Wednesday, 25 December 2013

Food for the Skin

Sometime last year, my father came across the AMICA ORGANICS stall at the Marrickville Organic Farmer's and Trader's Markets. My father was quite interested in the products because of the organic certification. He asked me to look into these products from a pharmaceutical point of view, as he was interested in importing them. 

I could not find much information or many reviews on AMICA ORGANICS on the Internet. In the middle of this year, I contacted Sonia Magliocchi, AMICA ORGANICS' founder and creator. She was very obliging, and agreed to meet with me at the pharmacy.  She told me she makes the products in Maroubra, and over 95% of the ingredients are certified organic. She indicated she has done a lot of research into the ingredients. I was bought over by the fact that her skin appeared flawless, so I decided to stock her products in the pharmacy. 

I also decided to try some of the products. The best way to know whether or not a product works is to try it. Here I will give my opinion on them.


ALEGRIA facial cream cleanser

I love the smell and texture of the cream cleanser. ALEGRIA is scented with clove bud and sweet fennel oils; I find this scent unique to AMICA ORGANICS. Only two pumps of the cream cleanser is required to cleanse the face. Pump the cream cleanser onto damp palm, and rub it onto damp skin. The cleanser has the consistency of double cream, and does not lather. I feel a slight tingle as I rub the cream all over my face, then I rinse it off with plenty of cool water. My skin feels thoroughly cleansed and it does not feel tight. I cleanse my skin twice day, sometimes in the middle of the day, as I feel so refreshed and energised after washing my face with ALEGRIA.

ROSINA anti-ageing facial serum

There are two facial serums, CALMIA and ROSINA. CALMIA is anti-inflammatory, and it contains chamomile and neroli essential oils to soothe skin. CALMIA is recommended for red, inflamed, and acne-prone skin. ROSINA is anti-ageing, and it contains rose otto and frankincense essential oils. Sonia recommends to apply half a pump in the morning and one pump at night to cleansed skin. Gently pat the serum onto the skin, and I allow 15 minutes for the oils to be absorbed into the skin. I find the serum  very moisturising and it does not cause my skin to break out. I have used both CALMIA and ROSINA, and I do not find a significant difference in the two formulations. I do prefer the ROSINA for its scent.

SERENITY facial moisturiser

I love the smell of this facial moisturiser. I cannot stop smelling my hands after using it; they smell as if I am holding a bouquet of jasmines. The moisturiser has a thick texture, and I usually apply it twice a day onto my skin 15 minutes after using the facial serum. My skin feels very, very soft after applying it. 

Airless pump bottle reduces oxidisation of the essential oils

The facial serums and moisturiser are contained in airless pump bottles, which reduce oxidisation of the essential oils, and allow every last bit of the serum or moisturiser to be pumped out of the bottle. 

These products are not suitable to be used in pregnancy. 

I've been using the products for a few months. I find my skin softer and the skin of my cheekbones less red; therefore, I'm a happy user!

AMICA ORGANICS products may be purchased online, or at certain markets (e.g. at Marrickville), or, if you happen to live in the Shire, you could purchase them at Miranda Day and Night Pharmacy. 


Monday, 25 March 2013

Pork My Way

Char siew served on top of aromatic rice and cucumbers

I would say that char siew has become one of my favourite foods in the recent years, probably due to the fact that my father has exposed me to perfect char siew in Malaysia (e.g., Bill Khoon and his Famous Seremban Favourites restaurant).

My definition of perfect char siewroast pork, sticky and sweet, ever-so-slightly charred with crunchy bits, yet soft and tender with wobbly layers of fat. 

To me, pork belly is the best cut for char siew; the tender meat is sandwiched between melting layers of fat, and the crunch is formed through a mix of charred fat and sticky glaze.

I would not use pork neck ever again; I used this cut the first time I made char siew in Sydney (as recommended by the lady at the butcher's) many years ago. The result was a piece of well-flavoured meat, with the absence of juicy fatty layers.

What??? No fat??? How can??? My father was incredulous at the mention of no-fat char siew.

Pork belly, it is. A nice piece of pork belly can be cut length-wise into thin strips (about 6 cm in width).

