Dude Food

As a 30-something male, I am obsessed with dude food! Nothing is more satisfying than sitting down to watch a game with a hot dog, a pulled-pork burger or a bowl of spicy wings, and of course an ice-cold beer or three. I work hard, I exercise a lot and sometimes I feel like I deserve to gorge on things that are not particularly good for me.

Eating calorie-packed burgers and other similar manly delights does come with a bit of guilt for me though. I am conscious of what I put into my body and even more conscious of the fact that what ever I put in must be worked off through exercise.

With this in mind, I set about compiling a list of dude food that is somewhat healthier than the typical fast-food snacks to which we usually associate the term. Living in Australia, we are truly blessed in that we have some of the best quality produce in the world. The quality of our fresh produce is second to none and with the organic revolution in full swing, you know that you are buying the highest quality meat and vegetables around. We also have some of the world’s best cuisines right on our doorstep!

Growing up, my family ate a lot of Asian food (believe it or not, you don’t have to go back too far in the Louie line to find full-blooded Chinese – something I am very proud of!), so my natural affinity is to turn to Asian styles of cooking for comfort and for enjoyment.

For me, dude food has a few essential characteristics:

  • It must be able to be eaten quickly and with one hand (having to put down your cutlery before you jump in the air and pump your fist at the TV just doesn’t work)
  • It must work well with beer (well…duh!)
  • It must not take too long to prepare (hate to miss the kick-off of the game)
  • There should be minimal cleaning/ washing up

With these points in mind, I have formulated what I think is the perfect dude food for the modern-day, health conscious man (or dude).

  1. Wontons

No surprises here for those who have read my posts before. Wontons are my Achilles heel when it comes to food! Sure they take some time to prepare, but the beauty is they can be folded into the tasty little envelopes that can be frozen for up to a month. This means they are just a boiling pot of water away from being ready to be eaten. And of course, they taste so good with cold beer! One tip, ensure you have liberal amounts of dipping soy and Sriracha sauce on hand!

30-09-2014 10-35-24 AMHomemade wontons with shop-bought pork buns and dumplings.

  1. Chorizo and Chimichurri Dog

Sure chorizo isn’t known for its health benefits but when the weekend rolls around, it is time to unwind and give yourself a break from the gym and the miles of running. The thought of spicy chorizo on a crispy bread roll, topped with caramelised onions and chimichurri, makes my mouth water! When I lived in London, a seller at Borough Markets made these and added fresh rocket to the mix. The added crunch and freshness from the rocket gave it that x-factor to make this version of the hot dog truly great!

  1. Wings (Asian Style)

The versatility of the chicken wing is incredible. It can be crumbed, fried, baked or cooked in any other way imaginable. For me, nothing compares to the fiery concoction of my Siracha Wings. These little beauties will have your lips burning but the flavour hit means they are too good to stop until the bowl is empty. The marinade is simple and the cooking process is even easier. Combine your preferred amounts of Sriracha sauce, soy and oyster sauce with a dash of fish sauce and a tablespoon of brown sugar and then throw them on a tray and into a piping hot over until they are golden and cooked through. Garnish with sliced shallots and some sesame seeds for crunch.

2014-11-24_13-42-20Sriracha Wing-a-ding-ding!!

  1. Grilled Pork Skewers

Like wontons, these tasty morsels take a little bit of preparation, however you can do the leg work early so you are free to enjoy game day without having to spend too much time in the kitchen. Pork (or any meat for that reason) skewers tick all of my dude food boxes and are a hit with any carnivore. Preferably, you want to grill these over coals as the fat that drips onto the coals will create a delicious smoky flavour.

IMG_20140104_145614My pork skewers are Vietnamese inspired. This lady was the Queen of Dude Food!

  1. Bahn-mi

Perhaps the greatest sandwich on the face of the planet – controversial I know, so hit me with your rebuttals. I recently made my own pickled carrots and radishes for the purpose of making Bahn-mi for my family. I prefer the BBQ pork version (I purchase the meat from my local Chinese restaurant), piled with pickled vegetables, fresh chili, coriander, spring onions and a fish sauce concoction all packed into a light Vietnamese bread roll – yum!

2014-11-24_13-38-10The Perfect Combo: Fresh herbs, roast pork and a fresh Vietnamese roll.

