh. The pasta itself was fresh and nicely cooked, but as a dish it was average.

Tagliatelle porcini with pork sausage

Despite only ordering three meals between the four of us, we were pretty full and had a tiny amount leftover as well. That said, we still ordered desserts! We ordered two desserts between us all, given how stuffed we were. We ordered the nougat toblerone and the hazlenut and chocolate ricotta calzone (which the menu notes serves two). Both were delicious and it was hard to pick a favourite out of the two. The calzone was very big and was a more delicious and sophisticated version of a nutella crepe.  The nougat toblerone was a tasty, rich chocolate dish, complimented well by the gelato it is served with.

Hazelnut and ricotta chocolate calzone

Nougat Toblerone

So to sum up, I would recommend Candelori's. It's a rare fancy find in the West that is reasonably priced, and best of all the food is good. I hope I get chance to go back because I hear their stuffed zucchini flowers are pretty amazing.


Candelori's on Urbanspoon

Saturday, August 9, 2014

Greece, Part Six: Ios and the wrap up

Ios. The final chapter of my Greece story, and unfortunately as far as stories go there isn't much to tell. Ios is definitely a party island, and that really is the main attraction. Our nights were spent club and bar hopping, and our days relaxing on the beach.

Far Our Beach Club


For those who weren't wrecked from the night before or cash poor (like us as it was nearing the end of our trip), the island offered a number of water sport activities.

We stayed at Far Our Beach Club, in a little hut like room. Outside the front of Far Out is a a bar and pool, where bikini clad and shirtless bods surround the area dancing and drinking up a storm. To be honest, by this point we were pretty accustomed to the scene so we walked right through without a sense of awe, like we had when we first arrived on the island.

Our Room
And after two nights in Ios, we bid goodbye to the Islands as we boarded the ferry back to Athens. See below for my video wrap of my time in Greece:


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