This is one belly I love

Now that I have chosen the meat, then comes the marinade. I would break down the marinade to three components: sweet, salty, and aromatic.

Char siew marinade has lots  of sugar in it. Many recipes on the Internet would attest to that. After all, sugar is what gives char siew its charred sticky outer appearance and sweet flavour.What sort of sugar? Raw sugar? Refined sugar? Honey? Maltose? I believe more complex-flavoured sugars would add depth of flavour to the marinade, therefore, honey, maltose, and brown sugars would be suitable. I have also tried infused honey; I made a garlic-infused honey which goes well in the marinade.

Home-made garlic-infused organic honey

As for the savoury component, I use only light soy sauce. Many recipes use a combination of light soy, dark soy, hoisin, or oyster sauces. For me, I would like the savoury component to be as unadulterated as possible; dark soy sauce contains molasses and / caramel, which could be omitted since the marinade already has a high sugar content. Hoisin and oyster sauces contain MSG, amongst other things, which my palate would gladly forgo.

What do I classify as the aromatic component? Wines. I have added drinking sake to the marinade, and more recently, a combination of sake with rose wine, too. Sake balances the rose wine, which can smell too sweet and artificial, in my opinion.

No five-spice powder for me, thank you very much. I believe good-quality pork and a simple, yet flavourful marinade should be the stars of the show. Five-spice powder taints the marinade, and I think masks the musky smell of poorly-treated pork meat.

The marinade is added to the pork, then refrigerated overnight.

Cooking of the pork has proven to be a challenge. How do I cook the char siew to get a slightly charred outside, tender meat, and melting fat? Charred exterior and tender interior do not seem to be too difficult; I have made char siew with those characteristics. Melting, wobbly fat? Oh, that has eluded me so far.

So far, I have only used the oven to cook the meat. First, covered, at a lower temperature (130 degrees Celcius fan-forced), then, uncovered, at a higher temperature (180 degrees Celcius fan-forced). I have a theory to steam the meat before grilling it under high heat. I think that steaming the meat could loosen the fat and gently cooking the meat, then grilling it would char the exterior. I have not tried this method yet, though.

X thinks that I have mastered the marinade and charring. All that remains is the melting fat.

As your eyes trail down to this line, you would have realised I did not provide a recipe, nor the exact cooking method. That is because I have one last piece of marinated pork belly in the fridge. I shall cook that tonight, and document the method, in detail. Perhaps tonight's piece of pork belly would turn out to be the perfect char siew. If not, it is, yet again, a learning process for me, and a meal for my family. :)


Tuesday, 19 February 2013

The West Pole

Standing in its full glory.

My youngest sister, X, bought a 45mm brass X-PERT X-pole. With (lots of) help, she set it up in the living room just before Chinese New Year. Since my return yesterday from my CNY trip to Malaysia, I only managed to do basic moves... I have yet to do an invert... sigh... I need to work on my muscles. I have a goal of 30 minutes a day working on the pole starting TODAY. Let's see if I can tone up and lose weight! 


Wednesday, 23 January 2013

Of Little Critters and Hot Chillies

I have to hand it to Nature its wonder of replication.

What do I mean?

Flash back 2011:

This is one of the better photos of Bluey - I will forever remember him this way - the mostly loveable rabbit.
An assortment of chillies I bought from the Pyrmont fresh food market.

Zoom forward 2013:

A female lop - I don't know what to make of her at the moment. 
Two types of chillies from my garden - the pyramid-shaped chilli was grown from seeds of one variety of chillies I bought from the Pyrmont fresh food market in 2011. 

I am most happy about my chilli crop, as showcased above. I have three different types of chilli plants, two of which I grew from seeds. 

More than a year later, Summer awards me with the first signs of flowers, then tiny fruits, then green fruits ripening to brilliant red. 

I have sliced them, eaten them raw, pickled them in vinegar, dried them, added them to soups, stir-fries, salads. 

Mmm mmm mmm, I love my chillies. 


Something Old, Many New

It has been a long while.

I didn't want to abandon this blog, after all, it has chronicled a good few years of my life abroad.

After more than a year on hiatus, I would like to continue...

Continue to document my life.

Please stay tuned. 

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