If you, like me, are conscious of your health but love so sit down, or stand at a bar, and enjoy dude food then I suggest giving one of these alternatives a go. Your waistline will thank you for it and if you are entertaining, the boys (or a special lady) will be more than impressed with your gastronomical-skills!

For more food ideas, chit-chat and photos, be sure to check out the :: Lifestyle (Clean Living & All Things Food) :: page.

New Angles: Seek and You Shall Find

I hate to start off with a disclaimer but I must reveal that this is another photography based post. So for those of you who do not like photos of nature at its very best, I suggest you click the close icon now…

For everyone else, I hope you enjoy my snaps from what was an amazing sunrise yesterday. After climbing out of bed bleary-eyed at 5am sharp, I found myself down at the beach 15 minutes later as the light began to creep across the water. I have taken photos down at this beach a thousand times before, so finding new angles to shoot from has become somewhat troublesome.

I decided to climb down the cliff that separates the beach from the rock pools and was rewarded with what was no doubt the best 40 minutes of my week so far.

Enjoy :: Louie ::

IMG_20141111_060226Here she comes…

IMG_20141111_070650A bunch or morning flowers.

IMG_20141111_065412A splash of colour to brighten the morning.

IMG_20141111_063802This little rock pool provided me with that new angle I was after.

Screenshot_2014-11-12-18-49-26-1Sun kissing the pools at Wylies Baths.

IMG_20141111_060841Horizon fireball.

Screenshot_2014-11-12-18-48-23-1Coogee’s crown drenched in morning light.

 

 

Another Week in Photos

It has been another busy week. I am now two weeks into my new job and there always seems to be something going on every other night. Being so busy is nice but sometimes I need some quiet time and some open space. Open space with no one around keeps my sanity in check. It is the mornings that provide my escape. There is no better start to the day than watching the sunrise in complete silence with no distractions.

IMG_20141107_070240Morning reflections.

IMG_20141101_173415The end of the road.

IMG_20141107_063216Morning oil painting. Not a drop out of place.

IMG_20141107_061737I found my own little cave out of sight from the world.

IMG_20141101_150028Paradise on my doorstep.

Facing Fears

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There I stood, head down and repeating the same few words over and over in my mind. My chest began to constrict as the thought of what I was about to do sank into the pit of my young stomach.

For weeks I had ridden past this very spot, watching a group of older boys as they peddled down the hill with seamless ease towards what was no doubt the biggest jump in our local neighbourhood. I stared in wonder as they glided effortlessly through the air, clearing what seemed like miles before hitting the ground safely as their friends cheered in approval of their heroics.

The yearning to feel this sensation of flight had consumed me. I would lay awake for hours visualising myself launching through the stratosphere as the popular kids at school watched on in amazement, whispering to each other in an effort to discover my name.

So here I was, some 50 metres up the hill from the biggest jump in my neighbourhood, one foot on a pedal, the other gripping the sole of my shoe. After what seemed an eternity, I began to roll forward, rapidly gaining speed as the jump approached. I covered the short distance in seconds and as I hit the mound of dirt, my front wheel began to lift and point skyward. All that I had dreamed was coming true. For a fleeting moment, and for the first time in my life, I had realised a dream. One that I had achieved through facing my fears.

Some 20 years on, I still think back to this profound moment in my life when I realised that while I would always have fears, I would have to learn to face them in order to achieve what it was I had my heart set on. As you will no doubt know, believing this and putting it into practice are two completely different things!

I have let fear stand in my way of doing a lot of things. I missed an incredible chance to travel alone back in my early 20’s due to nothing but my own fears and insecurities getting in the way. Before a good friend of mine passed away, I didn’t tell him how much I loved him and to the degree by which his presence in my life had shaped me for the better. That moment passed me by and it is one that I think back to everyday of my life for one simple reason: I was too scared to face my own fears and insecurities.

In the past, I have settled for jobs in which I was unhappy. I have settled for relationships that were not healthy and did not allow me to grow into the person I wanted to be. Making this notion of facing your fears into a reality is something that takes practice and revolves around one main idea: Not being afraid to make a mistake.

Truth be told, that day when I finally worked up the courage to face my fears and ride my bike off the biggest jump in our neighbourhood was one of the most painful and humiliating of my life. While in the air, I let go of the handlebars and lost hold of the bike before hitting the ground. I knocked myself unconscious and tore my arms and knees to shreds. I came around to find myself in the middle of a circle of concerned local mothers, some of whom belonged to the popular kids in my class.

In between that day and now, I have fallen on my arse a lot of times, both physically and metaphorically speaking. The bad news is that a lot of the time, facing up to your fears often sees you getting burnt. The upside is that you won’t die wondering. Facing your fears and insecurities is an on-going process. It allows you to grow and is the only way you can become the person you want to be.

Screenshot_2014-11-05-22-55-45-1

Spring in Colour

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Sydney in the spring is my favourite time of year. The light stretches longer, the nights are still cool while the days are warming. It is a happy time. People are smiling, the smell of barbecued meat is in the air. Weather-wise, this week has been a rip-snorter. A ball-tearer. I’ve been hitting the beach with the enthusiasm of a rat up a drain pipe…(for international readers, I apologise for the colloquial language). Hope you enjoy these pics from my week. May they warm the heart and inspire you to find some time in the sun.

IMG_20141029_082931

Early morning serenity.

IMG_20141017_120227

Nice colours bouncing off the rocks.

IMG_20141023_083846

New angle.

IMG_20141023_084129

Coogee rock pool.

 

Escaping Winter’s Shackles

22-10-2014 11-04-33 AM

There is nothing quite like the feeling of anticipation that comes with planning a trip. By our standards, the winter here in the south has felt long this time around. It has been wet, windy and cold. For months, my friends and I have squeezed into our wetsuits and battled the dash across the numbingly cold sand only to quip and reflect on distant memories of surfing in board shorts.

Much of the winter was spent crowding around small tables in pubs watching football and plotting our next escape. Not surprisingly, everyone spat out suggestions involving warm water, cold beers and a tropical climate. With the weather once again warming, the memories of the biting cold are still fresh enough to encourage banter of escaping the grasp of the cold next year. As expected, the likely destination of choice is Indonesia.

If the feeling of anticipation is high when planning a local road trip, it is off the Richter when planning a trip to Indo. The feeling of being surfed out, cheap beers, warm water and friendly locals is the stuff dreams are made of, for surfers anyway. Riding a motorbike around a desolate island in search of uncrowded, perfect waves is an adventure in its own right and one that you want to live for the rest of your days.

The true beauty of the Indonesian archipelago becomes apparent when you drag yourself away from the circus that is Bali and explore beyond the well worn tourist tracks. Once away from the big lights and bustling holiday crowds, the sky opens up to present stars that seem closer than they do at home. The stillness of the evening air fittingly arrives as the soothing sound of the Imam’s call to pray rings out from the land across the water. It is moments like these that the cold of home, the heavy jackets, the closed in shoes and the wintry weather feels like it is a million miles away. Bring on next winter’s escape!

22-10-2014 11-20-06 AMEmpty waves and warm water.

22-10-2014 11-19-51 AMSimplicity at its very best!

22-10-2014 11-12-22 AMEnjoying the easy life and slowing it down.

22-10-2014 11-10-17 AMCheningan cliff jump.

22-10-2014 11-21-31 AMUnknown setting up with it all ahead of him.

22-10-2014 11-20-27 AMPicture perfect.

22-10-2014 11-11-51 AMWinding down after a big day in paradise.

Smile and Take Stock of What You Have

21-10-2014 10-40-24 AM

We all have rough days, some more than others. I have days where it seems the world and all of its forces are working against me. Days where I feel like I simply should have stayed in bed. Luckily, these days don’t roll around too often but when they do, I force myself to reflect on the good things in my life. The people who love me and the good fortune I am blessed with.

Last year I was walking back from the beach on a hot afternoon when I came across a pile of junk that someone had left on the curb for the council cleanup. Usually, the thought of sorting through a pile of trash in search of another man’s treasure does not appeal to me but on this occasion I was stopped in my tracks. Staring back at me was a photograph of a little old Vietnamese lady wearing what is possibly the most genuine smile I had ever seen.

While the pure aesthetics of the photo are what initially grabbed my attention, it is the thought of the things this lady must have seen and experienced over the past 70 years that captured my heart. The atrocities of the Vietnam war and the events that followed are more than likely elements of this woman’s life that I cannot even begin to fathom or have the slightest chance of understanding.

Upon discovering this photo, I felt something akin to embarrassment at the thought that I at times complain about a rough day in the office or allow myself to feel such disappointment because the surf conditions are less than ideal. This photograph captures a moment in time where this lady is expressing true happiness, despite all of the events that she and her country have endured in recent history.

For all I know, this photograph may quite possibly be staged using nothing but an actor and a cleverly designed backdrop but the romantic side of me likes to think that she was sitting on a corner in Saigon talking amongst friends when this photo was captured.

Every morning I wake up, I look at the wall to where this photograph now hangs and remind myself of all the positive things in my life and the fact that I have all of the basic elements required for my survival. I have my family, I have my health, I have food in my belly and a roof over my head. At the end of the day, nothing else in this world matters.

How Technology Has Changed the Face of Travel

15-10-2014 12-33-24 PM

I first went overseas in 1991 on a family holiday to the West coast of the United States. For me, the late 80’s and early 90’s were a golden age. A time before mobile phones, before the internet and a time where the use of social media was non-existent. I was eight years old and life was good! Over the next 10 years, I returned to the U.S on the longest family vacation of all time and also spent some time in Singapore. During these trips, the use of technology was limited to my Nintendo Gameboy and the monthly phone call home to my grandparents.

The year after I finished high school I ventured overseas again, this time for a 10 month jaunt through Asia, eventually ending up broke and desperately seeking a job in Europe. This trip was a first for me in that it was the first time I had traveled with readily available technology. Of course the term “readily available” in 2002 was nothing compared to what the modern-day traveller is faced with. For the purpose of this trip I set up my first email account so I could keep in touch with my parents from internet cafes without the cost of calling home from halfway across the globe. This also meant I would have more money to buy beer.

In 2009, my feet grew once again itchy so I decided to pack a bag and head back to Europe on a one-way ticket. This time around, my smart phone, laptop, digital camera, e-reader and iPad were amongst the first items to be packed. The times and travel had well and truly changed.

The contemporary traveller is faced with unlimited free wi-fi and time to kill. 12 years ago, I remember taking an overnight bus from Bangkok to Siem Reap with nothing to entertain me except for a deck of cards and the latest Harry Potter book (in print format). In between games of Euchre with the person next to me, I gazed intently out the window, contemplating life and watching the Cambodian countryside pass me by. Of course I took the occasional photo but I had to wait until I returned to Sydney 18 months later to have the film developed before seeing the results. There was no thought of posting it on Instagram for my friends and family back home to double-tap for a ‘Like’ (although I wish I had thought of such an idea at the time. I’d be rich!).

On this trip, I remember sitting on the porch of an old beach shack we were staying at on the shores of the Andaman Sea, drinking a beer and watching the wild monkeys move daringly closer to my position, only to flee in haste at my slightest movement. Fast-forward over half a decade and I again found myself sitting on the same beach, this time in a swanky cafe that of course had free wi-fi. This time around, the monkeys were gone and I was madly tapping away on my keyboard uploading photos to Facebook and updating my status. The only common factor between the two was that I was still drinking a beer (it is comforting to know that not everything has changed!).

Don’t get me wrong, I will admit that if there is free wi-fi, I am usually the first to ask for the password so I can read the news or scroll through Instagram to see what my favourite chefs have knocked up for dinner. However, I do consider myself very lucky to have experienced travel before the age of widespread access to the Internet. It felt as if I had unlimited time to sit and contemplate the world and my place in it. It forced me, a moderate introvert, to talk to strangers and get to know other travellers instead of jumping onto Skype every time I felt alone on the road.

I still travel with my reliable notepad and pen in my daypack so it is there in case an idea comes to me or if I find myself in a cafe with a couple of hours to kill. For me, there is something special and therapeutic about writing my thoughts down on paper as opposed to tapping away on a keyboard.

Unfortunately the pre-internet days are well and truly behind us. I will never again be able to travel without the comfort of knowing that my loved ones are contactable from almost anywhere on the globe. The days of news from home taking a week or more to reach me are a thing of the past. When I travel I have to constantly remind myself of the reasons as to why I travel. I travel to switch off from everyday life. I travel so I can disconnect from my life at home and experience what the rest of the world has to offer. I travel so I can have some peace and quiet (that is the introvert in me coming out).

I have always laughed at older people when they deliver the timeless line of “Back in my day…”. I guess it is a sign of the times, and a sign that I am too getting older, but in my day travel was different. It was freer. It was less comfortable. It was unplugged and disconnected from everything familiar. It was how it is meant to be.

15-10-2014 12-24-58 PMWi-fi is everywhere these days!

15-10-2014 12-11-59 PMThe original travel writer.

15-10-2014 12-13-45 PM

 

Short Story #3: A Grumpy Old Man and Giggling Women

Short Story #3 comes to you from Vietnam and involves two of my favourite things in the world: travel and food! While Short Story #1 had somewhat of a comical element to it, and Short Story #2 recounted my adventures as an unwitting 19-year-old, I am writing this story based on my heart warming experience of how food brings people together.

I arrived into Hanoi on a late-afternoon flight. It was the middle of winter in the Northern Hemisphere and the cold had its fingernails embedded in the city and its inhabitants. Feeling a little unprepared in my thin sweater, I decided to explore the Old Quarter in search of warmer clothing and a hot meal. After picking up a counterfeit North Face jacket and a pair of gloves (yep, these were counterfeit also), I stumbled upon a busy little hole-in-the-wall that comprised of steaming pots of broth and a lady deep-frying springrolls on the sidewalk. The stars had aligned and the months of anticipating the joy of Vietnamese food had come to a head.

9-10-2014 10-31-09 AMHanoi at its busy best!

As I waited for a table (well, a small plastic stool pulled up to a well used piece of timber), I stood for a while and let my senses run wild. My nostrils were filled with the comforting smell of the broth while at the same time being refreshed with frequent wafts of fresh mint and coriander (cilantro). The hole-in-the-wall opened up into a cavern that was bustling with local families and the odd tourist who was also drawn to the scene. I noticed that the people running the eatery had more in common than their place of employment. The old man with the shoulder bag was obviously the head honcho, as proven by the way he barked orders at each of the women. There were two ladies giggling over the giant pots of broth as they teased the man in between spooning the warming soup into bowls. The squatting lady, who was ferociously turning out springrolls from her makeshift deep-fryer, also laughed and added her comments for good measure.

IMG_20140101_133928The springroll lady working at capacity.

The younger ladies were busy running around to each of the tables either clearing them or delivering Pho to the patrons. They too were not shy to give the old man their feedback on the orders he continued to growl at them. After a few minutes of watching these interactions, it became clear that this group of employees was in fact a family.

I have long-held the belief that food bring families together in that it allows them to congregate around a table and gives them an excuse to chat and share the day’s stories. However, this for me was a new realisation, in that some families base their very existence around food and sharing their culinary skills with others. As I continued my observation, it became clear that each family member had their own role. The mother and an aunt were in charge of the Pho, another aunt was producing the best springrolls I had ever eaten, the daughters were putting in the hard yards to keep the tables clear and the little old grandmother was out the back patting the cat in between pulling sprigs of herbs from larger plants (hygiene aside, this was quite nice to see).

Midway through my bowl of Pho Ga (traditional noodle soup with chicken), one of the girls running food looked up into the loft and yelled at the top of her voice. A minute or two later, another young girl, who I assumed was one of her sisters, climbed down the ladder to start her shift. I sat on my undersized stool for a little over an hour as the tables around me filled and then emptied again, all the while watching this family in action. They operated with precision and were driven through the night on laughter and jokes – everyone except the father that is. His role was simply to open beers for the male customers and collect the cash. I thought back to the family structure in the Western world and wondered if this setup would work in my family. It is hard to say but I am guessing that working and living side by side with my extended family day in, day out may have a different result. Perhaps this is due to the ever increasing reality that families in the Western world live very separate lives in comparison.

I left that little whole-in-the-wall feeling warm from my Pho and springrolls and also from watching this family and how they had been brought closer together by food. The beauty of travel is that you find yourself in new and unfamiliar circumstances. It opens your eyes to not only the world but those within it. Travel allows me to see first hand how others live their lives, and as little bits rub off on me, it in turn transform the way I live my own life and view the world.

9-10-2014 10-24-54 AMPho: Perfection in a bowl.

9-10-2014 10-25-34 AMTypical food scene in Vietnam (photo credit: www.seriouseats.com)

9-10-2014 10-31-26 AMBeer and fresh veg.

9-10-2014 10-26-17 AMOne of my true loves.